Washington, D.C.--Jesus appeared in the National Portrait Gallery last week to see what all the controversy was about. He was disappointed to learn that the video of his ant-covered body had been removed. After a heated negotiation with curator David Ward and Congressman Eric Cantor, a special screening was set up for the savior. He was given manna and nectar to refresh him while he spent several hours watching the video. He emerged red-eyed but looking a good bit less pale.
“I was moved to tears,” Jesus said. “It doesn’t look much like me though.”
Asked his opinion about the portrait of Ellen deGeneres grabbing her breasts, he seemed reluctant to comment. “Seems kind of like a Hail Mary,” he said.
Phred Felps and his children picketed the Son of God. “We will not accept the Second Coming coming in America,” Felps said, wiping the foam from his mouth. “God hates America because it shelters the homosexuals.”
In response, LAGAI-Queer Insurrection, a shadowy group in San Francisco, announced that it will picket Felps’s funeral next month.
fundie chic has now struck san francisco. wackos from fred phelps to the minutemen now more frequently see SF as the premier resort destination for their bullshit. every year on the anniversary of roe v. wade, the walk for life buses in 15,000+ pro-lifers to cram their oppressive dogma down our throats. this reactionary trend is nationwide as two bills to cut abortion from health care sit waiting to be voted on. but remember, no matter how crazy they try to get, they're just knock-offs of us. bring your outrage! the paltry privileges our liberal society has fought for are in jeopardy and can very easily be lost!
Between February 13th
and 16th, two activists from leading Palestinian queer organizations, Aswat
alQaws (Ramallah), will visit the Bay Area. Several organizations (including AROC, IJAN, QUIT, and AMED) are
arranging a few events on these days, including:
Feb 15th -- SF event
in the evening
Feb 16th -- SF lunchtime event, Oakland evening event and party
And if you have questions or you’re interested in helping
out and getting involved with the planning,
please be in touch with Lily from AROC, email@example.com.
Judy Freespirit, one of the founders of the Fat Underground, a lesbian, a feminist, and a fighter for liberation, died on September 10, 2010 in San Francisco.
Judy was born in a working class Jewish family (Berkowitz) in Detroit in 1936. In 1970 she got involved with the Los Angeles Women’s Center. In 1973 women who had been active in the Radical Therapy collective and women who were in the National Association to Aid Fat Americans (NAAFA) formed the Fat Underground. Unlike those organizations, FU took a radical feminist approach to the oppression of fat women, and said that this oppression is rooted in the sexism of this society, and feeds the diet and weight-loss industry. In 1973, Judy and Aldeberan (Sara Fishman) published the Fat Liberation Manifesto (reprinted below). FU organized many demonstrations and actions throughout the 1970s, including confronting doctors, the diet industry and psychologists, as well as taking off their shirts en masse at women’s music festivals. The FU members researched medical journals (not an easy task in those pre-internet days), and found that the anti-fat conclusions were often not backed up by the actual studies. They published the fact that 99 percent of all diets fail over a five year period, and they explained that there is a physical basis for that failure. FU disputed the mainstream dogma that fat women are thin women with bad eating (or exercise) habits.
Judy’s fat lesbian feminist activities took many forms throughout her life. She was a founder of Fat Lip Readers Theater and Fat Chance performance group. She moved to northern California, and fought against the Briggs anti-gay initiative in 1978. She got involved in the disability rights movement. In 1982 she published Daddy’s Girl, which described the incest she experienced from her father. She also published Keeping It in the Family, Whole Lot of Quakin’ and A slim Volume of Fat Poems. In 2003, she wrote, produced and directed Polly’s Phat Phollies. She was active in forming the feminist caucus of NAAFA. At the end of her life, she lived at the Jewish Home in SF after successfully challenging their weight discrimination policies. There she helped organize LGBT activities. Judy had a son, Joe, who joined her many friends at her memorial last month.
Chaya and I (Deeg) were living in Seattle in 1973, when a friend mailed us a copy of the Fat Underground Manifesto, and some other articles, including one that started “when I came out, nobody cared.” Although we had no direct contact with FU, we met with other fat lesbians. We were inspired by the FU members brash decision to read medical literature, and draw their own conclusions. We started doing our own research, and we confronted those who would humiliate us because we were fat. We learned to laugh when people yelled “fat dyke” at us on the street. “They got that right,” we would say. In 1976, having completed a grueling apprenticeship as the City of Seattle’s first woman automotive machinist since World War II, the City insisted I lose weight before they promoted me to journeyman. Instead of acquiescing or promising to diet, I filed a union grievance, threatened an EEOC complaint (no men had been required to lose weight) and got the promotion.
Like Judy, some of us old fat dykes now face medical and other circumstances that bring us face to face with both medical prejudice and society’s frank disgust for fat women. Thirty five years ago Judy and the FU inspired us to affirm our fat dyke-hood with humor and dignity. At the end of her life, Judy provided us an example of how as we confront aging and increased disability we can continue to see our personal struggles as political, and to claim our fight for our liberation.
1. WE believe that fat people are fully entitled to human respect
2. WE are angry at mistreatment by commercial and sexist interests. These have exploited our bodies as objects of ridicule, thereby creating an immensely profitable market selling the false promise of avoidance of, or relief from, that ridicule.
3. WE see our struggle as allied with the struggles of other oppressed groups against classism, racism, sexism, ageism, financial exploitation, imperialism and the like.
4. WE demand equal rights for fat people in all aspects of life, as promised in the Constitution of the United States. We demand equal access to goods and services in the public domain, and an end to discrimination against us in the areas of employment, education, public facilities and health services.
5. WE single out as our special enemies the so-called "reducing" industries. These include diet clubs, reducing salons, fat farms, diet doctors, diet books, diet foods and food supplements, surgical procedures, appetite suppressants, drugs and gadgetry such as wraps and "reducing machines".
WE demand that they take responsibility for their false claims, acknowledge that their products are harmful to the public health, and publish long-term studies proving any statistical efficacy of their products. We make this demand knowing that over 99% of all weight loss programs, when evaluated over a five-year period, fail utterly, and also knowing the extreme proven harmfulness of frequent large changes in weight.
6. WE repudiate the mystified "science" which falsely claims that we are unfit. It has both caused and upheld discrimination against us, in collusion with the financial interests of insurance companies, the fashion and garment industries, reducing industries, the food and drug industries, and the medical and psychiatric establishment.
7. WE refuse to be subjugated to the interests of our enemies. We fully intend to reclaim power over our bodies and our lives. We commit ourselves to pursue these goals together.
FAT PEOPLE OF THE WORLD, UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE ....
By Judy Freespirit and
The number one question I get asked these days when I run into someone I haven’t seen in a month or so is “what’s going on at KPFA”? For those of you not in the Bay Area, KPFA is our local Pacifica radio station, where I coproduce the weekly Women’s Magazine. It was the first listener sponsored radio station in the country.
Here’s the narrative KPFA listeners have heard day in day out for the last month. It’s one we’re predisposed to believe.
A big corporate entity, Pacifica Foundation, came in and with no notice, no democratic process and in violation of the union contract fired a third of the staff of KPFA, and cancelled the most popular show. The people laid off were mostly people of color. The union is standing up for diversity, democracy and the rights of workers. Pacifica management is trying to bust the union. The station’s previous general manager, who was very popular with both unpaid and paid staff, was arbitrarily fired over some spurious claims about a $375,000 check that Pacifica’s overpaid managers say was not deposited.
Here’s a counter-narrative you may not have heard.
The Pacifica Foundation was established in 1947 to apply for the license; the PF in KPFA stands for Pacifica Foundation (your guess is as good as mine on what the A is for). In 1949, KPFA began broadcasting from Berkeley. KPFK in L.A. went on the air in 1959, KPFT (Houston) in 1970 and WPFW, Washington, DC in 1977. WBAI (New York) began as a commercial station in 1946 and was donated to Pacifica in 1960. WBAI was the first station to broadcast “Alice’s Restaurant” and in 1973, Pacifica was sued by the FCC for broadcasting George Carlin’s 7 Filthy Words routine uncensored.
