February 25, 2007

Seizing Congressional Offices And What's Next For The Anti-War Movement

[crossposted at DailyKos, w/some intresting comments]

I, rep. Edward Markey, pledge to vote against the supplemental spending measure that President Bush will seek in 2007 from Congress to fund the war in and occupation of Iraq. I will take leadership in getting other Representatives to also vote against the supplemental.
These solemn words, as recorded on the front page of the Woburn [MA] Daily Times Chronicle, highlight a most important tactic in the uphill battle to stop the $93 billion "emergency appropriation" Bush wants Congress to pony up so he can continue the war in Iraq. Markey's pledge was wrested by a two-day occupation of his office, spearheaded by the Smedley Butler Brigade of Veterans For Peace. Nate Goldshlag of VFP says Senator John Kerry is next!

Similarly, Representative Lacy Clay (D-MO) told an assertive audience in St. Louis last week
that he would continue to vote against escalation of troops and “against additional funding.”
This diary will update my overview from earlier this month, "Wave of Congressional Office Occupations Builds, Below the Radar." It will highlight some of the particular battles, talk about the inadvertent role MoveOn .com is playing in the campaign, and try to set everything in the context of the upcoming Congressional appropriations battle and the anti-war movement today.

According to the Update page at the website of the
Occupation Project, the group at the center of the ongoing wave of seizures of Congressional offices, last week saw at least four actions resulting in the arrest of protesters (which means the Smedley Butler crew don't even make the cut for this unofficial list).

Portland--Senator Tom Allen (D-ME): 13 arrested
“We need to ratchet things up a bit,” said protester Phil Weyenberg of Old Orchard Beach. He said the campaign reflects a tactical shift for activists frustrated by a Democratic Congress unwilling to cut funding for the Iraq war.
Denver--Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO): 7 arrested
Now known as the Salazar seven
Toledo--Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH): 4 arrested
Klein, a truck driver, said he was willing to be arrested because he believes in the group’s message.

“Cut the funding and end the war,” he said. “Not cut it down lower, but cut it off. That will force them to bring the troops home.”
Fairbanks--Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK): 2 arrested, 1 cited
Senator Steven’s staff worker in the Fairbanks office assured the nine peace activists occupying the office that their efforts were worthless. “The Senator’s aide told us that our action wouldn’t do any good,” said Rob Mulford, “but when we were locked up I knew we’d done something good because a woman jailer spotted us in our cells and she said, ‘Oh! You guys are my heroes!’”
There are all kinds of other lobbying efforts going on simultaneously, from the deadly serious push by Military Families Speak Out to MoveOn.org's online "Virtual March." I focus on these seizures for several reasons:
  • they are the most dramatic form in which the demand to cut off funds to the occupation is being presented;
  • despite good local coverage in most cases, they are being ignored in the national mainstream media;
  • they reflect a growing sense that the anti-war movement has to amp up the struggle in these difficult times:
  • and most of all, because they are changing the terrain on which the whole broader lobbying effort is taking place.
This last was apparent in an Occupation Project effort in Chicago. A contingent of 25 clergy and supporters tried last week to deliver a letter to the offices of Senators Obama and Durbin. Authorities locked down the whole Federal building in Chicago to prevent them getting inside. There have been other instances of delegations being refused admission to the offices of their elected representatives.

Oklahoma City saw an even more startling incident last week. As blogged here, a group organized by MoveOn.org, went to the office of Representative Mary Fallin (D-OK) to deliver letters demanding she take a stand against the escalation, not even the war as a whole.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A group opposed to the war in Iraq on Thursday was ordered to leave the building where Rep. Mary Fallin's office is located after members delivered protest letters opposing President George W. Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.
In the comments responding to that post, a Kossack whose nom du blog is FeelingsickinMN, reported that there's a crew of MoveOn.org members who occupy the office of Betty McCollum (D-MN) every Tuesday! It's not, he says, an official MoveOn.org operation. No kidding. McCollum speaks fiercely against the occupation, but they want to hold her feet to the fire to defund:
The object of our being in her office Tuesday after Tuesday is to demonstrate that we are not going to settle for less than a quick end to the war. Ms. McCollum's view is that cutting off the funding right now would put a lot of Dem House seats in jeopardy in '08 and that the most important element in getting out of Iraq is keeping Dems in elective office.
And there's the problem of the day in a nutshell! Last week I analyzed Representative John Murtha's plan (formally) to block escalation and (actually) to gradually end the war through attaching stringent conditions to the emergency appropriation that Bush is requesting. This approach would also give Democratic pols cover to resist the growing pressure coming up from the people of this country and lensed by the anti-war movement to flat-out stop funding this murderous fiasco. It posed some real challenges to the anti-war movement.

What I thought was pessimism appears, it turns out, to have been channelling Pollyanna. The Congressional Democrats are responding to Murtha's lifeline, carefully framed as a series of measures in defense of the troops, as stupidly and as short-sightedly as Bush did when offered the Iraq Study Group's proposal as covering fire to help him shuffle toward the exits. As reported in the Washington Post, the Murtha plan is being attacked as "a non-starter" that will undercut the troops. Attacked, mind you, by his fellow Democrats, some of whom have joined the Republicans in vowing to pass the emergency appropriation without any conditions.

