noisy row in a Vancouver hotel brought police to the scene, and created a
political problem for Judge Vaughn Walker, who has been presiding over the
lawsuit to repeal the anti-gay marriage Proposition 8.
Police found ice skater
Johnny Weird draped over a chair in the Four Horsemen Hotel, crying his eyes out
on a pink feather boa. According to
ear-shot witnesses, the fight began because Weird felt that Walker was paying
too close attention to U.S. curler John Shuster as he bent over on the ice.
Weird refused to confirm the
rumor. “There are some things I
keep sacred,” he said through raised eyebrows. “My middle name. Whose butts
I’m jealous of. And what kind of hand moisturizer I use.”
The scandal has renewed demands by both Xian campaign contributors and gay skating aficionados for Walker to recuse himself from the controversial Proposition 8 case.
“I was ready to forgive him
for taking away Tom Waddell’s house while our first gay Olympic hero lay
dying,” said Greg Navratilova, the nation’s best known gay athlete.
“I could overlook his suing the Gay Olympics on behalf of the Olympic
Committee, and even his being a member of the racist and sexist Olympic Club.
But I can’t forgive anyone who hurts Johnny Weird.”
“I never thought I’d
agree with a gay person about anything,” said Moral Majority founder Reverend
Jerry Falwell, returning from the dead. “But
I have to concur that Johnny should have won the bronze medal.
That Canadian skating judge should be impeached.”
“Two and a half years underground haven’t diminished Jerry’s capacity for cogent reasoning one bit,” crooned Traditional Values Coalition leader Reverend Lou Sullivan.
After 25 years, political prisoner Marilyn Buck is scheduled to get out of prison later this year. Jailed for actions in solidarity with the Black liberation and anti-war movements, Marilyn has been a voice for peace, justice and human rights for her entire incarceration. As an anti-racist, feminist, poet and teacher, Marilyn Buck represents the passion and endurance of women freedom fighters and political prisoners everywhere.
Sparks Fly 2010 honors and celebrates Marilyn, as well as all women political prisoners known to us (and those whose names we do not know), in prisons around the world. They include MOVE sisters Debbie Sims Africa, Janet Holloway Africa and Janine Phillips Africa, Anna Lucia Gelabert (U.S.); Lori Berenson (Peru); Aung San Su Ky (Burma), Lynne Stewart (U.S.).
If you are unable to attend Sparks Fly, 2010, but would like to contribute to Marilyn's release fund, please send checks made out to Network On Women in Prison/Marilyn Buck and send to Sparks Fly c/o LSPC, 1540 Market Street, Suite 490, San Francisco, CA 94102. You may also get more information at www. MarilynBuck.com.
Jason Bishop was a member of ACT UP San Francisco in 1989-91, a go-go dancer at Club Uranus and a delight to know. He fell on some hard times and died in early February.
His friend Jeff Miller writes, “There was a period of time when the Castro was like a grey ghost town compared to the life-filled circus it had been before the Reaper ate its way through the community...it was as if someone had pulled the plug and turned off the life. Then one day out of nowhere Jason showed up bursting with energy and he seemed to be everywhere... it was like he was the returning sun - the new queer activist golden boy, as his age group suddenly emerged to reignite the Castro with life again. There was something archetypal and healing in his presence and energy that served the gay community and the neighborhood very well at that time. He represented life renewing itself - very reassuring to those of us that had lost so many of our community in such a short time. I’m sure there are many folks in the community who never knew him personally that share this memory of his presence.”
Here he is protesting the Gulf War in 1990 with his best
friend from childhood, Peggy Sue. (Photo by Patrick Clifton, courtesy Gerard
Peggy Sue writes that there will be a memorial sometime in the spring. We will post it here when we have the details.
After more than 200 days, Shane Bauer, Sarah Shourd and Josh Fattal remain in solitary confinement in Iran. The three were arrested July 31, 2009, when news reports say they accidentally crossed an unmarked border during a hiking trip in the mountains of Iraqi Kurdistan. They were in a peaceful region of Iraq that is increasingly popular with Western tourists.
The three young Americans, all graduates of the University of California at Berkeley, are being held in Evin Prison in Tehran. They have not been charged with any crime and have not had any contact with their families.
Shane, Josh and Sarah care greatly about the world in which we live. They admire and respect different cultures and religions and share a love of travel that has taken them to many countries. That is why they went to Kurdistan, not because they wanted to enter Iran. Sarah was a primary organizer of Direct Action to Stop the War’s fifth anniversary actions in 2008. Shane is a journalist whose worked has been aired on Democracy Now!
In February, Iranian Deputy Chief of the Judiciary (and former PhD student at UC Berkeley), Mohammad Javad Larijani, said publicly that it is “quite possible” that SSJ entered Iran by accident and that they are to be presumed innocent. Also in February, Ahmadinejad suggested that he might be willing to exchange the three hikers for Iranian prisoners held in the u.s.; hillary clinton rejected the trade, saying that the three are innocent and should be freed unconditionally. Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on Iran not to politicize their case and to release the hikers.
Check out the Take Action section at FreeTheHikers.org to see the many ways you can help. There are lots of things to do, including write to the Iranian government and donate to help their mothers travel to Iran if they can get visas. There are also a dozen different t-shirt designs you can order to benefit them.
These are members of our community, and we all need to work as hard to free them as we would if they were in an israeli prison. It doesn’t mean that we support our government’s hostility toward Iran to demand that international travelers not be used as pawns in a political power struggle.
On February 8, 11 students were arrested at the university of california, Irvine, for briefly disrupting a speech by the israeli ambassador, Michael Oren. Zionist groups have responded by calling the twelve students (one was not arrested) and the Muslim Student Union, to which some of them belong, a “mob,” as well as, of course “anti-Semitic,” and have been circulating petitions demanding that they be prosecuted “to the fullest extent of the law” and expelled from the university. As far as we can tell, these demands are coming from off-campus groups, which is ironic since they tried to discredit the protesters by suggesting that they weren’t really students.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations and the National Lawyers’ Guild, among others, have come to the defense of the 11, as have a number of professors at the school. A support committee is circulating a petition which those who support free speech are encouraged to sign. The text is:
We, the undersigned people of conscience, call for all charges to be dropped against the Irvine Eleven.
Their speech was protected under the First Amendment’s right to free speech. It did not incite violence. The Irvine Eleven protested peacefully and willingly attempted to leave. When approached for arrest, they did not resist. Oren’s right to speech does not preclude the Irvine Eleven’s right to protected speech. No substantial impairment of Oren’s right to free speech occurred as Oren was able to complete his speech. At the end of his talk, he even noted that he wished the students would have stayed.
The Irvine Police Department and the UC Irvine Administration have overstepped their bounds by arresting the Irvine Eleven and threatening them with criminal charges and university disciplinary actions. The threats of suspension and expulsion are wholly disproportionate and unwarranted. This reaction is unparalleled in its harshness when compared to UCI’s reaction to much more violent protests, including Defend UCI protests against tuition fee hikes. The severity of the punishment undeniably demonstrates that the Administration is attempting to appease external organizations and lobbying groups. The Administration is not acting neutrally. It is utilizing its disciplinary mechanisms to send a chilling political message.
Furthermore, we, the undersigned, are appalled that UC Irvine would host a speaker who represents a State that has committed war crimes and has inarguably targeted civilians during its recent attack on the Gaza Strip in December-January 2009. Israel’s gross human rights record, which has led to its condemnation by more UN resolutions than any other nation, gravely undermines UCI’s claim to impartiality and the defense of justice and the rule of law.
Students are enraged that while our nation and our state are in the throes of the deepest financial crisis and while we are facing 32% tuition fee hikes at the UCs with a decreased quality of education, the University has chosen to implicitly support U.S. policies that allow for the continued expenditure of our tax dollars on military aid to Israel. We find it morally reprehensible and fiscally irresponsible that Israel receives $3 billion per year in contravention to the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA), while millions of Americans are suffering from poverty, lack of jobs and substandard education.
Hence, we support the students who did speak up for what is right and just, particularly when those in power who have been endowed with the responsibility to uphold these principles, fully ignore their duties. We will not tolerate the spread of propaganda on university campuses. We condemn the sponsors of the February 8, 2010 event at UCI for allowing an individual who seeks to distort truth and spread falsehood to speak. We condemn the sponsors for supporting a state which commits heinous violence through the aid of our tax dollars and continues to violate the human rights of all the indigenous Palestinians to this day.
