Sunday, December 30, 2007

Bringing Leonard Peltier into the presidential debate

As we welcome in a New Year the name of wrongfully-jailed Indian activist Leonard Peltier should be brought into the presidential primary debate. Historian Harvey Wasserman says:
The Clintons are running for a third term in the White House. As expected, their first eight years in office are being given thorough scrutiny. Everything from NAFTA to Bosnia, from Monica to health care, are going rightfully under the microscope.

The disagreements are deep and generally predictable. But it is equally predictable that there is one issue---one man--- being totally ignored by the mainstream media. His case marks the moral low point of the Clinton Era. He deserves to be a part of the primary process.

His name is Leonard Peltier.

Amnesty International and a host of other independent global observers have long since confirmed that the FBI intimidated witnesses, withheld evidence, falsified affidavits and perpetrated every other dirty trick they could find to slap Peltier behind bars.
Although in his somewhat belated plea for Peltier, Wasserman focuses on the Clintons the issue of a new trial for Leonard should also be raised with Barack Obama and John Edwards

Letterman's World Wide Pants signs with Writer's Guild

As you may already know as of Wednesdsay Jan. 2 the late-night talk shows that have been showing repeats will return with original shows. This includes Late Night with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with Conan O'Brien, plus several others. Only Letterman and Ferguson's shows are returning with union writers. The others are scab shows which any progressive person should boycott - most Sag members will not appear. Here are a couple of exerpts from a letter from the writers' Guild regarding the matter:

We are writing to let you know that have reached a contract with David Letterman's Worldwide Pants production company that puts his show and The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson back on the air with Guild writers. This agreement is a positive step forward in our effort to reach an industry-wide contract. While we know that these deals put only a small number of writers back to work, three strategic imperatives have led us to conclude that this deal, and similar potential deals, are beneficial to our overall negotiating efforts.

Side-by-side with this agreement, and any others that we reach, are our ongoing strike strategies. In the case of late-night shows, our strike pressure will be intense and essential in directing political and SAG-member guests to Letterman and Ferguson rather than to struck talk shows. At this time, picket lines at venues such as NBC (both Burbank and Rockefeller Center), The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, and the Golden Globes are essential. Outreach to advertisers and investors will intensify in the days ahead and writers will continue to develop new media content itself to advance our position.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Bhutto assassinated: administration and candidate rhetoric follows

Well we're back!
I'll tell you the story of our adventures in Lincoln, Neb. Suffice it to say we had a great time, especially with our new grand-nephew Finn (photos coming).

We heard about the assassination of Benazir Bhutto when we were still in Lincoln. In the days ahead there will be much to say about this tragic event for Pakistan. But for the moment let me just say that for a long time I have believed that - contrary to the rhetoric of those like virtually all the presidential candidates labelling Iraq as the forefront in the fight against terrorism - any fool should see it's more likely Pakistan and Afghanistan. That doesn't give us any license to interfere in either of these countries. But simply to get out of Iraq. Despite the fact that it's also clear that Islamic fringe terrorists want us to stay. They also want us to interfere in Iran and Pakistan. The longer we continue to occupy predominantly Islamic nations we enhance the "terrorist's" anti-U.S. rhetoric.

The best initial analysis of this tragedy that I have seen is by Robert Parry.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holiday - however you celebrate

We're off for a few days of family cheer back Thursday

Have a Great Holiday - However you celebrate it - and Whoever or Whatever you Worship

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ted Glick ends 107-day climate crisis fast

Our old comrade Ted Glick just ended his 107 day-climate-crisis fast. Here is his report on the fast and its end which coincided with the end of this session of Congress.

Ted is the coordinator of the U.S. Climate Emergency Council. He can be reached
at or P.O. Box 1132, Bloomfield, N.J. 07003.

