Sunday, August 31, 2008

Civil liberties violated at both conventions

Despite myself, there were times I found myself being inspired by the recent Democratic National Convention--particularly by the speeches of Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton. Yet, troubling reports of the violations of civil liberties emerged. The Feminist Peace Network reported a brutal arrest of a Code Pink protester. And the ACLU issued a press release criticizing police abuses including the arrest of an ABC reporter who was standing on public property.

According to Mark Silverstein, Legal Director of the ACLU of Colorado,

The arrest of Asa Eslocker is the latest of several troubling incidents in which law enforcement has mistreated dissenters or others exercising their right to free speech dissent during the Democratic National Convention. On Monday hundreds of people were rounded up by police, detained without access to attorneys and denied the most basic due process protections. Arrestees were flexi-cuffed together so that they couldn't even use the bathroom alone, and in at least one case a woman was forced to walk barefoot and in leg shackles into a courtroom. The First Amendment is supposed to be the cornerstone of democracy, but some law enforcement agents in Denver have shown a complete disregard for the right to free speech.
Not to be outdone, police in St. Paul, Minnesota have also staged pre-emptive arrests of activists planning to protest at the upcoming Republican National Convention. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, by way of truthout:

Activists planning protests around the Republican National Convention say they are being targeted in a heavy-handed attempt to chill dissent after police arrested five people, detained dozens of others, and seized computers and protest guides in raids Friday night and Saturday on private homes and the major meeting center.
Theoretically, responsibility for the alleged abuses in Denver and Minnesota rests solely with the police departments involved. But it seems obvious that the police were acting in order to protect the political parties from embarrassment. Thus the Democrats and Republicans both should have to answer for their lack of respect for the First Amendment.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Maybe they are a Republican front group?

P.U.M.A., supposedly a group of Hillary Clinton supporters, has thrown its support to John McCain now that he's selected the inexperienced and ultraconservative Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate.

All the women I've talked to are insulted and slightly incredulous at this choice--as was Jill over at Feministe. I'm not sure that I'm either insulted or incredulous--after all, this is the party that sent Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court to replace Thurgood Marshall. The G.O.P. often has been unable to tell the difference between diversity and tokenism. I expect even less from the Republicans than I do from the Democrats.

What does astonish me is a supposedly feminist group of women that tries to deny the threat that the McCain/Palin ticket would pose to women's reproductive rights, as P.U.M.A. does in this post: P.U.M.A / McCain/Palin on Roe Vs. Wade…

Commenters to this post have suggested that P.U.M.A. is a Republican front group--a charge that GrandPuma hotly denies. I have no way to evaluate the claims of either side. But it is incredible to me that a group allegedly formed to support the staunchly pro-choice Hillary Clinton would back a slate that opposes everything that Clinton stands for.

Friday, August 29, 2008

The best blog name I've seen so far...


NOW decries McCain's choice of anti-feminist VP

I found the following news release from Kim Gandy of the National Organization for Women over on Common Dreams:

Not Every Woman Supports Women's Rights |

According to Gandy:

The fact that Palin is a mother of five who has a 4-month-old baby, a woman who is juggling work and family responsibilities, will speak to many women. But will Palin speak FOR women? Based on her record and her stated positions, the answer is clearly No.

In a gubernatorial debate, Palin stated emphatically that her opposition to abortion was so great, so total, that even if her teenage daughter was impregnated by a rapist, she would "choose life" -- meaning apparently that she would not permit her daughter to have an abortion.

Palin also had to withdraw her appointment of a top public safety commissioner who had been reprimanded for sexual harassment, although Palin had been warned about his background through letters by the sexual harassment complainant.

What McCain does not understand is that women supported Hillary Clinton not just because she was a woman, but because she was a champion on their issues. They will surely not find Sarah Palin to be an advocate for women.

I can't help but agreeing with Gandy that McCain's choice of Palin will backfire. But Gandy goes a bit too far in describing Joe Biden as a vice presidential candidate who appeals to women.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

45 years after "I Have a Dream"

Read this. It's absolutely exquisite: AngryBlackBitch: What I have...

