Friday, March 31, 2006

Reading material

Off to the country for the weekend for the annual parish retreat. It has been a long wet winter, too much of it spent indoors. I expect to enjoy some country living among friends on the journey.

In case anyone is lacking for reading material for the weekend, here are some interesting tidbits.

black looks has a long post on the growth of African blogging. Women are becoming more active in that corner of the blogosphere and one response has been an outpouring of misogyny and homophobia. She writes:

The blogosphere reflects the non-cyber world in that the lack of shared values, ideological consensus and cultural differences amongst people can and does result in conflicts and confrontations betweens groups and individuals on their blogs. Thus the dichotomies of gender – male and female; sexual preference – heterosexual and homosexual; geographical location – Africa the homeland and Africa the Diaspora; African and non-African all have the possibility of being exacerbated because except in the case of gender these pairs are not often thrown together within the same space.

[She asks] how can we ... create a network of mutual support that values freedom and diversity? We need to seize the time, find each other and work together.

Check it out.

Abu Aardvark (Marc Lynch) has done his scholarly duty and delved into the captured Iraqi documents (said to derive from the Saddam Hussein era) that the U.S. government has dumped on the web. In general, he is not convinced there is much that wasn't known before. But he did find possible evidence that Hussein's regional militia was getting its information from an unlikely source.

Since the three surviving kidnapped Christian Peacemakers were released from their captivity last week, there has been an outpouring of venom from U.S. and British war supporters. The CPT folks must be foolish, ungrateful, and hopelessly naïve. Geov Parrish at Eat the State has written a sensible, sensitive and entirely secular appreciation of the work of the Christian Peacemaker Teams. He points out:

Even having lost a member, the survival rate of Christian Peacemaker Teams delegations is rather better than that of the US military; clearly, they know what they are doing, and in an environment where every American outside the Green Zone is in extreme danger, clearly their good work (usually) protects them.

I'm off to commune with the cows. Unhappily, the weather report predicts hail!

Immigration in California politics

Many of us who lean to the progressive side of things are enjoying the spectacle of national Republicans killing off their future prospects among Latino voters. They let their outright racists, like Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo, set the party's legislative agenda. Tancredo and his buddy James Sensenbrunner of Wisconsin want to make our undocumented working class into felons. That's going to alienate even Latinos who think immigrants should play by the book.

What nobody seems to get is that most undocumented people are uncles or cousins or even wives of someone with legal status. Not to mention that their children are U.S. citizens. Where the exclusionists see Mexican invaders, Latinos see their families. Guess who wins that one -- and how they will vote when they are eligible?

So how does this play in California where we've been living inside these issues for years? In 1994, Pete Wilson played with this fire, won the re-election battle by pushing for the anti-immigrant Prop. 187, and the Republicans have been losing the war ever since as Latinos jumped firmly into the Democratic camp.

The frightening reality is that if Prop. 187 were offered to California voters today, it would probably pass again, though perhaps with less than 60 percent of the vote. Anti-immigrant measures reflect white fear that their country and culture is being engulfed by newcomers who speak foreign languages and have different lifestyles. But although California has passed the demographic tipping point at which white people ceased to be the majority (no ethnic groups has a majority these days), the electorate remains about 75 percent white. Most voters are older, better off, and more educated than non-voters; these are the characteristics of the white California population. Also many immigrants have not yet jumped the hurdles on the way to citizenship. So the Anglo vote remains dominant.

Anti-immigrant ballot measures remain a cheap way for Anglo California to say: "My state is changing and I'm scared." Fortunately we are not facing any current restrictionist ballot measures. But we probably will again, and for the time being, they may very well pass.

Meanwhile, this year, California politicians have simply tried to make immigration go away as a topic of political dialogue. Once singed, few want to go back to the racial animosity of the mid-1990s.

Gov. Arnold says "I'll let the geniuses in Washington figure all that out." His Republican base certainly wants more: in 2003 he let them know that he voted for Prop. 187; last year he flirted briefly with supporting the Minutemen vigilantes, then backed off. He has a quandary because anti-immigrant policies not only turn off Latinos, but also independent women of all races, another large electoral bloc with whom he has some problems.

Some California Republicans are less careful. State Sen. Tom McClintock, who is running for lieutenant governor, accused President George W. Bush of failing to protect U.S. borders and said illegal aliens should be deported. "There's nothing radical about that," said McClintock, R-Thousand Oaks."

