In this Issue:
Florida to Send
Election Observers to Israel
Vermont and Queer IdentityÔ
OUT LEFT, LEFT OUT
DAY OF REMEMBRANCE
Fair Trade Re-Peets
THE MOCHA COLUMN
RIOT, DONT DIET
Youth Create Change
AS THE HOSPITAL CHURNS
Tel Aviv-Israeli Prime Minister
Ehud Barak, who stunned the world last week by agreeing to early
elections in the spring, announced Friday that he was requesting
technical assistance in the election from Florida Governor Jeb
Bush. "I thought we knew all about how to run a democracy,"
Barak said with uncharacteristic humility. "But after watching
CNN for the last month, I see we really have much to learn."
The Labor Party's Barak, who faces an uphill battle in his contest
with Likud leaders Ariel Sharon and Benyamin Netanyahu, dubbed
the Florida electoral process "the model of efficiency we
need to cultivate in Israeli elections." Barak turned to
the Florida governor after being turned down by the ambassador
of Chad, who had earlier been recalled in protest of the increased
repression in Palestine.
Bush stated that he was delighted to accept the invitation to send 500 advisors and 2,000 observers to monitor the counting process. Bush said he hopes the move will help bolster support among the Jewish voters in Palm Beach County who chose Pat Buchanan over his brother, George W. He expects a majority of the observers and advisors sent to the Holy Land to be drawn from Palm Beach and Dade Counties, and commented that he hopes some of them will decide to stay there.
Those of you who are looooong-time followers of the LAGAIs peculiar, er I meant particular, brand of journalism may recall a little piece in one of the old 8-1/2 x 14 xeroxed issues called "The Vermont Solution." This was around 1988, and we had heard, erroneously as it turned out, that the next year Vermont was going to have to re-ratify the Constitution or secede from the U.S., having only signed on initially for a 200-year trial period.
Our idea was to start moving to Vermont, register to vote, and vote to secede from the U.S. We would then support ourselves, in our new independent utopia, by manufacturing U.S. flags with 49 stars and little snow globes with lesbian and gay figurines in them, and taking gay tourists out cruising on the ocean. We were even more enthusiastic about this idea when we found out that Vermont doesnt have the death penalty and boasts the only open Socialist in Congress, Bernie Sanders. Our plan hit a snag, however, when we found out that Vermont is not on the coast, doesnt even have a teeny tiny sliver of ocean. (Proposals to invade New Hampshire were quashed without even a floor vote.) That ruled out the idea of cruises, and Deeg refused to live anywhere without an ocean, and thats why were still stuck here in the land of Gray Davis.
Vermont State Representative Oreste V. Valsangiacomo, however, apparently never heard that we had shelved the Vermont Solution, and credits it with the overthrow of the American way of life in that Great Northern Wonderland. His letter, which introduces the official website of the Take Back Vermont campaign, says that,
"The homosexual agenda was introduced to Vermont ¼ by an article ¼ entitled "Taking over Vermont". This article became the blueprint of the homosexual movement in Vermont. Homosexuals would follow the invasion of Vermont by out of staters moving here. They would move into our communities, become part of the political and social life and without confrontation, but by ballot, would take over the State House. They needed a mole in the State House."
Okay, so he credits the article to Playboy, and dates it from 1972. We all know fascists dont have such great memories.
This November, Valsangiacomo and others outraged by the passage of the countrys first law providing for "civil unions" so same-sex partners could get those great benefits were always talking about like health insurance, inheritance, ¼ (no Im not going to go on another rant about the evils of marriage), declared war on Governor Howard Dean, who calls himself a "passionate centrist" and the Democratic legislature. Dean barely survived the challenge of Ruth Dwyer, though his margin was shrunk considerably by Progressive Party candidate Anthony Pollina, who proved a much better spoiler than Ralph Nader, collecting 10% of the votes. The Democrats kept the Senate but lost the House of Reps for the first time in 14 years.
On the other hand, it should be pointed out that Dwyer, similarly aided by Pollina, actually got 2% less 40% -- than she did four years ago. Pollinas success was due in part to Deans wishy-washy support for queer issues, including his professed "discomfort" with simply extending marriage rights to gay people (hence "civil unions"), as well as leftists annoyance with Deans fiscal conservatism.
The campaign was bitter, with rage directed at the governor not only for supporting civil unions but also for allowing a $12,000 state grant to a program called Outright Vermont, which aims to train educators and students about tolerance and safety for gay and lesbian students. Outright Vermont, Valsangiacomo points out, was founded by now State Representative Bill Lippert, who was appointed by Dean to fill a vacant seat in 1994 and who "by coincidence," also came to Vermont in 1972. (Valsangiacomos letter says the grant was $120,000; the $12,000 figure came from the New York Times.)
By November 7, the state was cluttered with thousands of black and white "Take Back Vermont" signs. The Times reported that a retired machine shop owner here has dangled a Take Back Vermont sign from a tree above the road to his house and plastered Take Back Vermont stickers on all four of his vehicles. A woman who took her daughter out of school to avoid the corrupting influence of Outright painted "Take Back Vermont" in giant letters on her roadside barn, after the placard in her yard was stolen. The progressive forces put out their own signs, saying "Take Vermont Forward" and "Keep Vermont Civil." Signs on both sides were vandalized, the "Backwards" ones painted with pink triangles, "Forward" ones with anti-gay graffiti. The Times quoted one Take Backer as warning "vandals" (presumably not meaning the anti-gay ones) "that they could be at the wrong house at the wrong time stealing the wrong sign and end up getting shot".
Gay issues, which were not on the ballot, were only the catalyst for this explosion of conservative venom aimed at a broad spectrum of progressive legislation for which theyve apparently been harboring resentment for years. Misogynist anti-Semite Mark Steyn wrote in The American Spectator, "There are other issues: property rights, education, all bundled up in the slogan appearing throughout Orange County and the North-East Kingdom, "TAKE BACK VERMONT." Dean, for his part, called his Republican demonizers "flat-tax flat earth" proponents, a clever play on the "flatlander" label which stands for those not native to the land of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys (please dont ask me who they were).
In Defense of Identity Politics
The Vermont campaign illustrates a point we often make, that lesbian/gay issues are integrally tied in with a progressive agenda, and basically everyone in this country knows it, intuitively if not intellectually. This bears belaboring in the current climate, in which "identity politics" has been ruled by those who are writing and speaking about progressive politics to be passe and inevitably reformist rather than radical.
