Friday, October 31, 2008

A Scary Halloween

Spectres at my door with ghoulish masks: gashes, scars, crooked teeth.

I drop a few treats in each bag and return to the television, where I am watching CNN report on the polls as reflected in a red and blue electoral map.

Interrupted by the doorbell, I find more scary monsters at the door.

Back to the television, which is much scarier:

"In Ohio, Florida, and Missouri, McCain is closing the gap in the polls; Ohio's now 49 Obama, 46 McCain with a 4% margin of error..."

The ghosts of elections past, 2000 and 2004, dance before my eyes. What will Ohio do this year? What chicanery will take place in Florida?

It's so close in Missouri--does that mean the whole national election hangs on a thread?

I can't remember such a scary Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gay-Friendly Christians

Lord Save Us from Your Followers is a great DVD to watch while deciding how to vote on California's Proposition 8.

Made by born-again Christians, the film is endorsed by Pastor Jack Hayford, president of the Foursquare Gospel denomination, among others.

"Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America?" asks the subtitle.

This humorous documentary, produced by Dan Merchant, comments on the culture wars and votes for peace.

Listening and tolerance are its themes: Christians should do more listening and less talking. "The sea refuses no river."

One of my students, Sarah Fernandez, saw this film at her church and brought me the DVD.

She attends The Sanctuary, a Four Square-related church in Santa Clarita north of Los Angeles. See its website,

Tony Campolo, Rick Warren, Bill Maher, Al Franken, and Bono are among those interviewed. Footage includes 25,000 teens gathered for a Battlecry rally in San Francisco.

Find out more at

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Post Traumatic Stress

With the election just one week away, I find myself feeling anxious.

The fun and games of SNL spoofs of Sarah Palin are over for me. It's serious now.

Polls that show Obama leading in several battleground states don't ease my mind.

I don't trust the polls. I don't expect the electoral process to be fair. New voter registrations are being challenged; there may be long lines again, discouraging voters.

Whether it's paper ballots with chads or electronic machines, I don't trust Florida, Ohio, and other states to count votes fairly.

The trauma of November 2000 has scarred my mind: will Democrats again have a legitimate victory stolen from us by miscounting and by judicial decisions?

Will the trauma of November 2004 be repeated? Learning about the problems in Ohio was a nightmare: too few polling places in Democratic precincts near colleges, bad weather, too few machines, long lines, polls closing against would-be voters.

Will we wake up on November 5 to face four more years of Republican misleadership of our nation?

This final week feels like a zone of PTSD to me.

We have to steer through it somehow, but I for one will be wearing protective ear muffs, goggles, and a news-proof vest.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Hunger & World Recession

One billion people in the world are starving, said the voice on my radio, tuned to KPFA, Pacifica.

The economic recession that causes some of us to lose value in our 401 k accounts will cause more of those in the lowest income groups to starve.

About 16,000 children die daily from hunger-related causes.

Out of 6.6 billion people in the world, 1.4 billion lived below the international poverty line in 2005, according to Bread for the World, They earned less than $1.25 per day.

"Among this group of poor people, many have problems obtaining adequate, nutritious food for themselves and their families. As a result, 820 million people in the developing world are undernourished. They consume less than the minimum amount of calories essential for sound health and growth," reports BFW.

And that was 2005. The current estimate is one billion.

As we cut back our spending or look for a new job, depending on how this recession has hit us, let us remember those at the bottom for whom fluctuations in the price or grain or the price of oil mean less food and even starvation.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Esha Momeni in Evin Prison

She's 28 years old, a graduate student at Cal State University, Northridge, where I teach, and since Oct. 15 she has been locked in Evin Prison near Tehran.

Esha Momeni was working on a documentary about the women's movement in Iran.

"She wanted to show her professors and her American friends how powerful Iranian women are, and that the Taleban are not in power in Iran, to show how much progress Iranian women have made," says her mother, quoted on the blog started up to free Esha,

Born in Los Angeles, Esha returned to Tehran as a child with her parents and earned an undergraduate degree at Azad University in Tehran. After a marriage and divorce, she came to Los Angeles to work on a master's degree in mass communications.

Two months ago she flew to Tehran to conduct interviews for her video documentary.

She was within days of returning when she was pulled over for an alleged traffic violation and taken to prison, where she is reportedly being held in solitary confinement. Her videotapes and computer were confiscated.