Meanwhile too many "lefter" Dems, like McCollum have rallied around Murtha's plan and dropped their opposition to the appropriation. Even Ed Markey started tap-dancing the day after he signed his pledge to the veterans who seized his office.

What does this mean? In theoretical terms, I'd argue that it means that the ruling class in this country is still trapped in a box. They cannot afford to leave Iraq and they cannot afford to stay in Iraq. They are paralyzed and have found no satisfactory solution to their problems. Unless and until somebody convinces enough of them that their only choice is to cut their losses, that paralysis in going to be reflected in Congress.

In practical terms it means the anti-war movement has its work cut out for it. On the good foot, it's gonna be harder for some "moderates" to use the Murtha bill to split the anti-war movement and try to remove the "Now" from slogans like "Bring Them Home Now!" Overall, though, we need to figure out how to mobilize through the dismay and disheartenment many will feel if Bush gets his $93 billion, even with some strings attached. We need to come up with a strategic approach that can mobilize more of the huge reservoir of mass sentiment for ending the war and can take advantage of the freedom of moveement the enemy's paralysis gives us.

Some argue that impeachment should be the main thing we do now. I say: Iraq Moratorium. What say you, dear reader?

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Things That Make You Go "Hmmm"

My bud G. Frohman sent me this yesterday with the subject line reading "I can't believe I never noticed this juxtaposition before."



Damn! Me neither. And Construction Time Again is my favorite DM album and one of the best and least whiney political albums put out by a British band in the '80s. Be nice if somebody did a double set vinyl reissue with the covers paired in a gatefold.

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February 23, 2007

Take Five--Top Girl's/Women's Names For Pop Songs

[Take Five. Every Friday, Fire on the Mountain picks a category and lists five cool things in it. It's up to you, dear reader, to add your own in the Comments section. Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the piece and you're off to the races.]

Might call this one Five by Five.

It got started when iTunes random brought up Arthur Alexander's "Anna" and I fell to thinking about the fine old '50s rock and roll practice of recording songs with female names as the title. I think the theory was that there was such a plentiful supply of Sherrys, Donnas, Susies, Rhondas, etc. around that literal-minded boyfriends buying 45s and asking for dedications on radio request shows might just get a group some sort of half-assed hit.

So are there names that particularly lend themselves to pop glory? You just betcha! Here are five of the best names and, to prove my contention, for each one five totally worthy songs with the chosen name in the name in the title itself for you to check out.


Annie The title rule means I couldn't even include Buddy Holly's "Midnight Shift" and The Band's "The Weight."

Annie, I'm Not Your Daddy--Kid Creole & The Coconuts
Poke Salad Annie--Tony Joe White
Work With Me, Annie--Hank Ballard & The Midnighters (actually all of the"Annie" trilogy)
Annie's Lament--Annie Ross & Brad Mehldau
Wildhorse Annie--Tom Russell & Patricia Hardin

Valerie Oddly, all five of these have just the name as title and I've got as many more, but only a couple where the "Valerie" is part of a longer title.

Valerie--The Zutons
Valerie--The Monkees
Valerie--Ghost Of The Robot
Valerie--Ronnie & The Hi-Lites
Valerie--Richard Thompson & Ry Cooder

Mary Ann Throw in Mary Anne (as preferred in the UK) and Marianne (The French) and you've got a hands down winner.

Keep Your Skirts Down, Mary Ann--Aileen Stanley & Billy Murray
May Ann Thomas--Bobby Freeman
Mary Ann--Ray Charles
Mary Ann--Regina Spektor
How Married Are You, Mary Ann?--Bill Anderson

Caroline In the face of some stiff competition, the first song here may be the best of the 25.

Caroline, No--The Beach Boys
I Did Acid With Caroline--Daniel Johnson
Caroline--Kristy McColl
Caroline Oh Yeah Hey!--TéTé

Sally Like Annie, a plain name, but a lotta tunes, especially ones with "[adjective(s) or noun used adjectivally] Sally" as a title, like two of these.

Mustang Sally--Sir Mack Rice (the man who wrote it)
Sally, Go Round The Roses--The Jaynetts (also The Pentangle, The Great Society, Mitch Ryder, Holly Golightly)
Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley--Lee Dorsey
The Ballad Of Sally--The Mekons
Long Tall Sally--Little Richard

Your turn. Give me another name with five genuinely listenable songs, or five more similarly excellent songs for one of the existing names and win a prize--assuming you have included an email somewhere so I can contact you.

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February 20, 2007

Will Murtha's Plan Damage The Anti-War Movement?

Representative John Murtha (D, PA) has a plan to end the war in Iraq (though at the moment he’s selling it only as a way to end "The Surge."). This plan is based on attaching conditions to Bush’s "emergency appropriation" request. It has the backing of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the House Democratic leadership, and presumably of those significant allies within the military’s High Command with whom Murtha has legendary ties going back decades.

The Murtha plan also serves to provide cover for elected officials, especially Democrats, who are facing intensifying pressure to take strong action to end this fiasco pronto. That pressure comes from (perhaps through would be more apt) a resurgent anti-war/anti-occupation movement which is moving powerfully forward on a broad front these days. The Murtha plan is bound, and perhaps designed, to put obstacles in the path of that advance, and to change the balance of forces within the anti-war movement and its focus.