When I was getting ready to write this article, I tried and failed to find out (via that spawn of the devil, the Internet, of course) who first coined the term "identity politics." Lisa Featherstone, in a recent article in The Nation, says it was "mostly its detractors" who liked to use that characterization for "fighting the oppression of racial and sexual minorities, and of women." Featherstone goes on to make the pronouncement that, "Admirable as they [identity politics] were--and effective in improving social relations on many campuses--there was little sense of solidarity among these groups, and they often seemed insular, bearing little relation to life outside the university." She contrasts this irrelevance to the "new" "serious" economic movements against sweatshop labor and globalization which have galvanized many creative actions at colleges and universities around the country. (A very interesting and informative list of those actions can be found in her piece, which is available online at www.thenation.com; its in the May 2000 issue.)
The critique of identity politics as narrow and reformist is most often, it seems, aimed at women and queers. The considerable organizing of people of color in the last 20 years, and particularly of young people of color, has clearly been focused on economic issues, from incarceration to affirmative action, and is generally recognized as addressing core social justice issues. While some of the groups doing that work, such as the Third Eye Movement, call themselves "youth" or "hip-hop" rather than "people of color", those are identities too (not to mention euphamisms), nest ce pas?
Groups which bring people together on the basis of sexual or gender identity, however, are assumed to be concerned only with narrowly defined queer issues. "That political moment is over," writes Featherstone, "partly because in the larger world, organized feminism is in a lull and the mainstream gay movement now focuses on issues like inclusion in the military, gay marriage and hate-crimes legislation--moderate goals that don't speak to student idealism. By contrast, the economic left--especially the labor movement, and the burgeoning resistance to global capital--is enjoying a resurgence, both in numbers and in vision."
Alexandra Chasins new book, Selling Out: The Gay And Lesbian Movement Goes to Market, carries the same message. The dust jacket says that "Wary of cultural assimilation and political mainstreaming, Selling Out ultimately argues that identity-based consumption and identity politics are closely related and together stand opposed to progressive social change." In fact, Chasin, who has done a great job of showing the roots of "queer niche marketing" in liberal capitalism, takes a somewhat more muted line. "Rather than arguing for the elimination of identity politics altogether, since it has, after all, effected significant social change, the book instead argues for political alliance, for a multi-issue, multiconstituency coalition focused on economic justice."
When I was buying the book at Codys, the cashier, a young white woman with a lip ring, smiled at the title and said, "That looks great." I said I had looked at it in the library, and it seemed very interesting, but that I didnt agree with her rejection of identity-based politics. She said, "Most movements based in identity only work on issues related to identity, as opposed to class." I looked puzzled and said, "But class is part of our identity." The young African American woman behind me (I must have crossed over into senior citizenry, calling everyone "young woman" and "young man"; these two were probably in their early 30s), who had also asked to look at the book, nodded vigorously. Unfortunately, the cashier had to go do something else, I had to move my car, and the other woman had to buy her books, so we were unable to finish this conversation.
I give Chasin credit; youve definitely done your job if people are arguing about your book before theyve even read it. This is a wonderful book; as one of the creators of the "Its a Movement, Not a Market" campaign, which is unfortunately not in the book, I was pretty destined to love it. But I am still pondering the question, why people imagine class as separate from "identity." For me, its one of the strongest identities, "middle-class" is usually the first or second thing I mention about myself, before or after Jewish depending on the company and how Im feeling. Ive noticed that in LAGAI, where we have a pretty high degree of political unity, our different class backgrounds strongly affect how we feel about things, from the Mission Yuppie Eradication Project to the presidential election. I think it is our identity as queer people, people who are both forced to and want to live outside of the heterosexual nuclear family, which unites us across class lines (though admittedly none of us are or have ever been rich) to fight capitalist patriarchy (no, we dont call it that any more, but only because people would laugh).
One of the examples with which Chasin substantiates "the claim that identity politics and identity-based market activity ¼ worked together to mainstream social movements," is the split between Gay Action and Bay Area Gay Liberation. Gay Action (which I never heard of), apparently left the "anti-imperialist" BAGL (which I did know about) to focus on "democratic rights and a mass movement approach." (Another example is the ACT UP/SF split, which you will all want to read.) She acknowledges that in both these groups "coalitional organizing brought identity groups together to work on issue-based objectives," but that does not prompt her to modify her thesis.
The fact is that mainstream organizations get big and radical groups usually stay small; big organizations tend to get big funding and think they have to keep it by toning down any latent critique of the how the funders got their money. But this is hardly unique to identity politics. Just ask any rank and file member of the AFL-CIO. Anyone who thinks that isnt true of the corporate globalization movement might want to take a closer look at Global Exchange (a year after Seattle, Starbucks, at least the one near my work, still does not have their alleged fair trade coffee in stock).
Chasin argues for coalition organizing, John Brown Childs calls it "transcommunal identity politics," but this is not new. Queers need identity-based politics, now more than ever. The Vermont campaign shows us why. So do our recent experiences with Muslim fundamentalists at the demonstrations for Palestine (see Deegs article). Its our place of strength, and the place from which we can best contribute to the movement for all liberation.
Meanwhile, back in Vermont, the Montpelier-Burlington Times Argus reports, "Susan Kruthers, a tourism official with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce, said there was no evidence that threats of a boycott of Vermont by opponents of the law had put a crimp in the industry. She added that Vermont may be developing a niche market for same-sex couples who want to tour the state and get a civil union license while they are here."
Daniel suggests that California can start a cottage industry of its own offering gay divorces, sort of like the gay Reno. Given LAGAIs politics on marriage, we could propose this to the legislature, pointing out that you dont have to allow gay marriage to allow gay divorce (in fact, they could even offer quickie annulments). And we could manufacture little snow globes, with one figure waving goodbye.
Ten years ago, LAGAI made a banner. For those of you who ignore our photographs, or who just plain cant make them out, the banner reads "US Out of the Gulf, Israel Out of Occupied Palestine, Lesbians and Gays Against Intervention." The banner was made for use in demonstrations against the Gulf War (Desert Storm), and was featured in San Franciscos Jewish Bulletin as an example of the "anti-semitism" of the anti-war movement. It has unfortunately remained relevant throughout the entire succeeding decade, and it is evidence of the incredible durability of nylon tafetta, acrylic paint, and LAGAI.
