Brown Drops Out, Endorses Whitehouse

Matt Brown has officially dropped out of the US Senate race and endorsed Whitehouse.

I just watched the reunion press conference of Whitehouse and Brown on the 6 o’clock news. They had a close-up of the greeting hug that they gave each other. Whitehouse looked eternally grateful. Brown seemed on the verge of tears. It was kind of a nice fatherly-sonly moment.

We were all sort of expecting this to happen. And while it’s good not to have divisive primaries, this gives unaffiliated voters more incentive to vote in the Republican primary than in the Democratic primary, since the Republican primary is going to be more of an unknown. It might mean unusually low voter turn-out for the Democratic primary and record-setting high turnout for the Republican primary. We’ll see.

More On Averting Genocide

Following up on my earlier post related to the ongoing genocide in the Sudanese region of Darfur and the ways those of us in the U.S. who are concerned about this conflict might take action to avert further atrocities, today’s New York Times has an article on a burgeoning campaign to encourage universities and municipalities to divest themselves of assets in companies doing business in Sudan. This campaign appears very similar to that which occurred in the 1980’s in response to apartheid in South Africa. An excerpt from the article by Philip Rucker follows:

Student-Driven Sudan Divestment Campaign Grows

NEW HAVEN, April 25 — Universities across the country have divested themselves of endowment assets in companies doing business in Sudan, reacting to pressure from students to take a financial stand against the violence in the Darfur region.

At least seven universities have gotten rid of some of their assets, including the 10-campus University of California system, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Brown. Divestment campaigns are under way at several other universities, including the University of Maryland, Indiana University and the University of Virginia.

The campaign is organized by a national student-led group, Sudan Divestment Task Force, and is reminiscent of a campaign in the 1980’s when student-led groups lobbied 55 universities to remove money from companies affiliated with the South African apartheid regime.

The Sudan campaign also aims at states and municipalities. Illinois, New Jersey and Oregon have approved divestment, and legislation is pending in several other states.

Earlier this month, Providence, R.I., became the first American city to authorize divestment. Last week, New Haven announced that it would strip municipal employees’ pension funds of investments in companies doing business with the Sudanese government.

“It can’t just be the sort of piecemeal one-or-two companies symbolic approach,” said Daniel Millenson, 19, a Brandeis University freshman and executive director of the task force. “It needs to be several universities, states, whatever, all passing the same kind of divestment solutions.”

Students pressing for divestment are holding rallies, collecting signatures, meeting with administrators to present research against the Sudanese government and writing opinion articles in campus newspapers.

The task force is planning a bus trip to Washington on Thursday for about 500 students to participate in a day of lobbying on Friday and a protest on Sunday. They want troops sent to Darfur.

Mr. Millenson and other student leaders concede that the effect of divestment is largely symbolic at this stage. They hope that eventually the companies’ stock values will drop, leading them to re-evaluate their business ties to the Sudanese government, which has supported militias in a conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people and that the Bush administration has labeled genocide. [full text]

Blessed Are The Peacemakers

If 15-year-old Ava Lowery is an example of what the future holds in store for America, then perhaps there is hope for us after all. If you have never heard of this creative young woman—and, in truth, I had not until just recently—I refer you to an article (excerpted below) by Matthew Rothschild in The Progressive that details her precocious peace activism and the disturbing vitriol that such has inspired from some members of the dissent-ain’t-patriotic crowd.

Animation Producer Gets Ugly Slurs

Ava Lowery is a fifteen-year-old who lives in Alabama. She calls herself a peace activist, and for the past year, she’s been producing her own short animations on her website, peacetakescourage.com. All in all, she’s made about seventy of them, she says, and most of them oppose Bush and his Iraq War.

“I was just so mad about it,� she explains. “And the media are not showing the real images of the war, so I did a lot research and started my own website.�

She submitted one of her latest creations, “WWJD,� to the monthly “contagious� contest that huffingtonpost.com is running. (It’s an open contest that ranks the number of viewers for each submission.)

“WWJD� (“What Would Jesus Do�) is a powerful animation that features a soundtrack of a child singing “Jesus loves me, this I know� while one picture after another of a wounded, bloody, or screaming Iraqi child fills the screen.

“The object of the animation,� says Lowery, is “to get the following point across: Jesus loves Iraqis, too.�

Lowery ends the video with quotations from Beatitudes, including, “Blessed are they who mourn� and “Blessed are the meek� and “Blessed are the merciful� and “Blessed are the peacemakers.�

She says she’s received a lot of positive feedback in short messages back to her site. And she understands that the fact that “people are on the web, and they just let loose.� But she was unprepared for the viciousness of the negative feedback—especially the ugly sexual slurs similar to those that Cindy Sheehan has faced. [full text]

The article goes on to offer examples of this viciousness, which I will spare you here. Despite such, it does not appear that Ava Lowery has been deterred from continuing her good work, which I strongly encourage you to check out on her website (here). Peace takes courage, indeed, and Ava has it in spades! We are all blessed to have her out there.

