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March 25, 2005

Small Steps toward Equality

Good news for Maryland justice seekers: The state senate today approved a measure that would allow same-sex couples to have the power to make decisions for each other. No, the landmark Medical Decision Making Act does not confer equality onto GLBT couples, but it would add provisions to the state's health code and set up a registry allowing queer couples a few basic rights, including the right to visit a partner or partner's child in a health-care facility and the ability to make health-care decisions for a partner.

The bill has come close to passage before. In 2004, the legislation passed the Maryland House, but it fell short by one vote in the Senate Education, Health & Environmental Affairs Committee.

The Baltimore Sun says the constant coverage of the Terri Schiavo case may have affected lawmakers considering the controversial measure this year.

The Medical Decision Making Act of 2005 has grabbed extra attention in Annapolis given the dispute over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman whose case has prompted a national debate over issues such as the role one person should play in another's medical care.

"This is about really reaffirming the rights of a person to designate who they feel would be best to carry out their wishes," said Kelber-Kaye, 40, who lives in Baltimore with her partner of 12 years and their two sons, ages 6 and 1.

"When you're worried about somebody who is ill and you want to be there for support, the last thing you need is to be fighting with a nurse just to be in the room," she said.

While the measure has been driven by the gay and lesbian rights community for the past two years, the bill applies to homosexual and heterosexual couples who consider themselves "life partners."...

Eligible couples would have to be at least 18, not related and living together. Couples could not be married or members of a civil union or domestic partnership and would have to be dependent on each other.

In addition to medical decision-making and hospital visitation rights, the bill would allow partners to ride in ambulances together, share rooms in a nursing home, conduct private visits in a nursing home and make decisions related to the disposition of a partner upon death.

Advocates say that only some of these benefits can be conveyed through a will, power of attorney or other legal documents. They argue further that they shouldn't have to be rummaging through papers in times of emergency or death.

Kelber-Kaye and her partner, Stacey Kargman Kaye, 37, have had two emergency hospital situations during which they were temporarily denied access to each other. They are tired of having to explain themselves, their life decisions and their family configuration.

"We've chosen to spend our lives together, and we take responsibility for each other in every other way," Kargman Kaye said. "We are a family, and we want to be treated that way."
The Senate win moves the lesgislation to the House of Delegates, where the chance for passage appears strong. A huge obstacle exists, however, in the form of Maryland Governor Robert Ehrlich, who is known for his virulent opposition to equality and justice for GLBT people. If the measure does win House passage, it will be interesting to see whether the GOP gov is willing to sign the bill into law. If he doesn't, I recommend that justice-seeking Marylanders take their anger directly to the ogreish Bobby Smooth -- because they will then have incontrovertible proof that their governor doesn't care about all of his constituents.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 04:09 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Maryland Alert: Verifiable Electronic Voting

Received this Maryland-focused action alert from Thomas Nephew of the excellent Newsrack Blog. If you, like Thomas and I, hail from the Old Line State, I ask you to act on this important issue.

I got this earlier this evening from Linda Schade, who is head of the TrueVoteMD, a group devoted to making electronic voting in Maryland verifiable with paper receipts.

I don’t know if you follow this issue, but I think it' more important than it may sound: without paper receipts, there' no way to doublecheck whether your electronic vote was accurately recorded and tallied. The Maryland State Board of Elections has really dug in its heels about sticking with the current e-voting system, despite much expert testimony that there's a better way. In Montgomery County, 12 percent of electronic voting machines failed in the November election.

A bill is before the Maryland house that would require paper receipts and random audits for e-voting systems; two other "bad" bills either fail to specify the kind of "vote verification," or call for further study. Here's a Washington Post editorial from earlier this week about it: Up For the Count.

If you want to help get the "good" bill passed, there are specific phone numbers below to call if you like, or an online petition to sign if that's where you'd like to leave things.
From: Linda Schade
Sent: Thursday, March 24, 2005 7:32 PM
Subject: TrueVote Update: Call Now to Support Paper Trail

Pass this on to friends and neighbors or risk living in a country where elections are totally fake!! Just kidding, sort of.

Concerned Maryland Voter:

Voters across the state are still working to get a paper ballot for our voting machines. The Annapolis session is at a fever pitch - so now is the perfect time for a TrueVoteMD update and action item that you can take to help out restoring MD's elections.

Election Day Cover-Up? At a recent hearing, surprising testimony revealed that 12 percent of Montgomery County's voting machines had failed in the November 2004 election. A county election board member made public an internal report which shows the details AND that Diebold is still STRUGGLING -- four months later -- to explain what happened with Montgomery County voting machines.

The burning question is, "What happened in the rest of Maryland counties?" We have reason to believe the problems were statewide - but those with the documents have been told to refer all inquiries to Administrator Lamone at the State Board. The refusal of Linda Lamone and the State Board to openly share the real information (actual election day reports from each county) has caused TrueVoteMd to file a Freedom of Information Act Request to find out. We'd like to know exactly what they have to hide - and so would the national media (Check the documents we have so far by scrolling down on the home page of TrueVoteMd.org).

Paper Trail Legislation: We expect bills to be voted on in Annapolis any day now.

Now is the time for intense activity to push these important paper ballot bills. THREE sets of bills are under consideration but ONLY ONE is the real deal.

I. The True Paper Trail Bills House Bill 107 & Senate Bill 9 require the solution advocated by independent computer experts to mend our troubled voting system: a voter-verified paper ballot audit trail with a 2% random audit.

Muddying the waters are...

II. "Decoy" bills HB80 / SB63 which require 'vote verification's but leaves the solution undefined. This has led to all kinds of untested, uncertified and insufficient technologies to be considered (and all kinds of big lobbying money) to be pressing their case with overloaded Annapolis legislators. It also boots the decision back to the SBE - truly a 'fox in the henhouse' outcome.

III. "Study" bills HB479 / SB849 which proposes to have the prototype technologies listed above tested in upcoming municipal elections. TrueVoteMd has looked into these technologies and the short story is: CALL YOUR LEGISLATOR AND TELL THEM TO SUPPORT THE TRUE BILLS!!

CALL NOW TO PROTECT THE VOTE!

Seriously, now is the time to make two calls:

1) Sheila Hixson is the House committee chair who needs to hear: "VoteHB107 favorably out of committee." Explain that you want to know who wins the Governor's race next year :). Then find a friend or neighbor to call.

2) Then call Paula Hollinger Senate committee chair who needs to hear the same thing: "Vote SB9 favorably out of committee." Explain politely that there are slates of candidates forming and she may pay at the ballot box. Say whatever you like but please do call! Then pass this on to friends and neighbors and get them to call.

If you HATE calling, then we've got easy and updated "Click and Send" letters on the TrueVote web site: For Sheila and her committee and for Paula and her committee.

3) I know most of you already called your own legislators, but if you haven't, the TrueVote site has a link for finding them too. Some phone numbers are below.

PS: Legislator phone numbers below with a few notes from last year:

Senate Education, Health, and Environment Affairs Committee

* Indicates co-sponsorship of SB 9 (the "good" bill); # Indicates co-sponsorship of SB 63 (the "bad" bill). Please note that there is an alarming level of support for SB 63, and thus those senators and those whose opinion we do not know would be the most important ones to call. Be sure to call the chair and vice chair of the committee.

Chair: #Paula C. Hollinger (D), 410-841-3131 – definitely call
Vice Chair: #Joan Carter Conway (D), 410-841-3145 – definitely call
# Gwendolyn Britt (D), 301-858-3745
# Jim Brochin (D), 410-841-3648 - call
Richard F. Colburn (R), 410-841-3590
# Roy P. Dyson (D), 308-858-3673 (sponsor of SB 63) – definitely call
* Janet Greenip (R), 410-841-3568
#* Sharon Grosfeld (D), 301-858-3137 (co-sponsor of both bills; do call her)
* Andrew P. Harris (R), 410-841-3706 (sponsor of SB 9)
Allan H. Kittleman (R), 410-841-3671
# Paul G. Pinsky (D), 301-858-3155 – definitely call

House of Delegates Ways & Means Committee

* Indicates co-sponsorship of HB 107 (the "good" bill); # Indicates co-sponsorship of HB 80 (the "bad" bill). Please note that there is an alarming level of support here also for the "bad" bill, and thus those senators and those whose opinion we do not know would be the most important ones to call. Be sure to call the chair and vice chair of the committee.

Chairman: Sheila E. Hixson (D), 301-858-3469 – definitely call
Vice Chairman: #Anne Healey (D), 301-858-3528 – definitely call
Joseph R. Bartlett (R), 301-858-3107
* David B. Broschert (R), 301-858-3223 – good last year
K. Bennett Bozman (D), 410-841-3431 – good last year
# Jon S. Cardin (D), 410-841-3342 (sponsor of HB 80) – definitely call
Jean B. Cryor (R), 301-858-3090 – probably a supporter, call
Clarence Davis (D), 410-841-3257
D. Page Elmore (R), 410-841-3433
# Terrill R. Gilleland, Jr. (R), 410-841-3233
Marshall T. Goodwin (D), 410-841-3030
Michael R. Gordon (D), 301-858-3557
Henry B. Heller (D), 301-858-3528
Carolyn J. B. Howard (D), 301-858-3074
# Anne R. Kaiser (D), 301-868-3380 – do call
# Nancy J. King (D), 301-858-3037 – really battered last year by supporters, do call
# Salima Siler Marriott (D), 410-841-3255 – call
# Robert A. McKee (R), 301-858-3447
# Leroy E. Myers, Jr. (R), 301-858-3435 – really against, don’t bother to call
Obie Patterson (D), 301-858-3210 – subcommittee chair, do call
Victor R. Ramirez (D), 301-858-3326 – strongly with us last year
Justin D. Ross (D), 301-858-3058 – new, but solidly with us

Posted by Natalie Davis at 03:17 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 21, 2005

Cambridge/Boston, Day Three: Peacekeeper's Travels

Welcome to American history: photo by Natalie Davis Home safe and sound following my Massachusetts trip, although my arrival was a bit later than expected. A threatened storm did hit Philadelphia, where I had a connecting flight, and it forced a number of delays. Despite a scheduled arrival time of 11:45 PM Sunday, my plane finally reached Baltimore-Washington International at nearly 1:30 Monday morning. Gone was the energetic, fired-up rabble-rousing activist from hours earlier; this kid was one whipped puppy.

