In This Issue

Missile Takes Aim at Gay Threat
The Best of Times, The Worst of Times – Election Time
Jane Rule
Reflections from Lebanon
Longest Walk II
It’s Dark as a Dungeon
The MOCHA column
Tory Goes to OLOC
Gay Bugs Bug Drugs
Katrina Solidarity Day


Missile Takes Aim at Gay Threat

The leading presidential candidates of the Democratic and Republican parties have endorsed President Bush’s plans to shoot down the rogue satellite US 193. The news followed the announcement made by Assistant of Defense, Intelligence Command, Charles Unger Marks (As.S.D.I.C., C.U.M.) that the satellite’s operations had been corrupted by a programme designed to actively send queer emissions to passive alien receivers.

“You asked, and I am telling,” AsSDIC, CUM told a press conference. “We have long suspected that pinko terrorists have tried to infiltrate their commands into our boxes. As the one on top of this investigation, I swear up and down to get to the bottom of it.”


The Best of Times, The Worst of Times – Election Time

by Kate

The best thing you can say about this election season is that it’s not boring.  For the first time in a long time, maybe for the first time ever in my life, people I know are actually sitting around arguing about which candidate we should be supporting.  At a recent QUIT! meeting, one member announced that her teenage daughter had made her into a Hillary Clinton supporter.  This led to an impassioned discussion about who needs a symbolic victory more, young women or young African Americans, and where we think young African American women fall.

The worst thing about the election season is that all the candidates are repulsive.  Hillary Clinton supports the Apartheid Wall and threats against Iran.  Barack Obama decided a safe way to get hawk credentials was to make noises about invading Pakistan (that was before Benazir Bhutto was killed, making it more likely that he might be called on to actually back an invasion of Pakistan …).  Both voted for reauthorization of the PATRIOT Act in 2005, after initially opposing parts of it.  Neither supports single-payer universal health care, despite the fact that they both know it’s the only thing that would actually work.  She says LBJ was more important to civil rights than Dr. King, and he uses “the pioneers on their way westward” as an example of “Yes We Can.”  He compares himself to Ronald Reagan and she compares herself to Margaret Thatcher.  Mmmmm.

As for our probable next president, the illustrious senator from Arizona (that’s mccain, if anyone needs to brush up on their congressional geography), the cornerstone of his economic stimulus package is to cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 25 percent.  Like anyone believes that corporations actually pay taxes on 35% of anything.  As for his foreign policy, the top issue on the ex-POW’s website is “Winning the War Against Islamic Extremists.”  Got to say this for him, he puts it out there.

The second worst thing about this election, or wait – maybe it really is the worst thing, so hard to tell – is having to listen to horrible racism from so-called feminists and appalling sexism from so-called anti-racists and hideous misogyny and race-hatred from the so-called mainstream …

Just about everyone has heard about john mccain’s “That’s an excellent question” response to the WOMAN who asked, “What do we do about the bitch?” at a South Carolina campaign stump.  (If you haven’t, you can go watch it on YouTube.)  A friend who was at the Berkeley showdown over the Marine recruiting center last week told me that one of the pro-military guys was wearing a t-shirt that said, “Life’s a Bitch! So Don’t Vote for One” over a picture of HRC (popular parlance for Hillary R. Clinton, not to be confused with our favorite sell-out gay organization).  You’ll be pleased to know there’s a whole website full of “Life’s a bitch …” anti-Hillary paraphernalia you can buy – green shopping bag, anyone? coffee mug?

But anyone who believes Robin Morgan’s (I’m so disappointed in you, Robin …) and Gloria Steinem’s claims that sexism can rear its ugly head these days while racism gets no quarter (ever heard of a little place called Jena?), might be interested to know that a 28-year-old guy named Alexandre Batlle, of Miami Beach, recently tried to register the trademark “Obama Bin Ladin” for use on hats, shirts, pins, and bumper stickers.  In a shocking display of decency, a U.S. Patent & Trademark Office attorney named Karen Bush (no relation, I expect) denied Batlle’s application.  But don’t despair – there are at least two websites where you can order your untrademarked OBL t-shirt along with other revolting stuff.  More words have been written about Obama’s middle name being Hussein than about Hillary’s determination to be called Rodham.  A particularly appalling right-wing pundit calling herself Debbie Schlussel is an equal opportunity hate-monger, featuring Valentine’s candy hearts with a choice of “Obama & Islam Forever” (all the Obama ones are black) or “Pimp My Chelsea.”

On February 5, Direct Action to Stop the War held a “real democracy is in the streets” demonstration at the offices of both Cliton and Obama.  That gave us a chance to see the people volunteering for the two candidates up close, and I have to say, the Obama people seemed a lot like us: activist, passionate, multicultural, a little scruffy, while the Clinton people looked a lot cleaner, more polished, more corporate.  But that’s about perception, and my political hero, Molly Ivins, taught me that it’s all about the record.  So let’s look at the records.  In point of fact, when you put aside all the philosophizing and rhetoric about change and yes we can and “this is very personal to me,” there’s little to put between Clinton and Obama on the issues.  Here are the ways they were rated by some of the groups that give out ratings (most of these groups give annual ratings; these are all for 2005, 2006 or 2005-2006):

·        National Council of La Raza: Clinton 100%; Obama 100%

·        National Education Association: Clinton 100%; Obama 100%

·        U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation: Clinton -4, Obama -2 (and they sure both deserve those negative ratings)

·        Peace Action: Clinton 89%; Obama 89%

·        ACLU: Clinton 83%; Obama 83%

·        NAACP: Clinton 96%; Obama 100%

·        National Organization for Women: Clinton 96%; Obama 91%

·        Human Rights Campaign: Obama 89%; Clinton 89%

·        Iranian American Political Action: Committee Obama 100%; Clinton 100%

·        Children’s Defense Fund: Clinton 90%; Obama 100% (interesting, since she’s the one who was on their board!)

·        NARAL Pro-Choice America: Clinton 100%; Obama 100%

·        Americans United for the Separation of Church and State: Clinton 100%; Obama 100%.

