In This Issue

PALIN:  Da Moose Causes Demise
Andrea Lewis
Hilda Bell Kirk Roberts
Against Equality, In Maine and Everywhere
Copenhagen and Beyond: Or why Queers reduce, reuse, and recycle
Flu Right Over Their Heads
Free Mohammad Othman Now!
Gay Men Murdered
Kevin Cooper’s Appeal Denied
Out of Time

Lynne Stewart begins sentence
Peltier receives humanitarian award & case update
Javad Jahi    1978-2009
Joya: US Troops Bad for Afghan Women
Sex assault rate found high at Chowchilla prison, Feds deny seriousness of assaults
Federal Appeals Court Puts Prisons on notice:  Women in labor should not to be shackled
Racial profiling:  Israel detains former BPP Dhoruba Bin Wahad

The MOCHA Column
Single Payer Activists Take to the Streets
Learning from the Young Lords


PALIN:  Da Moose Causes Demise

ALASKA, December 7, 2009--Sarah Palin’s publicists shocked the nation yesterday when they announced her demise in a hunting accident. It appears that she was taken out by a rogue moose. Speaking on condition of anonymity, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said, “I want to reassure all Americans that this was the action of one moose. This will not be open season on all meese.” Because it is still unknown if the moose is American or Canadian, more ICE has been sent north. “This is not a result of climate change,” noted the “unknown” official from behind a bookcase.

As a precautionary measure, since Palin’s 2012 presidential election ballots have been pre-counted, the national threat level has been raised to vermillion. It is well known that most Americans have uncomfortable memories of the color red.

In an unrelated story, after having been mistakenly put on the no-fly list, former attorney general Edwin Meese was allowed to board his flight at Ronald Reagan International Airport. 




Sunday, December 27
On the anniversary of the assault on Gaza last year
Candlelight vigil
4:00 – 6:00 p.m.
Union Square

Thursday, December 31
Gaza Freedom March Solidarity Action
12:00 p.m. at the Golden Gate Bridge
for info

All actions endorsed by QUIT! Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism

Andrea Lewis

Andrea Lewis, whose voice woke up Northern California progressives for the last ten years, died on November 15 of a heart attack.  She was 52.  Andrea was the host of The Morning Show on KPFA from 1999 to 2007.  In 2007-08, she took a leave of absence to take advantage of a Knight Fellowship at Stanford, a program for journalists wanting to make a mid-career shift.  When she returned, KPFA management decided not to bring her back to the Morning Show, instead giving her the Sunday morning slot, which she renamed "Sunday Sedition."  She also co-anchored the evening news.  Many queers will long remember her as the very best thing about KPFA.

Andrea Lewis was a native of Detroit, Michigan and earned a bachelor’s degree from Eastern Michigan University in 1982, where she studied Music, English Literature, and Art History.

Andrea first made her name in journalism after moving to the Bay Area in 1983. She started her career as an editor for Plexus: West Coast Women’s Press. In the late 1980s, she became a research editor for Mother Jones’s magazine. She then worked as an editorial assistant at Harper Collins Publishers in San Francisco and a senior editor at Third Force Magazine, a journal published by the Center for Third World Organizing.  In 1996, she joined Pacific News Service in San Francisco (now New America Media) as an Associate Editor.

It's hard to believe she had never done radio before coming to KPFA in 1999.  She was a natural for radio.  I interacted with her at KPFA just enough to admire her profoundly.  I was interviewed by her once, on International Women’s Day years ago.  It was short and not memorable for either of us, but I was impressed by her seamless transitions and easy manner in the studio.  Now that I know more about live radio, I am more impressed because she made it look so effortless when it really is not.

Andrea prepared superbly for her interviews – insofar as I knew her, it was because I do most of my work at KPFA on weekends, and when I was there on Saturday nights, Andrea was almost always there late into the evening getting ready for her Sunday show.  But she always managed to make it sound completely spontaneous.  I was always struck by how quickly she could create a rapport with her guests.  There must have been times when she didn’t do all the research herself, but was handed a bunch of papers by the producer – that's what producers are for, after all – but you could never tell.  She would say, “I was looking at your website and I noticed …” or “The thing that really grabbed me when I was reading your book,” and you believed it 100%.  She would always find something to bond over, even if she was less than inspired by the guest.  If she met someone for the first time at 7:35 and interviewed them from 7:40 to 7:45, it was five minutes of intimacy, and that intimacy was irresistible to the listeners.

A talented singer, she performed with a number of bands in the eighties, and for twenty years was a member of the San Francisco Symphony Chorus.  She performed on both of their Grammy winning records and sang with them at Carnegie Hall.  She was a big sports fan and incongruously, an avid golfer.

Much of what I've just told you is what you read or heard in the various obituaries by men who worked with her at KPFA (Max Pringle) or The Progressive (Matthew Rothschild), the article in the Chronicle or one of the many tributes that aired on KPFA in the weeks after she died.  But here's something you didn't read or hear:  From 2000 to 2001, she worked as a freelance reporter for  I didn't know that until I heard it from Judy Gerber, who was the news producer there.  So how come that one detail about Andrea's storied journalistic career didn't bear mentioning?

When I started volunteering at KPFA on Women's Magazine, one of my hopes was to get to know Andrea.  I can't say that really happened, though she was always very cordial when we met in the kitchen.  Recently I was inching closer to getting to know her, and both substantive conversations I had with her had to do with being lesbians.

If you asked me who Andrea was, the first words out of my mouth would be African American Lesbian Feminist.  So imagine my surprise when in three hours of people talking about her at the packed-house memorial, neither the “L Word” nor the “F Word” were spoken.  There were a couple oblique allusions to her being lesbian – Larry Samuels said she referred to him as “her weird straight guy friend,” and a number of people mentioned that she always called out “racism, sexism and homophobia” (always listed in that order).  In the two tributes that aired on the two shows she worked on, The Morning Show and Sunday Sedition, the word “lesbian” was barely mentioned.

There are women at KPFA who are feminists, and probably even lesbians, who don’t necessarily consider those core parts of their identities, but Andrea wasn’t one of them.  She got her start in Bay Area journalism working for a Plexus, a feminist newspaper.  Krissy Keefer of The Dance Brigade said in her tributes that Andrea called her a good friend, though they never socialized, and Krissy said she thought that was because they were connected through the women’s movement.

In a short interview with Andrea about feminism, Women's Magazine's Lisa Dettmer asked her, "Have you ever encountered sexism on the left?"  Andrea burst out with her signature rollicking laugh.  "How much time have you got?" she responded.  She recollected a time when – at a lesbian/gay conference – she was trying to ask a question.  "I'm a big person," she said.  "And the guy at the podium just kept saying, 'Are there no more questions?'  And I'm waving my hand.  It was like I was invisible."  She also talked about how she came to feminism as a young teenager, admiring people like Gloria Steinem, and appreciating the songwriting talents of Carole King.  When her father denied that a woman could have written all the songs on an album, and told Andrea she shouldn’t waste money on college, Andrea says “I just knew he was crazy.”

She also talked about believing that lesbianism and feminism were “part of the same package, not separate.”  When I was looking for pieces for our show to illustrate this commitment to women’s and queer issues, I didn’t find a single show that didn’t have something that would have been appropriate.  No matter what she was talking about, she always brought those lenses to it.

A few years ago, in an article called "Lord of the Rings vs. Matrix: Patriarchy vs. The Rainbow Coalition," she wrote:  "Like most, I was entertained and awed by the artistry and technical achievements of 'The Return of the King,' but by the end of the film's 3.5 hours I thought the final chapter should have been dubbed 'The Return of the Patriarchy.'  The 'Rings' films are like promotional ads for those tired old race and gender paradigms that were all the rage back in author J.R.R. Tolkien's day. Almost all of the heroes of the series are manly men who are whiter than white."