Having weathered the winds of market street, unexpected rains, and unceremonious packing and unpacking out of boxes and vehicles, it was subjected November 4 to yet another challenge, when a member of American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice (AMGPJ) tried to rip it up, or tear it down.
We had received notice of a "Mass Rally to Protest the Israeli Agression Against Innocent Palestinian Civilians," to be held in Justin Herman Plaza, and responded by e-mail that we supported the event and would be attending. The organizer e-mailed back "thanks for your support, see you on Saturday." So we were not expecting any problems, other than sore feet. But after about an hour of standing around, Daniel was approached by a woman, Iman, who was part of the organizing group, who asked him to take down the banner. He said that he didnt understand why she was making the request, and didnt feel that we should do that. She left, and we were approached by a small group of men in robes, who first tried to talk to Daniel, and when told he wasnt the leader, went to the other banner pole and asked me who was the leader of the group. I responded that we were a collective, and didnt have a leader, but, to avoid increasing his frustration, agreed to talk with him as one member of the group.
He explained that they did not consider that lesbians and gay men were part of the oppressed people of the world, and that they did not include them in the struggle for global peace and justice. I explained that we did. I explained that our group had a 15+ year history of solidarity with the Palestinian people, including struggling with the Central America solidarity movement to include these issues. I explained my own 33 year history as an anti-zionist. He said this wasnt about Palestinians but about Muslims, which seemed odd given the title of the demonstration. I explained that we would not leave unless asked to by the coalition leadership. Meanwhile, one of the men with him attempted to rip up the banner, saying it was not consistent with Islam. He was stopped by others in his group, but not before inflicting minor damage.
He left, and Iman came over to again ask us, and then tell us, that we would not be allowed to march with our banner, but that we were welcome, as a "compromise" to march without it. We decided to leave rather than engage in a confrontation on the street. Lesbians who had been planning to march with the Coalition of Jews for Justice (CJJ) left with us, as did eventually all of CJJ, and most of the leftists. A man from the International Action Center told us that they were taking their banner down, "in solidarity," but that they had distributed signs which would remain. He didnt tell us that they were going to continue to participate in the march, or that he was going to speak, and not identify himself as a gay man. Several people who identified themselves as Muslims gave us their names and said that they didnt think that it was right that we had been kicked out. The following week CJJ agreed to write a letter to the movement, stating that they will not participate in demonstrations in which queers are not welcome. People from the Middle East Childrens Alliance, Al Awda, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, the International Socialist Organization, the Freedom Socialist Party/Radical Women, Revolutionary Workers League, and the Spartacist League have also offered support. We are attempting to arrange a meeting, hopefully with an assist from other middle east organizations, to deal with this issue in the broader movement.
The following week, there was another coalition demonstration, called mainly by student groups, as part of the International Day of Silence for the children of Iraq. The local group had added the children of Palestine. So we took our slightly more ragged banner and went down to UN Plaza. Members of AMGPJ again asked me to take down our banner, saying that we had taken it down last week, and we should show the same respect this week. I explained that last week, the coalition had asked us to take it down. I said that we had not been asked by this coalition to take down our banner. They went to the coalition leaders who this time did not back them up. They came back and harassed us for a while, among other things telling me that I might support the Palestinians, but the Palestinians would kill us for being faggots, and that he supported the killing of gay people. Im not sure how he saw that as helping to build a movement in solidarity with the Palestinians.
On the other hand, Father Habib, a Palestinian catholic priest thanked us each, individually, for coming. The rally was opened by a woman who spoke generally about inclusion as a good thing. It was a tense four hours, particularly when we returned from the silent procession to find that one of the AMCPJ men had made a sign which said "Islam Condemns Homosexuality." When we repositioned ourselves in the plaza, he stood next to us. After the AMCPJ person spoke (and no, there wasnt an openly gay speaker), he came over to offer us another compromise -- the guy would take down his sign, if we would take down our banner. So even though we had intended to leave, we had to stand there for another 1/2 hour until the rally finally ended.
LAGAI is no stranger to dealing with homophobia in progressive movements, and in fact we have always considered it part of our work. I was personally more disheartened to find that the IAC member, who we have worked with on other issues in the gay community, was not willing to take some of the heat. We, and others including Gays for Nicaragua and the Victoria Mercado Brigade, learned in our central america work, that our willingness to take on homophobia in the movement here, helped queers in Nicaragua and El Salvador to build their own movements. In turn, the Bay Area movement was educated and grew from our contacts with the queers in those countries.
We encourage other queers to remain, or get involved in, the Palestine solidarity movement, either with LAGAI or with any other organization you want. It is important that we maintain a visible and proud presence, and it is important that we make it clear that both the struggle against homophobia and the struggle against zionism are struggles for human rights.
According to the e-mail, the organizations which sponsored the November 4 rally were: ADC-SF Chapter, AFL-CIO, Al-AWDA, Al-Qalam Institute, American Muslims for Jerusalem, Arab Congress, Bay Area Massajed, Council on American-Islamic Relations, International Action Center, Labor Council on Latin America, MSA WEST, MSU Berkeley, Palestine Arab Fund, Palestinian American Congress, People for Justice and Peace in Palestine, SF State GUPS, American Muslims for Global Peace and Justice, UCB-Arab Student Union, and the Western Regional Representative of Irish American Unity Conference.
Sometimes I wonder how the israelis think that the conflict between zionism and the Palestinian people is going to end. Do they imagine that the Palestinians will disappear? I wonder what israelis think when they take the water supply from Palestinian towns, and use it to water golf courses. Are they really that fond of golf?
But I dont wonder about the roots of what is now being called the Al-Aqsa Intifada. This summer, the u.s. and israel gave the Palestinians an ultimatum -- they were to accept what works out to be about 10 percent of the original area in the Palestine "mandate," in separated bantustans under Israeli control. Even Arafat could not agree to that.
And so, on September 28, ariel sharon, the butcher of Sabra and Chatilla (refugee camps which israel bombed in 1982), visited a Muslim religious site with 1000 police. His announced purpose was to demonstrate "Israeli sovereignty" over the compound. The next day, the israeli government responded with brutal force to the predictable demonstrations. And israel has continued to respond to demonstrations in the occupied territories with lethal force, using everything from snipers, to helicopter gunships, to armored vehicles. Against a population armed with rocks, bottles, and to some extent guns and rifles.
