Radical/Progressive Law

This is my response to the National Lawyers Guild’s recently released NLG Food Justice Guidelines. I wrote an earlier version of it for some of the NLG email discussion groups but thought it might be helpful to rewrite it a bit and share it more widely.

With all due respect for my comrades who hold to different convictions on these issues, I would argue that two of the planks in this statement contradict themselves in our local context in Oklahoma and for many other parts of the USA.

The two planks in question are:

1. “That all the food served at all of our National Conventions be entirely vegan, free of any animal products such as meat, dairy, including eggs and other animal byproducts;”

2. “Encouraging the National Conventions strive to use locally sourced, organic food when possible and to purchase from businesses owned or run by marginalized communities and which have good labor practices;;”

In the prairie regions of the USA, the most sustainable form of agriculture is raising 100% grass-fed animals, since it enables for food to be produced without plowing the ground (with its resulting issues of erosion), and instead transforming grass (which humans can’t eat thanks to our inability to digest cellulose) into meat. Certainly other forms of agriculture can be done (including growing fruits and veggies, as well as grains) but these other forms of agriculture are fairly seasonal in nature and require tilling the earth which has environmental costs.

A healthy vegan diet by definition is difficult to pull off but is doable. I have several friends locally who are vegan and I know they do well at it. But they can’t eat vegan, healthy and local at the same time for all of the year. My vegan friends probably see this as a trade-off but one that is worthwhile to avoid the abuse of animals.

I believe that the current NLG Food Justice Guidelines is out of touch with local reality. A vegan diet might be both sustainable and local in coastal areas with mild climates, but it can’t be both sustainable and local in our local context. And given this reality, why weren’t the local chapters of the Guild consulted on these guidelines?

And why is veganism now the stated no-compromises position of the Guild at the national level, while “locally sourced, organic food…from businesses owned or run by marginalized communities and which have good labor practices” only an encouraged position?

All of this said… I am very encouraged to see these issues coming to the forefront of discussion in the Guild. How we eat is of critical importance. I’m just not sure that dictates from the NEC is going to further this conversation, but rather is more likely to stop the conversation and move towards outright hostility.

James M. Branum
Oklahoma NLG Local chapter Chair
MLTF Co-Chair

From: GIRightsLawyer.com:

WHO: PFC Cliff Cornell, a native of Mountain Home, Arkansas, who was recently deported from Canada after having fled there to avoid the illegal war in Iraq

WHAT: The U.S. Army has prosecuted PFC Cornell under a General Court-Martial. A hearing will be held to accept PCF Cornell’s guilty plea and to argue over what the sentence should be.

WHEN: April 28, 2009, 2:15 p.m.

WHERE: Fort Stewart Courthouse, near Hinesville, GA

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Civilian attorney James M. Branum will be available for interviews following the trial by telephone at 405-476-5620 or 1-866-933-ARMY. (we anticipate this will be in the evening)

News about the ongoing campaign to free PFC Cornell from being unjustly imprisoned for his beliefs can be found soon at www.couragetoresist.org.

VeteransforPeace.org: VFP Troop Engagement Project – Ft. Stewart – Hinesville, Georgia, February 16 – 28, 2008

VFP volunteers will engage active duty soldiers at Fort Stewart Army Base in Hinesville, Georgia between February 16 and 28, 2008. The engagement will be modeled on the successful VFP Veterans’ Convoy of March 2007. The purpose of the convoy was to provide active duty service members with information calculated to provoke critical thinking and discussion among themselves about the Iraq War and to let them know that if they acted on their consciences against the war that VFP and other groups would support them. . .

IVAW.org: Winter Soldier 2008

In 1776, Thomas Paine wrote: “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

In 1971, a courageous group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. Once again, we will demand that the voices of veterans are heard.

Once again, we are fighting for the soul of our country. We will demonstrate our patriotism by speaking out with honor and integrity instead of blindly following failed policy. Winter Soldier is a difficult but essential service to our country.

Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan will feature testimony from U.S. veterans who served in those occupations, giving an accurate account of what is really happening day in and day out, on the ground.

The four-day event will bring together veterans from across the country to testify about their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan – and present video and photographic evidence. In addition, there will be panels of scholars, veterans, journalists, and other specialists to give context to the testimony. These panels will cover everything from the history of the GI resistance movement to the fight for veterans’ health benefits and support.

I’m really excited about these events, as they are some of the early signs that the GI Resistance movement is starting to go public. More and more veterans of the Iraq/Afghan wars are speaking up against the wars, and more and more soldiers are speaking out as well. We certainly have a long ways to go before the resistance movement reaches the levels of the Vietnam war, but things are moving forward.

If all works out, I’ll be at both of these events providing legal support (just for the last few days of the Ft. Stewart action unfortunately) on behalf of the Military Law Task Force. Hopefully I’ll have some encouraging news to report from these events in the coming weeks on this blog.

Please consider doing all you can to support the brave soldiers and veterans who are daring to speak against war at these events.

MSNBC/AP: Monks lead 100,000-strong Myanmar protest — Military regime shows restraint apparently due to pressure from China

YANGON, Myanmar – As many as 100,000 anti-government protesters led by a phalanx of Buddhist monks marched Monday through Yangon, the largest crowd to demonstrate in Myanmar’s biggest city since a 1988 pro-democracy uprising that was brutally crushed by the military.

Marching for more than five hours and over at least 12 miles, a last hard-core group of more than 1,000 monks and 400 sympathizers finished by walking up to an intersection where police blocked access to the street where democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi is under house arrest.

Making no effort to push past, the marchers chanted a Buddhist prayer with the words “May there be peace,” and then dispersed. About 500 onlookers cheered their act of defiance, as 100 riot police with helmets and shield stared stonily ahead. . .

Granma.cu: They will never have Cuba – statement of defiance by Fidel Castro

CNN: Castro vows U.S. ‘will never have Cuba’

I don’t agree with everything Castro says but this particular statement is very compelling and inspirational. I can’t help but admire (warts and all) that this small nation has stood against the American Empire for the last 50 years and has created a society that is based on social justice and equality for all, and Castro’s statement gives a vivid picture of what a fight it has been to keep the Cuban Revolution alive.

Another interesting point is how Castro explains with amazing clarity how our current economic policies (based on a cheap dollar and unprecedented sales of weaponry) have served to subjugate the world.


Wired.com: Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death

I understand security concerns but the vast overreaching of this new policy is outrageous and is violative of the basic human rights of soldiers who have led to believe that they are putting their lives on the line to protect our freedom.

I hope to God that there are folks out there ready to litigate on behalf of American soldiers whose voices are being silenced. It is the height of irony that those who signed up to “support and defend the Constitution” are in fact modern-day slaves, without the basic human rights that were considered sacred. And I know folks will say I’m overstating the point, but I say the slavery metaphor is quite apt. Soldiers do not own their own bodies, are forced to violate their conscience (just ask the many C.O. applicants who each year have their claims unlawfully denied), and now have no right to speak online or even in written form about the mistreatment they are experiencing. And let’s not even talk about stop-loss and the rampant abuse of so-called military “contracts” that bind the soldier but do not bind the military.

Yeah I am mad as hell, but thank God I’m not in the military and can say it. We (as in all folks who believe in basic human rights) must fight to ensure that the rights of soldiers are respected. It is our right and our duty to speak out for those who now are not able to lawfully speak, for those who the First Amendment supposedly doesn’t apply to anymore.

Danger Room: AP Gets Snowed on Army crackdown on Milblogs

Dangerroom makes a good point. The Army is engaged in the worst form of censorship, prior constraint. This should raise big red flags for anyone who cares about the free press.