We demand that UCI and the Orange County District Attorney’s office stand on the right stand of history and drop all charges against the Irvine Eleven.
Sign the petition.
In late December 2008, Israel embarked on its brutal assault on the Gaza Strip, Operation Cast Lead, killing approximately 1400 Palestinians. A year later, in late December 2009, approximately 1400 international nonviolence activists from over 40 countries converged in Cairo, Egypt, on our way to the Gaza Strip, where we planned to join with the people of Gaza in the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) to call for an end to the siege imposed on Gaza since 2006 (www.gazafreedommarch.org).
From the time we arrived in Cairo, we met with hurdles thrown up by the Egyptian government, prohibiting us not only from entering Gaza, but even from setting out on our previously chartered buses to the Egyptian town of Al-Arish, near the Gazan border. Moreover, the Egyptian government revoked all permits for venues the GFM organizers had arranged for our meetings in Cairo.
Scattered in hotels throughout downtown Cairo, we faced an ongoing challenge to come up with creative ways to communicate, meet, and organize to counter Egypt’s attempt to stop the march. Each morning, delegates gathered in three hotels to organize the day’s actions. First we headed in small groups to a bridge across the Nile, where we tied flowers and cards bearing messages memorializing the Gazans who had died a year before, winning support from Egyptian passers-by, until the police caught on and abruptly ended the tribute, ripping our cards and flowers from the bridge’s railings. Later, we moved on to the next action—releasing 1400 memorial candles in biodegradable cups into the Nile from dozens of feluccas (traditional open sailboats), but police ordered the boat owners to cancel their rentals to our group. Undeterred, we conducted a candlelight procession on the sidewalk along the Nile, with much impassioned chanting and singing, lasting for hours into the evening. Egyptian motorists in the heavily traveled area witnessed our strong international support for Gaza.
Creative actions continued, with some delegates climbing half-way up the Great Pyramid and unfurling a giant Palestinian flag. Hedy Epstein, 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, started a hunger strike in solidarity with the people of Gaza and protesting Egypt’s refusal to allow the delegation to enter Gaza; soon others joined her fast. French delegates sat in at their embassy, maintaining an encampment all week while calling upon their government to convince Egypt to reverse its denial of buses to Gaza.
Succeeding days brought increasingly intensified actions, including a highly spirited rally outside the World Trade Center building, which houses the local UN office. Three representatives, including Philippine parliament member Walden Bello, met with UN officials to persuade them to urge the Egyptian government to reverse its prohibition and allow passage to Gaza, without success. Many delegates approached their respective embassies. In our meetings with diplomats at the US Embassy, no amount of discussion would move them to take steps in our behalf. The women’s contingent organized a return visit to the US Embassy, only to find ourselves, and other US delegates who joined us, held in detention by Egyptian police for five hours! Repeated calls to officials inside the US Embassy failed to garner our release. And one evening, Egyptian activists held a rousing rally on the steps of the Journalist’s Syndicate, with internationals present in support. This action, timed to protest Netanyahu’s meeting with Mubarak in Cairo that afternoon, was especially moving because speaking out that way is highly risky for Egyptians under their repressive government.
In the end, we decided that if we couldn’t march in Gaza, we would march to Gaza, and organized the march for December 31st, the same date the march in Gaza was to take place. In small groups, we headed for the Egyptian Museum in downtown Cairo, posing as ordinary tourists, and waited relatively inconspicuously in various spots nearby. On signal, we converged, whipped out banners and flags, and began to march! For some minutes, we marched for an end to the siege on Gaza, until the police surged on us en masse, using force to stop us. Plainclothes officers dragged some of us by the arms through the street, tossing us onto the sidewalk, shoved others against metal barricades, and even beat a few others. Police finally cordoned all the marchers into one area, which we declared “Free Gaza Square,” and we proceeded to hold a rally with compelling speeches by internationals from various countries.
Among the participants were a young man with the Canadian delegation whose father lives in Gaza. He hasn’t seen his father in 8 years, and it meant so much to him that the GFM was going to enable him to see him—he was so excited about it every day. Then when we found out that organizers had accepted the Egyptian government’s offer of 2 buses to send only 100 of the delegates, he became despondent and so upset that anyone would agree to such a thing. He himself refused to board the buses, because as much as he wanted to reunite with his father, he felt that accepting the offer for only 100 of the over 1300 delegates to go to Gaza was a betrayal of solidarity and undercut the whole point of an action to break the siege.
At an evening meeting of our whole group in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, we heard from two sisters who were born in Gaza. They were in tears as they told us that the GFM was the only way they could ever get back into Gaza, their homeland, which they’d had to leave when they were very young.
Although the GFM was fraught with difficulties and disappointments, positive outcomes arose from it. For one, the GFM closed by adopting the Cairo Declaration (http://cairodeclaration.org), a position statement and outline for future action developed by the South African contingent, made up of representatives of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) and the South African Palestine Solidarity Movement.
For another, the GFM events in Cairo cast a spotlight on Egypt’s undeniable complicity in the siege of Gaza along with Israel, with the US backing both of them. We must all call attention to the underground steel wall Egypt is building, with US financial and technical support, designed to cut off Gaza’s lifeline by blocking the tunnels that provide the only way for Gazans to receive the supplies they need for daily living, such as food, pure water, construction materials, and school supplies. And we must continue to call upon our government officials to investigate alleged violations of the US Arms Export Control Act of 1976 by Israel in its assaults on Gaza.
You might not know it from the U.S. mainstream news, but israel and its promoters are running scared from the international movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (“BDS”).
The Good News
At the end of January, the Reut Institute, a leading Israeli think tank, published a report entitled, “Eroding Israel’s Legitimacy in the International Arena,” which developed the proposition that “Israel is facing a dramatic assault on the very legitimacy of its existence as a Jewish and democratic state. The groups promoting this delegitimacy aim to isolate Israel and ultimately turn it into a pariah state.”
The report continued, “The groups making the fundamental delegitimacy of Israel among their main rallying cries represent a marginal phenomenon in Western politics.…The aim of these groups is to internationally isolate Israel and ultimately turn it into a pariah state through demonizing the country; promoting a policy of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS); and waging a legal struggle against the state and its citizens.”
The report comes with a PowerPoint available on Reut’s website, which identifies four hubs from which the “red-green alliance” – that is, Muslims and the Left, is being “networked”: London, Madrid, Toronto and the San Francisco Bay Area. On one extraordinary slide, when you finish clicking your way through the “hubs” and our ostensible goals, such as “using human rights to make Pro-Pal trendy,” this tag line appears in a box: “AIM: Promote One Man, One Vote.” Yup.
Reut has been invited to present its findings, which apparently are based on meetings in London with 45 anti-apartheid activists including Muslim groups, Jewish anti-Zionists, journalists and academics, to a special session of the israeli Knesset, as well as to diplomats and a leading technology conference.
The Bad News
An article in the Jerusalem Post reports that “recommendations presented by Reut to counter the hubs of delegitimacy are to break the ‘all-or-nothing’ dynamic of criticism of Israel, place more Israeli diplomats in the hubs, be wary of ‘strange bedfellows’ such as right-wing and evangelical organizations, brand Israel away from its image as purely a place of conflict, support anti-boycott campaigns (buy Israeli products), establish a “price tag” for attacking Israel and punish boycotters, promote Israel Studies Departments at universities, increase visits to Israel, and even persuade the Histadrut labor federation to get more involved with foreign trade unions.”
Scarier language yet is found in a document called “The Delegitimization Challenge: Creating a Political Firewall.” That report concludes that “It takes a network to fight a network,” therefore, “Israel must identify and focus its efforts on global hubs of delegitimization (such as London, Toronto, Madrid, and the Bay Area). In this context, Israel should sabotage network catalysts and drive a wedge between its component parts, primarily between soft critics of Israeli policy and delegitimizers of its existence.”
Author Ali Abunimah and others raised the alarm on this pretty overt threat of COINTELPRO-type activities. For sure, those of us who remember the spying scandal of the nineties here in the Bay, where agents of the Anti-Defamation League colluded with members of the San Francisco Police Department to spy on dozens of activist groups, are made very nervous by the articulation of such a strategy.
