Tax Day 2009

posted by Mike on April 15th, 2009

“Once we give to God what is God’s there is nothing left for Caesar.”
–Dorothy Day

Today’s vigil for an end to the Guantanamo prison and US torture was at the White House, as usual. In the park across the street was the Washington, DC “tea party,” a demonstration against government spending and taxation, especially the turn these have taken since Obama’s been in office.

DC Tea Party

I was wearing a hood most of the time, so I’m in no position to characterize the event. I did take my hood off and talk to two women, who for some reason were surprised that the people at our vigil were mostly Christian, and did all sorts of good work when they weren’t dressed as detainees. I shared my concern that the media I read have not been taking the Tea Parties seriously, that they’ve been dismissing them as having a confused message or as being co-opted by non-grassroots groups. I think these things have been true to some extent of every large demonstration I’ve attended, and while they’re worthy of note, pointing them out should not be enough to dismiss a group of people taking to the streets.

Besides, as our vigil “co-captain” Carmen Trotta told me: “These are definitely grassroots folks.”

Oklahoma Catholic Worker Bob Waldrop:

Dear Representative Mary Fallin, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator James Inhofe, President Barak Obama, Governor Brad Henry,

On this Tax Day 2009, I write to denounce each and every one of you as thieves, liars, and murderers. You have drunk deeply of the bitter wine of unjust war, and your hands drip with the blood of your victims. The stench of death is upon you, and the voices of those who have died in the unjust wars you so gloriously support cry out to history for justice and remembrance.

One of my great heroes, Ammon Hennacy, was serious about protesting taxes. He didn’t pay his taxes, and would fast and picket outside federal offices every year encouraging others to do the same. Here’s part of his account of a five-day fast outside the tax office in Phoenix, beginning on Hiroshima Day, 1950:

All My Heroes Have FBI FilesAccording to the Gandhian technique of goodwill and frankness, I wrote to the City Manager and to my tax man, telling them of my extended plans, and to the chief of police asking for a permit, and telling him if he did not give me one I would picket anyway. . . .

I had a small quantity of leaflets, [Catholic Workers], and folded tax statements in the back pocket of my levis. I had walked three sides of this block three other times when I picketed against payment of taxes, so the ground was familiar. Shouts of “Go back to Russia, you Commie” were frequent. One Catholic lady who said she had bought CWs from me at St. Mary’s cordially took a slip. When I walked on, a man shouted at me to go back to Russia. The lady turned to him and said, “Go back to Russia yourself!”
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Podcast: Michael Ratner on “The Trial of Donald Rumsfeld”

posted by Mike on March 19th, 2009

Last night’s talk by Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights as part of the 100 Days Campaign. Georgetown Law School, Washington, DC, March 18, 2009.

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Download the mp3 (41MB, 85 min), see other formats, or subscribe to the 100 Days podcast feed.

He does get into accountability/prosecution, but starts off with a great explanation of where we’ve been and where we are with America’s policies of torture and indefinite detention.

Lent Day 18: St. Patrick’s Day

posted by Mike on March 17th, 2009

Yes, the White House fountain is green today.

Just wanted to note that this Lent has been a real time of learning and growth for me. I’m finally recognizing that when I’m uncomfortable, that often means learning and growth is happening.

Pie and Coffee classic: The Real Saint Patrick, starring the Duffy Bros.

Day 50: Letters to the Senate

posted by Mike on March 11th, 2009

This is Obama’s 50th full day in office, and the mid-point of the 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture.

Today, the vice-presidential motorcade drove by the vigil. The last time this happened was the morning of Inauguration Day. A nice way to mark day 50.

We also hand-delivered letters about the Uighurs to every Senate office today. We’re hoping some of the Senators draft their own letter to Obama soon. It is time to get this thing done with.

More daily updates, you could go to the 100 Days site, or follow us on Twitter.