This piece will summarize the Murtha plan, touch very briefly on its actual prospects for success and then discuss its very serious implications for the anti-war movement.


I recommend that anyone wanting to understand the political terrain anti-war activists will be facing watch the video interview with him posted at MoveCongress.org a couple of days ago. It fleshes out what has been in the press about the Murtha plan, and shows the subtle thinking and the flexibility that has the Right in a foam-flecked attack frenzy.

First, let me state at the outset that I think Murtha genuinely wants to end the occupation of Iraq as soon as possible, and has for some time. He fears the enormous harm it is doing to his beloved Marine Corps and the military as a whole, and he recognizes, like many, that the occupation is lost. And unlike many politicians, he has had the guts to take a stand. His November 2005 call for complete rapid "redeployment" out of Iraq--no timelines, no benchmarks, no phased withdrawal, no residual forces—changed the terms of the debate over the war greatly and for the better. (I also liked that, when asked about what he meant by "over the horizon" redeployment, he suggested Okinawa would be a good place.)

His MoveCongress.org talk lays out a strategy based around the upcoming debate on Bush’s latest trip back to the "emergency appropriation" well—a request for $93 billion this time. In hearings in the House Appropriatioons Defense Subcommittee, which he runs, conditions will be attached to the bill.

Moreover, the most prominent conditions are couched as defense of the troops: No troops to be redeployed to Iraq without a year intervening, and then only if they are certified as being fully retrained and equipped. No more extensions of deployment (which would mean that one year, boots on the ground, would be the maximum). No more Stop Loss, the dreaded "Back Door Draft" that snatches men and women with a few months or weeks left of their service commitment and sends them back into harm’s way for another full tour.

Murtha presents this as a way to stop any further escalation of the US presence in Iraq (and with most of the remnants of the Coalition of the Willing eying the exits, the occupation is the US, a shrinking contingent of Brits, and mercenaries, period). In fact, to a military strapped for troops, with a brutal optempo, sinking morale and barrel-bottom-scraping recruiting practices, this would make anything like the current occupation impossible to sustain any longer.

What’s more, Murtha says he intends to include a clause requiring that the US announce that it will not seek permanent bases in Iraq, which rules out keeping a toehold (meaning a trigger point for re-invasion). He also talks about mandating the closing of Abu Ghraib and even Guantanamo.

The mechanisms through which all this will be enforced are unclear, but the general idea appears to be that the money will be released in batches and failure to comply with the bill’s requirements at one stage will immediately result in the sequestration of the next batch.


Will this pass? We’ll see. And to go into effect, it’ll have to get the Senate’s okay too.

Would it stop the war? Quite possibly, but with a couple of very important caveats. First, almost any scenario for ending or downsizing the war other than waiting until January 2009 may well lead to a Constitutional crisis. Faced by a funds cutoff or by a veto-proof bill calling for withdrawal or a revocation of the war powers bill, Bush will try and keep the war going. Though Murtha’s strategy is gradualist, there are potentially a lot of separate trigger points for such a crisis. Second, it would take a long time to end the occupation this way, time in which the devastation of Iraq will continue unabated, troops will die and be wounded and the damage to the US itself will deepen.

Will it lead to impeachment? It would be foolhardy to predict that now.

Will it help position the Democrats for the 2008 elections? Funny you should ask. By not choking off funding for the war now (or when the 2008 emergency appropriation comes up), they get to run against Bush and his failed war all over again. Never mind the hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children who will die between now and then. Never mind the tens of thousands of troops who will be killed or wounded.


Before it does anything whatsoever to bring the end of the war closer, this approach has the potential to do real damage to the anti-war movement. That movement, let me underline, is on a roll. The January 27 demo was large and determined and far broader than generally understood, campuses are stepping up, resolutions against the war are in play at the state level instead of just in cities, local activities are doing very well. And there has been intense focus on Congress and stopping the funding as the key to stopping the war.

Therein, of course, lies the rub. Congress has been the focus of anti-war strategy for a long time now, as activists and everyday people alike realized that how intent Bush administration was on "staying the course" (and possibly rolling double or nothing in Iran). Mass disapproval and indeed seething anger were not gonna change much of anything in the White House. Congresscritters on the other hand are clearly more susceptible to mass pressure, especially after the wholesale rubbishing of Republican candidates in the November election.

Thus lobbying, petitions and other pressure tactics have been intensified even more than demonstrations and broadly-directed educational activities. Some organizations like Progressive Democrats of America and Military Families Speak Out have mobilized to really bear down on this, supported by United For Peace and Justice and other groups in the mainstream of the anti-war movement. One whole new effort, the Occupation Project, sponsored by the Committee for Non-Violent Action, represents a bold ramping up of this approach. They’ve been occupying Congressional offices, demanding that the Senator or Representative targeted agree to vote against the "Emergency Supplemental"--in the case of those who’ve declared their opposition to the occupation but done squat, to put their money where their mouths are.

Absent a serious worsening of the situation on the ground in Iraq, it has been a long shot that we would be able to cut off the funding this time. On the other hand, all it would take would be defeat of the $93 billion appropriation by a simple majority vote in either house. No need to get the same bill agreed to by both houses, to beat back a filibuster in the Senate, to overturn a presidential veto. One more "No" than "Yes" vote, and that’s that (or rather, here comes the Constitutional crisis).