Hence the delay in getting this posting online. After arriving home, I fell into a deep sleep, which was much needed. I woke up early this afternoon, got reacquainted with the spouse and son, and then went out to have my protest photos developed. That mission accomplished, it's time to share:

plaque at Boston Common: photo by Natalie Davis

The trip to Boston Common was a quick one -- from my hotel in Cambridge, just two stops down the T's inbound Red Line. Ten minutes after checking out of the Marriott, I was standing in the midst of the historic Common, established in 1634, and the adjacent Public Garden. The site is one of the oldest public parks in the nation and it is the starting point of Boston's Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile-long path that links 16 of the city's historic landmarks. Given the Common's lauded place among the sites playing a part in the founding of the United States, it struck me as a perfect place for a rally promoting justice, peace, and liberty for all. Well, almost: March 20 was the first day of spring and while the weather was pleasantly mild, the park still bore the imprint of its last snowfall. Some white stuff was still present in places throughout the erstwhile "trayning ground" and cattle-feeding spot, but much of the snow had melted, leaving muddy patches galore. Moving from one spot to another, therefore, was messy -- my sneaker-covered feet were soaked fairly quickly -- but, hey, the place has a history of being rather swamplike. And ambulating in soggy sneakers was a small price to pay for being in such a hallowed place for such a righteous purpose.

When I arrived at Boston Common, it was not quite noon, meaning there was about an hour to go until the scheduled start of Boston Mobilization's Global Day of Peace rally. Tooling about the site, I looked for likely co-conspirators for peace. It didn't take long for me to encounter a determined young man holding a cool handmade poster:

progressive and young: photo by Natalie Davis

After striking up a conversation, my new friend and I headed off together to the rally site. The teen told me a little about his life: He was a high school senior (and antiwar progressive anarchist) from a small town outside of Boston. His parents were divorced, he said, and though his father was pretty well-to-do, he and his mother were ensconced firmly within the ranks of the working poor. He was thrilled to have earned a full scholarship to college; much of his time was spent working to help his mother, a low-paid teachers' aide, try to make ends meet. Activism, he said, was one of his regular passions, and he appeared excited about participating in a nonpermitted take-over-the-streets march following the city-approved rally. Dang, I thought, realizing that even if I had wanted to do so, taking the risk of getting arrested for being part of an illegal march was something I couldn't do. On any other day, I would leap at the chance, but on this day, I had a plane to catch and a family awaiting my return. Dang.

Determined to make the most of the experience, I put aside my disappointment over the march. When we reached the giant domed pavilion serving as the rally stage, we met one of the event organizers. In no time at all, we were put to work. My traveling companion was enlisted to hand uut rally fliers to people walking down nearby Tremont Street. I was asked to serve as a peacekeeper, one of a group of people wearing bright orange armbands. Our job was to walk through the rally crowds, spread positive vibes, and help keep the peace. Which was perfect: The task gave me a chance to see everything and everyone, to bond with fellow peacekeepers Ty, Cooper, and Jen (and one other really cute guy who gave me a fabulously warm hug), to bask in peacenik camaraderie, to talk with some of the presenters and performers, to buy some new message buttons, and to get some exercise. I was proud to be part of the effort.

common geese: photo by Natalie Davis

While walking about taking notes and admiring the gaggles of geese enjoying themselves in the warm sunshine illuminating the garden, I ran into a TV host, producer, and activist with the very well-known name of Ethan Allen. How could I not say something to him?

The bearded man had a kindly face. He was all too happy to talk about his enterprise, Just P.E.A.C.E. Productions, and its progressive-themed media projects. And I was all too happy to listen. Eventually, though, I had to bring up his historic moniker.

"That's quite an impressive family you have, Mr. Allen."

He grinned. "Yeah, we've been fighting conservatives since 1776."

I was charmed thoroughly and completely won over. Oh yes, I mused, this is going to be a great day.

Just before the rally started, after ensuring that the orange-hued band was tied securely around my right arm, I began my peacekeeper duties. Ty, leader of our merry band, instructed us to focus on the crowd and be prepared to quash -- peacefully and lovingly -- any simmering tension that might develop. And yes, tensions can rise at a peace rally, particularly when combative ideological opponents decide to crash the party. Thankfully, all appeared copacetic.

I joined a group of people walking around and bowing their heads before a number of flag-draped mock coffins representing the more than 1.500 US soldiers killed in the two years of Dubya Bush's assault on Iraq. Many sights moved me on this day, but these heartbreaking coffins along with a nearby wall that boasted the names and faces of fallen soldiers, was one of the most stirring.

Mourning the fallen: photo by Natalie Davis

The goal of today's rally was to commemorate the two-year anniversary of Bush's "war" by calling for peace, demanding an end to the US's illegal and immoral Iraq occupation, and pointing out just how fucked up the US government is in general. Signs proudly waved by demonstrators made our positions clear: "Draft Bush voters first"; "Support the troops - bring them home now"; "No more corporate war"; "War doesn't determine who's right -- only who's left"; "Love your country, fear your government"; "How many deaths will it take before Bush knows that too many people have died?"; "Enough!"; "Wake up, America!"

No Godwin's Law here: photo by Natalie Davis

Onstage, the show was under way. Jamaican funk-rock singer-guitarist Cedric Josey got things started on a thoughtful tip, reminding the assemblage of the reason for the rally being held in "the birthplace of American democracy," the reason we took up the cross of socio-political activism and dissent: "It's all about humanity."

Cedric Josey, Troubadour for peace: photo by Natalie Davis

Socially conscious singer-songwriter Cool Breeze followed with a hilarious reworking of the children's standard, "Old McDonald's Farm." In this version, the "CIA has got a training camp, E-I-E-I-O..." Encouraged by the performer, the enthusiastic audience sang along with verve and glee. As I watched the growing crowd -- peacekeeper on duty, of course -- the diversity of those filling the rally area was a sight to behold: dreadlocked hippies in Grateful Dead tees, mohawked teens, red and black-clad anarchists encased in leather, young parents with babes in strollers, white-haired seniors wielding anti-Bush signs. It was beautiful. They were beautiful.

Peaceful Vets: photo by Natalie Davis

What really struck me, though, was the number of people wearing military gear -- camouflage, hats, full uniforms. How cool it was to have groups like Veterans for Peace on hand. These people saw war firsthand; they know the horror and devastation state-sanctioned killing causes. They know that war is inhumane, dangerous, and ultimtely futile. And they, like the rest of us, came out to call for peace. I gladly saluted them.

Military personnel and their families were highly visible throughout the event. A young representative from Military Families Speak Out offered the view of a teenager coping with having a parent stationed in Iraq. We heard from John Schuchardt, a former Marine-turned-peacemaker, lawyer, founder of Ipswich, MA's House of Peace, and Veterans for Peace member who served time in prison for his role in the nonviolent activism of the legendary Plowshares Eight. From
the stage, Schuchardt slammed Dubya Bush and his followers in a powerful, resonant baritone: "War is the problem. Only the sick and ill of mind would consider it a solution."

Amen, brother.

And as he railed against a system that seems determined to have the rich in power and the poor in prison, Schuchardt gave us good advice: "Don't bear the shame. Don't die for a lie" told by an America that is "bringing ruin at home and death and destruction abroad."

Mad as hell - Antiwar veteran Shalom Keller: photo by Natalie Davis Just as compelling was Shalom Keller, a 23-year-old man in Army gear who recently completed two stints in Iraq -- or, as he described himself, "a pissed-off veteran telling it like it is." Keller rued his decision to join the Death Brigade almost from the start. He blanched, he said, when he heard government leaders insisting that the US Army was fighting for Christ. Keller yanked off his hat to reveal a khaki-colored yarmulke underneath: "Hello? Do I look like I would be fighting for Christ?" He angrily noted the mock coffins on display and reminded us that military deaths are all too real. "I can rattle off the names of people I know who are dead, very fucking dead." And his bitterness was audible when he talked of young people celebrating their 21st birthday by getting blasted in bars while his was spent "invading a country that had done me no harm."

As for the Bush claim that the US military presence is in Iraq to bring democracy to the people there, Keller snorted. "How are we going to bring democracy to Iraq," he asked, "when we don't have democracy in the US?" Heads nodded and cheers went up throughout the park.

Nice outfit: photo by Natalie Davis As the speeches went on, I continued to walk through the rally crowd, pausing to compliment clever signs, admire gorgeous children, pat dogs on their heads, and visit organizational tables scattered throughout the site. As you know, progressive groups are the very definition of diversity, so as you may imagine, there was much food for thought to be found on a wide variety of subjects.

One booth manned by activist union school-bus drivers offered information regarding the People's Struggle in Colombia and the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela. Among their projects: boycotting Coca-Cola, getting US troops out of Colombia, and stopping repression by the Uribe regime.

A number of socialist and communist organizations were on hand to pass out fliers and newsletters and to call for a socialist revolution. Smashing capitalism, they contend, is the only way to achieve any sort of economic justice in the US. Ruth Kiefson, whose son is stationed now in Iraq, spelled out her cure for the world's ills.

"Capitalism and imperialism are driving world events. The system always leads to imperialist war," she warned from the rally stage. "We need rule by the masses. Profit must be outlawed; wealth must be shared." From where I stood in a soggy spot of the Public Garden, I could hear the more moderate participants cringe.

Kiefson called on progressives to fight "racism, sexism, and homophobia" and to work for a "socialist-egalitarian revolution." One specific plan she endorsed -- an idea also pushed by college-age rally speakers -- was one I would like to see implemented here in Baltimore. Kiefson says it is time to follow in the footsteps of university and high school activists who engage in anti-recruitment: targeting ROTC and JROTC programs that seek to recruit low-income and working-class young men and women to join the Death Brigade. Additonally, she said, "We must inspire soldiers to resist and rebel from being murderers in an unjust war."

Amen, sister.

Betsy and Me: photo by a nice passerby who did me a mitzvah

As is the wont of progressive protest rallies, there were activists calling for vegetarianism, promoting future No Nukes events, and passing along action alerts -- one handed to me was a postcard produced by the World Society for the Protection of Animals demanding that China stop bear farming. (You can take action and see the postcard copy here.) One do-gooder promoted an exceedingly timely issue: the right-to-die case of brain-damaged Florida woman Terri Schiavo. And this guy gave me a lot to think about.

The media have split those with opinions on the Schiavo situation into two camps -- liberals who side with the patient's husband, who wants her to be able to die with dignity and conservatives who side with the patient's parents, who insist that their daughter is alive and should be allowed to live on. But at the rally, a wheelchair-bound disability-rights activist from the group Not Dead Yet offered what he called a progressive approach to opposing those who agree with Schiavo's spouse.

