Saturday, December 31, 2005

Can It Happen Here?
a 2005 review

That question -- Can It Happen Here?-- serves as my signature line as I wander the blogosphere. My answer depends on the meaning of "it."

On the face of things, "it" has happened here. We live in a state in which the rule of law is precarious, monarchical powers are asserted by our ruler, and money calls the shots. The regime is fairly benign if you are white and not desperately poor; you are invited to consume mass culture and run up credit card debt. But it can turn brutal if you are black, brown, yellow, the wrong religion, poor, unhealthy, queer, very young, old or any combination thereof.

So "it" is pretty bad. But on the other hand, people do resist war and injustice, whether out of conviction or out of necessity. . . Here are links to 12 occasions of resistance from 2005.

jesusof the fence!
1. Good Friday service outside Livermore Lab where nukes are invented

2. Rallying against Social Security Privatization

3. Labor takes it to Arnold's doorstep in Sacramento

4. Hiroshima remembered.

5Tom-St. Lukes
5. Sutter Health threatens to close St. Luke's Hospital; community speaks out.

6. frontdoor
6. The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges…

7. Oakland rallies for New Orleans

8. Nurses rally against Governor Arnold

9. "Gay bishop" comes to town

10. Precinct walk, Oakland, October 2005

11. Federal building peace vigil

12. Standing up against torture

Hopefully 2006 will be a better year than 2005. With hard work, we can still make a difference to what "it" means.

Friday, December 30, 2005


Apparently the Roman Catholic Church is backing away from the concept of limbo. Limbo is a medieval workaround for the theological problem created by the doctrine that all humans are born into a sinful condition. Left to ourselves, without baptism into the community of the Church, we sinful creatures are naturally condemned to hell. But infants frequently die without the opportunity for active sin -- or baptism. So progressives such as Thomas Aquinas proposed that that there must be a sort of boundary state, limbo, where deceased innocents would live in "natural happiness."

This sort of effort to parse eternity is out of fashion in contemporary thinking and theologians have been convened to discuss doing away with the notion. Rev. James O'Donnell, provost of Georgetown University and a professor of classics, describes their efforts as essentially saying:

"Let's progress back to ignorance rather than remain mired in assertion that brings with it perhaps more complication and more trouble than it is worth."

This seems like a good principle that might be applied to some other forms of thinking.

We could progress back to ignorance and admit we don't know what combination of hydrocarbon emissions and industrial by-products will so damage our environment as to change our ecosystem irreparably -- so perhaps we should be very cautious about introducing any more of these pollutants.

We could progress back to ignorance and admit we don't know when life begins -- and people of good intention may differ. We could then work to make the lives of those who are unequivocally alive as conducive to both justice and kindness possible.

We could progress back to ignorance and admit we also don't quite know when life ends -- and so people of good intention may differ. RIP Terry Schaivo and all those others whom some would condemn to a "living" limbo.

Hat tip to The Revealer.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

My mother's spam

My mother never took up computing, but she sure gets spam's predecessor, junk mail. That wouldn't be surprising or disturbing, except that she never lived at my address, where the mail arrives -- and she has been dead for nearly six years.

She was a charitable person who gave small sums to numerous nonprofits in response to what she called "begging letters." After she died, I put in a change of address so as to catch any important mail -- and dutifully marked "deceased" and returned every piece of first class mail. But some outfits never give up (and have lousy list management.)

For the last month, I've kept all the items that came to Mother. Here's the tally of the unsolicited and irrelevant:

America's Second Harvest, national office -- two pieces. They sent her address stickers and implored that she "help stop hunger at the holidays."

Meals on Wheels, Western New York affiliate -- also two pieces. One of them is a brown paper bag that reminds me the ones we put used tampax into in high school. The outside reads "the contents of this little bag can save an elderly person's life."

Martin de Porres House -- one letter. This free food program in San Francisco is a list I put Mother on. I know they know better -- they sent a condolence card when she died, but their database is primitive.

United Negro College Fund -- one appeal. "Emergency Hurricane Katrina Update." It is nice to know that Mother would almost certainly have given to that one.

Buffalo Zoo -- one brochure. "Get your tail to the zoo!"

Planned Parenthood, national office -- one appeal. "Survey and petition to Congress enclosed." Yeah sure, but she would have been there for PP.