My own research indicates that “2007’s Most Liberal Senator” (a quasi-honor bestowed on Obama by the “nonpartisan” National Journal) is indeed more progressive than Clinton on a number of issues – he is a cosponsor of the “Restoring the Constitution Act” while she isn’t; he supports lessening (but not lifting) the restrictions on visiting and sending money to Cuba, while she supports the Bush total embargo; he talks about initiating negotiations with North Korea, Iran and Syria while she is for maintaining a saber-rattling posture with regard to all three.  On the other hand, she supports a moratorium on home foreclosures and a freeze on interest rates, which he does not, and he is more tied in with the nuclear power industry.  Neither supports gay marriage, but that doesn’t make me like them any better.

So on one level, it is kind of amazing to realize we have a 45-60% chance of having either a woman or an African American president next year.  According to the polls, at least, we have a better chance of having an African American – Obama currently leads McCain by 7 points while Clinton is in a dead heat.  But, as we know, polls are notoriously unreliable when it comes to African American politicians; white people will claim they are going to vote for them but in the privacy of the voting booth, they don’t.  That’s known as the Bradley Effect.  On the other hand, it seems a little muted in Obama’s case, as he has taken an undisputed lead over Clinton with white men of all classes.  For some, this proves that misogyny trumps racism in the end; for others, it attests to how effectively Obama has assured white people that he’s not too Black.  It’s also probably not that good a predictor of how things would actually go in a general election, where the critical factors will be turnout, turnout and turnout.

The best thing about McCain is that the republicans who have ruled their party for the last 18 years hate him.  Idiot Ann Coulter says she will campaign for Hillary if McCain is nominated, presumably in an attempt to make sure neither gets elected.  The worst thing about McCain besides his politics is that his unpopularity with sectors of the republican party seems to be encouraging both democrats to run to the right in the hopes of capturing part of his independent-moderate base.  If they continue to do that, the people who have created the Obama demi-urge might decide to stay home.

To me the most encouraging thing about this election has been the upsurge of idealistic activism on the part of young people of every race, mostly for Obama.  On BART, at social or cultural events, at work downtown, I see kids with Obama t-shirts, Obama buttons; when Act Against Torture went to leaflet at an Obama rally, there were thousands of people from the suburbs standing in line for hours just to see him.  It reminds me of the Gene McCarthy movement in 1968, which I vaguely recall, having been 8 at the time, but my sister had one of those blue and white flower buttons.  My biggest fear is that Obama will win the delegate selection contests in the states, but Clinton will get the nomination, based on the superdelegates and the supposed loyalty of the party establishment.  And this will convince young people who have gotten involved for the first time this year that it is not worth doing anything.  Of course, some suggest that it will convince them the electoral system doesn’t work and they’ll head for the barricades, but I just don’t see it.  I think that’s more likely to happen as a result of his getting elected and then letting them down on issues they care about.

For my part, I lucked out.  I changed my registration from Green to Democrat just so I could vote for Kucinich, who dropped out before the primary, but Alameda County of course did not get it together to change their rolls, so when I went to the polls, they insisted on giving me a Green Party ballot where I got to proudly cast my vote for Cynthia McKinney, African American woman, who opposes the death penalty and calls for “Immediate withdrawal from Iraq & from rest of world.” 

Jane Rule

Jane Rule, lesbian novelist and community activist, died in Canada on November 27, 2007, at the age of 76.

Eight years before Stonewall, Jane Rule wrote Desert of the Heart, a novel where a woman, seeking a divorce in Reno, falls in love with a woman working at a casino. A positive story that took three years to find a publisher, at a time when lesbian novels, if they were to be published at all, were supposed to show the tragedy of this flawed lifestyle. The novel was eventually made into the movie Desert Hearts.

Jane was born in New Jersey on March 28, 1931, and graduated from Mills College in 1952. At 15 she read  Radclyffe Hall’s The Well of Loneliness. “It was a very brave book but also a very bad book... I thought, ‘That can’t be who I am! Will I have to live in some ghetto in Paris and be a freak?’ It was such a scary thing.” (Deeg says -- I threw the book across the room when I finished it. However, I never feared the living in Paris part.)

After a year in London, and a brief period at Standford, she became a teacher at Concord Academy in Massachusetts. There she met Helen Sonthoff, and they became lifelong lovers. Worried about McCarthyism, and the general political mood in the u.s., they moved to Vancouver, Canada. They both taught at the University of British Columbia until they moved to Galiano Island in 1976. 

Jane saw herself as part of the lesbian and gay communities in which she lived. In 1977, after special police pornography unit raided Toronto’s first gay liberationist paper, The Body Politic, Jane started writing a regular column, “So’s your Grandmother.” She was a lifelong opponent of censorship, and an opponent of queer assimilation.

“Over the years when we have been left to live lawless, a great many of us have learned to take responsibility for ourselves and each other, for richer or poorer, in sickness and health, not bound by the marriage service or model but singularities and groupings of our own invention,” she wrote.

“To be forced back into the heterosexual cage of coupledom is not a step forward but a step back into state-imposed definitions of relationship. With all that we have learned, we should be helping our heterosexual brothers and sisters out of their state-designed prisons, not volunteering to join them there.”

In 2001 the Canadian census, for the first time, tried to track same-sex relationships on an equal basis with straights. Jane called upon Canadians to declare themselves single, even if they are married, and to leave blank a question about common-law same-sex relationships. “Trudeau said the government has no place in the bedrooms of the nation,” she said. “But the government is climbing right back in, with big boots on.” Jane believed that all Canadian residents should be treated as single for tax purposes, and leave financial arrangements, pensions and other benefits up to the individuals.

In describing the movement’s fight for gay marriage, she stated, “What we’re doing is we’re saying, ‘Oh look, the heterosexuals get this, and that’s more than we get,’ instead of looking at it as a circumstance where the government – or the employer – is dictating to us things that are private to us and having nothing to do with them at all.”

