Category Archives: Politics

Bush’s Supreme Court Picks Pay Off

For the first time since Roe V. Wade, the federal government is upholding a ban on a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. This ruling by the Supreme Court is described as a ban on “Partial-birth abortion” and reproductive freedom advocates point out that the wording of the ban is ambiguous. It can be used to prevent women seeking abortions as early as thirteen weeks into a pregnancy.

Keep in mind that the time-table on pregnancy is deceptive. A woman’s period is hardly like clockwork and many women will not test for pregnancy until after the first or second week. Then it sometimes takes several
weeks for her to come up with the money as abortions aren’t cheap. This is particularly true in the case of teenagers who are afraid to tell their parents that they are having intercourse. Scared teens in denial represent a significant portion of abortions.

The other issue that NARAL and the ACLU seem most upset about is that the stating of the law says nothing about exceptions to protect the health of the mother.

While I think these are both important points, the pro-choicers have already lost this debate by accepting the premise of their opponents.

I have worked in an abortion clinic so I like to think I know a little bit about this subject. If you take only one thing away from this post to pass onto others, let it be this: “partial-birth abortion” is not a real description of a medical procedure but a media strategy of the fundamentalist movement.

The average American has this idea that partial-birth abortion is when a woman goes into labor and then instead of having the baby the doctor kills it. It is logical for people to assume this, what else would such a word describe? And this is exactly what the right wants you to think. But we already have a word for that: infanticide. And no one likes infanticide.

The procedure that is described as partial-birth is when the fetus is pulled through the birth canal. It is in no way part of the process of giving birth nor is it any indication of the amount of time since conception.

Moreover, just to settle this issue, I want to explain exactly how it is determined at which point it is no longer acceptable in this country to terminate a pregnancy. A pregnancy is considered past that point of no return when it can be kept alive outside of the womb with all of the benefits of medical science. If it wouldn’t be possible for us to keep it alive should it come into the world, it is not considered a viable being and may be terminated.

I think this is fair. And clearly infanticide, or what average Joe thinks of “partial-birth abortion,” does not fall into this category.

We are facing world-wide population problems and though Americans don’t reproduce as rapidly as other countries we do consume more. We cannot blithely continue to pretend that humans should be having as many babies as possible, despite what the Bible says.

Otherwise, where does one draw the line? Dear readers, is there a better way to determine that a fetus is a living thing, other than this ridiculous Catholic notion that every sperm is sacred?

The fact of the matter is that abortion isn’t going anywhere. Women have been independent for too long to let other people tell them what they can do with their own bodies. Whether future abortions will be performed in a sixteen-year old’s bathroom with an unbent wire coat hanger is another issue.

“Some of Those That Work Forces Are the Same That Burn Crosses”

for Chris.

A while back a friend of my asked me (on myspace) what my thoughts are on law enforcement officers. I thought there is a whole blog in that answer but I wasn’t in a hurry to write it. That was until I found out yesterday that he is on his way to becoming a cop.

It should be noted that the blog where this question was raised I had mentioned that the men in blue had beaten my mother in the intake room. When they left her she was catatonic.

I was raised with a prejudice against L.E.O.s. My parents are hippies and they see cops as the people who send non-violent drug offenders to prison. They are also the people who did nothing to intervene when when I was eight and watching my mother’s boyfriend beat her in our front yard. Another childhood memory is my neighbors being busted for coke. I remember how the police tore up the house for five hours. They ripped open her furniture and confiscated her jewelry while detaining them by putting my neighbors on the ground with their boots on my neighbor’s backs.

So finding out that my friend is becoming a cop is about like telling someone in the KKK that one is converting to Judiaism.

My prejudice against L.E.O.s didn’t decrease with the wisdom of higher education. As an adult, I have seen officers beat non-violent protestors. I have seen them arrest hundreds of people under false pretense. I have stood for hours in front of riot police explaining the reasons for civil disobedience. They stand like statues.

police fire into crowd at FTAA in Miami. All pictures below are from the FTAA protest in Miami, though they are commonplace at large-scale American protests. Think of these as just one example.

I have seen a paddy-wagon accelerate towards street blockades. If anything has radicalized me, it is the memories of my friends with bruises bigger than fists from rubber bullets shot into crowds. If anything has radicalized me, it was seeing tanks riding through Savannah at the G8. Or hearing stories of officers confiscating film or medical equipment. Or talking to locals who were told by the cops that it was Okay to mug the protestors because they are bad people who don’t deserve protection.

The day after this ocurred, police were arresting puppeteers by the hundred at SOA in Fort Benning, GA, just so their protest numbers would be lower for the day of the march.

I have thought a lot about police officers because I believe that all people are essentially good. I believe that humans are compelled to do what they think is right, even if they must lie to themselves to do those things. There is no such thing as evil but misinformation and ignorance are to blame for what is thought of as evil in the world.

