Sunday, May 17, 2015

In Memory of Argentina's Disappeared

Thank you to Jennifer Elliott of the Department of Religious Studies at CSU Northridge for telling me that the website for the documentary Our Disappeared/Nuestros Desaparecidos appreciated my post of September 2008 about watching the film.

They quoted from my post on their website under the "Comments" section.

What an inquiring mind Jennifer has--hearing about this documentary, checking out its website, and then skimming all the comments about it.

This is an illustration of the World-Wide Web:

1) Draw a line from Argentina to Los Angeles (the film being shown in LA in 2008 and me watching it).
2) Draw a line from Los Angeles to Argentina (a web person there reading my review and putting it on their website).
3) Draw a line from Argentina to Northridge (Jennifer reading the documentary's website in 2015).
4) Draw a line from Northridge to Santa Monica (Jennifer telling me about the use of my post).
5) Draw a line from Santa Monica to Argentina (me posting on it again).

That's a web of lines right there, not counting all the people who heard about the film and watched it from 2008 to now as a result of the web.

Buy or stream Our Disappeared from the website above--it's well worth your time and attention.

During the dictatorship of Jorge Rafael Videla, people were snatched off the street for the slightest possible offenses--reading a fashion magazine or reacting to the kidnapping of a friend.  Then they were murdered.

Videla died in 2013--read about him:

Read about the alliance between him and the US--President Ronald Reagan was one of his key backers:

The documentary reviews the cases of some of those kidnapped by interviewing family members, in some cases the children of the person killed.

My 2008 post about the film, including two people's comments:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mothers PEACE Day

I don't like Mother's Day.  It tends to be hypocritical, honoring women one day a year and exploiting their generosity the rest of the year.

It also makes me uncomfortable because my mothering has not been all sweetness and light, the way cards and messages describe mothers on this day.

Here's a tribute by LA Times columnist Sandy Banks to Dayna Bennett, a woman in Palmdale who truly deserves some attention--and donations--on this day.

Dayna's fundraising page for her handicapped adopted daughter is at

My third complaint against this super-holiday as it is now practiced:  

Julia Ward Howe founded it as a day to remember women's losses of their children in war and to work for peace so that more mothers' hearts are not broken.

Code Pink works for this kind of action by women, on Mothers Peace Day and every day.  --video with Emad Ahmed Khassar telling her story.

Give me this kind of Mother's Peace Day or give me nothing.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Exploitation of Nail Salon Workers

If we only knew the high personal cost of the goods and services we enjoy...

In the case of nail salon employees, we now know.

This service should be only for the elderly or others who cannot do their own nails--and then, the employees should be tipped well and inquiries should be made about whether the employees were trafficked and whether they have a living wage.

There was also a report on this problem in the LA Times.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Life at 22 weeks?

Another painful article appears in today's New York Times, this time about pre-premies, some of whom survive and may grow up to lead normal lives.

A new study of thousands of premature births reports that out of 78 babies given medical support to keep them alive after birth at about 22 weeks, 18 survived.

Of those 18:
7 had no apparent moderate or severe impairments--as toddlers.
6 had "serious problems such as blindness, deafness, or severe cerebral palsy."
5 had problems somewhere in between.

Parents desperate to have a child may want that baby no matter how seriously impaired he or she may be.

But when the child becomes a young adult, will he or she have a decent chance at life?  How many will develop physical or mental problems after the age when this study ended?

"At 22 weeks, in my opinion, the outcomes are so dismal that I don't recommend any interventions," comments Dr. Jeffrey M. Perlman, medical director of neo-natal intensive care at New York-Presbyterian Hospital Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Yes, there are implications for the debate over when legal abortions can be done--the Supreme Court has ruled that states must allow abortions when the fetus is not viable outside the womb.  If "viable" becomes 22 weeks or 20 weeks, that affects women's choices.

We should set aside the abortion debate, however, when considering whether to try to save babies estimated to be at about 22 weeks after the woman's last menstrual period.  (Because ovulation and conception occur a week or two after menstruation, the fetuses are actually younger than 22 weeks.)

In setting medical care guidelines, we should think only about the parents and the pre-premies they want to save.  

No two cases will be alike, partly because women don't always know when their last period began.

As a parent, I hope medical centers will not try to save these very tenuous young lives.  

The gift of life can so easily become a burden for young people competing for social acceptance and economic survival.  Ten persons aged 15-24 took their own lives out of every 100,000 in the US in 2013.

Steering a child around the obstacles of alcohol, drugs, crime, peer pressure, and violence is hard enough when the child has excellent health.

The quest for pre-premie life at any price--financially, physically, and emotionally--does not make sense.

Killed for her feminism

I grieve for Grace Rebecca Mann, a young woman who spoke out against rape and misogynist song lyrics on her college campus in Virginia.

The rugby club was suspended after a feminist group highlighted the lyrics of their club song as depicting "sexual violence against women, including assault, necrophilia, and rape."

A college drop-out and former rugby player was allowed to move into the house this young woman shared with two other people, and he has now been charged with her murder in April.

Things have changed since I was a college student and the so-called bra-burning in Atlantic City was in the news.

In 1968 people laughed at feminists.  The press looked away when presidents or public leaders had affairs.

In 2015 two women are running for president of the US.  Young women are challenging the horrific lyrics in songs of male clubs on their college campuses.

Gender politics has become much more serious.  