And the Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist, running as a Conservative for congress in the San Diego suburbs, has been fanning the flames.

"I don't want to sound paranoid, but when you see hundreds of thousands of people rallying around a foreign flag ... it's the next thing to foreign insurrection," he said.

On the other hand, he says, Congress could spur an insurrection from the anti-illegal immigration side if it approves a plan that would legitimize those now in the country illegally. ..."I'm not going to promote insurrection, but if it happens, it will be on the conscience of the members of Congress who are doing this," he said. "I will not promote violence in resolving this, but I will not stop others who might pursue that."

Meanwhile, the Democrats dueling for the opportunity to take on Arnold have been ducking to the best of their ability. Phil Angelides points out that he opposed Prop. 187. As someone involved in that campaign, I can testify that Democratic politicians who showed any spine in that fight were few and far between. I don't remember his name, but that doesn't say anything -- he was not prominent in my circles. His website doesn't seem to mention the immigration at all, at least that I could find. No search function.

Aspiring Governor Steve Westly (website) has a section where visitors can give their opinions on immigration. His spokesman recently explained that Westly opposes HR 4437:

"It criminalizes undocumented workers in this country, which isn't good for public safety, the budget or the problem of illegal immigration at all."

Definitely advantage to Westly on immigration, simply by being prepared to address what folks are wondering about.

Oakland progressive policy advocate Frank Russo goes after Gov. Arnold about the many anti-immigrant measures introduced by Republican legislators -- and suggests some measures he should support: drivers licenses for the undocumented so we can be sure they have insurance; in-state tuition in community colleges for undocumented young people who have graduated from California high schools; and development of a California Office of Immigrant Affairs. Democrats would be smart to come clean on these issues as well.

In 1994, older relatives of the current crop of Latino high school students took to the streets, much as we have been seeing over the last few days. California has begun to calm down over immigration -- anyone who thinks the state is upset by recent walkouts and marches never knew or has forgotten how heated the atmosphere was 12 years ago. California is working out how to be one of the most diverse societies the world has ever seen. Eventually the pols will catch up with the people.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Neighborhood meeting about the new Valencia Gardens

Slide image of a photo of new Valencia Gardens project.

Last night I attended a community meeting at which developers and managers tried to convince a skeptical public that the rebuilt Valencia Gardens housing project will make a positive contribution to our neighborhood. It was a hard sell.

e Housing Authority (SFHA) is proud of the design of the new project:

Located in San Francisco's Mission District, the new family development will replace 246 dilapidated and blighted public housing units with 260 new mixed income flats and townhouse units with multi-purpose facilities. The revitalization also includes a new ancillary senior housing site with 60 new apartments and a new senior center.

Defensible design features include front door off right of way, private back yards and decks, secured trash access areas and fenced-in play yards.

Sounds good -- and last night's meeting set out to turn the story away from the defensive and toward the good news.

Held in St. John the Evangelist Episcopal Church down the block from the new buildings, the community partner Mission Housing Development Corporation (a much buffeted local agency) and the property manager, the John Stewart Company, explained their plans. The 260 apartments will house seniors and families. Fifty-two units will rent for low market rates to households making more than $36,000 a year; another 148 will go to former tenants, people on the SFHA wait list, and/or the Section Eight wait list, all after they've been vetted from criminal records, credit worthiness and rental histories. The place will offer a buzz of activities, with a senior center, a childcare center, and a computer lab on the premises.

Some thoughts and observations:
  • A Housing Authority speaker stressed that the new apartments and entrances will face the street; they understand that an inward looking design would isolate the residents from the community. And the units aren't shabby: all but the senior citizen ones will have their own washers and dryers, a true measure of family-friendliness.
  • Neighbors worry about "quality of life" makers: questions touched on graffiti, garbage, and play areas.
  • People are quite worried about the parking implications of 260 new units. They are right. The development provides only 80 new spaces; things are going to get even tighter in an already congested neighborhood. I tend to think that the only measure that will reduce our addiction to our cars is making it harder to own and use them in the city. But I'll probably grouse about this too.

