The Wife Takes A Walk

August 7, 2013

The Wife, otherwise known as Lynne Jackson, carries petitions across New York State by foot on a Journey For Justice to call for a reversal of the bad decision that put Yassin Aref in prison

This is a very long article so it’s in three parts, jump to the section you want to read:
Part 1: Why The Wife Walked
Part 2: The Journey For Justice Day By Day
Part 3: The Chances For Success

Part 1 Why The Wife Walked

The Wife doesn’t want you to forget about Yassin Aref. You may recall that he is a Kurdish refugee who was at one time the Imam of the Masjid As-Salam (Mosque of Peace) which is a storefront at 276 Central Avenue, the main center of worship for the growing Muslim community in Albany. You may also recall that in 2004 while he was the Imam at this mosque Mr. Aref along with a fellow named Mohammed Hossain, who owned a pizza shop nearby at 4 Central Avenue, were arrested and charged with that all-embracing bugaboo called “terrorism” and in 2007 both were sentenced to 15 years in federal prison.

If you have been following the case you will also recall that absolutely no evidence has ever been presented that either of these men have ever so much as contemplated conducting a “terrorist act” let alone plan to carry out one. Let me repeat that so it sinks in: no evidence whatsoever. During the jury trial, the secret police from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) told federal Judge Thomas McAvoy, who presided over the trial, that they had “secret evidence” that these two men were involved in terrorist plots, but that evidence could not be presented to the jurors or to the defense because of “national security.”

Yassin Aref With His Family, Children Alaa, Saheh, Ayah, Azzam And Wife Zuhur During Their First Contact Visit In Marion Illinois, 2011 Yassin Aref With His Family,
Children Alaa, Sahah, Ayah, Azzam And Wife Zuhur During
Their First Contact Visit In Marion Illinois, 2011

It was because of the word of these FBI bureaucrats, presenting hearsay with no corroboration, that these men were sent to prison and separated from their families. This happened in the United States of America in the 21st Century. And we the people, the dumb foolish easily led people, allowed this to happen. It will happen again, and when the National Security Agency (NSA) has collected enough of our personal data, we the foolish people will be the next targets of the FBI lies.

After repeated requests for documents pertaining to this fantastical “evidence,” the FBI itself earlier this year revealed that early on in it’s “investigation” it made a mistaken identity of Mr. Aref, whom they originally thought was another guy (who may have been a real terrorist) and who is now long deceased. This new evidence strongly indicates that even after realizing that they made a mistake, the FBI bureaucrats went ahead and falsely asserted that Mr. Aref was this other guy, pretending that he committed serious crimes that they called “terrorism.”

In other words, the FBI bureaucrats in Albany walked into a courtroom and committed perjury, a felony, and no one can call them to account for their crime because they are The Secret Police, and they are above the law.

The Wife Leads A March For Aref And Hossain, Albany 2009 The Wife Leads A March For Aref And Hossain, Albany 2009

About two months ago The Wife started talking about this crazy notion in her head. Mr. Aref’s (pro bono) lawyers in Albany have filed a motion based on this new evidence, called a 2255 in legalese, to free Mr. Aref from serving the last five and a half years of his unjust 15 year sentence. In accordance with federal rules, the 2255 motion was to be filed with the judge who presided over the original trial, Thomas McAvoy.

Judge McAvoy’s office is at the federal courthouse in Binghamton, which is 133 miles southwest of Albany. It seems that The Wife wanted to walk the entire length of Route 7 to Binghamton to deliver the lawsuit. That’s right, walk. With her feet. Nevermind that she had never done anything like that before, she decided that she had good reasons to try. And you know what? She did it, or rather she made it most of the way.

In January of 2011 The Wife experienced a life changing incident. A Muslim man named Muhammad stabbed her in the chest with a knife, tearing out a chunk of her right breast. Then, while she lay prone, he jabbed her repeatedly in her right armpit. Although she eventually recovered from the incident she still bears the marks of the knife.

Dr. Muhammad Abu Hena Dr. Muhammad Abu Hena

The slashing took place at Albany Medical Center. Dr. Muhammad Abu Hena performed a lumpectomy, removing a tumor from her breast, and having discovered that the cancer had begun to move into the first two lymph nodes in her armpit he made the decision, as he told me in the surgery waiting room after the operation, to remove all of the lymph nodes in her armpit, which turned out to be 19 in all. This was a reasonable precaution, once cancer moves into the lymph system it is impossible to eradicate.

Now, I am a person who does not automatically trust doctors and surgeons in particular, over the years I’ve seen too many medical practitioners who like to generate business for themselves. I spoke with Dr. Hena and looked him over carefully and decided that this was someone that I could trust, I could leave The Wife in his hands and I could be sure his decisions would be the best for her. Believe me, if I’d had any doubts about Dr. Hena I would have raised a vicious stink and demanded that another guy cut up my spouse.

Later that year another doctor, a standard issue white guy, systematically poisoned her within an inch of her life. After that a doctor from India irradiated her like a turnip headed for the supermarket. All in all 2011 was a lousy year for her. But all this slashing and poisoning and irradiating greatly renewed her faith in Western medicine. After catching breast cancer, a popular disease that affects one in eight women, she found that the system was very much geared to keeping her alive and healthy.

After Starting Chemotherapy, The Wife Loses Her Waist-Length Hair, March 2011 After Starting Chemotherapy, The Wife Loses Her Waist-Length Hair, March 2011

This was also the first time in her life that she was forced to confront the fact of her own mortality, at age 59 her time is running out. Here she was wondering what to do with her remaining life, what is important? What can she do to use her time to the greatest advantage?

I usually support her projects and notions without much fuss, but I have to say that at first I tried to get her to reconsider this idea of all this walking. She clearly did not know what she was getting into, she had never done anything remotely like this. She’s a total wimp. When she stubs her toe she cries like a baby, when she scrapes her knee she’s ready to check into a hospital.

