the latest scandal to hit the Obama White House, Verizon has leaked phone
records from former Obama campaign worker Risa Billions to the Internal
Revenue Service. Billions is
now President of San Francisco PrideCorp, Inc. LLC.
The leaked phone records indicate that Billions contacted an
Associated Press reporter to determine who released plans by Billions and
the PrideCorp board to lease drones to spy on activists supportive of
military whistleblower Bradley Manning.
“After all those
crazed people droning on at our Bored meeting, we realized we need some
drones of our own,” said Billions. “And
we got a great deal on drones from this Israeli manufacturer called
spokesperson Ruth Fink said that Billions’ records were released to the
IRS as part of its investigation of applications for 501c(4) status by
affiliates of the Tea Party. “But
the IRS explained that these people were Tea Baggers, not Tea Partiers,
and they were not interested,” said Fink.
made,” said PrideCorp CEO Potted Plant.
“We’re not interested in defending the constitution.
We just like to put balls in our mouths.”
In order to avoid
any further misunderstandings, Billions announced that the committee has
changed the slogan of this year’s PrideCorp Corparade from “Embrace
Encourage Empower” to “Brace Duck and Cower.”
House Speaker John
Bouehner pounced on the new information to score points against the White
House. “This just proves
that once again, Obama is dropping the balls,” Boehner said.
Grand Marshal not Court Martial
Sunday, June 30
Official Contingent meets at 10 a.m. at Howard and Beale
Direct actions are also being planned, email firstname.lastname@example.org
for more info.
Can’t Love a Gala
STOP Frameline Pinkwashing
Protest Frameline 37’s Opening Night Gala
Thursday, June 20, 10:00pm until 11:30pm
Terra Gallery, 511 Harrison (between 1st & 2nd), San Francisco
We'll have a checkpoint, signs, banner
Bring noisemakers, instruments, glow sticks, creative energy
Manning is facing the military justice system of this country. We all
await the decision of that system. However, until that time, even the hint
of support for actions which placed in harms way the lives of our men and
women in uniform -- and countless others, military and civilian alike --
will not be tolerated by the leadership of San Francisco Pride,” –
Lisa L.Williams, President, Pride Board, April 26, 2013.
I happened to coincidentally be in New York when
the first anniversary of the Stonewall riots was commemorated with a big
march in Manhattan. Newly returned to the city, and new to the movement, I
walked along with some friendly drag queens. There wasn’t much of a hint
of the mainstream gays, who would emerge less than a year later to try to
take back the gay identity from the gay liberation fronts and the radical
lesbians who were busy allying with the Vietnamese National Liberation
Front, the Black Panthers, Young Lords Party, women’s liberation,
Palestine, and every other liberation struggle in the world. The
(mainstream) Gay Activist Alliance was champing at the bit for
assimilation and the democratic party. And yet, even they weren’t
supporting the u.s. military, or its system of “justice.”
In San Francisco, there were similar marches for
lesbian and gay liberation. Even in 1979, the first time I attended the
march in SF and during the “Castro Clone” era, these were huge mass
demonstrations for visibility and liberation. With no barricades to
interfere, we would walk for a while with one group, walk back, catch up
with another. It felt pretty similar to how the Dyke March does now,
except with more political contingents. Although even by 1979, there were
huge bar floats, and lots of drinking men. And not a little bit of anti
lesbian sexism, but I digress.
By the mid 1980’s LAGAI was having to organize liberation contingents
– a sad commentary on what used to be a march for liberation. Barricades
appeared, first at Market and Powell, and by the end of the 90’s
completely lining the parade route preventing entry or exit. PrideTM,
already a major tourism event, was well on its way to becoming San
Francisco’s biggest parade, towering over Memorial Day, St. Patrick’s
Day and Chinese New Year. The demands by the city for insurance and
facilities kept increasing.
The bureaucratization of PrideTM was well on its way when
sometimes LAGAI member Larry Burnett was named co-chair in 1987, and
convinced us all to go to a meeting to vote for a progressive chair for
the next round. We didn’t know there would be warring dyke motorcycle
clubs there as well. (Larry was a less-than-historic chair, having
disappeared a few weeks before the march.)
had a brief resurgence in the march, as tens of thousands of gay men died
of AIDS. ACT-UP stopped the parade a couple years with die-ins
and other disruptions. In 1998, after PrideTM announced
plans to charge money for the festival, LAGAI and friends organized a
“Crash the Parade” campaign, wheat-pasting the city for two months
with 20 different posters. PrideTM relented on the charge,
which is now “voluntary.” Payment earns you a plastic necklace that
looks just as suspiciously like it’s meant to be marijuana as PrideTM
looks like it’s meant to be gay liberation.
We were not surprised, therefore, though we were still appalled, when
Lisa L. Williams, the president of the board of PrideTM issued
the nefarious statement quoted above. We went to the demonstrations
organized at the PrideTM office. We went to the community
meeting organized on May 30 in which the community could finally speak
back to the Board.
It looked like nothing so much as a meeting of the Oakland City
Council, where the community had showed up in force to talk about the
police shooting of Alan Blueford or the proposed youth curfew. At the
front were a group of incredibly inattentive and bored looking members.
SFPD were in evidence at the corner, and volunteers were straight-facedly
policing the doors and hallways of the MCC church where the meeting was
held. The community poured out its heart and soul, talked movingly about
the history of the queer movement, about our anti-militarist roots, the
army’s torture of Bradley Manning. All three members of the log-cabin
republicans attended, and were the only ones to support the action of the
PrideTM board in removing Bradley as community grand marshall.
At the end of the three and a half hour meeting, the board did nothing but
promise a decision within a week. And though a little late, the board did
issue a decision on June 7and that decision was that they would take no
further action. They also congratulated themselves that the SF human
rights commission had decided they had no jurisdiction to deal with the
complaint that PrideTM had discriminated against Bradley, even
though the parade gets $85K per year from the city. In declining
jurisdiction the HRC cited court decisions regarding the Falun Dafa (Falun
Gong) Association that trace back to the 1995 u.s supreme court decision
that the Boston St. Patrick’s Day Parade could exclude a queer group
The Trans March has announced that they will be honoring Bradley as
“one of our own.” The Dyke March put out a statement, “Not Proud of
Pride.” “…No matter who
you believe should be Grand Marshal or what you think about Bradley
Manning’s case, the SF Pride Committee’s unconditional support of the
military should make your skin crawl. The Dyke March has always opposed
U.S. militarism, rejected corporate sponsors, and supported people who
risk their lives to further freedom, transparency, and democracy.”
Many of the activists who have been organizing against PrideTM’s
actions against Bradley are encouraging people to join PrideTM
so that they can vote for a new board, and presumably a new CEO and
president. They are having trouble joining, because without announcing it,
Pride changed to procedure from an on-line application to one requiring
mailing in. You have to register now, because the vote will be in
September, and you have to be a member for 60 days to vote.
Meanwhile, there will be a big official Bradley Manning contingent in
PrideTM this year. Despite requests that the contingent
lead-off the parade, PrideTM has made no commitment to move the
contingent any further forward than its after-noon start last year. In
honor of our grand tradition of breaking into our march, there may well be
activists who start sooner. Look for us, and join in near Sansome and
Market, in time to finish the route, and circle back to the official
Janine Abernathy, an African American lesbian veteran, died in Oakland
on May 10. She was 49.
Janine was born in Oakland, and joined the navy in 1983. She worked in
cryptology, which is how she met Daniel. They had many good times in the
gay subculture. Janine survived the particular gay hunt that got Daniel
kicked out for being gay, and for refusing to name names. After 6 years in
the navy, Janine went to Howard University, where she studied civil
engineering. She then returned to Oakland where she worked for the city in
Janine was married to Fred while in the navy “the worst beard ever”
says Daniel. One of
Janine’s supervisors hinted that people were talking about her being a
lesbian and her “mannish” behavior.
Fred responded in true Nellie fashion “she not like that.”
Daniel also remembers the time Janine pounded on his door in the
middle of the night, because she needed him to accompany her with a new
hot date. Daniel had to hang
out with the hot date’s straight friend to cover for Janine.
The rest of us met Janine during our anti-war and counter recruitment
work. She joined our “We Like Our Queers Out of Uniform” contingent,
and some of her experiences in the navy are discussed in her article,
“It Was a Big Mistake,” which is reprinted here. Janine was smart and
funny, and a very important part of Daniel’s life. One day, she informed
him that he was joining her for a trip to the Grand Canyon, and off they
went. Daniel offered to drive but she said oh no.
Janine was the butch of that relationship.
Janine suffered from post-traumatic stress from her time in the navy.
Although she had, with the help of her sister Jamie, sought help with the
VA, she had a very difficult time, and in May, she killed herself.
