BOSTON, CT --Q is no longer a letter, according to the Alphabetical Society of America earlier this week. “It has been demoted to a punctuation mark,” said ASA spokesman Wally Fire, speaking at a press conference alongside Christian Coalition maven Louise Sheldon. Sheldon hailed the ASA decision as a major step toward reestablishing the rule of God.
“See how popular ‘Ueer as Folk’ and ‘Ueer Eye for the Straight Guy’ will be,” Sheldon gloated, noting that Blockbuster has been unable to give away copies of “Breakfast on Neptune.”
The demotion of the Planet formerly known as Pluto and the Letter formerly known as Q were the first salvos in a bold new strategy to reorder the World, Sheldon revealed. “Winning the hearts and minds was just taking too long,” Sheldon admitted. “We realized that planetary realignment was the way to go. Pluto was a test run. Today we begin going after the Big Fish – Uranus!” On cue, two rows of audience members stood up and removed their outer garments, revealing t-shirts reading, “Keep Uranus Off Our Heavenly Bodies.”
In related news, Mattel announced yesterday that Massachusetts has been excised from its Game of the States, the Rod and Gun Clubs of America determined that Rainbow is not a Trout, the Dewey Decimal Association declared The Well of Loneliness a novella and Pope Benedict ruled that Mohammed will no longer be referred to as a prophet.
Ecosystem blues. Like most UV readers I recycle, purchase items with less packaging, choose locally grown organic food when possible, walk, bike, or take public transit when possible, so why do I still feel responsible for global warming and other ecohorrors? The answer is, because I am. Just by virtue of living even my less than lavish queer urban lifestyle I’m still part of the problem. Guilt is completely pointless (unless perhaps it spurs one to action). So here are a few musings on questions asked by UV readers.
Q. If I need a new car should a get a hybrid or a diesel?
A. The best choice is the new small diesel cars out of Europe or a retrofitted older diesel that can run on biodiesel made from used vegetable oil. If you go on long trips biodiesel 100 can be a bit hard to find but with most models you can always substitute regular diesel in a pinch. This is not the cheapest fuel but the miles per gallon are generally pretty high and it is the least polluting alternative. Next would be the small hybrids (a hybrid SUV barely gets the milage of a regular sedan!), these use regular gas and get great milage and you can go anywhere. If you only drive short distances then an electric car would be a great idea but there really aren’t any around. (Although I haven’t yet seen “who killed the electric car?” the trailer certainly looked entertaining).
Q. Which is better, putting food scraps in the garbage disposal or the garbage?
A. I was helping out with a lovely fundraiser for native plant preservation when someone said to put the seeds from a cantaloupe down in the garbage disposal, when I realized there is not yet complete agreement on this question. The best choice is composting vege-food scraps in your own back yard or if you live in a town that has curbside compost (like San Francisco) you can compost all food scraps, garden timings, soiled paper plates, paper napkins, etc. (I know the buckets can get dirty and smelly but that really isn’t a good excuse.) The more waste that is kept out of land fills the better! The next best thing is actually to throw it in the trash¼ adding organic content to the waste water stream through the garbage disposal increases the demands on waste treatment facilities including increasing the amount of chemicals that need to be used to treat waste water. Where treated waste water is dumped into streams and lakes it also increases the growth of algae that imbalance the natural stream ecology.
Speaking of wastewater ¼ studies in recent years show that the expanded use of pharmaceuticals by the human population (including high levels of estrogen and endocrine disrupting chemicals) is increasingly showing up in treated wastewater and from there entering and persisting in streams, lakes, bays, and groundwater. This has several potentially severe impacts on the environment and humans. Impacts on native fish and mollusks have been documented including a shift in the balance of sex-assignment in fish (more females, males developing egg precursors). Impacts on native plants and other wildlife are unknown. Currently treated waste water is used in many areas directly on landscaping – indeed for “green” golf courses this is a common place practice. But we really don’t know the ultimate impact of these uses. Although greatly diluted, these chemicals are inevitably going to wind up back in drinking water in many areas.
Speaking of waste water . . . Last week the Save the Peaks – a coalition of native american tribes and environmental groups fighting Forest Service plans to pump treated wastewater up onto the San Francisco Peaks in Northern Arizona that are sacred to tribes throughout the southwest to make snow for a failing ski area – brought their struggle to our own San Francisco and a hearing on their legal challenge at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Many elders and other activists came from Arizona and New Mexico to witness the proceedings and were welcomed by local activists. The issue is made even more critical because this would be the very first ski area in the country to make snow solely with treated wastewater. The groups claim that Forest Service failed to do a thorough review of the potential environmental impacts (surprise!). In addition, although the government acknowledged that the mountains are sacred to many tribes, it unlawfully ignored the concerns raised by the tribes that using treated wastewater on the mountain would desecrate the tribes’ religious and spiritual beliefs. Check out the great website and photos of the SF demo at www.savethepeaks.org.
Without taking any position on the issue of gender balance in the human species, or the purposeful use of hormones by LGBTQ folks, menopausal women, or for birth control, it is clear that spreading these hormones around through the ecosystem is a very bad idea. While it make take time to develop wastewater treatment that can neutralize the effects of hormones, endocrine disrupters and other pharmaceutical by products, in the interim we must prevent this wastewater being spread in the few remaining natural areas we have preserved – including our national forests— and honor both the biological integrity of these areas and their sacred status for native americans.
Sacred Site/Shellmound Peace Walk
Indian People Organizing for Change, (IPOC), and SSP&RIT
October 9-21 2006
Beginning at Solano Community College in Fairfield traveling through the Bay Area ending at the Kule Loko Round House in Pt Reyes
Indian People Organizing for Change along with Vallejo Intertribal/SSP&RIT invites all to join in a journey of walk and prayer to remember our ancestors that lived on this land for thousands of years. The walk will be led by traditional Native American leaders and Nipponzan Myohoji Buddhist. We will walk and pray with our ancestors in areas where shellmounds and sacred sites have been desecrated by development.
--places for people to stay the night
--groups to provide evening meals.
--cash for supplies and gas.
Contact: Jim Toren 510-575-8408, firstname.lastname@example.org , email@example.com, www.vallejointertribalcouncil.org
Last year as the Oakland Education Association was fighting for the rights of, and bargaining for a fair contract for, K‑12 teachers, the hourly adult education teachers, as members of AFT Local 771(the American Federation of Teachers) were also organizing. Similar to K‑12 teachers, they had not received a pay increase in four years. In addition, they were demanding pay for the preparation they already do for their classes and for improved health care benefits.
As the school year began for adult students, both the President of AFT 771, Ana Turetsky and the Vice President for Organizing, Dan Spaulding, were challenging the reprimands they had received, which they believe were punishments for their union activity. Ana Turetsky was also not rehired after working for Oakland Unified School District as an adult ESL teacher for three and a half years. In July, Turetsky had a reprimand placed in her file for allegedly causing a drop in Adult Education attendance on April 20, 2006, the day of the scheduled strike by OEA. The district closed school that day after a contract agreement was reached. Spalding was reprimanded for alleged “insubordination” for a speech he had given opposing the concessions that were being demanded of the adult school teachers.