The Murtha strategy and its adoption by the Congressional Dems knock this topsy-turvy. First off, it gives pro-war, waffling, and anti-war but gutless elected officials an out: "I’d love to vote against Bush’s request, but we are using the appropriation to turn the tide and start bringing the war home." It may even increase pressure on the more principled souls who have voted against emergency appropriations in the past to fall in line now.

(How much pressure will depend on how smart the Republicans play this. Suppose that they can stay united on voting against Murtha’s booby-trapped version. Suppose further that they put their opposition in terms of not getting in the way of the troops—after all, at this point nobody’s likely to rally behind, "We can’t tie the President’s hands." Too many people would like to see his feet tied, too, and wired to the engine block of a 1947 DeSoto and dropped in the Potomac. How many Dems will vote "No" if it means joining the Republicans in trying to block the Murtha plan?)

Second, it sets up the folks who have been working hardest on pressuring Congress to defund for a big, fat demoralizing hit.

Third, and more broadly, if the Democrats and a bunch of Republican allies go with the Murtha approach, gradualism becomes the order of the day. We will be back to politicians and pundits talking about timetables and phased withdrawals and benchmarks and all the rest of the think tank nonsense we had to fight to sweep away in 2003 and 2004. Once again we will have to blaze a path our way through thickets of policy wonkery to keep to the fore the simple demands that more and more people in this country are uniting around: Stop The Occupation! Bring Them Home Now!

This is already happening. Tom Hayden has jumped out with a convoluted plan that amounts to dumping the current puppet government and somehow getting the Iraqis to set up a new one. These puppets would then demand that the US withdraw all troops within six months to a year. Oh yeah, and the new regime will also establish a cease-fire among the militias and call an international conference to "fill the vacuum." And people like him claim it’s "not realistic" to demand that the US government just end the occupation!)

Fourth, it has the potential to drive a wedge into the critically important movement of Iraq veterans and active duty troops who are speaking out against the war. With Iraq Veterans Against the War and the Appeal For Redress leading the way, more and more soldiers are coming to the anti-war side. Murtha’s approach, cast as it is as a defense of the troops and a way to enhance their capacity to fight, thus making it eassier to isolate those who attack the occupation as insane and unjustifiable and call for its immediate end.

Finally, it gives a big boost to the more reformist Beltway-based opponents of the war, as opposed to the left, progressive, pacifist, and just plain fed-up folks who are the rank and file of the peace movement. They will again claim a disproportionate share of resources and media attention. Meanwhile, grassroots opponents of the occupation will get discouraged or quickly grow more radical (the latter being just fine with me, but concerning if it comes at the expense of weakening or sidetracking the anti-war movement.)

What do readers think of this take on developments, and what do you think should be done about it? I’ll save my few suggestions about how the anti-war movement might respond to this turn of events for a later post, but as a sneak preview let me leave you with two words: Iraq Moratorium.

[crossposted at DailyKos]

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February 19, 2007

Ban the Heart Punch

(as they used to say in professional wrestling). The estimable Keith Knight (a/k/a Keef) nails this one. Give his K Chronicles website a play for loads more good stuff.

(h/t Rahim)

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February 17, 2007

In NYC, It's Not Fear of Immigrants...

In reading Jimmy Higgins' earlier post here on anti-immigrant sentiment and the danger of nativism--and the interesting responses--something struck me sharply. Living for my whole life in New York City, it’s hard for me to analyze or even relate to the fear and loathing of immigrants that grips some parts of the U.S. What we in NYC fear is somewhat different, and was clarified for me by a conversation with a cousin at a recent family gathering.

My cousin, whom I’ll call Tony, has a semi-skilled job with a telecommunications company and recently moved with his wife and kids from Staten Island to a New Jersey suburb. Tony’s widowed mother, now about 70, had made her global proletarian passage from a small town near Naples to the industrial Red Belt of Bologna to a textile factory in Scotland to a laundry in Staten Island—where she met and married my late uncle, and still lives.

“I don’t feel good about where my mother lives,” Tony was telling me. His mother is in the house that had been my paternal grandmother’s, across the street from a city bus depot in a racially mixed poor and working class neighborhood. Though not an activist or a self-identified progressive, Tony is married to a woman of part-African descent who looks like a person of color (as do their kids), and he is sensitized to racial stereotyping on a gut level. He groped for words to articulate his concern about his mother’s neighborhood. “There’s too many people who—I don’t know what’s the right way to put it—lowlifes, people who don’t work.”

“People who don’t work” really captured for me what many folks in New York City fear. People who don’t follow the rules of civil behavior because they have no stake in keeping it together and getting ahead, in getting up in the morning and functioning. People who will turn a little brush or disagreement into a big fight because they have nothing better to do and no other way of feeling effective or gauging their impact on the world. People who leave their garbage in the hallway because they’ve given up on taking any pride or pleasure in how their surroundings look. People who might mess with your elderly widowed mother or throw garbage in her yard just for the hell of it….

Now, often the expression of fear and loathing of people who don’t work can be white people’s code for dumping on Black and Puerto Rican people, or a way of simply blaming the victim and ignoring the historical and structural economic dynamics that cut off some racially and nationally oppressed peoples from stable jobs, viable home mortgages, etc. But it’s not always that, or only that. And it’s not expressed only by white people.

