In This Issue
GRAND MARSHAL LINDA EVANS
Madalyn Murray OHair
Striking Health Workers Pay Their Dues
Profits vs. People (The AIDS Drug War)
Laurent of Africa
The Mocha Column
Death Doesnt Become SF
Dont Burn Your Trash In Our Back Yard
Pacifica: Democracy When?
Black Radical Congress Statement on the Crisis at Pacifica Radio and WBAI
GRAND MARSHAL LINDA EVANS
As we go to press, we have learned that Linda Evans has been nominated (along with 19 other individuals) to be the Grand Marshall of this year's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade. This indeed would be a GREAT HONOR for Linda, (actually, more of an honor for the parade), and a real, if inadvertent, show of support for all political prisoners in the LGBT communities. (Since, of course, half of the people who vote for her will think theyre voting for Dynastys Linda Evans). You will be able to vote for Linda as Grand Marshal prior to April 15. Polling booths will be set up in the community and ballots will appear in the LGBT media. The theme this year is "Queerific."
In keeping with this theme, Daniel has offered his 1980 light blue ford pickup "Babe the Big Blue Ox" to be Lindas chariot for the ball. Please watch for your opportunity to vote for Linda Evans (either by mail or in person) to be the grand marshal of the Pride Parade. Welcome home Linda!
Flo Kennedy, who called herself "radicalisms rudest mouth," died in New York on December 21 at the age of 84. She was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1916, one of 5 daughters, in a mostly white, very poor neighborhood. As a little girl, she saw her father, Wiley, stand up to the Klu Klux Klan who stood in front of their home, a shack, by getting a gun and threatening to shoot.
Unable to go to college immediately after high school, she ran a hat shop in Kansas City and when the local Coca-Cola bottler refused to hire black truck-drivers she helped organize a boycott. In 1942 she enrolled as a pre-law student at New York Citys Columbia University. She graduated with an A average, but still couldnt get into law school -- because she was a woman they said, but Flo suspected it was because she was black. The threat of a lawsuit won her admittance in 1948, one of eight women, and the first African American admitted to Columbia law school. She went into her own practice in 1953.
Flo represented former Black Panther H. Rapp Brown. She became the lawyer for the Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker estates, and successfully fought to recoup lost royalties. But she was so disillusioned with the law after that battle that she gave up her practice and became a full time activist. She was married for a short time in the 1950s to science fiction author Charlie Dudley Dye, but they divorced and Flo never remarried or had children.
In 1966 Kennedy founded the Media Workshop to combat racism in the news media and advertising. She founded the feminist party which nominated black Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York for president in 1972. She led various boycotts during the 60s and 70s and was arrested at CBS headquarters for refusing to leave the building. She helped stage a "pee-in" at Harvard University to protest the lack of womens restrooms. In 1969, she was a member of the legal team which was instrumental in liberalizing the New York State Abortion laws. (She was co-author of Abortion Rap). In 1981 she wrote an influential handbook on sex harassment, Sex Discrimination in Employment: An Analysis and Guide for Practitioner and Student. In 1979 she was a featured speaker at the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights, where she infamously changed the words to an old standard to sing "Nothing could be sweeter than to find out that Anita [Bryant] is a lesbian."
In 1997, after 2 strokes and other health problems, she still pressed a sexual harassment case against the National Urban League, one of the largest civil rights groups in the country.
Well, fortunately Flo wasnt a poet (though she did write an autobiography, "Color Me Flo"), so we wont be violating our no-poetry rule. But she was one of the most acerbically witty feminist loudmouths of our time, so here are some memorable quotes:
"The spending of our tax dollars by the Pentagon represents the greatest social disease of our country; I call it Pentagonorrhea."
"Always do direct action. If you are lying in a ditch with a truck on your ankles, you dont send somebody out to find out how much it weighs you get it off."
"I dont know why anybody would want to give anybody else a blow job, but in my opinion, it is not for me or the church or anybody else, to tell people which of these rather unaesthetic activities they ought to be involved in."
"Sports is one of the major preoccupations of our society -- I call it jockocracy -- and it is fascinating to note the preoccupations of our society with balls. Tennis balls, footballs, basketballs -- there shouldnt be a season without some balls to focus on."
"If men got pregnant, abortion would be sacrament."
(This tribute was largely cribbed from one by Robin Tyler, who was apparently a friend of hers.)
Madalyn Murray OHair
On January 29, 2001 the bodies of Madalyn Murray OHair, the founder of the American Atheists, her son and granddaughter were finally identified on a Texas ranch, ending a six year mystery involving kidnaping and extortion. OHair and her family members disappeared in 1995 along with $600,000, which gave way to speculation that she had stolen money fro the American Atheists. But in fact she was victim to a kidnaping/ murder by a former employee of the American Atheists.
Even the most seemingly apolitical of violent murders take on aspects of assassination when examining the life of the person. Madalyn Murray OHair was once called "the most hated women in america" in the media, because of her pivotal role in the battle to separate church and state. In 1963 because of her lawsuit, in the landmark Murray v. Curlett decision, the supreme court ended reverential bible reading and prayer recitation in the public schools. In 1959 when OHair put her son in baltimore public schools the only alternative for her son to participation in prayers, was for him to sit alone in the hall while the rest of the children were forced to mumble those endless pious testaments to christian morals. In response she began the legal proceedings which culminated in the end of mandatory school prayer.