The attack on, and intimidation of, union leaders is a strategy to weaken the union and curtail or destroy union activity and is now being challenged as an unfair labor practice. All union activity is protected by law. Other Oakland Unified School District unions have pledged to stand by AFT 771 and its leaders.
Adult education teachers are typically the most vulnerable teachers in a school district. They are underpaid, and frequently work part‑time with a temporary position. Many Adult Education teachers earn less than $12,000 per year and yet play a vital role in educating about 30,000 adult students in Oakland. Adult Education teachers often have to work in multiple districts and search for new jobs on a semester basis just to make ends meet. As a result it is difficult to organize Adult Education teachers who feel vulnerable to lay‑offs and who have no job protection. Ana Turetsky is the first hourly part‑time teacher to serve as President of AFT 771.An attack on her activist organizing is an attack on the teachers she represents. Oakland Unified School District’s budget has shown that they have a surplus that can be used to recruit and maintain an excellent teaching staff for adult learners. Residents of the East Bay should contact Oakland Unified School District to demand fair treatment for all Adult Education teachers. For more information about how you can help, call Oakland AFT at 510‑832‑8817.
by Tina Naccache
When doing the dishes I can see one narrow strip of sea in between two buildings. I live near the tip of Beirut. Until a few years ago planes coming to land at the Beirut airport flew past my kitchen balcony. When a new and expensive landing runway was built they stopped flying over the city. They are again in my balcony's skies, the major strips being unusable, the newest one in particular. It was so exciting to hear them when they started coming back, but now that the novelty wore off, each roaring reminds me of the bombing of the airport and the rest.
Listening to the BBC while having breakfast I hear "the world is not about national boundaries anymore." It is a woman, a UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women who was speaking to foreign house workers in the Netherlands. Hey, what about the visas those workers needed in order to come from the Philippines!
National boundaries and war. Lebanese villages close to the Israeli border. national waters where a Lebanese boat should feel safe from harassment. national airspace. blockades. siege. states. nations. nationalism. belonging. pride. hatred. anger. violence. fear. stubbornness. resistance. steadfastness. wounds. rebuilding. going on with life. National boundaries put me on the side of Hezballah, I the agnostic, the secular, the feminist, the queer activist. No they didn't put me on its side, they put us together as part of one nation. I move inside the boundaries of a state even if my heart is in other continents.
It is all a visa issue: for the Palestinian who cannot go to Palestine, for the Mexican who cannot enter Texas and California, for the Sri Lankan who ends up stranded in Lebanon undocumented, for me who needs a visa to any country with the exception of Syria and lately Jordan.
Visas define our status on the planet. What does this mean for our political work? Our, in the sense of each one of us, or us as defined by our status. As a Lebanese living in Lebanon, I address in my activism and advocacy issues relevant to people residing in Lebanon and on which they can impact. When I talk about the plight of Foreign Domestic Workers I can only act on what happens inside Lebanon, inside my national boundaries. How many Lebanese filmmakers can shoot a documentary in California holding just a Lebanese passport? Can I get a visa to roam the US just to write about what I see? Would a Lebanese get a visa in order to open in San Francisco a chapter of a Lebanon based human rights organization, to help US citizens defend their human rights? But Human Rights Watch opened a chapter in Beirut a few months ago.
US citizens, as well as West Europeans and probably Japanese, are the ones who can wave their passport and go through borders with little problems, and because of their status as citizens of the Empire they can address issues outside their national boundaries even if they stay home. The good people feel concerned by each and every issue that stems from misconduct of their government or their representatives or US based companies. This concern leads often to presenting solutions to overseas problems that contradict the solutions defended actively by the US government.
I will take advantage of my standpoint of being the victim of the latest of wars carried out with US weapons, and will admonish US activists to stick to the Hands-Off slogan when it comes to problems outside the boundaries of the US. The prerequisite for implementing this hands-off policy is to organize US citizens. Organizing against the wars on Afghanistan, on Iraq, on Lebanon, on Palestinians or, goddess forbid, on Iran can best be approached by how those wars hurt the people one is organizing. It is an approach that leads to people’s empowerment and thus can lead to internal changes and then to Imperial policies changes. Organizing only through compassion towards people in other countries by asking for peace and justice for them has failed to stop any war. Only citizens of the Empire can imagine holding such strong power over the lives of people outside their national boundaries: the visa divide.
I hope to lose my advantageous stand as victim of a war. I wish to be living in a Lebanon that doesn’t get the headlines but for some good deeds that happened inside its borders. I wish not to be asked to write, because I would have nothing to tell, because I would be dealing only with some obscure personal interest with no peace and no justice and no plights involved. I also wish to get a visa easily.
Tina Naccache is a Lebanese advocate for foreign
migrant workers rights, mainly women houseworkers, and a member of Helem,
Lebanese Protection of LGBTQ. She is in her 60th year and her two
children live in the USA.
“We can’t find World Pride,” I told my friend over the phone on the evening of August 8th. She was in Ramallah wondering if it made sense to pass through the Qalandia checkpoint to help a group of us handout flyers about the occupation at a scheduled World Pride event. Three hours and two rides buses later, we were still carrying the stack of 500 postcards pronouncing World Pride “a segregated party”. We had failed to find the crowd of rainbow wearing international homos. I imagine they canceled the event--which was supposed to be a solidarity march from West Jerusalem to the Bethlehem checkpoint—for security reasons. Perhaps the path of the march was declared a closed military zone. My friend who had been traveling with me was disappointed she left Tel Aviv and the warehouse full of anarchist queers [www.queeruption.org]. I was rather pleased. Whether it was a testimony to a half-successful boycott, or the increased fears due to the Israel’s war with Lebanon, World Pride was hardly visible in the streets of Jerusalem. The only event I attended was a demonstration in a park in West Jerusalem, which was largely co-opted by counter-protesting anarchists and queers in solidarity with Palestine and Lebanon.
Two friends and myself arrived at the park, which was supposed to be the major World Pride event, around 6:30. There were a handful of rainbow flags mingling in the grass. Few passers-by understood what was going on. Within 30 minutes, the space had been taken over by the anarchist queers wearing black and pink, carrying signs that said “Tear Down The Wall” and “End The Occupation”. The police aggressively separated the queers from the homos, and created a human wall with their orange-vested security guards.
We handed out all 500 postcards that explained how 56% of Jerusalem is under occupation and other relevant human rights information. At one point, I approached a group of gay male rabbis from the U.S. I gave each one of them a flyer. Within moments, two of them handed the piece of paper back to me and said, “I think it is a mistake to politicize World Pride.” I responded, “The fact that World Pride is in Jerusalem is inherently political.” We made searing eyes and parted ways.
