In This Issue
Washington, D.C.—The Obama administration has filed a discrimination lawsuit against SF Pride Inc. in response to Pride’s February 4 decision to ban military recruiters from the June event. Attorney General Erick Hold-her denied that the lawsuit was an attempt to penetrate the gay community without consent.
“We just think that if the military is open to the gays, they should be open to the military,” Hold-her said. He continued, “Pride has named ex-pfc Chelsea Manning to be a grand marshal, so it seems hypocritical to exclude the very government who employed and now houses Ms. Manning from being an exhibitor and corporate sponsor.” Hold-her noted that Manning would never have achieved fame without the government’s efforts on her behalf.
The U.S. military, Hold-her noted, has provided a plethora of opportunities to LGBT youth for generations. “It isn’t just rape, sexual assault, and racism you know,” he said, noting that many LGBT people had also had an equal opportunity to be denied recruiter-promised benefits, such as career training and post-service educational and health benefits.
Dewey Wad of Queers Against Living with the Military (QUALM) responded, “Our position has always been that queers are best out of uniform, except those little Catholic schoolgirl outfits.”
from the MT collective)
Thanks to the wonderfully supportive Bay Area community, Modern Times is on its way to achieving its goal of raising $100,000. We have now raised over 20% of our goal and will continue operating in 2014. While we are delighted with this progress, we have a long way to go to achieve sustainability. We ask for your continued support. Please consider making a generous contribution to help us raise the remaining $80,000 and save your radical bookstore – one of the few left in the country. You can make a tax-deductible contribution by writing a check to our fiscal sponsor, PeaceKey, Inc. (with Modern Times in the memo line), and send to Modern Times, 2919 24th Street, SF, CA 94110. Be sure to include your email, phone number and mailing address so we can keep you posted on our progress. You can also go to the website www.MTBS.com to make a safe, non tax-deductible credit card gift – or become a valued monthly donor – through PayPal.
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Modern Times Spanish Language Section Coordinator
by Nora Roman
Your first question is how I became "political". More than political I would like to say how I became aware-of the situation of people in our society, in my country, events in the world. For me one of them that was crucial in my life was when in 1966, I was in the first year of my University in Argentina, where I am from and the military took power in a coup. Seeing the type of repression of the students who were protesting the military coup and the closing of the University, and the killing of some students too really opened my eyes. I was 17 and a half, I wasn't aware really- politically-I wasn't aware of the issues-social justice, economic justice, U.S. imperialism in Argentina, and in Latin America overall. But that was when I really opened my eyes. From then on yes, I was active in Argentina, in the student movement. And I came to this country shortly before the last military coup when the situation actually was already very, very serious in Argentina, a lot of people had already been kidnapped and killed-not disappeared.
You asked me how I would describe my beliefs. It's amazing because I had to think a lot about that question. Because I think we all evolve in our thinking. I don't have the same beliefs that I had 35 years ago, 25 years ago, or even perhaps even 15 years ago. I don't believe very much in isms- i-s-m-s! I don't want to call myself anarchist, a socialist, a communist, or this or that or nothing. But I realize that I still believe and wish with all my heart and my body and my mind for justice.
I think that desire for justice is very rooted, very embedded in me, even as a little child because I grew up in a family without money, with my mother feeling "I don't know if we are going to make it at the end of the month and bla bla bla". We were living in a small town, with a chicken coop and a vegetable garden so I thought it was possible to make it to the end of the month. With the vegetable garden and my father had a grocery store, but you know I grew with not having. And when I went to the city, to the University, my mind was always in this mode, that I didn't have. I started to work as a secretary in some store, in some business right away, and I lived with roommates who were also from other towns, and many times we just didn't have anything to eat but we would manage to eat maybe pasta…So, I think that I believe in justice, and I want justice and I don't know if I will be able to see it in my lifetime. I am old, much older now, but I believe that it's possible to have economic, social, racial, gender justice. And I believe also despite all the evil that we see going on in the world, all the cruelty, all the violence, all the hatred, I believe that there is a part, a good part in all of us. And it's possible to rescue that part of us. To fight for respect for the environment, for justice. I actually am starting to think in the last eleven or ten years that fighting for the health of the environment is crucial for us surviving on the earth. Because, unfortunately I think that we are destroying ourselves.
Development, contamination, pollution, pesticides, nuclear tests, chemicals, etc. etc….This creation has so much beauty, beautiful things for us to live, to enjoy. We were talking about animals. That's part of my beliefs. I not only talk about human beings, I talk about Criaturas. Criaturas in Spanish is a nice, encompassing word. Maybe in English it's not that good "creatures". I don't think it works in English but in Spanish it works well, "Criaturas, we are all criaturas." Humans, animals, insects, vegetables, everything-we are all Criaturas and it's great we work toward the survival and the talents of all us Criaturas on this beautiful earth that we have to live-not to inhabit.
I moved to San Francisco in 1981 from the area of Los Angeles. It was a time when many persons, many lesbians I had met in Southern California were moving to San Francisco… And my first job was with the Women's Building on 18th Street. I am very happy that I got to work at the Women's Building, being part of the collective. Much later I was also part of the Board of Directors in the late 80s. And in the Women's Building, you know, it was a Center--a space, not only for women, but for lesbians, for gays , for trans people, but it was for all people who were struggling in the solidarity movement in the 80s and struggling for a better world, for justice, to end U.S. imperialism. It was incredible. You know I was doing bookings! For me it was amazing. I was the liaison-these groups from El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Chile, Peru.
I wanted to mention actually that in September 1986, I went to a LAGAI meeting. It was my first meeting of LAGAI and there I met who has been my partner for 27 years -we got married actually. so my spouse now. When people have asked us, "How did you meet?" "oh we met in a political meeting…[chuckling], Lesbians and Gays Against Intervention, and I don't know if you remember, but one of the issues was fighting against the English Only Initiative. Actually, she and I focused on work against the English Only Initiative. So we did a lot of leafletting and posting flyers, and she also organized an event with one of the Culture Clash people at the Women's Building.
I came to Modern Times probably as many people came to Modern Times,… via Central Station-Tede Matthews-[much joyful laughter] via Tede. Querido querido querido Tede. Tede and I were friends. My first connection with Tede, despite that I met him i the early 80s, the first time that I got to talk to him was for the Women's Crafts Fair for the Women's Building in 1985 when I was in a poetry reading and he came with his partner. They sat in the first row to listen to us. I was doing the poetry reading with another poet from Argentina. That was when I discovered that Tede had this thing that he wanted to find new voices, new poets, new writers and he would go out to different readings you know-not only with the famed and famous-but also he wanted to find those new voices. So, we actually began our friendship and many times he and I actually met to read each other our stuff.
