About the Author
Alex Winnett

IFEA- Our Meeting with Iraqi Parliamentarians

On Friday, June 6th, Adam and Alex attended a panel discussion featuring two Iraqi parliamentarians, Sheikh Khalaf Al-Ulayyan, founder of the National Dialogue Council, a nationalist Sunni Islamist political party, and Dr. Nadim Al-Jaberi, co-founder of the al-Fadhila Party, a nationalist Shiite political party. The lawmakers testified before congress earlier in the week. Their visit was arranged by the American Friends Service Committee http://www.afsc.org/, particularly through the work of their consultant, Raed Jarrar. The discussion touched on many issues, including reconciliation within Iraq, the role of the United States in the future of Iraq, oil resources, and the threats faced by Iran and al-qaeda. Here are some brief reports from Adam and Alex…

Adam Reports… It was unequivocally made clear that in their opinion America needs to leave Iraq. Dr. Al-Jaberi responded to the three main fears about what would happen as a result of an American withdrawal. Dr. Al-Jaberi believes, contrary to popular belief:

  1. Iraq will not crumble due to increased sectarian fighting – Such fighting did not exist before America arrived. Iraqis have coexisted peacefully across its sectarian divides since the country came into existence. He does not anticipate any increase of fighting after American withdrawal.
  2. Al-qaeda will not take over – there was no presence of al-qaeda before 2003. The only reason that they have grown and been able to recruit so many people is because they are rallying people around a call for liberation from the Americans. Once America leaves, there will be nothing to rally around.
  3. Iran will take not over – Iran has only been able to gain influence in Iraq under America’s presence.Iran’s main reason for meddling in Iraq’s affairs is that America poises a major threat by being so close to their borders.Iraq has defended itself from Iran throughout its history and is capable of doing so without an American presence.

The lawmakers were also strongly against the proposed Security Agreement by the Bush Administration. Sheikh Al-Ulayyan said that such an agreement would push Iraq from being occupied by America to being part of America. He asserted that it would give the U.S. the rights to use its military bases in Iraq to carry out military missions to any part of the world and that it would give the U.S. the right to arrest any Iraqi without permission of the Government. He thought that it was completely unfair to the Iraqi people.

When asked about the upcoming elections and which of the candidates’ policies they preferred, Dr. Al-Jaberi responded that Iraqis do not rely on a change of faces in Washington to determine their future, they rely on themselves.

Alex reports…the members of Parliament were also adamant that the US State Dept. and Pentagon should give the Iraqi government full self-determination. Especially in the realm of the Reconciliation process, the lawmakers were frustrated by how many times the US had overturned or blocked laws created by Parliament.

Dr. Al-Jaberi told us the US Government blocked a resolution that would grant amnesty to organizations that took up arms against occupying Coalition forces. He believes bringing those groups to the table would be crucial to the Reconciliation process—much like they did in Northern Ireland in the 1990’s. However, the Pentagon is not eager about granting amnesty to these groups.

Sheik Al-Ulyyan was very certain that the reconciliation process could not be successful with a large presence of U.S. and Coalition forces. He said the occupation forces:

  1. ignore or create problems in order to justify their presence;
  2. protect many parties;
  3. refuse to protect other groups as a way of political punishment.

While he did not explain his point of view, it is very interesting to see how Coalition troops are perceived by Iraqi parliamentarians.

Initially, the AFSC had planned to bring many different voices to the table to hear how different political parties are working for the Reconciliation process. Unfortunately, many were unable to attend. I am sure this would have made the conversation much different. However, it was an extremely fascinating conversation and I am glad I was able to attend.

Shareholder Advocacy

When I was in high school, I was active with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ (CIW) campaign against Taco Bell. I organized the boycott on Taco Bell among my friends. And I attended a few protests at the world headquarters in Irvine.

Around that same time, I started investing in Whole Foods. As a person interested in food ethics, I found their vendor policies refreshing. Their focus on locally grown, independently owned, and environmentally sustainable foods was really appealing to me. I have been a proud stock owner of Whole Foods Market ever since. Over the years, I have seen the stocks rise and fall, voted my proxies and stayed true-blue to the company I had partial ownership in.

