Saturday, December 3, 2011


      I am surprised no other blogger or burgeoning documentarian has posted this yet.  I am beginning the fundraising for Cluster-Fracked via my soon to be organic CSA (more on that later).  But--isn't it curious we have not heard perhaps the most amazing piece of news to emerge from any of the DEC hearings on the one-stop polluting SGEIS permit for the Frackers?  Public Employees Federation (PEF), speaking for the 1774 members of the professional, technical and scientific staff of DEC says NO FRACKING WAY!  (They had to go to the city to do this, but they DID say this at the hearing November 29 in Manhattan!).  They also said with the cuts they can't enforce the current regs on DEC's table either.  Here's the text of what was said in the 3 minute haiku the DEC made us use:
    Stephanie Low presented the statement:
        "I'm here to deliver a statement from an employee of the DEC, Environmental Program Specialist and Executive Board member of the DEC's union, the Public Employees Federation (PEF).  His name is Wayne Bayer and he speaks for the 1774 members of the professional, technical and scientific staff of the DEC, those on the ground who may be assumed to know the issues of fracking and the rdSGEIS best.  His statement follows:
        Three minutes is not an adequate amount of time to fully convey the concerns of Division 169 of the New York State PEF, or PEF/encon, who represent the rapidly declining professional, technical and scientific staff of DEC.
         Therefore, we will be submitting more extensive comments for the public record before the public comment period is over.
          Almost everyone agrees that public regulatory involvement and oversight is necessary to protect the public, vital natural resources, and wildlife, as well as the natural gas industry itself from unjustified allegations of mis-and/or malfeasance with gas extraction activities.  The point PEF/encon wishes to make loud and clear today is that the 25% reduction in existing staff at DEC has crippled our ability to carry out all existing regulatory and statutory responsibilities assigned to our agency.
         There is NO FRACKING WAY we can presently, honestly, and adequately add any new responsibility as labor-intensive as regulating, monitoring and inspection activities related to high volume hydraulic fracturing of natural gas.  DEC would also be hard pressed to adequately provide emergency remedial response in cleanup assistance for a major accident of any kind.  Til there are adequate staffing resources available, the moratorium should be extended."
        IN CLOSING:
        The other day, a man and his wife lamented that their daughter's husband was thrilled that their 100 acres could be signed.  They plan on traveling in Europe, Italy, etc..  I reminded them--you can travel NOW  cheaply--sign up for "Making the World a Friendlier Place One Couch at a Time."  They said the daughter is a retired teacher.  They already have enough money to travel.
        Perhaps they could get their daughter and similar lease-holders or lease-holder wanna be's, perhaps, to listen to David Rovics' advice on what to tell Halliburton, Exxon-Mobil, et al..
        David came to Oneonta and Binghamton this Fall before the anti-frack fever kicked in here [I'm always just a little bit too ahead of the curve (sigh)] and I lost my shirt on that concert.  I also spent a bit of money on this ad highlighting the need to vote and referring people to sources for learning about anti-fracking candidates this Fall.
        If you'd like to help me get Cluster Fracked, my documentary, off the ground, the best way to help is by donating to the first year of An Iron Daisy CSA by the end of this month.
       I will be delivering fresh produce bi-weekly (Mid-May through Mid-September) from my soon-to-be-certified organic farm to food banks in Oneonta, Cooperstown, Binghamton, Bradford County PA (Including Towanda and the Carter Road folks in Dimmock) and 5 other towns (say where, say when on those others) in the test run of the new improved garden beds.
           My farm was not plowed for about 40 years.  I've owned it since 2001 and never used any insectides, etc.. Certified organic seeds (no GMO!).   I need donations by the end of December 31st to go to the CSA, please.   I'm not good at raising money for myself.  I'm usually good at writing grants for others.
To donate:
An Iron Daisy CSA
P.O. Box 1539
Oneonta, NY 13820
and make the check out to An Iron Daisy CSA, please.
 It's important.  Thank you for supporting this.  Any questions--call me at 607-267-9337, and remember to say (and sing with David Rovics!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


well--they did get the headline 'wrong'--but then my local newspaper does own the printing press.  Click on the newspaper opinion page if you'd care to give it a little love.  I'm sure it will get some folks (probably more academic liberal types) in a lather.

Occupied by Revels, Slaves, and Courtjesters?
Recent Millard Filmore cartoons and letters about the “Occupy” movement conflict with my knowledge that 4-tour Marine Scott Olsen lies damaged by rioting paramilitary police in Oakland.   Award-winning journalist and theologian Chris Hedges calls Occupiers “the best among us.”   Having visited a few general assemblies in D.C. and NYC, I must agree with him.  They are clean, respectful, and principled. 
Sadly, the U.S. has no Canadian style law banning media liars--or we could ban Fox News and derivative ‘humor’ from Filmore.
  As a journalist since 1977, with a Masters and PhD in critical media analysis, I feel obligated to point the Star to the shining example of the late Ralph McGill, who put his pro-integration editorials on the front page--replete with photograph.   McGill and other publishers of his era, such as Hodding Carter II, knew that reactionaries have a history of calling ‘dirty’ those who ‘betray’ white middle class privilege to denounce injustice.  Consider Dr. Martin Luther King’s Letter From Birmingham Jail, which praised brave publishers like McGill thusly:  “...Unlike so many of their moderate brothers and sisters, they have recognized the urgency of the moment and sensed the need for powerful “action” antidotes....” 
I would like to think the Star would willingly stop carrying Filmore, and other ‘conservative’ liars.  
Anti-falsehood legislation would undoubtedly over-reach.
However, responsible editorial fiat could provide a sane middle ground.
So, please reconsider paying known liars.  In the words of Hedges:  “There are no excuses left....Either you obstruct... the plundering by the criminal class on Wall Street and accelerated destruction of the ecosystem that sustains the human species, or become the passive enabler of a monstrous evil....Either you are a rebel or a slave.”  

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Rooney Was NOT An Enlightened Fellow

Praise for Rooney? 