But she started to give this walking idea serious consideration, and she started talking to experienced long-distance walkers who told her of what the human body is capable and what to expect on the road. Most importantly she started practicing by taking long walks in Albany, for example walking from our house in the South End to Stuyvesant Plaza out in the suburbs and back, about 11 miles. Slowly, reluctantly, I became sorta kinda convinced that she could pull it off, like okay maybe we’ll see. Like that.

The Wife Coming In Dead Last At A 5K, Lincoln Park 2012 The Wife Coming In Dead Last At A 5K, Lincoln Park 2012

Immediately she ran into a problem, she had nothing to carry to Binghamton. Federal lawsuits are no longer dead tree instruments that are carried in one’s hands to be delivered, they are now filed electronically like tax forms. Even if she carried a pile of paper all that distance it would have been meaningless, the clerks at the federal building in Binghamton would throw it back in her face and tell her to get lost.

So she came up with the better idea of carrying a petition to Judge McAvoy, calling for him to right this wrong and free Mr. Aref. In just a few weeks she managed to collect a total of 1715 signatures, both paper and electronic. Most of the paper signatures were collected in Albany, but many of the electronic signatures came from around the country and a few from around the world. Among the electronic signatures I did not spot a single negative or sarcastic comment, the vast majority expressed horror that something like this could happen in the United States.

As soon as she started asking, all kinds of people offered to help her with her journey. People were amazingly enthusiastic. You see, she had no intention of walking alone and unnoticed, she wanted people to walk with her, she needed someone to drive a support car each day to carry her baggage and take care of her needs, and she needed a place to sleep every night. She spent a solid two weeks making arrangements for the walk, she hardly had time to practice walking or do some work so we could pay some bills.

Patriot Edward Snowden Patriot Edward Snowden

Part of this popular enthusiasm came from good timing. Good decent Americans have been appalled by the classified documents revealed by that patriot Edward Snowden, particularly how the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting data on American citizens, apparently in anticipation of conducting a war of terror against the American people. Many people have been frustrated by these revelations, what can a patriotic American do to counter this grave threat to our remaining freedom?

Along comes The Wife who was actually doing something, a symbolic publicity stunt to be sure, but an outrageous non-violent act that brings attention to a specific injustice perpetuated by a broken federal system of justice and educates one and all about the more general assault on our Bill of Rights by an out-of-control secret police. I noted that with her walk she was unintentionally riding the crest of a wave, these issues at the beginning of summer were very much on everyone’s minds. The days when secret bureaucrats and corporatist politicians could simply utter the word “terrorism” and ruin lives are coming to an end, hopefully for good.

Routes 7 And 30A Near Schoharie NY Routes 7 And 30A Near Schoharie NY

There was one other thing, the walking. Nobody walks between cities and towns anymore, why kill ten days walking to Binghamton when you can drive there in two and a half hours? As The Wife herself repeatedly put it, “I must be nuts to do this.”

I think that most people, way in the back of their minds, have this notion that someday for some reason they too will park their cars and go for long walks like our ancestors did routinely. Of course most people will never do something like that, but along comes The Wife. Not only was she Doing Something about creeping corporate fascism, here she was turning the fantasy of hardcore walking into a real event.

I insisted on driving her along Route 7 to Binghamton so we could both scout out the route and anticipate problems, we made two trips. Back in the 1970s I did good bit of hitchhiking around the country and quite a bit in New York State, anyone who’s ever done that knows that hitching rides long distance involves plenty of walking on the road. I had much advice to give her about how to keep going.

Route 7 (Red Line, Close To Interstate 88) Albany To Binghamton, 133 Miles Route 7 (Red Line, Close To Interstate 88) Albany To Binghamton, 133 Miles

My main concern was safety, to stay alert and how not to get run over by a vehicle. I learned that the biggest concern is entering and leaving towns and villages, that is precisely where one is most likely to get run over and killed. In a town one has sidewalks and out in the country there are usually good shoulders to walk on and plenty of visibility, but in those transition areas there are often no clear areas to walk, and the vehicular traffic is often unpredictable because the drivers tend to be impatient. That’s for starters.

But I hadn’t done any of that kind of walking for like 30 years and I’d forgotten about a few things that could have saved her a lot of problems. In fact I’m still kicking myself for not remembering these details that mean little or nothing unless you are walking down a hot pavement in the middle of hot summer wondering how far is the next town. It was some of these forgotten little details that almost derailed the whole project near the end of her journey.

Let me give you some of the highlights of her ten day journey, seen from my viewpoint. The Wife kept a daily online journal of her walk, so you can follow her view which she updated faithfully every evening. (Unfortunately the blog is on WordPress which is full of weird glitches particularly when you hit the links, but it makes compelling reading.)

Part 2 The Journey For Justice Day By Day

Day 0, Friday July 13

On the eve of her departure, The Wife and her co-conspirators held a meeting and panel discussion at the next door annex of Masjid As-Salam on Central Avenue. I didn’t count heads but well over a hundred people attended, probably closer to 150. The speakers were attorney Kathy Manley, who is the author of the 2255 motion, Albany Common Council Member Dominick Calsolaro, President of the mosque Shamshad Ahmed, and of course The Wife. Jeanne Finley, who did a great job handling publicity and press releases for The Journey For Justice, acted as MC.

Outside Masjid As-Salam Outside Masjid As-Salam

The crowd was a mixture of people from the community and members of the mosque. The majority of seats were occupied by the visitors from the community, and the majority of people standing against the wall or seated in the back of the hall were from the mosque. I’m not sure what that meant if anything, I merely note it. Also the corporate media was in attendance with their content providers and equipment getting in the way.

The entire crowd was very attentive. Of particular note was the impassioned speech given by Kathy Manley. I hope that someone saved her speech for posterity because it was the most succinct and strongly worded encapsulation of the legal details of the case and the circumstances surrounding it that I’ve heard.

Presentation Inside Masjid As-Salam Presentation Inside Masjid As-Salam

Later, two hats were passed around the room, one for contributions to the Project SALAM and the other to help defray The Wife’s expenses on her journey. Both hats returned literally overflowing with cash. Members of the mosque were particularly supportive in this way, and most of the members gladly signed the petitions. It sure looks to me like the carefully constructed political wall of fear and misunderstanding is crumbling into dust here in Albany.