When we were leaving the event, we crossed paths with a friend who worked for Open House and had organized much of World Pride. She was standing next to her Palestinian girlfriend, obviously upset by the failure of the event. On the one hand, Open House publicly condemns the occupation. On the other, it supports people from all over the world coming to Jerusalem to visit in an occupying nation. While I fully believed there needed to be a Jerusalem Pride event, I do not think it needed to have any connection to World Pride. Her disappointment was clearly complicated by our satisfaction.
Since returning to the U.S. I still cannot believe that World Pride took place in Jerusalem. I imagine there were some interesting events and conversations—hopefully many of which included education about Palestine. I find solace in knowing that it was small and often invisible.
In July, QUIT! and the
Queeruption Benefit Collective conspired to conduct Debasement, which turned out
to be an incredibly well-timed and successful fund-raiser for Aswat (Palestinian
gay women’s organization) and Helem (Lebanese LGBT). We raised $1600, which
was split evenly between the two groups. Over the evening, about 150 people
attended the event. Thanks also go to the Bakers Dozen collective, who provided
da basement, and to Billee, Pike, Durward, Timmy and Daniel who produced a zine
for the event.
The money came in handy, as
Helem opened its offices to refugees fleeing the Israeli attacks in southern
Lebanon. These brave queers, under their rainbow flag, housed, fed and clothed
people who may not have been aware of previous contacts they had with queers.
Their work was included in coverage by Al Jazeera and other Lebanese and
The EVIL DAVE KEARS rides again! You may not have heard much about the sneaky Alameda County health care czar lately, as he has taken a back seat, or more aptly a hidden seat since the mistaken creation of the hospital authority, a separate governing entity to run the county medical center. In a replay of bad history, the Alameda County board of stupervisors (b.o.s.) is listening to the evil dave kears and pushing for a flawed rebuild plan for Highland’s inpatient hospital. In the 1990s, the b.o.s. agreed to rebuild the critical care building without inpatient beds, because evil dave kears convinced them that the 1960s era inpatient hospital would meet the state’s seismic standard. The sad part is at the time there was state money that would have paid for half the cost of making a new hospital, money that other counties jumped on. dave kears has pushed the notion that the county should save vast amounts of money by not delivering health care services but rather contracting out services to the private sector. A veritable parade of consultants usually hired by the county themselves have shown that it makes more business and humanitarian sense for the county to have a good working full service hospital and that contracting out services does not actually save much money. Over the years grass roots groups People United To Save Health care (PUSH), Vote Health and SEIU Locals 616, 250 ( now United Healthcare West), and 535 have fought for adequate funding of a full service county hospital. Bewitched by evil dave kears, and under the thumb of the don perata/charlie “chainsaw” plummer machine, the board of stupervisors has regularly cut funding to the medical center in favor of giving money to the sheriff’s department.
In 2004, Alameda County overwhelmingly voted for Measure A, a half cent sales tax dedicated to funding the medical center. The hospital now in theory would have a chance to survive and care for the enormous number of uninsured people because of this specific health care money. But instead of any renewed interest or commitment, the county is trying to exact repayment of a so-called debt, money the county gave to its own county hospital to keep it going. The county electorate should rise up at this attempt at back-door theft of the clearly defined Measure A money.
The county now finds because of past bad kears advice, that the inpatient hospital does not meet seismic standards and must be rebuilt. The stupervisors again are listening to evil dave kears and are preparing to build a scaled back small hospital that by no measure will be adequate for an aging population and an ever increasing number of uninsured people. kears wants an inpatient hospital of only 118 beds plus an empty shell which could be converted to an extra 36 beds but only if the medical center itself can magically come up with the money for those beds. On any given day the medical center averages 118 in-patients with another 25 waiting for admission. Hospitals run at 75% occupancy to accommodate patient admissions and discharge. Highland would need at least 160 beds just to allow for the existing demand and to prevent the emergency department from hopelessly backing up. Alameda County Medical Center’s (ACMC) own consultant estimated that at least 190 beds would be needed to plan for future demographic growth.
Nothing at all is even being considered for the Fairmont campus which houses the all important acute rehabilitation service which must either move to a seismically retrofitted building by 2013 or close. Rehab sees 22 patients a day, people recuperating from strokes or spinal cord injuries. People without insurance! The evil dave kears has said publicly that the county would not rebuild the rehab service, but would rather contract it out. In 2003 community groups prevailed in a struggle to keep open the 120 bed skilled nursing facility at Fairmont. The county however closed the Fairmont urgent care clinic and a number of other clinics which served many south County uninsured people
dave kears should be held accountable for the years of under funding and neglect of the Alameda County Medical center. Highland should be rebuilt with the needed 190 beds. Rehab should be rebuilt either at Fairmont or at Highland. All the county clinics closed over the last five years should be reopened. This includes urgent care at Fairmont and Central clinic in downtown Oakland. All demands by the board of stupervisors for repayment of so-called loans to the county should stop immediately. The community has repeatedly made it clear that health care is a priority and that they want a full service functioning hospital.
Of course UltraViolet readers know that all the problems facing county hospitals would be greatly ameliorated if a single payer universal health plan were enacted. Health care activists have been working hard to pass Sheila Kuehl’s (pictured in her role as Zelda in Dobie Gillis) version SB 840 California Health Insurance Reliability Act. SB 840 has passed both houses of the California legislature and now is on schwarzenegger’s desk. To no one’s surprise, he has said he will veto the bill. Angelides, wimp that he is, has said that he is a supporter of single payer in theory, but doesn’t support this particular bill. This single payer universal health care bill would cover all inpatient outpatient medical care including dental, mental health, vision, chiropractic, prescription drugs, substance abuse treatment, and up to 100 days of skilled nursing care. All this would be covered at less cost than the inferior or non existent care people now have. The bill sets up one state run insurance agency replacing all other existing insurances and payment sources run by an elected commissioner. It will be funded by existing sources such as medicare and medicaid and by a premium based on a percentage of salary, split between employees and employers. This bill is an improvement over the previous effort, the single payer health care initiative, proposition 186, in that it definitely covers undocumented immigrants. The only criteria for coverage is to reside in California. There will be an as-yet undetermined “waiting period” to prevent people from coming from other states to get health care.
Health Care for All – California has mounted the OneCareNow campaign to pass this bill or future versions as it will be reintroduced again if it is vetoed. In spite of improvements on who is covered by the Kuehl bill, the campaign still falls short in its outreach to the varied and diverse California communities who all desperately need single payer universal health care. The campaign, with the help of some Hollywood producer types, has made a very polished documentary about single payer health care which interviews a majority of white patients, again making the same mistake that ultimately lost the struggle the last time around. To win a true universal health plan in this state there must be a grassroots diverse groundswell from all communities.
HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT!