Life inside Evin Prison was revealed recently in a memoir by Marina Nemat, who was arrested at age 16 in 1982, tortured, and forced into a marriage. She witnessed executions and barely escaped with her life. See Prisoner in Tehran (New York:Free Press, 2007).

Another way to appreciate what Esha is going through is to watch the film Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi or read the graphic novels on which it is based.

Marjane describes being a child during the brutal Islamic Revolution led by Ayatollah Khomeini, then living under the new regime, fleeing to Western Europe, and returning to try to live in a Tehran where playing Western music at a party in one's apartment can be cause for arrest.

The For-Esha blog reports, "Amnesty International has recently launched an appeal for Esha's immediate and unconditional release. The public is invited to send letters of appeal to senior figures in the Islamic Republic of Iran" by going to Amnesty's website:

For more information, see the LA Times, the Associated Press, Reuters, and other news media.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Get Over It

And now Sarah Palin is attacked for spending money on clothes.

Oh my, she spent some $150,000 on clothes for herself and her family since she was nominated for vice president--whereas the average American spends only $1800 per year per person.

So what? She's not the average American. She has to walk on stages and into television cameras, and whether she looks good will affect voters' minds.

Of course the GOP is going to foot the bill. It's a small price per minute of free national exposure the media is giving to Palin.

To expect her to stick to her own budget and her own preferences, Patagonia and North Face, would be crazy.

Just to endure the whirlwind of appearances and attention must be difficult--how can anyone begrudge her the peace of mind of being dressed right for all this?

Attacking her for not being "Joe Six-Pack" in her wardrobe is sexist and mean. A male candidate would not face these issues. Men can just put on a fairly standard suit and face the press, but women candidates are judged on every detail of what they wear or don't wear.

I agree with Vicki Sanchez, a costume designed quoted in today's LA Times: "When you start buying $3,000 suits, boots that cost anywhere from $800 and up, and deisgner shoes, which cost $500 at least, it goes fast. She looks damn good. Get over it."

See the article at,0,2465209.story

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

In Defense of Palin

Should travel expenses for Sarah Palin's children be held against her?

The Associated Press thinks so, publishing today a detailed investigation of expenses charged to the state of Alaska for airline and hotel expenses of Palin's daughters.

"Alaska law does not specifically address expenses for a governor's children," the report states, only expenses for "anyone conducting official state business."

Male governors probably fly around the country without their kids; after all, they may have a wife at home to raise young children if there are any.

Sarah Palin has pioneered a new approach to governing: taking her family along to some events.

Should she personally have to cover those expenses? No!

Alaska and any critics should understand that when a governor has young children and needs to travel, his or her kids go along. You want a celibate or elderly governor, fine, but if you elect a parent, that parent has the right to spend time with his/her children while traveling. That's part of the package when the governor travels.

It's the old model that children of politicians must vanish except when needed for a photo shoot.

The report complains that Palin and her daughter Bristol spent four nights in a hotel for a five-hour conference in New York City.

Well, if you flew from Alaska to NYC for a conference, would you spend only one night? They shared a room--is that room going to be any cheaper for just one person? No.

Does anybody honestly think Palin's choices should be flying back after one night--or paying for the extra 2-3 nights herself?

It benefits Alaska for its governor to become familiar with a city as important as New York, to visit Ground Zero, meet with Mayor Bloomberg, etc.

To make complaints about the Palin kids' travel expenses is sexism at its worst.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Amy's Legacy

Amy Biehl was killed by a mob in South Africa, August 1993.

A Stanford grad on a Fullbright to study the lives of women in South Africa, she drove through a township just as angry men emerged from a political meeting, not convinced that four decades of white minority rule were really ending.

Today, however, two the four convicted in her death now work for a charity in her name in that same township.

Read this story of forgiveness in today's LA Times, "Working in their victim's name" by Scott Kraft.,0,3982911.story

Monday, October 20, 2008

Restore Marriage?

"Restore marriage--vote yes on Prop. 8," proclaimed a bumper sticker as I drove on the 110 freeway into Pasadena today.

Ah, if only it were that simple. If only a vote against same-sex marriage, like a shot of cortisone, could prop up that worn and battered institution.

If only Prop. 8 could end cheating, wife-swapping, divorce, premarital sex, and oldster romances that can't become legal because Social Security payments would end.

If only it could put new life into 36-year-old marriages like mine.