So when I see humans behaving like this, it really makes me question how they thought this is the right course of action. And I do have a theory.

protestor overcome by teargas.

Let’s face it, cops have a dangerous job (not the most dangerous government job, which goes to garbage collectors. When is Will Smith going to make a movie about them?). They don’t actually put their lives on the line every day, but the potential is there (when I think about it, this is similar to the daily fear women have of being raped.). When a cop approaches someone, they have to decide right away if this is going to be one of those moments where their life is in danger. In other words, is this person a good guy or a bad guy? If it is a helpless old lady crossing the street, they are going to see this as a moment to protect and serve, with emphasis on the later. Most of the time I approach a police officer they are eager to serve me. I am a white, middle-class educated woman. They are going to be relaxed and not worried I will shoot them in the face.

On the other hand, if I am at a protest I become one of the people that the nice old ladies must be proteced from. I am the bad guy. If they have to be prepared to shoot me if necessary then they must begin by dehumanizing me. Not after I have committed a crime but from moment one.

If it seems like brown people and the poor, especially men, don’t like cops who can blame them? All of their interactions with L.E.O.s begin with dehumanization and at best are viewed suspiciously as criminals. I know very few minorities that haven’t experienced this at least once in their lives.

Yet if I put myself in the position of a police person, I can hardly imagine behaving any other way. One cannot live their entire life in fear of every work-place interaction. But there must be an element of caution when approaching situations where criminal behavior is happening and it is your job to stop it.

Not to mention the fact that the people who are doing the real killing, the polluters and corporate thieves, aren’t likely to ever wind up in a gun fight with a cop. Sure, they may be slowly giving them cancer but all interactions can be civil throughout.

Thus, I do not think cops are bad people simply because bad people don’t exist. But I do believe that the law enforcement field encourages folks to see things in black and white; I believe it is an inevitable by-product of the job.

So, yeah, Officer Chris, I still love ya’. But I’ll be saying agnostic prayers at night that every man who reaches for his wallet doesn’t become the next Amadu Dialo. And that you remain stead-fast in your suspicion of old white ladies crossing the street.

A Beautiful Day To Be A Homeless Man Who Thinks the Girls All Resemble Starlets

We can hear Omar coming from a block away, shouting to someone in the street or to the owner of other shops. I wonder what he says to them. To us, he always says the same thing. That is, if he gets inside. Some days we close the door. He stands outside shouting and we shake our heads and say, “Omar, go away,” or “Omar, go home.”

This is silly because Omar is home. I wonder what part of Telegraph Ave. he sleeps on, if he has blankets. The owners of the hat shop are his neighbors and his daily routine is to walk down Telegraph, sharing the natural exuberance and extraversion that would have served him well in the working world.

Omar is not too drunk today. He walks into the hat shop, gap-toothed and smiling with a Miller High Life. It is a shamelessly beautiful afternoon and Ed, the owner, is eager to be combative. So Omar is allowed to stay, if only for a minute.

Omar says: “Jess’ca!” not talking to me, but talking to Jessica, “you know who you look like?” He turns to me, “She looks like Fae Dunaway!”

Jessica rolls her eyes. “I know, I know, me with my beautiful blonde hair. Good-bye Omar.” Jessica has simple, brown hair.

He insists that I look like someone too. I tell him to come back when he thinks of it.

He does leave but comes back minutes later to tell me that I look like “A YOUNG ELIZABETH TAYLOR! THAT’S JUST WHO YOU LOOK LIKE! ELIZABETH TAYLOR WAS BEAUTIFUL. But not as pretty as Fae Dunaway.”

It is not too hard to get Omar to leave unless Ed is around. I thought today would be the day that there was a break in our ritual conversation, we might discuss how much hat shop girls look like old movie stars. But then Ed sees Omar and smiles, eager to have someone to josh on. It doesn’t matter what Ed says, no matter how hateful, cruel or dismissive, Omar’s response is always the same.

He doesn’t speak to Ed, he speaks to everyone in sight, all the people in the shop and on the street. He says, “THIS MAN SAVED MY LIFE! I MEAN IT! I love this man, I mean, HE REALLY SAVED MY LIFE!”

“What ‘ya got there, Omar?” Ed asks, pointing at the Champaign of beers, “Got one for me?”
“You don’t want none of this!” Omar protests.
“Come on! Saved your life can’t even give a guy a beer?”
“Carol will kill me for sure if she ever found out!” Carol is the other owner and Ed’s wife.
“Come on, can’t even give me a beer?”
But no one looks because who would believe for the shop owner is going to rob a drunk and they’re all smiles anyway.

