Category Archives: politics

cruises for evacuees

“Sweetheart Deal” for Carnival Cruise Lines:

If the ships were at capacity, with 7,116 evacuees, for six months, the price per evacuee would total $1,275 a week, according to calculations by aides to Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). A seven-day western Caribbean cruise out of Galveston can be had for $599 a person — and that would include entertainment and the cost of actually making the ship move. “When the federal government would actually save millions of dollars by forgoing the status quo and actually sending evacuees on a luxurious six-month cruise it is time to rethink how we are conducting oversight.”

::grumble::grumble::grumble:: I so don’t understand how this administration could keep fucking up so badly.

health care in america – from myth to mess

I was 16 when i broke my neck and witnessed first hand what it’s like to not have health insurance. I often wonder if i would’ve gotten different treatments if i could’ve afforded it, if i wouldn’t lose vision/hearing like i do now. No small company can afford to hire me and one of the reasons that i find the idea of working for or creating a start-up laughable is that i could not risk the loss of health insurance. Not only could i not afford premiums on my own, i am not sure that i’d even be covered outside of a major institution. I live in fear because of American health insurance. And i’m a lucky one.

In his classically brilliant style, Malcolm Gladwell’s latest New Yorker essay The Moral-Hazard Myth traces the routes of the American health insurance scheme, unveiling its implications through the stories of people who are less fortunate than i have been. At the core of my progressive politics is the solid belief in universal health access. In this country, medical access is a privilege where it should be a right. It is hard to respect this country when it fails to take care of its people at a basic level. And i’m sorry, but there’s nothing Christian about tiered health access.

george bush don’t like black people

When i first heard Kanye West say “George Bush doesn’t care about black people,” my jaw dropped. It was so bold and yet went straight to the heart of what everyone felt. One of the things i love most about the hip-hop community is that they take events and mix it into song, remixing culture and sounds in a way that goes straight to the point. Earlier today, Xeni told me about The Legendary K.O. remix called George Bush Don’t Like Black People. Not only are the words poignant, the song itself is beautiful and filled of southern black sounds. If you haven’t listened to this yet, please do. It’s amazing.

activism and violence

This afternoon, an activist friend of mine who has been very involved in Critical Mass approached me concerning my stance. Unfortunately, due to the context of our interaction, the conversation escalated unnecessarily and i found myself unable to articulate my feelings. So instead, i brought them home to chew on.

Her key points are all exceptionally valid and i agree with her wholeheartedly:

1) Critical Mass is an “open source” activity where you cannot have a central organization with rules.
2) Many people have had their eyes opened by Critical Mass to the issues of bicycles in cities, probably more than have been negatively impacted.
3) Cars exercise violence on bicycles every day – running them off the road, not looking when opening doors; car culture also exercises power through the law and norms.

The combination of her points helped me clarify where i stand on activism in general these days and why the situation on Friday still upsets me.

I am definitely one of those people who had my eyes opened by Critical Mass’ activities – i learned a lot more about biking laws, situations through 2nd hand accounts of their activities. Having lived in Amsterdam, i’m perpetually horrified by the car power that goes on in this country and i’m very much supportive of non-hierarchical structures of change.

All that said, i can never ever support violence. At the core of my body, i cannot accept violence because violence has been committed against you. I will never forget being 13 and deciding to not punch back as one of my classmates threw punches at me. Nothing would be gained by returning the blows – only increased hostility, a deepening of sides and an increase in intolerance. I cannot support activism that permits violence as one if its tenants. I was so disgusted by some of my classmates who felt as though they became activists when they brawled with the police; at the last protest i went to, i gave the police donuts and talked to them about the protest from their perspective.

No matter how much i believe in revolution, no matter how much i want to see changes made, i can’t accept moving in that direction through deplorable means. I also cannot support pack behavior on either side – what the crowd does under and umbrella name is often terrifying. As much as there are thousands of non-violent Critical Massers, the idea that the name and event has a violent side to it is enough to alienate me. I can’t stand behind events that accepts violence as even a minority group or where that group has the right to use the name to instigate their pack behavior. I think that this is how folks who would believe in the cause of anti-WTO folks get alienated by the violent protests.

