Saturday, April 30, 2016

Acapulco Violence

In the 50s and 60s, I heard about Acapulco as the glamorous place to visit in Mexico.

Now it is scaring away tourist with drug trafficking violence.

Today "the city, its port, and Guerrero state have taken on increasing importance as way stations for South American cocaine destined for the United States," report Cecilia Sanchez and Chris Kraul.

Many human tragedies are the result--both deaths and loss of jobs as tourist businesses shut down.  Tourists go to Cancun and Cabo San Lucas now.

Cocaine use in California and throughout the US is the problem.  

We need to legalize and control the sale and distribution of this drug and others, not leave these jobs to the drug cartels.

Daniel Berrigan - Rest in Peace

The gentle poet and anti-war activist Daniel Berrigan died today, April 30, 2016, just short of his 95th birthday.  He was born May 9, 1921.

I have his autograph on a quotation of his done in calligraphy by Sr. M. Madeleva, CSJ:

These many beautiful days cannot be lived again, but they are compounded in my own flesh and spirit, and I take them in full measure toward whatever lies ahead.

I remember when he and eight other Catholic anti-war protestors poured napalm on draft board files in May, 1968, in Catonsville, Maryland.  

I was working in nearby Baltimore and living with my parents.  I remember my father's outrage at this protest.

Daniel served three years in prison for this speaking out against the lives being destroyed by theVietnam War., getting out of prison in 1972, about the time of the Watergate break-ins -- Nixon at his worst.  

Nixon never served time for lying or for lives lost in the war.

Re-drafting the Draft

Hilarious that a Republican who doesn't want women to serve in the Armed Forces submitted a bill in the House of Representatives saying that women should have to register for Selective Service--and now he's voting against his own bill.

Of course women leaders are supporting the bill.

Having those cards at the Post Office that only males have to fill out at age 18 is a vestige of the past.

Both women and men should register with the Selective Service.

If both women and men had been drafted in the late 60s, there would have been even more protest against the Vietnam War.

I oppose most wars our presidents have gotten us into in the past--but if anyone has to go, both genders should be called on.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Presidential Gender

Things have changed since Shirley Chisholm ran for president in 1972.

That year was my first chance to vote in a presidential race, and I voted for her in the Democratic primary.  

She was the lone woman seeking to be president of the USA that year.

This year we have a woman who will win the nomination for the Democratic Party's candidate for president.

This year the bumbling GOP candidates are trying to strengthen their hand by selecting a woman as a running mate.

Ted Cruz has announced his VP choice three months ahead of the convention--an unheard of move.   He's gambling that a woman as his running mate will improve his chances, and he needs her help immediately.

I love this turn-around: men needing women to win the office held by men for two hundred and twenty years.    

Hillary Clinton may not be the best candidate for president we've ever seen, but she will be a better president than most of the men who have won that honor.

I'm grateful that I have lived to see this day.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Bully and his Man Card

He dismissed a two-term U.S. senator and former Secretary of State as bringing nothing to the race to president except the fact that she's a woman.

May he rot in defeat on November 8, 2016.

He plays the man card every minute--he blusters and bullies, posing as tough and tough and powerful.

He will lose.

Hillary will be wearing the pants in the White House.

Your Story, My Story

Dave Isay with Bill Davis

Dave Isay has put together the largest collection of human voices ever recorded.

More than 250,000 interviews are now stored in the Library of Congress under the auspices of StoryCorps, the organization he founded.  The interviews cover subjects such as love, family, death, and work.

"Listening is an act of love," Dave says, quoting the title of the first book of stories published by StoryCorps in 2007.  "There are so many stories that are hidden in plain sight all around us."

For example, the doctor who delivered his second child said to him (after he appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert), "I wish I had done something important enough with my life to be on the Colbert show."

In answer, he interviewed her.  The story of Austen Chen's courage and dedication now appears on on the latest StoryCorps CD and in the accompanying book, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work.  He calls this book "a love letter to professions that don't get thanked as often as they should."
Sandy Kim chatting with Dave Isay

My friend Sandy Kim took me to hear Dave speak tonight at the Crawford Family Forum in Pasadena, where the radio station KPCC is produced.  He was interviewed by Bill Davis, president of KPCC.

"Every life, every story matters equally and infinitely," he reminded the audience.

Dave began by doing documentaries and was influenced by listening to oral histories recorded by ethnomusicologists for the American FolkLife Center Archive starting in 1928.

His goal is to "give as many people as possible the chance to be heard."

"We're bombarded with untruth and with stories that just make you frightened," he says.  Instead, he is "collecting the wisdom of humanity" through stories.  

"Media put to its highest use can be the greatest power for good the world has ever seen," he believes.

