Saturday, October 30, 2010

CODE PINK's Medea Benjamin: Dear Jon

By Medea Benjamin

When Jon Stewart was on Larry King's show talking about his Rally to Restore Sanity, he likened himself to Alice in Wonderland and the rally as the Mad Hatter Tea Party. But is Jon Stewart really Alice, trying to find sanity in an upside-down world? Or is he the March Hare, the ultimate "slacktivist" who thinks it's always teatime -- time to sit back and jibberjabber?

The 10-30-10 rally on the capital's mall is looking more and more like a celebration of "slacktivism." Stewart is courting people who do not want to open their window and yell, "I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore!" As he says in the Rally for Sanity website, he's looking for the people who've been "too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs)."

So let's get this straight: people who were so horrified when the U.S. invaded Iraq that they joined millions of others to protest are not sane? We shouldn't speak out against Wall Street bankers whose greed led to millions of Americans losing their jobs and homes? It's irrational to be angry when you see the Gulf of Mexico covered in oil because BP cut corners on safety? Don't get upset when the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can pour unlimited funds into our elections?

Stewart often roasts the warmakers and corporate fatcats on his show, but he seems to think that his viewers should be content to take out their frustrations with a good belly laugh.

When Jon Stewart announced the Rally to Restore Sanity, he included CODEPINK among the "loud folks" getting in the way of civil discourse. He also equated progressives calling George Bush a war criminal with right-wingers calling Obama Hitler.

So we started a facebook page asking Jon Stewart to invite us on the show to set the record straight. Beware of what you ask for. We did, indeed, get a call from the producers but it was not for a live interview with Jon Stewart. No, it was for a taped session with myself, a Tea Party organizer and a tear-gas dodging, anti-globalization anarchist "giving advice" to Daily Show's Samantha Bee about how to organize a good rally. It was clear they wanted to portray us as the crazy folks who should not come to their rally for reasonableness.

I consulted with my CODEPINK colleagues. Some said, "Don't do it. It's a trap and will only further marginalize us." We'd already been ridiculed several times on the show, like when we stood up to question General Petraeus at a Congressional hearing or when we organized protests at the Marine Recruiting Center in Berkeley. But the majority of my colleagues thought it would be crazy to decline the chance to get an anti-war message out to millions of viewers.

The producers told us to come to the New York studio "in costume." The anarchist, Legba Carrefour, was all in black, including a black bandanna covering his face. The Tea Partier, Jeffrey Weingarten, came in patriotic red, white and blue. I decided to "go professional", with a CODEPINK t-shirt and a gray suit. The producers were disappointed. They had wanted me to appear in one of the wild outfits we have worn in Congress -- like a hand-lettered pink slip accessorized with a hot-pink boa and a glittery "no war" tiara.

But my attempt to look professional was thwarted by the fourth guest who suddenly appeared and was positioned right behind me: A huge, scary puppet head of Iranian President Ahmadinejad.

So there we were, four "crazies" being quizzed by Samantha Bee for over two hours. She started out with softballs -- what did we stand for, what activities did we engage in. Then the questions and the antics got sillier and sillier. By the end we found ourselves spinning a blind-folded Samantha Bee around, then watching her swing a baseball bat at Ahmadinejad's head to see if was really a pinata.

I'm sure that with over two hours of tape, there will be plenty of footage to turn into a four minute segment showing us as a bunch of nutcases. After all, it is a comedy show.

But it's too bad that Jon Stewart, the liberal comedian, is putting anti-war activists, tea partiers and black bloc anarchists in the same bag. And it's sad that he's telling his audience -- many of whom are young progressive thinkers -- that activism is crazy.

An anonymous assistant on the Daily Show's blog chastized CODEPINK on line. "Dipping hands in fake blood or screaming over everyone just makes you look crazy and then the rest of the country ignores you." He said that we should, instead, focus on solutions.

