Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hooray for Harry Reid!

It's a hair-raising story: how Senate majority leader Harry Reid steered the ship of state through squalls and around rocks to cross the finish line with a health plan before Christmas.,0,2438755.story

When others gave up, he continued to talk to both sides and work for some kind of compromise.

After reading this LA Times article, I'm very impressed with him--not a flashy Ted Kennedy but an unsung hero.

This story teaches me that no one is my enemy--everyone is a potential ally.

Even those whom I most disagree with will at some point hold a key that can open doors for me. I need to make sure that they are still my friends, no matter how much we disagree on some things.

Likewise, I may find myself in agreement with them on some things and eager or at least willing to work for one of their goals.

Maybe love makes the world go 'round, but tolerant good will has something to do with it too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All I Want for Christmas...

Not my two front teeth--a health care plan.

Even if it limits abortion and lacks a public option (enriching the insurance companies), I'll take whatever we can get for two reasons:

1) to do justice (see Micah 6:8)

2) to make sure my own twenty-something kids can get health care.

They're out of school and no longer covered by our insurance, so if COBRA runs out before they all have jobs with benefits, we will be as desperate as the family described in this article in today's LA Times:,0,757817.story

Neda and Ramin

Ben Bernanke made some key moves in 2009, but my vote for persons of the year goes to Neda Agha Soltan and Ramin Pourandarjani.

Neda--the young woman who was shot during demonstrations against last June's fraudulent election in Iran (and someone took and circulated a cell-phone video immediately afterward).

Ramin--the young doctor who refused to falsify the cause of death of three students beaten to death in prison in July in Tehran (see my comments on him yesterday).

These two for me symbolize the ongoing struggle between democracy and totalitarian rule in 2009.

Peace and justice--they stood for both, risking their lives, unwilling martyrs.

If the conflict between fundamental Islam and Western imperialism is the story of the decade, these two call us to the path of peaceful protest.

Peace and justice--they stood for both, risking their lives, unwilling martyrs.

Both Neda and Ramin were in their twenties, hoping for long life under a just government in Iran.

Instead their names are now torches lighting the way toward that goal.

As a mother, I grieve with their families and with the Grieving Mothers who now march each Sunday in Tehran, carrying photos of their murdered children, like the mothers still marching in Argentina.

The Amazing History of "Ms."

The title "Ms." was suggested in 1901 in a short article in The Sunday Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Thank you to NYT Magazine's Ben Zimmer, who searched out the amazing history of "Ms." and reported it in his column, "On Language" (Oct. 25, 2009).

"There is a void in the English language which, with some diffidence, we undertake to fill," the anonymous writer began.

The proposal got some attention in 1901 and the term popped up in 1932 and was mentioned in 1949 in The Story of Language by Mario Pei, who attributed it to feminists.

"Simple etiquette and expediency" was the goal of the original writer in 1901, notes Zimmer.

The term was recommended in Practicial Business Writing (Fraily and Schnell, 1952) and Business Executive's Handbook (Doris, 1954).

Sheila Michaels, a civil rights activist, found it in 1961 and campaigned for it, but it wasn't until the feminist movement got started that she was able to get publicity and interest in the term.

Hooray for Anonymous, Mario Pei, Fraily and Schnell, Doris, Sheila Michaels, and Gloria Steinem!

They gave me "Ms.", Ben Zimmer gave me this amazing history, and my spouse left the October 25 NYT Magazine on the dining room table last night.

Note: German and other languages are making changes like this as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Our Ramin is not dead"

He was only 26 years old--a year younger than my oldest daughter.

Take time to read his story in the Wall Street Journal, written by Farnaz Fassihi:

Born in 1983 in Tabriz, Iran, to a schoolteacher and a merchant in a traditional bazaar.

Named for a legendary hero who fights against unjust rulers.

Reading and writing by age 3.

Entering a school for gifted and talented children at age 11.

Winner of a national poetry contest at age 13.

Starting at Tabriz Medical University at 18 in 2001.

Graduating at the top of his class as a doctor in 2008.

Delivering the valedictory address and quoting a poem:

The person whose heart is filled with love will never die.
Our perseverance is recorded in the book of time.

Assigned to a clinic in Tehran responsible for a rundown detention center (work that would count as military service).

Tending the 140 students detained there on July 9 after a large demonstration protesting the rigged election in June--students raped and beaten in the prison.

Asked to sign death certificates saying that three of them had died of meningitis.

Recording the true cause: "Physical stress, multiple blows to the head and chest, severe injuries."

Ordered to revise the cause of death to "Meningitis."

Testifying to the parliamentary committee assigned to investigate.

Being arrested, warned, and threatened.

Released on bail, making plans to study abroad in April, 2010, when his military service ended.

Telling his parents he feared for his life because he refused to cover up the murders.

Going to Iran's Parliament to ask for help.

Poisoned by a meal at his clinic.

Honored by hundreds at the memorial service on the fortieth day after his death.

Revered alongside Neda Agha Soltan as another martyr, courageously standing up for truth.

The crowds shout:
Our Neda is not dead.
Our Ramin is not dead.
It's the Supreme Leader who is dead.

The Iranian government has admitted the violent deaths of three students.
The committee that covered up the cause of Ramin's death is being forced to look into his murder and that of others.
Huge demonstrations took place today at the funeral of elderly Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who had been denouncing the violence at Kahrizak prison as well as the fraudulent election last June.

See also these reports:

Friday, December 18, 2009

30 Years of Refusing Equality

CEDAW turned 30 years old today--and the US still refuses to ratify the UN treaty.

Thank you to Linda Tarr-Whelan and Women's eNews for pointing out this anniversary.

You wouldn't think that approving a Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women would be so hard for the US House and Senate to pass.

Ukraine, Nepal, and Thailand have all passed it and found it useful to reduce sex-trafficking, Tarr-Whelan reports.