The true spam gem yielded the illustration above. An outfit called "Help Hospitalized Veterans -- Saluting America's Heroes" sent a cover letter by General Tommy Franks, a check for one dollar and a request that she tear up the check and send them money. The five piece fundraising package must have cost nearly two dollars each, even if they sent out several million, which they probably did.

All these solicitors are mere beginners in persistent irrelevance though, compared to the National Wildlife Federation. They sent my father two pieces of mail that included holiday cards, a note pad and address labels in his name. He has been dead 14 years.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

California anti-gay initiatives on hold

Detail from mural painted outside a high school in San Francisco. Somewhat to my amazement, it has survived without being defaced for several months.
Good news for California gays today -- forces aiming to qualify initiatives to ban gay marriage have backed off for the moment. The "" set, a Focus on the Family front group, collected only half the signatures it would have needed to get its measure on the June 2006 primary ballot. Another lot, "," this one a front for Lou Sheldon's "Traditional Values Coalition," didn't even get to the signature gathering stage. Both vow to come back and maybe they will, but for the moment, things are going well for the forces of tolerance.

On gay marriage, the longer it takes opponents to get organized, the weaker they will get. The San Francisco marriages celebrated in 2004; the passage of a gay marriage bill by the legislature in 2005 (vetoed by Schwarzenegger); the decision by a state court saying the California constitution forbids discrimination against gay marriage (now on appeal); and the numerous legal gay marriages in Massachusetts and many parts of Europe -- all these developments have helped indifferent voters become used to the idea that the sky won't fall if the queers get married. Current polling is very encouraging:

Since the passage of [the anti-gay marriage statute] Proposition 22, [Mark] Baldassare, [research director of the Public Policy Institute of California] said, Californians appear to have gradually softened their views on same-sex marriage.

In 2000, polls showed that only 38% of likely voters in California supported same-sex marriage. But a poll this August showed 46% supporting it and 46% opposing. Among all California adults, 44% favored same-sex marriage and 48% opposed it, he said.

Time is on the side of gay marriage.

The leaders who have worked to organize Equality California, the gay campaign to defeat the marriage bans, warn that this setback for the reactionaries may be temporary. And the anti-gay folks do vow that they'll raise the money to get their initiative on the November ballot. But if they do, they'll be running into some complicating, countervailing California Republican politics.

Governor Arnold certainly does not want a gay marriage vote in November. He is struggling to win back centrist independents and conservative Democrats whose support he frittered away in the last year. At the same time he needs California's extremely conservative Neanderthal Republicans. Having to declare for or against gay marriage is the last thing he needs in a difficult re-election.

Crucially, Attorney General Bill Lockyer has determined (and his interpretation would be part of the ballot language) that both the proposed initiatives would roll back existing domestic partnership law. Proponents of the measure that is not yet out for signature collection say their law would have no such legal effect. But the AG's description will give opponents a strong handle against it.

As I've explored before, the AG's role in describing initiative measures makes it crucial that progressive Californians pay attention to who is running for this second tier statewide office. Lockyer is termed out in 2006. There are two declared Democratic candidates for the post: former Governor and Oakland mayor, Jerry Brown and Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo. Presumably Brown would be at least somewhat sympathetic to gay civil rights, though his Oakland tenure has not been exactly progressive. Delgadillo's campaign web site promotes his law enforcement credentials and makes no mention of his civil rights record. The candidate will be determined in a June primary. The Republican candidate is State Sen. Chuck Poochigian of Fresno, almost certainly no friend of inclusive gay rights.

Supporters of marriage rights for gays need to press all the AG candidates to express clear positions on their understanding of how such a reform might be accomplished and generally get them on record in anticipation of battles to come.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

I'm a herd animal:
the meme of four

Four jobs you’ve had in your life:
Answering service operator; taper of particleboard edges in a furniture factory; magazine distribution manager; professional outside agitator (and four is only a small selection of the possible answers.)

Four movies you could watch over and over:
None. Don't do movies.

Four places you’ve lived:
Buffalo, NY; Cape Town, South Africa; Boston, MA; New York

Four TV shows you love:
College football; NFL football; Olympics (summer and winter); Tour de France

Four places you’ve been on vacation:
Mt. Kilimanjaro; Belize; Peruvian Andes; Martha's Vineyard

Four websites you visit daily
Just World News
Body and Soul

Four of your favorite foods:
Ahi Tuna; brown rice; Vietnamese sautéed eggplant and shrimp; macaroni & cheese

Four places you want to see:
Patagonia; Galapagos Islands; Nepal; Australia

Four books you could read over and over:
I, Claudius by Robert Graves; The Divine Comedy by Dante; Gaudy Night by Dorothy Sayers; The Lord of the Rings trilogy by JRR Tolkien. (These answers are a bit of a cop out, as I actually almost never read fiction.)