Back in 1989, he asked me if I wanted to substitute at Modern Times and I did it for a few times. Tede is actually the person we should credit with starting the Spanish literature section of Modern Times- back in 1991. I remember very clear-he called me and he said "Graciela, you know, I would like to start a Spanish section of Modern Times." I said "That's a great idea-something needed in the community in San Francisco. A good Spanish section not something that would sell only the best sellers of literature in Spanish, but an exhaustive Spanish section. After he passed away, I knew that he had asked Michael and Ruth to convince me to take over the Spanish section. And I did it, I started to work at Modern Times, not just in the back but sometimes I did the cash register and other things. I also found other jobs, until '97 when I was teaching and they put me full time at the New College of California. I was teaching Latin American Studies, Gender Studies, classes on Women Film Makers. So then I stopped working at Modern Times.
As you know, New College of California doesn't exist anymore-it was closed down in 2008. And I was talking to Ruth, and just by this miracle, I call these miracles…I was talking to Ruth on the phone and she said "you know the person who was doing the Spanish Section is leaving-we need somebody to take over again that Section" I said "I will do it" so in May 2008 I started to do again the Spanish Section and I am still doing it to this very day. I don't know what is going to happen with Modern Times but while Modern Times is open I hope to continue doing that Section the best way that I can because I care about Spanish speaking people to have access to good literature in Spanish. I have heard many, many comments from Spanish speakers saying "there is nothing like this in San Francisco or the Bay Area and it's great, it's great. Because it's like I said, I want a section that sells more than Garcia Marquez or Isabel Allende-okay? With all due respect for those authors. But those are best sellers and you can get them at Barnes & Nobles. But literature in the Spanish language is much much more than that.
What else did I want to say? With all the limitations of the decision by the Supreme Court to give same sex marriage to a limited number of people-only 13 states, which is very very limited in comparison to Argentina for example where the equalitarian marriage "matrimonio iqualitario" is national. And the People went to the streets and the Catholic Church wanted to start a war, but however, it was stopped. I think that at this point, most people like it. So, it's a pity that here it's not also like that. To tell you the truth, I never expected I was going to see it even for 13 states in this country. So for me it was a great surprise and I have to tell you I was moved that in my 65 years old after 27 years of living with my partner that we could exercise this civil right. But I am completely aware that "La Lucha Continua" [the struggle continues]. And I realize there is one ism I do believe in-feminism.
Gentrification in the Bay Area has taken on monstrous proportions. The current atrocity comes after centuries of the richer moving in on communities expelling those with less power and money. Evictions are at an all time high. New luxury buildings pop up over night. A skyscraper condo is being planned at the BART Station plaza at 16th street and Mission in San Francisco. This particular development project has prompted an odious “clean up the plaza campaign”, causing 24 hour police harassment of anyone in the plaza. Every bit of public space is being taken away, camera surveillance installed, people’s spaces constantly monitored, and yuppied up. Tech companies like google and facebook run big dark glassed tour busses through the Mission, picking up their employees, who have moved to the city in droves, driving up rents and pushing evictions. The expanding tech industry is creating waves of gentrification throughout the whole area. Downtown and West Oakland have become almost unrecognizable, foodie valet parking restaurants pushing out single room occupancy hotels and long standing community residents. Groovy First Friday art murmur entertainment is making Oakland the number one hipster destination, while wonderful East Oakland neighborhoods are dying from lack of attention, broke down roads, decaying schools, no grocery stores. Police Shoot to Kill to protect the surging capitalism.
Friends who have lived for years in the Mission alternate between rage and despair. My friend Carla lives in a rent controlled railroad flat off 16th street. Her building, indeed the whole neighborhood, has become nearly unlivable, now so filled with bands of techie frat boy like hordes. Carla spends nights banging on the ceiling in an effort to get the grunts guffaws bad music to abate so she can sleep. By day she has to squeeze her way through the entitled crowds who throng the sidewalks in search of fancy restaurants and the proverbial good time. Bars, local business once familiar and frequented locations are going out of business everywhere, replaced by upscale places catering to the tech crowd. Cell Space at 18th & Bryant, one of the few remaining grassroots community-oriented cultural spaces, is being torn down to make a six-story condo building.
Along with many groups fighting this newest capitalist boom, Gay Shame: a Virus in the System and LAGAI Queer Insurrection, from our uniquely queer perspective, have taken on the despicable real estate lawyers bornstein and bornstein. This law firm specializes in evicting people and runs seminars for landlords on the how to best use the ellis act. the ellis act is a California law that allows landlords to take their property off the market evict all the tenants and then convert it to condos or tenant in common property, reaping enormous wealth and displacing scores of people. Bornstein and bornstein represents landlords in litigation against tenants, as well as runs huge seminars specifically teaching landlords and property owners how best to evict people. These eviction boot camps come complete with smarmy lawyers giving powerpoint presentations onstage, b& b swag such as chewing gum, pens and glossy packets with cheat sheets on everything from ways to use the ellis act to tricks to avoid returning tenant deposits.
Last January six hardy queer activists disrupted our first b&b eviction boot camp, admitting in hindsight we were perhaps naive. We arrived expecting 30 people or so in some small classroom at Fort Mason, only to be faced with at least 200 property owners/landlords looking to make a buck of the backs of renters. Still, ever intrepid, we rose up chanting and yelling and Ralowe read theatrically a prepared piece about the evil effects of evictions on our communities. From the stage one of the bornstein brothers giving the power point presentation exhorted “the gentle people” in the audience to come forward to help eject the demonstrators all the while using the fracas as an illustration of how to deal with unruly tenants. we didn’t leave and soon rabid red faced apoplectic landlords rushed us, one of them attacking me and grabbing papers. A melee of sorts ensued and finally were pushed out by security guards. We left and talked over dinner about how to improve our resistance. A short video of the demo went out on email.
On March 21st Gay Shame, LAGAI and various other groups had a great rowdy demonstration outside the offices of bornstein and bornstein on Polk Street in SF (they have another office in Oakland). We decided to evict the evictors. We made a proclamation on a scroll and forced our way into their closed up office building (they shut down immediately when we arrived) . As the lawyers were being evicted, we provided them with a variety of services they might need to cope with this situation. We had created a lovely cardboard kiosk for Project Lawyer Connect, a takeoff on the at times paternalistic Project Homeless Connect. Project Lawyer Connect helped the evicted lawyers find much needed services such as places to get cocaine fondue, diplomatic immunity, sealskin manicures and the like. We also made a cardboard ellis act ray gun which was very popular with the demonstrators. The demo was loud and well attended and got some press coverage.
Most recently we decided to do an improved disruption of the April eviction boot camp. This time we came prepared with our EVICT THE EVICTORS banner, about fifteen people, an air horn and Kate to video the events. We waited a good twenty minutes into the presentation and then went up on stage and chanted vigorously, unfurled the banner, and refused to leave. Again vicious landlords tried to attack us. Finally after about 15 minutes of disruption we left with an air horn finale. After we left, Project Lawyer Connect’s own social worker case manger got on the stage with some helpful hints to evicted lawyers in need, which further disrupted the seminar. Meanwhile outside the park police had been called and true to racist form, they jumped Ralowe, singled out immediately for being African American and accused by vitriolic landlords of breaking a window. The police had Ralowe on the ground, handcuffed and then detained in the car, while we argued with them extensively. Ralowe of course had not broken any windows and the police finally had to concede that they had no grounds for continued “detention” and let him go. Kate posted an excellent video of the action on You Tube. This can be found under the title “racist bornstein and bornstein call cops on black protestor”
Gay Shame continues to organize and has plans to
make a ghost tour of the mission to mark places that been disappeared by
the tech invasion. There are plans in the works to protest the condo at
the 16th street plaza. Some people from Gay Shame are attending the Plaza
16 Coalition. Among the demands are “a stop to the harassment and
criminalizing of low-income people and people of color that use the Plaza
as public space by the SFPD under the guise of ‘cleaning up the
plaza.’” For info about that campaign, visit www.Plaza16.org.