My long time friend Gail tells me how as a ten year old girl from a very lapsed catholic family in a massachusetts public school she felt tortured and disloyal to her family, by the endless required group praying. She remembers vividly the day in 1963 the supreme court ended mandatory school prayer, because she finally felt less alone, less like a non-religious pariah. Her dilemma was made public at last. Madalyn Murray OHair became a hero for her and many other school children who did not fit into the christian religious mainstream.
Daniel of LAGAI grew up in his christian fundamentalist family thinking of Madalyn Murray OHair as part of a evil unholy trinity along with Angela Davis and Starhawk. Madalyn Murray OHair, Angela Davis and Starhawk are indeed a womens cadre of revolution challenging the insidious christian white wing status quo from a variety of angles.
Madalyn Murray OHair and her stand for the separation of the church and state has taken on new relevance. bush in his oh-so-shrub like way has proclaimed large amounts of money be taken from previously government funded programs and diverted to church groups for administration. Once secular social welfare programs designed to provide a much needed safety net have now become loathsome "charity" bound up with the religious dogma of the particular "faith based organization". In this new melange of church and state those in need will have to pray for their food, health care, and housing.
Then there was the archaic horror of kansas deciding the theory of evolution would not be a standard part of the public school curriculum allowing and encouraging the teaching of the so called theory of "creationism". Fortunately the legacy of Madalyn Murray OHair prevailed. The kansas school board was embarrassed by the scientific community into reinstating evolution back into the curriculum.
Religion has permeated every part of our lives. Politicians regularly punctuate their televised diatribes with references to god and family. Religious fundamentalists of all faiths, call for bigotry, murder, and genocide the world over. Clerics and athletes pray publicly at sports events. The evil catholic healthcare west buys up more hospitals each day, ending abortions for the community served by a once secular hospital. In an even more absurd twist Halloween was banned from an innocuous celebration in the alameda medical center clinics because the christian administrator of ambulatory care felt Halloween was a tribute to satanism. Even Kates favorite TV show "survivor", recently turned her off when a "team member" prayed to "god in his sons holy name". As Daniel says it is a religious-industrial complex with accountability only to "god"!
Much closer to home the liberal progressive opposition has become regularly preoccupied with "faith based organizing" a.k.a. "people of faith" or "faith communities" as though such religious people when organized have so much more validity, upstanding citizens that they are, then the rest of us weirdo counter-cultural, down and out, working, queer, anarchist and often decidedly atheist revolutionaries. Death Penalty Action Team, a coalition in which LAGAI participates, although entirely atheist, is forced to pander to organized christians. Those who oppose the death penalty from the political left are often red baited as though their repugnance to state execution is less legitimate than a religious stance. And while I support all efforts toward progressive change, and know that large numbers of people with crosses will and should show up in droves at the san quentin vigil, some of us find this trend towards the religious decidedly disconcerting. Even militant demonstrations have been known to have speakers pray for strength and justice. Numerous once hippy flower children have become solid members of ashrams, strict followers of some guru or another. An upcoming progressive Jewish conference is beginning with a Shabbat dinner, starting the conference with a religious overtone which could well be alienating to non religious Jews. Whatever happened to religion being the opiate of the masses?
Madalyn Murray OHair the most hated woman in america, dared to challenge this predilection for formal state sanctioned fundamentalist religion and family values. She supported rational thinking. She said that Atheism is a philosophy that " regards the world as it actually is, views it in a light of data provided by progressive science and social experience. Atheistic materialism is the logical outcome of scientific knowledge gained over centuries." We call for social change, for an end to the death penalty and all that is unfair in our world because injustice is wrong. Praying just does not take the place of grass roots organizing, knocking on doors, talking to people, or chanting loudly. One of the best of many wonderful sights at the demonstrations in LA against the democratic convention was a bunch of paunchy middle aged men carrying a sign saying SAN LEANDRO AMERICAN ATHEISTS.
Let a thousand atheists bloom!!!!
Striking Health Workers Pay Their Dues
As projected in the November UltraViolet, Health Care workers in 3 San Francisco hospitals went out on strike. After one very wet day marching in the rain, we went back to work. The hospital didnt seem enthusiastic about returning to the bargaining table. Management told TV reporters that they didnt understand why the workers felt they needed a say in how the hospital is run. Doctors should make these decisions, they said in that tone of voice that male authority figures think inspires confidence and the rest of us find patronizing. At least they acknowledged that this labor dispute is about power.
While we workers at California Pacific Medical Center (CPMC) do want more money-who doesnt?-we want some influence about how our jobs affect us and our patients. The housekeepers dont want to choreograph the chemo-therapy and synchronize the surgery. They want to be heard when they dont have enough staff to properly disinfect each bed before the next patient crawls into it. Certified Nursing Assistants are not trying to over step their role, but is wanting more staff to properly monitor the growing number of Alzheimer and dementia patients in our aging society really "over stepping"? Of course not.
Without much progress in the bargaining sessions, the workers voted to authorize a three day strike if bargaining did not improve in the next 10 days. It didnt. On January 30, the workers walked out. A three day strike is a lot tougher than one day on the picket line. There is a considerable difference in how much money one loses and it is a big disruption to ones routine. And virtually no one scabs on a one day, but some people do if a strike goes longer.