Jane’s other books include:  This Is Not For You, Against the Season,  Theme for Diverse Instruments, The Young In One Another’s Arms, Contract With The World, Middle Children, Outlander, Inland Passage, Memory Board, After the Fire, Lesbian Images, A Hot Eyed Moderate, and Loving the Difficult. 


Reflections from Lebanon

On February 13, Imad Mughniyeh, described as a “senior Hezbollah commander,” was killed by a car bomb in Syria. The u.s. state department said that they “welcomed the news,” of his death. israel, which had accused Mughniyeh of various bombings, denied that they were responsible for this assassination. The following day, Hezbollah and it’s supporters held a memorial in Lebanon to commemorate his life.

by Tina

Again and again, I wish you knew Arabic in order to be able to enjoy the words of Hasan Nasrallah.  I read what the N.Y. Times had to say about them.  It is interesting to see how the way we deal with the words of our enemy says some about us. They didn’t really listen to him, or read him, or even understand the language although it was very clear.

I sat and listened to the radio when he spoke.  It was probably the most moving speech I heard him give.  So moving, that I found myself crying.  This tells you what impact it must have had on the party members, the community and the Arab people at large.

His tone was not the tone of threat, but the tone of strength.  He explained what happened after each time the Israelis assassinated a leader from Hezbollah.  Showing how after each assassination the Israelis lost something of their power in Lebanon.   He explained how Israeli losses were caused by the assassinations.  It was an extremely powerful exposé. He then announced what would be the next victory after the assassination of Moghniye: what would Israel lose now was its own existence.  It was such a vivid presentation that it made sense.  Remember that this man is known for having always fulfilled his promises.  So imagine the effect it must have had on the people.  The strength that was instilled.  I could feel it inside myself, I the atheist Maronite secularist fighting for minorities’ rights.  So the others, I can easily imagine.

This strong speech was accompanied by the pain of the loss.  The press had covered how Nasrallah had cried for the loss of the commander like he had cried when he lost his son Hady.  Shiaa men are not afraid of crying.  They cry for the imam Hussein and listening to all the rituals of crying for ten days —the Ashoura days.  I understood how easy it was to gather strength after one has cried and decided that the reason for the tears will be the light that will bring strength.

Like each time Nasrallah speaks, I thank the goddess for being Lebanese and not afraid of him and I pity the Israelis.  What do they think when Nasrallah quotes Ben Gourion about the catastrophe it would be for Israel to lose any war.  I remember Menachem Begin saying after the Camp David accords: something about losing the Sinai and little by little going to the ’47 borders.

I listened to Nasrallah explaining that the slain commander had already built up an entire generation of fighters and I believe him.  I am sure that every single one of these men in charge is all the time aware of dying and that the cause is larger than their lives.  So of course they are prepared.

Nasrallah is a Lebanese and his speech was Lebanese.  It is something that no western media will dare say or most probably is unable to understand.  The western media and western leaders talk about the Hezb (party) as a tool in the hands of Iran.  It is their racism vis-a-vis us, the Arabs, that makes them refuse to see any of us as a real human being with the strength and the weakness of any human.  It is Lebanese who will defeat the Zionists.  My father always told me that for the Israelis, we the Lebanese, were the only real threat.  I probably sound excited and in pain.  I am neither.  It is clearer and clearer to me that we cannot be defeated.  We can be killed, our country can be impoverished and our children gone to the West.  But the Zionists will not defeat us.  The unity that exists today between the people who just have dared say no to the USA and to Saudi Arabia is the one who will defeat the Zionists.  We need to live in peace together: Christians, Shia, Suni, Druze.  the stooges of the US and of Saudi Arabia are pitiful.  I listened to them yesterday during the rally for Hariri.  And I use the word pitiful with care.  They aroused in me pity.  Looking/listening/thinking of the following individuals:  young-Hariri, Geagea, Jumblat, Gemayel, all I can see is their individual character, the misery of each one of them.  What failures, they are failures in their lives.   Even the one who was president of the republic couldn’t even win a parliamentarian seat although Bush himself had stood up for him.  I was in the bay area then.  He lost his son to murderers, and couldn’t even take back his son’s seat in parliament. I am not being sarcastic.  All I can say about those four puppets are the Arabic words:  ya haram.

So voila.  I am writing four hours after an earthquake hit the south of Lebanon.  I was seated facing my computer and the apartment moved east/west, from the living room balcony to the kitchen one.  aah my stay in the bay area made me keep my head cool.

We are going through difficult times.  Some people are very afraid.  I am not.  Saudi Arabia is doing its utmost to control the country:  the Saudi family cannot accept that a Shia group and not any group [Hezbollah] would be powerful in Lebanon.  They shit in their pants from the Shia because of all the bad things they have been doing to their Shia and are still doing.  And they cannot accept that a Christian group [Michel Aoun’s] would say no to them.  And on top of this, the Americans who are the ones keeping the Saudis in power, are also against those two groups because of Israel.  So what are the Saudis going to do?

We have a law in Lebanon that punishes with jail whoever insults an Arab head of state.  Public attacks on Bashar el-Asad are allowed now.  Verbal attacks on the Saudi king have started, it is interesting to follow them.  It is only one guy who utters them:  a Druze mini-leader.  When we fought two years ago the cutting of the trees by the Saudi embassy, it was accepted that no one could utter a word against the Saudis.  Now it has become possible.  So what can they do?

There is ill ease inside the Sunni community.  I know of a taxi driver who was considered with Rafik Hariri, refusing now to talk politics because he doesn’t like the son.  I am told that there are many people in this situation. His alliance with Geagea and Jumblatt is making him lose credibility.  Young-Hariri doesn’t seem to be clever and doesn’t seem to know much besides counting money and following the orders of the Saudis — by the way, his wife and children live in Saudi Arabia.