Afterwards much of the crowd went outside to march a short distance to the Pine Hills Library, which tomorrow morning would be the official start of The Wife’s walk.

Day 1, Saturday

The Wife got started late about 10:30 AM, a sizable crowd of about 30 people went along with her for at least part of the way. This included a group of Muslim teenagers, all of whom were immigrants from West Africa, brought along by Democracy Now! producer Hany Massoud and his wife Aysha Hoda. The kids only walked for a few hours because this walk is happening in the middle of Ramadan, the holy month when during the daylight hours a Muslim is expected to not consume any food or water. This makes any strenuous activity rough, I’m amazed these kids walked as far as they did.

The African Kids, With Aysha Hoda 2nd From Right The African Kids, With Aysha Hoda 2nd From Right

For the start of this journey she walked west on Route 20 (Western Avenue) about 11 miles to Dunnsville Road, her destination for the day. She had each day meticulously planned and posted online so anyone could find her on the road. No secrets here. Any given day she was sure to be somewhere between points A and B, plus the schedule gave her a clear goal to follow each day.

The Journey For Justice Officially Begins The Journey For Justice Officially Begins

Basically it took her two days to leave the suburbs that surround Albany. After reaching her goal for this first day day she stayed at a house in suburban Colonie where her host and hostess threw a party attended by a fair number of local activists, The Wife of course was the guest of honor. But she did not party all night, she was tired enough to get to bed by 10:00.

Day 2, Sunday

A number of people joined her, most notably Mr. Fred Childs who presented to her a fabulous retractable walking stick. This she found very useful and was extremely grateful for the gift. Starting late at 8:40 it was already getting hot. But in the next few days it was going to get a whole lot hotter, a record breaking heat wave. That’s July in New York State for you.

Mr. Fred Childs Mr. Fred Childs

Most people are at most dimly aware that the roads west from Albany are a long slow climb in elevation. When you’re driving a car it doesn’t matter, but when you walk it’s a major effort, and The Wife appeared to be amazed by the magnitude of this discovery. But what really slowed her down was that some of the people walking with her were overwhelmed by the long hill, it sounds like they were discovering for themselves that what The Wife was doing was a lot more than a tiptoe through the tulips.

To be fair, some of the eight people walking with her that day included Fatima Hossain, wife of Mr. Aref’s co-defendant Mohammed Hossain, and two of her sons. Again, how anyone fasting for Ramadan could walk in that heat even a short distance is beyond me. While the 2255 motion is not about Mr. Hossain, clearly if the motion for Mr. Aref is successful then the circumstances of the case can be applied directly to Mr. Hossain, who is much older than Mr. Aref and reportedly is in very poor health.

Mohammed Hossain at His Arrest and Fatima Hossain Mohammed Hossain at His Arrest and Fatima Hossain

So The Wife didn’t quite reach her goal, the junction of Routes 7 and 30 in Esperance, she stopped three and a half miles short of her goal. You see, she had to stop walking at 2 PM so that she could make a presentation of the Aref case to a group called Peacemakers of Schoharie County. She described them as “an amazing group” and venerable, having been formed back during the War Against Vietnam and still going strong.

When The Wife first proposed this walk a few people expressed concern that she would be captured by half-human redneck teabaggers somewhere along a deserted stretch of Route 7 and hogtied to the back of a pickup truck never to be heard from again. Or deliberately run over by a drunken dittohead. This shows how much we’ve been taught to fear and hate each other, that so many of us assume that if we dare get out of our cars for even a moment, then the dread Other will use that as an opportunity to kill us.

The Wife found the opposite on this journey, regular folks that she met were helpful and in fact were delighted that she was undertaking this walk, most having heard about her on the news. And she found that the entire route was absolutely riddled with peace activists. After all this was part of the idea, to bring together people who normally would not meet each other. This is a very powerful thing to do.

Day 3, Monday

This was the beginning of the extreme record breaking heat wave, she sure picked a lousy week to walk for hours on a pavement. The air temperature was about 95 degrees fahrenheit, and add about 20 degrees to the pavement itself. So she started walking before 7 AM, but she wished she could have started earlier at dawn.

The River Known As Schoharie Creek Near Central Bridge In The Morning (Photo Lynne Jackson) The River Known As Schoharie Creek Near Central Bridge In The Morning (Photo Lynne Jackson)

Still, she made good time. Her designated supporters for the day followed her in the support car and made sure she was cool enough and had plenty of fluids. But by 11:30 the heat was so intense that she was forced to take a siesta. So she called her host from the night before, who brought her back so she could take a midday nap.

She got going again around 4:30 and arrived in Cobleskill at 8 PM. Despite everything she had made up for lost time and was back on schedule. it was starting to look like she might be able to finish the walk.

Day 4, Tuesday

Today she got started in downtown Cobleskill at exactly 5:22 AM, pretty much the crack of dawn. In the morning’s relative cool, walking by herself, she made good time and soon found herself out in picturesque farm country.

Dawn In Cobleskill Dawn In Cobleskill

As a surprise I drove down to check her out, I found her around ten minutes to 7. She looked good, and the heat wasn’t too bad. Yet. And the scenery was magnificent. It looked like she was having a grand time walking down the road, I hoped that would continue.

The support car found her around 8 AM having breakfast in a little burg called Richmondville. Later she was joined by Fred Childs, who made good time as he walked with her. At this point she was enjoying herself “immensely” despite the heat, and she had no trouble making her goal for the day.

Several other people joined her that day, and she made every one of them put on a safety vest like the road workers wear. Of course she couldn’t force her supporters to practice safety, some of them insisted on walking in the road and some simply did not stay alert to the traffic, but happily nobody got killed. Route 7 is no longer used much for long distance traveling, not since 4-lane Rt. 88 was built up in the hills, which runs parallel to Rt. 7. Almost all vehicular traffic was local, that contributed to overall safety of the walkers.

She was interviewed by a Binghamton radio station on her phone as she walked along. She got a lot of coverage in the local media both in Albany and Binghamton, and also along the route. She even got some international coverage, for example I spotted a blurb that appeared in the Times of India. But other than Democracy Now! no US national media picked it up. Naturally the corporate media wasn’t allowed to mention it. Of course.