Pacifica works out of KPFA’s building and provides administrative oversight to the five stations. This includes dealing with the FCC, running audits, maintaining insurance and handling legal problems, of which KPFA has had quite a few. (Most recently, Noelle Hanrahan won a huge settlement in her suit based on the hostile work environment created by her Flashpoints co-host, Dennis Bernstein.) Pacifica is funded by taking 17% of the donations raised by each of its five member stations. Its 100 plus affiliates pay lower percentages. Out of this money, Pacifica funds the nationally syndicated Democracy Now! and Free Speech Radio News, as well as the Pacifica Archives.
The network has been rife with conflict over the years, especially at WBAI and KPFA. Throughout the nineties, issues of control and corporatization bubbled up until programmers in both Berkeley and New York were literally dragged out of their broadcasting booths (even I, who never listened to the radio back then, heard Dennis Bernstein’s howls of protest) and locked out by the national management. My first experience as a Pacifica listener was in 2001, when I started streaming Democracy Now! at work. In every day’s signoff, Amy Goodman reminded us that she was broadcasting “from the embattled studios of WBAI, the studios of the banned and the fired.”
Community mobilizations involving street actions, lawsuits, shadow fundraising and other types of organizing eventually resulted in a community take-back of the network. At that time, new bylaws were written which for the first time required that local station boards be elected rather than appointed by the existing board members. Those bylaws also mandated every station to have some mechanism such as a Program Council for listeners to give input into the type of programming that the station would air. At least here in Berkeley, young people and people of color communities that historically had not been much a part of KPFA’s listener base played an important role in the struggle to Take Back KPFA and when the station returned to local control, they demanded and won Hard Knock Radio, a show that would be produced by and reflect the concerns of the “hip-hop generation.”
Other innovations that came out of the democracy movements in the 1999-2001 era were Free Speech Radio News and the KPFA First Voice Apprenticeship Program. FSRN, which was initially an independent project formed by freelance news reporters during a twenty-six week strike against Pacifica, began to receive funding and distribution from Pacifica in March 2002. The Apprenticeship is a two-year intensive training people from historically marginalized communities to hopefully go on to jobs in radio.
Under the new bylaws, the center of governance for each of the five stations is the Local Station Board, or LSB. Whereas the old boards were mainly advisory, the LSBs have responsibility for approving the station budgets and evaluating and helping to hire the General Managers (the ultimate hiring decision rests with Pacifica’s Executive Director). Each local board sends three representatives to the Pacifica National Board, which has overall fiscal and legal responsibility for the network and its member stations. I don’t know about Houston, DC or LA, but in both Berkeley and New York, the boards almost instantly split into bitterly opposed factions, leading to contentious and problem-riddled elections (during the elections two years ago, much of the unpaid staff commonly referred to KPFA “Florida”).
The KPFA LSB has most often been dominated by a faction called Concerned Listeners, which for this year’s election (after losing their majority last year) changed their name to “Save KPFA.” They are allied with much of the paid staff, including the hosts and producers of the Morning Show, the Evening News, Against the Grain, Living Room and Sunday Salon. Their heartfelt belief is that those are the “core shows,” and everything else is window dressing. This is partly based on the fact that those shows – especially the two-hour Morning Show, raise the most money during on-air fund drives, the only real fundraising that the station does. They have also been closely aligned with station management, as have the paid programmers listed above. They believe that the LSB’s primary obligation is to support the station management and to raise money (though in point of fact, they have never raised much). They believe the board should not try to exert control over “day-to-day” issues such as what goes on the air. For that reason, when the most recent General Manager promoted Against the Grain host Sasha Lilley to Interim Program Manager, and Sasha, who considers herself a “Marxist intellectual” disbanded the Program Council, the CL-dominated LSB refused to pass a resolution instructing her to reinstate it.
Nearly all the stewards of the union, CWA Local 9415, have been producers on those “core shows,” and have consequently been very cozy with station management.
Three years ago, another faction coalesced to challenge CL. They named themselves Independents for Community Radio. They have more younger people and have made an effort to include people of color and queer folks. Their members tend to be activists, such as Henry Norr, who has worked with the International Solidarity Movement and Act Against Torture, and Andrea Pritchett, one of the founders of Berkeley Cop Watch. Their primary alliances among station staff are the producers of Flashpoints. Last year, with a herculean effort especially on the part of the staff candidates, who beat the bushes getting people to vote, ICR captured the majority from Concerned Listeners. One of their first acts was to instruct station management to reconstitute the Program Council, though it has yet to meet. They also started an outreach committee to attract new listeners. They have done tabling at events like Juneteenth and the rally organized by the ILWU demanding justice for Oscar Grant.
After the 1999 lockout ended, energy for KPFA was high. Lots of people, like myself, who never listened to KPFA got involved in the democracy movement and then became listeners. In the runup to the Iraq War, listeners flocked to the station and donations went through the roof. The station hired a bunch of new people.
KPFA has more staff than any other Pacifica station: currently 28 full time equivalents (FTEs) (down from 32 last year), compared to 23 at each of the other large stations, KPFK and WBAI. Our budget and deficit are the largest in the network. In September 2008, KPFA staff representative and LSB treasurer Brian Edwards-Tiekert presented the Pacifica Finance Committee’s report to the national board. He explaining why layoffs at WBAI and KPFK were the only option: “We have spent, and budgeted, as if a one-time spike in listenership and listener support was long term growth, which it was not…. We have a lot more people on payroll; and it hurts to cut jobs… And you get pushed back, you get politicking, you get coalitions to block any kind of job cut, so the path of least resistance is to first spend down your savings, as long as you got money to pay the bills, and then go, ‘Oh my god, we’re headed over a cliff now’, which is where we are now.”
The Pacifica board instructed all the stations to cut staff by 20% to bring their expenses in line with their revenues. All the other stations did. KPFA had a large surplus, and the LSB decided to spend the surplus rather than cut the budget. They blew through a $1.5 million surplus in two years. When ICR won the majority, they told station management to cut the budget. General Manager Lemlem Rijio responded by not coming to board meetings and taking the monthly LSB report to the listeners off the air. (Lemlem is the one who was fired over the $375,000.)
Over the last year, station management tried to control its expenses by laying off part-time and non-union staff. Most of the board operators, who worked five or ten hours a week, some of whom depended on that money to pay their rent, lost their jobs. Staff members at Hard Knock Radio and Flashpoints were laid off or had their hours cut, while less senior programmers were not affected. The union did nothing.
This September, KPFA could not meet payroll and had to borrow money from the Houston station (the smallest of Pacifica’s stations).
Interim station manager Ahmad Anderson, whose permanent job is Pacifica Human Resources Director, and Interim Assistant General Manager Amelia Gonzalez went to Pacifica’s Executive Director Arlene Engelhardt with a proposal to cut Hard Knock and Flashpoints. Their plan was to replace Hard Knock with Michael Eric Dyson’s syndicated program, and Flashpoints with Al Jazeera English news. Arlene was leaning towards doing it, but she invited some other people, including three LSB members, to a meeting and they convinced her to cut the Morning Show instead. The board members involved say they did it to more closely respect seniority, as called for under the union contract. But the Morning Show people happen also to be their political enemies. (For anyone who is interested, Tracy Rosenberg, one of those board reps, lays out the difference in union seniority between the people she proposed laying off and those proposed by station management, at http://sfbayview.com/2010/two-views-kpfa-management-proposes-to-cancel-flashpoints-and-hard-knock-radio/. At least by the numbers, she’s pretty convincing.)