So what can the Saudis do?  and the Americans [all the American politicians I mean]? and the Israelis?  Killing Aoun or Nasrallah would not change the situation.  I think that it is going to be up to the Sunnis.  There are some neutral leaders who will need to make a move towards the anti-Hariri. If they do, then the Saudis will lose their grip.  But they are known not to be courageous.  The pro-Hariri are speaking of electing soon a president with the simple majority, instead of the constitutional 2/3 majority.  We’ll see what happens next.

Did you know that the parents of the killed commander had three sons, all killed by the Israelis!


Native Americans Begin the Longest Walk 2

Posted by Christina Aanestad to indybay

Native youth and elders will be walking through Midwest winters with snow and below 0 weather, 15 miles a day for the next 5 months. While elders are putting effort into the longest walk, most of the walkers are Native youth.  They descended on Alcatraz Island on February 11 to kick off the Longest Walk 2.

“I’m a descendant of Cortina Rancheria-Winimum Wintun. Our tribe is about 103 members. They’re putting in a massive landfill to put trash over our sacred sites. We have 7 people that live on the reservation. Our elders that live on the reservation are totally against the destruction of our land… There’s A lot of gang violence upon the youth, and a lot of drug addictions within the families. I want to walk, for the healing for our people, the healing of our younger generations and to start standing up... Our generation has lost the connection to spirituality and now we’re beginning to find it again.”

Native Americans with the American Indian Movement (AIM), organized the first Longest Walk in 1978 to bring attention to the U.S. governments attempt to chip away at tribal sovereignty. It was the same year Native youth occupied Alcatraz, a prison that once held Native Americans for refusing to send their children to boarding schools that taught only white ways-forced assimilation. Faye Roman, a Choctaw from Oklahoma, went on the longest walk in 1978 with her three young sons. She says at the time there were 11 bills pending before congress, that would have eroded what sovereignty her people had.

“The bills that were in congress that year wanted to take away Indian rights-and when we say Indian we want to stress they wanted to take away the reservations, they wanted to phase out the reservations, they wanted to phase out some of the treaties that the United States had signed with the native nations, and it would have totally caused chaos. They would have taken away funding for Indian education, they would have taken away land and water rights.”

For many the struggle continues. Since the 1970’s the Western Shoshone have opposed the U.S. government’s use of sacred land to test nuclear weapons and store nuclear waste. They have also opposed gold mining there. Since the 1960’s The University of California Berkeley has withheld over 12 thousand Native American skeletal remains from Native American tribes fighting to reclaim them.

Lupita Toledo, is a student at DQ University, one of the nation’s oldest Native American colleges. She says the issues facing native communities 30 years ago, are the same today.

“The same issues that were affecting our communities about 30 years ago are still the same issues that are affecting us now. The power plants, the uranium mining, the coal mining, the nuclear power plant’s, the coal power plants. Most of the pollution comes from those coal power plants. The nuclear power plants are not clean. There’s a lot of toxics waste you have to dump and all those things are residing on the Indian reservations and it’s causing things like asthma, diabetes, mercury in the air.”

That’s why Native Americans are again walking from California to Washington dc. This time, they’ll be taking two routes. Faye Roman’s son, Jimbo Simmons, is organizing the original Northern route. A member of the International Indian Treaty Council, he will be revisiting Native Communities he walked through, 30 years ago, when he was 15 years old.

“Mount Tenabo, which is sacred to the Shoshone people, which is under threat for gold mining. When we say protect Mother Earth we mean all forms—to the desecration of sacred sites to oil development, to energy exploitation that’s happening to her, which affects the environment and which brings us to the issues of climate change and some of the issues that are directly affecting our communities, such as those in Alaska and the Inuit in Greenland.”

The 2nd Longest Walk will culminate in Washington DC, this summer, where activists will draft an indigenous declaration calling for the protection of Mother Earth.

Longest Walk organizers held a press conference and rally at UC Berkeley on their way out of the Bay Area, and stopped by the tree-sit where occupiers are preventing the university from cutting down old-growth to make room for a stadium expansion.

For more info on the Walk, to join or donate urgently needed funds, see their great website,


It’s Dark as a Dungeon

by Deeg

      Where the rain never falls
      Where the sun never shines
      It’s dark as a dungeon
      Way down in the mine

In August, nine men were killed in the fourth u.s. mining disaster since January 2006. Six men were killed in the initial collapse on August 6, and three rescuers were killed ten days later. No one who watches TV could have missed the hand-wringing of mine owner Robert Murray, declaiming the evilness of the mountain.

But the evil doesn’t lie with the mountain. 

Gary Jensen, an inspector for the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) lived the nightmare that haunts workplace health and safety inspectors. A mine that he (and others) had inspected in May collapsed, trapping and killing 6 miners. The May inspection purportedly found that the roof and pillars (coal columns supporting the roof) were in good condition. This inspection was used to justify the June approval of the request by Murray Energy’s subsidiary UtahAmerican Energy to conduct “retreat mining” at the south barrier. Retreat mining involves cutting out the coal pillars that support the roof as sections of the mine are abandoned. A 2003 report by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) found that retreat mining had three times the risk of accidents compared to regular mining. Murray is a major contributor to the republican party.

Jensen didn’t have to live long with that nightmare however, because he was killed during the rescue attempt.

What Jensen may not have known in May, because the company had failed to report it, was that in March the company had ceased retreat mining activities in another portion of the mine (the north barrier) because a major “bump” (land shift) damaged several hundred feet of tunnels. Regulations required that the bump be reported to MSHA. After the August 6 collapse, the Salt Lake City Tribune obtained a consultant’s report that recorded the accident and recommended strengthening of the pillars. We don’t know whether the company was following the plans that MSHA allegedly approved, on June 15, and we don’t know whether there were smaller bumps that warned of impending disaster.

It has now been six months since the collapse. MSHA has still not released a report. As of December, Robert Murray had still not spoken to MSHA investigators regarding the accident. He had been invited to speak to a Senate committee in September, but did not show up. A subpoena was issued by the senate labor committee, and was later withdrawn. As of December, MSHA still had not interviewed the engineering company that developed the mining plans. MSHA turned down a request by the dead miners’ families to have the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) represent them in the investigation. The mine was non-union.

