Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging

She makes it hard to get anything done.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Contemporary champion of women's health

Today Ruth Rosen posted a memorial note about the work of Barbara Seaman, one of the determined feminists of the 60s and 70s who put issues of women's health on the national agenda. That wasn't easy work. If women like Seaman hadn't demanded to be heard, simplistic medical "remedies" for female life realities -- such as universal estrogen prescribed at menopause -- might still be the order of the day.

And the struggle to ensure that women are free to make our own medical choices is not over. In this clip, contemporary Washington State Democratic Congressional candidate Darcy Burner carries on the work of those women's health pioneers. She leaves the wooden guy she is trying to unseat (Dave Reichert) close to speechless. Forthright discussion of women's health rights is clearly beyond him. Do watch.

This Wednesday First Lady Laura Bush will be in Medina WA, headlining an exclusive, $500 per person, fundraiser in an effort to jumpstart Reichert’s flailing campaign. Bloggers are organizing to match what Bush raises for Burner. Contribute here if you can. Burner seems to be one of those "more and better" Democratic office seekers we need to elect as a prerequisite to turning this country around. And she can win; she almost knocked out Reichert in 2006 and is better organized and funded now.

H/t to Orcinus for the YouTube.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Republican throws a wedge at California budget woes

Simona Garibay receives a U.S. flag from Maj. Brian Dolan during funeral services for her son, Cpl. Jose Angel Garibay, at Riverside National Cemetery, April 11, 2003.

As California wakes up to its multi-billion dollar projected deficit, Assemblyman Chuck Devore, R-Irvine, has come up with a neat trick (AB 1758) to play politics with the future of thousands of community college students.

Back when California had a Democratic governor and legislature (2001), the state opted to invest in its future. It charges in-state tuition at the community colleges, regardless of immigration status, to students who have spent three years in California high schools, graduated, and who sign an affidavit stating they have applied to become legal residents or will do so if they become eligible. That's quite a break; at California's community colleges, in-state fees run about $78 per course, while out-of-state students pay $500. Devore wants to kill this program which costs $117 million a year and instead redirect $3 million to provide members of the California National Guard with free tuition at state colleges and universities.

National Guard members undoubtedly deserve help going to college if they happen to survive intact being used as cannon fodder by our rulers. But this measure is just xenophobic grandstanding. Most obviously, some of those Guard members are immigrants serving in the military to regularize their status.

Sen. Lou Correa, D-Santa Ana, has previously sponsored unsuccessful legislation to grant tuition benefits to Guard members and plans to do so again this year.

"This is not as much a budget issue as a political issue," Correa said. ...

But Correa does not support DeVore's effort to repeal AB 540 [the in-state tuition provision.]

"Absolutely not," Correa said. "You know why? Jose Angel Garibay."

The U.S. Marine Corps lance corporal from Orange County was killed in 2003 while fighting in Iraq. Garibay, whose parents entered the country illegally, was granted citizenship posthumously.

Moreover, punishing young people who were children when brought here by their parents and who have proved they are on the way to becoming productive members of society is simply madness. The racists can't make them go away -- in fact they often profit from their labor -- all they can do is make their lives miserable. That's no way to run a great state.

Looking into this story, I was not surprised to discover that Assemblyman Devore makes a practice of trying to start racial fights. Here's a 2007 item from the Los Angeles Times.

Republican plays race card
Assemblyman Chuck DeVore - the China-hating, novel writing, constant blogging, gung-ho Republican National Guard officer from Orange County - is scheming to write legislation that would divide Democrats along racial lines. In the OC Register today, columnist Frank Mickadeit writes about attending a conference of Republican lawyers at Chapman Law School last week:

"Assemblyman Chuck DeVore told the group how even as a member of the minority party in the Legislature, he's trying to be relevant. He's working a bill that would suspend the California Environmental Quality Act for five years for low-income housing, farm-worker housing and urban infill projects.

"The strategy, he said, is to split the Democrats in the Legislature into two factions: the black and Latino caucuses, which favor the bill because it would reduce housing costs 10-20 percent for constituents, and what he called 'the white, urban limousine liberals,' who oppose lowering environmental standards.

" 'I'm purposefully eff-ing with them,' DeVore said."
Not exactly a responsible policy advocate.

H/t to the newsletter of Racewire for pointing out Devore's current wedge bill. AB
1758 will have a hearing on March 4 in the Assembly Higher Education Committee. Passage seems unlikely.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Campaign tidbits
As Clinton sinks...

Campaigns are brutal things. Sometimes a candidate simply gets run over by historical currents that weren't in that candidate's field of vision. It is a very unpleasant experience if you've ever been there.

I worked one of these campaigns, locally, in 2000. My candidate was a good, decent woman with an honorable history of community activism and administrative achievement. She had a grasp of the intricacies of city policy rarely seen in local candidates. She had solid endorsements from office holders in the area.

She also had a tin ear. The electorate in her district had been battered by evictions and gentrification -- a wave of anger at economic conditions that were rapidly altering their home landscape gripped many people. She didn't get it. She had a house that no one was going to take away from her. Her pocket of the neighborhood was pleasant and stable. Why didn't people care about the glut of cars, the deficit of usable public transit, the need for an environmental plan for the city?