So I left the memorial asking, “Why is the first thing out of my mouth about this woman I barely knew the last thing out of the mouths of the people who knew her well?”  I wasn’t alone.  As I made my way out of the church, I heard other women talking about how weird it was.  This is not the first time I’ve had this experience relating to KPFA.  When Mike Alcalay, a gay activist and doctor who reported on AIDS issues, died a couple years ago, his brother was interviewed on Democracy Now! And did not say that he was gay.  In Mike’s case, it was even stranger, because he had been married (to a woman) and had twin sons, which was mentioned in the obits.

I think there are several reasons this keeps happening.  One is that, even in 2009 and even in progressive circles, straight people still have trouble saying the words “gay” and “lesbian.”  I believe they still feel like it’s saying something negative.  No one thought that saying Andrea was Black or African American or a woman was diminishing her, but I think they felt like alluding to her as a lesbian feminist would make some people not like her, or make her less important than focusing on her love of the arts and sports, her golfing, her singing, and her journalistic brilliance.  There’s still a belief, in left journalism as well as in the mainstream, that a “lesbian” journalist or a “feminist” journalist is a “niche” journalist, not as “universal” as a straight woman who doesn’t identify with those angry, man-hating feminists.  Which makes me think of Harvey Fierstein’s comment in “The Celluloid Closet,” that when people say, “Your work isn’t gay, it’s universal,” his (private) response is “Up yours.”

The other piece of this straightwashing phenomenon is that Andrea wasn’t married or domestic partnered.  If she had a lover or six, no one seems to know about it.  If she had had a wife or girlfriend, that person would have been central to her memorial and on air tributes.  But when single people die, in our coupleist, nuclear-family-oriented society, it’s our families of origin that tend to be centered and most of our families of origin, even if they are very accepting, are not that comfortable with our sexual orientation.  It’s like we revert to being kids, and kids are not seen as having sexual orientation.

The obit in the Chronicle concluded with "Ms. Lewis is survived by her parents, Mae and Frank Lewis of Ocala, Fla.; a brother, Eric Lewis of Southfield, Mich.; and a niece, Jasmine Erica Lewis, also of Southfield."  Now I'm sure that Andrea loved her family very much, but really, they were in Florida and Michigan, and she was here for twenty-five years.  When our friend and comrade Joan Kaye died, sixteen years ago, her brother complained that the memorial we were planning with her friends from the Postal Workers' Union and her affinity group "sounded like a rally."  He didn't get that that's exactly what Joan would have wanted, because her politics were what anchored her life, and the basis of her most important relationships.  Our society is so individualistic, that people can't understand being survived by a community.

I had hoped this would be the year when I would conquer my awe of Andrea and find a way to make her a friend.  Maybe that’s why her death has touched me deeply, maybe it’s because I’ve been around so many others who are grieving deeply for her, or maybe it’s the public Andrea I’m grieving: the publicly unapologetic fat lesbian feminist African American woman who incidentally sang and played golf.
--by Kate

Hilda Bell Kirk Roberts

Hilda Roberts, a long time political activist and veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, died on September 23. Hilda Bell was born in Philadelphia on December 23, 1915, of Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. She trained as a nurse at the Jewish Hospital School of Nursing, and immediately volunteered with the Medical Bureau to Aid Spanish Democracy. She worked in hospitals in Murcia before transferring to the Aragon front, where she traveled with a mobile hospital that set up surgical units in such places as an unused railway tunnel, a nut factory and a mansion. She was evacuated from Spain in December 1938, along with other International Brigade Volunteers.

During the Second World War, she joined the Army Nurse Corps, and was awarded two bronze battle stars for her work in New Guinea. She married Kris Kirk, and raised a son and two stepsons. Although they remained politically active, they left the Communist Party over “disillusionment with Stalin.” In 1953 the family’s passports were revoked by the state department because of their involvement with the international communist movement. 

Hilda received an advanced degree in psychiatric nursing from UCSF. When Kris died in 1964 she married her friend Bob Roberts, and they moved to St. Helena where she continued working as a nurse at Napa State Hospital.

After Bob died, she remained active in politics. In 1986 she picked coffee in Nicaragua with the Elders for Survival. She was part of the Pastors for Peace Caravans bringing computers and medical supplies to Cuba, and joined in the 23-day hunger strike in Loredo to get the buses released.

Hilda moved to Berkeley in 1994, and attended the weekly vigils of Women in Black and many other anti-war and pro-Palestine demonstrations. She was a member of the Rockin’ Solidarity Labor Heritage Chorus. She was an activist for labor, housing, and the rights of indigenous peoples. Although she eventually developed Alzheimers, she remained a constant presence at Bay Area protests, accompanied by her friend and later caretaker, Jane Welford. In 2008 she attended the dedication of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade Monument on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. She was the Brigade’s last surviving nurse.

We in LAGAI remember Hilda and Jane at the many demonstrations, big and small, throughout the years, and the inspiration that their friendship and activism has provided.

Hilda is survived by her son, Theodore Kirk; his half brothers, Neil and Keith Kirk and their families; stepdaughter Elizabeth Karan; various nieces and nephews, especially Joan Paul, who with Jane took care of Hilda during her last years.

A memorial is planned for Sunday, December 20 from 2:00 to 4:00 at Redwood Gardens, 2951 Derby St. in Berkeley.  Bring your favorite food to share. For more info call Jane Welford at (510)548-6310.

Against Equality, In Maine and Everywhere

by Conrad

In the aftermath of the losing battle for gay marriage rights in Maine, many local queer and trans activists have been left wondering how we even got here in the first place.  And the more troubling question is: Who is going to clean up this mess?  How did gay marriage become “the issue” in Maine and how did so many LGBTA folks get duped into making this campaign their top priority, emotionally, financially and otherwise, by the shallow rhetoric of equality?  If we, as a radical queer community, are to prevent the de-prioritization and de-funding of critical queer and trans community issues/organizations/services, the campaign in Maine must be dissected and used as a case study to learn from.  Our queerest futures depend on it!

Maine in Context: Material Conditions/Political Positionings

Maine is one of the poorest states in the country with a majority of its manufacturing outsourced overseas and its agricultural industries struggling to keep up with the rising costs of doing business.  The state ranks 43rd out of all states when measuring average annual income and has the 15th highest unemployment rate in the nation. To say that the economy in Maine is struggling is an understatement, and employment/poverty is a major concern for working class queer and trans folks.

Maine is also the largest New England state covering an area greater than all the other New England states combined with a population about the same size as Rhode Island.  Maine’s overwhelmingly white population and most of its wealth is concentrated along the coast, particularly in the southern part of the state.  As in many other states in the US, this creates a dichotomy of rural poor versus urban wealth that is often translated to conservative versus liberal.  It’s not that there aren’t rich people from Boston buying second homes in the rural areas down east or abject poverty in small cities like Lewiston and Waterville, but the overwhelming trend points towards a paradigm of rural poverty in most of the state.  Organizing a truly statewide campaign across such a large, rural, poor area is particularly challenging.

Under these material conditions queer and trans folks in Maine have been fighting for their lives.  For over a decade the state struggled to pass and uphold an addendum to the state’s human rights act that gave non-discrimination protections to LGBT folks in housing, employment and credit.  The non-discrimination law, once vetoed by the governor after passing legislation in 1993 and overturned twice by referendum in 1998 and 2000, was finally upheld in referendum in 2005 by a narrow margin.  The stranglehold of the conservative Christian right appeared to be weakening over the last two decades, but the bitter taste of defeat at the polls in the past still hadn’t left our mouths upon entering the gay marriage referendum.

Outside of the political arena, queer and trans folks in Maine have continued to face anti-queer violence in their communities, in their homes and on the streets of even the most gay friendly towns.  The gruesome murder of Scott A. Libby in Raymond in 2009, the gay bashing of a man in Portland to the point of unconsciousness in 2008, and the complete destruction of two lesbians’ home and car in Poland in 2006 serve as just a few examples.  They don’t just want us to not get married, they want us dead!