Del Martin dies/Swapping information across generations

These two topics are related. I'll tie them together at the end.

You can find the information about Del Martin here:
Feministe � Today We Mourn the Passing of Del Martin

And here is a link to a fascinating post on Feministe by LaToya on Sharing Information Across Generations. I love this post for its upfront and open-minded effort to deal with controversy and division in the feminist movement. Here's a longish sample:

More than just being feminist starstruck though, talking with Alida [Brill] really illuminates a lot of the personal struggles that come out of a movement like feminism. Like what it means to give so much to a movement that your personal life suffers. Or what happens when you realize you made key mistakes. Or what happens when older things you have said, or done, or written, come back to haunt you.

“We got so much wrong,” Alida told me openly. “We got the race thing wrong, and we got the lesbian thing wrong, and we are still getting things wrong. I just hope we have the time to fix it.”

Hearing her say that reminded me that while we tend to think of movements as immovable, inflexible things - not a reflection of all the people who create a movement or participate in one. Sometimes, as she tells me a story, her pain over something long past is palpable.

But most of the time, her tone is hopeful.

For you see, talking with Alida is not like listening to someone who could care less about what you think. Talking with Alida as a young buck is actually an illuminating experience because she doesn’t address me (or us, rather - there are 10 women in the program) as some insolent child sullying up the grand second wave legacy.

She is my elder, but she is also my peer. She is just as interested in hip-hop feminism as I am, asks a lot of questions about the internet (even if she is a little afraid of it) and is always open to the understanding that her interpretation may need an adjustment for the times. It has been a pleasure talking and learning from a feminist who lived through the struggle, and I look forward to more conversation.
But when LaToya said, "The average librarian is about 55-65 where I live, and they are the people that give me the most hope about living a full active life all the way to the end," I have to admit she threw me a little bit. At 52, I am close to the lower end of that age group. I am crossing my fingers and hoping that I have the chance to go beyond 65. And finding myself wanting to know the histories of women who already have--especially lesbians who already have.

Del Martin was 87. She started the relationship with the love of her life, Phyllis Lyon, several years before I was born, and began her activist career the year before my birth when she and Lyon co-founded the Daughters of Bilitis. The organization Old Lesbians Organizing for Change--of which Martin was a member--has an oral herstory project focused on recording the stories of lesbians 70 and older. These are some of the places where I am taking my inspiration.

(This post was originally entered at 7:09 AM on August 28, and expanded and rewritten later that evening.)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Tuesday, Aug. 26, at the DNC: What will Hillary Clinton and her supporters do?

On Sunday I mentioned the continuing extreme bitterness that some Hillary Clinton supporters still are promoting against the candidacy of Barack Obama. Apparently this is continuing, despite Clinton's firm and repeated calls of support for Obama. Lisa Stone at BlogHer has a fascinating analysis of the situation.

Like Stone, I am puzzled by the feeling of betrayal these women seem to be experiencing. Yes, Hillary Clinton's treatment by the Democratic Party has been influenced by sexism, some of it extreme. But when has the Democratic Party ever provided reliable support for feminism or other human rights activism? For me, a feeling of having been betrayed requires a disappointed expectation of worthy behavior.

From the treatment of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party during the 1964 Democratic National Convention, to Jimmy Carter's firing of Bella Abzug because she said that his policies hurt poor women, to Bill Clinton's betrayal of Lani Guinier and hisshredding of the social safety net, the Democratic Party has given me little reason to expect worthy behavior. It's hard for me to get mad at them for doing what they've always done.

This fall, I'll make the pragmatic decision to vote for Barack Obama. In the long run, I think I need to think about helping gain ballot access for the Green Party in Oklahoma. Dare I say one more time that I wish I had the chance to vote for candidates like Cynthia McKinney?

Meanwhile, there are other occasions for outrage. Feminist Peace Network has a piece on police brutality against a Code Pink demonstrator at the convention--and another piece about the way Comedy Central has "invisibilized" McKinney's candidacy.

Happy Women's Equality Day

Happy Women's Equality Day. Eighty-eight years ago today, the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution gained final ratification. This gave women the right to vote after what Eleanor Flexner called a Century of Struggle.

