Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A glass of wine with friends

The inability to use my computer, has added a layer of stress lately. I tried several times to start it from the “last known successful configuration”, but it continues to freeze up. There is a fear that the longer I delay, the less impact my "reporting and photos" from Washington will have. (It's a rather bold assumption that they would have an impact in the first place!) We too quickly move on to the next story (or distraction.)

Went next door to check if, in my absence, the UPS parcel from "" (the travel expense gift cards) had arrived. Charlene said it hadn’t. But she and Henry wanted to talk to me about rent: they decided to deduct $100 from my rent, explaining that the original rate was rather arbitrarily set. I resisted, but they made such a compelling case. "Sure!"

Drove over to my storage unit to pick up a computer docking station, monitor and other paraphernalia. They may help determine if hardware is to blame for my laptop trouble. Rode home with the large monitor precariously strapped to the back of the motorcycle.


I was invited to join friends Russ, Lisa, Mark and Armando for dinner at “The Dead Fish” restaurant tonight. I thought I would pass, given the computer fiasco that has been sucking the life from me. Then, late in the day, decided to join the party.

On "auto-pilot", I drove over the Carquinez Straits, but approaching the opposite shore, something didn't look right. “Wrong bridge”. I was in Martinez, the restaurant in Crockett. Since the bridge traffic looked too heavy to return the way I came, I wandered unfamiliar neighborhoods in search of another way to Crockett.

After a half-hour detour, I found my way to Crockett via Highway 4 and the "Cummings Skyway". My old travel buddies Russ and Mark were seated at the bar, awaiting the Alvaro Coelho & Irmaos gang. Lisa was fighting a bug and couldn’t make it tonight.

Armando Coelho, Luis, Armando Magalheus and his wife Morilia arrived soon after. We had fun with Armando C., who is now married, a father, a homeowner, lost his driver’s ("racing") license and has to behave now. My, how the world changes!

I learned that his wife, Yuki Rodrigues, is a pianist with the San Marcos (Italy) and San Carlos (Portugal) Orchestras.

As is typical when wine industry "professionals" get together, there was plenty of "product" to sample: six bottles, by my count. Even with assistance from the staff, we did not drink all the wine. Armando M.'s own 2001 "Andrade" Cabernet Sauvignon stood out as a particularly fine wine.

In the Portuguese tradition, we shared large platters of shellfish, then I moved on to an excellent "petit filet".

Mr. Coelho insisted the dinner was "his treat". It was an unexpected yet kind gesture. It was a real pleasure to again spend some time with these friends.

Despite some wine, I was able to find my way home, without detour.


Some interesting stories in the news today:

Scientists accused the Bush Administration of down-playing the threat of Global Warming.

Arlen Spector said: “I respectfully submit to the President, he is not the sole decider.”

Six members of "CODEPINK" were arrested for refusing to leave the office of Hillary Clinton. Clinton refuses to speak out against the Iraq War “Surge”.

I heard an excerpt from a 2004 Frank Luntz interview. He advised campaigning Republicans that “no speech about Iraq should begin without a reference” to 9-11. (See my "Spin Meister", January 9th post.)

"Exxon-Mobil" has reported the highest profits ever for a U.S. corporation.

And, sadly, author and political commentator Molly Ivins died today. A real loss for this country.

In a July 2004 interview, she quoted three rules that have guided her when looking at the rhetoric of candidates: “look at the record, look at the record, look at the record.”

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Westward bound again

Deborah Fort, our host in Washington, D.C., and citizen activist since the 1960s!

The sign Deborah holds on the right reads:
"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

...under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron."

President Dwight D. Eisenhower, April 16, 1953, before the American Society of Newspaper Editors.


Catherine had left very early to catch her flight back to California, leaving behind a "thank you" note and "pink slip" (the actual garment, courtesy of CODEPINK) for her host. Deborah was off to Georgetown for a swim this morning.

For "breakfast", I ate a piece of pecan pie a la mode, just to leave less behind as waste. (Deborah had told me several times, she wasn't much of a sweets fan.) Cleaned up around the house a bit, made up the bed, carried out trash and recycling.

As I puttered, a familiar thought came to mind: “you must treat each day as if it’s your last, and be thankful for all you’ve been given." But there was a new addendum: "this must also extend to those you meet.” As if their company might be the last you'll enjoy before departing this world. Who knows?

At 10:00, I was off to visit the National Cathedral, which Deborah said is within walking distance of her house. It took about thirty minutes on this sunny, but cold morning. It felt good to be getting some exercise.