  • The old Valencia Gardens was also mostly Black in a Latino and poor white neighborhood. Developers promise a more mixed population this time around. We'll see. Historically viable diversity has not been a hallmark of anything connected to the SFHA.
  • A significant fraction of what Mission Housing plans to offer residents seems to be about their encouraging micro-entrepreneurship. "We'll offer a hand up, not a hand out." Nice phrase. Does this have any reality in one of the richest, most yuppified cities in the country? Or does it merely play along with a current funder fad?
  • Above all, I was reminded of the extraordinary density of non-profit service organizations in our Mission neighborhood. A slew of them have some involvement with the new project. Their staffs, a significant number of people, make much of the neighborhood middle class. What does this mean about how we think poor people escape poverty? What does the non-profit density mean about our economy, our values, what we will struggle for? I do wonder.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

A "chiseler" meets an honest man

The U.S. envoy to London finds himself in the middle of an amusing little row with leftist London Mayor Ken Livingstone. New Ambassador Robert Holmes Tuttle refuses to pay the "Congestion Charge" levied by the city on all cars using a central zone. The toll cuts traffic and air pollution, though it hasn't raised revenue above the cost of enforcement. Not surprisingly, many Londoners and others consider the levy a terrible, socialistic imposition.

The U.S. refuses to pay. Rick Roberts, a spokesman for the U.S. Embassy insisted: "We pay our parking tickets. We honor every commitment we have except tax. We are good citizens." Many embassies in London pay the charge. The British Foreign office insists it "comes under the same category as parking fees and toll charges."

Tuttle's selection to the post was explained by the Telegraph in this bemused fashion:

American appointments to plum postings tend to be seen as rewards for support, usually in the grubby matter of campaign contributions, in marked contrast to the British custom of sending seasoned diplomats to key posts. Mr. Holmes Tuttle was in the elite group of "Pioneers", meaning that he raised more than $100,000 (£55,000) for Mr. Bush's re-election campaign. He also contributed $100,000 to fund the inauguration ceremony. ...

Mr. Holmes Tuttle's interests and his family should help him to counter the standard European stereotype of Republicans as cultural barbarians. He is the chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and has a prized collection of modern art. A close friend of both President Bush and his father, Mr. Holmes Tuttle was Mr. Reagan's director of personnel.

His Tuttle-Click Automotive Group was founded by his father and is one of the largest dealers in America.

Ken Livingstone has made his own assessment of Tuttle's refusal.

"This new ambassador is a car salesman and an ally of President Bush. This is clearly a political decision,...It would actually be quite nice if the American ambassador in Britain could pay the charge that everybody else is paying and not actually try and skive out of it like some chiseling little crook.''

It is always satisfying when other people's politicians can speak the home truths that ours hide from.

Livingstone's constituents don't seem to mind the plain talk:

"Good on him," said Ann Love, 29, who works in financial services and supported Livingstone's tough words. "I think he just blurted it out -- he's just too honest to be a politician."

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Wherever U.S. forces go,
the drugs seem to follow

This morning Juan Cole pointed toward a Reuters report that rang a lot of bells.

BAGHDAD, 27 March -- Officials at the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs are concerned about a noticeable increase in drug trafficking and drug addiction, especially following the seizure of large quantities of "class A" narcotics by police.

"We estimate that more than 5,000 Iraqis are consuming drugs in the south today, especially heroin, compared with 2004, when there were only around 1,500," said Dr Kamel Ali, a senior official in the health ministry's anti-narcotics program. "We fear the number could be as high as 10,000 countrywide."

Iraqi authorities blame a new drug trafficking route from Afghanistan through Iran, but anyone with a little historical memory has to wonder...
  • In the 1950s, the CIA took over the drug business from departing French colonialists in Indochina. In return for siding with the Americans, upland drug lords were allowed to push opium with impunity. By the time the U.S. Army left Vietnam, the troops, mostly draftees, felt misused and abused by their own government. As a result, "about one third of the United States combat forces in Vietnam, conservatively estimated, were heroin addicts."
  • During the 1980s the U.S. was challenged by popular revolutions in Central America. The counterrevolutionary forces supported by the U.S. in Nicaragua were riddled with traffickers. Soon the drug traffic from the war zones fed a crack cocaine epidemic in the ghetto neighborhoods of the U.S.
  • In the same decade, the U.S. armed and encouraged Afghan war lords fighting the Soviet Union from bases in Pakistan. Pakistan paid a terrible price for the U.S. covert action: "In 1979 Pakistan had a small localized opium trade and produced no heroin whatsoever. Yet by 1981, according to U.S. Attorney General William French Smith, Pakistan had emerged as the world's leading supplier of heroin. It became the supplier of 60% of U.S. heroin supply and it captured a comparable section of the European market. ...In 1979 Pakistan had no heroin addicts, in 1980 Pakistan had 5,000 heroin addicts, and by 1985, according to official Pakistan government statistics, Pakistan had 1.2 million heroin addicts, the largest heroin addict population in the world."
You have to wonder -- is the U.S. going to leave a failed state in Iraq, one from which warlords feed the habits of U.S. and European addicts? Will U.S. and European states again see a drug epidemic among their restive immigrants? These are outcomes that any rerun of the last 60 years would suggest.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Immigrants on the march in San Francisco
"We are the new civil rights movement!"