It takes two people to record a story with StoryCorps: one to interview and one to be interviewed.  The result is "an act of honesty and love."  
Sandy Kim with Chassity Saldana and her grandfather

Six interviews were played during the course of the evening: 

  • a surgeon interviewing his high school science teacher
  • a daughter, Chassity Saldana, interviewing her mother who became an engineer after being a teen mom
  • a black NASCAR race car driver, Wendell Scott, who began in 1952 and faced down racism
  • two garbage truck drivers in New York City
  • a Latina migrant farmworker who became a librarian
  • the brother of black astronaut Ronald McNair, who died in the Challenger shuttle in 1986

Several of these were given animation to reach people who need visual as well as audio stories.  Watch them and many more on the StoryCorps website and on YouTube.

Now StoryCorps offers a downloadable app and a list of questions so anyone can interview a friend or family member and have their story preserved in the Library of Congress.

You can also go online and make a reservation to record an interview in a StoryCorps mobile booth in Chicago, Atlanta, or San Francisco.  Sitting together in a dark booth creates a very intimate space.  Sandy interviewed me about my mother in 2013 when the mobile booth was in Los Angeles.

"StoryCorps is much more about listening than speaking," says Dave.  "People say things like 'I love you,' 'Forgive me,' and 'I forgive you.'  Attention must be paid because we don't know about tomorrow."

Last Thanksgiving, StoryCorps asked high school kids to record their parents.  More than 50,000 interviews were received that weekend using the app.  

Listening to these stories teaches us "how we can be our best and highest selves," Dave concludes. 

StoryCorps is broadcast weekly on KPCC.  National Public Radio is the broadcast partner of StoryCorps, and the archive partner is the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress.

Special initiatives have been formed to gather stories from 9/11 families, LGBT persons, military families, Latinos, African-Americans, and families impacted by memory loss.

Here's the mission statement on the StoryCorps website:

StoryCorps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, to strengthen and build the connections between people, to teach the value of listening, and to weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that everyone’s story matters. At the same time, we are creating an invaluable archive for future generations.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Chibok, Nigeria, and Grief

Thank you, Adaobi Tricia Nwaubani and The New York Times, for telling us more about Chibok, Nigeria, the town where more than 200 girls were kidnapped in 2014 by Boko Haram.

In her article "What's Worse Than a Girl Being Kidnapped?" she reports on other problems in northern Nigeria, "a land where tragedy is an everyday occurrence."

These other problems include:

  • 109 deaths per 1000 births
  • a male illiteracy rate of 18.1%
  • a female illiteracy rate of 15.4%
  • early marriage before high school can be completed

In fact, she reports that "One of the kidnapped was the only one of her 20 siblings to have attended formal school."

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Less Journalism, Less Justice

The cutbacks on newspapers are affecting people's lives.

Truth is always hard to dig out of the flood of information and misinformation, but with fewer newspapers and fewer reporters and editors on the remaining papers, our chances of encountering important facts and countering injustice diminish.

Consider this article in The Nation by Dale Maharidge:

And this column by Margaret Sullivan, "Public Editor No. 5 Is Yesterday's News" in the New York Times:

Sullivan says the New York Times is finding it hard to support its "newsroom staff of more than 1,300."

Other newspapers have already cut staffing drastically--the Los Angeles Times had an editorial-side staff of  1,200 or so as the year 2000 began.  It is now about 500.  

Fewer reporters and editors, less reporting of injustice or anything else.

Less chance for citizens to understand their world, from business to government, and less chance to catch crooks and killers.

Cheap Words

I used to hear $10 words more often.

Now all humans, male or female, chums or bosses, are "you guys."

Alexander Stern complains in today's New York Times about current use of the phrase "Is that a thing?"

He bemoans the loss of more accurate words--"the rage," "a fad," "a trend"--all blended into the bland word "thing."

I'm with you, Alexander.  

I bristle every time some one lumps me into the category of "guys."  I don't often reveal my contempt for those who use this term, but I catalog the speaker into a class of people who are ignorant, sloppy, and ill-mannered in their use of language, however brilliant they may be in other areas.

As Alexander notes, and George Orwell before him, our culture affects our choice of words, and our word choice affects our culture and government, 

In 1948 Orwell memorialized the problem with his book 1984, but it's still happening in 2016.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Equal Pay: Still Elusive

My daughter June worked from 9 am to 10 pm at her tech job in San Francisco yesterday, and she will have a long day today too.

The good news is that she's employed, and her job pays well.

Today is Equal Pay Day--or as Lydia Dishman explains on

"the approximate day in the year where the average woman working full time gets to catch up to the salary of her male counterpart (or about 79¢ for every one of his dollars)."

I don't claim to understand how they calculate this, but I'm glad we're paying attention.

Another difficult issue is how to rein in employers who overwork their people.  

Yes, equal opportunity and equal pay are important.  But we still have a long way to go in balancing the relationship between employer and employee, especially for women.

She's no longer a non-exempt employee, protected by California law from working overtime unless paid at a higher rate.  

As a higher-level employee, she is expected to work until the job is done.

Unlike typical holidays, this one is not for remembering a person or event.  We're focusing on a future when we hope women will have equal pay.  We're also looking at all the other employment issues women still need to work on.