California's Prop. 8 can't do that, but it can sure raise money and get out the vote.

Yesterday's LA Times has a full-page ad showing the head of Jesus on the cross, sagging under the crown of thorns, with two Bible verses and the message, "Vote YES on Proposition 8."

Matthew 19:4,5 and Leviticus 20:13 are the featured verses.

Never mind that divorce is the issue raised in Matthew when Jesus answers "a man shall be joined to his wife..." Jesus concludes by not permitting divorce "except for unchastity."

Anyone want to sign a proposition outlawing divorce?

Never mind that most of Leviticus is now ignored, like the command three verses earlier in chapter 20: "If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall be put to death."

To vote yes on Prop. 8, you don't have to be a strict Jew or Christian who really would like to outlaw divorce and execute adulterers.

You just have to have a nostalgic desire to restore marriage to some ancient glory, and maybe to perk up Jesus on that cross: you can save Jesus by voting yes!

Actually, your presidential vote isn't that important because California usually goes blue. (The Democratic areas of San Franciso and Los Angeles counties outvote the red swath of the central valley and the two red patches of Orange and San Diego counties.)

The vote on Prop. 8, however, will influence attempts in other states to prevent same-sex couples from having the benefits of marriage.

California voters rejected same-sex marriage in 2000 with Prop. 22, but the California Supreme Court overturned that proposition earlier this year.

Major donors to Yes on 8 are the Knights of Columbus, Focus on the Family, and the Mormon Church.

If they succeed with Leviticus 20:13, maybe they'll move on to 20:10 and who knows what else.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

LAT Makes a Pick

The Los Angeles Times endorsed Barak Obama for president today, the first presidential endorsement by the Times since 1972.

Obama is the first Democrat ever to receive the Times' support. The newspaper, owned by the Chandler family, usually endorsed Republicans, including Richard Nixon in 1972.

Publisher Otis Chandler was against that endorsement and started a policy of no presidential endorsements that lasted over thirty years.

Continuing to take positions on other candidates and on propositions, editors decided a few years ago to take stands on presidential candidates again. Among Republican candidates in the primary, the Times endorsed McCain.

In a carefully reasoned essay, today's editorial essay reflects on both the McCain and Obama candidacies and takes a position.

Take a break from the hyenas of talk radio and tv commentary, and read this.,0,5198206.story

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Vatican vs. Women

Police have harassed activists who are in Rome to demand women's ordination during the Synod of Bishops on the Bible there this October.

As the small group of demonstrators entered St. Peter's Square on Oct. 15, both Italian and Vatican police stopped them and demanded their passports, though they had entered earlier without incident.

Bearing a banner, "Ordain Catholic Women," and wearing t-shirts with the same message in nine languages, the women were prevented from delivering their petition.

"The Pontifical Biblical Commission determined in 1976 that there is no scriptural reason to prohibit the ordination of women," states a press release from the Women's Ordination Convention.

Read more on the WOC website,

Courage in Journalism

"The chief cause of death of journalists is planned killing," said Christiane Amanpour, chief international correspondent for CNN at the west coast banquet for the 2008 Courage in Journalism Awards given by the International Women's Media Foundation at the Beverly Hills Hotel two days ago.

Cancer or heart disease may be the primary cause of death for many people, but journalists around the world are more likely to be murdered, disappeared, or victims of a mysterious accident or illness.

Anna Politkovskaya, a reporter for Novaya Gazeta, received the award in 2002 but in 2006 was killed in the elevator of her apartment building in central Moscow after many death threats. She wrote about the Chechen conflict and did not approve of Putin's handling of it.

Amanpour reported that all the suspects in Politkovskaya's death are members of the Russian Secret Service, but the perpetrators still go unpunished. Instead, the lawyer prosecuting them recently came down with severe mercury poisoning, which she survived.

Lydia Cacho, one of the 2007 winners for her reporting on sex tourism in Cancun, was arrested by police from the state of Puebla and threatened with rape and death. Audio tapes turned up of the governor of the state of Puebla discussing plans for this attack, but last November the Mexico's highest court cleared him of any involvement in Cacho's illegal detention, Amanpour stated.

This year's winners:

FARIDA NEKZAD, 31, managing director of Pajhwok Afghan News, was honored for encouraging women to work as journalists and to fight for their rights in Afghanistan. A warlord told her, "Stop or we will kill you." In the last five years, five women journalists in Afghanistan have been disappeared or brutally killed. During the 2007 funeral of one of these, she received cell phone threats saying, "Daughter of America! We will kill you, just like we killed her."