They didn't care that year, even though she was right and forward thinking. Another, not nearly so "qualified," candidate understood and spoke the district's rage. My candidate plummeted to a dismal 3rd in a race she had led. All that experience and good sense didn't do a thing for her.

Obviously this is very familiar. Substitute wars and a crashing economy and we see Hillary Clinton today. Her campaign didn't comprehend where the U.S. people were going -- and might not have been able to speak to that movement even if she/they had understood.

Elections are Darwinian environments – and candidates tend to win for a reason. Tactics matter, as does an ability to tap into the larger Zeitgeist (i.e., structural forces matter too, but good campaigners recognize and tap into those underlying currents). For this reason, candidates who look great on paper (Dole, Rudy, HRC) lose if they run wretched campaigns. Similarly, candidates who don’t look so hot on paper can compensate with superior campaigning skills. In short, people who win tend to run superior campaigns. Not always, but generally.

Obsidian Wings

Candidates win who are able to catch the popular winds. To some candidates, those popular winds are unimaginable amid the clamor of conventional wisdom and political consultant advice.

The same winds are equally invisible to jaded political observers. I certainly didn't think Clinton could be blown off course by a well-organized hurricane of discontent with the status quo. I was wrong. I couldn't see it either. Sometimes, something unexpected can happen here.

By the way, the most ridiculous charge against the Clinton campaign floating around is this:

Even small expenses piled up in January: the campaign spent more than $11,000 on pizza and $1,200 on Dunkin’ Donuts runs.

New York Times

Whatever they may have wasted on dumb pollsters and inept media consultants, that expenditure was not waste. Pizza and donuts keep the world turning and the workers trudging on any campaign.

Bloggie news

Beginning today, I'll be doing an occasional "Gay and Gray" post over at Ronni Bennet's wonderful Time Goes By: what it is really like to get older. Ronni's blog is one I read daily: informative, sometimes opinionated, and just plain real. She has gathered a great community over there. If you don't already know that neighborhood, take a look.

Monday, February 25, 2008

McCain loves the war

The long Democratic primary contest has raised the hope that we might see an aroused people demanding more sanity from our rulers. Will all this energy go simply into electing a (much) better Democrat to replace Bush -- or can we make sure that some of it increases the chances of an end to the Iraq war?

The path to getting the U.S. out of Iraq has to lead through working to elect whichever Democrat is left standing. Why? Because John McCain is making the Iraq war his own; defeating McCain will push either Democrat to emphasize the contrast between a Democratic peace position and McCain's war mania.

Neither Democrat seems resolutely committed to reining in the empire, but the more the necessities of the campaign push that candidate to adopt an "out of Iraq" posture during the election, the more leverage an energized peace movement will have to force withdrawal in 2009.

So it serves us to hammer McCain, to tar him irrevocably as the candidate of wars past and more wars future. This is a losing stance in the current environment; some 60 plus percent of U.S. people want Iraq over. He's beginning to get that:

John McCain said Monday that to win the White House he must convince a war-weary country that U.S. policy in Iraq is succeeding. If he can't, "then I lose. I lose," the Republican said.

AP via TPM

Fortunately, McCain has chosen to make himself the candidate of war and more war. The peace movement has everything to gain by highlighting his stance. Do take a look at this video and spread it!

He's a scary guy.


Sky as I completed my run tonight.

One thousand, one hundred sixty six posts have appeared here since February 25, 2005. Three years of this project; that's quite a long time and a lot of words and pictures.

Don't know how long I'll go on, but I've been told it has been useful to a few. It certainly has been fun for me.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

"Taxi to the Dark Side" wins Oscar

Dilawar was just another unfortunate Afghan caught in the wrong place at the wrong time (2002) by blundering, uncomprehending U.S. soldiers -- and beaten to death. A military doctor described his death as homicide, reporters noticed, and filmmaker Alex Gibney spins a visual account of the burgeoning global U.S. torture regime jumping off from this single, small episode in a trail of horrors.

This was the only movie I saw in a theatre this year. It works as a movie. It will not shock anyone who has been paying attention -- but it might make you vomit. Or curdle in shame at what this country has become.

Perhaps the Oscar will keep this documentary in theatres long enough so that some larger number of us face what our country has become.

Information on showings here. Several days ago, HBO acquired TV rights. Let us hope they follow through on their promise of a broadcast in September. I would not be surprised if right wingers objected that exposing U.S. torture practices was objectionably "political" in this election season.

Where's the profit in the nonprofit?

It's the new thing-- let's stop this foolishness about doing good for the love of our fellows, or because the work needs to be done, or whatever other motive drives people to work under the nonprofit umbrella. Away with all that angst and inefficiency. Social betterment can make money. The New York Times reports, in an article hopefully titled "A Capitalist Jolt for Charity," that

a new breed of social entrepreneurs ... are administering increasing doses of bottom-line thinking to traditional philanthropy in order to make charity more effective.

The Times' exemplar of this happy trend is something called ePals that provides free social networking tools to schools. Sounds like it does furnish interesting software to teachers and the kids enjoy it. All good.