Despite the tension, people were in good spirits on the line. People took turns with the bull horn, carried signs and made morale a priority. Our union, Service Employees International Union(SEIU) Local 250 did a good job. They had signs ready and a barbecue roaring across from the picket line. Of course the good thing about going on strike with the kitchen workers is that someone is always willing to cook! We had hot food and the doctors and non union staff were served cold sandwiches. Maybe there is justice after all.
As a strike veteran (many UV readers suffered with me through the great nursing home strike in the mid 90's), I was impressed with the growth of SEIU Local 250. Back then, most of their paid staff (and many other unions) were very young, very white kids directly out of college who did not have any experience working in health care. There were some older organizers of color who were quite good but the "youth" took up a lot of space.
The idea was to get people to "organize" the rank & file instead of having us lead ourselves. They were sent to the OI (Organizing Institute) to learn the tricks of the trade. Some friends of mine with some organizing experience could not gain admittance to the OI and felt it was an age thing. Were talking over 30! One friend with a lot of experience did manage to get in and proved to be adept at having the "right analysis" but was told she wouldnt be recommended for any union staff job. Although they didnt say it, being the ripe old age of 33 just slowed her down. Incidentally, she learned a trade and successfully raised a ruckus promoting union democracy in the Carpenters Union.
The nursing home strike also lacked strategy. It had goals (a dollar an hour increase) but not a comprehensive vision. There wasnt a consciousness about the industry just the individual company.
As you can imagine, I was nervous about this strike. I was pleasantly surprised. The union staff had more in common with the workers in terms race, gender, age and work experience than during the nursing home strike. Dont get me wrong, there were a lot of a young white boys from the union staff that appeared at our rallies. And my Union Rep is a 20 something white guy who is nice and political but not a health care worker. Actually rumor has it that hes in the Communist Party. People are still in the CP!?! It must be some kind of joke. One late night when I stayed to pack up the signs and clean the barbecue, I talked with some of the other union staff. A former LVN is working in Local 250 to organize in the North Bay. Another staff member started as a hospital laundry worker. They didnt have to ask about our jobs because they had done them.
They also knew what to look for during the strike. Despite the huge amount of scabs management brought in from elsewhere, they still mismanaged the hospital. (Why should those three days be different from any other?) The replacement workers put confidential patient records on the street in garbage bags, not shredded or in locked dumpsters. The union used this as an opportunity to report the hospital to the Department of Health for violating patient confidentiality. Giving the company a bad name in the press goes from the strike mode to the corporate campaign.
Also, this campaign has a long-term strategy. The goal is to create an industry standard for Bay Area hospital workers. There has already been some success. Chinese Hospital signed on to the Industry Standard which includes better wages and Patient Care Committees to negotiate for better worker to patient staffing ratios. Catholic Healthcare West (CHW) is now in the process of signing on to the Standard, ending months without a contract for their employees. CHW workers had many high profile one day strikes and allegedly managed to organize new departments who were not previously part of the union. Kaiser was the first to meet the Standard in part because of their controversial relationship with SEIU. Some say that it puts the Union in the business of selling insurancewhich it does. Creating an Industry Standard makes it more difficult for the hospitals to low ball the workers in the name of competition.
CPMC management claimed to be shocked by the 3 day strike. They are now offering more money but are refusing to offer their San Francisco workers as much as their workers in other facilities. This is odd considering San Francisco has a much higher cost of living, especially rent! CPMC makes money (although it is allegedly nonprofit). CPMC is affiliated with (read: owned by) Sutter, a multibillion dollar "non profit" empire that controls 27 hospitals and 7 doctors groups in Northern California. Van Johnson, their CEO, is paid $1,070,534 a year and CPMCs CEO, Dr. Martin Brotman pulls in $680,941 plus money from his medical practice. They oppose paying housekeepers, cooks and Nursing Assistants the Industry Standard of $12 to $15 an hour.
While "the average non profit hospital gives 3% of their revenues on indigent care, Sutter spends only 0.6%" according to SEIU researcher Fred Seavey in a Nevada newspaper. Sutter has also recently engulfed Saint Lukes Hospital in the Mission District. St. Lukes has had a decades long tradition of providing health care regardless of ones ability to pay. Prior to taking over St. Lukes Sutter acquired Brown and Toland a prominent doctors group, and barred their physicians from practicing outside of Sutter facilities. This stripped Saint Lukes of the ability to attract wealthier patients whose hospital fees would finance the institutions charitable work. Without any resources to make up for the loss of income, Saint Lukes was ripe for the picking.
The union and its workers are trying to stand up against this juggernaut. There will be another strike vote in March and most likely a strike in April. Management has stopped deducting dues from our checks but the workers held a meeting in the cafeteria and we brought our check books! We are not happy about the possibility of going out on strike but we are willing to do it for better pay, cleaner facilities and more staff to care for the sick and the frail. The union made a flyer listing the names of those people that scabbed and they will have to appear before a stewards council after we get a contract. Its not a comfortable thing to do, but scabs must be dealt with and management as well. Bay Area Hospital workers havent been this close to a unified high standard. We cant settle for anything less.
Profits vs. People
"People with HIV/AIDS in South Africa are dying because drug prices are too high as a result of patent protections. I find it appalling that the pharmaceutical industry is ignoring this and instead is trying to block the governments efforts to improve access to medicines." This statement was made at a press conference in Pretoria, South Africa, convened by Doctors Without Borders (aka Medecins Sans Frontieres, aka MSF), Treatment Action Campaign, the Health GAP Campaign, and others.