When someone famous (particularly if their fame was of a national nature) dies, I believe a written record of their expressed hostility toward a particular group--particularly minorities, should be explained.  I don’t believe petty crimes should be extolled, but when that person has a big, national megaphone placed in front of them, it’s only fair that such shortcomings be mentioned.  The silence regarding the true nature of Andy Rooney's 'amiable' ranting is very telling.  And noticed. "Rooney was a sexist, a racist, and a homophobe but the country loved him nevertheless," was the prescient comment of "The Angry Arab News Service: A source on politics, war, the MIddle East, Arabic poetry, and Art."  I will respond by saying that the U.S. news consumer has little choice but 'love' a dead white male when you consider the past 30 years of news minus radio news in this country.

But, in the spirit of Rooney, I have digressed.  Back to Andy.

Not in any order of offended group, but in my humble opinion, may I say that Andy Rooney’s overly long tenure at CBS News might be part of the reason our mainstream news media has lost all credibility?
Regarding women:
“..."The first thing that came into my mind is, does anybody take Andy Rooney seriously anyway?" said ESPN SportsCenter anchor Linda Cohn. "He doesn't take himself seriously half the time anyway. The second thing is, why is he stereotyping all women? God knows if he watches SportsCenter and has ever seen me. You have to judge each person separately. The third thing is, when was the last time he followed any of these sideline reporters around doing their job? Tell me the date and time, please."
Regarding race relations: 
“...Burke said Rooney's future with CBS News will be discussed at the end of the three-month suspension.
In the Feb. 27 edition of The Advocate, Rooney is quoted as saying that "blacks have watered down their genes because the less intelligent ones are the ones that have the most children."”
And, from the above article, regarding gay rights:
“...Rooney, 71, who previously had come under fire from homosexual-rights groups for remarks about gays and AIDS in a CBS-TV special in December, also is quoted as saying that, while he felt that gays have been the victims of prejudice, he found the homosexual act "repugnant" and homosexuality "not normal."
In an interview with The Times following his suspension, Rooney denied that remarks he made to The Advocate in a phone interview with one of its reporters expressed racial bias. However, he confirmed he had written a controversial letter to the magazine commenting on gays in response to criticisms of his views on homosexuality....”
My local paper, the Oneonta Daily Star, offers a very brief “Cheers” section as part of the opinion page.  They extolled his service to CBS and the nation:  "...Rooney was witness to some of history's defining moments as a correspondent for the newspaper Stars & Stripes during World War II, and the Albany native's insightful and witty segments were often the perfect way to end a weekend..." I guess the writer has some pretty boring weekends!
  I realize that itt’s hard to briefly round out any human. But, in full disclosure, I must note that the person in charge of the Star's operation is an avowed "Israel-Right-Or-Wrong" sort of guy.  So, perhaps I’m not surprised that this normally laudable item misses the point on Rooney.  What would a better, more-rounded presentation look like?  In print--a simple sentence, such as “Rooney was notably in hot water with CBS for comments blacks, gays and women found intolerant.”  In a radio piece, back when we had hourly newscasts, this could be fitted into a simple 40 - 60 second piece. 
For instance, when I did obituary radio news items on Arthur Godfrey in Houston in 1981, I was able to use soundbites from the late RKO news service from people who believed Godfrey had killed many the career of those then considered 'pink'--those who, today would be mainstream supporters of the Occupy movement. That is how skewed our country's news has been since we lost those 5,000 radio news people to 'deregulation'--and the wider variety of sources other journalists could have persuaded their editors to let them quote. Safety in numbers helps a profession that is supposed to explain things in context do just that.
  When someone famous (particularly if their fame was of a national nature) dies, I believe a written record of their expressed hostility toward a particular group--particularly minorities, should be explained.  I don’t believe petty crimes should be extolled, but when that person has a big, national megaphone placed in front of them, as did Rooney, it’s only fair that such shortcomings be mentioned. 

Quackenbush Wants to Watch Recount--So Should Anti-Fracking Nobiling Supporters

678 to 656 was the tally in the Autumn Cafe election night.  678 for Repubican Quackenbush and 656 for write-in anti-fracking candidate Tim Nobiling.  And there are about 80 absentee ballots.  Anti-fracking people need to contact Sustainable Otsego and make sure there is a PLAN to watch how the write-in votes are counted and be lawyered up in case there are any shenanigans.  Just saying....

Monday, November 7, 2011


UPDATE:  Laura Malloy got to see the ballot--and, while confusing, it is not WRONG.  The top 3 are still separated from Malloy so it appears at least ONE anti-frackiing candidate will be elected to the Laurens Town Board.  However--why are the ballots so late in arriving for review by candidates?

UPDATE:  I spoke with my sister, who is a lawyer on call for the Democratic Party during election season (they started sending out 'clean' 'unjammable-for-the-election-day' phones only to be used in case of irregularity) and said:
Injunction must be filed before end of day requesting a PROPER ballot and noting the lateness of receipt of the flawed ballot.

Okay, sports fans, here we GO!
Laurens Town Clerk TODAY notified anti-frack candidate Laura Malloy of a problem.
the ballot, as published in the Daily Star a week ago, and based upon petitions filed with County Board of elections SHOULD have:
Linda Reeves (Independent( anti-drilling)
Rick Brockaway (R) (pro-drilling)
Wilber Cleveland (R)  (less pro-drilling)
and then
1 candidate for councilman, unexpired term
Laura Malloy (No Drill)  (anti-drilling)
HOWEVER--on the ballot LINDA REEVES has been moved down there with Laura so that the two anti-drilling candidates are running AGAINST one another and the two pro-drilling candidates are running unopposed by Linda Reeves.
Laurens is a VERY IMPORTANT place for drilling to be stopped in Otsego County given the very very high water table there.

I know the election will now proceed tomorrow despite this. What do I do?..."

Friday, November 4, 2011



Tim Nobiling, Town Councilman, Town of Oneonta
His name should be written in at the bottom of column 9a of the ballot.