THURSDAY OCT 5TH
Grand Lake Theater, Oakland
"The Healthcare Solution:
A new documentary from Health Care for All -- California outlining the big health care problem and California's only rational, equitable, & cost-effective answer: SINGLE PAYER
A fundraiser for the OneCareNow
with Vukani Mawethu choir and special guests
$10 - $20 SLIDING SCALE
Help Make Universal Health Care a
Reality For California www.OneCareNow.org
For more information call 510-832-8683 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
American politicians and insurance companies, tired of hearing about the “Canadian system,” saw light at the end of the tunnel last week as a scandal erupted over illegal “queue-jumping” for MRI’s in British Columbia.
The Canadian Health Act prohibits patients from paying for “medically necessary” treatment, which typically includes MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), used to diagnose various conditions. However, companies like Timely Medical Alternatives, Inc offer patients a chance to go around the waiting lists that have developed due to the decade of under-funding of the public health care system. (From 1996 to 2003, federal and provincial governments cut $250 billion in fudning to the system). According to TMA’s website, in 2004 there were 100,895 people on British Columbia’s waiting lists. While there is a problem with waiting lists in various provinces, these figures need to be read in part as a scare tactic used to boost sales. Almost 40 percent of the procedures they count are not described. The waiting list in 2004 for neurosurgery was 741, down 17 percent from the previous year, and the waiting list for cardiovascular surgery was 372, down 47 percent from the previous year. The conservative research group the Fraser Institute reported that the median wait time between a referral by a family doctor and an appointment with a specialist has increased from 3.7 weeks in 1993 to 8.3 weeks in 2004.
What is the waiting list at Kaiser Oakland, or Highland for referrals?
TMA arranges services for patients in nearby Washington State, as well as through private practitioners, who claim to be offering services other than the “medically necessary” ones. Private health facilities are springing up. For example, the Cambie Surgery Center, the largest Canadian private hospital, located in Vancouver, BC, has 120 doctors on staff who perform surgeries such as hip and knees replacements. Brian Day, the president and medical director of the center has plans to open more private hospitals, in Toronto, Ottawa, and other cities. Family planning and gynecological services are also common private offerings.
Last week, it was divulged that TMA’s patients were being provided MRIs at St. Paul’s, a public hospital, without going through a waiting list (queue-jumping). “St. Paul’s patients who were originally told they must wait months for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans said they received the treatment within days after paying a private clinic,” reported Canada. com. “The patients said they received the treatment at St. Paul’s on the same machines they were earlier told were booked for months.”
The Canadian health minister george abbott is investigating the allegations. But NDP member Adrian Dix said the problem was that the ministry, “limits the number of MRIs it funds at St. Paul’s. What did they think the MRI machine was being used for? Racquetball?” He said that the government actively encourages private health care in BC and under-funds the public system.
In June, the Canadian supreme court threw out a Quebec law banning private health insurance. “The prohibition on obtaining private health insurance is not constitutional where the public system fails to deliver reasonable services,” the court said. The Canadian Constitution Foundation is now challenging a similar ban in Alberta. Liberal Leader Kevin Taft responded to the suit saying, “The general public needs to know that these groups are unrelentingly chipping away at our public health-care system...Albertans don’t want a system where rich people can buy their way to the front of the line while the rest of us suffer.”
TMA is a privately held nationwide company with its headquarters in Vancouver, BC. The spokesperson, Richard Baker, is a graduate of UBC in Commerce, and worked for Procter and Gamble and Merrill Lynch among others. The FAQ’s on the TMA website explain, “Q. Is it legal to go outside the Canadian health care system in this manner? A. Yes. It is illegal in Canada to “jump the queue,” but perfectly legal to leave the queue and receive treatment outside the public system.”
While the dust was still hovering over Manhattan in September 2001, the u.s. environmental protection agency declared the air safe to breathe. Christine Todd Whitman reassured New Yorkers that they could remain in their apartments, they could work at the world trade center site, they could work at the waste processing facility in Staten Island, and it was safe, safe, safe. At her back were the national institute for occupational safety and health (NIOSH), and the occupational safety and health administration (OSHA). In February 2002, for example, NIOSH announced that with very few exceptions, exposures at the WTC site did not exceed its recommended exposure limits. OSHA, for all of its 6500 samples, rarely found air it didn’t like, and NEVER enforced the use of respirators at the WTC site.
On September 11, 2001, my cousin was working in one of the buildings at the WTC that was not hit by a plane. She works as an intake worker for the NYC Housing Authority. When the first plane hit the first building, she says the management told them to stay inside, that they were “safer inside than out there.” When the second plane hit, my cousin said “they don’t know what they’re talking about, they don’t know what’s going on” and she and her co-workers headed outside and to the subway, which was by then closed. Covered in white debris and ash, she walked over to the Brooklyn bridge and crossed over with thousands of others towards her home in Brooklyn. Fortunately for her, she didn’t have to return to lower Manhattan. Her job moved temporarily to offices in Brooklyn, and when they were scheduled to move back to Manhattan, she transferred to another position. Thanks for asking.
A year later, my cousin asked me if I had heard anything about the air in Manhattan, and about the dust, because she felt sure they weren’t telling the whole truth. I forwarded her information from the New York Center for Occupational Safety and Health. NYCOSH, and some of the unions and even some city officials were bringing in independent experts, who were telling a very different story than the EPA.
Several deaths have been now been officially linked to lung disease which developed as a result of exposures at the WTC, including a death in January 2006 of 34 year-old police detective James Zadroga, whose cause of death was confirmed by the coroner. To this date, no money has been spent by the federal government to treat WTC workers or Manhattan residents, and many workers compensation claims have been contested or denied. A class–action lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the residents of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, against the EPA and against Christine Todd Whitman personally.
Prior to 9-11-2001 OSHA had a policy of not enforcing regulations during “emergency response.” Generally, that was a policy not to interfere in rescue efforts, where there were human lives at risk. But the WTC activities remained classified as “rescue” efforts for weeks, and OSHA did nothing to ensure that workers were protected. Even after it was recognized that the rescue effort was over and no more live people would be found, OSHA remained in a voluntary consultative mode. As a result, although OSHA handed out respirators, no assessment was done about whether they were the right kind of respirator, workers were not fit-tested for them, and they were not trained in their use. People used to call them “neck protectors.” Also, there were no appropriate decontamination facilities. OSHA functioned as a polite lap-dog, offering up suggestions to Bechtel (which was the initial “safety officer” for the project), and to the long chain of contractors that followed.
After the WTC, NIOSH commissioned a study by the Rand corporation, which published a three volume series called Protecting Emergency Responders. The underlying assumption of this series was that this voluntary role for worker and environmental agencies was the best way to approach a crisis. It supported subordinating OSHA to a safety officer of the “Incident Command System,” typically an officer of the Coast Guard, or a bureaucrat from the EPA. OSHA trained its people, including people from state plans like Cal/OSHA, to work within the ICS in a “cooperative” manner..