One of the staff members who was in that meeting leaked the news of impending layoff to Brian and his co-host Aimee Allison. Brian and other union members then came up with a proposal to avoid layoffs. They called this a “sustainable budget proposal.” Most of the proposals had to do with not paying so much of the money we raise to Pacifica. They demanded that Pacifica “chop from the top” by cutting its own staff (which in fact, it already did several years ago), and cutting the salaries of its executives. The sustainable budget proposal also calls for staff members who are eligible to go on Medicare, with a contingency fund set up to cover the difference between what Medicare pays and what the regular health plan would pay. Critics have pointed out the irony of a union suggesting that we emulate Wal-Mart by having our employees go on public assistance. They also proposed that Pacifica allow KPFA to pay back money it owes the network over three years instead of all at once, and that Pacifica pay KPFA rent for the space it occupies in the building, since KPFA paid off the mortgage. The union has filed an unfair labor practice claim (signed by Brian) against Pacifica, based on what they say is its refusal to seriously consider their proposal.
Meanwhile, scuttlebutt at the station is that the $375,000 was not forgotten. The alternative theory is something like this (I may be fuzzy on the legal details): Lemlem, in consultation with staff in the ruling clique, decided to hold onto that check in the hopes that Pacifica would have to go into receivership and they could use that money to buy the station. It’s even been suggested that whatever foundation gave the money was aware of this and that’s why they didn’t mention to anyone that their check had not been deposited after nine months.
In this scenario, people were fired not for incompetence or because they were the least senior, but because they tried to engineer a coup and got caught, and no one is being told because it makes Pacifica look bad.
The Morning Show hosts and their allies have raised over $20,000 which they intend to present to Arlene on condition that Brian and Aimee be reinstated. At an all-staff meeting last week, erstwhile Morning Show host Kris Welch announced that as of December 15, KPFA wouldn’t be able to pay its PG&E bill. (We’ve already had our long distance cut off twice.) So somehow we’re supposed to believe that we can’t keep the lights on, but layoffs aren’t necessary.
Philip Moldari, who used to host the Morning Show with Kris, said it would be impossible to raise money without a Morning Show. I mentioned that I had heard that the union had notified Arlene that none of its members would work on the Morning Show, and that’s why there isn’t one. He vehemently denied that the union had ever said that. The next day, I saw the memo which was sent to Arlene on November 11 from CWA. It explicitly says that the members are in solidarity with Brian and Aimee and will on that basis refuse any directive to work on the Morning Show. That sounds like a very principled position, but then why deny it? Presumably because it’s a violation of their contract, which forbids “job actions,” but since they sent the memo, they’re in violation whether they admit it to the unpaid staff or not.
“Professional journalism” versus community radio. The Concerned Listeners and the ruling clique among the paid staff talk a lot about “professionalization.” They have tried to have many programs produced by unpaid staff (including Women’s Magazine) taken off the air because they say we are not good enough. They have dismissed all the unpaid staff (except their allies, of course), as a bunch of conspiracy theorists, “snake oil hucksters,” and “clowns.” Their argument is that more people will listen if our shows are more professional. They seem to want to be a more progressive version of NPR or Rachel Maddow, with award-winning journalists and talk show hosts who cultivate and develop brand loyalty by being on the air constantly. They argue that layoffs should be based on who raises the most money, which is why Hard Knock was targeted. Hard Knock co-founder and former host Weyland Southen explained to me that the on-air premium pitch doesn’t work for their audience. They and other music programmers have long argued to be able to raise money through concerts, but KPFA has refused to front money for security, venues and fliers.
By contrast, ICR and many of the more progressive unpaid programmers believe that community radio should be accessible to the community. That means being open to pretty much anyone who has time and energy and is willing to work hard at making progressive radio. It doesn’t mean having no quality control, but it means prioritizing diverse community voices over a monoculture of so-called excellence, recognizing that one person’s excellence is another person’s dreary sameness.
Those of us who value community radio want the station to be a vehicle for promoting activism. We want to have an open door for activists to publicize events and demonstrations. The ruling clique/CL/Save KPFA people falsely claim that the FCC prohibits us from encouraging people to go to demonstrations. They censured someone for telling people to go to a march against the war. They refuse to play carts (public service announcements) unless they are benefits for a 501c(3), claiming that the law requires it. In fact, the only thing that we are forbidden to tell people to do is give money to a political campaign.
Union staff versus unpaid staff. The “professional” journalists at KPFA tend to have a condescending and hostile attitude toward unpaid staff, presumably because our existence threatens their jobs. This raises the question: is the goal of community radio to give good jobs to a few people or access to a lot? It doesn’t have to be one or the other. At one time, Pacifica’s paid and unpaid staff were all represented by the same union, the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE). Unpaid staff had their transportation and childcare reimbursed, and had a grievance procedure if they were taken off the air or otherwise treated inequitably. In the early 1990s, Pacifica started a campaign to bust that progressive union, and the paid staff decided to abandon the unpaid staff and affiliate with a more traditional union, CWA, which would focus narrowly on wage and benefits issues for paid staff. At that time, the Unpaid Staff Organization (UPSO) was formed to represent unpaid staff. One of the actions of General Manager Lemlem Riijo was to de-recognize the UPSO, presumably to please her allies among the union staff.
By now I’m sick of the whole thing. I feel there’s bad faith on both sides of the conflict. Both sides are dug in and many of the people involved are enjoying the fight. They are not interested in mediation or compromise, they want to win and push the others out.
I’m tempted to ignore the whole thing, do my show as long as there’s a show to do and a station to air it on, and then move on to some other worthwhile communication project, hopefully one with no budget to fight over. You’ll notice that you’ve never heard of a split or rift in the UltraViolet editorial collective.
There’s one problem with that plan, though, and it took me a few weeks to really get it.
I’ve come to realize that Pacifica is probably the most valuable resource the left in this country has. Think about it. Five radio stations with wide signals in five large urban areas throughout the country, broadcasting commercial-free community-oriented programming without corporate funding. What else do we have that enables us to communicate with so many people?
This crisis has forced me to think for the first time about what the Pacifica network is and what it does and what its value is, and I am convinced we need to fight for it. That’s a big switch for me because I’m generally not a fan of big national organizations. If we don’t believe the left can ever be more than the tiny fringe we are now, then we should let Pacifica go. But I am tired of being part of a tiny fringe, and Pacifica represents our belief that we can some day make a difference. I would probably not choose to create it, but given that it exists, I think it’s worth fighting for.
Of course, fighting for Pacifica doesn’t necessarily mean keeping its governance structure or its infrastructure the same. Does it need a paid executive director? I don’t know. I’m not a huge fan of executive directors. Maybe someone would do Arlene’s job as a volunteer. I wouldn’t, but I wouldn’t do it for $90,000 (her salary) either. Maybe some of the people who have called for her to resign or to volunteer her time want to step up and volunteer theirs. I might back a demand for her to cut her salary to $60,000 (for full disclosure, that is less than I make as a law firm word processor, but I would gladly take that to do what I love full time). If she agreed, or if the board decided to cut her salary, then split over five stations, that would give KPFA an extra 6,000, which would not do that much to get us out of a $500,000 hole.
Should Pacifica pay rent to KPFA? Yes. If they paid $2,500 a month (which they are not going to do), that would fund one badly paid position at KPFA, but it would be something.
But don’t be confused. This fight is not over how much rent Pacifica should pay. It’s not over whether Pacifica’s ED should make $90,000 or $60,000. It’s about whether Pacifica should exist at all and whether KPFA should be part of it.
Brian Edwards-Tiekert has sued Pacifica, hiring a right-wing law firm headed by Harmeet Dhillon, who was chair of Lawyers for Bush and Cheney. Presumably he hired that firm (though apparently Dhillon himself is not handling the case) because they were willing to take it on contingency, or for the sheer joy of taking down Pacifica. There’s also a rumor that Brian filed a grievance for reverse discrimination, saying that he was laid off because he’s a white man. Arlene has hired the law firm Folger Levin to defend her and Pacifica against these suits. Folger represents KQED and many other nonprofits, which I’m sure is why she hired them, but their website also lists union decertification as one of the things they handle. That doesn’t mean it’s what anyone at Pacifica is planning, and I don’t think it is, but in a war of perception, it’s plenty damaging.