Of spying and being spied on

So now we're learning that federal spooks have been monitoring mosques, as well as businesses and homes of U.S. Muslims for suspicious radiation. I think John Emerson at Seeing the Forest understands this one rightly: the Bushies are leaking about this program because they know that most folks won't mind a little dubiously legal, warrantless, peeking into the secret doings of putatively brown people who practice a "foreign" religion.

Unfortunately, this kind of stuff has always been what police agencies do to the enemies of the moment. Been there; seen that.
  • There was the time in the 80s when my partner was speaking on the radio by phone about an upcoming, legal, public protest of government policies in Central America; as soon as she hung up the local police called on a number that she never announced asking for more details.
  • Later she told me she would call a student activist at a local college about demonstration plans; seconds later, she picked up the phone and found that woman already on the line. Neither had dialed; each had spoken aloud about calling the other.
  • Less humorously, soon after we arrived in South Africa to teach computer publishing to anti-apartheid newspapers, "roofers from the landlord" showed up to inspect our rented house from top to bottom. It later came out that a San Francisco leatherman acting out a spy fantasy had been selling Red Squad information he bought from a corrupt cop to the South African secret police.
Spying, both competent and inept, on potential opponents is what police agencies do.

The purpose of the spying is as much intimidation as information. White, middle-class people can laugh this stuff off. Muslim immigrants forced to do a turn as objects of our fears can't.

Alamdar S. Hamdani, a Texas lawyer describes how the spook work plays out among his clients:

For more than four years I have watched FBI agents pose inappropriate questions to my clients. In the name of the War on Terror, agents have questioned thousands of Muslims, often U.S. citizens, in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.

These agents have approached Muslims in their homes, businesses, and even places of worship, as part of intelligence gathering missions in reaction to 9/11. …For instance, because two Muslim men, both of them U.S. citizens speaking with Arab accents, complained to an apartment manager about the apartment complex's sales staff, the FBI approached the men. During the interview the agents asked about what occurred at the complex, but also attempted to ask the men which mosque they attended, who else attended that mosque, whether they prayed five times a day, what their political views were and whether they were Sunni or Shiite.

Asking such questions without a compelling reason places an impermissible "chilling effect" on First Amendment activities such as the rights to free speech or free association. In other words, agents often insinuate that because a person belongs to a particular religious group or holds a particular belief, that that person is somehow involved with terrorist groups.

Couple that suspicion with confused interviewees who speak English as a second language, and people can become afraid of attending a mosque or voicing political views. Worse yet, they are sometimes detained for simply misunderstanding a question.

Legal rights must seem a mirage to communities routinely subjected to this stuff.

Fortunately, some do find ways to laugh:

In other news, KABOBfest's team of investigative reporters have discovered that the federal government has also been surveilling the sewage pipes coming from Muslim houses. …

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas postmortem: spending snapshot

My partner and I celebrated the Great Amurrican Consumption Holiday in an intentionally modest style.

Between us, we spent $663 on gifts, including those to each other. The total was probably (though not certainly) lower because she knitted some of them; I have included the cost of the yarn. Oddly, it is not easy to find a figure for average adult per capita Christmas gift spending in the United States. However, a figure of CAN$736 is frequently cited for Canada in 2004. That converts to $630 in US dollars -- so two of us barely exceeded that norm for one.

We also spent $70 on food for a couple of Christmas gatherings, including the feast in our parish after 11 p.m. Mass on the 24th. And each of us thought we could use some new clothes for the occasion to a total of $229. (She probably won't purchase in this category again until next Christmas; I am not quite so careful.)

The grand total for the holiday was $962 for two middle-aged, economically comfortable adults.

That figure strikes me as astronomically excessive, but I realize that I am mostly reacting to the dollar figure, not necessarily the value of the money. In order to think about this more, I created the chart above so as to think about what this much spending would have meant in previous times. Click on the image for a larger version.