The massive gothic cathedral towers over a wooded hilltop. From an observation gallery, you can view The Mall in the southern distance. I never thought of Washington as having hills, but there are many in the area. Deborah tells me Washington was built on a swamp. Homes were built on the surrounding hills to escape the mosquitoes.

The National Cathedral's flying buttresses

The Washington National Cathedral's front façade

I wandered freely through the cathedral (except for areas of the nave and altar that were roped off.) I paused to observe various tour groups. A teacher gave his young students the task of calculating the height of the nave’s pillars, using tape measures to find the circumference and the formula, height = 1.125 x circumference.

A bearded, middle-aged gentleman, apparently a teacher as well, addressed a group of seniors seated in several rows of pews before him. “Now who here wants to go to heaven?” (All raised a hand.)

A curious question. Where is this place they want to go? And I’m reminded of Shakespeare’s 44th Sonnet “for nimble thought can jump both sea and land, as soon as think the place where he would be.”

Isn’t heaven in fact already within reach?

The National Cathedral is similar to those of Europe (except for the video cameras and plasma TV screens mounted for those whose view is blocked by pillars.) It’s not the modern design I had for some reason anticipated from stories about the cathedral. Construction began in 1907. Many of the masons spent their entire working life on this hill.

Periodically, visitors are asked to pause, while a “Prayer for Peace” is broadcast over loud speakers.

The large gift shop has a cultish feel, with a wide selection of Christian children’s books and toys. Though I was indoctrinated in the Christian faith, it feels more than ever steeped in bizarre and unhealthy tradition and ceremony.

I wanted to leave for the airport at noon, and still have time to say farewell to Deborah, so I had to hurry back, walking at a brisk pace.Took a couple photos of her before departing. (Later, on the airplane, I found out these were out of focus. For one subject inside the cathedral, I had deactivated the “Automatic Focus” feature - something I rarely do - then left it off.) I wondered aloud how she’d be, after all this activity, with a quiet house. Deborah assured me she would be fine. It was time to get back to her work.

An uphill walk with my bags to the Metro station. Weather changing, clouds moving in from west. Things were quiet in the subway, an easy commute to the “National” airport (“not Reagan National,” Deborah firmly corrected me.)

Checked in about 1:30 for my 2:35 flight. National is unusual, in that the restaurants are outside security. Since Frontier Airlines doesn’t provide meals, I reluctantly decided to give TGI Friday’s a try. (I’ve always found them to be mediocre.) The restaurant was crowded and my seating options were limited. I was told I could sit at the bar. When I went inside to look, I noticed small tables open, but was told I couldn’t sit there.

That’s all it took to make me leave. Found the Legal Seafood restaurant a couple hundred yards away. Fish sounded good. They seated me immediately and within minutes, I was enjoying a cup of very good clam chowder and excellent fish and chips accompanied by a refreshing Sam Adams “White Ale”. (The staff is obviously well-trained to accommodate travelers on a tight schedule.)

I was relaxing in the restaurant, awaiting boarding time, when suddenly, with a wave of panic, I realized I still had to pass through security. Arrived at the gate after personnel had locked the boarding ramp door. Unlocking the door for me, a crew member explained they were trying for an early departure. Early departures? That's a new one on me! Several other passengers arrived after me, but we did leave about ten minutes early. A row to myself, right side, rear of the aircraft. Luxurious! The smell of glycol has been common on this trip, as aircraft are de-iced.

During the flight, I actually read from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, one of the "tasks" stricken from my Pre-Americas Trip Reading List. (I use "actually" because, for me, reading books is not a common activity.) Speaking of people who live along America’s country roads, Robert Pirsig writes “the hereness and nowness of things is something they know all about.” I've certainly sensed a huge difference between traveling such roads, compared to interstates.

18" from your nose, Frontier Airlines now offers continuous advertisements to a captive audience. At least the ad-filled in-flight magazines could be stuffed out of sight in the seat-back pocket.

I couldn’t turn off the video screen in front of me, even though you are supposed to have the option. Reported it to a flight attendant. At first skeptical, she began to survey the cabin and found many could not turn off their monitors, which if you weren’t watching pay-per-view, merely barraged passengers with advertising. "One step closer to downloading this garbage directly into your brain," I thought.

I enjoy monitoring our progress on these maps, however each minute, the map is on the screen for about 35 seconds, and advertising occupies the remainder. In a perverted little manipulation, the timing of the ads is varied, so one's mind cannot gauge and predict when to look up and only see the map.