But where's the profit in this business model? Well -- many paragraphs later, we get this:

Like many start-up companies, the revamped ePals is still working on its business model. Mr. Gilburne, the chairman, says it will pursue corporate sponsors for certain project areas. These could be part of a company’s community and social responsibility activities, providing approved adult experts to help students online. For example, General Electric might sponsor ePals’ global warming section by providing environmental experts as online mentors...

Let's see, ePals might be able to sell youthful eyeballs to propaganda from corporate war profiteers on climate crisis. Very charitable indeed.

Or when again, ePals might just be another Web 2.0 bust, questing after a profit that must exist somewhere in a never completed business breakthrough. Hmm, perhaps it will turn out to be an ordinary nonprofit after all -- limping along doing educational work because living in human society demands that some of us invest our creativity and capital in maintaining the common good. What a concept!

The incredible shrinking man

Nader is becoming a joke. In 2000, three million people voted for him. In 2004, only 463,653 gave their heart and soul to him. There is no chance that this year he will attract even that many people to his campaign. His sell by date was over in November 2000. I wish he had the sense to realize that and work for change in other ways. He could be a force for the adoption of a more progressive agenda by the Democrats, but not as a Presidential candidate.

Steven D
Booman Tribune

Maybe we ought to start a pool. How many votes will Nader get this year?

I say about 170,000. Leave your guess in the comments.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The map tells the story...

If Sutter Health/California Pacific Medical Center has its way, the southern part of San Francisco will have NO hospital except the overcrowded, underfunded County General. That part of the city is the last area where working families, many African American, Latino and of various Asian ethnicities, hang on in this gentrified, boutique city.

Elizabeth Fernandez tells the human and financial story on the front page of this morning's Chronicle. Some excerpts:

"People will suffer," said the chief of cardiology, Dr. Ed Kersh. "The day after St. Luke's closes, someone having a heart attack south of Market will have no place to go for acute or continuing care - if he or she is lucky enough to survive."

... Sutter Health, which is affiliated with Cal Pacific, invested about $200 million in St. Luke's in recent years, purchasing new equipment and adding cardiovascular and breast health centers. In 2007, Sutter transferred the administration of St. Luke's to Cal Pacific, the city's largest nonprofit hospital.

Both Sutter and Cal Pacific made cost-cutting changes at the historic hospital. The workers' compensation clinic closed, and the outpatient physical therapy program transferred to the Davies campus at Castro and Duboce streets, one of four CPMC campuses in the city. The psychiatric ward and outpatient mental health clinic at St. Luke's closed in 2005. Next month, the neonatal intensive care unit will be downgraded to a special-care nursery.

The 10th floor, primarily a surgical ward with private rooms, has in effect closed, resulting at times in four patients per room on the ninth floor. Nurses say those rooms are so crowded and noisy that at times a patient will become the self-designated "captain" who helps facilitate care for the whole room.

It presents a "nursing challenge that should never occur in a civilized country," said Mary Micalucca, a St. Luke's registered nurse for 33 years. "These patients are often left to their own devices - pulling out IVs and other tubes, creating increased costs and nursing interventions."

... The financial quandary vexing St. Luke's is familiar to municipalities across the country: How do cities and health care corporations balance soaring costs with the medical needs of the poor?

For St. Luke's there's only one answer: Take care of them.

Currently, 45 percent of St. Luke's patients are on Medi-Cal (for the poor), 45 percent are on Medicare (for the elderly), and 4 percent aren't insured, said William Miller, St. Luke's chief medical executive. The state reimburses only about half of St. Luke's Medi-Cal costs.

The St. Luke's drama is certainly an argument for a properly funded universal health care system -- but it also reveals that that pseudo-nonprofit corporations are no way to provide people the care that should be a human right. As a Sutter spokesman concedes in this article,

"We looked at what we thought the community needed from a business model."

Not good enough. This rich country's failure to provide health care to all its residents in the interests of protecting the freedom of the comfortable to make a profit (that is what stops us, you know) makes all of us accomplices in crime.

See previous coverage of the St. Luke's struggle on this blog: here and here from 2005, as well as here and here from 2007 and here in 2008.

Old timers in San Francisco may be reminded of the long running, deeply community-based struggle to save the International Hotel in Chinatown, a battle whose fierce, joyful twists and turns rocked the city for a decade. Apparently we need to do that again.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Central City Against the Wars

Pastor Eric Gabourel opened the meeting.

Last night in the Tenderloin, a dozen or so of San Francisco's long time grassroots activists came together with a slightly larger number of neighborhood folks to talk about how the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan not only trash those unfortunate countries and people, but also make a hell of life in the central city.

The gathering was hosted by the Providence Christian Center aka the Hot Dog Church, which is a member of the Pentecostal Charismatic Peace Fellowship.

Organizer and poet James Tracy welcomed the assembled concerned citizens. "People in the Central City are already know struggling to get by on the streets -- so they just go right on to struggling against wars and empire...."

Lisa Grey Garcia, aka Tiny, of Poor Magazine reminded folks that they don't need a bunch of academics to tell them what to think, that they are all experts in the "scholarship of poverty."

Max Elbaum and Attieno Davis brought a stark message from War Times/Tiempo de Guerras:

If the U.S. can be forced to withdraw completely from Iraq, many positive changes become possible.

But if the U.S. continues its military occupation, every problem facing people here, in Iraq and across the globe will get worse.