Dominick Reisen - Town of Middlefield Board
Dominick J. Reisen
Swedish Hill, Goose Watch, and Penguin Bay Wineries

Our newsrooms have been too decimated in the past 30 years to be able to properly cover the assault by the gas industry on our commons.  Those remaining in the newsrooms are also expected to write an increasing amount of ‘puff’ or promotional pieces--instead of doing NEWS!  Too often, even in the face of obvious gas industry fabrications, these fabrications are presented as ‘one side’ which needs to be refuted.  Too often, even when better polls exist, the difference of opinion on fracking is presented as an ‘even’ shares proposition.  But, as the link below to a synopsis of a PULSE poll shows, the overwhelming majority of people in our area of New York oppose gas fracking.
Citizen media must take up the slack if we are to experience democracy.
In the course of the past two years of researching the fracking process, videotaping and interviewing people in Bradford County, PA, and Tioga, Chenango, Delaware and Otsego County, NY, I have become convinced of three things:  
1.) fracking not only harms the surrounding air, water, and land, but it harms or coarsens the SOCIAL FABRIC of communities which are ‘fracked’; 
2.) if this happens, a unique part of the world--an area I have adopted as home (although I appear to have an ancestor buried in Richfield Springs)--will be irreversibly damaged;
3.) the people who have signed fracking contracts are not bad people, but there are some really bad players involved in the whole industry who manipulate and instill a great deal of fear in those who have signed contracts.
              A journalist since 1977, and a media scholar since 1988, I have decided to put together what I and others have seen and documented in the forthcoming documentary, “CLUSTER-FRACKED.”  It does more than ‘take off’ where GASLAND began, but explores the torn threads of society’s fabric where fracking has occurred near my hometown of Oneonta, NY.
It won’t be done until the middle of December, long after this election.  But I realized that I could not look in the mirror if I do not speak out now--when people of conscience could possibly help stop this disaster literally headed down the pipeline.  
          I cannot vote in this election, as I was still busy moving back here when it was time to register.  
         And I feel badly about that.  
Wednesday morning, a friend collared me in Green Earth and asked me “WHO SHOULD I VOTE FOR?  I DON’T WANT FRACKING TO START HERE!”  And I remembered an ad I’d seen in the Pennysaver from Sustainable Otsego.  This is the list I saw there.  It is from Sustainable Otsego.   I believe they have really done the county’s stewards a big service in putting this list together.  I put in a call to Catskill Mountainkeeper, and they referred me to Riverkeeper.  I also looked at various anti-fracking groups and finally found another LIST put out by Marcellus At the Polls (MATP).  They included some footnotes indicating why some candidates made their list.  
         Sustainable Otsego’s (S.O.) website lists ‘anti-fracking’ candidates for the November 8 election, and lists them on their website at
Here is a shortened version of S.O.’s press release.  The first two groups of names are running on the “Sustainable Otsego” party line, for County Board, and Town/City Office:
Richard Murphy, District 4, Town of Oneonta (also MATP)
Barbara Monroe, District 5, Towns of Milford, Hartwick, New Lisbon (also MATP)
Beth Rosenthal, District 7, Towns of Middlefield, Roseboom, Cherry Valley (also MATP)
John Kosmer, District 8, Town of Otsego (also MATP)
TOWN/CITY CANDIDATES (Sustainable Otsego)
Bennett Sandler, Town Board, Town of Otsego (also MATP)
David M. Jones, Town Board, Town of Oneonta (not mentioned by MATP but he came to my house and convinced me)
Chris Harmon, Supervisor, Town of Milford (also MATP)
Barbara Snyder, Town Board, Town of Milford
Bruce Milavec, Town Collector, Town of Milford
Edward E. Gross, Jr., Town Board, Town of Unadilla (MATP)
Lisa J. Moskowitz, Town Board, Town of Unadilla
Again--these are Sustainable Otsego line candidates.  It appears “Marcellus at the Polls” did not look at all town candidates for Otsego County.
I like that Sustainable Otsego mentioned other potential public servants even though they are not running on the Sustainable Otsego line (but I assume they are a mix of D’s and R’s and maybe even a couple of Greens?  Who knows? I don’t.  And I don’t care).  I like that Sustainable Otsego listed them on their website as “Other anti-fracking candidates for Otsego County Board, and for (Various) Town Boards” and their names follow.  I am placing MATP (Marcellus At The Polls beside the names of those candidates (not on the Sustainable Otsego line but listed on their site) who also are endorsed as ‘anti-fracking by MATP, apparently based upon the advocates for morris.blogspot.  
Teresa Winchester, District 2, Butternuts, Morris, Pittsfield (also MATP)
Gary Koutnik, District 11, City of Oneonta
Linda Rowinski, District 13, City of Oneonta
Catherine Rothenberger, District 12, City of Oneonta
Katherine Stuligross, District 14, City of Oneonta 