Two dozen immigrant hunger strikers took down their camp in front of the Federal Building this morning. They had fasted for a week to protest proposed "immigration reforms" that would make undocumented persons and those who assist them guilty of felonies. Around 11 am, supporters assembled to carry the message of "No on HR 4437" to Senator Diane Feinstein's local office.

"We're here and we are not going away."

The hunger strikers led the way. A couple needed wheelchairs after their self-imposed ordeal.

"We're standing up for our rights -- No on HR 4437." An extremely diverse crowd numbering some 2000 according to the SF Chronicle followed through narrow streets, eventually filling Market Street for a block.

The idea that the people who do the nation's dirty work are "criminals" is deeply offensive to people on the wrong end of it.

What can be wrong with simply hoping to find work?

After all, U.S. consumers like the fruits of cheap immigrant labor.

Not all workers without papers come from south of the U.S. border.

Marchers knew what they would consider "immigration reform."

Tireless young students led chants.

At Fourth Street and Market, the marchers were joined by several hundred others who had come over from the East Bay on their way to the finish of the Latino March for Peace. Fernando Suarez del Solar (father of a soldier killed in Iraq), Pablo Paredes (a Navy war resister), Camilo Mejia (a National Guard war resister), and Aidan Delgado (who served at Abu Ghraib before becoming a conscientious objector) had led a 240+ mile walk for peace from San Diego to raise Latino opposition to the war. The two streams combined for a rally.

Many, perhaps even half, of the marchers were very young. High schools students came from cities all around the Bay to take part. I was reminded of a recent article by local columnist C.W. Nevius bemoaning "the graying of anti-war activism." This protest was not even a bit gray. In fact, this protest was a pretty accurate picture of working class California -- young, Latino, Asian, Brown, Black, racially indeterminate.

"We are the new civil rights movement!" a speaker asserted. I can believe this. As in past civil rights movements, these "outsiders' have begun to refuse to let the "insiders" tell them who they are or who they might become. This is a force.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Immigrant ancestor story

Anticipating the Senate debate tomorrow on immigration "reform," TalkLeft suggests a blog meme: "We are a nation of immigrants and it would be great if every blogger wrote a post today or tomorrow about how their ancestors, grandparents or parents, whatever the case may be, got here."

Here's a little about one of mine: Robert Keating was my grandmother's father. He came to the U.S. from Ireland, County Wexford to be precise, in 1854. Like many immigrants today, he was ambitious and hard working; unlike many he prospered. For reasons I never learned, he found his way to Buffalo, NY, then a vibrant center of industrial innovation and unconstrained commercial capitalism.

Keating worked the next eleven years for the stove manufacturers, Jewett & Root. He then partnered with the owner's son to branch out into tanneries, selling out to the "leather trust" in 1892. That coup enabled him to go on into banking and he succeeded there as well, becoming a well-respected community leader.

The photos below show the raffish young man in 1854 -- and the successful bourgeois citizen fifty years later.

I don't imagine I would have liked the guy much. But at one time, grit and luck made such transformations possible. Are they still?

To Anglo political junkies:
Where'd all those marching immigrants come from?

This entry started as a comment on dKos but seems substantial enough to post here. Besides, then I can lead with this wonderful photo from the LA Times of the immigrants in their hundreds of thousands streaming past Los Angeles City Hall yesterday.

We need to understand that there are more ways of knowing what is going on and more ways of doing "politics" than we assume. We've just seen it. I am lucky enough to be far less surprised than many by the wonderful demonstrations in LA and elsewhere in the last two days.