Imagine my surprise when yesterday I read Lisa’s post on the Coalition’s most recent successes with Burger King.

But by the beginning of 2008, other fast food companies, including Burger King, Subway, and Whole Foods (yes, really–Whole Foods), still hadn’t budged towards the side of just compensation.

My Whole Foods Company had not yet signed with the CIW. I felt a complex series of emotions including heartache and betrayal. This company, whom I have stuck with through embarrassing staff mishaps and poor stock performance after a messy court case, has now refused to work with the CIW.

As someone who considers himself a socially responsible investor, I immediately wrote a letter to the Whole Foods Investor Relations Office to inform them of my disappointment. How could a company that promotes itself as a responsible and progressive company refuse to talk with the CIW? How could such a company fall behind the practices of such companies as McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Burger King?

This is one stockholder who will not let up this issue. Back in high school, when I had little to no power, I helped the CIW accomplish their goals. Now that I have shareholder power, I will continue to write my letters until the CIW gets their way.

If you hold stocks in or shop at Whole Foods, Chipotle, Subway, or Wal-Mart, you may want to write letters asking them to work with the CIW to receive a fair wage.

For more information on socially responsible investing please visit the UUA’s SRI site. And to learn how to better support the Coalition’s fight for fair wages, please visit http://www.ciw-online.org/index.html

Stimulating Peace

We have fallen on hard times here in the United States. With the crashing housing market, the rising costs for food and fuel, and no end in sight, the economy has definitely taken a turn for the worse.

In hopes of stimulating the economy, the Congress and President Bush are sending you and me a stimulus check. Six hundred dollars for every person in America earning more than $3000 delivered to our front doors. The Government wants you to spend all that money on something shiny. They want you to go to Target, Best Buy, or Home Depot and buy something for yourself, acquiring more stuff.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I need more stuff. I am pretty sure I need to be reducing my stuff intake. Thankfully, there are other ways to spend that money.

Many financial planners want us to remember that this is not free money; this is our money. This is money the Government took from us in the form of income taxes. These financial planners recommend spending your stimulus checks just like you would spend the rest of your paycheck. Instead of going on a spending binge and getting your kids (or yourself) a video game system, or getting your house some new drapes, be responsible with your money. Pay down your debt and invest in your retirement.

But don’t forget to devote some of your money to peace and justice. When the economy takes a down turn like this, the first to get hit are not the corporations, but rather those in the Non-Profit sector. Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s) work hard, functioning off of shoestring budgets, and require donations to get their work done. When people start tightening their belts and reassessing their budgets, the first expenses to go are often donations. The number of donations to NGO’s have stayed steady, but the overall amount of money in donations has already declined. The effects of this economic downturn have already come to the non-profit sector. Many great organizations here in Washington DC and all around the nation have started to cutback on their program staff. Hardworking people devoted to peace and justice are losing their jobs.

Please, instead of going out and buying a new IKEA bedroom set or plasma screen TV, consider giving to the non-profit sector instead. With this check, you can stimulate the economy and support peace at the same time. And even if you do not or cannot devote all $600, please give a little. I am using most of my check to pay off student loans, but I am still going to disperse $100 from my stimulus check to organizations I feel are doing a great job working for peace and justice both here in the US and the world at large.

Here is just a selection of organizations to send your stimulus check to:
UUA’s Now Is The Time Campaign-devoted to growing our faith
UUSC– Decide if you want to give to the Myanmar Relief Fund or to the whole organization
FCNL– Quaker advocacy organization devoted to peace and human rights
World Wildlife Fund-Protecting endangered species
Fellowship of Reconciliation– Interfaith peace organization
Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice– Faithful pro-choice organization
North American Street Newspaper Association– Giving a voice and jobs to America’s homeless
World Hunger Year– Supporting food banks
Or your home congregation

The Clash Against Racism

Most people my age were raised by hippies. Their parents spent their young adulthoods listening to the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin. My parents, on the other hand, were not hippies. My parents were punks. They spent their young adulthoods listening to the Sex Pistols, the Ramones and my personal favorite, The Clash. After I was born, their taste in music did not get watered down; it just got more eclectic. Riding in the car as a child, the tapes often wavered between children’s performers like Sharon, Lois and Bram or Raffi, but also the 1979 hit album “London Calling” or 1981’s “This is Radio Clash” by The Clash. By the time I was four years old, I knew all the words to both “Baby Beluga” and “Rock the Kasbah”.