Charles, Eckelmann, Supervisor, Town of Butternuts (No MATP mention, but a letter to the Star complained he’d sung an anti-fracking song!) 
Michele Farwell, Councilman, Town of Butternuts (also MATP)
Heather Covington, Councilman, Town of Butternuts (also MATP)
Marcia Membrino, Councilman, Town of Milford (also MATP)
Bob Thomas, Councilman, Town of Morris (also MATP)
Marilyn Roveland, Supervisor, Town of Morris (also MATP)
Dawn Sieck, Councilman, Town of Morris (also MATP)
Julie Huntsman, Councilman, Town of Otsego (also MATP)
Alanna Rose, Councilman, Town of Plainfield (also MATP)
Bob Eklund, Councilman, Town of New Lisbon (also MATP)
Steven Zerby, Supervisor, Town of Westford (also MATP)
Steven Hatfield, Councilman, Town of Westford (also MATP)
Karen Wyckoff, Councilman, Town of Westford (also MATP)
Diane Addesso, Councilman, Town of Worcester
Laura Malloy, Councilman, Town of Laurens
Paul A. Stein, Councilman, Town of Pittsfield
William Curto, Councilman, Town of Pittsfield
Jimmy Junior Massey, Councilman, Town of Richfield
Mary Margaret Snyder, Councilman, Town of Richfield
Allison Jones, Councilman, Town of Maryland
NOT ON SUSTAINABLE OTSEGO’S LIST, BUT ON THE MARCELLUS AT THE POLLS LIST (again, per the morris blogspot, apparently):
Mike Harvey of Butternuts
Keith Parr of Hartwick
I do not know the methodology Sustainable Otsego used to determine that the names listed above are all anti-fracking candidates.  But, I know many people associated with that group and respect their judgment.  I am assuming, given the fine materials about fracking available on their website, that there was consideration given to candidates’ positions taken on various issues and possible scenarios.  
On another note, I notice that Bob Woods, who is running for re-election as Oneonta Town Supervisor, is not mentioned on this list.  I am puzzled by that, as his positions on key matters of similar nature seems to put him in the anti-fracking camp, or at least the ‘sane and responsible’ public servant camp, the way I see it. 
I posted an ad in the Daily Star promising a similar list for Delaware County.  But, no one seems to have generated the original research for me to summarize here.   I only have one name.  Why aren’t any of the local news media outlets doing this research?  Maybe it’s not their fault.  Maybe no one is talking much about that.  SUSTAINABLE OTSEGO DID NOT MENTION ANY CANDIDATES, NOR DID MARCELLUS AT THE POLLS.  In fact, representatives from these and two other anti-fracking organizations said there wasn’t much buzz about this in Delaware County.  Speculation is twofold:  
1.) Perhaps there are many secondary residences there and the people are just not around to attend meetings, buttonhole candidates, etc., or 
2.) perhaps there are people who have purchased land in Delaware County for the purpose of fracking it?  
I think both possibilities might account for the relative pre-election silence from Delaware County.  And, certainly it APPEARS that Governor Cuomo’s reputed sparing-of-the-ax for the NY City water supply portion of Delaware County has lulled people into a false sense of complacency?  But, one environmental organization is not waiting to see what happens and why.  More on that in a moment.  
But first! 
Riverkeeper gave me one candidate’s name as an anti-fracker.  
Steve Lundgren (D who opposes fracking versus Ed Sykes (D running as an R FOR Fracking).
You cannot make this up.
While I was given three possible towns with anti-fracking candidates, I was unable to do the research myself on this.  If someone wishes to contact me, I will check my email late Saturday and early Sunday while in D.C. videotaping the Tar Sands action surrounding the White House on Sunday.
Riverkeeper is currently suing Delaware River Basin Commission (a federal commission that has authority over the entire Delaware River region--including portions of Delaware County).
  DRBC has proposed their own regulations (which they say they will finalize them in November)  on fracking--meaning a person COULD frack in Delaware River region, but would also need an additional permit-- NY state permit).  Riverkeeper is challenging the DRBC regulations themselves on the basis that there was no environmental review done, ala New York’s environmental review process, for instance.
  Josh Fox of GASLAND fame has produced a nice short video about the DRBC
Because my documentary concerns events in Chenango and Tioga counties, I am also summarizing Marcellus At the Polls’ list of anti-fracking candidates here, including the footnotes they used.
AFTON Abram Loeb Town Council
April Leggett Afton Supervisor
SMITHVILLE  Carol OMalyev Council Board

Kenneth Whitmore Council Board

PLYMOUTH Peter Hudiburg Town Council

Ann Ellis  County Legislature, District 4
Bridget Kane County Legislature, District 2

  That’s all I was able to find in two days of intermittent research.  If you’d like to learn more about other counties check out the Marcellus At The Polls site on facebook (you would need to be a facebook member or look over a member’s shoulder) at
This battle won’t be won at the polls, in my humble opinion (imho for facebook and Twitter users).  It will be won at meetings and in the streets of the Occupy movement.  Get involved.  Learn about general assemblies.  I have done 2 reports on the Occupy and related movements for Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox Radio show at and 
And you can see two of my video pieces regarding our pro-peace veterans’ resistance activities in the D.C. area in the past year at lisabarr2010 on youtube.  The first concerns last December’s arrest of many veterans, including retired Col. Ann Wright and Daniel Ellsberg, as well as luminaries from Veterans for Peace and Camp Crawford outside the White House fence as Pres. Obama met with titans of industry inside.  It was colder than it looks.
And this piece concerns many of the same people protesting the torture of Bradley Manning while he was imprisoned in Quantico.  Bradley’s treatment is part of the reason behind the Occupy movement. 
If you would like to learn more about how you can help make sure the documentary CLUSTER FRACKED is completed by the end of the year, please contact me at: or


Well.  I can honestly say that I have found that WESTERN DIGITAL HARD DRIVES SUCK!  I have had THREE of them die on me in the last 2 and a half months.  Two died on their own of UN natural causes.  And a third was JUMPED on by a nasty HUGE piece of glass “Personal Projects” sign (why a Flintstone-esque piece of art where people are bringing in their gear to work on this oh, Apple Stores?)?  My THIRD WD 2 terrabyte hard drive died in D.C..  I went there on Saturday night, Oct 8th, to hear from an Apple wiz kid that WD drives suck.  As I passed the homage to the late Steve Jobs outside the store--I wondered--did Jobs know this?  Why are they selling WD hard drives at Apple stores still?
- - - - 
Anyway.  Around all this--I’m still working on my documentary about three towns--one being fracked (Towanda, PA) and two others looking down the pipeline (Binghamton and Oneonta, NY).  It’s called  “Cluster-Fracked” and it’s coming along nicely.  I’m also working on radio pieces.  None of which are getting me any money.  But, I feel it’s necessary to contribute.
Anyway--here’s what I’ve been up to the past month:
*I synopsized the press conference for the Cuban 5 held in September by the various attorneys for the men for Sally O’Brien’s Cuba In Focus program on WBAI.  My piece aired in the Sept. 29, 2011 show.
“On the show:  Cuba’s Foreign Minister addresses the UN General Assembly and calls for cooperation between Washington and Havana; Former New Mexico Representative, Bill Richardson, increases US/Cuba tensions over the case of Alan Gross, a special report from jane Franklin; Veteran diplomat, literature professor, writer and poet-Rolando Lopez Del Amo-talks about changes in Cuba; Lawyers for the Cuban Five hold a press conference on the 13th Anniversary of their clients’ incarceration and actor Danny Glober adds his voice to the call to Free the Cuban Five; Report on the Habeas Corpus appeal for Gerardo Hernandez, and a campaign to send Rene Gonzales back to Cuba upon his release October 7th.  And, monthly news brief.  Produced by Sally O’Brien with Margaret Gilpin, Jane Franklin, Bernie Dwyer, Lisa Barr, Desi K. Robinson, and Jay Potter. 
**I also did an advancer piece with some of the organizers of the Freedom Plaza “Stop the Machine create A New World for Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox.
** And I spent about a week traveling around D.C. for the opening of the Freedom Plaza Stop the Machine Occupation (which was given a 4 month extension on their permit) and the Occupy D.C. installation at McPherson Square in D.C--and ended up visiting the NYC Occupy site near Wall Street.  That report, for Cindy Sheehan’s soapbox, is here.
= = = =