STOP GENTRIFYING OUR TOWN! HOUSING IS A RIGHT!
Our dear comrade, Felix Shafer passed away on Tuesday, April 15th, after an 11-month struggle with lung cancer. He leaves so many who loved him, including his long-time partner, Miranda Bergman, his four children: Ona, Gemma, Max and Jack, as well as a gigantic extended family and community.
Felix was a revolutionary activist and internationalist, a writer and poet, a musician and a psychotherapist. He was an avid reader, a lover of film, art and every aspect of culture and counterculture. He was forever curious about the cosmos.
Felix was born in Brooklyn and, even after many decades in the San Francisco Bay Area, still considered himself a New Yorker. He was born into a radical family and learned early on to view the world through a political lens. He moved to the West Coast to attend the University of Washington and, like many others, joined SDS (Students for a Democratic Society). He actively supported the local Black Panther Party and the Black community in Seattle.
It was then that Felix began his decades long commitment to supporting and freeing political prisoners like Marilyn Buck, Geronimo Pratt, Bashir Hamid and Silvia Baraldini. He wrote, supported and visited prisoners throughout his life and often took his children with him. They were among his closest friends and comrades.
Felix moved to San Francisco in the seventies and helped to found Prairie Fire Organizing Committee. The life of this organization included a commitment to developing a politic that included a feminist and queer analysis of imperialism. As a result, Felix was a part of building a community of adults and children whose definition of family diverged from the nuclear. He was active in many solidarity movements for national liberation both inside and outside the United States. He was an ally of Black Liberation and the movements for Puerto Rican independence and Native American sovereignty. He was a passionate supporter of Palestine and was an anti-Zionist.
Felix really believed in direct action. You could often find him in the streets protesting for prisoners’ freedom or wherever the US was intervening at the time. He loved watching the uprisings in Greece and Egypt or anywhere people were fighting for self-determination.
He fervently believed in the transformative power of the people, both politically and personally. He brought this spirit into his work as a therapist. He valued the process he developed with his clients and continued this practice until the last days of his life.
Felix loved to travel. He loved to swim, camp, hike, bathe in hot springs and waterfalls and run on the sand next to the ocean.
Felix was always also a creative thinker. He could pick up any instrument and make it play. He took great pleasure in making time for and sharing food, films, books, theory, cultural critique, music and humor with his friends and family.
Among Felix’s writings is a three-part elegy for his dear friend, Marilyn Buck, written after Marilyn’s death from cancer just 19 days after her release from prison.
After his diagnosis, Felix drew in close to his family. He worked hard at bearing the unbearable circumstances of his shortened life. His family joined this work with respect and compassion. Felix never lost his sharp sense of humor, his quick tongue or his dignity. We will never forget his strength, his humanity, or his capacity to think of others while facing his own death.
Note from LAGAI:
We knew Felix for a long time, some of us for 30 years or more. We worked together, and had each other’s backs against police and right-wing attackers. We have mourned together, and celebrated together. We extend our deepest sympathies to our friends who were his closest comrades.
Avery, an African American lesbian musician who influenced the women's
music movement, died January 2014. She was 70.
The cause of death was complications from surgery."Gwen Avery
was an authentic blues and gospel singer," Linda Tillery, said in a
statement after her death. "She was raised in a juke joint, where
from an early age, she heard first hand, the sounds of Black Troubadours
weaving tales of love, passion, frustration and pleas to God – any god,
for release from Jim Crow, segregation, and the horrible legacy of racism
“Lesbian yes, Black woman yes, real deal soulful
singer, yes. Yet I wonder how many people really understood her gift? You
would have had to listen to Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Mahalia [Jackson]
to recognize the "time stamp" that marked her unique style. She
became the "Sugar Mama" of Women's Music, no longer a prisoner
of love denied but a champion of love out in the open - raw and unashamed.
That was her gift to us all.”
I first heard Gwen Avery after I moved to San Francisco in 1979. Even tho I had worked in a café/community center in Portland OR in the mid 1970’s that often featured the then-new women’s music and had performers from Olivia Records, I hadn’t seen Gwen Avery. When I did, I was thrilled. She was different from other women musicians; she was butch and spoke from a different life perspective.
An obituary in Soul Tracks said: “Avery stood apart in the Women’s Music Movement: a woman of color who understood the connection between her grandmother’s juke joint and the women’s music movement that Olivia Records was at the center of”. Avery was quoted as saying “I dressed differently. I would wear satin suits and platform shoes with an afro with neckties and beautiful silk shirts. They were wearing plaid shirts and blue jeans.” In an interview with the San Francisco Gate in 2002, she maintained that “the same issues of race and classism that confounded the early feminist and gay rights movements also infected the women’s music scene. I’ve always felt like a warrior or soldier. I’ve learned to deal with separation, isolation in the crowd, rejection in the abandonment…Olivia Records broke my heart.”
Linda Tillery; Grammy nominated singer/songwriter/producer, Mary Watkins; composer/arranger/an amazing pianist, and Gwen Avery were all featured on the 1977 album produced by Olivia, Lesbian Concentrate: A Lesbianthology of Songs and Poems. Gwen’s song Sugar Mama was one of the best, a declaration of love and passion for women who loved women. Originally signed to release a solo album on Olivia, she toured with her label mates Linda Tillery and Mary Watkins on the Varied Voices of Black Women Tour, which also featured poet Pat Parker and Vicki Randle providing supporting vocals and percussion.
Her solo album never came to be through Olivia
Records, but she continued to work on the road until her debut solo
album, Sugar Mama, was released independently 24 years later in
2001. It was an incredible album.
I went to a release party in San Francisco and Gwen herself
performed. I hadn’t seen her
in over 15 years and I was thrilled all over again. She was that good. She
spent the last decade of her life performing in the Russian River region
north of the Bay Area continuing to amaze audiences with her distinct
interpretation of the rich heritage of black music.
Pete died on January 27, at the age of 94 after a long life of grass roots radical political activism and music – the two twined together inseparably. Pete sang for and about the working people and our world. He will be missed but not mourned, he lived a long full life and would not want us to use any energy for mourning, but rather to take that energy and organize.
