Friday, March 19, 2010

Dan Choi stands up kicking off days of protests

Shortly before 2 p.m., Park Police came upon two men who had chained themselves to a section of the iron fence on the north side, said Sgt. David Schlosser, a police spokesman. Officers told the men they did not have a permit for their demonstration and gave them three warnings about the violation, Schlosser said. The men refused to leave, so officers arrested them on the charge of "failure to obey a lawful order."

The above is from Theola Labbe-DeBose's "Two gay men arrested in White House protest" (Washington Post) on the brave activism of Lt Dan Choi and Capt James Pietrangelo. Last night, we noted Brian Montopoli's "Lt. Dan Choi Arrested at White House During Gay Rights Rally" (CBS News) which remains one of the stronger articles. Queerty offers their analysis and we'll excerpt this section:

They hijacked HRC's rally. Normally we wouldn't commend a group for taking over another organization's event. That's just rude, and it's like, plan your own shindig, jerks. But HRC wastes millions of its donors' dollars every year, so if anyone is going to make a HRC rally effective, it'll be a third party. [. . .] Like Get Equal. From this HRC statement, it appears Choi wasn't even supposed to speak at all, and instead, through a relationship with Solmonese, secured a chance to take the mic at the last minute: "There's been some confusion about Lt. Dan Choi's role in the rally. As Joe Solmonese was walking to the stage, Lt. Choi asked Joe if he could have a speaking role. Joe explained that it wasn't his sole decision to make on the spot given that there was already an established program that included Kathy Griffin, other organization and veterans. After Choi then spoke with Kathy Griffin, she agreed to bring him up on stage and speak to the crowd during her remarks. Lt. Choi in his speech called on the crowd to march on the White House. Joe Solmonese along with Eric Alva and others felt it was important to stay and engage those at the rally in ways they can continue building the pressure needed for repeal. This does nothing to diminish the actions taken by Lt. Choi and others. This is the nature of social change and everyone has a role to play." (Robin McGehee reportedly asked Joe Solmonese if she could take part in the rally, but was rebuffed; it was Kathy and Bravo's rally, she was supposedly told.) But what was supposed to be a camera op for HRC and Bravo became the mere launching pad for Choi's stunt. Nobody will remember the HRC rally for anything other than Choi taking it over. They got Kanye'd.

Rob Smith (The Huffington Post) struggles with what the activism means (sample, "This is either bold gay activism, the likes of which we haven't seen since the days of ACT UP, or it is a deafening cry for attention that just damaged the brand and credibility of one of the few real gay leaders the community has right now."). Eve Conant (Newsweek) offers a video report on the rally and the protest. FYI, I have no struggle with Dan Choi's actions. He took a brave stand. It deserves applause.

Protests will take place tomorrow against the Iraq War and Afghanistan War. Actions are scheduled across the country and the best known are the ones to be held in DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Michael E. Ruane (Washington Post) reports, "The protest, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will begin with a noon rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. The march will follow." Ruane's article also has a video of people speaking out.

Cindy Sheehan: You know some people have abandoned -- in the anti-war movement -- have abandoned peace since Obama's been president. But we need to recreate a movement. And that's what we're trying to do here at this march. We're trying to not just build a camp, but build a movement.

Military Families Speak Out's Maggie Pondolfino: I feel like I have a heightened responsibility as a military family to lend my voice to the antiwar movement because these wars have gone on too long and they continue to kill our loved ones. My son is currently deployed in Kandahar Province in Afghanistan and he also did a tour in Iraq.

Cindy Sheehan is briefly on Democracy Now! today (blink and you'll miss her.) Fight Back! interviews Jess Sundin (Freedom Road Socialist Organization) about tomorrow's actions.