Led by frontman, Joe Strummer, The Clash sang songs about working class struggle and disenfranchised youth trying to find their ways through a world filled with advertising, war, violence and drug abuse. Sure, I didn’t understand what most of it meant. But it definitely struck a chord with me.

Thirty years ago, today, The Clash headlined a concert series called “The Carnival Against Nazis.” Organized by the organization, Rock Against Racism, in response to a series of racist comments made by British rockstars, The Clash along with X Ray Spex, Steel Pulse, and The Tom Robinson Band played in front of 100,000 fans. The Proceeds of the concert went to the Anti-Nazi League. This was crucial to the strength of the Punk scene in Britain. Many places had seen their clubs overrun by skin heads and neo-nazis. But the wild and passionate work against the established evils of racism and sexism had fallen away. For The Clash and X Ray Spex to speak out against Skinheads and Nazis was a very brave move.

Today, many of the original musicians have returned to fight racism. X Ray Spex and many of the original members of The Clash—Strummer died in 2003—have come out along with newer bands like Babyshambles and played the “Love Music, Hate Racism” concert in order to combat growing neo-nazi and anti-immigrant sentiments in Great Britain.

Even though Strummer died five years ago and many of the things the Clash stood against—war, poverty, violence and racism—still exist, their music has always been a call to action for many. To this day, “London Calling” has been one of my unofficial social justice theme songs: in a world of shiny distractions and war with no end—there is still Joe Strummer and The Clash reminding me that there is some truth in this world.

Death And Taxes

Written on the side of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) building here in Washington, D.C. is a quote from our Unitarian forefather, Oliver Wendell Holmes. “Taxes are the price we pay for a civilized society”. However, In 2008, I think a quote from Benjamin Franklin is more appropriate. “In this world nothing is certain but death and taxes.”

While I proudly pay my taxes—I need roads, and police, and libraries and schools and I am willing to contribute to them—there is a part of my taxation that frustrates me. War. Here in the United States, Death is inextricably tied to Taxes.

If you have filed your taxes, you may be familiar with this little chart which shows the projected federal budget for fiscal year 2006.

As you can see, the IRS claims that the largest portion of spending goes to “Social Security, Medicare and retirement (36%)” followed by “National Defense, Veterans and Foreign Affairs (23%)”. The other half is an amalgamation of health and community development (12%), social programs (21%) and Net Interest on the Debt (8%).

But what does that all really mean?

Thanks to the National Priorities Project, we now know.

Here we see that 20% of our Federal budget earmarked for National Defense is directly for the Dept. of Defense. And the nice, big, 21% slice for all social programs is actually mostly Medicaid. So, all spending for our non-Medicare social programs is actually 8% of the annual budget.

23% of our national budget goes to making war. On the other hand, 8% goes to all the other departments: Energy, Homeland Security, NASA, Housing/Urban Development among others. But don’t forget, the departments of Energy, Homeland Security, NASA, and Housing/Urban Development all put part of their budgets toward national defense—nuclear weapons, coast guard, satellites used for military efforts, and veteran housing, respectively. The functions of our government agencies are not always transparent.

What different departments contribute to the military machine is hard to estimate. The Department of Homeland Security’s budget gives massively to military expenditures (70%). However, the Department of Education does not. Even if we were to add a very conservative 5% of the total budget from social programs to the original 23% given by the IRS, we bring the military spending to 28% of total national spending.