Free Speech Radio News has announced that unless they can raise $40,000 by December 20, they’ll have to stop production. Last week, they laid off most of their staff, because Pacifica owes them a bunch of money that it can’t pay because of its legal fees.
I don’t know whether the people who seem determined to take KPFA and Pacifica down really believe that if they can’t have it, no one should, or if they just don’t believe it will really go down. I think because we have always survived before, people assume that we will this time too, that it’s just a big game of chicken. But this is not 1999. Much bigger and solider institutions than Pacifica have gone under in recent years. Remember Wells Fargo? Six or seven major San Francisco law firms, some around since the early 1900s, dissolved in the last couple years. I give Pacifica no better than a 50% chance of surviving.
We might not realize what it would mean if Pacifica goes under because most of us living here now have always had KPFA. But a few months ago, I was visiting my mom in Richmond, Virginia for a few days. Just a few days, and I went nuts having to rely on NPR reports funded by grants from Mobil Oil.
If any of Pacifica’s stations cannot pay its bills and the network can’t come up with the money to bail it out, the network would go into receivership. It would then be up to a bankruptcy judge who would not be bound by Pacifica’s mission statement or any other concerns. The chair of Pacifica’s board recently wrote, “The outcome of bankruptcy hearings will not be five progressive stations running their own affairs, but more likely two commercial stations and three new Christian radio channels.”
Donate today to keep KPFA on the air. www.kpfa.org. Tell all your friends to do the same. It’s estimated that only one in eight listeners ever makes a donation. If we could get that number up to one in five, we could probably hire back everyone who’s been laid off and add some more. And if you have a little more to spare, also give to Free Speech Radio News at www.fsrn.org.
A girl walks into a bar on a slow Wednesday afternoon.
OK it’s a coffee bar and she’s one of those middle aged women with long hair and jeans who never wears makeup—like combing your hair is a sexist conspiracy or something.
I’m the new barrista here so I pulled this slow shift with the bad tippers. I prefer the morning rush when there’s barely time to give the customers a quick smile between non-fat soy lattes and green tea frappes as they rush off to catch the bus or ride their fixties downtown.
But there we were, the only ones in the place when she ordered coffee—just coffee—put her travel cup on the counter and stood there squinting up at the menu board on the wall. The problem is we don’t sell just coffee, if you want drip coffee we make it by the cup and you have to choose between three different blends and roasts. I reeled them off and she asked “are any of them fair trade?”
It was the first time I’d gotten this question here -- I mean ya think? when its a $3 cup of coffee? “Sure,” I said, “all of them.”
She settled on the Chiapas blend mumbling something about revolution and while it was dripping and I took her cash, she said out of the blue,
“I know the polar bear.” “I mean, we hang out when he’s in town, not ‘know’ know, I mean we’re friends, really.”
OOKKKK…. I thought this lady probably took too many drugs at burning man or something. Then looked up to see she was staring at newspaper someone left on the counter—a photo of a polar bear on the beach in Cancun for the climate talks.
“I bet that bear has a really big carbon footprint? Flying all over the world to climate conferences trying to get attention,” I said
“You’re right, its ironic” she replied
“Irony’s dead,” I said, I couldn’t help it, it just popped out of my mouth.
“Huh, well that’s what they started saying after 9/11 but I can’t get used to it” she said, “otherwise its just plain sad – or maybe a necessary evil or hypocrisy? We argue about that all the time—I mean the polar bear and I– and we swap positions sometimes -- like after a few drinks or a really bad day when you realize we’ll never even get comprehensive legislation in the U.S., you know?”
Damn, now I was stuck in the conversation but what the hell…. She’d already paid for her coffee so I said what I really thought.
“Using all those greenhouse gases just to get tens of thousands of people to a beach resort in Cancun to argue about greenhouse gases is ridiculous. And then nothing really changes, more coal, more gas, more warming. Sometimes I think all this focus on global warming is a scripted diversion – don’t people care that there are two U.S. wars going on? And I have friends over there from high school. One of them came back with no leg and she can’t get a job, or pay to go to school. No one ever talks about that or all the greenhouse gases we’re using to bomb civilians in afganistan with drones.”
She smiled and I felt like slapping her, but then she said “Yes, absolutely I agree with you, its despicable. We talk about that too—me and polar bear—I can’t believe there isn’t a demonstration every week against the wars. The polar bear thinks maybe another war will start over the oil under the arctic ice sheet soon too.”
“Yeah and the arctic vets will come back with frostbite but the VA will be shut down by then because of the debt or deficit, whatever. You know what really ticks me off? We’ve got one set of politicians is saying they want to save the ‘next generation’ from rising sea levels while another set is trying to save their grandchildren from bad credit. Why don’t they just admit they totally fucked up and let the next generation decide about our future, maybe warmer would be fine and if there is too much debt we can’t we just go bankrupt and start over? Corporations do it all the time.”
“Well, money is just a construct after all.” She said, (Damn right, I thought staring at her $3 coffee—talk about irony!),
“But what about the penguins and butterflies if it keeps getting warmer? The whole fabric of life is starting to shred.”
“There will be changes, that’s already in the works, its inevitable. Evolution on speed with survival of the fittest. The world will still be here just different. Maybe, if people really wanted to change it back or slow it down they could, but no one is going to give up cars or coal or jet planes—for a penguin.”
“Or for a polar bear?” she asked.
“Not for a polar bear either. There will be polar bears in zoos still for sure, and penguins they live all the time in zoos and at marine world and like that even in Vegas they have tigers and butterfly houses—they won’t all be gone. And we could have movies too – maybe “polar bear avatar”. What about you, are you going to give up 24 hour electricity and fancy fair trade coffee to save the polar bear?”
Her eyes got really wide and I thought she was going to cry. That or launch into a lecture about how its not about individual actions, we need a global solutions (I’ve heard that one before from these oldsters who try to justify driving their 4 wheel drive gas guzzlers a mile to the gym with the hot tub and sauna) but instead she said,
“Wow, that’s what I tell the polar bear all the time, but he can’t believe it. I guess crazy optimism is the only thing standing between him and the zoo.” she shook her head, picked up her coffee and turned away. “Thanks” she said, and I thought I heard her mumbling something about margaritas on the beach as she slipped out the door.
California may be about to execute an innocent man. Kevin Cooper, a black man in California is facing lethal injection next year.
Five federal circuit court judges, distinguished jurists just one notch below the United States Supreme Court, strongly feel Kevin Cooper was framed by the police. The judicial process has run out for Mr. Cooper. But gov. arnold schwarzenegger can decide to commute Mr. Cooper’s sentence. In December, there were op-ed pieces in both the New York Times ( and the L.A. Times (Alan M. Dershowitz and David B. Rivkin Jr) asking people to write to the governor before he leaves office in January.
Judge William A. Fletcher wrote an “extraordinary
judicial opinion” dissenting from the refusal of the United States Court of
Appeals for the Ninth Circuit to rehear the case last year. The opinion is a
21st-century version of Émile Zola’s famous “J’Accuse.”
He was joined by 4 other circuit court judges. Six more judges wrote
their own dissents calling for the full Ninth Circuit Court to rehear the case.
In December 2009, the supreme court let stand the decision of the 9th
circuit court. But the case has a long history
of police and prosecutorial misconduct, evidence tampering, and numerous
constitutional violations including many
incidences of the prosecution withholding evidence of innocence from the defense.
These travesties are outlined in the op-ed pieces and online at .
