Sunday, July 26, 2009
Since we last posted, we've been visiting with great folks, exploring the SF Bay Area, and Ellen's been recuperating from a twisted, scraped ankle, having overlooked a 3-inch step when headed out to the van for the night shortly after arriving in Oakland. It's okay now, and we're all very ready to hit the road again, despite the exquisite kindness of our hostess in Oakland, artist Ruby Pearl.
Meanwhile we've met with great people like Marylia Kelley of Tri-Valley Cares ( http://www.trivalleycares.org/ ), who keeps a close eye on the Lawrence Livermore National Labs, and the folks on the "Trinity to Trident Interfaith Peace Walk for a Nuclear-Free Future In Respect For Mother Earth" when they stopped in Livermore, California for a demonstration at the gate of LLNL last week. (Ellen and Jay had spent time with another crew of peace walkers during the "Walk For A New Spring" earlier this year.)
Also we met with the Bay Area chapter of United for Peace and Justice, and with Jackie Cabasso of Western States Legal Foundation ( http://www.wslfweb.org/ ) and Abolition 2000 ( http://www.abolition2000.org ), who are all calling for a massive demonstration at the UN Non-Proliferation Treaty Review in New York in May, 2010, to call for global nuclear disarmament as required by Article VI of the NPT. Jackie is also U.S. contact for the Mayors For Peace Campaign, and asks us to ask you to ask YOUR mayor to become a Mayor For Peace! She informs us that there is a campaign to bring the legality of nuclear weapons to the World Court once again. (The World Court ruled in 1996 that the USE of nuclear weapons is illegal; hopefully they will now rule that the POSSESSION of nuclear weapons is illegal.)
Here's our confirmed schedule at the moment:
Monday, July 27, San Luis Obispo, CA, 7 pm (contact Liz Apfelberg (WILPF), 805-783-2383)
August 6 - Hiroshima Day - Phoenix, AZ - 7 pm, Fair Trade Cafe, 1020 N. 1st (contact Liz AZ (Code Pink), 480-236-0051)
August 7 - Phoenix, AZ - Phoenix Quaker House - contact Liz AZ (Code Pink)
August 8 - Tucson, AZ - 7 pm, Reid Park at 22nd (Cancer Survivors' corner)
August 9 - Tuscon, AZ - Film - "The Strangest Dream" - Tuscon Public Library
August 13-16 - Albuquerque, NM - "Think Outside The Bomb" Youth Conference
August 22 - Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA (11:30 pm) (contact MacGregor Eddy (WILPF), firstname.lastname@example.org)
August 26 - Berkeley, CA - 7 pm, Redwood Gardens (contact Cynthia Johnson, email@example.com)
August 28 - San Jose, CA - 7-9 pm, Peace & Justice Ctr. 48 S. 7th St. (contact Shirley Lin (WILPF), firstname.lastname@example.org)
From there we'll be headed to Ashland and Portland, Oregon, Seattle and Hanford, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Michigan, and then home to DC and North Carolina.
We hope to see you on the road, or in the streets!
Ellen, Jay, Steve, and Troy
and, of course, our Peace Dog, Sophia
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Last time we wrote, we were on our way to Las Vegas from Santa Fe. Along the way we stopped in Grants, New Mexico, and were blessed with a kachina doll, “The Healer.” We prayed it would heal the seared lands of New Mexico and Nevada from their radioactive poisons as we passed through.
We awoke the next morning on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Ellen was chided from there to Yosemite to stop using the camera while she was driving. But only her grandchild Emma will be able to say if the footage was worth it (Emma, and the terrified motorists in the oncoming lanes). “But the mountains are all so different!” Ellen explains.
We were hosted for two nights in Las Vegas by Jim Haber and Sister Megan of Nevada Desert Experience (NDE), who welcome all activists who come to join their witness against nuclear weapons. We were drawn to Vegas thanks to an invitation from Code Pink – Phoenix. Liz Hourican was one of a group of wonderful women staying at the Goddess Temple in Cactus Springs for a series of actions against war in general, and especially our ongoing remotely-operated drone war in Afghanistan/Pakistan.
On Monday, July 13, we joined NDE and Code Pink in a sunrise demonstration at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, north of Las Vegas, to protest the Predator Drones which are tested and used for training on the base. Some of the base personnel remotely operate drones which are in the air halfway around the world, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At this demonstration was Father Louis Vitale of Pace Bene, who to our great fortune was in town for a rare homecoming. (The current home of the Nevada Desert Experience was previously home to the Franciscan Order that Father Louis founded there in the early 1970’s.)
