The Tahoma Activist

"Changing the Media, One Story at a Time"

This website is your Pierce County source for progressive news and opinion. If you want to be a part of The Tahoma Activist, send all submissions here. We will print anything that makes sense and touches on the important issues of the day.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Three Washington Democrats stand with Kucinich on Cheney impeachment

I am shocked, but according to, Norm Dicks, Jim McDermott, and Jay Inslee all voted to oppose tabling the resolution of Dennis Kucinich's impeachment resolution. This means that the issue will continue to stay alive, at least for two more days.

Now it moves to the House Judiciary Committee, where presumably John Conyers will attempt to keep it and expose pieces of the indictment to the press as time goes by. I don't expect it to come out of the Committee, unless some really juicy information comes out and the press actually does their frickin' job and tells the people what it's all about.

If you have a minute, call Kucinich, Dicks, McDermott, and Inslee, and let them know you respect their passion for the Constitution. We need that kind of passion if we're going to save this country from a total fascist meltdown.

As per their usual games, the Big Media are predicting that the effort to impeach Cheney will die in committee. But I wouldn't count Conyers out just yet. There is still a chance that we can take Cheney down. Vigilance!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Join us in Tacoma for the Northwest Progressive Convention

Brothers and sisters of Western Washington:

Where else can you rub shoulders with the most committed progressive activists in Washington State? This Convention, sponsored by America in Solidarity and AM1090, is the first of its kind and a major event. This once-in-a-lifetime event will feature progressive members of Congress, a Presidential straw poll, a silent book auction of signed progressive tomes, and much, much more!

Go to our website at and reserve your tickets today! You'll be glad you did!

When: Saturday, November 10th, 9 AM to 4 PM
Where: First Congregational Church, Tacoma

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A heartfelt look at the costs of war

Dahr Jamail isn't your typical war correspondent. He didn't study journalism at an ivy-league school. He didn't come from a wealthy family or spend six years interning at the Washington Post. Dahr Jamail was an ordinary guy with an ordinary life who dropped everything to go to Iraq and tell the real story of what it's like to live in the middle of a violent occupation. Dahr Jamail is my hero.

[If you'd like to read an interview I did with him a year or so ago, check it out at my book website -]

So who is this guy, who gave up a great life guiding climbing expeditions up Mt. McKinley to brave the bullets and car bombs of Baghdad and points "East, west, south and north somewhat"?*

Dahr was born in Texas to a conservative Republican family. His great-grandfather, a Lebanese Christian, emigrated to the US from Beirut in 1904. He was a volunteer mountain-rescue ranger in Alaska when the invasion of Iraq took place, and he was all alone when he made his way to Jordan to book passage into the heart of a clamoring warzone.

Dahr believed, as many progressive thinkers believe, that mankind is essentially good. That the people of Iraq, despite what we had been told about them, were largely not violent extremists bent on destroying the United States. He was sure that there was more to the story, and he wanted to see it for himself.

In Jordan, Dahr met James Longley, an independent filmmaker who gave him the name of a translator, a guy named Akeel, who was big enough to provide security as well as provide translation. After Akeel, he met Hussein, an energetic Iraqi with very little skills in English. Upon meeting them, Hussein shook their hands and boasted "I am driver!"

The drive was chaotic. Hussein drove very aggressively, responding to stop-and-go traffic by alternately stomping the gas and brake pedals. Three hours after reaching the border, they were in Iraq. Oddly, they didn't meet a single US soldier at the border, which seems strange, considering that so much of the insurgency has been described as "foreign fighters".

After this unexpectedly quiet trip into Iraq, Dahr's journey became as intense as you might have imagined. Bombs went off near his hotel. Innocent Iraqis were fired on by US soldiers. Earlier in the year, a US tank had shelled the Palestine Hotel, killing two journalists. Dahr continues:

"On that same day, the Al-Jazeera office and Abu Dubai television bureau had been attacked by U.S. forces, killing Al-Jazeera correspondent Tareq Ayoub. The tone had been set from the beginning by the invaders: Iraq was no place for independent journalists who opted not to "embed" with the U.S. military."

The warzone in Iraq had become one of the most dangerous places in the world for an independent journalist. In 2003, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), 19 journalists had been killed in Iraq, 14 during the war, 5 in the aftermath and 2 missing and presumed dead. This was the world that Dahr Jamail had stumbled into, armed only with a digital camera, a laptop, a little money and a mission to expose the daily torment of civilian life in occupied Iraq.