She explained that the Taliban considers it blasphemous for women to work publicly. Women who work outside the home are targets of violence, discrimination, and prejudice. Warlords and the Afhgan government are the source of threats, along with the Taliban.

Nekzad takes different routes to work each day and sleeps in a different room of her house each night to avoid attack.

"Women are not tolerated even the slightest public role," she said, "but we must continue to inform women of their rights, even if some of us have to lose our lives. We try to decrease the level of violence against women. There have been many attempts to kill me. I have been told to leave my profession and my country."

She asked listeners to bring pressure on her government to investigate the deaths of women journalists. "Please pray for us and for all Afghan women," she concluded.

SEVGUL ULUDAG, 49, is an investigative reporter for Yeniduzen newspaper in Cyprus. Since 2002 she has been investigating thousands of people who disappeared during Greek-Turkish clashes in the 1960s and 1970s. She has brought attention to mass graves and has received death threats for her work, published in books such as Oysters with the Missing Pearls.

Her father refused to join the paramilitary, so the family was branded as traitors and ostracized. Her brother-in-law was killed, and her sister took Turkey to Human Rights Court. For his activism, Uludag's husband was punished by unemployment for eight years.

"Courage is the result of the reaction against repression," she said. "Truth is too important to turn away from. The price journalists are paying around the world is not going without notice."

AYE AYE WIN is one of the few women journalists in Myanmar (Burma), a correspondent for the AP there. She reports on arrests of dissidents, violent demonstrations against the government, and on the detention of Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Her husband, also a reporter, has been detained, and her journalist father was imprisoned for three years. Win fears a knock on her door from police at midnight. She decided not to risk appearing in LA to receive her award, lest doing so put her loved ones at risk.

The 2008 lifetime achievement award went to EDITH LEDERER for twenty-five years of work in war zones and hot spots. In 1966 there were only a handful of women covering hard news for the AP and UPI, and no woman was posted overseas.

She repeatedly asked to cover hard news and then became the first woman to report the Vietnam War in 1972. Her work there led to other assignments explaining causes behind conflicts in Darfur, Iraq, Kosovo, Congo, Sierra Leone, and East Timor.

"The battle for women's equality is far from won," she said, in accepting her award.

As an example, she described traveling with a male reporter when a rebel command leader began to negotiate to buy her. The more her colleague said Lederer was not for sale, the higher price the commander offered, ending at "two camels and half a sheep"--the price of purchasing a 13-year-old virgin.

Celebrities present and introducing the winners included Julie Chen of the CBS Morning Show, actress Renee Zellweger, and Maria Shriver, who was jokingly introduced as a woman who "risks her life on a daily basis being married to a Republican in Sacramento."

She attends the West coast IWMF awards every year, and admitted that these stories of danger and courage often drive her to the bar afterward: "They make you wonder what you're doing with your life."

Yes, attending this event makes me re-evaluate my daily priorities.

As Eugene Robinson, columnist and associate editor of the Washington Post said, "And we're nervous about asking impertinent questions in press conferences?"

You can learn more and support the IWMF by visiting and, the site of Reporters Without Boundaries.

Close Encounter with McCain

Ginny Hearn sends a McCain encounter story that, if true, is bad news.

It was allegedly written by Ana Dubey, a Ph.D. in psychology who went on a vacation to Fiji with her husband in 2000 and found the McCains in the same resort. Emailed by May-Kay Gamel, a classics professor at UC Santa Cruz.


It was just before John McCain's last run at the presidential nomination in 2000 that my husband and I vacationed inTurtle Island in Fiji with John McCain, Cindy, and their children, including Bridget (their adopted Bangladeshi child).

It was not our intention, but it was our misfortune to be in close quarters with John McCain for almost a week, since Turtle Island has a small number of bungalows and their focus on communal meals force all vacationers who are there at the same time to get to know each other intimately.

He arrived at our first group meal and started reading quotes from a pile of William Faulkner books with a forest of Post-Its sticking out of them. As an English Literature major myself, my first thought was "if he likes this so much, why hasn't he memorized any of this yet?"