West Of Cobleskill, 6:50 AM West Of Cobleskill, 6:50 AM

At the end of the day some of the peace activists spirited her away to Cooperstown, which, as we discovered while preparing the trip, is closely tied to the sizable college town of Oneonta, which lay ahead for The Wife on Route 7. The two towns are about 22 miles apart, they share their economies and such things as newspapers. For most people Cooperstown means baseball, but for the Wife both towns were hotbeds of Quakers, peace activists and anti-fracking advocates.

In Cooperstown she presented to only about a dozen people in a hot, stuffy church. As usual everyone listened to her with rapt attention, but after she was done and had answered a few questions everyone was glad to get out of the place. Unyielding extreme heat had become the prevailing characteristic of this journey.

Day 5, Wednesday

The burning heat continued. Unfortunately The Wife got a late start after lingering over breakfast with her hosts and talking talking talking. Things had been going well up to this point, too well perhaps. Somehow she managed to keep going until about 1PM, but it was rough for her. Not being able to walk through the middle of the day was becoming a big problem.

This is probably when her blister began to develop. As a rule the Wife is not terribly aware of her body, when she starts to feel physical distress it usually means the problem has become acute. If she had noticed the blister on this day then this would have been the time to deal with it, but she didn’t and it got worse.

Early in the morning when she was walking by herself, a little dog dashed across the highway and starting following her and barking, probably having never seen a pedestrian before. Worried that the critter would get hit by a car, she told it to go home, but when it didn’t pay any attention she started screaming at it. The poor thing was stunned. It stopped barking and stood by the road watching her walk away. If that little dog is out there I’d like to apologize to it on her behalf, the heat and the stress were starting to take a toll on her.

The Wife was starting to fall behind her schedule. She isn’t very fast to begin with and because of the intense heat it was impossible for her to slog through the hottest part of the day. A fair crowd joined her for that day, which of course tended to slow her down more. But she was glad to have walking companions.

Max Calls The Cows Max Calls The Cows

One of her walking companions was Max Grieshaber, the artist who created the nifty giant banners that always appear at these Muslim Solidarity rallies. Max is a man of many talents which are too numerous to list here, but this day The Wife watched Max regard a small herd of cows critically. He then made a low murmuring sound, and suddenly all the cows obediently (and apparently happily) responded to his call and walked up to greet him, switching their tails and lowing.

A couple of guys from Philadelphia, Joe Piette and Mike Ehling, arrived in the afternoon when she was having her siesta. The Wife knows them from working with them on another outrageous miscarriage of justice from their locality in which she is very interested. She went out on the road with them again around 5:30 PM. But, she reported to me, as the evening progressed they ran into a big swarm of biting insects and they were forced to quit early at 7:30 to escape being eaten alive.

Day 6, Thursday

She got an early start a little after dawn accompanied by the guys from Philadelphia, starting where she left off the day before at a glorified intersection called Cooperstown Junction. The countryside was wonderful to look at, but she was complaining again about bugs biting her more vulnerable spots. The Susquehanna River runs close to Route 7, I guess that spot has a nearby swamp that breeds lots of nasty bugs.

Heading For Oneonta Heading For Oneonta

I called her later that morning, as she walked she told me for the first time that she had discovered the blister on her foot and that it was beginning to bother her. Suddenly I had a thought and asked her where it was located. It turned out to be on her right foot, on the right side of her heel.

Aw jeez I could have slapped myself for forgetting. The Wife, you see, walked exclusively on the left side of the road so as to be facing traffic, that way she could see if an oncoming vehicle is about to swerve toward her and she would be able to take evasive action. I told her to stay alert and always be ready to dive head first to her left, off the road and over the guard rail if there was one. Better to scrape yourself up or bust a bone than to be hit straight on by a car traveling at 70 miles per hour.

What I forgot to tell her was that unlike a sidewalk, the shoulder that she was walking on was sloped, this is so water will run off the road. The problem is that when you are walking on the shoulder for hours – for days – after a while your right leg feels shorter than your left and your whole body starts to feel uneven. Sure enough where her right heel was pounding against the pavement it was chafing against her shoe, and that chafing was turning serious.

I told her the one way to avoid problems with the sloped shoulder was to take any opportunity to move off the shoulder and walk on any surface that she could find that was flat or sloped in the other direction. It just so happened that as we talked there was a flat grassy strip running alongside the shoulder that she was walking on, and she moved over to it. Sure enough she reported immediately relief, which I found heartening.

Finding A Sidewalk Upon Entering Oneonta Finding A Sidewalk Upon Entering Oneonta

Soon she escaped the bugs and she reported that the countryside was gorgeous. Several more supporters joined her, and she approached Oneonta, which as we had anticipated turned out to be very difficult to enter by foot. As she wrote on her daily blog, “The shoulders narrowed, and deteriorated. We often had to walk between a guard rail and the road, on crumbling asphalt. It is very pedestrian unfriendly.”

Transportation planners do not bother to connect towns and cities to the countryside so that pedestrians or bicyclists can easily enter or leave the settled areas. One is required to ride in a motorized vehicle. Certainly that’s because almost no one walks such distances anymore, but I’m inclined to think that for the last 60 years or so there has been a deliberate effort to isolate town and country from each other, a consequence of the anti-urban agenda that has been a characteristic political notion of all too many influential people.

This separation of town and country is one of many subtle things in our present day American society that are keeping people isolated from each other, things that effectively divide most of us into little groups. As many political observers over many years have observed, these divisions between groups make it easy for government to control and manipulate people. So one of the unanticipated consequences of The Wife’s journey down Route 7 was to demonstrate the existence of these subtle barriers constructed around towns and cities, and she was piercing these barriers by walking through them.

Talking To The Quakers In Oneonta Talking To The Quakers In Oneonta

Oneonta is a fair sized town that has what looks like a flourishing economy, and it is the largest settlement on the road between Albany and Binghamton. At Noon she gave another presentation, this time to about 15 of the local Quakers. This time there was a lively discussion, most of these folks were unaware of how badly the federal justice system is broken and how decent people are beginning to suffer as a result.