Don't believe the hype that this is just another Right-Left battle over "life" vs. "choice." Terri Schiavo is above all a disabled woman who can not speak for herself. If you believe in disability rights, if you believe in women's rights, and if you believe in the basic right of habeas corpus, you should be cheering for what Congress [did]: interrupt the starvation now being executed by an estranged husband and a prejudiced judge.

--from the save terri flier

The presentation of an alternate progressive view gave me something to think about: Consider Terri Schiavo for a moment as a helpless woman whose fate is under control by a man claiming to know what is best for her while he is living and raising kids with another woman. To this point, I have been siding with Terri's husband, but I am giving the disability-rights groups' arguments serious consideration. And I give the activist a lot of credit. Surely he knew that he would be pushing a minority position among a leftist crowd. But, as was said from the Boston Common stage, "What good is freedom if we are afraid of speaking our conscience?" Obviously, the speaker was talking to the choir: This peacekeeper noticed that everyone treated the young man with respect even if they disagreed with him.

Thankfully, I noticed very little disturbance of the peace. The rally did get its share of disapproving visitors: A number of pro-Bushies came by, as did a contingent of brown-shirted Neo-Nazis. Peacekeepers were able to keep rallygoers away from those opposing our cause and, in fact, it appeared the right-wingers and Nazis wanted to keep their profile low. Neither group seemed interested in doing anything other than wave anti-liberal or pro-Dubya signs. Which was cool: This is America, after all.

Meanwhile, women's culture was celebrated through spoken word. A female artist playing the role of the Great Mother spoke to faraway troops:

Come home
Come home, little brother
Come home alive...
We birthed you in love...
We did not birth you to murder and rape
Soldier, beware...

Again, I walked past the collection of coffins on display. A father stood there with his four-year-old son. I couldn't help but hear the conversation that followed the boy's question about what the boxes were for. The dad explained that when soldiers went to war, sometimes they ended up being killed and that the bodies of the dead were placed in boxes and covered with American flags.

"Are these dead soldiers, Daddy?" The little boy's face was drained of color.

"No, buddy," his father said, reassuringly. "These boxes are empty. They are here to show that we are sad about the ones who died."

"I am sad, Daddy," the boy said.

"Me too."

To these eyes, they both looked miserable. Father and son stood side-by-side in solemn silence for what felt like long minutes. Suddenly, the boy sniffled and spoke up again: "Daddy?"

"Yeah, sweetie?"

"War kills people. It's bad."

"I know, son," the man replied, as he placed his arm around the boy's shoulder. "I know."

Howard Zinn: photo by Natalie Davis Moving on, I ran into several women I had met at the Women and Media conference, which had ended earlier that day. We were thrilled, though not surprised, to see feminist activists at a peace rally. Then we had an even bigger thrill: Noted progressive professor, historian, activist, and author Howard Zinn walked by. Camera in hand, I took off to snap a shot of the great man (and, as you can see, got one). After he spoke, I was able to shake his hand and briefly chat with him. But what he said during his brief time onstage is what matters.

Zinn noted that more than 600 US cities, including Boston, hosted peace rallies over the weekend to mark the second anniversary of the US invasion. And the events pointed to then need for us to do important work.

"Iraq has been occupied for two years now. What have we brought to the people of Iraq? Death and destruction," Zinn said. "And it's four years since we've been occupied by the Bush Administration. It is time to end both occupations."

Just in time, the progressive movement in the US is on the rise, the historian said, adding, "More of us are realizing we've been lied to." He pointed to proposed cuts to programs aimed at helping America's poor; to the Shrub's Social Security plan, which would remove much of the safety net for elderly citizens; to education and housing initiatives. "Bush is stealing money from the people and giving it to war."

Zinn continued: "He lies to soldiers, telling them that they are fighting for liberty. ... You don't bring liberty with napalm and cluster bombs. You don't bring liberty by breaking into homes. You don't bring liberty by terrorizing families. War is terrorism! And Bush, Cheney, Halliburton, and Bechtel are not worth dying for."

The crowd applauded wildly, but the progressive icon wasn't quite finished. "For every person here, there are 100 people who don't go to demonstrations but know someting rotten is happening," he said. During the Vietnam war, as time passed and soldiers came back with their stories from the front, Zinn said Americans realized that it was time for the war to end. The same thing will happen soon, he predicted.

"A point will come when the public will demand that the government stop this war. [And, as in Vietnam,] it will end," he said. "Then we can work to end the occupation in this country."

By now, the cheers and applause from the audience, estimated at about 2,000 strong by organizers, seemed deafening.

progressive and young: photo by Natalie Davis

A street-theater troupe featuring papier-mache characters including a giant gun, an evil capitalist, and moaning faces representing the tortured souls of those held captive -- economically and otherwise -- by the policies of the Bush Administration moved throughout the site. A line of cheerleaders with pom poms entertaied rallygoers with high kicks and spirited anti-Bush rhymes. And, foreshadowing the threatened nonpermitted march, a pack of anarchists began pacing through the site and imploring the crowd, "Out of the rally and into the streets."

Anarchists unite: photo by Natalie Davis


The time was just after 3 PM, the time the police had set as the closing time for the event. No one was ready to budge quite yet; thankfully, the police allowed the remaining speakers and performers to address the assembled. I stayed a little longer to soak up the spirit of progressive unity, again bemoaning that I couldn't risk arrest, but soon it was time for me to head back to Cambridge and grab my bags for the trip to Logan International Airport. Later, I learned that the anarchists did entice some rallygoers to march through Boston's streets. One stop they made was at a nearby armed-forces recruitment office. The staff -- knowing that an antiwar and anti-recruitment was taking place -- wisely chose to remain closed for the day. Boston Mobilization counted the closing a success. So do I, but then, I consider the entire affair to be rousingly successful.

There is nothing like the heady feeling of combined power, joy, and resolve that comes from taking part in a mass demonstration. But, as was said at Boston Common, demos alone are meaningless. Let's hope everyone who attended -- and everyone who reads this account of the event or any other -- will demonstrate however many times is necessary. But more importantly, I pray they -- and you -- will go on to do the necessary work: organizing, strategizing, and transforming society.

"Scatter thou the people who delight in war," says a passage from Psalms. Conversely, I believe, peaceful people -- the peace-seekers and peacekeepers -- are called to gather for a noble cause. It is time for good people to denounce the hysteria of Bush's "war on terror." It is time to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, teach the young, protect the planet, and aid the sick. It is time to stand up to a government that knows more about torture than it does about true justice or decency or human dignity.

This is our goal as a progressive movement: We must work for justice and equality, stand for peace, and end all war. And we must be prepared to do whatever is moral to make this goal reality. My weekend at the WAM conference and at Boston's Global Day of Peace rally gave me inspiration and energy to focus on the hard work that lies ahead. I pray you can feel that inspiration and energy too. Victory will require work and commitment from us all. As Cedric Josey sang, it's all about humanity. And as I will add, it's all about peace.

progressive and young: photo by Natalie Davis

Posted by Natalie Davis at 09:23 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 20, 2005

Airport Blues

I type on a public Internet kiosk in Boston's Logan International Airport. I have about two hours before my flight back to Baltimore and about 12 minutes until my 'Net times runs out -- this thing isn't cheap! Thought I would duck in just to say that this has been an amazing weekend and an absolutely glorious day.

Details will come later, but the day started with the final session of the Center for New Words' Women and Media conference. A keynote from the inspiring Daisy Hernandez (of ColorLines fame) got my day off to a rousing start. The energy I received from Daisy and the other women present fueled me more than adequately for the ride over the Charles River and the Global Day of Peace rally at Boston Common. Wow, what a day! I ran into many women from WAM, a fellow from Baltimore who now lives in Boston, and Howard Zinn, who was so lovely and who spoke so eloquently at the rally... Plus the folks I met from Boston Mobilization and with whom I served as an event peacekeeper -- what awesome soldiers for peace they are.

As I said, details will come later, but wow, I haven't felt this much spirit and energy in eons. There is much to relate and much work to do. Thanks to you if you hit a rally or march this weekend, but if you didn't, the info and marching orders are coming. Be ready: We have at least two occupations and a nation to save. And I believe we can do it!

Please wish me a safe trip. I have to fly to Philly and then grab a connecting flight to BWI. Word has it a storm may be brewing, so I'm praying all will be well. Should something go awry, though, at least I went out doing something meaningful and spiritually uplifting.

peace and love to all...

Posted by Natalie Davis at 06:47 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

March 19, 2005

Cambridge, Day Two: Feminism, Visibility, and Peace

As Dave Letterman used to say, I am tired, but it is a good kind of tired...

feminism is not a dirty word Just finished up today's activities at the Center for New Words' 2005 Women and Media conference. And what a day! I served as a presenter fof two panel discussions, attended an extremely well-done seminar, and met a number of women who read AF&O-- thank you so much for coming!!! -- or whose own blogs are faves of mine. This was one superb day.

First up was my first session -- fiddling around with a crashed computer and an ultimately useless (for now) Powerpoint presentation forced me to miss the morning keynote. But the panel more than made up for it: In "Women Seizing the Online Space," the focus of the discussion was expanding and amplifying the voices of women in cyberspace. As Elayne Riggs anticipated in one of her terrific Estrogen Month posts, we did indeed talk a bit about supposedly invisible women bloggers (and Kevin Drum probably felt his ears grow a bit warm this morning). Joining me on the panel were AlterNet senior editor Lakshmi Chaudry, Women's ENews founder and editor-in-chief Rita Hensley Jensen (my hotel roomie), and Rosalyn Lemieux, who is an online organizer for MoveOn.org; the moderator was Tara Tidwell Cullen, who is managing editor of Cultural Survival Quarterly. All of these women had thoughtful things to say about increasing the presence and power of women online. Ultimately, it comes down to one thing: Getting women on the 'Net, giving them the confidence to express themselves openly -- among other women and in mainstream settings -- and using the power of the Internet to organize and find community.

When this session ended, I headed to "Start Your Own Blog in 90 Minutes," in which Christine Cupiaolo of Ms. Musings led a group of women through starting their own weblogs. In 90 minutes. I love truth in advertising. Now, I've been at this website/blogging thing for nearly a decade, so I didn't need to start one -- I just wanted the opportunity to meet my cybercolleague Christine face to face. The mission was accomplished most satisfactorily: Not did I get to connect with Christine, who did an awesome job, but I also learned about podcasting. And the goddess behind Echidne of the Snakes was there too -- what an honor that she came up and introduced herself to me. I am such a huge fan of her work.