Many people knew Pete from his popular songs – big hits with the Weavers, like Goodnight, Irene by Lead Belly, or Union Maid sung in union halls across the country. Or from his infamous 1955 testimony at the McCarthy witch-hunts against communists/ House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC) where he refused to answer many of the Committee’s questions (and refused to rely on the 5th Amendment but insisted the questions were just improper questions):
“I have sung for Americans of every political persuasion, and I am proud that I never refuse to sing to an audience, no matter what religion or color of their skin, or situation in life. I have sung in hobo jungles, and I have sung for the Rockefellers, and I am proud that I have never refused to sing for anybody. . . . I decline to discuss, under compulsion, where I have sung, and who has sung my songs, and who else has sung with me, and the people I have known. I love my country very dearly, and I greatly resent this implication that some of the places that I have sung and some of the people that I have known, and some of my opinions, whether they are religious or philosophical, or I might be a vegetarian, make me any less of an American. I will tell you about my songs, but I am not interested in telling you who wrote them, and I will tell you about my songs, and I am not interested in who listened to them. . . . I am proud of the fact that my songs seem to cut across and find perhaps a unifying thing, basic humanity, and that is why I would love to be able to tell you about these songs, because I feel that you would agree with me more, sir. I know many beautiful songs from your home county, Carbon, and Monroe, and I hitchhiked through there and stayed in the homes of miners.”
Pete was sentenced to a year in jail for contempt of Congress but appealed his case successfully in a fight that lasted until 1962.
I saw Pete sing many times and a few stand out. When the sloop Clearwater came to our little suburban town on the Long Island Sound, as an young nature lover I was mesmerized by the boat and songs and singing along in public! A few years later I was visiting my brother at Vassar College (he was in the first class of men at the school) where the students had taken over the administration building to protest the war in Vietnam. Pete came to sing and sit with them in solidarity on the floor of the hall, not from a stage.
And it seems everyone here at UV has a Pete story. Deni sang with other kids from her camp with Pete during the anti-Vietnam War Sing-In for Peace in 1965 at Carnegie Hall in New York. Kate remembers fondly Pete standing out in the rain during one of those endless meetings at Seabrook while activists debated their strategy for a protest at the proposed nuclear power plant the next day—he didn’t sit inside in a dry tent waiting to “perform,” he was out there in a yellow slicker like everyone else.
Bibi Netanyahu says BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) is not hurting israel’s economy. It’s politically insignificant and not gaining traction. At the same time, BDS is an existential threat to israel, and the government is crafting a global strategy to counter it, including PR materials, Mossad-led surveillance, lawsuits and pressuring its allies to enact legislation against BDS. Some of that legislative approach has already manifested in this country: laws were introduced in the Maryland and New York Assemblies to deny state funding to any group advocating BDS. Both were subsequently withdrawn, following protests from academics about free speech issues, but the New York version has been re-introduced.
In early March, the bipartisan Protect Academic Freedom Act was introduced in the U.S. house of representatives. According to sponsor Illinois congressman Peter Roskam, the bill is “to address the growing threat of unjustified boycotts against the Jewish State of Israel. In December 2013, the American Studies Association (ASA) became the second major educational organization to adopt an academic boycott of Israel. This measure would block federal funding for American universities engaging in a boycott of Israeli academic institutions or scholars to ensure that taxpayer dollars are not used to fund bigoted attacks against Israel that undermine the fundamental principles of academic freedom.”
In his March 2014 address to AIPAC, Netanyahu spent almost half the time talking about the threat posed by BDS. They’re worried about BDS because, contrary to what it might look like, BDS is winning. (Remember the old saying, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they crack down on you, then you win.”)
Here are some of the victories BDS has won over the last few months:
· Massive pressure from the US Campaign to End the Occupation and other groups got Oxfam to demand that Scarlett Johansson choose between them and SodaStream, the home seltzer maker manufactured in an illegal West Bank settlement. She chose SodaStream. We never liked her movies and anyway a lot of them are by Woody Allen of child molestation fame, so no big loss.
· Days before Earth Day, the national Earth Day Network, which was coordinating hundreds of local environmentalist events, dropped SodaStream from their list of sponsors.
· In April, an appeals court upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit claiming that the Olympia Food Coop’s boycott of Israeli goods was unlawful.
· In November of last year, the UN General Assembly designated 2014 as the UN International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian people.
· In late May, DePaul University students voted 54% to 46% in favor of a referendum calling for divestment from companies “that profit from Israel’s discriminatory practices and human rights violations.”
· In a potentially precedent-setting move, Dutch pension fund PGGM announced on January 13 that it is divesting from 5 of Israel’s biggest banks due to their deep involvement in Israeli violations of international law. The fund manages the pensions of 2.5 million people. Media reports now suggest that other European banks are considering similar steps.
· In early January, high profile Norwegian singer Moddi announced that he was cancelling his performance in Tel Aviv out of respect for the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel and following appeals from activists in Gaza.
· Last year, award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair declined to show THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST at the Haifa Film Festival.
Despite all these BDS wins, the San Francisco LGBT International Film Festival, Frameline, still can’t see the writing on the wall and is determined to be the last comic standing in Sun City.
Executive Director KC Price left abruptly after last year’s festival, ostensibly “to pursue other opportunities.” Although we haven’t been able to confirm it, we’re pretty positive it’s really because he wanted to end the festival’s partnership with the israeli consulate, which was renewed in 2010 after a two-year hiatus.
The new acting executive director, Frances Wallace, refused a request from a group of Arab queers to meet about the issue, saying, “It is vital for Frameline to continue its long tradition of providing cross-cultural opportunities to LGBT works of cinema from all around the world, and we do not favor boycotts that negate this presentation of art or diminish this cultural dialogue. Frameline’s response represents the organization, and has been very carefully considered and discussed over many years now.”
In response, Arab-American filmmaker Happy Hyder withdrew her short film, “Once Upon a Time” from consideration. Canadian filmmaker Alexis Mitchell, whose short film “Break” had been accepted for screening, withdrew it, saying, “I have always wanted to show work with Frameline and I have been waiting for a chance to visit the festival, it's a great, great honor to be invited. Unfortunately, I'm quite disappointed that the festival continues to accept funds from the Israeli Nation-State…. Until Frameline agrees to not accept funding from the Israeli State, I cannot exhibit work with your festival.”
John Greyson has announced that he is withdrawing his 1995 film “Urinal” from Frameline’s distribution. Frameline has distributed the film for 20 years. Greyson, whose picture graced Frameline’s website last summer when he and his friend, Tareq Loubani, were imprisoned for two months in Egypt, joins Sonja deVries, who withdrew her film “Gay Cuba” from Frameline distribution four years ago. At the time, “Gay Cuba” was Frameline’s top grossing film.
While protesting outside Frameline’s press briefing at the end of May, we heard that the film “Kate Bornstein: A Queer and Pleasant Danger” is not screening at Frameline because of their israeli sponsorship. The film, directed by Sam Feder, previously received a Frameline completion grant. We have not gotten confirmation on the reason, but it is true that the film is not being shown at Frameline and is instead screening at SF DocFest, also known as IndieFest on Saturday, June 14 at the Roxie. Go see it!
QUIT!, Gay Shame and other friends are working on an alternative film festival next summer, showcasing the work of these and other courageous queer directors who have spoken up in support of BDS. Meanwhile, we will be showing clips and images outside the Castro Theater on Saturday night, June 21, the first weekend of Frameline.