In the evening she walked as far as a campground on the west side of Oneonta, but again she had to quit early because of all the bugs that were eating her alive. I guess that’s a consequence of walking alongside the Susquehanna River in high summer. That, along with the plain fact that she is one of those people who attract bugs, they have a marked preference for her tender flesh and tasty bodily fluids.

Day 7, Friday

The Wife got going early enough at 5:45, she reported that it was a beautiful morning with no bugs. There was some cooling fog which made her concerned about visibility on the road. So she attached one of those blinking red lights for bicycles on the top of her walking stick. That would have made a great photo, The Wife walking through the fog like some exotic wayfarer with a magic lighted staff traversing Middle Earth.

West Of Oneonta In The Morning (Photos For This Day By Mari) West Of Oneonta In The Morning (Photos For This Day By Mari)

After the fog lifted and the heat started to settle in she still continued to make good time. Her supporters for that day turned out to be very helpful, they understood that they were there to keep Her on the road and moving. In that way she covered nine miles before Noon, stopping finally at Wells Bridge, which is about 22 miles west of Oneonta.

But the blister on her foot had gotten a whole lot worse. She consulted several people by phone, and the next thing you know she was sitting in the emergency room at Fox Hospital in Oneonta. This turned out to be her siesta, she spent the bulk of 3 hours napping on an exam table in an air conditioned room, which was fine with her.

Eventually a doctor named Cade looked at her foot and told her it wasn’t infected like she feared, but it had gotten to the point where it was filling up with blood. He pronounced judgement: stay off it. Try not to do any heavy walking. Uh oh.

Along Route 7 Along Route 7

She decided she’d better stop for the day, even though she had fallen quite a bit behind schedule. She still thought that if she gave her foot a rest she might be okay, but as we all soon found out her foot was already fubar for the near future. The events of the next day would prove that decisively.

If you don’t take care of a blister when it first forms, draining the pus and drying it out, it becomes an open sore that can easily become infected. Again I was kicking myself for not explaining blisters to her, but in my defense I have to say that I’ve never thought much about blisters because I rarely got them, and when I did I took care of them immediately. I forgot about the Wife’s capacity for ignoring her own body.

In the evening I drove down to Otego to join The Wife at the home of Stu Anderson for the tail end of a dinner party. The house, she told me, was easy to find. It was right in the middle of Otego on Rt. 7 which serves as the main drag of the small but lively town. The yard was decorated with anti-fracking signs and on one side was a rendition on plywood of NY State governor Andrew Cuomo sporting devil’s horns. “You can’t miss it,” she said.

Anti-Fracking Sign In Otego Anti-Fracking Sign In Otego

Many of the peace activists that she encountered along Rt. 7 have been diverted from stopping war and waging peace by the issue of fracking, which lately has become a dire issue for many of the locals. Indeed I saw a lot of mostly homemade anti-fracking signs along her route and only a few mostly professionally manufactured pro-fracking signs. In nearby Pennsylvania fracking had been allowed to proceed and here on the New York side of the border I heard a tone of angry desperation at the immanence of the problem.

Apparently there is a fair amount of natural gas (methane) in the shale under the ground, and a number of hit-and-run speculators have been hot to get at it and make a quick buck. I did not run into a single person down that way, activist or otherwise, who does not fully understand that fracking will pollute their groundwater beyond redemption and will ruin their landscape. Because of the oil operations in North Dakota, our country will continue to have a glut of gas for the foreseeable future. So fracking for gas in New York State is unnecessary, plain and simple.

So I found the house in Otego with no problem, but when I pulled up the first thing I noticed was all the cars parked in front with kayaks on top. It seems that The Wife’s co-conspirators had a plan to get her off her feet for one day and help her make up for lost time so she could finish her journey in time for the big rally and press conference they had scheduled in Binghamton on Tuesday.

Day 8, Saturday

The plan was to put The Wife in her canoe into the Susquehanna River for a nice quiet paddle downstream accompanied by a flotilla of kayaks. I asked if this was cheating, and I was told no, “it’s like walking with her hands.” Oh, okay, whatever. So I drove down from Albany with our boats on top of the car, arriving the night before so we could get an early start.

At ten to seven five of us put into the river at Wells Bridge, four kayaks and The Wife in her canoe. She was escorted by me, Kathy Manley, Steve Downs and a young woman named Mari who was paddling a kayak for the first time. Mari had walked with The Wife on Thursday when the heat and the blister were starting to drag her down, she reported that Mari was a very energetic and helpful companion on that day.

I was not impressed with the Susquehanna at first, it seemed a little too narrow and shallow for my taste at that point. But once we got going about a mile the river got deeper, wider and a lot faster, and we kept encountering rapids which I was not used to. I have to say that I greatly underestimated the Susquehanna, and as a result both The Wife and I paid the consequences.

View Of The Susquehanna River At Bainbridge Where We Paddled, With Deceptively Calm High Water View Of The Susquehanna River At Bainbridge Where We Paddled, With Deceptively Calm High Water

To make a long story short, we were paddling just fine through and around the rapids as the river got wider and swifter. It was at a bend in the river at what turned out to be the town of Sidney, about 35 miles from Binghamton, that we got in trouble. It was a classic case of a person getting into trouble and the would-be rescuers getting into the same trouble and nearly drowning.

What happened is that Mari, the paddling neophyte, got caught in a fallen tree in the water at an inside bend of the river. The Wife, not suspecting that the local currents were dangerous, headed toward the tree to rescue Mari and ended up dumped into the water unable to move because of the current. When i heard her scream I unthinkingly (and stupidly) headed in to rescue her and also ended up dumped in the water unable to move. Glad we were both wearing our life vests.

After surfacing I struggled my way out of the current by moving toward the shore, minus my glasses and my camera. The Wife was very embarrassed that I had to rescue her by pulling her out of the water with my paddle, in fact she was quite ashamed. (If you are interested in a detailed description of “The Incident At Sidney” I wrote a long detailed description of the entire scary and subsequently ridiculous episode here.)

