UltraViolet April 2006

DeLay Denounces “Jew Doctor’s” Campaign Against Prayer
Octavia Butler
Immigrants Aren't Gonna Take It Any More
Oglala Sioux President Thwarts South Dakota Abortion Ban
Remember Katrina?
Bay Area Teachers on Verge of Strikes
Humane Executions?
CNA Denounces Nurses’ Participation in Capital Punishment
Shut Down the Prison Camps Now!
The MOCHA Column
State of Terror Continues in the Philippines
Coping with Cancer
France Fries

DeLay Denounces “Jew Doctor’s” Campaign Against Prayer

Indicted outgoing House Majority Leader Tom DeLay today decried a recent study on the power of prayer that was published last week in the American Heart Journal. Delay, who had attended the “War on Christians” convention just prior to deciding not to run for re-election, said that this research, which found that intercessionary prayer actually had a negative effect on patients recovering from heart operations was the latest in a long line of “terrorist attacks by Jews on Christians, starting with the murder of Christ.”

Delay noted that the study group was headed by Dr. Herbert Benson, “a self-identified Jew” and director of the Mind/Body Medical Institute near Boston. “Let’s face it,” Delay said, “if Jewish prayers worked, there would be six million more of them on this planet.” He noted that the study had been primarily funded by the suspiciously named “John TEMPLEton Foundation.” The study cost 2.4 million dollars. Since 2000, the u.s. government has spent more than $2.3 million on prayer research.

Delay noted that it was “no coincidence,” that the study was published just before Passover, when “Jews kill Christian babies and smear their blood on their doorposts and bake it into their matzah.”

The study, which was designed to overcome obstacles involved in 10 previous studies on prayer, began in 1997. 1802 patients were randomized into three groups – two were prayed for, and one was not. Half the people who were prayed for were told about it, and the others were told that they might or might not receive prayers. Three congregations provided the prayers for the patients, who were only identified by the first names and first initial of their last names. Fifty nine percent of the people in the group who knew they were being prayed for suffered complications, as compared to 52 percent of those who were uncertain, and 51 percent who were not prayed for. Eighteen percent in the uninformed prayer group suffered major complications, like heart attack or stroke, as compared to 13 percent in the group who did not receive prayers.

Tory B, an unprayed for non-patient,  from the Atheists Longing for Secularism Organization (ALSO), commented that her prayers for the appropriate use of medical research funds had also apparently gone unanswered.

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler died on February 24 2006 of possible stroke or head trauma related to a  fall outside her house in Seattle. She had not been well, having several chronic medical conditions, congestive heart failure and hypertension.  Sorrow spread lightening fast through alternative media,  email, internet blogs, and word of mouth.  Friends called me with condolences as though she had been a personal friend and to share sadness about the death of such an especially creative writer.  Deeg mournfully asked could it really be that there would never be another Octavia Butler book to hope for?   I had only just discovered her newest book Fledgling a few months earlier after an eternity of several years of waiting.  It was a thrilling vampire book with complex characters and themes of community, interdependence and exquisite intimacy.

 I read every newspaper article, obituary, and blog entry I could find about her, trying to get glimpses into her life, like a love struck fan.  It was strange how little I had known about her, as I had taken her place in my life for granted.  Newspapers began by saying she was the  first African American woman science fiction writer, or writer of speculative fiction.  Some articles felt she ranked with Toni Morrison and Alice Walker as preeminent African American fiction writers.  She grew up poor in Pasadena, California.   He father who shined shoes, died when she was small.  So she was raised by her single mother who cleaned houses for a living.  She spent time in the country on her grandmother’s chicken ranch in Victorville, California.  Her grandfather was an herbalist. She is described as a shy and awkward child and tall and large for her age, six feet by her teenage years  She discovered science fiction at about age twelve, after watching a grade B sci-fi movie, “The Devil Girl From Mars”.  She studied at California State University Los Angeles and took extension classes at UCLA. In 1969 she attended the open door program of the Screen Writers’ Guild, where she met science fiction novelist Harlan Ellison, who encouraged her to attend the Clarion Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop.   Her first story,  Crossover, was  published in the Clarion anthology in 1970 .  Her first novel was Patternmaster in 1976.  She received many awards, including the prestigious  Hugo and Nebula awards and in 1995 she won the MacArthur “genius” award, which enabled her to move to Seattle and buy a house.  She was successfully able to support herself with her writing.

A number of articles report her to be a lesbian.  The Advocate , a queer magazine, quotes her longtime friend Leslie Howle calling her “ The lesbian writer...”   Jasmyne Cannick  from the National Black Justice Commission says in an obituary on  jasmynecannick.com:

“As we come to the end of Black History month and kick off Women’s Herstory Month, we are greeted with the sad news of Black lesbian author Octavia Butler’s passing over the weekend.  Although there was has been virtually no mention of the fact that she was a lesbian in the few news stories reporting her death, Butler a lesbian, was regarded as one of the most influential Black writers of our time.  The loss of her life at such a young age is heart breaking”

The Guardian calls her “A famously reclusive lesbian...”  I could not find any reference by Octavia Butler to herself being a lesbian.

She was a thoughtful public speaker and essay writer, often interpreting her writing and talking about why she became a science fiction writer.  She wrote in “Positive Obsession” 1989:

“Still I'm asked, what good is science fiction to Black people? What good is any form of literature to Black people? What good is science fiction's thinking about the present, the future, and the past? What good is its tendency to warn or to consider alternative ways of thinking and doing? What good is its examination of the possible effects of science and technology, or social organization and political direction? At its best, science fiction stimulates imagination and creativity. It gets reader and writer off the beaten track, off the narrow, narrow footpath of what 'everyone' is saying, doing, thinking - whoever 'everyone' happens to be this year. And what good is all this to Black people?"

