Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas card 2010

A very doggy Christmas to you...

We had mostly peace on earth at our house this year (well, a fair bit of chaos too).

Click on our chihuahua in her Christmas dress (designed and created by Roz) to see more photos.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Roll Call on Dream Act

Here's the link to find out who voted for and against the DREAM Act.

3 Republicans who voted YES--thank you!

Bob Bennett, Utah
Richard Lugar, Indiana
Lisa Murkowski, Alaska (who was a write-in, defeating the Tea Party candidate who got the Republican nomination)

Independent and YES:
Joe Lieberman, Connecticut (a sponsor of the bill)
Bernie Sanders, Vermont

5 Democrats who voted NO:
Hagan, North Carolina
Pryor, Arkansas
Nelson, Nebraska
Baucus, Montana
Tester, Montana

Okay, folks: let's bombard them with letters and emails. And let's make sure they don't get re-elected.

One from the South, two from the Midwest, and two from Montana! I guess the Montanans just don't have much understanding or sympathy for Mexicans and other immigrants. Perhaps the economy threatening jobs causes Democrats from North Carolina, Nebraska, and Arkansas to vote against the young immigrants.

Anyway, hooray for Bob Bennett of Utah and for the senators from New Mexico, who voted yes, and the two from Colorado, who voted yes.

And the two New York senators.

The two women from Maine voted no--I guess they had to vote with the Republicans on something because they were about to vote to go against their party in repealing DADT.

It's fascinating to see how the senators voted today on each of these important issues.

Dianne Feinstein's speech on the Senate floor was so moving and contained great statistics, including the $ 1 billion or more that could be saved by passing the DREAM Act.

Charles Schumer vowed to work for the DREAM Act in the next Congress... He said there's hope for two reasons:
1) The justice of the issue.
2) The voting power of Latinos. He noted that in three states (CA, CO, NV), the Latino vote went to the Democrats by a higher margin in 2010 than in 2008, even though Democrats suffered overall. Republicans will need to work for immigration reform if they want to get elected.

All in all, an amazing Saturday, Dec. 18.

The Senate was working hard and produced a big Christmas present for GLBT citizens.

Only the threat of filibuster prevented the Senate from helping young immigrant students.
There were enough votes--55--to pass the bill, but 60 votes were needed to prevent debate from being halted by a filibuster.

As it turned out, 5 Democrats and 36 Republicans voted not to let young people raised in the US, graduates of our high schools and colleges, enter a path toward citizenship.

That's a crime.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

One Small Step for Justice

What a powerful, moving day.

I watched C-SPAN most of the day while doing dishes, cooking, wrapping gifts.

First it was the votes on the DREAM Act and repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, along with the debate on the Senate floor. Then it was the press conferences given by senators afterward.

I'm so proud of all those who worked for repeal of DADT and for passage of the DREAM Act. I feel as if I got to know many of these senators today--they changed from names to faces I can recognize, persons with stories they shared.

My heroes and sheroes:
Senator Harry Reid for managing the technical details of cloture, tabling etc. so well and for talking with those who became swing votes.

Joe Lieberman and Olympia Snow, sponsors of the repeal legislation (I think).

The eight Republicans including Snow who voted to repeal:
Susan Collins, Maine;
Lisa Murkowski, Alaska (elected by a hairsbreadth--the write-in candidate);
Scott Brown, Massachusetts;
Mark Kirk, Illinois;
George Voinovich, Ohio;
John Ensign, Nevada, and
Richard Burr, North Carolina.

And the three Republicans who voted yes for moving to a vote on the DREAM Act, making the total 55 to 41:
Bob Bennett, Utah;
Lisa Murkowski, Alaska;
Richard Lugar, Indiana.,0,2953777.story

Hooray for all these leaders.

Fates of Millions Decided Today

It's a grey, gloomy morning in Los Angeles. Steady rain is falling.

The US Senate just voted not to bring the DREAM Act to a vote, 55 in favor, 41 against it.,0,5635931.story

Many of them had previously favored the Dream Act, but in the economic downturn anti-immigrant sentiment has increased.

Students I know will remain in limbo, required to go to Mexico for ten years and then apply to immigrate to the US.

Some of them were brought to the US as infants. They have no idea how to make a life in Mexico. They have degrees from US colleges, honors from US high schools.

I and thousands of others will write/email/call each one of the Senators who voted no. They will be held accountable.

At least the repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell will probably pass. The Senate just voted to bring it to a vote, so within hours or days, one of the last legal forms of discrimination in the US will be history--not present reality.

Of course, the Equal Rights Amendment--the ERA--still has not been ratified. US legislators still fear to add that key sentence to the Constitution: "P.S. All of the above applies to women."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Marijuana and Bipolar, Schizophrenia

Devastating news: smoking marijuana can unlock latent mental illnesses such as bipolar I & II and schizophrenia in young brains.

Not news, really. I've suspected it since hearing the bipolar diagnosis from doctors in regard to some of my kids.

On the Airtalk show on KPCC today, Larry Mantle interviewed Gil Kerlikowske, the "drug czar" of this administration, as well as interviewing a researcher and a psychiatrist specializing in addiction.

Listen to it at:

Other facts from the study just released by the National Institute on Drug Abuse:
Use of marijuana on a daily basis causes cognitive loss, especially in the ability to memorize and learn.
9% of marijuana users become addicted.
When it becomes a gateway drug, the most common drugs chosen are cocaine and methamphetamine--because they increase attention and focus.

Larry recommends seeing the Pulitzer Prize-winning play Next to Normal, which shows two teens, one who can use mj recreationally without too many side effects and his girlfriend, for whom mj immediately becomes addicting and destructive to her life.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In Tribute to Holbrooke

CSPAN played a half-hour video of Richard Holbrooke being interviewed by Christiane Amanpour this morning.