As of last week, about 260 Palestinians had been killed, and over 10,000 hospitalized. Many of these injuries are head wounds, caused by snipers. Israeli troops have not only destroyed 18 ambulances, but they have routinely delayed ambulances which were transporting wounded Palestinians, in several cases causing their deaths.
U.s. media, being what it is, has focussed on the Israeli deaths, which are less than 10% of the total. Israelis are killed, Palestinians "die in the conflict." Israeli dead are named, Palestinians are counted. The u.s. media portrays the israelis as the innocent victims of terrorism. They barely reported the pogroms inside of israel, such as the one in Nazareth, where israeli police looked on as mobs beat Palestinians and destroyed buildings. At the end of the night, two Palestinians were dead.
More importantly, the media neglects to mention the context of the "violence." Neither the Palestinians nor the israelis are engaged in random acts of violence. They are two sides of a war for national liberation, the Palestinians representing the oppressed, the israeli zionists the occupiers.
Not many people expected much from what the Palestinians early on termed the "so-called peace process," begun by the Oslo accords. These agreements, which formalized the situation which had been created since israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights in 1967, never even began to address issues such as the right of return for all Palestinians, and an end to zionist settlements in occupied lands.
The first large group of Palestinian refugees was created in 1947-1948, by a sustained campaign of terror, or what would now be called "ethnic cleansing." People were murdered, houses were set on fire, trucks went through Palestinian towns within the territory which was to be allocated to israel, threatening the lives of people if they stayed. Lands were confiscated. Hundreds of thousands of people fled to nearby countries. Israel Shahak, a concentration camp survivor who was relocated to Israel at the age of 12 in 1945, wrote a report in the early 1980's documenting the destruction of 10,000 Palestinian villages and towns in the creation of modern Israel, including the jewish national funds lands.
In 1967, in response to a military attack from neighboring countries, israel invaded the remaining portions of what zionists had long considered to be part of their manifest destiny. Although the Geneva conventions prohibit the relocation of civilian populations into occupied lands, israel created jewish-only settlements, populated by some of the most rabid racists the u.s. has to offer, such as my cousin Marsha, who exercised her "right-of-return," to escape her oppression in upstate new york. Meir Kahane and his fellow racists in the Jewish Defense League (formerly known for battling African Americans in Brooklyn) moved to settlements. Zionist terrorist groups carry out an unrelenting (and unreported) campaign against Palestinian towns, particularly in the west bank. u.s. born settler, Mordecai Baruch massacred 80 Palestinians in a Hebron Mosque in 1994.
The good news about the Intifada is that it has sparked a new international solidarity movement. In the past two months, LAGAI has helped organize two Women In Black protests and has participated in six other demonstrations, bannering with the Coalition of Jews for Justice, as well as attending various coalition meetings and teach-ins. The bad news about the Intifada, and the incipient new support movement is that absolutely no one is mentioning what used to be one of the official Palestinian positions -- a democratic secular state in all of Palestine. This represents a significant ideological victory for Israel, and is one that the israeli government has consciously worked to encourage, including support for right wing religious movements in surrounding areas.
When I first got involved in the anti-zionist movement, the demand for an end to the zionist entity, and the establishment of a democratic secular state was a mainstream demand in the Palestinian community. Democratic secularism makes a lot of sense to me -- why should peoples civil rights depend on their religion? Is it really a solution to have a state where Jews have special rights and Palestinians are oppressed, accross the river from a state where the reverse would occur? In which of those religious states would feminists or queers be welcomed?
I grew up in a relatively mild religious state, the northeast Bronx in the 1950's. It was a Catholic neighborhood -- the public schools celebrated all of the christian holidays, we all were forced to sing xmas carolls. One easter my best friend brought home a "jews killed christ" pamphlet from her parochial school. We were taunted and occasionally assaulted by other kids with clever slogans such as "two and two, youre a jew." Abortion was illegal, divorce was difficult to obtain. Many states had "blue laws" which required that businesses close on Sundays. Although there was a period of increased secularization, the u.s., while nominally requiring a separation of church and state, still has official proclamations of "Thanksgiving" to god every November, an official state holiday for xmas, state recognition and privilege of religious marriages, and a ban on gay marriage. Lately x-tians have been demanding the banning of halloween and Harry Potter books, as being entirely too pagan. And all 4 candidates in the recent national elections that shall remain undiscussed in this newsletter, were religious fanatics -- three were born-again xtians and one was a right-wing jew.
How well has a religious state worked out for israel? First off, about 13 percent of the residents, the Palestinians, are relegated to at best second-class status. But it hasnt really worked that well even for the jewish population. Right-wing orthodoxy has such dominance that people who convert are not recognized as jewish if their conversion wasnt under the tutelage of an orthodox rabbi. Adopted children may not be recognized as jewish. Women In Black, who have been demonstrating for twelve years in Jerusalem, are hassled by passers-by, not only for their opposition to the occupation, but for not being at home, cleaning, as women should be. Women who worship at the wailing wall are stoned by the self-righteously religious. And for any gay marriage buffs reading this, I wouldnt be planning on a trip to israel any time soon.
We are hopeful that the secular groups will be taking an increasing role in the Palestine solidarity movement. There is a lot of organizing happening in the Bay Area, and there is often little notice for actions. If you would like to be informed of actions that we hear about, you can give us your phone number or e-mail address. You can also check our website, www.lagai.org. The following websites have up-to-date information on Palestine:
The complete Guide to Palestines Websites http://www.birzeit.edu/links/
Middle East Childrens Alliance http://www.mecaforpeace.org/
Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee www.adc.org
If youre interested in some background on zionism, here are a couple of good books: Zionism in the Age of Dictators by Lenni Brenner, and The Holocaust in American Life, by Peter Novick
Benjamin Netanyahu, former (and possibly future) israeli prime minister, thought that he was going to pick up some quick and easy cash filling in for henry kissinger at a series of speaking engagements in Berkeley, marin, and san mateo.