Attieno tried to help people imagine what a "billion" -- 1,000,000,000 -- might mean. The cost of the U.S, war in Iraq is closing in on 500 billion dollars -- today it is roughly $496,700,000,000. The mind boggles. All that money is being stolen from the people of this country. For an accounting of what the war is costing you and me, check out the National Priorities Project.

When life is hard, art matters. This sister sang passionately to close the presentation part of the meeting.

And then, folks got down to business. After some discussion, the result is a new antiwar group in the neighborhood calling itself Central City Against the Wars -- wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and on San Francisco's poor. So the peace movement grows.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Sometimes the mail scares me ...

Have we become a country in which torture is a fit subject for humorous advertising?

Well I hope it is final. Did I get this appeal because I once gave Lowell Weicker ten dollars? (He would have been better than Lieberman.)

Keep 'em honest for peace

A friend of mine doesn’t like war and militarism. Good for her. So when she was looking for fun clothes to give her granddaughter, she wasn't very happy to find theitem pictured above on sale at the website of one of the pioneers in marketing to athletic women.

The site had a complaint form. She used it. This is what she remembers writing.

I received your catalogue for the first time and was pleased to see another source of athletic clothes for women (I have a very athletic granddaughter). However, I was appalled to find you advertising "camo" items (a "cute' word for camouflage?).

As someone who has lost 2 family members in two wars I am very disturbed that you are featuring military "fashion." It is inconsistent to try to "save the grasslands" with socks and promote war at the same time.

Catherine Cusic

She actually got an answer.

Dear Catherine:

Georgena [Terry] forwarded your email to me and I've spoken to our apparel team about your reaction to our camo garments. We did not intend for these products to have any kind of military connection. Our goals in sourcing apparel products are always to seek out distinctive, fashionable garments for cycling and casual lifestyle use. Being a company primarily of women who are mothers, grandmothers and environmentally-minded activists, the last thing we want to promote is war or destruction of life. In fact, what we use as our #1 criteria for products around here is the concept of fun.

I picked this up off a women's wear website and feel this is more in keeping with the intent of both the manufacturer (prana) who makes these garments, and in our choice for selling the garments:

The origin of camouflage actually predates war—by about 20 million years, when certain cephalopods varied their pigmentation to match their background. Since then, it has been employed by various members of the animal kingdom. In the late 19th century, an American artist named Abbott Thayer observed that the coloring of many animals graduated from almost dark on their backs to white on their bellies. He concluded that this optic trick “often renders the animal invisible” by breaking up the surface of an object and making the three-dimensional appear flat....but how to explain its evolution into a fashion fad? One theory is that it can be seen as the logical extension of the trend towards faux snake, tiger, leopard, and zebra prints, all used in the wild as optical illusions to interfere with depth perception and adopted by the fashion world for their beauty.

I'm so sorry we have offended you and please be assured that we take this seriously.

Paula Dyba
VP Marketing
Terry, the first and last name in women's cycling

I can't say I entirely buy this. Seems to me, whenever the U.S. gets itself into a war, we get a run of cute, slightly titillating pseudo-military fashions. Somehow I doubt the folks who have wear the real thing in dangerous places think it is so cute.

What I like about this is the story of a consumer discovering something that offended her morals and taking action. The piece of this response I do believe is that marketing VPs take customer complaints seriously. Our democracy may seem on its last legs in part because too many of us have given up on active civic participation, but we are energetic consumers. We can let the companies we give our money to know what we care about. We can express ourselves as much as possible through our consumer choices.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Campaign coalitions

Every week, the friend who sent me the Obama letter joins me to check in on how we think this long running Democratic presidential primary is going. He's long believed Obama could win. For the first time, after the Potomac primaries, I was willing to say that his guy had evened the race, overcoming Clinton's potent structural advantages. Now, after Wisconsin, I am willing to believe that Obama could win the nomination.

So who makes up Obama's coalition, anyway? I've written before about the emerging electoral coalition that I think promises long term Democratic success. This is an identity-based coalition rooted in the communities of color that provide the nation's low wage workers and that also attracts a majority of white women, with relatively smaller participation from white men. It is not clear that this exists yet anywhere, but its potential can be glimpsed in California; our Democrats win behind this sort of base. Obama certainly didn't start out owning to this coalition-in-the-process-of-formation. But in each recent victory, he has come closer.

Today Digby riffed off a Wall Street Journal article that highlighted the racism and sexism of working class white male Democrats. Yes, the story does neatly purvey a stereotypically Wall Street Journal frame. But Digby's characterization of the contemporary relationship of the Democratic party to these white men rings true:

We've been told for nearly three decades that the Democrats lost this group because of taxes or being soft on crime or being "anti-military" and so the Democrats have moved right on every issue they could think of trying to recapture these guys. The only thing they couldn't quite successfully do was get rid of all the women and the blacks in the party. Until the Dems do that, these guys aren't coming back. (And they aren't going to vote for either Obama or Clinton ...)

Over at Open Left, Chris Bowers has been looking at who joined up as Obama's core activists. He concludes that Obama is riding an insurgent coalition of the neglected.