Letters can be written to: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, State Capitol Building, Sacramento, CA 95814, Phone: 916-445-2841, Fax: 916-558-3160 or e-mail:
Other Death Penalty Horrors: 1. Recent DNA
tests raise serious doubts about the conviction of Claude Jones, who was
executed in Texas ten years ago. The tests revealed that a strand of hair found
at the scene of a liquor-store shooting belonged to the victim, not to Jones.
Jones was executed for the murder of the store’s owner. The hair was the only
physical evidence tying Jones to the scene of the crime. Jones’s attorneys
asked for a stay of execution in order to conduct the DNA testing, as the
technology had not been available in 1989 when the crime occurred, but the
courts, along with then-Governor George W. Bush, denied the stay. 2.
Anthony Graves became the 139th death row exoneree this month when he was
released from his Texas prison cell. Graves, who was convicted in 1994, spent 18
years in prison for a crime he did not commit. It seems like a deadly game
of chance – will someone be found innocent before they are executed? For more
info: Death Penalty Focus, 870 Market St. Ste.
859, San Francisco, CA 94102 or www.deathpenalty.org
The crisis in public education is part of a larger crisis in a failure to provide social services that are essential human rights to poor and working people. While the people of California say that they want a great public education system, they are unwilling to fund education. The failure to pass Proposition 24 which would have closed tax loopholes for corporations and would have helped close the California budget gap is just one instance in which those who voted did not understand how desperate the situation is for public education.
Public school teachers face greater insecurity with threats that their salaries and evaluations will be tied to improved test scores, known as “value-added rankings” of teacher quality. This fall the Los Angeles Times published a list of all teachers in Los Angeles Unified School District, ranking the teachers by their test scores. In New York the Daily News is threatening to do the same to New York City teachers. The standardized test syndrome, required by Bush’s No Child Left Behind legislations, puts further pressures on teachers to teach to a narrowly constructed test. No one has even discussed how we are to include the non-tested disciplines in an evaluation of school effectiveness. Maybe the implication is that subjects other than those tested, English language arts, math, science, and history, are not important. The National Education Association, the largest national teachers’ union, is challenging New York and other districts to arrive at a more complex method of evaluating teacher and school effectiveness.
The propaganda that “ineffective teachers,” especially veteran “ineffective teachers,” are the root cause of all the problems in public education is a way of reneging on the social responsibility we all have for the education of our youth. Yet, so many people are convinced that union-backed and negotiated protections for teachers as workers must be overthrown in order to have effective schools. These protections include seniority and due process rights, the teacher evaluation system, working conditions such as hours, and salaries. The attack on the teachers’ unions is part of a general attack on unions that has created an economic divide in the United States. The right wing, who want to privatize public education, has managed to convince many people that the union is the organization blocking real reform. The union, while protecting educators, has also been the only organization capable of mobilizing people to fight for funding for education and against the privatization of public schools.
Does this mean that there need to be no changes in public education? Most educators recognize that we, as a society, need to address the problems in public education. Teachers are often advocates for students who want to put in place a rigorous and interesting curriculum to include the arts, music, Ethnic Studies, and other so-called electives. Teachers also advocate for younger students who need additional support to meet the challenges of an increasingly academic curriculum even in kindergarten. It is not uncommon to see teachers arriving to work way before class begins and staying late into the night to insure that their students get the best education possible. It is also not uncommon for teachers to spend their own money on their classrooms as their classroom budgets shrink due to cutbacks in funding. Yet, these extra efforts are not always apparent on one standardized test given each year at the end of April, long before the year is even over.
The National Education Association, and many state unions, supports a holistic evaluation system in which a teacher’s lesson plans, students’ work, including extended projects and videotapes of class discussions, and notes from parents would be included in judging teacher effectiveness. Tests, when used correctly, would provide teachers with feedback on specific topics rather than individual students, and a prior year’s test results could inform a teacher about areas he or she would need to address in the current year. But that data is not an evaluation of a particular student. It is only one piece of information about current students. While the public’s desire for an unambiguous simple way to evaluate teachers might be understandable, it misses the complexity of the art of teaching.
A final area of controversy has been teacher seniority. Recently the ACLU sued the Los Angeles Unified School District because in the lay-off process teachers at more difficult, lower-performing schools were laid off at a higher rate than the rest of the district. The reason is that there is high turnover at these schools, and therefore, teachers don’t stay for long. The ACLU claimed that this was a violation of the civil rights of the students at these schools. While the turnover and the lack of teacher consistency is tragic at schools that serve students who need the most experienced teachers, the ACLU case does nothing to address the horrible working conditions at these schools, or the severe under funding of schools serving low-income students. The ACLU case also does nothing to address the reasons why 50% of all teachers leave teaching in the first five years. Nor does it address the fact that we should not be laying-off teachers at all.
The Los Angeles teachers union has cited poor working conditions and a lack of support for new teachers as greater problems in education than seniority. In fact, districts need to create incentives for experienced teachers to work in the lower-performing schools. By attaching pay and evaluations to test scores, few teachers will want to stay at struggling schools. The ACLU case also promotes the idea that the new younger teachers should keep their jobs over the supposedly aging ineffective colleagues. No one cites the data that shows that frequently teacher experience leads to more effective teaching. More experienced teachers often collaborate with newer teachers to improve learning at a school. If we get rid of seniority, who will be left in the schools to mentor new teachers? It is mystifying why the ACLU has taken an anti-union stand for a cause that has not proven to improve the overall education of our students.
As a progressive public we need to be demanding more from our school districts and the state for both the students and educators, as well as support staff at schools.
What’s all the hullabaloo about “merit pay” for teachers? I say thank goodness people are finally figuring out that workers should not be paid when their performance does not meet expectations. Yesterday I dragged around my umbrella all day because the weatherperson on the TV said it was going to rain. It did not rain and I’m pissed. Should he get paid??? My gardener mowed my lawn and it grew back!!! I’m sorry, but I don’t think I should have to pay for something that needs to be done over and over and over again. And what about all the people (many members of my own family and circle of friends included) who’ve gone to doctors and not gotten better? Should doctors get paid even when their patients die??? I say “Yay for merit pay”. But why stop with teachers? Surely the school superintendent who comes into a district, wrecks havoc, and leaves with a giant severance package ought to have to give it back when test scores don’t go up. Surely mayors who vow to end homelessness, governors who claim they will balance budgets and presidents who promise to end wars and/or poverty ought to be paid according to their performance too?
Sincerely, Sick of Hypocrisy
Does that mean I won’t get paid if people don’t take my advice? Forget it.
1. Between the Bars: Interested in blogging? Between the Bars is a new free blogging service for prisoners. Just send letters to our address, and we will put copies on the Internet! You can use your blog to tell your story, make and maintain social connections, share your artwork or poetry, and build a platform you can stand on when you get out. When Internet visitors leave comments on your blog, we’ll mail them to you for free. This service is being run as part of an MIT study on whether blogging can improve prisoner’s lives.To get started, send a letter or postcard with your name to this address, and we’ll send you the sign-up form: Between the Bars, Attn: New writer registration, PO Box 425103, Cambridge, MA 02142 Please be aware: by law we can’t provide you with anonymity. Please do not send us anything that is sensitive, private, illegal, inflammatory, or which might incriminate you or affect your incarceration or potential for parole. If you do, we will not be able to prevent law enforcement or others from harming you with that information.
2. Black and Pink a
self-described “ abolitionist queer clergy person. This website is an
attempt to serve queer/trans people in prison and the abolitionist movement as
best as possible. I am always looking for great folks to talk with and
strategize with about abolishing the prison industrial complex with. It is
vital that we establish accountable processes that honor the experience of those
most impacted by the prison industrial complex. This means we must listen
to the voices of people of color, low-income/poor folks, and all those targeted
by police violence and surveillance. Queer and trans people are so often
left out of the organizing around anti-prison work and mainstream gay/lesbian
organizations won’t touch this issue with a 10 foot pole.”