CODEPINK has been proposing solutions since the day we started. We risked our lives meeting with UN weapons inspectors in Iraq right before the U.S. invaded to see if war could be avoided. We have repeatedly traveled to Afghanistan to push for reconciliation. For the past eight years we have been posing solutions about how to deal with terrorism, how to extricate ourselves from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, how to make us safer at home. Whether under Bush or Obama, our voices of sanity have been drowned out by a war machine that makes billions selling weapons and hiring mercenaries.

Meanwhile, we've witnessed the agony of mothers who have lost their sons in these senseless wars, the unspeakable suffering of our friends in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the lavish spending on war while our schools and hospitals are gutted.

It was because of this insanity that we began to interrupt the war criminals during their public appearances, shouting -- yes, shouting -- for an end to the madness. It was because of this insanity that we put fake blood on our hands to represent the hundreds of thousands of innocents who died as result of their lies. In our post-9/11 24/7 news cycle, we learned that the more audacious and outrageous the action, the more likely we were to get our anti-war message into the national conversation.

For this the Daily Show calls us crazy!

Don't get me wrong. CODEPINK women love to laugh and we try not to take ourselves too seriously. But we do feel that it's the sane people who protest crazy wars, who cry out against the dangers of global warming, who rail against big money in politics, who implore our politicians to spend our resources rebuilding America, not bombing people overseas.

So let's celebrate the people who walk the talk. Slacktivism did not end slavery, activism did. Slacktivism did not get women our rights. Activism did. Slacktivism won't end war or global warming. But activism just might. 
Jon Stewart says he wants to restore sanity to Washington; so do we. We'll see you out on the mall, Jon.
Medea Benjamin is cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange. CODEPINK will be organizing a Mad Hatter Tea Party at the Rally to Restore Sanity.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Portsmouth Naval Shipyard Protests

On October 23, the went down to Kittery to protest the development of a $4 million recruitment HQ attached to the shipyard in the first of what was to become a monthly vigil.


Here are some photos from the Oct. 23 protest, courtesy of our wonderful V.P. Miss Nicole:

Alex gives peace a thumbs up :)
Classic anti-war slogans from last-minute protester Tyler!
Loving Taylor's sign - RAISE THINKERS, NOT FIGHTERS!!
And yes, Sebastian. War is displeasing.
 Me, talkin' to Bruce Gagnon.
 PEACE!! Lovin' Paul's sign (to the left of me) which spells out the
US '10-'11 budget :(
Our beautiful Vice President Nicole
 Organizer Will Hopkins of NH Peace Action - 
There were signs in Kittery saying "Save The Bridge"
so he was hoping to strike a chord with the locals with his sign.
Seriously, though. $4 million for a recruiting HQ
but our bridges are coming down? Crazy. . .
 Healthcare not Warfare - I like it!
Taylor and Sebastian with the amazing
Lisa Savage of CODE PINK Maine
Me and Lisa chattin' as us girls love to do
 Jacqui Deveneau of Peace Action Maine
Happy protesters after almost 2 hours of solid protesting!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Pledges For Peace

This month we're going to be sitting at a table in the UMF student center Mondays and Thursdays collecting donations and pledges in support of our treasurer Alex Valente, who plans to walk the entire 126.8 miles from Farmington to Portland via Skowhegan, Waterville, Bangor, Belfast, Bath, Rockland and Freeport.

If interested in sending a donation or pledge (either per mile or for the total distance) please email, subject line "pledges for peace"

Any advance donations will go toward gas money for us to get to Kittery, Maine at the end of this month for a protest of the soon-to-be $4million recruitment office opening in Kittery. Peace Action Maine and New Hampshire Peace Action are working together on this and we're hoping to join them to show our lack of support for more tax dollars being fed into the war machine.