Building on the declared success of the WTC, OSHA was ready to spring into action after the waters receded in Louisiana and Mississippi last year. While the WTC site was 16 acres, the area impacted by hurricanes Katrina and Rita is 90,000 square miles, or 57.5 million acres. Still stuck in “compliance assistance” mode, and with the secretary of labor announcing the suspension of wage and hours laws, OSHA inspectors (and volunteers from state plans including California’s) worked 2 weeks each of 12 hour shifts roaming the NOLA area. Their instructions? Well, the big lesson OSHA learned from the WTC was that they needed to listen to the people paying the bills. OSHA submitted $16 million in expenses for their time at the WTC, and were compensated for only $1 million, because they didn’t do enough monitoring. So at NOLA, every day people were sent out to “annex sites” (sites run by government contractors that generally dealt with hazardous waste) to check the air. The monitoring they were doing, and the manner of its conduct, according to participants, was unlikely to detect over-exposures, even if they were there. According to one participant, they were told the goal was to get “non-detects.” The point was to avoid law suits and claims by the workers at the sites. Other OSHA workers were sent out to drive the streets of New Orleans or other areas, and if they saw serious hazards, they were to ask to speak to the supervisor and advise them that indeed, fall protection was required for those workers at the edge of that roof three stories up. Then they would record the contact, and send it in to some OSHA office. No citations, no enforcement, no even going back to see if anything had happened.
Anecdotes abound. For example a state OSHA person was in NOLA in November, and noticed that although there were cartons, cases, and crates of disposable respirators at the OSHA staging area, none were being distributed to workers, who were exposed to asbestos, other dusts and molds. He asked the fed-OSHA supervisors why. They said that they had no authority to distribute respirators. This person, who is by no means a radical, was happy to discover that several cartons of those respirators had appeared in his vehicle, and so he wrote up a simple Spanish language leaflet for workers showing them how to put one on.
Much of the NOLA reconstruction work is being done by immigrant, mostly Spanish speaking workers. A study conducted in March, and published in June 2006, by Tulane and UC Berkeley, found that almost half of the reconstruction workforce in New Orleans is Latino, and 54 percent of those people are undocumented. (No surprise, since African American residents of New Orleans were often prevented from returning to the area). They found that 29 percent of the workers they contacted said they were working with harmful substances and 27 percent said they worked in dangerous conditions, while 19 percent said they were not given any protective equipment for the work. 34 percent of undocumented workers had received less pay than they thought they were owed, while this happened to 16 percent of documented workers. Further, 28 percent of the undocumented workers said they had problems getting paid, while 13 percent of documented workers had those problems.
What doesn’t get reported much in the news these days is the toxic soup that was created when gas stations and cars flooded, as well as when the chemical plants and refineries in the area were damaged. As of October 9, 2005, the Coast Guard reported that it had responded to 9 major and medium oil spills in southern Louisiana alone, where a total of 8.0 million gallons of oils were released from above-ground storage tanks. “Most of this oil has been contained, recovered, or naturally dispersed,” reported the Coast Guard. The Congressional Research Service reported that an additional one to two million gallons may have been released from cars and service stations. EPA Region IV reported responding to more than 2600 incidents of releases of hazardous substances. There were 774 registered treatment storage and disposal facilities for hazardous wastes in the Katrina-affected area. Additionally, the EPA collected more than 65,000 household hazardous waste containers, and 718,216 gallons of fuel in Mississippi and Alabama.
This material has largely been released into the areas where reconstruction workers are working, among the crumbling asbestos shingles, raw sewage and mold.
The people at the WTC have waited 5 years for any help for their situation. There are now a couple of bills in New York State, and at a federal level to provide them with some treatment. (Previous money has been only for studies.) Many of the workers at the WTC site, though not the residents of lower Manhattan, are permanent residents, are union members, are public employees. And they have not gotten much from this government. Many of the Katrina workers are transient, are undocumented immigrants, are working at diffuse sites for various contractors. So there is good reason for optimism, don’t you think?
But the job of OSHA, NIOSH and the EPA is not to compensate people for illness, but to prevent it. As judge Deborah Batts said, when she refused to dismiss Christine Todd Whitman from the class action suit, “No reasonable person would have thought that telling thousands of people that it was safe to return to lower Manhattan, while knowing that such return could pose long-term health risks and other dire consequences, was conduct sanctioned by our laws.”
On June 5, 2005, Louis DePalma reported in the New York Times that the EPA’s inspector general concluded in 2003 that “Ms. Whitman’s statement was far too broad and could not be scientifically supported at the time she made it.” But according to Jordan Barab, a long-time worker health and safety activist, the inspector general actually concluded that the White House had instructed the agency to be less alarming and more assuring to the public in the first few days after the attack. So like Michael Brown (the FEMA director blamed for NOLA) Whitman was not only venal and incompetent on her own, she was acting at the direction of bush and his buds.
Barab went on to say that in terms of protecting workers, “the real culprit here is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the agency tasked by Congress to ensure the health and safety of American workers. And you can look long and hard at the Occupational Safety and Health Act without finding any exception for federally declared disasters.”
An Inconvenient Truth (reviewed by Deni)
Well, don’t go for the acting. I know everyone says how much livelier Al is than he was during his campaign, but I still fell asleep. Only briefly though. The movie has good information about global warming (at least that’s what friends and websites who understand the science tell me) and I even learned things (which I promptly forgot.) And yes, it is reaching a wider audience than say realclimate.org. is (check out their review of Al’s movie if you need more definitive info on the long ice core records of CO2 in Antarctic ice cores – I simply don’t have room to go into that here¼) But the movie is definitely lacking a certain something: progressive political analysis and a social agenda beyond taking BART to work instead of driving. And just saying “Well what can you expect from Al Gore?” doesn’t cut it. Al packages himself as a moral high-ground philosopher type but leaves out some of the following info:
** The Clinton-Gore administration gave out permits for toxic waste incinerators and tax breaks to oil companies drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and opened up western forests to logging. [For a chilling account of one 1994 story, written by the National Catholic Reporter, google “toxic waste incinerator” and select “Toxic-waste incinerator in the backyard: White House and church steer clear in Ohio.”
** Al was a main force in brokering NAFTA and GATT, free trade agreements that have decimated global environmental standards.
** Al refused to use his $500,000 stake in Occidental Petroleum to pressure them to stop drilling on the sacred lands of the U’wa tribe in Colombia.
And I don’t know about you, but instead of being moved by the fact that his father got rid of their tobacco farms after his sister died of cancer, I was incensed that it had taken them that long.
But personal is apparently the way to go for Al: drive your car less, get a solar panel, write a letter – but don’t jump to the possibility that massive social movements protesting corporate global greed would be the best strategy for effecting meaningful environmental change. I mean, that might leave Al out in the cold! Get it? ha-ha, global WARMING!
Quinceañera (reviewed by Chaya and Deni)
I (Chaya) thought there must be something to this Sundance Film Festival award-winning movie because it got such great reviews, although I was suspicious that this coming-of-age story of Magdalena -- a young Chicana in East Los Angeles on the verge of her 15th birthday celebration -- was made by 2 gay white guys who live in the increasingly gentrified neighborhood. Wash Westmoreland (who comes from Leeds, England) and Richard Glazer (producer of “America’s Next Top Model” - yech) set out to make a socially conscious drama drawing on the British “kitchen sink cinema” genre of the early 1960s (did you ever see A Taste of Honey with Rita Tushingham or This Sporting Life with Richard Harris? – very powerful). They looked to the locals they cast in the film for authenticity. I suppose if they didn’t have any money and any connections they wouldn’t get to make any films. But¼
The movie does have many strong points: we don’t get to see many films about Latinas, much less young, poor ones; it was locally filmed and not hampered by Hollywood slickness; it dealt with a lot of issues (gender, age, race, class, sexual identity, family, parental control, religion, gentrification, community, conflict, honor – whew!); the acting was good; it was poignant. Yes, it might have been a little better if it had been a little less pat and hadn’t wrapped things up neatly by the end, but many of the characters and situations were great to see these days in an American movie. See it.
Little Miss Sunshine (reviewed by Deni)
Ok out there to all of you who feel like we never like a movie, this is the 2nd positive review in this column! No, no this one isn’t perfect but it was droll, funny with really great acting and satire. A quirky dysfunctional family on a road trip - I laughed out loud often. Yes, I overlooked the over the top sexism of the grandfather and was just a tad uncomfortable with the way women were portrayed at the girls’ beauty pageant. But I would even see it again. I mean, these brutal days, I long for anything that makes me LOL. It makes you wonder about the film that could be made of your own dysfunctional family. How about a Mocha Column contest here: send us a synopsis of your screenplay and we’ll print the best. (Ok, ok, so our email address expired through lack of use because none of you ever sent us anything-- We don’t feel bad – we’ll just put that in our screenplay--) See it!
Bits And Pieces
The Wind that Shakes the Barley: We saw it in Northern Ireland this summer -- a great movie about the Irish civil war in 1921-22, winner of the Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in June, stars Cillian Murphy of “Breakfast on Pluto.” Why hasn’t it opened here? Will it ever get to the US? Is director Ken Loach being shut out because he signed the cultural boycott of Israel and said he would decline any invitation to the Haifa Film Festival: “We must condemn the British and US governments for supporting and arming Israel--it is impossible to ignore the appeals of Palestinian comrades.” We’re trying to find out what’s happening - if anyone out there has more info, let us know.
No fair trade coffee here: For all you coffee drinkers (and admirers of the 2003 Queerkely Starbucks action – more at quitpalestine.org), here’s one more place you can’t drink coffee. Aroma, Israel’s largest coffee chain, has opened espresso bars in NY and plans to open some in LA and other North American cities as well. There was a spirited demonstration held against the coffee bar in NYC in July but “frightened residents” of the building got the cops to force the demonstrators across the street (free speech prevails again). Hanoch Milwitsky, chief executive of Aroma New York, wants to make the coffee bar “a place for everybody” – so they renamed the “Iraqi sandwich” to the “Oriental sandwich” [sic or is that sick?].
Celebrate the teachers’ struggle in Oaxaca: For a great online slide show of the September 1 march in Oaxaca, go to indybay.org and find Oaxaqueña: Resistance in the Face of Repression. With beautiful music in the background, the streets are filled with people and great banners.
Pluto, you’ll always be a planet to us: Science, shmience – we’re not letting go of Pluto that easily. Just because it hasn’t “cleared the neighborhood around its orbit” or “cleared broad swaths of space of any other large objects” or “swept its neighborhood clear” is no reason to demote Pluto to asteroid number 134340. If you think about it, “cleared” sounds a little like “cleaned” which almost seems like Pluto’s being demoted for not being neat enough. Perhaps Pluto was busy doing other things and didn’t have time for cleaning its room I mean clearing its neighborhood. Perhaps Pluto was working on an anti-Disney campaign… Perhaps it was making alliances with other “dwarf planets” in an attempt to take over Earth and rid it of everything we hate. We certainly don’t hold with any high-falutin’ “victory of scientific reasoning over historic and cultural influences.” How many of you have had time to sweep your neighborhoods while fighting the good fight?
WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF WOOF and one extra WOOF for Pluto – Disney be damned!
A few months ago, I got one of those little pink notices from the Post Office that they leave when a package arrives. I got all excited until I realized it wasn’t a package, but a certified letter, and the return address was “City and County.” Didn’t say which City and County, but there’s only one I know of in this region that appears like that. I got kind of nervous: what had I done now? I had just paid all my old parking tickets in order to register my car, and anyway it seems unlikely the City is paying to send certified letters to collect parking tickets, when they could probably double the rate of sending in the money by giving you a postage paid envelope to mail it in.
So with a sense of foreboding, one lunch hour I hopped onto BART at Embarcadero and rode all the way to Lake Merritt to go pick up whatever it was they were so eager for me to know about. It wasn’t until I was actually waiting in line at the post office window that it hit me that the address on the little slip said “Kate Raphael” and if it was a warrant or a summons to a grand jury or something, it would presumably have (one of) my legal name(s) on it. Of course, if I had thought of that sooner, maybe I wouldn’t have bothered, but hey, you really kind of want to know what the government – even the San Francisco City Government – wants from you even if you think you might not do it.
The teller produced a thick envelope addressed to “Kate Raphael for Ten Against Torture.” Inside were various glossies of some posters put out by this group I used to belong to, Ten Against Torture, on lamp posts, utility poles, garbage cans and bus shelters. Each two or three photos were stapled to a citation, made out to Ten Against Torture, for amounts of $150 or $300. The $300 ones were for putting stuff on “historic poles” which are those ones they put up around 16th & Mission Street last year after they redid the BART plaza.
Most of the photos had captions, pointing out the egregious crime it evidenced. One made special mention of the “mess” caused by the posterers not being careful with their wheatpaste, allowing it to drip.
Altogether there were four citations, two for $150 each and two for $300 each, for a total of $900.
At first I had no idea what I should do. I mean, I have no idea who put up the posters, which were made around the two-year anniversary of the publication of the Abu Ghraib photos. The posters were publicly available on Ten Against Torture’s website, so anyone could have posted them. And, as previously stated, TAT doesn’t exist any more, though a lot of the people who were involved with it are now working in a group called Act Against Torture which is doing similar stuff, orange jump suit theater, etc. So I was sort of inclined to ignore the citations, but then I showed them to Deeg and she pointed out the fine print which said that if you didn’t request an administrative hearing within fifteen business days from the date of the citations being issued, you were deemed to have admitted guilt. So my good friend Rachel of the National Lawyers’ Guild filed for a hearing on my behalf and found another lawyer, Sharon, to represent me at it.
The citation was sent to me because I’m the registered owner of the domain name TenAgainstTorture.org. Sharon wrote a brief arguing that if I could be held liable for these citations, anyone could print out something from the State of California’s website and post it on “historic” poles and then Schwarzenegger would have to pay $300 a pop. The administrative judge is considering her objections as we speak.
Kramerism and the Broken Window Theory
A few weeks after I got these citations, the Bay Guardian published an article tracing this phenomenon to “a 56-year-old activist named Gideon Kramer, who led the campaigns against graffiti and illegal signs and eventually became the eyes and ears of the city’s Department of Public Works and the Clean City Coalition. That nonprofit antiblight group gets hundreds of thousands of dollars in city money annually and in turn gave Kramer a full-time job pursuing his zealous fight against blight.
“Kramer’s job is to cruise around in a city-provided motorized cart to document and remove illegal signs and submit that information to the DPW, which then issues citations and levies fines. Although Kramer maintains he doesn’t single out antiwar groups, he does admit that it was the blanketing of the Mission with ANSWER flyers and posters during the buildup to the invasion of Iraq that animated his animus toward sign posting.”
ANSWER has been hit with about $28,000 in fines related to postering in the Mission, and has filed a lawsuit against DPW. The suit challenges the “rebuttable presumption” standard which says that they can presume a group whose name appears on a flier is guilty unless you can prove you are not.
Someone in Act Against Torture mentioned that this anti-posting campaign, which is reminiscent of the Golden Broom Reign of Terror in the Castro, is based on the Broken Window Theory. I had never heard of the BWT, but it’s more popular than the Germ Theory right now. Its adherents include the L.A., Boston and New York police departments, all of which have hired consultants to help them apply it to their cities. The BWT is based on a book entitled Fixing Broken Windows: Restoring Order and Reducing Crime in Our Communities, which in turn is based on an article in the Atlantic Monthly entitled “Broken Windows”. It’s the new version of the Domino Theory or the pot-into-heroin theory: one broken window leads to another broken window which leads to graffiti which poof in a puff of smoke leads to a spiraling murder rate. And here I thought that broken windows only led to glass in the street.
Incidentally, Wikipedia warns you that the Broken Window Theory must not be confused with the Broken Window Fallacy. The BWF, which is based on the Parable of the Broken Window, has something to do with Keynesian Economics vs. Austrian Economics and the supply and demand theory, arguing that broken windows are good because they make work for glaziers. So applying the BWF, rather than the BWT, wheatpasting is good because it makes work for Mr. Kramer and others in the DPW, even, in fact, the administrative judge who is deciding on my case.
So far I’m liking the BWF better than the BWT for explaining the weird world we are living in right now.
Kramerism is part of the benign assault on freedom of speech taking place behind the scenes of the PATRIOT ACT, Orange Alerts, the War on Immigrants, and the special Gel-Bomb Detectors at the airport. While everyone is worrying about the Great NSA Wiretapping Scandal, cogs at places like Department of Public Works and Landside Operations at the Oakland Airport are simply regulating free of speech down to a nub of its former self. It’s like how the anti-choice forces have managed to eliminate most second-trimester abortions in California. While we were all busy trying to prevent Roe v. Wade from being overturned, and protect the right to MediCal funded abortions, someone with the stroke of a pen just slashed the amount that MediCal pays for an abortion after 18 weeks so that it no longer covers even half the cost of the procedure. Within a year or two, every clinic in the state except San Francisco General had stopped accepting MediCal for those abortions and hardly anyone can afford one without it, so many fewer women are being able to exercise their right to choice.
This isn’t to say that there aren’t terrible things happening to people all the time in the domestic “War on Terror.” Green card holders and naturalized citizens are being denied reentry to this country; immigrants are still being disappeared and held indefinitely without charge, and people are stopped from getting on airplanes for wearing t-shirts with Arabic script. But the wholesale war on activists that many people predicted in the weeks after 9/11 has not materialized. Yes, the police have spied on Quakers and other protest groups (did they ever not?) and yes, the city of New York is trying to make gatherings of more than 3 people illegal without a permit. But ANSWER marches and immigrant rights marches are tolerated, Amy Goodman and Dennis Bernstein get to rail against the government five day a week on Pacifica, and when a dozen activists blocked the street in front of the San Francisco Chronicle to protest their non-coverage of the Israeli assault on Lebanon, the police’s big threat was “We’re not going to charge you with a crime, we’re going to give you a traffic ticket!”
Instead of storm troopers banging down doors, activists are being sucked into a kind of bureaucratic Cone of Silence. Small left-wing nonprofits are getting audited, causing the activists who work for them to spend their evenings going through paperwork instead of going to meetings and actions.
The rights are there, but you can’t exercise them. Those of you who read the last issue will hopefully remember Act Against Torture’s attempts to utilize the Free Speech Booth at the Oakland Airport. After about six phone calls and two emails over seven weeks, I finally received the application. It asked what you wanted to do, and what hours and days you preferred. The application asked, “Indicate which of the five Free Speech Booths the applicant prefers to use … by placing a number in the space provided. Number “1” should indicate the applicant’s first choice, etc.” Under that there were two spaces: “__ Terminal 1 __ Terminal 2.” I put a 1 by Terminal 1 and a 2 by Terminal 2.
It stated, “The application ... must be received ... no later than the 20th calendar day of the month preceding the month for which the application is made.”
So I sent it in on August 16, asking for several dates in September, including Labor Day. I heard nothing. The week after Labor Day, I got a letter detailing some problems with our application. One of them was “Due to construction in Terminal Two, there is only one Free Speech Booth available, which is located in Terminal One.” So from five we are suddenly down to one. Moreover, the letter says, “The Airport presently has a total of six organizations using the Free Speech Booths, which are rotated weekly per the quarterly schedule which was sent out on August 15, 2006 to be effective September 17, 2006. Based on this schedule, the first available week for your organization would not become available until the week of January 14, 2007.”
Now among other things, and leaving aside the fact that if I had known I had to get my application in before August 15 to get to use it before January, I would have done that, a quarter is three months so it would seem like even if they can’t squeeze us in this quarter, the new quarter should start in December, not January. I wrote back, raising these objections and asking if there isn’t some way we could use the booth when the other groups are not. After two weeks, I’ve gotten no response. The guy can’t be on vacation, because he was on vacation when I called to get the application in the first place, in June. Although now that I mention it, a quarter has gone by since then, so maybe he is on a quarterly vacation rotation.
LGBT No Freedom Day
QUIT! had an up close and personal with the Disappearing Free Speech Zone at, of all things, the LGBT Pride celebration. Until a few years ago, we used to get an actual booth where we could sit under our lovely green awning and give out literature to unsuspecting sightseers. The price kept going up and up, but we kept pace with it, until one year, we found that we no longer qualified as a nonprofit, because we are not a 501c(3) with board of directors, so we would have to pay an enormous amount of money for a “political information booth.” Now that makes good sense. The well-funded nonprofits, like the AIDS Foundation and The Center, get the affordable space, or they might even get a share of the profits from the $5 donation extorted from queers at the gates, and the grassroots no-budget groups are in the same category with the Republican Party.