As much as i appreciate my friends’ point that i should not disrespect a movement for the behaviors of some, i have a hard time actually feeling that way. Those few aggressive voices go far which is why they need to be actively squelched in a non-violent movement – the two cannot go hand in hand.

How can we move forward activism that doesn’t use violence? Am i a fool for thinking that’s possible and for not supporting groups that allow violence to occur?

Critical (Violent) Mass or how a group of bicyclists alienated me

I’m a huge fan of bicycles and i do miss living in Amsterdam where that is culturally supported form of transportation. The hills in SF, the distance of my commute and the lack of infrastructure support demotivate me from even thinking about biking as transport in SF. That said, i love my public transit.

Last night, around 7.45, i started my car for the first time in over a month because the quantity of grocery shopping necessary would require a car (even though its only 6 blocks away). On the way out, i hit Critical Mass.

Now, i have nothing but appreciation for folks taking to the streets to demand infrastructure support and i love the idea of Critical Mass. Every time i’ve seen them before, they slow down traffic as they go about their route, but this situation was different. I was halfway through the intersection at Church and Market when two guys biked in front of me and stoppped, forcing me to take to my breaks. They started yelling at me and then one asked me if i was smoking a joint. I rolled my eyes and him and said of course not; Jo gave a cigarette to another guy. They had also stopped the cab next to me in the middle of the street, screamed circle and began circling and screaming at both of us.

Needless to say, this aggravated the passenger of the cab and the cab driver and i had the same uncomfortable feeling about being illegally in the middle of a major intersection with no ability to get off to a side. The bicyclists started yelling at the passenger saying that they did this every month and he should find another route and he should just be patient and make his life easier and he started yelling back, telling them that they have their rights but if they want him to take an alternate route, let him get out of the intersection. They were screaming past each other.

About 5+ minutes later, on the other side of the street, another car was stuck in the middle of the intersection. They started screaming at him and he decided he was going to push through and get the fuck out of the intersection. A group picked up their bicycles and started pounding them on the car, hitting the car, kicking the car and from it looks like, hitting the driver through his window. I called 911, reported an assault and told them to get a police officer there immediately; the guy who was right out of my window screamed disperse.

The language and tone used by the bicyclists at Critical Mass had a level of aggression to it that was just terrifying. It’s like what you see when police officers breathe power and spit it out at you. It is everything scary about crowd behavior.

On the Critical Mass website under “Testosterone Brigade,” it says For some bicyclists, Critical Mass is an opportunity to berate motorists, now that WE own the road for once. Our society’s over-reliance on motorized traffic is a massive and overwhelming social problem, and it won’t be changed through the use of bitchy, ineffective tactics by a small minority of pissed-off bicyclists. But a movement for change based on a reclaiming of public space and the building of human community, open to people from across the social and political spectrum, could contribute to a deeper and more fundamental change in the way our society operates.

After my experience yesterday, i would never support Critical Mass. I saw a level of aggression and potential danger that is precisely antithetical to any public space takeover that i can value. There was no need for aggression. I thought Critical Mass was supposed to be a process of taking to the streets and riding at bike speed down busy streets, not collectively taking over intersections, circling cars and screaming at them. I don’t see how people think they will gather support through aggression and goddess knows they just alienated me permanently. And i’m a bike lover, public transit supporter.

::sigh:: Why is it that the protesters for the movements i believe in always alienate me?

Schiavo, Lakoff and my wishes

When i first learned of Schiavo’s case, my first instinct was to document my desires. For the record, i don’t want to be on life support. Period. If i’m in a lot of pain, i want enough morphine to kill me. I want to be cremated. Nothing horrifies me more than living by machine, being kept alive to meet someone’s whacked ass selfish values justified through abusive uses of religion. I want to face god when the time comes, not be kept alive just because it’s possible. There is beauty in life and beauty in death – they go hand in hand and i have no fear.