Here are some encouraging news stories that I want to share in celebration of May Day (aka International Workers Day):

MSNBC: Venezuela takes operations from big oil firms — In a May Day takeover, control of massive Orinoco oil projects removed

PUERTO PIRITU, Venezuela – Venezuela stripped the world’s biggest oil companies of operational control over massive Orinoco Belt crude projects on Tuesday, a vital move in President Hugo Chavez’s nationalization drive.

The May Day takeover came exactly a year after Bolivian President Evo Morales, a leftist ally of Chavez, startled investors by ordering troops to seize his country’s gas fields, accelerating Latin America’s struggle to reclaim resources.

“The importance of this is that we are taking back control of the Orinoco Belt which the president rightly calls the world’s biggest crude reserve,” said Marco Ojeda, an oil union leader before a planned rally to mark the transfer. . .

Such good news. So many nations are allowing multinational corporations to steal the nation’s wealth away from the PEOPLE of the nation, so it is so good to see the Venezuelan people act to take back what is rightfully theirs.

IWW.org: Troqueros Declare Victory!

Independent truckers announce the LA port will shut down on May 1, the first victory for the 2007 May Day Mobilization for Immigrants’ Rights.

PORT OF AZTLAN, April 27, 2007–The independent truckers of the Port of Aztlan, working with the Industrial Workers of the World, made good on their promise to shut down the Los Angeles port on May 1, in support of nationwide migrants’ rights protests scheduled for that day and the truckers’ struggle to organize. This morning the Los Angeles Port Authority declared the port would be closed for a May 1 “holiday,” thereby avoiding potential litigation from shippers facing dockers’ and demurrage fees for goods left on the dock during the truckers’ strike.

Ernesto Nevarez, spokesperson for the truckers, explained, “[The Port Authority] knows the truckers are going to do it [strike] anyway. By calling it a legal holiday, they avoid liability for the shutdown. We forced them to recognize May Day.”

The announcement culminated several months’ worth of planning, according to the IWW representative at the Harbor protest this morning, who added that he hoped that “the Port Authority would make May Day a regular holiday, and that the troqueros would remember it every year.” . . .

MayDay2007.org: National Mobilization to Support Immigrant Workers!

>The Anarchist Library: May Day — The real Labor Day

I’m more than a bit upset by these signs that were posted in my very diverse, inter-racial neighborhood (Lincoln Terrace).

These signs were posted on both sides of Lincoln Blvd every few block or two (normally at the bus stops), presumably as a racist scare tactic to let hispanics know that they are not welcome.

I’ve called the racist Oklahoma Minuteman Organization two times (their phone # is (405) 308-4085) and have asked them to respond to why they posted these signs (or if they claim to have not posted them) but have not heard back from them yet.

I’m encouraging local residents to tear down these signs (which are illegally posted on sign posts) and also to let your state legislators know that legislation like HB 1804 is unfortunately giving the paranoid anti-immigrant group a practical endorsement to pursue their hate agenda.


I just bought a really neat (and tiny and best of all CHEAP) portable shortwave radio receiver from Radio Shack which I’m really enjoying. I’ve listened to SW radio in the past but this is the first time I’ve owned a receiver with a digital frequency display which really makes tuning into a particular broadcast much easier.

So far my favorite channel to tune into is Radio Habana Cuba (click here for the English-language version of their website).

You can tune into their broadcasts at…

0100-0500 UTC: 6000 khz, 9820 khz (or 7-11 p.m. Central time)
0500-0700 UTC: 6000 khz, 6060 khz, 9550 khz (11 p.m.-1 a.m. Central time)

(Thanks to Cobalt Pet for this schedule.)

Also here’s one of the stories currently being discussed in today’s RHC news broadcast…

Radio Habana Cuba: Going Back in Time, U.S. Develops New Hydrogen Bomb

(Of course I understand that RHC is biased in favor of the Cuban government, but I think it is probably not much worse than we have in America where the corporate interests control what we hear.)