I remember about eight years ago when I was working in a second chance high school for older teens, counseling one African American young woman who was very proud and happy that she was holding a part-time job. With no parents around, she was living in the projects with her grandmother and also with two uncles who were dealing drugs. Their apartment had recently been raided at 6 a.m. by a SWAT team who put 9 mm pistols to everybody’s head and asked where the drugs were. My student, with help from nobody that I could tell, had gotten her self back into school and found a job. Looking toward the future, she said, “ I just wanna come home at night and have to ask what was on Jerry Springer--‘cause I was working all day.”

For many working class people, especially those with the least economically secure lives, the contempt for people who don’t work is fueled by the terror of what you know could happen to you if you lose your grip and can’t make it into work—and could happen very quickly.

All of which goes to say that in New York City, most people seems to know that most immigrants work their butts off for very little money and came here because they do want to get ahead. And therefore, from what I can tell, there is very little of the classic anti-immigrant hysteria, but a lot of fear and loathing of people who don’t work.

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February 16, 2007

Take Five--Vietnam Moratorium Memories

[Take Five. Every Friday, Fire on the Mountain picks a category and lists five cool things in it. It's up to you, dear reader, to add your own in the Comments section. Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the piece and you're off to the races.]

There's been a most heartening spike in activity against the occupation of Iraq in recent days--the student strike peaking in the seizure of CA Highway 217 in Santa Barbara, the Vermont legislature calling for immediate withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, the swelling wave of takeovers of Congressional offices blogged here a couple days back.

In this context, it's hardly surprising that activists brainstorming the next step are contemplating the possibility of an Iraq Moratorium, based on the massive Vietnam Moratorium of Autumn, 1969.

Hence, here are five things I recall about the Moratorium. Readers who were there would be making a small but real contribution by sharing your own memories. Your comments will be a real help to folks trying to see what might be done this year.


1. It was big, real big. On October 15, 1969, the Bronx campus where I was based hosted a borough-wide twilight rally of over 10,000, most of whom came on an unprecedented nighttime march through residential neighborhoods.(I seem to recall this being the candlelight demo where our SDS chapter marched with candles made from three foot lengths of 2 x 2, wire-wrapped at the top in kerosene-soaked mattress fabric.)

2. One unifying theme nation-wide was the widespread use of black armbands and ribbons.

3. Though the initial call six months earlier was for something more like a general strike, the no more business as usual aspect mainly took the form of student strikes at colleges and high schools, some junior highs too.

4. The Moratorium seemed pretty distant from the infighting between (and within) the two large anti-war coalitions and even more removed from the revolutionary politics them hegemonic in the student movement.

5. The single biggest error the organizers made was a voluntarist one: the concept was that each month the Moratorium would be extended by a day until the government caved in. In fact, after October, where participants in all the local actions must have numbered well over a million, the November Moratorium was folded into a huge Washington, DC March. By the middle of December, when it should have run an unsustainable three days, the Moratorium was heading for the dead letter office.

[This is crossposted over at DailyKos, where an interesting set of reminiscences is accumulating in the comments section.]

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February 15, 2007

Breaking! Thousands of Students Block CA Highway!

This is a breaking story, so I'll keep it short. As part of the national day of student strikes called for February 15, 3000 students stook part in a mass rally against the war at the University of California at Santa Barbara! As blogged by a UCSB student on DailyKos:

After about an hour of speeches, including one by a US Marine who initially supported but has now turned against the war, the organizers decided we should go walk across campus to give the people who didn’t ditch a chance to change their minds and join us. The line stretched for a half a mile, at least, all along the bike path, almost all students, as we chanted slogans like PEACE NOW and AINT NO POWER LIKE THE POWER OF PEOPLE CAUSE THE POWER OF PEOPLE DON’T STOP (say whaaaat?)

A rumor began that the students were going to take nearby CA Highway 217. At 2:34, thousands of them did, marching half a mile before they hit a hastily improvised CHiPs roadblock. Hundreds sat down on the highway and held it for hours.

Let the student, nom du blog VoteHarder, have the last word:

I’ve never been so proud of my university and my generation. We are against the war in Iraq and we’re not willing to go by silently as men, women and children are killed in our name. END THIS WAR NOW. And no, NOT a pansy-ass resolution. Resolutions don’t stop casualties and suicide bombings. CUT THE FUCKING FUNDING.

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Wave Of Congressional Office Occupations Builds, Below the Radar

I just watched the new MoveCongress.org video of John Murtha explaining his legislative strategy to end the occupation of Iraq, which seems to contain some interesting hidden booby traps for the Bush administration. There is, unfortunately, another concealed agenda item in his plan—providing cover for Democrats who are under massive pressure to vote No on the upcoming $93 billion emergency appropriation Bush needs to continue the war.

And plenty of them need cover. Since the 110th Congress opened, pressure has been escalating on Democrats and Republicans alike to screw down the valves on the money pipeline. Most dramatic has been a surge, so to speak, in actual takeovers of Representatives’ and Senators’ offices.

So What’s New?

The tactic of taking over politicians' offices is hardly a new one and has been used to notable effect earlier in the struggle to end this unjust and unjustifiable occupation. In Maine, for instance, there have been repeated occupations of the offices of “moderate” Republican Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins (as reported here last year by Michael Uhl, Veterans For Peace Chapter 1.).