What's so wrong with the F word? The next session was simply inspirational. The topic was "Out of Vogue: The Future of Feminist Publishing." Sitting on the panel with me were Jean Casella, former publisher and director of the legendary Feminist Press; Carol Anne Douglas, part of the editorial collective of the equally legendary radical-feminist newsjournal off our backs, Deepa Fernandes of Pacifica Radio (this young woman is so impressive, as is her commitment to the cause), and Amy Hoffman, an author and editor of the recently-closed Women's Review of Books. (We may see WRB return, goddess willing...) The discussion, moderated by Bitch magazine's Andi Zeisler, centered on how to revitalize publishing for, by, and about women (which, for our purposes, includes books, newspapers and magazines, the Web, and broadcasting). It was fascinating, running the gamut from debating the wisdom of collective vs. capitalist business models, to pondering the ways to meld old-school and third-wave girlie-feminist philosophies, to considering the voices of women in other parts of the world, and to other compelling topics -- including what future the "F" word may or may not have. More questions were raised than answers were found, but one thing is clear: As the decline in women's bookstores and publishing houses continues, the need for feminist publishing rises. Our assignment is obvious -- we must do whatever we must to keep women's words and issues in the public eye. And given the enthusiasm of the women in the room and the empowerment that came from the gathering, I have no doubt we will succeed.

After some lovely chats with Jaclyn and Gilda from the godsend that is the Center for New Words, writer EJ Graff offered a brief and moving tribute to Wanda Alston, the brilliant Washington, DC, activist and GLBT community liaison brutally slain earlier this week -- oh, how she will be missed. Fatigue then hit me like a falling anvil: Back to the hotel and to an awaiting computer.

Which brings me to now. I am soooo tired: My recent bout with pneumonia has left me absolutely depleted. But, as I said, this is a good kind of tired. I may be exhausted, but I feel energized as well. After a good nap, I feel as if I should be able to change the world for the better through the power of the pen. I pray a whole lot of women feel that way too.

get up stand up Tomorrow, WAM will present a caucus on turning our newfound inspiration into action (which means next week I will have lots of information for you, gentle reader, and much work for you to do). Afterward, I will hit Boston Common to take part in the Global Day of Action. Lots of folks took to the streets today to mark the second anniversary of the US's foul invasion of Iraq, but Beantown is among the cities taking action tomorrow. I feel privileged to be able to take part in the worldwide call for peace; marching in Boston rather than in my usual stomping grounds (NYC, DC, Baltimore) will be so cool. The peaceniks are coming! The peaceniks are coming!

Are you in the Boston area? Come out for peace. Are you elsewhere? Be sure to retaliate with world peace in your city of town. Whatever you do, DO SOMETHING.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 07:37 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 18, 2005

Cambridge, Day One: Road Trip Begins

Howdy, crew members. I write from Cambridge, MA, the site of the Center for New Words' 2005 Women and Media Conference. I will be serving as a presenter at two seminars tomorrow: One focuses on feminist publishing and its future; the other centers around pushing female voices in cyberspace. If you are planning on being here for what should be an enlightening weekend, I hope to get an opportunity to say hi. If not, I do intend to blog about what I see and hear at the conference. With any luck, it will be interesting. And if you have any ideas on how to build a feminist movement online and in the world -- are we getting into the fourth wave now? -- please share in comments and I can share your idea with the many remarkable women present. Tonight, I will get to hear Medea Benjamin of Code Pink for Peace, who will be delivering a keynote address. I am definitely looking forward to that. But right now, after hours in airports and way too much money spent in cabfares, I am off to explore Cambridge. Specifically, I must find coffee -- there is a Starbucks in the hotel -- and a Rite-Aid. As my Christiane would say, later-bye!

Posted by Natalie Davis at 06:08 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 17, 2005

Good Sense Takes a Holiday

I could just spit. The Bush Administration and the Shrub's henchpersons in the US Congress had a busy Wednesday, and the results of their labors are just horrifying to behold.

First, the US Senate, by a narrow margin, approved a bill that would allow oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The news is fabulous for oil companies salivating over the possibility of getting their mitts on what may be as much as more than 10 billion barrels worth of crude oil. (Of course, that figure may be much, much smaller.) That Alaska's environment and the safety and security of ANWR's wildlife population are now at risk apparently doesn't matter to them. No surprise there.

A similar measure is now before the House of Representatives. Dubya says that if the ANWR drilling bill passes both houses of Congress, he will sign it. With a smirk on his face, no doubt.

Meanwhile, I didn't expect Irish rocker/activist Bono would win a nod to head up the World Bank. Since the US is the bank's largest shareholder and because it gets to choose the successor of outgoing chief James Wolfensohn, odds were that an American would get the job. But did you expect that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz -- the one depicted to have unsavory grooming habits in Fahrenheit 911 -- would be nominated for the job? That is indeed what has happened.

Bush's explanation for his choice is that the Pentagon hawk, who was a major player in the Iraq invasion, has "good experience" in the area of development. The Shrub's choice of neocon Wolfowitz is being met with shock and dismay throughout the world. Reports Canada's Globe and Mail:

A former World Bank executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said insiders are shocked by Mr. Wolfowitz's nomination, pointing out that it will be tough for him to live down his role in the Iraq war.

The executive said the Bush administration already throws its weight around the bank's headquarters, located just a few blocks from the White House and the US Treasury Department in downtown Washington.

"Mr. Wolfensohn was trying to build bridges between North and South," the executive said. "It's difficult to see how Mr. Wolfowitz will fit into that agenda."

Much of the fear surrounding Bush's nomination is that many world leaders fear that Wolfowitz will try to mold developing nations into systems mirroring those in the US. That fear sounds like a rational one to these ears.

According to the Globe and Mail, rumor has it that some of the World Bank's 184 member countries may try to derail the appointment. Still, while Wolfowitz will have to win European confirmation, the US government usually gets what it wants: America gets to choose the bank chief; Europe gets to choose the head of the International Monetary Fund. So it appears most possible that Bush will get his unsettling wish.

Another bit of unsettling news: Remember the so-called Real ID Act? Opponents warn that if passed, this measure now before Congress would endanger civil liberties and refugee rights in the US. Well, those against the bill have real reason to squawk. Human Rights First has the story:

On the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Refugee Act -- legislation that affirmed the United States' commitment to protecting refugees -- the House of Representatives today placed an anti-refugee bill on a fast track to becoming law. Human Rights First strongly condemns the House leadership's decision to attach the REAL ID Act to the emergency spending bill on Iraq and tsunami aid as a serious threat to refugees seeking protection from persecution in the United States.

"It is a sad irony that as we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the historic law that cements US commitment to protecting refugees in dire need of safe haven, the House bill drastically undermines those core principles," said Cory Smith, Legislative Counsel for Human Rights First. ...

By incorporating the REAL ID Act into the emergency spending bill [H.R. 1268], the House Leadership is seeking to press the Senate to accept anti-refugee provisions without sufficient consideration or debate.

"Attaching the anti-refugee provisions to an emergency measure not only jeopardizes badly needed support for our troops and tsunami victims, but also harms refugees fleeing torture, forced abortions, honor killings and other horrific violence," Smith noted.
The move by the leadership of the GOP-ruled House appears to be a masterstroke of political maneuvering as well. Imagine: Democrats who vote against the measure because they can not support the Real ID provisions could be slammed by Republicas in the next election for not supporting increasing the money going to troops in Iraq or for not supporting tsunami-relief funding. Or if the Dems vote for the bill, they leave themselves open to election-time criticism for being against refugee rights. Do I smell Rove-ian string-pulling here? Talk about being damned either way...

And finally, for now, the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee voted against investigating James Guckert, the discredited right-wing Internet scribe who wormed his way into the White House press corps under the name "Jeff Gannon."

Democrats, including Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), called for a probe, saying an investigation is needed to ensure the line separating journalists and activists is clear. But GOP representatives disagreed: Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who chairs the committee, argued that the matter had been investigated fully and that the arch-conservative faux reporter posed no threat to Dubya Bush or any other Bushites.

The vote means all credentialing information on Guckert/Gannon will remain hidden in White House hands.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 01:26 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

A Prayer for March 17

 St.Patrick I'm Irish by marriage, so I love this day, which my takes quite seriously. The shitjob won't permit me to do the corned-beef-and-cabbage thing or to drown myself in Guinness or Harp, but it can't stop me from taking a moment to share one of my favorite prayers fit for the day. Not religious? Focus not on God and Christ and threenesses, but on the encouragement to be and stand strong and to take strength from whatever or whoever moves you:

The Breast-plate of St. Patrick

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession
of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with His Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial
through the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim
in obedience of Angels, in the service of the Archangels,
in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs, in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles, in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins, in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through the strength of Heaven:
light of Sun, brilliance of Moon, splendour of Fire,
speed of Lightning, swiftness of Wind, depth of Sea,
stability of Earth, firmness of Rock.

I arise today, through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me, God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me, God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me, God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils, against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature, against everyone who
shall wish me ill, afar and anear, alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose
my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics, against craft of idolatry,
against spells of women [any witch] and smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.
Christ to protect me today
against poison, against burning, against drowning,
against wounding, so that there may come abundance of reward.

Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me, Christ in me,
Christ beneath me, Christ above me, Christ on my right,
Christ on my left, Christ in breadth, Christ in length,
Christ in height, Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me, Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength, the invocation of the
Trinity, through belief in the Threeness, through confession of the
Oneness of the Creator of creation.
Salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ. May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Top o' the day to all. Hoping the wind is at your back.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 12:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 15, 2005

Time Out for Hugh News

All right, a break for good news. Anyone who reads AF&O with any regularity knows of my penchant for actor Hugh Jackman. He hasn't been on the radar much since the end of his Tony Award-winning Broadway turn in "The Boy from Oz." After a well-deserved break in his home country, Australia, Jackman went to Canada to star in the upcoming Darren Aronofsky sci-fi adventure-romance film The Fountain. This one looks like it'll be intriguing. Now, I can't find a release date -- it is slated to hit screens this year -- but photos from the set are available. And, just for grins, enjoy this shot of a hirsute Hugh, whose character appears to be in a bit of a pickle.

The Fountain stars Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Gullette, Sean Patrick Thomas, and Donna Murphy.