Dedicated readers of UV may remember my earlier rants about exfoliation and defoliation and other rants about plastic pollution in the oceans but now these two subjects have come together in new, unexpected, and awful synchronicities.
Microbeads sound harmless enough, maybe even a bit high-tech sexy? But they turn out to be a nightmare for our oceans and lakes – a completely unneeded “tech fix” to a non-problem. Microbeads are finely ground plastics added to face wash, toothpaste, and other products to help scrub skin and teeth — exfoliating is just a fancy name for scrubbing after all, you could use a wash cloth or ground up almonds or oats or cornmeal, a bit of clay or baking soda on your teeth and get the same results. But natural solutions are never good enough for the cosmetics and soap industry—why use a biodegradable, safe product when you can get people to buy plastic trash to wash their faces with?
If it were just one more consumer rip-off maybe I wouldn’t care, but these microbeads are designed to wash down the drain and many millions (really billions) are passing through sewer systems right into our rivers, lakes, and oceans adding to the plastic soup ingested by fish, mussels, oysters, reptiles, marine mammals and even plankton! (http://beatthemicrobead.org/en/science ) They are traveling up the food chain into birds and other mammals (like humans!). And each bottle of face wash is packed with microbeads-- up to 300,000 in one jar.
This is the type of pollution that will be nearly impossible to clean up but it doesn’t get the big headlines (although npr ran a story recently). Some dedicated groups have been leading the charge to ban the use of microbeads (check out http://5gyres.org/how_to_get_involved/campaigns/) and they have had some recent small successes with some company’s pledging not to use microbeads or “phase them out” (this pisses me off actually, they could just stop tomorrow!). There is also legislation in California that would ban their sale after 2019 -- AB-1699 Waste management: microplastics (but really, why wait so long?!). But we need to do much more, get informed and tell everyone you know; don’t buy these products and tell the companies why; support legislation if you do that kind of thing, and go back to basics. If you want to feel squeaky clean and scrubbed, pick up a wash cloth for your face or keep a box of baking soda in the bathroom for your teeth…. Don’t use plastic trash!!
Turning from exfoliants to defoliants (OK it might be a theme since I paired these two in UV way back when), I am writing this column early Saturday morning May 24 as the 2014 March Against Monsanto is rolling out across the globe: from Bangalore to Buenos Aires to Kauai to Oulu Finland (and yes of course in San Francisco, LA, New York, and all the usual venues). It’s not news that Monsanto is an eco-criminal destroying food crops through genetic engineering and spewing deadly poisonous herbicides and pesticides across the planet, among other things, but somehow, they still manage to reach for new lows— adding 2,4 D (a major component of Agent Orange) to the herbicides sprayed on “ready” GMO crops—industrial “food” crops engineered to survive heavy use of toxic herbicides so that nothing else will grow in the same fields and “compete”. No really, I could not make this stuff up! As the Children of Vietnam Veteran’s Alliance put it “Today, half of Agent Orange’s chemical compound, 2, 4D, and other pesticides like roundup, are the chemicals being sprayed on GMO (genetically modified organism) crops, resulting in triple the danger of food that is not organic. Imagine what happens to a body already exposed to Agent Orange, like the countless Vietnam Veterans and their children, when consuming these GMO pesticides and foods.” (http://www.march-against-monsanto.com/p/chemical-warfare.html and you can watch a fun video from last year’s march focused on the GMO labeling fight http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=LICQCxq1FqU ). Of course Monsanto’s buddies at Dow don’t want to be left out and are now petitioning the EPA to allow them to add even more 2-4 D to herbicides. http://dow-watch.org/
When I first heard of the prison abolition movement in the US I thought yeah, right, that will never happen. The Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) is so entrenched and embedded in every aspect of our lives. But, the more I read Critical Resistance’s work the more I thought, why not?
Critical Resistance (CR) formed in 1997 to work towards ending the Prison Industrial Complex by challenging the belief that caging and controlling people makes us safe. There are chapters in several cities around the US that have joined in this effort. Angela Davis is a spokesperson for the group. Critical Resistance believes that the basic necessities of food, shelter and freedom are what makes a community secure.
Prison abolition makes sense because it is about envisioning and building a good world for everyone, not a better world because better would probably still not be a good world for a lot of people. CR’s strategy for abolition starts small and slowly builds to the dream that someday there will be mechanisms in place that deal with harm (their word for crime) by support and not punishment. “Abolition is about having a vision that seeks to change the social and economic conditions that lead to violence…Instead of punishment…people should have appropriate forms of support ranging from supervision to social and economic resources.”
The Abolitionist Movement approaches solutions to violence from a very humane perspective. When violence happens it is often within families or neighborhoods. And those who commit violence have often been victims of harm too. To end these violent cycles we need support and accountability, not punishment. Abolitionists are working on alternatives to keep people safe when there is immediate danger and for always.
Instead of calling the cops, abolitionists suggest calling a neighbor, family member or friend who can get to you quickly and help calm things down. This may not be a perfect solution but we know that calling the police makes the situation worse for everyone.
Prison abolition and prison reform are different. Abolitionists do not always see reform as a good if it only serves the prison system. It’s necessary to look at prison reform and realize what is helpful to prisoners and their supporters and what reforms just prolong the prison system. For example, providing quality healthcare to prisoners is good and very much needed now. Moving prisoners from one state prison to another to alleviate overcrowding does nothing.
Transformative justice is an alternative practice used instead of punishment and prison. Its main goal is to repair harm. Prisons are defined by punishment, racism, profit-seeking and control. Transformative justice is built by striving for accountability, equality, cooperation, understanding, sharing, and self-determination. Transformative justice places the power to respond to harm back into the hands of the people most affected. This is different than restorative justice, a commonly used alternative practice that doesn’t make sense in communities where there never was justice in the first place.
If we can work for years and years to have a world without war and nuclear weapons, why not envision a world without prisons? This might seem impossible but it’s not. It will take a lot of people a lifetime of work. I looked up information on families of murder victims who are against the death penalty while I was writing this article and came across this quote by Aqeela Sherrills: “We have redefined what peace is and what it looks like in this community. Peace is not this utopian idea of dashing through a field of dandelions; it’s hard work. The key is that individuals consistently come back to resolve their conflicts and take the next few steps towards peace.”
For more about PIC abolition see www.criticalresistance.org or write to National Office, 1904 Franklin Street Suite 504, Oakland, CA 94612.
LAGAI receives many letters from prisoners every month. A large proportion are from transgender people and the stories they report are horrendous and heart-breaking. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 35% of black transgender people have been incarcerated simply due to anti-trans bias, compared to 4% of white respondents. It also found that black trans women were sexually assaulted in jail at a rate of 38%, compared to 12% of white trans women prisoners. In the u.s. 2.7% of the population have been sent to prison, but for transgender people, that number is 16%
Black and Pink, 565 Boylston St. Boston MA 02116
2. T.G.I. (Transgender, Gender Variant, Intersex) Justice Project, 324 9th St. #202B, San Francisco CA 94103. Write for details.
3. T.I.P. Journal, Gender Identity Center of Colorado. 115 S. Huron St. Denver CO 80223 Newsletter for Transgender Prisoners.