What a dueling of great minds! No better way to learn about the situation in Afghanistan, and so moving to see what a great man he was... while watching Christiane arm-wrestle him to get him to say more than he wants to.

Watch this... make time for it!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Left Out

Even as we celebrate the passing of a version of the Dream Act in the House of Representatives and work/pray/hope for it to pass in the Senate, some are left out.

The version of the bill passed by the House changes the upper age limit of those to whom it would apply from 35 years to 29 years.

That means there are thousands of people aged 30-35 who are left out. Some of them have been working for this bill since it was conceived seven years ago--but if it is approved by both houses of Congress only for this more restricted age group, these people brought to the US by their parents at a young age will be excluded.,0,566750.story

Exile in Mexico

What happens when an American citizen wants to marry a person living in the US without proper papers?

Maybe they get a good lawyer and try to do whatever is required to attain legal residency.

But that process is risky, and one possible outcome is that the "alien" (who may have been living in the US since infancy) may be deported and required to spend ten years in a country he or she doesn't really know before then applying to emigrate to the US.

In some cases, the American goes with his/her fiance to live abroad until the would-be spouse can legally enter the US and they can legally marry (which then can lead to the spouse gaining citizenship).

One woman who knows this scenario intimately is Giselle Stern Hernandez. Look at her website and learn about her story.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hooray for Harry!

Thank you to Harry Reid and the US senators who voted to table the Dream Act today rather than kill it.

Now we have a week to contact all the 43 senators who want to kill it and the one who didn't vote.

Start your phone calls, emails, tweets, personal conversations, etc. with senators and their staffs !

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Four Old Men

Hooray for the House of Representatives, voting tonight to approve the Dream Act 216 to 198.

The Senate is expected to vote 56 in favor, 44 against--but 60 votes are needed to win approval.

Can four old men deny a path to citizenship to thousands of young people brought to the US as infants or children without proper immigration papers? Yes, that's what may happen.

Email or call your senator and all those who may vote against it.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Good-bye, Elizabeth

I feel relieved that Elizabeth Edwards has died, as if her suffering weighed me down too. (I read her book Resilience.)

She has endured so much pain--losing her 16-yr-old, facing JE's flagrant infidelity, saying goodbye to this world at age 61, and realizing that she would leave behind a 10- and 12-yr-old.

I'm one year older than she--what she has had to bear would sink my ship.

She has a Facebook page, and she had a life before all that pain. The MSN link below calls her "a shrewd lawyer."

Good-bye, "God be with ye", Elizabeth. You took the cards you were dealt and lived with courage. You even wrote about your life, twice, with ruthless honesty.

May each of us follow your example.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Remembering Violence against Women

The Gender and Women's Studies Dept. at CSU Northridge sent out the announcement below for today.

Today, December 6, is National Day of Remembrance & Action on Violence Against Women in Canada.

Established in 1991 by the Parliament of Canada, this day marks the anniversary of the murders in 1989 of 14 young women at l'École Polytechnique de Montréal. They died because they were women attending a university; a mentally ill man perceived them as potential feminists and a threat.

As well as commemorating the 14 young women whose lives ended in an act of gender-based violence that shocked the nation, December 6 represents an opportunity for Canadians (and women around the world) to reflect on the phenomenon of violence against women in our society. It is also an opportunity to consider the women and girls for whom violence is a daily reality, and to remember those who have died as a result of gender-based violence. And finally, it is a day on which communities can consider concrete actions to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls.

We must never forget...

Louise Malette writes in The Montreal Massacred (gynergy, 1991):

"I can't help but think about the morning of Wednesday, December 6, 1989: young women getting out of bed as if it were any other day, appearing mildly distracted at breakfast, their heads full of details for the next exam, or vacation plans for Christmas. Dreaming. Thinking about life. At that very moment, elsewhere in the city, someone who probably hasn't slept all night is writing his hate letter, preparing his weapon and his ammunition, going over each step leading him to his death mission. He's found scapegoats for his failures: women, who deny the existence of the old father who commands, gives orders, excludes, dominates, punishes, beats, who holds the right to life or death over women and their children. The killer-to-be knows that the Almighty father can never exist again, and he would do anything rather than accept the challenge his own life represents: to deserve, not overpower, the love which is no longer his privilege simply because he was born male. His reasoning is superficial, one-dimensional: women today are out of line; all feminists want to be like men, so there's only one solution, to put them in their place before it's too late, before women become human beings like everybody else. No more, no less."(excerpt from "A Matter of Life or Death: Second Installment" by Élaine Audet, The Montreal Massacre (gynergy books 1991)"When I think of that poor young girl who, lying on her stretcher, said that she wasn't even a feminist, I feel like crying. When I think of that girl in the classroom, the only one who tried to reason with the killer, crying out: "We're not feminists. We're only women who want an education,"I feel like screaming."

(excerpt from "Letter to the Media" by Louise Malette, The Montreal Massacred (gynergy books 1991).*

More information about local events and the University of Toronto December 6th candlelight vigil (Philosopher's Walk)**On" target=_blank>>**On

December 6th and every day please take some time to remember....

Motherhood Initiative for Research and Community Involvement (MIRCI)140 Holland St. West, PO Box 13022Bradford, ON, L3Z 2Y5

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmas Greetings

In today's Wall Street Journal, there's a story about a 14-yr-old boy employed by a Mexican drug cartel to kill and even behead people.

We need Emanuel ("God with us") so much in our world today.

Therefore, I send you peace as we commemorate the birth that brought and still brings change to our world.

I also offer you the link below. It will take you to a few ads but maybe also to a few photos to bring a smile to your face.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Culture of Deceit"

It was devastating to watch Fair Game, the film about Valerie Plame & Joe Wilson and how she was outed by the Bush administration.