Only Sudan, Iran, Somalia, and a few small island nations are holding out, along with the USA.

"This international agreement was Eleanor Roosevelt's dream and is one of the pillars of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," she reports, noting the rush of nations to sign the CEDAW in 1979.

"In those heady days, I was deputy assistant to President Jimmy Carter for women's concerns. We expected speedy action after he sent the treaty to the Senate," she reveals.

We were so hopeful in1979, also still expecting 38 states to approve the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.

Instead, we continue to live in disillusionment and accommodation.

Here's what Langston Hughes said about a dream deferred:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Guilt-tripping of raped women

Thank you to Letha Dawson Scanzoni and, a young women's online feminist community, for alerting me to this report on the Reproductive Health Reality Check website.

In a nutshell, the "Human Life" (sic) Alliance is saying that women who are raped, whether by strangers, acquaintances, or family members/incest, should not choose abortion. It will only "make matters worse."

Sheesh! Please let us each retain the right to decide if carrying a rapist's baby to term will make things better or worse--as US law now allows us to do.

Don't decide for us.

And don't tell us we are murderers if we don't want to take a year out of our lives to bear a child that we then either have to raise or place up for adoption, hoping it will find a good home.

Note: take time to join the RH Reality Check website. If it had 310 million members, maybe this anti-choice nonsense would go away.

Death Threats to Obama

"Appalling"--that was the only comment of Ginny Hearn, who forwarded to me this commentary by Cathleen Falsani, written as a "special to USA Today."

I can't find it on the USA Today website, nor on Falsani's, so I will just reprint it here without a link.

Just War?

Thank you to T. Christian Miller, Propublica, and the LA Times for this eye-opening report on wounded and killed translators in Iraq and Iran:,0,1870828.story

Last week I listened to President Obama's speech to the Nobel Committee arguing that US fighting in Afghanistan should be considered a just war.

Here's my question after reading this article:

Is a just war still just if the interpreters and others hired to fight it are treated unjustly?

I include our own soldiers in the category of those hired to fight, as well as all contracted workers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Along the lines of How much wood... :

Is a just war just
if the those paid to help
are just not treated justly?

Monday, December 14, 2009

To the men I love...

My kids say, "Mom hates men."

The marriage therapist, Dr. Richard Friedman, asks, "Do you have a problem with men?"

My answer: No.

I have a keen appreciation of the effects of men's control of human government and institutions over the past several millennia.

I have a radar that alerts me to patriarchal males on my horizon. That is, I notice statements and behaviors that indicate a man wants to control women or does not consider them his equal.

Finally, I have an inclination to speak and act on what I notice. With the authority of 61 years on the face of this earth, I am no longer intimidated by propriety.

"Life doesn't frighten me at all," as Maya Angelou says in her poem.

Friday, December 11, 2009

For Maryam and Fateme

Every time we think of Mary, mother of Jesus, this holiday season, we should also remember Maryam Sabri and Fateme Faneian.

They are among the refugees from Iran who are currently living in Turkey while awaiting processing by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to be placed permanently in another country.

Today's Wall Street Journal reports on them and others: "Thousands Flee Iran As Noose Tightens."

Maryam is a 21-year-old artist who was imprisoned in Tehran in August while protesting the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan. In prison, Maryam was repeatedly raped and told that she would be killed if she did not stop working for opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Fateme and her husband also demonstrated against the handling of last June's election in Iran. During one protest, a police officer kicked her in the stomach, causing her to miscarry, she reports.

We celebrate the joy of Jesus' birth, but Fateme's arms are empty and Maryam's body and spirit were violated.

Come, come, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Bring peace on earth.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"War is peace..."

I applauded when President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, but today when he accepted the prize with a speech justifying his recent decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, I could not applaud.

I feel uneasy.

Some wars are necessary to keep the peace, he explained, sounding very much like the demagogues in George Orwell's

But the Roman Empire waged wars to preserve the
pax romana. Even Hitler felt his motives for killing were impeccable.

Perhaps the Nobel Committee should think twice before awarding a Peace Prize to a sitting president. They say power corrupts, and who in the world is more powerful than a US president?

Well, I hope my Republican friends are happy. Their candidate didn't win, but their pressure is pushing President Obama into decisions John McCain would approve.

My only hope is that Obama is giving the Right more troops and time in Afghanistan in order to win a few more friends and votes for healthcare reform.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Healthcare: Hopeful?

The good news: compromises are being made to get some kind of healthcare bill passed before Christmas.

The bad news: compromises are being made.

The "public" option has been bargained into an option run by a private nonprofit insurer? That's what today's LA Times says:,0,7688557.story

Kaiser-Permanente is a nonprofit insurer--would this option look somewhat like that?

I'm confused but hopeful about these developments. The expansion of Medicare to people between 55 and 64 years old sounds good to me--fiscal conservatives don't seem to argue against Medicare any more.

A word of comfort from an advisor to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid: "No one believes this is going to be the last word."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ted Haggard Preaching Again

How interesting that Ted Haggard is preaching again in Colorado Springs.

According to DeeDee Correll of the LA Times, he began in November and uses a barn on his property to seat about 75 people on folding chairs.,0,2372048.story

His marriage is under repair, and he regards his sexual relationship with a male sex worker as a sin. Yes, it was adultery.

What's unclear is how Haggard now publicly regards faithful same-sex unions.

He speaks at churches around the country--does anyone know what his views on gays and lesbians are these days?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ita, Maura, Jean & Dorothy

Today we shared a "Liturgy for Four Women Martyrs" prepared by Joann Lamb for our Advent gathering of Women-Church in Claremont.

More than twenty of us gathered to listen to these women's words and to pray for a rebirth of justice in our world.

Pat Hynds spoke about knowing Maura Clark and Jean Donovan in 1980 when she was in training with Maryknoll before going to serve in Nicaragua (after raising four children).