As for that 8% of the budget that goes to net interest on the debt, we must ask, “Where did that debt come from?” Well, most our debt came from previous wars, mainly WWII and Vietnam. But how much of the debt belongs to previous military spending? Depending on which advocacy organization one chooses to look at, analysts divide that 8% differently. War Resisters League estimates a much higher percentage than our friends at the FCNL. If we use the FCNL’s conservative estimation, we add another 4% to the total percent of our budget’s military spending.

We now have reached 32% of your tax dollars going to military spending—past, present and future. Although, if we use War Resisters League numbers, that brings us up to 36%.

At our conservative estimations, 36% of your 2006 income taxes went to paying for war.

With the taxes you filed today, your payment for the war will be even higher than last year.

And the percentage of taxes coming out of your paycheck to fund war this year will be even higher!

An estimated half of your income taxes in 2008 will go to paying for war. Even with a new President in the Oval Office in January, your taxes will be paying for this war. Even if all troops were to leave today. You will still be paying for this war.

While it is still fresh in your mind, enter the amount of money you paid in taxes in 2007 and this pie chart will show how much you paid to support the war, health care, and social programs. I was shocked to find out that I paid over $1220 to the war in 2007. I was especially shocked by this number compared to the mere $29 that went to peaceful International Relations.

If taxes are the price to pay for a civilized society, why is it that half of it goes to war? What is so civilized about that?

Dr. King’s Legacy and "Beyond Vietnam"

Forty years ago last Friday, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot dead at a Memphis, Tennessee, motel by James Earl Ray. Today, we mark forty years without the civil rights leader with great sadness.

April 4th, 1968 is not the only important 4-4 in Dr. King’s life. Friday was also the 41st anniversary of Dr. King’s speech, Beyond Vietnam, simply known as “The Riverside Church Address” named for the church in New York City where he gave the address. This speech, which many consider one of his most important and prophetic, was given exactly one year before his untimely death. In it, King shares his vision for America. He also warned us of the three scourges facing the United States.

Forty-one years ago, Dr. King warned us that the job of the civil rights movement is far from over. The work of justice loving people would never be done as long as the following three things survived:




At this point, the civil rights movement was more than twenty years old. While many strides had been made for the Black American community, there was still so much to do. De jure racism in the form of Jim Crow and government imposed subjugation of members of the Black community may have been turned over, but de facto racism still existed. It was the work of justice seeking people to work toward the beloved community where people existed in mutual love and vulnerability.

Dr. King also noted that poverty was a very real experience for many Americans regardless of race, age, gender, or family history. The anger of the poor was regularly misplaced toward each other rather than toward the unjust systems that held them in their class place. The mantle of racism would persist as long as poverty pitted Americans against each other for resources and happiness.

Finally, Dr. King spoke against the growing tensions between the United States, Vietnam, and other nations. The Cold War caused precious resources to be diverted from social programs to military programs. Militarism and American aggression was a social ill that peace loving people could not accept.

This speech inspired a new branch of the civil rights movements to include a “Poor People’s Movement”. A movement that would bridge the races by working toward the universal experiences of poverty and militarism, this movement would bring the issues of the lowest of the low to Washington. Modeled after Gandhi’s work with the upsetting the Indian Caste System; rich and poor, black and white, young and old would work to build the Beloved Community.

Dr. King was shot while planning a National Poor People’s March on Washington. Ultimately he never got to see the results of that plan and the movements’ largest Washington Supporter, Congressman Robert F. Kennedy, lost his life just days before the March. The loss of these two leaders came too early to help grow this burgeoning movement.

In the following 40 years, we have seen little progress in the world of race relations. We have seen social support programs slashed and more and more people have fallen into the pit of poverty. And the Vietnam War raged for nearly a decade after the speech only to be followed by larger and more bloated military budgets.

During this time of mourning and remembrance, let’s pick up the dropped mantle of Dr. King and his movement. While we may have lost him, his prophetic words are still with us and no less true than they were forty years ago. Especially in this time of racial hurt, economic frustration, and international turmoil—we need Dr. King’s words more than ever.