... the activist class war is not just about envelope stuffers growing tired of their efforts being wasted by an ineffective leadership. It is also an expression of frustration by both red state Democrats and grassroots progressives at being taken for granted by that ineffective leadership. ... It is only in the context of this alliance that the seemingly vacuous Obama campaign slogans of "Yes, We Can," and "Change You Can Believe In," begin to fill up with real meaning. More than any ideological or policy difference, I believe it is also what ultimately underlies Obama's coalition.

This rings true -- when campaigns consist of candidates hustling big donors for cash to run endless, focus group-inspired TV ads in battleground states, most everyone feels left out of their own democracy. Progressives are sick of being told they have nowhere else to go. People of color are sick of being patronized and ignored. Democrats in states where Republicans usually win want a piece of the action. Obama provides a vehicle for the pissed off.

One of Bowers' commenters offered a realistic appraisal in the midst of the Obama wave.

Whatever Obama's actual policies, or November election possibilities, or even whether he is left or right, Obama has keyed into the concept of being an Insurgent Candidate. That, and a general hatred of the Bush-Cheney regime is pulling people out of the woodwork. ... I have no illusions that Obama is not a politician. That means that the people need to lead him forward, as well as apply pressure to keep him going in the right direction.

My emphasis. It always does come back to us.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


I didn't really want to "listen." Who does, when "listening" is a matter of duty?

But because of one of the projects I am doing for work these days, I felt I had to listen. You see, I am organizing within the Episcopal Church for the full inclusion of our gay members within the life of the community. Compared to most Christian outfits, we're not that bad on this, especially locally. Many parishes have gay members; there are gay, lesbian, even transsexual priests; heck, to the horror of the fundies and our own conservatives, this denomination even made a partnered gay man a bishop. But it would be great if we could move from "not bad" to good at this elementary facet of respect each others' dignity, so I'm working for the folks who are organizing to get us over the hump.

One of the steps along the way has been a thing called "the Listening Process." Gay people wanted to stop being talked about and start having real conversations with our more conventional brethren and sistren. We persuaded the official bodies of the church to say that such things should take place about 30 years ago, but mostly this "listening" has been a good idea that doesn't happen. And despite not always playing out the whole process, we, this particular church, have muddled toward putting up with and even loving each other.

However this season, the small, very gay, parish where I am a member, St. John the Evangelist in the San Francisco Mission, was invited to engage in some listening events with the people of a suburban church. Uh oh -- I knew I had to put my body where my mouth is and go to these things. It seemed an odd idea. I've been out so long in the world and in the church that I've almost forgotten the angst that too many LGBT folks still suffer in hetero-Christian-land. I'm a "I'm here, I'm queer, get used to it!" kind of person. So I didn't know what to think.

Off a little bunch of us, gays and friends, trooped on Sunday to a very friendly suburban congregation. We shared worship followed by a very nice potluck lunch. One of our folks quite bravely told the story of how hurt he had been by being forced by another denomination's authorities to hide his relationship with his partner. Then we broke up into tables of about six people each to discuss further. Each table consisted of one or two of us visitors and the rest from the local congregation.

I found myself at a table with several mature parishioners from the suburban church and several of their quite elderly visiting parents. Now this was in a room with a low ceiling and some 40-50 people. That is, once we started talking, the din was cacophonous. Though we could barely hear each other, we gamely attempted to address the discussion questions.

After a few minutes, the elderly woman seated next to me reached out and gripped my arm. She was elegantly dressed and groomed, every hair in place, carefully made up. She seemed tiny to me, wispy. Her very white skin was almost transparent; I could see a bit of blue vein peaking through her scalp. She whispered with a slight accent I couldn’t place.

"I worked in fashion. They all worked there. There were so many of them. They were so creative. There was a young man, he used to ask me to go places with him, to be seen with him. We'd go places together. You know, so he'd be safe."

"When was that?" I asked.

"The Hitler times," she answered. "Then we came to this country and I worked in fashion. There were so many of them. They were so beautiful."

The din overcame us both. We stopped trying to talk, but she squeezed my arm.

This was the sort of thing that happened in "the Hitler times."

An account of a gay Holocaust survivor, Pierre Seel, details life for gay men during Nazi control. In his account he states that he participated in his local gay community in the town of Mulhouse. When the Nazis gained power over the town his name was on a list of local gay men ordered to the police station. He obeyed the directive to protect his family from any retaliation. Upon arriving at the police station he notes that he and other gay men were beaten. Some gay men who resisted the SS had their fingernails pulled out. Others were raped with broken rulers and had their bowels punctured, causing them to bleed profusely. After his arrest he was sent to the concentration camp at Schirmeck. There, Seel stated that during a morning roll-call, the Nazi commander announced a public execution. A man was brought out, and Seel recognized his face. It was the face of his eighteen-year-old lover from Mulhouse. Seel then claims that the Nazi guards stripped the clothes of his lover and placed a metal bucket over his head. Then the guards released trained German Shepherd dogs on him, which mauled him to death.

The pink triangle with the bar was used by the Nazis to tag repeat "offender" homosexuals.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Faces from the Episcopal Urban Caucus

Participants in the meeting of the Episcopal Urban Caucus in Oakland last week displayed a wide variety of emotions, ranging through earnest discussion, serious purpose, curiosity, laughter, delight in meeting with friends -- and, in one case, anxiety verging on fear. Take a look.