The website lists LGBT prisoners by state who are looking for pen pals
and gives guidelines and suggestions. To be listed write to Black and Pink c/o
Community Church of Boston, 545 Boylston St. Boston, MA 02116
3. SINISTER WISDOM, INC., P.O. Box 3252, Berkeley, CA 94703. Publishes work by lesbians only - prose, poetry, essays, graphics, and book reviews. Free to women in prison.
4. TGI (TRANSGENDER, GENDER VARIANT AND INTERSEX) JUSTICE PROJECT, 342 9th St, Ste 202B, San Francisco, CA 94103. Write for details.
5. T.I.P. JOURNAL - Gender Identity Center of Colorado, Inc., 3895 Upham St, Ste 40, Wheat Ridge, CO 80033. Newsletter for transgender prisoners. Write for details.
6. TRANZMISSION PRISON BOOKS, P.O. Box 1874,
Asheville, NC 28802. Offers free books and resources. (Queer/Trans. related)
Women are the roots of life -
even if the tree of is cut,
the roots of life will rise again!
--Haitian women’s song.
It’s been almost a year since the devastating earthquake hit Haiti, which resulted in the deaths of almost a quarter of a million people. People are still living in tarp cities, rubble has not been cleared, and to call living conditions substandard would be would be kind – they are much worse than that. Now there is a deadly cholera epidemic, a disease which hasn’t been seen in Haiti for over a century.. All this, despite a continuing presence of more than 10,000 UN troops, thousands of NGOs and “aid workers” and billions of dollars collected and/or pledged in the last year.
Within this context the women of Haiti, are, as always, fighting, struggling and organizing.
In August, I traveled to Haiti as part of a small women’s delegation. We wanted to hear first hand from women who don’t usually get interviewed by NGO’s or aid workers. Our goal was to listen to women’s voices and to understand what women are doing and not just what is being done to them.
don’t want to spend our lives living in misery.
Many of us have lost our homes, our loved ones.
But life is not over. We
have to start over. We say organize, organize!
It became rapidly clear to us that if the international community had wanted to, they could have used Haitian women’s organizations to help rebuild after the earthquake. Everywhere we went we found that women were organized and highly politicized. There were multitudes of community organizations that were then grouped together in bigger consortiums.
Women have a long history of organizing
Many of these women’s organizations were part of the democracy movement that bought President Aristide and the Lavalas party to power. Still more were started during his administrations. For instance we spoke to one group of women who explained
“We formed “Rozo” in 1990. Rozo means tree. A
tree that bends but then stands up. We
knew that we had to work together. In
fact we found that we got so big we had to divide ourselves to make working
together doable. We had one goal -
to make our lives better. We wanted
to make sure that everyone could sell something, perhaps some peanut butter,
perhaps some washing materials.”
In Cite Soleil, one of the poorest areas of Port Au Prince, more than half of the women had lost their houses during the quake. The majority of those still did not have permanent housing. They are without tents or even tarps.
Under a large tent, we listened to a crowd of 200 women tell us what life is like 8 months after the quake. The tales of misery can be overwhelming.
“I have no food to feed my children.
I buy one pot of rice to sell to others, and then sometimes I can feed my
kids. We live under leaking tarps.
When it rains we have to stand up because it becomes flooded. Sometimes
we have to sleep in chairs. There
is no drinking water. My children
got sick from drinking bad water.
And yet, these women are determined to rebuild and make their lives better.
I didn’t join my organization just for the economics.
I joined because I get support from other women.
We help each other with housing. We
support each other when we experience violence from our husbands.
We watch each other’s children. We
listen to each other’s problems. Without
other women, we couldn’t survive.
A Grassroots Fund for Women
Rea Dol is one example of women determined to improve the lives of Haitian people. Rea is director of SOPUDEP, a school she founded to help street children get an education. Rea has also organized a series of women’s community organizations, which work together economically and politically. Added to this is a grassroots, community run, micro-credit program.
Without credit, most women cannot carry on. They have to borrow money to buy their goods, then sell the goods to pay back the lender. Even so-called progressive lending agencies like FONKOZE charge between 15– 30 % interest. After the earthquake, the women lost all their goods, and although the banks didn’t have to pay back their creditors, the women we met with did. Then there were no goods to sell, thus no money to make. This has created an even bigger financial crisis than before.
So, Rea Dol and others started a fund for women. Made up of 7 women’s organizations, each woman gets an initial 2500 gourdes equal to about 60 dollars. After two weeks they give back 10% and then after 6 months they pay back the principal. Ten percent may seem steep, but it all goes into a bank account for each woman with a goal of 10,000 gourdes after two years to be used for her family and/or business. In the future the fund hopes to buy a small truck and perhaps a store.
“Haiti is open for business,” Hillary Clinton
Over and over again women told us. All I want to do is work, feed my children and send them to school. But there are little or none resources open to me. That’s why I joined this organization.”
But there are very few jobs, although there is so much work to be done. After the quake everyone could have been put to work immediately rebuilding Haiti. There was Rubble to be cleared, roads and buildings to be built, schools to be staffed, children to be taught, and food to be grown. For instance, we met with hundreds of women farmers who were more than capable of sustainable food production. The people could have used the billions of promised aid; instead people are left without work and without the ability to feed themselves and their children
“The only way I feed my family is by going to the
garbage dump of MINUSTA (the UN). Look, I even got my dress there.”
Instead the U.S./UN is making plans for factories and sweatshops, with a minimum wage of less than $2.65/day. This buys one loaf of bread, transportation to and fro, and perhaps one pail of water. But Hillary Clinton keeps on saying that this is a good wage!
Rape and Violence Against Women
Rape and violence against women are endemic when there is militarization and occupation and there is a long history of rape as part of social control in Haiti. Groups such as FAVILEK and KOFAVIV grew out of the need for women to collectively deal with trauma from those events. According to an article in The Lancet, there were over 35,000 rapes in Port Au Prince alone, following the 2004 coup.
The earthquake has further exacerbated this situation. Women as young as 6 and as old as 75 have been raped. Women are afraid to be alone for fear of being raped. There are very few shelters to go to and the police rarely arrest anyone. If they do, the perpetrators are most often let go.
The solution to this violence is complex.
Better security for women in the camps is essential. Women banding together, better lighting, even whistles will help. Yet security has to be more broadly defined. It is not just more police or more UN troops (who are often culpable for the rapes themselves).
For Haitian women, real security requires permanent housing, education and jobs.
President Aristide must return!
It has been almost seven years since the 2004 US/UN coup deposed President Jean –Bertrand Aristide. He and his family are still being forced to live in exile in South Africa - the Haitian government refuses to grant him a passport.
Over and over again, no matter where we went or whom we talked to, from women running for the house of deputies to feminist activists to the poorest women in the camps, the women talked about the return of President Aristide. Cite Soleil was no exception. “This wouldn’t be happening if Titide were here. We pray for the return of President Aristide. Under Arsitide our children could go to school. Now that’s not possible.
When women of the Aristide Foundation, initiated a call for Aristide’s return on mother’s day this year, over 20,000 women signed within the week. One of the basic demands of the democratic movement is that he be allowed to come back to Haiti.
What can you do?
After the earthquake there was an outpouring of support for the people of Haiti. Millions of dollars were donated. Unfortunately, Haitians most impacted by the earthquake have seen little or none of this money. And the democratic movement has been systematically eliminated from the funding stream.
Democracy must be restored in Haiti. The recent elections, in which Fanmi Lavalas, the most popular political party in Haiti, was banned, have been condemned worldwide as fraudulent and illegitimate. Real democracy will not come through fake elections administered by the same forces that have kept the poor in Haiti marginalized. The UN occupation force – MINUSTAH – must leave. President Aristide must be allowed to return and real democratic elections must take place.
It is only within this framework that women will be able to organize and really rebuild Haitian society.
If you want to contribute to relief and development in
Haiti, please give to the Haiti Emergency Relief Fund.
100% of your money will go to grassroots organizations.