The Tree At Sidney That Undid Us On The Following Tuesday The Tree At Sidney That Undid Us On The Following Tuesday

(One thing I will mention is that because I lost my camera I have no pictures of this trip, which is too bad because the scenery was spectacular. But when we returned to Albany on Tuesday I insisted on stopping in Sidney to thank our rescuers, and I took a picture of the tree that had undone us. We looked down into the river wide eyed, due to thunderstorms the water had risen tremendously since Saturday and had become positively deadly.)

One important detail of this fiasco is that the Wife carried the precious folder full of petitions in the bottom of her canoe, and after she got dumped into the water the folder started to float away downstream! Fortunately Steve Downs managed to rescue the folder, the petitions had gotten wet but were salvageable. Unfortunately The Wife’s beloved canoe had been smashed against the tree by my kayak and could no longer float.

Petitions Being Sorted Out And Dried Petitions Being Sorted Out And Dried

After this “Incident At Sidney” Mari had had enough fun in the sun and left for the day. So eventually the four of us got back into our boats, The Wife into the kayak that Mari had been using, and we continued downriver to our planned destination, the little burg Afton. There we were met by The Wife’s host for the evening who was sitting on a rock at our landing spot trying out his new camera on us as we approached at about 3:30. We’d traveled some 25 miles.

But the Wife was exhausted. It turned out that sitting all curled up with the outsides of her heels scraping against the inside walls of the boat was a very bad thing for her blister. She reported that it was hurting and felt like it would burst, which she was told by several medical people would be a very bad thing. It was now quite apparent that she could not walk anymore and could not complete the last 25 miles of the journey.

Day 9, Sunday

So now The Wife needed to recruit a substitute walker, and an excellent stand-in was found immediately. Jack Gilroy is one of the foremost peace activists from the Binghamton area. A man in his late 70s, he is an experienced walker for whom 25 miles over two days was no problem at all.

As a teenager Mr. Gilroy enlisted in the Navy, but when he heard about the War Against Vietnam he asked for a discharge so he could join the Army and serve his country better, fighting for freedom. But after serving honorably, he came to realize the terrible disconnect between the propaganda that the government and the defense corporations were serving to the American public, and the cold hard realities of what he and the rest of the military were doing on the ground in Vietnam. After completing his service in Nam he went through a period of soul searching and decided that it was his duty to oppose those policies in a firm but nonviolent fashion.

As a leading member of School of the Americas Watch, the citizen’s organization that monitors and by simply making their presence known threatens and terrifies the perpetrators of endless senseless war, he has been tossed into federal prison more times than he can remember, usually for things like refusing to disperse or for deliberately stepping over a line painted on the pavement. One federal sentence was for six months, and he has endured solitary confinement and other unreasonable punishments despite always being a model prisoner.

The Shirking Wife Poses With Jack Gilroy (Right, Holding Petitions) And Jim Clune Of Binghamton Who Walked With Him The Shirking Wife Poses With Jack Gilroy (Right, Holding Petitions) And Jim Clune Of Binghamton Who Walked With Him

Whatever you think of Mr. Gilroy you have to respect him. In his youth he served his country as faithfully as he could, and since then he has routinely put his body on the line to oppose the obvious errors committed by his country, a man of strong principles. He has a good idea of what Yassin Aref is going through, two days of carrying petitions calling for his release was a small thing for Mr. Gilroy.

Meanwhile The Wife lazed around living it up riding in the support car. She told me that Mr. Gilroy had an impressive way of focusing on his task of walking, he faced forward and marched along not stopping to chat or admire the scenery. In this way he covered 13 miles in 5 hours, which the The Wife, who is slow, plodding and easily distracted, found very inspiring.

The Wife gave a presentation at a mosque in nearby Johnson City, which by the way is not far from where she grew up. That evening a wish of hers was fulfilled, her hosts for the night served her speedies, which is a kind of shishkabob endemic to the area. Meanwhile, she could barely hobble around.

Day 10, Monday

Like I said, Jack Gilroy does not fool around. He started walking at 6:30 AM and finished up in downtown Binghamton before Noon. The heat hardly bothered him and the only service he required while walking was a little water. Meanwhile The Wife lazed about living the high life, which she had suddenly come to appreciate.

The Wife Gives Another Interview The Wife Gives Another Interview

Before the walking journey started, The Wife and I drove down to Binghamton twice to find an acceptable walking route into Binghamton. The problem is that about ten miles east of Binghamton Route 7 merges with Interstate 88 which doesn’t allow pedestrians. The best walking route we could find was through a maze of back roads, and even these roads had quite a few treacherous stretches.

No problem for Mr. Gilroy, he just moved along and didn’t linger anywhere long enough to get nailed by a speeding sedan. But this was what I’ve been talking about, it’s difficult and dangerous to walk a mere ten miles from open countryside to the settled areas of Binghamton. Not only does this carefully constructed road barrier isolate town from country, surely this prevailing “limited access highway” serves as a brake on economic development of the eastern end of the Binghamton area.

So with a little help from her new friends The Wife’s Journey for Justice was now over. She spent the evening lolling about giving interviews and fussing over the right way to bandage her foot.

Day 11, Tuesday

In the morning I drove down to Binghamton bringing Dominick Calsolaro, he’s the Albany Common Council member who back in 2010 sponsored the groundbreaking resolution in Albany calling on the US Justice Department to review the convictions of Muslims who were “preemptively prosecuted” without the due process guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. Dominick has always been strong on defending civil rights, I don’t recall meeting or even hearing of another current elected official who has been willing to risk his or her political reputation to defend American freedom in that way.

Dominick Calsolaro Waiting By The Sports Stadium On Henry Street Dominick Calsolaro Waiting By The Sports Stadium On Henry Street

Dominick had also joined The Wife on Wednesday to talk to the Oneonta Quakers as well as having participated in the kickoff events for the walk in Albany. He and I were part of a caravan of Albanians who planned to gather in front of the Federal Building at 15 Henry Street in downtown Binghamton. This secretive public building is where Judge McAvoy holds forth, this is where the petitions were to be delivered.