On the surface, both sides play by the rules, but unstable men on fringes of society act out the rhetoric of male supremacy.

Voices are silent now on the campus of the University of Mary Washington:

The campus of 5,000 students has been shaken, report Shaila Dewan and Sheryl Gay Stolberg in the NY Times.  

"The rancorous debate over feminism had fallen noticeably quiet."

Misfits among us

Something there is that doesn't love a wall, 
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it, 
And spills the upper boulders in the sun...

Robert Frost wrote these words in his poem "Mending Wall."

There are also forces that do not like the walls we erect between wealth and poverty, middle-class comfort and lower-class hunger.

When we ignore the poor, hungry, and mentally ill, we place our own lives at risk.

We think we can sell a car on Craiglist without being killed.

We think we can enter a movie theatre, federal building, or school without worrying about the underclass who are trying to stay afloat in our economic and social order but some of whom are drowning.

When they take us down with them, we are surprised.

If we do not keep our brother, he may kill us.  Even our sister may turn violent.

In a NY Times article on the shooting in Garland, Texas,  on Sunday, Muslim businessman Mohamed Elibiary points out the difference between himself and the two young men who drove from Phoenix to shoot up the anti-Mohammad cartoon event:

"You've got to remember, I live a middle-class lifestyle in a first-world country.  I have plenty of opportunities to express myself and I'm in no way disenfranchised.  People who usually react violently to that have a totally different life experience."

Thank you to reporters Manny Fernandez and Laurie Goodstein for the interviews and writing that went into this article.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Disrespecting students and professors...

News Release – California State University, Northridge

May 6, 2015  Northridge—Hundreds of professors and up to 15,000 students were inconvenienced by a “Bridgegate” type crisis on the California State University campus today.

            An administrative decision to close some 500 parking spaces in Faculty Lot B2 and Student Lot B1 lie left teachers and students stuck in stop-and-go traffic on the last day of classes at the campus where 40,000 students and their professors already compete for limited parking.

The "special event” causing the all-day closure is a performance of Yo-Yo Ma this evening in the Valley Performing Arts Center.

Professors needing to meet their 8 am, 9:30, and 11 am classes were turned away from Lot B2 as thousands of students sat in classrooms waiting to turn in final papers and receive instructions for upcoming exam week.

Afternoon classes are also being affected as the two lots sit 90% empty, blocked by orange cones and guards.

“The decision to close these two lots without properly informing the professors shows great disrespect for us who teach at CSUN, as well as for our students,” said part-time professor Anne Eggebroten of the Religious Studies department, who moved cones and parked illegally to get to her class ten minutes late.

Students are allowed/advised to leave a classroom ten minutes after the appointed class start time if the professor does not arrive.

Larry Israel, Parking Manager, took responsibility for the decision to partially close the lots by 90%.  He did not know the total number of parking spaces eliminated in the faculty lot.

Neither department offices nor professors were alerted to this upcoming emergency by email.  In cases of a gunman on campus, professors received several phone messages at home per day, but no phone messages alerted them today to the danger of not being able to meet their students. 

Electronic signage placed on Nordhoff  on Sunday was inadequate to communicate the magnitude of the upcoming closure. 

Today’s closure at CSUN echoed the closing of the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey by the staff of Governor Chris Christie on September 9, 2013.  

On that day a few people made decisions placing many people into gridlocked traffic, not caring how that would affect them. 

In New Jersey, the closing was apparently a political decision; at CSUN it was just an administrative choice to prioritize one small group of off-campus guests over the needs of hundreds of professors and thousands of students.  

                                    #                                  #                                  #

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Hate Speech

Pamela Geller exhibiting hate speech  (from LA Times)
On Sunday morning at my church, Dr. Arik Greenberg, professor of New Testament at Loyola Marymount University, spoke about the need for tolerance among people of the Abrahamic faiths--Christians, Muslims, and Jews.

On Sunday evening near Dallas, Texas, an anti-Muslim group was hosting a speaker from the Netherlands who had tried to get the Qur'an banned in that country.

Organizer Pamela Geller claimed her event was all about free speech--though the speaker wants the Qur'an banned and though her group had tried to stop Al Jazeera news from broadcasting in the US.

To celebrate free speech, they were holding a contest of anti-Mohammad cartoons.

One of the cartoons showed Mohammad urinating and defecating on a Qur'an.

Is anyone surprised that two young Muslim men from Phoenix, after seeing the ads for this event, drove to Texas to shoot whomever they could find there?  

These jihadis were almost gentle--they shot a security guard only in the leg before being killed themselves.  

They wanted to affiliate with extremists somewhere else in the Muslim world. According to a Facebook post, what they cared about most was Israel's mistreatment of Palestinians.  

Apparently Geller's activism is also rooted in decades of war between Israel and Palestine. She had put ads on New York City MTA trains saying, "Support Israel, defeat Jihad."

Thus this shooting in Texas had roots in Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as I explained to students taking my course in Women & Religion who wanted to know why they had to learn about this to pass my course.  

Here's why: because gender and religion become tangled up in international struggles over land, resources, and power.  

The Council of American-Islamic Relations condemned the attack, saying "Violence in response to anti-Islam programs like the one in Garland is more insulting to our faith than any cartoon, however defamatory" (as quoted in today's LA Times).

"It's one of those awful moments when there is no one to root for on either side," concludes Christopher Knight, art critic:

See also Dr. Greenberg's Institute for Religious, Tolerance, Peace, and Justice.