But oh, don’t worry about it, says Reut in FAQs about its report posted to its website in response to some of the criticisms being raised even by other Zionist organizations. Responding to the concern that “”Reut’s call to ‘sabotage catalysts of delegitimization implicitly alludes to physical violence,” the website says, “Response: Among other recommendation, Reut contends that that Israel should selectively apply tactics of disrupting the activities of those promoting a hidden agenda to delegitimize Israel with the aim of exposing their agenda. Israel and pro-Israel organizations must shift from their defensive stance on the delegitimization issue to offensive positions.
“Successful examples of thwarting such attacks include journalist Ben-Dror Yemini’s exposure of senior Human Rights Watch (HRW) official Joe Stork’s activities, which included accusing Israel of targeting civilians in Gaza, calling for the destruction of Israel, and expressing support for terror attacks. In another example, NGO Monitor exposed then-senior HRW expert Mark Garlasco, who compiled some of the organization’s most damning reports against Israel, as a collector of Nazi memorabilia - a move which led to his dismissal.”
Eek! Things are gonna get ugly.
In fact, the “punish the boycotters” strategy has already been in full swing for some months. In the last issue we reported on the arrest of BDS activist Mohammed Othman following his trip to Norway, which was preparing to divest its state pension funds from Elbit Systems, an Israeli military contractor. Two months after Othman was arrested, Jamal Juma’a, founder and coordinator of the Stop The Wall Campaign, one of the leading Palestinian organizations working to promote the BDS strategy, was arrested. Both men were released in late January, but two other nonviolent resistance leaders who are well known in the international community, Abdallah abu Rahma and Mohammed Khatib from the village of Bela’in, were arrested. Mohammed was released after a few weeks but Abdallah remains in prison. He is charged with stockpiling weapons, because he was collecting spent bullets and tear gas canisters that had been used by the israeli army against peaceful protesters. (Last week, Abdallah sent a heart-wrenching letter about the conditions in Ofer Prison and the enormous cost of his imprisonment to his family; read it at http://palsolidarity.org/2010/02/11485.)
Here in the u.s., the Zionists are busy demanding the harsh prosecution and persecution of the U.C. Irvine students, who briefly disrupted a speech by the israeli ambassador, Michael Oren (see related article). And the Jewish Community Federation of the San Francisco Bay Area just sent around new funding guidelines, stating that “the JCF will not fund organizations that … advocate for, or endorse, undermining the legitimacy of Israel as a secure independent, democratic Jewish state, including through participation in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, in whole or in part.” Now this has been brewing for a while, but the most shocking thing about it is that these new guidelines were drafted in response to the showing of the movie “Rachel,” about the death of Rachel Corrie, at last year’s Jewish Film Festival. The JCF’s letter specifically states, “Had the policy been in effect prior to the event accompanying the screening of the movie ‘Rachel,’ we believe these guideposts would have made clear that such an event and co-sponsorships fall outside the bounds of the JCF’s funding.” And that’s shocking because “Rachel” is not a particularly radical movie. It was made by an Israeli woman and strives for a kind of balance. Nowhere in the film does Rachel or anyone else even make the case for israel being an apartheid state, it does not advocate BDS and does not get into the question of one state versus two states - the linchpin of the Reut institute’s distinction between ‘critics’ and ‘delegitimizers’.
The Better News
This heavy-handed counterattack is in fact driving a wedge, but not the wedge that the architects intended. Instead, it’s isolating them from the soft Zionists. Michael Lerner published a surprisingly good editorial in the latest issue of Tikkun stating that although Tikkun and their Network of Spiritual Progressives oppose BDS, “we are deeply troubled and outraged by the attempts in the Jewish community to isolate or repress those who do support BDS as their tactic.… This is an outrageous suppression of free speech, and will in the long run contribute to the delegitimation not only of Israel but of the Jewish community.” Lerner criticizes the JCF policy, and also the Reut recommendations, stating “For those of us who were victims of a similar (FBI sponsored) “sabotage” against the anti-war movement during the Vietnam War , this threat is quite stunning.… we all need to stand behind the BDS movement’s right to advocate without threats or disruption.”
In the wake of the Irvine demonstration, the Zionist Organization of America called for a boycott of the school by prospective students and alumni donors, because its chancellor – who seems determined to discipline the students quite harshly – failed to “condemn the Muslim Student Union for the anti-Semitic and Israel-bashing speakers and programs it regularly sponsors on the campus.” In response, five Jewish student groups and fraternities issued a press release saying they do not support the boycott and instead seek dialogue with the Muslim student group.
The Best News
The best news is that despite the repression, or possibly assisted by it, BDS is really picking up steam.
After the divestment of the Norwegian Pension Funds from Elbit, several large Danish banks and asset managers followed suit. Denmark’s Danske Bank also put Lev Leviev’s Africa-Israel on its list of excluded investments, and several other Scandinavian banks are considering doing the same.
Last week, in preparation for Israel Apartheid Week, 500 Montreal artists issued a statement in support of BDS. My dad came from Montreal and I can tell you there’s no more Zionist place on the planet, so this is quite an accomplishment. The University of Michigan-Dearborn Student Government just passed a resolution pledging to lead a campaign to pressure their board of regents to divest. Minnesota Break the Bonds has used the state’s recent divestment from Iran to push forward an initiative calling for state divestment from Israel, and a Sacramentan named Chris Yatooma – fiscal policy director for California Community Colleges and a former aide to Sen. Joe Biden! – is single-handedly trying to get 434,000 signatures for a ballot initiative to force California’s state pension funds to divest from companies doing business in Israel. Okay, maybe we wish Mr. Yatooma were a tad less individualistic …
The israeli Ballet encountered protest and disruption in New York, Worcester, Massachusetts, and Burlington, Vermont, as it began its tour of the east coast.
In February, the nationally syndicated radio debate Intelligence Squared presented a debate on the proposition, “The U.S. Should Step Back from Its Special Relationship with Israel.” That that is even being debated on national radio is great, but the best thing is that the yes team, professor Rashid Khalidi and New York Times columnist Roger Cohen, trounced u.s. diplomats Itamar Rabinovich and Stuart Eizenstat. Before the broadcast, 33% voted in favor of the proposition, 42% against and 25% undecided. After hearing the arguments 49% voted for it, 47% against and 4% undecided. I’ve listened to a few of these debates, and I think that’s the most lopsided victory I’ve ever heard. You can hear the debate on their website, http://intelligencesquaredus.org..
Compared with all that activity, the SF Bay Area is looking distinctly un-hub-like, but a new coalition has been formed with the somewhat clunky acronym BACEIA, Bay Area Coalition to End Israeli Apartheid, and is planning some actions for israeli Apartheid Week and Land Day (March 30). The focus of these actions is popularizing the consumer boycott and will target israeli products at a supermarket chain; for info or to get involved, see their new website, http://www.baceia.org/. The website also has reports on some creative theater and street art actions that have taken place around the Bay in the last months.
QUIT! is participating in BACEIA, of course, and also
continuing our own campaigns targeting Victoria’s Secret/Delta Galil and Estee
Lauder. We too have had a role in
causing the zionists to worry. A
website called “I Will Not Be Silent” suggests 25 ways to help Israel,
including “No. 10: Fight the Anti-Israel Economic Boycott by Supporting
Targeted Companies.” Among the
companies they want people to patronize are Estee Lauder and Delta Galil, and
they kindly give out the names of ALL the various brands associated with those
companies at http://www.iwillnotbesilent.com/pages/t1.asp?PID=1010
Soon (but not soon enough) to be ex-governor arnold schwarzenegger has announced that he will completely eliminate all in-home supportive services starting in July, unless the federal government provides california with an additional $6.9 million. He has also said that even if the feds provide the money, he will still cut IHSS providers’ hourly wage, and eliminate services completely for some recipients.
IHSS are home care services provided through county agencies that permit low-income disabled people to remain in their homes, rather than be forced to live in institutions. Typically, IHSS saves Medicaid about $45,000 per person per year in the program – the difference between a skilled nursing facility and payments to the IHSS provider. The governor is also seeking to cap payments to IHSS providers at $8.60 per hour, well below the San Francisco home care minimum wage of $11.03 per hour (which is actually $11.54 per hour because there is a 51 cents per hour health care supplement). It is also well below the San Francisco minimum wage of $9.79 per hour.