A Utah commission investigating the accident found that MSHA did know about the earlier “bump” in the mine, whether or not they had been informed of it by the mine operators prior to the collapse. It also found that although MSHA had allowed the retreat mining, an inspector from the Bureau of Land Management had voiced significant concerns regarding the safety of the pillars, and further mining in the area. This is a particularly interesting role reversal – the “mission” of the BLM is to ensure that maximum economic benefit is derived from the mine. The “mission” of MSHA is to protect workers.

An audit of a small sample of coal mines by the inspector general of the department of labor found that during fiscal years 2006-2007 MSHA had not conducted 15 percent of the quarterly inspections that are mandated for all underground mines by the mine safety and health act. The audit found that although all of the scheduled inspections in the Crandall Canyon mine had been conducted, as with many other mines, inspections marked as completed were often not complete, and significant items were not have been addressed. Inadequate or missed MSHA (or OSHA) inspections, how could that be?  “The number of MSHA coal mine inspectors fell 18 percent between 2002 and 2006, from 605 to 496, while mining activity increased 9 percent nationally. Funding for the coal safety and health agency increased 1 percent over that period, to $117 million, but that was not enough to offset cost-of-living salary increases for its personnel, which grew $6.1 million.” (

Shockingly, although MSHA regulations require that an employee representative accompany each and every inspection (whether or not there is a union), the 68 “critical items” reviewed by the audit did not include whether an employee representative had participated in the inspection, although it did include whether an opening and closing meeting was held with the mine operator.

One result of the three major mine accidents in 2006 – Sago, Aracoma, and Darby (in Harlan County), was the passage of the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act of 2006 (MINER). MINER was the first significant piece of mine safety legislation since 1977. It was an attempt to force MSHA to incorporate advances already used in other countries, such as personal emergency devices – communications devices that would have increased the likelihood that the six miners trapped by the mine collapse could be located. These devices have been mandated in Australia for over 20 years. Other improvements included increased caches of oxygen in redesigned refuges for miners, improved emergency response teams, and training.

In January 2007, the house committee on education and labor found that MSHA’s implementation of the act was proceding too slowly. “Delays put miners’ lives at unacceptable risks...The required air packs necessary for escape are not all in place, and their reliability remains in question. Miners are not yet receiving real-world training in evacuation. And adequate communication and tracking equipment for emergencies are still not in place, and will not likely be any time soon.”


My daddy was a miner
And I’m a miner’s son
And I’ll stick with the union
‘Til every battle’s won
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?.

(Florence Reese, 1931)

You have to wonder that at the same time I can listen to Pete Seeger on my IPOD warble about Harlan County in the 1930’s, miners don’t even have devices that might locate them underground. This country was industrialized due to coal – firing steam engines, making steel, providing heat. The fight for coal miners lives, and for their communities is one of the oldest (and bloodiest) in labor history – Mother Jones, the battle of Harlan County Kentucky, the only known u.s. army aerial bombardment of a demonstration in West Virginia in 1921, the 1969 Black Lung Strike in West Virginia, the struggles of Appalachian communities against strip mining. It is a place where environment, community health and worker safety met, long before the struggles over logging of the redwoods.

Coal is extracted either through “surface mining” or for the more dangerous underground mining. Surface mining includes “traditional” strip mining, as well as new techniques such as mountaintop removal mining, which is literally blowing the tops off the Appalachian mountains, and dumping the debris into valleys, destroying streams and whole ecosystems as they go. And when they are done, it leaves a nice, level, unforested landscape, perfect for your next subdivision or shopping mall. No kidding.

Coal is the red-white-and-blue fossil fuel. The u.s. has the world’s largest known coal reserves, 267.6 billion short tons, according to the department of energy. Enough to last hundreds of years. About 50 percent of u.s. electricity is generated from coal. Coal burning creates lots of small particulate matter which causes asthma and cancer, among other things. It creates lots of carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming. The burning of higher sulfur coal also creates sulfur oxides in the atmosphere, contributing to acid rain, as well as respiratory problems. One of the reasons they are blowing up mountains in Appalachia is because the bituminous coal underneath is lower sulfur (“clean” coal). Although coal production dipped slightly in the last few years, u.s. coal production is expected to increase over the next two decades. And this increase will be very dramatic if alternative coal-based fuels (such as coal gasification or liquid coal processes) become practical.

In 2004, coal accounted for 24 percent of world energy consumption. Sixty seven percent of the world’s “recoverable” coal reserves are located in four countries – 27 percent in the u.s., 17 percent in russia, 13 percent in china, ad 10 percent in india. In China, 3800 coal miners were killed last year, a decrease of 20 percent from the previous year, the result of a concentrated safety program there. Next to that, the approximately 40-50 coal miners who die each year in the u.s. seems small, but all of these deaths are preventable, and all of them are murder for profit.

Although California has only two coal-fired power plants, all California utilities have been buying power from coal-fired power plants in other states, although some recent regulations are aimed at preventing at least future long-term contracts for coal-based electricity.

It also turns out that even with no active coal mines, California has a stake in Crandall Canyon. In January, lawyers for the families filed suit against the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and the Intermountain Power Agency in Utah. Intermountain Power owns the other half of Crandall Canyon Mine and the Los Angeles power department is one of its co-managers.

These are the names of the people killed in the Crandall Canyon mine: Manuel Sanchez, Brandon Phillips, Alonso Hernandez, Don Erickson, Carlos Payan, Kerry Allred, Dale Black, Gary Jensen, Brandon Kimber.