In 1997 the government of South Africa, then headed by Nelson Mandelaenacted the Medicines and Related Substances Control Amendment Act. This measure was intended to make medicines more affordable for more people in South Africa.
In 1998 pharmaceutical companies (including Bayer, which operates a plant in Berkeley), multinational entities with South African subsidiaries, filed suit to block this legislation. The c(kkk)linton-g(kkk)ore administration threw its support behind the pharmaceuticals, threatening trade sanctions. Although kkklinton-kkkgore scaled back its support in late 1999, the legislation has never been implemented because of legal proceedings in South Africa.
There are in South Africa about 4,300,000 people with HIV, more than in any other country in the world. Of these millions of people only about 90,000 can afford the triple-drug treatments which have proven so effective in the u.s. and western europe.
Brazil, since 1996, has been providing free drugs to more than 90,000 people, under a government mandate to ensure that everyone got the medications they needed. Locally operated, and often state owned, drug companies in Brazil have been manufacturing generic substitutes for these otherwise needlessly expensive drugs. An extensive write up in New York Times Magazine lauded Brazils efforts. They have been effective and accessible and offer a model for other countries, such as South Africa. The u.s. government responded by lodging a complaint against Brazil at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
The u.s. government , according to a MSF press release, opposes Brazils "system for granting compulsory licenses." This policy allows Brazil to override patents to remedy the negative effects of excessive patent protection on essential medicines.
"Because of their monopoly patents, drug companies make mega-profits selling AIDS medicines at huge mark-ups-as much as 4,500%. For example, the Indian manufacturer CIPLA has just offered anti-viral triple therapy costing $10,000 in the u.s. for $600 to countries in Africa and for $350 to Doctors Without Borders.
ACT UP East Bay organized a demonstration and civil disobedience at Bayer Corporation in Berkeley on March 5 as part of a Global Day of Action against the drug companies lawsuit. Solidarity demonstrations were also planned in Boston and New York.
Laurent of Africa
I was on my way back from a camping trip on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (we were testing out the RV that is now whisking our beloved Julie and Blue around the country) when a special bulletin came on KPFA announcing the rumored assassination of President Laurent Kabila of the Congo. It was later confirmed that Kabila had been killed, probably by one of his own bodyguards. This was the first I had heard of the fighting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, also called Congo-Kinshasa after its capital city, and formerly known as Zaire. When I got to work I looked on the New York Times website and learned that, while Ive been preoccupied with Palestine, the WTO and the erosion of abortion funding in California, a continent-wide war has been raging in the Congo.
To be honest, most of what I know about the Congo comes from The Poisonwood Bible, which is a sad statement (though its a wonderful book) because I actually took a couple classes on African history and politics in college. But that was sooooo long ago. I had to look at a map to find out that the Congo is in west central Africa, and has borders with the Central African Republic, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Zambia, Angola, and Congo-Brazzaville, which incidentally is embroiled in a tri-national war of its own. A little more research yielded the fact that the country of 50 million covers an area larger than the united states east of the Mississippi.
In an article in TV Guide of all places, reporting on Doctors Without Borders release of their 10 most underreported humanitarian crises of 2000, I learned the conflict is known in Africa and Europe as the "African First World War." It is the widest interstate war in modern African history. Nearly every country in west or southern Africa has committed troops or money to assist one side or the other (and some have switched sides) in the fighting which began in 1997. Officially the combatants, in addition to the government of the DRC and several indigenous and imported rebel forces, are Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi on the side of the rebels, and Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe and Chad aligned with the government. Sudan and Libya have also sponsored groups of rebels, while Zambia, Congo-Brazzaville and Cameroon have been involved in attempting to broker peace deals.
Kabila came to power in 1997 when he ousted dictator/president Mobutu Sese Seko with the help of Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. Mobutu, whose full chosen name Mobutu Sese Seko Koko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga means "The all-powerful warrior who, because of his endurance and inflexible will to win, will go from conquest to conquest, leaving fire in his wake" had held power for nearly 30 years, after participating in coups against his co-revolutionists, Patrice Lumumba and Joseph Kasavubu. In 1998, Rwanda and Uganda switched their allegiance to rival factions of the Rally for Democracy, which were fighting against the Kabila government.
Rwandas official reason for becoming involved was that it suspected Kabila of cooperating with the Interahamwe militia, Hutus who fought the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan government, and giving sanctuary to Hutu former Rwandan Armed Forces officers suspected of carrying out the massacres of Tutsis in Rwanda. Uganda says it invaded and occupied large portions of the northern Congo to secure its border against the Ugandan Allied Democratic Forces, a Sudan-backed rebel group it claims is operating from safe-haven camps in the Congo. BBC and Africa Desk commentators say Ugandas rationale is suspect. A New York Times article speculated that Kabila, who amassed a personal fortune after ascending to power, failed to deliver to his allies their promised shares of the countrys diamond and mineral deposits, causing them to look for alliances elsewhere. He found new support from Angola, which wants to preclude Congo as a base for Jonas Savimbis Unita, which is fighting their government, and Zimbabwe, which apparently was offered some lucrative business deals with the Congo.