County IHSS agencies were established by state law in 1999 after union organizing campaigns in many cities. The law creates an employer, the county agency, with whom the home care providers can collectively bargain for wages and benefits. Although governors starting in 2002 proposed cuts to IHSS, it wasn’t until 2009 that wages were cut. Some counties have elected to continue to pay a higher level of wages despite state cuts. However, if schwarzenegger’s current proposal goes through, counties would not be able to pay more. In 2009, many recipients were cut from the program and other recipients had to pay a higher share of the costs.
For the past several years, the governor and republican legislators have created a myth of widespread fraud among IHSS providers. Although IHSS funds were cut last year for direct support, $26.5 million was provided in grants to the counties for fraud detection (which works out to be the equivalent of about 3 million hours of service at the current wage). Additionally, providers were required to be fingerprinted, and people who had felony convictions were to be barred from the program. (In February, an alameda county judge prohibited the state from enforcing this requirement for all felonies).
Actually, there is very little “fraud” in the IHSS system. An audit by the california department of social services in 2008 found a fraud rate of less than 1 percent. Sacramento county received $3 million dollars in FY 2009-2010 to investigate fraud in IHSS. They found 19 cases out of 42,000 IHSS recipients in the first four months. Feminists with Disabilites blogger Abby Jean points out that if each of those 19 cases were 100 percent fraudulent, and taking the average $10,000 per year, sacramento will have spent $3 million to save $190,000 (http://disabledfeminists.com/author/abby-jean/). “Fraud” includes situations such as when an IHSS recipient reports the worker as providing more hours of service (no more than the alloted amount, of course) than were actually received, in order to effectively pay the worker a living hourly wage. IHSS services to any given recipient are limited by the type of services needed, so there is no increased cost to the state.
There will be a hearing on March 18 in Sacramento on the IHSS proposed cuts. You can also send written comments to: Senate Budget Sub-Committee #3State Capitol, Room 5019Sacramento, CA 95814or by fax to (916) 323-8386email to: Glenda.Higgins@sen.ca.go
For more info go to www.udwa.org
Food aid from the u.s. to Haiti is starving farmers there. Missionaries and baby brokers are reaping a windfall in new product. Air traffic at the Port-au-Prince airport was halted for three hours when Hillary dropped in. The u.n. is operating a military occupation of Haiti, securely protecting the least-affected parts of the city and overseeing wholesale child abductions which is part of what defines genocide and is in violation of un agreements on international adoptions and child protection.
An earthquake of this magnitude is bad enough. But us interventions in Haiti have been a disaster. Despite an abiding poverty for most people in Haiti, the country grew enough rice to feed itself. Then federally subsidized rice producers in the us were allowed to export to Haiti. An amount of rice that costs $50.00 is sold by a us producer for $36.00. How is that possible? Why is us policy so intent on devastating and already devastated country? The emergency importation of donated rice is part of an ongoing effort to destroy Haitian agriculture and culture.
The people of Haiti carried out the only successful slave revolt in history and us and European colonizers have been punishing the country ever since. France was able to collect “compensation” payments that didn’t stop until 1947. Bill Clinton’s administration used the restoration of the democratically elected president, Jean Bertrand Aristide; to introduce a multilateral occupation force into Haiti. Now Clinton is overseeing “relief” efforts. He wants to secure the northern part of the country for a tourist play land.
Sweatshops “employing” children were already well established. Baseballs and mickey mouse pajamas give a different take on “Baby Gap.” There are 20,000 foreign troops and what are they doing? Protecting the recovery of unsold by still marketable t-shirts made by the workers whose bodies are left to rot next to the unused inventory.
The continued occupation of Haiti is necessary for the u.s. to undermine other countries in the hemisphere that have elected governments opposed to us policy. It is also necessary to continue to punish a country that beat napoleon.
Meet the new boss, same as the old boss… yes the same old story once again. Where there is big money to be made corporate amerika will find a way to get the money and government approvals and try to bowl over the opposition. Yes even “green” businesses, even corporations that say their goal is to reduce greenhouse gases and save us from global warming. This is a short article since I’m out of town trying to save some tortoises, bighorn sheep, lizards and wildflowers from a 6 square mile solar project in the Mojave desert. Yes I said 6 square miles or about 4,200 acres (as a comparison, Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is about 1,000 acres). Oh yeah and don’t forget that we the taxpayers are footing the bill on both ends—loan guarantees and construction grants as well as allowing public lands and resources to be destroyed.
I can hear you asking me:
“But Lisa, Why don’t we have rooftop solar on every industrial building and over all the parking lots from San Diego to San Francisco? How come they have rooftop solar in Germany and Denmark but we don’t?” “Why do we need to put these massive projects on our public lands that are home to a whole suite of rare and imperiled desert species and beautiful vistas?”
Well maybe because it’s harder for corporations to make lots of money on rooftop solar and maybe because some of the corporate investors in Brightsource (like Bobby Kennedy Jr) have friends in high places? Maybe not? Maybe because Obama’s Secretary of the Interior Salazar really wants to save the planet from climate change by moving towards a renewable energy future? Well that sounds really good when he says it to the press. Of course at the same time Salazar and the rest of the Obama administration are allowing mountain top removal coal mining to continue and expand and expanding oil and gas drilling into the arctic both on and off shore, not to mention the new nuclear power plants their financing.
So maybe it’s just another corporate rip off at the expense of mother nature? Maybe this is what they mean by “win-win” in corporate speak? No matter how you look at it the corporation always wins. And the environmentalists are never happy.
A year after his election, Barack Obama has put “don’t ask, don’t tell” back in the news, at the same time as he once and for all kills off even the narrow “public option” for health care reform.
Look – something bright and shiny
As with Gavin Newsom’s declaration of legalized gay marriage after he was elected on an anti-homeless platform, Obama, having turned “health care reform” over to the insurance companies, sees an easy way to mollify liberals by proposing to permit lesbians and gay men to openly serve in the military. Of course, Obama isn’t pushing the change to happen immediately – he has said he would consult with military leaders, who in turn say they need a year to study the issue. However, a recent report by u.c. santa barbara’s palm center found that countries that changed their policies to permit lesbians and gays in the military did so quickly, and with little disruption. It also cited a 1993 study by the Rand corporation that found that delayed or phased-in implementation would permit the anti-gay forces to “consolidate” their opposition.
Since “don’t ask, don’t tell” was implemented in 1994, more than 13,000 service members have been discharged for being lesbian or gay. LAGAI – Queer Insurrection opposes all discrimination against LGBT people, of course, and we therefore oppose any action taken by the military against LGBT service members.
But the u.s. military is not about liberation, it is about imperialism and oppression. It is about bombing towns and villages with conventional bombs, pilotless drones, napalm and white phosphorus, and then whitewashing civilian deaths as “collateral damage.” It’s about occupying countries to ensure the ability of multi-national corporations to pay nineteen cents an hour to produce mickey mouse t-shirts. It’s about torturing people whether by holding them out of airplanes and helicopters during the Vietnam war or water boarding, hangings and humiliations at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. The u.s. military is about domestic repression, whether attacking striking miners in West Virginia from 1919-1921 (http://www.wvculture.org/history/journal_wvh/wvh50-1.html), or occupying Washington DC (1968), Los Angeles (1992) or New Orleans (2005).
LAGAI was formed in 1983 to oppose u.s. intervention in Latin America, and we have consistently fought against the u.s. military, and the militarization of the u.s. One of our founding members, Tede Mathews was a gay draft resister during the Vietnam war. One of our current members, Daniel Ward, got kicked out of the navy in 1988 for being gay (he told, so they asked). In 1991, as the “human rights” campaign was advancing their pro-military agenda, we put out a packet of personal stories and articles, “We Like Our Queers Out of Uniform.” In 1993, we joined with other progressive queers to form a Queers Out of Uniform contingent in the March on Washington. We have continued our anti-military efforts since (and before) our founding, whether it has been to oppose ROTC in the schools, or to demand the u.s. end the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Simply put, while it may be a civil right to join the military, it is a human right, and our responsibility to other oppressed people, to stay out.