The first wave of the women's movement in the US worked for, and achieved, a wide range of goals. These included the right of women to speak in public, the right of married women to own property, the right of girls and women to education. Contrary to conventional wisdom, winning the right to vote was not the only goal of the first wave activists--only the most difficult to attain.

This first-wave movement was complicated and contradictory. Just as happens today, achieving rights for women was sometimes set against the goal of achieving rights for people of color.

While much remains to be done, some progress has been achieved. For instance, there are more women in the U.S. Congress than ever before. And women are making inroads in formerly nontraditional occupations.

This is a rich topic that deserves a much more detailed post than I am able to give it at the moment.

Last night, Michelle Obama pointed out that this week also marks the anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech. I found myself liking her and wishing that she were running for president..

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The white guy he picked

We can't really surprised that Barack Obama picked a white guy to be his running mate. I think I've wasted way too much time reading blog posts about Joe Biden, but I've wondered if I'm the only one who thinks that his selection was a little bit weird.

I've never been a particular fan of Hillary Clinton, but I found myself wondering what Biden had to offer that made him preferable to Clinton. He was apparently chosen for his appeal to white working-class voters. I think the hidden subtext of that is, he was apparently chosen for his appeal to male working class voters. I wonder how, or if, Obama will reach out to feminist women voters.

Nevertheless, I am astonished by the ferocity of the response by some self-proclaimed supporters of Hillary Clinton. For instance, this post at Tennessee Guerrilla Women seems to be over the top. At the risk of belaboring a point, whatever his shortcomings, Obama's record on women's rights is clearly superior to John McCain's.

Ann at Feministing has one of the best analyses of Biden that I've read. She evaluates his strengths and weaknesses in an even-handed way, but points out some shortcomings that male progressives seem to have mostly overlooked. For one thing, "Biden has a not-so-hot record on choice", and also presided over the Senate Judiciary Committee during the hearings on confirming Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the post. At the time, Biden was hotly criticized by feminists for his treatment of Anita Hill, who testified that Thomas had sexually harrassed her. In reference to this last point, Ann provided a link to the site of blackhippychick, who was initially so outraged by the choice of Biden that she initially said she wouldn't vote for Obama, but who later said she would vote for him despite Biden's shortcomings.

Ann's post includes links to other interesting analyses of Biden. My favorites can be found at:
I've found some other interesting stuff out on the web at a variety of places. Skeptical Brotha, a fairly vehement opponent of Hillary Clinton, nevertheless argued that Obama's choice for VP ought to be a woman. He was sharply critical of Obama's choice of Biden.

Over at AlterNet, Joshua Holland thinks that Obama "could have done a lot worse."

Well, yeah, maybe so, but he also could have done a lot better. It seems that Democratic Party activists with little else in common share reactions to Biden that range from disappointed to outraged.

Rick and Kay Warren at Saddleback

A friend of mine recently mentioned Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in California, as an interesting change from old style right-wing Christian leaders such as Sally Kern. I hadn't heard of him before, but this is the guy who sponsored the forum where Barack Obama and John McCain both spoke recently.

This morning I accidentally heard the last few seconds of this public radio program:

Rick and Kay Warren at Saddleback [Speaking of Faith-- from American Public Media]

What I heard was Rick Warren saying something like, if you're asking why God isn't stepping in to fix serious problems in the world, God is asking the same thing about you. And Warren said that in order to work on these problems, his church was willing to work with believers, agnostics, atheists, gays...

Yup, that sounds different than Sally Kern all right.

I don't know if I'll have time to go back and listen to the entire show. But I did poke around on the Speaking of Faith website page about this particular broadcast.

I'm sorry to say that in many ways, Saddleback Church sounds like a typical, authoritarian evangelical church, in ways that creep me out a little bit. They say "you were made for God's pleasure." I don't know what I think about God. But I do think that any God(dess?) worth believing in would create beings for their own pleasure, and take pleasure in those beings being themselves.