In addition to the two Rally for Democracy (RCD) factions, there is another Uganda-backed rebel organization known as Movement for Liberation of the Congo (MLC). The MLC and the Uganda-allied RCD-ML recently formed an alliance called Congolese Liberation Front. Several hundred Mobutu loyalists, who have been hiding out for the last four years, recently surrendered to the CLF.
In the Rwandan-occupied territories, the Interahamwe and ex-FAR (former Rwandan Army) militias are joined by an indigenous rebel group called Mayi-Mayi or Mai-Mai, who fought the influx of Rwandans. The Sudan-backed ADF operates in the Ugandan-controlled areas to the south. Because there are simultaneous civil wars in Burundi and Congo-Brazzaville, refugees, both armed and noncombatant, tend to flow back and forth from one country to the other, bringing their own conflicts with them. About 15,000 Burundian militiamen are fighting for the Congolese government. Doctors Without Borders reports that there are up to 20 armed groups within the country.
Needless to say, this has all been disastrous for the civilian population of the Congo. At one point, in September 1998, the BBC reported that Kinshasa was "four days from starvation," that is, the capital city was nearly out of food. According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF [its French acronym]), "life expectancy has dropped to 45. Epidemics of diseases like meningitis, cholera, shigellosis (bloody diarrhea), and measles are coupled with periodic outbreaks of polio and plague (nearly eradicated in the West), as well as AIDS and sleeping sickness." The U.N., which is preparing to send peacekeeping troops to heavily besieged Mbandaka, 360 miles up the Congo River from Kinshasa, estimates that 85% of the people in that city have diseases. In May, MSF workers reported 27 civilians killed and 155 injured in 3 days of fighting.
The complexity of the situation, with so many national armies and ethnic militias involved, has made peace deals elusive. All groups finally agreed to a ceasefire in August 1999, which was supposed to clear the way for peacekeepers from the UN and the Organization for African Unity, but it fell apart before the UN and OAU advance teams even got settled in. In December 2000, the six foreign countries involved agreed to withdraw their troops to allow the deployment of UN observers. But the rebel factions failed to show up for peace talks. U.S. involvement consisted of sending special envoy Richard Holbrooke to the region in December 1999. Holbrooke had previously proved himself a suitable expert on Africa by terming the war between Ethiopia and Eritrea "stupid." As analyst Marina Ottaway observes, "It is not clear which intelligent wars he had in mind." Given that attitude, it is shocking that his efforts to get the Congolese peace process "back on track" were not successful.
When Kabila took over, he made his son, Joseph, major general in charge of a large portion of the Congos armed forces. According to the BBC, "Heading the military campaign against the rebels has been Josephs main concern since then. While his supporters hail him as a military hero, detractors remark that his presence in a frontline town has usually preceded that towns capture by rebel forces. Certainly, any military victories against the rebels have largely been the work of the Zimbabwean or Angolan armies, rather than Congos own forces." Joseph, "thought to be the eldest of at least 10 children fathered by Laurent Kabila from several mothers," assumed the presidency after his fathers death.
Joseph Kabila is described as a quiet man, according to one article "possibly because he communicates more easily in the English and Swahili spoken in much of East Africa than in the French and Lingala spoken in Kinshasa." This might be why foreign leaders seem happier with Joseph K. as the new leader of Africas third largest country than people within the Congo. Kabila has agreed to implement the August 1999 Lukasa peace agreement, clearing the way for 3,000 U.N. peacekeeping troops and 500 human rights monitors. Most of the troops will be from other African countries; the U.S. has not committed troops to the mission.
So Whats a Girl to Do?
Youll be glad to know that there is something you can do. Congressman Tony Hall (D-Ohio) organized a protest on December 2 at Tiffanys to publicize the prevalence of "conflict diamonds" or "blood diamonds". "Today, brutal rebels in Sierra Leone, Angola, and the DR Congo will earn $37 million selling stolen diamonds," Hall said. Hall, working with Physicians for Human Rights, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, authored legislation designed to create a "clean stream" of diamond imports by tracking them from mines to cutting centers and ensuring that diamonds from "conflict zones" are never cut into gemstones. However, there was no mention of the israeli diamond import business, one of the major diamond-cutting centers in the world, so its hard to know just how clean these "clean" diamonds are going to be. Eyad from ADC reports that there is some question about this "blood diamond" campaign; some suspect that it is engineered by de Beers (a leading diamond importer) to eliminate their competition.
Anyway, for those of you who are going to Vermont to get married, Hall and the human rights groups want you to ask where diamonds come from before you buy them. But, if like me, youve never bought a diamond and never intend to, theres something a good bit cheaper you can do.
Marina Ottaway, in an excellent critique of u.s. policy toward Africa, writes that the new administration should "Act decisively to cancel bilateral debt and push international financial institutions to do the same. Most African countries will never be able to pay their debt in any case." In 1998, she says, over half of the money African countries received from the IMF and World Bank was returned to those institutions as "debt service." (Incidentally, she also reports that bilateral and multilateral development assistance to all of Africa was about $13 billion in 1998, which really puts into perspective the $3 billion in annual u.s. aid to israel.)
In February, 73 members of congress, including Barbara Lee, nancy pelosi and Lynn Woolsey, signed a letter authored by Maxine Waters urging treasury secretary paul oneill to cancel the Third World debt. Apparently, bush made a campaign promise to cancel the debt of impoverished nations. Maybe his promises are worth more than clintons. Might be worth a letter, phone call or e-mail Get info at Jubilee 2000 website: www.j2000usa.org.