Fight Back!: What’s going on with the U.S. occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Sundin: After all these years, Iraq and Afghanistan are each occupied by more than 100,000 U.S. troops, plus the soldiers of U.S. allies. The U.S. runs prisons in both countries, operates checkpoints along roadways and controls government affairs.
In Iraq, over a million people have been killed by occupying forces - every family has lost someone. Nearly 6 million Iraqis are refugees, having fled their homes and, in some cases, the country. The infrastructure is in a shambles, where most Iraqis have limited access to electricity, adequate housing, drinking water and sanitation services. Unemployment and underemployment are over 40% and there is no sign that any of this will improve.
The people of Afghanistan are being hammered hard by Obama’s policy of bringing in more troops - there are more than twice as many American soldiers there now than there was under Bush. And more are on their way. Top commanders promise this will be a brutal year - we have regular reports of civilian casualties. The troops plan to lay siege to more cities, as they did to Marjah last month, promising to make a whole country of ghost towns.
There is no chance of victory for the U.S. - the peoples of Iraq and Afghanistan will continue to resist the occupations and fight to control their own countries and futures.

Jobert Poblete (San Francisco Bay Guardian) speaks with A.N.S.W.E.R.'s Chris Banks:

“There is a finite amount of resources in our society,” Banks said. “And if those resources are used on wars and to bail out banks, then we can't use them for schools, health care, and public transit. The wall between foreign policy and domestic policy is a fictitious wall.”
This year's protest will focus on the economic crisis and on “bailing out people instead of banks.” Students who helped organize the recent March 4 Day of Action are part of the coalition mobilizing for the Saturday protest and students and teachers will be among the speakers at the rally at Civic Center. Protest endorsers include the United Educators of San Francisco, a union that represents more than 6,000 public school employees. Dennis Kelly, president of UESF, told us that the protest “ties directly in with our concerns about the California state budget, that the priorities being set are the wrong priorities.”
The rally will be followed by a march that will pass by the Hilton and the Four Seasons, two hotels where members of Unite Here Local 2 are without a contract because of a negotiating impasse with management. The biggest point of contention between the hotels and union is over health care. (Union members currently pay $10 a month for family coverage but the hotels want to increase that to $200 a month.)

Karen Kucher (San Diego Union-Tribune) reports the details of Saturday's actions in San Diego. In New York, there will be an action in Nanuet. Jane Lerner (Lower Hudson Valley Journal News) reports on the details of that action.


World Can't Wait and A.N.S.W.E.R. are among the organizations sponsoring the DC, San Francisco and Los Angeles actions tomorrow and you can refer to those websites for more information.

In Iraq, the ballot counting continues. Pakistan's Daily Times reports, "Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and main rival Iyad Allawi were locked in a close election race on Thursday, as updated results showed their blocs running neck-and-neck for seats in parliament." Alsumaria TV adds, "State of Law Coalition led by Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki is slightly ahead of other coalitions, according to preliminary results of Iraqi Parliamentary elections." Along with the ballot counting, the violence also continues. Reuters reports a Mosul roadside bombing claimed the life of 1 Iraqi soilder with three more injured, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left seven people injured, 1 person was injured in a Mosul shooting, a Baghdad home invasion resulted in the death of a police officer (and it was his home) and, dropping back to yesterday, 2 corpses were discovered in Mosul.

In England, Gordon Brown's latest error just isn't washing away in the news cycle. Tom Newton Dunn (Daily Sun) reports, "THREE out of five Britons think Gordon Brown LIED about forces' funding to the Iraq Inquiry and MPs. Sixty-one per cent told a Sun/YouGov poll they thought the PM knew the truth but tried to get away with twisting it." Gordon's statements were made to the Iraq Inquiry March 5th. Al Kamen (Washington Post) reports that Bush administration officials are said to be 'cool' to offers to provide testimony to the Inquiry:

But we're hearing that the response from Bush administration folks has been decidedly cool, even though the panel apparently is willing to do the interviews in private, specify the subject areas in advance and accept statements on background, without naming names.
Unclear how many officials got the panel's invites, e-mailed about three weeks ago. It would seem likely the list would include some of the usual top-tier suspects -- George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Stephen Hadley, Donald Rumsfeld, and their deputies and senior assistants. Word is about 10 officials, most of them involved in the post-invasion period, have agreed to talk this spring. Unclear whether those in on the pre-invasion "mushroom cloud" campaign are going to participate.