MAIL YOUR TAX DEDUCTIBLE DONATION BY CHECK TO:
Haiti Emergency Relief Fund/EBSC
c/o East Bay Sanctuary Covenant
2362 Bancroft Way, Berkeley, CA 94704
Print “Women” if you want the money to specifically go to women’s projects
For more information:
In October, for the first time in a century, cholera broke out in Haiti. Cholera is a disease of poverty and especially bad sanitation, so the conditions in Haiti were ripe for a massive epidemic.
From the beginning, the UN refused to acknowledge the extent of the epidemic. It has now been proven that the cholera came from a camp of Nepalese UN occupation troops: their badly contained raw sewage was left to drain into the nearby river.
Once again the UN has shown massive neglect on in their response to the epidemic. Vaccines have not been provided – at first the World Health Organization said there were only 200,000 vaccines available. Now they admit there are millions.
Not enough antibiotics have not been provided nor has there been real improvement in the sanitation. More than 90,000 people have been infected and more than 2000 have died to date.
There is an ice cream shop that opened at 24th and Harrison in san Francisco about two years ago. It is part of the greentification efforts ongoing in that part of Lower Snoe Valley and attracts a class of “people” so unsavory that I have to cross the street to avoid them. And I like ice cream.
These are the heirs and children of the white-flight generation. They have reoccupied cities with an entitlement reinforced vengeance, and real people are forced to the developed fringes forsaken by these “people.” Every time I get home in the Mission I feel defeated. Every time I walk the streets I have to force my way through sidewalks infested by these zombies who refuse to share common space. If a group of these ‘people’ starts off rude by acting as if they own common space, I don’t feel bad when pointing out that they need to learn to share the fucking sidewalk.
And you can’t get away from them. I spend as little time and money as possible at Rainbow Grocery for two reasons: they didn’t deshelve Israeli products, and these very well-off people block the aisles with their carts and after parking their very expensive vehicles flash their Bicycle Coalition card and get a discount the rest of us need but can’t afford.
Working class people were de facto green when green was bad for the economy. We didn’t have enough to buy a new car every year and fill three garages. Now, in our older, dirty vehicles, unable to buy a hybrid, we are responsible for the destruction of the planet. I wish. Truly, I wish, because I don’t want the future to be inherited by their brats. Not when they control the present of everyone else.
It is finally happening. I am approaching the end of my working life, a milestone in and of itself and I will begin collecting social security next year when I turn 64 years old (Beatles song not withstanding). I won’t get the full amount at 64, as the age to collect full benefits was pushed to 66-68 for the baby boomer crowd, part of the ever retreating finish line of retirement. Social Security has suddenly come into stark relief for me. Like many millions I will be dependant on it for income after I stop working. I am a product of the sixties, a time in which we held an unshakeable belief in a society-changing revolution, marched against the Vietnam war and for civil rights, came to consciousness as lesbians fought sexism. This activism, the arrogance of youth, needing to help friends community and pay rent, resulted in not having much for a plush 401k that I would need in my old age. So here I am much later in life, not having given much thought to money for retirement. To my amazement I find that the republucrats are busily trying to take away my Social Security to pay for their wars yet again, and to keep producing more and billionaires. I just cannot wrap my mind around it. Americans are steadily voting in teabag people because their bigotry racism anti-queer anti-abortion thinking overrides their good sense. Somehow they seem to feel that if republicans get elected and continue to blatantly feather their own nests with wall street housing schemes, they too will get rich by magic.
So now just as I get ready to apply, they are coming after my Social Security, known as an “entitlement” program. Entitlement is given a bad name these days, making me sound lazy. Humph my ass.!!!! I put money into it all these many working years. Entitlement implies I have to deserve it or meet criteria to get it, to be particularly special in some way. But the truth is that each generation of workers pays into the program to ensure that those of us whose bodies and minds are aging and who have hit the proverbial work wall will be taken care of. So dammit, it is my turn now!! The money should be there for me, a fund created by a payroll tax called FICA (Federal Insurance Communications Act), each generation paying for the next. This entitlement is a good word that describes the social contract of a society that recognizes that the old and disabled need to be supported.
Bush tried to privatize social security, the idea being that people could take their hard earned money and put it in the stock market for retirement. This didn’t happen fortunately, because shortly after this idea was floated the stock market plunged. It is hard to see how working people would benefit from betting their retirement income on the stock market . However wall street still haven’t forgotten this notion and want to get their greedy hands on the Social Security pot of money, privatizing it to use in their stock market casino. The media, at the behest of the evil corporations running the government, continues to feed the frenzied notion that Social Security is on the brink of failure because of the baby boomers. The truth of the matter is that Social Security has worked well for the last 75 years keeping old people and disabled out of the worst of poverty. With some revisions and an end to imperialist wars it could continue to work. It takes political will.
Which brings me to the subject of recent political shenanigans in the world of amerikkka and capitalism, the deficit commission. Its attempted attack on Social Security, along with its dubious “payroll holiday” is simply a plan to rob from social security to continue the tax cuts for the exorbitantly wealthy. Obama formed the national commission on fiscal responsibility and reform last February to deal with the deficit created by two unconscionable wars, the bush era tax cuts for the very rich and the ravages of wall street thievery that brought the economy to the brink. This commission just recently failed to get the votes to transform Social Security for the worst. The committee wanted to increase the age of retirement to 69 and get rid of early retirement at 62 or 63. (GOODNESS, I am exhausted working full time at 63 and what about my car mechanic friend who is 60 with bad arthritis having to work endlessly heaving cars around with her tired hurting body). They wanted to lower the COLA (cost of living adjustment), which should be increased not lowered as it is already insufficient. In addition they wanted to change the structure of benefits which would have meant that some people would get less benefits even having paid more into the program from the FICA tax. Fortunately this dreadful plan did not get the votes to pass the commission.
What has been agreed on in the now infamous so called bipartisan tax cut deal, causing advocates for Social Security much trepidation, is the payroll tax holiday. The payroll tax takes 6.2% of workers’ salaries and 6.2% from the employer to fund Social Security 12.4% per year. Obama and the republicans want to cut the employee’s share by 2% for a year. The idea is that the extra money going into the pockets of workers would stimulate the economy. The government is supposed to fill the monetary gap this would cause for the social security program. Advocates fear that when the time comes to return the payroll tax to its original level in 2112 , a contentious election year, it will be seen as an onerous tax increase, given all the republicans’ mouth foaming about taxes. It is also a slippery slope to start changing the payroll taxes and then lending money to Social Security to fill the gap, leading the way for people to resume the tired refrain, see social security just isn’t working.
The really tragic part about all this is the that government is going through all these changes so that really really rich billionaires don’t have to pay their share of the taxes. There could be plenty of money for Social Security. The payroll tax is capped at $106,000, meaning that people who make more than that only pay FICA on the first $106,000. So the burden of this tax falls disproportionately on those who make less. If they removed the cap, the Social Security coffers would be filled with plenty of money for the foreseeable future. Or we could simply roll back the post WWII tax structure to the good old eisenhower republican years when it was fairly weighted to the rich.
This of course would mean having a government who believed in “from each according to his ability to each according to his need”
WORKERS OF THE WORLD UNITE YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR CHAINS.
As most UV readers know, five years ago, QUIT! and others in the Bay Area launched a very successful campaign to get the Israeli consulate out of the SF International LGBTQ film festival, and last year, amid the pinkwashing onslaught, they slid back. We are ramping up the campaign this year, by asking filmmakers who are submitting to tell them that they will withdraw their films if they accept Israeli sponsorship. (Note that we're NOT asking people not to submit. We have high hopes that we can win this year.)
If you would like to sign on to this call, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please also pass it on to others who might. Please send this letter to any filmmakers you are in touch with, or send us their addresses and we will send to them. Even if they are not submitting this year, it would still be good for them to let Frameline know that it would affect their willingness to have their films shown in the future.