Future Hope column, Dec. 21, 2007

Ending the 2007 Fast

by Ted Glick

Two days ago, December 19th, Congress’ last day of work for this fall, following
the House’s vote in support of $70 billion in no-strings-attached money for the
wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and, as a result, in support of an appropriations bill
for 2008 that includes almost $30 billion in loan guarantees for nukes and coal,
I began to eat solid foods.

The first things that I used my teeth to chew on since September 4th, the day Congress
returned from its summer recess, were a regular potato and a sweet potato, followed
by some mixed vegetables.

It was good to eat, but it would have been much, much better if the end to this
fast were not so bittersweet.

I do give thanks that a pretty weak energy bill was passed which does represent
the beginnings of a turn away from our fossil fuel addiction, as limited as that
bill is and problematic as parts of it are, particularly its dramatic support for
corn-based and other forms of ethanol.

On the other hand, perhaps it was fitting that the continued dominance over this
Congress by the oil, coal, nuclear and gas interests was made clear by these last
few days of voting. Because of that dominance there was virtually no money for renewable
energy in the energy bill that was signed by Bush on the 19th, while an extremely
modest effort to repeal tax breaks for oil companies in that bill was threat-of-filibustered

And that awkward wording is deliberate. There wasn’t a filibuster, just a threat
of one, the tactic used by Republicans over and over this year, the tactic the Democrats
only once called their bluff on, and that in a half-hearted way.

When will we have leadership in Congress that stands up to evil?

And these people are evil. I called the Bush/Cheney gang “climate criminals” on
Democracy Now during a December 11th interview. That’s what they are, liars, deceivers,

In this Christmas season, the words of Jesus come to mind: “love your enemies.”
Yes, we should love these enemies by confronting them, by getting as close to them
as we can, and telling them that they need to be “born again” to the truth of what
they are doing so that, like Paul on the road to Damascus, they can become powerful
witnesses to help the world take the necessary steps so that we and our descendants,
the seventh generation, can have a future worth living for, worth living in.

Are there any people with a conscience left within the Bush administration?

Fortunately, outside of that administration more and more of us are stepping it
up. That is where my hope for the future comes from. That is why I intend to begin
fasting again after the first of the year.

Every Monday, for an indefinite period of time, certainly for many months, I will
eat no food and drink water only.

I don’t want to forget or lose touch with the many, many positive things that have
happened on this 107-day, 2007 climate emergency fast:

-the expressions of support and appreciation from so many people, friends, relatives,
co-workers, people I didn’t know before. All of us need to feel appreciated, and
I’m no different. To feel that support was very strengthening;

-the daily remembrance of what is being done to our earth and all of its life forms
because of the actions of powerful, evil people; the sense of connection to those
suffering as a result; and the heightened appreciation of the need for me to do
all that I can to help to change those realities;

-the sense that I was playing as effective a role as I could within the climate
movement and the larger progressive movement, that my willingness to take action
on a daily basis amplified what I had to say;

-the personal weight loss which, while greater (45 pounds) than what is healthy
for me long-term, will hopefully help me to be more disciplined as I return to eating
and keep my weight where it should be;

-and finally, the truly amazing things that happened on this fast that never would
have if I wasn’t doing it. Like the vivid dream I had on the 12th night followed
the next day by an interpretation of it by a prominent Indigenous leader who by
some coincidence or by fate was with me at a conference. Or the close friend and
fellow activist who asked me to pray to Jesus with him for the strength to carry
on, day to day, with this sometimes difficult work. Or the many young people at
the Power Shift conference who came up to me and thanked me for what I was doing.
Or the sense of connection I had, especially during the water-only, first 25 days,
with the plants and animals I encountered as I walked around the neighborhood in
Takoma Park, Md. where I was staying.