I don't know what position they take on the role of women, but I'm wary. Kay Warren does seem to play a prominent role in the enterprise. (The pastor's wife seems to play a well-publicized role in many evangelical churches.) She has recently published a book, Dangerous Surrender. This may be about her view of Christian discipleship in general, but the title reminds me of all those books trying to convince us that wives should submit to their husbands and men should be the ones who take leadership roles in church and society.

Nevertheless, the Warrens and their church do seem to represent an interesting shift away from the right-wing evangelical politics of the past.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

A civil rights Journey of 50 years; remembering and celebrating

Until I picked a copy of the paper edition of the City Sentinel this afternoon, it had somehow escaped my attention that this week marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the sit-ins that integrated downtown Oklahoma City. These sit-ins were carried out by the local NAACP youth group led by schoolteacher Clara Luper. The group had recently performed a play, written by Luper, at an NAACP convention in New York City, and this experience inspired them to fight segregation in their hometown upon their return.

The nation's first desegregation sit-ins had started in Wichita, Kansas about a week before the start of the Oklahoma City sit-ins. According to the NAACP, "The Dockum and Oklahoma City sit-ins are often overshadowed by the later sit-ins in Greensboro, N.C. and other places throughout the South but were just as groundbreaking."

Friday, August 22, 2008

US troops 'to quit Iraq by 2011'

"Mohammed al-Haj Hammoud, the top Iraqi official negotiating with the US on the status of US forces in Iraq, said a deal had been agreed that envisaged all US combat troops leaving Iraq by 2011."

BBC NEWS | Middle East | US troops 'to quit Iraq by 2011'

This seems almost too good to be true. Robert Dreyfus would argue that it is too good to be true. Spencer Ackerman has a more optimistic viewpoint.

Truthdig - Reports - The Conquest by Presidentialism

I wish I'd written this:

Truthdig - Reports - The Conquest by Presidentialism

Here's my favorite bit of it:

...First and foremost, by ignoring local elections and issue-based organizing in favor of presidential politics, activists make presidential progress less likely. “Even the best presidents need social movements to accomplish transformational change,” warns community activist Deepak Bhargava in The Nation magazine’s latest White House-centric edition. “FDR could not have succeeded without the agitation of the unemployed workers’ councils and the unions, and LBJ’s greatest accomplishments were made possible by the civil rights movement.”

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Stephanie Tubbs Jones 1949-2008

I am sorry to say that I had never heard of Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones until AngryBlackBitch reported yesterday that she had been hospitalized. This morning the news came that Tubbs Jones had died.

She seems to have been an interesting and complicated person. Her Wikipedia profile says that "despite representing a heavily unionized district, she was a strong proponent of free trade." The Daily Kos quotes the New York Times to the effect that Tubbs Jones worked to expand health care coverage for low and middle income workers. She also opposed "emergency funding" for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

According to ABB, she was the first black person to represent Ohio in Congress. Tubbs Jones was also an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton's presidential bid, but threw her support to Barack Obama in June. Both Clinton and Obama mourned her passage. The Cleveland Plain Dealer also offered full coverage.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Barack Obama's Saddleback Misspeak on Abortion Rights

Barack Obama's Saddleback Misspeak and Drew Westen's Lessons on Abortion Talk | Reproductive Health |

Another fascinating post on RH Reality Check.

Women's Human Rights in China

Over at Feminist Peace Network, I found a link to this fascinating article on women's rights in China.

Author Marcy Bloom says that there is good news and bad news about Chinese women's rights. China's one-child policy has created an imbalance in which more than 118 boys are born for every girl born in that country. Punitive measures against parents who fail to limit their families include property confiscation and forced abortions. On the other hand, a "Care for Girls" campaign is seeking to educate citizens on the value of girls and women, and the government has instituted an economic support program for girl-only families in rural areas.

The originating site for this article, RH Reality Check also looks like it is well worth exploring.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Any time a dictator resigns...

it is probably good news.

Critical Support for the Obama Candidacy

In the wake of the widely publicized presidential candidate "faith forum" over the weekend, here are two interesting perspectives on supporting Barack Obama in the upcoming presidential election while frankly criticizing his coziness with corporate power:

janinsanfran focuses on Obama's support for Bill Clinton's 1996 "welfare reform" act as a way of distancing himself from the needs of poor black people. Despite this, she sees him as clearly preferable to Republican John McCain.

