Massachusetts Peace Action and the Peace Community Fondly Remember Senator Edward Kennedy

August 27, 2009

Across Massachusetts and around the world, Senator Kennedy is being remembered for his generous service to constituents and unwavering commitment to social justice. We at Mass Peace Action are particularly grateful for Senator Kennedy’s courageous leadership for peace, human rights, and nuclear disarmament. He has long decried the recklessness of war and nuclear weapons, and was the Congressional leader of the Nuclear Freeze campaign, from which Peace Action was born. Along with our colleagues across the national Peace Action network, we deeply appreciate the support, wisdom, and collaboration extended on so many occasions by Senator Kennedy and his staff. We offer our sincere thoughts and sympathies to his family.

Senator Kennedy’s work for peace spans the many years he served in the Senate. At the height of the Cold War, Senator Kennedy emerged as a powerful voice for cooperative security and sane foreign policies. Envisioning a world free from weapons of mass destruction, he worked with us as an early opponent of nuclear testing, and built support for both the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty and international protocols to stop the spread of biological weapons. In the early 1980s, at a time when nuclear war seemed imminent, Senator Kennedy joined Republican Mark Hatfield in sponsoring the Nuclear Freeze amendment, which would halt the build-up of nuclear arsenals and start comprehensive disarmament talks between the U.S. and Soviet Union. As the most prominent politician to promote this position, he galvanized the grassroots Freeze Movement in Massachusetts and nationwide, leading to successful passage of a similar amendment in the House and pushing forward diplomatic relations with the Soviet Union.

Post Cold War, Senator Kennedy led the fight for the ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; while it remains un-ratified, he worked diligently for a global moratorium on nuclear testing. Quick to make connections between the costs of militarism and the importance of investing instead in meeting human needs, he supported the movement for a peace dividend that would benefit causes dear to his heart, such as health care, education, and social welfare.

His work to halt the proliferation of nuclear weapons has continued in recent years, as he’s led numerous legislative efforts to cut funding from proposals to expand the U.S. nuclear weapons complex. In debating funds for a new generation of “mini-nukes”, Senator Kennedy combined his trademark wit and visionary analysis to argue, “You’re either for nuclear war, or you’re not. We don’t want it anywhere, anytime, anyplace… No Congress should be the Congress that says, ‘Let’s start down this street,’ when it’s a one-way street that can lead only to nuclear war.”

With support from the peace movement and his allies in Congress, Senator Kennedy repeatedly won these recent battles against new nuclear weapons spending. Following one such victory in 2005, he hosted a celebration reception on Capitol Hill, where he personally greeted and thanked the activists from Peace Action and other allied peace groups that were in attendance.

Senator Kennedy’s voice has also emerged as one of the most thoughtful and vocal opponents to U.S. involvement in several armed conflicts, from Central America to the Middle East. Of his vote against authorizing an invasion of Iraq, he declared, “My vote against this misbegotten war is the best vote I have cast in the United States Senate since I was elected in 1962.”

He has since cast many more anti-war votes and has led Congressional efforts toward reconciliation, reconstruction, and the resettlement of Iraqi refugees. When Massachusetts Peace Action helped host a delegation of Iraqi labor leaders in 2007, Senator Kennedy’s staff met with them in Boston, warmly and generously conveying his deep support for the concerns of Iraqi civil society, and for workers everywhere. On this occasion and many others, his compassion for all who suffer the effects of violence, oppression, and injustice was powerfully evident.

As we mourn this great loss, we have many opportunities to honor his legacy by advancing the causes he championed. Let us work, in his memory and in the spirit of President Obama’s stated commitment to nuclear disarmament, for the successful passage of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and other international agreements to eliminate global nuclear stockpiles. Let us extend Senator Kennedy’s compassion to the civilians of Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan who continue to suffer under occupation and attack, and let us not forget the needs of U.S. veterans, military personnel, and their families who are also devastated by these wars. A world at peace and without nuclear weapons is part of Senator Kennedy’s dream that must not die. His enduring inspiration will help Peace Action and our allies across the movement make this dream a reality.

PA Montgomery Hosts First Afghanistan House Party

August 17, 2009

PAMpartycrowdOn August 1st, Peace Action Montgomery of Maryland kicked off Peace Action’s national house party campaign. The group hosted over sixty people in one of their member’s homes. With so many people in attendance, myself and many of the other participants took to the floor for a night of good discussion and great company.

One of the highlights of the party was definitely the food. The menu consisted of all authentic, home cooked Iranian food prepared by Bahram, an Iranian Peace Action activist, and his mother. My favorite dish was probably the falafel patties, but it was a hard decision to make with such tasty grape leaves on the table.