So, Schiavo died today which gives me great relief. It is her turn to meet god and she should’ve been given that opportunity 15 years ago. What horrifies me is how her life has been manipulated and used by the most conservative forces for some pretty selfish gains. Of course, everything about it is horribly conflicting. The same agendas who are against universal health care are for keeping people on machines infinitely rather than letting them die in peace. Once again, we’re back to Lakoff. Yeah, it makes sense on that level, but it sure as hell pisses me off. And i’m really cranky for how much the media has taken the conservative side.

A friend of mine, Sascha Becker does a really good job of reading the Schiavo case from Lakoff’s perspective. She highlights an aspect that has been forgotten lately: Schiavo’s eating disorder and how her battle with bulimia resulted in her severe brain damage. It makes the whole situation all the more ridiculous as we’re still incapable of talking about the issues at hand – control and domination. ::sigh::

guantanamo: honor bound to defend freedom

“Guantanamo: ‘Honor Bound to Defend Freedom'” is a British play that originally opened in London to protest the US’s abuse of human rights in citizens who were taken to Guits Guantanamo Bay prisons. The play tells the stories of 9 British antanamo under questionable pretenses, never told why and kept there for over two years. Seven were released without trials, still with no explanation. The play uses testimonials of the prisoners, their letters to their families and the testimonials of their families. Rumsfeld’s speeches are also included. Every word in the play (except the meta-commenter) comes directly from those involved in this nightmare.

The play recently opened in New York and tonite was the first preview in San Francisco (at Brava Theater running until April 17). While they still have some theatrical kinks to work out, the play was definitely a good reality check, a good reminder of how easy it is as an American to tune out to the human rights abuses that the government is executing in our names. The play is clearly written for a British audience, yet it is so essential as Americans to wake up and listen, listen to the actual people abused by our systems. This is especially critical as Abu Ghraib trials continue. If you’re in SF, make sure you go out and support this play and use it to think about what’s going on.

That said, i wish i knew the next step. I certainly would’ve loved it if Brava would’ve given out more information, action items, etc. Political plays need to give you a direction otherwise it’s just heart wrenching. Still, heart wrenching for a good cause.

(A story of one detainee is in the NYTimes today.)

U.N. landmine commerical won’t air in US.

A U.N. commercial depicts American girls playing in a soccer match. A girl steps on a landmine and there’s a big explosion. Kids get blown apart. CNN and other networks don’t want to air the ad.

The explosion appears to kill and injure some girls, sparking panic and chaos among parents and other children. Shrieks of horror are heard through much of the spot, and a father is shown cradling his daughter’s lifeless body, moments after celebrating a goal she had scored.

It closes with a tag line reading: “If there were landmines here, would you stand for them anywhere? Help the U.N. eradicate landmines everywhere.”

(Copied from BoingBoing because everyone needs to see this)

declaring ostrich

I’m declaring ostrich.

There are 12 unopened NYTimes in my living room. I’ve just /dev/nulled all mailing lists that mention politics at all. I apple-w blogs that mention red, blue or purple faster than a fundamentalist finding porn. I changed my morning radio station to not-NPR.

I’ve always been told that escapism is bad. I respect that view. But i went running full speed into a tornado and standing in the eye of the storm on November 2, i realized that i needed to duck before i got picked up and whisked away into nether-nether land. Politics are in the air; i haven’t stopped breathing, but i’m trying not to light fires either. My political allies are too angry, too confused, too frustrated to think clearly or move forward in an effective manner. I can’t join them in that state because i just end up angry with them and that’s not fruitful. Sometimes, deconstruction is not the best tool in the shed. I know that this nightmare has temporal and spatial implications beyond my imagination and it is harrowing to hear the anger and fear in the voices of those beyond our borders. I just cannot hold on to all of these messages and emotions without crumbling.

I’m a true liberal. I believe that i need to be personally strong in order to fight on a larger scale. I can’t fight with anger – i must fight with respect. I need to find grounding and in order to do that, i believe that stepping back is healthy and responsible. I live in an overly mediated world and sometimes, i just have to go back to my roots. Instead of reading the paper, i’m doing yoga.

Please respect me on this one. And if you’re on one of those bazillion lists whose topic is purportedly not politics, please understand that i am taking a break.

PS: This is not a long-term solution, just a temporary one for me to get grounded.