I soon realized that McCain actually thought we had come on vacation to be a volunteer audience for his "readings" which then became a regular part of each meal. Out of politeness, none of the vacationers initially protested this intrusion into their blissful holiday, but people's buttons definitely got pushed as the readings continued day after day.

Unfortunately this was not his only contribution to our mealtime entertainment. He waxed on during one meal about how Indo-Chine women had the best figures and that our American corn-fed women just couldn't meet this standard.

He also made it a point that all of us should stop Cindy from having dessert as her weight was too high and made a few comments to Amy, the 25-year-old wife of the honeymooning couple from Nebraska that she should eat less as she needed to lose weight.

McCain's appreciation of the beauty of Asian women was so great that David the American economist had to move his Thai wife to the other side of the table from McCain as McCain kept aggressively flirting with and touching her.

Needless to say I was irritated at his large ego and his rude behavior towards his wife and other women, but decided he must have some redeeming qualities as he had adopted a handicapped child from Bangladesh.

I asked him about this one day, and his response was shocking: "Oh, that was Cindy's idea - I didn't have anything to do with it. She just went and adopted this thing without even asking me. You can't imagine how people stare when I wheel this ugly black thing around in a shopping cart in Arizona. No, it wasn't my idea at all."

I actively avoided McCain after that, but unfortunately one day he engaged me in a political discussion which soon got us on the topic of the active US bombing of Iraq at that time. I was shocked when he said, "If I was in charge, I would nuke Iraq to teach them a lesson."

Given McCain's personal experience with the horrors of war, I had expected a more balanced point of view.

I commented on the tragic consequences of the nuclear attacks on Japan during WWII -- but no, he was not to be dissuaded. He went on to say that if it was up to him he would have dropped many more nuclear bombs on Japan. I rapidly extricated myself from this conversation as I could tell that his experience being tortured as a POW didn't seem to have mellowed out his perspective, but rather had made him more aggressive and vengeful towards the world.

My final encounter with McCain was on the morning that he was leaving Turtle Island. Amy and I were happily eating pancakes when McCain arrived and told Amy that she shouldn't be having pancakes because she needed to lose weight.

Amy burst into tears at this abusive comment. I felt fiercely protective of Amy and immediately turned to McCain and told him to leave her alone. He became very angry and abusive towards me, and said,"Don't you know who I am."

I looked him in the face and said, "Yes, you are the biggest asshole I have ever met" and headed back to my cabin.

I am happy to say that later that day when I arrived at lunch I was given a standing ovation by all the guests for having stood up to McCain's bullying.

Although I have shared my McCain story informally with friends, this is the first time I am making this public. I almost did so in 2000, when McCain first announced his bid for the Republican nomination, but it soon became apparent that George W. Bush was the shoo-in candidate and so I did not act then.

However, now that there is a very real possibility that McCain could be elected as our next president, I feel it is my duty as an American citizen to share this story.

I can't imagine a more scary outcome for America than that this abusive, aggressive man should lead our nation. I have observed him in intimate surroundings as he really is, not how the media portrays him to be.

If his attitudes toward women and his treatment of his own family are even a small indicator of his real personality, then I shudder to think what will happen to America were he to be elected as our President.
~ ~ ~
Note from Anne: I don't know whether this story is true, but it's plausible. I've heard men monitor women's weight this way, and I've heard the "nuke Iraq" sentiment expressed. I waited ten days before deciding to reprint it. My admiration for him as a prisoner of war survivor fizzled on reading it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Joe or Sarah?

Breaking news:

The McCain campaign has dropped Sarah Palin and enlisted Joe Plumber as candidate for vice-president.

So writes my brother-in-law Stuart Arthur in an email.

Thanks, Stu, for this bulletin from Republican campaign headquarters.

Debate Fatigue Syndrome

I tried to watch the presidential debate last night. I sat in a chair in front of the television.

But just like last week, I couldn't bear to listen to it. Three men at a table, four if you count Joe Plumber. The Palin/Biden debate held my attention, with Gwen Ifill moderating, but this all-male tv screen for an hour and a half (again) was irritating and boring.

"He's going to raise taxes"--how many times did McCain repeat that?

"Let's go on to a new topic,"said Bob Schieffer every time McCain circled back to taxes.

Obama and McCain made so many contradictory claims, sometimes citing statistics--there was no way to sort out truth from half-truths or lies. Fast-forward to the fact checkers, please.

It was depressing. Both candidates seemed to think Americans don't care about any issues except low taxes. I felt talked down to.