Thursday, October 6, 2011


by Lisa Barr
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2011 Washington D.C. Freedom Plaza
Walking away from the metro stop for the White House, Thomas Jefferson’s letter to George Logan (November 12, 1816) rattled in my brain:
“I hope we shall...crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country.”  
Two monuments to our nation’s mistaken path appeared--Woodrow Wilson Plaza and the Ronald Reagan Reagan International Trade Center Building.  
But in the distance, drums sounded.
Freedom Plaza. 
Veterans for Peace were pounding a huge drum with a Native American motif on its face.  
The ‘drums of peace’ helped me arrive at the nascent demonstration area.  I was reminded of 19th century Scottish journalist Charles McKay:  “Men go mad in herds, but only come to their senses one by one.”  Journalists are taught that it is the demonstrators who are crazy.  This is a tendency which must be disabused by all who have worked in any corporate newsroom.
For, upon arrival this morning, as at other such demonstrations, a feeling of safety washed over me--even as I had just walked amid a ‘security’ grid that was quickly beginning to surround the area of 13th and 14th Streets and Pennsylvania Avenue.  Not to be hyperbolic, but Joan Didion’s ‘Salvador’ always comes to mind at such events.  So many questions fill the brain:
Is this what those working for human rights in San Salvador felt like, after the junta killed union organizer Gilbert Soto, among others, in 1981?  
How can D.C. residents live here--knowing that protesters are regularly flanked by what appear to be steroid-fueled ‘undercover’ agents for a police state we are told must remain secret?
I remembered the night before, at 10 p.m. in the same place.   Amid streetlight, a circle of  30 of us sat on the ground listening to the organizers--who were listening to--us!--the newly arrived, non-D.C.  activists and independent journalists who had answered their call to “Stop the Machine, Create A New World.”  Their event would start in fewer than 12 hours and they still needed help painting signs to avoid the professed media ‘confusion’ about what the Wall Street occupation wanted to accomplish. 
“We want to thank Occupy Wall Street,” began a laughing attorney and activist Kevin Zeese.  Zeese and other activists planning the “Stop the Machine” action see themselves not as leaders but organizers who can vanish into the background of a people’s movement that is growing simultaneously and organically in a manner which clearly delights them.  
I had interviewed Zeese, Margaret Flowers, and Dennis Trainor a few weeks before for indy media pieces run on, among other places, Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox radio show.  Since then, Zeese’s crew of activists--including Zeese and Flowers--had dropped everything to help advise the Occupy Wall Street movement.  Zeese and crew hadn’t seen the “Occupy” movement coming--but they welcome and assist it.  Their gentle steering is helping the Occupy movement avoid pitfalls common to such movements--such as wireless bills amassing tens of thousands of dollars in less than a week, or the surprise arrival of tens of thousands of dollars overnight into a PayPal account.  
The corporate media fears the current uprisings.
They don’t know how to report on protest because they have been taught for generations to trivialize and ignore it.  
So--for any corporate media lackeys ‘slumming’ on this site--here’s a broadcast news-style summary of the demands Zeese and others spent the past 6 months formulating. 
*Ending corporate rights and notions that money equals speech;
*Ending wars and militarism;
*Supporting human rights that end exploitation of all peoples;
*Guaranteeing worker rights and jobs;
*Real transparency for government and accountability to international law;
*Barrier-free elections;
*Ending private-for-profit prisons and starting evidence-based drug laws;
*Universal Health Care;
*Education as a right through university or vocational training
*Safe, affordable housing rights for all;
*Environmental policies that create a non-carbon-based energy economy;
*Ending policies fostering the huge wealth divide for finance and the economy;
*The creation of systems protecting the land and water to create a sustainable food network
*Affordable, clean, convenient public transit system for all--including safe spaces for pedestrian, non-automobile travel. 
I believe that reads very well for broadcast--and, as an unemployed mass media academic am available as a voice coach for any media worker stumbling over Stop the Machine’s solution-based demands.   However, any media worker wanting to read such a list of demands, or get them placed in digital print for broadcast on today’s mass media would no doubt need to lobby (or trick):
 a supervisor--such as an editor, a producer, or 
a peer--such as a videographer or an editor.
I know this, as only a refugee from the corporate news media can know this.  But even corporate media lackeys know enough to admire Edward R. Murrow, who famously said  “A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”  Murrow famously challenged the status quo in his journalism--not every day--but when the moment presented itself.
This is that moment. 
 It is not exaggerating to say that news workers will, in the days to come, distinguish themselves as either relevant to solving the huge problems of the day, or true enemies of a sane path out of today’s morass. 
As organizer and indy media activist Dennis Trainor explains, “It’s a statistical certainty that empires will end.  Right?  So, the scary thing for me--and sometimes this comes off as hyperbolic--but the scary thing for me is how do you bring down an empire smoothly in the post-nuclear era.  Right now I don’t see our government  letting someone else up on the hill.  We’re playing a game of king of the hill--and we have to figure out a way, gently, to bring this thing down in a safe landing.”  
Zeese believes this is a historical moment, and notes that such pronouncements are, or course made after-the-fact.  “There is a lot of power we have--that we have been told we don’t have!  We can look at Cindy Sheehan sleeping outside George Bush’s ranch and reigniting the anti-war movement.  We can look at the refusal to sit in the back of the bus.  You can look at sitting at a lunch counter.  There’s 3 examples, sitting on sleeping outside and sitting at a lunch counter.”
I reflected upon his words of encouragement as I sat on a ledge in Freedom Plaza this morning.  Only about 50 people had arrived.  Below, on the sidewalk, a red-clad Washington D.C. worker pushed a trash cart.    The African American man stopped working his broom when I asked him if he’d be joining us.  “I gotta work,”  he said, smiling.  Dr. Margaret Flowers smiled and said, “Come after work.”  He paused.  “How long you gonna be here?”  Not missing a beat, she chirped, “It’s our new home.”  He laughed and continued cleaning the street.  
As I bundled up my computer to find a wireless cafe--in the manner of all non-corporate media workers and volunteers--I saw the bottom of the “Stop the Machine” event flyer.   A Frederick Douglas quote providing U.S. citizens even today a roadmap to sanity:
“Power concedes nothing without a demand.  It never did and it never will.”
Lisa Barr is a mass media academic and independent journalist whose work is available at  Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox Radio featured her pre-event report on Stop the Machine Create a New World at:   

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Cuba In Focus WBAI Includes My Piece on This Year's Caravan Aug 25th

Sally O'Brien's show is in its 22nd year.  She is an amazing producer and editor.