The MOCHA column

By Chaya and Deni with waggles from Sparky

Movie Reviews

Persepolis (reviewed by Deni and Chaya)

This interestingly animated, mostly black-and-white film based on the graphic novel by Marjane Satrapi, is a coming of age tale about a girl growing up in Iran during the tumultuous times of the 70’s - 90’s. We both liked the beginning quite a bit with its dreamlike sequences and feisty, amusing, political girl character. Chaya felt that the film wore her down as it went on. Some of the political punch got lost as the movie began to focus more on love and romance, though her personal struggles were engaging. Despite one mention of the CIA, the role of the U.S. in Iran’s political life seemed quite understated and we wondered why there was no mention of the CIA’s 1953 coup in which Britain and the US orchestrated the overthrow of the democratically-elected administration of Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddeq. Despite the film’s incredibly high ratings, one reviewer felt this movie was far inferior to other recent feminist Iranian films. Sadly, we haven’t seen those and can’t compare.

No Country for Old Men (reviewed by Deni)

Oddly enough, I think I find myself recommending this one by the Coen brothers. It’s grim and relentlessly violent, but the excellent filmmaking, cinematography, and acting (Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin and Javier Bardem) get you in its grip and the haunting mood of the movie stays with you long after it’s over. It’s a story about men, drug deals, money, and killing. The one female character is fortunately a good one, and well acted by Kelly MacDonald. It’s a disturbing but very well done film. If you plan on seeing it, see it on the big screen.

There Will Be Blood (guest reviewed by Cole)

Our party of four really couldn’t figure out what’s generating all the buzz. The movie managed to be both boring and violent. Daniel Day Lewis did an excellent job of portraying a greedy sociopath, but is that what you’d like to watch for 2-1/2 hours? One would expect a movie based on an Upton Sinclair novel to demonstrate some class consciousness - while some poor farmers are exploited, the principal conflict seems to be between the upstart oil company and the established corporations - not really the theme to appeal to socialist sensibilities. Save your money; if time’s hanging heavy on your hands, try out the housekeeping hints below!

The Kite Runner (reviewed by Deni)

When I read the book several years ago, the more I read, the less I liked it. I disliked the movie for the same reasons, except possibly the movie was worse, emotionally flatter and more simplistic. The main character, Amir, displays a level of cowardice as a youth that he never seems to truly come to grips with and atone for as an adult, though he does manage to develop a sense of vanity and self-satisfaction which makes him even more annoying. Skip this one.

Caramel (reviewed by Chaya and Deni)

Great to see a movie about women and Caramel has 5 of them, connected to a beauty parlor in Beirut. As the women navigate society’s changing roles, each has different issues going on in her life, mostly about men, though there is one lesbian character. But their camaraderie keeps them going. There is humor throughout, although some of it was ageist and things got pretty sad and somber at the end. The film was directed and co-written by Lebanese pop music video director Nadine Labaki, who also stars as the owner of the shop. The lesbian character was somewhat less-well developed, but she did have a special client who seemed to need her hair washed constantly. Not a great movie, but a good movie. We’ll be watching out for future work of Labaki’s.

The Great Debaters (reviewed by Chaya and Deni)

We liked this movie more than we expected to. It’s based on the uplifting story of an all-black debate team from Wiley College in East Texas in the 1930s that became a powerhouse. Denzel Washington (who also directed) stars as faculty adviser Melvin B. Tolson, a poet and teacher who organizes sharecroppers. In the film, the debaters included one woman and a young James Farmer, founder of CORE. Since the movie said it was “inspired by” a real story (Hollywood code for they made up a lot), several of us who saw the movie did a little online research afterward to find out more. We learned that the real championship debate was not with Harvard but with USC, the top-rated team. Apparently, Harvard has more glamour. The female debater Samantha Booke was a fictional character so there was no real “romance” as the movie portrayed - just Hollywood. The real woman debater on the team, Henrietta Bell Wells, sounds way more interesting! The film took other liberties we found annoying, but we liked it overall. 

MILK: We didn’t make it to the filming of any of the crowd scenes in the Castro for MILK (starring Sean Penn as Harvey, directed by Gus Van Sant), but we’re definitely available for scenes when the crowd torches the police cars at city hall. Still waiting for the phone to ring…

Watch for GIRLS ROCK! coming in March

We saw a trailer for this upcoming movie about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, a real camp in Portland, OR where girls 8 -18 come from all over the country. They learn how to write songs and perform together in rock bands, while building self-image and community. There’s also a Willie Mae Rock Camp for Girls in Brooklyn (Willie Mae is Big Mama Thorton’s real name). We’re curious about who gets to go to these camps. Do they provide enough scholarships to make it accessible to a variety of girls? The trailer was fun and moving; we hope the film will be the same.

And the Oscar goes to: Now that the writer’s strike is settled (and congrats to the Guild for getting a settlement they consider acceptable), we’ll never know if the annoying patter at the Oscars would be better with or without them.


 (by guest maven Cole )

Notwithstanding having Reagan in his pre-presidential phase as its spokesperson, Borax serves as a far more earth friendly substitute for chlorine bleach!

If your bath tub is badly stained, trying using denture cleaning tablets - the kind that dissolve - to remove the stain.


Confidential to Robert Redford: Hey Bob, It’s Not Easy Being Green: Several months ago, Sundance took over the Kabuki Theater. They added a bar and restaurant, sell Peet’s coffee at the popcorn stand, put some big pots of bamboo in the lobby and put some weird stuff on some of the walls. Beware: in addition to the $10.25 regular adult admission price, you will be charged an “amenities” fee that varies from $1 - $3 depending on time of day. What are the amenities, you ask? Bob must barely be scraping by, because he’s proud to be charging the customer for “gorgeous furnishings from the Sundance Catalog, stadium seated auditoriums with plush rocking love seats, beautiful finishes and the best in art, independent, documentary and world cinema. We don’t show annoying television commercials, we subsidize validated parking and we put real butter on our popcorn.” Bob also extols the use of recycled and compostable products, but he obviously wants you to pay for them. What’s next Bob, charging for using the bathroom? Hell no, we won’t go to the rip-off Sundance Kabuki.