The group hunts through its packets, looking for the item described by the questioner.

Helene Davis' 16- year old son was murdered nineteen years ago by another 16-year old. She is the co-leads the Oakland group Family and Friends of Murder Victims. Seeking to transform their own pain into healing for others, they have reached out to youth jailed for violent crimes who have often not previously understood the hurt their acts have caused.

Ruth Morgan of Community Works described a program for "at risk" youth at Balboa High School in San Francisco which offers adult attention, encouragement of creativity, and support for getting an education.

United Methodist minister and long time East Bay justice activist Phil Lawson was on hand for a workshop by the Black Alliance for Immigration Justice.

Urban Caucus treasurer Diane Pollard delivered the budget news.

After her keynote speech, Eva Jefferson Paterson of the Equal Justice Society chatted with new friends.

Young members reported what they'd learned from visits to Oakland organizations.

Old friends -- the Rev. Anna Lange-Soto and Bishop Nedi Rivera -- mugged for the camera.

Meanwhile a reporter from the Institute on Religion & Democracy was on hand to record the activities of these dangerous peacemakers. Despite his evident distress, no one molested him. The IRD is a right wing funded initiative to stamp out interpretations of the Gospel in mainline churches that lead to justice activism and full inclusion of all Christians in the life of the church.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Walking the way toward peace

The Assembly of the Episcopal Urban Caucus is meeting in Oakland this year. The Urban Caucus are folks who affirm that loving our neighbors means struggling for justice and peace in the world -- and also, in their own words, hope to "hold the feet of the Episcopal Church to the fire of social justice." My kind of people; disturbers of the comfortable and complacent. It is a privilege to be part of this meeting this year.

Not surprisingly, this bunch has marched against U.S. wars til their feet ache and them some. Thursday night we assembled for worship at St. Paul's Church in Oakland and brought some of the boots from the American Friends Service Committee's exhibit Eyes Wide Open with us. Each pair of boots is tagged with the name of a U.S. serviceperson who died in Iraq.

Sergeant John E. Allen of Palmdale is not coming back.

Neither are over one million Iraqis. The number is so vast, the human suffering so incalculable, the mind and heart cannot absorb it.

After dark, we stood alongside the boots and prayed for all the victims of war.

How long will the people of the United States remain complicit in wars of choice, wars of conquest? How long must we walk and vigil and hold on to hope and love? How long?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Campaign snark
And a little observed truth

Will the refreshments be this:

or this?

The question is prompted by this:

Solis Doyle [Hillary Clinton's deposed campaign manager] has developed a reputation for mucking around in the weeds, insisting upon signing off on even low-level decisions, such as where to hold a minor event and whether bagels or donuts should be served. (That's not a hypothetical.)

Michelle Cottle in TNR via Obsidian Wings

I've long had a theory about this.

If the campaign is run by labor and the volunteers are working class people, there will be donuts.

If the campaign is run by community advocates and recruits the employees of non-profit organizations, there will be bagels.

If the fare is something like this,

the campaign has foundation funding.

/snark off.

Why superdelegates might desert Clinton

Ron Fournier of the Associated Press has written a damning catalogue of why many superdelegates might be willing to turn away from Hillary Clinton's candidacy. The 796 superdelegates are the Democratic muckety-mucks -- elected officials and party stalwarts -- who have automatic seats at the Party convention. They are not bound by the primary process. Since the margin in elected delegate votes between Clinton and Obama is so small, if neither aces the few remaining primaries, their votes might decide the contest. Since many are old time Party hacks, it is easy to assume they'll back the known quantity, Hillary Clinton -- unless they decide not to.

Please note: not one of Fournier's list of why some Party leaders might want to migrate from Clinton to Obama arises from her being a woman. She's smart, she's qualified, she has an admirable command of the issues of state. It is easy to imagine her as President.

Her potential problems with the super delegates instead arise from her great asset: Bill. She can't get the boost she derives from appreciation for her husband's Presidency and not also carry the burden of some of his the unattractive residue of that era.