Nuns vs. Rome

Sr. Sandra Schneider will speak in Los Angeles this afternoon to a packed room of nuns and other Catholics and feminists. Tickets are sold out, and I didn't plan ahead to get one.

Her passionate words against Rome's current investigation of American nuns appeared in the National Catholic Reporter last August.

"The current 'Apostolic Visitatino' is not a normal dialogue between religious and church authorities," which occurs annually in Rome, she explains. "It is the ecclesiastic analogue of a grand jury indictment, set in motion when there is a reasonable suspicion, probable cause, or a prima facie case of serious abuse or wrong-doing of some kind."

One might expect that the recent child sexual abuse scandal or its cover-up by bishops would have set in motion a visitation--but no. It's the nuns that Rome is worried about.

The elderly nuns who have worked 40 to 60 years without sex scandals and almost without pay are getting investigated.

This "visitation" could light the slow-burning fuse that will result in an explosion of changes in the church of Rome--including women priests, married priests, and a structural shift away from the top-down rule of the Pope.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Veterans Day & PTSD

A sign of progress: on this Veterans Day the US is not fighting a war in Iraq. We are just assisting the Iraqi government now. There are no crosses placed on the Santa Monica beach to represent American lives lost there.

Our focus has shifted to Afghanistan--and President Obama is considering whether to bomb Yemen for the packages sent from there with bombs intended for a synagogue in Chicago.

Reuters reports, however, that the war in Iraq is "far from over":

George W Bush talked this week about the decisions he made in Iraq as if they were history, the insurgency had been defeated and the conflict, bar a few loose ends, over. Wrong on all counts. If American troops are not being attacked on a daily basis, Iraqis certainly are. Iraq Body Count says that an average of seven people die a day from suicide and bomb attacks, and that there are three deaths from gunfire or executions. Two months after Barack Obama hailed the end of US combat operations in Iraq, the conflict itself is far from over.

The most egregious attack was on a Christian church in Baghdad, killing 58 people attending worship on Sunday, Nov. 1. It was the worst attack on Christians in Iraq since the US invasion in 2003, which triggered killings of Christians.

The war is also far from over for those US veterans who returned with PTSD, some 30% according to a general interviewed in the new documentary Wartorn, released on HBO today. It tells the personal stories of soldiers from the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Vietnam War, and the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan.

I watched this documentary yesterday. A young man goes off to the Civil War "to fight for the stars and stripes." He's discharged two years later with severe PTSD and ends up shooting himself.

Jason Scheuerman, a soldier serving in Iraq, tries to get help for feeling suicidal. He's told that he's faking it: "Just be a man and go back to your unit." He's assigned to clean his weapon, and his buddies are told to stay away from him. He shoots himself. His father, a vet, lost his job training medics because of his recurring dream of working on a severely wounded soldier who turns out to be his son asking, "Why can't you help me?"

Nathan Damigo of San Jose is serving six years in jail for attacking a Middle Eastern taxi driver amidst a flashback of being at a checkpoint in Iraq--but what he thought was a drunken dream turned out to be real.

We watch another soldier trying to get through a trip to Walmart with his wife and daughter. He's confused, scared. "I've done some terrible things," he says, fighting off the sense that he deserves to die.

Not an easy film to watch. Here's a review from the Canadian Press:

Each year over 6,000 veterans take their own lives, about 18 per day, according to a Department of Defense report last January. That's 20% of the 30,000 suicides in the US per year.

Here's a report from CBS news in 2007:

Vietnam veteran advocates have estimated that suicide ultimately killed more of the soldiers who fought in that conflict than the actual war itself. The same trend is now surfacing among the veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here are the total deaths not counting suicide:

Number of Americans killed in Iraq: 4,745

Estimated number of Iraqis killed: 107,707 as of November 10, 2010

Number of Americans killed in Afghanistan so far: 2,204.

It is fitting that we pause to remember everyone who fought in US wars--from Americans who died to Iraqis and Vietnamese who died, from those killed by roadside bombs to those struggling with PTSD today--especially the 18 who will take their own lives today.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Note: Veterans Day started out as Armistice Day, a commemoration of the end of World War I, "the war to end all wars." It became a national holiday in 1938.

After World War II, in 1954, the name was changed to Veterans Day. Unlike Memorial Day, it celebrates all veterans whether alive, dead, or missing.

In Britain, France, Australia, and Canada, it is observed as Remembrance Day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Lil Wayne's Defense

Roz says Drake did not write those offensive lyrics I mentioned in yesterday's blog entry.

But he does sing them, I say.

Roz says rappers add a line or two of their own to another rapper's piece and often get their start that way.

Okay, cool.

Roz says many fans think Lil Wayne is gay, though he has several kids by different women. The line "I want to fuck every bitch in the world" is his uber-macho attempt to declare his heterosexuality. Fans forgive him because they understand it comes from his insecurity.

So it's okay to put down women and align yourself with rape, sexual slavery, and other forms of sexual oppression in order to defend yourself?

Is being thought to be gay so terrible that it justifies all this?

Sorry, but I don't buy this defense.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"Kiss Your Mother"

"Who's Lil Wayne?" I asked about half-way through my 5-hr crash course in Drake while driving from LA to Las Vegas with Roz.

I already knew who Drake was--the rapper we were driving to Vegas to hear. On her Ipod she was playing Drake, Shakira, and Taylor Swift, trying to explain these icons of pop culture to me. (I was the recipient of her extra ticket because her sisters had declined this pilgrimage and some of her other friends would get drunk and be hard to handle.)

"Lil Wayne's voice is really different from Drake's," I said.

A few hours later we were standing on the ground floor of The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel being pounded by the music with some 4500 other fans.

We walked into the crowded chaos late. When one young guy and girl smiled and cheered me, I realized I was probably the only grey-haired white woman there. If only I had long hair dyed pink or a frizzy Afro or something. I just grinned.