But on November 28, he was confronted by about a thousand demonstrators, who the police thought to hold at bay with yellow police line tape. However, our intrepid Kate, along with Penny and Osha from Middle East Childrens Alliance, crossed over the line, and although pushed around some by the police, held their ground. They were then joined by other demonstrators, and what resulted was a lively mill-in of activists and people who had paid up to $300 a ticket to hear one imperialist politician or another. At about 8:15, well after the scheduled starting time of the event, the lecture organizers announced that the speaking engagement had been cancelled. The next day the chronicle reported that Netanyahu been turned back at the Berkeley border. Nor did the victory end there. The following day it was announced that the other two speaking engagements had also been cancelled.
On November 29, the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) and other groups announced a campaign to divest from Israel. The campaigns goal is to get israel to "recognize the right of Palestinians to return to their homes. There are currently 4.2 million registered Palestinian refugees -- the largest refugee population in the world."
The campaign, which is still getting formulated, includes a boycott of all products from Israel, with a targeted boycott of Trader Joes, to get them to stop carrying israeli products under the label OSEM FOODS. People are asked to go to their local store and request that they "de-shelve" those products. If the store manager refuses, then tell them that you are part of a national drive to boycott israeli products, and that they will lose many customers.
Other targets include Burger King, which opened a concession in Maale Adumim, in the West Bank, and AT&T long distance, which provided support to israeli and pro-israeli websites when hackers shut them down (in retaliation for an israeli who brought down the Hezbollah website). Activists then contacted a competitor, ATX, which agreed to donate 5% of all calls to Al Awda, a pro-Palestinian activist group. The Anti-Defamation League of the Bnai Brith then called on its supporters to boycott ATX. So people are encouraged to sign up by calling 888-731-3421, and mentioning the Al Awda boycott. And dont forget to discuss the current situation in Palestine when called by AT&T telemarketers.
We, in LAGAI are excited about this new focus for several reasons. For one, it give us a realistic strategy, with many domestic targets. It takes the emphasis off of a "religious" conflict, and lets us focus on the u.s. government and multinational corporations. And it is a reminder of the apartheid situation which israel has created, particularly in the jewish-only settlements.
At this moment, there are no organized activities aimed at Israeli investments. There is a list of products from israel available on-line at www.alternativenews.org. By the end of the year, there will be a website: www.boycottIsrael.org.
On November 28, transgender activists and their supporters observed The Day Of Remembrance. This memorial commemorate the memory of all people killed by anti-trans violence including Rita Hester a transgender woman from Boston who was fatally stabbed in her own apartment on November 28, 1998. The crime was never solved. Two years later on the anniversary of her death rallies, marches community events across the nation and web sites honor the memory of those transgendered persons who are being killed at a frightening rate.
According to various sources, at least one transgender person is murdered every month. And thats the reported murders. There have been 211 reported anti-trans murders since 1997. There have been 17 murders so far in this bloody year. It is important to say that not all victims identified as transgender or transsexual. Some identified gay, lesbian or even straight, but all were killed because they were perceived as gender variant. We live in a society obsessed with squeezing the limitless breadth of humanity into two narrowly defined genders assigned at birth.
One victim of this assignment process was an unnamed infant with ambiguous genitalia allegedly killed by his own mother on Dec 8th 1999. The three day old infant died of blunt force trauma to the head. An autopsy revealed broken glass in the digestive system indicating an earlier attempt to cause death by internal bleeding.
Not all the victims were nameless, although you wouldnt get that impression from the national media who have yet to do a single story on anti-trans violence. While no community wants one of its members to be just another statistic, the trans community feels these deaths (not to mention their lives) have been invisible. One response has been posting lists of names of the dead.
Visibility has increased thanks to both big media phenomenons like the movie "Boys Dont Cry" and more importantly the many grassroots organiztions like Transsexual Menace and TransAction. The death of Brandon Teena, who may not have identified by that name, has became more about being a cottage industry with movies, documentaries, plays and numerous opportunities for television interviews, than the death of a particular young person. The grassroots approach is aiming for a different effect. With web sites listing the dead from different states and countries, it creates an inclusive atmosphere and shows the wide reach of anti-trans hatred is not just a Mid West thing.
The Day of Remembrance is more than an opportunity for mainstream (read: straight) eyes. It offers a challenge to some segments of the Lesbian and Gay community. While the Lesbian and Gay Liberation movement associated with Stonewall was inclusive of transgendered people (and some would argue that it was a transgendered movement inclusive of homosexuals) the gay rights movement was just not that inclusive, period. Many privleged gay white men didnt want to be associated with "cross dressers". These assimilationists (or asses for short) withheld political power from a group of people who cofounded their movement. There are many Homosexuals (I feel sooooo Mattachine using that word) who need to realize that transphobia isnt just a drag; Its Murder!!!
Lesbians, gay men, transgendered persons and women all face the threat of violent death from a society that doesnt value us. All queers need to celebrate their shared history of drag and defiance. No one should try to shun it nor should any one segment of the community claim our history for their very own. Our political power is rooted in our political past. They both must be shared.
The LGBT communites depend on creative activism & compassion; the Day of Remembrance provides an opportunity for both.
The availability of fair trade coffee in many coffee haunts and grocery stores can only be considered a peoples victory, especially cherished by those of us relying on this delicious satisfying beverage to get us through these truly appalling political times. Several issues ago I wrote an article exposing the previously beloved peets as an uncaring yuppie capitalist venture. Peets felt that to buy fair trade would some how compromise their extra superior beans, and went so far as to publish a brochure explaining why they were above offering even one fair trade coffee bean. But because of the demand of dedicated fair trade coffee drinkers peets was forced to change their elitist stand. As of October 10th fair trade coffee became available in all peets coffee stores! In press release, peets ceo jerry baldwin opines "peets fully supports TransFair USA and is proud to offer our customers Fair Trade certified coffee. This is another meaningful effort that peets is undertaking to improve the working and living conditions of small farmers throughout the world." Once again the effectiveness of grassroots movements is proved. Peets previous pretentious stand did an about-face when coffee drinkers demanded Fair Trade coffee contracts which support farmers rather than exploit them.