Janine is survived by her sister Jamie, her niece Imani, and two
an interview with Janine Abernathy
(this interview was conducted in 1990 and originally published in
LAGAI’s counterrecruitment packet, “We Like Our Queers Out of
is a 27-year old Black woman from Oakland, CA. She spent six years in the
I went into the military in 1983, the Navy. I
wasn't out-out, but I knew my sexuality. I was eighteen at that point and
I was going to clubs and I guess I looked around and I had no place to go
and here it's like ok, you have no other options than to go into the
military. That's what I did. I went into the Navy, and my first day, I
knew it was the wrong decision. I knew I had made a mistake. I saw all
these people, they were yelling and screaming and calling us names, and
I'm like what have I done to deserve this. It was very intimidating, very
threatening. So you know I had no place to go, I couldn't come back. You
know, I could go home, but to what? What are you going home to? My mom
didn't want me there. I had to have somewhere to go.
Most of the time in the Navy I was afraid. I was
afraid someone would find out. I was smart enough at the beginning to know
people must not know. But I remember the first time in my boot camp
company there were lesbians all around. My company commander was a
lesbian. As a matter of fact, after boot camp there was a bit of a scandal
and a witch-hunt. I believe seven women were kicked out. Unfortunately
what happens when you're in the military is that they make an example out
of you. They put you on legal hold. That means you're there for a month
being processed out, or someone might be there for six months or eight
months on legal hold. During that time, you're ridiculed. Your friends,
people you thought were your friends, they abandon you, people are afraid
to be seen with you because people might think they are [gay] too.
What was your job? I was an electronic technician-cryptologic.
I was technician with a top-secret clearance. I repaired computer systems,
cryptologic gear, teletypes, anything usually on a base dealing with
electronics. It could be from the light outlet to the microwave to a
million-dollar computer system. I was trained in the military to do that.
The best I would probably be able to do outside is
to get a job as a copier repair person. Just because the training that I
was given is basically black-box troubleshooting, where you can get it
down to a certain area, a certain board, but to really work out here in
the civilian field, you really have to understand the technology theory.
We were given that, but we were given the very basics of that, and it
wouldn't get you very far in the outside world.
At the end of my career, I would say I was making
good money, but the reason being the fact that I married. It was a
marriage of convenience; I married a gay man, and when you're married, you
make more money. So at the end of my career, I was making about $1600 a
month, which is good money for a sailor. Now, I'm back in school, I'm in
Washington, D.C. at Howard University majoring in civil engineering. And
it's wild, because it feels like I'm starting my life all over again.
What about racism as you experienced it in the
Navy? It definitely exists. I had a situation with this guy, he was an
instructor of mine, and I was the only female in my class, it was a very
small class, it was a class of six, and he was what you'd call a redneck,
a good old boy. And he told me my first day there, you don't belong here,
and I'm going to be sure you don't get through here. I made complaints
about this man. Everyone was having a difficult time in the course, but
for some reason they singled me out, so I just stuck in there. I stuck in
there and I made it through his section of the school, and what happened
afterward was that they were watching me, the school was watching me, it
was like Abernathy has a problem, she has a learning problem. But in fact,
I graduated top of my class.
The KKK is there. When I was in boot camp, the KKK
was there, when I was in Pensacola, the KKK was there because people bring
their shit with them. There was always a group of people you didn't
socialize with because they were the good old boys, and you knew what they
were about. They were racists and bigots.
Can you tell us more about the anti-lesbian witch
hunts that you talked about at the beginning? I guess the most horrible
experience for me was when I was in Portugal. I would say I was no
different from any other kid. You know when you're young you're wild, you
go out to clubs and party and get drunk and you have a good time, the only
difference is you have a different sexual preference. Because I think
about it today and I wonder, what part did I have to play, and I think
about it, and there was no part.
During that time I met a girl, a Portuguese girl,
and we started going out and I got called in by OSI, they're like Air
Force intelligence. They called me in and they say, "You're known to
have relations with a known Portuguese national." And I say
"What kind of relations could these be? What kind of national?"
and they said, "Well, we can't say her name." And I pretended
like I never even heard that gender, "her" and I said "Well
I don't know what you're talking about, I can't help you." They said,
"Well supposedly you've been selling drugs." It was a set-up.
Sure I was sleeping with a known Portuguese national. But anybody could
tell you I didn't do drugs. I drank a lot, which all sailors did, but I
didn't do drugs and I didn't sell drugs, so it was really a big set-up.
They searched my house, they searched my car, they gave me a urinalysis,
they called my job. There are no secrets in the military so everyone knew.
My reputation was ruined on my job. So I left that and basically I went
into hiding for a while.
I knew these two women in Pensacola, Florida. I
knew they were lovers and everyone else knew they were lovers. I didn't
know them well. They were in different cliques, everyone has their
different gay clique. They were softball-playing, beer-drinking, and I was
just beer-drinking, girlchasing. So from what I know, they both got orders
to Scotland, and I guess they got caught. They got actually caught in the
act, and they both were discharged, but the catch was, if you give us
names of other gays, we'll give you an administrative discharge. What an
administrative discharge is, it really is an honorable discharge. You'd
rather have that than a dishonorable discharge, so they gave names. They
gave my name, they gave my roommate Ivy's name, and I'm sure they gave a
number of other names. And what happens is, they pull you in, and they
investigate you and interrogate you. And I had already been pulled in
They flew a guy in from Italy, and he interrogated
me. You're in a padded room, beforehand they read you your rights, they
show you a sheet which you have to sign which shows what you're being
accused of. I was being accused of sodomy. The man did his homework so
badly, this is how just incompetent NIS naval Investigative Service] is,
he said, "So when were you in Edzell, Scotland?" Now this man
had complete access to my naval record, and I said, "I was never in
Edzell, Scotland. If you had done your homework, you would know I was
never in Edzell, Scotland. "And he said, "Well we need to do a
polygraph," because he asked me if I was gay, and I said no, I'm not
gay. And then I thought about it, and I thought Janine, what are you
doing? You're lying. You're going to take a polygraph, and you're lying.
So I said, no, I'm not going to take a polygraph.
It was a huge witch-hunt. People were dropping
names right and left. The way they convince you to drop names, they say
we'll give you a dishonorable discharge. You'll never be able to work, no
one will hire you, your career and your life will be destroyed. So they
scare kids. They don't know their rights.
At that time I would do security rounds at my job.
It was very funny how during all of these investigations, I had a
top-secret clearance, and they never pulled my top-secret clearance, so I
was still doing the security route. And in the commander's office were
these interrogation books on the art of interrogation and how when you're
interrogating you lie and you do anything to get the information that you
need. So by that time I was an old pro and, honey, they would call me in
and my attitude was like, "I can't help you. Sorry, there's nothing I
can do for you. You have no proof, you have no pictures, you have nothing
in writing, leave me alone."
Why didn't I say yes, and have it all over and the
torture and everything? Well, listen to this, at my four years, at my four
year point when you're supposed to sign the extension, I went to see a
lawyer, and I said, how can I get out? He was a military lawyer, civilian,
old guy, and I knew there was a way but he didn't help me. He said, it's a
legal binding contract and you know, there's no way to break it. But I
could tell he was pro-military, so he didn't help me out. So I just cried
and decided to stick the two years out. It had something to do with what
my roommate Ivy told me. I was very tired of electronic training school,
and all my friends were just dropping out, all the women. I was one of the
few women, the only Black woman; I think at the time there were only six
Black women in the entire U.S. Navy in the same job grade, and I saw them
dropping out and going to different classifications, so I started slacking
up. And Ivy told me, she said, "You know what they're going to say,
Janine? They're going to say, 'That Black dyke bitch couldn't make it.'
That's what they're going to say." And I thought about it, and I
looked at her, and I thought, you know, you're right, that's what they're
going to say. And I just stuck it out. It's like, no you're not going to
get me, you're not going to get me in that way. I'm going to stick this
So my orders finally came up, I left Portugal, I
went back to Florida, I went to another school and during that whole time
I was very low, very closeted, very afraid. When I got back stateside, I
didn't socialize with Navy people, I socialized with civilians. Then I got
orders back to California. When I got back to California, I was stationed
35 minutes from Oakland, where I came from. I moved back to Oakland, I
commuted to work. I didn't tell people about my life. When they asked me
questions, I would say none of your business, until my orders came up.
A bit of information, for people who are in the
military, I would tell you this, if they don't have anything in writing,
if they don't have pictures, if they don't have your lover's testimonial,
there's no proof. For those who are thinking about entering the military,
you're not free. You're not free to live your own life, you're not free to
be a person, you're not free to be real. That's one thing, I felt guilty
for six years that I wasn't a real person, that I had to lie on a daily
basis about who I was, what I did, just about my entire life.
You sign on the dotted line and all of a sudden,
you can't say, but I changed my mind. But really, you can, but you're so
young, and you look at these people, they're adults, and you're just a
kid, and they're very intimidating. When I first got there, a girl, she
refused to get out of bed. She said, I've made a mistake, I want to go
home, and she refused to get out of bed. She stayed in bed for two days.
But do you know, what I heard, they took her to this holding company, and
a month later, she was discharged. But, she was a very strong young girl.