Loud doesn't begin to describe this scene. I realized my lungs were pounding with the beat as if I were coughing. At some points I had to put my fingers in my ears (veterans bring earplugs, Roz said).

Next difficulty: when Drake talked with the crowd between songs, every other adjective was "motherfuckin'." Yet this Canadian 23-yr-old is well-educated and grew up as a cast member of a tv show, Degrassis High School. Does he talk this way to relate to his audience? What has the world come to?

I was okay until he did the piece I really object to: "I want to fuck every bitch in the world."

My options: Run out. Shout back with a few obscenities of my own. Try to understand gender politics in the hip-hop scene. Lecture him on how he's connecting to the five-thousand-year-old oppression of women in this world, including human trafficking, sexual slavery, gang rape of women in war, and other horrors happening in the world today.

But the next thing I knew Roz was giving me a big kiss and hug and saying something. The shred of her voice that made it into my ears sounded warped and fast-forwarded, completely unintelligible, but she later explained that the lyrics included "kiss your mother." Wha-a-at? Along with all this mf stuff?

Then I recognized Lil Wayne's voice and wondered why Drake would sing along with a recording while doing a live performance.

Suddenly, however, a small wiry bare-chested man with dreadlocks bouncing to his waist ran onto the stage holding a microphone. As the crowd roared, even I knew it must be Lil Wayne, aka Weezie. Roz had explained that he got out of prison two days ago after serving an eight-month sentence and might make a surprise appearance tonight.

She said he was in jail because a gun had been found in his tour bus in New York City; it was licensed in Georgia or somewhere but not in NYC.

Well, this experience was totally beyond my comfort zone, about as challenging as my climb up the steep wall of Governor's Basin last summer near Telluride.

In both cases there came a moment when I was thinking, "Help! Airlift me out of here--I'm way out of my league."

But I like adventure, and Eleanor Roosevelt said, "You must do the thing you cannot do."

At least I can be one small voice against the oppression of women in rap.

Monday, October 25, 2010

IWMF Women of Courage

BBC reporter Vicky Ntetema exposed the murder and mutilation of albino people in Tanzania at the command of witch doctors. For this, her life is now in danger.

Claudia Julieta Duque was kidnapped for investigating the murder of journalist Jaime Garzon in Colombia. The Colombian secret police threaten death, rape, and torture against her and her 13-yr-old daughter, so she lives in exile.

Tsering Woeser was taken from Tibet and placed under house arrest in Beijing for writing a book and blog about China's persecution of Tibetans resisting Chinese rule. She continues to put human rights violations on her blog, and 13 of her friends and informers have been jailed.

Alma Guillermoprieto reports on drug wars, civil wars, politics, and culture in Latin America. In 1981 she and another reporter risked their lives to report on the massacre of 1,000 villagers in El Mozote, El Salvador, by elite US-trained forces. The Reagan administration claimed her reports were not true and called her a leftist, but ten years later the mass graves were uncovered and officials were forced to admit to the slaughter. She received the IWMF Lifetime Achievement Award.

These four women were honored at banquets in New York on Oct. 19 and in Los Angeles on Oct. 21 at the Beverly Hotel. The acceptance speeches of Duque, Ntetema, and Guillermoprieto were very moving. Woeser, however, was not allowed to leave China to accept her award.

See more on these women at

Thursday, July 8, 2010


Be wise as serpents, Jesus said.

But we weren't.

When Ron Kernaghan, my friend from back in our undergraduate days, asked me to edit a document for the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy of the Presbyterian Church USA, I first declined and recommended a couple of other friends, not Presbyterians.

But within a day I felt God's call to take on this task and emailed my change of heart.

I read through over one hundred pages of digressive jargon about "middle axioms," "ultimate warrants," and Calvin's concept of "third use of the law."

I trimmed this down to 20 pages that were somewhat clear and readable, given what I started with.

Ron, Gloria Albrecht, David Cortes-Fuentes and other readers on and off the committee each read and edited further until the ACSWP was satisfied with the product, an update of the 1981 Nature and Value of Human Life policy of the southern branch of the Presbyterian Church, before the reunification in the late 1980s.

Ron expected this updated text to pass easily in committee and in the voting of the General Assembly's plenary sessions. After all, it wasn't controversial compared to some of the ACSWP's other policy statements on same-sex marriage, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and immigration laws in the US.

All it said was;
* Being made in God's image with "dominion" defines both the nature and value of human beings (Genesis, chapter 1).
* We are blessed by God with life on this earth, and that blessing gives us certain responsibilities.
* We are again blessed by God's coming to earth in human form and "reconciling the world to himself" (2 Corinthians 5:19)--aka dying for our sins.
* This redemption gives us more responsibilities--to follow Jesus and bring good news of God's reign to others.

Pretty simple, really. Beautiful.

But during the last two years, all through the meetings of the ACSWP, Carmen Fowler (editor of the Presbyterian Layman) sat at a computer recording every word.

On Sunday when Committee 11 of the General Assembly in Minneapolis began meeting, two observers (not commissioners) presented a series of objections to item #7, now called On Living a Human Life Before God. These two were Justin Marple of Niagara Falls, NY, who later admitted to being on the board of Presbyterians Pro-Life, and a younger friend of his, also with PPL.

On Monday Commissioner Jon Ashley of de Christo Presbytery in southern Arizona and New Mexico presented to the committee's parliamentarian a motion to disapprove the whole document with a two-sentence comment that it was not needed. The 1981 statement by the southern Presbyterians and item #6 on gun violence were enough to fill the request of the GA in 2000.

On Tuesday when the committee got to this item #7 on its agenda, a commissioner moved to endorse it, and it looked as if 11.07 would be sent to plenary with the committee's approval.