4,000 American Deaths in Iraq

On the tail of the fifth anniversary of the War in Iraq, we reach another chilling milestone—the Four Thousandth American Death. 4,000 Americans have died in Iraq. It is a sad and horrible day for our nation. But 4,00 is such a big and faceless number, what does it actually mean? What are the implications of 4,000 dead American soldiers and what other numbers will we not be hearing today?

1,750 more American soldiers have died in Iraq than all of the employees who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11/01.

Each loss is terrible and tragic. According to icasualties.org, a website that specializes in keeping records of Iraqi and coalition deaths, 81.8% of US deaths are caused by combat related wounds (3270). Improvised Explosive Devises (IEDs) are the number one cause of death for American Soldiers followed by General Hostile Fire and then Hostile Fire from Small Arms Ammunition.

Of the remaining, non-combat related deaths, many were caused by accidents. But 145 deaths were self inflicted. Most suicides have been gunshot related.

95 of the total deaths were women. 12.7% of fatalities in Iraq have been the age of 21–being the most likely age to die. And 79% (3164) of American fatalities have been under the age of 30. Americans in their 20’s are most likely to die in Iraq—61.7% of fatalities have been between the age of 21 and 30. A great many US casualties today were unable to vote when this war began. People who were just children when this war began five years ago are now expected to fight in it.

California, Texas and Pennsylvania have lost the most of its native sons and daughters to the fight. Although, of American enlisted forces who lost their lives; 34 came from Puerto Rico, 7 came from American Samoa, 6 each from Guam and US Virgin Islands, 5 from Washington DC, 3 from Micronesia, and one each from Great Britain, Canada, Panama, Guatemala and Palau—66 dead American Soldiers came from nations and regions that have no US Congressional voting abilities. There are people who decide when and how wars will be fought. And there are those who actually do the fighting.

29,451 American servicemen and women are returning home with injuries. Brain trauma from concussion blasts are the most common injury, followed by hearing loss and lower limb injury. In the Korean and Vietnam Wars, one had a one in four chance of dying from a serious injury. On the other hand, in Iraq and Afghanistan, one has a one in seventeen chance of dying from a serious injury. (Jeff Donn and Kimberly Hefling, AP 9/29/07). This is due to increased body armor and medical technology. But it also means more and more people are returning home with physical and mental injuries.

Then there is the very invisible injury but very real of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM IV) categorizes PTSD as a mental disorder caused by one or more critically stressful or traumatic events. It can cause an emotional and physical numbing of an individual as well as intrusive memory in the form of flashbacks. It can cause clinical depression and disconnect between individuals.

Because the Department of Defense only calculates American casualties, it does not count the numbers of Iraqi injuries and fatalities. icasualties.org estimates a total 8057 Iraqi police force deaths—twice that of American fatalities. They also estimate an outrageous 40,935 Iraqi civilian death count from both Coalition attacks and insurgency attacks alike—more than 10 times that of American GI deaths. Clearly, we have their blood on our hands. Due to the Department of Defense’s refusal to calculate Iraqi deaths, we know very little of who they were and exactly what happened. Maybe this is one of the most tragic aspects of this war. The people we came to “liberate” and “protect” have become little more than collateral damage–a part of the landscape and a “natural part of the war”. I refuse to believe nearly 50,000 dead Iraqis can be counted as “collateral damage”. And what of the invisible insurgency? The warring factions we just group together into a nameless, faceless mass of “evil-doers”? How many have been killed in their own struggle for liberation?

What is most difficult for me as I read these numbers is to remember that these are not just numbers. These are people. These are communities and families and young souls who have been forever changed by these events.

Even in the unlikely chance that the War in Iraq were to end tomorrow, there would be thousands of US Troops who did not come alive and many more who will—and still do—need emotional and spiritual healing. I am saddened by the news today of the 4000th American death. But I am also saddened by the thousands more—American, Coalition, and Iraqi forces alike—who will need support and healing in the years to come.

As a Unitarian Universalist, I know my spiritual home is one where we can bring healing into the world. For more information on how to support our troops and their families in a spiritually liberal manner, please visit our website and download our guide on welcoming home our children in uniform.

