Monday, April 27, 2009
Jane Smiley, author of many books including A Thousand Acres (Pulitzer prize, 1992) and 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel, appeared interviewing S.E. Hinton (author of The Outsiders) and appeared on a panel "About Reading."
Scenes from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, 2009, at UCLA.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Thank you, President Obama, for making public these horrendous practices done in my name and yours.
May those who stretched the "permissible" this far be punished.
We are all shamed and endangered by this treatment of persons held in US prisons.
In fact, common methods of eliciting confessions from suspects arrested in our cities are also extreme. I served on a jury last summer and was shocked by police and detective interrogation methods described in the courtroom.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
An email invited me to hear her speak at UCLA, and I showed up tonight, interested to see her in person. She's been travelling to many of the states over the Passover/Easter Congressional break, and her schedule put her on this stage for an hour, then signing her autobiography and shaking hands for 75 minutes, then off in two tan Cherokee-like vehicles surrounded by two police cars.
I hadn't paid that much attention to her before today. After all, in Caliornia we have two women US Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, as well as other political celebrities like Ariana Huffington and Maria Shriver.
As it turned out, Nancy was great to meet in person.
After being elected Speaker of the House, she was dragooned into writing a brief story of her life, which she shaped as a message to lead other women into achieving goals for themselves and for all women.
Know Your Power: A Message to America's Daughters is the title (New York: Doubleday, 2008). Buy it. In only 174 pages of sixteen brief chapters, you'll be inspired and gain an understanding of how she got to where she is today.
I also knew she is caricatured as too powerful or as power-hungry in political cartoons and in right-wing emails circulating on the internet. (My Republican uncle sometimes forwards these emails to me.)
Here are the top ten things I learned today about her:
1) Her real name is Annunciata--she's nicknamed Nancy. She was named for her mother, who was born on March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation to Mary of her destiny to bear God's child.
2) She's the mother of four daughters and one son, and she's very supportive of women choosing to stay home and raise a family, as she did. She also has seven grandchildren.
3) She didn't run for Congress until she was 47 years old, when her friend Congresswoman Sala Burton was dying of cancer and asked her to run for her seat.
4) She grew up in an Italian neighborhood of Baltimore, Maryland. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro Jr., was a representative to Congress and later mayor of Baltimore. Her brother Tom was also mayor of Baltimore.
5) She describes herself as a "devout, practicing Catholic" and was raised in a family that was both devout and staunchly Democratic.
6) She sat next to John F. Kennedy in 1957 when she was 16 and he was a guest speaker at a dinner sponsored by the UN Association of Maryland. (Her mother, wife of the mayor of Baltimore, stayed home to allow her daughter to attend in her place.)
7) She left the March on Washington in 1963 just before Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke--because she needed to go to Baltimore to welcome her in-laws arriving for her wedding a few days later.
8) She's 69 now (born March 26, 1940) --but looks 50 years old (hair coloring, trim weight, probably also facelifts to remove wrinkles).
9) Because she's short, she wears very high-heeled shoes. Tonight they were also spike-heeled with pointy toes--the kind my daughters wear when they go out to clubs. I couldn't even walk in such shoes without falling down, but Nancy Pelosi at 69 walks around in them with speed and grace.
10) She has been described as "probably one of the strongest and most effective Speakers in decades." She expects to get a universal health-care bill passed in the House and Senate this year and signed by President Obama.
She says the biggest issue is where there will be a "public option" in this bill--or whether all the health care providers will be in the private sector. "That's what we're fighting for. It has to happen this year. I think it will."
She thinks it will pass because "Health care reform is entitlement reform." If people had more access to preventive health care, there would be less cost to Medicare and Medicaid.
She says health care reform is needed:
1) for individual people,
2) for businesses, which are burdened with increasing health care cost,
3) for our economy, which is distorted by the existing system--competing with businesses in the rest of the world that do not have the expense of health care, and
4) for reducing the national debt by cutting the cost of entitlement programs.
They were asking Parliament to repeal a new law signed by President Karzai that restricts the rights of Shiite women, requiring them to get their husband's permission to work outside of the home or to go to school and requiring them to "dress up" if their husband asks them to. It also makes it illegal to reject a husband's sexual advances.
These women began their march at a school run by a leading Shiite cleric. Hundreds of men ran outside to counterdemonstrate, shouting "Death to the enemies of Islam."
Although most of the women demonstrating were covered head to toe and appeared devout, simply protesting new restrictions makes them "enemies of Islam" and "whores" in the eyes of these men.
An ironic note: at the top left of the same front page was a photo of some twenty Roman Catholic bishops, priests, and cardinals celebrating the installation of a new archbishop in New York.
Everyone in the photo was male--women can hold no ordained office, cannot use birth control or chose to end a pregnancy, or even end a marriage with the approval of the church.
We in the west are only inches ahead of our sisters in the east. Much work and prayer lie ahead of us world-wide.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Nor did the protests of women around the world who viewed the cell-phone recorded flogging of a 17-year-old girl by Taliban men in Swat.
Zardari signed a treaty with the Taliban on Monday, allowing them to impose Shari'ah (Islamic law) on this part of Pakistan.
See the Wall Street Journal's report on April 14: http://sroblog.com/2009/04/13/pakistani-peace-deal-gives-new-clout-to-taliban-rebels-wsjcom/
Moderate Muslims interpret Shari'ah in ways that understand its origin in the 7-12th centuries, but the Taliban impose their own conservative interpretation, including:
* women can't leave their homes without a male family member as escort.