It makes me happy to see Omar smile. I think how sad it must be to wake up every day and get drunk and set out to find the shop owner so that he can really understand that he saved your life. I wonder how he became this man, what trials changed him from an innocent boy, someone with hope. And how young, and was it a million small injustices or does he strive to blot out a particular memory that haunts him?

But today Amoeba Records has a band playing and the street vendors are happy just sitting in the sun and the punks are selling jokes for change and in short, it is a stunning Spring day. Even a man without a literal or proverbial pot to piss in grinning from ear to ear and relishing the sunshine.

Frank Talk About Racism and Classism

I was sitting on a bench during my ten-minute break from work when I was approached by a young black man with dreds. His clothes were shabby and his eyes were damaged and baggy from the level of exhaustion that usually only comes with the assistance of drugs.

He offered me a quarter to use my cell phone. This reminded me of my boyfriend, who looks a little like a “terrorist.” We had an argument once because he walked a mile home to use the phone rather than asking a person on the street to use theirs. He told me that it never works and people usually get scared or annoyed. He would rather walk the mile than ask.

So it ocurred to me that it wasn’t easy for this man to approach me.

I also thought of all of the things my racist and classist culture has taught me: that he must be desparate and willing to do anything, that he is jealous of my luxury and riches and will not hesitate to hurt me in any way if it is to his benefit.

That I am willing to admit this thought even entered my head is only through years of analyzing class systems. I truly believe that most middle and upper class people only think, “he might steal my phone.” And then they make up a white lie (so aptly named!) to cover their racism (really, more classism, few are intimidated by a black man in an expensive suit.) that everyone else can see right through.

This angered me. What is more likely, that this guy needs to use a phone or that he
is part of some con to score a bunch of crappy, beat-up cell phones and resell them for a fraction of what they are worth? I have loaned my phone out to many people on the street, in retrospect all of them black women at the bus stop. This is less of a coincidence and more owing to 1) most black men wouldn’t bother to ask me for reasons stated above and 2) most white women have cell phones.
Additionally, I have borrowed many cell phones from random people. I never hesitate to ask because I am a white woman which equals harmless and demure.

I have never loaned my phone to a man, much less one that looked like a drug addict (now there’s another stereotype: so many drug addicts look as wealthy as they are. Cocaine, alcohol, pills, weed — desparate housewives live in fear of the crackheads and meth-heads sport these addictions of their own.). I admit I hesitated long enough to think all of these things before I handed it to him, which really only took a few seconds.

Ultimately it ocurred to me that I would rather my cell phone be stolen (which is unlikely, and besides I can outrun this guy) then contribute to the cycle of fear that racism and classism neccessitate, and this was the deciding factor. I gave him my phone and went back to reading my book. He was done in less than three minutes. A car showed up — I suppose he was giving them directions. He made sure to look in to my eyes when he gave the phone back.

He told me that it meant a lot to him that I wasn’t afraid.

He returned minutes later on a bicycle that is much too small for him. Then he told me that this bike may not look like much but it saves him from having to walk three hours to work. I told him that I also ride my bike to work but I don’t even look at jobs that aren’t in biking distance. He responded that with “the dreds and the skin color” jobs aren’t so easy to find. I admitted that things are tough; I have a bachelor’s degree and I work in retail. He took a moment to appreciate that as a sign for how fucked up the economy truly is: even a white girl with a diploma works in a shop and hasn’t had health insurance for years.

I know that our little exchange meant a lot to him and truthfully it meant a lot to me too. We each had to take a risk. Such a small risk, something so inconsequential, at least among people of the same race/class, becomes powerful and imbued with meaning simply because we come from different upbringings. We exchanged names and he promised to spit some poetry when next we meet.

I am truly looking forward to it.

Berkeley Bumpers

Phew. I am wiping the sweat from my brow, as I have just completed the challenge of writing a novel in thirty days. It was (way fucking) harder than I thought, but I’m still finished a day early.

After over-indulgently, redundantly, and discursively rambling on at length in a verbose way, it is time to turn my attention to that art form that is the heighth of *conciseness: the bumper sticker.

I can’t have my East coast friends missing out on all of the stickers that haven’t ciruclated there way just yet. So here are some of my favorite Berkeley bumper stickers that may be new to you:






and my favorite,


I have some catching up to do, reading everyone’s blogs and commenting. Let this blog be an exercise in *pitthiness.

*Surely there is a better noun for succintity?

On Being Healthy

I didn’t know Tanya very well but I loved to hear her sing. The last time I heard her voice was at her birthday party. It was the usual sharing of booze and cake and remix cds that makes a terrific fiesta. The post-party sickness she felt was neither a hangover nor a nasty cold. A week later she died of spinal meningitus. I found this out because all my friends from the party had to go to the FSU student clinic and get vaccinated. I had just graduated from college so I couldn’t get the vaccine like my college chums.