4. TranZmission Prison Books, PO Box 1874, Asheville NC 28802 Free books, resources for queer and transgender, pen pals in south only, not a dating service.
5. Write to Win Collective, 2040 Milwaukee Ave. Chicago IL 60647. Gay pen pal listings for Midwestern states only.
6. Hearts on a Wire, PO Box 36831, Philadelphia PA 19107 Pennsylvania Trans prisoner support.
7. Transgender Law Center, 870 Market St room 400, San Francisco CA 94102. Transgender legal rights, free info.
8. Sylvia Rivera Law Project, 147 W. 24th St. 5th Fl. New York, NY 10011 Free civil legal services and a pen pal program to transgender/intersex prisoners in New York.
9. Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois, 4707 N Broadway, #307 Chicago IL 60640 Provides free criminal and civil legal services for transgender and gender non-conforming people targeted by the in-justice system in Illinois. Holistic support and connections, publishes the zine, Hidden Expressions, by and for Transgender people in prison.
10. LGBT Books to Prisoners, c/o Rainbow Book Cooperative, 426 W Gilman St. Madison WI 53703, sends book/educational materials free to LGBTQ prisoners across the u.s.
I keep Losing Contact with the outside! You seem to be the only publication I can count on!
Your article ‘Brown Contracts for Cages’ [UV, winter 2014] was of interest. We have both GEO [Group, formerly Wackenhut Securities] and CCA [Correction Corporation of America] prisons in Arizona! In fact, at the present time, the Arizona Dept. of Corrections is transferring prisoners to both CCA and GEO from THIS yard.
There were 52 beds in our dorm – a dorm built for 26 beds – they double-bunked the dorm – but, not the facilities. So, we have 52 guys sharing three showers and three toilets! Now, they are moving people to GEO and CCA. Your article was right on! The last paragraph, “This article only scratches the surface”, you don’t know from a fraction of it! They hold “Fundraisers”. Companies donate product (tax write-off) and charge us outrageous prices. Then the staff has a barbeque at the end with the ‘Funds’.
I pray everyday that I don’t get caught up in a move thing. Plus the guys that have come from GEO and CCA have lost their “good-time”. Incidentally – it seems that these “Fundraisers” happen only when they do moves! A lot of guys lose out on both their money and whatever product they bought. If you are moved, too bad.
How much notice do they give us before we are moved? If you are lucky, the night before. The guys moved today were told this morning and 4 hours later, they were gone! The latest ”Fundraiser” was in connection with Little Caesars. Anyway, I wish I had more info to send you about CCA and GEO. I’m trapped and just a pawn in this governmental money-making scheme real people.
That’s all for now – I look forward to the next issue.
Jon Benson #222301, ASPC: Florence-Eyman, Unit Cook 4C-15, Florence AZ 85132.
by Chaya and Deni
Omar (review by Deni)
This film by Hany Abu-Assad, a Palestinian director who also made the excellent 2005 film Paradise Now, is a must see. But despite being nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and winning many international awards, it was in movie theaters very briefly. (Go figure.) It’s a wrenching, poignant, and tense film that left me stunned. Omar (superbly played by Adam Bakri) lives in the Occupied Territories and works as a Palestinian baker. He must regularly climb over the apartheid wall, both to see his girlfriend Nadja (Leem Lubany) and to meet with her brother and friends in their roles as freedom fighters against the Israelis. The film’s plot and character twists explore his life under occupation as an activist, with constant moral/political/relationship questions and dilemmas. The striking cinematography of the film makes the physical experience of the occupation very real. The film isn’t perfect – I had some questions about male/female roles and the reality of some of the plot twists. But see this film if you can. It’s remarkable.
We Come As Friends (seen at SF International Film Festival) (review by Deni)
Directed by award winning documentarian Hubert Sauper, this film about South Sudan is compelling, informative, and devastating in its portrayal of the neocolonialist exploitation of this new country. To quote one reviewer, “This film is an instructional in how imperialism in Africa has not died off, but merely taken on a new form.” The “tour” of the impoverished country and its struggles is horrific. The information about a Chinese oil company taking 300,000 barrels/day while polluting ground water, and of Texas evangelical Christians colonizing the land and “civilizing” the people, was hard to watch. But see this film if you can.
Finding Vivian Maier (review by Chaya and Deni)
This documentary by amateur historian John Maloof traces his unexpected discovery of thousands of undeveloped photos taken by an extraordinary but totally unknown photographer, Vivian Maier, who worked as a nanny in mostly upscale Chicago suburbs in the 1960s and 70s. Her photos are remarkable. As the story unfolds, we learn about her troubled life. The film was slightly disjointed, but interesting and moving. Maier’s many photographs poignantly captured regular people in their lives.
Frozen (review by Deni)
This is one of the few Disney movies I’ve seen in quite a while. Basically I’ve hated all things Disney since I got over Annette on Spin and Marty. And that was before I even knew Walt was a rabid anti-communist and general reactionary. But while visiting family, I watched Frozen on TV with a room full of children who’d seen it many times before, which made the experience both better and worse. Better because I love the kids, and worse because I kept wondering what impact this movie and all these Disney movies have on them.
Disney spent over $250 million on making and marketing Frozen and had a very deliberate campaign to market it to boys (giving no hint that it was a musical because presumably that’s too girlie). The film has made over $1.2 billion worldwide gross. Gross is right. Disney’s marketing strategy was designed to trick boys and parents into seeing a girl movie so Disney could get even bigger revenues. This was to make up for Disney’s 2009 monetary failure The Princess and the Frog. Disney’s marketing to girls seems to be going quite well also. The film’s success has led to a global shortage of licensed goods, forcing desperate parents to stalk stores and websites for the elusive dolls, plush toys and dresses that in some cases have sold for hundreds of dollars over retail price. Again, gross.
So many things about the film were truly awful but I was drawn into watching it, partly wondering how much worse various aspects could get. The film was very loosely based on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, a fairy tale with many strong female characters. But Disney took most of the females out, replaced them with boys and men (remember that part about marketing to boys?), and created two princess sisters (older Elsa and younger Anna) as the only female characters. Other awful parts of the film: the kewpie-doll looks of the girls/young women characters, the older sister having magic power that was harmful and uncontrollable (eeewww, those strong women are always trouble!), the relentless hetero-normative romanticism, and the unacknowledged class aspect of the royalty and the commoners. Extremely disturbing was the scene when older sister Elsa decides to claim her power and “be who she is” (in the Oscar-winning song Let It Go), which must of course include Elsa’s transformation from “frowsy old fashioned girl” to slinky blonde. Of course, women have the right to dress and look however they want, but there’s no way that Elsa could be a powerful, self-realized young Disney woman in a dress that covered her all up. The contradiction in her singing about “breaking the rules” while transforming to match the Disney norm for women’s looks was deeply upsetting. All that being said, I must confess I was relieved (spoiler alert if you care) that it was love between the sisters that saved Anna’s life, and not being kissed by her boyfriend. And yes, that’s a low bar for what made it better, given all the other crap in this movie. The pro-independence lyrics Elsa sings in Let It Go: “It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through. No right, no wrong, no rules for me. I'm free!” could actually mean something if they weren’t part of the ongoing normative Disnification of the world.
