Peace Talks

Peace Talks is a political talk show that I host weekly on Free Radio Santa Cruz 101.1 fm (and streaming on-line at

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

7th Annual Reel Work May Day Labor Film Festival

On Tuesday April 22 I interviewed Jeffrey Smedberg, one of the organizers of the 7th Annual ReelWork 2008 May Day Labor Film Festival.

Listen To The Interview

The Reel Work May Day Labor Film Festival takes place in California's central coast communities in and around Santa Cruz each year during the week of May 1st.

Reel Work presents cultural events, bringing together award-winning documentary film producers, workers, activists, students, and the public with the goal of increasing community awareness of the central role of work in our lives, to discuss economic and global justice issues, and to bring alive the history and culture of the labor movement in the US and abroad. They highlight how workers and community members band together in united effort for mutual benefit to achieve justice and dignity in the streets, fields, and workshops.

Cinematic representations of labor each year include local and international works, world premieres as well as classics. They inspire festival participants to join in the struggle for worker rights locally, nationally and globally to achieve social justice and international solidarity.

Reel Work was founded in 2002. Credit goes to Myrna Cherin and Ginny Hirsch, long-time union activists and members of the Retirees Chapter of SEIU Local 415 in Santa Cruz. To make a little money for their retirees group, they had the idea of showing some movies honoring union organizing, which they mentioned to the then-President of the SEIU Local, who had also been looking for a way for union members to learn their own history. A small group of local union and community members coalesced around the idea. Bernice Belton, another indefatigable activist for social change, introduced the organizing group to the owner of the local independent movie house and sold him on the idea. And Community Television of Santa Cruz County under the direction of Geoffrey Dunn took the labor festival under its wing as fiscal sponsor. Documentary filmmaker John de Graaf, whose work has been presented in more than one festival season, suggested the Reel Work name. It was obvious to everyone involved in the project that most opportune date for such a festival would be May Day, celebrated worldwide as International Workers Day.

Each season, a core group of organizers creates a framework for the festival and invites union and community groups to adopt a date on the schedule and create a program of films, conversations, music, drama and any other appropriate elements consistent with the Reel Work theme. Fundraising and publicity are done in common, while the decentralized nature of other work draws in scores of volunteers and makes possible the production of an extensive program entirely with volunteer effort.

Check Out The Reelwork Website

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Massive Seal "Hunt" Continues In Eastern Canada; EU May Vote to Ban Canadian Seal Products

On April 15, 2008, I interviewed Rebecca Aldworth, the Director of Canadian Wildlife Issues for the Humane Society International-Canada about the 2008 Canadian Seal "Hunt". For the past ten years, she has been a firsthand observer of Canada's commercial seal hunt, escorting over one hundred scientists, parliamentarians and journalists to the ice floes to witness the slaughter.

Seal hunting is an off-season activity conducted by fishermen from Canada's East Coast. They earn a small fraction of their incomes (5%) from sealing—primarily from the sale of seal pelts to European fashion markets. The vast majority of the seal meat is left on the ice to rot. With the EU currently considering a ban on all Canadian seal products, this might be the last year that this mass killing (300,000 baby seals this season alone) takes place.

We discussed the reasons for this massive annual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals, why it is not sustainable, how the seals are killed, and what actions are being taken to finally end this unimaginably cruel "hunt".

Listen To The Interview

Below are a couple of the posts from Rebecca on the HSUS website:

Posted April 14, 9:11 A.M.

Until It's Over
by Rebecca Aldworth

For me, the 2008 seal hunt comes down to three young seal pups huddled together on an ice pan. They lay together, fat and happy in the sun. Without warning, bullets ripped across the ice, striking two of them.

One was shot but not killed, and she began to writhe in agony, lifting her head. Another was shot and—still conscious—she slipped into the ocean, where she thrashed around as the blood poured from her. It took a lifetime for the small boat with two sealers on it to arrive.

They finally got close enough for one of the sealers to get out on the ice. He ran over to the wounded pup, clubbed her on the head, then tossed her onto a pile of dead seals in the boat like garbage. She was quickly sliced open and skinned, her carcass cut out and thrown over the side of the boat.