The Mocha Column
Highest Rating: 2 Paws and a Tail Up
2 Paws Up "State and Main" Who knew David Mamet could be so funny? Great ensemble cast, great satire, funny gay and Jewish jokes (maybe he gets the lesbian/gay humor from his lesbian sister).
2 Paws and a Tail Up "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" Well written, well acted, beautifully filmed. Director Ang Lee set out to show strong women and he did a superb job. Michelle Yeoh gave a very textured performance and Chow Yun-Fat was also swell (did anyone see him co-starring with Jodie-I-am-not-a-lesbian-Foster in Anna and the King?). Too bad the evil character, a part richly played by Cheng Pei-Pei, was not only a woman but a witch! We liked the way the story wove the intergenerational relationships, and the interaction between Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi who played the young swordswoman was especially interesting. Oh, did we mention all the cool martial arts? And the amazing music with cello by Yo Yo Ma? A complex, majestic film.
2 Paws Up "Quills" Fabulous writing, a witty and intelligent script. Fabulous acting by Geoffrey Rush, Kate Winslet, and Joaquin Phoenix. A very disturbing film, walked out feeling very unsettled and it was hard to shake. Very well done, but Chaya wouldnt recommend it because it was so difficult to watch. Deni feels like it was quite upsetting, but definitely worth seeing.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MOCHA!! February 28th was Mochas 11th birthday and we all wish her 11 BIG WOOFS!
Death Doesnt Become SF
Robert Massie, convicted of a 1979 killing of Robert Naumoff, has dropped his appeals, and is scheduled to be executed at 12:01 a.m. on March 27. He is the only person on death row whose case originated in San Francisco. SF d.a. terrance hallinan originally refused to seek an execution date for Massie, but found out that state law gave him no choice.
In dropping his appeals, Massie stressed that he saw no reason to continue to fight to live in the unbearable conditions of death row. Since 1978, when California reinstituted the death penalty, 8 men have been executed, 17 have died of illnesses, and 13 have committed suicide.
Massie was born in 1941. Between the ages of four and six, he lived with his mother, and step-father, who physically abused him. He had lived in five different foster homes by the time he was 11. Court records document severe physical abuse at one of those homes as well. At 11, he was placed in a school for runaway boys, where he was beaten for punishment. At 17, he stole a car, was sentenced to adult prison, and was gang-raped.
In January 1965, Massie robbed and assaulted five people in the Los Angeles area. On January 7, he confronted Morris and Mildred Weiss outside their San Gabriel home, and fatally shot Mrs. Weiss. He was sentenced to death, and came within hours of execution. But in 1972, his sentence was commuted to life by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which held that the death penalty as applied in the u.s. was unconstitutional. He was paroled in 1978. He shot Naumoff in a store, when he was returning to get extra change, after believing he had been short-changed in the original transaction. Someone grabbed him from behind as he left the store. He said he pulled out a gun and shot wildly, because he believed that members of the Aryan Brotherhood had caught up with him from prison. Naumoff died, and another man, Charles Harris was wounded. Of the over 120 people whose sentences were commuted as a result of the 1972 ruling, he is one of only two men to commit another murder.
Massie is firm in his decision to drop his appeals. A demonstration will be held at the main gate San Quentin, starting at 8:00 p.m. on Monday evening, March 26.
The federal government is readying for its first execution since 1963, which is scheduled to be Timothy McVeigh, on May 16, 2001. McVeigh, who was convicted of the 1995 federal building bombing in Oklahoma City has dropped all appeals. 168 people were killed in the bombing, and hundreds more were wounded.
In February, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that two men who are wanted for murder in the u.s. should only be extradited if the u.s. prosecutors give assurances that the pair will not face the death penalty. The two men, Atif Rafay and Sebastian Burns, are charged with murdering Rafays parents and sister in Washington State in 1994. They fled to Canada, and were arrested in their home town, Vancouver, a year later.
The judges, in their unanimous ruling, made it clear that they wanted the case to set a precedent. Canada stopped using the death penalty in 1976. The Court said that it would require exceptional circumstances for any alleged criminals to be extradited without such assurances.
Bush Speaks Death Penalty Gaffe
Associated Press via dailynews.yahoo.com
Omaha, NBPresident Bush inadvertently called the death penalty unfair, speaking Wednesday before some 4,000 people gathered to hear him push his budget proposals, including a phasing out of the estate tax.
"Those of us who spent time in the agricultural sector and in the heartland, we understand how unfair the death penalty is the death tax is," Bush said, quickly correcting himself.
Bush oversaw 152 executions as Texas governor over six years.
"I dont want to get rid of the death penalty, just the death tax," Bush said, drawing a laugh from the crowd at the Civic Auditoriums Convention Hall.
Dont Burn Your Trash In Our Back Yard
About 150 people demonstrated Friday, March 2, to shut down the medical waste and solid waste incinerators in East Oakland. The demonstration was organized by People United for a Better Oakland (Pueblo), Center for Environmental Health, Green Action, and other groups.
The IES incinerators, which were opened in 1981, have been under attack by community groups for over a decade. It is the only remaining commercial incinerator in California for medical and solid waste. According to Greenaction, the facility has received 250 notices of violation since 1990, however, penalties only totaled $90,000. Emissions from the facility include dioxin, a recognized human carcinogen, and mercury and other toxic metals.