BITS AND PIECES
CHRISTIANS TAKE HOLLYWOOD! What’s with the recent horde of Christian-themed movies and tv shows, you might be asking yourself. Whether they are low-budget movies or big star blockbusters, they make profits. Big profits. In the beginning there was Noah, starring Russell Crowe. Controversial for many reasons, it cost $125 million and grossed $350 million worldwide. Resurrection is a fantasy tv series about dead people who return to life, coproduced by Brad Pitt. (Really Brad??) Ratings have been good and it’s been renewed for a second season. Heaven Is for Real, starring Greg Kinnear, is the true story of the 4 year old son of a Nebraska pastor, who says he experienced heaven during surgery. (Most people don’t feel that way about their hospital experiences!) It only cost $12 million and grossed $83 million domestically. God's Not Dead apparently resembles a popular urban legend of a Christian student debating an atheist professor, and winning in front of the class. (Must’ve been a charter school…) It scored a whopping 17% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The budget was $2 million but its US gross is $60 million. And coming this fall: Left Behind -- an apocalyptic biblical thriller of the hours immediately following the rapture (silly us, we thought it was the Democratic Party’s directive to all progressives); The Song, a musical love story based on the Song of Solomon; and Ridley Scott’s Exodus: Gods and Kings, starring Christian Bale as Moses (living in his Bat Cave in the desert). Can’t wait. So what’s the common thread here? Go God! Make big bucks!
FAST-TRACKED SAINTS TAKE VATICAN! Pope Francis took some shortcuts to fast track John Paul 2 and Pious 23 to sainthood. Harrumph! What happened to the requirement of 2 vetted AND verified miracles? And it’s not as easy as you might think to go from pope to saint, only 5 popes in the last 1,000 years have made it! We are delighted to present the Washington Post’s “So You Wanna Be a Saint?” quiz. Good luck! (By the way, popehood is not even a prerequisite, in case you were worried.) 1. Are you Catholic? 2. Are you dead? 3. Did you do a lot of selfless, benevolent good works during your lifetime? 4. Are you a martyr? (bonus points for that). 5. Are you responsible for a posthumous miracle? (must be after you died). That’s it! HINT: All answers are required to be ‘yes.’ So -- how did you do?
SUPREME’S TAKE FIRST AMENDMENT! The US Supreme Court recently ruled that a New York town’s custom of beginning its government meetings with prayer does not violate the constitutional separation of church and state. Thank you, Justice Kennedy, for swinging the vote the wrong way, and writing that the town’s practice was nonsectarian and not designed to exclude anyone. Really! Even worse, Kennedy wrote: “Ceremonial prayer is but a recognition that, since this nation was founded and until the present day, many Americans deem that their own existence must be understood by precepts far beyond that authority of government to alter or define.” Actually, many Americans deem that Justice Kennedy can’t even write a comprehensible sentence – no wonder he can’t uphold the separation of church and state! But accepting as he is, Kennedy will have no truck with prayers that take jabs at non-theists, make threats of damnation, or call for conversions. Jeez – what fun is that! And how about adherents of no religion, god damnit! And how far reaching will this decision be? Will public prayer – Christian, of course – find Supreme Court blessing in other settings, like sporting events? As the joke says, “What’s the difference between a supreme court justice and god? God doesn’t think she’s a supreme court justice.” Ba Da Boom.
HAVING TROUBLE GETTING THAT FEDERAL JUDGESHIP? Try writing a sensitive memo for the president. Turned out to be a great career path for David Barron, a Harvard law professor who just got confirmed by the Senate for the US Court of Appeals. So how did he do it? Apparently his memos for Obama that provided the constitutional basis for the US to conduct extra-judicial drone execution of American terrorist suspects overseas were very appreciated by Obama. So appreciated, in fact, that Obama nominated Barron for the second highest court in our land. The Obama administration tried to prevent Barron’s memos from being released. But after a recent court ruling, Obama decided not to oppose the release of a censored version of one of Barron’s memos. Sounds like kind of a low bar there. During Senate floor remarks, Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey said: "Barron is ... certainly not responsible for the administration's drone policy or the decisions to authorize an attack," but Markey forgot to mention that under the Obama administration, targeted killings have expanded. Markey continued,"He [Barron] is a lawyer who was asked to do legal analysis for his client: the president of the United States." Markey also forgot to mention the 2011 targeted drone killing of Anwar al-Awlaki (an American) in Yemen, who was put on the CIA kill list by Obama. Three other Americans have been killed with drones overseas, but they were not targeted. Just that good old collateral damage. Democracy in action in a free and open society!
COMING SOON: GEORGE CLOONEY IN “ZIONISM UNMASKED!” News is filling the gossip columns this spring of George Clooney’s engagement to Amal Alamuddin, a renowned British Lebanese human rights attorney (representing WikiLeaks Julian Assange among others). Alamuddin’s mother, Baria, an award-winning journalist, is also a long-time friend of the family of the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, and recently interviewed his widow. Could the relationship between Clooney and Almuddin be a crack in the Zionist lockdown in Hollywood, which has prevented most liberals and progressives in the film industry from stepping forward on the issue of justice in Palestine? Check the Mocha Column for future gossip.
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The Center for Investigative Reporting found in a study last year that between 2006 and 2010 prison doctors signed up over 150 female inmates to get their “tubes tied” while they were pregnant in order to avoid future pregnancies. For almost a hundred years since the 1927 Supreme Court ruling Buck v. Bell, “forcible sterilization” on prisoners has been backed by U.S. law. While federal funding for the procedure has already been banned, the california department of corrections and rehabilitation (doesn’t sound like rehabilitation to us) allegedly allocated state funds toward paying physicians $147,460 to perform the procedures.
This month, a bill was presented to the California Senate Health Committee that aims to “close loopholes” that allowed the tubal sterilization to occur without state medical officials’ approval. The bill further requires inmates to have access to a second medical opinion, psychological consultation and medical follow-ups.
Courtney Hooks, Justice Now's campaign and communications director said, "The bill aims to try to find a way to reinforce and enhance the existing law so people can be protected." While Hooks sees the bill as a step in the right direction, she doesn't think it holds the key to ending abuses. "We need to look at how we can reduce the number of people who are vulnerable to these kinds of abuses and that's by reducing the number of people in prison”.
The next step is for the bill to pass through the Senate Public Safety Committee, which is expected to happen in the coming weeks.
Sign the petition: colorofchange.org/prisoner-sterilization or write to all and any callifornia senators and let them know you support this bill.
On May 15 Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International issued a report on Uganda’s anti-homosexuality law. The bill, passed in December 2013, became effective March 10. It permits sentences of life in prison for some sexual acts, and criminalizes the “promotion” of homosexuality. This provision was used as the excuse for a police raid on a joint u.s. government-Makerere University HIV research and intervention program (no, don’t let’s get started on drug company/us government research and interventions on HIV in Africa). People who don’t report homosexuals to the police, landlords who rent to gay men and lesbians, can face criminal charges. In the first three months of 2014 at least 100 people have fled the country, one transperson was murdered, there have been numerous reported rapes and sexual assaults including assaults by police on people who were arrested, LGBTI people have been fired from jobs, have been evicted, HIV services have been closed down, officials and police have demanded and collected bribes.