Again, if interested in donating, send an email to, subject line "pledges for peace"
Kelsey, VP Nicole and Sec. Paul in the Student Center :) PEACE

This weekend the celebrated
"FFFF" - Family & Friends Fall Fest - at UMF.
Check out these photos from the day, courtesy of VP Nicole: officers Paul, Jade, Alex and Nicole with the beautiful finished canvas
Tres. Alex, Prez Jade and VP Nicole - PEACE!!
E-board showin' some love :)
 Peace, love and creativity (our recipe for success!)

 Smile for peace!
 Food color + squirt bottle + canvas = the most fun we've had yet as a group!
Speak no evil, Hear no evil, See no evil The World With Your Color!!
*Peace star!*
Bring Our War Dollars Home!!
Wage Peace!!

Monday, October 11, 2010


Here's a link to the Collateral Murder video as released by Wikileaks:

Here's an interview with the soldier who rescued the children from the van, Ethan McCord, who I met and hung out with at the Veterans For Peace convention in August 2010:

Watch. Absorb. Learn. Grow.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Human Rights Film Series

UMF Peace Activists in Training
UMF Amnesty International
are proud to present:

The UMF Human Rights Film Series
Vol. I:
Guest sponsor: UMF Alliance
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
The Landing
7 p.m. showtime
10 p.m. post-film discussion
There will also be the chance to contribute to our
Human Rights Wall
A collection of quotes, pictures, poems and mantras
exploring what human rights mean to us

FREE and open to the public

See you there!!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

New article from self-described "active citizen" Paul Loeb

Don’t Let the Russ Feingolds Go Down For the Sins of the Blanche Lincolns

By Paul Rogat Loeb

In trying to get one-time Obama supporters to volunteer for the November election, I often hear this refrain: “The Democrats have sold us out. I’m tired of their spinelessness, their subservience to corporate interests. I’m staying home to teach them a lesson.”  Not everyone responds this way, but enough do to make me worry, because if
these people don’t show up and work to get others to vote, it could make the difference in race after neck-and-neck race, as a similar withdrawal of Democratic volunteers and voters did in 1994. As I’ve written, we either get past our broken hearts  to help elect the best possible candidates between now and November, or cede even more power to the most destructive interests in America.

But suppose you simply can’t stomach your local Democratic candidates? Suppose you’re simply too furious at their compromises and retreats? Then make phone calls or donate to those you do respect, but don’t abdicate entirely. Maybe it’s Russ Feingold, narrowly trailing in the latest Wisconsin polls. Or Jack Conway, challenging Rand Paul in Kentucky. Or Barbara Boxer, with the slimmest of leads in California. Or Congressman Alan Grayson, a powerful progressive voice being hammered by outside money in a swing district of Florida.  Or anyone
else you might choose. But unless you’re as purist as the Republican fundamentalists, I can’t imagine you want to see candidates who’ve stood for strong humane values be defeated by opponents who have nothing but contempt for democracy, justice, and even the barest stewardship of the planet. To shift our country’s direction, we’re going to have to elect and reelect some less than stellar candidates as well, but making sure the best of them win is a critical task.

So why wouldn’t we make calls for or donate to candidates who have shown genuine courage, yet are equally in jeopardy along with the most compromised? Maybe we’re stuck in our inertia—watching the bad news instead of trying to change it. Maybe we can’t get past our anger at the gap between what needs to be done and what the Obama administration and its congressional allies have accomplished. Maybe we feel our efforts won’t matter. But we might remember that 312 votes elected Al Franken to the Senate just two years ago, that 133 votes defeated a hard-right candidate in the 2004 Washington State governor’s race, and that the official Florida margin that gave George Bush the presidency was 537 votes, leaving aside all the other manipulations and abuses. Given the volatility of the current electorate, we might well end up with margins equally close, where our volunteer efforts could make the critical difference.