My piece, discussing this year's caravan aired August 25th.  The jist: I spent 9 days in Cuba with the Caravanistas who made the journey to Cuba.  Many thanks to the anonymous facebook friends who paid IFCO's funding arm the fees to send me on this trip.  You know who you are and I love you.
I hope you enjoy the piece.  It was an honor to be part of Sally O'Brien's show.  If you donate to WBAI--please mention Cuba in Focus
 If you donate to WBAI--please mention Cuba in Focus

Monday, July 18, 2011

To Cuba. With baggage. And love. "Love is our License."

McAllen, Texas
The Pastors for Peace (PFP) 22nd annual Friendshipment is gathering at the U.S./Mexican border, readying to defy the ridiculous cold war relic known as the Cuba embargo.   Passed in 1961, the ban on trade with Cuba was invigorated or intensified to cruel effect by everyone from Jesse Helms(R) to Paul Toricelli(D). 
But, no matter.
Nearly 100 Caravanistas in over 130 U.S. and Canadian cities have raised their voices at fundraisers with “Lucius Walker! Vive! Vive! Vive!” in a show of solidarity with his ideals.
They’ve successfully completed the U.S. and Canadian legs of this year’s caravan.  
They’ve garnered public support and nearly one hundred tons of humanitarian supplies via U.S. church potlucks and fundraisers.  
They’ve amassed phone trees to lawyers, journalists, political representatives and activists--just in case.
So, of course, the disinformation campaign cannot be far behind.  
This year’s first salvo reeked like a July 4th cherry bomb dud.  
  Or an exploding cigar?
What a stinker headline for Miami Herald editor Juan O. Tamayo’s article, “Wikileaks: Cable Says Peace Group’s Leader Threatened Student.”
  The punctuation of that headline in an otherwise ‘balanced’ article was strategically distracting.     
     At least the article explained how the Cuban program provided an estimated 10,000 medical students--mainly from Latin America and Africa-- with free education and training plus free room and board. But Mr. Tamayo, appointed to the position of Associate Professor in the University of Miami’s Cuba Institute in 2009, certainly knows more.  
Certainly he knows that over one hundred U.S. citizens have also benefitted from Cuba’s training.  
Certainly he knew he was omitting from his article the fact that these underprivileged, yet deserving U.S. residents return to the states to provide free health care in ‘shock-doctrined’ cities like downtown Detroit.  
Assisting the “...struggles of oppressed peoples for justice and self-determination” is the mission of the umbrella group over PFP --The Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization.  IFCO runs a friendly but determined operation with a professional press office that issues many quotable statements. 
Such as this one:
“...The caravan will travel to Cuba via Mexico, without asking for or accepting a US government license, as a peaceful, disciplined act of civil disobedience against the blockade and travel ban, and as ambassadors for a ‘people-to-people’ foreign policy based on mutual respect. 
  According to IFCO board president Rev. Thomas E. Smith, “The current licensing system is both immoral and illegal, because it requires people of faith to submit their acts of conscience and friendship to government licensing, and violates our right to freedom of religious expression, political thought, association and travel.”...” 
Pretty quotable, right?  Certainly the news media won’t be strangers. The story of this year’s caravan is particularly compelling.  
It is the first such journey without its founder.  Reverend Lucius Walker, who died of a heart attack this fall at the age of 80, was honored earlier this year in Havana by Cubans who “Did not want to imagine a world without (him).” 
I wish I’d met Rev. Walker.  He was a reverend even an atheist could love with quotes like this one:  “The bible says feed the hungry, clothe the poor.  It doesn’t say to starve the Communists.”
U.S. domestic poverty, is increasingly, obviously just as planned as is overseas poverty. 22-year-Caravanista Lisa Valanti says that’s what the successful Cuba revolution shows. “I think that the reason why U.S. citizens are the only people in the world who cannot experience Cuba--is it would instantly reveal to them that their government has been lying to them, since--forever! In other words, Cuba has been so demonized by the propaganda in this country that when you go to Cuba, it’s very obvious that none of that is correct.”
And that’s why U.S. journalists aren’t allowed to show U.S. citizens evidence of Cuba’s success--in spite of the U.S. blockage.  
So, thank goodness for the interactive aspect of the online Miami Herald that allowed the comments of Juan McAuliff below Tamayo’s ‘duck and cover’ era relic.   McAuliff, of the Fund for Reconciliation and Development helped level the gatekeeping playing field on the “Walker threatened a student” meme with--reality.  
His comment below the online article began: 
“We obviously don’t know what (Rev.) Lucius Walker said or what the student told the USINT staff person.  We do know that Mr. Parmly carried out the overly hostile policy of the Bush Administration in Cuba and he and his staff were regarded with justified suspicion.”