This Wedding Cake is Rotten

Gays and lesbians of all ages are obsessing over gay marriage as if it's going to cure AIDS, stop anti-queer/anti-trans violence, provide all uninsured queers with health care, and reform racist immigration policies.  Unfortunately, marriage does little more than consolidate even more power in the hands of already privileged gay couples engaged in middle class hetero-mimicry. 

 Let’s be clear: The national gay marriage campaign is NOT a social justice movement.  Gay marriage reinforces the for-profit medical industrial complex by tying access to health care to employment and relational status.  Gay marriage does not challenge patent laws that keep poor/working class poz folks from accessing life-extending medications.  Gay marriage reinforces the nuclear family as the primary support structure for youth even though nuclear families are largely responsible for queer teen homelessness, depression and suicide.  Gay marriage does not challenge economic systems set up to champion people over property and profit.  Gay marriage reinforces racist immigration laws by only allowing productive, “good”, soon-to-be-wed, non-citizens in while ignoring the rights of migrant workers.  Gay marriage simply has nothing to do with social justice.

An Opportunistic National Strategy

The national strategy for gay marriage is much larger and more insidious than most expect.  Maine was used as a pawn in a much larger scheme to pressure the federal government to take up the issue.  Even though LGBTQ identified Mainers spoke loud and clear about their priorities at both the statewide symposium convened by the Maine Community Foundation’s Equity Fund in 2007 and in a pre-election poll put out by the Family Affairs Newsletter in January 2009, somehow we still found ourselves in the midst of a $6 million dollar campaign for someone else’s priority.  The FAN found that nearly 70% of their readers did not identify marriage as their top priority issue and the symposium’s 4,000 word summary only mentions gay marriage in one sentence positively. Gay marriage is mentioned twice in the document, but in the second instance it is referenced negatively by youth at the conference who saw the gay marriage issue as pressuring them to live up to unwanted heteronormative expectations.

Most of the rights and privileges cited by the talking heads of the gay marriage movement are actually doled out by the Federal government and not individual states, thus the needed pressure from regional blocks on the federal government.  These 1,138 rights are cited by the General Accounting Office of the United States Government and largely pertain to the transfer of property and money.  If Maine had won with the popular vote, there would have been a greater opportunity to push the federal government to move on the issue as an entire regional block would be able to apply more serious pressure than through the piecemeal process of states legislating in favor of gay marriage across the country here and there. 

This national influence was seen in Portland on election night when both the executive director from the Human Rights Campaign (Joe Solmonese) and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (Rea Carey) showed up to give the crowd a pep talk.  Even more telling was the $400,000 plus dollars contributed by the HRC and NGLTG combined, as well as in-kind staff time.  If the NGLTF or HRC were interested in improving the lives of queer and trans Mainers, they would have given this kind of funding to issues actually outlined as critical at the statewide symposium and not to a bunch of power consolidating homo-politicos in Portland.

More money continued to roll in from other gay marriage groups in Massachusetts, Vermont, California, Colorado, Oregon and New Jersey; all recent gay marriage winners or soon-to-be-pawns in the state-by-state game to pressure the feds, whether the issue is a local priority or not.

Following the Money

The gay-marriage campaign has been sucking up resources like a massive sponge, corralling everyone to give up their last dollar and free time, leaving little sustenance for other queer groups doing critical work in our communities. An Equality Maine campaign letter had the audacity to claim that gay marriage is "the fight for our lives." I wonder whose lives they are talking about, when AIDS service organizations and community health/reproductive clinics across the state have been tightening their belts and desperately trying to crunch numbers so that more queer folks don't end up unemployed, uninsured, or worse yet, dead.  These organizations include clinics like Western Maine Community Action Health Services, AIDS service organizations like Down East AIDS Network, Eastern Maine AIDS Network, Maine AIDS Alliance, the Frannie Peabody Center, and queer/trans youth support groups like Out as I Want to Be, Outrageously Supportive, Outright L/A, and PRYSM.

In addition, over the last few years we have seen the Maine Speak Out Project and the Charlie Howard Memorial Library close their doors in Portland while the few remaining LGBT youth advocacy groups across the state scrounge just to keep their doors open after most of them folded in the late nineties.  The Department of Education has also announced that it will no longer be funding HIV Prevention Outreach Educators as of June 2010.  A particularly horrifying scenario for the queer community here, as queer men account for 67% of people living with HIV in Maine.

While essential services are disappearing, organizations are closing, and new gaps in services for aging LGBTQ folks are being identified, the marriage campaign in Maine is spending money with abandon.  The No on 1 group spent close to $6 million dollars over the duration of the campaign, taking in $1.4 million dollars in donations in the first three weeks of October alone.14  In a state with a tanking economy, this kind of reckless spending on a single issue campaign that isn’t even a top priority for most LGBT folks is blatant and unrestrained classism at its worst. 

To put this budget in perspective, the largest funding source for LGBT organizations in the state is the Equity Fund, which only distributes $40,000 a year amongst the numerous LGBT applicant organizations. At the current fiscal rate, it would take the Equity Fund about one hundred thirty five years to catch up with the spending accrued in one year by the Maine’s gay marriage campaign.  Imagine what kind of change could be made if that $6 million dollars was used to support organizational capacity building and programming of those organizations providing essential services and advocacy that the Equity Fund supports with their meager budget.  This kind of long-term approach to advocating real change seems like an obvious preference to throwing money down the drain in single-issue legislative campaigns.

Cultural Change vs. Legislative Change

Changing a law in a book does much less to create an atmosphere of safety for queer and trans folks than long-term cultural change.  In fact, in Maine the gay marriage law and referendum has conjured more reactionary anti-queer violence than before.  This can be seen quite clearly in Maine where the platform for people to air their homophobic grievances became massively public.  This overwhelming outpouring of homophobic vitriol via every kind of media outlet and public forum imaginable has had a terrible impact on LGBT youths’ mental health in particular.  One needs no further proof than volunteering at one of the few remaining queer and trans youth advocacy organizations in the poorer part of the state like I do in Androscoggin County.  Here youth have been utterly demoralized, openly gay bashed in school and town newspapers, and some even banned from starting a Gay Straight Alliance in their Sommerset County High School because of homophobic school staff citing the gay marriage campaigns as too controversial.

The focus of this campaign was to win the referendum by getting out the vote in winnable parts of the state, ie. metro-Portland and the coast, leaving the already most vulnerable queers in the rural parts of the state to fend for themselves while the campaign drums up homophobic fervor across the inland counties.  Those abandoned by the faux statewide campaign in the rural parts of the state have no support organizations to turn to once the campaign is over as they do not exist or barely do.   Furthermore, even if gay marriage had passed, would it even be safe to get gay married in most of the state?  Quite clearly, no.  And again, power and privilege remain among those who already had them to begin with.

Some suggest that gay marriage is part of a progress narrative and that it is a step in the right direction towards more expansive social justice issues.  This largely ignores a critique of power.  Once privilege is doled out to middle class gay couples, are they going to continue on to fight against racist immigration policies, for universal health care, for comprehensive queer/trans inclusive sex education, or to free queers unjustly imprisoned during rabidly homophobic sex-abuse witch hunts?  Doubtful is an overstatement.  It’s more likely they will be enjoying summer vacations at an expensive bed and breakfast in Ogunquit while the rest of us are still trying to access basic rights like health care and freedom of movement.  Let’s be real: Privilege breeds complacency.

Queer Futures Against Equality

The for/against dichotomy setup by the gay marriage movement and the homophobic legislative pandering of the Christian right is an absolute distraction.