But then Ashley stood up and spoke against it. He didn't like the idea that Jews and Muslims as well as Christians trust in the early covenants. He wanted case studies on euthansia, abortion, etc., not just this shorter text. He felt it should not be a completely reconceived paper but a slight revision following the southern Presbyterian 1981 text. He wanted footnotes and the full 100-plus pages of the earlier draft. He didn't like the definition of "reformed." Etc.

Then he charged that 11.07 omitted the idea of being created in God's image. It didn't emphasize Jesus being sent to us and dying for us. And why wasn't prayer mentioned as a key part of moral discourse?

Suddenly, however, someone called the question, and a vote was taken on whether to approve 11.07. Approval went down with 41 opposed, 1 in favor, 10 abstaining.

That left Ashley's motion to disapprove the document. During a ten-minute break, I pointed out to him that B covers being in God's image and that C is all about Jesus' incarnation and dying for us.

"Prayer is in there," I said. "It's in this part about "Being open to God's Holy Spirit."

"No," he said. "It doesn't say 'in prayer.'"

When Committee 11 came back to order, the vote to disapprove 11.07 and attach Ashley's paragraph of comment was 25 to 15 with 10 abstaining.

On Wednesday Ron and the ACSWP planned ways to resuscitate 11.07 when it got to the floor of the whole plenary. We hoped that a few strong speakers in favor of it, such as James Hudnut-Beumler, Dean of the Divinity School at Vanderbilt University, would show the assembled commissioners that this document was highly respected and needed.

But by 5:30 Thursday afternoon the commissioners were tired. They had slogged through debate over a new form of government and added a new confession (from South Africa) to their set of creeds.

Maybe few were listening when Hudnut-Beumler spoke and presented a substitute motion to receive 11.07 as a study paper to be distributed electronically at no cost.

Marie Bowen, president of Presbyterians Pro-Life, came to a microphone and charged that 11.07 was "not well-written, rambling, and does not have a main point."

"It presents a process of moral discourse that we need to have before us in a culture where we just shout labels at each other," argued another commissioner, Jay Wilkins.

But then the new PCUSA moderator, Cynthia Bolbach, saw only 1-2 people at microphones waiting to speak and said "I think we're ready to vote." The substitute motion was defeated 56% to 42%.

Most of the commissioners weren't in the mood to re-examine what Committee 11 had done. After all, the next item was a call to boycott Arizona for its handling of immigration problems, and in the evening same-sex marriage would have to be debated and voted on.

A man with white hair spoke vehemently against 11.07, and Dee Cooper was standing at a mike hoping to speak in favor when Bolbach again cut things off with a vote.

Disapproval (with the same comment presented by Ashley on Monday) passed with 538 in favor, 119 against, and 10 abstaining.

Ashley, Bowen, and a few others with strong ties to Presbyterians Pro-Life killed this harmless affirmation of humans being blessed by God and called to responsibility. 11.07's guidelines for moral discourse will not go out to all the Presbyterian churches in the country.

It looks as if moral discourse is so difficult that we can't even get as far as passing thoughtful guidelines on how to do it.

In fact, highly organized efforts of the Christian right had carefully targeted and defeated this little document--from Carmen Fowler's sitting in on ACSWP meetings to Marple, Ashley, and Bowen saying things about 11.07 that were not true.

Meanwhile, those of us who spent many hours working on this document still thought that reasonable discussion and debate were possible.

We were blind-sided.

Photos: 1) Commissioners pray at 4 pm before voting on a proposed change to ordination standards that removes seuxal criteria, 2) Catherine Snyder, chaplain of Virginia Tech, talks with Justin Marple of Niagara Falls, NY.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Finding Relief at GA 2010

Being a Commissioner at the Presbyterian Church USA biennial meeting, this year in Minneapolis, is hard work.

There are hours and hours of committee meetings. At some points it's boring; at others it's extremely painful--the initiative you care about has been voted down, or something you really disagree with has passed.

The solution of the Reverend Ron Roberts, representing the Presbytery of Missouri Union, was to seek solace in Solitaire, as item #19.03 was being discussed in committee.

Titled "On Making a Statement Regarding Violence Against Pregnant Women," 19.03 turned out to be a anti-abortion wolf in sheep's clothing. Maybe Roberts knew this all along--anyway, he tuned out.

In another case, immediately after 11.07 "On Living a Human Life Before God" was voted down in Committee 11, Social Justice Issues B, I walked over to Bible scholar David Fuentes-Cortes to commiserate--but I found him deeply engrossed in Sudoko.

We had both put hours into 11.07--but he is a theologian and is part of the Advisory Committee for Social Witness Policy, which had worked for ten years to craft this statement.

He cared a lot--he had to retreat from the present moment into a game.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Elena Kagan: Yes!

An exciting day with another woman nominated to the Supreme Court. Maybe soon the court will be half men and half women.

Already I've received an email from a friend, Nathalie Hoffman, soliciting signatures to support Elena Kagan's nomination. Here's her pitch and the site:

President Obama has named Elena Kagan, the current Solicitor General, as his nominee for U.S. Supreme Court.

I just added my name to the growing list of Americans in support of her nomination. Will you join me?

I'm 100% in favor of her nomination. Go, Elena!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Men Battle over the Burqa

Christopher Hitchins in a column today argues that France and other countries should outlaw the burqa--full head to toe covering for women--partly for women's sake.

Wrong, Christopher. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Let's see, who was the last prominent American male to try to "rescue" poor, oppressed Muslim women?

Right, President George Bush. He started a war on Afghanistan that he justified in part by his noble desire to free Afghani women from Taliban control. Actually, he was just using women as a way of getting more support for his desire to capture and punish Al Qaeda.

The result has been much combat and death, including the accidental bombing of innocents--men, women, and children.