Dahr's trips to Iraq, totalling eight months of time in country, are detailed extensively in his first book, "Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Iraq". Just by reading the blurbs in the first two pages you can tell that Dahr is a very well respected journalist. When Howard Zinn calls you a "superb journalist", you must be doing something right. Dahr does a tremendous job detailing precisely how it feels to live in a country where nothing is as it should be, where car bombs are a daily occurence, where children are born with malformed limbs from contaminant exposure and even then they are a blessing, where Iraqis slog ever onward with only the holy Arabic words "Inshallah" (God willing) on their lips for comfort. It is this world that Dahr shows us through his work, and it is a world that we desperately need to see. As American citizens, we are in many ways directly responsible for the horrors of this occupation. Though we may not have murdered the Iraqis' political leaders or outlawed their labor unions, most of us have sat idly by while their once-proud nation burns, and the suffering of their people inevitably results.

Dahr has been honored by Project Censored for his work describing the siege of Fallujah and his efforts to expose the military's killing of journalists in Iraq. He has consistently produced top-quality reports for several different news outlets, seeking to share the daily experience of Iraqi civilians with the American people. He has produced an outstanding work of journalism in this book, but it is in the simple human stories that he tells where his work really takes hold. He has a gift for capturing the most painful essence of a situation, and delivering it in words that impart a sense of deep understanding and a feeling for his subject.

Dahr Jamail is no polemicist. He isn't seeking to bring down the US military by focusing on a few occasional screw-ups and hyping them out of all proportion. He goes to a place where an event has taken place, meets the people affected, and tells their story. And after reading their stories, you are left with the understanding that the US has engaged in acts of impossible brutality in Iraq. According to Jamail's reporting, which has been corroborated extensively in the world press, American soldiers fired on unarmed men, women and children during the siege of Fallujah. His book includes a picture of an ambulance whose driver was shot by American snipers, only one of several similar attacks. He tells the story of Sadiq Zoman, sezied from his home in Kirkuk, held for one month and then dropped off in Tikrit by U.S. soldiers, comatose and suffering, with burn marks on his feet and genitals, a deep wound in the back of his head and multiple bruises on his legs, chest, and back. Zoman's family received no explanation and no compensation for their loss. Zoman's wife, Hashmiya asked the question:

"Is it fair for any man's family to be made to suffer like this? Is it right that his daughters must see him like this? Our lives will never be the same again."

Zoman's story is not an isolated one. The people of Iraq have become like Zoman's wife, wondering and waiting when their national nightmare will be over. Jamail went to Iraq to find this story and others like it, and to share them with America, but sadly, most of America isn't listening.

Jamail won those Project Censored awards because the mainstream corporate media refused to print his work. They refused to send their own "embedded" reporters to corroborate his allegations and put forward their interpretation of events. Instead they ignored the suffering of the citizens of Fallujah and covered up the murder of unembedded journalists. And they continue to twist and distort the truth about what's going on in Iraq, serving not the interests of peace and justice in that country but rather the interests of their own corporate financial bottom lines.

I heard Dahr speak for the first time on mainstream radio this last month, on our local NPR radio station KUOW. He was inspiring. He shared with the host the true depth of the horrors currently taking place in Iraq, and the host did his part to ask the right questions. But I couldn't help thinking how sad it was that Dahr was on a local daytime radio show speaking to a mostly white audience with advanced educations, most of whom are probably already opposed to this war.

Where is Dahr's appearance on Lou Dobbs Tonight, to discuss the free market ideology that has driven the collapse of Iraq's economy? Where is Dahr's visit with Wolf Blitzer, to expose the nightmare that was the siege of Fallujah? Where is Dahr's conversation with Oprah Winfrey, about the terrible crisis for children in Iraq as a consequence of our disastrous occupation? For the rest of the corporate media, Dahr Jamail is a ghost, a mere figment of our imagination. And while part of me enjoys the thought of Dahr being underground, of being tough, of being strong enough to do this work without mainstream approval, I weep for the people of a nation that our Congress has literally spent hundreds of billions of dollars destroying. Dahr has the truth, and the heart, to tell the real Iraqi story. But are the powers that made this war possible finally prepared to listen?

God willing, I hope that they are. This is a terrific book, one that ought to be read into the record on the Senate floor. Send a copy to your Congressman today. Let's end this occupation and restore our moral compass. The people of Iraq are waiting for us to do just that.

Dahr Jamail dropped everything to tell the story of a nation under siege. He survived that decision and succeeded in his mission, and now his colleagues in Iraq continue to help him tell that story. Read his book, and follow their stories online, and I promise you that at least one more person will know the awful truth about the disastrous occupation of Iraq.