If we are to imagine queer futures that don’t replicate the same violence and oppression many of us experience on an everyday basis as queer and trans folks, we must challenge the middle class neo-liberal war machine known as the national gay marriage campaign.  We must fight the rhetoric of equality and inclusion in systems of domination like marriage and the military, and stop believing that our participation in those institutions is more important than questioning those institutions legitimacy all together.  We need to call out the national marriage campaign as opportunistic and parasitic.  We must challenge their money mongering tactics to assure our local, truly community based LGBT organizations aren’t left financially high and dry while offering the few essential services to the most marginalized of our community.  Let Maine be an early example of why we must continue to fight against equality.

For further reading:


Copenhagen and Beyond: Or why Queers reduce, reuse, and recycle

By Lisa

By the time you read this, Copenhagen talks on climate will be well underway.  The big question is—will the result be worth all the greenhouse gases created to fly people from across the globe to a small city in Denmark? I try to be optimistic, but it’s hard.  A friend of mine described the current dilemma for climate change activists this way:

Working on climate issues in the U.S., one gets used to a twisted disconnect between accepted “political reality” and scientific reality. By way of analogy, imagine we’re all in a bus designed to survive a crash at no more than 55 miles per hour. We are accelerating toward a brick wall and already doing 65 mph. The debate among the passengers in the front rows is over whether we should hit the wall at 75 or 85 mph. Most of the passengers are oblivious to the wall and a few even deny its existence. President Obama, the driver, in the spirit of consensus and cooperation, announces that he is adopting a policy that will result in us hitting the wall at 80 mph. Some cheer his leadership on this issue. The wall looms ever closer. A growing number of scientists and activists are yelling from the back of the bus to slow down, but no one seems to hear us. 

As a queer/anti-war/anti-nuclear activist, in my experience yelling from the back of the bus never works -- you need to slash the tires, put sugar in the tank, and if all else fails, lay down in front of the bus.  OK to be fair, it is hard to get off this metaphorical bus in order to disable it.  It is interesting to keep in mind that the recession has reduced greenhouse gas production more than any other single measure adopted. 

350 ppm (that’s carbon in the atmosphere) - some say it’s a pipedream and others simply ignore it but the climate scientists have convinced me it is a critical limit that we have already passed. (Last tally we were at 385 ppm and rising fast.)  Under current emissions scenarios we are already committed to so much carbon in the air that we will lose most of our glaciers, the polar ice cap and, as a result, many species—not just the polar bear but the day to day “bugs and bunnies” we all depend on to keep the ecosystem we have come to know and love intact.  It will rain more and snow less in the Sierra Nevada mountains and water will be come ever scarcer in California. Hot days will be more frequent and hotter.  If we care about saving our living planet from our human folly what can we do?

Is 350 ppm even technically achievable?  Yes if everyone (including big business and corporate “persons”) really dedicate ourselves to decreasing carbon emissions on a personal level by reducing our use of energy and on a community or society-wide level by switching our energy production from “dirty” sources (coal, oil and gas) to cleaner renewable sources. The solution will likely require electric cars, new fuel sources, distributed solar as well as large scale wind, geothermal, and other new clean energy sources.  (Not to mention improved and well funded public transit.--ed)  Ultimately the decisions about energy production reflect social and political choices. It won’t be easy or painless but it is necessary.  And it raises questions of social equity across classes, and countries, and continents.  The “developed” countries got rich powered by cheap and dirty coal and now the “developing” countries are being asked to reduce emissions without compensation and in many cases these countries are also the most affected by the early impacts of climate change. It’s not fair, it never is.

Copenhagen is not just about reducing carbon emissions.  It’s also about who is going to pay for the change and who is going to suffer if it we can’t stop the bus.  Publicity stunts and street actions will abound no doubt and I wish I could be there yelling in the streets if only for the thrill and camaraderie of it all.  As to publicity stunts, the Maldives parliament met under water and then the Nepalese parliament met on the slopes of the Himalayas—our oceans are rising and our glaciers are melting—got it.  Obama is going to Copenhagen for the grand finale but I don’t expect anything more than a well-stated compromise from that quarter.  (Sorry, I guess I’m just a queer commie cynic after all.)

I wish I knew how to slash the tires on the bus or had some big new idea to save the earth … maybe we need a queer climate conference to figure that out (always a good way to meet a new lover).   Until then I will keep doing what I can—reducing energy use, reusing, and recycling.

Flu Right Over Their Heads

by George

H1N1 sprang onto the world’s consciousness last spring, with news reports of over 100 deaths in Mexico due to this novel influenza strain. In an attempt to slow the epidemic, many public and private institutions in Mexico City were shut down for a ten-day period starting on April 24. Initially, the virus was called “swine flu” because the virus had genetic components from influenza  viruses that infected pigs. Early news stories linked the virus to unsanitary factory pig farms in Mexico, particularly a U.S. based Smithfield Foods facility, near La Gloria in Veracruz, where some of the first human cases were detected.

In a report summarizing the first 18 cases admitted to the National Institute of Respiratory Diseases in Mexico City, the national tertiary hospital for respiratory diseases, the authors concluded that the novel virus could cause serious and even fatal disease in previously healthy individuals. Further, the report noted that 22 health care workers, of the 190 originally exposed to these 18 patients, came down with swine flu. Fortunately, probably due to early treatment with oseltamavir (tamiflu), none of these workers became seriously ill. The institution of isolation precautions, including the use of respirators to protect employees, and the prophylactic use of tamiflu for serious exposures, prevented any further illness among health care workers at the hospital.  In this hospital, S-OIV killed 7 of the first 18 cases, despite state of the art interventions.

Immediately, the messaging machine was cranked up. Fearing that consumers would stop buying pork the u.s. centers for disease control and prevention (CDC) renamed the virus “H1N1.” This message was followed almost immediately with a message that this flu virus was not particularly “virulent,” caused mostly “mild” disease, and was no more dangerous than seasonal flu, which, after all, kills 30,000 or so people each year. What this messaging did not address was why the disease was disproportionately affecting children and young adults and why previously healthy individuals were getting serious viral pneumonias, which is uncharacteristic of seasonal flu. (There have now been some reports that there may be more receptors for this virus in the lower lung and in the digestive tract than for seasonal influenza strains).

The flu season was just getting started in May in the southern hemisphere. In Australia, Argentina, and several other countries, it turned out that the novel H1N1 virus became the predominant strain. Although most people did not get seriously ill, hospitals were crowded with cases of severe viral pneumonia. Meanwhile, although flu cases in most parts of the u.s. declined during the summer, H1N1 continued to cause disease in California and some other places, and resulted in the closure of some summer camps and schools.

Western governments poured money into developing a flu vaccine. A seed virus was provided to vaccine manufacturers in July. H1N1 flu vaccine was expected to be available as early as October. Unfortunately, because flu vaccine is still produced as it was 50 years ago, by injecting the virus into chicken eggs the amount of vaccine that is produced varies greatly. It turned out that less than half the vaccine that was projected was available in October and November. When schools reopened in the fall, the number of H1N1 cases increased. At the end of November it appeared that the epidemic, or at least this wave, may have started to decline, although H1N1 remains widespread in California and about half the other states.

Health Care Workers

When the deadly H5N1 avian flu emerged in Asia in 2003, it spurred concern about a new influenza pandemic. Influenza pandemics occur when there is a genetic shift in an influenza virus, that causes it to be different enough from existing strains that virtually nobody has immunity. The classic influenza pandemic was the 1918 H1N1 virus, that killed approximately 50 million people world-wide. The 1918 pandemic is generally considered to have had three waves, with a milder wave in the spring of 1918, followed by two deadlier waves in the fall and winter of 1918 and 1919. The 1918 virus is thought to be the ancestor of existing H1N1 seasonal virus strains that circulate in both humans and pigs, as well as the ancestor of  reassorted H3N2 strains in people and pigs, that emerged in 1968.