Would people tolerate this on big screens in the cabin (as found on some aircraft)? I would hope not. Why then on these “personal” screens?

A repair order was filed. I didn’t expect much, but when we landed in Denver, a technician was aboard before passengers started disembarking. Impressive.

Crossing the Missouri River at Kansas City, I look down and see groins, small jutting breakwaters designed to catch silt, lining the inside arc of each river bend. Man’s tampering with nature is always punctuated by unforeseen consequences.

Examples of human ignorance and stupidity are easy; instances of genius are more difficult (though this aircraft is certainly one example!)

About 15 degrees in Denver when we landed before 5:00. The Central U.S. quite a bit whiter than last Friday. Between connections, wandered the terminal, visiting an "Art of Colorado" exhibit. Bought a cup of coffee from a stand advertising “Italy’s Favorite”. It was insipid. Then I realized that, by some criteria, Folger’s or Yuban or some such crap might merit the appellation "America’s favorite".

Delays in Denver as crews tried to correct an air conditioning problem on the next Airbus. We departed about fifteen minutes late, which made the crew's actions in Washington almost prescient.

Frontier’s marketing campaign: “it’s a whole new animal.” But, except for cute animals painted on the tail and wing tips (“Ozzie the Orca” on this afternoon's flight), it looks like most other airlines struggling to cut costs. Passengers are urged to help clean the airplane up, since flight crews won’t have adequate time before unloading and loading of passengers. The flying experience is degraded. It’s hard to project what it might look like in the future.

In the air over Boulder, I think I witnessed a laser targeting the aircraft. I was looking down at a neighborhood, when I saw a brilliant green light flicker, then flash. It was odd because it appeared a sharply-defined luminous disc, not a point.

As usual, I couldn’t figure out our location (even with MapQuest's help on the monitor) as I looked down on Sierra foothill towns and cities. Reached Sacramento before 8:00.

In the Economy Parking Lot, parking police had lifted up my motorcycle cover to video my license plate. What? Did they think I'd make a break? (So easy on the GS!)
But $35 for parking a motorcycle is an outrage.

According to Deborah, George Bush's first act as President was to offer an alternative license plate to D.C.'s "Taxation Without Representation" plate


One way to mark the days of our lives is to record chronologically the actions, thoughts, tasks. Another way is to me more real: record significant moments according to their content, which though they may only occupy a moment, contain more wisdom than a month-full of ordinary days.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Congressional Lobbying Day: a glance behind Washington's curtain

Up at 6:45 and wrote some notes.

No breakfast. I would eat something once I reached the Capitol. Catherine and I went downtown together. (Though we got separated on the trains. I squeezed into a crowded car then turned to see the door close behind me and she was outside. We reconnected at the next transfer station.) Emerged at the South Capitol Metro station.

Deborah was quite worried about me. For good reason: I was wearing a sport coat with a light sweater underneath. No winter overcoat like all the Washingtonians. It was freezing on the exposed Capitol Hill, a powerful wind gusting out of the west. What a difference from Saturday!

Found our way to the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria at 9:00. A bagel and coffee for breakfast. A few others from Lynn Woolsey’s district were already there. They gathered a couple tables together to allow us to work as a group. The cafeteria staff was not so happy about it. Soon, the cafeteria was flooded with activists, many sporting pink accessories.

Inside the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria, a crowd in pink

California Sixth Congressional District constituents prepare for a meeting with their Representative. My role is clear today: take notes (and I’ll try to take photos.)

CODEPINK member Diane Lopez of Sonoma, California holds shoes representing an Iraqi child killed in the War

Outside Lynn Woolsey's office: let's fund peace not war

An unruly crowd arrives at Representative Lynn Woolsey's office in the Rayburn House Office building

Donna Norton signs in at Lynn Woolsey's office

Jennifer Goedke, Legislative Director for Lynnn Woolsey

About 25 of us crowded into House Office #2263. After a few minutes, Lynn Wolsey emerged from another room and appeared pleasantly surprised by the “full house”.

Lynn Woolsey reacts as she enters her crowded office

Seeing that at least two in our group were videotaping, I realized the video would provide better documentation than any notes I might take, so I focused my energy on snapshots. Consequently, I only retained fragments of the conversation. Once settled into her chair, surrounded by constituents, Woolsey acknowledged the press really hadn’t covered Saturday’s march.

Getting to know some of her constituents

When presented with our letter of appreciation, she said “we’ll know if I deserve this when we get out of Iraq.” She acknowledged being the luckiest person, working for all of us. When asked how we all might help her anti-war campaign, she asked us to “see that the local newspapers have this (letter).”