Some thoughts:
  • When the Catholic and evangelical Latino churches get up a head of steam, their parishioners turn out.
  • Spanish language media is powerful among its consumers. You may not have heard the news, but the immigrants did.
  • Many immigrants come to this country with forms of political sophistication that are different from ours. In particular, they are not stymied by finding themselves inside a system that treats them like dirt; that's normal for politics as they understand it.
  • For many Latino immigrants, politics is not a horse race. All the horses are corrupt. But they'll participate if the issue is what they think is moral.
  • For the same folks, "immigration reform" is a moral issue. It is about their ability to keep their families together and do an honest day's work for an honest day's pay. It is about their right as human being to the dignity of human beings. There are principles they will take risks for.
And so the rest of us get surprised, again.

Republicans and Democrats engage in immigrant bashing at their peril. These folks are the future of the country, regardless of what laws we enact. Some of the brighter bulbs know it.

Some Republicans fear that pushing too hard against illegal immigrants could backfire nationally, as with Proposition 187. Strong Republican support of that measure helped spur record numbers of California Latinos to become U.S. citizens and register to vote. Those voters subsequently helped the Democrats regain political control in the state.

"There is no doubt Proposition 187 had a devastating impact on the [California] Republican Party," said Allan Hoffenblum, a Republican political consultant. "Now the Republicans in Congress better beware: If they come across as too shrill, with a racist tone, all of a sudden you're going to see Republicans in cities with a high Latino population start losing their seats."

It would be great if ALL our politicians, especially fearful liberals, learned that lesson.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Movie interlude

Tonight we watched a film on DVD -- once again friends tried to help me become more in tune with my culture.

Actually, maybe that last thought is wrong. I am not at all sure what culture Walk on Water pictures. Made by the U.S.-born Israeli moviemaker Eytan Fox, with sub-titled dialogue in Hebrew, German and English, the movie is the story of a German girl who moves to a Israeli kibbutz, her gay brother who picks up a hot Palestinian, and a Mossad agent whose job is to execute their Nazi grandfather. No shit.

There can be no doubt about Fox' good intentions. According to the movie's web site:

The filmmakers believe that the fact that Israelis are still so obsessed with the Holocaust and their status as victims renders them blind to the fact they themselves have become aggressors, imposing pain and suffering on the Palestinians. The filmmakers believe that the first step in helping the Israelis understand how cruel they themselves have become lies in making some kind of peace with their own traumatic past.

This seems like a little more purpose than so slight a vehicle was able to carry. The story is certainly not traumatic. The ending was, accurately, described by a sympathetic New York Times reviewer as "cloying."

Still there was much beauty to look at, especially Knut Berger as the gay boy. No surprises made me cringe. Walk on Water filled an enjoyable, though slightly absurd, hour and a half.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Hunger strike for justice for immigrants

Immigrants, members of numerous organized groups from many ethnic groups, are holding a week long fast in front of San Francisco's Federal Building. The main stream media isn't giving these outsiders much coverage, but you can read all about it at their excellent blog.

The hunger strikers want Senator Feinstein, long something of an immigration restrictionist, to come out against the horrible House-passed bill, HR 4437, which would make being undocumented a felony. They hope for an immigration "reform" that would provide amnesty to many of the 11 million people working in this country without papers, that would end exploitation and harassment, and that would enable families to reunite.

They and the rest of us are not likely to get any of those things, since the country seems to be descending into one of its periodic immigration panics in which we scapegoat the latest crop of enterprising newcomers. We want their labor; we like the interesting, vibrant society their presence makes for; and periodically we get scared and pass fierce anti-immigrant laws, especially when, as at present, politicians use fear of people of different colors to rile up their base.

But the immigrants don't give up, just as the people in our families didn't. And just maybe the pols will tie themselves in hopeless knots this year and find their way back to sanity in the future.

These pictures are from the opening rally in Dolores Park on Tuesday and then from the Federal Building encampment after a couple of nights of cold and rain.

As always, it is about keeping the candle of hope burning.

A proud Mayan blessing greeted the rally.

Pastor Mauricio Chacon spoke of the Biblical witness to hospitality.

At the Federal Building, there was Tagalog in sight as well as Spanish.

It's cold and wet out there.

Life on the street is disorderly and uncomfortable.

Yes -- immigrant rights are human rights.