Pandemic influenza planning was dominated by the health care industry and their friends in academia. Under successive waves of democratic and republican administrations, the CDC has turned over scientific and health policy decisions to advisory committees, such as the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), and the Healthcare Infection Control Practices Advisory Committee (HICPAC). These advisory committees provide a respectable cover for pharmaceutical companies, health insurers and hospitals. Among other things, seven billion dollars was provided to pharmaceutical companies to develop vaccine technologies.

However, because these infection control interests generally disfavored the use of respirators by health care workers, even for diseases clearly known to be spread by inhalation like TB, the pandemic flu plans did not include the use of respirators, and airborne infection isolation rooms. After all, respirators, even the cheap N95 respirators cost anywhere from 50 cents to a dollar, while surgical masks, which cannot prevent inhalation exposures, only cost a few pennies. In California and Minnesota, labor unions and occupational safety and health advocates were somewhat more successful, and at least got some mention of respirator use into the state pandemic flu plans, and this forced the federal government to mention, though not require, respirators in federal OSHA guidance. However, a lack of emphasis on employee protection in these plans, meant that relatively few respirators had been stockpiled, and health care facilities were not prepared to use them on a widespread basis when H1N1 broke out. During the first week of H1N1 in California, Children’s Hospital in Oakland ran out of respirators, and had to get them from the Alameda County stockpile.

When 2009 H1N1 emerged, the infection control apparatus declared that since this virus was similar to seasonal flu, there was therefore no need to take any unusual precautions to protect health care workers. They expected to control the CDC recommendations, as they had in the past, despite the mounting evidence that influenza can be transmitted through inhaled aerosols, as well as through droplets that land directly on mucous membranes, or are transferred through contaminated hands. HICPAC announced this summer that  airborne isolation and respiratory protection were not necessary for protecting health care workers from H1N1.

However, the unions intervened, and the CDC was prevented from just accepting these recommendations. An Institute of Medicine panel reviewed over a hundred published articles, heard days of presentations from major research teams, and concluded that health care workers caring for H1N1 patients should use fit-tested N95 respirators or better. This was immediately followed by a rush into publication by a Canadian researcher (Loeb) of a study purporting to show that surgical masks were “almost” as effective as respirators in preventing influenza transmission. The study, which had many significant flaws, actually found that 9 out of 212 health care workers using surgical masks contracted influenza, while only 2 out of 210 respirator users contracted influenza during the course of the study. However, because of the low numbers in the study, this result missed statistical significance by 0.01. The study did find a statistically significant difference in fever, but the authors didn’t think that was important.

The CDC released its recommendations on October 14, based on the IOM panel’s recommendation. The infection control people followed that with a campaign that falsely claimed that the IOM and CDC recommendations had been based on a study by Australian researcher Raina MacIntyre of surgical masks vs. respirators in protecting Chinese health care workers from seasonal flu. They wrote a letter to president Obama, and personally attacked Dr. MacIntyre, preventing her from getting her study published. Meanwhile, the respirator manufacturers have managed to manufacture a respirator shortage that is adding to the pressure to reduce the CDC recommendations.

Mandating vaccinations for health care workers

Prior to H1N1, several hospitals began experimenting with forcing employees to get the seasonal flu shot. In one hospital, several employees were fired after refusing to be vaccinated. In another, unvaccinated employees were required to wear surgical masks throughout the flu season, desptie the fact that vaccinations are not 100 percent effective, and that surgical masks have not been proven to prevent disease transmission. (Generally, the CDC claims that influenza vaccinations is 70 to 90 percent effective, although in some years the effectiveness has been less). However, in some years, the seasonal influenza vaccine has been far less effective, and may be less effective in some individuals).

With the added fears of H1N1, the New York State health commissioner ruled that health care workers must be vaccinated. The state was sued by the nurses unions, and an injunction was issued to prevent enforcement of the rule. The health commissioner has since withdrawn the proposal. The unions support requiring employers to provide flu vaccine, and support voluntary vaccination campaigns. 

Vaccine windfalls

The u.s. has already spent over 3 billion dollars on the H1N1 vaccine campaign. Two billion dollars has gone to vaccine manufacturers, including MedImmune (a subsidiary of AstraZenica), Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis, Baxter, GlaxoSmithKline and Solvay. In addition, the u.s. government is supplying the syringes and other ancillary supplies involved in giving the vaccine. Nonetheless, vaccinators, including doctors, and various retail chains, are able to charge for the costs of administration, about $25 per dose. The total costs of the vaccination campaign are not yet known, but are estimated to be about $6 billion. Canada has estimated that their campaign will cost about $1.5 billion, but of course, they have national health care.

About 40 percent of people in the u.s. have decided not to get the H1N1 vaccine, should it become available before they get sick. The response to the mass vaccination campaign demonstrates how little credibility remains in public health organizations. People don’t want to take the vaccine because they don’t believe it will protect them and because they don’t believe it is safe. With only messaging to substitute for actual information, individuals are left to try to decide how to protect themselves. Faced with a virus that generally will not kill you, but may, should you get a vaccination? Will mass vaccination cause the virus to die out (herd immunity), and therefore protect vulnerable people who can not be vaccinated?

There are a number of vaccination campaign success stories – smallpox has been eradicated, unless the biological warfare people bring it back. In the u.s. prior to the development of vaccine, there were 13,000 to 20,000 reported cases of paralytic polio per year in the u.s.. Vaccination virtually eliminated “wild” polio cases, however, the live polio vaccine caused 8-10 paralytic polio vaccine cases per year, and at this point, leading to the u.s. stopping use of the live vaccine.

But influenza vaccine does not provide lifelong immunity – in fact immunity wanes over the course of a year. This, combined with the genetic drift of the virus means that influenza vaccine must be taken annually. Vaccine has been shown not to be very effective in preventing disease in the elderly, who typically comprise 90 percent of deaths from complications of seasonal influenza although in one study vaccination of elderly people was reduced deaths by 80 percent, and hospitalizations by 50 to 60 percent.

During the swine flu vaccination campaign of 1976, cases of Guillain Barre Syndrome, an inflammatory autoimmune neuropathy, were associated with the swine flu vaccine campaign. GBS has not been associated with subsequent flu vaccine campaigns, and is also a rare complication of influenza. There is enhanced surveillance for GBS during the current vaccination campaign, and few cases have been found so far. Multi-dose vials contain a preservative, thimerosal (sodium ethylmercurithiosalicylate), which has been studied for potential association with autism. H1N1 vaccine is available in single dose administrations that do not contain thimerosal.

Meanwhile, health care organizations seem to be reluctant to give tamiflu to even high-risk patients, such as asthmatics or people with underlying health conditions. Tamiflu is only effective when given in the first 48 hours after symptoms develop, so you would think that organizations like Kaiser would be providing it

Free Mohammad Othman Now!

On September 22, Mohammad Othman was returning to Palestine from a trip to Norway when he was arrested by soldiers on the Allenby Bridge Crossing, the border from Jordan to Palestine. Mohammed was in Norway to speak about the Apartheid Wall and the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.  He was invited to met with senior Norwegian officials, including the finance minister.  Norway’s national Pension Fund recently announced that it had divested from Elbit, the Israeli company which provides both Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and other military technology for Occupation forces, as well as security systems for the Wall and settlements.

Mohammed has been in prison since September, solely for his human rights work.  Mohammad, 33 years old, has dedicated the last ten years of his life to the defense of Palestinian human rights. He has campaigned with the Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign against the dispossession of Palestinian farmers and against the involvement of Israeli and international business in the violations of Palestinian human rights.

His village, Jayyous, has been devastated by the Apartheid Wall and Zufim – a settlement, built by Lev Leviev’s companies. These companies are facing a successful boycott campaign because of their violations of Palestinian rights.