She was very strong willed. They yelled at her, and screamed at her and
called her all kinds of names, and she had all this peer pressure around
What would you have done if you hadn’t gone into
the Navy? Knowing what I know now, I would have continued on in school.
And too, in my adolescence I was really into the bar scene, and I would
have gotten more connected with the gay community, such as support groups,
groups for gay youth, very positive, moved out of my mom's place. That was
a real unhealthy environment. She thought I was sick and I needed mental
help. I was like, no I'm not sick, I just like girls, what's so sick about
that? And then I put myself in the same kind of environment. A controlling
environment where they labeled me as sick. I've run into people we were
stationed with in Portugal, and the ones that are out now are so happy,
it's like I'm just so happy to be out, and they have lives. X and Y, who
are friends of mine, they're still in, they want to get out, but they're
really afraid. The whole time you're in the military, they tell you can't
do anything else. Nobody wants you, they're not going to hire you. When I
went in, it was a recession, there were no jobs out there. I think it's an
irony, it's another recession, and they're probably saying the same thing,
nobody wants you, you can't do anything, just living in that closet,
telling those lies, hiding.
read in the New Yorker that Shulamith Firestone died in New York
I didn’t know her, I knew of her. We sold her
book, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, at It’s
About Time (a collective women’s bookstore in Seattle) and later at Mad
Woman (a women’s bookstore in Seattle run by a lesbian collective). In
this book she argued that the family is the basis of all oppression, and
that the fundamental contradiction is the difference in power between men
and women. She believed that the oppressive nature of that relationship is
the fabric into which are woven all of the oppressions of this society –
and she particularly discussed racism and class oppression and
exploitation. She analyzed the oppression of children and the oppression
of women to be part of the same whole. She said that “romanticism is a
cultural tool of male power to keep women from knowing of their
condition.” She said that we need a revolution much broader than, but
inclusive of, an overthrow of class exploitation. “If there were a word
more all-embracing than “revolution,” we would use it.”
In Dialectic, she describes the women’s movement
in the u.s. that arose in the context of the industrialization of the
1800’s, and was part of other progressive movements, including abolition
and communism. She then describes the “50-Year Ridicule,” the backlash
against radical women that started before we “won” the “right to
I still have the book, if you want to read it. I
started reading it soon after it came out in 1970, when I was more or less
of a communist and gay liberationist. I finished reading it a couple of
years later, when I was an anarcho-communist lesbian separatist. I
didn’t agree with all of it at either time, or today, and maybe you
won’t either. But her analysis is sharp and even those who now dismiss
those old baby boomer “second wave” feminists, might find a lot of
Shulamith, generally called Shulie or Shuley, was
born in Ottawa, on January 7, 1945. Her mother was a holocaust survivor.
Shulie grew up in Kansas City and St. Louis, and moved to Chicago in the
mid-60’s. She was involved in anti-racist and anti-war organizing, and
helped to start the Westside Group, a predecessor of Chicago Women’s
Liberation. In October 1967 she moved to New York, where she helped found
New York Radical Women (NYRW). She
was also a founder of the Redstocking feminist collective, and an editor
of “Notes from the First Year,” (1968) and Notes from the Second and
Third Years as well.
NYRW attended the counter-inaugural for Richard
Nixon and enjoyed all the benefits of the New Left’s sexism, leading her
to write a letter to the left in the Guardian, which told male leftists,
“We have more important things to do than to try to
get you to come around. You will come around when you have to, because you
need us more than we need you. . . . The message being: Fuck off, left.
You can examine your navel by yourself from now on. We’re starting our
The article in the New Yorker, by Susan Faludi,
describes the strife in NYRW that led to Shulie, and others, leaving the
group. She became a painter, and in the late 1980’s was diagnosed with
mental illness. Her second published book, Airless Spaces, described her
life in and out of psychiatric hospitals. Although she had a group of
supportive friends, she died alone in her apartment, apparently of natural
Shulie, who strongly supported, and engaged in,
separate women’s organizing, believed that the final result of that
organizing would be a society in which the social significance of gender
would be eliminated. “The end goal of feminist revolution must be,
unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of
male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital
difference between human beings would no longer matter culturally.”
You can’t say Bradley Manning didn’t accomplish
He caused state department spokesperson pj crowley
to resign rather than defend the administration’s decision to torture
He caused the queer antimilitarist movement to come
out of hibernation for the first time in about nine years.
And he caused Daniel Ellsberg and other scions of
the straight left to say the word “gay” in a positive way (we’re
still waiting for “queer”).
His court martial finally began in June, three
years after his arrest in Iraq. On
February 28, he pled guilty to ten charges comprising various forms of
unauthorized disclosure of information.
The judge, army col. denise lind, accepted terms that would impose
a maximum sentence of 16 years for those ten charges. She also ruled that
any sentence should be reduced by 112 days because of his treatment at
Quantico, which included being deprived of sleep and held in 23-hour-a-day
solitary confinement, sometimes naked.
Manning apparently hoped that the judge would
dismiss the remaining charges, but she did not, and the military
prosecutor declined to drop them. He
remains charged with 12 additional crimes, including aiding the enemy,
which could – and likely will – get him a life sentence.
(It could carry the death penalty but the prosecutor thankfully has
only asked for life.) Manning
opted for a judge trial rather than a jury.
Bad news for Jason Allen: Manning is now pretty
much the best known gay person on the planet.
Debate rages in the pages of the Daily
Telegraph and Rolling Stone
over whether Bradley is a fitting gay icon or not.
And here in San Francisco, because of the idiotic decision by the
Pride Parade to disinvite him as honorary grand marshal, a whole lot more
people know about Manning or
Pride than did a month ago. That’s
ironic, because until a couple years ago – a full year after Manning’s
arrest, the people supporting him didn’t even acknowledge that he was
In the first year of his imprisonment, Democracy
Now! did numerous segments on him, including a full hour with his friend
and lone visitor, David House. They
interviewed the gay legal blogger Glenn Greenwald about his case several
times that year. None of the
interviews included one single mention that he was queer.
Whenever they had a music break during one of their segments,
however, the accompanying video would always be the same two pictures. One
of them shows Bradley holding a sign calling for “EQUALITY: @ The House
@ The Classroom, @ the Battlefield, Everywhere,” decorated with rainbow
flags. I knew what that meant, even if Democracy Now! didn’t. The other
picture shows Brad – as his friends call him – arm-in-arm and
cheek-to-cheek with another guy. The other guy, I now know, was Tyler
Watkins, Manning’s ex-boyfriend, who identifies as a drag queen.
Having seen those pictures a couple dozen times, in
June of 2011, I asked a friend who worked with Courage To Resist, the GI
resistance support network, if he knew if Manning was gay. My
friend was surprised and wondered why I wanted to know.
I said that if he was out, we could potentially mobilize queer
people to support him, which would also be an opportunity for queer
anti-war organizing. My friend
said it seemed like a good idea, but he had no idea how to get that
information. A couple weeks
after that encounter, I heard an announcement for a Bradley Manning
Contingent in Pride. I joined
it, and was one of maybe five queer people among a sea of straight people,
many from the Revolutionary Communist Party™.
During the endless wait for our appointed marching time (which I
think was about 1:00 pm), I texted a friend, “I can’t believe I’m
marching in a contingent with a banner quoting Bob Avakian.”
Just for the record, I’ve never been a fan of putting quotes on
banners, no matter who they’re from.
I asked a queer activist who is connected with
Courage To Resist why they had been so slow to mention the G Word.
She said she wasn’t sure, but speculated they hadn’t wanted to
“distract” from his whistleblowing. She also mentioned that the
right-wing had recently been using Manning’s sexuality to discredit him.
Indeed, the media continues to do that, faster and
more furiously now that his trial has begun.
The first day of the trial, in an article entitled, “Bradley
Manning: traitor, whistleblower, victim of Obama's bullying – and a
terrible gay icon,” a horrible man named Tim Stanley wrote “Private
Manning was a self-absorbed geek who should never have enjoyed the level
of access that he did. His personality breakdown was there for all to see
– criticizing US policy on Facebook, telling friends, ‘Bradley Manning
is not a piece of equipment,’ and even entertaining ‘a very internal
private struggle with his gender.’ He told hacker Adrian Lamo that he
‘listened and lip-synced to Lady Gaga’s Telephone while exfiltrating
possibly the largest data spillage in American history.’ You go,
girl.” I don’t know
whether Stanley considers himself gay but I’m saying right now – he
isn’t. And I’ll stick by
In July 2011, New York Magazine ran a long,
detailed and quite sympathetic article about Bradley.