I learned of Octavia Butler when I lived in New York City in 1978.  I read a review of Mind of My Mind in Essence magazine then ,for a brief time, a very hip African American woman’s magazine edited by writer Alexis De Veaux, quite unlike today’s slick fashion version.   At that time I was on a quest to read all science fiction ever written by women.  It was how I made my way through an intense, contradictory life;  Bonnie and Clyde’s lesbian club extraordinaire by night and nursing school at City College by day.  I read Mind of my Mind and was immediately enthralled.  It was the perfect sci-fi story- strong women of color characters and telepathy.  The writing was smooth and still, deftly bringing the story to a crystal aliveness.  In all her books she  wrote about building community, about communication, understanding and feeling others’ thoughts.

She created marvelous worlds in which people became involved with alien races and learned to confront their xenophobia.  She addressed issues of gender and sexual orientation and created species with many genders and different sexuality.  She wrote stories which challenged hierarchy as a troubling innate human contradiction.  When I moved back to California in the mid-eighties I saw Octavia Butler in person at a book reading.  I don’t remember where or what book. All I remember is her! She was so solid and clear.  She was not a diva or pretentious but she was brilliant and interesting, instilling a lasting portrait in my mind.  When she died she left books unwritten.  She had been having trouble with writer’s block, which she attributed to side effects from blood pressure medications she had been taking.  She left unfinished a third book in the Parable series, called Parable of the Trickster.

September 1, 2001, an essay written by Octavia Butler for NPR‘s report on the UN racism conference

Several years ago, when I was about to start a novel, I thought I might get some mileage out of the idea of a civilization in which people somehow felt -- that is, they shared -- all the pain and all the pleasure they caused one another. The point was to create, in fiction at least, a tolerant, peaceful civilization -- a world in which people were inclined either to accept one another's differences or at least to behave as though they accepted them since any act of resentment they commit would be punished immediately, personally, inevitably.

Eventually, though, I chose not to write about such an empathic society. I wrote instead about a single empathic woman who suffered from the delusion that she shared other people's pleasure and pain. She was not a particularly peaceful woman, but she did have to consider the consequences of her behavior more than other undeluded people had to. After all, delusional pain hurts just as much as pain from actual trauma. So what if it's all in your head?

In my novel, unavoidable empathy worked fine as an affliction, but popular, painful sports like boxing and football convinced me that the threat of shared pain wouldn't necessarily make people behave better toward one another. And it might cause trouble. For instance, it might stop people from entering the health care professions. Nursing would become very unpopular. And who would want to be a dentist in such a society.

So much for fiction. But in real life, what would make us more tolerant, more peaceful, less likely to need a UN Conference on Racism?


Nothing at all.

I say that, remembering childhood, remembering the schoolyard, remembering being a perennial out-kid. At school I was always taller than the rest of my class, and because I was an only child I was comfortable with adults, but shy and awkward with other kids. I was quiet, bookish, and in spite of my size, hopeless at sports. In short, I was different. And even in the earliest grades, I got pounded for it. I learned that five- and-six-year-old kids have already figured out how to be intolerant.

Granted, I speak from my own experience, but it's a familiar experience to anyone who remembers the schoolyard. Of course, not everyone has been a bully or the victim of bullies, but everyone has seen bullying, and seeing it, has responded to it by joining in or objecting, by laughing or keeping silent, by feeling disgusted or feeling interested....

Simple peck-order bullying is only the beginning of the kind of hierarchical behavior that can lead to racism, sexism, ethnocentrism, classism, and all the other "isms" that cause so much suffering in the world.

Several years ago I wrote a novel called Dawn in which extra-solar aliens arrive, look us over, and inform us that we have a pair of characteristics that together constitute a fatal flaw. We are, they admit, intelligent, and that's fine. But we are also hierarchical, and our hierarchical tendencies are older and all too often, they drive our intelligence-that is, they drive us to use our intelligence to try to dominate one another. More fiction? Maybe.

But whatever is the source of our intolerance, what can we do about it? What can we do to improve ourselves? Of course, we can resist acting on our nastier hierarchical tendencies. Most of us do that most of the time already. And we can make a greater effort to teach children to resist their hierarchical impulses and beliefs and to channel what they can't resist into sports and careers. Will this work? Well, it hasn't so far. Too many people will not, perhaps cannot, do it. There is, unfortunately, satisfaction to be enjoyed in feeling superior to other people.

Back during the early 1960s there was a United Nations television commercial, the audio portion of which went something like this: "Ignorance, fear, disease, hunger, suspicion, hatred, war." That was it, although I would have added, "greed" and "vengeance" to the list. All or any of these can be the catalyst that turns hierarchical thinking into hierarchical behavior. Amid all this, does tolerance have a chance?

Only if we want it to. Only when we want it to. Tolerance, like any aspect of peace, is forever a work in progress, never completed, and, if we're as intelligent as we like to think we are, never abandoned.

Octavia Butler’s books have sustained many of us in LAGAI over the last thirty years.  If all else was miserable in the struggle for liberation and social justice, her books could be counted on to delight and transport.  She is already badly missed.

by Tory

Writings by Octavia Butler

Xenogenesis Trilogy:
Dawn (1987)
Adulthood Rites (1988)
Imago (1989) (trilogy republished as: Lilith's Brood (2000))

Wild Seed (1980)
Mind of My Mind (1977)
Patternmaster (1976)
Clay's Ark (1984)
Survivor (1978)

Kindred (1979)

Parable of the Sower (1994) (nominated for a Nebula in 1994-95)
Parable of the Talents (1998) New York: Seven Stories Press

"Speech Sounds", appeared in Asimov's (December 1983). Won Hugo. Republished in Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995).

"Bloodchild", appeared in Asimov's (June 1984); won 1984 Nebula for best novelette; won 1985 Hugo. Republished in Bloodchild and Other Stories (1995).

Bloodchild and Other Stories (Four Walls Eight Windows: New York, London, 1995). Includes Preface, "Bloodchild" (1984); "The Evening and the Morning and the Night" (1987 / 1988); "Near of Kin" (1979); "Speech Sounds" (1983); "Crossover" (1971); and two essays: "Positive Obsession" (1989, as "Birth of a Writer"); "Furor Scribendi" (1993).