For more on the hunger strike, visit the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition. The hunger strikers will lead a march to Senator Feinstein's office (yes, the same one we visited during the anti-torture demo) at 11 am, Monday, March 27. I'll be there.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Friday Cat Blogging

Grumble Bunny at Valencia Street Books.

Reading material

Israel/Palestine has long been a subject that can be counted on to bring out the most fearful, least rational voices. So it is with some amazement that recently I've read several articles that seemed to add more light than heat. It is sadly notable that none of them were published in the mainstream press in the United States.
  • On March 20, the U.K. Guardian published an opinion piece by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter which reaffirmed what used to be called the international consensus, the two state plan for ending the occupation and recognizing a Palestinian state. This was embodied in numerous U.N. resolutions and was even ostensible U.S. policy before Bush 2. The article seems to me excessively kind in describing U.S. policy as aimed at a fair peace. But it vigorously asserts Carter's judgment that the recent Palestinian election bringing Hamas to power should be respected. He writes that Palestinian elections "have all been honest and peaceful, with the results accepted by winners and losers."
  • In the March 23 London Review of Books John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have exhaustively laid bare how the Israel lobby works to shape U.S. policy in the Middle East. They ask provocatively: "why has the US been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of another state?" That question has long been taboo in the U.S. The authors, who teach at the University of Chicago and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, have predictably been charged with anti-Semitism in right wing and Zionist media.
  • Today the Middle East Report online sent out an article by Yoav Peled describing the currents at play in the current Israeli election. His thesis is that Israeli politics over the last fifteen years have amounted to the interplay between a polity sloughing off its welfare state measures to adopt an Anglo-American economic model, while also groping toward a solution to its conflict with the dispossessed Palestinians. Peled is not hopeful about any form of peace between Israel and Palestine coming out of the current configuration of forces, but he is interesting on Israeli domestic politics.
  • Fadi, a Palestinian writing at Kabobfest takes up the discussion where Peled leaves off, wondering whether the only way forward for Palestinians might be to dissolve the Authority created by the Oslo Accords, turning responsibility for the territories back to the Israeli occupation forces. This would clarify the situation: Israel has consistently acted without reference to the ostensible Palestinian government anyway. He writes: "There are only two options... ethnically cleanse all of the Palestinians, or supplant the ethnocratic Israeli polity with an egalitarian state for all of its citizens – Palestinian and Jewish." After the long Oslo detour, the goal of a democratic (secular?) state in Israel/Palestine is back on at least some Palestinian minds.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Butch Bush_t and its alternative

Lots of smart women are teeing off on some dimwit named Harvey C. Mansfield who has noticed that the Presnit gets over by playing butch: he "seeks and welcomes drama and prefers times of war, conflict, and risk." That is, he's a dysfunctional Neanderthal. Mansfield calls this "manliness" -- and thinks it is a good quality that enables men to dominate in politics. Via Pinko Feminist Hellcat I particularly enjoyed a great take down of both fools at Black Looks.

But really, this post is an excuse to post the accompanying photo and tell its story. Reuters reporter Opheera McDoom wrote the tale from Darfur in the Sudan. Rose Etim, pictured with a friend, is one of the African Union police now patrolling Ardamata refugee camp where non-Arab Darfuris have fled from marauding Arab Janjaweed militias. The U.S. charges the Khartoum central government with instigating the attacks. One of the chief weapons in the Janjaweed's war on the Darfuri has been rape.

The first contingent of AU police were all men but they were unable to help the women in Darfur who are so often the victims of sexual attack.

Etim, who has worked as a policewoman in West Africa for 25 years and is a trained nurse, was sent in later with a band of women to protect and comfort these traumatized civilians.

Etim heads up the AU police station, which has six other policewomen, maintaining a 24-hour presence at Ardamata Camp for the past six months. Since then, Janjaweed incursions have been reduced to once a week compared with multiple attacks each day.

How has Etim managed to create this oasis of relative peace in the midst of the killing field? According to McDoom:
  • On arrival, she "spent hours... sitting with [suspicious local] police to gain their trust. She even bought material and paid a tailor to make them uniforms and gives them notebooks to record complaints in."
  • "She greets everyone by name, stopping to touch them in a gesture both loving and reassuring."
  • When she came upon a woman whose child had died, "Etim and the woman embraced each other and both of them cried."
Rose Etim is not manly. She is tough and human. Thank goodness for the Rose Etims of the world.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

International day against racism

Graphic from the Canadian Stop It! site.