What follow are some of the reasons that Fournier puts forward for why superdelegates might abandon Clinton (bold text quotes Fournier) and my reflections on them. Indeed, I carry some animus against Bill Clinton myself, so I've added one of my own.
  • Some are labor leaders still angry that Bill Clinton championed the North American Free Trade Agreement as part of his centrist agenda. Yes -- and NAFTA not only led to the loss of thousands of U.S. industrial jobs, it also killed off Mexican farming that could not compete with U.S. corporate agriculture. Thousands of desperate former peasants now wash our dishes and build our subdivisions. I don't blame these migrating workers for coming where the work is, but we in the U.S. find ourselves unable to formulate a sensible, humane immigration process. Meanwhile hate-filled nativists in the U.S. thrive. This situation is a byproduct of Clinton's "free trade" obsession.
  • Some are social activists who lobbied unsuccessfully to get him to veto welfare reform legislation, a talking point for his 1996 re-election campaign. Yes -- "welfare reform" is a particularly noxious leaving from the previous Clinton era. In order to combat the charge that the government coddled bloodsucking free loaders (always pictured inaccurately as lazy Black women), Bill Clinton signed a punitive Republican measure that tore up the safety net for poor women with kids. Worked fine for Bill: welfare was not an issue in the 1996 campaign. As for the women, who knows? Part of the funding the "reform" cut off was money to research what happened to families in poverty. Those welfare women were simply disappeared with the assistance of a Democratic president.
  • Some are DNC members who saw the party committee weakened under the Clintons ...The 1990s were the heyday of Democratic political candidates who ran campaigns without much need for or attention to the party organization. This was a product of the broadcast TV era; if you could raise enough money in big chunks to buy enough ads, who needed the messy, participatory clutter of committees and demanding cranks? Consultants made a killing and party organs -- the ongoing arena of grassroots, small "d" democracy -- atrophied. Democrats then fell into the Karl Rove/George W wilderness. I can well imagine that many up and coming Party leaders don't want to go back to those sad days.
  • Some are senators who had to defend Clinton for lying to the country about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Think embarrassed squirming. The Republican impeachment was an attack on the democratic system, but Bill Clinton's self-indulgence undermined not only his marriage, but the hopes of millions who elected him. Nobody wants to remember any of that.
  • Here's a reason for a superdelegate to walk that is mine: some superdelegates remember betrayals of LGBT Democrats. Bill Clinton cultivated gay leadership when running for office. His election felt like deliverance in communities ravaged by AIDS: finally there was a president who would talk about the epidemic. Yet within months he caved to the military on the "don't ask; don't tell" policy. Later, he signed on to the misnamed Defense of Marriage Act. Obama can be wishy-washy on gay concerns, but he represents a generation for whom these anti-gay relics of another time are simply not an issue.
  • And some just want something new. They appreciate the fact that Clinton was a successful president and his wife was an able partner, but they never loved the couple as much as they feared them. Novelty isn't everything -- but even superdelegates can want to make a new beginning.
Electoral math -- delegates and states won -- should decide the Democratic contest. But all these human and issue factors will also creep into hundreds of individual superdelegate decisions in the days ahead if neither Obama nor Clinton pulls decisively ahead.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Peace breaking out? -- not quite

Baghdad Observer -- McClatchy journalist Leila Fadel -- reports that the Iraqi Presidency Council's website was hacked by someone who doesn't think much of the current authorities. The site has since been repaired.

But for some period, the main page (shown above), instead of offering government news, read "Defaced." The hacker protests the new flag and anthem imposed by the U.S.-supported rulers.

The hacker asks, "A question; what are you doing for the country besides theft, looting and killing the people? ...

"Mention one thing that you did and the people will say 'God have mercy on the government's parents.' Of course you know very well that Iraqis are dying by the thousands. If one person died from the parliament or the ministries wouldn't the world turn upside down? Wouldn't it?

"You left militias and the problems of the country and came to the symbol of Iraq, the Iraqi flag, and changed it. This is the flag that we raise everywhere and we are proud of it. This is the one we used to wrap our martyrs who sacrificed their souls for the sake of this country. ...

"... the ones who sabotaged the site are Iraqis and we belong to our country not to anyone else.

"We know very well that this will not change anything but we are expressing the feelings of all Iraqis...Hopefully consciences will awaken."

Not a happy camper there. Maybe the war will go on for Senator McCain's 100 years.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

We've been warned ...

Graph derived from U.S. Census 2006 Economic Survey. Via Wikipedia.

All too often I get pieces of what I think of as "investment spam," email newsletters that promise me the secrets of easy wealth. Mostly they go straight to my spam folder and I never read them. But today one piqued my curiousity: "Republicans & Hillary On Track To Lose Election".

The Democratic primary season has brought out the partisan pseudo-pundit in this purveyor of get rich quick nostrums.

By around 9:00 this evening, Barack Obama should be the clear front-runner for the Democratic nomination. ...

... Here's the way the next few months play out, in my opinion. On the Republican side, John McCain has two problems. One, he has to reach out to the conservative base, as he did last week, and try to make the case that he is a real conservative. But two, he has to somehow move to the center to keep his independent voters onboard at some point. I don't know how he does both. ...

Finally, Be Careful What You Wish For!
No doubt, many conservatives, and indeed a growing number of Democrats, would like nothing more than to see Obama take out Hillary, with no return of the Clintons to the White House. But those who are cheering Obama on had better realize just what they're in for if he becomes our next president.

... Obama has proposed eliminating the earnings cap on Social Security taxes - read raise taxes - now set at the first $102,000 of income. Those earning $102,000 or more would get an immediate tax increase, so the "wealthy" would become those earning just over $100,000 a year. ...

Obama's higher income taxes will come at a time when the US economy is very possibly in a recession. Have we not learned the lesson that you don't raise taxes in a time of recession; just the opposite, that the best medicine for a recession is tax cuts? I guess not if you are Barack Obama (or Hillary). Unfortunately, most American voters don't think these issues through, and Obama knows it.

Final emphasis added.

The deeply oligarchic inclinations of this writer, and his party, leak through the talking points. There is no evidence that giving more money to people who don't need it (cutting taxes) does anything for the overall health of an economy already hampered by inequality.

But apparently this guy is sure that the 83 percent of us who live in households bringing in less than $100,000 don't know what is good for us. Unfortunately for the Republicans, we do vote and after seven years of the Bush disaster, we know we want CHANGE.