I hope other people will want to join with me on this every-Monday, 2008 climate
emergency fast. We can’t forget that our energies and our commitment are needed
now, right now, that 2008 will be a critical year in our desperate struggle to slow,
stop and reverse the path toward the cliff we are being driven by those in power.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Sale of Olive Branch Palestinian Olive Oil

From Brooklyn for Peace
Support Palestinian farmers and families by purchasing fairly-traded olive oil from small farmer cooperatives in the West Bank. Olive Branch Olive Oil comes to us from the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committees (PARC) a non-profit non-governmental organization in the West Bank.

Enjoy delicious, extra-virgin, first-cold-pressed olive oil, produced without pesticides or sprays. (Palestinian farmers traditionally care for their trees without the use of pesticides or sprays. The process is underway for obtaining organic certification.) Bottled in dark green glass bottles for optimal storage, to avoid light; storage advised in cool conditions.

Support tree re-planting and other development projects in Palestine.

Give gifts of olive oil as a way to initiate conversation with friends and family about conditions in Palestine.

Price: $20 per 750 ml bottle.
A portion of the purchase price is donated to tree replanting and other development projects in the West Bank. Proceeds also support the ongoing peace and justice work of Brooklyn For Peace.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Boycott Leno and O'Brien and their sponsors and guests

According to a Reuters' report Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien have announced that they will put on scab shows as of Jan. 2

Late-night TV comedians Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien said on Monday they will resume taping their shows on January 2, and cross picket lines if necessary, after nearly two months off the air in support of striking film and television writers.

With no end in sight to Hollywood's worst labor clash in 20 years, the hosts of NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" and "Late Night with Conan O'Brien" said they were returning for the sake of scores of co-workers idled by the strike.

It seems obvious to me that Leno is going back on the air because David Lettermen who owns his own show is negotiating a separate agreement with the writer's union. Leno knows that his show will tank if Letterman goes back on the air with original shows. Don't believe that nonsense about doing it for their non-writing staff. The worst part of this new development is that Leno and O'Brien are members of the writers' union. In other words, they will be scabbing against their own union. I think traitor is the right label for that kind of behavior.

Obviously everyone should communicate to NBC that they won't watch Leno and O'Brien's scab shows. But we should make it clear that we will boycott any one who sponsors these scab shows and also boycott the films and music of any stars who appear on the shows to promote their products. These seem to be the least we can do.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A new letter to Sen. Schumer re: Mukasey

I am sending the following letter to Sen. Chuck Schumer regarding his support of Michael Mukasey for Attorney-General:

Dear Sen. Schumer,

I am again writing about your questionable support of Michael Mukasey for Attorney-General. The New York Times reported on Saturday that "The Justice Department and the C.I.A.'s inspector general have begun a preliminary inquiry into the destruction of tapes, and Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey said the department would not comply with Congressional requests for information now because of 'our interest in avoiding any perception that our law enforcement decisions are subject to political influence.'

I don't think any of us who were suspicious of your support of Mukasey because of his disingenuous testimony during his confirmation hearings thought he would come back to bite you so soon. I don't know what kind of person he was before he entered the Bush/Cheney dimension, but like all others who enter there he is carrying their contaminated water. You said you were supporting him to avoid Bush appointing an interim AG who wouldn't put the department back on its feet. Is denying the constitutional independence of congress what you meant?

It's clear who Mukasey believes he works for (and it's not the American people). The question is now, who do you work for? And what are you going to do to stop Mukaey's stonewalling of Congress. He is after all your responsibility.

Mukasey's explanation of his refusal to cooperate with Congress holds about as much water as did his testimony on water boarding before Congress. We simply can't afford Gonzales redux. Now it's up to you to fight for the Constitutional independence of Congress and its right to investigate the executive branch.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Dan Cohen

Dec. 19: Rally to support Vermont impeachment walker Nirenberg

I have gotten a number of e-mails about this event. Whatever your particular position on impeachment of the presidential Bush and the vice-presidential Dick, we need to support Vermont impeachment walker Nirenberg:

New Yorkers Welcome Vermonter John Nirenberg Walking from Boston to Washington, DC to Deliver His Message for Impeachment to Nancy Pelosi

Elizabeth Holtzman, former Congresswoman and leading Impeachment expert and advocate joins March in My Name's John Nirenberg at

A rally at St. Mark's in-the-Bowery,
131 East 10th Street,
Wednesday, December 19, 2007, 4:30-6:30 p.m.