The real attacker was a nameless bureaucrat.  We don’t know who produced a cable of what appears to be fiction--or over-reaction--from an also unnamed U.S. medical student.  
But certainly we can guess the motive.  Consider the block-buster article of acclaimed FBI whistle-blowing agent (and Time Magazine Co-Woman of the Year) Coleen Rowley.  “How Top Secret America Misfires: The case for a 21st Century Church Commission,” explains the bankrupt and dangerous method for advancing within the FBI after 9/11.
Read it and weep.  And wonder:  “Can the same generation that guffawed at the film, “Reefer Madness” while in high school and college really approve of a points system that rewards our top law enforcement agents for opening bogus ‘terrorist threat’ files?”  Take another Lunesta and call me in the morning--unless you’re on my crisis phone tree.
But, seriously--has the U.S. learned nothing in 60 years?  
Perhaps not, if we have journalists and editors who produce incomplete stories like the one accusing Rev. Walker of intolerance at best.  Perhaps it’s no wonder the headline writer got it wrong. There apparently were no phones or email connections working over the July 4th holiday in Miami. No way to ask for a comment from Pastors for Peace, or a different opinion from those who actually were familiar with Rev. Walker, such as Mr. McAuliff, who continued: 
“...“We also know that the U.S. under Bush treated Cuban medical personnel serving in third countries as targets for defection.  The Obama administration, to its shame, has not terminated this policy of encouraging defections from humanitarian assistance groups.”
Lucius Walker was doing more than humanitarian work.  He was performing the vital role of a true diplomat.  He was trying to head problems off at the pass in a very tense environment.  
A more accurate headline would have read: “Opportunistic Bureaucrat Smears Latter Day Freedom Rider.”
For the Freedom Rider gene is exactly what invigorated Lucius Walker’s work.  James Farmer’s group of multi-racial, multi-gendered, multi-creed challengers of Jim Crow was a model for later movements, such as the Venceremos Brigades, the Yankee Sandinistas, Pastors for Peace, Cindy Sheehan’s “For What Noble Cause?” crusade, and the Gaza Flotilla(s).  Disinformation campaigns from U.S. corporate media has accompanied official D.C. denouncements of each such humanitarian effort.  
Remember Farmer’s comments to a skittish Kennedy Administration official:
“My objective is not just to make a point, but to bring about a real change in the situation.  We will continue the Ride until people can sit wherever they wish on buses and use the facilities in any waiting room available to the public.  Please tell the attorney general that we have been cooling off for 350 years.  If we cool off any more, we will be in a deep freeze.  The Freedom Ride will go on.”
Images of the Freedom Riders’ state-sanctioned pummeling shamed and embarrassed U.S. politicians and businessmen.  The same courageous and open spirit empowered a variety of movements, as a mature Bernardine Dohrn acknowledged for PBS decades later:  
“I like the bridges that have been built between the feminists and the gay and the environmental movements. All the progeny of the Sixties. All the many movements that have happened since then are now part of a kind of a big tent of anti-globalization and anti-empire. So it’s a different world, but trying to act on your principles, trying to use humor, trying to tweak power, trying to be willing to take the consequences of what you believe in.”
The progress Dohrn noted came in spite of massive campaigns of government disinformation, deceit, and worse aimed at humanitarian activists.  For instance, passage of the civil rights laws was relatively quickly followed by the conspiracy to kill Rev. Martin Luther King.
  That conspiracy seemingly encouraged the FBI to ramp up Cointelpro hounding and/or annihilation of the Black Panthers, starting with Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. 
We must never forget the law enforcement abuses of King and Hampton’s non-Panther allies--some of whom included the earliest Cuban solidarity activists to venture to Cuba for a look-see after the revolution, such as a young Bernardine Dohrn. Such disruption tactics continued despite Congressional investigation and denunciation in the form of the Church Committee hearings and the House Select Committee on Assassinations. Kangaroo court trials of activists including Assata Shakur (periodically a hot potato exile in Cuba) wrongly excluded testimony from Frank Church and others about Cointelpro continuing its illegal work into the 1980s and beyond.
Despite admitted, continued, and wrongful government infiltration of such groups as the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), the Central American solidarity movement remained vibrant and varied through the 1980s.  Pax Christi, Sister Cities programs, plus various nuns and ‘Yankee Sandinistas’ openly fundraised in churches across the U.S. to bolster the rebels fighting the U.S. funded slaughter of the El Salvadoran death squad junta.  The movement also helped counter the murderous U.S.-funded Contras’ destruction.  
Pastors for Peace emerged from that moment.  
On a fact-finding mission in 1988, Rev. Walker was wounded by a Contra attack on the Bluefields ferry.  Unlike the 2 Nicaraguans who died, Walker defied the common wisdom of not-seeking-emergency-room-aid-lest-the-Contras finish-the-botched deed in the E.R..  Walker lived.  And he wondered about his attackers, according to the accurate portion of his sanitary, dry New York Times obituary last Fall:
“...Mr. Walker’s first thought, he said, was that he was hit by a bullet paid for by his own country. He called his second thought a prophetic vision: he would form an organization of pastors to fight, or at least clean up after, what he called American imperialism....”
A week later, the Times printed the following correction:
“...An obituary last Sunday about the Baptist minister and political activist Lucius Walker referred incorrectly to a 1988 incident in Nicaragua in which Mr. Walker and others were wounded and two people were killed. The delegation led by Mr. Walker was attacked by contra rebels — not by soldiers of the Nicaraguan government, which was not supported by the United States at that time....”
Really. With a straight face?  
Certainly Times editors knew, or should have known-- courtesy of many books 32 years after the incident--that Walker had not been attacked by anyone other than the Contras. Walker had discussed this attack many times and he was prolificly quoted by those following the Central American solidarity movement about the events of August 2, 1988:
  “...My daughter Gail and I were among 200 civilians on a boat on the River Escondido in Nicaragua, which was viciously attacked by the contras.  Two Nicaraguans died and 29 passengers were wounded.  That night in the hospital, while I was being teated for a bullet wound, I prayed to God seeking spiritual guidance to find an appropriate response to that act of terrorism.  The inspiration that God gave me was to create Pastors for Peace to take caravans of material aid to the victims of U.S. aggression.”  
The U.S. journalism profession’s indifference and recklessness with the facts about Cuba and its supporters is, at least, consistent.  Times journalists, and many others, failed to challenge in a timely manner the Reagan Administration officials who had dared blame U.S. aid workers for their own murders. The family and friends of Ben Linder toured the U.S. after Reagan Administration officials said Linder deserved his destiny for constructing low-head hydro-electric generation capacity in El Cua, Nicaragua. Even Florida Senator Connie Mack accused Linder’s mother of “politicizing this situation,” adding “I don’t want to be tough on you, but I really feel you have asked for it.”