This is not the first time Palestinian human rights defenders have been arrested after trips abroad. Recently, Muhammad Srour, an eye witness at the UN Fact Finding Mission on Gaza, was arrested on his way back from Geneva. This arrest was a clear act of reprisal against Srour for speaking out about Israel’s violations of international law. Arresting Palestinians as they return from travel is yet another Israeli tactic to try to silence Palestinian human rights defenders. It complements the overall policy of isolation of the Palestinian people behind checkpoints, walls and razor wire.

On November 23, after 61 days of detention for the purpose of interrogation by Israeli Security Agency officers, Mohammad received his first administrative detention order. Under this order, he can be held for three months without charge.  Several days later, a judge upheld the administrative detention order but ruled that the two months Mohammad had already been imprisoned for interrogation have to be taken into account. This means that the administrative detention order expires on December 22.  Unfortunately, there is nothing that stops the israeli government from renewing administrative detention orders indefinitely.

Only a campaign of international solidarity will free Mohammed, who is considered the first political prisoner of the BDS Movement.  As part of that movement, QUIT! and LAGAI ask you to add your voices to the campaign to free Mohammed Othman.

For more information contact: 

Gay Men Murdered

Across the u.s. and Puerto Rico vigils have been held to honor the lives of two young gay people this past November. Jorge Steven Mercado, 19, in Puerto Rico, and Jason Mattison, Jr. in Maryland were murdered, their lives cut short. Outrage and horror and sorrow. Two suspects have been arrested, one in each case. The viciousness of the attacks is gut wrenching and heart wrenching.

Jorge Steven was an aspiring fashion artist. He spent a lot of his time doing good deeds. Jaysen was doing well in school and wanted to be a pediatrician. They were both out. Beautifully, way out.

Media coverage of  these murders has been spotty. The queer press is carrying the banner. One of the reactions queers have had is to organize vigils in many cities from coast to coast. Some people have also talked about extending the united states death penalty to Puerto Rico in this case. Puerto Rico abolished a u.s. imposed death penalty in 1929. It was only with great struggle that queer led progressives  were able to get taken out provisions for the death penalty in the recently signed federal hate crimes law relating to LGBT people. 

Violence against queer people is on the rise. Jason and Jorge have paid the price. Many others have paid the price. The Manhattan Declaration of self described orthodox, catholic, and evangelical representatives targeted queer people, feminists, and the truth. When something as innocuous as gay marriage draws right wing wrath something as revolutionary as our loving ourselves results in murder.

Kevin Cooper’s Appeal Denied

On November 30, the u.s. supreme kkkourt announced that it would not hear Kevin Cooper’s appeal from the decision of a three-judge panel of the ninth circuit court of appeals to not pursue further testing that might exonerate him in the 1983 murder case.

Kevin Cooper has always maintained his innocence. In 2004, on the day he was scheduled to be executed, the 9th circuit granted a stay so that tests could be run to determine whether the police had tampered with evidence. Those tests were not conclusive, and the court refused to order further testing. The ninth circuit was split on this issue, with Circuit Judge William A. Fletcher warning said the state "may be about to execute an innocent man." Four other judges joined in his dissent. The Innocence Network, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice and the California Public Defenders Association friend of the court briefs, on behalf of Cooper's innocence.

The Campaign to End the Death Penalty has been organizing around Kevin’s case. For more information, go to

Lynne Stewart begins sentence

Defiant to the end, radical human rights attorney Lynne Stewart  embraced emotional supporters outside the federal courthouse in Lower Manhattan,  as she surrendered on Nov 19 to begin serving her 28-month sentence for “assisting terrorism.” Stewart, 70, is known for defending political prisoners and politically unpopular clients.

As she walked toward the courthouse, Ms. Stewart reflected "This is the day they executed Joe Hill, and his words were, 'Don't mourn me, organize,' "I hope that will be the message that I send, too." Stewart was referring to the labor organizer executed in1915, after a controversial trial.

Stewart, who has suffered from cancer, and has been undergoing surgery and radiation therapy, was ordered to prison to begin serving her sentence after a federal appeals court upheld her conviction earlier in November. She was found guilty in 2005 of distributing press releases on behalf of her jailed client, Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the "Blind Sheikh," who is serving a life sentence on terror-related charges. The panel also described Stewart's twenty-eight-month sentence as "strikingly low" and sent the case back to the trial judge to determine whether she deserved a longer prison term. A new date for resentencing has been set for April 22.

Show your support, write to Lynne!

Lynne Stewart #53504-054
MCC-NY  150 Park Row
New York, NY NY 10007


Peltier receives humanitarian award & case update

The Red Nation Film Festival has chosen Leonard Peltier to receive its first annual Humanitarian Award for his lifelong commitment to indigenous and human rights, as well as his leadership in efforts to alleviate poverty and domestic abuse among Native peoples. As a political prisoner for nearly 34 years, Peltier has helped focus world attention on government repression of Native resistance throughout the Americas, while the United States continues to make an example out of him of the consequences of seeking freedom.

Case update:

The United States courts have acknowledged that Leonard Peltier was the victim of official misconduct and convicted on the basis of fabricated and suppressed evidence, as well as coerced testimony. However, the courts have refused to grant Leonard a new trial. The Leonard Peltier Defense-Offense Committee and Friends of Leonard Peltier are calling for a campaign to urge Attorney General Eric Holder to conduct an Executive Review of the Peltier case

Action #1: Personal Response-- provide a photographic image of yourself holding a campaign sign, as well as your name, address and e-mail address.

Action #2: Community Response-- canvas your community and organize others to participate in the campaign.

All photos should be sent to LP-DOC as soon as possible but no later than January 31, 2010.

Objective:  A box filled to the brim with campaign flyers, including all our faces, will be delivered to AG Holder's office on or around February 6, 2010 - the 34th anniversary of Leonard Peltier's arrest.

We ask that you contribute $1 to help with expenses associated with the campaign. That's right--ONE U.S. dollar!

Donate more if you wish. Checks and money orders made out to "LPDOC". You can also donate online, and get more details at

From the Committee to Free the SF 8:

Javad Jahi    1978-2009

Javad Jahi, an esteemed and leading member of the Committee to Free the San Francisco 8, died on November 28.  He was 32. Javad gave years of work to the SF 8 and contributed significantly to getting the charges completely dropped for five of the 8. We mourn his loss. He remains in our hearts and thoughts.

For tributes to Javad and current information about the SF 8, please go to .

Joya: US Troops Bad for Afghan Women

Malalai Joya, the youngest member of the Afghan parliament, recently competed a speaking tour to the US and other countries to launch her memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice.

Speaking in the Bay Area in November, Joya passionately refuted the U.S. government rhetoric that developments in Afghanistan have brought positive changes for women.  "We remain caged in our country, without access to justice and still ruled by women-hating criminals. Killing a woman in Afghanistan is like killing a bird."

"In most places, it is still not safe for a woman to appear in public uncovered or to walk on the street without a male relative. Girls are still sold into marriage. Rape goes unpunished every day."

In 2007, Malalai was banished from her parliament seat for speaking out about government corruption. She said publicly that President Hamid Karzai was a puppet of the U.S. government and that warlords and drug barons ran the country. She has demanded that the US remove its and all foreign troops and allow the Afghani people to sort out their internal problems and find the way to their own liberation.

Malalai has been a target herself, and has survived four assassination attempts. "To hide my identity, I must travel under the cover of the heavy cloth burka, which, to me, is the symbol of women's oppression," she says, "like a shroud for the living." She has been called the “bravest woman in Afghanistan.”

For more information, contact the Defense Committee for Malalai Joya,

Sex assault rate found high at Chowchilla prison,
Feds deny seriousness of assaults

According to a Justice Department survey last September, Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla, one of the nation's largest prisons for women, is among the worst prisons in America for sexual assaults.

The Federal survey found that more than 10% of the Chowchilla prison's 2,867 inmates reported some sort of sexual victimization. No other California prison surveyed matched those numbers, according to the survey.

The survey found that of all inmates in the survey, 7.9% reported inmate-on-inmate assaults and 5.3% reported staff-on-inmate.