One change now is the breadth of the movement and its intensity. Though the occupation tactic has long been under discussion by many activists, a trailblazing step forward was taken last month by peace movement folks in Sacramento. With an outfit called Sacramento for Democracy at the core, they are in the 28th day of a rolling 9 to 5 occupation of the local office of Representative Doris Matsui. Matsui, a Democrat, has stepped up her anti-war rhetoric in response, but that’s all so far.

Interestingly, Sacramento for Democracy is the local affiliate of Progressive Democrats of America. When folks whose primary political identification is with the Democratic Party are rock solid for cutting funding to the occupation and are taking over Congressional offices, things are shifting.

The tide is swelling even under more difficult conditions. In Huntsville, AL, two activists supported by a rally of dozens of supporters took a first step, standing silently in Representative Bud Cramer’s office. One of them, Gordon Engstrom, said:

“I feel like we made some history. It’s probably the first time anyone has ever stood in Bud Cramer’s office in honor of Gandhi. I can’t say that I think I changed anyone’s mind, but I know that I made a statement that cannot be misinterpreted. We are against the war, and we are for peace.”
The Occupation Project

The Alabama action was part of the unfolding Occupation Project: A Campaign of Sustained Nonviolent Civil Disobedience to End the Iraq War. The occupation project was initiated by Voices for Creative Non-Violence, an organization with roots in traditional pacifism. The campaign has been endorsed and is being heavily promoted by Veterans For Peace, Code Pink and United For Peace & Justice.

The kickoff of the campaign took place on February 5, with a total of 18 activists arrested while occupying the offices of Senators John McCain in DC, and Barack Obama and Dick Durbin in Chicago. The campaign’s Occupation Project Updates is, along with Indymedia, the best source of information on what’s been done and what’s brewing.

The Demands

So far, all the occupations have focused on getting elected officials to do more than denounce the war. A Sacramento activist noted:
“Congress has the power of the purse strings. It is the one real way it can stop the war. Yet Doris refuses to agree to our lone request – vote against future funding for the war. There are billions already allocated to protect our troops. New funding only extends the war.”
In Portland, OR, Greg Lief, arrested for “trespassing” in the office of Senator Gordon Smith, agreed:

The main reason why we visited Smith's office was the fact that, last December, Smith went out on a limb with very strong anti-war statements. As Smith's constituents, all that George Hutchinson and I (as well as Troy Horton and Joe Walsh, both of whom visited Smith's office on January 25th) were doing is to encourage Smith to support his statements with concrete action by voting to defund the war.

Why don’t I know about this?

That’s pretty obvious. The mainstream media has by and large let this story drop or, worse, censored it. One of those arrested for occupying McCain’s office, Midge, summed it up:
We got a little news coverage including just one paragraph in an AP article about the demise of the Senate’s non-binding resolution denouncing Bush’s “troop surge.” However, that very article was edited in some publications, including my hometown paper The Springfield News-Leader, which cut the article short without mention of the McCain protests…If you live in Southwest Missouri, email the Springfield News-Leader and ask them “Why did you edit out news reported by the AP?” I mean, how Orwellian is that? Is this 1984 or what?

Why this isn’t bigger in the dKos orbit? (Six posts in the last two weeks tagged “Occupation Project” all from LA.) Or other liberal centers like Huffington Post? You tell me. I mean, I know Kossacks are all over the map on what Congressional priorities around the war should be (see the poll on this in a recent post), but ignoring this is nuts. And in hard left sections of the blogosphere, alive with calls to “escalate the struggle” and “turn dissent into resistance” one searches in vain for detailed coverage and analysis of these exciting actions. What’s with that?

And that’s not all!

In the meantime, here are a few more occupations I tracked down:

Representative Mike Honda (D) Campbell/San Jose, CA.

Representative Adam Schiff (D) Pasadena, CA

Representative Russ Carnahan (D) St. Louis, MO

Representative Russ Carnahan (D) St. Louis, MO (again)

Representative Russ Carnahan (D) St. Louis, MO (again)

Representative Russ Carnahan (D) St. Louis, MO (Today!)

And if you happen to be in Santa Cruz, CA on Friday, you might want to fall by Representative Sam Farr’s office. Around, say, 1:00 PM.

What have I missed?

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February 13, 2007

Workers, Celebrate Comrade Valentine's Day With Farseeing Proletarian Optimism!

Fire on the Mountain is most pleased to see that the Freedom Road Socialist Organization / Organización Socialista del Camino para la Libertad has posted the Official Comrade Valentine's Day slogans for 2007. (This fine tradition has been augmented this year with some reflections on Loving In The Movement, by Claire Tran, a young FRSO/OSCL leader.)

Here, for those too lazy to click the link, are this year's slogans (but if you go to th' Road's web page you get to see the Official Comrade Valentine's Day logo, too).

Comrade Valentine's Day Slogans, 2007

Progressive And Revolutionary People Everywhere,

1. Resolutely Uphold The Militant Bolshevik Spirit And Revolutionary Romanticism Embodied In Comrade Valentine!

2. Decisively Smash Retrograde And Joyless Ultra-Left Lines Which Disparage Proletarian Love And Desire!!

3. Warmly Celebrate the 20th Anniversary Of ACT-UP, A Militant Organization Which Attacked The Bourgeois State And Big Capital On Behalf Of LGBTQ People And All AIDS-Affected Oppressed Communities Worldwide In 1987 And Has Remained On The Offensive For Two Decades!!!