Dahr Jamail is definitely my hero. I figure he wrote the book, so I might as well let him have the last word:

"If the people of the United States had the real story about what their government has done in Iraq, the occupation would already have ended. As a journalist, I continue to hold out hope that if people have knowledge of what is happening, they will act accordingly. If people in my country could hear the stories of life under occupation and put themselves into the Iraqis' stories, they would understand. I hold that hope because the stories of Iraq are our story now. Whether we accept that or not, it is the truth. The water from the Euphrates runs through all our veins."

*Donald Rumsfeld, speaking to George Stephanopoulos about the whereabouts of the "missing" WMD

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Sunday, October 07, 2007

World Famous Bob's Java Jive witness to Atlas explosion

Some poor local band probably had to cancel their gig at Bob's last night. Hopefully Bob's will be back in business soon.

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Sunday, August 12, 2007

Police gone wild on workers protesting unfair labor practices

Providence, Rhode Island:

On Friday, August 11th, officers stopped protestors peacefully marching and followed the leaders onto the grass in front of a store. One of the organizers of the march, Providence pastry shop worker, Alex Svoboda, was tackled by four officers, dislocating her knee. The Providence Journal reports that Svoboda was part of a protest against Jacky's Galaxie, a Pan-Asian restaurant in the suburb of North Providence.

The protest was led by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) in response to the unfair labor practices of Dragon Land Trading Company, a restaurant supply company in New York City, that supplies restaurants throughout the West Coast. Mark Bray, of the Providence chapter of the IWW, says that Dragon Land recently changed their name to avoid scrutiny from the New York attorney's office following several firings of HWH employees suspected of union organizing activity.

Balthazer Ramos describes working for Dragon Land for over two years, working one hundred or more hours a week making deliveries and receiving no overtime. He was present at the march, holding a sign that read "Solidaridad Con Los Obreros de HWH/DragonLand". Dragon Land Trading is currently facing several unfair labor practice charges for unfairly firing workers engaged in union activity, as well as paying workers below the minimum wage and not compensating them for overtime.

Mark Bray explains: "The workers at HWH [now Dragon Land] are being paid less than 5 dollars an hour and working upwards of one hundred hours a week. The IWW has chosen to represent these workers because they deserve better. The owner of Jacky's Galaxie claims they've switched suppliers, but he's chosen not to give us copies of his invoices, either with the new supplier of with HWH."

Alex Svoboda is in the hospital, awaiting a second surgery on her knee. The IWW is working with a pro bono lawyer from the National Lawyer's Guild to file suit against the North Providence Police Department and the city for excessive and unjustified use of force against a peaceful protester.

After the incident, the remaining protesters stood near Jacky's Galaxie and continued to protest the unfair treatment of their members. From the Providence Journal article:

"'You’ve got to do something,' the restaurant’s owner, Jacky Ko, said to the officers. 'They can’t stay here.'

When Deputy Police Chief Paul Marino approached to tell the protesters they needed to move onto the sidewalk instead of standing in the parking lot, one responded, 'Hell of a day to be an officer, breaking a young girl’s leg!'

Marino did not respond."

Ko claims that he switched suppliers last month, but we were unable to confirm this at the time of this writing. According to Bray, the IWW is encouraging other restaurants in the area to end their relationship with Dragon Land Trading, but declined to name them, hoping that they will choose to avoid unnecessary controversy.

For more on this story, read the article in the Providence Journal, and check out photos from the incident at Jonathan Macintosh's photo gallery.

To learn more, or to communicate with the interested parties, here is their contact information:

Providence General Membership Branch(address below) or contact Mark Frey at 201-669-0714 or Billy Randel at 646-645-6284.

Providence GMB:
PO box 5795
Providence R.I.


North Providence Mayor:
Charles A. Lombardi
North Providence Town Hall
2000 Smith Street
North Providence, RI 02911
Telephone: (401) 232-0900, ext. 226
Fax: (401) 232-3434

Police Chief:
Ernest C. Spaziano
North Providence Police Department
1967 Mineral Spring Ave.
North Providence, R.I. 02904
Business line: 401-233-1433
Fax number: 401-233-1438

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Saturday, June 16, 2007

Michael Yates, Michael Moore, Al Gore, and more!

This was one hell of a week for the Tahoma Activist. Let me tell ya, my wife and I were stretched all over Western Washington, but it was sure worth it.