Can't wait!

There is more for Hugh fans to anticipate: For the third year in a row, Jackman will serve as host of the Tony Awards, which air June 5. If you like him as song-and-dance man, no doubt you'll get a chance to see him strut his stuff in service of honoring Broadway's best. There will be other opportunities to bask in his musical talents too: The Aussie triple-threat is taking his show on the road. In April, with Fountain filming complete, he will hit Las Vegas' Wynn Resort, the first stop on a worldwide concert tour. Imagine him singing and dancing, backed by a big band and a line of dancers. Awesome. Hopefully, he'll make a stop near me...

And that's not all. The second sequel to X-Men is a go, and most of the cast, including Jackman as the hot and hairy Wolverine, will return. Bryan Singer, who directed the first two flicks won't be back; he is off making the newest Superman film. But word now has it that Matthew Vaughn of Layer Cake fame is oh-so-close to signing on to helm X-3. The script, currently being finished by Zak Penn and Simon Kinberg, is rumored to be at least as good as the first two films in the series. The third X-Men film is slated for a 2006 release. Which means thre should be plenty of Hugh on view throughout the next year. Woo hoo!

Posted by Natalie Davis at 03:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

On Equality and Compromise

Either everyone is equal under law or equality does not exist. I have been involved in a number of contentious debates at Blogcritics over the issue of equality as it pertains to American gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. More times than I care to count, the discussion comes to a screeching halt when some person -- usually, but not always antiqueer -- insists I am unyielding on the issue of those who, for whatever reason, do not approve of GLBT people.

For the record, let me clarify my views on the matter:

I have been accused of having a closed mind on the issue of gay rights. Given who and what I am, that may be true to an extent. I know the negative effect a heterosexist society and government have and have had on me and on many other humans. But please understand this: What some are unbending on is not refusing to accept that others have differing views or religious beliefs. If someone holds an anti-gay view because of religion, it doesn't mean necessarily that they are evil or bad; I certainly don't want to leave that impression.

Religion is not the issue here -- it's the matter of equality under law, nothing more and nothing less. Yes, it is hard to swallow that -- whatever someone's view about queer people -- there are those who can't and won't accept the notion of America living up to its promise of equality under law for all. But people have different opinions.

This is fact: The US claims that everyone should be equal under law yet doesn't practice that. That is the beef. If everyone isn't equal, then the US claim is a lie.

Merriam-Webster defines equality as "the state or quality of being equal." Digging further, it defines equal as "having the same quantity, measure, or value as another; some subdefinitions include "having the same privileges, status, or rights: equal before the law," "being the same for all members of a group: gave every player an equal chance to win," "adequate in extent, amount, or degree;" "impartial; just; equitable."

You can't have some people in society -- at least under law -- considered more equal than others. Equality can not be compromised: Either everyone is equal *under law* or equality doesn't exist. That's it; that's all. It is the mere statement of fact.

Now, if anyone wishes to find fault with me for making this statement, that is their right. If I must be considered closed-minded and unreasonable for saying that a country claiming to celebrate equality ought to live up to that claim, so be it. But I believe my view on this issue is totally reasonable. In fact, on this subject, this is the only reasonable view -- not because it's my view, not because I support the cause of gay rights, not because I have to be right. God knows I can be and am wrong about lots of things, at times wildly, laughably wrong -- just like anyone else. But this view is based on cold, hard fact: Either everyone is equal under law or equality does not exist. If you disagree, OK. If you want to dismiss me as a person worthy of your consideration, fine. But if you oppose treating queers equally under law, admit that you are not in favor of legal equality for all if you expect to be taken seriously.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 01:39 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

The Equality Challenge Remains On

Marriage equality Yesterday, we celebrated a California Superior Court judge's ruling that declared the Golden State's gay-marriage ban unconstitutional. Today, we are back to reality: As the Associated Press reports, anti-equality forces will fight back and fight back hard.

And there is bad news on Indiana's marriage-equality front. A move to amend that state's constitution to mandate heterosexual-only marriage cleared a legislative hurdle yesterday when Indiana's House Judiciary Committee passed an anti-gay-marriage resolution by a vote of 9-3.

From AP and TheIndyChannel.com:

Opponents screamed "Shame! Shame! Shame!" as the vote was taken. They then left the House chamber where the hearing was held and about 100 people gathered outside the office of Gov. Mitch Daniels, shouting the same slogan as state troopers worked to escort them from the building.

Earlier Monday, supporters and opponents of the proposal gave impassioned arguments before the judiciary committee. The state Senate last month advanced a resolution calling for the amendment, and the full House will consider it if it clears the judiciary panel.

For the state constitution to be amended, a resolution would need to pass consecutive, separately elected Legislatures and then be approved in a statewide election. If the proposal passes this year and in either 2007 or 2008, it could be on a statewide ballot in 2008.

In other words, whether we are talking about comparatively enlightened California or scary Red-state Indiana or other contentious battleground states such as Missouri and Minnesota, we have a long, hard struggle ahead, thanks to un-American people who have no clue about what justice and equality under law means. And, goddess knows, the fight isn't completely won in Massachusetts, the only state where gays and lesbians can legally wed. As the justice-seekers in Indianapolis shouted, shame, shame, shame.

Anti-GLBT Dubya Bush, depicted in a 2004 illustration by Steve Bell for the UK's Guardian.

The struggle will not be over until all Americans, whatever their sexual orientation, are free to marry the adult partner they want under federal law. It is an uphill battle, to be sure. But don't lose hope -- sometimes people can be reached and positive change can happen. Just check out this letter to the editor that appeared in Salem, OR's Statesman Journal:

Thank you, Statesman Journal, for giving religious gay-rights supporters a voice in the March 4 article "Rally pushes for gay unions."

I am a Christian -- a follower of Christ -- and get sick to my stomach when I hear the judgmental and cruel things that fundamentalists say to homosexuals. I am humiliated that the Christian religion often is tainted by those who love biblical law more than the people in this world.

When Measure 36 passed, my heart broke for my lesbian friends who wanted to marry and were told by Oregon voters that their love was not valid enough for social recognition. I am ashamed, however, that I chose to sit quietly and comfortably with a pen in my hand to oppose the measure when my voice could have spoken love and support to my homosexual friends.

Thank you to the ranks of God-fearing, equal-rights-loving people who are being active against the injustices toward homosexuals, and thank you for giving them a voice.

And good news does happen in places beyond California. An attempt by eight anti-GLBT lawmakers to derail a lawsuit challenging Maryland's gay-marriage ban was recently squashed in the state Court of Appeals. This is but one in a series of pro-equality successes won in the Old Line State, and this -- with any luck and a lot of hard work and persistence -- could bode well for Maryland's future.

Bottom line: Hope lives. Don't give up the fight. And, remember, AF&O's Equality Challenge is still on -- and, in the interest of achieving true justice in America, I issue it again more forcefully than ever.

By the way, while visiting the IndyChannel link, be sure and take the poll; the pro-hate/control-freak vote is enjoying a slight lead.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 10:19 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Alert: Two Ways to Address Bush's $82B Request

Feeling conflicted over Dubya Bush's proposal to invest even more of your money into the Iraq occupation? We present two ways to take action, one for pacifists and anti-war types and another for more mainstream do-gooders. Take your pick, but please take action!

The US House of Representatives is preparing to vote on the Bush Administration's request for an additional $82 billion to fund the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. The vote could come as early as today. The very idea chills me to the marrow: Each day the occupation endures, the Bushies spend more than $200 million of taxpayers' dollars to fund war and occupation in Iraq. 100,000 Iraqis have died. More than 1,500 American soldiers have been killed; in excess of 15,000 Iraqis have been slain. Thousands more humans have been wounded. In the opinion of many peace-seekers, not one more dime should be spent on Bush's criminal wars, occupations and torture programs.

Imagine the good $82 billion could do instead. According to the ANSWER Coalition, a number of acutally worthwhile things could be accomplished:

  • Proposed budget cuts for 150 federal social programs could be restored to help the poor and working poor.


  • Schoolkids might have a chance to not be left behind: Forty-eight education programs Dubya wants to nuke could go forward, and about 1.5 million much-needed new elementary-school teachers could be hired.


  • More than 14 million uninsured workers could receive the health insurance they desperately need.
  • Medicare could get the boost it needs to thelp the poor and elderly.
  • Fourteen million low-income families could receive the housing vouchers -- and the shot at a decent life -- that they need.

Now, you may not be a fan of International ANSWER or of all the points on its agenda. But if you agree with the idea that the US presence in Iraq is unconscionable, you must do what is right. If you oppose the $82 billion Supplemental Request as a way of speaking out against the continued occupation of Iraq and the wanton spending of working people's money for death and conquest, take action here, and do it now.

Of course, if you can not stand with the ANSWER Coalition, or if you are of a middle-of-the-road bent, meaning you are OK with sending more money to Iraq IF concrete plans are being made to get the US out of that country, you can take action as well.

The following action alert comes from True Majority and Working Assets' Act for Change:

As early as today, the US House of Representatives will vote on [George W. Bush]'s request for $82 billion to pay for the ongoing military occupation of Iraq. It's time for Congress to stand up to [Bush] and his advisors and say that there will be no more money for Iraq without a clear strategy for withdrawal.

Despite the capture of Saddam, the transfer of nominal sovereignty, and initial elections for a national assembly, the quagmire in Iraq continues. Yet Bush refuses to specify when the US will exit the country it invaded. Literally billions of dollars in [Bush]'s latest request will be used to build permanent bases that will extend the occupation indefinitely.

TAKE ACTION NOW! Urge your member of Congress to insist on a clear exit strategy before approving the $82 billion supplemental funding bill for the Iraq quagmire.

Whichever approach moves you, resonates with you and your conscience, inspires you, please take action right away.

And, by the way, get out of the house on March 19 to Stand for Peace. We can all agree on the need for world peace, right?

Posted by Natalie Davis at 09:30 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 14, 2005

The Right Thing

I generally do not pat heterosexuals on the back on occasions where they speak up for GLBT equality. If someone finds lost money on the street and returns it to its rightful owner, I don't see the justification for giving him or her a reward -- that person merely did what any decent human is supposed to do. No difference.