So this year we decided to just show up and engage in old-fashioned free speech activity, the kind that the parade used to be about back in the days before the barricades and the monitors … oh, don’t get me started. We donned our spanking new Estee Slaughter T-Shirts and grabbed our Realityfold Sleep Masks, having worked our little fingers to the bone for weeks cutting them out and fastening elastic to the corners. The Realityfold bore the legend:
“Going to Jerusalem for World Pride?
Worried the sight of so many Walls and Checkpoints will keep you from getting your beauty rest? Estee Slaughter’s Realityfold will protect you from the harsh glow of Occupation so you can party in virtual peace.”
We had 2500 of them and they pretty much flew out of our hands. But only a few minutes into our giveaway, parade security monitors descended and told us we could not distribute the masks at the festival because we had not paid for a booth. We responded that this was free speech activity and that we were not disrupting the event. Soon, the police showed up and said that they worked for the parade committee, that the parade committee, by acquiring a permit for the event, had managed to make the entire ten-block area of the festival “private property” and the unauthorized distribution had to stop.
We stalled for a while and then agreed to leave, because police were threatening to confiscate the remaining masks, and anyway, we had given away most of what we had. We went to the main information booth and asked to talk to whoever was in charge. We were told to go to Vendor Relations, they sent us to the Command Center, where we were insulted and sneered at and told eventually that the person we needed to talk to was in the “other Command Center.”
And then someone came up with the idea of telling us to go to the Free Speech Area. What? That’s right, the notorious Free Speech Area rearing its head again, as if the Pride festival was an airport or a presidential visit. Except in this case, the people telling us to go there didn’t actually know where the Free Speech Area was. So we walked around for a little while asking various authority figures, mainly police, who said stuff like, “From sea to shining sea,” or “This is it,” indicating the whole area.
So apparently the police have a better understanding of the concept of free speech than our queer “leaders” do. We have a meeting scheduled with Parade Committee staff and board members on Monday, where we will press the point that Pride or Freedom Day or whatever you call it must indeed be one giant Free Speech Area. As one QUIT member said to the officious Vendor Relations guy, “Do you think anyone paid for a permit to battle the cops at Stonewall?”
While some of us have been battling the more banal and insidious forms of repression, Bay Area freelance journalist Josh Wolf has been experiencing the old-fashioned brutal kind.
A year or so ago, Josh videotaped a demonstration in the Mission in support of the demonstrations being held against the G8 (Group of 8, the ruler nations confab) meeting in Scotland. The demonstration was pretty poorly organized and macho, a lot of running, some people wearing masks over their faces; a lot of people seemed to be quite interested in a rumble with the cops, and the cops not surprisingly obliged them fast and furious.
I was long gone by the time that happened; I couldn’t keep up and it seemed kind of obvious that it was headed for disaster, so I decided to bail, but by all reports, the police started the violence, attacking protesters for being in the street, even if they weren’t, targeting people because of race and gender, the usual.
There was some property damage (a KFC and a Wells Fargo were smashed up), some trash can fires were lit, newsboxes knocked over, at least one flag burned. At 10:08 p.m., according to the minute-by-minute report on Indybay (interesting reading, http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2005/07/09/17517311.php), a scuffle broke out with riot police and one cop was injured – later reports said he went to the hospital with a fractured skull. The cops then got much more violent, shooting people with tasers, and arresting several, none of whom were actually involved in the incident in which the cop was hurt.
Josh sold some of his footage to television stations. None of it showed any crimes being committed.
Months later, the FBI showed up at his door and demanded all his footage from that night. He declined to give them anything at that time; a while later, they came back with a warrant for computers, cameras and other stuff. He again refused to produce any of it. He was subpoenaed to a grand jury and refused again. California has a shield law which would protect him from having to turn anything over, but the federal law is much weaker.
So why is a San Francisco demonstration any of the feds’ business?
Because supposedly someone tried to set a mattress on fire sort of near a police car, and the feds say this was an attempt to burn the police car (no car was actually burned), and San Francisco police have gotten money from homeland security for police cars.
So on July 31, Josh was sent to FCI Dublin (home of our
beloved Marilyn Buck) for civil contempt for refusing to cooperate with the
grand jury. On September 1 he was
released on bail, but last week his appeal was denied and the u.s. attorney
filed a motion to revoke his bail while he appeals that ruling.
It’s pretty likely he’ll go back to jail soon.
[Note: He went back to
Dublin on September 22; please see http://freejosh.pbwiki.com/
for how to support him.]
The good news for Josh is that not only did Judith Miller’s case make reporters feel the heat of government interference in their relationship with the people they cover, but on the very day he went to prison, two reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle were served with subpoenas over the Barry Bonds/Balco steroid scandal. Now there is certainly a national security threat worth compromising our right to a free press over. Josh has gotten a lot of support from mainstream journalists; Judith Miller interviewed him by phone in prison after being denied a visit; the SF Chronicle did a huge story the day he was sentenced and even posted the video of the G8 demonstration on their website; and ABC-7’s news website carried a live feed of an interview with him the day he got out of prison.
Nonetheless, Josh writes that “It should come as no surprise that I felt pressured from many people to comply with the US Attorney’s demands and although the support I’ve received has been incredible and have received many wonderful letters while I was incarcerated – there were times that I did feel alone in my struggle.”
It’s important that those of us who remember the grand juries of the 70s and 80s, step up and support people who are being targeted. (One of the earliest editions of UltraViolet’s precursor, Out, back in its 8 1/2 x 14 xerox days, contained the articles “What Not to Do With Your Mouth” and “What to Wear to the Grand Jury,” about the grand jury that was targeting Prairie Fire.)
There are currently three grand juries targeting activists in the Bay Area, one on medical marijuana, one on animal rights, and the one on the G8 protest (though latest news is that the medical marijuana one will not reconvene). Animal rights activist Nadia Winstead refused to testify for the second time on August 17. The grand jury resistance project is organizing to educate people about what grand juries are, how they work, why the government is so interested in using them against the animal rights and anarchist movements right now, and how to resist. They are also organizing support for the people who are targeted. Visit their site at www.fbiwitchhunt.com for information and sign up to receive alerts about actions and how to support activists.For info on Josh’s case, his prison blogs, his videos, and how to write to him in prison, see www.joshwolf.net. (I already got on his case about quoting natan sharansky, doesn’t mean you can’t too. But his other writings are pretty interesting.)
Logan, 3, and Justin Holbrook, 14, rode to dinner
with the life-size cutout of their father, Lieutenant Colonel Randall Holbrook,
a Maine National Guardsman from Hermon, Maine. (Bridget Brown/ Bangor Daily News
via Associated Press, http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2006/08/30/guard_families_
cope_in_two_dimensions/) -- HONEST!