Five Years Too Many

With the fifth anniversary of the war upon us, I would like to share some memories.

A week into my senior year of high school, two airplanes smashed into the World Trade Center, bringing the buildings down. A third airplane smashed into the side of the Pentagon. And a forth crash landed into the Pennsylvania countryside. Almost 3,000 people died that day. I remember walking through my halls and past a “Wall of Fame”. On this wall, the school placed portraits of alumni who had died while serving their community. There were pictures of Vietnam-era soldiers, community police officers and fire fighters and one of the just 253 American soldiers to have died in the Persian Gulf War. I remember thinking, “there will be more here.”

I remember the hopelessness I felt as I graduated from high school nearly 9 months later and seeing classmates join the military to serve their injured country.

I remember the Bush administration telling story after story and changing facts in order to convince the American People to go to war.

I remember asking my Congressman, Dana Rohrabacher, “Do you actually believe we will be greeted as heroes when we get there?” And I remember him saying to me, “They will be cheering and baking us apple pies.”

I remember how shocked and awed I felt when, five years ago today, the bombs started falling. And I remember thinking how much Baghdad at night looked like my hometown at night.

I remember how heartbroken I felt when a week later, a member of my community, Cpl. Jose A. Garibay died in Iraq. And while he wasn’t placed on my school’s Wall of Fame (his picture belongs to my cross town rival), he grew up where I grew up. And he probably shared many of the same memories I still get to relive.

Today, I could talk about all the lies we were told. I could talk about how our nation has lost so many resources. But I think those are better saved for other days.

Today, I remember Cpl. Jose A. Garibay and the nearly 4,000 other military members who have lost their lives in Iraq. I remember the countless communities who have been soiled because they have lost a young soul.

Young people just like me are fighting in Iraq. They are sent off to protect the land. But the callous and culturally insensitive way our government planned to protect the land did not make it easy for the young people in Iraq. They are following orders. But these orders are flawed. And those orders cause a whole generation–My generation—to lose their souls. Today, there is no cause to celebrate the anniversary. Today, there are only reasons to mourn.

UUs Participate in Anti-War Demonstration

Last Friday, Washington DC played host to the Interfaith Peace Witness—a project of the Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership. Over 11 houses of worship, including All Souls Church, Unitarian hosted services where hundreds of faithful activists prayed and meditated for a world united in peace and justice. An interfaith service with guest speakers including Rev. Bill Sinkford was then held in the pouring rain in Upper Senate Park. Participants continued to the Hart Senate Office Building. There, a non-violent direct action was held in the atrium of the building while religious leaders met with Sen. Reid’s (D-NV) office.

The whole day was really quite powerful and more information about it can be found at uua.org. What I would really like to focus on is the Civil Disobedience (CD) that happened in the Hart Building. I have been in direct actions before—at the School of the Americas as well as other events. But I have never seen a more beautiful and spiritually grounded action as this one.

The original plan for the action was to have a “pray-in” on the front steps of the building. As senators, staffers, lobbyists and tourists left the building, they were brought into our worship service for peace. Capitol Hill Police (CHP) came out of the building and began filming our service. The trickle of people leaving dried up. And after an hour, it was evident that CHP was trying to wait us out.

So the plans changed. It was decided that the CD would head inside where it was warm and dry. Those risking arrest sat in the middle of the Office Building’s Atrium in a circle and began to sing hymns and pray. CHP came within a matter of minutes to break this up.

As CHP entered, they came to intimidate. They marched in and made a circle around the protestors. The rest of us then made a circle around CHP. We now had about three concentric circles. The CHP captain came with a bull horn to inform every one sitting that they had gathered without a permit and they needed to move. After three warnings, CHP brought out the handcuffs. At this moment some one stood up and started to pray in a loud, strong voice.