An exception has to be made, however, for Blogcritics' Margaret Toigo, who penned a beautiful piece on how mandating equality in marriage will actually defend and preserve the institution. The article actually moved me to tears. An excerpt:

To treat marriage as if it is nothing more than a license for two people to have sex and reproduce (as if one is required in the first place) diminishes the idea that loving commitment, trust, loyalty, mutual respect and cooperation are the basic moral values that are essential to maintaining successful marriages and building strong families. If we keep prioritizing the basic biological function of procreation as a value in marriage, we will eventually lose sight of how the moral values commitment, trust, loyalty, mutual respect and cooperation help married couples and their children to better deal with the challenges of family life in the modern world. ...

In these tumultuous days of casual sexual relationships, no-fault and "quickie" divorces and cavalier attitudes toward marital fidelity, the institution of marriage is under siege from the continuing shifts in social and cultural mores of the last half-century. As a result, these changes in our modern society could cause marriage to become obsolete, which is a grave threat to the basic foundations of society and civilization itself.

Since there has never been a practical way to turn back the tide of social change, we must now reinvent marriage to preserve its viability as an institution that brings people together in love, commitment, loyalty, trust, mutual respect and cooperation to form the essential building blocks of civilized society known as families. In order to strengthen the social institutions of marriage and family, we must expand their definitions to include more people so that we can prevent the moral values that make successful marriages and strong families from being lost and forgotten in the midst of the pointless battles of a senseless culture war over the relatively trivial issues of sexual orientation and gender identification.

Toigo has much more to say on the subject and anyone who doubts the need for equality for all under law needs to read it.

Now, as I say, I don't pat hets on the back for doing what's right. Today, I must. This essay has given me something that is in short supply of late: hope. If there are more Margaret Toigos running around than I suspect, maybe America can be saved.

Oh, and here is another reason for hope: A San Francisco judge ruled today that the state's gay-marriage ban in illegal. County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer, you rawk, just like Margaret Toigo.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 02:56 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 13, 2005

Were Condi's Fingers Crossed?

condi sultry.jpg US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, if nominated, will not run for president, and if elected, she will not serve. So she said today after being battered with the same question over and over by the super-aggressive Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press." The Associated Press agrees with my opinion as viewer: Rice was quite clear in her insistence that she won't be on the 2008 GOP ticket.

Of course, Dr. Rice is well-known for not telling the truth, so we shall see what we shall see when the next campaign begins...

Posted by Natalie Davis at 01:36 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBack

March 12, 2005

Time Out for Fun

I am finally and officially off pneumonia-imposed bedrest and going back to the shitjob on Sunday. (Boo! Hiss!) Before I hit the road toward Hell, let's take some time for a little bit of fun. Tried some quizzes and thought it would be fun to share. Try them out yourself and let me know how you score.

What Movie Are You?
CWINDOWSDesktopEt.jpg
E.T.!

Hmmm. I did feel quite the kinship with the little alien...

Solid miss. For one, I am not wicked. For two, I look great in a dress, but the last time I wore one was eons ago; I wore a business suit to bury my dad, for cripes' sake. For three, Rosie is not my type -- think Ellen or Queen Latifah or Hilary Swank. For four, being humped like a man misses the whole point. And lipstick? Feh.

tortured conceptual artist
You are a Tortured Conceptual Artist. Your fellow
postmodernists call you an anachronism, but
you've never cared much about the opinions of
others. After all, most of them are far too
simple-minded to appreciate the nuances of your
work. They talk, while you are part of a lived
tradition.

What kind of postmodernist are you!?
brought to you by Quizilla

ROFLMAO!


kermit.jpeg
You are Kermit the Frog.
You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you
have a habit of waving your arms about
maniacally.

FAVORITE EXPRESSIONS:
"Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and
"Sheesh!"

FAVORITE MOVIE:
"How Green Was My Mother"

LAST BOOK READ:
"Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the
Internet"

HOBBIES:
Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.

QUOTE:
"Hmm, my banjo is wet."


What Muppet are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

And, like Kermit, I look good in a suit, though I work very hard to keep my guitar, not banjo, dry.

How Pure Are You?

Closer to the truth than I care to admit. At least I am not a slut.

What Kind of Rocker Are You?

The Hitler of music?? Amusing.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 01:47 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 10, 2005

Big Blue Marble

AF&O's periodic sampling of news from around the globe...

Showdown: A battle royal in Britain's parliament turned out to be a losing cause for UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. The House of Lords today rejected key parts of Downing Street's controversial anti-terrorism bill. As a result, 11 suspected terrorists being held in detention could be set free next Monday, when the present anti-terror law expires. Britain's highest court ruled the current set of regulations unlawful last December -- hence, Blair's need to have new legislation enacted right away. Much of the opposition to the bill, which allows house arrest, electronic tagging, and curfews for terror suspects, comes from those who believe the Prevention of Terrorism Bill tramples over civil liberties. After the PM conceded to permit judges to make the final determination in house-arrest sentences and to allow parliament to review the law annually, Blair's bill did win passage in the lower House of Commons yesterday. But he refused to concede on other aspects of the legislation, among them a provision allowing imprisonment without trial. This did not win favor in the House of Lords. Now Downing Street is under pressure to make more concessions. The contentious debate and the obvious differences in positions held by the two houses could have an impact on national elections scheduled for early May -- especially if the 11 suspected terrorists are freed. Four of them face a bail hearing later today.

Troop Pullout Under Way Thousands of Syrian troops are on their way out of Lebanon under a two-phase pullout plan. The first phase, agreed on Monday by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Lebanese leader Emile Lahoud, stipulates that Syrian forces deployed in north Lebanon and areas in and around Beirut would pull back to the eastern Bekaa Valley near the border. In the wee hours of the morning, a convoy of more than 100 Syrian military vehicles situated in north Lebanon crossed the border. Others deployed east of Beirut also left Lebanon. The remaining Syrian soldiers are packing up to return home. Meanwhile, Lahoud reinstated pro-Syrian Prime Minister Omar Karameh; the Sunni Muslim had quit his post 10 days ago after anti-Syrian protests in Beirut. The plan now is to build a Lebanese unity government.

Gander, Meet Goose: Palestinian leaders say the recently struck cease fire between that nation and Israel could be in jeopardy. Israeli soldiers today killed an armed Palestinian militant during a raid on the West Bank town of Jenin. Palestinians said such actions could jeopardize a fragile truce. These attacks were fairly common during the past four years of the intifada, but they all but ended after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announced the truce in Egypt weeks ago. The Israeli raid was prompted by anger over a Palestinian suicide bombing in Tel Aviv last month. When that tragic violence occurred, Israel threatened that retaliation was possible and world leaders told Abbas that he needed to restrain his nation's militants. Following this latest Israeli raid, Abbas warned, "Just as calm is demanded of us, we also ask that Israel not do things like this."

Bushies Say "Au Revior, World Court": Unhappy with a 2004 international tribunal decision ordering new hearings for 51 Mexicans on US death rows, the Bush Administration has withdrawn from an international pact giving the tribunal the right to rule on such cases. The move to pull out of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations means foreigners in US jails no longer have the right to talk with consular officers. State Department spokesperson Darla Jordan defended the pullout, telling the New York Times, "We are protecting against future International Court of Justice judgments that might similarly interfere in ways we did not anticipate when we joined the optional protocol." The State Department insists that incarcerated foreigners will be able to raise their issues in court. But Peter J. Spiro, a law professor at the University of Georgia, says the Bush Administration's act shows bad form. "It's a sore-loser kind of move," he said. "If we can't win, we're not going to play."

Diabetes Breakthrough?: Type 1 diabetes has no cure at present, but that may change soon. EarthTimes reports that for the first time ever, UK doctors have successfully transplanted islet cells to a patient, "thereby assuring a complete cure from the condition." This news is huge: According to Professor Stephanie Amiel, Diabetes Consultant at King's College Hospital in England's Denmark Hill, "This breakthrough is hugely exciting. Eventually, this could mean the end of insulin-dependence for all Type 1 diabetes sufferers." More research must be done before this procedure can be considered a widespread cure, but today, there is hope.

Bill Clinton's on the mend. Good News for Bubba: Former US President Bill Clinton is out of surgery following his second heart operation. Doctors report the generally low-risk procedure was successful and that there were no complications. Clinton entered New York Presbyterian Hospital after doctors found that he suffered from a pleural effusion, a condition in which scar tissue caused fluid to compress his left lung. Today's operation was intented to drain the fluid and remove the scar tissue. The erstwhile chief exec is expected to remain in hospital for the next three to 10 days.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 09:36 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBack

March 09, 2005

The Boy of Summer

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince hits bookstores July 16.

Forget real life, Shrubite shenanigans, and the forthcoming return of sullen Anakin Skywalker: Harry's back! And yesterday came the release of the cover art for book six of J.K. Rowling's global sensation (which some -- no doubt Rowling's publishers are among them -- call the most important book of the year).

A view of the art the world outside of the US will see. The Associated Press offers up a lovely piece on the woman I believe is most responsible for Daniel Radcliffe getting big-time movie gigs, Florida-based artist Mary GrandPré, who created the American book jackets. (British illustrator Jason Cockroft handled the children's book jackets to be seen in the UK, Canada, and the rest of the world; it is pictured left.)

Rumor has it that a major character gets killed off in this one. Could it be Dumbledore??? Heavens, I have not recovered from the loss of Sirius Black! But here's a thought: The Hogwarts headmaster seems to be the frontrunner in the Harry VI deathstakes (probably due to his appearance in both cover illustrations), so I suspect someone else will slip this coil. We'll find out for sure come July when Harry fever strikes again and the 608-page tome hits stores. I, for one, can't wait.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 03:36 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

March 08, 2005

Stuck with the 5-1-5

The Democrats had a plan: Hike the minimum wage -- mired at $5.15 since 1996 -- by $2.10 over the next two years. The GOP offered its own solution: Raise mandated hourly-worker pay by $1.10 over 18 months while reducing the number of businesses that have to comply with paying minimum wage. Neither plan made it through the US Senate on Monday, so $5.15 remains the going rate.

The news has to be devastating to many American workers trying to support themselves and their families on a pittance: Prices for food, fuel, and other necessities are on the rise, yet minimum-wage workers haven't seen a raise in nearly nine years. Think about this: Before taxes, a 40-hour-per-week laborer makes a little over $800 a month. In Baltimore, my present stomping grounds, that simply is not a liveable wage. I make a bit more than minimum wage at my shitjob, and my after-tax income can't cover all my family's necessities -- survival must be even more of a dicey proposition for those making the bare minimum or less. One plaintive gripe comes from one such working person, Blogcritics' Matt Schafer.