Representatives from California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation denied the results of the survey, stating that, far fewer inmates reported being sexually assaulted than did the survey's findings.

Paige Harrison, one of the Justice Department's statisticians who did the survey, said that while VSPW was among the top 10 prisons surveyed, it's necessary to parse the numbers to understand the difference, for instance, between the more violent sexual acts and the less violent ones.

Federal Appeals Court Puts Prisons on notice:  Women in labor should not to be shackled

Reviewing the case of an Arkansas woman who was shackled  to her hospital bed while in labor in 2003, a federal appeals court  in October  ruled that constitutional protections against shackling pregnant  women during labor had been clearly established by decisions of the  Supreme Court and the lower courts. This is the first time a circuit  court has made such a determination.

"This is a historic decision by a U.S. Court of Appeals that affirms  the dignity of all women and mothers in America," said Elizabeth  Alexander, Director of the American Civil Liberties Union"s National  Prison Project. "Correctional officials across the country are now on  notice that they can no longer engage in this widespread practice."

"Shackling pregnant women is not only dangerous it is inhumane," said  Rita Sklar, Executive Director of the ACLU of Arkansas. "The  importance of this decision cannot be overstated."

For more information, contact

Racial profiling:  Israel detains former BPP Dhoruba Bin Wahad

Former political prisoner and Black Panther leader Dhoruba Bin Wahad and a colleague, Naji Mujahid, were pulled off a tourist bus from Jordan by Israeli forces in the West Bank. Dhoruba and Naji were the only passengers ordered off the bus. They were also the only Black people on the bus.  Bin Wahad and Mujahid had been invited to attend a conference on political detention in Jericho that was sponsored by the Palestinian Authority The two were interrogated, strip searched, and their property confiscated, Despite their cooperation and offer to return into Jordan, their detention continued for over 12 hours.  They were ultimately released but denied permission to enter occupied Palestine.  .

The treatment accorded Dhoruba and Naji would be outrageous if it occurred to anyone…but the incident is even more shameful because its genesis appears to have been racial profiling.  Dhoruba and Naji were ordered off the bus before Israeli border officials had any idea of their country of origin or personal histories.  They only knew that they were Black.

The MOCHA Column

By Chaya and Deni with waggles from Sparky


Capitalism: A Love Story

In his inimitable style, Michael Moore’s latest movie explores various aspects of capitalism. He is especially passionate with segments that relate to his hometown of Flint, Michigan. Starting with home movies of Moore’s childhood, the film shows the comfortable lifestyle his family had during the many years his father worked a good union job at the AC Spark Plug factory. When he later goes with his father (in present time) to the former location of the now-torn-down factory, the contrast is striking. Later in the film, Moore is dismayed to find that the company sending out mortgage foreclosure notices to homeowners across the U.S. is located right there in Flint. Especially effective in the film are visuals of the Goldman Sachs executives now in the Obama administration and of all the health insurance companies that bought Obama through campaign contributions. The segments on organized resistance were particularly well done, highlighting the Republic Door factory occupation by its workers in Chicago, and a community resisting an eviction in Miami. We knew that corporations sometimes take out life insurance policies on executives, but who knew that Wal-Mart did it on some “lowly” sales associates, referring to them as “dead peasants.” See it, you have nothing to lose but your chains.

The Yes Men Fix the World

Our agit-prop film festival continued with the Yes Men Fix the World movie. Frequently hilarious, the film is a stroll through some of the Yes Men’s recent hoaxes. Typically, their actions start when they create a phony website (like – check it out) and then get invited to make a presentation. The BBC asked them to do a live television segment as part of its coverage of the 20th anniversary of the Bhopal, India Union Carbide plant catastrophe. On live world-wide television, Yes Man “Jude Finisterra,” representing Dow Chemical, announced that Dow was taking full responsibility for the chemical disaster and would spend $12 billion on the still-suffering victims. Their impersonations are so convincing that often a conference audience doesn’t realize their satires are a hoax. Entertaining with sharp political analysis and self-reflection on the ethics and success of their actions. See it.

Good Hair (review by Deni)

Chris Rock produced this complex and cuttingly funny documentary, examining the role of hair in the African American community, especially for women. With his understated style, impeccable timing and wit, Chris used his own daughter’s tearful question about why she couldn’t have “good hair” to propel his inquiry into the roots of this issue (yes, pun intended.)  Despite some sexism and a whisper of homophobia, the film is provocative and funny. Original too, I thought, until discovering that Chris has been sued by a woman named Regina Kimbell, who claims that several years ago she made and showed him a very similar film (My Nappy Roots --, which he then ripped off to make his film. There are snippets of My Nappy Roots on youtube so you can see what you think about the controversy. I think Chris could’ve gone further into probing the systemic racism underlying this issue of hair, provided more opportunity for a detailed analysis by some of the women in the film, and included less annoying and offensive commentary from some of the jerkier men. I would still recommend this often hilarious, sometimes painful film; wonder if we’ll ever get a chance to see the one Kimbell made?

Surrogates (guest review by Cole)

Fall's initial science fiction blockbuster is really much better than one might think. Society has been transformed by way of the widespread availability of surrogates, android-like machines that not only go to your job (they unfortunately need to work under your direction, so clearly all the bugs weren't worked out), but allow you to experience exciting vacations and other adventures  without risk (perhaps to retain a PG rating, whatever implications all this had for one's sex life were left unexplored). Operators, as humans are called, tend to pick surrogates designed as younger and more conventionally attractive versions of themselves - or a fantasy persona! Bruce Willis, who plays an FBI agent, decides to break the mold and live life without a surrogate, and in the course of his duties is called upon to discover who and why is undermining the surrogate way of life. The movie can't help make one think of how plastic surgery has become routine for anyone in the public eye - or how frequently I watch dvd's instead of go to the theatre - well, you get my drift. And I can't help but like a movie with a middle aged guy provided for hottie appeal (and I won't repeat the rumors my partner found on a website regarding the relationship between Bruce and Ashton Kutcher, because I don't believe in spreading idle gossip). Not sure the film would match the sensibilities of the average UltraViolet reader, but maybe rent the dvd (hmm, I can't believe I just wrote that).  .  .


Margaret Randall, To Change the World: My Years in Cuba (guest review by Cole)

Many Ultra Violet readers are no doubt familiar with Randall's work and have enjoyed her sharpening analysis of how revolutionary movements have fallen short in embracing a feminist vision. As someone who shares the author's profound love for and frustration with the Cuban revolution, I found Randall's latest work to be particularly poignant. The book chronicles the author's many years in Cuba, includes interesting details of her daily life and contrasts the truly remarkable accomplishments of the revolutionary society against the party's common dogmatic and narrow approach. Although Randall returned to the United States many years ago - albeit in the face of considerable government opposition - she continues to be a frequent visitor to the island and questions the wisdom of barring the vast majority of Cubans from internet access - and wonders why any Cuban wishing to live abroad even temporarily is viewed as counter-revolutionary - or at least suspect. Randall did not identify as queer during her residence in Cuba. so she is not able to provide an account of the lives of Cuban queers from a personal viewpoint  - but her later coming out certainly motivates the author to offer significant discussion regarding queer life on the island.

For years, north american leftists - & particularly queer north american leftists - who expressed any criticism whatsoever of Cuba were subjected to scorn in many quarters (LAGAI veterans may remember a forum where we were so castigated). By validating our concerns, Randall's book helped me re-connect with my intense admiration for a revolutionary process that has inspired me for as long as I can recall. Read it. 