Immigrants Aren't Gonna Take It Any More

by Kate

On Friday, March 10, 2006 Chicago’s downtown was paralyzed by an immigrant rights march estimated at more than 100,000 people. The march, organized by a citywide coalition of community, labor and immigrant rights groups, was called to protest the punitive enforcement provisions of the anti-immigrant HR 4337, the “Sensenbrenner Bill” which was passed by the house of so-called representatives.  According to an article on Indymedia Chicago, “The march was one of the largest street protests Chicago has ever seen - exceeding the historic May 1, 1886 march down Michigan Ave. by 80,000 largely immigrant workers demanding an eight-hour workday.”

The outpouring in Chicago kicked off a month of unprecedented rising of immigrant power in response to the draconian legislation being proposed by republikkkans and demos alike in both houses.

March 23, 10,000-30,000 people walked out of their jobs in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and marched downtown in what was billed as “A Day Without Latinos.”

March 24, over 20,000 Arizonans marched on the streets of Phoenix to Senator Jon Kyl’s office, hundreds of Atlanta residents converged on the steps of the State Capitol and over 2,000 Los Angeles students walked out of school – all demonstrating against the Specter and Sensenbrenner bills.

March 25, 1 million Californians (that’s almost one in 30!) took to the streets in Los Angeles and 5,000 people marched in San Jose (hunger striker Patricia Nuño addressed the masses in San Jose).

In San Francisco, over 50 hunger strikers and community organizations held a seven-day protest in front of the Federal Building March 21-27, 2006, calling for fair and just immigration reform, and to denounce Senator Arlen Specter’s bill that designates all undocumented immigrants as aggravated felons, allows for the indefinite detention of non-citizens, and criminalizes day-labor centers, churches, health clinics and all others who serve, help or work with undocumented immigrants.

Locally, the week of actions culminated in a massive march on Monday, March 27, that joined the Latino March for Peace for a march to Dianne Feinstein’s San Francisco office.  About 5,000 people, mostly Latino, including many students on walk-out from East Oakland schools, filled the streets at Montgomery & Post, calling for justice for immigrants and an immediate end to the war in Iraq, where 20% of early U.S. fatalities were Latino.

The peace march, which walked 241 miles out of a much longer route from Tijuana to San Francisco, was organized and led by war resisters Pablo Paredes, Camilo Mejia and Aidan Delgado, and Fernando Suarez del Solar, father of Jesus del Solar.  Jesus was one of the first Latinos to die in the current Iraq war, when he stepped on an illegal US cluster bomb.  Fernando was lied to about how his son died, and has since become a tireless activist for peace.

The marchers explain why they chose to make their march 241 miles exactly:  “Last Year was the 75th anniversary of Gandhi’s Salt March, one of the most impactful non-violent acts of protest and civil disobedience in pursuit of social justice in history.  Gandhi marched 241 miles to free India from British imperialism.  This legacy has been vibrant in all Latino Social Justice movements.  Cesar Chavez was a disciple of Gandhi.  We wish to rekindle this tradition and one year after the 75th , we wish to put Gandhi’s spirit into practice rather than wait for the next milestone to honor his memory.”

The march organizers planned to donate part of any surplus funds they raised for the march to the Common Ground Relief Collective to benefit Hurricane Katrina victims.  For more info on the Latino March for Peace, see www.guerreroazteca.org.

Though the vast majority of participants in the demonstrations were Mexican American, many waving Mexican flags (for which they have been particularly attacked in right-wing media like Fox News), organizers worked hard to draw in support from other social movements, especially labor and other communities of people of color.  The Progressive Chinese Alliance cosponsored a rally in support of the hunger strike with the May 1 Coalition, a grassroots alliance of low wage worker organizations.  One of the hunger strike organizers commented on my blog that there was a strong queer contingent at the San Francisco demonstration on Saturday, March 25.

The uprising, which has been called “The New Civil Rights Movement” by African American supporters, has definitely had an influence on policymakers.  Democrats have been forced to come out with proposals to mute the harsh impact of the Sensenbrenner and Spector bills, and even g.w. bush had to talk about the devastating effect of globalization during his trip to Mexico.

The New York Times quoted peter king, chairman of the house homeland security as saying, ''The Senate, I think, was, quite frankly, intimidated by having hundreds of thousands of people in the streets waving flags, but I don't think we should pass legislation or devise legislation based on how many people you can get out into the street.”

Feinstein, for her part, was pressured into including the UFW-sponsored AgJOBS in the Committee’s immigration bill. AgJOBS provides a way for undocumented farm workers who have been working in the u.s. for a long time to obtain legal residency.

bill frist’s compromise proposal in the senate failed on April 7, when republikkans insisted on adding punitive amendments.  The frist bill included a 3-tier system for legalizing the 11 million undocumented immigrants currently in the country, based on how long they've been here. It also would have made more crimes deportable offenses, added detention beds and border security, criminalized some kinds of aid to undocumented people, and allowed for indefinite detention for refugees who can't be returned to their home countries.

When congress returns from recess after easter, doubtless new bills will be introduced.  National days of action are planned for April 10, April 23 and May 1.  Bay Area actions are being organized by the Bay Area Coalition for Immigrant Rights, (510) 839-7598, www.immigrantrights.org.

MAY 1, 2006, International Workers’ Day
“A Day Without Immigrants”
Planning meeting for work stoppage, student walk-outs, and more
Saturday, April 15 at 2:00PM
SEIU Local 87, 240 Golden Gate Ave
Hyde and Leavenworth
contact:  Todd Chretien, 510-590-6073

Oglala Sioux President Thwarts South Dakota Abortion Ban

Reprinted from http://www.indybay.org/news/2006/03/1809859.php

When Governor Mike Rounds signed HB 1215 into law it effectively banned all abortions in the state with the exception that it did allow saving the mother's life. There were, however, no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. His actions, and the comments of State Senators like Bill Napoli of Rapid City, SD, set of a maelstrom of protests within the state.

Napoli suggested that if it was a case of "simple rape," there should be no thoughts of ending a pregnancy. Letters by the hundreds appeared in local newspapers, mostly written by women, challenging Napoli's description of rape as "simple." He has yet to explain satisfactorily what he meant by "simple rape."

The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

"To me, it is now a question of sovereignty," she said to me last week. "I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction."

An intrepid blogger named kathrynt called up Ms. Fire Thunder to thank her, and was motivated to put out a call for funds to help the Oglala build the clinic. She put out this info:

If you want to mail donations to the reservation, you may do so at:

Oglala Sioux Tribe
ATTN: President Fire Thunder
P. O. Box 2070
Pine Ridge, SD 57770

OR: and this may be preferred, due to mail volume:

PO BOX 990
Martin, SD 57751

Enclose a letter voicing your support and explaining the purpose of the donation. Bear in mind, the Pine Ridge Res is not exactly dripping with disposable income, so do consider donating funds directly to the tribe as well as specifically for this effort.  (http://contentlove.livejournal.com/875603.html)

Remember Katrina?

compiled by Kate

It’s seven months since the levees broke, and the mainstream media has definitely moved on, which is not good for the people who are still hoping to move back.

Indefinite Detention Isn’t Just for Foreigners …

In “Guantanamo on the Mississippi” (www.leftturn.org), Jordan Flaherty writes,

“The continuing debacle of our criminal justice system here in New Orleans inspires in me a sense of indignation I thought was lost to cynicism long ago. Ursula Price, a staff investigator for the indigent defense organization A Fighting Chance, has met with several thousand hurricane survivors who were imprisoned at the time of the hurricane, and her stories chill me “I grew up in small town Mississippi,” she tells me. “We had the Klan marching down our main street, but I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Safe Streets, Strong Communities, a New Orleans-based criminal justice reform coalition that Price also works with, has just released a report based on more than a hundred recent interviews with prisoners who have been locked up since pre-Katrina and are currently spread across thirteen prisons and hundreds of miles. They found the average number of days people had been locked up without a trial was 385 days. One person had been locked up for 1,289 days. None of them have been convicted of any crime.

“‘I’ve been working in the system for the while, I do capital cases and I’ve seen the worst that the criminal justice system has to offer,’ Price told me. ‘But even I am shocked that there has been so much disregard for the value of these peoples lives, especially people who have not been proved to have done anything wrong.’ As lawyers, advocates, and former prisoners stressed to me in interviews over the last couple of weeks, arrest is not the same as conviction. According to a pre-Katrina report from the Metropolitan Crime Commission, 65% of those arrested in New Orleans are eventually released without ever having been charged with any crime.  … read the rest at http://www.leftturn.org/Articles/Viewer.aspx?id=857&type=W

Disenfranchisement Isn’t Just for Palestinians …

From the National Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgernder Community Centers

Killing the Black Vote

“The voting rights of thousands of Black New Orleanians are about to be trampled. On April 22nd, New Orleans will hold its first mayoral election since the storm. For most who evacuated, predominantly Black and poor, voting will be so difficult and impractical that it makes you wonder if election officials want them to vote at all.[1]

“Satellite voting, which would provide out-of-state polling places for evacuees, is the one viable solution that would provide the largest number of evacuees a reasonable opportunity to vote. But politicians controlling the elections, including Gov. Blanco, have refused to provide it. Everyone, including the Governor, knows that without additional measures, the Black vote will be suppressed and the ability for Black New Orleanians to claim their future will be compromised.

“Please join us in calling on Governor Blanco to protect the voting rights of Katrina survivors by providing satellite voting.

Read the rest at http://www.lgbtcenters.org/news/news_item.asp?NewsID=3198

And Corporate Gouging Isn’t Just for Iraqis …

No one who pays attention to anything is surprised that megacorporations, including Halliburton and Neil Bush’s Ignite software company, are the only ones benefiting from the hundreds of thousands of bucks being raised by the bush-klinton partnership and their cronies, including the red cross.  Friends who were among the thousands of volunteers who flocked to New Orleans to help with the rebuilding efforts in recent months say that in wealthy areas which were barely touched by the flooding, there are huge well-advertised FEMA headquarters, while in the poor Black areas, no relief agencies are in sight.

“I saw the Red Cross serving lunch one time,” said Henry, who stayed in New Orleans for several weeks.

Many grassroots rebuilding efforts have come together to address that void.  The best known is the Common Ground Collective, http://www.commongroundrelief.org/, headed by Black Panther Malik Rahim.  CGC organized an “alternative spring break” called the Second Freedom Rides, which brought thousands of college students to help gut and paint houses, build clinics and community centers, in the Gulf states, and also to tour the devastated areas, listen to the stories of survivors and get a first-hand education in the politics of race, class and corruption.

Of course, like any such huge volunteerism project, a tremendous amount of infrastructure had to be created just to deal with the volunteers.  Tons of work needed to be done to find places for them to stay, and not surprisingly, some organizations started to feel that the volunteers were too much trouble.  One volunteer I knew was given the task of finding stuff to do with volunteers that kept them out of the hair of people who were trying to get work done on their houses.  (When I heard that story, I couldn’t help thinking of some of my experiences with ISM in Palestine.)

Even the alternative funds being raised are apparently getting centralized with Common Ground, which is a good project, but some social justice projects that were active in the Gulf before the hurricane are having trouble getting their hands on enough funding to rebuild.  A pretty extensive list of such organizations is online at http://katrina.mayfirst.org/.  It includes In This Together, Inc., which does HIV/AIDS Case Management for individuals returning to the New Orleans area.  It also includes the LGBT Katrina Relief Fund, established by the National Youth Advocacy Coalition and National Center for Lesbian Rights, “to ensure that LGBT youth and families, among the most vulnerable members of our community, receive the critical support they need to regain stability in their lives,” but the link at www.nyacyouth.org/ doesn’t seem to have been updated since September.

Rainbow World Fund, whose mission is “to promote LGBT philanthropy in the area of world humanitarian relief” raised $350,000 for Katrina relief, all of which apparently went to food banks through America’s Second Harvest.

Louisiana has a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage and prevents the state from recognizing any legal status for common-law relationships, domestic partnerships or civil unions. Mississippi and Alabama both have defense of marriage acts which deny rights to gay and lesbian couples.  And the Federal Defense of Marriage Act prevents FEMA from providing any relief in the form of family benefits to same-sex couples.

SF Teachers and Paraprofessionals Deserve a Fair Contract

by Deni

As UltraViolet goes to press, a strike by San Francisco teachers, paraprofessionals and other non-clerical school personnel still looms as a possibility. Since the Union declared impasse, the two sides have been in mediation. Members of the United Educators of San Francisco (UESF) took a strike vote on March 29th which overwhelmingly authorized the union leadership to call a strike if necessary. (Less than half the membership voted but 87% of those who voted said yes.) The leadership of the Union was pushed by members at a previous meeting to call an earlier strike authorization date than the leadership had planned. There are three primary issues: fair pay, equal protection and safer schools. Many members are angry and frustrated by the District’s proposals and intransigence, and especially by the District’s decision on April 5 to hire scabs for $300 each per day. Members have been active in marching on the Board of Education meetings, leafleting throughout the city, working to the letter of the contract (“working to rule”) at various schools, and informational picketing at school sites. Parent groups have also actively been pressuring the District for a fair settlement. Of course, many members are also quite worried about the impact of a strike on themselves, students and families. Until the strike vote was taken, the District had been dragging its heels in a combination of obstinance, incompetence, and disregard for members. Since the strike vote, the two sides have been meeting every day with the District willing to actually negotiate. So there is some hope that we will not have to go out on strike, but picket captain training is still planned during spring break.

So Do Oakland’s

by Deeg

Oakland’s 3100+ teachers, nurses and librarians authorized a one-day strike at a meeting on march 22.  They have been working without a contract since June 2004, having taken a 4% pay cut in 2003 due to the school district’s financial crisis.  In exchange for a bailout loan, the California legislature and state school superintendent Jack O’Connell imposed administrator Randall Ward on the District, basically voiding Oakland’s right to govern its own schools.  War has been widely criticized for his autocratic decision making, including a refusal to meet with the community about issues such as school closures and the imposition of “open court” teaching.

The Oakland Educational Association will walk off the job for a one-day strike on April 20, unless progress is made in negotiations.  The District recently raised their pay offer to a 5.5% raise (4% of which is restoring the previous 4% cut), but is demanding that employees pay more towards their health plan, and cut preparation periods.

(Update by Kate:  While UV was at the printer, the San Francisco teachers reached a tentative settlement with the district.  That is great, but unfortunate for the Oakland teachers, since the two unions had talked about a joint strategy.  Simultaneous strikes in both cities would have made settlements much likelier in both, since there would have been fewer scabs available.)

Humane Executions?

by Deeg

The latest episode in california’s death penalty will be a hearing on May 2-3 by federal district judge jeremy fogel into whether lethal injection is cruel and unusual punishment. The hearing is an appeal on Michael Morales’ behalf. Fogel halted Morales’ execution in February, when the state of california could not produce a medical expert to ensure that Morales was unconscious when the second and third drugs were administered.

The process of lethal injection, which was developed in oklahoma in the 1950's uses three drugs – sodium thiopental (an anesthetic), pavulon (pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the muscle system and stops breathing), and potassium chloride (which stops the heart). Without anesthetic (and possibly with it) both of these drugs would be extremely painful, as a person is first unable to breathe, and then suffers a massive heart attack.

The state initially announced that two unidentified anesthesiologists volunteered to be present at the execution, and fogel had allowed it to go forward. But after pretty much every professional association involved with the practice of medicine denounced physician participation in executions as an ethical violation, the anesthesiologists unvolunteered, and fogel then issued a stay, and ordered the hearing in May.

In March the ACLU filed a lawsuit challenging the use of pavulon as a violation of the free speech rights of execution witnesses and of freedom of the press, since observers can not see whether the person is in pain during the execution. It would seem like it’s also a violation of the free speech right of the person being executed, because they can’t speak or even breathe, but apparently that isn’t a legal issue.

California isn’t the only jurisdiction where lethal injection is on trial. Louisiana’s death penalty has been suspended since 2002 due to a lawsuit over the mixture of drugs and the training of executioners. New Jersey courts ordered the state department of corrections to re-examine its lethal injection procedure in 2004, before carrying out what would have been NJ’s first execution. In January 2006, NJ’s governor signed moratorium legislation there. The u.s. supreme court stayed the execution of death row inmates in Florida and Missouri this year, pending a decision on whether people in these states can pursue civil rights appeals, even though their habeas corpus rights have been limited by federal law. Legal challenges to lethal injection are also pending in Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. One contributor to these challenges is an article published in the April 2005 issue of Lancet, in which researchers found that 22 out of 49 people executed in Florida and Virginia may have had so little anesthetic that they were conscious when the Pavulon and potassium chloride were administered.

Also in March, California Assembly members Sally Lieber and Paul Koretz reintroduced moratorium legislation, after the appropriations committee killed a bill earlier this year. This time, the bill would have required the approval of the voters in November, which would mean a lot of money and energy being poured into a losing and discouraging electoral campaign. It seems like that without the active support of any of the anti-death penalty organizations, this bill will not be voted on this year.

There is no humane way to kill –
Demand an end to the Death Penalty
Tuesday, May 2
11:30 a.m.
Press Conference and Rally
San Jose Federal Building
280 South First Street

CNA Denounces Nurses’ Participation in Capital Punishment

The following statement was issued on September 25, 1988 by the Board of Directors of the California Nurses Associations

The goal of nursing is the promotion, maintenance, and restoration of health, the prevention of illness, and the alleviation of suffering. The social contract between nursing and society to meet these goals is based upon a code of ethics that is grounded in the basic ethical principles of respect for persons, the non-infliction of harm, and fidelity to recipients of nursing care. These principles command that nurses protect or preserve life, avoid doing harm, and create a relationship of trust and loyalty with recipients of nursing actions.

Regardless of the personal opinion of the nurse regarding the moral appropriateness of capital punishment, either generally or specifically, it is a breach of the ethical tradition of nursing to participate in taking human life, even through a legally authorized civil or military execution.

Legislative authorization of capital punishment by lethal injection raises the possibility that some nurses may be asked or assigned to participate in the execution of prisoners by such activities as assessment, supervision, or monitoring of the procedure or the prisoner; procurement or preparation of the drugs or solution; insertion of intravenous lines; or injection of the lethal solution.

CNA is strongly opposed to these and all forms of participation by nurses in capital punishment by whatever means, whether under civil or military legal authority. 

Shut Down the Prison Camps Now!

Act Against Torture, a new Bay Area direct action group, hit the street on March 20, three years after activists shut down San Francisco to protest the onset of the latest war against Iraq.  AAT, founded by some of the people who initiated the shutdown, called for a “visual takeover” of the intersection where Dianne Feinstein has her San Francisco office, otherwise known as Montgomery & Market.

Truckloads of props set the tone for the action.  Stop Signs bearing the messages Stop Torture, Stop Indefinite Detention, Stop Human Rights Abuses; giant yellow hands with bloody slogans on them, huge banners, hooded prisoners in orange jumpsuits and a giant cage decorated the four corners of the busy intersection.

No one who was in the area could miss being reminded about the United States concentration camps for Muslim and Arab men scattered around the world.

After an hour’s legal protest, 17 people occupied the street.  A line of hooded prisoners knelt in the intersection, while others blockaded inside the portable cage.  They were arrested in about 20 minutes, but police kept traffic stopped for another half hour or so, until they had finished “field booking” all the arrestees.

Whether San Francisco wanted to get the message was another question.  A lot of people, from reporters to visitors to our website, demanded to know why we were “preaching to the choir.”  The whole Bay Area, we were told, is already “with us”, so why were we inconveniencing their morning commute?

But are people with us?  The people who were giving out fact sheets on torture that morning reported that most commuters greeted them with total disinterest.  Several rounds of posters and stickers have been torn down from utility poles, and from the incomplete and sporadic nature of the removal, not by city workers.  Though our action got huge media attention, our email hasn’t been deluged with people wanting to get involved.

AAT isn’t just trying to let people know about the concentration camps and the severe abuse that is going on there every day.  We are trying to remind people that it’s our responsibility as people living under the government that is committing these war crimes to take action to stop them.  That’s a hard message to get across, especially in these days of “internet activism,” when people are told that resisting means clicking a link on MoveOn’s website.

Dianne Feinstein herself exemplifies the belief that it’s enough just to be against the denial of civil and human rights.  Her voting record, surprisingly, considering her Republicratness, is better than most – she voted against continued funding for the Guantanamo prison camp, she was part of a fact-finding mission to inspect the camp soon after it was established; she voted for the so-called congressional torture ban.  But as a member of the judiciary committee, which has sole access to classified information about what unspeakable horrors the bush administration admits to engaging in regularly at the prison camps, she has a responsibility to do much more.  She needs to lead a congressional charge to close down the prison camps and make sure people aren’t moved to others even further from view.  And that she is unlikely to do at all, but certainly will not without our demanding it loudly and persistently.  My coworker thinks that lots of people sending her emails will make her do it, but I think it’s going to take people getting up out of their chairs.

Next on AAT’s program are the April 17, 2006, Palestinian Political Prisoners Day and Tax Day Demonstration and March (cosponsored with SUSTAIN and ADC-SF) and participating in the Immigrant Justice march on April 23.  We’re also producing “Torture Seals” to put on letters, to send the word out from San Francisco, getting set to do more postering and stickering as soon as the weather clears a little, and talking about some creative venues for guerrilla theater.

Join Us!  Check out the Ten Things You Can Do To Stop Torture And Indefinite Detention at www.ActAgainstTorture.org.  Downloadable materials include stickers, seals, posters and fact sheets.

We’re not preaching to the choir, we’re telling the choir to get up and sing!


The MOCHA Column


Inside Man (reviewed by Deni and Chaya)

Spike Lee has made some interesting movies (most recently “25th Hour” and “Bamboozled”) which provoke thought, discussion, and controversy about important issues (race, class, authenticity, interpersonal connections/alienation). Unfortunately, Inside Man was not one of these. This movie starring Denzel Washington in a bank robbery/hostage/whodunit is often entertaining but we expect more from Spike than that. Some of the issues that are raised (race, racial profiling, societal violence) were presented in little message vignettes (the violent video game and the “I’m Sikh, not Arab” scenes) and seemed tacked on to a plot filled with twists, turns, and ultimately some gaping holes. Can’t write about some of the holes without giving the plot away, but as the movie goes on the holes become increasingly difficult to ignore: why didn’t Christopher Plummer (the bank president) use a shredder and how old was he supposed to be anyway; how did Jodie Foster get to be such a big wheeler-dealer when she didn’t seem too successful at her subterfuge and wheeling-dealing; how could it be possible that Denzel (even with his smarts, looks and charm) would be left in charge of such a major situation in the Wall Street area of NYC when he was still struggling to make detective 1st grade? It’s easier to overlook improbabilities like these if there’s a more fundamentally gripping core to the movie.

We kept wondering why would Spike Lee make this movie? What exactly was its point? It does provide racial content throughout, but why frame the whole thing on a plot that any director of action movies could make? So much of it was overblown – the music, the dizzying hand-held or overhead camera shots, while the supporting cast played 2nd fiddle to the plot twists and gimmicky premise. Why did Spike choose to make a movie in which the cops are the good guys? And is it true -- as Daniel says -- that the longer Jodie Foster stays in the closet the worse her movies get? (and as for those very high heels … lose ‘em or give them to the guys!)  Skip it.

V FOR VENDETTA (reviewed by Daniel)

Anthony La Paglia played an australian cop in “Lantana” a few years ago. I liked him in that, but thought his accent was terrible. My mistake. He does speak Australian. So I cannot pass judgment on Natalie Portman’s accent in V for Vendetta. The Wachowski brothers bring us this film. They are also responsible for all three Matrices. Anarchos Productions, Inc is also involved. I don’t know who they are, but isn’t the company name groovy?