I posted the following comments under Hitchins' blog on

Neither France nor the US nor any other country should legislate that women do not have the right to wear the burqa or the hijab.

Women's bodies and clothing have become a location on which men wage their political arguments--you must wear the burqa or you must not wear it. You must wear the hijab (headscarf) or you must not wear it.

Non-Muslims should stay out of this conversation. That way the clothing of Muslim women could become de-politicized, no longer part of a political argument between West and East. If their clothing were no longer part of a big political battle, men and women within Islam could discuss the clothing issue more rationally.

Even the Shi'ites could admit that the Qur'an requires neither the hijab nor the burqa. It speaks only of modesty for women, and it notes that Mohammad's wives needed to stay "behind a wall" to guard their privacy and social status. The "wall" became a veil when outside the home, and later other women imitated this elite practice in the way women today imitate the clothing of Hollywood stars.

If you really want to help Muslim women to gain equality, Christopher, you would best stay out of the conversation so Muslim men and women could work out these issues without Western pressure and politics.

Note: I teach Women and Religion at California State University, Northridge.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

This land is neither yours nor mine

My daughter Ellen marched for immigration rights in downtown Los Angeles on May 1.

I was out of town but cheering for the 100,000 who marched here and elsewhere.

Good news: The Arizona Republic devoted its entire front page today to an editorial saying its US senators and other leaders have failed the people of Arizona in not working for a solution to the problems of illegal immigration.

The world population is now 6.5 billion.

By 2030 it will be 8.3 billion at current growth rates.

You can't expect all those people to stay out of the US just because we have "sovereign boundaries." It's like pouring water into two connected tanks and expecting the water in one to stay lower than the other.

The Earth belongs to herself and her Maker, as do we. The lines we draw across her surface may serve a purpose for a while, but they do not really indicate ownership.

We are all in this together.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Professor of Sex Tourism

A lame brain teaching economics at California State University in Northridge has been forced to dismantle his website, a how-to guide for men thinking about going to Thailand on a sex tour.

A cautiously worded notice from the campus provost popped up in my email this afternoon. We believe in "open debate," Provost Harry Hellenbrand says. Though we care about gender equity, "our commitment to [free] expression urges us to tolerate words and pictures we find intolerant."

Hey Harry, I don't give a damn about tolerating the words and pictures Kenneth Ng is spewing into the ether. Just kick him out of this place.

The question is: can he be fired? Has he broken any laws? It's clear that he has been involved in promoting sex tourism, closely linked to human trafficking. Is it legal to advise men on where and how to engage in an illegal activity?

He's like someone on the periphery of a drug trafficking ring. If he has profited financially, perhaps he can be arrested. At least he could be trailed for month or two in Los Angeles and arrested as a john.

As a professor on this campus teaching RS 304, Women and Religion, I object to Kenneth Ng's continued employment at CSUN.

His promotion of sex tourism renders his expertise in economics useless in the classroom. How can his class be a learning environment when students will now know him as Big Baby Kenny? He has chosen to become a joke.

Like Bill Clinton and John Edwards, he has rendered himself unable to be an effective leader. Unlike them, he has chosen to participate in and advertise two illegal activities, sex tourism and human trafficking.

For CSUN to ignore this conflict of interest and continue to give him a platform and a paycheck is a violation of our students' right to a peaceful learning environment, particularly that of female students. Sex tourism--sexual exploitation of women--would be the undercurrent to every conversation. If I were a colleague or office worker in his department, I don't see how I could interact with him. If he even smiled at me, I would feel sexual harrassment.

The provost noted that Ng's website has had a "deleterious effect" on CSUN's reputation--but in fact Ng's lingering presence in our classrooms continues to have a harmful effect. Can he still conduct a meaningful class, without silent snickers? Kick him out.

What does it mean to be a professor? Exactly what does Kenneth Ng profess?

How ironic that the owners of a bar in Thailand have been contacting CSUN since June 2009 to rein in this guy--but the university stayed focused on academic freedom and Ng's right to free speech. Reminds me of another organization in Rome that has been more focused on protecting predators than on protecting young victims.

Anyway, a big THANK YOU to the 200 members of who signed a petition to CSUN's president, Jolene Koester, asking that Ng be forced to take down his website.

Noonan Calls for Women Priests

Peggy Noonan writes about "How to Save the Catholic Church" in her column today in the Wall Street Journal.

Over the years she has been a fairly conservative voice in the Roman Catholic Church, but today she comes out for ordaining women as priests.

"The old Vatican needs new blood," she says today. "They need to let younger generations of priests and nuns rise to positions of authority within a new church. Most especially and most immediately, they need to elevate women. As a nun said to me this week, if a woman had been sitting beside a bishop transferring a priest with a history of abuse, she would have said: 'Hey, wait a minute!'"

Noonan reviews a column she wrote eight years ago in response to sexual abuse by priests in Boston, in which she called for the resignation of Cardinal Bernard Law, who attempted to hide the crimes.

She took a lot of criticism for that column. A year later the Cardinal, after being moved to a high-ranking post in Rome, told her: "We don't need friends of the church turning on the church at such a difficult time. We need loyalty...."

Yeah right, she says now.

You need reform. You need a younger generation of priests and nuns in "positions of authority."

I don't see how women would have authority without being at least priests if not bishops, archbishops, and cardinals--so I take it Noonan is in her traditionally mild voice calling for women's ordination.

You go, girl.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Why the Volcano Blew Its Top

"The volcano DEFINITELY erupted because Iceland's prime minister is a lesbian." --a joke circulating on Tweet.

"Many women who do not dress modestly... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which (consequently) increases earthquakes." --Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, acting Friday prayer leader in Tehran, Iraq, speaking in a prayer sermon on April 16. (Thanks to my daughter Marie for alerting me to this one.)