So for the first time in many months I went to my once favorite peets on Piedmont ave, now thoroughly despised. I gingerly opened the door to this familiar place, I sucked in the lovely peets aroma ambivalently. I had maintained my own personal boycott, so betrayed by such blatant embracing of global trade. I made my way past the newspaper- reading, coffee sipping patrons, remembering my time as one of this coffee club. I passed the pyramid display of floral coffee mugs, always useful, for that short notice workplace birthday present. After meandering by the overly large selection of cappuccino makers, I finally arriving at the coffee bean counter. I asked the forever young woman behind the counter how the fair trade coffee was selling. She beamed almost proudly and said "very well" enthusiastically. Almost immediately an officious man intrusively interrupted our fair trade coffee moment, shaking his head over the fast pace of fair trade sales, announcing loudly that peets coffee has always been fair trade. Well that just got me going. No actually youre wrong, I said. Fair trade coffee by definition is grown on small family run cooperatives receiving a minimum of $1.26/pound. The coffee is shade grown and the farmers receive a premium if it is organic. Peets buys its coffee from big plantations. That shut his yuppie apologist self up and I bought a pound of fair trade from the beaming woman, leaving thinking I may just have to continue my personal boycott.
I called Nina Luttinger at TransFair USA, coffee woman extraordinaire. TransFair USA is the only third-party certification agency for Fair trade practices in the US. Nina excitedly told me about the many updates and successes. She negotiates the Fair Trade contracts so feels a sense of personal accomplishment. Starbucks started their Fair Trade coffee line October 3, peets October 10, Tullys offers Compadre blend. Fair Trade coffee is available at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and UC Santa Cruz. TransFair has launched a campaign with OXFAM in New England complete with teach-ins featuring 3 farmers from Central America. There will be Fair Trade coffee on 600 college campuses. For those of you who venture to safeway they too will be offering a Fair Trade coffee soon. TransFair will present a Fair Trade tea in January called Choice Organic. Even more exciting, rumor has it that Gaylords a block up from peets on Piedmont will offer only Fair Trade coffee in their cafe.
So there are several really delicious Fair Trade coffees. I have been drinking Fair Trade Mexican Organic from Royal Coffee found on 63rd street and College avenue in North Oakland. It lacks all the pretension of peets and the coffee is delightful. Nina reports that Berkeley Bowl is selling Equator coffee a particularly good Fair Trade coffee I plan to try immediately. I did drink a cup of the peets new Fair Trade this morning and it is delicious, though I think I will stick with the lovely Mexican Organic from Royal Coffee. Lynn Zenky recommends Equal Exchange Organic Fair Trade Nico, which both Deeg and Daniel really liked. The reader can find every thing they want to know about Fair Trade coffee and where to get it by going to the TransFairUSA website, www.transfairusa.org, or calling 510-663-5260. The Fair Trade coffee movement is a reminder that grassroots organizing really does bring real change, particularly to the lives of some coffee farmers.
by Chaya with lots of help from Deni (and Mocha barked her opinions often)
MOVIE REVIEWS (*Highest rating possible: 2 paws and tail up*)
BAMBOOZLED: 2 paws up. [reviewed by Deni] Bamboozled is a compelling movie, using the minstrel show as a satirical metaphor for the climate of racism in the u.s. of a. Damon Wayans plays a BUPPIE character who develops a "minstrel sit com" at a network TV station. Jada Pinkett-Smith, who plays his assistant, has strong reservations about the project. The images and conflicts presented were quite disturbing and the film makes a sharp impact. Despite the movies flaws (the acting was uneven, the movie was too long, the "dramatic finale" was so overdone that it detracted from the power of what had come before) this is an important and thought-provoking movie. The racist "memorabilia" of African Americans shown throughout the movie ended in an onslaught of images so distressing that it actually made me feel sick. We wished thered been some homage paid to Marlon Riggs excellent documentary "Ethnic Notions." We (Daniel, Kate, Tory, and I) also questioned the necessity of being hit over the head with the Jewish bad liberal stereotype. Rent the video; the movie should be seen.
YOU CAN COUNT ON ME: 2 paws and tail up. [reviewed by Deni] You Can Count on Me is a good movie with excellent acting, interesting characters, and lush east coast scenery. Its about an adult sibling relationship, with Laura Linney and Mark Ruffalo reconnecting and dealing with the complexities of their lives and their interactions. Matthew Broderick is great as an uptight boss, and the son (one of those Culken kids) does a fabulous "so what." Its that rare movie that pulls off being serious and funny. See it.
BEST IN SHOW: One paw up. [reviewed by Chaya] Does Hollywood ever get it really right? Christopher Guests "mockumentary" of people who enter their dogs in dog shows had a lot of potential: dogs, good ensemble cast, dogs . . . but the bits often went on too long, or were flat and predictable. One exception was the big climax for Eugene Levys character (remember him as the deranged scientist in Splash?), which was a "refreshing surprise" as we film critics say, but I wont give it away. The lesbian/gay shticks sometimes worked, sometimes didnt, and were also pretty predictable. Mocha was pissed off that she wasnt allowed into the theater to see it.
BITS & PIECES
ACTRESS KATE HUDSON (daughter of Goldie Hawn, dontcha know) was being fitted for her Dallas Cowboys cheerleader costume for the film "Dr. T and the Women" when the Cowboys organization found out that her character was having a lesbian relationship (oh NO!). The Cowboys promptly withdrew their authorization for her to wear their official uniform. Hudson said "And theyre supposed to represent America? Well, welcome to 2000! Id love to know what their cheerleaders are." So would we, Kate . . . you go girl! (Dont you just love the liberal offspring of liberal Hollywood?)
AND YOU THOUGHT THE ARMY was just one big killing machine: The Army chief of staff recently announced that the Army was changing the style of its hats and caps. As of June 14 (the Armys "birthday"), all styles but helmets will change to BLACK BERETS (I guess raspberry wasnt available). We can only assume this is a nod to salute Che and the Black Panthers and their trademark black berets. The general said: "When we wear the black beret it will say that we, the soldiers of the worlds best army, are committed to making ourselves even better." And we thought it was all those billions of dollars of weapons and that great imperialist-driven policy that made the army what it is. The army has thrown down its fashion gauntlet to our community. Now its up to queer fashionistas everywhere . . . woof!
To revive leather shoes, grind potato chips into a thick paste by adding water, then apply to dull leather. (Pringles was recommended but since we dont do product placement in this column were going generic.)
woof woof woof woof woof woof cat? woof woof woof woof woof woof cat!!! woof woof woof
Every so often, I feel like Im hit in the face with how much our society hates and punishes people it considers overweight. Maybe this time, I was ripe for noticing it because I had just seen the fat-phobic and incidentally misogynist and unfunny movie, "The Tao of Steve" (which had gotten excellent reviews). Whatever the reason, one day last month my eye caught two fat-related articles in the Chronicle.