I started with 1908, my mother's date of birth. If her parents had been celebrating a similar Christmas, they would have spent $48.10! By the time my partner's parents were born, that figure would have been up to $60.61. When my parents married in 1933, at the depths of the Great Depression, that figure had only risen to $64.45. However, by the time I was born, in 1947, World War II had kicked off some serious inflation. The same Christmas costs would have been $110.63. By 1970, currently often used by economists as a benchmark year for the dollar, the cost would have been $193.36. The Vietnam war had caused a lot more inflation. And from there, it has been up, up and away.

Inflation really took off after 1970; but real prices did not necessarily rise. I doubt very much that we could have gotten the quantity or even quality of clothing items we bought in the last few weeks for $46.03 in 1970. Some items may cost more, but cheap imports made by grossly underpaid labor keep U.S. real prices low.

I'm not sure what any of this means, except that it is interesting to add a time dimension to a snapshot of our spending. You can find the formulas for comparing the value of the dollar in various years here. (Excel file.)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

A gift at Christmas


Among the other good folks I met on Market Street, this pair were some of the most cheerful.

She asked, can I sketch you while you take those pictures?

And this is her image of me. Merry Christmas, friend.

Christmas Eve on Market Street


This afternoon I rode BART (the subway) to Powell Street (downtown San Francisco) and walked south on Market Street to the next BART stop at Civic Center. Here are some of the people I saw:

This gentleman was inside the BART stop, not the most trafficked spot, but interestingly, one where you could actually hear his music.

Some folks were working really hard for their money. Several of those watching wondered whether this was child labor, but the little guy was clearly enjoying hamming it up.

Asking for money on the street is hard work. I mean that; I've done it.

Some weren't working quite so hard.

Some folks had their own dubious products to sell.

Others had just been to Macy's.

And some were just going about their business.

Some are regulars, on the street everyday.

More regulars.

For some the street seems to have won.

Others gather for a good game of chess.

While others share a conversation.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Has public disclosure of government actions become inevitable?

Commenting on the Administration practice of trying to buy favorable news coverage in Iraqi media, Abu Aardvark observes

Any policy which does not take into account the inevitability of early public exposure is by definition a flawed policy. That applies to extraordinary renditions, torture, domestic spying, and Iraqi payola schemes alike. This should be a key concept for all policy making today…

If true, this is important and perhaps a genuine change from previous eras.

As recently as 60 years ago, it really was possible to keep hidden from Hitler just where and when enormous Allied armies were going to land on the European coast. Fifteen years after that, it was possible (with the connivance of establishment media) to hide the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba from Castro. In 1972, it was possible to hide the activities of Nixon's rogue operatives for nearly a year, but then the bureaucracy sprung repeated leaks. In the 1980s, the Reagan Administration policy of selling of arms to Iran in trade for U.S. hostages held in Lebanon stayed hidden only a few months before its exposure in a Lebanese newspaper led to the unraveling of the Iran-Contra scandal. Though the nightmare of Bush's misbegotten global war on a noun feels as if it had been with us forever, in fact we've only been trapped in Iraq for less than 3 years and already a litany of "secrets" have come to light.

It does seem as if the secrets of the powerful are emerging from the shadows at a greater and greater rate. And in the present state of internet communications, anything known to anyone very quickly becomes known to all who care. It still helps to know what to look for and where to look for it -- it always has: "covert" wars were no surprise to Laotians in the 70s or Nicaraguans in the 80s, merely to U.S. taxpayers who made them possible.

More and more, Abu Aardvark is probably right that all policy happens in sight. This implies that in the nominally democratic parts of the world, governments can only carry out their policies, good, bad and indifferent, if they can either distract a majority from them, attract a majority to them, or impose their will by force on their populations. Getting by under the radar is no longer a realistic option. That's new and I don't think we quite know what it means yet.

Friday Cat Blogging: Whiskers at Home

This is my place and I like to check out what is going on.

I can pretend to survey the house indifferently...

... but you can take a lot of liberties if you treat me right.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Good Grief!

The Washington Post online has a Politics Trivia poll this morning asking:

"As of Dec. 21, how many governors had opted for more traditional Christmas greetings, such as 'Merry Christmas,' instead of generic 'Happy Holidays' greetings in their annual greeting cards?

I don't think I've ever gotten a Christmas card from a Governor; I guess that is not surprising as I don't much truck with Governors. My mother used to get cards from Ronald Reagan; she put them on the mantle (and sometimes I covered Ron and Nancy with other cards.)