She was at Maryknoll on December 3 when there were rumors that some women were missing in El Salvador, last seen Dec. 2 while driving to the airport.

The women had been raped and murdered by National Guardsmen, their bodies left on the side of the road. Nearby peasants were told to bury the remains, but one also told his priest.

A few days later the bodies were exhumed and identified.

"Carter was president," Pat said. "Right away he cut off aid to the Salvadoran government, but pressure was put on him and the US aid started again."

US Ambassador to the UN Jean Kirkpatrick said the victims were "not just nuns but activists," implying that their activism had caused their deaths, Pat said.

In 1981 Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that the nuns were not murdered but "caught in crossfire." Thus the US covered up the horror of the attack and any responsibility for it.

Five lower-ranking National Guardsmen were convicted and punished for the crimes. The higher-up men who ordered it were never held accountable.

"This was my baptism of fire into US foreign policy," Pat explained. "The beginning of my coming to terms with what US foreign policy is capable of doing and denying... and so many of these things haven't changed today."

We remembered in prayer:

Ita, Maura, Jean, and Dorothy

Sr. Dorothy Stain, who died in Brazil

the women of Juarez, Mexico

the women of the Congo

the women of Afghanistan

all women priests

women of the US Congress who can work to change US foreign policy.

Welcome, Bishop Mary

"Bishop Mary"--I like the ring of that.

Thank you to the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles for a special gift this Christmas: the election of two women to serve as suffragan bishops under Bishop Jon Bruno.

Diane M. Jardine Bruce is married and rector of a church in San Clemente.

Mary D. Glasspool has been in a committed relationship with another woman since 1988 and currently works for the Diocese of Maryland.

How many Protestant pastors today can say they have been faithful for 21 years? How many Roman Catholic priests have honored their celibacy that long?

With a life of quiet, humble service, this Mary is indeed a blessing to the church, a reason to diminish our fears of approving pastors who are in same-sex unions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our "Homeland" ?

I was with you, Mr. President, almost all the way through your speech, until you spoke those words: "...defend our homeland."

Don't you know that the word homeland comes straight out of Nazi Germany? Die Heimat.

I never heard the US described as "our homeland" until after September 11, 2001. No presidents used the term, as far as I can remember.

But in the patriotic frenzy after attacks on Wall Street and the Pentagon, suddenly that word appeared. Bush even invented a "Department of Homeland Security."

I'm extremely skeptical of this plan to send 30,000 more young men and women to Afghanistan to "stabilize" the country and try to knock down Al Qaeda, but I trust your judgment.

At least you promised to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, though commentators noticed vagueness in many areas of the speech. There's no date given for complete withdrawal.

I wonder if this new "surge" is offered as a bone to pacify the right-wing and win a few more votes for passage of a national health care plan that includes a significant public option.

If so, I'll support your plan, Mr. President. Anything to get health care passed--I'm even willing to accept the Stupak amendment defunding legal abortion.

I also trust the analysis of Doyle McManus, LA Times Washington correspondent, who describes sitting in a quiet room with President Obama and a few other reporters hours before the speech at West Point. His analysis is worth reading:,0,591124.story

Doyle notes, "Obama never wanted to be a war president. His speech at West Point was more dutiful than eloquent, with little of the passion that fueled his presidential campaign, or even his Sept. 9 address to Congress calling for a healthcare reform bill." He's concerned that the cost of the war could limit his domestic agenda.

A friend invited me to join her in protesting the build-up of the war in Afghanistan today at the Federal Building on Wilshire in Westwood. During the lead-up to the bombing of Baghdad in March 2003, we protested against attacking Iraq.

But I'm so grateful that Barack Obama was elected president--I'm not yet ready to go into the streets against his policies.

Nevertheless, that word homeland disturbs me. My president is using a demagogue's word to win support for sending our children half-way around the world to kill Muslims who want to regain a totalitarian state.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is ceding more ground to the Taliban. He's weak and he stole the election held last August. Why should we support his government? And why militarily, with the loss of more Afghan and American lives?

I admit that I'm pacifist to the core and a card-carrying liberal--but even my military brother says we should get out of Afghanistan. He served in the Army for twenty years and still works as a surgeon at Fort Lewis, the US Army post south of Tacoma, Washington.

We can't win, he says. We should leave.

Members of Military Families Speak Out are also opposed to Obama's Afghan surge.

LA Times reporter Louis Sahagun watched Obama's speech with them last night, and he quotes one young vet as saying, "In World War II, the average combat time was 60 days. Now it's 280 days of people taking pot shots at you.",0,6128336.story

These people oppose continued fighting in Afghanistan because it's their kids who are being sent there.

"We're also going to keep a candle lit in front of our homes until every troop comes home," one mother, Pat Alviso, told Sahagun. Her son, a Marine, has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan so far.

Let's support them by lighting candles in front of our homes, too.

For the full text of Obama's speech, see:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Of Minarets and Danger

How can a building be banned?

Yes, local ordinances often define height and other limits on design, but to ban the distinctive symbol of one religion in the 21st century is incredibly backward.

See the NY Times discussion of the recent public referendum in Switzerland:

Looks like I'll have to avoid visiting Switzerland.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Precious 2--or 2,000?

The film Precious reappears in the form of an investigative report in today's Los Angeles Times.

Thank you to Hector Becerra for his interviews and excellent writing in the series titled "Innocents Betrayed.",0,7023900.story

Johnetta Harrison is the abused fourteen-year-old who cares for her alcoholic mother and five younger siblings in Compton, south of Los Angeles.

Majella Maas is the kind preschool teacher who tries to intervene and get help for little Dae'von Bailey--like the school counselor played by Mariah Carey in Precious.

But in this case Dae'von is beaten to death by the man in whose home he is placed, and afterward Johnetta is taken to live with a kind relative in Hesperia, north of Los Angles County.