They thanked God for their ability to stand strong and peacefully in the face of injustice. They said that the police had no need to be afraid as we were peace loving people. They thanked the United States for being a good land to live safely in. And finally, they thanked CHP for doing such a good job, keeping our building safe. They prayed to God to protect every one, from the police officers to the soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan and to the people suffering in war torn regions. At this moment, the spirit of the room changed.

I could visibly see the tension of the police officers leave. They no longer felt the need to intimidate. The Quakers have a saying that “The Light came into the room.” And I could feel that. The bullhorn went away. And police officers crouched or sat on the ground in order to have conversations with the people they were arresting. The officers told folks that they could move along and not get arrested. They gently helped people up from the ground and gave them an option of whether they wanted to be handcuffed in the front or the back.

Those of us who were not getting arrested, were polite and professional as well. We followed directions well and thanked the officers for their work. We clapped for every one getting arrested. One by one, each of our 41 participants were handcuffed, had their picture taken and were gently led to the police vans. They were then all taken to jail.

Back at our hospitality site, we could only wait. We called each of the contacts for the arrested and let them know what we knew—which was not much. We expected a minimum of 4 to 8 hours of holding time. But after only 2 hours of waiting, we found that people were already getting released! Reports from those getting released showed that CHP continued to act in a professional and peaceful manner. They moved people along, giving them an option to Post and Forfeit—a legal option similar to a traffic violation or parking ticket. Just four hours after the first arrest, every one was released. All but three people took the Post and Forfeit, choosing instead to take this case to trial.

Like I said before, I have seen a lot of CD’s end in arrest. I have seen police officers get tough and mean. Once, a White House Police officer threatened to hit me with his cruiser! I have seen people being held in uncomfortable situations, sometimes for hours. I have never before seen such a beautiful, respectful, honor filled and peaceful action as this one. My compliments go to every one involved, activists and officers alike for respecting the inherent worth and dignity and the divine spirit of every one in that room.

Leap Into Action Day

This Friday is a leap day–an event that happens only every four to eight years. That means the month of February is one day longer than it usually is. This is due to the fact that the actual length of time it takes for the Earth to circle to sun is actually approximately 365.242 days. The modern algorithm to calculate leap years was developed in the 16th century by St. Gregory in order to keep the vernal equinox as close to March 21st as possible.

What exactly does this mean for people like you and me? Well, it means that Friday, not Thursday, is the last day of February. That means you have been given one extra day in the month to Leap into Action!

Leap into Action Day was created in 2004 by a group of Radical Anarchists in the San Francisco Bay Area in order to encourage people to reclaim their extra day and do something different. In encouraging people to do something different, they hope a cultural change would occur. They hope people would find that they liked working for change and justice.

I would like to encourage you to do something different and thoughtful on February 29th, 2008. There are loads of different things you could do on Leap Day. Why don’t you do something to better yourself or your community? Spend your day working for social justice! Spend your day volunteering with local aid organizations. Help your local community by working with a homeless shelter or feeding the hungry. Tutor at an after school program. Or pick up litter in your neighborhood. You could register to be a poll worker.

You could also learn a new skill. Three years ago, I learned how to knit. Now I like to trade scarves and hats for personal favors, like haircuts or books or things like that. I think I might learn how to crochet on my leap day. But you could also build a project out of wood. Or dust off your old sewing machine and make someone in your life a tote bag.

You could also start a garden. Vegetable patches and window boxes are a great way to add freshness to your surroundings and food. If you already garden, think about composting. Composting keeps tons of waste out of landfills and goes back into your garden for an inexpensive boost to your vegetables and flowers. Or you could start a worm farm in your basement.

You could also go for a hike in your local national park. You could visit a museum in town. You bike a new bike trail or take your dog for a walk a different way than usual. You could try a new recipe from a cook book you haven’t opened in years or use an ingredient you have never used before. You could write a letter to a friend. You could call a family member out of the blue. You could make a collage out of old newspapers and magazines. You could clean out your closet and donate old things to Goodwill. You could go to the library and check out a stack of children’s books. The options are endless.

But whatever you do, don’t waste your extra day! Do something different! Do something new! Do something daring and exciting. Leap into action on your leap day!