After taking about an hour to eat, chat, and eat some more, member Jean Athey called us all to gather into the main room. Once there, Jean spoke briefly about Peace Action Montgomery and then introduced Steve Yoczik. Steve talked to us about his own experiences as a war resister and the struggles he faces now. He also spoke highly of Courage to Resist. For those of you who are not familiar with the organization, Courage to Resist is an organization that “provides political, emotional and material support” for GI resisters.

When Steve finished speaking he introduced fellow war resister and Iraq Veterans Against the War member Geoff Millard. He also spoke about his experiences within the military, as a resister, and finally as an activist. Geoff then fielded a number of questions from Peace Action Montgomery members before turning the spotlight back to Jean.

Robert Greenwald’s Rethink Afghanistan series was the next item on the agenda. The group split into two with some people watching the videos on a projector downstairs. We watched the first three parts of the film for approximately forty-five minutes. Afterwards, each group had its own discussion about the themes of the videos, the questions they raised, and the new solution we need to find in Afghanistan. The conversations raged for over an hour, with many people swapping phone numbers and e-mail addresses for follow-up.

After it was all said and done, both the staff at Peace Action and the members of PA Montgomery were excited about how the event turned out. Member Steve Lane reported that they were able to raise over $1000 to support the efforts of Courage to Resist. Perhaps more importantly, several people expressed interest in holding their own Afghanistan house parties to keep the momentum gathering.

Don’t forget to check out…
Peace for Afghanistan
Peace Action Montgomery
The PA Montgomery Blog

Here it is, the Asparagus Missile!

August 13, 2009


Here is the poster for the inspired Asparagus Missile used by our sister peace group GENSUIKIN for its recent conference and other activities in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Doubt it will become the new symbol of the peace and disarmament movement, but it’s funny and may remind you to eat your vegetables, so that’s good, right?

More Photos from Nagasaki and Hiroshima

August 12, 2009

The origami peace cranes on the podium are from 4th graders in Wisconsin! (oh yeah that's me speaking at the opening of the GENSUIKIN conference at the Nagasaki Gym)

The origami peace cranes on the podium are from 4th graders in Wisconsin! (oh yeah that's me speaking at the opening of the GENSUIKIN conference at the Nagasaki Gym)

Panel discussion at the GENSUIKIN international conference in Hiroshima

Panel discussion at the GENSUIKIN international conference in Hiroshima

Dramatic statue at the official city ceremony site in Nagasaki

Dramatic statue at the official city ceremony site in Nagasaki

UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto speaks at the Nagasaki commemoration

UN General Assembly President Miguel d'Escoto speaks at the Nagasaki commemoration

Children's Chorus at the Nagasaki commemoration

Children's Chorus at the Nagasaki commemoration

Peace walk to the commemoration in Nagasaki

Peace walk to the commemoration in Nagasaki

Photo in the Hiroshima Peace Museum showing the devastation after the bombing

Photo in the Hiroshima Peace Museum showing the devastation after the bombing
Peace Action Executive Director Kevin Martin (me) speaking at the GENSUIKIN opening rally at the Hiroshima Gymnasium

Peace Action Executive Director Kevin Martin (me) speaking at the GENSUIKIN opening rally at the Hiroshima Gymnasium

Peaceprints Camper Speak ‘Truth to Power’ at Buffalo City Hall

August 11, 2009

Last month, over 30 summer campers met with Mayor Byron Brown at City Hall to present a gift and engage him in a question and answer session. Buffalo Public Radio station WBFO explains:

The kids are part of Camp Peaceprints — a two week long day camp that educates local youth on issues relating to social justice, the environment and community activism. The campers…asked [the Mayor] questions on issues ranging from affordable education to housing demolition.

Elea Mihou, Executive Director of the Western New York Peace Center and Camp Peaceprints Co-Director, says:

The camp provides an opportunity for young people to be exposed to local leaders and understand the importance of “speaking truth to power.”

See footage of the meeting here:

Konnichiwa from Nagasaki! (Blogasaki?)

August 10, 2009

Nagasaki is a beautiful city with mountains, rivers, tidal canals, streetcars, a vibrant, funky Chinatown neighborhood, and much more. It always (it’s my third time here) reminds me bit of San Francisco and Pittsburgh. The city and the commemoration of the second atomic bombing always feel more soulful and intimate than Hiroshima and its commemoration do to me (Hiroshima is also a terrific city but it feels more bustling and regimented).