And then there was Joe Plumber, replacing Joe Six-pack. He got a lot of air time.

Hello, what about Jane Teacher? McCain said of soldiers enrolling in the Troops to Teachers program, "We should not make them take these exams." That set off alarms for me. Was he scorning the training, testing, and certification needed to teach?

Yeah, let's not make doctors, nurses, and lawyers take tests either. Who needs tests?

I walked in and out of the room. I turned to NatGeo but then felt guilty and turned back to the debate.

In answering the question on abortion, Obama spoke of "youth;" McCain referred to "those young women."

Yo, debaters! Middle-aged women get abortions too, married women. These women make choices about those difficult third trimester abortions, which occur mostly when the fetus has a severe deformity. That is, they make choices unless the US government has already done it for them.

McCain's sneering tone irritated me. I felt panicky over the possibility that he could be on my tv screen for the next four years, patronizing and dismissive of "liberal" concerns.

Mostly I just want this campaign to be over. Give me a ballot, let me vote.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Women's eNews:Republican Flip-Flop

This cartoon appeared in Women's eNews, Sept. 17, 2008... a commentary on the Republican Party's attitudes toward women before and after the addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket as vice-presidential nominee. Subscribe to Women's eNews at

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

More Thoughts on Palin

Sharon Billings sends two articles, one analyzing the Palin wink and one from Women's eNews trying to understand Palin.

The first one, "Sarah Palin, All-American Cheerleader" by Tim Kingston and Lisa Moore on Oct. 5, has been widely emailed.

Sharon reflects on how Palin "gives voice to all the formerly voiceless women who manage home, family and job minus the opportunity to have developed feminist theories for herself."

"Apparently I am not that far removed from the memories of being one who knew there had to be a 'more and different life,' but I hadn't encountered any life-changing concepts or mentors...." she continues, saying that the second article gave her permission to recognize that kinship the woman-she-once-was feels with Palin.

That article appeared on Women's eNews, written by Jane Marcellus, a professor of journalism at Middle Tennesee State University, who teaches media history, among other things.

After analyzing the sexist treatment of Palin in various media, Marcellus concludes:

"I don't agree with Palin's politics, but I do respect her. After all, she's managed to live the feminist dream, even if she's not one. She's governor of a large state, has a husband who's clearly willing to do more than 'help,' a brother who teaches third grade."

In fact, some feminists are even Palin supporters. Shelley Mandel, president of the Los Angeles chapter of NOW, introduced Palin at a rally a week ago and supports her candidacy, though Mandel is a Democrat.

Some of us are so tired of men running business as usual that Palin looks pretty good.

Three weeks until E-Day...

From John at the LA Times, an LAT/Bloomberg poll:

Los Angeles Times
October 14, 2008 2:03 p.m. PDT
Obama widens lead over McCain, thanks to the economy

As election day nears, a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll has found that Sen. Barack Obama leads Sen. John McCain 50% to 41%, a sizable gain largely due to voters’ fears about the economy.

In other results:
-- Nearly 7 in 10 cited the economy as the most important issue for the presidential candidates to solve.
-- Eighty-four percent said the country is on the wrong track.
-- Almost half of voters said Sarah Palin was not qualified to be president while 76% said Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden was qualified.
More soon at:

Feminists for Obama

Feminist Majority, the group founded by Eleanor Smeal and supporters in Los Angeles, has teamed up with You Tube to provide three videos dramatizing reasons why women should not vote for McCain and Palin.

To see it, go to

Thanks to my daughter Marie, co-chair of the Feminist Coalition at Pitzer College, for forwarding this to me.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Chloe Loves Olivia

"We want to celebrate with ______ and _______, who were married this past week," said the pastor at Brentwood Presbyterian Church today during the sharing time.

I didn't hear the names too clearly but turned to look at the couple and realized they were both women.

That's a first, I thought. Interesting.

In about February of this year a blessing of a same-sex couple had been celebrated at our church. It was a service of an hour or more with both women in tuxedos, enough hymns and prayers and blessings to tie a knot for sure--but it was not officially a marriage.

Neither the state of California nor Presbyterian church law would allow a marriage.

But on June 17, 2008, the California Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have the same right to marry as heterosexual couples.

About 11,000 same-sex couples have married in California in the last three months, according to the LA Times ("Same-sex marriage total at least 11,000," Oct. 7, 2008).