New York's grass roots, anti-war, pro-impeachment and civil liberties activists will gather to greet John Nirenberg who is walking 485 miles from Boston to Washington, DC. He will be arriving in New York City on Wednesday, December 19, and attend a rally in the evening at 4:30 p.m. at the Parish Room at St. Mark's Church in-the-Bowery.

John Nirenberg, Elizabeth Holtzman, Clarice Torrence, President, NY Metro Area Postal Union, APWU, AFL-CIO and others will gather to speak on this most urgent issue of our day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Christie Whitman: truth or judicial consequences

(Photo: Mark Wilson/
Getty Images)

The N.Y. Daily News reported on Tuesday that a Justice department lawyer defending former Environmental Protection Agency head Christie Whitman against claims by lower Manhattan residents that she "lied about air quality after the 9/11 attacks and should have to pay for medical monitoring and a cleanup" "warned the appeals panel that if Whitman can be held personally responsible, public officials will remain mum after future disasters."

Now let me get this straight. If Whitman lied (presumably at the behest of her bosses in the Bush administration), making her take responsibility for this action which may have endangered the health of lower Manhattan residents, government officials will in the future opt "to say nothing."

So, if we hold government officials responsible for what they say in the future they will shut up when they are about to lie or don't know what they are talking about, that would be a bad thing. OK, then.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Sen. Schumer's response to my letter

Here is Sen. Schumer's response to my letter criticizing his support for Michael Mukasey for attorney general. There are several problems with Schumer's argument. (See my comments after the letter).

Dear Mr. Cohen:

Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition to the nomination of Judge Michael B. Mukasey for attorney general.

As you may know, I voted in favor of Judge Mukasey’s nomination. I did so for one critical reason: the Department of Justice is a shambles and is in desperate need of a strong leader committed to depoliticizing the agency’s operations.

The department has been devastated under the Bush administration. Outstanding United States attorneys have been dismissed without cause; career civil-rights lawyers have been driven out in droves; people appear to have been prosecuted for political reasons; young lawyers have been rejected because they were not conservative ideologues; and politics have been allowed to infect decision-making.

We now have the potential to improve this critical department. There is virtually universal agreement, even from those who opposed Judge Mukasey, that he would do a good job in turning the department around. Indeed, my colleagues who opposed his confirmation have gone out of their way to praise his character and qualifications. More importantly, Judge Mukasey has demonstrated his fidelity to the rule of law, saying that if he believed the president were violating the law he would resign.

My colleagues and I, and many others, spent a great deal of time and effort to expose the failings of Alberto Gonzales. I did not want to see those failures continued by the installation of a caretaker, acting Attorney General who would do the bidding of Vice President Cheney and his Chief of Staff David Addington instead of working to get the Justice Department back on track.

I understand and respect those who believe that Judge Mukasey’s view on waterboarding should trump all other considerations. Like you, I believe that the cruel and inhumane technique of waterboarding is not only repugnant, but also illegal under current laws and conventions. I too found Judge Mukasey’s refusal to classify waterboarding as a form of torture unsatisfactory. Therefore, I hope Congress will soon pass S.1943, a bill I am cosponsoring to explicitly ban the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. Judge Mukasey not only made clear to me that the president would have no legal authority to ignore such legislation, but also pledged to enforce such a law. Some say such a law is unnecessary because waterboarding is already illegal – a view with which I fully agree. However, there appears to be enough dissention and confusion in the legal community, and within the White House, that a new law, which makes the illegality of waterboarding crystal clear, can only help.