We can hope this day will move to March 12, February 12, January 12--so women will only work 11 extra days to catch up to the salaries of the men around them.

Thank you to my friend Sharon for alerting me to this day with the email below from Page Harrington, Executive Director, Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument.

"One day in 1917, a dozen women gathered in front of the White House to stage a silent protest for women’s right to vote.
Women suffragists picketing in front of the White House.
Spectators yelled at them, kicked them, and spit on them. They ripped the banners from their hands and threw them onto the ground.
Undaunted, these women brought those tattered banners back to a house across town. They cleaned them -- sometimes carefully re-stitching them -- and carried them back out the next day, and the next, and the next.
It's my job today to preserve those same banners, alongside an extensive collection of other artifacts that showcase the struggle and accomplishments of the movement for women’s equality. I do it all from the house that became their final headquarters in Washington, D.C., known as the Sewall-Belmont House.
Today, on Equal Pay Day, President Obama is permanently protecting this house by designating it as America's newest national monument.
A hallway inside the newly-designated Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument.
From this house, members of the National Woman's Party led the movement for women's equality, authoring more than 600 pieces of federal, state, and local legislation in support of equal rights.
The President's designation will preserve an extensive archival collection that documents the history of the movement to secure women’s suffrage and equal rights in the United States and across the globe.
We've come a long way since those protests almost a century ago. For me, preserving this site isn’t just about remembering the suffragist movement. It’s also about celebrating our spirit as Americans -- the idea that if we work together and empower one another, we can make our government work better for all of us.
Page Harrington
Executive Director
Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Yitzhak Rabin: What if he had not been shot?

Browsing newly published books at the LA Times Festival of Books this weekend, I couldn't resist buying the one about Yitzhak Rabin's assassination.  It looked like an eye-opener.

A few hours later it won the LA Times award for best book of history book written in 2015 as I sat in the audience at Bovard Auditorium on the USC campus.

Dan Ephron, Killing a King: The Assassination of Yitzhak Rabin and the Remaking of Israel (W. W. Norton and Co.)

Here's what the LA Times says about the book:
"Ephron's deeply researched tome recounts the events of Rabin's assassination and how it affected Middle Eastern geopolitics."

The prologue describes a few moments in the life of Rabin on the morning of November 4, 1995.  He had an eye infection; he cancelled his usual Saturday tennis match and an eye doctor paid a house call.  

It also describes the visit to a synagogue that morning of two Orthodox, violently nationalist brothers who were planning to kill Rabin.

Then Chapter 1 begins with Rabin in 1993, skeptical about whether to fly to Washington to attend the signing of a peace agreement between his government and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The 12-page document "ended the state of belligerency between Israel and the PLO, promised to upend a quarter century of Israeli policy toward Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and created an opening for resolving the broader Arab-Israeli conflict," writes Dan Ephron (p. 8).

Ephron was present at the peace rally where Rabin was shot--he was a reporter covering it for Reuters and had just left the rally at 9:30 pm when the shooting occurred (p. 243).

This book is a page-turner.  

Because he was there in 1995 and later served as the Newsweek bureau chief in Jerusalem, and then researched this book, Ephron is the perfect person to pose the question: what if Rabin had not been assassinated?  

Would Israel and Palestine be closer to peace now?

Terry Gross asked him that question on Fresh Air last October.

The answer can never be known, but one thing is sure: things would not be as bad as they are now between the two groups of people. 

When I reminded a pro-Netanyahu friend that some Israelis do want negotiations for peace with Palestine, her answer was: "There are always self-hating Jews." 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Spotlight Still Shining

The only problem with the film Spotlight, winner of Best Film at the 2016 Oscars, is that it never ends.

Today's news from Loretto, Pennsylvania, is evidence of the continuing investigation.

The film's actual plot ends with victory for news reporters who pursued the Archdiocese in Boston, but afterward the film scrolls through events since 2002 in the worldwide pursuit of priests who engaged in sexual abuse of children and bishops who covered up and prevented investigation.

A final note encourages filmgoers to support ongoing investigation and legal actions against perpetrators.

In western Pennsylvania, that investigation is now bearing fruit.  See the report by Laurie Goodstein in today's New York Times:

Women and men like Maureen Powers are coming forth with reports of sexual abuse they endured as children.  A grand jury report in March naming 50 church officials involved in covering up abuse gave her the courage to come forward.  

More than 250 abuse survivors have called a hotline set up by Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane.  

Bishop Mark L. Bartchak of Altoona-Johnstown ordered all portraits and banners honoring recent bishops to be taken down from the Altoona cathedral because his two predecessors are charged with having allowed known abusers to continue to have access to children.

Maureen Powers, now 67, said she had been abused for two years by the time she was 12 years old.

State Representative Mark Rozzi, 44 years old, "is haunted by memories of being raped by a priest in middle school," according to the article.

Thank you to Attorney General Kane, the grand jury, Laurie Goodstein, and all the brave survivors now coming forth to reveal truth and claim justice.

The spotlight continues to search dark corners of the world.

Review of Spotlight: