In This Issue

Greenwash Station Grand Opening
The Struggle to Free the New Jersey 4
The MOCHA Column
Oy! How’re We Gonna End This War?
ENDA Run Around LGBT Community
Kevin Cooper Appeal Denied
Global oil slick: A rant on the need to go local
Thoughts on Organizing a Union
HRC Sweatshop Playground at Castro Fair
Elevator up to the skies
Health Care Deform

Greenwash Station Grand Opening

San Francisco  – Mayor Gavin Newsom today cut the ribbon on what is believed to be the nation’s first “Greenwash” station. The station will provide one-stop shopping for companies whose image has been adversely impacted by environmental events such as oil spills and major releases of toxic chemicals. 

In situations such as oil spills, “an immediate and coordinated response will prevent unfortunate consequences such as the airing of pictures of oiled birds, and volunteers using human hair to clean up beaches,” Newsom said. “It is important to start greenwashing at day one, and keep up the effort until all threat of government inquiry has passed.”

“This is a unique example of California’s greener jobs initiative,” he said, noting that the station is a partnership between environmental and human rights groups and the nearby Chevron and Valero refineries. “Do refineries know how to greenwash a company image after an oil spill?” he asked. “People do.” 

In other environmental news, Mayor Tom Bates announced that starting January 1, Wednesdays will be “No Green Light Days,” in Berkeley, a city long known for its innovative foreign and domestic policies.

“We are turning out the green lights on pollution,” he announced. “People who drive into Berkeley on Wednesdays will sit there until Thursday waiting for the light to change.” Bates said that he was moved to take this action after noting that with every corporation advertising themselves as green, it was time to put some teeth back into that color.


The Struggle to Free the New Jersey 4

by Cynthia

LAGAI members asked me to write a little about the latest events regarding the NJ4. For those that don’t know 4 black lesbian women, Patrice Johnson, Renata Hill, Venice Brown and Terrain Dandrigde, were harassed and eventually attacked in NYC by Dwayne Buckle, an African-American vendor selling DVD’s. Buckle sexually propositioned one of the women however they continued to walk away from him. Buckle then followed the women which was videotaped by a camera showing Buckle’s harassment of the women and his explicitly obscene remarks directed at the women, who eventually began defending themselves from Buckle’s physical advances. The argument escalated to a full on physical fight with one of the women pulling a small steak knife from her purse to stop Buckle from hurting or potentially killing one of the women.

Two unknown men, also shown on video camera, assisted the women, who quickly left the scene.At some point Buckle was stabbed. There was no evidence that the steak knife was the assault weapon and Buckle, in fact, admitted that it was not the women who caused his injuries, that included a 5 day hospitalization and surgery for a lacerated liver and stomach. All the women were convicted of various degrees of assault receiving prison terms from 3-11 years.  Additionally, all the women knew of another comrade, Sakia Gunn, that was stabbed and killed in an incident very similar to theirs.

FIERCE (NYC) has been in the forefront of mobilizing support for the NJ4 however comrades from LAGAI, QUIT, GAY SHAME, INCITE and many others decided late last summer to start a west coast support team. First we met at Baker Place and that was cool but no one could figure out what we should do and even what could happen because the women were convicted and already in prison. So then we met again at a park in Oakland and that’s when we started rolling. First we got a name Support Self-Defense: Free the NJ4, and a yahoo group page, and came to the conclusion we had to raise money even if only to help the women while they were locked up but mostly everyone was hoping there was already a legal appeal process so the women would be eventually freed. So we agree to meet again and maybe throw a house party but that idea was quickly squashed because Xan and friends find a venue for a fund raiser at the Lucky Lounge a cool night club on Lake Shore Ave in Oakland. Then we have a meeting at Puck’s place and Rawlowe and Eric roll in with a button machine and we got buttons But we realize the main thing is that we need to spread the word about these black lesbian women so what a better place than Sister Comrade-an evening of words and music celebrating the lives of Audre Lourde and Pat Parker- so we, flyer every lesbian standing in line at this event. Then our distant but true comrade Angela Davis mentions the NJ4 while she reads one of Pat Parker’s most down with the people poems “I want out.” We went crazy. Then Deeg finds out that in fact they do have appeal lawyers and the appeal process is going strong in NYC and we make 650.00 dollars at the Lucky Lounge

This last weekend with the help of Abby and friends we had another event at Parkside Lounge aka Club Feral that included a bake sale with exclusively vegan baked cupcakes and brownies. I want to close this update with a request that if anyone out there wants to be down with Support Self-Defense: Free the NJ4 our next meeting is 12/12/07 but you might miss that meeting so most likely we’ll have another meeting mid January. Also we have contact information flyers, and buttons. Finally, we are looking for a venue to throw fundraisers. I’m pretty sure we’re going to throw a big one in ’08 so look for us. Peace out.


The MOCHA Column

By Chaya and Deni with waggles from Sparky

  MOCHA COLUMN QUIZ: Who said, “The biggest conundrum right now is how to deal with bad actors who have a resource that the world needs.” Was it: (a) Ronald Reagan, (b) Arnold Schwarzenegger, (c) Bill Gates, or (d) David O’Reilly, CEO of Chevron. See end of column for the answer.


The Golden Compass (reviewed by Chaya and Deni):  We liked this powerfully-written fantasy book by Phillip Pullman, set in what appears to be the magic ruins of time in the early 20th century rather than the future. It features a girl (Lyra) as the chief character, a very independent, gutsy 11-year-old who goes on a quest to save her best friend and other children who have disappeared. The book is full of interesting people, places and creatures — there’s a community of polar bears, one of whom comes to the aid of Lyra, and good and bad witches. Every person has an animal (called a daemon) who is the physical manifestation of their soul. Pullman is an avowed atheist and the “villain” of the book is the Magisterium, a Catholic-church like entity that seeks total dominance through violent means. So the question is, could the movie capture all of this successfully? And the answer is: sort of. Cole says it’s not as iconoclastic as reviewers led you to believe. Before the movie opened it was slammed by conservative religious organizations, and the screenplay deliberately toned down the politics to make it more palatable. The special effects were good, but the plot was so rushed it was hard to connect with the characters and it didn’t pack much of an emotional punch.

Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium (reviewed by Deni):  This film, about a magic toy store and its owner, had some appealing aspects. It had many delightful toys, almost all old-fashioned and interactive (with no product placement!), and very cool and creative special effects. It dealt with death and the “afterlife” in a quirky, primarily non-religious way and the main kid character was offbeat. Jason Bateman played a kind of eyes in the pocket, nose on the ground type. Unfortunately, Dustin Hoffman’s fake lisp was very annoying and I’m not a big Natalie Portman fan. More unfortunately, the film also had some racist moments.

Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (reviewed by Chaya and Deni):  How could a movie with Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke, Marisa Tomei and Albert Finney be so awful? And how could so many critics be so wrong? This tale of 2 brothers who set out to rob their parents’ jewelry store gets as bad as their heist. We went with friends and we all agreed that Sidney Lumet’s direction was annoying, not hip; there wasn’t a lot of character development and we didn’t care about any of the characters (who were all self-centered idiots). And just when our friends thought they were going to see Ethan Hawke turn over without clothes on, he didn’t. Stay home!

Lions for Lambs: (reviewed by Cynthia, Deeg, Deni, Kate, Tory):  Hey, there is something redeeming about this movie: we all agreed that it was awful and most movie critics agreed as well! The bad [liberal] politics range from racist to classist to weak and uninformative, even on the situation in Iraq and Afghanistan it was ostensibly exploring. Meryl Streep was good as usual, Tom Cruise, with his 40 red, white and blue shoe strings and big smile was adequate, but Robert Redford (who directed as well as starred) was incredibly annoying. Boring cinematically with some really bad writing. Need we say skip it?

I’m Not There: (reviewed by Deni and Chaya):  Six actors play Bob or Dylanesque figures across the span and incarnations of his life in this fascinating movie by queer director Todd Haynes. Cate Blanchett is superlative. Chaya felt it needed tighter editing, especially in the Richard Gere section. Deni could’ve watched another hour of it, though must confess that as teenagers she and her sister loudly chorused to their parents that “your sons and your daughters are beyond your command,” and that she spent endless hours of high school classes memorizing Dylan lyrics, sneaking peaks at Desolation Row hidden in textbook pages. You don’t have to be a Dylan fan or weatherman to like the film though – it’s clever and creative with, of course, great music. 

Margot at the Wedding (reviewed by Deni): Despite Jennifer Jason Leigh (whom I really liked in “Dolores Claiborne”), this was a terrible movie. Constant unpleasant and bizarre family/friend interactions, a screaming battleground among people you couldn’t care less about. Nicole Kidman and Jack Black added more shrill irritations. The attempts at psychological insights just made it seem more superficial and annoying. Skip it.

Pre-review: Juno (by Deni)  When you see a lot of movies, you see a lot of coming attractions and this one got worse each time I saw it. A teen girl gets pregnant and it’s treated as mostly funny and charming, with just a hint of angst and pathos. Abortion is never even mentioned. Perhaps the family’s color (guess) and class (guess again) makes this crisis a bit easier than it is for so many young women. With teen pregnancy on the rise (abstinence only anyone?) and life getting harder in general, all I really wanna do is trash the phenomenal amount of critics that think this disgusting premise is entertaining and delightful.


Local Casting Call: (Some of these items we barely have to edit!!!)

From the SF Chronicle in November: Help wanted - volunteer victims. “In San Jose, paramedics, police and firefighters will respond to a simulated terrorist attack during a faux rock concert at Municipal Stadium. The organizers need at least 500 volunteers and need people to role-play. Organizers won’t say exactly what kind of “terrorist attack” will take place because as part of the training, first-responders will be required to figure out what happened. Generally, in these exercises, police or firefighters pretend to be victims. But organizers of this event thought untrained civilians - real people – might do a better job of portraying chaos and confusion in a large crowd than highly trained public safety professionals. Volunteers will receive lunch and snacks.” We’ve often thought the police do a damn good job of portraying chaos and confusion in a large crowd, but hey what do we untrained civilians know anyway…   

Big Brother Is Definitely Watching: Bush and Company plan to start harnessing the power of U.S. spy satellites for use inside the U.S. This “intelligence-sharing system” will be run chiefly by private companies (hey, Blackwater, wanna diversify?). The National Security Agency currently captures signals from phone calls, email and the internet, and translates and analyzes them. Then there’s the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which provides those scary overhead images and mapping tools. Data obtained from satellite and aircraft sensors can see through cloud cover and even go through buildings and underground bunkers. The new National Applications Office (part of Homeland Security) will oversee how this classified information is used within the U.S. during natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other events affecting national security (rock concerts?). Make sure you put on clean underwear.

Mitt Romney’s Our Guy: (Really, you have to read his whole scary statement)

“But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong. The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.” Especially when he’s on our side.

We Like Our Queers Out of Uniform:

General John Shalikashvili, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell was adopted, now argues for its repeal. “I now believe that if gay men and lesbians served openly in the U.S. military, they would not undermine the efficacy of the armed forces[darn!]. Our military has been stretched thin by our deployments in the Middle East, and we must welcome the service of any American who is willing and able to do the job.” Wow, welcomed with such open arms (no pun intended) we can only say “Screw you John and your racist, imperialist, homophobic military machine.”

Mitt Romney’s Our Guy: (Really, you have to read his whole scary statement)

“But in recent years, the notion of the separation of church and state has been taken by some well beyond its original meaning. They seek to remove from the public domain any acknowledgment of God. Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life. It is as if they are intent on establishing a new religion in America – the religion of secularism. They are wrong. The founders proscribed the establishment of a state religion, but they did not countenance the elimination of religion from the public square. We are a nation ‘Under God’ and in God, we do indeed trust.” Especially when he’s on our side.

ANSWER TO QUIZ: If you said (d) David O’Reilly, CEO of Chevron, you’re right! He was responding to criticism Chevron has received for owning part of a natural gas project in Burma. Chevron’s investment is ok because it predates the U.S.’s current sanctions. In response to a call from human rights activists to pull out or confront the military dictatorship, O’Reilly said, “What we do well is we invest in oil and gas exploration, refining and whatnot. We were in Angola during years and years of civil war…. And yet Angola’s civil war is over. We’ve had a very positive influence there. We’ve created a lot of jobs.” Hey, O’Reilly, don’t forget to also put on your resume those jobs you created in Nigeria (best not to mention the jobs went to soldiers to murder and terrorize the locals).

And a free, unopened Basement Tapes CD to anyone who spotted all the Dylan lines scattered throughout…



Oy! How’re We Gonna End This War?

by Kate

Another year is drawing to a close. We are struggling through another season of pseudo-secular “holiday” parties, watching the pretty lights and the tacky displays go up, and know that we are drawing inexorably closer to another January 11, another March 19.

January 11, 2002, when the first group of South Asian detainees was dragged, hooded and chained, to Guantánamo Bay.

March 19, 2003, when the second U.S. invasion of Iraq commenced.

Nearly a year has gone by since we last commemorated those unhappy anniversaries, and the anti-war movement can count its victories as few and far between.  Amid a growing consensus that Guantanamo must close, that the detainees must be given some of their legal rights under either the Geneva Conventions or U.S. law, the first of the 380 men still held there has yet to go to trial.  (The only one likely to go to trial in the near future, Omar Ahmed Khadr, was only 15 when he was arrested.  Now 21, his Canadian citizenship hasn’t helped him avoid being indefinitely locked up by the U.S.)  Though over two-thirds of Americans polled believe waterboarding is torture (don’t ask me what’s wrong with the other third), and 58% believe it should be prohibited, our new Attorney General Michael Mukasey would not commit to that position, and nearly the exact same percentage, 59%, responded that they had no opinion on whether Mukasey should be confirmed.

Opposition to the war is at an all-time high of 68%.  This of course is not due to the anti-war movement – how could it be? There barely is one – it’s because we’re losing, and because it costs $200 million a day.  But nonetheless, more than two-thirds of the public opposes the war, everyone knows it, and we are no closer to ending it.  bush has made it clear that he will reduce the surged troop level from 150,000 to 130,000 and call it a phased withdrawal, while building bases intended to house a long-term presence in Iraq.  The democrats, for their part, will no doubt rig the numbers if they get the chance to make it appear that they are bringing home slightly more troops than that, especially since we actually don’t have enough troops to send which is why tours of duty are being extended.  But of course, it really doesn’t even matter how many actual u.s. soldiers we have over there, because the private army is almost equal in number to the one on the official government payroll.

Then there’s the death toll, a staggering 1.2 million Iraqi lives lost since March 2003, according to a recent survey by Opinion Research Business, an independent polling agency located in London.  This outstrips not only the recent Rwandan genocide, for many of us it also outstrips our ability to feel.  Most of us cannot comprehend a number like that, and so it might as well not exist – and of course for most U.S. residents it doesn’t exist because we certainly don’t hear it on the nightly news.

So how do you write another article about our responsibility and our opportunity to build a broader, bigger, better organized and more visionary anti-war movement?  How do you motivate people to want to go out and do anything, when clearly nothing we do or say factors into what actually happens?  You want to start recycling old speeches and articles, play the anti-war movement’s greatest hits, but there aren’t any real hits to play.

Yet somehow, somewhere, we have to find the will and the way to move the anti-war movement from a fledgling protest network to a genuine force for resistance.  What is it going to take to do that?

First, we need to figure out what will energize and invigorate the people who came out in 2002 and 2003 to try to stop the war from starting.  The good part of where we are at is that we do not need to convince people the war is wrong.  They already know that.  What we need to convince them of is that it is worth it, and possible, to do something.  And the key to doing that is to find a something that many people will feel is worth doing.

The second thing we need to do is get every sector involved.  And this is probably not far removed from the first task.  One problem with the anti-war movement of the last couple years is that in its quest to become more mainstream, it has gone from weak to weaker.  There’s an assumption that in order to get “ordinary” people – as opposed to leftists, who are somehow presumed to be genetically unlike other people, as if we all had invisible horns or something – involved in anti-war protest, you have to make it extremely safe and easy.  I doubt there have been studies done on it, because the people who care about promoting protest against the government don’t generally have the funds to do studies (and most of us wouldn’t want to use whatever funds we do have that way), but I don’t think history bears out that presumption.  People don’t approach ending the war like they do buying the candy bars piled temptingly near the cash registers – the lower the cost and the easier to get to, the likelier they are to grab one.  Sometimes if the cost of activism is too low, it doesn’t feel worthwhile.  Hence our monthly Women In Black vigils, an hour of standing around pleasantly with friends, draw far fewer of the people we know well than we probably could if we planned a takeover of the Stock Exchange (just a hypothetical example).

It always troubles me when activists, usually but not always white, say, “People of color can’t participate in civil disobedience.”  People of color have participated in civil disobedience and other risky types of actions a lot more than white people have.  Remember the civil rights movement? The Chicano Moratorium, the Great Student Walkout, the United Farm Workers, the ILWU refusal to unload South African ships?  What is true is that people of color, and white people, and working people, and every other kind of people, need to feel like the risk is worth taking, and like the people planning the actions are people they are connected to.  Some activists imagine that simply putting “Fund Human Needs” on our fliers will magically draw impoverished communities to our actions.  In fact, while it’s certainly important to make the connection between the war and the lack of social spending, it’s not what you say that’s gets people involved, it’s who you are and who you know and people feeling that their communities are central to what’s being planned.

Clearly we need to do cross-movement building.  But, we need to do it in a way that enables people to talk to people they know, people they have access to, and people they feel they have something in common with.  If you say, “The Vietnam War ended largely because of massive resistance within the armed forces, so what we need to do is support GI resistance,” a few people will go join Courage to Resist or CCCO or organize tours of military families against the war, but most people will say, “Well, I don’t know anyone in the military so I guess I’m not one of the people who can end this war,” and that’s the last you will see of them.  For the anti-war movement to succeed, we need all the people who came out for the Day Without Immigrants to come out for a Day Without War, but the people who can make that happen are the ones who organized the Latino Peace March in 2006, not white people with no real ties to immigrant communities.

It’s very easy to convince people that what they need to do is wait for someone else to take action.  It’s harder to convince ourselves that we’re the ones who can make a difference.

We in the queer left need to think about the question, why in the biggest anti-war marches of this decade have there been no more than a couple hundred people marching in queer contingents?  We know there are at least a million queer people in the Bay Area, probably more.  And we know that queer people are, despite what “our” media and the advertising agencies that fund them like to suggest, generally concerned about social justice.  In the 1980s, when the movement opposing U.S. intervention in Central America and the Caribbean was in full swing, we had LGBT anti-war marches of 1,000 or more.  At the blockade of the Federal Building in the opening days of the First Gulf War in 1991, queers had an entire side of the building, packed in with arms linked.  Yes, those were the days of AIDS, which was radicalizing, and yes, some of those queers are dead, and yes, we have had another almost 20 years (eeek!) of assimilation since then, but still, we know a lot of those people are out there, what’s it going to take to bring them back to the streets?

Plenty of queer people are coming out to the big ANSWER and UFPJ marches, but they are not coming as part of a queer movement.  The people who came to queer anti-war demonstrations in the eighties and early nineties were mostly not coming just as individuals who opposed whatever war it was, they were people who identified with a broader progressive politics.  Now, most people, LGBT and straight alike, are coming to the marches as groups of friends or families, and then fading away, without congealing into an actual movement.  And that is not just true for our community.  Every sector has been depoliticized over the last fifteen years, just when we should have been becoming more revolutionary.

Planning is just beginning for a strong creative and unified direct action on March 19, which hopefully will kick off a campaign of creative resistance actions over the next year.  Get involved, and bring your wildest and wackiest imaginings for how to turn this wicked society around.


ENDA Run Around LGBT Community

The u.s. house of representatives recently passed a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). This version excluded protection against discrimination on the basis of gender identity. ENDA, which has been floating around congress since the mid-90’s had originally only covered discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. After many years of struggle by the trans community and other queers, the human rights campaign (HRC) grudgingly agreed to add gender identity to the bill.

The version of the bill introduced early this year, sponsored by representatives Tammy Baldwin and barney frank, included sexual orientation and gender identity. Representative frank chose to remove those provisions relating to gender identity because he thought the more inclusive version would not pass the house. Representative Baldwin removed her name from the mutilated version of the bill. The three hundred plus LGBT organizations which had been supporting the more inclusive version of the bill withdrew their support.

HRC chose to support frank. There were reports that HRC threatened legislators who did not support the mutilated bill by downgrading their “pro gay” score. 

Ted Kennedy is the main sponsor of ENDA in the Senate. He spoke in support of the house passage of the eviscerated ENDA. Any bill of this sort passed by congress with provisions relating to any LGBT people is going to be vetoed by president bush.

The decision to remove gender identity provisions from ENDA is anti trans. Attempts to rationalize and defend this decision are anti trans and anti queer.  It is impossible to protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation without also providing protection for people on the basis of gender identity, since so many of us are discriminated against for a combination of those identities, and a few others as well.

Attempts to divide the queer community serve the interests of the anti queer right wing.


Kevin Cooper Appeal Denied

On December 4, a three-judge panel of the 9th circuit kourt of appeals turned down Kevin Cooper’s appeal.

Kevin Cooper has been on California’s death row for over 20 years, because of his conviction for the 1983 murder of four people in Chino Hills. At the time of the murders, Kevin had escaped from prison in Chino, and was hiding in a house near the murder scene. As an African American escaped prisoner, Kevin was an easy target for police and prosecutors looking for a suspect in this high profile case. However, he has always maintained his innocence.  The current appeal is based on prosecutorial misconduct, including the mishandling and destruction of evidence and the failure to investigate evidence that indicated someone else had been present during the murders. He is also appealing on the grounds that his attorney at his initial trial failed to follow up on evidence that there was someone else in the house at the time of the murders, and to challenge the tainted evidence introduced against him.

In 2004, the Court of Appeals issued a last-minute stay of execution in the case due to questions about the evidence. A portion of their stay required the district kourt to oversee the analysis of certain evidence. Kevin’s lawyers have objected to the process that was used for this analysis but despite those objections, federal district judge Marilyn Huff, issued a ruling in 2006 upholding his conviction. The case was then appealed to the 9th Circuit. Although all three judges voted to uphold Kevin’s conviction, one of them, M. Margaret McKeown, wrote that “The forensic evidence in this case is critical and yet was compromised…These facts are all the more troubling because Cooper’s life is at stake.”  He will now appeal this ruling to the full 9th Circuit. If they decline to hear the case, his only remaining appeal will be to the u.s. supreme Kourt.

Executions in california have been on hold since 2006, when a federal judge stayed the scheduled execution of Michael Morales in order to determine whether lethal injection procedures were “cruel and unusual punishment.” A recent revision of california’s execution procedures was thrown out by a Marin judge on the basis that the state had not followed legal requirements for public comments on the new rules. The u.s. supreme kourt is expected to rule this spring on a Kentucky case challenging lethal injection. In October they stayed a scheduled execution in Mississippi pending that decision.

For the last 10 years Kevin has been an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and has been active in exposing the racism of California’s criminal injustice system.  He has been working with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, and has participated by phone in a number of “Live from Death Row” programs. For more information on the case go to You can also write to Kevin at: Mr. Kevin Cooper C65304 3-EB-82 San Quentin State Prison San Quentin, CA 94974.


HRC Sweatshop Playland at Castro Street Fair

Gay Shame SF and LAGAI-Queer Insurrection sponsored an “HRC sweatshop play land” for kids of all ages at 19th and Castro Streets during the Castro Street Fair in San Francisco on Sunday, October 7th. The playland asked “how can the Human Rights Campaign claim to be for the rights of humans, while cheering on corporate culture and selling goods manufactured in sweatshops?” Organizers said that, “Contrary to popular belief, capitalism has nothing to do with respect for human life. One of the basic ideas of capitalism is that profits come before everything else.” Kids of all ages learned to play on the sewing machine, the button press, and the sequin runner. A paint fume bouncy tent and a lab rat chemical dunk also were part of the play land. 

Gay Shame and LAGAI say that “The ultra straight-washed HRC urges us to Buy for equality by giving... multinational corporations a ‘green light’ for their commitment to ‘equality.’” Coors has faced a boycott since the 1970’s as a result of the Coors family’s donations to “causes” such as the Heritage Foundation, which is a far-right anti-gay, anti-woman organization. Other companies that (were) exposed include Nike, which is well-known for uses of sweatshops in manufacturing; Clear Channel, home of homophobic DJ Michael Savage; Shell Oil, BP, and Chevron; and Merck, which through patented AIDS medication makes access to Efavirenz unafordable for many HIV+ people in countries such as Brazil, Thailand, and the United States.

LAGAI — Queer Insurrection and Gay Shame ask, “What about queer people working in sweatshops, or working class/ poor people around the world and in the US that have their lives and health ripped to pieces to manufacture the HRC™s vision of equality?”

(This article originally appeared on indybay)


Global oil slick: A rant on the need to go local

by Lisa

From San Francisco Bay to the Black Sea the oil slick stretches and slithers across the waters – heavy oil sinking and spreading coating beaches and birds, aromatics evaporating in lung choking mists.  Here in our bay the spill tore away our fragile sense of safety and joy in our ability to preserve some scraps of the natural ecosystem, of living at the southern edge of Ecotopia.  Once more we rail against our failure to complete the revolution – Oh yes, we should have seceded long ago from this country, from the global market, but we did not.

The details of the immediate causes of these disasters are endlessly fascinating but never completely clear—a bad map, unskilled crew, arrogance, fog, the wrong ship in the wrong place.  The details of the failure to contain the oil – the time it takes to react, moving a ship to a place where oil will spread farthest and most efficiently rather than be contained.  The details of the clean-up, such as it was, the slow pace of the response, the volunteers turned away, are still to be excavated.  The tens of thousands of birds killed in short order – local resident birds and migrating flocks who had the bad fortune to be in our lovely waters that season.  The fish and birds and sea mammals and microscopic organisms that will die or be crippled cannot yet be fully known.

Overarching all of our anger and worry here in the Bay is the appalling scale of the spill in the Black Sea— inexorably dwarfing our pain and our tragedy.  The way the enormity of war and hunger in Iraq and Gaza dwarfs our pain at our own daily tragedies with cancer or broken bones or job loss or heart break.  Just the same, the we know that we must work to heal our local tragedy even as we acknowledge greater tragedies in other places and root out our complicity or unwitting contribution to the global as well as the local oil slick.  “How” is being discussed and dissected in the daily papers and on the TV news, and fault is being assigned and re-assigned, but a more important question is avoided—“why.”

Why do your cargo ships sail on my ocean?  (To paraphrase Woody Guthrie’s anti-war anthem.)  This massive metal ship is designed for one purpose only, to bring cheaply manufactured goods from China to the american buying public.  To me and to you even, if we never go inside the Costco store or the Walmart or the thousand other stores.   The clothes, the electronic gadgets, the plastic pails, covered storage, oh so useful and wasteful and unnecessary crap that american apartments and  houses are overflowing with that is filling the garages while the gas guzzling cars wait in the driveway at the curb to ferry the inhabitants back and forth to work to get the money to pay for the rent and the car and the gas and to ferry the inhabitants to the stores to buy more crap to fill up more rooms to eventually leave at the curb for the gas guzzling garbage trucks to take to the land fill and the dump and the recycling center where plastic is not really recycled but shipped back to asia – to India or even poorer nations to wait in mountains of plastic garbage for the promise of recycling in the future. These plastic garbage mountains hidden from the american public by the lovely green word “recycling”.   Or to wind up in the plastic garbage island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that is now a hazard to shipping — strangling sea turtles, choking sea bird, killing the ocean—a concept unfathomable to most.  That plastic garbage island now a hazard to those ships straining to bring more cheap goods to our shores across the ocean.  Those ships like the Cosco Busan burning the cheap, toxic, heavy bunker oil that pollutes the skies when burned and now coats our beaches, our wetlands, and the bed of our lovely bay.

The bed of the bay tortured by the invaders most clearly since the gold rush washed mountains and mercury down into this lovely bay once thick with fish and shell fish and bird life. Our lovely bay now lined with heavy oil and mercury and other toxic waste – a toxic bed made from sheets of greed and arrogance.

It is only because of the global reach and global market that those living here have been able to turn a blind eye to the most basic facts of life – that we are of this world not apart from it—that we must rely on this bay and these lands for our clean air, our water, our food, our spiritual sustenance.  It is the local ecology that should sustain us and in our arrogance we have and continue to destroy it. Globalization is the oily bed our society has made and we are forced to lie in.   Can we save this bay, or any other, if we only “think globally and act locally” – I don’t agree.  We must think locally and act globally to unwrap the tentacles of global business from our necks, find ways to undermine the global economy, and reassert the local economy of goods and services.  Local control of our environment local limits on ships, prioritize our seabirds and seals over newer faster ipods and cheap clothes.  The “how” that is most difficult is this one— “how” to change our daily lives and our so-called “culture” to prioritize the lives of sea birds and seals and oysters over our daily “pleasure” in new things.  And “how” to place a higher value on knowing the shores of this bay and the waves of these beaches and the fog and the wind off our ocean and bay better than we know lands far away. To travel less and protect more, to buy less and have more that we really “need” and value the life of other species and clean water and clean air above only our personal use of them. OH but you say, we should support the fair trade organic coffee growers in Mexico and Indonesia, the crafts people in Africa, the women’s rug making collective in India. And yes I love coffee and tea—these the most primal drugs at the very heart of the colonial system that has evolved into this global economy that is killing the living earth.

All I know is that the next cup of fair trade coffee I look into I will see the oil slick covering the seabirds see the oil coating our beaches and I will swallow my own hypocrisy to feel the thrill of caffeine once again and know that I am responsible too that I am still an integral part of this global madness that is killing our earth.


Thoughts on Organizing a Union

by Amanda

For nearly 20 years I’ve worked at the Native American Health Center, a small community clinic created after the demands of the Alcatraz Occupation called for health care for urban Indians. We just completed a successful union organizing drive.  An ILWU activist said that it was one of the worst anti-union campaigns seen in a long time. I was drafted to write something for UV and following is a jumble of reflections.

The union organizing committee (OC) was an incredible group of Indian women, many with over 20 years working for the clinic. Despite the challenges of busy lives and families, we put in countless hours after work for nearly 6 months. The climate of fear and intimidation created by the administration was unbelievable.  Workers were forced to sit through countless anti-union meetings. Thousands of scarce clinic $ were spent on union-busting lawyers, a bogus legal appeal to the NLRB, and a barrage of anti-union leaflets with slogans like “Vote Responsibly, vote NO.”  Indian community members were afraid to sign a support letter for fear that they wouldn‘t be able to receive medical or dental services that they needed. When community members called the administration to express their support, they were hung up on. Cecilia, an OC member, had always been very quiet and been raised as a Navajo woman not to speak up. Now she is a union spokeswoman.   The transformation of these Indian women into empowered leaders and organizers was beautiful to witness.  Our clinic is still reeling; Indian country and the rest of the world will never be the same.

My respect for union organizing has blossomed. The SEIU organizers we worked with were all people of color, mostly young. All the organizers who supported us were dedicated, enthusiastic, worked long hours, and had lots of experience. While working on, winning and losing many campaigns they had organized racist workers, been nearly run over trying to talk to workers who only were accessible as they drove in and out of the workplace, and had developed an arsenal of creative strategies. We struggled, laughed, cried, shared our lives, and learned from each other.  My friend who is an organizer for the Carpenter’s Union called regularly, always available for questions, advice, pickets, and support despite her own 60+ hour work week.  Many varied union members came out to support us.  Indian community members were always at our side.   “Solidarity forever” at its best.

The process also brought more sharply into focus for me many of the critiques of the Nonprofit Industrial Complex (NPIC).  Millions of nonprofits provide direct services to people in need in the wake of decades of declining wages, a decrease in housing, welfare and other benefits, along with deteriorating healthcare and education systems and skyrocketing incarceration. Hundreds of billions of dollars stolen from working people as profits and then stolen again through tax evasion are funneled into foundations, a new disguise for white supremacy and ruling class control. Services once provided by the government and subject to some popular control now exist in this shadow state of the NPIC where most workers make low wages and work many unpaid hours. All nonprofits must dance to the tune of their funders with close surveillance and a stifling of radical activism. Successful grant writers are more important than political organizers or radical visionaries and activists.

At our clinic we have many Indian women who accept low wages and deteriorating working conditions (despite the agency becoming a multimillion $ enterprise) because they love working with their people. We provide services to people who would have no place else to go except the overcrowded county hospital emergency room. The most anti-union department (mental health) is almost exclusively funded by grants.  The head of the department is the grant writer and the only white person. He told us he came from generations of union organizers and supporters but that a union was wrong for a nonprofit, that it was impossible with the grants to change worker’s wages and benefits. Reminds me of World Bank and IMF demands. 

I don’t have a conclusion to all these thoughts swirling in my head. I love the work I do and organizing the union was great. I became close to coworkers in other departments I hadn’t known, learned about a different kind of organizing, and believe we’ve made a positive change in our workplace for generations of workers to come.  My professional coworkers have ostracized me, and management watches me even more closely.  The management of many of the Indian agencies and clinics in the Bay Area has recently had anti-union meetings with their workers.  La luta continua!


Elevator up to the skies

by Anna

The Hungarian word for elevator is “lift”, but on the 29th of September “LIFT” also stood for the celebration of lesbian identities, composed of the words “Lesbian”, “Identity” and “FesTival”, as you might have guessed already. :-) You might have heard that this year in Hungary the LGBT pride was not really a delightful event: eggs and beer bottles were thrown at the participants, and also several people, women included, were beaten up after the Pride march. So, before the festival some of us did have fears, but fortunately no event came to disturb this nice, half-sunny Saturday.

The festival, organized by Labrisz, the only Hungarian lesbian association in volunteer work, took place at Merlin Theater, a cosy theater in the center of Budapest. This was the second lesbian festival in Hungary (the first one took place in 2005). Those who chose to come in the morning could hear two well-known Hungarian women artists opening the festival and then, if they wished, could look at lesbian artwork: mainly photos, but also sculptures and paintings. Another program we offered was movies of different regions and genres from recent Swiss, French and Hungarian documentaries to Taiwanese, British and American movies. Also, workshops were held about various subjects, like LGBT rights, the child raising of lesbians, and lesbian activitism in Central Europe. This last one was special because as it turned out, the participants from Central Europe were also all filmmakers who took shots of their L community along with our organization, Labrisz, and we were glad to hear about this common ground. Another workshop subject, LGBT people in schools, was also special, since it is one of Labrisz’s and a joint association’s features to visit high schools and talk about the everyday life of gay people. (We are now planning on getting this program included in teacher training courses in colleges, because, as we have experienced so far, appropriate information about gay people is still a blind spot for teachers as well as students.) Finally, in our creative writing workshop, each participant had to write a line she/he had in mind after hearing the word “elevator”, in order to compose a poem out of it.

At the closing of the day, “LIFT-prizes” were given to two women who have been working for the lesbian community for many years. We sure had a lift to the skies – to make way for the most frequented event of the day: a huge party with live music during the night of the festival.

All in all, our 2nd LIFT festival was successful, probably more successful than the first one, and we still hope to organize it next year with a lot more experience. LIFT’s most important feature is giving a cultural alternative to the L community and we are devoted to keep this alternative alive.

You can check the program here:


Health Care Deform

By Tory

When I started thinking about writing an update on recent health care issues, the upcoming nurses’ strike, the deform debacle, the mess at the Alameda County Medical Center, all I could do was rant endlessly to myself.   Because I work in health care, the horror of insurance, hospital, pharmaceutical, and durable medical goods corporations all becoming fabulously rich off the misery of disease, illness, injury and trauma makes me more angry (today) than any other facet of torture of capitalism.  We need a non-hierarchical participatory socialist revolution immediately.  Barring that, we need single-payer universal health care.

My friend has a broken leg, hit by a car in the crosswalk, as it happens.  The Summit Hospital Emergency Room was a disaster; no medical history was obtained though my friend has an extensive orthopedic history.  After an interminable wait and a painful set of x-rays, my friend was summarily put into a lousy brace which didn’t fit, given ineffective pain medications, told to follow up with some doctor and summarily ejected into the parking lot, left unable to get up from a seated position.  Next came the dragging around on crutches to get medical opinions and CAT scans.  The Summit CAT scan office was old seedy dirty beige walls, with low puffy upholstered benches packed with people.  My friend had to stand because it was nearly impossible for an injured person to get up from the poorly designed and anti-disabled benches.  We watched an ancient woman with a walker struggle up from a bench.  Of course not only were there no places to sit, but patients could not elevate painful injured limbs.  At no time was there any care taken for the patient.  Absolutely every single part of the health care experience was  designed to make somebody some money, save somebody money and ultimately to prevent access to health care.   This story is just an average health care story these days.  There are thousands of horror stories of mistakes made and lives lost  because of the drive to make money.  My friend has medical insurance, while 47 million people in amerikkka don’t.

Health care deform going on in Sacramento is nothing short of a disaster.  It is driven by a constant call for change in the existing system because everyone knows their health care or lack of it is a total fiasco.  People want this change and politicians respond to this pressure.  But oh so cleverly, rather than give the people what they really really want, the politicians are busy creating a draconian plan to put even more money in the pockets of the corrupt  insurance companies while pretending to heed the call for health care “reform”.

SB8, the nunez/perata pay or play plan with an individual mandate was  vetoed by schwarzenegger.  As a result a series of negotiations are taking place as we speak between nunez, perata and the governor in what is called the extraordinary session on health care.  The bill which is a combined effort of previous deform bills is called ABX1 1 (nunez) and is currently much closer to schwarzenegger’s original hideous pay or play proposal.  Nunez has conceded and the individual mandate which had been dropped is now back in the bill.  The bill is so bad that the League of Women Voters (not really known for particularly radical stances) has issued a call to action to defeat it.  Key points that they are making are that the individual mandate will not work.  People who are exempted from the mandate because they cannot afford the premiums would simply be left with out any coverage.  People forced by this mandate to pay for high deductible insurance will just not seek medical care at all because they will have to meet the deductible before getting health care.  Medical conditions will worsen as a result of inattention and people will end up in county emergency rooms when the medical problem can no longer be ignored.  The League of Women Voters criticizes ABX1 1 because it does nothing to control costs.  The bill places no limits on co-pays or deductibles.  Employers are required to pay 6.5 percent of payroll towards employee health care coverage which is currently less than what many employers now pay.  This will have the effect of eroding already existing benefits as employers will have the latitude to decide to decrease benefits.

The governor’s plan once an agreement on a health care deform is reached with the democrats is to put a funding initiative on the November ballot.  The chances that the voters will pass this ballot initiative is not good as initiatives involving funding are often defeated.   Part of the scheme includes a plan to help people who cannot afford the co-pays with a tax subsidy for people between 250-450 percent of poverty.   However as the subprime mortgage debacle impacts future state budgets, there is no money to fund such a subsidy.  Another cornerstone of the funding is to raise the tobacco tax which would also require voter approval.  The current deform proposals also have plans to tax hospitals with no provision to exclude the county hospitals who will be left to take up the slack when the deform bill fails.

Meanwhile labor, represented by Art Pulaski of the State Federation of Labor, has been waffling on providing real support for SB 840, the Kuehl single payer bill.  Labor has been involved in negotiations with the governor and the democrats about ABX1 1 trying to mitigate the worst aspects.  Labor has been fighting the individual mandate but to date this remains part of this devastating deform bill.   While giving lip service to support for single payer, labor with the exception of California Nurses Association (CNA)  and California School Employees Association (CSEA), labor unions such as SEIU have put all their energy into impacting the negotiations in Sacramento.  In meetings, SEIU organizers say that while they support single payer can’t it win so it isn’t worth working on.  This logic is spurious as if all of labor provided leadership to the campaign to win single payer responding to the will of the people, the insurance companies could be beat!  

Joining the league of women voters in opposing this hideous deform bill is the California Nurses Association, California School Employees Association, the Gray Panthers, Vote Health and Health Care for All- California.  These groups have been in the forefront of the fight for single payer universal health care with state senator Sheila Kuehl, a lesbian (of Dobie Gillis fame, she was the smart one).  Her  bill SB 840 is the only plan which would actually provide fundamental real change to the existing system and consequently is hated and feared by insurance companies.  This two-year bill is currently parked in committee to avoid veto by schwarzenegger and to weather the deform storm.  The organizing continues to gain momentum, no thanks to the media who regularly leave single payer out of the discussion.  Understanding and support for the idea of single payer and the bill rose significantly afer the release of Michael Moore’s SiCKO.  The OneCareNow campaign is working in the coming year on getting endorsements of city councils, school boards, churches and businesses and continued education about single payer health care.

Alameda County Medical Center as ususal is the center of desperate controversy, always underfunded and hanging on by a thread because of a lack of will and commitment to comprehensive health care for Alameda county residents.  Last year the county board of stupervisors and the hospital board of trustees agreed to rebuild the current inpatient 230 bed hospital, something that must be done to bring the building up to seismic standards. Wright Lassiter III, CEO of ACMC, agreed to an eight story 160 bed hospital at a cost of $550 million dollars.  By the summer of 2007 construction costs had already increased to $770 million dollars.  The 160 beds which Lassiter agreed to is already a scaled down poorly conceived plan which does not take into account the aging population of Alameda County.  The evil dave kears, the shadow puppet master behind the scene and director of the Alameda County Health Care Agency is busy meeting in closed meetings redesigning the project and scaling it down even further.  There have been no public hearings on the proposed changes for the a new inpatient hospital. The evil dave kears continues to underestimate needed  bed capacity, decrease obstetric beds and misjudge the need for expanded specialty clinics.

The funding problem for the needed new inpatient hospital is made worse by the county exacting a so called debt repayment from the medical center from the Measure A money.  The county is demanding repayment of money given to the county hospital to keep it afloat by itself.  This is nonsensical  and is a sneaky way for the county to abscond with money from Measure A which is money the voters approved as a half cent sales tax specifically to fund the medical center.  By insisting on repayment of this manufactured debt, the county is taking Measure A money dedicated to the hospital and using it to fund the sheriff’s department.

Meanwhile, California Nurse’s Association (CNA) is battling the sutter hsopital chain.  Nurses had a rousing spirited two day strike on October 10 and 11 which cost sutter $1 million and in which 5000 RNs participated.  Nurses called for full, safe staffing at all times, essential services in poor communities, and improvements in pensions and retirement health care.  Five sutter facilties locked out nurses for an additional three days in retaliation.  Cynthia, my co-worker, and I went to the Summit demonstration to support the striking nurses.  It was a blast and encouraging to see so many angry miltant worker-identified RNs shouting, yelling and walking the picket line.

CNA is planning another two day strike on December 13th and 14th.  The union and sutter management have reached no agreement on the issues.