Due to community pressure, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District is considering denying a permit to continue operating the incinerators. Norcal, which owns IES, thought it had found a perfect solution, when it entered into negotiations to move the incinerators to Modesto, thus allowing the incinerators to remain with their neighbors of choice -- poor people and people of color. However, due to organizing in Modesto, the Stanislaus County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to reject the move.
Organizing against the incinerators is on-going on many fronts. In November, the Stanford University hospital gave in to student pressure and agreed to stop sending the medical waste there. Organizations are continuing to pressure BAAQMD to deny the permit, and are pressuring the state to require a full environmental impact report, which IES has never filed. To get involved, contact PUEBLO at (510)452-2010, or Greenaction at (415)252-0822.
As we go to press, the Pacifica board is meeting in Houston. They are considering new by-laws, written by John Murdock, of Epstein Becker and Green, a union-busting, HMO-defending lawfirm with offices, conveniently enough, in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Washington DC. These by-laws would consolidate power in the hands of a few, allow the board to rid itself of dissident members, and allow the central clique to sell off one or more stations without even a vote of the full board.
This meeting is the first which has been held since Juan Gonzalez, the co-host of Democracy Now, resigned on-air, on January 31, and announced a corporate campaign against Murdock, Michael Palmer (the real estate mogul/maquilladora investor who wrote the famous 1999 memo advocating the sale of KPFA or WBAI), and other elitist members of the National Board. "Ive come to the conclusion that the Pacifica board has been hijacked by a small clique that has more in common with modern-day corporate vultures than with working-class America," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez also urged listeners not to pledge or contribute to stations during the fund-raising drive. He suggested that listeners contribute to the various lawsuits and community groups that are trying to resist the takeover of pacifica.
On December 23, Pacifica Foundation executive director Bessie Wash (who replaced the evil Lynn Chadwick) changed the locks at WBAI, fired station manager Valerie Van Isler and other staffers. Utrice Leid was installed as interim station manager. Over the weeks following this "christmas coup" (see article on Madelyn Murray OHair) long-time volunteers and paid staff were not only fired, but banned from the station. Listeners and one board member who attempted to attend a local advisory board meeting were arrested.
Last fall, Pacifica threatened Amy Goodman, and Democracy Now!, the most popular of the network shows. Amy fought back, and with the help of the Media Alliance and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), forced the Pacifica board to reaffirm her journalistic rights. Among the people Wash and Leid fired, were everyone else associated with the morning show at WBAI, including Bernard White and Sharan Harper. Goodman was also fired off the morning show.
In February, Pacifica and EBG (no doubt as a tax deductible pro-bono service to the "non-profit" foundation) announced plans to file a lawsuit for trademark infringement against www.savepacifica.net, and www.wbai.net, two of the sites maintained by dissident groups in the Bay Area and NYC. Also in February, Black History Month, the Washington DC Pacifica affiliate WPFW cut off Mumia Abu-Jamals commentary on Democracy Now! in mid-stream, when he started talking about the December firings at WBAI. On March 1, the Houston station, KPFT, cut into Democracy Now! when Goodman said that she was looking forward to seeing people at the board meeting.
In the first month of the Pacifica Campaign, activists disrupted employment forums held by EBG on both coasts. People also staged sit-ins in their New York and San Francisco offices. There is picketing at noon every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at the EBG offices at 2 Embarcadero Center in San Francisco.
Pacifica is striking back on many fronts. Clayton Reilly, who temporarily took over the WBAI morning show, said that he had received a racist phone call. He stated that phone call convinced him that WBAI should be sold. Wash has reportedly said that it is suspicious that all of the major "villains" in this struggle are African American women. She reportedly also said it was a shame that people were targeting Murdock, a "young Black lawyer."
I think it is likely to be true that there is racism and sexism in some of the responses to Pacifica. We saw it here, when Bill Mandel blamed a "lesbian clique" at KPFA for taking him off the air. The same right-wingers who attack affirmative action are more than happy to find allies in oppressed communities, and to hide behind them in times of crisis. Our movements, which are not very diverse, are not very good at dealing with our racism, sexism, and homophobia. However, there is nothing inherently racist or sexist about opposing the takeover of our media by a pack of corporate raiders. The struggle against the Pacifica Board has been supported not only by Mumia, but by Danny Glover, and the Black Radical Congress (see statement, p.).
Pacificas website also highlights "An Appeal to All Progressives: Stop the Pacifica Bashing!" This statement, which is signed by about 45 people, including Oaklands own Jerry (gentrification) Brown, calls on people to stop attacking Pacifica. "Pacifica is far from a perfect institution. Many of the issues raised by critics in the past months have some grounding. But in our opinion, the honest debate over Pacifica has degenerated into an ugly spectacle of Pacifica bashing and defamation. Much of the sober and well-intentioned criticism has ceded to a destructive and alarmist exaggeration," the statement says. While acknowledging "Pacificas Board and its national leadership, we believe, has not shown great wisdom in confronting these crises," i.e. crises such as the lock-out at KPFA, "crises often force mistakes."
On the good news side, a federal district judge remanded two of the lawsuits against Pacifica back to the California Superior Court. This was a major defeat for the Pacifica board, who was trying to delay the trials. One of the lawsuits was filed by listeners, and the other was filed by dissident board members. The lawyers are now seeking a temporary restraining order against any board attempts to change the bylaws, or sell any assets.