Unhappily, I had no idea what today is. According to the United Nations, March 21 is the The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Apparently in many countries it has been promoted through school systems since 1966.

On that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, against the apartheid "pass laws". Proclaiming the Day in 1966, the General Assembly called on the international community to redouble its efforts to eliminate all forms of racial discrimination. Link.

As far as I know, it has not made it into our schools -- maybe I'm wrong.

A great starting point for international resources against racism appears here.

Sharpeville after the massacre.

An action against torture (with photos)
How can the antiwar movement up the ante?

Yesterday morning, Act Against Torture demonstrated outside Senator Diane Feinstein's office in downtown San Francisco to protest her continuing support for the Iraq war and to demand an end to torture as U.S. policy. While over one hundred supporters cheered, protesters set up a theatrical Guantanamo in the middle of Market Street, snarling traffic for half an hour. The SFPD quickly acted their part, arresting seventeen who would not leave the street when ordered. My photo essay follows my reflections on the action.

I found the morning's event challenging. After allowing myself to get arrested in various symbolic protests against U.S. wars on the peoples of Central America in the 80s, I've avoided these set piece protests for the last decade or so. (I've been arrested since for various labor union actions, but that is a very different experience: less an act of individual conscience, more an intentional, well-resourced escalation of struggle by an organization with legal and financial backup.)

Too often peace movement arrests have seemed to me mechanical, drained of any inherent oppositional significance except for the individuals who "risk arrest," in the vernacular of protest. I haven't wanted to "risk arrest" -- if I was going to get hauled away, I wanted to have "done something" that made more than a symbolic statement. And, being honest with myself, I haven't wanted to incur real jail time; that would be the consequence of most actions I'd consider "real."

But although yesterday's action was symbolic (and I certainly hope the city of San Francisco doesn't try to exact any serious penalty for a small traffic jam), it seemed to me to hold promise for the antiwar and anti-torture movement. Even as most people in the U.S. realize the futility of the Iraq war, the movement has too often been stuck between two extremes of action: big national and regional antiwar rallies at least twice a year and/or endlessly lobbying cowardly Democrats to re-insert their spines and oppose Administration crimes.

Yet at this stage, the important work may have to go on between those two extremes -- we need to find a middle ground of activity to deepen commitment for a long struggle against the horrors that are U.S. policy. Right after 9/11, non-violence activists and peace movement veterans all over the country put up regular little vigils whose broadest message was "our grief is not a cry for war." As the wars escalated, we turned to the rally/political action paradigm. Last summer Cindy Sheehan created a powerful "middle ground" alternative by camping out in Crawford to give a face to families of the troops caught up in the horror show.

Vivid, imaginative anti-torture protests might just do the job of giving broader focus to the public's disaffection with the losing Iraq war. Peace activists know we are confronting more than just immediate "abuses." We've got a whole imperial structure to turn around and that requires being open to new oppositional opportunities at different moments in time. While continuing to afflict recalcitrant Democrats and showing our strength in mass rallies, we need to connect people to new ways for the U.S. to be in the world on many levels.

Our government's embrace of torture still appalls majorities in the U.S. When we denounce torture we place ourselves actively on the side of the voiceless global majority that doesn't control the powerful in either their own states or the U.S. That is the right place to be -- and among those folks is where the U.S. antiwar movement will find its allies. Food for thought...

Photos from the Market St. action

It is a lot easier to gather a crowd at 7 am when you have the Brass Liberation Orchestra waking folks up.

Architectural flourishes offered decorating opportunities.

It shouldn't have been hard for passersby to figure out what this was about.

After a very little speechifying, protesters began crossing the streets.

They were soon joined by iconic actors.

Pretty soon, there was a whole "Gitmo" set up in the middle of rush hour on Market St.

Some protesters didn't need to be part of the theater piece.

Police played their roles and traffic stopped dead.

As it began to rain, arrests began.

Soon the "detainees" were really prisoners.

For what it is worth, yesterday Senator Feinstein moved away from her hard pro-war position, urging that Bush fire Rumsfeld and scale back troop numbers in Iraq. She still has a ways to go though.... And this morning I got an email from Senator Barbara Boxer announcing that she has signed on to the Feingold censure resolution. Let's keep on pushing.