* women must be covered head to toe
* men may not shave their beards
* violations can be punished by execution.
Unfortunately, the US presence in Afghanistan and Pakistan makes it harder for Muslims there to work out their differences on interpreting Shari'ah for the 21st century. Right now, anyone who wants a re-evaluation of the 12th C. interpretation is seen by conservatives as supporting American imperialism.
Zardari's goal is peace in his country, giving the Taliban what they want in the north in exchange for less violence. But the WSJ article points out that the Taliban's goal is to "drive out Americans and their lackeys" from both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Sacrificing the well-being of women is not going to create peace.
For a great documentary on the interrelations between American intervention and women's status in Afghanistan, see View from a Grain of Sand, an Ecesis Films production directed by Meena Nanji. www.viewgrainofsand.com
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
"Where is the man caught in adultery? Why isn't he being whipped or shot? If something sexual actually occurred, was it a rape?"
According to later news reports, no adultery or rape occurred.
It was simply a case of a young woman leaving her home unescorted by a male member of her family, according to the Wall Street Journal report today.
The situation, according to Shaukat, who filmed the attack on his cell phone, was that the girl had refused a marriage proposal. Her suitor had joined the ranks of the Taliban and taken revenge on her by instigating the flogging. See:
Thank you for the courage of this man to film the brutal beating and then circulate the video.
"...people in Swat are so scared that no one has the courage to stand up and speak out against the Taliban and their verdicts," he says, according to the article in Dawn News.
No one except Shaukat. Let's pray for him as well as the girl that they may not be attacked or injured.
Monday, April 6, 2009
Here's a report on Pakistan's Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (newly restored to his office) responding to the demonstrations and the initial flogging:
This article quotes the Taliban in Swat as saying that if they were fully in control of the government there, "...she would have been shot."
The MGM movement leaders in Karachi respond that the men involved in the beating should be publicly hanged. Apparently both sides play for keeps in Pakistan.
The big issue is whether the Swat district should be allow to institute Shari'ah law as the civil law (as well as religious law) in northern Pakistan. We all need to pray that that will not happen.
The girl, whose name may be Chaand Bibi, was charged with "adultery" and whipped 34 times by one Talibani while she is screaming and being held down by two men.
Someone had the courage to videotape this horrible scene and then to release it to others sympathetic to women's rights.
Women's groups call the girl innocent. In these cases, the alleged crime is often more in the minds of the accusers than a real event.
My questions: where is the man caught in adultery? Why isn't he being whipped or shot? If something sexual actually occurred, was it a rape?
Chaand Bibi was called to testify in legal investigations of her whipping, but she denies being the one in the video. Of course--pursuing her attackers can only result in further suffering for her.
Friday, April 3, 2009
A press release from SenatePress via WATER:
This is a joint statement from Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and Iowa House Speaker Pat Murphy on today's Supreme Court decision:
"Thanks to today's decision, Iowa continues to be a leader in guaranteeing all of our citizens' equal rights.
"The court has ruled today that when two Iowans promise to share their lives together, state law will respect that commitment, regardless of whether the couple is gay or straight.
"When all is said and done, we believe the only lasting question about today's events will be why it took us so long. It is a tough question to answer because treating everyone fairly is really a matter of Iowa common sense and Iowa common decency.
"Today, the Iowa Supreme Court has reaffirmed those Iowa values by ruling that gay and lesbian Iowans have all the same rights andresponsibilities of citizenship as any other Iowan.
"Iowa has always been a leader in the area of civil rights.
"In 1839, the Iowa Supreme Court rejected slavery in a decision thatfound that a slave named Ralph became free when he stepped on Iowa soil, 26 years before the end of the Civil War decided the issue.
"In 1868, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated 'separate but equal' schools had no place in Iowa, 85 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.
"In 1873, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled against racial discrimination in public accommodations, 91 years before the U.S. Supreme Court reached the same decision.
"In 1869, Iowa became the first state in the union to admit women to the practice of law.
"In the case of recognizing loving relationships between two adults, theIowa Supreme Court is once again taking a leadership position on civil rights.
"Today, we congratulate the thousands of Iowans who now can express their love for each other and have it recognized by our laws."
Ann Holmes Redding, an Episcopal priest for nearly 30 years, added Muslim faith to her life three years ago, and now she has been defrocked as a priest.
Since the word "Islam" means "submission to God," one could certainly claim allegiance to Jesus as Messiah while also deciding to live "in Islam."
Most Muslims do not see Jesus as God, but perhaps Redding continues to believe in the Trinity. We need to dialogue with her and find out where she is on some of the differences between the two religions.
Historically in early Christianity and in the Muslim world today, there are varying beliefs related to these faiths but not accepted by the mainstream. For example, there were the Montanist Christians and there is Sevener (Isma'ili) Islam, as well as the Druze in Lebanon.
Redding represents a new kind of ecumenicity--let's see where it goes.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Last month, in less than three weeks, we witnessed the deaths of 22 people in mass shootings- in North Carolina, Alabama and California....
If tainted pistachios, peanut butter, or spinach had killed these people, Congress would have jumped in with investigations, re-calls, and insisted that these foods be taken off the shelves in grocery stores.
And yet, Congress has done nothing.