In response to passage of the US health care bill: "I think the earth has opened up. God may have replied." --Rush Limbaugh. (Thanks to Juanita Wright Potter.)

Rush, don't you think Mt. Shasta or Mt. Rainier would have been a better choice of volcano if God were speaking to the US?

Hojatoleslam, you mean the volcano is shouting with Helen Reddy, "I am woman--hear me roar" ?

Anonymous Tweeter, I'm with you. That volcanic crater may be speaking a kind of vagina monologue.

In medieval times there was a gynophobic legend of the devouring vagina, lined with teeth.
I guess certain men today are still afraid of woman power.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

RCC's Persecution Complex

The best explanation I've seen of the Roman Catholic Church's defensiveness and inability to face the current sexual crisis is in this article by Frank Bruni in the New York Times, 3/28/10:

Starting with the execution of Jesus and continuing with persecution in the first few formative centuries, the church believes that secular forces against it are always negative.

In this case, however, as Peggy Noonan points out in today's Wall Street Journal, the church should thank the press for calling them to clean up their act and do justice.

Wrong as wrong can be...

Compare press reports of child sexual abuse to the Holocaust???

Yes, a high-ranking priest at the Vatican made this comparison in a sermon on Good Friday with the Pope in the audience. The Pope did not walk out or raise his hand or voice in disagreement.

See today's New York Times,

David Clohessy is quoted in the same article as saying, "Men who deliberately and consistently hide child sex crimes are in no way victims. And to conflate public scrutiny with horrific violence is about as wrong as wrong can be."

"Thank the media"-- Peggy Noonan

Peggy Noonan in today's Wall Street Journal, "The Catholic Church's Catastrophe," says:

"The church shouldn't be saying j'accuse but thank you" to the press, which only in 2003 started to investigate child abuse in Boston after years of ignoring and shying away from the story.

She says there are three groups of victims: the abused, the good priests and nuns, and the Catholics in the pews.

But Catholics should leave the pews and boycott the collection baskets until their leaders take decisive action, including instituting a canon law that abuse must be reported to local civil authorities.

The Pope and Cardinals must also rethink the 11th C. onward insistence on clerical celibacy and their even earlier ban on women priests. These make no sense in the context of widespread abuse under the celibate-men-only policy.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Hans Kung on the Crisis

Hans Kung commented on the crisis in the Catholic church on March 18 in the National Catholic Reporter.

He says the current mess is another sign that church's policy requiring celibacy for priests is harmful.

Meanwhile, a colleague of mine commented that he saw only one problem with my commentary on Religion Dispatches this week: instead of concluding "The house of cards will fall," I should have written "is falling."

"My sense is that this may play out farther, deeper, and faster than any of us might have imagined in the past," he wrote in an email.

Farther and deeper and faster... oh my!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

More of the Same

On ABC's Nightline, March 31:

Report by Brian Ross on struggle inside the Vatican from 1997 onward over how to respond to reports of child sexual abuse by Macial Marciel, founder of the Legionaries of Christ.

Abuse was further documented in "Vows of Silence"
by Jason Berry.

Ratzinger finally went against Pope JP2 and Sodano to order an investigation but then didn't do enough after receiving the conclusions.

Also a report from The Guardian, March 28, "Pope faces fresh wave of child abuse scandals in Italy":
Hundreds are expected to come forward.
Benedict is under pressure

to call for an emergency meeting
of bishops from around the world.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Funny quote by cardinal to Napolean...

In a column by Ross Douthat in the New York Times, March 29, there's a great anecdote on the failures of the Roman Catholic clergy.

See it at

Napolean threatens to destroy the church.

The cardinal responds, "Your majesty, we, the Catholic clergy, have done our best to destroy the church for the last 1,800 years. We have not succeeded, and neither will you."

Maureen Dowd and Sinead O'Connor on the Pope

"Holy Thursday and Good Friday are now becoming Cover-Up Thursday and Blame-Others Friday," writes Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times.

She notes the ad in the Times on Monday by the Catholic League calling the situation not a pedophilia crisis but a "homosexual crisis" because some of the victims were 12 or 13 and had reached puberty.

Right, if the kid has reached puberty, he and the priest are just homosexuals, not predator and victim.

Sinead O'Connor also made this point last night on CNN's Larry King Show, challenging a defender of the Pope to define the word "post-pubescent" in the ad.

Her compassion and willingness to listen to the Pope's defenders was remarkable. She quoted President Obama's speech in Cairo last year, saying, "We'll give you our hand if you'll unclench your fist."

See the Larry King Show website:

She takes her faith very seriously and was ordained a priest in the late 1990s by Bishop Michael Cox of an independent branch of Catholicism, the Irish Orthodox Catholic and Apostolic Church.

On Sunday she published an account in the Washington Post discussing the Pope's stance on child abuse in Ireland.

She challenged Benedict XVI to order any cleric who committed pedophilia and any who knew about such a crime and covered it up (was an accessory) to "go to police tomorrow and turn himself in."

Holy Week is the time for repentance, she and Maureen Dowd noted.

Tim Rutten on hypocrisy in the Catholic Church

Tim Rutten, my favorite columnist in the LA Times, speaks today on hypocrisy among conservative Catholics, especially the Legionaries of Christ, who concealed the pedophilia of their founder Marcial Maciel for years.

"...a list of Maciel's most vociferous defenders reads like a who's who of the conservative Catholic intellectuals who, in recent years, have insisted that Catholicism and membership in the Democratic Party are all but incompatible," he writes.

And of course, the Democratic Party's greatest sins in their eyes are supporting legal abortion, sex education, and access to contraception.

The furor in the Roman Catholic Church this week really comes down to gender politics: the hypocrisy of limiting reproductive choice and forbidding women priests while enabling and concealing pedophiles and other sexual sins through the old boys' network.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Unholy Holy Week

Go to to see my commentary on the crisis over child sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic church. Or click on the title above, "An Unholy Holy Week."