It chronicles his youth, his alcoholic but loving mother and his
often absent military father, his teen years, partly with his mom in Wales
and partly with his father and stepmother in Oklahoma, his relationship
with Watkins, his decision to become involved with WikiLeaks, and his
seduction and betrayal by (ostensibly) bisexual hacker-turned-informant
Adrian Lamo. The author, Steve
Manning, nothing was okay. In October 2009, he arrived at Forward Operating
Base Hammer, a dusty backwater 40 miles from Baghdad. There, Manning
felt more isolated than ever—“it’s awfully stressful, lonely.” …
An intel analyst
sat at his work station and targeted the enemy, reducing a human being to
a few salient points. Then he made a quick decision based on imperfect
information: kill, capture, exploit, source. Any illusions Manning had
about saving lives quickly vanished. At one point, he went to a superior
with what he believed to be a mistake. The Iraqi Federal Police had
rounded up innocent people, he said. Get back to work, he was told. “I
was never noticed,” he later said.
Manning’s concerns about his sexual identity were intensifying. In
November 2009, he made contact on the web with a gender counselor back in
the States. … ‘Bradley felt he was female,’ the counselor told me.
‘He was very solid on that.’ Quickly, their conversation shifted to
the practicalities: How does someone transition from male to female? ‘He
really wanted to do surgery,’ the counselor recalled. ‘He was mostly
afraid of being alone, being ostracized or somehow weird.’ To the
counselor, it was clear Manning was in crisis. ‘I feel like a
monster,’ he’d typed on his computer several times. The statement
referred partly to his gender struggles but more to his job….He told the
counselor about a targeting mission gone bad in Basra. ‘Two groups of
locals were converging in this one area. Manning was trying to figure out
why they were meeting,’ the counselor told me. On Manning’s
information, the Army moved swiftly, dispatching a unit to hunt them
down. Manning had thought all went well, until a superior explained the
outcome. ‘Ultimately, some guy loosely connected to the group got
killed,’ the counselor said. To the counselor, it was clear: Manning
felt that there was blood on his hands. ‘He was very, very
In response to the article, WikiLeaks published an
article saying, “Bradley Manning's sexuality is irrelevant. For anyone
who has read the logs purporting to document his confession, his professed
motives were plain. If he is guilty of blowing the whistle, he clearly
blew the whistle on conscientious grounds. His sexual identity is
irrelevant to this. If he did not blow the whistle, his sexuality is
No, WL, it isn’t.
Glenn Greenwald, who recently made headlines by uncovering and
reporting the government’s massive data mining of internet and telephone
records, said in an interview with the New York Times, “I do think
political posture is driven by your personality, your relationship with
authority, how comfortable are you in your life,” he said. “When you
grow up gay, you are not part of the system, it forces you to evaluate:
‘Is it me, or is the system bad?’”
Bradley Manning was a gay, geeky kid like many
others. He was a brilliant
student, especially at science and math.
He won science fairs in high school.
In the New York Magazine article, his father said he rarely talked
to Bradley while he lived with him, because Bradley was always playing
with his computer. He linked
his Facebook page to Dan Savage and End Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and in
2009 wangled a ticket to a Stonewall Democratic Club fundraiser so he
could have his picture taken with Gavin Newsom.
In the remarkable 20-page statement he made when he
entered his guilty plea, Bradley described his decision to go into the
Army and what that was like.
I entered active duty
status on 2 October 2007. I enlisted with the hope of obtaining both real
world experience and earning benefits under the GI Bill for college
I assessed that my
natural interest in geopolitical affairs and my computer skills would make
me an excellent intelligence analyst. After enlisting I reported to the
Fort Meade military entrance processing station on 1 October 2007. I then
traveled to and reported at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri on 2 October 2007
to begin basic combat training or BCT.
Once at Fort Leonard
Wood I quickly realized that I was neither physically nor mentally
prepared for the requirements of basic training. My BCT experience lasted
six months instead of the normal ten weeks. Due to medical issues, I was
placed on a hold status. A physical examination indicated that I sustained
injuries to my right shoulder and left foot…. During medical hold, I was
informed that I may be out processed from the Army, however, I resisted
being chaptered out because I felt that I could overcome my medical issues
and continue to serve.
Much later in the
statement, he describes his reaction to the video of a helicopter gunship
attack on a group of Iraqi civilians, which was released by WikiLeaks
under the title, “Collateral Murder.”
They dehumanized the
individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life by
referring to them as quote "dead bastards" unquote and
congratulating each other on the ability to kill in large numbers. At one
point in the video there is an individual on the ground attempting to
crawl to safety. The individual is seriously wounded. Instead of calling
for medical attention to the location, one of the aerial weapons team crew
members verbally asks for the wounded person to pick up a weapon so that
he can have a reason to engage. For me, this seems similar to a child
torturing ants with a magnifying glass.
A lot of people have
wondered how a low-ranking soldier like Bradley Manning could have gotten
access to so much classified information.
The answer seems to be that his job was to assess intelligence and
it’s assumed that enlisted soldiers are cogs, who will do what they’re
told and not think about it. It’s
kind of like how back in the 80s, a temp secretary at Bechtel ended up
being in the position to discover and leak the information that Diablo
Canyon nuclear power plant was built upside down on a fault.
On 27 February 2010, a
report was received from a subordinate battalion. The report described an
event in which the Federal Police or FP detained 15 individuals for
printing anti-Iraqi literature. On 2 March 2010, I received instructions
from an S3 section officer in the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain
Division Tactical Operation Center or TOC to investigate the matter, and
figure out who the quote "bad guys" unquote were and how
significant this event was for the Federal Police.
Over the course of my
research I found that none of the individuals had previous ties to
anti-Iraqi actions or suspected terrorist militia groups. These photos
included pictures of the individuals, pallets of unprinted paper and
seized copies of the final printed material or the printed document; and a
high resolution photo of the printed material itself. … I laminated it
for ease of use and transfer. I then walked to the TOC and delivered the
laminated copy to our category two interpreter…
I am the type of
person who likes to know how things work. And, as an analyst, this means I
always want to figure out the truth. Unlike other analysts in my section
or other sections within the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, I was not satisfied
with just scratching the surface and producing canned or cookie cutter
assessments. I wanted to know why something was the way it was, and what
we could to correct or mitigate a situation.
I knew that if I
continued to assist the Baghdad Federal Police in identifying the
political opponents of Prime Minister al-Maliki, those people would be
arrested and in the custody of the Special Unit of the Baghdad Federal
Police and very likely tortured and not seen again for a very long time
– if ever.
Bradley Manning’s isolation over the last three years has allowed
many people to make him into whatever they want him to be.
A number of people, including Ellsberg, have credited him with
starting the Arab Spring uprisings, because apparently some information in
the cables he released were among the issues raised by Tunisian
protesters. That assertion,
which embodies the typical Western attitude, reducing movements born of
years of struggle by thousands of unnamed people to a story about one
white hero, points to the tragedy that now surrounds Bradley Manning.
Bradley Manning is on the precipice of losing years and years of his
life, having his potential locked away in a tiny military cell, because
there was no robust queer antiwar movement for him to turn to when he
started questioning what he was doing.
He only had the internet and the shadowy hacker community for
support. That may have led him
to act before he had fully considered the potential consequences, or the
best way to do what he wanted to do.
That’s not to deny his courage or the value of his action.
Manning often said, in internet conversations before his arrest,
various versions of “information is power.”
Like Ellsberg before him, Bradley believed that if people only had
the information about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, about Guantanamo
and detainee abuse, that they would act.
But it’s not lack of information that keeps people from acting.
While the specifics of the information Bradley revealed were new,
it was well known that the u.s. and britain had targeted civilians and
journalists. Movies had been
made about the attacks on the Palestine Hotel, which was a headquarters
for journalists, and the assault on the Al Jazeera offices.
The photos of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib were released in 2004,
three years before Manning enlisted. What
is needed is something that cuts through people’s apathy and cynicism,
and convinces them that it’s worth it to act.
And that’s where Manning may be what’s needed.
Information is not power. Narrative
is power. Bradley Manning has
a compelling narrative. Tory
says that her clients at the Veterans Administration were moved by the
video he released because it came from a soldier.
An Iraqi friend said her family is moved by him and others who take
big risks. Like so many other
whistleblowers, he is someone who changed, and that’s a very powerful
story in our culture. A young
person (one of the few who was there) who spoke at the Pride committee
meeting said he identified with Bradley because he is young and gay. Part
of Bradley’s story is that he’s queer, and hopefully that will
reinvigorate a queer left which badly needs some Red Bull.
Last issue, LAGAI began soliciting work by prisoners, who make up
about two-thirds of our mail subscribers.
Even though at a young age, I knew that who I was
attracted to varied between boys and girls, id didn’t know that at 17, I
would meet and fall in love with a 19 year old (MTF) transgendered woman.
I had always been open-minded, but through Tianna, I learned even more to
find peace, honesty and tranquility in what I made as right choices for my
happiness – which was also her happiness. I learned that love happens
wherever we find it. Wherever love finds us. Four years after I met Tianna,
two people in a hate-filled attack took her away from me and her friends.