Certainly some queer people, like other people, join the military because they need a job, or are hoping for a chance to go to college, or because they need to get away from their families. Yet even in these terrible economic times, with over 10 percent official unemployment, the u.s. military has had to reduce its recruiting goals in order to be able to claim success in meeting them. Despite the fact that the government plans to expand the military during the 2009-2012 period, the army has reduced its recruitment goal from 80,000 in 2008 to 65,000 in 2009. This reduced goal allowed the army to proudly announce in February 2010 that they had met, and exceeded, their recruitment goal for the first time since 1973, even though they had actually recruited 10,000 less people than they had in FY 2008.
Navy, yes, you can sail the seven seas.
In the Navy, yes, you can put your mind at ease.
In the Navy, come on now people, make a stand.
In the Navy, can’t you see we need a hand.
In the Navy, come on and join your fellow, man.
In the Navy, come on, people, and make a stand.
In the Navy, in the Navy.
They want you!
They want you as a new recruit!
(The Village People)
Since the draft was abolished in 1973, the u.s. military has been forced to rely on economic coercion, promises of education, travel and camaraderie, and nationalism to fill its ranks. For the past 20 years, it has tried to create an image as a modern and diverse place where a person can excel to the best of their abilities – first the “Be All that You Can Be” campaign, then briefly the confusing “Army of One”, and now “Army Strong,” which comes with a set of music videos that are played in movie theaters before the show.
In regards to don’t ask/don’t tell, the military is confronted with a difficult choice of messages. The majority of people in the u.s., particularly in the recruitment age groups, claim not to support discrimination against LGBT people. On the other hand, the military relies on an aggressive super-masculine image, masculine often to the point of homoeroticism, with or without the Village people.
Images aside, in 2008 there were almost 3000 reported sexual assaults on service women, and in one VA hospital survey, four out of ten women reported being sexually assaulted during their military careers. The reported number is likely substantially below the actual number, since a study by the Government Accountability Office found that only about one-half of all military sexual assaults are reported. A 1999 pentagon survey found that 47 percent of Latinos and 48 percent of African Americans in the military had “experienced incidents that caused them to lose trust in their colleagues.” A 2000 study by the u.s. military found that 5 percent of service members had witnessed a violent anti-gay beating in the previous year.
What is odd about the straight left is how eager they are to support assimilationist demands for gays in the military. Our (ambivalently) beloved KPFA seems unable to understand that the anti-war resisters in the military are being persecuted by the same military who the “human rights” campaign is advocating queers be allowed to join. Will Iraqi, Afghan or Haitian civilians be happier to be shot by queers?
Veterans are more likely to be homeless, to be unemployed, and to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder than are civilians. Although the media portrays anti-war movements as anti-veteran and anti-soldier, in fact, it was anti-war activists who turned out to support lesbians at Fort Lewis who were facing discipline and discharge for being gay, anti-war activists who supported Vietnam veterans’ demands to get compensation for the effects of agent orange, and anti-war activists who supported Iraq veterans to get recognition for gulf-war syndrome.
The mainstream media focuses on gay marriage and gays in the military because these struggles for assimilation appear to affirm the rightness of this wretched straight society. But as queer liberationists, we know that assimilation is not liberation, and we offer instead our vision of a society in which we do not follow orders and do not murder, but are free to live and to love.
Queers Out of Uniform!
Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire. Though painful and disturbing in so many ways, this is an important film experience about the life of a poor, abused, young Black woman. Gabourey Sidibe as Precious and Mo’nique as her mom Mary deliver extremely powerful performances.
After seeing it, we read a number of blogs to see some critical analysis by black women. (Surprise, surprise, there were two men interviewed about it on KPFA.) For a challenging and complex analysis of the film check out http://www.blackyouthproject.com/blog/2009/11/lost-in-translation-a-response-to-precious/
The writer, Summer M., found it far more “underwhelming and “uninspiring” than the novel it was based on, and raised a number of critical points and questions Among these were: why were the characters who helped save Precious all lighter-skinned in the movie than the book; why does the physical abuse seems more terrible than the incest in the movie; what about the many political and cultural inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the movie, and finally, what about some context for the actions of Mary, Precious’ abusive mom – how did she end up this way herself?
This point is also eloquently addressed in a blog by Fallon http://www.blackyouthproject.com/blog/2009/11/i-saw-the-movie-precious-but-what-about-her-mother-mary/ in which she writes “You see, it’s this constant negative portrayal of black mothers in the media that makes my heart search for Mary’s story because there is a purpose albeit a political project behind casting black mothers as deviant and beyond redemption.” Fallon also comments that Lee Daniels, the director, chose to portray Mary as one-dimensionally evil, despite the small glimpse of Mary’s humanity at the end of the movie.
Even with these concerns, both writers felt it was a meaningful movie to see, and we agree. One thing we appreciated in the film was that although Precious is fat, this is not a big focus of the movie, and not a condition that must be changed before she can take steps to turn her life around.
It’s a movie worth seeing despite its flaws.
Avatar. Whether you think of it as “Dances With Wolves in Space” (Kate) or “Dances with Wolves in Blueface” (Vern), there’s much to criticize in the billion-dollar grossing Avatar. We saw it in 2-D and weren’t that impressed with the imagery. Vern saw it in 3-D and said: “Great technology; hated everything else about it. There were so many things to object to but I’ll state the most obvious: imperialistic white guy who learns in a few short months how to be a better “native” than the “natives.” And though there was a woman warrior, clearly the “normal” gender roles applied: men are fierce fighters and women are mother earth nurturers. Gaag!”
Despite the themes of ecological devastation/exploitation and anti-militarism, we have to climb into bed with the Vatican for a moment (an act that we’re sure would equally nauseate us and the Vatican). The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano thought Avatar was boring and unoriginal (Hey! So did we). We assume when the Vatican said: “Everything is reduced to an overly simple anti-imperialistic and anti-militaristic parable” they mean it should have been a more developed anti-imperialistic and anti-militaristic parable. But this is where we part company with the Pope, who didn’t like it because it flirts with the idea that worship of nature can replace religion. Apparently the Pope is concerned with the dangers of turning nature into a “new divinity” that equate human beings with other living things. He said such notions “open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism.” Sounds good to us!
Sherlock Holmes. A remake of Sherlock Holmes would have to be pretty darn good to surpass the Basil Rathbone movies or PBS series starring Jeremy Brett. Guy Ritchie’s attempt to put a new spin on it with Robert Downey Jr. as a younger, bad-boy Holmes did not work. Also, way too much gratuitous violence. Get the Basil Rathbone movies or the Jeremy Brett DVDs instead.
Up In The Air. Chaya: George Clooney’s character study of a corporate messenger of doom (he flies around the country firing people) was not the worst (or the best) movie around. Some scenes (especially with Vera Farmiga) were sharp comedy. Clooney’s character winds up all dressed up with nowhere to go. Did I care? Just a little bit. But certainly not worthy of any awards. Skip it.
Deni: Couldn’t stand this movie, found it annoying to the point of infuriating that I was supposed to care about this guy’s personal growth and existential crisis in the midst of him maintaining his job as someone firing people. And I even generally like George Clooney! (I know many don’t.) I found the scene of his sister’s wedding particularly odious in its trite sentimentality and “family values” focus. Skip it twice.
A Single Man (review by Deni). Strong performances, especially by Colin Firth, in this adaptation of a Christopher Isherwood novel set in the early 1960’s. Themes of love and loss, finding meaning in moments of connection, experiencing the desperation of loneliness, all framed in a highly stylish and stylized film by designer Tom Ford. I found it affecting and involving, others found it shallow and lacking in sufficient context and depth for the relationship around which the loss revolves. I can see that; what can I say, I liked it anyway. Maybe it was the excellent acting that pushed it for me, or the theme of making one’s way through loss and grief.
2012 (guest review by Cole). Well, it’s not every day that you find a blockbuster movie with three left wing actors - John Cusack, Woody Harrelson and Danny Glover. However, I think it’s fair to say the movie didn’t really provide them with an adequate showcase for their talents. The fundamental plot and the various sub-plots were entirely lacking in originality and while the special effects were truly spectacular, one grows weary of 2-1/2 hours of nothing but. As the special effects can only be properly appreciated on the big screen, I can’t say this even qualifies for the DVD list. Woody sure is a hottie, tho’!