Chari Davidson, of Santa Rosa, reads a letter of support which she composed and the group signed. (October 22, 2009: Sadly, I learned that Chari passed away this past Sunday, October 18th, after a brief battle with pneumonia.)

Lynn Woolsey holds letter of support for her progressive stand against the War in Iraq. It is signed by those in our group.

Toby Blomé of CODEPINK presents a pair of shoes representing an Iraqi child lost in the war, with the request that Woolsey keep them on her desk until the War is ended. Woolsey responded "let's put them on the door!"

Regarding the President’s $100B supplemental funding bill for Iraq, which will soon be debated in Congress, she said “there’s enough (money) in the pipeline to do everything in the ‘surge’ without the supplemental $100 billion.” She wants to tell Congress, “you vote for this, you own it (the war). For 1-1/2 years at least. We will be marching into Iran.”

Much of the discussion revolved around H.R. 508, the "Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2007". It's the bill she is co-sponsoring with Representatives Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee. It outlines a plan for time-measured withdrawal from Iraq and return of Iraq control to their own government and military. The core of her Bill is based on another from James McGovern of Massachusetts. “It’s not just me. 'The Triad' (the nickname for Woolsey, Waters and Lee) is stronger than any of us. It’s a force to be reckoned with.” She said accusations that the Bill “doesn’t have any teeth” are wrong.

Her plan: have our forces out in six months, followed by a two-year commitment to work internationally to restore Iraq. “When we leave, other countries will weigh in.”

Jack Murtha, who is coming at de-escalation from another direction tells her “keep it up, Woolsey!”

“I make it safe for him,” she added.

Warren Linney of Santa Rosa, California thanks Woolsey for introducing House Reolution 508, and asks her to support John Conyer's bill to pursue articles of impeachment if evidence shows President Bush might have acted criminally.

Of the several bills being promoted, she said “if it’s not perfect, I’ll still support it.” The point being, we need to start moving in a much different direction.

A number of us urged making changes in this Administration, through impeachment if necessary. Her response: “it’s not going to start with impeachment. That will muck everything up.”

There will be investigations. “I have no qualms they’ll be serious...John Conyers will be number one on impeachment.”

Regarding our saber-rattling at Iran, Woolsey said there's a petition in committee to force the President to seek Congressional approval before taking any military action against Iran. To get it out of committee, 218 House Memebers must sign a discharge petition.

With regard to Nancy Pelosi, Woolsey said "the Speaker works for everybody." The committee heads must keep up the pressure on her. On the Senate side, Bernie Sanders is about to draft a companion bill. She encouraged us to write him and “suggest to him that it’s a good idea.” (Unless you're in a Senator's constituency, you shouldn't voice "demands".)

California Senator Diane Feinstein, a member of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, supports the Biden-Hagel Resolution (statement of opposition to the "surge".) It should be put to a vote shortly.

Just in this brief discussion, one begins to get a sense of how complicated and cumbersome this government is, and how practical legislators must be in their approach. Despite her very progressive stand, I have the sense that Lynn Woolsey has become a very realistic politician (which is not a cynical observation.)

Steve Dyer of Cotati, California presents a copy of Jimmy Carter's Palestine: Peace or Apartheid signed by all of us. Some feel Representative Woolsey's position is still too-strongly pro-Israel.

CODEPINK member Celeste Durrum of Petaluma, California presents gifts from United for Peace and Justice

Light reading: Addicted to War

Donna Norton of Progressive Democrats of America counsels Lynn Woolsey. (Donna later published "The Sonoma County Report On DC March and Lobby Day".)

Leaving Woolsey’s office, the next group was gathered in the corridor, including some young people wearing British "Bobby"-type helmets. I immediately recognized the fellow who was challenging security guards outside the Senate Office Building on Saturday and who disrupted the plenary session yesterday (the CIA operative?)

I was curious about his agenda, but rather than confront him directly and perhaps shut down the source of information, I approached an associate of his and asked about their organization.

The young man I spoke with explained they are members of the Backbone Campaign based in Vashon, Washington, and some were also associated with the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). He said the man I was curious about is a local member.

He handed me an information packet. The Backbone Campaign is connected with the group Progressive Government, which seems to be an ill-defined progressive movement (and I’m thinking “just what we need another organization!”) They use “high-impact” art to help convey the message. Their "Bush Chain Gang" and the "Spine Puppet” appeared in Saturday’s march. (I later learned this so-called “Backbone Patrol” was to deliver Woolsey an award for her progressive stand against the Iraq War.)