Norman Solomon, believes that
we're in great need of willingness to acknowledge contradictory truths, to sort through them as a means of finding the best progressive strategies for the here and now. While some attacks on Obama from the left are overheated, overly ideological and mechanistic, there's scant basis for denying the reality that his campaign and his positions are way too cozy with corporate power. Meanwhile, his embrace of escalating the war in Afghanistan reflects acceptance rather than rejection of what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the madness of militarism."

Nevertheless, Solomon, who is an Obama delegate to the Democratic National Convention, also supports Obama over McCain.

Given that Cynthia McKinney is not on the ballot in Oklahoma, I will cheerfully vote for Obama.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

What do Sally Kern and Arianna Huffington have in common?

I went out to the Red Cup on Friday night, brain dead and feeling like I'd been hit by a truck, so I could hear the band 13 Seeds. It was excellent and amazing, though I was certainly too tired after a grueling day at work to give you description of exactly why I'm saying that. They have a new CD. You should check it out.

Somewhere toward the end of the performance, a man named Rob Marlett stood up. One of the band members introduced him, and he gave a little speech. He's a Democrat, challenging Republican Sally Kern in the November election for the District 84 seat in the Oklahoma State House of Representatives. And I stood up and applauded for him, not because I know much about him, but because I wanted to give the guy some credit for taking her on.

You remember Sally Kern, of course. Back in March, she was addressing a small gathering of like-minded right-wing Republicans when she made some statements that ignited a nation-wide controversy.

Here is the crucial part of her speech, as quoted by the Associated Press at the time. "The homosexual agenda is destroying this nation. Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted, you know, more than a few decades. I honestly think it's the biggest threat that our nation has, even more so than terrorism or Islam, which I think is a big threat." (I know the AP said this, because I quoted it in an email to a friend at the time. You can find more background material on this episode, and more of Ms. Kern's bizarre exploits at Wikipedia.)

I am certainly grateful to Mr. Marlett for taking on this campaign. And I think it would be an excellent idea to get Ms. Kern out of the Oklahoma Legislature. Yet, I often find myself feeling hesitant when progressive activists target Ms. Kern for her anti-gay attitudes. As obnoxious as she is, I feel that several important issues end up being ignored.

For one thing, in addition to attacking lesbians and gay men, she attacked the entire religion of Islam and all of its adherents. It wasn't that she criticized it or offered disagreements with some of its tenets. She described the existence Islam as a threat to the well-being and safety of US citizens. This seems like a direct attack on the freedom of religion that supposedly helps to make this a free country.

For another thing, Kern's reference to the threat of "terrorism," needs to be questioned. The criminal attacks in New York and Washington in September 2001 were abhorent. But the so-called War on Terror that followed those attacks has been used to justify the invasion Afghanistan and Iraq. It has been used to excuse torture of "enemy combatants" and to attack the civil liberties of US citizens, and to divert scare resources away from dealing with other serious social and economic programs.

But more than that, the ideology underlying Kern's views has not been examined.

The central theme of this self-appointed "cultural warrior" seems to be that gay people are a threat to "the family." Before we toss this view away as ridiculous, we need to understand what sort of family Sally Kern is defending.

It's not just a family that consists of a husband and wife and their biological children (no other types of families need apply). It's a patriarchal family, one which is ruled by the man, in which the wife and children defer to his judgment.This particular type of family is understood by fundamentalist Christians to be the bedrock on which all of society rests.

This was the same argument used to oppose the Equal Rights Amendment, and before that, the right of women to vote. (Given this, Sally Kern's position as a state legislator is ironic, to say the least.)

What Rep. Kern and her allies seem to fear is that given other options, many people will not choose the patriarchal model for families. If society is based on that family model, then society as a whole is threatened.

But at its best, the United States is actually a pluralistic society that provides a place for people with very little common ground to coexist in peace. We are not going to achieve a nation in which everyone shares the same values any time soon. We are going to continue to have deep and difficult differences that can't be patched over easily.

