Thursday, November 19, 2009



Monday. Nov. 23 through Wednesday, Nov. 25
Call 888-310-8637.

Now is the time to make your voice heard!

For 3 days people from every corner of the country will be flooding the White House with calls. We oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan; we want the troops that are there now to be brought home! If you cannot get through on Monday, call on Tuesday or Wednesday. Most importantly, make your call and make your voice heard.

Use this toll free number to call the White House: 888-310-8637
(After a brief message you will be connected to the White House. These messages can only be left between 9 am and 5 pm Eastern time!)

If President Obama orders more troops to Afghanistan, United for Peace and Justice calls on all member groups to protest at Federal buildings or other public places the day of or the day after the decision is announced.

News reports suggest President Obama has rejected the current proposals for additional troops until there is an exit strategy. This could be a good sign but we cannot sit by and assume the right steps will be taken. The first step is to not send more troops. The next step must be the withdrawal of the troops currently there.

The decision the president makes will have a dramatic impact on the future of Afghanistan and the stability of the region. It will have a tremendous impact on our country as well: will billions of more dollars be spent sinking us deeper into this war or will we have the money needed for health care, education, job creation and so much more here at home?

This is the moment when we can have an impact.

Call the White House – 888-310-8637 - and tell them:

* No additional troops to be sent to Afghanistan.
* Start the withdrawal of U.S. troops and begin serious diplomacy and dialogue with all parties to the conflict without preconditions.
* Redirect the tens of billions of dollars spent yearly on Afghanistan war funding to human needs in Afghanistan and at home.

It is vitally important to also keep the pressure on Congress. While you are at your phone, won't you call to your Representative and Senators? They control the money for this war and will be asked for additional funds if more troops are sent.

Representatives in the House should be asked to commit to voting NO on more war money and also to sign on to Barbara Lee's bill - H. R. 3699 - which would deny funding for more troops in Afghanistan. The more signers on this bill, the better. It means more pressure on the White House. This strong bill has 23 co-sponsors. To see the list:

As a minimum every Representative should also be co-sponsoring Rep. McGovern’s bill H.R. 2404, which calls for an exit strategy from our military occupation of Afghanistan. Check to see if your Representative is among the 100 co-sponsors at

Ask your Senators to introduce legislation in opposition to sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan and that calls for an exit strategy.

To call your members of Congress call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121 or 202-225-3121. If you are not sure who your Representative is, click here

Please share the response to your calls by posting on the website:

In cites and towns around the country local groups are already planning public activities and protests on either the day the President announces an escalation, or the day after. We encourage you to organize a protest and be sure to post any activity you have planned. To find out what's planned in your area click here. A sample press release can be found by clicking here.

The White House call-in days are being jointly organized by the UFPJ, American Friends Service Committee, Peace Action, CodePink, Just Foreign Policy, Voters for Peace, Pax Christi, Common Dreams, Historians Against War and others.


Justice Delayed, Justice Denied - from Witness Against Torture

Witness Against Torture Responds to Obama’s Statement that Guantanamo Will Not Close by January 2010.

Join us: Fast and Vigil to Shut Down Guantanamo, End Torture and Build Justice,

Wednesday, November 18. President Barack Obama conceded today that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba will not close within the one year mandated by the Executive Order he signed on January 22, 2009. This is a disappointment but not a surprise.

For months, the administration has been sending signals that it over-reached in its timetable. The given reasons for the delay are likewise familiar: that the Bush administration left a legal mess, requiring painstaking work to determine the ideal means for handling the remaining detainees; that it has been hard to find countries to admit detainees who cannot be resettled in their countries of origin due to fears of ill-treatment; and that unanticipated domestic resistance to Guantanamo’s closure, much of it fueled by fear-mongering and partisan politics, has slowed the process. These impediments, while real wrenches in the grinding wheels of policy, cannot excuse the moral and constitutional disaster that Guantanamo's continuing operation represents.
Since coming to office, the Obama administration has presented Guantanamo as an administrative problem, a cause of embarrassment, and a foreign policy liability. It has never faced Guantanamo for what it truly is: a grave injustice which the United States is duty bound, by the best of its traditions and basic standards of fairness and decency, to immediately set right.

"Justice Delayed is Justice Denied" — the great maxim of the Civil Rights Movement that made Barack Obama's political ascent possible — has been forgotten. Martin Luther King Jr.'s talk of "The Fierce Urgency of Now," repeatedly invoked by President Obama to push ahead with domestic reforms, has been replaced, for the Guantanamo detainees and anyone who cares about the rule of law, with "the fickle hope of eventually" and "the self-serving pledge of maybe."
All the while, the Obama administration proclaims its intent to put U.S. policies and practices in accordance with our laws and values.

Yet the United States continues to detain dozens of men at Guantanamo who have been cleared for release. In the case of the remaining Uighurs, the administration has advanced the Orwellian conclusion that they are no longer prisoners — they just have nowhere to go, and must therefore remain on the dusty gulag.

Echoing the policies of Bush, Obama proposes the indefinite detention, without charge or trial, of detainees against whom no case has been built or from whom "evidence" was obtained through torture. The Obama Justice Department repeatedly invokes the "state secrets" defense to beat back legal efforts of those kidnapped and tortured to receive acknowledgment of their injury and compensation for it. And it has steadfastly refused to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute those who designed and ordered torture policies, choosing instead a limited inquiry into the most egregious cases of "unauthorized" detainee abuse.

Finally, it has allowed obsessive attention with the truly dangerous men in U.S. detention — such as Khalid Sheik Mohammed and other Al Qaeda leaders — to obscure the fact the great majority of detainees held at Guantanamo have been falsely imprisoned.