At yesterday’s official ceremony, Nagasaki Mayor Taue issued a strong call for global elimination of nuclear weapons, as well as calling on all the heads of nuclear-armed states to visit Nagasaki. They’d do well to make such a visit in order to learn from the stories of the cities 40,000 Hibakusha (H-bomb survivors).

Between the Hiroshima and Nagasaki opening rallies at large municipal gymnasia, I spoke to nearly 10,000 people! Most were from the trade union federation Rengo, which has a close alliance with our sister peace group GENSUIKIN. I also presented two workshops, spoke at an international conference with colleagues from China and South Korea as well as Japan, and did two press conferences and several media interviews (I had a picture and quote saying I want nuclear weapons abolished in my lifetime in the Nagasaki Shimbun newspaper yesterday).

I learned so much more on this trip than on my previous two in 2002 and 2004. I‘m especially more clear on the priorities of Japanese peace and disarmament groups (which are not exactly the same as in the US but it’s important to know that) and how we can work together in the future on shared interests (not just with Japanese but also Korean and European colleagues). Part of this may be my growth as an activist and the increase in international work we‘ve been doing the last few years, but it’s also because of the new political climate and possible openings for progress, especially on nuclear disarmament (the election of Barack Obama but also the Japanese elections later this month, which should kick out the long-dominant Liberal Democratic Party in favor of the much more progressive Democratic Party of Japan or DPJ which GENSUIKIN works with and supports).

In addition to planning joint work on our international petition drive to eliminate nuclear weapons and plans for events around the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in New York next May, I dialogued with Japanese colleagues a great deal about US-Japan nuclear relations, which are in quite a bit of flux. Japanese activists are quite concerned that the current government has been pushing the Obama Administration to go slow on arms reductions with Russia and other forward-leaning policies. The Japanese groups, while of course supporting abolition and the steps toward it that we concentrate on in the US, want the Japanese government to push the US to declare a No First Use (of nuclear weapons) policy and pursue a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone for Northeast Asia.

A new DPJ government, which would take office soon after the August 30 elections in Japan should it win as most people believe it will, could be a partner in pushing the US government for better disarmament and non-proliferation policies in the region and the world. It’s an interesting and exciting time, and I’m glad Peace Action is able to collaborate with international partners, as well as doing the hard work we need to do in the U.S.

Unlikely Japan: Unusual Car Names, The Hyper Saloon and the Asparagus Missile

August 9, 2009

–Kevin Martin

I love Japan — the people, the food, the beautiful mountains, rivers and seas. But, and I swear it’s not just the jet lag plaguing me this week, there are many aspects of Japanese life that strike me as very unusual (and I‘m not alone, the following examples were head-scratchers to my Japanese colleagues too).

I’ll start with car names, which are always in English. There are all kinds of shapes and sizes of automobiles here we don’t see in the US among the dependable Toyotas, Hondas and Nissans we get.

During a single ten-minute taxi ride in Nagasaki, here are the names of some of the cars I saw on the road:

Carol (woman’s name or type of song? Both?)
Serena (for tennis players, naturally)
Cedric (my favorite, a solid, boxy taxi, very dependable I‘m sure)
Voxy (the commercial writes itself, with Jimi Hendrix’s “Voxy Lady” overdubbed)
Splash (needs an exclamation point, yes? Splash!)
El Grand (not that big a car by US standards)
Sienta (huh?)
Latte (the one I saw was a Mediterranean pale olive color, looked cool)
Life (He likes it! Hey, Mikey!)
Familia (a station wagon, naturally)
(My baby, she wrote me) Aletta
California (Dreamin’, though hopefully not while driving)
Logo (which oddly enough lacked one)
Crew (no “J” in front of it)
Rush (another one that needs an exclamation point, and presumably the Canadian art-rock band of the same name gets royalties for every car sold)

Japanese trains are probably the best in the world, always on time, clean, efficient, fast (the Shinkansen “bullet trains“ go 285 kilometers per hour and the regular trains zip along at a fast clip too) — in other words nothing in the least little bit like Amtrak.

So I was shocked (along with my Japanese hosts) to pass a train upon entering the station at Nagasaki called, I kid you not, The Hyper Saloon. Presumably that is just a bar car on the train frequented by stressed-out business travelers and off limits to the crew, but who knows? Could be fun, or really dangerous.

And finally, an Asparagus Missile. Each year, our good friends at the Japanese peace group GENSUIKIN have a new design for t-shirts, posters, buttons and other merchandise and branding for their annual conference around the Hiroshima and Nagasaki commemorations. Evidently this year’s is the product of a famous designer. It’s a missile with leaves on it so it looks like an asparagus. Really, an asparagus missile. I couldn’t make that up. I’ll try to find the image so you can see for yourself.


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