FRSO/OSCL has added a Spanish language translation of this.

A Los/Las Progresistas Y Pueblos Revolucionarios En Todo El Mundo,

1. ¡Mantengamos El Espíritu Militante Bolshevique Y Romanticismo Revolucionario Incorporado En Camarada Valentin@!

2. ¡Derrotar Las Lineas No-Felizes Ultra-Izquierda Y Atrasadas Que Desbaratan El Amor Proletario Y El Deseo!

3. ¡Celebremos El 20 Aniversario De ACT-UP, La Organización Que Atacó El Estado Burgues Y El Gran Capital Por Parte De Gente LGBTQ Y Todas Comunidades Oprimidas Del Mundo Afectadas Por El SIDA En 1987 Y Que Se Ha Quedado En La Ofensiva Por Dos Décadas!

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February 7, 2007

Where Will The Nativists Go?

Some spooky stuff in the last few days has brought back to the fore a concern I've been chewing on since the November election: What's going to be the organizational expression of the deep current of nativist sentiment among a substantial chunk of the white population in this country?

True, the main aspect of the shellacking the Republicans took was the occupation of Iraq, but very important as well was the fact that Latina/o voters also rejected them because the party was identified with the rabid anti-immigration stance of Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado and his ilk. In their post-mortem commentary, Republican bigwigs and associated thinktanks and pundits have been vociferous in declaring that their party can’t afford to go the anti-immigrant route.

A couple of days ago, the Anti-Defamation League released a new report suggesting that right wing extremist groups like the Klan are stepping into the vacuum. An article about the report highlighted the danger.

“Extremist groups are good at seizing on whatever the hot button is of the day and twisting the message to get new members,” Deborah M. Lauter, ADL civil rights director, said Monday. “This one seems to be taking hold with more of mainstream America than we’d like to see.”

Activists and NGOs in the Chicana/o community and doing work with immigrants sure see it.

“I’ve been doing (Hispanic advocacy work) for a long, long time and the atmosphere has never been as poisonous as it has been in the last few years,” said Lisa Navarrete, a vice president at the National Council of La Raza. “The level of vitriol is new.”

Some of the more foam-flecked anti-immigration ranters will doubtless wind up in swastika t-shirts, but I don't think most of their calmer, quieter, but no-less-bent-out, white Middle American counterparts are going to--yet. But the question recurs: if the Republican Party hierarchy decides that it simply can’t afford to let the likes of Tom Tancredo be their public face, where will these folks find a home?

Let's step back for a moment. The issue of immigration today roils right below the surface of political life in the U.S. During the massive and historic immigrant uprising of last spring, many of us were unpleasantly surprised at the response of some of the plain-old, everyday, Marcia-Brady-hair-having white folks we know. (And some Black folks who should know better, too, but let's leave that for another post.)

And that's just the tip of the iceberg. I highly recommend folks look at The Nation's issue on "The New Nativism" from last fall (available online here). Folks living in large cities, with diverse and cosmopolitan populations, can have a hard time recognizing how jarring the last decade or two have been for folks in older ‘burbs, smaller cities, and towns. Whiteness has been the norm in these areas, or perhaps a simple white/Black binary with a long ugly history, but whose presence and rules are known by all.

For some people, already insecure about their place in a country undergoing massive economic transformation and the erosion of community, the presence of a bunch of stores on Main Street with Spanish or Chinese language signage is a threat to their very sense of self. It's what my pal Napolitana Piemontese sometimes calls "the wounded narcissism of empire."

Now freaked-out white folks have never been a group to stir a lot of sympathy in me, but I do like keeping an eye on what’s up with them, especially when they are freaked out in large numbers. Lou Dobbs is reported to command the highest ad rates on CNN--and his high ratings come because he’s the country’s leading "respectable" immigrant-basher, not because anybody’s getting rich off his show’s banal reportage on the business world.

So where are they going to go? Some bloggers who posted comments to a thread on this subject yesterday at the left liberal DailyKos site suggest that 2008 will see a serious right wing third party effort by the Constitution Party (better known in some states by its local affiliate, like the American Independent Party in California). I have no way of judging how real this might be.

But one thing I do know is that nobody better rely on the Democrats to stand up to nativism. Terry McAuliffe, former DNC chair and currently a key figure in Hillary Clinton's campaign brain trust, was asked about immigration on a radio call-in show a few dsys back:

I couldn't agree more. We've got to shut these borders down. These people shouldn't be coming in this country. We need to enforce our border protections. We have to do something for the people who have been here for years and have paid taxes -- you know, we're for the people who have been in this country and paying taxes and raising their family. But for the people who have not been here, who have been here illegally and have taken advantage of the situation, we need to have a plan to get them back to the countries they came from, and more important, which is the first thing John talks about, we have gotta shut these borders down. I couldn't agree more. (h/t MyDD)

So lemme throw this open to Fire on the Mountain readers. Where do you think the nativist sentiment bubbling under out there is going to go? And what should we be doing about it? Is my concern overblown? What is the next recession going to do to the situation?