Of the names above, the most mentioned are Bush and Rice (in that order). Rumsfeld comes in a distant third. "Most mentioned" refers to in witness testimony. Mentioned far more often than Rumsfeld is Tommy Franks and the most cited by witnesses in their testimony (cited by name) is Paul Bremer.

TV notes. NOW on PBS begins airing Friday on most PBS stations (check local listings):

There are places in the world where the success of a soap opera is measured not just in TV ratings, but in human lives. On March 19 at 8:30 pm (check local listings), NOW travels to Kenya, where ambitious producers and actors hope one such TV show, "The Team", can help foster peace amongst the country's 42 official tribes.

During presidential elections two years ago, tribalism-influenced protests in Kenya left almost 1,500 dead and nearly 300,000 displaced. Tensions continue today over issues including extreme poverty and widespread corruption.

In "The Team", soccer players from different tribes work together to overcome historic rivalries and form a common bond. The hope is that commonalities portrayed in fiction can inspire harmony in the real world. Early reaction to the show's inaugural season is promising.

"I was very surprised to see how Kenyans want change, how they want to live in peace and the way the responded to us," Milly Mugadi, one of the show's stars, noted during a local screening. "There were people from different tribes talking about peace and how to reconcile with each other... they opened up their hearts."

John Marks, whose organization Common Ground produces versions of "The Team" in 12 different countries, is cautiously hopeful. "You don't watch one of our television shows and drop your submachine gun," explains Marks, who says he was inspired by the influence of "All in the Family" on American culture. "But you can change the environment so it becomes more and more difficult to be in violent conflict."

Can this soap opera for social change really make a difference in stopping violence? Next on NOW.

Staying with TV notes, Washington Week begins airing on many PBS stations tonight (and throughout the weekend, check local listings) and joining Gwen around the table this week are Peter Baker (New York Times), Jeanne Cummings (Politico) and Karen Tumulty (Time magazine). Remember that the show podcasts in video and audio format -- and a number of people sign up for each (audio is thought to be so popular due to the fact that it downloads so much quicker). If you podcast the show, remember there is the Web Extra where Gwen and the guests weigh in on topics viewers e-mail about. And also remember that usually by Monday afternoon you can go to the show's website and stream it there (including Web Extra) as well as read the transcripts and more. They're beefing up their online presence and that includes highlighting archived shows and Gwen's weekly column which, this week, is entitled "Deadlines, Schmedlines . . ." Meanwhile Bonnie Erbe will sit down with Melinda Henneberger, Avis Jones-DeWeever, Tara Setmayer and Genevieve Wood on the latest broadcast of PBS' To The Contrary to discuss the week's events. And at the website each week, For the broadcast program, check local listings, on many stations, it begins airing tonight. And turning to broadcast TV, Sunday CBS' 60 Minutes:

Chief of Staff
The man in the middle of all things presidential - especially the health care reform legislation in Congress right now - is President Obama's Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel. Katie Couric talks to Obama's right-hand man about his tough job and his even tougher reputation.

The Lost Children of Haiti
Scott Pelley reports on the most vulnerable victims of Haiti's earthquake, children who not only face hunger, disease and sexual assault, but a form of slavery that is legal in the Caribbean country.

Tennis Twins
Pro tennis' leading doubles champions are identical twins who are so coordinated on the court that their opponents actually suspect they have twin telepathy. Lesley Stahl reports. | Watch Video

60 Minutes, Sunday, March 21, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Radio. Today on The Diane Rehm Show (airs on most NPR stations and streams live online beginning at 10:00 am EST), Diane is joined the first hour (domestic news roundup) by Chris Cillizza (Washington Post), Karen Tumulty (Time) and Juan Williams (NPR and Fox News). For the second hour (international news roundup), Diane is joined by Yochi Dreazen (Wall St. Journal), Abderrahim Foukara (Al Jazeera) and Elise Labott (CNN).

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