How About Those Pro-Atheist Bus Ads!: As part of a multi-city campaign, The Freedom From Religion Foundation bought 75 bus ads in September in San Francisco. Favorites include “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so” (Mark Twain), “I’m an atheist and that’s it” (Katharine Hepburn), “As my ancestors are free from slavery, I am free from the slavery of religion” (Butterfly McQueen), and “the God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction” (evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins). In Madison, Wisconsin (FFRF’s home), its billboard “Praise Darwin: Evolve Beyond Belief.” celebrated his 200th birthday. Freethought Billboard Campaign Reaches RidersFFRF just wrapped up its 32nd annual national convention, with keynote speakers Ursula K. LeGuin and Ron Reagan! We also like FFRF’s billboard campaign that says, “Keep religion out of government,” and its monument on privately donated land in rural Lake Hypatia, Alabama: "In memory of ATHEISTS IN FOXHOLES and the countless FREETHINKERS who have served this country with honor and distinction. Presented by the national Freedom From Religion Foundation with hope that in the future humankind may learn to avoid all war.”

Godless Atheists Also on College Campuses: Atheist college students are more visible and vocal on campuses these days. According to the National Study on Youth and Religion, the number of youths who describe themselves as “not religious” nearly doubled and there is a growing hostility toward religion as well. Atheism itself is not necessarily growing, but young non-believers are developing a greater willingness to speak out. All we can say is: thank god!

Catholic Church Tries 2-Tier Marriage System for Priests: Apparently the Popester felt bad that some Anglican priests are being subjected to liberalism such as female priests, the blessing of same-sex unions, and openly gay bishops. While the Anglican Church continues to have big problems between its liberal and conservative wings, Pope Ratzy made an overture to gather in some of the Anglican flock who are “traditional believers” by inviting Anglican priests to come back to the Catholic Church. (A brief history note for those of you who have not seen The Tudors, The Other Boleyn Girl or Anne of the Thousand Days: Henry VIII split from Rome and created the Anglican Church because the Pope would not give him a divorce from Catherine of Aragon so that he could marry Anne Boleyn). Here’s the kicker: Ratzy’s invitation extends to married Anglican priests. Ok, nobody ever accused the Catholic Church of being fair. But really! How would you feel if you were a Catholic priest and you were faithfully following your vow of chastity (there must be a few of them) and then you find out those darn Anglican priests can come back to the flock and bring the missus! And you know what they do on Saturday night! And what about gay Anglican priests? Will marriage for them follow? Who knew the Catholic Church would become so sex positive?

Uppity Women: African nuns told the Vatican they want more of a say in the decision-making process of the Catholic Church. The nuns feel their capabilities go beyond cleaning and decorating the churches (would that be for Halloween and Gay Pride Day?) and sewing vestments.

The Catholics Aren’t the Only Ones Barking Up A Different Tree: Sparky wants you to know that despite being an atheist dog, she thinks it’s interesting that Covenant Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles is now offering a 30-minute service for dogs and people. The service includes individual dog beds for canine participants, prayers for ill canines and lots of dog treats in offering bowls. Those whacky Presbos! Can an invitation from the Pope to Anglican dogs to join the Catholic Church be next?

Jane Sells Out Gaza: In the last Mocha Column, we reported on the controversy at the Toronto International Film Festival over the Festival’s participation in the “Rebranding Israel” campaign. A letter (the “Toronto Declaration”) was sent by numerous notables, protesting the Festival’s Israel connection. We noted that Jane Fonda was one of the prominent people signing the letter, but apparently Jane couldn’t take the heat. In a September 14 Huffington Post column, she backed out of the letter, saying “I signed the letter without reading it carefully enough, without asking myself if some of the wording wouldn't exacerbate the situation rather than bring about constructive dialogue… Some of the words in the protest letter did not come from my heart, words that are unnecessarily inflammatory…” [gag]

Our literary response is:

Look Sparky! See Jane. See Jane run. Jane is a coward, Sparky. See Jane remember being called names like “Hanoi Jane.” Run Jane run. Bad, bad Jane.

Ok, we thought we were done with Jane but then we stumbled over a few unbeatable quotes:

“If you understood what Communism was, you would hope, you would pray on your knees that one day we would become Communist." (speaking to students at the University of Michigan in 1970) (Jane didn’t make it to Communist, but she did make it to “born again Christian”)     

“When I left the West Coast I was a liberal. When I landed in New York I was a revolutionary.” 

Time to head on back to New York, Jane.

100 "Yes Virginia . . . There Is No God" bus signs are up for the month around Seattle. Read more . . .



Single Payer Activists Take to the Streets

Direct Action for Single Payer, a coalition including LAGAI, Health Care for All-California, Vote Health, Gray Panthers and members of Code Pink, Labor for Single Payer and a number of other groups that have been active on health care issues for a long time, has organized three great actions so far this fall.

On October 23, about 200 people blockaded the San Francisco headquarters of Blue Shield of California, one of the largest insurers in the state, which grosses over $8 billion annually.  The demonstration was part of nationally coordinated actions called by the Mobilization for Health Care for All, to call for health care for people, not for profits.  Two weeks later, we joined with California School Employees’ Association and California Action for Retired Americans in occupying Nancy Pelosi’s office to protest her refusal to bring the Kucinich Amendment, allowing states to opt for single payer, to the floor of the House.

Then on Saturday, December 5, over 100 people participated in a die-in at the San Francisco Ferry Building to protest the Stupak Amendment, which will make abortion inaccessible to nearly all women if it goes into law, and the fact that the so-called health reform will do nothing except deliver billions of dollars in mandatory premiums to the insurance industry.  We presented people with coat hangers as a token of Nancy Pelosi’s esteem, but suggested they return them to her with a note, which we will deliver to her home en masse later in the holiday season.

Join Direct Action for Single Payer in more creative, fun, effective actions in the coming year.  For info see or email


Learning from the Young Lords

The Young Lords Party was a revolutionary Puerto Rican nationalist organization working in New York and Chicago from 1969-1976.  Health care was one of their main issues.  In 1969, when the New York Young Lords noticed that the mobile TB testing truck never made it into their neighborhoods, they liberated the truck and did door-to-door TB testing.  They were most famous for the takeover of Lincoln Hospital in 1970, and at that time, they developed the following ten-point program on health care.  It would be a great model for the current health care for all movements to adopt.

Young Lords Ten-Point Health Program

1. We want total self-determination of all health services through an incorporated Community-Staff Governing Board for the Hospital. (Staff is anyone and everyone working at the hospital.)

2. We want immediate replacement of all government administrators by community and staff appointed people whose practice has demonstrated their commitment to serve our poor community.

3. We demand an immediate end to construction of the new emergency room until the Hospital Community-Staff Governing Board inspects and approves them or authorizes new plans.

4. We want employment for our people. All jobs must be filled by community residents first, using on-the-job training and other educational opportunities as basis for service and promotion.

5. We want free publicly supported health care for treatment and prevention. We want an end to all fees.

6. We want total decentralization--block health officers responsible to the community-staff board should be instituted.

7. We want "door-to-door" preventive health services emphasizing environment and sanitation control, nutrition, drug addiction, maternal and child care, and senior citizen services.

8. We want education programs for all the people to expose health problems --sanitation, rats, poor housing, malnutrition, police brutality, pollution, and other forms of oppression.

9. We want total control by the community-staff governing board of the budget allocations, medical policy along the above points, hiring, firing, and salaries of employees, construction and health code enforcement.

10. Any community, union, or workers organization must support all the points of this program and work and fight for that or be shown as what they are--enemies of poor people.

Monday, Jan 11

Action and Lobby Day in Sacramento for Single Payer

Healthcare students and workers from all over California will be marching to the State Capitol demanding Single Payer.
SB 810 may also be voted on by the Senate Appropriations Committee that day. (It must be approved by full Senate by Feb. 1, 2010 to stay alive.)

8:00 a.m. bus leaves Fulton St. side of the SF Main Library (Fulton betw. Larkin and Hyde, map, # 19, 5, or 2 blocks north of Civic Center BART/Metro or Market St. surface transp.)

Contact Don at 415-810-5826 or by email at for information on rides