As we enter Advent, remembering the birth of a baby who came to bring love and to face down evil, let us also remember the precious children around us endangered every day.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Help for Military Families

Suicides are rising not just among those who have served or are serving in the military but among their families.

See this interview on National Public Radio with Kristina Kaufmann, an advocate for military families:

To see what you can do to help, go to the website for Blue Star Families:

From Gentle Man to Killer

Jessie Bratcher was found "guilty except insane" for killing the man who fathered a child with his girl friend while Bratcher served in Iraq.

See the moving story by Kim Murphy in today's Los Angeles Times:,0,6298478.story

As a child, Bratcher had gone hunting with his grandfather but never wanted to do the killing. "He just didn't want to see anything die," recalls the grandfather.

As a new infantryman in Iraq, "he refused to open fire on what he believed an an inknown target in the village of Tarjil," reports Murphy.

Later when an investigation was launched into killing in Tarjil that day, he was seen as a "snitch."

Then he watched a close friend crushed to death in a Humvee accident--and stopped caring.

According to Murphy's article, on later patrols in Iraq he'd say "I'll shoot 'em. I'll kill 'em."

Bratcher came home to Oregon, had problems, and was finally declared 100% disabled with PTSD.

When he found out his girlfriend's pregnancy was not his own child, he immediately found and shot Jose Ceja Medina, the child's father.

From his jail cell, he blamed his military training.

First they work to dehumanize you, he said.

"Then... they want to dehumanize the people you're fighting, the enemy.... they've pretty much altered your value of human life. And then you come back home."

Friday, November 27, 2009

In Memoriam: Mike Penner

It's not easy to be a sexual being. We are pushed and pulled by desires, responsibilities, boundaries.

It's even harder to live between the two ends of the gender continuum, as Mike Penner did.

A sports columnist for the Los Angeles Times, he announced his gender change to become Christine Daniels two years ago but returned to his birth name in recent columns.

"The hardest thing he had ever done" the AP reports him saying.

Apparently, he took his own life today, one of the first casualties of this year's holiday season.

See this AP news report posted on

We are all asked or asking, "How was your Thanksgiving?"

Our hopes for acceptance and love in family holiday gatherings are high--but we face intense interactions with parents, siblings, children, and others who may lack empathy and betray us for their own reasons.

Let us give thanks for Mike's honesty and his 52 years of courage.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Martha: A Miracle

On Tuesday afternoon, Oct. 13, just before 5 pm, my cousin Martha suddenly felt a splitting headache. She knew the pain was completely different from anything she'd ever felt before.

"Worse than childbirth?" I asked her today.

"Oh, yes," she said.

"I didn't know it was possible to go past that kind of pain," I said, unable to imagine it.

Soon she was in an ambulance, in the hospital, in a helicopter to Denver, and the next day in surgery for a small aneurysm in her anterior communicating artery. A team of seven opened her skull and put a clamp on the "berry" type of bulge in a Y-shaped place where the artery branches into two.

"There are two types of aneurysm," her daughter Sarah explained to me today. "She had a 'slow bleed'--not a burst artery. But during surgery the berry did break and bleed. The doctors cleaned up the blood after clamping it."

Martha explained that aneurysms are a type of stroke--a bleeding stroke. I knew only about clotting strokes. Both types can deprive part of the brain of oxygen.

A month later, Martha is home, walking and talking--a glowing, healthy miracle. We went out to lunch at Shuga, the cafe where her son is the chef.

She has headaches some days--like today--and she's taking medicine to reduce the blood clot in her lower right leg. She tires easily--not yet ready to return to work.

But she's very thankful as Turkey Day approaches.

From her smile and from talking about all this with her daughters, I learned so much about thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Serious Man

A film that starts with a quotation from Rashi (medieval Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaki) written across the screen?

Receive with simplicity everything that comes to you.

Then there's a short puzzling story about the apparent visit of a dybbuk to a family in Poland in 1890 or so.

Finally we move to Minnesota, 1967, and watch Larry Gopnik (a Job-like figure) face a ludricous series of betrayals and demands by everyone in his family, workplace, synagogue, and community.

I was completely taken with this Coen brothers film.

It's very funny--a "black comedy" one website calls it--but also profound. After all, these things happen in life. We live surrounded by assholes and narcissistic people who place impossible, contradictory demands on us. We are wounded.

Receive with simplicity? That sounds dangerously close to "Be a doormat."

Nevertheless, I think there's a way to face these people without fighting back in a way that harms them. Larry's moves may be seen as too passive for some people--but at least he doesn't choose verbal or physical abuse. I admired him.

He's like Gimpel the Fool in Isaac Beshevis Singer's story by that name. People trick him and take advantage of him, but he turns the other cheek.

Perhaps I liked it because in the hour before the film started, I had faced three family crises. One daughter hyperventilated and had to breathe into a paper bag. Another who was getting the flu (and feared swine flu) called in tears. And my husband just wanted to get to the theater on time, demanding my full attention: "You put her ahead of me!"

What a relief to relax into this hilariously dark comedy about the same sorts of crazy demands.

Receive with simplicity everything that comes to you.

Hallelujah for the House 220 !

Hallelujah! Praise to the God of mercy!

The House passed the healthcare reform bill tonight, 220 in favor to 215 against.

What a gift to each of us, just before Thanksgiving Day. In so many homes as the prayers of thanks are made, this new opportunity to have health care will be first on the list.

Many compromises were made to gain these 220 votes. The single-payer proposal was given up months ago, and an amendment was passed today prohibiting federally subsidized insurance plans from providing legal abortions.

I care about access to abortion, but I care even more about access to health care period.

I listened to the debate on CSPAN as opponents of reform tried to use the abortion issue and the immigration issue to sink this bill. Giving up ground on these issues was a painful but necessary strategy for now. Perhaps the Senate version of the bill and the final bill that arrives on President Obama's desk will restore some of this lost ground.