Further, even if we don’t pass a new anti-waterboarding law, on the issue of torture we would be better off with Judge Mukasey than with a caretaker. The Judge has stated that he would abide by a court or Office of Legal Counsel ruling against the practice. We could certainly not expect the same from a caretaker appointee who would be more likely to embrace the theory of the unitary executive.

Had we rejected Judge Mukasey, President Bush made clear his intention to install an acting, caretaker attorney general who could serve for the rest of his term without the advice and consent of the Senate. To accept such an unaccountable attorney general, I believe, would be to surrender the department to the Administration’s extreme ideology and abandon the hope of instituting the many reforms called for by our investigation. I believe the rejection of Judge Mukasey would have been a symbolic victory in the short term, but it would have ultimately delayed reform at the Justice Department and, in all likelihood, caused more problems in the long run.

Indeed, it is my hope Judge Mukasey’s first weeks as attorney general are an indicator of his service to come. Days after he took office, the Justice Department reopened an internal investigation into the administration's warrantless surveillance program, which had stalled for over a year under his predecessor. More recently, the recall of the controversial U.S. attorney for Minnesota, whose radical views and poor management were symbolic of how far the Justice Department had fallen, is a tremendous step towards dismantling the legacy of Attorney General Gonzales. While there is certainly more to do, it is my hope that Judge Mukasey will do what it takes to remove the stench of politics from the Justice Department.

Again, thank you for contacting me on this important issue. Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can ever be of assistance to you on this or any other matter.


Charles E. Schumer
United States Senator

As I said above there are several problems with Schumer's argument:

First of all he says: "I hope Congress will soon pass S.1943, a bill I am cosponsoring to explicitly ban the use of waterboarding and other abusive interrogation techniques. Judge Mukasey not only made clear to me that the president would have no legal authority to ignore such legislation, but also pledged to enforce such a law."

Sen. Schumewr and I both know even if such a bill were to pass this Congress (a highly unlikely event) the president would either veto it with some self serving excuse or attach a signing statement that would vitiate it and make it possible for Mukasey to continue to stonewall it.

Secondly, Schumer states: "Had we rejected Judge Mukasey, President Bush made clear his intention to install an acting, caretaker attorney general who could serve for the rest of his term without the advice and consent of the Senate. To accept such an unaccountable attorney general, I believe, would be to surrender the department to the Administration’s extreme ideology and abandon the hope of instituting the many reforms called for by our investigation."

When will Sen. Schumer stand up for what's right and represent justice and not continue to allow Bush to blackmail the Senate into cowering before his un-American activities. Although there are many ways in which the Cheney/Bush administration has made a right turn away from basic American values (I know its not the first administration to do so, but it's the one with which we currently have to deal), few better represent the core un-American aspects of this administration than its justification of torture as a legitimate method of acquiring information from prisoners.

Mukasey's response to the question about waterboarding made him no more than a cog in the Cheney/Bush right-wing machine. It's time for a change.

Dec. 9: Dissent is not Terrorism: Support Daniel McGowan

Dissent is not Terrorism

Sunday, December 9th at 1pm
Herald Square (6th Ave & 32nd St -- across from the mall)

Join Friends and Family of Daniel McGowan for a
demonstration as we commemorate the 2nd
Anniversary of Operation Backfire and resist the
U.S. government’s attempts to conflate dissent with terrorism.

During Operation Backfire, the Justice Department
charged animal rights and environmental activists
as terrorists. Though these activists destroyed
property, they never injured anyone. Yet the
influence of oil, logging and fur lobbyists on
government is so great the FBI continues to
maintain that property crimes are the number one
domestic terrorist threat facing the United States.

By 400-6, the House just passed the “Violent
Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention
Act,” which criminalizes "extremist belief system[s]."

The planet is heating up. The U.S. crusade in the
Middle East is breeding new hatreds and
injustices. Now, more than ever, we need to
resist the politicians and corporate chieftans
who are trying to criminalize our very ability to
tell them that there has to be a better way to live.

Further information is attached below and also at