Two points:
  • If they send the things at this season, they are participating the great Amurrican consumption holiday which is called "Christmas," no matter what words they use on the cards. People from non-Christian faiths or no faith have a right to feel erased in the frenzy.
  • Whatever the cards may say, they have little to do with Christmas as a pointer to the life of Jesus. Read this.
Oh yeah, the answer to the Wapo's quiz (sorry, can't figure out how to link to the question rather than the results): "An in-depth survey concluded that 37 of the nation's 50 governors chose the more generic "holidays" formula, nine went for the more traditional Christmas greetings and four haven't sent official cards at all."

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

We can but watch and wait and pray…

Christian Peacemakers hold vigil with Iraqis in a destroyed house in Abu Sifu. Photo: CPT

For those who are Christians, Advent is the season of waiting in joyful hope for the Christ child. For those who are moved by the nonviolent witness of the members of the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) in Iraq, this December is a time of waiting in anxious hope for news to the four members kidnapped in Baghdad on November 26.

The four men, Tom Fox, Jim Loney, Hameet Sooden, and Norman Kemper, were taken as they were leaving a mosque where they had discussed what could be done to free Iraqis detained by U.S. and/or Iraqi government. There has been no known contact with their kidnappers, who call themselves the Swords of Righteousness Brigade, since December 8. Thousands of people, from all over the world, Christians, Muslims and others, have signed a petition, held vigils, and, as a step toward reducing violence in Iraq, called for an end to the occupation.

In this time of waiting, those so much closer to the situation have much to share.

Peggy Gish has served on CPT's Iraq team since before the multinational forces invaded in 2003. She is currently doing support work for the Iraq team based in Amman, Jordan from where she wrote this reflection:

It is hard for the missing CPTers' families. It is hard for us not knowing where our four colleagues are, how they are holding up during this time, or when they will be released. We pray; we cry; we wake up in the night feeling tense with worry. We ask God for more faith and trust as we call for their release and work to share the stories of who these men are, of the work of CPT in Iraq and other places of conflict and injustice. We care about these four men, yet we also feel the same urgency for all Iraqis and their families who are suffering fear and pain because their family members have disappeared or been killed or imprisoned.

Sheila Provencher works with CPT in Baghdad. She tells us:

Lately I feel so tired. There’s always a part of me that wants just to sleep; sleep and make all of THIS – the war, my government’s policies and actions, the counter-violence of the insurgency, all the greed and sin in the world – just go away for awhile. I can identify with the apathy of citizens who give in to violence: yes, just make the evil go away, press the button, fire the missile, send the young ones off to war. Take any way out.

There is no way out. But there is a way through. I tasted it the other day, when I was tired and wanted to hide, but instead went down the street to visit an Iraqi family who are going through a troubled time. On the way, I met little Huda in the street. I gave her a kiss; she gave me a piece of candy. Simple relationships, simple human connections – that’s the way through.

Brian Conley points out on Alive in Baghdad:

It is important to remember that kidnapping is a much larger problem for Iraqis than for Foreigners. ... A report by my friend Greg Rollins (also a Peacemaker) quoted an Iraqi Policeman in Baghdad suggesting that as many as 300 kidnappings of Iraqis had occurred in 2005 in his district alone! This 300 kidnappings in one police district accounts only for those kidnappings that were reported.

Simon Barrow both catalogues media commentary on the CPT hostage taking and reflects:

Amidst the agony of waiting and hoping, one of the interesting issues that has arisen from the CPT hostage situation in Iraq is the contrast between how different sections of media (and the communities behind them) have responded to the story. Even though Christian Peacemaker Teams were on to prisoner abuse and Abu Ghraib before anyone else, the mainstream continues to ignore such groups, except when a crisis erupts.

Here in the UK, Christianity is most often only good for a story when it is being silly, when it is declining, when it is fretting about sex, or when its hierarchs are being obnoxious or clueless. The routinely extraordinary things done by groups like CPT are simply "not news" -- even when they clearly are. They just don't fit "the script".

The church media isn't much better. Indeed it is often confused and baffled by people who think that Christian faith is about life transformation rather than churchianity or my-personal-Saviour. A deep commitment to the way of Christ that involves a refusal of violence, the embracing (rather than the haughty rejection) of 'the other', and so on, is for an eccentric minority.

He has a lot more to say; check it out.