It begins:

This week is unprecedented in the two-thousand-year history of the Christian church: instead of focusing on the last week of the earthly life of Jesus Christ, Christians are listening to horrific accounts of priestly sexual abuse of children and wondering whether Pope Benedict XVI will take decisive action to cleanse the church.

Probably he will not. After 83 years of living and working in an all-male club, he just doesn’t get it. His focus has been purity of doctrine, not the purity of those who say Mass and administer the church....

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Maureen Dowd: "A Nun for Pope"

We need a nun for Pope, writes Maureen Dowd in today's New York Times.

She targets the hypocrisy of not allowing women to be priests and forbidding priests to marry, thus prolonging "the sordid culture of men protecting men who attack children."

"The nuns have historically cleaned up the messes of priests," she says. "And this is a historic mess."

Monday, March 22, 2010

How the Bill Was Won

The bill was passed because of this Executive Order...

Let's be grateful--not vindictive like those who opposed health care reform.

N.O.W. Is Nuts

National Organization for Women declares it's "incensed"
by Obama decision to issue an executive order upholding
no federal funding for abortion.

NOW says Obama campaigned as "pro-choice,"
but his actions today "suggest his commitment shaky at best."

Give me a break!

President Obama and Nancy Pelosi just knocked
themselves out to open health care to 32 million
Americans, and NOW is complaining about an executive
order that doesn't change anything?

Without the votes of Stupak and his buddies,
the health care bill wouldn't have passed.

I support abortion rights as much as the next person--
I took the time to gather women's abortion stories for a
book supporting the pro-choice position.

It's childish to be incensed about the executive order.

The President's commitment has not wavered one bit.

Both he and Pelosi are experienced in the art of
horse trading to get legislation passed.

They sold Stupak on the opportunity to buy a horse
he already owned.

Through this deal, Stupak saved face.

Go the the Planned Parenthood website to see a more
mature perspective on the Executive Order.

Hooray for Health Care!

It takes a nation! From Nancy Pelosi to President Obama to Bart Stupak and everyone else who sent an email or made a phone call, we did it!

The health care bill passed yesterday by the House of Representatives is "the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century," said Majority Whip James Clyburn.

It has been a wild ride in the last six months as hope flared and ebbed. I felt so helpless last week when it was clear that I could do nothing. I had to place my trust in Nancy Pelosi and President Obama to make it happen--and they did!

I'm also grateful to Rep. Bart Stupak of Michigan and his allies for making a last-minute compromise, after working the situation to shine the spotlight on their anti-abortion cause.

"Babykiller!" a fellow representative shouted at Rep. Stupak as he spoke before the House explaining his change of position to vote yes.

How precarious the position of everyone who claims to be "pro-life"! One minute you can be a hero, but the next, if you move one-eightieth of an inch toward compromise, you can be vilified as the worst of the worst, one who wants to "kill babies."

Never mind how many babies' lives will be saved by access to medical care as infants and toddlers--and how many adults' lives will be eased and saved by preventive care instead of emergency room care.

Never mind how many mothers' and babies' lives will be saved by good access to prenatal care.

Never mind how many pregnancies will be prevented by access to contraceptive resources--thus preventing thousands of abortions.

The only thing that matters to these extremists is that some girl who was raped or sexually abused by a family member or whose life is endangered by carrying a baby to full term--some girl may now have access to medical care and end a pregnancy.

Or some woman who wants full reproductive care may write her separate check for this service with money that she wouldn't have had if this bill had not passed.

For these reasons, they now regard Rep. Stupak as a babykiller. He will have to work hard to regain their respect, if that is even possible.

But he has gained my respect.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Pink Glove Dancers

Thank you to Sharon Billings for sending me the link to this You Tube video... all the employees of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland dancing to raise awareness of breast cancer.

Sharon's friend Bev works at the hospital.

Hilarious and uplifting!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


We saw Avatar tonight because NPR said it's a cultural event that people will look back on in the development of film.

Yes, a thought-provoking experience.

It was as if one introduced Fantasia, Alice in Wonderland, Thumbelina, Pocahontas, and Little Mermaid to transformer toys, 2001, Dances With Wolves, Beowulf and the Iraq war.

Or perhaps put them all in a test tube and shook.

I liked the "Great Mother" spirituality. Her name was EHWA, which is like Yahweh. Also cool is that the name was just four letters, like YHWH.

The decision on whether to return to human life was interesting, like the Little Mermaid wanting to join the human race. Of course, one wanted Jake Sully to go native, but the reality of Pocahontas and Dances With Wolves was more likely.

I was challenged because I see few science fiction films and few war films. As I watched, I didn't know what genre this film would turn out to be: fantasy or grim reality? Happy ending or cynicism?

The views of moons circling a large planet like Jupiter gave me the pleasure of suspending disbelief and imagining life elsewhere. But each form of life was patterned on something on earth: horses, dogs, humans, pterodactyls, etc.--that was a bit tiresome. The flying dragons were great.

One sad reference to earth: "There's no green on their planet. They killed it."

All in all, yes, probably something to watch, despite the cliches. For example, how could the script writers allow the phrase "shock and awe"?

Because of its clear references to the war in Iraq and to Wall Street investors as the ones who call for exploitation of the environment and native peoples, it's a film that screams, "Made in 2009."

Monday, March 1, 2010

Krista Tippet & Einstein

What wonderful work Krista Tippet is doing!

Speaking of Faith showcased her forthcoming book, Einstein's God this weekend.

Listen to the NPR show at

Somewhere in the bits of truth found in physics, mathematics, astronomy, Judaism, Christianity, and ecumenical thought, there is a larger truth emerging today.

And Einstein was ahead of his time, of course.