I wandered the Rayburn House Office Building, fascinated by the realization that you can just walk these passageways among all these important government representatives, poking your nose into offices at will. (But I guess they’re “our” representatives after all!) Alaska Representative Don Young’s office door was open, displaying an enormous grizzly bear skin behind the reception desk. I just had to have a closer look.

Welcome to the office of Alaska Respresentative Don Young, environmental guardian

I asked a couple of his interns (both from Australia, I think) if I could take a picture. No problem. They even invited me in to see some of Mr. Young’s other trophies. I suspect the opportunity and thrill of a six-month internship in Washington probably provides a pretty rosy picture of those they serve. Hanging on a door to a side office, a metal sculpture reads “ANWR” and shows a caribou, oil derrick and pipeline. The clear message: drilling the Artic National Wildlife Refuge is perfectly consistent with wildlife protection (as is his “big-game” hunting.) We’re not going to drill ourselves to energy independence, Mr. Young.

Inside Alaska Representative Don Young's office, his position on the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge is clear: drill it!

Don Young, big game hunter

I headed over to the Hart Senate Office Building on my own. Skirted around the east side of the Capitol, but due to a large visitors’ center construction project was unable to get within 100 yards of the building.

Veterans for Peace bus outside the Hart Senate Office Building

I had heard CODEPINK would be staging an “action” in the Hart Building at 12:30. Our meeting with Senator Boxer’s staff would be in the same area, so I figured I’d show up early enough to support the CODEPINK ladies. People were already starting to mill about the Atrium, and I caught fragments of numerous short, secretive exchanges.

There was a rumor of mischief. Co-conspirators and CODEPINK women Sonia of Washington, D. C. and Medea Benjamin of Bay Area, co-founder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange. (Thanks, Celeste.)

Capitol Police, from their positions on the ground and second floors were looking around. It seemed they were anticipating something. From the wanderings of pink-clad visitors, it was clear that "recon operations" were underway. And members of the “Iraq Veterans Against the War” appeared complicit.

Iraq Veterans Against the War joined forces today with CODEPINK

The Atrium of the Hart Senate Office Building, where visitors from California were scheduled to meet with the staff of Senators Boxer and Feinstein

The Iraq War death toll: 3,080 Americans and (according to a recent Johns Hopkins University study) an estimated 650,000 Iraqis

Then the CODEPINK women clustered around some duffel bags lying on the Atrium's marble floor. The bags contained children’s shoes. The cameras moved in. The demonstration began.

Each pair of shoes represents an Iraqi child killed in the War. The names and hometowns are read aloud by CODEPINK members.

A tag attached to each pair of shoes listed the name of an Iraqi child killed in this war. Picking up a pair of shoes, the demonstrators took turns reading the names, their voices reverberating throughout the Atrium. The is a part of CODEPINK’s “Walk in Their Shoes” project. The police began to scramble as banners unfurled over upper floor railings. As the police moved in, chants of “stop funding the war” filled the Atrium.

CODEPINK begins the "action"

Medea's voice echoes through the Hart Senate Office Building

Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODEPINK


CODEPINK activists encircled the Hart Senate Office Building Atrium on all floors

What's this?

"Stop Funding the War"

The police were not amused. "No sense of humor." They converged, some coming in from outside, heavily-dressed against the cold. Barriers were erected to delineate and contain the group on the ground floor. Up above, officers struggled to gather up the banners, while CODEPINK activists and sympathizers exuberantly interfered. Medea Benjamin began to lead a chain of chanting protesters, snaking around the Atrium. A Capitol Police officer announced the demonstration was now deemed “unlawful” and warned of possible arrest.

Police reign in the outrageous outburst

CODEPINK women struggle to get one more word in

Medea leads the chanting "stop funding the war"

While photographing, I joined the chanting. “There’s nowhere I have to be. So what if I’m arrested?” I stepped inside the police perimeter. “These police officers don’t look very happy.” I stepped outside the ring, mixing with media personnel and spectators. I considered being arrested: “free room and board.” I stepped inside the barrier. The police stood by holding boxes of plastic handcuffs, awaiting orders. They appeared more annoyed than concerned with this outburst. “Those plastic ‘bracelets’ don’t look comfortable.” I moved outside the perimeter.

Capitol Police captain gives three warnings that this demonstration has been determined to be unlawful

After three warnings, the Capitol Police move in. Those "Diamond Grip" bracelets don't look too comfortable...