We were the first to arrive at the meeting spot on Henry Street next to a sports stadium about a quarter mile from the Federal Building. Eventually the Albany people started arriving, and the local Binghamton peace activists and other local concerned citizens joined us. Early on it even looked like the Albanians were going to outnumber the locals.

Jack Gilroy Pushes The Blister-Footed Wife, Steve Downs And Yassin Aref March Alongside Jack Gilroy Pushes The Blister-Footed Wife, Steve Downs And Yassin Aref March Alongside

I got to meet Jack Gilroy and I had a chance to thank him for carrying the load of petitions for my defective spousette. Finally The Wife arrived looking happy and rested despite gimping along on her nasty blister, which true to form she treated like a major life-threatening illness. Someone produced a wheelchair, and we all marched up Henry Street with Mr. Gilroy pushing The Wife in the chair like she was some kind of casualty of the wars.

In front of 15 Henry Street a small group of about 40 people gathered around a portable podium provided by outspoken peace activist Father Tim Tougher, who had also provided copying and binding services for the petitions at his church before the event. (The petitions were still somewhat damaged from the river.) Steve Downs acted as MC, speeches were made. Of course The Wife was the center of attention, although she quite correctly shared the spotlight with Mr. Gilroy, who characteristically gave a stunning set of remarks condemning the failures and excesses of the American Empire.

Still Sitting, The Wife Watches Steve Downs MC Still Sitting, The Wife Watches Steve Downs MC

It’s important to note that Mr. Gilroy’s remarks were quite relevant to the case at hand. It was because the federal government needed “terrorists” to justify their wars against Iraq and Afghanistan that Mr. Aref and Mr. Hossain were perjured into prison. Lacking an enemy Dick Cheney and Barack Obama have had to manufacture scary bogey men, and damn the Bill of Rights in pursuit of global conquest.

Among the attendees from Albany was Yassin Aref’s 17 year old daughter Ala, and Mohammed Hossain’s wife Fatima with their 7 year old daughter Helema. Ala and Fatima were in Muslim garb, Fatima is conservative and only exposes her eyes to male barbarians such as myself. In addition several other Muslim women were present who wore less conservative dress who covered themselves much more than the average non-Muslim American woman.

The local corporate media was in full attendance, and as was true of this entire journey their reports were favorable. Even FOX News, both here and in Albany presented tolerably accurate reports to their viewers. It looked to me like the Murdoch-owned affiliates were caught between condemning grassroots “liberals” and condemning the US government. They couldn’t decide who to smear so they were forced to produce relatively straight copy.

Jack Gilroy Forcefully Condemns The Excesses of The American Empire Jack Gilroy Forcefully Condemns The Excesses of The American Empire

That was the thing about The Wife’s crazy adventure, it was so out of the ordinary that the media could not afford to ignore it. But as quite a few people have observed, there is a lot of uneasiness about the Aref and Hossain case among media employees as well as regular folks who follow the news. In Albany a surprisingly large number of people are aware that Mr. Aref and Mr. Hossain were perjured into prison, and that the case would interest people 133 miles away in Binghamton shows how much this abortion of justice still resonates.

Perhaps most importantly for the success of this project is the fact that The Wife has developed the ability to gab about her favorite cause on cue in a personable and compelling manner. The Albany media workers learned a long time ago that they could count on her to produce instant broadcastable content back when she acted as volunteer spokesperson for the environmental organization Save The Pine Bush. Decades of public speaking about sand dunes and karner blue butterflies has prepared her to discuss civil liberties issues in a manner that literally everybody who listens to her finds compelling.

The security guards and cops who conduct illegal search and seizure inside the doors of the Federal Building came outside to make sure we didn’t move off the sidewalk and come in contact with THEIR steps and THEIR property. (Apparently the federal government no longer belongs to us taxpayers.) I was not the only one who noted the variety of cops that quietly hovered on the outer perimeter of the block, but during the speeches they kept back and behaved themselves.

The Wife Talks To The Media The Wife Talks To The Media

So when all the ceremonies and speeches were done and The Wife had chatted up the rapt reporters (and forgotten about the wheelchair that she was supposed to occupy) she gathered together a small contingent which included the daughters of the unjustly perjured men and marched up the steps of the building with the petitions. Naturally the guards created problems, not letting The Wife carry in her walking stick and at first refusing to let the two Muslim girls inside because they didn’t have “proper” photo ID. Seriously, they tried to do that with a 7 year old girl.

The Wife “stood her ground” and with TV cameras hovering anxiously outside the guards decided they’d better make an exception just this once and let them in. Once inside they found the court clerk and handed her the petitions for Judge McAvoy. It’s likely the smiling woman dumped the petitions directly into a garbage bin, or perhaps she sent them to a special department that copied all the signatories onto a “terrorism” watch list. But now the journey was done, the petitions had been officially received by our dysfunctional paranoid federal government.

Marching Up The Steps Marching Up The Steps

Now, when The Wife and her escort were inside the outer doors negotiating with the goons I slipped inside and snapped a quick photo, or tried to. Unfortunately my usual camera was sitting in the mud of the Susquehanna River at Sidney, and this old camera that I was using surprised me by flashing. Oops. The guards all starting hollering at me to stop taking pictures because such things are verboten inside a stronghold of the Reich.

So I smiled my most idiotic smile and apologized and quickly ducked outside. But a few minutes later this “court officer” (a glorified security guard) came out and demanded that I delete the photograph from my camera. I did not say, like hell I will. Instead I told him politely but firmly that I would do no such thing unless he could present me with a warrant from a judge. The police cannot stop a citizen from photographing a public building nor can they seize a camera without evidence of criminal wrongdoing, and a security guard certainly cannot order anybody to do anything.

I was right and he was wrong, and it quickly became evident that he knew it. But he persisted with a raft of phony arguments (“I didn’t give you permission to take my picture so you have to delete it.” etc.) Pretty soon cops started encircling the group, slowly moving in even though they clearly didn’t know what was going on. It was starting to look, well, ridiculous in the extreme.