As queers for human rights and justice, we are writing to make you aware of an issue regarding the San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival’s relationship with the state of Israel. Last year, for the first time since 2006, Frameline accepted monetary support for its festival from the Israeli Consulate. At the very same time, attacks on Palestinian civilians and international human rights activists in Gaza were intensifying and the building of settlements, against International Law, was continuing.
We are asking you to join hundreds of internationally organized artists, academics, filmmakers and writers by supporting the Palestinian struggle for self determination and human rights. LGBT Palestinians have asked international queers to respect the cultural and academic boycott of Israel called by Palestinian civil society in 2005. Please read their statement at http://pqbds.wordpress.com/. The call of Palestinian civil society makes it clear that any institution which is sponsored by or partnering with any agency of the Israeli government is a target of boycott by people who support a just peace in the region.
Mainstream media would have us believe that Israel is the only true democratic state in the Middle East, offering freedom to LGBTQI people and women. Nothing could be further from the truth than this fantasyland version of Israel.
We recognize that the struggle for LGBTQI rights must occur in the context of the liberation of all people, including Palestinians. We are, therefore, asking you as a filmmaker to support the call that Frameline, the San Francisco LGBT Film Festival, not accept financial sponsorship by the Israeli Consulate. We cannot say that we are for the liberation of all queers, if we do not respect the call of Palestinian queers to act in solidarity with their struggle for liberation.
The Israeli government is specifically targeting the LGBTQI community in a campaign to “rebrand” Israel as a progressive, queer-friendly democracy. We call this a “pinkwashing” of the brutal realities that Palestinian face under an illegal military occupation.
Even if you are not submitting to Frameline this year, you can help the struggle for justice in Palestine by letting Frameline know that this is an important issue to you. If your film is accepted for this year’s festival, let the Frameline Executive Board know that you cannot allow your film to be shown in a festival that has Israeli government sponsorship. In joining the cultural boycott you will stand with a growing number of queer filmmakers for human rights, including Elle Flanders, John Greyson, Maher Sabry and Sonia deVries, and writers including Adrienne Rich and Sarah Schulman.
For more information go to www.quitpalestine.org.
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!)
SouthWest Asian and North African Bay Area Queers (SWANABAQ)
Aswat - Palestinian Gay Women
Israeli Queers for Palestine
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QAIA) (Toronto)
On November 5 demonstrations were held in LA and Oakland to protest the two-year sentence given to former bart cop johannes mehserle for his murder of Oscar Grant. Judge Perry dismissed the gun enhancement that could have added to the sentence, saying that he had erred in the jury instruction. There is still no word on whether the federal government will prosecute mehserle for civil rights violations.
Thursday morning, December 9, 2010, thousands of prisoners from at least seven
prisons across the state locked themselves down in their own cells, refusing to
engage in prison work or buy from the prison commissary. As we go to press, the
strike is continuing.
strike is the largest in US history, and was timed to align with International
Human Rights Day, December 10. This historic strike has encompassed prisoners
across race, ethnicity and affiliation lines. According to the NY Times, the
coordination was possible because prisoners used cell phones to text each other.
Thousands of men from Augusta, Baldwin, Hancock, Hays, Macon, Smith and Telfair
State Prisons, among others, initiated this nonviolent protest to press the
Georgia Department of Corrections (DOC) to address their basic human rights.
set forth the following demands:
A living wage for work
Decent health care
An end to cruel and unusual punishments
Decent living conditions
Vocational and self-improvement opportunities
Access to families
Just parole decisions
leaders, representing Blacks, Hispanics, whites, Muslims, Rastafarians and
Christians, have stated the men will stay down until their demands are addressed
When the strike began, prisoner leaders issued the following call: “No more
slavery. Injustice in one place is injustice to all. Inform your family to
support our cause.
down for liberty!”
the nonviolent nature of the prisoners’ actions, reports of violent guard
response have leaked out. The DOC has declined to comment officially on how they
are handling the protest and family and friends are concerned about what is
taking place behind the walls. The Atlanta Journal Constitution announced on
Wednesday that the strike ended, but reports from prisoners stated that the
Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners’ Rights is urging the DOC to come to
the table in peace to address the prisoners’ concerns.
men’s requests are reasonable and in accord with the basic respect and
treatment every human being deserves,” said Elaine Brown, a social activist
and former Black Panther Party leader. Brown is spearheading the Coalition.
For more information, go to the facebook page for the Concerned Coalition to Respect Prisoners Rights or contact them at email@example.com.
we go to press, Linan Abu Ghalma, 28, a Palestinian woman from the occupied West
Bank, has entered the fifteenth day of a hunger strike in Israel’s Hasharan
Prison. In July, Linan and her sister were abducted from their home in Nablus by
the Israeli occupation forces.
High Supreme National Committee for the Support of Detainees has appealed to
international organizations working in the field of women’s rights and to
other human rights organizations “to intervene to bring an end to the
suffering of Linan Abu Ghalma who is being held under socalled administrative
detention.” Although no charges have been brought against either sister, they
have been placed in isolation in separate prisons.
has demanded to be imprisoned with her sister but the authorities have refused,
prompting the start of her hunger strike. She has said that she will stay on
hunger strike until her demand is met. It is reported that Linan’s’s health
is deteriorating badly. The Committee has said that it holds the occupation
authorities fully responsible for Linan’s life. Her detention, it claims, was
part of a mass campaign against activists of the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) in the city of Nablus.
Committee spokesman confirmed that Linan was arrested for the first time at the
Hawara military checkpoint in 2004 when she was on her way to visit her brother
Ahed Abu Ghalma, one of the PFLP leaders sentenced to life imprisonment. Linan
served 5 years of a 6-year sentence before being released as part of a deal to
free 20 female prisoners.
more info, go to: http://tinyurl.com/linanabughalma.
from an article by Miguel Morales, National Boricua Human Rights Network
the first week of January 2011, Carlos López Rivera will appear before the US
Parole Commission after nearly 30 years in prison. Supporters are urged to send
letters to President Obama and the Parole Board urging his release.
López has been incarcerated for nearly 30 years for his participation in the
struggle to fight for the independence of Puerto Rico. He was not accused or
convicted of causing harm or taking a life. In our 500+ year-long struggle
against colonialism, Oscar has become the longest held political prisoner in the
history of Puerto Rico.
address letters to: President Barack Obama, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania
Ave, NW,Washington, DC 20500; or Chairman Isaac Fulwood, Jr, US Parole
Commission, 5550 Friendship Blvd, Suite 420, Chevy Chase, MD 20815-7286. For
more information about Oscar López, go to www.boricuahumanrights.org.
November 6, after serving 15 years of a 20-year sentence, US citizen Lori
Berenson was freed for the second time from prison in Peru. Convicted of working
with the MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement), a group active in the 1980s
and ’90s, Berenson is required to remain in Peru for her five years of parole.
Berenson was freed briefly last May but she was sent back to jail in August when
judges ruled her release was flawed. Berenson served most of her time in a
remote and tough prison in mountainous Cajamarca. She met and married Anibal
Apari, a former member of MRTA, in jail.
healthcare complications related to pregnancy, she was moved in 2009 to a jail
in Lima for medical care. There she gave birth to her son Salvador.
studied at MIT before becoming involved in social justice issues in Latin
America. She was arrested in Peru in 1995 and charged with belonging to the MRTA.
Stewart, 70-year-old people’s lawyer and political prisoner was transferred
last week from MCC New York to FMC Carswell in Texas, where Marilyn Buck was
held for her last months. Last July Stewart was given a ten-year sentence in
connection with her defense of Sheikh Omar Abbel Rahman.
members see the sudden transfer as a cruel effort of the police state to break
and abuse Lynne’s spirit. Please continue to write and support her: Lynne
Stewart #53504-054, FMC Carswell, Federal Medical Center, POB 27137, Fort Worth,
more info: http://lynnestewart.org.