Laffey: Distancing Himself, While He Collects the Checks

This creates a bit of an awkward situation, no? Our right-wing Republican Senate candidate, Steve Laffey, is trying to distance himself from a supporter who sent a potentially illegal letter to his employees asking them to aid Laffey’s Senate campaign, while at the same time this supporter is hosting a fundraiser for Laffey tomorrow night. From the Journal:

PROVIDENCE – – Cranston Mayor Stephen Laffey yesterday distanced himself from a letter a supporter wrote to his employees asking them to aid Laffey’s Senate campaign.

The letter, written on American Labor Services, Inc., letterhead by its president, asks workers to help register Hispanic citizens to vote in the Republican primary. It could violate laws that prohibit corporations from telling hourly workers which candidates to support, according to former and current Federal Elections Commission officials.

“We had no idea about this letter,” said Nachama Soloveichik, spokeswoman for Laffey’s campaign. “Had he asked us, we would have told him, ‘Don’t do this. Please don’t do this.’ We encourage him to take whatever steps needed to fix this.”

The letter, written last week by Vincent Indeglia, president of the Providence employment agency, criticizes Laffey’s opponents for their positions on immigration and asks employees to turn over names and contact information of every U.S. citizen they know. Indeglia said he left 50 to 100 copies on the desk where as many as 200 workers pick up their paychecks on Fridays.

Laffey is running in the Republican primary against incumbent Sen. Lincoln Chafee.

Federal election law prohibits corporations from expressly advocating a candidate’s election or defeat, said FEC spokesman George Smaragdis and Craig Engle, a Republican attorney who worked at the FEC for 10 years.

Indeglia, 42, of Narragansett, said in a phone interview that he is holding a fundraiser for Laffey on Wednesday, but did not consult Laffey or his campaign about the letter. He also said he did not know it could violate the law.

“I’m very sorry if this in any way hurts the guy,” he said.

Indeglia’s letter said he supports allowing illegal workers to stay in the U.S. Spokespeople for the candidates mentioned in the letter said Indeglia did not accurately express their views on the issue.

The letter said Chafee and Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democratic candidate, want to deport illegal immigrants and make it harder for legal immigrants to become citizens, while Laffey supports allowing people to become legal residents and citizens if they choose.

However, Chafee and Whitehouse support legislation that would give illegal immigrants a chance at citizenship if they paid a fine and met other conditions. Laffey wants to secure the nation’s border with Mexico, crack down on employers who hire illegal immigrants and create a strict guest worker policy.

One wonders if this letter-writing is the only thing that Mr. Indeglia is “unaware” of in terms of corporate legality. Perhaps before owning a corporation with 200 employees, he should have gone over those pesky things called federal regulations.

And what does this mean? “The letter… criticizes Laffey’s opponents for their positions on immigration and asks employees to turn over names and contact information of every U.S. citizen they know.” Why is this company President asking his employees for the “names and contact information of every U.S. citizen they know?” I wish the Journal had asked him more about that.

UPDATE: The Projo followed up with a second article on this today. In it, Laffey calls Mr. Indeglia’s behavior an “honest mistake.” Excuse me, but violating federal election laws as a corporate executive is a little more serious than an “honest mistake.” Trying to control the voting practices of people who are your subordinates and whose jobs you hold in your hands is more than an honest mistake. It is, in my opinion, a serious abuse of power which should be corrected by law enforcement.

Also in the Projo article, Mr. Indeglia continues to offer his great sympathy and apologies — no, not to his employees, whose sense of liberty as voters he may have irreparably harmed, who may now feel intimidated into voting for Laffey and who may believe that they should turn over the names and contact information of “every U.S. citizen they know” in order to build a voter list for their boss. No, the victims of his malfeasance do not get any offers of sympathy or apology. Mr. Indeglia only has sympathy for one person — Steve Laffey, his multimillion-dollar friend.

Episcopal Church Plans to Address Racism

This story from Spero Forum describes how the Episcopal church is planning to recognize its involvement in racism through slavery:

The June triennial gathering of the Episcopal Church will be asked to consider resolutions concerning slavery and racial reconciliation; studying the “complicity” of the church in the institution of slavery and how “recompense” can be made to its victims; and the endorsement of restorative justice as a “fresh means” of achieving “wholeness” in the church.

Resolution A123, proposed by the National Concerns Committee of the church’s Executive Council, declares that the institution of slavery in the United States and “anywhere else in the world” was and is a sin. It would have the church acknowledge and express regret for its support of slavery and for supporting “de jure and de facto segregation and discrimination” for years after slavery’s abolition. The resolution also asks the Presiding Bishop to call for a “Day of Repentance and Reconciliation” and to organize a service to be held that day at Washington National Cathedral.

[…]

The anti-racism committee suggested that the upcoming Public Broadcasting Service documentary, “Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North” by Katrina Browne, is an example of “the type of truth-telling and facing the painful sins of the past that needs to be undertaken in every part of the church where people of a different color, language, religion, or national origin have been excluded.”