Kudos and thanks to Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA), who pushed for the increase to $7.25 an hour, and to the 46 senators who voted in favor of it, but what are those who opposed it thinking? Were they thinking about the effect an increase would have on businesses or about the difficulties faced by the working poor? It is evident to me that while most lawmakers indeed may care about low-income workers on some level, they simply don't understand that every day is a struggle for too many hardworking people. Lawmakers get raises every time they opt to give themselves one; the rise in the cost of living is not a big deal to them. The rest of us don't have that luxury, and minimum-wage workers, whose income can't keep up with the rising cost of living, are hit hardest. Why didn't the Senate -- who supposedly represent the people -- take some sort of action to lessen their misery?

For many lawmakers, sadly, it is because they worry more about businesses than about workers. The National Restaurant Association, for instance, opposed the Kennedy plan, saying that it would mean a 41 percent increase in the base hourly wage, which would mean a loss of jobs and price increases. Their argument may appear reasonable to a degree, but consider this: Most restaurant workers I know work for less than minimum wage -- they earn the bulk of their livelihood through tips. Addressing potential job losses, the solution, I think, lies in improving public education and providing displaced-worker training in poor areas of the nation so that people have options other than minimum-wage jobs. The Economic Policy Institute, by the way, argues that raising the base wage actually would create employment opportunities and says that the supposed job losses don't matter.

Whatever Congress' reason for its inaction, miring people in poverty is not the answer. It simply doesn't make sense for workers or for business.

And neither does the plan suggested by Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), which was rejected by 61 senators. The measures he proposed would have enacted rule changes allowing a reduction in minimum-wage and overtime-pay protections for millions of workers.

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, businesses that bring in less than $500,000 a year do not have to pay their workers the $5.15 minimum wage unless the employee is involved in some form of interstate commerce. That could include producing products that are sold in a different state or even taking orders over the phone from people in other states.

Democrats and some Republicans objected to a provision of the Santorum amendment that would have exempted additional small businesses from paying the minimum wage by raising the $500,000 threshold to $1 million.

More significantly, the legislation would have gotten rid of the interstate provision. Santorum said the change to interstate commerce rules was intended to correct a "drafting error" from the late 1980s that had forced small businesses to pay minimum wage to many more workers than Congress had originally intended.

The most recent information on the number of small businesses that fall into that category is from 1997. The Census bureau found that there were 7.5 million firms and establishments (employing some 11.7 million workers) that made less than $500,000. According to the 1997 figures, if the threshold was raised to $1 million, an additional 1.5 million businesses would have qualified for that exemption (businesses in that higher category employed some 6.8 million workers).

Another controversial provision in Santorum's legislation would have given employers the option of creating a two-week work period instead of one week, which could have changed the amount workers are paid in overtime.

Current law states that employers must pay overtime if an employee works more than 40 hours a week. Santorum's bill would have allowed employers to offer an 80-hour work period over two weeks as long as an employee agreed to that schedule. ...

"What a deal," said Sen. Dick Durbin, of Illinois, the No. 2 Democrat in the Senate. "After waiting eight years, [Santorum] helps one out of four of the workers Sen. Kennedy helps, and for the 1.8 million [workers] he helps, he pushes five times as many overboard, and says you're not going to get overtime, you're not going to get minimum wage."

The Economic Policy Institute offers more analysis of the Santorum proposal, which it calls a "trojan horse for workers." (The link requires Adobe Reader.)

One might surmise that maintaining the status quo is preferable than having to survive under the Santorum plan. And that may be true. But there were other options: the Kennedy plan, the Santorum increase minus the stripping of worker protections, or some other plan that offered at least some sort of minimum-wage increase. The Senate opted not to do anything other than show their disinterest in the working poor. American workers, minimum-wage and otherwise, should be livid -- hopefully, livid enough to call their lawmakers and voice their anger, hurt, and dissatisfaction. (You can reach senators and representatives via the Congressional Switchboard: 202-224-3121.)

Tip o' the baseball cap to Nathan Newman for the EPI links.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 10:56 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBack

March 07, 2005

Homophobia Hall of Shame

Homophobia Hall of Shame From time to time, I like to shine a light on corporations that believe some of their customers and employees are better than others. These are firms that deal in discrimination -- or, for short, bad businesses.

I found the latest entrants in the Homophobia Hall of Shame via right-wing Web site BusinessReform.com and an article that, among other things, presents the site's new list of the Top 10 Anti-gay Companies. Take a gander:

1. Alltel

Industry: Telecom

Why We Picked Them: Although this company has a non-discrimination policy toward gays written into its employee manual, they have baulked [sic] the telecom industry trend to cater specifically to the homosexual agenda. Whereas, for example, AT&T offers same-sex partner benefits, "gender identity training" for its employees, and endorses the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, Alltel has for the most part stayed out of the GLBT faction's pocket.

2. BB&T Corp

Industry: Bank/Financial Services

Why We Picked Them: This Winston-Salem, N.C.-based company offers benefits only to spouses of employees. They give no money to GLBT groups, and don't even have a non-discrimination policy written in the employee handbook. They also don't waste their employees' time by offering training in diversity sensitivity or gender identity.

3. International Steel Group

Industry: Steel Manufacturing

Why We Picked Them: This company has shown throughout its history that they have very little time for being PC when it comes to the homosexual agenda. No domestic partner benefits, no attempt to reach the homosexual community through advertising or philanthropic donations, and no quotas for hiring homosexuals.

4. Meijer Inc.

Industry: Retail

Why We Picked Them: Meijer made the number 9 spot in 2004 on Forbes' list of the 200 Largest Private Companies, and yet they still have succeeded where retail king Wal-Mart has failed. No domestic partner benefits, nothing about gays in the workplace written into the company manual, and no overt support of the GLBT lifestyle or agenda.

5. Perot Systems Corp.

Industry: Computer Information Services

Why We Picked Them: This company's stance against the homosexual agenda should not come as a surprise for anyone who followed the 1996 presidential campaign of the company's founder. In 1997, Ross Perot, in fact, returned to the helm of the company he founded in Plano, Tex. and actually rescinded the domestic partner benefit policy that the company had put into place during his absence. HRC.org reports that the company also actively engages in "corporate action that would undermine the goal of equal rights GLBT people". Way to go, Ross.

6. Shaw Industries Inc. (a subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.)

Industry: Textile manufacturing

Why We Picked Them: They've done nothing, to the best of our knowledge, to support the GLBT cause in any significant way.

7. R.R. Donnelley & Sons

Industry: Publish/Printing

Why We Picked Them: Ditto

8. Radio Shack

Industry: Retail

Why We Picked Them: With industry mates Borders Group, Best Buy, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, and SC Johnson & Son getting high praise from pro-gay groups like The Human Rights Campaign Foundation (HRC), Radio Shack has retained most of their values when it comes to not supporting the homosexual agenda. The company offers no benefits for domestic partners, and requires no sexual diversity training. Radio Shack also does not support any GLBT groups financially.

9. Exxon-Mobil

Industry: Energy and Utilities

Why We Picked Them: Exxon, in 1999, was only the second company in American history to rescind domestic partner benefits for its employees (Perot Systems Corp. was the first—see above). It also rescinded its sexual non-discrimination policy that was once in its employee handbook. Exxon is not exactly on the HRC's list of favorite companies, given that Exxon regularly donates money to organizations dedicated to upholding traditional family values.

10. New NGC, Inc., doing business as National Gypsum Company

Industry: Construction

Why We Picked Them: No non-discrimination policy, no domestic partner benefits for employees, and no handout to the GLBT community. And yet they do about $1.5 billion in business annually. What more can we say?
These are entities that do not deserve your business.

And I have to make a note regarding BusinessReform.com's language choices: "Homosexual agenda"??? Diversity training a "waste of time"??? What, pray tell, would that mean? And wait: The article showcases pro-GLBT companies as bad guys and praises those that discriminate. Ah... BusinessReform has an agenda of its own -- and it most assuredly is NOT to benefit GLBT people or to achieve equality in the workplace for all Americans. So let's just include BusinessReform.com as Number 11, 'kay?

Now, in line with my 2005 resolution, let's not focus purely on the negative. The wingnut site's article, as previously noted, also lists the top 10 pro-gay firms, companies that put a priority on respecting diversity -- and, in some cases, making improvements on past behavior (or, as BusinessReform would put it, they "encourage... the GLBT lifestyle (in all its sundry sordidness)." Let's give a shoutout to this top 10: Xerox Corp.; American Airlines; Avaya; Eastman Kodak; J.P. Morgan Chase and Co.; Apple Computers; Lucent Technologies; Replacements Ltd.; Nike Inc.; and -- how about this? -- Coors Brewing Co. Here's to the businesses brave enough to change the national culture by drawing strength from their GLBT employees and supporting the cause of justice and equality both within their ranks and without. Good going, guys, and thanks.

And thanks too to BusinessReform for giving me a hearty chuckle.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 02:57 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Stranger in a Strange Land

U2's Bono as World Bank chief? Could be a neat idea. When a thought appears that says I have heard it all, invariably something comes along that forces me to rethink that. Today, it's news that Bono, lead singer for the veteran rock band U2, is on the short list to become the new head of the World Bank.

Really.

Now, that news isn't the stretch it might be -- I mean, we're not talking about, say, Britney Spears here. Bono is more than a rock god: He is a well-respected activist and advocate throughout the globe due to his efforts to secure economic justice around the world, to win debt relief for impoverished nations, and to battle the still-growing HIV-AIDS pandemic. The artist formerly known as Paul Hewson is taken so seriously he is on the nominees' list for this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

Current World Bank chief James Wolfensohn will leave his post effective June 1. His replacement in all likelihood will be an American, given that the US -- the bank's biggest shareholder -- traditionally chooses who leads the institution: There is much talk that ousted Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina is a strong candidate for the job. But US Treasury Secretary John Snow said on ABC News program "This Week" that he wouldn't rule out the Irish rocker as a potential successor to Wolfensohn. "He's somebody I admire. He does a lot of good in this world of economic development," Snow said. "Most people know him as a rock star. He's in a way a rock star of the development world, too. He understands the give and take of development. He's a very pragmatic, effective and idealistic person."

If you're hoping that the bombastic star will win this side gig, don't hold your breath. Pragmatic or not, the idealistic Bono probably wouldn't meld well with the priorities of the Bush Administration, which, to these eyes, values corporations and profit over people. He would be a real stranger in a strange land. Besides, U2 has a North American tour scheduled for fall 2005.