The first was announcing the recall of 400 diet pills and cold medications which contain the chemical PPA, which can cause strokes in young women. Meds containing PPA include Acutrim and Dexatrim, and some formulations of Alka-Seltzer, Dimetapp, Robitussin, Contact and Triaminic. Though the substance is effectively banned by new FDA regulations, some products containing it might still be on shelves, so you might want to check before you buy any cold medication (cause I know youre not gonna take diet pills). The FDA also issued a warning that Ephedra, an herbal "dietary supplement," which lots of people are using for a diet aid, can cause side effects that can be deadly. The FDA has no authority to regulate herbal supplements.
The second article was headlined, "Citing Risk, Government Halts Medical Study on Children." It informed me that a study involving children ages 6-10 had been stopped by the National Institutes of Health because it posed a larger risk to the kids than allowed by law. The 15-year study of the metabolic underpinnings of obesity, by Dr. Jack Yanovski, subjected the kids to a battery of psychological and physical tests including X-rays, abdominal MRIs, and the induction of extremely high and low blood sugar levels for hours at a time. Overnight hospitalizations and intravenous blood lines were required for some of the tests.
At an earlier review by the Office for Human Research Protections (a committee of the department of health and human services), the study of healthy children of "obese" parents was approved because Yanovski convinced them that the children could be considered to have an "ailment", i.e., their parents. (Of course, most parents are an ailment, but thats another study.) The Chron also said that "Yanovski persuaded the committee that the risks were no greater than a child might encounter while playing in traffic, according to the meeting minutes."
Now that hes no longer torturing children, Yanovski will have more time to devote to his other important research, like last years study which disproved the myth that people gain 5 pounds during the holidays. It turns out the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Years is 0.8 pounds.
While looking for information on the National Association for the Advancement of Fat Americans (NAAFA) website, I found out about 3-year-old Anamarie Martinez-Regino, who was removed from her parents home in Albuquerque by the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department because she was deemed obese. (She weighed 120 pounds.) The state wanted Anamaries parents not to feed her any solid food, although that was not the medical advice they were given by her doctors. A NAAFA press release stated that Miguel Regino and Adela Martinez, Anamaries parents, "are particularly confused about the sudden life threatening nature of Anamarie's weight, as tests conducted one month ago showed no undue stress on Anamarie's heart. Anamarie was returned to her parents home last month after they won a hearing in court, but legal custody has still not been awarded, so she could be taken away again.
Then, of course, there was the Bay Guardian article, "Reengineering Nancy: How an unhappy fat man became a trim, confident dyke girl," by Nancy Evelyn Gold (no relation to our Deeg Gold). This is the first-person saga of a woman who was born male who had gender reassignment surgery and then, finding that she could still not be happy as a fat woman, had bariatric surgery, or duodenal switch. She explained that that means, "The surgeons removed 75 percent of my stomach and rerouted my intestines so that I now processed only 40 percent of the carbohydrates I ate and 15 percent of the fat. Anything more then a few bites of food hurt my now-shrunken stomach, and if I ate too much fat I paid for it soon after in the closest ladies room."
After reading this, I expected to hear something about how much she regretted this choice, but no. She assures us at the end that "By 2001, I will no longer be one of the 97 million overweight Americans. I'm completing the last act of my reengineering effort. Instead of accepting what I was given and where that placed me in society, I've broken the rules and I've won. Some may feel I sold out, that I should keep working to change the world. I haven't, and I will. My size and my gender now suit my gray matter."
This appeared on September 13. There was a list of resources on transgender issues, and contacts for getting weight-loss surgery, including The Obesity Law and Advocacy Center which apparently will help you get insurance to pay for it, but no sidebar mentioning the health risks of this kind of surgery. For those who dont die on the table or immediately thereafter, the risks include sudden uncontrollable diarrhea, hyperabsorptive intestine (which allows poisons to enter the body) and metabolic disturbances. The resource list also provides no sources for help in accepting your fat self. Shame on the Guardian.
yk hong, a Bay Area dyke who was active in Defeat the Petes, which worked against Props. 21 and 22, posted this to the Queer Left e-mail list:
i wanted to talk a little about something beautiful that happened at creating change a little over a week ago.
the youth started talking to one another about the workshops and caucuses. we found that most were completely ageist, transphobic, racist to say the least.
as an example, one of the workshop was entitled "im white but my kids are not". a group of youth, including myself, went together to see what this workshop was all about and found it to be highly offensive. three white older women were on the plenary, this workshop was organized by an ngltf staff member, also a white older woman.
the youth of color in the workshop were trying to illustrate how white parents can never teach a child of color what it is like to be a person of color. we talked about how adopting babies of color was reinforcing white supremacy. their response was something like "we see that we are complicit with it."
the youth of color were enraged and highly charged, obviously. meanwhile, a white woman stood up while all of this was going on and held up a photo of her baby of color. she proceeded to talk about how she was happy the parents were in prison and how evil the parents were.
a group of older folks of color marched into the room shortly after this and offered their support to the young folks who were speaking out against the white supremacy of the whole process.
later on that evening, a whole bunch of youth started organizing. it was truly beautiful to see the youth organizing, swiftly, calmly, with passion and purpose. we planned it all in 40 minutes. we stormed the stage of that nights featured event, kate clinton, the comedienne. we took the mic and spoke out against all of the fucked up power and privilege dynamics of the conference. about how there was no affordable food in the conference centers vicinity, about the white supremacy and ageism of the workshops, about the classism and everything else.
of course, ngltf shrugged us off, some staff members were rolling their eyes at us, and you could see that "oh, those silly youth" looks in their faces. so the very next day, at the closing plenary, the older folks of color stood up and demanded that we be heard. this was while the ngltf staff woman who organized the white adopting babies of color workshop was justifying herself and the workshop.
so the youth, with the support of most of the people of color at the conference, did another action involving holding banners up about the problems with the conference. again, ngltf shrugged us off, and in their wrap up email on their listserv, there was no mention at all about these actions.
all of the youth involved created a family, though. and are continuing to organize.