Monday: Radical economist and author Michael D. Yates spoke at King's Books of Tacoma. America in Solidarity provided refreshments and got the word out, and Michael sold several books. I picked up a copy of his book, "Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate", which is awesome by the way, all about he and his wife's journey across America seeing how ordinary people are being squeezed in the Bush economy, and he even signed it. Great guy, and a very good writer. Check him out at his book tour website,

Tuesday: Finished Al Gore's new book, The Assault on Reason, which is utterly amazing. Why couldn't this guy have run for President in 2000? Oh well, he's here now and he's givin' Bush and the lame-ass corporate media a run for their money. Buy this book, and make Gore run for President!

Wednesday: Went to the Pierce County Central Labor Council meeting, where I go every second Wednesday, to hear what's going on with workers in our region and around this great nation of ours. Carpenters are on strike in Southwest Washington and Oregon, Macy's workers are still without a contract in Pierce and Thurston County, and a lot of other things are going on I don't have time to get into. Come next month and let us know what labor can do for you! Derek Kilmer, State Senator for the 26th District (Gig Harbor, Port Orchard, Bremerton), stopped by to give his report on the work done in this year's legislative session. We pushed hard to get him to expand Basic Health (our state's version of state-run healthcare) to include everybody. He seemed receptive to the idea, even mentioned that some of his colleagues are moving in that direction. Cross your fingers, and call your reps and let em know how you feel!

Randi Rhodes did a whole hour or more on Al Gore's new book, as well as that rip-roaring speech he gave last year about the Constitutional Crisis. I managed to get onto Thom Hartmann's show to pitch the Washington Public Campaigns banquet, and to raise the importance of the issue.

At the last minute, Benjamin Lawver from the Washington State Labor Council gave my wife and I two tickets to see Michael Moore in Seattle for a screening of his new film, SiCKO. This movie kicks ass. You must see it. It basically tells the story of how screwed up our health insurance system is, and then contrasts that with how incredibly sensible and amazingly supported the systems of Canada, France and Great Britain are. We must get as many people out to see this film as possible. Michael stayed after the film to answer questions, and was very cool. The one thing he said that stood out is that he wishes Hillary hadn't decided to flip and start taking big checks from the health insurance industry, and he wishes Al Gore would run for President. (Me too, Mike!)

The Washington Public Campaigns Awards Banquet, held at South Seattle Community College. This event was great, got to meet lots of interesting people. Had a tasty dessert from the dessert auction and heard a very informative speech by David Donnelly, the architect of Maine's public financing initiative drive. I would urge everyone who cares about public policy to get behind this issue. Go to right now and sign the pledge!

And of course, tomorrow is Father's Day, one of my favorite holidays bar none. My dad is one hell of a guy, a committed public servant, and a wonderful father. If you're reading this, Pops, I love you, and so do at least half of your constituents (the ones who vote, anyway). Hope you all have a great Father's Day, and keep up the good work! Pick up tickets to Michael Moore's new movie, and bring as many friends and family as you can pack into the minivan. This film could quite literally change America. Do it for you. Do it for your kids.

And if you really want to make an impact, help us at America in Solidarity put on screenings of the film across Western Washington. Call us at 253-471-1123 or email us here at Thanks, and good luck!

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tribune prints letter regarding warrantless mail searches

Can you believe it? Tribune prints letter from me, a union guy, about something my union did to stop this mad President and his police-state goons. I'm actually pretty shocked.

Here's the link, and the text of the letter:

"On May 20, the Washington State Association of Letter Carriers passed a resolution calling for Congress to oppose warrantless searches of U.S. mail in postal custody.

This resolution was in response to the president attaching a signing statement to a postal reform bill in which he declared that first-class mail could be opened in “exigent circumstances.”

Constitutional scholars have looked at this issue and determined that no such wiggle room exists for the president. Therefore, his adding this phrase to the law is not constitutional and could lead to federal agents or their subordinates engaging in this practice.

Letter carriers have historically been viewed as the most trustworthy public officials in the federal government, because we make sure people get their mail without anyone else reading it or otherwise violating their privacy.

We all want terrorists to be stopped from attacking Americans, but doing it without a court order is unnecessary. It’s really quite easy to get a warrant to look through a terrorist’s mail. It’s much harder to get a warrant to search someone who isn’t a threat to the United States.

As letter carriers, we believe that it should remain difficult to search someone who hasn’t done anything wrong.

Isn’t it about time the president heard from his own employees about what the Constitution is all about? If his own close aides don’t have the courage to explain it to him, we letter carriers are happy to oblige."

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