Obviously it’s easier if you live close enough to be able to knock door to door for candidates you admire, but it isn’t essential. I spent much of the weeks before the 2006 and 2008 elections calling swing voters in race after close race, volunteering with MoveOn’s remote calling effort. Follow up studies found that these efforts played a key role in electing people like Franken, Jeff Merkley, Jon Tester, Jim Webb, Mark Begich, and Claire McCaskill, all of whom won by three percent or less, and all of whom have voted pretty decently, while progress has been blocked by people like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Joe Lieberman, and Evan Bayh. You log in, get a series of
numbers and a sample script that you can use or not as you choose, then call and log the responses. You convince people to vote and sometimes change their vote. MoveOn is doing this again, as are other progressive groups like Democracy in America. So are individual campaigns. Based on past history, for roughly every dozen doors you knock on or every twenty phone calls you make, you get out an additional vote for your candidate. That may not seem like much, but if a hundred thousand more people spend just a couple days on the phones, they could bring in close to a million additional votes, which would make even more of a difference in an off-year election where everything depends on whose supporters show up at the polls. Wherever you live, you can still make an impact.

For the long-term, we need to build strong citizen movements that can push American politics beyond its current definitions of the possible, and challenge our elected leaders whoever they are. We didn’t do this enough in the past two years, instead waiting for Obama and the Senate and Congress to lead. But the coming month will determine the landscape we work in not just between now and 2012, but (in the case of Congressional redistricting) for as long as the coming decade. Whether you agree or not with every Democratic position or vote is not the question. If certain candidates seem too noxious, volunteer for better ones. If you want to work primarily outside the electoral arena, that’s fine. But to stand back in the next critical weeks and help hand victory to the most greed-driven interests in America seems an unconscionable moral lapse. Far better to help make what difference you can in electing the electoral allies you most respect, and then keep on with all the other organizing that needs to be done.

Paul Loeb is the author of the wholly updated new edition of Soul of a Citizen: Living with Conviction in Challenging Times (St Martin’s Press, April 2010), and The Impossible Will Take a Little While: A Citizen’s Guide to Hope in a Time of Fear, See  

To receive Paul’s articles directly please email  with the subject line: "subscribe paulloeb-articlesedu"

To sign up for Paul’s Facebook page, visit

Pledges for Peace

This month we're going to be sitting at a table in the UMF student center Mondays and Thursdays collecting donations and pledges in support of our treasurer Alex Valente, who plans to walk the entire 126.8 miles from Farmington to Portland via Skowhegan, Waterville, Bangor, Belfast, Bath, Rockland and Freeport.

If interested in sending a donation or pledge (either per mile or for the total distance) please email, subject line "pledges for peace"

Any advance donations will go toward gas money for us to get to Kittery, Maine at the end of this month for a protest of the soon-to-be $4million recruitment office opening in Kittery. Peace Action Maine and New Hampshire Peace Action are working together on this and we're hoping to join them to show our lack of support for more tax dollars being fed into the war machine.

Again, if interested in donating, send an email to, subject line "pledges for peace"

Alex Valente
Here's Alex being her usual awesome self - always the life of every meeting, Alex has an unstoppable determination to live for peace. Although she is 3 years my junior, and perhaps a few inches shorter, I look up to her as the epitome of what this group is about. Alex is just a freshman at UMF but is ambitious and driven to do something to better not only her own life, but the lives of others. I'm really proud of her, and so glad I get to work with her :)

Maine Walk for Peace Nov. 2-11

Join Maine Veterans for Peace as we walk across the state in order to engage the public about the need to end the war in Afghanistan (now costing us over $8 billion a month), promote social progress, take care of veterans when they come home (suicides are at an all ti me high among Iraq/Afghan war vets), and discuss the impact on our environment from endless war.
Each night local hosts will organize a potluck supper, an educational program, and make sleeping arrangements for the walkers.
Walk for an hour, a day, or for the entirety. The walk will conclude with Veterans for Peace participating in the November 11 Veterans Day parade in Portland.
The peace walk will be led by Buddhist monks/nuns from the Nipponzan Myohoji order.
Contact Veterans for Peace for more information at 207-443-9502 or 207-865-0655.
Click here for a PDF of the flyer, or here to visit the Veterans For Peace website.