It’s set in a future England near enough to be scary and cautionary. John Hurt plays the evil High Chancellor. He’s done other things kind of like this -- The Osterman Weekend, 1984. This time he’s talking down from the big screen.

The character V is introduced to us rescuing a distressed damsel, Natalie Portman, from bad cops on the eve of Guy Fawkes Day. He has a lot of v words and does some really neat things with knives. Unlike Independence Day where the white house got blasted immediately, the brothers W make us wait to find out if the Houses of Parliament get blown up.

There are some torture scenes (or are there?). And you ask yourself is it ok for a good guy to kill bad people (a whole lot of them). Is it really a revolution of the masses if it’s achieved by one person?

There are a lot of small things you notice, the monument of children playing ring around the rosy to people dead from a plague, the number of actors you recognize from english imports on PBS, the connections you trace. V, played by Hugo Weaving, constantly watches the Count of Monte Cristo, which film was remade with Guy Pierce, his costar from Priscilla Queen of the Desert.


What Is That Phone Number Again?   Not much these days causes one to chuckle out loud, especially when listening to Democracy Now. But retired U.S. Colonel Sam Gardiner talking about PsyOps (Pentagon psychological operations) did it for us. In noting some of the “good” things that PsyOps is doing, he said “they printed labels for the Marine Corps that went on water bottles that they handed to pilgrims (sic) in Iraq, and the label said, ‘If you see a terrorist, please call this phone number.’ Sounds like a good label to put across so many faces in the U.S. government. And please overlook us occupying your country, as well.

First Amendment Guarantees (and you thought they were all gone): A recent poll found that more people could name all 3 judges on “American Idol” than could name any three First Amendment rights. And one-quarter of Americans polled could name all 5 members of the Simpson family but could not name more than 1 of the five freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment. Will it surprise you to learn that the same poll found that 1 in 5 Americans thinks the right to own a pet is protected in the constitution? Woof!

Penguin Update: Hmm, so the Swedish female penguins flown in to try to convert the gay male German penguins have been “too shy in their advances” according to the German zoo director. Perhaps there is something fishy (a little penguin joke) about the females as well? Perhaps they are not shy but merely uninterested? The zookeeper felt it necessary to assert that the zoo “accepts the male couples that have formed and are not trying to enforce heterosexuality, as we were accused of doing last year,” but we understand that World Pride has been moved from Jerusalem to Germany in an effort to support the German and the Swedish penguins to have whatever relationships they choose.


State of Terror Continues in the Philippines

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared a “state of national emergency” on February 24, outlawing all demonstrations, closing the main Philippines newspapers, and even shutting down all ability to send email out of the country.  Arroyo's emergency declaration came on the eve of the 20th anniversary of the People Power uprising, which ended the 20-year dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos. Former president Cory Aquino, who was brought to power by the 1986 revolt, vowed to commit civil disobedience by demonstrating in defiance of the state of emergency.

Thought the official martial law was lifted two weeks later, five congressional representatives, including GABRIELA women’s party representative Liza Masa, are still facing arrest for fabricated charges of rebellion.  The wanted congresspeople are sleeping on the floor of the legislature to avoid arrest.  Representative Crispin Beltran, recently rushed to the hospital for hypertension, is under arrest for a warrant issued in 1985 during Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorship.  Public assembly and press freedom are still restricted;  civil liberties are still curtailed.  Suppression of people’s rights, repression and political persecution are indeed the mainstays of Arroyo’s regime.

On April 3, Inday Estorba, 31, Gabriela Women's Party member and staff of the Women's Development Center in Bohol became the 68th woman leader assassinated by army agents under the Arroyo regime.

GABRIELA Network and other Philippine solidarity organizations held protests all over the world in February and March to protest the state of emergency.  For more info, www.gabnet.org.

Coping with Cancer

by Lisa R.

In August 2005 I was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Nothing in my life had adequately prepared me for this terrifying news. Not 40 years as a leftist and a feminist, not the lesbian movement, not even many years as an AIDS activist. On the other hand, it was exactly those things that make me the person I am, and helped me get through this.

The good news is that I am now “cancer free.” With the treatment stage several months behind me, it mostly feels like a really bad acid trip. The fear, anxiety and emotional ups and downs were by far the worst aspect. I am deeply aware that I am very lucky and that many women have experiences far worse than mine.

My journey began in February 2005 when one of my cats walked across my chest while I was watching TV. I felt a tender spot and looked down to see a small swelling—like a blister under the skin—much too small to consider a “lump.” I decided to ignore it. After a few weeks, when it hadn’t gone away, I made an appointment to see my nurse practitioner at Kaiser.

My regular NP was out sick the day of my appointment and another NP examined me, told me she could feel nothing and said I shouldn’t worry. She said if it would make me feel better I should come back in six weeks and see my regular NP.

Six weeks later my regular NP examined my breast and said what I felt was a normal thickening of breast tissue, common in women my age. She said, “There’s nothing to worry about, but if it would make you feel any better, get a mammogram.” I made an appointment to get a mammogram in mid June, but I was busy in my life and since two medical professionals had now told me I was fine, I rescheduled for late July.  I was diagnosed in mid August.

Biggest Lesson: When a 55-year-old woman says she feels something in her breast she should be sent for a mammogram or an ultrasound immediately.

When that woman lives in the Bay Area, a known “breast cancer hot spot,” she should insist on a mammogram. I didn’t. When that woman has never had children, she is at even greater risk for breast cancer.

My dad died of brain cancer when I was a teenager, so I had a vivid and awful vision of what a “cancer” diagnosis meant.

Luckily, I have a wonderful circle of friends and extended family, and an ex-girlfriend in NY who is a breast cancer surgeon. Within 24 hours after my diagnosis eight friends had swung into action and formed a health team (a lesson learned from ACT UP and the AIDS movement).  Members of the health team attended all medical appointments with me from then on, and we made all medical decisions collectively. These people got me through the next five months and saved my life as much as any doctor.