The couple at our church was part of that number, probably not actually married in the sanctuary but in a civil ceremony that may be blessed in church later.

For the earlier blessing ceremony, our church came under attack from a more conservative neighbor, Bel Air Presbyterian Church, which appealed to church authorities to prevent the blessing ceremony. The tactic was not successful.

I found the couple after the service to tell them, "Congratulations! May God bless you."

I walked out thinking of Virginia Woolf, who wrote in 1929 in A Room of One's Own, "Chloe liked Olivia perhaps for the first time in literature."

The grand dame would have been pleased to learn of this year's advances. Chloe not only liked Olivia; she proposed to her and married her.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Hillary Up Close

When Karen Berns emailed me a few days ago about a reception for Hillary Clinton in LA's Hancock Park neighborhood I tried to resist.

After suffering through the VP debate Thursday night, however, I needed a lift. This morning I decided, "You deserve to go."

For a mere $150, an opportunity to shake Hillary's hand and thank her for working so hard to give us the first female president in US history? Yes!

I arrived at a mansion owned by Bruce Raben at 3:45 pm and walked into the back yard, where Karen and her friend Pam Powell waved at me from the front line of a crowd of about 300 people waiting behind a black rope. Pam had driven up from San Diego; she and Karen had arrived an hour earlier to get their premium spot in the crowd. I squeezed in next to them, wearing my button, "Hillary for President '08", wishing it could still happen.

Everyone had cameras handy as well as Hillary's autobiography to be signed.

Talking with strangers around us, we wished Hillary were still in the race.

One woman next to me was talking about "the trailer trash." When I asked what she meant by that, she said, "You know, McBush and the trailer trash." Yes, it was a partisan crowd.

However, it included Republican women who had crossed the aisle in hope of getting a woman president and now weren't too happy with Palin, as well as Democrats who (after Obama pulled ahead for the nomination) had hoped Hillary would be the VP nominee.

From the looks of the crowd, much of Hillary's demographic was my age--sixtyish; there were many men as well as women. We were there both to meet this icon and to help her pay for the cost of her historic drive for the nomination. The big spenders ($1000 or more) were inside the house at a special reception while we waited outside.

Among the notable women present was Ellen Carol DuBois, UCLA feminist historian, author of Through Women's Eyes: An American History with Documents, as well as having written or edited other books including the letters of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. She was there to hand Hillary a copy of Through Women's Eyes.

When Hillary came out to speak to the crowd, it was great having her just ten feet away. She spoke and then walked along the black rope to greet us at the front line. Karen and Pam shook her hand; I fumbled between getting an autograph and taking photos, completely forgetting to thank Hillary for blazing the trail for women presidential candidates.

In the second photo above, you see Hillary between the backs of Karen's and Pam's heads, Karen on the left. Both have been leaders in EEWC, my favorite Christian feminist group, starting in 1978 or 1980. (See

Here are some excerpts from Hillary's speech:

"We must continue to make sure Democrats win... I've been to more than forty of these events since the convention. It matters who our president is.... The problems he faces are going to be among the worst any president has inherited."

"The financial crisis is unfortunate, but it has focused attention on the choice we face... We're going to have hard work to do, and we need to elect 60 democratic senators to have a filibuster-proof majority."

"Looking at all the work of the campaign, people often ask me, 'Would I do it again?' In a New York minute, I tell them."

A woman's voice rang out: "Will you do it again?"

"Let's not go there," Hillary laughed. "Ask me in eight years. It will take at least that long to clean up the mess we've got there."

"We need a mandate to govern," she continued. "We want an election that's not a squeaker, and then I promise you, we can turn this country around. Right now in the Senate we have 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 2 independents. It's so difficult to push through legislation."

"Your state and mine are blue, California and New York--"

A voice called out, "I love blue!" Laughter.

"And we're pretty sure about Virginia and New Mexico. We may get Colorado and Alabama, maybe Minnesota and Mississippi. We're closing the gap in Kentucky. We have a good chance in Georgia, North Carolina, and Texas...." She urged us to work phone banks calling voters in another state, such as Texas.

"There's so much going on. This can be a great election year. So many people have had a chance to participate and express their deep desire for a better country."

"But I take nothing for granted. I've been in ten elections as an adult, and seven of them we lost, so I don't get carried away."