Now whether the Dems can deliver change, there's a question -- but meanwhile we can enjoy watching plutocratic Republicans squirm.

UPDATE: For a clear witted summary of what economic inequality is doing to the well-being of all of us by a guy, Robert Reich, who really does know what he is talking about, see this. He even suggests remedies.

Monday, February 11, 2008

War will remain front and center

So it sucks that the Republican nominee will be McCain -- because the others were just transparent clowns, while this guy once survived some tough stuff and therefore can't be entirely laughed off.

A former Congressional staffer answers what has always been my most important question about Presidential hopefuls: could the aspirant hold on to a sense of proportion if we experience another 9/11 event?

... Hillary, like Obama, is a measured, cautious, deliberative and collegial person who does not dive into a swimming pool unless she is sure it is filled with water.

John McCain is considered by his colleagues to be the #1 hothead in Congress. Disagree with him and he rages at you. Piss him off and your life isn't worth living. He acts before he thinks. That is who he is.

The idea of John McCain making decisions in the wake of an attack on this country or even a threatened attack is terrifying.

Not encouraging testimony.

But for the peace movement, having McCain as the Republican nominee may not be the worst thing that could happen. Carrying on the Iraq war to "victory" (what on earth would that be?) is his only real talking point. So either Democrat and all the party base will keep on bashing him about the war. It simply won't be good politics for either Democrat to run away from the issue. And that keeps the problem of ending the war front and center with a public that wants this adventure over.

Do we have to fear that some Democrats will be chicken-hearted about taking the war issue to McCain? Sure. But even morally bankrupt arguments from the premise that the war was "fought incompetently" keep the issue on the front burner. Here's a specimen from the Democratic National Committee:

Meanwhile, serious war opponents will keep up a drum beat branding McCain as the nutcase warmonger he is. We have to. And we have a lot of creativity and energy. Here's an early example of that kind of attack on McCain.

The peace movement can be heard in a Presidential election containing McCain. Keep shouting.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Campaign tidbit:
The whole world is watching, mostly

In front of a Tokyo electronics store, Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008. (AP Photo/Katsumi Kasahara)

As I've discussed here, much of the world feels it has to watch this long spectacle. While listening to BBC radio, I hear interest, some bafflement, and occasional wild misunderstandings of our idiosyncratic process. The net provides lots of opportunities to see how others see us. Here are a few.
  • Watching America tracks print media in English all over the world. As I write, the lead headline is from Ahram in Egypt: "Special Interests Determine U.S. Presidential Elections".
  • If your preferred news fodder comes from blogs, Global Voices has teamed with Reuters to offer Voices without Votes. Just now, a South African blog is discussing a prediction by author Doris Lessing that Obama "would certainly not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would murder him". Article is here.
  • Al Jazeera reprints a blog post by Raed Jarrar concluding the whole show is just a farce.

    ... all the "frontrunners" or "mainstream" and "electable" candidates from the two ruling parties have exactly the same interventionist foreign policy and different versions of horrible domestic policies.

    They fight over different tactics of the same strategy. Some of them want to stay in Iraq to "kill the bad guys", and others want to stay there to "save Iraqis from themselves".

    There is not even minor discussion about restoring the US's deteriorating individual freedoms."

  • On the Al-Jazeera site itself, you can take part in their poll on U.S. presidential hopefuls. On the unreliable evidence of this self-selected sample, it looks like more Republican than Democratic supporters are tracking Al Jazeera. Curious.

As a corrective to all the obsessing here and elsewhere about the U.S. campaign, it was great to get an email this morning from a friend who has retreated somewhere that really does enable her to escape the big show.

I enjoy the fact that, here in Zanzibar, the US is so far off center stage that it only merits an occasional article or two in the local newspapers--mostly about Iraq plus some human interest stories of the "would you believe" variety.

We can be counted on to provide lots of that "would you believe" stuff.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

What's the problem?

I have recently enjoyed Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, an effort to report the state of scientific knowledge as it existed in 2002 about -- well -- nearly everything. Here's a "once over lightly" tour from the Big Bang through the mysteries of life. The book combats our innumeracy and tells the delightful story of the eccentricities of men (mostly) of science. Not surprisingly, scientific experts have pointed to factual quibbles and even this scientifically illiterate reader knows that some of our understandings have changed in the half decade since (!). But perfect accuracy is not what this book is about -- this is about conveying the scope and wonder of what humans know about the universe, the planet, life and ourselves. At the scale of this project, a few wrong details detract hardly at all. It's a great read.

While listening to Bryson's book (I read this as an audiobook while trudging across the country), I couldn't help reflecting on the supposed "war" between religion and science. I just don't get it.

Why, from the scientific side, should advancing awareness of the improbable (to human animals) immensity and apparent randomness of the universe and its inmates preclude the existence of God? If God is, it is not likely that we understand God perfectly, any more than we understand the universe perfectly. But, as with our insights into the universe, we might get inklings of something greater and grander than what we understand.

Why, from the religious side, must our concept of God preclude the sheer wonder of what we humans are equipped to learn? Who are we to draw a tight little line around what God might do/be/make of the immensity and apparent randomness of the universe and its inmates?

Beats me.