How do we deal with that? Left, right, and center, many activists fall prey to the temptation to blur the disagreements that exist. Thus, it's tempting to single out Sally Kern as a practitioner of hate speech. It's much harder to have an honest discussion about the world view that underlies what she says.

The Religious Right may be past its prime. Its number of adherents may be shrinking. But it is still an important force in US politics and social life. Unfortunately, Sally Kern is not an aberration. She represents a real constituency.

There is always some fool woman who is ready and eager to defend the patriarchal way of doing things. (Remember ita Anita Bryant?) There are always lots of progressive people out there who want to make fun of that poor figurehead, while ignoring the underlying patriarchal reality.

I want to stop talking about the figureheads. I want to talk about the patriarchy.

Which brings me to the second part of this story. The patriarchy is a complicated beast with more than one face.

There is the moralistic, authoritarian patriarchy that thrives on squelching diversity. Then there is the fun-loving patriarchy that thrives on photos of Olympic women's beach volleyball.

This morning I made the mistake of poking around through some old links in my web browser, and on accident I discovered that the Huffington Post was featuring a slideshow of the U.S. women's beach volleyball team.

Women in all sorts of sports at the Olympics are wearing scanty little outfits that appear designed to show off as much of their bodies as possible. Men competing in the same sport are wearing outfits that expose much less skin. Even I have seen enough of the Olympics to notice that.

Apparently, the US women's beach volleyball team wore especially skimpy outfits. Apparently, the beach volleyball competition was much less about any pretense of athletic excellence, and much more about the display of conventionally attractive female bodies in conventionally titillating poses. At least, that was the impression I got from listening to Scott Simon and Daniel Schorr discuss this sport on National Public Radio on Saturday morning. It wasn't what they said, it was how they said it. I could hear the leer in their voices.

And then, this morning, I noticed the existence of that slideshow on Huffington Post. And saw some of the comments from the supposedly liberal men who had taken the time to page through the whole thing. (I could see the leer in their words.) I could have posted my own comment if I'd been willing to register with the site. But I wasn't willing to do that. I wasn't willing to add to their credibility as a supposedly serious alternative to the mainstream media.

Well, darn it, women are certainly beautiful, aren't we? But there is really a big freaking difference between appreciating a woman's beauty and treating her body as a commodity. Appreciating a woman's sexual attractiveness is completely different from treating her as an object to be bought, sold, consumed.

Real appreciation has something to do with perceiving that inner fire that illuminates and animates the body. It also has something to do with seeing the beauty in all the shapes, sizes, colors, and ages that the female body might have.

The phony leering thing that makes sex and women's bodies nasty is the product of the unholy marriage of patriarchy and capitalism.

Most of the nice liberal men who are doing the leering in this case would probably condemn Sally Kern for her bigotry. That disappoints me, but doesn't really surprise me.

The thing I'm still scratching my head over is how this crap ended up on a web site started by a woman who is theoretically challenging the world view of the mainstream media.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Making Women Farmers Visible

This article by Regina Cornwell, posted on the Women's Media Center site discusses women farmers in India and South Africa. But the issues Cornwell raises are familiar to U.S. women as well. The debate over how much work women do versus how much work men do is at least as old as this old folk song. And we in the US are also dealing with the question of how to eat more locally produced food, as I noted in this post last week.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Controversy over SEIU organizaing strategy

This analysis over at t r u t h o u t is a fascinating discussion about the conflict activists face between "practical politics" and achieving the goals that you really want to achieve. Given the importance of the Service Employees International Union in organizing health care workers:
The stakes are very high for everyone. An organized healthcare industry in alliance with consumers could create the strength to win a single-payer health system benefiting every person in this country.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

More on the Democratic Party Platform

Yesterday I noted a bit of what looks to me like good news about the Democratic Party draft platform plank on health care. Today I discovered that Jonathan Tasini over on Working Life sees this platform plank as a defeat, as the Dems giving up on the possibility of single-payer. (Tasini's viewpoint is an interesting contrast to the thoughts of Donna Smith, who I quoted yesterday.) Tasini does think the platform is very good on "the right to organize and other similar worker protection issues."