When the law was passed, noted human rights advocate and president of the u.s.a. barack obama, criticized the law, calling it a “step backwards” for all Ugandans. He said the administration has already moved to shift funding away from partners “whose actions don’t reflect” u.s. values. According to the Washington Post, this includes $6.4 million that had been designated for the Interreligious Council of Uganda (IRCU), which supported the legislation.
The IRCU and other religious-based NGOs serving 88 countries receive money through PEPFAR (the president’s emergency program for AIDS relief). PEPFAR was started in 2003, and reauthorized in 2008. When it was started, PEPFAR funded programs were required to spend 1/3 of their funds on programs encouraging abstinence until marriage and were required to sign an anti-prostitution and anti-trafficking pledge. In 2008, the specific requirements for abstinence were softened, although the focus on abstinence and anti-prostitution programs remained. The u.s. supreme kkkourt found the abstinence provision unconstitutional in 2013. Significant modifications to the program were made in 2008-10, including greater partnerships with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the ground.
The bush administration agenda encouraging government funding of faith-based” services combined with the abstinence and other PEPFAR requirements meant that PEPFAR funding was destined to go to religious NGOs. In 2012 obama’s state department issued the report, A Firm Foundation, which lauded the success of PEPFAR through faith-based organizations. In 2013 the u.s. agency for international development (usaid), looked into charges that PEPFAR money was directly funding the anti-gay campaign and concluded, without conducting an audit, that PEPFAR money wasn’t being used for that purpose.
The point is not whether specific PEPFAR dollars went into the anti-gay campaign. PEPFAR funding is channeled through IRCU and similar organizations and establishes networks of local services groups who receive resources through the Christian organizations, and who are beholden to them. Some Ugandan HIV service organizations have urged obama not to discontinue funding to IRCU because of a lack of infrastructure to support patients receiving treatment. So far the obama administration plans to continue to send over $2 million to IRCU, while shifting $6.5 million to other groups. According to Buzzfeed more than half of the 88 countries that receive PEPFAR support have anti-gay laws.
Meanwhile, mr. “I will close down Guantanamo” obama sees no problem in palling around with the sultan of brunei, who has recently imposed his version of sharia law, which includes provisions such as stoning adulterers and homosexuals to death. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have noted that women are much more likely than men to be given extreme penalties under this type of system. However, brunei has access to the oil in the China Sea and is therefore one of the administration’s most valued partners in the somewhat secretive negotiations on the trans pacific partnership (TPP), which will also include Malaysia, which has its own anti-gay laws. Hollywood celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres have advocated a boycott of the hotels owned by the brunei investment agency (BIA), including the Beverly Hills Hotel. For many years labor advocates have been trying to get attention to BIA for their union-busting activities. (UV is pleased to note that, being ahead of our time, neither we nor our readers have ever stayed at these ultra-expensive “dorchester collection of hotels.”)
Some anti-imperialist activists, and lots of “progressive” apologists, have said that u.s. and european queers should refrain from criticizing anti-woman and anti-queer policies in Africa and Asia, due to the historic relationships of colonialism and imperialism. This is not a new argument. When Cuba adopted an anti-gay policy in 1970, various groups in the u.s., including the venceremos brigade and the revolutionary union, argued that it was cultural imperialism for u.s. activists to criticize those policies, or to be queer in Cuba. But as Michael Mumisa wrote in his February 19, 2014 article in the Guardian, It is homophobia, not homosexuality, that is alien to traditional African culture, “Any person with the time to study the history of sexuality in traditional African cultures will discover that this claim [that homosexuality came to Africa with European colonialism ]is baseless. Indeed, the history of sexuality in traditional African societies has always been characterised by diversity in sexual practices and identities. Homosexual practices and identities are not new to Africa. What is new is the campaign for LGBT rights that has arisen in reaction to the revival of a homophobic legal and religious tradition inherited from European colonialism.”
Mumisa notes that African Muslim and Christian preachers, strongly backed by American Christian organizations, created the movement against queer rights in Nigeria and Uganda which have resulted in the recent government actions. “The dehumanisation of members of the gay community across Africa has been justified by invoking both God and traditional African culture. However, for over a century the same religious groups now claiming to be the custodians of traditional African cultures have been at the centre of programmes to systematically efface Africa's traditional cultures on grounds that, in their view, such cultures are un-Christian and un-Islamic. Thus, the position adopted by many of Africa's political and religious elites on issues relating to LGBT rights owes more to their colonial religious education than it does to their traditional African roots.” Mumisa points out that anti-sodomy laws in Africa had their origins in the British empire’s desire to “stem what they thought of as the sexual immorality of African cultures.”
According to a June 25, 2013 report from Amnesty International, 38 countries (out of 55) in sub-Saharan Africa criminalize homosexuality. Homosexuality may be punishable by death in Mauritania, Sudan, northern Nigeria and southern Somalia. (The Ugandan law had originally included the death penalty but it was later modified to life imprisonment.) The Amnesty report notes that most of the laws are directly inherited from colonial laws. Other u.s. allies with anti-gay laws include Singapore, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Qatar, U.A.E., Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Kenya.
LAGAI was started over 20 years ago to support the liberation struggles in central america against u.s. imperialism. One of our founding points of unity was to support the struggles of queers in central and south america, but we have always supported queer and women’s struggles all over the world. There are times when the u.s. and other colonialists have cynically declared that they are the champions of women’s (and occasionally gay) rights in order to support their military and economic invasions. But as revolutionaries in the u.s., we do not see a contradiction between supporting anti-imperialist struggles and demanding the rights and safety of women and queers in all cultures.
We demand that the u.s. government stop funding anti-queer and anti-woman organizations all over the world, and support secular programs to prevent and treat HIV and other diseases.
Health care offered at VA facilities seems to be generally acknowledged as top-notch. A problem for many of those people qualified for this health care is that there isn’t enough of it to go around. Apparently the people who decided to make more wars hadn’t quite appreciated that more wars means more veterans, but there were no plans to accommodate the increasing number of veterans seeking health care through the VA. The VA’s annual budget comes to about $155 billion (Kaiser’s is about $50 billion).
That last comparison is made to illustrate that there is a lot of money being put out for health care in this country. There is so much money put into the health care industry that there is no reason why anyone should not be able to receive quality health care and the kind they want.
Artificial borders are drawn between health care conglomerates (VA, Kaiser, Blue Shield, etc.) for many of the same reasons they are drawn between countries and communities. They are meant to keep people under control, to meter out such basic human rights as health care, making this right a privilege.
People are lured into the military with promises of future benefits. But these benefits have never been fully realized, ever. People are told that health care will be available when they become veterans. But not for those vets who don’t qualify for it (another border). And for those who do qualify for VA’s health care, well good luck getting it.
There is no good reason why anyone everywhere should not be able to get the care they want, where they want.