In prison, I’m hated because I’m open about being gender-variant in my
choices for friends and romance. I’m happy with my choices and honored
with my friends. My testimony is this: You are alive, so LIVE. You
are living so act ALIVE. Find strength in your beliefs and find
strength in loving yourself and having a passion for life.
James May (Jaye) #80107-083, FCO Otisville, POB 1000,
In 2010 the commissioner for the D.O.C. [department
of corrections], a Mr. Owens, made an announcement to al the state and
private contracted facilities; that by the end of December 2010, all of
Georgia state prisoners will be non-smokers and all facilities will stop
selling all tobacco products.
This is not the first time that the state of Georgia
DOC has went non smoking. Back
in 1995 the DOC commissioner, a Mr. Wayne Gardner, went with the idea.
That’s because he had to obey his doctor concerning his own health on
the issue of smoking. The
commissioner believed he shouldn’t be the only one to be forced to quit
smoking. He had every state facility quit selling all tobacco products and
forced all its prisoners into quitting all at once.
Now here it is September 2011 almost a full year has
passed since the Georgia DOC non smoking plan has been put into effect. In
truth the only thing Mr. Owens has done is open up a brand new market item
between the DOC employees and the state prisoners. Where before, the black
market has been focused on selling cell phones,
which go for between $250.00 and $500.00 per phone,
and marijuana; but now the employees can sell tobacco products such
as Buglar, Top, Roll Rich pouch tobacco packs for $50.00 per pack. That is
the hottest selling item right now on the black market.
Cell phones were the hottest item, it falls to second place and
marijuana is third.
If a prisoner has the money, whether it’s by his
people or on a green dot or in cash money, he can buy from the Georgia
Black Market outlets statewide. The commissioner created a way for all the
guards to make a healthy living off of state prisoners.
Mr. Owens believed he was doing it to lower the
medical costs for smoke related illnesses and in hopes to obtain the
federal grant money the president of these united states was offering to
the states. Whether Mr. Owens
received that federal money is a big question as to why he needed the
money after spending 94 million dollars on remodeling the old Tift College
in Forsyth GA to be the new headquarters for the DOC.
Even the governor has asked Mr. Owens why he spent
all that money on that old college instead of using it to repair and
remodel the state aging prison facilities.
I sit in an old state prison facility where a sewer
access manhole has backup raw sewage water covering the lid of the
manhole; and the showers need to be remodeled for one can smell raw sewage
from the shower drains as someone flushes their cell toilets.
That’s the way the state of Georgia DOC runs
backwards on every issue; and the Georgia Black Markets get richer by the
day. The End.
By a Girl speaking out against injustice, Tammy Faye
Peebles in Georgia.
How do I describe the invisible Ultra Violet fringe on our (the Rainbow) flag? Just because you
don’t see us doesn’t mean we’re not there. As light does not exist
in itself, absent its invisible spectrum; so does not the Rainbow; so do
not we, who claim it as our standard. The invisible spectrum of the
Rainbow has been there as long as light has existed; we have been here as
long as man has existed. To demonize us is to demonize ourselves; ignoring
us is to ignore each other. Ignorance is condemning.
Gavin in Nevada
All I want,
Is to have someone to love for the rest of my life, to wake up every
morning with them by my side, know that no matter what happens, I’ll be
able to come home to their loving arms.
All I want,
Is to share everything with someone, to talk to them about our ideas, our
dreams, the little things that make us laugh and the not so little things
we both worry about.
All I want,
Is to give someone all my love, as a place they can always come to and be
accepted or the simple comfort that can bring peace that can be
All I want,
Is to grow old with some one to watch our life unfold and our dreams come
All I want is Love.
Graphic by Ronald Clark, Florida, reprinted from Betweenthebars.org
write this letter to inform the inmates, as well as the public. I am an
inmate at CIM Chino. I’ve been down eight years, yet have been stuck on
a reception yard for over a year now!! The powers that be all assure me
things are now being done yet I still remain here!! (Why?) I strongly
support the women in Chowchilla. Here we are crammed in tiny crowded
cells, rodent and roach infested. We get no cleaning supplies, no hygene!!
Razors once a week! Our food is cold. There is no Jewish or Muslim
services. I’ve had no Kosher meals. Our mattresses are stained and
vermin infested. Our warden BM Cash and Assoc. Spref, and several Lts.
have known the entire year yet refuse to do anything about it!! The
indigent supplies are not issued. Our CO’s refuse to sign our requests
22’s, 602 legal mail. We have no remedies!! At Chino. We need all the
media help we can find! I hope you women will help me to inroduce the
support group I’ve started I.N.M.A.T.E Injustice Needs Media Attention
To Educate!! Our basic rights are violated many times per day!! CIM
blatently refuses to adhere to the Doms or Title 15. I ask anyone who
reads this article to send letters to BM Cash, Warden LIM Chino PO 128
Chino CA 91708 asking her to get Chance Marquette’s P-32844 transfer
expedited!! To Mule Creek.
Chance H.R. Marquette in California
In a world here on Death Row, sometimes my best
days are when I realize the fantastic effort to find PEACE, and not just
the silent peace, but the kind that comes when you’ve done some
unnoticed good deeds, gotten all of my own chores done, and maybe had a
letter with a money order for next months’ food supplies, so that I
don’t have to worry about eating prison crap next month! And then
multiply in my body feeling good, no migraines, no sore bones from working
out, and most of all the guilt of those I left behind is not sitting on my
chest as it normally does, so on this peaceful day, I can
I am all too aware of the injustice of the world,
seeing the poor get fucked every day, understanding my own loving
Mother’s childhood pain that scared her to the point she could not enjoy
her best days, and had no understanding when she needed it most, like when
raising me! But I saw it, from time to time she sparkled to my eyes, sadly
she probably did not even realize she had happy moments, through her
overflowing anguish that spilled onto my skin, scarring my back and
buttcheeks, but when I’m asked about it when I’m in the shower, I just
say it’s from crashing my bike as a kid.
People often tell me that even in the worst
families, people love each other, but I say that if they never learned
how, or were shown love, then what does it matter………love matters
not, but my god how it leaves a well of endless despair! Funny how the
soul knows what it needs, even if it never had it, but I guess through
life we get a taste of it from others, seeing it in our friends’ Moms,
how they tenderly kiss their own kids in front of you, never knowing how
we wished they would kiss this child stranger too.
How we long for a Mother’s touch, and through the years how
easily that twists up in our minds and hearts until any Mother’s
affection would do, never knowing that our true nature is wanting
affection from the other sex, how do “normal” souls understand others
who are twisted, when we can barely comprehend our own damage, much less
share it……and being behind bars, on Death Row……..we must now
remain LEGALLY SILENT. This is policy, time for answers and healing is
past, now all I hope for are those rare moments of PEACE.
Our fight for this human condition never ends. STAY
Orlando Romero Jr. #K-21400, NS 25-S, San Quentin
State Prison, San Quentin CA
Letter to Harvard Prison Legal Assistance Project,
submitted January 26, 2013 from Jennifer G., B&P Incarcerated Leader,
for the Feb. 25th Panel on Solitary Confinement:
Greetings from California! As a transgender woman
prisoner and activist, I welcome this opportunity to contribute to the
panel discussion on Solitary Confinement. Initially, I was convicted for
the crime of armed robbery and sentenced to seven years in state prison.
Subsequently, however, that “7 years” was extended to an indeterminate
term of 104 years-to-life under the draconian “Three Strikes” law for
prison behavior (e.g. weapon possession, assault, etc.) I have now been
incarcerated for over 22 years, including more than 14 years of experience
in solitary confinement at Pelican Bay State Prison and other
institutions, and never raped or killed anyone.
As a survivor myself. I can state from personal
experience, there is no question that long-term isolation in prison
‘control units”, under severe punitive conditions, is TORTURE! I’ve
suffered beatings, food deprivation, inadequate medical and mental health
care, and other forms of inhumane treatment similar to the abuses
described in the case of Madrid v.
Thanks to that legal victory, due in part to the
expert testimony of Dr, Stuart Grassian, I was released from the Pelican
Bay Security Housing Unit (SHU) in 2003, and my exacerbated mental illness
improved after being provided acute psychiatric care for suicide attempts,
post-traumatic stress symptoms, and Gender Identity Disorder. Although my
current prison circumstances have improved, and I now have the prospect of
a sentence reduction under California’s newly passed Proposition 36 (the
“Three Strikes Reform Act of 2012), thousands of other inmates continue
to languish in long-term solitary confinement.
Since the Pelican Bay Prisoner Hunger Strike began
in 20__, more than 12,000 prisoners in thirteen different California
prisons have participated in intermittent hunger strikes to protest the
conditions of solitary confinement. At least three inmates committed
On February 2, 2012, inmate Christian Gomez died
during a hunger strike at Corcoran, which houses 1400 in the SHU and an
estimated 350 in the Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU). The continued
and expanded use of extended solitary confinement in control units across
the United States, and particularly in California where the courts have
found illegal and inhumane conditions, violates international human rights
law, the Convention Against Torture (CAT), and the Standard Minimum Rules
for the Treatment of Prisoners. Furthermore,
in the case of transgender inmates, the use of nondisciplinary safety
concerns or refusal of unsafe housing unit/cell assignments to justify
placement in solitary confinement violates the Prison Rape Elimination Act
of 2003 (PREA) national standards (recently adopted federal regulations,
of the US Department of Justice).