While the diagnostic process totally sucked, to Kaiser’s credit, once you are on the “cancer track,” they organize each step of treatment.

My docs recommended a lumpectomy. Initially I wanted the mastectomy because I felt completely alienated from my breast and just wanted that cancer off of me. It turns out that mastectomy is complicated for gals with big breasts. After considering all the pros and cons with the health team, I agreed to the lumpectomy. This included taking a sentinel lymph node to see if the cancer had spread to other parts of my body.

Thanks to the miracle of managed care, the lumpectomy and sentinel node dissection is an out patient procedure!!! Half a dozen women came with me to the hospital and stayed many, many hours. Removing the entire cancer took longer than anticipated and my friends finally brought me home at the end of a long day. Fortunately for me, I was asleep through the entire thing. The nodes were negative so I came home a very happy gal. A friend who is a physician, was so freaked out that this was done as an out patient procedure that she insisted on sleeping at my house so there would be an MD on call all night. I slept great knowing she was in the next room.

I spent two weeks recovering at home, but one would have been sufficient. Friends brought me magnificent home cooked meals daily, organized by the health team; I was pretty much fine, just freaked out. There was no post op discomfort and I stopped taking the pain meds after just a few days. I was scared to remove the bandages, but a friend who is a nurse took them off for me. I was so happy to see my cancer free, Amazonian breast that I took some pictures.

The really rough part began when I got conflicting advice from my oncologist at Kaiser and my friend in NY. I had thought I was off the chemo hook when I learned that my lymph nodes were negative and the cancer hadn’t spread. The Kaiser doc felt I would not benefit from chemo and that I should proceed with six weeks of radiation and then take an estrogen suppressant for the next five years. My NY friend said the standard of care at her hospital for someone with a 1.5 cm tumor was a four to six month course of chemo, followed by radiation and then the estrogen suppressant.

To say that I felt overwhelmed and out of my depth would be the understatement of the millennium.

My friend in NY was concerned that Kaiser might be treating me on the cheap and not offering the best (read most expensive) treatment. She urged me to seek other opinions. She also suggested that I get a very expensive genetic test to predict the likelihood of distant recurrence.

The Kaiser doc agreed to the genetic test and, health team in tow, I began a round of second, third and fourth opinions. This was time consuming and expensive. I suffered from serious information overload. I read too many scary web sites. My brain hurt.

All the second, third and fourth opinion docs agreed with Kaiser . When the genetic test came back showing a very low risk of recurrence, I decided to go with the Kaiser program and skip the chemo.

I started radiation in mid October. In December 2005 the San Antonio Annual Breast Cancer conference officially changed the protocols for women with estrogen receptive cancers smaller than 2 cm. Their studies had revealed that 60% of women with that profile who had received chemo had not benefited from it. I was relieved that we had made the right choice.

While I was getting radiation treatments—daily for six weeks—I became friendly with all the other women who were in the waiting room every morning at 8:00 AM. So many stories. So much bonding. Very striking to me was that just about all of them had found their own cancers rather than having their cancers discovered by doctors, nurses or as a result of their annual mammograms.

The other big decision I had to make was whether or not to join the clinical trial suggested by my Kaiser doc. This trial is looking at the side effects of two different hormonal treatments for breast cancer. Participants are randomly assigned to one drug or the other. Participants are told which drug they are getting, but they cannot choose.

I wanted to join the trial because you get monitored much more closely than folks who are not in the trial. But I was fearful of receiving a drug that might not be effective. This is where the health team really kicked butt. Two women on the team had a lot of experience with clinical trials and two of my work colleagues are AIDS researchers. All these folks reviewed the 20-page clinical trial prospectus and assured me that this was a good idea. The meds were already determined to be safe and effective. This aspect of the trial was only looking at side effects. I never could have made this decision without the health team.

After the radiation treatments concluded in December, I joined the clinical trial, and so far the main side effects are wicked hot flashes. I am getting acupuncture and taking Chinese herbs to help with that.

The two biggest lessons for me are:

1. the importance of early detection, including self exams (which I seldom did), and demanding ultrasounds or mammograms if you find anything suspicious.

2. the importance of a great support system, good friends or family and the power of collective decision-making.

This is probably a good time to to sing the praises of: Leslie, Mirk, Jennifer, Laura, Kanani, Karin, Barbara, Mic, Ingrid, Liz and all my other friends and co-workers.

France Fries

by Daniel

A million people in the streets is heartwarming, whether it’s the City of Angels or the City of Lights.

For a month now Paris’s peasants have been, well, revolting. A so-called minor change in the labor law of that country has propelled a generation into the streets and another generation with them. In San Francisco, home of the Stop AIDS Now or Else occupation of the Golden Gate Bridge, the occupation of the Eiffel Tower by a group of young workers engenders warm, fuzzy solidarity.

At the beginning of March, the conservative prime minister of France announced he was going to implement changes in the labor laws that would reduce protections for workers under 27. This minor reform would have been a major concession to anti-worker globalization. So, for millions of young people across France, a line was drawn in the Seine.

The law passed by the national assembly and signed into effect by the also conservative president was duplicitously named the “First Employment Contract,” or CPE.  What it actually does is guarantee a revolving door for young workers, as it allows anyone under 27 to be fired for no reason within two years of being hired. This heralds the erosion of protections won through militant labor battles over the course of the last century.

The demand of unions in France is simple: the CPE must go. (Ed's note:  It has!)  The French economy has been a challenge to globalization. A 35 hour work week, 5 weeks paid vacation per year, funded pensions and health care still support a higher worker productivity rate that in the much reformed u.s. economy.

The second week of April will probably see continuing huge demonstrations and myriad smaller actions (like the disruption of sporting events in the south of france). The government of france has said it will then make a final decision about the law of first employment. Faction fighting in the ruling party between potential candidates for the presidency is said to have delayed the announcement. Perhaps the government hopes that the upcoming easter break will slow the momentum of protesters. Allons enfants…!!!