Halima And Kathy Manley Play With The Wife's Abandoned Wheelchair Halima And Kathy Manley Play With The Wife’s Abandoned Wheelchair

Joe Lombardo from Albany quickly jumped to my defense and argued at the guy, and as he argued I called to Kathy Manley, and she took over the arguing. Several more people joined the arguing, including The Wife who had by now emerged from the building. By this time the cops had figured out what was going down and had started to back off, but the guy wouldn’t quit.

So Joe suggested that I take a walk, and he and I strolled back to the sports stadium where I parked my car. I half expected them to follow me with sirens and drawn guns, but of course they didn’t and I escaped intact. I’m sorry to say that due to the flash the photo is absolutely worthless, but here it is because they told me to not put it on the internet.

Part 3 The Chances For Success

The purpose of this “Journey For Justice” was to raise popular awareness of a gross failure by the federal justice system and bring people together, but what about the case itself? Would The Wife’s walk have any impact on the judge’s decision? Would that impact be positive or negative or none at all?

Most people don’t realize that all judges, whether they are duly elected or appointed like Judge Thomas McAvoy was, are politicians like any other public office holder. As such they are subject to the same major restraint on their behavior and actions as any other politician, they are answerable to the public. Any politician who does not consider him or herself accountable to the public is corrupt and is a liability to the community at large, the same holds true for judges.

Attorney Kathy Manley, who wrote the 2255 motion for Mr. Aref, has repeatedly said that in her experience she considers judge Thomas McAvoy to be a fair minded individual, “one of the better judges” for a lawyer to be in front of. She has been saying that his decision in the Aref and Hussein cases were an aberration, that his decision was tainted by the interference of the FBI with their unconstitutional “secret evidence.” Combining perjury by the secret police with political pressure from the Cheney-Bush White House to produce “terrorists” at any cost forced him to make a bad decision based on no evidence.

Cops On The Binghamton Courthouse Steps Watch The Press Conference Cops On The Binghamton Courthouse Steps Watch The Press Conference

Is that true? McAvoy was recommended for his judgeship by one of the most blatantly corrupt politicians of the 20th century, former NY Senator Alphonse D’Amato, and was appointed by that architect of America’s decline, senile Ronald Reagan. Personally I find it hard to believe that a judge with such associations in his background could be fair minded. Rather I would expect him to have no firm concept of an independent judiciary and that he would be politically disposed toward taking orders from politicians bigger than himself.

The ultimate point of walking these petitions to Binghamton is to make Judge McAvoy aware that he is being watched and monitored by the highest of all authorities, the public. It is also meant to make the judge aware that a large and growing segment of the public understands that his original decision to send these innocent men to prison is a serious error on his part. Unless he is hiding in a basement playing online games day and night, there is no way that he cannot have noted the publicity and the growing awareness of the issues around his bad decision.

The publicity generated by The Wife provides the judge with an opportunity to save face and repair his original mistake. He can now consider that he was given false information by the FBI, either intentionally by them or unintentionally. The key here is that the information that determined his decision has now been proven to be untrue.

Cops Up Henry Street Watch Cops Up Henry Street Watch

But why would a judge in the first place even admit hearsay “secret evidence” into his courtroom that he did not even allow to be shown to the jury or to the defense? It is because of the so-called “Patriot” Act that judicial decisions have effectively been removed from the courtroom and handed over to anonymous government bureaucrats of the secret police. And because of the “Patriot” Act these bureaucrats operate in complete secrecy, wielding ultimate authority over citizen and immigrant alike with no oversight.

I say that anonymous bureaucrats have no right to judge anyone. That is how judicial decisions are made in North Korea and in the People’s Republic of China. That is how judgements are made inside Exxon-Mobil, Monsanto and Halliburton. This is not how judicial decisions are made in the United States of America.

Back in 2007 the general public was still captivated by the spectral bugaboo “terrorism” and was willing to disavow American rights and freedom to accommodate the backroom bureaucrats of the FBI. Such captivation depends heavily upon a constant barrage of propaganda by a monolithic corporate media. But since 2007 the internet has provided strong competition to the corporate media, in 2013 the corporate political information filters can no longer bamboozle the majority of Americans.

Cop Across The Street Watches Cop Across The Street Watches

In 2007 most people still foolishly regarded the FBI as incorruptible defenders of freedom, Eliot Ness and his associates fighting the forces of pure evil. By 2013 much of the public is now aware of what the FBI really is, a gang of out-of-control secret police who despise the Bill of Rights and are actively working for the imposition of corporate dictatorship upon our nation. More accurate information has caused the shift in public opinion, it is this ability to exchange information on the net that makes The Wife’s walk possible and effective.

A further point, one that few people have caught onto yet, is that federal judges are quietly disappearing into the cloud of secrecy that is effectively ruining the legitimacy of our federal government. For example, one cannot find a photo of Judge McAvoy anywhere online. Supposedly this is to protect judges from “terrorism,” but the real reason is to anonymize them so that the public cannot hold them personally responsible for their actions.

It is very possible that Judge Thomas McAvoy will wimp out and whine that the blatantly unconstitutional “Patriot” Act has tied his hands and that he has no choice but to take orders from the perjuring FBI bureaucrats and reject the 2255 motion. Back in 2007 when he admitted secret hearsay evidence into his courtroom, Judge McAvoy was effectively refusing to defend the independent judiciary that is one of the pillars of American democracy, some say the backbone. If he refused to take a stand for judicial independence back then, why would he do so now?

As a sitting judge his duty is to defend the independence of his court, we can only hope that he has learned to understand that he is personally responsible for his own actions.

Judge McAvoy is a public figure, and as such his reputation depends upon public perception of his abilities to carry out that public office. It remains to be seen if he has enough self-worth and personal responsibility to render this 2255 motion a fair and just decision. Whether he likes it or not, the judge is being judged. That’s what The Wife’s walk was all about.

Lynne Jackson, In Front Of 15 Henry Street, Is Pleased With The Success Of Her Walk Lynne Jackson, In Front Of 15 Henry Street, Is Pleased With The Success Of Her Walk