Gael Murphy, co-founder of CODEPINK, speaking to U. S. Capitol Police officer at Hart Building, banner-dropping action. (Thanks to Celeste Durrum for this info.)

One last banner unfurls

At least four warnings were given over the bullhorn, then Medea raised her hands and broke off the demonstration, though chanting continued as we appeared to cooperate and disperse. The Atrium was shut down. As we moved on to our originally-planned meetings, police were chatting amongst themselves, discussing “what just happened?”. I passed two police talking together. One was holding an open duffel bag that was apparently used to smuggle in a banner. Astonished by how it passed security, he exclaimed "did you see how fucking big it was???"

Californians gathered in Senator Boxer's office. After a few minutes, staffer Sean Moore came in. He apparently received permission to move our group back out to the Atrium, where perhaps 75 constituents gathered around him.

Gathering in Senator Boxer's office

In Senator Boxer's office

Because our group was so large, staffers for both Senators Boxer and Feinstein agreed to meet us in the Hart Senate Office Building Atrium. Here, Sean Moore, Senator Boxer's staffer addresses us. (Thanks, Mike.)

Shahla and Dr. Javad Razani, members of "Gold Star Families Speak Out", talk of their son, Army Specialist Omead Razani, who was 19 when he was killed in Habbaniya, Iraq.

Sean Moore listens to "Gold Star" parents tell of the loss of their son in Iraq

The agenda was organized in such a way that really didn’t offer Sean much chance to speak. Certainly, none of the typical platitudes were going to be tolerated by this group. Speakers had been identified in advance, and primarily we were there to deliver a message. At the fringe of the group, I was unable to hear much of what was taking place, but it didn’t concern me, as numerous video cameras were recording the meeting. I moved about taking photographs.

The most powerful message was delivered by “Gold Star Parents” who had lost their son to the senseless war in Iraq. Their quiet message was delivered from a place of humility and utter devastation. And there is nowhere to hide when you face that kind of reality.

The meeting was followed with a short critique by participants. We remained in the Atrium for our next meeting. Senator Feinstein’s staffers Joel McFadden and Richard Harper joined us and the “program” was repeated. This time the message was a bit harsher, as Feinstein’s position on the war is not acceptable. (And there are currently allegations that through her Armed Service Committee position, she has influence over the awarding of military contracts that benefit her husband’s business ventures.) There was much less of a dialog in this meeting. It was more like “tell your boss we’re not going to stand for this crap any more.”

Rae Abileah, CODEPINK's local groups coordinator, addresses Senator Feinstein's staff. On her left, activists Chari Davidson and David Barrows look on. (Thanks, Celeste.)

Senator Diane Feinstein's staffers Joel McFadden and Richard Harper meet with us in the Atrium. (Thanks to Mike Hayes for the names.)

The women of CODEPINK

This concluded the weekend’s schedule of activities. Suddenly, it was all over. I realized I was hungry. I wandered down to the cafeteria, where I heard our Senators enjoy remarkably low-priced meals. It was too late. I did find a small snack bar though and bought a cup of soup and a soda. I looked around, noting apparent guest being hosted by (mostly) men in nice suits. Being from beyond the “Beltway”, I feel remote from the dealings of Washington. It is a club for insiders. Some people spend nearly their entire lives learning the machinations of this government. How can I even begin to have a sense of it?

The United States Supreme Court building

Returned to the Rayburn Building where I hoped to connect with others for a “debrief”, but failed to find any groups. It was time to get back to Deborah’s, as I had offered too take her and Catherine out for dinner tonight.

Deborah suggested we try Ethiopian food, and had two local restaurants from which to choose. She decided we should go to Meshkerem, in the Columbia Road neighborhood, an interesting concentration of nightlife in an otherwise sleepy suburb. (I even got to drive the "revolutionary-mobile".)

Catherine, Deborah and I at Meshkerem Ethiopian Restaurant, in D.C.'s Columbia Road neighborhood

My first experience of Ethiopian food. We shared from a “community platter" a sampler of full-flavored and unpretentious treats, that reminded me both of Indian and Mediterranean cuisines. The presentation encouraged informality and fun. Of course, I had to try the Ethiopian “Bati” beer, a fresh lager. We had as much fun as three subversives can have while discussing dysfunctional Administrations and conspiracy theories.

Catherine with Ethiopian indira, a pancake-like bread

Deborah's Camry

Deborah's "Paschie" chews on George's cowboy boot