The wounded seal in the water was still thrashing around, blood coloring everything around her. A sealer leaned over the side of the boat, stabbed her through the flipper with a metal hook, and dragged her close to the boat.

Then he reached down and grabbed her by the flipper, hauled her onto the boat and tossed her onto the pile of dead seals. She was likely still conscious, but he didn't check, and he didn't club her to finish her off. Instead, he flipped her over and cut her from top to bottom.

But for me, the 2008 seal hunt is also about the third seal, the lucky one who got away. He slipped into the water as the bullets flew by, and swam off as fast as he could. He was spared, just like thousands more who will not be killed this year because global markets for seal products are closing.

Because prices for the skin of a baby seal have fallen dramatically, and many sealers are choosing to stay home this year instead of heading for the ice floes. The manager from a top sealskin processor in Canada explained that buyers have been mindful of a potential EU ban on seal products when setting the low prices this year. Just the potential for an EU ban has brought the prices down low enough to stop two thirds of the sealing vessels from leaving port.

If the EU goes through with the ban, millions of animals will be spared a horrible fate. Our campaign is working. But while this hunt goes on, we will be here. Bearing witness to this cruel slaughter, gathering evidence to shut this hunt down for good. Please help pass the ban—sign the petition here.

Posted April 13, 10:10 A.M.

Undeniably Inhumane
by Rebecca Aldworth

Words cannot describe the cruelty I witnessed yesterday. As I write this, I am finding it hard to see through tears. The boats were everywhere. Sealers clubbed and shot helpless baby seals, every one in sight.

We filmed one boat and noticed a sealer at the front of the vessel holding a rifle. We quickly zoomed ahead to see which seal he was aiming at. As we looked through the monitor, we saw the pup about 50 meters in front of the boat. She raised her head as if sensing danger, when suddenly a bullet slammed into her side.

She cried and cried—clearly in agony—and blood spilled onto the ice. Finally, the sealer arrived. The pup looked up pitifully, as though she hoped this person could offer help.

But instead, he clubbed her once on the head and—without testing to see if she was unconscious—stabbed her through the jaw with a metal hook and dragged her across the ice.

She was just one month old. Above in our helicopter, we watched in horror.

There was blood all across the ice. Trails of it leading back to the boats, massive bloody pools of it the only remains of slaughtered baby seals. In some areas, the ocean near the boats turned red, clearly visible from 1000 feet in the air.

The sealers did not want us to film them abandoning the carcasses—so just as they did last year, they brought them on board the boats. We filmed stockpiles of hundreds of dead seals on the decks, which were awash in blood.

Sealers often didn't even test for unconsciousness before
hooking the pups and dragging them across the ice.

Whenever the sealers thought we were too far to film, they tossed the red, skinned bodies over the side.

The Canadian government has made a concerted effort to convince European decision-makers that this hunt is now somehow humane.

But their carefully crafted PR lines cannot refute the evidence we gathered today. Any human being who watches our footage will understand this slaughter simply has to end—and those who cash in by promoting it should be deeply ashamed.

I grew up in this province, and it has been difficult at times to take the stand I do. But there is a line between right and wrong, and it becomes crystal clear when you observe the slaughter of defenseless seal pups.

"Any human being who watches our footage will understand
this slaughter simply has to end."
I remember a pilot I worked with a few years ago, who was born in Newfoundland and raised in a fishing community.

He reluctantly agreed to fly for us, and he made it clear that he was strongly in favor of the seal hunt. It took one day of filming the slaughter for him to change his mind.