White Ribbon. Austrian director Michael Haneke is known for his “bleak and disturbing style in films that often document problems and failures in modern society.” White Ribbon fits the bill and draws you in with its unique story-telling from all sides of the socioeconomic spectrum, stunning black and white cinematography, and excellent acting and writing. But this tale of life in a German village just before World War I really wore us down and ticked Chaya off. Deni mostly agrees though found the film a little more affecting. Apparently we’re supposed to think that the rural life depicted is so innocent and serene. Yet, all these very violent and disturbing things keep happening, so that must be what led to Germany’s role in WWI and WWII. Two hours and 15 minutes of watching episodes of repression-leads-to-violence and various forms of patriarchal, Christian brutality (beating, molesting and emotionally abusing the children in the name of God, the women exist to run the household and serve the men, no one gets to laugh or have any fun, etc.) was not as long as this sentence but way too much. If patriarchal, Christian repression was the cause of world wars, we would have had many more by now. And since patriarchy is a global phenomenon, why single out Germany? It’s appalling that this film won the Golden Globe and may win the Best Foreign Film Oscar. Boo.
GUEST BOOK REVIEW by Cole. La Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver. I suspect that other UV readers have over the years shared my enjoyment of Kingsolver’s work. The author’s fiction has in an insightful and frequently humorous manner explored topics as diverse as colonialism/neocolonialism, Native American sovereignty, intervention in Central America, and environmental degradation. Imagine my pleasure at finding a new novel while perusuing the library shelves!
Although I predict Kingsolver fans will enjoy the book, the novel fell a little short of my expectations. The protagonist is a closeted gay man (discerning queer readers will figure this out early on, so I don’t think that constitutes a spoiler) who works as a domestic in the Diego Rivera/Frida Kahlo and Leon Trotsky households (caveat to what I conjecture is the small minority of Stalinist UV readers: you really won’t like this book). The hero finds his subsequent writing career destroyed by 50’s anti-communism. While the historical context can’t help but create a high interest level, I never felt the level of identification with the central character that one would anticipate, particularly when compared to the emotions the author has evoked in her other work (passages of the Bean Trees moved me to tears even on a second reading). The author’s intent may have been to replicate the protagonist’s own apparent distance from his feelings that permitted his survival as closeted queer - but I was left a little disappointed. That said, the description of McCarthyism is spot on and the book does provide an absorbing read. I’ll look forward to others’ responses.
Marketing Goes to the Dogs: Love those ads for “The New Dog Friendly Honda Element Package, a specially designed collection of accessories including a stowable ramp, pet bed, water bowl, electrical fan and more—all created for the safety and comfort of your beloved canine companion and you.” So, Honda, you finally decided to go after the lesbians-with-disposable-income market? Sparky says can we get the dog-bone rubber floor mats?
Corporate Corner: Last month, McDonald’s launched its new all-Italian burger in Rome, sponsored by Italy’s agriculture minister Luca Zaia, who gave it the government’s official seal of approval. But the McItaly burger (all Italian beef, asiago cheese, artichoke spread) was not greeted with universal acclaim. Critics on the left and right say Zaia is selling out to a multinational corporation and sacrificing Italy’s culinary reputation in the process. McDonald’s plans to expand its locations in Russia this year. Would that be the McLenin or the McStalin burger? Only comrade Ronald McDonald knows for sure…
Keeping the X in Xcrutiating: The devastating education budget cuts in California will mean hard(er) times for public schools, but at least there are some folks watching out for kids’ rights. You may have been too busy organizing in the fight for single payer or workers’ rights to know about this proposed amendment to the California Education Code. Signatures are still being gathered – you have until March 29 to sign and make sure it gets on the ballot!
Article 1.5. Freedom to Present XMas oops we mean Christmas Music in Public School Classrooms or Assemblies. 52712. (a) Each public elementary and secondary school shall provide opportunities to its pupils for listening to or performing Christmas music at an appropriate time of year. The appreciation or performance of the Christmas music may be incorporated into the subject matter of an arts or social studies class, presented for cultural enrichment during a school assembly, or both.
But never fear, a parent/guardian can opt out their child from participating.
(c) A pupil who is not present for the appreciation or performance of Christmas music pursuant to the expressed choice of his or her parent or guardian shall be provided with an appropriate alternative to the arts or social studies subject matter served by the Christmas music in the classroom or the cultural enrichment served by the Christmas music in a school assembly.
How can we comment further on this? Only to say that we will have to get busy with the “appropriate alternatives.” Queer atheist music, anyone?
WOOF WOOF WOOF SPARKY SPARKY WOOF WOOF
This is the story of the everyday disorganized inhumane bad health care, so prevalent in this country, where huge profits are made off of the misery of life-threatening illness. It is sadly the story of someone with what is considered to have “good” health care coverage. It exemplifies why we so desperately need not only single payer universal health care but also community control of that health care.
My old friend Sophia moved to Ashland Oregon from Mt Shasta last November. She moved there to a beautiful house in the woods overlooking a ravine, with a good friend, to get away from the isolation and difficult winters of Mt Shasta. She was excited with plans to explore the area, look for lesbians, continue her visionary poetry writing and find new spiritual practices to pursue. Before having a chance to transfer her health care to a new provider she was called to the bay area to help care for her adult son who was recuperating from extensive knee surgery and forming a new parenting relationship with his thirteen year old daughter, who had just moved in with him.
After a month of caring for her son and granddaughter, Sophia began having terrible chest pain on December 3. Her son called 911 and me. I arrived to the street in Emeryville where Sophia was in the ambulance and we all followed it to Alta Bates ER. She was well covered by insurance with medicare and a medicare supplement. Sophia stayed most of the night in the ER and at first we were encouraged because she had not had a myocardial infarction. They had done a CAT scan and cardiac enzymes and found nothing. But she rocked back and forth in terrible pain. Something was clearly very wrong. They planned to admit her and repeat the CAT scan. Finally I took her son home, as he was not able to weight bear and having significant knee pain.
The next morning Sophia called. “I have a dissecting Aorta and it’s bad, they want to put a Dacron patch on my Aorta. Its open heart surgery, very risky.” Her voice was small and distant and I realized she was saying good-bye. My mind did a zap back in time to the beginning: the valentines day dance in the village in NY in those wild disco days when we did the “rock” to Donna Summers. We all came to the village to flee our various upbringings. Sophia had grown up in Harlem raised by a beloved Grandmother and Aunts. There had been a lot of death, heartache and chaos and Sophia had left to write, to wear her hair natural, to be part of the NY AvantGarde, Ornette Coleman, the last poets, hang with the African American lesbian poets of Azalea.
I told her I loved her so much, my mind reeling with the possibility of not having her in my life, and that was that. Dec 4th some enormous catastrophic surgery occurred at Summit. I waited outside the ICU to talk to the surgeon, Juniad Khan. Adulating pictures of him ensconced the walls of the waiting room, so I was completely unprepared for the abrupt rude interaction that followed. Dr Khan had called Sophia’s son after the 7 hour surgery while he was en route to the hospital. Dr Khan said he would only talk to one person so Sophia’s son deferred to me because of some hope I would have the medical knowledge to understand what was happening. Dr. khan then hung up on my friends son. He burst out of the ICU and identified me. “She is lucky to be alive the next 24 hours are critical I have another surgery”. H turned on his heel and left. I never was able to find out what was done what caused this catastrophic event, what kind of life my friend could expect. NOTHING! I was nonplused.
We were allowed to visit in the ICU. Sophia was in an induced coma on a ventilator. The nurse said that she was very sick and needed many transfusions. She drew a picture of the patch that had been put on the aorta but explained she still had a long aortic aneurysm that had not dissected but was still there. She was kind. A pulmonologist following Sophia breezed through the ICU at that point and said in a somewhat overly confidential tone, “that Dr Khan he was a magician, just a magician - the aorta was just a mess.” So we waited through the night, confused and feeling completely discounted, while being understandably grateful that these rude people had managed to patch our friend’s aorta.
They woke her from the coma the next day and surprisingly her mind was intact and she indicated the correct answers to many nonsensical questions - how many fingers ? etc. The bleeding was controlled , she was weaned off the respirator and finally moved to a regular bed. We began to feel some hope.