The KPFA news and public affairs shows reported extensively on Gonzalez resignation. The evening news on January 31 put the ten minute story right before their fund-raising pitch, and news anchors stated that they "understood" that some listeners might choose to withhold their support. But the next day, the line at the station had changed. They were again urging listeners to pledge to KPFA to "show our support" against the Pacifica Board.
There is no question that KPFAs situation is complex. Having been restored to the station due to community protest, after the historic lock-out in 1999, the staff and listeners are determined to keep our station. But it is important to remember that many of the same staffers who became our leaders when they were locked out, were totally supportive of Pat Scott and Ginny Z Benson, when they fired community programmers including Avotcha and Momma OShea, a few years before. Philip Maldari in particular was vicious in attacking dissident listener groups. They did not protest the gag rule. Most of the current issues, including the changes in the operations and membership of the board, have their roots in changes which were instituted in the 1995-1997 period.
It is important to remember that somewhere between 10 and 20 percent of all money that is received by KPFA goes directly into the coffers of the Pacifica board. (Other moneys may also be portrayed as local expenses, but really be for costs incurred by the national board). The money that is being spent right now in New York to hire guards to keep people out of WBAI, the money that is being spent for lawsuits against websites, the money that Pacifica is spending to move the corporation out of California so it wont be bound by the laws governing non-profits, is OUR pledge money. KPFA was allowed to return to the air, so long as it guaranteed to "increase the subscriber base," i.e. pay more money into Pacifica coffers.
I believe that it is time to stop funding Pacifica. It is time for us to develop a non-Pacifica strategy for community radio in the Bay Area. One group, which has taken a tiny step in that direction, is the Listeners Fund, which, since its founding in October 1999, has raised $7,000 to provide money to the KPFA station manager to pay for things which Pacifica wont provide. These have included $1,000 for Free Speech Radio News, $1000 for the local advisory board election, and $594 for the feed from the L.A. democratic convention demonstrations. Checks can be made out to The Listeners' Fund/CSRA and sent to CSRA (Community Supported RadioAssociation), PMB #115, 2887 College Avenue #1, Berkeley, CA 94705.
You can contact the Pacifica Campaign at www.pacificacampaign.org, or send money to: The Pacifica Campaign, 51 Macdougal Street, #80, New York, NY 10012.
STATEMENT ON THE CRISIS AT PACIFICA RADIO AND STATION WBAI
Black Radical Congress
February 26, 2001
Last year, the Black Radical Congress expressed its "dismay and outrage" over the undermining of the progressive mission of radio station KPFA, in the San Francisco Bay area, by the board of the Pacifica Foundation. At the time, the board had perpetrated firings and lockouts of key staff members, which disrupted programming at the station -- the Pacifica Network's flagship of progressive, community-oriented commentary -- but which also sparked a vigorous and sustained defense of the station by the community it serves. Happily, that community was successful in protecting KPFA's principled, alternative mission to provide an outlet for voices rarely heard in "mainstream" venues: voices primarily from the ground and from the left.
In the meantime, however, Pacifica's east coast equivalent of KPFA, station WBAI in New York City, has come under a siege that mirrors the KPFA struggle to survive actions of a board bent on destructive change. Again, listeners dependent on the alternative sources of news, information and analyses available on a Pacifica station are alarmed and fearful that they are about to lose it all. Again, programming has been disrupted as beleaguered staff have been subjected to firings, lockouts and even "bannings." The firings, handed down without any semblance of due process so far as we can determine, include general station manager Valerie Van Isler, programming director Bernard White and Sharan Harper, former producer of the popular morning show, "Wake-Up Call." In addition, Amy Goodman and her nationally broadcast, award-winning bastion of uncompromising, incisive progressive commentary and analysis, "Democracy Now!", appear to be especially targeted -- although, as we write, Goodman and her show remain on course. Also ominous is the fact that the destabilization of WBAI is happening just as the FCC has severely restricted the public's ability to establish community programming outlets on the nation's airwaves. These new restrictions facilitate the further privatization of the means of political and cultural expression, consistent with a continuing nationwide assault on all things public.
The Black Radical Congress understands, as do all reasonable people, that change is part of life. Undoubtedly, WBAI would benefit from managerial and professional "quality-control" adjustments designed to improve its operations. But any such changes must be made within the context of the station's founding mandate, and with respect for the rights of all staff to be treated fairly. The New York communities served by WBAI will not accept the dilution of the station's progressive voice, which seems to be the subtext of the Pacifica board's stated "audience expansion" objective. Nor can they accept the anti-democratic treatment meted out to union and management personnel alike by the Pacifica board and its agents.
The Black Radical Congress demands, as steps toward resolving the current difficulties:
(1) that terminated staff be reinstated, and that any issues concerning their job performance be addressed according to accepted due process procedures;
(2) that the "bannings" and lockouts of certain staff members be lifted, and
(3) that the concerns and expectations of the WBAI listenership be heeded and reflected in the process of settling the crisis. We strongly support the six dissident Pacifica National Board members who are working for a democratic and equitable solution to the crisis.
As the Black Radical Congress stated last year during the troubles at KPFA, we must protect our public institutions and services from the rampaging two-headed monster: corporate
greed and would-be political tyranny -- a monster no doubt emboldened by the installation of so-called President George W. Bush. Radio station WBAI is yet a new battlefront in the
intensifying struggle to build real democracy in this country.