Finally, Gene Stoltzfus, who was director of the CPT from its beginnings until 2004, brings a special, experiential wisdom to peacemaking. On his blog Peace Talk he draws a word picture of what a meeting between CPT members and the sheik of a Baghdad mosque might have been like, takes up the implications of the hostage-takers' claim that the CPT folks are "spies," and tries to help the people of the U.S. understand why the rest of the world might think of them as purveyors of terror. In Who Did It? he gently explains:

In my travels I have noticed people do not immediately distinguish between state supported terror and terror that may grow out of groups remotely affiliated with state power or clearly independent. The use of terror in the support of military objectives has been associated with war for 5000 years. Roman legions, Genghis Khan and their predecessors including Alexander the Great resorted to wanton destruction of property, rape, and pillaging of civilian populations in their campaigns to conquer and subdue the enemy. …

In the so called Christian west there are modern efforts to bring boundaries to war by enlightenment internationalists and the inheritors of just war thinking. Various covenants and protocols are in place that prescribe treatment of detainees and guidelines on the treatment of civilians for armies of occupation. In the wake of this growing body of international law and the recovery of enemy loving teachings among Christians, governments have resorted to two track war making.

The public face of war making are the uniformed soldiers with their attendant weapons of modern warfare including all kinds of high tech equipment often justified as being inherently less destructive. The other track, the shadow side, contains war making at much more vicious level that can be regarded as the application of terror on enemy populations including civilians. Many of us choose to see the visible expressions of the security state, the uniformed soldier, but are mystified by or choose not to believe that "civilized" nations Christian, Muslim or Jewish, practice assassination, torture, destruction of whole cities with dimly lit underworld programs.

Despite the fact that thoughtful military historians report that these expressions of terror rarely achieve the desired ends of national security, planners and politicians continue to use these means.

Read the rest of it; it is worth the effort.

And so this Advent, we wait and pray for the CPT hostages and their captors, hoping that somehow our very broken world might find the joy that is also hidden among us.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Governor Arnold's woman problem

Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters is writing an interesting ten part series on how Governor Schwarzenegger managed to fall from being the conquering action hero of the recall election in 2003 to the goat of his own special election in 2005. The whole series is current available through this link.

Today's installment was called "Schwarzenegger's clashes with women haunted his ballot drive." According to Walters,

Arnold Schwarzenegger has a problem with women, and it has been a major factor in derailing his governorship.

No doubt about it; the Governor holds women in contempt and we sense it.

In the week before the recall election, the LA Times broke the story, long floating just below the threshold of respectable "news," that Arnold had been a serial groper of women working in the bodybuilding and movie world. The revelations were not enough to derail his momentum, but he won only 44 percent of the women's vote as compared to 52 percent of men. And a residue of slime stuck, just waiting for further evidence that the guy was no gentleman.

As Walters repeatedly suggests, a more polished politician would have worked harder to avoid triggering women's latent distrust. Arnold did the opposite. He made a promise about levels of school funding to the teachers' union -- and broke it. Not smart.

When fighting with the legislature, his idea of how to put his opponents down was to call them "girlie men." If that is an insult, it is one rooted in woman hatred, further wrapped in homophobia. Call your opponents "obstructionists," "incompetents," whatever, but don't think you can score on them by calling them female.

At a conference of the state's women, he patronized nurses who wanted him to guarantee adequate staffing in state hospitals:

An obviously irritated Schwarzenegger urged the crowd to "pay no attention to those voices over there," and added, "They are the special interests. Special interests in Sacramento don't like me because I am always kicking their butts. That is why they don't like me. And I love them anyway."

Yeah, he loves women like all the abusers love women -- it gets these guys off to kick us around.

And, so over the last year, the leading institutions of working women in California, the Teacher's Association and the Nurse's Association, cut the Gropinator down to size. I hope he understands it was those girls who did it; I suspect he does.

The night of the 2003 recall I was at a party also attended one of the founders of Code Pink, the women's anti-war group. We actually had something to celebrate as in the same election in which the voters put Arnold in, they also defeated a racial information ban. (Mixed bags, California elections.) I remember assuring her that eventually Arnold's woman hatred would come back to bite him. Even at my optimistic best, I never thought it would happen so rapidly or so clearly as it did this past November.

The word


Read this. Don't let this happen.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Bush Imperator

Photo: Manuel Balce Ceneta / AP

"The president does not get to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow. He is a president, not a king," said Senator Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis).

A confession: I was very much a radical activist in the 1970s, the last time U.S. intelligence services were revealed to be spying on U.S. citizens who were not charged with any crime. And I paid no attention at the time to the reforms that led to the rules and procedures, the warrants and the F.I.S.A. court, that President GWB apparently has illegally trashed.