Talk To Action has an interesting analysis of the platform's treatment of abortion rights.

A link to the entire draft platform, courtesy of Working Life, can be found here.

Georgia on my mind

Feminist Peace Network has an interesting set of statements from non-governmental organizations on the situation in Georgia and South Ossetia.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Aren't elections about having choices?

When I go to the poll on Election Day here in Oklahoma, I will have two choices for US president--Barack Obama or John McCain. There will be no other presidential candidates. There's not even a place for me to write in the name of my little cat.

Given those choices, I'm going to vote for Barack Obama. I might wish he were more radical. I'm definitely disappointed that he felt he needed to disown his former pastor Jeremiah Wright. But Obama is clearly a better candidate than John McCain.

But no matter what I do, Oklahoma seems certain to give its seven electoral votes to McCain. Given that McCain is unacceptable to me, there is no reason to worry about giving my vote to his most electable opponent. I would like to have some other choices.

If I had the choice to do so, I would vote for Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney. I've said this before, and I'll probably say it again--if the Democrats don't get any criticism or competition from the left, they will drift further and further to the right.

Here's another situation in which political opponents are working together for a common goal. OBAR Ballot Access Reform for Oklahoma is working to gain access to the Oklahoma Ballot for so-called minor parties. Sounds like a darned good idea to me.

Of course, there are also activists within the Democratic party who are working to make that party less conservative and more accountable to its activist base. See the post directly below.

Demo Activists Win Healthcare Platform Fight

Common Dreams has this piece from The Nation on good news coming out of the Democratic Party's platform negotiations:

Platform Fight: Activists Win Commitment to Guaranteed Care -

The organization that worked for more progressive language on health care is Progressive Democrats of America. Over at the pdamerica site, Donna Smith describes how this victory was achieved, and seems to think it's a pretty big deal. Not a final victory in the battle for universal health care, but a big step forward. It also represented an interesting coalition between Smith, an advocate of a single-payer system, and Bob Remer, a Hillary Clinton supporter on the platform committee:

This was the first time I met Bob. He was (and is) a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton's. From the icy cold in Iowa to this moment, Bob believed with his heart and his head that Sen. Clinton was the best candidate to lead his nation. A big, hulking fellow with a rich history of community and political involvement and a career spent working in the healthcare field, Bob felt the strengthening of the platform language on healthcare was a way to honor Sen. Clinton. So, I thought, that's fine, so long as we agree that every American has a basic human right to healthcare. We sat in the hotel coffee shop in Pittsburgh, two ordinary folks from Chicago, hoping we could push our party off the mark on this issue and toward true reform. We both agreed that the platform is not where legislative details or programs are either negotiated or adopted--and because we disagreed on what the final outcome of health reform legislation might be, Bob and I quickly moved beyond that discussion. He supports a Clinton-type reform while I am firmly in the single-payer camp.

I find something incredibly encouraging about this. It offers hope that people with similar goals but dramatically different proposals for reaching them can work together respectfully and honestly.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More on Russia vs. Georgia

JANINSANFRAN also has a good analysis of the situation in Georgia, along with a map.

happening-here?: Enter the arc of mountainous agony

Russia and Georgia Clash Over Separatist Region -

Not that I am any expert on the politics and history of the countries of the former Soviet Union, and not that I'm necessarily a big fan of the New York Times, but this looks like a pretty thorough explanation of what's going on in Georgia:

Russia and Georgia Clash Over Separatist Region -

It's a reminder to me of how much that goes on in the world that US media--including alternative media--doesn't attend to. And then we're surprised and puzzled when a war breaks out.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Cindy Sheehan vs. Nancy Pelosi

If no one challenges the Democrats from the left, they will probably continue to drift further and further to the right.

Anti-war Activist Cindy Sheehan on the Ballot -

Urban Infill vs. Urban Gardening

I've read that Oklahoma City is one of the most geographically dispersed, least dense cities in the U.S. This causes all sorts of nasty problems. For one thing, public transportation is nearly nonexistent, in large part because there is too much area to serve for the number of passengers involved. Because businesses, stores, restaurants, public libraries, and neighborhoods are so dispersed, people are forced to rely more on cars and less on bicycles or walking. I've often thought that "urban" infill is just what we need to add some urban vitality to this vast suburban wasteland.