If religion is the opiate, we need a stronger drug: Ok, so first Huckabee says that Jesus Christ is his vice president. We’re sorry Jesus couldn’t help him more, but we’re glad Huck stayed in long enough for us to run this item. And researching it gave us a chance to learn more about the afterlife from the GodTube video in which one young man writes a letter to his friend from Hell. We wonder whether AT&T listens in on these communiqués as well…

What with all the Presidential claptrap, you may have missed this pope story. In 1990, when he was merely a cardinal, Ratzinger gave a speech at an Italian University, quoting Austrian philosopher Paul Feyerabend on the church’s condemnation of Galileo: “The church at the time was much more faithful to reason than Galileo himself, and also took into consideration the ethical and social consequences of Galileo’s doctrine. Its verdict against Galileo was rational and just.” Oh, really…???!!! When the popester was scheduled to visit Sapienza U again last month, students and professors protested his visit, charging Ratzinger (now Benedict XVI) with being hostile to science and the independence of culture and the university. In a rare victory in Italy, the pope canceled his speech. Perhaps the beleaguered pontiff might benefit from hiring Huckabee as his publicist, if Jesus is unavailable.

And in case you have any extra money to donate, you might want to buy a mastodon skull to help save the Creation Museum, which claims that Noah took dinosaurs aboard his ark, and says that, “When dinosaurs are used to spread the gospel, they become ‘missionary lizards.’” The museum is in economic trouble so by all means, for a good laugh or a good fright, check out their website while it’s still around. Maybe you can schedule a visit with Huckabee, the pope, JC and some dinosaurs for an all-around good time.

Another Reason Not To Subscribe: Anyone else receive a solicitation from DISH network featuring the new exclusive Israeli channels that address the needs of the “Hebrew-speaking families living in the Israeli Diaspora in the United States?” We can see it now: reality shows at the checkpoints, home building shows help construct the apartheid wall, and so on. Yuck.

Gilbert and George: You may want to check out this retrospective exhibit of these openly gay London artists at the de Young Museum through the middle of May. A brochure for “Dirty Words Pictures” (an earlier show of theirs that we saw) says they “push questions of taste, morality and conformity within mainstream contexts.” Their work is challenging and provocative. In a recent radio interview, they were explicitly anti-religious. That alone is a godsend these days. Ha-ha.



Tory Goes to OLOC

by Tory

On December 5, I turned sixty years old, the first one of the LAGAI bunch to reach that somewhat dubious? exciting? uneventful? definitely frightening milestone. I thought I was cool. I was blase, didn’t matter to me, just another  birthday, happening everyday to millions of leading edge baby boomers.  But truthfully the only good thing about it was that my friends got me a fabulous cake and squeezed 61 candles on it making a huge conflagration, and when I told the NJ4 support group about my age milestone the delightfully intuitive Xan stood up and clapped as though I personally had done something really terrific.

Immediately the very next day on some strange cue, my body broke down.  I developed a myriad of new aches and pains. Strange new maladies manifested, requiring annoying interactions with kaiser, my health non care plan.  I began to repeat my best stories over and over.  Exhaustion took me over.  Each day at work I imagined I was on an excruciatingly slow, grueling military style march towards retirement.  When I complained to my forty- or fifty-something friends, they looked uncomfortable or went to their special places, after all they are only slightly middle aged, hanging on themselves, but never OLD like I had so suddenly become.

So what do we do, those of us working to make a revolution and authentic nonhierarchical community, when faced with new adversity?  We look for others in the same situation to learn, to cope, to gain strength to fight oppression.

I had seen members of OLOC: Old Lesbians Organizing for Change at the Dyke March, a lively group of lovely lesbians.  I always wistfully waited for the day when I could join. So shortly after turning sixty, I attended a day-long meeting in Mill Valley at the Redwoods a beautiful retirement community.

I entered the meeting room slightly late to a room of some 45 lesbians.  The first part of the morning was spent in the time honored tradition of going around the room and telling a short version of our story; why we were there; what were current ly dealing with.  It wasn’t that modern check-in done now in the left these days, where you are asked to answer some nonsensical question like if you were a car what kind would you be.  No this was the real telling of lesbian stories and harkened back to the sixties consciousness raising groups in which people shared their troubles and received support, and left sustained to fight again.  Women began by saying their name and their age.  This was a relief as I realized how often we keep our ages quiet in this ageist world we live in.  Sometimes people mentioned a medical problem they were struggling with or friends they were caring for.  Others talked about work they were involved with.  One women spoke about an historical society and a Pat Bond event she had organized.  Some women talked about anti-war activities they were doing.  A group of OLOC lesbians stands at 30th and Mission in front of the Safeway every month for the Iraq War moratorium. 

Two women told the stories of the deaths of their lovers, both very different circumstances.

One woman’s lover was living in Denver with her children, very ill, dying.  The OLOC woman tried to call several times to talk with her and her children would not let her talk to her lover.  Once, however, they put the phone to her ear which was some small comfort.  She was bereft that she had been so separated from this women she had shared love and intimacy with by this lethal heterosexist ageist world.  She wept in the circle of women.  The other woman told a story of her lover recently dying of cancer but she was with her during the illness and death and they were surrounded by a supportive community of friends.  The two women with such profoundly different but sad stories found each other during the break and hugged.

People talked about the circumstances of survival.  Some women have moved one by one into a retirement building in San Francisco, forming a sort of communal bunch in different apartments in the building.  Another woman who has been a life long numismatist (collector of rare coins) talked about how as she needs money for a trip or to pay rent she sells off part of her collection.  Many people talked about the support they received from OLOC itself.

It was a warm interesting circular sharing.  Many of the OLOC women are leftist agitators so I didn’t feel out of place as I often do with lesbians.  Nobody went off at length about marriage.  It was ok to mention the sadness and scariness of death as well as problems with knee pain.  It gave me some hope that the loneliness of getting old needn’t be so intense.  I felt more alive and able to continue fighting to make revolutionary change.

We had lunch and sang revolutionary songs.  In the afternoon a relatively painless business meeting was held.  I announced the information on the New Jersey 4 case.  Many women had heard of it and others were interested in how to help.