And whoever gets the job, let's not forget that we're talking about the World Bank here. As Jeremy Brecher and Brendan Smith wrote for the Progressive's Media Project, the bank -- along with its cohort, the International MonetaryFund -- is an institution eyed warily by many on the Left.

[The IMF and the World Bank] were established at the end of World War II to stabilize exchange rates and fund post-war reconstruction. But in the 1970s they took on radically different role: lending money to poor countries caught up in the debt crisis.

In exchange for loans, these countries are required to accept "structural adjustment" -- conditionalities designed to encourage cheaper exports and attract foreign investors. This bureaucratic term means that countries have to hand over the economic reins to the IMF and World Bank. These institutions then use the reins to lash at workers.

The IMF-World Bank formula is to cut social benefits for workers and the poor, fire government employees, eliminate laws protecting labor, impose high interest rates that lead to mass unemployment, and devalue the currency -- thus reducing real wages.

From the IMF and World Bank’s perspective, these policies are designed to encourage cheaper exports and attract foreign investors. When the IMF and World Bank "develop" the Third World using structural adjustment, they encourage the building of export platforms -- maquiladoras and export processing zones -- where multinational corporations can evade a country’s trade unions, wage laws and other social protections.

According to the Development Group for Alternative Policies, unemployment increased in nearly three-quarters of the 43 countries structurally adjusted by the IMF from 1978 to 1995. The real minimum wage is lower today than in 1980 in 17 of the 19 nations with IMF programs for which there are figures.

Starting in the early 1990s, similar conditions were imposed on Russia and formerly communist countries in Eastern Europe under the name "shock therapy." In the late 1990s, they were also imposed on South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia and the other victims of the Asian economic crisis. In Korea, for example, austerity conditions included devaluation, high interest rates and the firing of government employees. Unemployment tripled in the immediate aftermath.

These policies have a direct -- and highly negative -- impact on American workers. As AFL-CIO President John Sweeney has pointed out, "Even with the economy growing, the U.S. lost more than 500,000 manufacturing jobs over the last 18 months as devastated countries tried to export their way out of trouble." Approximately 12,000 jobs have been lost in the steel industry alone over the past year.

The World Bank/IMF path isn't the way to real economic justice -- what workers around the globe need is better conditions; wages that allow them to give their families decent, meaningful lives; empowerment; and a true sense that they and their contributions are valued. Bono might be the perfect person to head the World Bank, but he caresabout people. That renders him inappropriate for the position.

Coincidentally, Karama Neal's terrific blog So What Can I Do? focuses on the documentary Life and Debt, which offers a critique of how the World Bank and the IMF are "destroying Jamaica's economy in ways that simultaneously support, stabilize and encourage economic growth in countries like the US." As part of her post, Neal presents a few ideas on how you and I, in our daily lives, can work for economic justice:

  • Buy local food and goods. Not only do you support your local economy, but you get fresher and better food.

  • Volunteer your time and skills with an organization that works toward economic and social justice.

  • Engage the media and hold them accountable for the stories they choose to present and the ways in which they present them.

  • Pay off your debts so you'll have more money to support the causes that really matter and the organizations that make a difference.

  • Shop with a purpose for the things you need and support your favorite non-profit organization at the same time.

  • Invest responsibly so that your money is not used to increase economic disparities but instead is used to acheive economic justice.

  • Buy fair trade food and goods from companies that pay their workers a living wage and do not rely on sweatshops.

  • Live ethically and do the right thing even when it's unpopular, uncommon, unexpected or inconvenient; make sure your lifestyle reflects your values.

Many of these are ideas we talk about quite often here -- we call it living the kynd life. It really is important to, as Neal says, make sure one's lifestyle reflects one's values. We have to live in such a way that we promote justice for all in law, in life, in economic matters. We can't expect governments and financial institutions to do it, after all. So get busy.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 01:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 05, 2005

Putting the "Aaaaaaaaa!" in Anti-Choice

The oft-stated fear over the future of Roe v. Wade and reproductive rights in the US is not mere paranoia. The Bush Administration's renewed effort to stack the judicial deck with far-right, anti-choice judges appears to be under way -- and the plan the Shrubbies propose is nothing less than terrifying. Read the following, check out NARAL Pro-Choice America's new web film, and take a stand for women, for justice, and for freedom.

It's easy - and funny - to imagine Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as rights-stomping Judgezilla, but the reality of what [Dubya] Bush and his far-right, anti-choice friends are planning for the Supreme Court is all too serious, and even scarier than a monster movie.

See the movie "Creatures from the Far Right: Supreme Court Under Attack" to see what I mean.

Seriously... in their zeal to pack the courts with anti-choice extremists, Bush and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) are manipulating Senate rules to take away the Senate's constitutional right to review and oppose judicial nominees. This so-called "nuclear option" would take away our most powerful line of defense against extremist judges: the filibuster.

If you value balance and moderation on our courts, and believe the Senate should carefully review judges who will be confirmed to lifetime appointments, Frist's plan is even scarier than our movie monsters -- and takes even more courage to oppose.

Please ask your senators to support important procedures that ensure that the Senate independently review the record and merits of each judicial candidate.
Take action to save the filibuster, which, right now, may be the only friend progressives have.

Meanwhile, MoveOn.org needs justice-minded folks to sign a petition urging lawmakers to stand against Bush's re-nomination of 20 highly partisan, pro-corporate candidates who were already rejected for the US Courts of Appeals. As the organization notes, they were stopped before, they should be stopped again. Please give the petition a look and, if you are so inclined, sign it.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 01:49 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack

March 04, 2005

Do As We Say,
Not As We Do

One horrific result of US nuclear prolieration: The 1945 bombing of Nagasaki, Japan. The Bush Administration is hellbent on keeping nuclear weapons out of Iran and North Korea. Now that's not a bad idea, to be sure; no one should have nukes. However, doesn't it strike you as a bit, well, weird, to have the US government, the world leader in nuclear proliferation, telling another country that it can't follow in its murderous footsteps?

"US Nuclear Weapons in Europe," a new report by the Natural Resources Defense Council details the government's hypocrisy. It's quite an eyeopener: Did you know that the United States still deploys about 480 nuclear weapons at its European air force bases? According to the report, that is nearly twice as many as was believed previously.

Until now, most observers believed there were no more than half that many still left on the continent. The continuing presence of these weapons irritates relations with Russia, undermines global efforts to dissuade other nations from developing nuclear weapons, and impedes NATO's post-Cold War evolution. The Bush administration and the NATO alliance should address this issue as a matter of global nuclear security and remove all US nuclear weapons from Europe.

There is more. If you are interested in finding out just how many nukes the US would give non-nuclear NATO allies in the event of war, the NRDC document has that information as well, along with information showing that the government is in violation of international law.

And US nuclear policy is hypocritical.

"It's counter-productive and undercuts non-proliferation efforts to maintain a nuclear arsenal overseas, especially against countries that themselves are proliferating weapons of mass destruction, i.e., Iran and Syria," said Hans Kristensen, who wrote the report. "There's something very contradictory about going to these countries and saying 'you can't have nuclear weapons, but we need ours to use against you.'"

Posted by Natalie Davis at 10:46 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

March 03, 2005

Good Show, Kaga-san

From 'Democracy': Takeshi Kaga as Prime Minister Willy Brandt and Masachiko Ichimura as Brandt's duplicitous aide Finally found an English-language review of the Tokyo production of the eloquent Michael Frayn drama "Democracy." According to this Japan Times assessment, the gifted Takeshi Kaga, who stars as the charismatic, conflicted West German Prime Minister Willy Brandt, did not disappoint during the show's runs at the Theatre 1010 and the Aoyama -- and neither did his castmates.

The latest huge West End and Broadway success for English playwright, novelist and translator Michael Frayn -- which premiered at the National Theatre in London in 2003, and opened last weekend in Tokyo -- is a docu-drama set in the West Germany of the 1960s and '70s, during a Cold War era in Europe unfamiliar to many in Japan. Willy Brandt won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his famous Ostpolitik, attempting to build bridges between East and West at the height of a period of distrust and division between the two Germanys.

Perhaps nervous about this information gap, and to reinforce the play's appeal here, production company Horipro cast two of Japan's longtime leading actors -- Takeshi Kaga and Masachika Ichimura -- as its co-stars. Kaga and Ichimura, however, are just the icing on a dramatic cake that's provocative and of such universal personal and political interest as to suit the tastes of what will likely be near-full houses throughout this play's extended Tokyo run and subsequent regional tour. ...

.. [M]uch credit must ... go to the English director Paul Miller, who has superbly polished Frayn's gem here through intense work with his gifted, all-Japanese cast. Foremost among these, of course, are Kaga and Ichimura, though Takashi Fujiki (as SDP [Social Democratic Party] power broker Herbert Wehner) and Yoshimasa Kondo (as the chancellor's head of intelligence services Horst Ehmke) both run them a close second in this memorable roduction. "Democracy" not only reinforces the dictum that "fact can be stranger than fiction," but also that which maintains "one man's meat is another man's poison" -- even though, as we are strongly reminded here, in real life, both very human men may be meat-eaters.

It may concern details of history distant from its Japanese audiences, but "Democracy" is still close to home. In its concern with "What is democracy?" and how to get along with one's close but very different neighbors, it is a significant production to be staging here now -- and one that will give all who see it plenty to chew on long after the last of its many curtain calls.

Unless Lady Luck smiles upon me -- which doesn't happen -- I should not count on getting to Tokyo's Le Teatre Ginza for the show's next run, March 16-31, or to its subsequent dates in Aichi, Shiga, Niigata, and Osaka. I definitely will try to catch the Broadway version, however. No Kaga, but, hey, I'll be lucky to get to New York. Now, if you can get to see one of the Nihon performances, I would recommend it -- if you are well-versed in Japanese. Frayn's plays tend to be quite wordy (do you remember his fantastic and fascinating Tony winning "Copenhagen?"), and "Democracy," which covers cold-war politics, is no exception.

Posted by Natalie Davis at 01:05 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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All text and graphics (most photos excepted), unless otherwise noted, are the work of Natalie R. Davis. In regard to comment spam: Commercial advertising on this site via the comment feature or anywhere else is strictly prohibited without the consent of the editor. Any comment containing such advertising will be immediately deleted from this site, the IP address used to enter the comment will be banned, and legal action may be taken against the party responsible for entering the comment and/or on whose behalf the comment was entered. Those sending abusive comments or messages containing bigotry, etc. will have those comments deleted and their IP addresses banned.

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