This sparked one of the liveliest discussions that the QL list has seen in a while. Some youth and older transgendered folks who were at CC (which was held in Atlanta this year) said they didnt necessarily agree with the perspective of the people who disrupted. Various people contributed things to think about in terms of white queers adopting kids of color. Someone suggested that youth might try to take over the organizing of the next CC, and it seems like some people are going to check into the possibility of making that happen. There are those who said, "ngltf will never let anyone else organize CC," but others thought it might be possible. If it does happen, Im sure it will be interesting.
Alameda County Medical Center, made up of Highland, Fairmont, John George, and five county community clinics has been muddling along, the medical care of last resort for the 360,000 and climbing uninsured people in alameda county. Think for a minute about who makes up this group of people; women dropped from kaiser after a divorce or anyone who needed tobe covered under someone elses insurance for that matter, anyone losing a job unable to make the large COBRA payments to keep up their insurance, undocumented immigrants unable to apply for medi-cal, many workers in jobs with no medical insurance, homeless people, and anyone who for whatever reason cant navigate the oppressive bureaucratic world of social services. It could be you or me. This hospital is a vital resource.
Since 1996 when measure E (which would have given alameda county residents the right to vote on the fate of their county hospital) lost by 5,000 votes, the alameda county board of sups at the urging of the evil dave kears went ahead with the establishment of a hospital authority to run the medical center as a separate entity. The board of sups wished to escape from moral and financial responsibility for the county health care services. The deluded imagination was that if the medical center was run more like a private hmo, then money could some how be made off the sickness and suffering of the countys uninsured and indigent people. So to that end they made the hospital authority, appointed to its board a variety of banking/business people, made robert strum, chair of the alameda county republican party, the president. Then they hired mike wall as the new ceo, known for being anti-union and running mt.diablo hospital in to the ground and out of existance.
mike wall brought in a gang of white suits, and fired a number of African American managers. Suddenly all the workers began to receive 8x10 glossy brochures about telephone etiquette. Breeches of the union contracts were rampant, as these pastel managers had never heard of unions. The union couldnt keep up with the escalating number of meet-and-confers and grievance procedures.
Meanwhile patient care and services are in a steady state of decline. The evil dave kears started a process of gouging money from the poor, by making it much harder to qualify for the county medical plan. Patients discovered they were being asked for co-payments in the ER and when getting medicine. Attempts have been made to bill homeless people for ambulance rides.
Clinicians found that certain medications were no longer "formulary" under the county medical plan, or that certain procedures wouldnt be paid for. One could easily spend all day waiting in the over extended emergency department. Speciality care clinics such as orthopedics or opthamalogy have at least six month waiting lists to even get an appointment. The hospital units and the clinics are badly understaffed. The buildings are dilapidated and crumbling, the equipment outdated. But in case you were worried that no improvements had been made, the suit gang has seen fit to put up lots of art work on the walls not wanting to be left behind by alta bates or kaiser.
Meanwhile this years medical center crisis blossomed with dismal failing of the medical center by the routine inspection by JCAHO(Joint Commission Accreditaion Hospital Organizaton) and HCFA (Health Care Finance Agency). In spite of all the suit gangs autocratic threats to remove fliers off walls and move cartons off floors, it seems that the charting among other things was in total disarray. Apparently this was bad enough for the regulators to threaten immediate closure and/or withholding medicare funding. mike wall responded to this crisis by first assuring everyone that he had it all under control and then by quitting precipitously for a cushy job in a private southern california catholic healthcare west hospital. Perhaps the era of slick brochures and wall-hangings will pass.
The hospital needs money!!! years of under funding diverting money to the sheriffss department has caused this disaster. The notion that money can be made from health care in alameda county is just ridiculous if not insidious. Services need to be provided and adequately funded. Over the last year the evil dave kears in cahoots with various public health administrators held hearings about how to divide the tobacco settlement money. These hearings purposefully left out any mention of the hospital and its needs. Health care activists from the hospital, Vote Health, and locals 616 and 250 of SEIU stormed one such meeting in a North Oakland church and successfully demanded and were able to get the hospital on the agenda. The board of stupervisors
has promised various pots of money including 10 million from the tobacco money. In total $29 million is owed, earmarked, promised, and never actually forked over. A joint campaign of the unions and Vote Health has successfully hounded these officials at every public meeting, including a massive demonstration at the board presenting them with a giant would-be check for $29 million dollars. As of yesterday the report has come that they will finally give these already appropriated funds to the medical center. This money perhaps will at least prevent the most immediate threat of closure by the state regulatory agencies.
Simultaneously the union contract with SEIU locals 616, 250 and 535 has been expired since August. The unions have been in negotiation for the first time with the new hospital authority entity. From the beginning it was clear that the authority had hopes of making a private sector-like contract, diminishing the power of the unions and generally making the lives of county health care workers a more intense living hell.
Local 250 has been mounting its own hospital worker campaign against sutter and catholic healthcare west, having somewhere upwards of 25 contracts in negotiation at the same time. 250 with the help of vote health has attempted to bring the community in on this rather generic campaign. Reader, please remember, this is the same opportunist local 250 famous for its odious sell-out labor/ management partnership. While currently fighting these bloodsucking hmos, no doubt the ultimate agenda is to make more labor/management partnerships. So the medical center locals decided to throw in their lot with this 250 led bay area wide hospital campaign.
Much to the shock of the locals 93%of the county hospital workers voted to join the one day strike. A spectacular demonstration happened at Highland 300 people strong, workers and community. Workers felt their power, and mangagment in a moment of clarity, gave tentative agreement to several large issues such as no contracting out, and staffing levels. As a result the highland strike was called off. The union staff seemed surprised at the militancy of the medical center workers. They of course have discounted all the work that the beloved PUSH (People United To Save Health care) has done over the years, calling for a grassroots community/hospital workers based movement to demand a full service public hospital, with no contracting out. PUSH has always known that what is good for the community is good for the workers and vice versa. PUSH has tried to take that message to the Oakland Community as well as to the workers. Our message has contributed to the militant understanding at Highland today.
Alameda county needs to fund the public hospital adequately. This means opening up more specialty clinics with more clinicians allowing reasonable appointment times. The ER needs more staff to cope with the numbers treated there. Money is needed for capital improvements . A true grass roots community/worker movement must be built to demand a full service hospital. The unions and Vote Health have to look further than their lobbying politics.
HEALTH CARE IS A HUMAN RIGHT
PEOPLE OF OAKLAND RISE UP AND RECLAIM OUR COUNTY HOSPITAL