With this historic decision by the House of Representatives, pressure is now on the Senate to meet the challenge and approve health care reform.

Will the Republicans and a few blue-dog Democrats succeed in stopping progress?

I pray that won't happen--but after the defeat of the ERA in 1982, I realize that votes in favor of equality and opportunity are not guaranteed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Sadness for 13 Lives

Thirteen people lost their lives. Thirty were wounded.

1. Michael Grant Cahill, 62, of Cameron, Texas

2. Libardo Eduardo Caraveo, 52, of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, a Ph.D. in psychology.

3. Justin M. Decrow, 32, of Evans, Georgia.

4. John Gaffaney, 56, of San Diego.

5. Frederick Greene, 29, of Mountain City, Tennessee.

6. Jason Dean Hunt, 22, of Frederick, Ohio--newly wed.

7. Amy Krueger, 29, of Kiel, Wisconsin.

8. Aaron Thomas Nemelka, 19, of West Jordan, Utah.

9. Michael Pearson, 21, of Bolinbrook, Ill.

10. Russell Seager, 51, of Mount Pleasant, Wisconsin.

11. Francheska Velez, 21, of Chicago--pregnant and recently returned from Iraq.

12. Juanita Warman, 55, of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania.

13. Kham Xiong, 23, of St. Paul, Minnesota.

See detailed biographies at

Thank you to the brave woman who stopped the killer: Sgt. Kimberly Munley.

I oppose all killing of one human by another--as Albert Einstein did--but I do support using a gun to stop a killer while trying not to kill him.

"My pacifism is an instinctive feeling, a feeling that possesses me because the murder of men is disgusting. My attitude is not derived from any intellectual theory but is based on my deepest antipathy to every kind of cruelty and hatred."Albert Einstein

Friday, November 6, 2009

Why He Killed

Profound evil is ultimately a mystery.

Nevertheless, as news coverage burgeons around Nidal Malik Hasan, some causes emerge.

1) He was a troubled man, lonely and crazy.

2) A Muslim whose parents had emigrated from Palestine, he was deeply affected by the horrors of his era: the 9/11 attacks, the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, the US bombing of Iraq and invasion of Afghanistan, the soldiers' trauma he listened to in his work as a psychiatrist, and the harassment he and other Muslims face in the US.

"Fellow soldiers once handed him a diaper and told him to wear it around his head, the uncle said; another time they sketched a camel on a piece of paper and left it on his car with a note that said, 'Here's your ride.' ",0,1886826.story

3) Against his will, this vulnerable man was being deployed to Afghanistan, the churning core of the maelstrom. His request to leave military service was denied.

Those three factors alone would not have caused this tragedy.

The final push apparently came from radical Muslims who found a floundering man and used him for their jihad. He learned from them that honor and service lay in becoming a suicide shooter.

"We're commanded to terrorize unbelievers," explained Younes Abdullas Mohammad on The Anderson Cooper Show, Nov. 6. "The Qur'an says very clearly, 'Kor hibuna'--'Terrorize them.'"

A man in Muslim dress visited Hasan the day before the killings, and he is reported to have shouted "Allahu akbar"--God is great--as he began shooting.

For a moment, let's imagine (with John Lennon):

* a world in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict had been resolved;
* a nation that had followed up the 9/11 attacks by increased vigilance at ports and airports--but not by bombing Iraq and Afghanistan;
* a military in which a soldier's request to leave active duty for personal reasons was granted.
* an educational system that stressed learning other languages and respecting other cultures.

Instead, we have a world filled with the oppression of one religious group by another, a nation bent on vengeance, a military that trains young people to kill, and schools that largely ignore the cultures beyond US borders.

The question should not be, "Why did he kill?" but "How many deaths will it take 'til we know that too many people have died?"

"Peace cannot be kept by force. It can only be achieved by understanding."
--Albert Einstein

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Anouska Shankar

The day after I made the wish to hear a woman play the sitar, pouf!

You Tube links to Anoushka Shankar appeared in my inbox.

Thank you to Abby, who waved the internet wand:

1) Anouschka Shankar and violinist Josh Bell performing together. "Much easier to follow for the Western ear," comments Abby.

2) Anouschka with her dad, Ravi, performing together. "Watch to the end for a charming little surprise visitor," adds Abby.

3) A slide show of Anouschka and her half-sister Norah Jones performing together:

I am enchanted by seeing Anouschka perform. A whole concert would be heavenly.

I relate so much better to everything from music to politics when I see a woman before me.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Good News on Abortion

Abortion is declining world-wide, reports the Alan Guttmacher Institute in a press release today.

Where both abortion and contraception are easily available and legal, fewer abortions are occurring--only (?) 41.6 million in 2003 compared to 45.5 million in 1995.

But unsafe abortion is still causing the deaths of 70,000 women per year.

70,000 too many.

"...In much of the developing world, abortion remains highly restricted, and unsafe abortion is common and continues to damage women's health and threaten their survival," reports Sharon Camp, president and CEO of the Guttmacher Institute.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Irene Vilar: 15 Abortions, 2 Kids

Irene Vilar is a woman of courage and a married mother of two little girls aged three and five years.

At age 16 she began a relationship with a 50-year-old man who didn't want kids. She married him and for eleven years swung between desire to have children and fear of losing her husband. She also made several suicide attempts.

Now at age 40, with a new husband, she has had the courage to write the story of her life, which begins with her grandmother and mother in Puerto Rico and their struggle for control of their lives in a country under colonial control.

Read Robin Abcarian's review in today's Los Angeles Times.,0,7832320.story

Then buy Irene's book, Impossible Motherhood: Testimony of an Abortion Addict.

In case you're thinking the moral of this story is that abortion should not be legal, ponder this: Irene is sure she would not be alive today if that were the case.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sitar in Los Angeles

I approached the sitar concert with some trepidation.