The thing is, once you have seen it you can never support it. And having seen it for ten years, we will not rest until Canada's commercial seal hunt is ended for good

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Death Row Inmate Troy Davis Denied A New Trial Despite Evidence Of Innocence

On Tuesday, April 8, I interviewed Martina Correa, Troy Davis's sister, about his case and the recent 4-3 decision by the Georgia Supreme Court to deny him an evidentiary hearing that may have led to a new trial. Listen

Also on April 8, I interviewed Jason Ewart, Troy Davis's attorney, about his case and the recent court decision. Listen Here

Troy Davis (photo on left) has been on death row in Georgia for 16 years. He was sentenced to death for the murder of an off duty police officer, Mark MacPhail. There was no physical evidence and no weapon ever found. The case against him consisted entirely of witness testimony which contained inconsistencies even during the trial. Seven of the nine witnesses that testified at trial have since recanted their testimony and say that Troy was not the killer. Of the other two witnesses, one was not close enough to the scene to identify the killer, and the other is the principal alternative suspect in the crime.

One witness signed a police statement declaring that Davis was the assailant then later said "I did not read it because I cannot read." In another case a witness stated that the police "were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would…go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed…I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail." There are also several witnesses who have implicated another man in the crime but the police focused their efforts on convicting Troy.

Despite mounting evidence that Davis may in fact be innocent of the crime, appeals to the courts to consider this evidence have been repeatedly denied for procedural reasons.

For Amnesty International's Report On Troy's Case

For Troy's Website

Another Bicyclist Killed At Mission and Bay Streets In Santa Cruz

On Tuesday, April 8, 2008, around noon, another cyclist, Christopher Evan Rock, was killed at the intersection of Mission and Bay Streets in Santa Cruz. That is two deaths and one major injury within the last 12 months. On Wednesday, April 9, I interviewed Micah Posner of People Power about a protest planned for later that day, cyclists met at the town clock, rode bikes up the right lane of Mission Street and posted signs along the way. Listen Here

After John Myslin's death last summer, People Power worked with the City Council to put up signs on Mission that advise cyclists and drivers that cyclists are encouraged to use the full right lane. This is perfectly legal according to California Vehicle Code (which states that bicyclists can use the full right-hand lane when a lane is too narrow for "a bicycle and vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane") and was approved by the City Council.

Caltrans has refused to put up the signs, stating that they don't think it is safe for cyclists to ride in the lane, even after the Santa Cruz Police, the Traffic Safety Coalition, and others have pointed out that it is not safe to ride to the right of cars and trucks. Caltrans is basically telling cyclists that they have no right to use the street. Mission Street has 3 bike shops and numerous homes and businesses frequented by cyclists. Though cyclists should, and do, avoid Mission whenever possible, riding Mission for short stretches is a often necessary. According to People Power the only safe way to do so is in the middle of the right lane. They say that bicyclists right to exist is not being recognized by Caltrans.

Read more and see photos of the Wednesday April 9th protest

People Power Santa Cruz

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Buffalo Slaughter In Yellowstone Continues; 1,400 Killed So Far This Year

On Tuesday, April 8th I interviewed Stephany Seay, media coordinator for the Buffalo Field Campaign about the continuing slaughter of wild buffalo by the National Park Service, the Montana Dept. of Livestock and other state agencies in the Yellowstone area. Listen Here

Stephany and I discuss the reasons given for the slaughter, why those justifications are questionable, and the varied forms of resistance and tactics used by defenders of the wild buffalo. Also discussed, how local bison advocates and landowners are calling for changed management and increased tolerance for bison in a cattle-free zone outside western boundary of Yellowstone National Park, A U.S. Government Accountability Office report made public April 2nd sharply criticizing a slew of federal and state agencies behind the Interagency Bison Management Plan, (the governing document responsible for the slaughter of over 3,300 wild American buffalo in and around Yellowstone National Park), and an upcoming releasing of the buffalo spirits ceremony.

For more info, checkk out the website of the Buffalo Field Campaign

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sea Shepherd and Capt. Of The Farley Mowat On The Canadian Harp Seal Slaughter

On April 1, 2008, I interviewed Capt. Cornelissen of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society about the Canadian government sponsored slaughter of 275,000 baby harp seals happening now. Capt. Cornelissen speaks about the efforts of the crew of the Farley Mowat to document the killing of seals and the interference they have encountered from the Canadian Coast Guard.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has sent its ship, the Farley Mowat north into the ice packs off Eastern Canada to defend baby harp seals from the clubs of Canadian sealers. The Sea Shepherd ship, with an international crew of volunteers, is once again acting as shepherds in defense of the harp seal pups in the ice packs of the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year.