In conclusion, I urge the esteemed panel members
and audience to join the struggle to ABOLISH CONTROL UNITS in the United
States, which holds at least 25,000 prisoners in isolation at various
supermax prisons, and an additional 50,000 to 80,000 in restrictive
segregation units. The 2006
US. Report of the Commission on Safety and Abuse in American Prisons noted
that beyond about 10 days of solitary confinement there’s practically no
benefit to be found and the harm is clear. The Center for Human Rights and
Constitutional Law has prepared a petition to the United Nations Working
Group on Arbitrary Detention, Human Rights Council, United Nations General
Assembly, with 22 main plaintiffs at different California prisons, ranging
from one year in segregation up to 39 years in complete isolation based
solely on a prisoner’s affiliations or associations.
Finally, I welcome anyone that may be interested to
contact me through personal correspondence concerning this issue, or
concerning my campaign for release. Specifically, I need your personal
assistance and support for my individual legal defense case, to be moved
to either a women’s facility or other community-based housing that
accommodate$ trans-women, and eventually released.
from Black & Pink, April 2013. Footnotes
I’m 46 Qwm – ‘original Queer’ not born of
convenience once the prison gates slammed behind my sexy ass. Knowing
prison is a challenging and dangerous world unto itself, I always
maintained a low profile and am very discrete in my relationships and
After eighteen years in maximum security and smooth
running – the wheels finally came off the rails.
The virtually unprecedented arrest of four C.O.s
for assaulting prisoners prompted a new strategy: ‘outsourcing.’
Having ended up on C.O.s ’hit list’ – they
directed 3 gang members (inmate collaborators) to jump me.
I’ve been in my share of fights, but this is not
Hollywood. I quickly realized I was in deep trouble and icy dread that I
could die here. In moments I was beaten to floor of shower and savagely
kicked. Barely conscious, I was relieved when the blows ceased. ‘It’s
over…’ I thought.
The leader grasped me around my waist and began to
penetrate and rape me – I struggled to crawl away but another of the
attackers seized my shoulders while the other resumed raping me. I have
never felt such a mash of pain, fear and utter helplessness? The one
holding my shoulders pulled out his penis and tried to force me to perform
oral sex on him. When I wouldn’t do it, he punched me in the face some
more – then masturbated and ejaculated on my face.
They left me laying on the cold wet floor of the
shower. I slowly got my self together, inventory of injuries. Glad at
least they didn’t use weapons beyond their hands feet and genitals…
Prompted by sharp, burning sting of the semen on my facial lacerations, I
got under shower and did my best to wash away not only their come – But
the whole event.
I limped off (bad high ankle sprain) and was
eventually apprehended by (uninvolved) C.O. who escorted me to facility
hospital. I wasn’t trying to get involved in stigma/complications of a
sexual assault investigation, but nurse spotted blood on my boxers and
wouldn’t be put off.
I was thrown in ‘Involuntary Protective
Custody’ (PC) and stunningly, issued disciplinary charges for: ‘not
reporting injury’ and transferred to SHU (‘BOX’) facility.
I received NO follow up medical care, had to file
grievances to get StD testing and was denied post sexual assault mental
More than a year after assault and rape, I’m
still experiencing anxiety/panic attacks and am plagued by terrible
After resorting to outside agencies, I learned that
original medical reports did not document sexual assault. Medical file
cited: ‘Inmate fell’ (yeah, fell on erect penis ‘over and
over’…) This attempt (unsuccessful) to cover-up stems from Dept of
Corrections ‘managing’ their statistics for Federal ‘PREA’ (Prison
Rape Elimination Act, 2003) standards. If they can’t or won’t comply
with this law, they lose portion of their allotted funds from Feds – And
we know the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is all about the money.
There is no ‘looper’ style time machine to go
back and fix or erase the harm done to me, Both in the assault/rape and
the further abuse and harassment by ‘investigations’, who alternated
between trying to color my orientation as mitigation in effects/blame of
event, and ‘getting off’ or eliciting the fine details for their all
too obvious titillation.
All I can do now, is try to shine a ray of light
into these dark crevices of Abuse and Neglect – And hope there’s some
in the world with eyes open to see.
‘PREA’ is Good – But only if the shroud of
secrecy is pulled free from America’s prison system.
I can feel all your pain
We are on the same plane looking at the views
Listening to other people’s
I can’t seem to get myself out of this groove
This horrible pain is
All I want to do is die
And because I’m a
man, I can’t cry
Wishing you were here to dry my eyes
I feel completely
alone, left out in the cold
Chilled to the bone looking for my way home
My hopes, dreams, &
visions is all I see
And I pray to God, they go out to thee.
PO Box 3466
Corcoran, CA 93212
By Chaya and Deni
We Steal Secrets: The
Story of Wikileaks (review by Deni)
timely film about how Wikileaks developed, focuses on the roles of Julian
Assange and Bradley Manning. It starts out well with good pacing and
cinematography by award-winning Maryse Alberti,
but about halfway through the “hi-tech” fade in/out/connecting visuals
seemed overused. The cutting back and forth between stories was also
confusing. I got a little annoyed at the psychologizing viewpoint director
Alex Gibney imparted to Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, and Adrian Lamo
(the one who turned Bradley in). I found myself looking at my watch
several times. Gibney stdarted
out with a 3½ hour cut and whittled it down, thankfully. He should have
whittled more, particularly on the portrayal of Lamo, which is mostly just
upsetting, and also on the “life and times of Julian” show. The parts
about Bradley Manning were the most affecting, espcially the focus on his
queerness. But overall, some of the political impact of what Bradley did,
and why, got lost in the general cinematic verbiage. Free Bradley Manning!
acting, costumes and sets, but if this movie had been excellently played
by two unknown gay actors, it probably wouldn’t have gotten any notice.
Because it was played by two straight mega-movie stars (Michael Douglas
and Matt Damon), the movie got lots of attention but came off as smarmy,
Hollywood style. Though the film was passed over by Warner Brothers for
being “too gay,” director Steven Soderbergh says that it’s “an
entertaining relationship story.” It didn’t engage us and we found it
kind of pointless. Soderbergh says this is his last film, but we’re not
sure we care.
Herman’s House (review
film tells some of the story of Herman Wallace, one of the Angola 3. The
Angola 3 were in solitary confinement for decades in Angola, Louisiana,
and two of the men – Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox – are still in
prison. But the film was marred by artist/filmmaker Jackie Sumell’s
focus on her own life and process; we learned more about her than we
needed or wanted to know. Instead, Wallace’s story could have been
better told, and more deeply contextualized in the black and prison
struggles of the last decades. For a better look at the real story, I’d
like to try to see In the Land Of the Free, a powerful 2010 documentary
about the Angola 3. You can also check out a video by Robert King
Wilkerson (the other member of the Angola 3, released from prison about 10
years ago) on the Amnesty International site. Herman’s House will screen
on PBS July 8 - the filmmaker
gets more annoying as the movie goes on, so maybe just watch the parts
with Herman Wallace.
is a documentary about a young, undocumented, Latina artist, Inocente.
When it was made in 2012, 15 year old Inocente had been homeless in San
Diego with her mother and two younger brothers since she was seven.
Inocente’s colorful and vibrant paintings fill the screen. Her art is an
important part of who she is, of her personal struggles and her empowering
dreams. The film was well directed by Sean and Andrea Fine and won the
2012 Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject. Watch for it in libraries
or on TV. See it.
The Company You Keep
Robert Redford directed and stars in this film about a former Weather
Underground member (Redford) who
goes on the run to try to clear his name after a comrade (Sarandon) gets
arrested for the killing of a security guard during a bank robbery in the
1960s. For me, the cast was the selling point of the movie (Julie
Christie, Susan Sarandon, Chris Cooper, Richard Jenkins and others). I
agree with many of Deni’s criticisms below, especially – SPOILER ALERT
– the lack of motivation for Christie’s character to change her mind
at the end. The politics of WU were never clearly explained, so if you
didn’t know much about WU you wouldn’t know why they were robbing
banks. But the movie didn’t deserve a lot of the criticism it got, much
of which was just plain ageist. It’s not the movie I would have made,
but I thought it was still worthwhile.
I didn’t like this movie for a variety of reasons. There were the
story/plot challenges and inconsistencies, like Robert Redford, about 70
years old, having a daughter of about 12. Another actor could have more
believably played this part, and possibly less woodenly, too. Characters
are introduced and slightly developed, but their stories are left dangling
or incomplete. More importantly, the film angered me for its political
implications, stated and unstated. The Weather Underground was portrayed
as wantonly having taken risks with people’s lives when it carried out
attacks. This was not true, and can only have been put in the film to
create sympathy for the former Weather characters who “had grown older
and wiser” and given up their radical (read “inhuman”) ways.