Would I understand it any better than my first sitar/raga experience last July in Varanasi on the steps above the Ganges River? Or would it be an impenetrable mass of musical artistry?

(I approached it with some tripping, too--my first attempt to wrap myself in a sari without the expert hands of an Indian friend.)

Nishat Khan, a seventh-generation player of sitar, sat before us on the stage at USC, explaining that each raga is composed of a tune about sixteen beats long, introduced and then improvised as the player is moved.

The good news: tuning the sitar took only five minutes, not fifty. Khan later explained that the tuning is actually part of the performance, like getting acquainted with small talk when you meet someone.

During the first raga, "Yaman," I was determined to note the central theme and follow the improvisation but, listening with the intensity of an arm wrestler, I never found it.

Khan moved on to a 170-year-old song, where I did catch the tune easily and enjoyed the variations, at times meditative, at times a frenzy of impossible virtuosity, like Eric Clapton on guitar.

After a third raga and the intermission, there were two more, "Sugre" and "Parovi," which began with the cry "Ta-di."

Khan explained that the entire words to this twenty-minute performance were the passionate demand of a girl to a boy: I want a red scarf--make my scarf red.

In Rajistan, he said, young men wear (wore?) a red turban, so she is saying she wants to marry him.

How this works in a society where marriages are arranged he didn't explain.

The performance was part of a conference in honor of the 140th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi's birth, October 2, 1869.

For some reason the three performers (on sitar, tabla, and another guitar-like instrument) were all men, just as they had been in the concert I saw in India.

Yet the paintings and photos above on a screen included some female sitar players. Abby, who with her husband Davan had invited us, assured me that Ravi Shankar's daughter, Anoushka, plays the sitar.

Abby had another revelation for me: it's okay to sit there and relax, letting the music wash over you as your mind wanders, rather than strenuously trying to follow it.

I'll remember that next time, and my next sitar concert will include a female performer.

An amazing footnote: Abby and Davan's two kids, Armaan and Maya, 12 and 9 years old, sat through the whole performance without a complaint. My kids at those ages would have been squirming and asking to go to the bathroom.

I remember plying them with candy to sit through The Nutcracker Suite when they were 8, 5, and 3 years old.

Armaan's comment on the concert: "It's cool."

Dying Children

Today's Los Angeles Times features two of the 268 children who died during the year and a half from January 2008 to August 2009 while under the supervision of the LA child welfare system.,0,200157,full.story

Miguel Padilla, a 17-year-old who had lost half an arm in one accident and the sight in one eye in another, hung himself. Lazhanae Harris, 13, was stabbed to death. Both had been neglected and abandoned by birth parents before coming to the attention of the Department of Children and Family Services.

Their moving stories were written by Kim Christensen and Garrett Therolf. Read them and weep.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama: Profoundly for Peace

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul...

Emily Dickinson captured the ephemeral power of hope, and today the Nobel committee awarded this year's peace prize to President Barack Obama--for bringing renewed hope of peace to each person on the planet.

What a good day! "An imaginative and surprising" handling of this year's award, said Desmond Tutu, who won the prize in 1984.

And yes, an obvious "a kick in the leg" to the Bush administration's war policies, commented Thorbjorn Jagland, chair of the Nobel committee.


Just one year ago the immense political, economic, and military power of the USA was stuck in Belligerent Mode. American imperialism blew around the world unchecked like a cloud of poisonous gas.

But today a small bird perches in many souls "And sings the tune--without the words / And never stops at all."

When I was travelling in India last summer, I met people on the streets, the banks of the Ganges, the walkways of historic sites like the Taj Mahal who spoke fluent English--and others whose English was almost as limited as my Hindi.

But in every encounter, as soon as I identified my nationality, Indians spoke one word that brought smiles to all our faces.


The t-shirt I happened to wear today says "Wage Peace" silk-screened over a blue-green planet earth.

Obama's greatest initiative in waging peace was his speech in Cairo last June. He spoke respectfully of Islam and quoted the Qu'ran, touching the hearts of all Muslims, who had been nearly equated with terrorists by the previous president.

To learn about Obama's decisive leadership in the writing of that speech, read the report of Christi Parsons in "The Making of a Message" (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 2, 2009). You can buy the article from the LA Times or access the full text through Proquest Newspapers if you have connection to an academic institution.

Parsons concludes with this measurement of the speech's impact:

Paul Salem, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center, heard [from a friend in Cairo]... that on the day of the speech, he saw a little boy walking along the street, a smile on his face as he chanted in a soft, singsong voice: "Obama quoted the Koran. Obama quoted the Koran."

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Stolen Baby Girls

If you do nothing else today, the Jewish New Year, the Christian day of rest, read this article in the Los Angeles Times: "Chinese babies stolen by officials for adoption fees.",0,401407.story

Many of those daughters supposedly placed for adoption because of China's strict laws against having more than one child were actually stolen for the $3,000 adoption fee paid to "orphanages."

Read the story and weep--and know that each dollar you spend, whether for clothes or food or adoption, has effects that reverberate through the world community.

As a mother of three daughters, my heart aches for mothers whose daughter was stolen.

Even in remote villages, parents live in fear of child abduction.

"Each town has a family planning office, usually staffed by loyal Communist Party cadres who have broad powers to order abortions and sterilizations. People who have additional babies can be fined up to six times their annual income... an important source of revenue for local government in rural areas."

Illiterate parents who break the birth control rules don't understand that they still have a right to keep their children--intimidated and told they have to pay fines equal to their annual income, they lose their babies.

It's all about choice--whether the issue is forced abortions and baby-napping there or legal access to abortion here.

And it's about money and education--if you have them and you live here, you have choice.

If you have neither and an unplanned pregnancy in China, your baby may be "legally" kidnapped.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

After the Acid Attack

Thanks to Diane Steelsmith for alerting me to this follow-up story by NY Times reporter Dexter Filkins about the courage of young women survivors of an acid attack ten months ago, November 12, 2008.

