Sunday, March 28, 2010


If you know the Upper West Side of Manhattan, you know there are probably more progressives per square inch here than in all the 50 states. So, it's no surprise that a big bunch of people showed up this evening, March 27, at my small one-bedroom apartment in this highly liberal neighborhood to see Michael Moore's masterpiece, "Capitalism: A Love Story."

My event was one of MoveOn's 700 parties nationwide tonight to show the film in an effort to generate grass roots action against some of the evil excesses of capitalism rampant in the United States. These evils are powerfully exposed in Moore's movie -- the heartless foreclosures on people's homes; the cancellation of jobs in order to make way for profits; the practice of taking out insurance on employees unbeknownst to them and then collecting large payments when they die (of which not one cent is shared with the family survivors), and all manner of other immoral practices so harmful to decent working Americans.

My fifteen attendees were a typical group of Manhattan Upper West Siders -- among them three educators; two theatre directors; a chef; a photographer an obstetrician/gynecological surgeon, two free lance classical musicians, an administrator for Friends In Need, an organization which provides physical and spiritual support to seriously ill persons; a 95-year-old novelist, and me, a singer-songwriter and political activist (and a partridge in a pear tree).

Our evening began with a delightful treat. We got a call from the master himself, Mr. Moore. We were absolutely bowled over by the tone of his conversation. It felt as if we were talking to a good friend -- simple, no baloney, responsive, open. He asked where we were located, and when told it was 72nd and West End Avenue he informed us that he had lived in this area for a number of years before relocating to Michigan.

One of us asked him if there were any coordination between him and other leading Progressive leaders like Dennis Kucinich, Al Franken, etc. Moore replied that, sadly, there was not much. He said that it was important to form liaisons, that it was one effective thing about the Republicans -- no matter what their ideological differences, and there are many and deep ones, they hang together when it comes to acting against us. "I've been thinking about this for a long time," Moore said, "and I hope we can begin to start working together more."

We also asked him if he thought the health care reform legislation would do anything to resolve some of the terrible ills of capitalism. He stated that we all know there is much lacking in the legislation, but he feels it is a baby step forward and its main value may be to influence Obama to take more bold action in the future.

Michael Moore told us how he'd thought about this film for 20 years and how very important it is to him.

We then proceeded to watch it. It wasn't shown in ideal circumstances by any means. The volume wasn't loud enough, the screen wasn't big enough, and the space was crowded and without enough circulating air. Nevertheless, it received our rapt attention and we gave it a four-star rating.

Afterward, we had some discussion as to what we might do to resolve some of the crises caused by the banks, the insurance companies, and the financial institutions, which, as so convincingly illustrated in the film, don't give a damn for us and are ruining everything we believe in.

Our group was tired and anxious to go home, so we didn't have much time for an in-depth analysis. But, we did agree on one thing. We decided that a good place to begin with unified action was to oppose the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations unlimited contributions to political candidates.

Michael Moore tells the complete truth, and we must listen to him very carefully. In his first film, "Roger and Me," he warned that jobs would vanish on a huge scale and that we were facing horrendous times if we didn't do something to stop the damage. We didn't listen. We didn't listen when he exposed the out-of-control gun culture in "Bowling for Columbine," and pleaded for regulation. Nor did we listen when he urged us to reform the health care system in his recent film, "Sicko."

We listened tonight, Michael, and it's very clear that we must act on your warning to suppress the destruction caused by runaway capitalism.

Let's shake off our lethargy, people, and get started. Our democracy is at stake.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

New York City's Seven Years Too Many Coalition Protests the Iraq War on Its 7th Anniversary

This article was co-written with Edith Cresmer of the Granny Peace Brigade

On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, a country that posed no threat and that had done us no wrong. The invasion was justified by then-President George W. Bush on the basis that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction which it was ready to launch against us. These lies ultimately led to the deaths, maiming and displacement of millions of innocent Iraqi civilians, and the deaths, maiming and mental breakdowns of thousands upon thousands of U.S. and allied troops engaged in this great folly.

On Saturday, March 20, 2010, a beautiful, unseasonably warm day, the eighth year of our occupation of Iraq began. Although we are told that officially we are no longer fighting there, that we have pulled back our forces, nevertheless our soldiers continue to die there. And, so do many more Iraqis.

And, the American people seem to be oblivious to the fact that our young American treasures are still dying and suffering horrendous injuries in these useless and destructive wars.

It is way past time for us to pull out, and yet we remain. Why?

To commemorate the end of our seven years of illegal and immoral attack and occupation of Iraq and to alert the public that the wars are still an urgent issue, a compendium of 10 New York City peace groups called the Seven Years Too Many Coalition gathered at the Times Square Recruiting Center to protest the continuation of the war and to call for the end of all wars.

Cheryl Wertz, Exec, Director of Peace Action New York State (PANYS) introduced the speakers -- Councilwoman Gale Brewer, and Vietnam vet Chaplain Hugh Bruce of Veterans for Peace. They discussed some of the terrible effects of war on people at home -- lost jobs, libraries, fire companies, and teachers -- and even worse effects on the people of Iraq and on our G.I.s.

Literature was handed out with facts about the terrible results and the absurdity of war.

Demonstrators chanted: How do you measure the cost of War? How Many? and How Much?

And answered Too Many, too Many . . . and Too Much, too Much.

Protesters wore signs with the answers: Killed to date: American soldiers - 4,382; Coalition Soldiers - 4,700; Iraqi civilians - 95,606-to 104,304; Journalists - 140.

Wounded to date: U. S. soldiers - 31,616; NYS soldiers - 1,669.

Displaced Iraqis: 4,900,000.

Spent in Iraq to date: $712 Billion. Spent by NYC: $25 Billion

But, this was a two-day demonstration. The day before, on March 19, we stood in front of the Chambers Street recruiting center, laughingly officially named the Army Career Center. Some career, isn't it, to be taught to kill and to look forward to being blown up in a foreign land we have no business being in?

We displayed banners and signs and passed out literature there to the many students from a nearby high school and college walking by, and then moved down the street to the Marine Corps Career Center where we continued our rally.

We ended our march at the site of the World Trade Center where the many visiting tourists, most from foreign countries, and nearby workers enthusiastically greeted us and received our fliers. We couldn't help but think how ironic it was that the tragic explosion of the WTC was used falsely as rationalization for attacking two countries which were not responsible for it.

We earnestly hope that we will not have to demonstrate for an Eighth Year Anniversary of our continued occupation of Iraq.

President Obama, are you listening?

(Participating groups in the Seven Years Too Many Coalition:
CODE PINK NYC; Grandmothers Against the War; Granny Peace Brigade; Greenwich Village Coalition for Peaceful Priorities; North Manhattan Neighbors for Peace & Justice; NYC United for Peace & Justice ; NYC War Resisters League; Peace Action New York State; Veterans for Peace Chapter 34 NYC; West Side Peace Action)