We displayed our vintage yellow banner that reads: “Proposition One - Convert the War Machines – visit our website prop1.org” and noticed a number of military folks looking closely at the website (http://prop1.org) as they passed our yellow and Code Pink pink displays. A few of the local police took offense when Fr. Louis, Sister Megan, Code Pink sister Lisa from Washington state and Toby from Code Pink in the Bay Area knelt in the entrance to the base at 7:30 am, briefly stopping busses full of incoming workers. The guards were quite rough as they got impatient, tossing 79-year-old Sister Megan onto the asphalt, dragging her on her back and dropping her head on the gravel at the side of the road. Lisa was grabbed by the nose and hauled out of the street. Incredible dedication. . .
After promising Jim Haber and Sister Megan that we would return to Las Vegas soon, we set off late Monday morning across the mountainous desert (it’s all Basin and Range in Nevada, friends) to … and too fast through … Yosemite National Park. The sunset skylines of Half Dome and other wonders visible from Tioga were spectacular – but no suitable campsites were to be had. So we slept on the edge of the Merced River, then drove this morning to Livermore, California, home of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and Sandia Labs - the other two major nuclear weapons labs in the country, after Los Alamos (Sandia also has a large facility in Albuquerque).
There was a small adventure awaiting, the first of its kind on this trip. Our friend Marylia Kelley—head of Tri-Valley Cares, undeterrable local watchdog of LLNL and Sandia, and one of the premier complex transformation advocates in the country—suggested we pay a visit to the one-square-mile lab site (as compared to the 47 square miles of Los Alamos, or the some-1500 sq. mile, bigger-than-the-state-of-Rhode-Island Nevada Test Site) just down the road. So we headed south, searching for the Visitor Center and optimistically hoping to find an expert to help us with our new, already haywire geiger counter.
Turning into the western gate, we quickly determined it was employees only, u-turned around and headed away, rolling the videocamera all the while. Apparently the Department of Energy employees hired to protect the Labs were not impressed by our drive-by filming, so we were swifly followed down the northern perimeter of the lab (set back from the road and protected by a 100-yard belt of barren land), and pulled over before we reached the east-side Visitors Entrance.
The officers were not amused by or interested in our geiger counter, and demanded ID from Ellen, who was driving, and Jay in the passenger’s seat. After 20 minutes of slow broil in the July California valley sun, they returned with a more pleasant aspect and gave back our documents. Seemingly satisfied that we were who we said we were, they gave us the go-ahead into the complex, but no sooner had we parked then another officer came up to Ellen, this one an Alameda County Sheriff. He explained that Livermore took these labs quite seriously, and politely put us all through the same rigmarole, filling out little ticket-looking “crime investigation” sheets on all four of us, rousting even Troy, who was napping in the back of the van, as Steve played “Wish You Were Here” on his 12-string guitar.
Finally cleared of wrongdoing we were allowed to enter the Visitor Center—but not with the geiger counter OR the video camera. The Energy Dept. Cop who pulled us over originally assured us that “nobody in there knows what to do with that thing, and anyway we don’t know what’s in it.” Jay resisted the temptation to show the internal workings of a vintage 1984 Civil Defense geiger counter to four men who guard the number one radioactive weapons lab in the country, and we walked into the Visitor Center armed only with the audio recorder.
Inside was actually a lovely display, and a lovely woman – Diane – who accompanied us around the displays, while indicating that her husband has worked at the lab for almost 25 years, as had her father. We explained our geiger counter plight, and she showed us theirs: a lovely (and working) lime-green model with a hand probe and an audio tick that accelerated when brought close to the three radioactive display items: tungsten welding rods, Coleman lantern mantels, and shards of bright orange Fiesta Ware plates that were popular in the seventies until it was discovered that the paint was radioactive (the hottest item in the display case, as it turned out). She did admit that the device could not tell the difference between alpha, beta and gamma rays, and that she wasn’t sure about it herself.
The rest of the center included descriptions of the actual weapons that had been developed at the lab (including an almost 6 foot tall model of an MX III warhead); aerial photos of the lab territory and “Area 300,” the actual physical test site about 10 miles away; a timeline of the lab and the historical events during its history; a section describing the technologies available for fighting terrorism; and even a section mentioning carbon-free energy and describing how LLNL scientists helped produce the data for Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.” Two orange bikes hooked to light bulbs help youth understand how to create electricity, and show off the program that lets employees across the complex pick up a bike in front of any building and drop it off in front of any other, no locks needed. Incredible what you can do with a budget of a few billion dollars a year, isn’t it?