You see, I didn't believe that laws would restrain the behavior of the FBI or other government agencies, regardless of what statutes and courts might dictate. In my short experience, local Red Squads routinely infiltrated activist groups and Chicago police had brazenly executed sleeping members of the Black Panthers (Fred Hampton, 1969). Extrajudicial repression was a fact of life for activists of color and sporadic, but real, for white leftists. The authorities could pretty much do whatever they wanted to Commies and other uppity people and there was very little recourse.

Despite the 1970s reforms, extrajudicial spying was very much a part of the U.S. government response to the citizen movements in the 1980s that supported the various peoples' struggles in Central America. Christian activists offered sanctuary to victims of the U.S. supported governments in El Salvador and Guatemala; their offices were repeatedly broken into, files stolen and meetings infiltrated. It eventually came out that the Reagan Administration had avoided Congressional oversight of their secret war on Nicaragua by selling arms to their enemies in Iran and using the proceeds to arm their proxies.

Given the long history of U.S. government lawbreaking, what makes current revelations that Bush simply trashed the laws governing spying on U.S. citizens so shocking? We're living the difference between furtive lawbreaking and a fundamental disdain for law. The LA Times asked law professor William C. Banks, director of Syracuse University's Institute for National Security and Counterterrorism, whether Bush's assurances that his lawyers reviewed the warrantless wiretaps was reassuring:

"That review is nice. But what are the standards? What are they measuring against? Some concept of executive power not written down anywhere? Not endorsed by any court? It is what you want it to be" Banks answered.

What Bush wants it to be.

Juan Cole laments:

It was a good run, this United States of America with its Constitution and its Bill of Rights. How sad that a gang of unscrupulous criminals has been allowed to subvert its basic values altogether. …And why? Because of a single attack by a few hijackers from a small terrorist organization?

After ignoring and doubting those old documents for so much of my life, it feels strange to realize that now I have to struggle to re-establish their authority. But I am not ready crown a king.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Urban [wild]life:
Is this why we have possums?

Photo by Valerie at at Garden Bits

I live in the inner city. I mean it. Friends sometimes don't want to visit here because it is a "bad neighborhood" -- not to mention a place with about 120 percent more cars than parking places. We find drunks keeled over on the sidewalks and see more drug dealing in corners than anyone wants to see.

We also have other local residents. One night last June we heard what sounded like several people running repeatedly across our roof. We called 911. Unexpectedly, two uniformed cops turned up within minutes. They shined their powerful lights on the roof and bright eyes peered back. A huge raccoon, weighing thirty five pounds at least, looked down balefully and disappeared. The officers were very nice about being called for a coon; "it happens." We saw the beast several more nights before it lumbered off.

Lately there have been roof noises again. One early evening, the woman who lives in the back went out to look up and found two (different) cops. She asked weren't they worried that a surprised, frightened, and armed homeowner might come out blasting? No answer -- someone on the block had complained of roof noises again.

About a week after that the latest source of the running sounds above became visible: we now have a family of large opossums, furry critters about twice the size of a large rat with pointed faces and long hairless pinkish tails. They are noisy too.

Why all this wildlife? I have a new theory. Across the street we have a middle school. And that middle school tries, amid the concrete, to give its students a tiny taste of cultivated greenery:

The other day for the first time, I stopped by the school's garden to read the "mission statement." (Since when did a garden need a mission statement?)

Among other worthy ends they hope to restore some balance to the neighborhood by "encouraging the return of small indigenous animals..." Can they really be attracting native critters? Or, perhaps, the coons and possums are better adapted than we imagine to inner San Francisco.

Gender roles quiz

You scored 83 masculinity and 60 femininity!

You scored high on both masculinity and femininity. You have a strong personality exhibiting characteristics of both traditional sex roles.

My test tracked 2 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
free online datingfree online dating
You scored higher than 70% on masculinity
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You scored higher than 45% on femininity
Link: The Bem Sex Role Inventory Test written by weirdscience on Ok Cupid.

Seems about right for a tall, physically competent dyke born in 1947. Those of us who came of age in the liberation movements of the 60s and fought our way to feminist consciousness in the 70s quite commonly seem to have cultivated this mix of characteristics based on available gender roles. Those who came both before and after us tend to label us "butch." Many of us just think of ourselves as women who like ourselves.

Thanks to Republic of T.