Though the Mirwais Mena School for Girls in Kandahar, Afghanistan, closed for a week after the attack, it reopened and negotiations are now underway to provide facial surgery for the most severely injured girls.

Read the story on the website of the Center for Global Leadership:

Friday, September 11, 2009

Reasons not to reform health care ;)

Thank you to Betsy Hess for forwarding this anonymous email to me.

Why we should not "reform" health care:

1. Although efforts have been made to reform the healthcare industry since 1912, we should not be too hasty in enacting change.

2. The federal government has no business interfering in people's healthcare decisions, unless a woman is trying to terminate a pregnancy, or the patient’s last name is Schiavo.

3. The government is incapable of running anything efficiently, and if allowed to offer a healthcare option, will run it so efficiently that it will put private insurers out of business.

4. We are a Christian nation, and we don’t believe in helping the least among us. Some people just don’t deserve healthcare. Getting sick is God's punishment for doing something wrong.

5. The current system, with 47,000,000 uninsured, a million medical
bankruptcies annually, and 18,000 deaths annually due to lack of insurance, is working just fine. In fact, we have the best health care system in the world!

6. Even though many older couples are forced to divorce in order to avoid catastrophic financial losses due to medical expenses, it’s the homosexuals who are destroying families.

7. A conversation with your doctor about end-of-life issues is an opportunity for your doctor to convince you to kill yourself.

8. We can afford to spend more on our military than all other nations combined, but we can’t afford universal health care.

9. Single-payer, government-run healthcare is good enough for our men and women in uniform, but to offer the same to the general public would be socialism.

10. Pooling our resources to provide roads, schools, clean water, military, police, and fire protection for each other is not socialism. Pooling our resources to provide each other health care is socialism.

11. Socialism is bad. Very bad. Bad!

12. Health care is an issue best handled by individual states, like slavery.

13. We can afford to subsidize Israel , Iraq , and Afghanistan , all of whom have universal healthcare, but we can’t afford it ourselves.

14. Money and corporate profits are more important than peoples’ health. Sure, reforming the insurance companies would save thousands of lives, but shareholders’ portfolios might be damaged.

15. Freeing people from holding on to their dead-end jobs for the insurance and allowing them to become entrepreneurs would bankrupt our country.

16. Someone like physicist Stephen Hawking would have been allowed to die under the British healthcare system. Oh, he’s British? And alive? Never mind.

17. We already have universal health care: it’s called the Emergency Room. Uninsured people can go there for all their health needs (checkups, cancer pre-screening, chemotherapy, etc.), and it only costs the taxpayers a few thousand dollars per visit.

18. The Obama healthcare initiative is part of the liberal-communist-Nazi-socialist-Islamofascist-gay-atheist-zombie-transsexual-cannibal sociopath-evolutionist agenda to take away your
freedom! If this plan is passed, abortions will be mandatory,
schoolchildren will be raped by their teachers, and Negroes will
murder your Grandma with her pillow!

Yes, please do share this with everyone you know. It's important that we
keep spreading the truth about healthcare reform.

Sent by <gralawle@COMCAST.NET>

Wake Up Call

They're pouring sand into the gears as the wheels of justice grind slowly on this fall.

People opposed to everything are trying to halt the momentum for health care reform--and they're using abortion to do it. See this report in today's LA Times.,0,7378033.story

I've been watching the health care debate but not doing anything until I read this article today. My assumption was that a fair exchange of ideas was occurring and that some form of health care legislation would be approved.

Now I realize that I need to speak up, email my representatives, etc.--I'm not entirely sure what is the best form of action--because red herrings are being brought in to swing the debate off point.

In my youth I watched the Equal Rights Amendment lose to right-wing voices that said it would cause unisex bathrooms (oh no!) and put women into military combat.

Now we're in danger of seeing health care reform efforts fail because they might have some remote connection to abortion.

Here's how the argument goes: Someone who doesn't currently have access to health care would gain access and then perhaps have an abortion "on taxpayer money." Even if the health plan doesn't pay for abortion and she pays for the abortion with her own money, the presence of "taxpayer money" in her budget would mean that someone opposed to legal abortion might have paid taxes that might have paid for some of her health care, thus enabling her to buy an abortion. Sheesh!

It's clear to me that this strained logic is just another way to halt health care--which some see as Communism with a capital C.

I can't carry on with my life and expect President Obama and my legislators to fight this battle alone. I have to find out what I can do to help health care reform--and do it.

Add your name

Here's one quick, easy way to show your support for health care reform.

Go to this site and fill in your name as a supporter.

This hugely important national debate is happening as I carry on with my daily list of duties and errands... but I'm vowing to find time to do my part, rather than sit on the sidelines.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Esha Momeni Free!

The 29-year-old graduate student at, California State University, Northridge, Esha Momeni, has been freed from Iran and has returned to the Los Angeles area in time to start the fall semester on August 24.

She went to Iran last summer to film interviews with activist women in Iran in order to make a documentary for her Master's degree in Communication at CSUN.

Her filming was regarded as subversive and she was arrested in Tehran on October 15, 2009, and then held in Evin Prison for 25 days. Though she was then allowed to return to her parents' home, her travel documents were taken from her, preventing her return to the US.

I look forward to hearing her speak about her experiences and about the events surrounding the recent elections and protests in Iran.

No doubt some events will be scheduled on the campus, where rallies were held during the past year to support her. (I work part-time there.)

For further details, see the Los Angeles Times:,0,4260822.story .

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Hear Karen Armstrong from Chautauqua

Chautauqua, New York, is a great place to be this week. Karen Armstrong, Joan Chittister, and Tony Campolo are among the speakers there.

See the whole schedule at

Sr. Joan Chittister will speak at 10 am tomorrow (Monday).