Hit the "Comments" button directly below and weigh in.

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February 3, 2007

Wear A Damn Button, Would Ya? Every Day!

I'm halfway snarling at myself here, but if this stings a bit, you can own a piece of it, too.

There's a lot of interesting discussion about the conjuncture we find ourselves as the contradictions around the occupation of Iraq intensify within US society. I wrote about it a little here in the hours before leaving for the DC demo last Saurday. While some of the ideas in play are critical, like the need to understand where the demand for impeachment fits in the struggle today, the tone of the discussion sometimes strikes me as a little overblown--bold calls to return to the glory days of May 1970 and so on.

In response, I want to propose a mini-campaign that could hardly be more modest in scale, or more simple to take up: Every day, when you leave the house, put on a pin. Two, if you've got a coat on you're going to shed indoors later. Every day!

The button should address the growing crisis aroound the occupation of Iraq in simple terms. Bring Them Home Now! or Impeach! or Money For Schools, Not For War.

Sure, a political button is a small and commonplace thing, but consider the crucial juncture at which we find ourselves. Mass opinion counts for far more now than it does in ordinary times, because it so squarely rejects the status quo and because there is no leadership so far to co-opt it or subsume it into a half-stepping response.

The people of this country have been watching with dismay as a massive electoral repudiation of the war morphs into a deadly escalation and a threatened expansion into Iran. Instead of moving to stop this in its tracks, the Democratic leadership lined up behind the non-binding and occupation-endorsing Warner Resolution.

Everything we do to make the anti-war/anti-occupation movement more visible gives others a sense that there is hope, that there is something they might do as well, that things can be changed. And my doing it isn't going to do doodly squat. But if you, dear reader, take this up and spread the word in local groups and across teh Internets, that's kinda different.

Thousands more people wearing buttons at school, at work, in the neighborhood, will be a vivid local sign of the reinvigoration of the anti-war movement we experienced in DC last week.

Too many days, I've been neglecting to do this simple thing. No more. From here on out, I'll be wearing a button every day (two, actually, until the NYC weather takes a turn for the warmer). And I'll be sure to have a few extra in my pocket in case somebody on the subway wants one.

Next let's talk about occupying Congressional offices...

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February 2, 2007

Eric von Schmidt, dead

A guy I knew some, Eric von Schmidt, just died. Singer, guitarist, songwriter, writer, illustrator, painter... I don't much feel like writing about him; my moms knew him too, and she died last fall.

I will say this, though. Among several lasting compositions, Eric wrote one of the great strike songs in the English language, "Joshua Gone Barbados." His version is probably the best, but if you can't find it, or are greedy, check out Tom Rush's, the classic.

Which leads me naturally away from death. If you are near one of the places where Mat Callahan (ex-Prairie Fire, ex-Looters) is performing next month, March, on tour from Switzerland, you may have a chance to hear another of the all-time great strike tunes, "Come On, Virgie," performed by its cowriter. After some aggressive lobbying, Mat said maybe he'll try and work it up, first time in decades. All of his work has a revolutionary flava, so catch him no matter what.

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Take Five--Let’s Leave (As In Iraq)

[Take Five. Every Friday, Fire on the Mountain picks a category and lists five cool things in it. It's up to you, dear reader, to add your own in the Comments section. Just click on the word "comments" at the bottom of the piece and you're off to the races.]

With the Bush administration escalating and the Congressional Democrats dithering, it’s once again time to amplify the drumbeat for immediate withdrawal of all US troops and bases from Iraq. Or, in the vernacular, Bring Them Home Now!

And because we have to belabor the point, it’s nice to have a number of ways to say, “Let’s go.” And there sure as hell are a lot of ways to say it. Here are five of my favorites—add your own.


Let’s make like a shepherd and get the flock out of here—My personal fave in the “make like a” pantheon, because when you’re in elementary school it’s awfully funny. [before my time]

Let’s cop a mope—This is here because I like how it sounds. This was around in NYC in the ‘70s, and I have a hunch it may have come from police slang, though not because of the “cop” part (that’s related to “copping” drugs, a feel, and so on, and more specifically to “cop a squat” for sit down.) [1970s]

Let’s book—Beating out “Let’s went” by a hair because I like books even better than I like fucking with grammar. Why are there so many one word—one short word--slang variants for this concept—let’s jet, let’s jam, etc.? And has anyone ever done a study of when and where they have arisen and spread out from? And why “book”? [1960s]

Let’s get in the breeze—This is my favorite among ones that differentiate between indoors and outdoors. Kinda poetic in a haiku-y way. [?]

Let’s absquatulate—I love this one for its archaism, though I read someplace that Tom Pynchon uses it in his new book, which means it loses its coolness points for obscurity—still rolls nicely off the tongue though. [pre-Civil War]

Bonus—Color my ass gone! I include this as a bonus simply because it doesn’t lend itself to collectivity—I’ve never heard anyone say “Color our asses gone.” The first time this one ever stuck deeply in my mind was in the early ‘80s when I heard a band at the Rat in Boston do a punchy song with this title. Same bill with SS Decontrol, but I can’t remember who it was.

Okay, now it’s up to you. Kick in your favorites. History, ruminations, reminiscences, and so on are welcome, but not required. Just drop your favorite phrase.

And don’t stop working to end the occupation!

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