That’s the first time I thought about universal healthcare.

There is a certain point of view that supposes that if you don’t have health care it’s because you planned poorly and the money you should have spent on check-ups you instead invested on beer and Nintendo. Fine, I confess. I was an immature, shop-a-thon collge kid. Maybe not a sin I’m prepared to [get sick and] die for but there may have been a cheap vaccine some where in my town.

So, according to this POV it’s okay for me get sick– these are the natural and deserved consequences of my irresponsibility. But if I don’t get vaccinated I become just another vector allowing for a greater chance of infecting those righteous insured people — like the private school kids I worked with for the last two years. It seems logical to me that a disease that looks like a cold and can kill you in under a week is the sort of thing that every citizen should know they can be vaccinated for, free of cost. That seems like a public service every bit as valueable as libraries and bomb shelters.

But we don’t live in such a country. In this country getting sick is a punishment for being poor and gettng well is a privilege.

I have another friend that I’m going to call Jack. Growing up, Jack’s family ran a successful business. They had money but because they were self-employed they didn’t have good health care. Young Jack had health problems that the doctors in the cheap clinics couldn’t understand. He used to make up stories that he was taken by aliens as an explanation for the strange things that were happening to his body. Young Jack had health care. But it wasn’t until he was an adult many years later that he had really good health insurance. It didn’t take these doctors long to tell Jack that he has had cancer most of his life. He has been watching the disease spread, powerless to fight it or even know what it was. I am so angry that he has spent his whole life fighting and it would have taken so little to give him a head start.

I’m talking about universal health care. Hell, if they can afford it in Cuba surely in los Estados Unidos we can afford to do something.

If I were building my own community one of the first things I would establish would be a health center to treat the people. Not because of some political ideology but because it is natural to want those in your tribe to be healthy and content. Even large conferences have a first aid tent. When did our society decide to stop treating illness as a public health problem?

Perhaps it was around the time we started thinking of it as a business.

So. We decided that health is a product and that those who deserve it are those who can afford it. Anyone else out there willing to admit that there is a better lens to view this through, not shrouded by the color of money?

The recent dangers of flying rocks and CO2.

By far the most disturbing class I ever took in college was astronomy. The planetarium shows always featured either the theme, “Look how insignificant we are,” or ,”We could all die at any minute.” Our instructor told us about asteroids that hit our little planet all the time. We saw pictures. The conversation goes…

“So if this had been a major city, millions would have died.”

“Shouldn’t we be concerned?”

“Oh, well, it’s unlikely.”

“Yeah, but that one you have on the screen happened about two years ago.”

“Yes, but it is most likely to hit the ocean, or an unoccupied land mass. Like this giant crater in this slide… anyway, if they see it coming, they could nudge it several inches from thousands of miles away and that would be enough to steer it off course.”

“Didn’t seem to work in this picture.”

“Well, yes, no one knows about most of them until after they hit.”

“So, what you’re saying is, there’s always a slight chance that a giant asteroid could come hurtiling towards my window and pulverize you, me, and everyone we know; we have the capability to stop this and we don’t bother to hire two or three grad students to stay on top of this sort of thing?”

“Well, yes, except that a large asteroid really has the potential to destroy all life on earth. But really, it’s quite unlikely. So here’s another picture from 1992; this crater is about the size of New Hampshire…”

I have only felt that sort of terror and shock over the fate of our world on one other occasion — last week. I went to go see this film called “An Inconvenient Truth.” It’s about the presentation that Al Gore’s been giving in cities all over the world to spread the truth about global warming.

I’m sure you’re thinking, a slide show about Al Gore? zzzzzzz …. SNORE…. zzzzzz….

Yet the facts alone are compelling enough to make this required watching for anyone who has or is thinking about having children. Or anyone who cares about the future of humanity. Or anyone that’s planning on living to a ripe old age. Or anyone who was affected by Hurricane Katrina. Or anyone whose noticed that summers keep getting hotter and hotter. Or — Okay, you get the idea.

The presentation of the film is engaging without being too flashy. I was watching Ebert and Roeper (I don’t really like either of them but I like to watch them bicker — now that’s reality TV!) and Ebert said that for the first time in his entire career he felt that it was apt to say, “You owe it to yourself to see this movie.”

On another note, I think its fantastic that Al Gore hasn’t gone into retirement. But where was this side of him when he was running for office? If he’s so concerned about global warming than it should have been a huge part of his campaign. In the movie Gore has wit and character. Where was this in the speeches and debates? Of course the Democrats don’t want to step on any toes. There so worried about stepping on toes they can barely cross the street.

Whatever your opinions of Al, please go see this movie. You won’t regret it.