We’re told that tours are available on Tuesdays, two weeks’ reservation required, and we hope to see one before we have to move on—after all, how many [particle accelerators] or [laser intensifiers] do you get to see in a lifetime? But we’ll leave the videocamera at home. . . IF we pass the security check and get a badge. . . As we told the officers today, we’re only tourists – antinuclear tourists, to be sure, but good Americans all the same.
Now we’re safe in an East Oakland base camp with another friend of Prop 1, artist Ruby Pearl, and we’ll be in the Bay Area for a few days before heading on a short Northern California loop, then back through on our way to Southern Cal, AZ, and back to New Mexico for Think Outside the Bomb in Albuquerque on August 13-16. The tour is finally solidifying, and dates and places will be posted at this site as they congeal.
Ellen, Jay, Steve, and Troy
Thursday, July 9, 2009
We just spent a week of camping, walking, resting, reconnecting and rejoicing in the majestic San Pedro Mountains with the Rainbow Family, during which time we were cut off from phone and computer contact (glad to be back!). We made some great contacts with folks we'll be visiting in California, Oregon, Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Idaho and Montana over the next months . We'd love to tell you more about the Gathering but you'd never believe us--you'll just have to see one for yourself (next year in Main Meadow!).
On the way down from 9300 feet we passed through Los Alamos: Birthplace of the Atomic Bomb, and still home to Los Alamos National Laboratory(LANL) - owned by your US Department of Energy. Vestiges of top secret security remain throughout the city, especially at the massive atomic "campus" (read: weapons research and production facility) across the Rio Grande gorge. Street names like Oppenheimer, Trinity, and Bikini Atoll are constant reminders of the nuclear history there. Unfortunately, we arrived too late at The Black Hole - a salvage yard for materials from the lab started by a former LANL scientist - to acquire our much needed geiger counter, so we may have to return to this curious, haunting town on the mesas.
Now we're in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, with Jay Coughlin, who heads Nuclear Watch New Mexico (http://nukewatch.org) and is one of the most knowledgeable activists around--both on nuclear issues and about his incredible home state. Good thing we'll be back in New Mexico next month for the Think Outside the Bomb conference in Albuquerque (August 13-16), because as both the birthplace of the bomb and the Land of Enchantment, New Mexico has much to teach.
Next stop: Las Vegas, Nevada, where we expect to link up with Code Pink allies, and then on to the Nevada Test Site this weekend for a big rally with many seasoned nuclear activists at the Nevada Desert Experience.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
July 1, 2009-The Campaign is well underway!
It's July 1st, and we've been on the road for a week. We're only a few miles away from the Rainbow Gathering, waiting for the grocery store to open in Cuba, New Mexico. We've had an excellent week, full of good people, beautiful views, and the excitement of a heavily-loaded trailer whose wheels and axle were inadequate to the task of trekking two thousand miles or more. After multiple stops to replace small wheels, in a typically serendepitous series of mini-miracles, we found ourselves yesterday in Amarillo, Texas, at a trailer shop whose workers were all on holiday, but the owner kindly allowed Steve and Jay to replace the axle and wheels in his shop, which they did in two hours flat! Now the trailer is a very happy camper, and so are we.
Among our adventures so far: filming two nuclear power plants, and seeing the Pantex nuclear weapons facility.
The first was Sequoyah Nuclear Plant located in east Tennessee 18 miles north of Chattanooga, two cooling towers on one bank of Chickamauga Reservoir, with luxury homes facing the daunting view on the other bank. Photos at http://www.janandpat.net/otherexp/power/images/sequoyah1.jpg and http://www.tnriver.com/TnRiver/images/485RSequoyahNucPlt.jpg
We've made several significant stops so far.
"Tiny" Rush Hour Demonstration on the Campus of Missouri State University - in solidarity with Iranian voters who are protesting against a stolen election. IRAN - We Feel Your Pain! American progressives know what it's like to have an election (or two) stolen. . . We demonstrated in favor of election integrity, Iranian democracy, and Freedom of Expression and Assembly.