I both learned and felt comforted and much more visible at this relaxed event.  Ageism is something we all know when we are very young and again as we get old.  It adds another increasingly difficult layer to oppressions we are already fighting: racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, as we age.  OLOC helps make aging revolutionary.


OLOC is a national organization which encourages and supports the formation of local groups. They have larger gathering twice a year.  The have a quarterly newsletter called the Reporter.  They also have a project collecting oral herstories of lesbians over 70.

 Their website describes themselves as follows:

Who We Are

OLOC is a national organization of regional groups for lesbians 60 and over with a national leadership centered in the OLOC Steering Committee.

We are committed to empowering old lesbians in the common struggle to:

-- confront ageism within our own and the larger community

-- explore who we are and name our oppression

-- analyze our experience of ageism by sharing our individual stories

-- develop and disseminate educational material

-- facilitate formation of new groups and stimulate existing groups to confront ageism

-- make our presence a visible force in the women’s movement and in the lesbian community

We celebrate our differences and affirm our diversity.

What is Ageism?

Ageism is a social disease.

Are you ageist?

Do you consider “young” a compliment and “old” a derogatory synonym for ugly, decrepit, out-of-date (“You don’t look your age.”)?

Do you speak/do for an old lesbian instead of letting her speak/do for herself and assume she needs help?

Do you view an old lesbian either as a burden or an icon, rather than as an equal with whom a reciprocal relationship is desirable?

Do you patronize a courageous old lesbian by trivializing her anger as “feistiness?” (Would you call Superman “feisty”?)

Do you categorize an outspoken old lesbian as “complaining,” “difficult,” or “crotchety?”

Do you assume that an old lesbian is asexual?

Are you unsupportive of an old lesbian looking for a partner, or disrespectful of an old lesbian’s choice to be single?

Do you refrain from confronting ageist remarks because they are “not really meant that way?”

If so...

Why We Call Ourselves Old

Society calls us old behind our backs while calling us “older” to our faces. “Old” has become a term of insult and shame. To be “old” means to be ignored and scorned, to be made invisible and expendable.

We refute the lie that it is shameful to be an “old” woman. We name ourselves “old lesbians” because we will no longer accommodate ourselves to language that implies in any way that “old” means inferior.

We call ourselves OLD with pride. In doing so, we challenge the stereotypes directly. Thus, we empower and change ourselves, each other, and the world.

Why 60 and Over:

Membership in OLOC is limited to old lesbians, 60 and over, in order to give us the opportunity to be together and to speak for ourselves. We are especially sensitive to the ageist attitudes of those who see themselves as committed to the old, doing “good” for the old, speaking-for-us. That is ageism!

The age of 60 was chosen because the degree of oppression is greater beyond mid-life, after 60, when we know what it is to be perceived as “old.” We welcome those under 60 as supporters who are committed to confronting ageism.


OLOC (Old Lesbians Organizing for Change) . . .

. . . announces plans for the upcoming National Gathering “California Dreaming: Building a Better World for Every Old Lesbian” to be held at the Hacienda Hotel in Los Angeles, CA from July 30 to August 3, 2008.

Keynote speakers will be award winning author Jewelle Gomez, community activist and politician Jackie Goldberg, and jazz/blues artist and Lesbian activist Gaye Adegbalola (who will also perform). Other entertainment planned for the Gathering includes Alix Dobkin, Mothertongue Feminist Readers Theater, Robin Tyler, the Los Angeles Women’s Community Chorus reunion and the OLOC Chorus, both directed by Sue Fink. Numerous workshops will be provided on topics relevant to Old Lesbians. Some scholarship funding will be available. Registration information and fee schedules will be available in the near future on our web site.

For further information about OLOC contact: OLOC PO Box 5853 Athens, OH 45701, . For questions specifically regarding the ‘08 Gathering: 888-706-7506


Gay Bugs Bug Drugs

By Daniel

Straight men really get a hard on when they think too much about gay men. It’s as if they’re gonna start taking it up the ass, and liking it, if the fags get too close to them.  Recent stories about gay superbugs have underscored this, um, this whatchacallit, this homophobia.  Stories saying that gay men are resistant to drugs are patently false. Come on, we’re gay. We love the drugs.

Remember GRIDS? And gay cancer? William F. Buckley, Jr. wanted to tattoo people. Perhaps they’re just jealous of the power of our promiscuity. We’ve caused u.s. soldiers to die in Iraq.  Earthquakes occur if too many of us gather in one place at one time. Empires have fallen because we were too busy making love and not war.

For decades pharmaceutical companies have been manufacturing antibiotics to be shoved wholesale into miserable cattle, promoting mutation in bacteria. For decades physicians have been shoving antibiotics into miserable humans,  promoting mutation in bacteria. Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus has been know for some years. Strains of Staphylococcus aureus resistant to most antibiotics have not been unknown, and their appearance should have been predictable to medical researchers. But there is more money to be made in misusing existing antibiotics, and not enough profit to be had in developing new drugs.

Hearst controlled newspapers (like the s.f. chronicle) were born to substitute complete facts with lurid misrepresentation, with the chief punctuation being the !. Hatred and bigotry sell.


Katrina Solidarity Day

On Saturday, January 26, several hundred protesters crowded the street in front of Dianne Feinstein’s San Francisco palace to demand housing and justice from San Francisco and Oakland to New Orleans to Palestine.

Demonstrators targeted Senator Feinstein due to her ambivalence on Senate Bill 1668, the “Gulf Coast Housing Recovery Act of 2007,” which would allocate funding for housing in New Orleans and guarantee one for one replacement of any destroyed public housing units.

The action was part of a global day in solidarity with New Orleans called by the World Social Forum. The local action was organized by Katrina Solidarity Network, School of Unity and Liberation, POWER, St. Peters Housing Committee, Just Cause Oakland, Partnership for Immigrant Leadership and Action, Freedom Road Socialist Organization, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, Center for Political Education, Center for Media Justice, Heads Up Collective, Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research and Action, Poor Magazine, Catalyst Project, and Incite! Women of Color Against Violence.