As with most difficult situations, there's another side to the story. You can read about it all at the link below:

The Locavore’s Dilemma: Finding Places to Plant -

Anthrax And The Bush ‘War On Terror’: Why We Need An Investigation

Over on Firedoglake there is an informative and thought-provoking article on Anthrax And The Bush ‘War On Terror’: Why We Need An Investigation.

It's becoming increasingly apparent that the Bush administration -- including the FBI, Homeland Security, and the Pentagon -- all want the anthrax-killer case to quietly die with the person of Bruce Ivins. Yep, case closed, move along, folks. Right?

Well, excuse us. If you don't mind, we still have a few questions:

-- Was Ivins, as Marcy and Glenn Greenwald have wondered, a conscious part of the disinformation campaign to convince Congress and the public to go to war with Iraq?

-- Did Ivins -- if he really was the anthrax killer -- have any co-conspirators, as the evidence suggests?

-- Why was security at Fort Detrick, home of USAMRIID, probably the nation's most sensitive and secretive weapons laboratory, so lax as to allow this to happen?

-- And finally (and perhaps most significantly), was the mere fact of this kind of weaponized anthrax's existence at Fort Detrick another example of the Bush administration's flagrant violations of international law?

Friday, August 8, 2008

Friday Cat Blogging?

I wonder if people still blog about their cats on Friday.

Well, no matter what "people" are doing, I'm going to try a Friday cat bloggette here.

Looks like that worked...

Naomi Klein: The Olympics: Unveiling Police State 2.0

I've been planning to ignore the Olympics, but I couldn't pass up this fascinating article over on Huffington Post:

Naomi Klein: The Olympics: Unveiling Police State 2.0

Seems like an interesting counterpoint to the article about the French enabling Rwandan genocide that I blogged earlier today. Both articles seem to be about Western powers covertly enabling what they overtly condemn.

Carbon-Free Energy, Cutting Poverty in Half: Mr. Gore, Meet Mr. Edwards - Column |

This is worth reading:

Carbon-Free Energy, Cutting Poverty in Half: Mr. Gore, Meet Mr. Edwards

I wouldn't have expected an article this interesting to be posted on a site called

That's why I originally found it at truthout.

Did French play part in Rwandan genocide?

I've started reading a book about genocide in Rwanda and Bosnia that I saw recommended over on happening-here?

Here's an interesting angle on this story that I found this morning at
t r u t h o u t.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Polls About Race Can Elicit Dishonest Responses : NPR

As I was driving over to the Red Cup today, I was listening to this segment on Talk of the Nation. I wasn't so much listening on purpose. It was just a thing where I hit the "FM" button on my radio out of curiosity about what was on.

If I'd known the topic was going to be politically polling, I would have kept my finger off the button. The existence of polling makes me angry. If I were Queen, I would outlaw it. Polling creates the illusion of popular involvement in political life, but undermines the reality of real participation. Instead of genuine discussions of issues of public policy, political campaigns become superficial popularity contests.

This discussion made me uneasy for two reasons. They were talking about the idea that white people might be lying when they tell pollsters that they're willing to vote for a black candidate. I think this is a discussion that shapes opinions as well as revealing them. At the risk of sounding irrational or paranoid, it feels like something that justifies and encourages racism in the white electorate.

But what really blew my mind was a caller to the show who said she was liberal on most issues, but against what she called "illegal immigration." Not only does she hide her true opinion from her friends, but she goes to political demonstrations and holds up signs she disagrees with. I hardly even know what to say to this. It scares me. Disagreement is important. Honest disagreement is one important ways that community is built.

This is a complicated topic, but the Red Cup is closing in five minutes, so I'll leave it as it is.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Anthrax 'suspect' is found dead

This was kind of weird and interesting:
It seemed sort of odd to me, somehow, that this anthrax case, which was out of the news for years, was coming back into the news right now during a presidential campaign. But maybe this is just some early morning hypervigilance on my part. The link to the longer LA Times story is here:,0,2864223.story