(of course, Iran wouldn't be where it is today if it weren't for the CIA-aided royalist coup in 1953 that overthrew the DEMOCRATICALLY ELECTED Prime Minister Mossaddeq, reinstalling the pro-American Shah who was, in turn, overthrown by the Islamic Fundamentalist revolution that installed the Ayatollah Khomeni in 1978, so. . .) Not to dwell on the distant past, however, we should emphasize that we support no particular candidate (though it wouldn't be bad to have a President of Iran who was a little less belligerent, especially with the nuclear rhetoric) and we ESPECIALLY do not call for any kind of US intervention, other than citizen solidarity and support of the People of Iran who are demonstrating peacefully in the streets against the religio-political establishment of Iran. Unfortunately, that viewpoint didn't come across clearly in the article. See http://www.news-leader.com/article/20090626/NEWS06/906260346/1015/Demonstration-draws-tiny-turnout and photo http://cmsimg.news-leader.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=DO&Date=20090626&Category=NEWS06&ArtNo=906260346&Ref=AR&Profile=1015&MaxW=318&Border=0
Later that evening, at Magic Bean Coffeehouse, Midge Potts, a well-loved member of the Missouri Green Party and of Code Pink, announced her Progressive/Green/Independent candidacy for the Senate, using Proposition One as her platform! She is sure nuclear disarmament will be on the ballot in Springfield in 2010, and perhaps throughout Missouri.
She played afterward with her band Dis-/Un-/Anti- See photo at http://cmsimg.news-leader.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/bilde?Site=DO&Date=20090626&Category=NEWS06&ArtNo=906260346&Ref=V2&Profile=1015&MaxW=180&Border=0
ALSO playing were White Flagged Bomb Brigade (Tyler and Daniel, who are featured in the photo in the paper. Daniel is also a navy vet, an excellent local activist, and host of the ensuing Open Mic night)
About 30 appreciative folks came through
Omni Center for Peace, Justice and Ecology
We spoke and showed the newly revised "Proposition One - 2009" film on U-Arkansas campus in Fayetteville, Arkansas, to a number of kind folks, some who had been in DC and met Thomas at the White House vigil many years before, others who had worked on Nuclear issues for many years. Now they are subscribed to NucNews, and tapped in to the Prop 1 circle. We made a pitch for "New York at the NPT in May 2010" and spoke about WILPF - identifying one probable new member. Also, great music from a local trio called "The New Cliches" - (Dan Dean, Laura and Quinn Kelly). SUPER thanks to tour hosts for the evening, Omni Treasurer Karen Takemoto and partner LaDeana Mullinix, who put us up in style in their lovely home on the outskirst of Fayetteville.
Mt. Ida, Arkansas
After moving inexorably away from the winding, lush green mountain roads of North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, the rolling east Arkansas hills, through high temperatures in the laboring Van, needing gas. . . Buffalo River. Buffalo Gift Shop. Emma's museum of Junk. Eureka Springs, colorful resort. Dutch Oven Cookoff. Arkansas is the south and also the West .Less green, parched vegetation, first cactus on trip west.
Surprise! .. . a nuclear power cooling tower glimpsed while crossing the Arkansas river in Russelville/Dardanelle. Furtive shots were captured on camera from a precarious perch. Unfortunately un-filmed was the friendly worker from the plant ("Arkansas Nuclear One") giving us directions to where we could see the plant. See http://www.nukleer.web.tr/nsv/resim/abd-arkansasno.jpg, http://l.yimg.com/g/images/spaceball.gif
We hiked on Crystal Mountain near Mt. Ida, Arkansas (and were followed and intimidated by two well-heeled thugs who claimed we were trespassing on their crystal mine and our best bet was to get out of town, as they had called the sheriff! We were actually visiting the protected claims of our friend Kasherah Harper. Kasherah will do what she can to spread the word about the voter initiative campaign.
We rested a few hours, then spoke with a dozen young people near the University, and identified two who are interested in bringing Proposition One to Oklahoma, and who would like us to come back in late September to speak to a couple of hundred people. They say it's easy to put initiatives on the ballot in Oklahoma -- but getting the politicians to abide by them is a different matter. We left in the wee hours and headed for...
We visited with David Murphree, who showed us the Pantex nuclear weapons facility, where we filmed the tops of 88 huge round bunkers where at least half of the United States' plutonium pits are stacked awaiting ... ? (What ARE we going to do with them?)
We've received invitations from New Mexico, California, Arizona, North Dakota, and Colorado so far out west, plus several places in the East. We plan to attend the Nevada Desert Experience July 11-12 at the Nevada Test Site, and "Think Outside the Bomb" Conference in Albuquerque August 13-16. We plan to head for California mid-July, then visit northwestern states before going to Albuquerque mid-August. These plans may change during the next week, when we meet allies at the Rainbow Gathering near Cuba, New Mexico, where we're perched right now waiting for the sun to come up....
Back as soon as possible with more reports.... Please send us your questions, suggestions, and especially contacts!