Sea Shepherd has been working to remove the markets for seal products as well as mounting dramatic confrontations on the ice to physically save the seals from the cruel clubs of the sealers. The seal hunt survives only because of subsidies doled out to the sealing industry by the government of Canada. It has become a glorified welfare scheme where in return for killing seals for a few weeks the sealers can qualify for unemployment insurance for the rest of the year.

In addition to the hazards of thick ice and nasty weather, the Sea Shepherd crew face the threat of violence from the sealers and the threat of arrest under the Canadian Seal Protection regulations that make it a criminal offense to witness or document the killing of a seal without the permission of the government of Canada. In 2005 eleven Sea Shepherd crew were arrested after being attacked and assaulted by sealers on the ice. Despite being struck by sealing clubs, punched and kicked, not one sealer was arrested for assault. The attack was video-taped and the sealers identified yet the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stated there was insufficient evidence to charge the sealers. The Sea Shepherd crew were jailed and fined for approaching within a half a nautical mile of a seal being killed.

Captain Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has been fighting the Canadian seal slaughter all his life. The commercial hunt was shut down in 1984 and resurrected in 1994.
Sea Shepherd has turned its attention to the plight of the seals. From out of the Southern deep freeze of the Antarctic and into the Northern freezer of Eastern Canada, from saving whales to saving seals - the work of the shepherds of the sea continues.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Robert Bryan, Mumia Abu Jamal's Lead Attorney, On The Recent Ruling In His Case

On April 1, 2008, I interviewed Robert Bryan, Mumia's lead attorney about recent developments in his case, including the long awaited ruling by the federal Third Circuit Court Of Appeals released on March 27, 2008.

On March 27, a federal appeals court refused to overturn the conviction of imprisoned journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal and rejected his call for a new trial. However, the long-awaited ruling said Abu-Jamal, who has been on death row for twenty-six years, deserves a new sentencing hearing because of flawed jury instructions. If he is re-sentenced, he will face either death or life in prison without parole.

Read excellent analysis of the ruling by Linn Washington Jr. here
Linn Washington Jr. is a journalist and university professor in Philadelphia who has written extensively about the contentious case since Abu- Jamal’s arrest in December 1981.

Visit this site
to download an interview with Mumia's attorney from the March 28 Democracy Now program

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Anneke Van Woudenberg Of Human Rights Watch On The Crisis In The Congo

On March 18th, 2008 I spoke by phone with Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, about the war in the Congo, specifically the situation for women.
The people of the Congo are still struggling after one of the deadliest wars in all history. Millions have died and new conflicts threaten peace every day. Perhaps worse than the loss of life is the staggering numbers of human rights violations. Rape is used as a weapon of war and women in Congo are suffering daily under the conditions there. Listen to find out how you can help.

For more information please go to Women For Women International and Human Rights Watch

For some analysis check out this article

Interview With Israeli Peace Activist Dorothy Naor

On March 18th, 2008 I interviewed Dorothy Naor about her upcoming talk in Santa Cruz. She is a founding member of New Profile, a pluralist feminist movement which seeks to transform Israel from a militaristic society to a civil one. Listen here

Dorothy Naor spoke in Santa Cruz on Wednesday, March 19th at the Resource Center For Nonviolence on the topic of "The Cost Of Occupation For Israelis And Palestinians".

Dorothy Naor was born in San Francisco, CA. in 1932 and grew up in the Bay Area. She met her Israeli husband when he came to study at UC Berkeley in the early 1950's. They and their three children made Israel their home in 1958. Over the past 8 years much of her time has spent in activism against Israel's occupation of Palestine. She is a member of New Profile, a pluralist feminist movement, comprised of both women and men, which seeks to transform Israel from a militaristic one to a civil one. New Profile supports refusal to serve in the military, opposes the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, and supports selective divestment from companies that contribute to maintaining the occupation.