Sarandon and Christie’s characters still held on to some of their
revolutionary ideas but were undermined by the storyline. Christie
especially was used in the end as a “sensitive woman” whose beliefs
couldn’t withstand the allure/moral message of Redford. What exactly was
the point of this movie? Skip it and instead, see the Oscar-nominated
2003 documentary Weather Underground by Sam Green and Bill Siegel.
The Place Beyond the Pines (review by Deni)
movie attempted to be an epic about fathers/sons/class ramifications/moral
choices. The acting by Ryan Gosling and Bradley Cooper was quite good, and
Eva Mendes (a favorite of mine) was also good though her part was
underdeveloped (surprise, surprise). Cinematography was great, often
stunning. The film raised some interesting questions but ultimately was
heavy-handed and self-important. The last portion was most contrived and
detracted from the impact of the film.
Stark Trek Into Darkness (review by Chaya)
“Space: the final frontier. These are the voyagers of the Starship
Enterprise Y. Its never-ending mission is to seek out new tax forms. To
explore strange new regulations. To boldly go where no government employee
has gone before.” Oh, wait a minute, that’s not the beginning of the
new Star Trek movie, it’s the beginning of the IRS’ parody training
video starring IRS employees. Really. You can see the whole pathetic 6
minutes online. Low production values. Tsk. Bad IRS. Meanwhile, the new
Star Trek movie is the second prequel with its younger cast, but it’s
vintage Star Trek. You know, Kirk breaks the rules and saves earth, while
maintaining his bromance with Spock. But there are a few updates. The main
characters are more developed, and Spock and Uhura are in a relationship!
And there’s more politics, too. Near the beginning of the movie, some
characters make statements against drone strikes and extrajudicial
executions. Scotty feels that the 72 torpedoes that Starfleet wants loaded
aboard the Enterprise are too dangerous, so he quits (rebellion in the
ranks). Yet the Starfleet Headquarters uniforms are way more military
looking than previously. And why can’t Starfleet hire some LGBT crew
members after all this time?
BITS AND PIECES
SUPPORT BRADLEY MANNING Check
out the “I Am Bradley Manning” video on YouTube, with many celebrities
expressing support for Bradley. Tom Morello, originally of Rage Against
the Machine, is great as usual. But some of those progressive celebs need
to do a better job of connecting their leftist dots: Singer Moby was urged
by the BDS community to turn down a concert in Israel in 2011, but played
it anyway. Actor Maggie Gyllenhaal starred in last year’s notorious
anti-teacher’s union film “Won’t Back Down.” We could probably
give more examples if we could only i.d. all the stars! So, the Mocha
Column will give a free UltraViolet subscription to anyone who can send us
the names of all the celebs in the video.
In a fantastic example of resolute political wishy-washiness,
former SF Supervisor Bevan Dufty has dropped out as a grand marshal of the
SF Pride Parade. “I very much wanted
to be a Pride grand marshal but I don't feel this is the right time,” he
said. Dufty wouldn't comment on whether stepping down had anything to do
with Pride’s removing Bradley Manning as a grand marshal, and just said,
“I'm going to let my actions speak for me in this situation.” But
a secret Mocha Column source listened in on a Dufty phone conversation
(President Obama says we’re not doing that) and heard him saying, “I
have no principles and I’ll be damned if I will be forced into taking a
stand on something so trivial as war crimes and free speech! If only
Bradley had just said he wanted a gay marriage. Why do these radical
queers have to keep mixing in these unrelated issues?”
STICK TO PLAIN OATMEAL
Yeah, it’s good that General Mills isn’t caving in to
racists, but before you go giving them big props for standing up for their
cereal commercial that features a mixed-race family, let’s check out a
few other GM facts: General Mills is the third-largest food consumer
products company in the US.
It contributed over a million dollars to oppose California's Proposition
37 last year, which would have required mandatory labeling of GMO foods.
Recently, GM marketed to children using Millsberry (an advergame
– you know, advertising in video games), a virtual city that featured
General Mills products. Last year, GM laid off 850 workers to “lower
costs and boost efficiency,” and it’s currently fighting a union drive
in its plant in Hannibal, MO.
Out of 34 GM plants, 14 are non-union. (Hoping for success for the BCTGM
union that’s organizing in Hannibal.) Oh, but wait, General Mills took a
stand for gay marriage, and isn’t that all we queers care about? During
June 2012 the company's vice-president for diversity stated that GM
opposed a Minnesota amendment banning gay marriage, stating that the
company values “inclusion.”
Right. GM said, “To succeed today, big brands like Cheerios need
to be in touch with what’s authentic and true about American
families.” Gag. We’re hoping to hear from the Minnesota Queer
Liberation Front as we stand together against corporate greed, not in
support of assimilationist deed.
FOLLOW THE MONEY
The money seems to go in a revolving path from the US
Government And Military Producers (US GAMP), to the Israeli Government And
Military Producers (I GAMP). One recent example is kind of mind-blowing:
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) says it has signed a long-term contract
with US defense giant Lockheed Martin to produce wings for the next
generation of the F-35 fighter jet, the Pentagon's most expensive weapons
program. The wings will be made at an Israeli facility that already
produces wings for Lockheed's F-16 warplanes. IAI, a state-owned company,
said the 15 year contract could generate up to $2.5 billion in sales.
Sales for I GAMP? Or US GAMP? Or WE ALL GAMP? Round and round it goes.
SHE’S GOING ANYWAY
Despite a powerful letter from Alice Walker and other voices urging Alicia
Keys to honor the academic and cultural boycott of Israel and cancel a
July concert in Tel Aviv, Keys is going ahead with her plans. An
interesting commentary in TheGrio website took Keys to task for not taking
a stronger stand around the issue of what Walker called
the “apartheid country.” TheGrio also rejected claims that the
boycott is “bullying” and “anti-semitic.”
HE WON’T GO In May,
British cosmologist Stephen Hawking honored the boycott by withdrawing
from a June conference in Israel. One result of Hawking’s action is that
for the first time a major American newspaper – The Boston Globe –
supported Hawking’s use of the boycott as a means of political presure,
though The Globe didn’t come out in support of the boycott itself.
LIBRARY LOVERS UNITE! YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE (but
maybe a book now and then) Public
libraries – those magical places where you can get free books! We’re
looking forward to the completion of Free For All: Inside the Public
Library, a documentary project being made by a sterling team of
progressive film-makers about library stories from across the country. The
project’s centerpiece film chronicles
a year in the SF Public Library. If you can/want to support the
project, google the film and check out their website – they still need
donations. A Mocha Column reader was even interviewed for the film –
we’ll see if her library story makes the final cut.
BAD CAPTAIN OF INDUSTRY It’s been 101
years this June (2013) since Local 1640 of the United Brotherhood of
Carpenters and Joiners sent a resolution to the SF Board of Supervisors
against accepting steel tycoon/ union buster Andrew Carnegie’s gift of
$750,000 for library purposes. The Board passed the resolution, which
included the following: “There is no person whose name is more repugnant
to fair-minded persons than that of Andrew Carnegie, whose vast fortune
was accumulated at the expense of every rule of humanity, thousands of
persons in his employ having toiled long hours for a mere pittance, and on
more than one occasion being assaulted and shot and a number killed for
rebelling against the industrial slavery imposed upon them. We join in the
protest against bringing shame and humiliation upon the fair name of San
Francisco by having it share in the ill-gotten wealth of Andrew Carnegie
to build him a monument.” So, next time you’re in a public library,
SEX BETWEEN CONSENTING WEREWOLVES AND HUMANS
RULED OK BY COURT Props
to prisoner Andres Martinez at Pelican Bay State Prison, who pursued and
won a First Amendment case to allow more books into the prison, books that
had been rejected as “obscene.” The First District Court of Appeal of
California said one book in question, “The Silver Crown,” (which among
other things includes sexual encounters between werewolves and humans),
didn’t meet the legal definition of obscenity because it has some
literary value. Pelican Bay officials had been ignoring this state and
federal standard for obscenity so they could ban books. The guard in
charge of checking books for “obscenity” said his standard procedure
is “to leaf through the book and seize it” if he finds repeated
sexually explicit passages. Just how many times does he have to leaf
through each book and how can we satirize this process even more?
WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF
May 25, 2013 two million people in over 50 countries marched against
Monsanto, the leading producer of GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms).
Last week, Connecticut passed the first U.S. state law to require
labeling of GMOs, but the law will only go into effect if 4 states pass
similar laws, and one state must touch Connecticut. This weird provision
is the response to Monsanto's threat to sue any state that passes a stand
alone GMO bill…But, take heart: Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, NJ
and NY all have GMO labeling bills in current sessions and could join
Connecticut within a few weeks. Altogether, 26 states have introduced GMO
bills this year, including California. There was also a Federal bill
introduced in April and Washington State has a ballot initiative scheduled
for the fall.