Linder’s family and supporters embarked upon a national tour of media outlets that largely failed to get his story properly told.  Imagine if Elliot Abrams and Marlin Fitzwater’s similar contempt for Linder had been countered with any regularity by this quote from the engineering graduate:
“..."It’s a wonderful feeling to work in a country where the government’s first concern is for its people, for all its people."
Why is it so hard for U.S. news media workers to print such statements?  
Consider Otto Reich’s late 1980s visit to NPR--a place he called the “Little Havana on the Potomac.  Solomon and Lee note that Reich bragged at having visited large and medium market radio, television, and newspaper outlets around the country. He proudly took credit for the firing, reassignment--or change in tone and content--of particular journalists whose coverage did not spout the White House’s admitted propaganda tactics.  The idea was, he said later, to paint “Black Hats” on the Sandinistas and “White Hats” on the (El Salvador) Junta. 
This is the opposite of public service. So, of course, it’s a good living off U.S. tax dollars. George (Shrub) Bush made sure of that with his 2004 recess appointment of Reich as Latin America State Department envoy.  Now Reich works for Honduras (post-coup, of course) as a lobbyist. 
No doubt Reich remains a quotable and perhaps off-the-record source for journalists ‘covering’ Latin America. 
We may not be able to follow the bread crumbs from Reich’s NPR visit to sell the ‘Bad Sandinista/‘Good Death Squads’ meme to the July 5th hit piece on Rev. Walker in the Miami Herald.  But there seems to be a chill in the air.  How does that work?  Consider the NPR producer commenting that, after Reich’s visit, news personnel would question news text about Central America, asking, “What would Otto (Reich) think?” 
It is important to see and acknowledge that the same Cointelpro tactics, the same media smear jobs get applied to: the Freedom Riders; the Venceremos Brigade(s); the anti-Vietnam war movement; the Central American Solidarity movement(s) and on and on--including the Pastors for Peace Caravan.  
Was the Miami Herald piece just sloppy journalism or a strategic hit piece?  Will border bureaucrats test the resolve of the group now that its charismatic leader is dead?”
Predictions are the aid will go through as usual.  But, the ‘reverse border challenge’ in which aid from Cuba flows back to the U.S., is perhaps the real challenge to U.S. hegemony.  Help from Cuba is an image from which the U.S. recoils--even in real ‘third world’ moments like Katrina.  The Cuban doctors offered for New Orleans did not ponder the U.S. refusal before heading, and without much attention in the U.S. news media, to assist people in the Pakistan earthquake.  
What the U.S. could learn from Cuba is immense. 
Not only is health care universal and free (remember the 9/11 firefighters without insurance being treated in Havana in “Sicko”).  Education is free.  They grow their own food in phenomenally productive organic gardens.  In fact, Havana grows its own, healthy food within its city limits on converted patches of lawn.  Rent the documentary “Blocqeo” for more propaganda-bashing images you will not see or hear about in the U.S..   
Educate yourself.  And speak up.  Recommend people learn from Cubans.  IFCO Board of Directors President Reverend Tom Smith encouraged Houston caravan supporters to speak about Cuba at any opportunity. “Don’t be silent,” he said. 
For silence can kill a movement.  It can also kill the spirits of those with whom the movement interacts.  I’m reminded of the way U.S. activists abandoned Nicaragua precisely as the Chamorro government set out to reprivatize its hard reclaimed commons.  I remember seeing Luce Ortiz (not her real name) around the same time Bob Hercules’ telling documentary (“Did They Buy It?”) premiered. I asked her why there were, all of a sudden, so few Central American solidarity events in Gainesville for me to cover.  “Good question,” she responded, not a little bitter.  
News from her family in Nicaragua was bleak. Her sister, an ardent Sandinista, had recently wrapped herself in a blanket so as not to leave a mess, sat in the family bathtub, and shot herself in the head.  ‘Luce’ blamed the return of hopelessness in the face of an erosion of a revolution’s victories and the rapid re-privatization of Nicaragua’s commons. 
And isn’t that exactly what Washington’s 50-year campaign against Cuba seeks--a defeat at the macro and micro levels of the longest sustained rebellion against all the things which have killed U.S. agriculture, manufacturing, and any sense of an egalitarian culture?  It certainly seems the real goal is the defeat of any U.S. aspirations toward free education, free health care, and affordable, healthy food.   
Seen in this light, the Pastors for Peace 20 year campaign is more of a threat to the U.S. military industrial complex hegemony than: the Freedom Riders gave Bull Connors; Cindy Sheehan gave (and gives) George Bush and his successor, or the Gaza Flotilla gives Israeli and AIPAC buffoons.  
Washington challenged PFP’s resolve in 1993 and 1996 at the border.  Faced with, respectively, a 23-day hunger strike and a 93 day hunger strike, the Clinton Administration backed down and the aid rolled through the checkpoints.  In 1996, the seizure of 400 computers so enraged the European solidarity community that Cuba had received 1400 computers even before Washington finally relented. 
This year’s 100 caravanistas are a nearly equal mix of vetaran blockade breakers and new, young, eager faces. The group’s call and response chant has developed in honor of the 63rd birthday (July 16) and words of Assata Shakur.  The chant rises three times from a whisper to a joyful shout:
“It is our duty to fight!
It is our duty to win!
We must love and protect one another!
We have nothing to lose but our chains!” 
Imagine what U.S. citizens could learn from Cubans about adapting to the new reality staring us down an oil pipeline that is unsustainable in ways practical and moral.  The U.S. endgame oil wars can never end ‘terror’ but they can and are ripping what remains of the ‘American’ social fabric.  Just this month, the figurehead of the party LBJ linked forever with the “War on Poverty” offered to end a central piece of the New Deal.  
Cuba provides a redemptive example.  
Their people can model behavior we already need. The lesson they can teach is how to take care of one another without engaging in cruelty and denial. In Cuba, food rationing during the ‘special period’ after Soviet oil stopped arriving at the island nation was the only thing between Ethiopia-style famine and the new reality of cooperative organic gardens, thinner waistlines, and healthier people. 
That new reality is what Pastors for Peace is hoping to experience in Cuba yet again.  But getting there means leaving from any country other than the U.S.A.. If the caravan members are hassled going or coming, we will know the lessons of Cuba are something Washington doesn’t want explored.  
How interesting that a religious group is behind a political lesson.  As Obery Hendricks explains in “The Politics of jesus: Rediscoving the true revolutionary nature of jesus’ teachings and how they have been corrupted:
“...Although...Jesus explains...that economic injustice will not be vanquished he was not suggesting that the victory will be accomplished by supernatural means.  By highlighting in Matthew 20:13-16 the practice of those in control to isolate and punish spokespersons in order to intimidate workers and discourage them from actively opposing their mistreatment, Jesus demonstrates the need for workers to stand together in solidarity.”
This atheist Caravanista embed notes that the biblical scholar said nothing about borders standing between workers.  
Onward to Tampico!