"The process is more open now. Remember, in 1992 there was no internet (except for 50,000 scientists talking to each other), no cell phones smaller than a brick, no Fox News--"

The crowd groaned.

"The rapid changes of the last 16 years have been both a blessing and a curse. Now campaigns continue 24/7, which is tough, but millions of people can be involved who never thought they could before."

"We must win, and after that the task will be overwhelming. We have only one president at a time, so we have to get behind our next president and work hard."

Then she vanished to be at her next scheduled event. The nostalgia and wishful thinking were over--the political battle continues for thirty days.

Palin Parodies and Posts

Sharon B reports a hilarious parody of Palinspeak by columnist George Saunders in the New Yorker, Sept. 22 issue:

And a sidesplitting "Sarah Palin Debate Flow Chart" by Aden Nak that graphically presents Palin's plan of attack during the debate:

Sharon also recommends "The XX Factor" as a blog on Slate with a great section on the VP debate:

And she reports an entire blog on the Palin wink:

See also the New Yorker's cover for Oct. 6: Palin peering through binoculars at the distant hills of Alaska and Russia.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Confused in California

The red, white, and blue bumper sticker on my car this fall is neither for McCain nor for Obama.

"Mark Twain for President," it says, along with a cynical quote from him: "It's better to be popular than right."

That stance turned out to be one thing Joe Biden and Sarah Palin agreed on last night in their televised debate.

I sat down to watch it fiercely, pen and notepad in hand, as I had done with last week's debate between John McCain and Barak Obama.

But this time, attentive as I was, I kept getting confused.

I'd listen to Gwen Ifill's question, ready to compare the candidates' answers, but start to feel confused, then realize that Palin (often) and Biden (occasionally) had deliberately sidestepped the question and turned to some other point.

The other confusing factor was the two candidates saying "These are the facts" while referring to "facts" that were diametrically opposed. Biden called on facts repeatedly, while Palin said of one of his answers, "That's not straight talk. You supported the war then; now you're against it."

* McCain voted with Obama on some ballot, clamed Biden, but Palin claimed they voted differently.

* Obama voted against money for "our troops in Iraq" said Palin, but Biden argued that McCain voted against funding too when the bill contained a specific date for withdrawing troops. I started to feel that I couldn't trust the facts of either of them.

* Both Palin and Biden accused the other side of planning to raise taxes for the average person and of favoring deregulation of Wall Street. On those issues, I felt pretty sure of which debater was stretching way beyond the truth.

The problem was that these debaters were not trying to clarify; they just wanted to look good and get the advantage in the debate.

As Mark Twain would say, they each wanted to be popular. Facts were as malleable as silly putty in their hands.

Thank God for fact checkers getting to work afterward--the average listener would have no way of untangling that mess of counter claims.

Another factor in my confusion was those two little lines--one green and one orange--going up and down at the bottom of the CNN screen to record the moment-by-moment favorability ratings of a group of Ohio undecided voters, half male, half female.

I was distracted from monitoring my own reaction because of this constant information about how these other voters were feeling.

After a while even the moving Tinkerbell-like drop of light tracing the letters CNN at the bottom left of the screen became a distraction.

The final factor in my confusion was fear. I hung on each word of Sarah Palin, afraid that she would say something so extremely ignorant that I would blush for all womankind.

About halfway through the debate I realized, "Thank God, she's doing okay!" Then I relaxed a bit and my mind cleared a little.

I had to smile at Palin's "barometer of change" that also "trumpets," making barometers something like trombones.

Her words about the environment being (or was it not being?) "the be-all and end-all of our planet" had a kind of Art-Linkletter-Kids-Say-the-Darndest-Things quality.

There was also her great line about "raping the intercontinental shelf." Geology 101: continents have shelves around the edges but don't extend them out to each other.

And what did Biden mean by saying (I think) "McCain is opposed to extending the arms control regime in the world"? Huh?

At least he knew what an Achilles heel was. I got confused when Palin answered that one by talking about her strengths.

Her colloquialisms--"work with yuh...gettin' ...goin' ...gotcha"--didn't sound that genuine to me. Would anyone speak that way on a stage without a deliberate choice to stay folksy? If she becomes VP, we have four more years of George W.'s affected tone--ranch hand at the helm of the country.

Overall, I felt relief at the end of this debate. The effort to make sense of nonsense was over, and the female candidate didn't fall on her face.

At least I had a stake in the debate. At least all four candidates are not men.