First introduced into the food supply in the late
1990s, GMOs are now found in 70% of processed food. 85% of corn and 91% of
soy grown in the U.S. are GMO, and an Oregon organic farmer inexplicably
found Monsanto's GMO wheat in his field (of course Monsanto will most
likely sue this farmer for stealing their patented life forms).
The fight against Monsanto is just one small piece
of the movement for "Food Sovereignty", a term originated by the
international peasant alliance called "La Via Campesina". The
food movement is now the most visible part of the
"Sustainability" Movement which encompasses all environmental
concerns about our potentially mortally wounded planet.
Women are in the leadership of much of this
Movement. From the lesbian back to the land movement of the 1970s to
current international solidarity and sustainable development work on food,
women have been and are key. The book Farmer Jane: Women Changing the
Way We Eat by Temra Costa provides a good overview with personal
stories of women working in all different ways. The Women, Food and
Agriculture Network based in Iowa (yeah-Iowa) has 2800 members working
"since 1997 to promote gender equality in sustainable agriculture by
supporting, educating and empowering women to become leaders in the
Movement, from the Farm House to the White House." According to Nancy
Ging in the Bellingham (WA) Herald on May 14, 2013 "Women are the
fastest growing demographic of new diversified farms (i.e. small farms
growing multiple products). Women control 85% of household spending. Of
the top 15 national non-profits focused on sustainable agriculture, women
are 60% of executive directors (EDs) and 61% of employees."
Other groups include Women's Agricultural Network, California Women
in Agriculture, Women, Food and Agricultural Network, and Ruralwomyn.
So what are they doing? Much attention has been
paid to influencing the U.S. Farm Bill, which sets U.S. policy and
funding. But how much can be achieved by traditional advocacy and lobbying
efforts? Eric Holt Gimenez, the ED of Food First/Institute for Food and
Development Policy (one of the original groups to deal with this issue)
captures the context of the fight in his blog "Occupy the Food
System: Construction or Protest?"
This $6 trillion a year industry was built on
violently dispossessing entire peoples from their land, water and
resources as well as on indentured, coerced and slave labor. The continued
dependence on cheap undocumented labor and the food apartheid that plagues
underserved communities of color are not broken pieces of an otherwise
benign system. They are integral to the market efficiencies of today's
corporate food regime. This food regime functions precisely as a late
capitalist food system would be expected to perform: it creates
opportunities for speculative financial investments and concentrates
resources, power and wealth in the hands of a few global monopolies (like
Cargill, Monsanto, ADM and Walmart). The corporate agri-food giants are
making record profits at a time of record hunger, record harvests, and a
global epidemic of diet related diseases. For those who own it, the food
system isn't broken at all-it's thriving."
The U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance captures the
goals of the work: "to end poverty, rebuild local food economies and
assert democratic control over the food system. We believe all people have
a right to healthy, culturally appropriate food, produced in an
ecologically sound manner. As a U.S. based alliance of food justice,
anti-hunger, labor, environmental, faith-based, and food producer groups,
we uphold the right to food as a basic human right and work to connect our
local and national struggles to the international movement for food
How we are doing this is as diverse as we
are….grassroots organizing has brought us many alternative places to put
our energy. Farmworkers in traditional unions like the UFW continue to
carry out campaigns that we support (fact: 45% of farmworkers are food
insecure meaning they don't have enough to eat). One innovative and
successful effort was Florida's Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)
tomato campaign which took years to win thru direct actions like boycotts
and demos. From local takeovers and planting of unused land in cities all
across the country to local Food Policy Councils (FPCs), change is
happening. FPCs also have
worked on things like institutional food procurement (ever eat at a school
or hospital?), use of urban space, nutrition education and funding for
food banks. Empty lots are turned into community gardens, free trainings
and technical assistance enable backyard gardens for low income folks in
food deserts like West Oakland. Teachers incorporate new curriculum and
food gardens are blossoming in schools.
In California last year, local FPCs joined with Urban Agriculture
Alliances and Food System Alliances to form the California Food Policy
Council to work to support and strengthen each group's local work and to
take up state level work together.
Even a strategy of short term efforts like the
Hayes Valley Farm in S.F. have a multiplier effect: accepting the space at
450 Laguna for interim use as a community farm over just a few years has
involved 20,000 volunteers and combined growing food with arts projects,
education, and organizing and was run by a "lateral governance
structure" (what we used to call a collective). Although the Farm was
closed down in June 2013, it spawned and provided support to at least 10
other projects. And BTW, 5 of the 7 leadership team and 12 of the 19
instructors listed on the website are women.
And last but not least is one of my favorite local
projects: Direct action to Occupy the Farm at UC Berkeley's Gill Tract in
Albany. The efforts to save the last substantial piece of farmland in the
urban East Bay from plans to sell it off and develop it for commercial use
have included an ongoing occupation and multiple plantings involving large
numbers of people and much creativity.
Ongoing dialogue and debate within the Movement is
rich, and we can expect to continue to see people who do what moves them
most as we move forward. At the San Francisco March against Monsanto on
May 25, about 1000 demonstrators rallied at Union Square (where we
listened to a line up of mostly male speakers with women and especially
women of color being conspicuously absent on the stage) and then marched
to the Embarcadero where a small disagreement arose between the event
organizers and Occupy the Farm activists who attempted to plant some
veggies on the public grass there…Thru my eyes as someone who's seen
this dynamic in many movements over the years,
I say: Keep it ALL UP!
In the city, we can only see some of the stars, as
you move out into less developed areas more and more stars emerge from the
night sky. There are fewer and
fewer places left on the globe where the stars are not dimmed by the night
lights of human civilization and many if not most of those lights are
unnecessary or bigger than they need to be or glowing in all directions
(including up into the sky) when they are only useful in one direction.
Once in a while the lights go out – due to natural disaster or
dysfunction in the grid—and suddenly millions of stars reemerge even in
the middle of the big city. I think it would be amazing if we turned out
more of the lights that aren’t really being used at night and
re-configured the ones that are needed to be more targeted so we could see
more of the stars. Why not an
urban dark sky movement to bring the wilderness of stars closer to home?
And of course this would also save lots of energy and the associated
impacts from all kinds of energy generation which is always on my mind as
UW readers know.
good news this week was the announcement by Southern California Edison
that they will give up their fight to re-open the San Onofre nuclear
reactors that were shut down due to radio active leaks from the repaired
and newly installed steam generator system last year. The pressure from
grass roots activists to keep the plant closed, along with some very
useful questions being asked by Senator Boxer, together delayed attempts
to re-open the plant making the economics finally line up with sanity.
We need to move even more quickly to distributed energy systems and
away from these massive polluting centralized power behemoths.
The San Onofre nuclear plant is right on the beach
and has a puny sea wall that would not keep out a tidal wave as we saw at
Fukushima—in fact it is very similar design to the nuclear plants that
melted down in japan and a lot closer to big population centers. Closing
and decommissioning will be expensive and problematic (since there is
still nowhere to store high-level radio active waste from the core and
cooling ponds) but it is a big step in the right direction. Now Diablo
Canyon will be the last nuclear power plant operating in California and
I’m dragging out my old t-shirts that say —SHUT DOWN DIABLO CANYON.
Speaking of t-shirts, as we move towards the
longest day of the year once again, June (aka gay month aka pride month
for us LGBTQQ—they gave us a month and marriage what more do you want!)
makes me think about cleaning out the closets and getting rid of old
clothes. I can give away the
things I didn’t wear much or that don’t fit so well anymore but why is
it so hard to let go of the ragged t-shirts from dyke marches and actions
of yesteryear? I keep them until they are rags and then use the rags for a
few more years. The memories of demonstrations past keep the windows and
floors clean today (OK not that clean, I’m a very bad housekeeper after
Two Years ago nearly 12,000 prisoners in California went on an extended
hunger strike. In response to CDCR’s failure to meet the 2011 Five (5)
Core Demands, the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives respectfully
present a notice of, and basis for, theirr individualized, collectively
agreed upon, decision to resume the nonviolent peaceful protest action on
July 08, 2013.
The upcoming peaceful protest will be a combined Hunger Strike [HS] –
Work Stoppage [WS] action. Once initiated, this protest will continue
indefinitely—until all Five (5) Core Demands are fully met.
1. End Group Punishment & Administrative Abuse
2. Abolish the Debriefing Policy, and Modify
Active/Inactive Gang Status Criteria
3. Comply with the US Commission on Safety and
Abuse in America’s Prisons 2006 Recommendations Regarding an End to
Long-Term Solitary Confinement
4. Provide Adequate and Nutritious Food
5. Expand and provide constructive programs and
privileges for indefinite SHU inmate
In California there will be demonstrations July 8th
or 9th in Eureka, Oakland, San Francisco, Corcoran and Los Angeles.
There are also demos planned in New York, Ohio and in Canada.
Go to www.prisons.org
for more info.