“Traces” tells the story of Browne’s New England ancestors, the DeWolfs, who were the largest slave-trading family in US history and a prominent part of the Episcopal Church in Rhode Island. Excerpts from the film were shown to the Executive Council during its March meeting in Philadelphia. During that meeting the council passed a resolution (NAC 045) urging the convention planners “to make every effort to show the film . . . to the entire convention.” More information about the film is available at tracesofthetrade.org.

As an Episcopalian (and yes, I really am planning to go back to church regularly, or at least semi-regularly soon!) this is interesting news. I have not seen this level of acknowledgment of racism from a large organized Christian church before — not from the Catholic church, not from any of the other protestant denominations.

Also of interest on the topic of Episcopal church happenings, this week’s New Yorker has an article called “A Church Asunder” by Peter J. Boyer, which centers on the controversy of the recent election of a gay bishop. An interview with Boyer about the article is available here.

Averting Genocide

There are few words that possess both the magnitude and the ugliness of genocide. Similar to its paler cousin, terrorism, it is not a word to be uttered lightly or recklessly. And, when perchance it is spoken, it ought demand attention and action. Strangely, though, such is not always the case, as evidenced by the fairly limited international response to the ongoing atrocities occurring in the Sudanese region of Darfur, where—by many estimates—more than 400,000 people have been killed and millions more displaced. It is a tragedy of almost unimaginable scope and horror, a tragedy to which we cannot remain disinterested bystanders. As Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, who recently won a Pulitzer Prize for his reporting on Darfur, said in an op-ed piece last November entitled A Tolerable Genocide, “the essential starting point is outrage: a recognition that countering genocide must be a global priority.� He went on to say:

“It’s true that a few hundred thousand deaths in Darfur—a good guess of the toll so far—might not amount to much in a world where two million a year die of malaria. But there is something special about genocide. When humans deliberately wipe out others because of their tribe or skin color, when babies succumb not to diarrhea but to bayonets and bonfires, that is not just one more tragedy. It is a monstrosity that demands a response from other humans. We demean our own humanity, and that of the victims, when we avert our eyes.â€?

Consider the photograph above, taken by Brian Steidle, a former U.S. Marine who served as a member of the African Union team monitoring the conflict in Darfur. The man in the photo—or perhaps he is just a boy—was killed in a helicopter gunship attack. Many would naturally wish to avert their eyes from this horrific image. Consider other images, as seen through Steidle’s eyes: “men castrated and left to bleed to death, huts set on fire with people locked inside, children with their faces smashed in, men with their ears cut off and eyes plucked out, and the corpses of people who had been executed with gunshots to the head.� Imagine, if you dare, hundreds of thousand of such images.

However strong may be the desire to avert one’s eyes, the need to avert genocide and other such atrocities must be stronger. On April 30, in Washington, DC, there will be a Rally To Stop Genocide sponsored by the Save Darfur Coalition, which describes itself as “an alliance of over 100 faith-based, humanitarian and human rights organizations.� (Click here for more information on the rally.) If you cannot attend, MoveOn is recruiting “virtual marchers� who are willing to declare their support for the cause. (Click here to do so.) Similarly, you can visit the website, Million Voices For Darfur, and sign an e-postcard that will be forwarded to President Bush. Please consider taking action in any way that you can. I also encourage you to check out some of the links below (and above) which may further enlighten you on the crisis in Darfur. Thank you.

On Our Watch – A Documentary About Genocide In Darfur. A 10 minute video produced by Refugees International.

Q & A: Crisis In Darfur. Questions and answers on the issue, from the organization, Human Rights Watch.

What To Do About Darfur? A recent article by Amitabh Pal, published in The Progressive.

Whitehouse on Gay Rights/ Warwick Community Dinner

Edge has an interview/profile of Whitehouse. In it, he talks about The Knights of Columbus refusing to rent him a hall because of his positions on gay rights and abortion:

He said he was “bemused” by the flap. “I’m not aware of other instances in which the Knights of Columbus has looked at the views of a political candidate and used them as a litmus test for whether or not they let the candidate use the space. I suspect as candidates around the state begin to use [K of C] halls for political events you’ll find that a bunch of other situations will also emerge in which [they are] in effect being forced to take positions on certain issues. …You’ll see candidates–even those who have used the facilities in the past–less willing to do so. So it could become kind of an early barometer of where candidates stand on positions where they have been very vague.”

Whitehouse added that he cannot recall ever before during three statewide campaigns for public office being denied use of a location for an event or appearance because of his views.

Also regarding the Whitehouse campaign, a free community dinner for Warwick is scheduled for this Wednesday evening. Here are the details:

U.S. Senate Candidate Sheldon Whitehouse Hosts Community Dinner for Residents of West Warwick, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich, and surrounding areas

WHEN: Wednesday, April 26, 6:30 p.m.

WHERE: Portuguese Society Hall, 11 Ventura Street, West Warwick