Karen Armstrong will speak on “Charter for Compassion,” Friday, Aug. 14 at 2 pm. (This lecture will be streaming live with opportunity for chat.)

To learn more about the charter, see

It's a peace and tolerance effort by people of all the world's major religions.

Tony Campolo speaks at Chautauqua every morning at 9:15 am.

Rabbi Michael Melchior will speak Aug. 13 at 2 pm.

Rock on, Chautauqua!

Meanwhile, stay tuned for the final draft of the charter to be released this fall.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Esha Momeni and Others Missing

Thanks to CN for posting a list of Americans currently still being held in custody abroad--though Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been returned.

Esha Momeni, the graduate student at Cal State University, Northridge, where I teach, is still unable to leave Iran because her passport was confiscated. She was filming interviews with women for her MA in Communications almost a year ago when she was arrested.

See the complete list:

Hooray for Rehka Kalindi !

What a heart-warming story about 13-year-old Rekha Kalindi in a village in India, refusing an arranged marriage and begging to be allowed to continue her education!

Thank you to Women's eNews for the link.

Thank you to the UNICEF-sponsored NGO that provides free schooling in this village.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Go Sotomayor!

Wonderful that Sonia Sotomayor has been confirmed to the US Supreme Court!

I'm starting to like the 21st century, now that we have Barack Obama as president and a wise Latina on the Supreme Court.

The point is not that she might well make a better decision than a white male in the same position--it's that the world has yet to see what decisions a Latina on the US Supreme Court would make. We've had 225 years of white males making those decisions.

Just think what women of color would have done while President Andrew Jackson was in office! He might not have gotten away with deporting the Cherokees from Georgia.

See these reports on our new Supreme Court justice available on Women's eNews - :
Ginsburg and Sotomayor: What Else in Common?
    Comparing Sotomayor's record on women's rights and judicial outlook to Justice Ruth Ginsburg's.
AT & T Case Spotlights Gender Issue for Sotomayor

Sotomayor's 'Play Ball' Case Will Bring Her Home
    A column from our editor-in-chief explaining why men think of her as the judge who saved baseball.
Advocates Line Up to Praise Sotomayor
    Other Latinas and women's rights advocates react to the nomination.
Sotomayor Hearing Test: Did You Catch the Code?
    Our legal affairs reporter translates the coded language of the Senate hearings.
Wise Women Unite! What Sotomayor Should Have Said
    A leading political scientist says what many thought: if the United States truly valued diversity, Sotomayor could have reaffirmed that her background and ethnicity adds to her qualifications.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Christian Feminism Today

The latest issue of Christian Feminism Today (summer 2009) has some great reflections:

"The Week I Wore the Hijab" by Alena Amato Ruggerio (See the great color photo of her on a camel!)

"What Motherhood Has Taught Me" by well-known singer/song-writer Kathryn Christian

"How Did I Become a Feminist?" by Bettina Tate Pedersen

"My Faith and Feminism--A Winding Pathway" by Rita Voors

"Feminism is a Spiritual Journey" by Kathleen DeFrees

"Becoming a Feminist" by Becky Kiser

"My Advice to Newly-Minted Feminists/Womanists/Mujeri
stas" by Virginia Ramey Mollenkott

Review of Joan Chittister's "Welcome to the Wisdom of the World and Its Meaning for You" by Laju M. Balani

Review of Kelsey Timmerman's "Where Am I Wearing? A Global Tour of the Countries, Factories, and People that Make Our Clothes" by Kimberly B. George

"My EEWC Journey" by Barbara Crews

Subscribe online at

or from EEWC, PO Box 78171, Indianapolis IN 46278-0171. $25/yr.

Congratulations to editor Letha Dawson Scanzoni on another wonderful issue of CFT !

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

N Korea Releases 2 US Journalists

Hallelujah! Bill Clinton's special trip to North Korea to negotiate the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee was successful.

The two US journalists were taken into custody last March for being on the China-North Korean border and were given a 12-year sentence for "spying."

See the LA Times story earlier today, to be updated soon:,0,7555243.story

Negotiations leading to this trip have lasted for months, led by Senator John Kerry of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Note on Wed., Aug. 5: See great coverage in the LA Times of Laur, Euna and the negotiators arriving in Los Angeles... and other details on their work and capture.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Death in the City

Lily Burk was 17 years old and running an errand for her mother at Wilshire and Vermont in central Los Angeles near Southwestern University School of Law on Friday afternoon, July 24.

At 3 pm she was abducted by a paroled man living in a nearby residential drug treatment program.

He told her to get money from an ATM with her credit card--not possible unless one has a PIN number to do that. She made two calls to her parents asking how to do it, learning that the card didn't have ATM functions set up.

By 5 pm she was left dead in her car in downtown Los Angeles.,0,123041.story

"A Collision of Two L.A. Worlds" the LA Times headlines calls it.


Lily would have been a senior at Oakwood School, where my daughter Marie's best friend, Suzanne, graduated a few years ago. Suzanne's sister Katie had just shared in chaperoning a group of kids from the school, including Lily, on a visit to Chiapas, Mexico.

Marie was with Katie when she heard the news.

We who inhabit the privileged, wealthy world of Los Angeles think we can live our lives right next to poverty, addiction, and crime without being touched by it.

At least we hope so.

But there are frequent lessons that only by good fortune can our pretty island remain unscarred by the horror around us.

We try to do our part, voting for Obama and universal health care, hoping that the inmates put on the streets by our state's financial disaster will not attack us, hoping that the children turned down by the cuts in the preschool Early Start program will not grow up to drop out of school and turn to drugs or crime.

We are more worried about the collision of these worlds than we were a few days ago.

Until we come face to face with the deepest, darkest fact of life without damaging our view of God's character, we do not yet know Her.
--Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His [sic] Highest. Daily reading for July 29.