Sophia developed atrial fibrillation not so uncommon after open heart surgery. She was given large does of amiodorone, a toxic anti arrhythmia drug. She had episodes of being very short of breath, she was nauseous unable to keep food down. About 10 years previously Sophia had had bariatric surgery. She has a long history of difficulty swallowing food and keeping food down because of this surgery. In the hospital she began to have serious problems eating. Finally they involved a GI specialist who checked her out that her bariatric surgery was not having problems.
All along I tried to ask questions every chance I got. Why did this happen? Probably she had high blood pressure. No, Sophia never had hypertension before. Was this related to the sleep apnea was this connected to the long history of GI problems after the bariatric surgery? Nobody wanted to talk in any depth . Every doctor just hurried out of the room. No one really talked to Sophia, who was overwhelmed by the severity of her illness and fighting to stay alive.
About four days after the surgery, noises about discharge planning began to arise through the hospital airways. An acerbic social worker asked why couldn’t Sophia go back to her son’s tiny studio apartment and sleep on the half-couch in the kitchen. Perhaps she could go to my house with the pets and steep set of stairs, thought the snotty social worker whose job was clearly to keep this hospitalization within the five days allotted for open heart surgery.
Sophia was still deathly ill, regularly having bouts of severe shortness of breath. She could barely walk a few feet and that was with help. So I began pushing for some transitional stay somewhere until she was ready to travel back to her Ashland home. The doctor argued that just because just because she didn’t have a local place to live didn’t mean Sophia should go to a long term care facility But it was clear they really wanted to get her out of Summit. One got the distinct feeling that they wanted her out before something untoward happened, so the miracle surgery could be counted as a win for the Summit record. They kept insisting that the intense shortness of breath was to be expected given the extensive nature of her surgery and that she would be followed by a cardiologist once she was out.
Finally on the eighth day, primarily due to the advocacy of a nurse who understood that Sophia was still profoundly disabled and sick, she was transferred to McClure Convalescent and Rehab on pill hill, a subsidiary of Independent Quality Care and Foresight Management Systems. She was greeted with balloons placed in a room with a tiny confused 93-year-old woman. Workers from all over the world seemed to be very busy. Call bells rang constantly loudly in the halls. Bathing happened on a schedule so that Sophia only got a shower on Monday and Thursday and it was just too bad if she needed one in-between. Kindly nurse’s aids just looked distressed because they were so overworked with their huge assignment of patients 16-17 a shift was average. If Sophia was short of breath, LVNs took her vital signs and looked worried but nothing was ever done. One night I asked to speak to the charge nurse only to discover that the whole place was run by an LVN on the evening shift.
Sophia became more and more short of breath as the days went on. She sat up all night gasping for air. She was on oxygen and could never be without it. Her ankles swelled . The food she received was salty. She saw the doctor for the facility once. His response to the severe shortness of breath was “oh, lets give you a pinch of lasix.” She was trundled off in a taxi /jalopy in a wheelchair to he first and only follow-up appointment with surgeon Dr Khan a week later who said, “I have done all I can do for you. See your primary care doctor. If you are short of breath, go to an ER ( but don’t go to summit’s ER, go to Alta Bates).” Another week dragged on without any improvement. Finally the long awaited appointment with Dr Andersen, the cardiologist. He was not in the office so Sophia saw a PA who based on lab work and echocardiogram done when she was in summit thought she didn’t have heart failure but was still in fluid overload. So the PA increased her lasix, decreased the amiodorone, ordered a 2 gram low sodium diet and daily weights. Sophia was trundled back to the McClure. The nurses made endless mistakes transcribing the new orders but finally got it straightened out. Still, however, the kitchen sent her bacon and salty food.
Sophia was trying to make the best of things. The weekends were tough; she sank further into depression. I visited every day. Sophia said “When I see you, I think I possibly get out of here at some point.” She still struggled with every breath and her ankles were more swollen all the time. I asked her if she thought she should go back to the hospital. She flatly refused that, feeling it was going backwards. I said, “Summit never should have discharged you until you were stable.”
Another week dragged on. McClure smelled like pee; apparently urine was seeping through wall of Sophia’s room. There was a woman next door who sang all night long at the top of her lungs. Sophia’s 93-year-old roommate was awake most of the night and trying to apply makeup so she could leave for her imagined job. We went to the second appointment with the cardiologist, now three weeks after leaving Summit. This time both of us asked stridently for something to be done for the ongoing severe shortness of breath. Yet a different Physician’s Assistant looked perplexed but this time called in a cardiologist. The two them finally agreed that Sophia had both right and left sided congestive heart failure, but didn’t think she needed to go back to the hospital. They sent her back to McClure with an aggressive treatment regimen of diuretics.
Their parting words were, “If you have any problems, just call your primary care doctor.”
“But she doesn’t have one,” we repeated for the thousandth time.
“Well then, the nursing hone doctor” they said. Again we had to both fight with the nursing staff to get the medication changes correctly transcribed.
Finally Sophia began to breathe a big relief. She began to do better with rehab, she could walk on her own, go up and down stairs, get in and out of car, all with practice and help from the PT staff. She could sit for hours without oxygen. Still she was getting more and more depressed. “I think this is my life now. I may never get home.”
So we began to start agitating for a release date. All agreed that this discharge would be a challenge to arrange because Sophia lived out of state n and nothing could be arrange until an actual date was given by the cardiologist. I asked can’t you get a follow up appointment for when we think we will arrive . Home health needed to be setup. Oxygen for the trip needed to be ordered. The high heeled theatrical social worker named Elsa, whose job it is primarily to make money for the nursing home, kept saying nothing can be done until we have the date of discharge.
Sophia had been instructed by the cardiac surgeon was wear a C-PAP machine at night. It had been ordered on discharge from summit but McClure at provided a broken machine so Sophia had never used it. In order for medicare to pay for such a machine, a sleep study is required. On one of the few appearances by Dr Watson the nursing home doctor, forever after known as Dr Watson I presume, the subject of the sleep study was raised. His eyes lit up because as it happens he runs a sleep lab and could get this done. We asked if this was a lengthy process because we didn’t want to prolong Sophia’s stay at McClure any longer than necessary. “Oh no we can do it in the next couple of days for sure, we will have the results in the next week.” The social worker was furious because the sleep study cost 15,000 dollars.
A week later the cardiologist’s office said Sophia was well enough to drive back to Oregon.
A repeat echocardiogram done in Castro Valley ( much to the chagrin of the McClure social worker because it was a more expensive transportation in the Jalopy - apparently transportation comes out of the nursing home’s pocket) showed the heart failure was much improved.
Sophia and I began to work a well-oiled tandem act. We set a date for the trip on what looked like a lull in the snow storm schedule. Every time Elsa the social worker said I don’t think it will be possible, Sophia said that is when my ride can go, I have to go then. I called and said that the only day I could get off work was February 11. We just continued pushing the idea. Of course the sleep study was finished and the results were needed for ordering oxygen. But we just stuck to the date.
At long last Feburary11th came. Deeg and I arrived at McClure with sleeping bags and pillows in the back for Sophia to recline on and chains in case of blizzards on the mountain pass. We had a walker and an oxygen tank. Sophia had an appointment for the day after arriving in Ashland for a new primary care provider who would be able to order the home health visiting nurses and make referrals to a cardiologist.
We had an uneventful trip with a fair number of stops. Sophia was not short of breath but was very tired. We missed big snow storms and eve rain. Sophia’s roommate had the house beautifully decorated and a meal waiting in honor of Sophia. It was lovely and such a relief for Sophia to begin some life after McClure.
Sophia had her follow-up appointment. Blood work was done and she was found to have a profoundly and dangerously low thyroid. She was rushed to the local hospital immediately and stabilized. Amiordorone, the toxic antiarrhythmia drug, can precipitate hypothyroidism in people who might be prone to it. Nobody had checked her thyroid in the three months in the bay area, not he cardiologists and not Dr Watson I presume. Hypothyroidism causes depression exhaustion and coldness all of which Sophia had been experiencing
Currently Sophia is doing better on thyroid medication. Home Health nurses visit. She has been to see “Avatar” twice with her roommate. The primary care doctor is sorting out this compacted medical story. Sophia has a chance to get some enjoyment out of her life. If one survives a miracle surgery with a patch on the Aorta, one has to get some quality of life. It only seems fair!
Having insurance doesn’t mean you get good medical care.
Acute hospitals try keep patients as short a time as possible because they make more money the faster they discharge people, so often try to minimize recognition of complications if compilations cause a delay in discharge.
Long Term Care facilities on the other hand have gone into business because people are now often too sick to go home after an acute hospitalization. These facilities, in contrast to hospitals, make money by keeping patients and using as many Medicare days as they can, and by doing as little as possible in the way of service that might come out of their own pocket. They don’t have doctors on site often they don’t have RNs. The existing on-site staff have little real supervision are vastly under paid and over worked.
Even if you are relatively aware of medical issues it is nearly impossible to be an effective advocate. The patient in the facility feels vulnerable so it is necessary to be polite and always negotiate.
The fragmentation of health care with all the specialists means that no one person is really looking at the who picture or taking responsibility for decision making.
Single payer universal health care is the only way to go. Must fight for it no question, but it is only a beginning. Single payer wouldn’t change the profit motive for these nursing home chains. Medicare and managed care has set up the current system of capitating the payment for a specific diagnosis. Making money runs through out health care doctors, equipment, drugs, etc. Having one state insurance company would begin to bring sanity to madness of health care as we know it, but it is not socialized medicine and it does not answer to the community.
Health care providers, whether institutions or individuals, follow the prejudices of this society, so provide inferior care to marginalized people: disabled, old people, Dykes, fat people, people of color are not seen as individuals and are dehumanized. Few health care workers really talked clearly and with kindness to my friend Sophia. They saw her as a fat Black Dyke and discounted her over and over again.
HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT !!!
A single payer health care bill has passed twice in the California legislature only to be vetoed by the governor. The current bill SB 810 passed the senate 22-14 last month. It will go next to the Assembly Appropriations Committee and from there must pass out of the Assembly by the end of August. It will then go to the governor who will of course veto it.
Some of us in LAGAI are working with Direct Action for Single payer to try to make it politically hard for schwarzenegger to thwart the will of the people again. We are also planning more actions targeting insurance companies, building on the excellent blockade of Blue Shield last year.
California OneCare Campaign continues to work on a state wide strategy working on lobbying and electing legislators who support single payer.
Connected to this is a movement to change the requirement to have a 2/3 majority to pass budgetary issues to a simple majority. There is a petition to get a ballot measure for November\ that would read:
“All legislative actions on revenue and budget must be determined by a majority vote.”
If you haven’t signed to put this initiative on the ballot, you can actually do it online.
It is important to single payer because any funding bill as it currently stands would require a 2/3 majority to pass.
Come to our next health care action, March 18, noon, check www.ActForSinglePayer.org for SF location.
Against Equality is an online archive, publishing, and arts collective focused on critiquing mainstream gay and lesbian politics. As queer thinkers, writers, artists and activists we are committed to dislodging the centrality of equality rhetoric and challenging the demand for inclusion in the institution of marriage, the US military, and the prison industrial complex via hate crimes legislation.
The rhetoric of equality is so pervasive and all consuming that it creates a vacuum in which there is no space or time to even consider that other ways of being in the world are imaginable, let alone possible. The instance on inclusion in systems and institutions that were explicitly designed for our disposal and cannot simply be retrofitted is the logic of futility and hopelessness. Gay inclusion and participation in the US Military, for example, does little to challenge the racist and exploitative impulses of an imperialist nation state that globally inscribes people of color as sites of exploitation and colonization. Queer friendly imperialism is still imperialism nonetheless.
We launched our digital archive of written texts and visual culture to challenge the reductive rhetoric of the gaystream equality campaigns and in hopes of opening up time and space to have the difficult conversations necessary to envision a queer world that departs from these old systems and logics. Since the launching of our digital archives, the project has grown rapidly to include the work from nearly fifty different authors, artists and organizations.
In addition, Against Equality has launched a facebook group, sticker campaign, participatory art-postcard project, and in the coming months will be launching a book dedicated to overthrowing the gay marriage milieu. To join the conversation or check out the latest projects check us out online at www.againstequality.org.
We must rupture the queer here and now and reinvigorate the queer political imagination with fantastic possibility! Our queerest futures depend on it!
Murder Under the Bridge is a bold new concept in fiction. Having written perhaps the first mystery with lesbian content set in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Kate Raphael decided to offer her debut novel as an online serial.
The book features two strong-willed feminist heroines. Rania is the only female Palestinian police detective in the northern West Bank. She is also the mother of a young son, in a rural community where many feel that mothers should not have such demanding careers. Chloe is a Jewish American dyke with a video camera and a big attitude, anxious to right every wrong caused by the Israeli occupation of Palestine. The two women team up to track down the killer of Nadya, a trafficked Uzbek worker in one of the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Rania is determined to use the case to impress her boss; Chloe wants to get a Palestinian friend out of jail so she can concentrate on seducing a beautiful Australian woman. Initially suspicious of one another, Rania and Chloe forge a friendship as their search for truth takes them from checkpoints and prisons to brothels and beaches.
Kate Raphael was a peace worker in Palestine for eighteen months, coming and going between 2002 and 2005. In late 2004, while passing a particular West Bank spot in a taxi, she thought, “This would be a great place for a mystery to begin.”
“I’ve been an avid mystery reader for many years,” says Kate. “I was intrigued by the idea of using popular culture to help people understand a conflict that is portrayed in the media as complex and intractable. I wanted to show the lives behind the headlines.”
The result is Murder Under the Bridge, a sprawling, complex mystery with smart, sharp-tongued protagonists readers instantly fall in love with.
“It really takes me back to that area,” commented Starhawk, author of The Fifth Sacred Thing and The Spiral Dance. “You’ve captured the details and the atmosphere so well, and I love your main character. I can’t wait to find out what happens next!”
Kate feels the online serial offers new opportunities to create an interactive, multimedia reading experience.
“When I first moved to the San Francisco area, Armistead Maupin’s ‘Tales of the City’ was running as a daily newspaper column,” Raphael said. “I remember how I would look forward to it every day. All of George Eliot’s novels were originally serialized. So was a lot of Dashiell Hammett’s detective fiction. The serial really lends itself to the mystery genre. You try to end each installment on a cliff-hanger of some kind.”
Kate posts one chapter of Murder Under the Bridge every two to three days. The text is augmented with photos and maps of the area where the novel is set, links for further reading, and there will soon be videos available on the site as well. Readers can choose to subscribe by email, and get each chapter in an email, or by RSS and be notified of new posts.
Kate is a member of LAGAI and a producer on KPFA/Pacifica Radio Womens’ Magazine.
Read Murder Under the Bridge online at www.
As UltraViolet goes to press, the day of protest against education budget cuts in California and nationally, March 4, is a few days away. Initiated by students involved in actions in the fall of ’09, March 4 actions and rallies were called throughout the state, including downtown SF. At one school, students began to organize a march including students, families, and educators from the Outer Mission to the downtown rallies.
The call was put out to other schools to meet at 24th St and Mission and march downtown. Support began to grow, at first from local schools then from schools and community groups across the city and the peninsula. Clearly, people were angry and fired up about the cuts to their schools, their jobs, their classes, and educational support services as California slips into last place nationally in funding for schools.
The downtown bureaucrats of the SF Unified School District got a late awareness of how this march was being organized, and despite verbal support for the rallies and speaking out against the cuts, the directive came from downtown that due to “liability” issues, no school could participate in the march as a field trip, and could only attend after school was out. For the school that began this march, this directive thwarted hours of careful planning and outreach, and made it far more difficult for the whole student body to be a part of this action. Principals at other schools tried to intimidate their staff into canceling other marches, even a protest march around the block! Educators have resisted this intimidation and threats in a variety of ways, with a continued focus on keeping students and youth involved.
What the District’s directive will mean for the various schools and groups of youth and community organizations participating in this event remains to be seen. As the SFUSD tries to cement its control over the protest, students and educators in this district are being threatened with massive layoffs, furlough days, huge increases in class size, and major cuts in support personnel. The District throws up its hands, denying any responsibility and points a finger at the state, while a closer look at the SFUSD budget shows millions of dollars either unaccounted for, or found in areas that could be cut, enabling less impact on the classrooms. March 4th is one day of protest and outrage; the organizing to change funding priorities in California and the country will by necessity continue and grow.