How is it tolerable within the framework of American laws and values to hold for even one day longer men who, innocent of any crime, have been stolen from their families, tortured, and dehumanized?

How is it tolerable to knowingly imprison innocent men while failing to indict officials who — a preponderance of public evidence suggests — are guilty of heinous political crimes and violations of human rights? How can the rule of law be restored when U.S. laws are not even enforced?
And how can the wreckage of the past be cleared when the key monument of that wreckage, the detention facility at Guantanamo, remains intact.

The Obama administration will continue to face enormous hostility — much of it paranoid, opportunistic, and vicious — to even its inadequate efforts to undo the worst of the Bush era policies. Those efforts must be supported, for the real good they will bring and to beat back domestic forces ready to plunge the United States into a new nightmare of lawlessness and wanton cruelty in the name of "national security."

But the administration must also be held to its words and promises.

Its failures cannot be masked with rationalizations and false deference to the constraints of partisan bickering and legal complexities. The inability to fulfill the mandate of the Executive Order to close Guantanamo within a year is just such a failure, making still more urgent the demand for true justice.

Witness Against Torture is a grassroots organization committed to closing Guantanamo, Bagram and ending torture. The group will hold a fast and vigil in Washington, DC from January 11, 2010—the date marking eight years since Guantanamo’s beginning as a "war on terror"
prison through January 22, 2010, the date by which the Obama administration committed to closing the facility. To learn more about the fast and vigil to Shut Down Guantanamo, End Torture and Build Justice visit

Frida Berrigan

Friday, November 13, 2009


Kundiman announces Poetry Prize

The Kundiman Poetry Prize for Asian American writers

Kundiman, Inc. is pleased to announce the inauguration of the Kundiman Poetry Prize in partnership with Alice James Books.

The prize is open to emerging and established Asian American poets. The award of $2,000, publication of the winning manuscript, and sponsorship of a reading make this a highly desirable prize.

Submissions are accepted from November 15, 2009 to January 15, 2010. Guidelines for submission are available to

Alice James Books is a cooperative poetry press with a mission is to seek out and publish the best contemporary poetry by both established and beginning poets, with particular emphasis on involving poets in the publishing process. For more on Alice James Books, go to

Kundiman was founded in 2002 to provide opportunities for Asian American poets to perfect their skills through education and performance and to promote Asian American literature as a vital part of American letters. Its programs include a summer poetry retreat, held annually since 2004 and a reading series in New York City.

Kundiman’s partnership with Alice James Books for The Kundiman Poetry Prize is made possible through the support of Fordham University. For more information on Kundiman, go to


One of my great heroes, Jim Hightower, gets fab recognition

Recipient of the 2009 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship Announced

November 11, 2009 (New York, NY): The Nation Institute announced today that national radio commentator and bestselling author Jim Hightower is the 2009 recipient of the $100,000 Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship. Hightower will receive the award on December 7 at The Nation Institute Annual Dinner Gala in New York City.

An advocate for everyday people whose voices are seldom heard in Washington and on Wall Street, Hightower believes that ³politics isn¹t about left versus right; it¹s about top versus bottom.² He broadcasts daily radio commentaries on subjects ranging from public healthcare to Hamid Karzai. They air on more than 150 commercial and public stations across the country.

Each month, Hightower publishes a populist political newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown, exposing hypocrisy in Congress and targeting the abuses of big corporations. With more than 135,000 subscribers, the hard-hitting Lowdown has received both the Alternative Press Award and the Independent Press Association Award for best national newsletter. An inspiring orator, Hightower delivers up to 100 fiery speeches a year, which has justly established him as America¹s most popular populist.² Twice elected as Texas Agriculture Commissioner, his term was praised for nurturing organic production, promoting alternative crops, regulating pesticides and monitoring groundwater, among other programs.

A New York Times best-selling author, Hightower has written seven books, including Thieves in High Places; If The Gods Had Meant Us To Vote They Would Have Given Us Candidates; and There¹s Nothing In The Middle Of The Road But Yellow Stripes And Dead Armadillos. His most recent book, co-authored with longtime partner Susan DeMarco, is Swim Against The Current. Jesse Jackson, Jr. has said of him, ³Jim Hightower is a tireless champion for every American, and he has the right prescription for what ails our nation.²

Perry Rosenstein, President of the Puffin Foundation, Ltd., the co-sponsor of the Creative Citizenship award, said, ³Jim Hightower is a front line defender of our civil liberties. Swimming against the current is a challenge he welcomes at all times.² Hamilton Fish, President of The Nation Institute, the co-sponsor of the prize, said, ³Hightower is the standard bearer of progressive populism. With passion, keen intelligence and unsparing wit, he has been an indispensable leader in the struggle against concentrated power.²

You can find more information about Hightower on his website,

Each year, The Puffin Foundation Ltd. and The Nation Institute recognize an individual who has challenged the status quo through distinctive, courageous, imaginative and socially responsible work of significance. Candidates are found in a broad range of occupations and pursuits, and the
award is intended to encourage the recipients to continue their work and to inspire others to challenge the prevailing orthodoxies they face in their careers. Jim Hightower is the ninth winner of the prestigious award. Previous recipients are environmental activist Van Jones, human rights lawyer Michael Ratner, Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman, educator and author Jonathan Kozol, journalist and author Barbara Ehrenreich, professor and anti-death penalty advocate David Protess, labor activist Dolores Huerta and civil rights pioneer Robert Parris Moses.

For more information on the Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, go to

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