Lent day 7

posted by Mike on March 4th, 2009

Today 12 people in orange jumpsuits from the 100 Days Campaign attended Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy’s “Getting to the Truth Through a Nonpartisan Commission of Inquiry” hearing. (Several folks were amused this was a hearing about forming a commission; see also I Think We Should Start Talking About Starting A Band.)


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Lent day 3

posted by Mike on February 27th, 2009

The caffeine headaches are fading, and I’m beginning to appreciate Lent. Giving something up for Lent is a more effective sort of New Year’s Resolution. You’re reminded of your commitment every Friday and Sunday, and your friends and family will be even more disappointed if you backslide–it’s not just a commitment to yourself, but to God!

Today there were all sorts of folks at the White House protesting on all sorts of issues. Even saw old Joe the Plumber. We’ve had a big, wonderful group in town for the 100 Days Campaign this week. People are coming from many perspectives; I recorded a roundtable yesterday to capture some of them.

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mp3 link (14MB, 29 min), other formats, podcast feed

Power Shift 2009 begins in DC today. After a full week of activism, I need a break from all that, so I won’t be connecting with PS, but I hope to run across some participants this weekend. I love that Monday the Speaker of the House is speaking, then thousands of people will head off to do civil disobedience at a coal plant. (Note that Pelosi and Reid yesterday took steps to have this plant stop using coal.)

Day 36: Ash Wednesday

posted by Mike on February 25th, 2009

Many of this week’s participants in the 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture are Catholics, so Ash Wednesday is an important day.

We wanted to connect the practice of our 100 Days vigil to our Lenten practice, so after visiting the White House sidewalk we processed to St. Matthew’s Cathedral and held a vigil during the transition between masses.

As our text we chose a line from Friday’s first reading:

This, rather, is the fasting that I wish:
releasing those bound unjustly,
untying the thongs of the yoke;
Setting free the oppressed,
breaking every yoke
(Isaiah 58:6)

A vigil like this can easily come across as a protest against the church or the churchgoers, and indeed we’ve already received one angry, eloquent e-mail from someone who understood our message and is sympathetic to the cause, but didn’t like the vigil one bit. Read the rest of this entry »

Guantanamo Uighurs derailed

posted by Mike on February 18th, 2009

A U.S. appeals court has reversed a lower court ruling that the 17 Uighur detainees at Guantanamo should be immediately released into the US. Washington Post:

Two of the judges, Karen LeCraft Henderson and A. Raymond Randolph, found that Urbina overstepped his authority in ordering such a remedy. Only the Executive Branch and Congress have the power to allow people to enter the United States, they ruled.

“The question here is not whether petitioners should be released, but where,” Randolph wrote in an 18-page opinion. “Never in the history of habeas corpus has any court thought it had the power to order an alien held overseas brought into the sovereign territory of a nation and released into the general population.”

In an opinion concurring with Randolph and Henderson, judge Judith W. Rogers wrote that Urbina had the right to order the release of the Uighurs into the United States but had acted “prematurely.”

More analysis from SCOTUSblog.

Day 23 of 100: Worcester goes home

posted by Mike on February 12th, 2009

As part of the 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture, we’re inviting groups to join us in Washington, DC, for all or part of a week.

This week’s Worcester participants have gone home, but not without sitting down to recap the experience:

mp3 link, other formats, podcast feed

Today was another long, grueling, satisfying day for those still here. Vigils at the National Mall and White House, conference calls, blogging, writing, and a birthday party. Carmen breaks it down:

Day 21: Worcester comes to town

posted by Mike on February 10th, 2009

A small group from Worcester arrived this week to help with the 100 Days Campaign to Close Guantanamo and End Torture. Good energy and a good attitude.

We started the day outside a press conference at the National Press Club held by a “keep Guantanamo open” group, then moved on to the White House for our daily “Free the Uighurs” vigil, then spent the afternoon visiting Worcester’s Rep. Jim McGovern and staffers for Senators Kennedy and Kerry. Visiting my elected officials was well worth my time.