Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hooray for Harry Reid!

It's a hair-raising story: how Senate majority leader Harry Reid steered the ship of state through squalls and around rocks to cross the finish line with a health plan before Christmas.,0,2438755.story

When others gave up, he continued to talk to both sides and work for some kind of compromise.

After reading this LA Times article, I'm very impressed with him--not a flashy Ted Kennedy but an unsung hero.

This story teaches me that no one is my enemy--everyone is a potential ally.

Even those whom I most disagree with will at some point hold a key that can open doors for me. I need to make sure that they are still my friends, no matter how much we disagree on some things.

Likewise, I may find myself in agreement with them on some things and eager or at least willing to work for one of their goals.

Maybe love makes the world go 'round, but tolerant good will has something to do with it too.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

All I Want for Christmas...

Not my two front teeth--a health care plan.

Even if it limits abortion and lacks a public option (enriching the insurance companies), I'll take whatever we can get for two reasons:

1) to do justice (see Micah 6:8)

2) to make sure my own twenty-something kids can get health care.

They're out of school and no longer covered by our insurance, so if COBRA runs out before they all have jobs with benefits, we will be as desperate as the family described in this article in today's LA Times:,0,757817.story

Neda and Ramin

Ben Bernanke made some key moves in 2009, but my vote for persons of the year goes to Neda Agha Soltan and Ramin Pourandarjani.

Neda--the young woman who was shot during demonstrations against last June's fraudulent election in Iran (and someone took and circulated a cell-phone video immediately afterward).

Ramin--the young doctor who refused to falsify the cause of death of three students beaten to death in prison in July in Tehran (see my comments on him yesterday).

These two for me symbolize the ongoing struggle between democracy and totalitarian rule in 2009.

Peace and justice--they stood for both, risking their lives, unwilling martyrs.

If the conflict between fundamental Islam and Western imperialism is the story of the decade, these two call us to the path of peaceful protest.

Peace and justice--they stood for both, risking their lives, unwilling martyrs.

Both Neda and Ramin were in their twenties, hoping for long life under a just government in Iran.

Instead their names are now torches lighting the way toward that goal.

As a mother, I grieve with their families and with the Grieving Mothers who now march each Sunday in Tehran, carrying photos of their murdered children, like the mothers still marching in Argentina.

The Amazing History of "Ms."

The title "Ms." was suggested in 1901 in a short article in The Sunday Republican of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Thank you to NYT Magazine's Ben Zimmer, who searched out the amazing history of "Ms." and reported it in his column, "On Language" (Oct. 25, 2009).

"There is a void in the English language which, with some diffidence, we undertake to fill," the anonymous writer began.

The proposal got some attention in 1901 and the term popped up in 1932 and was mentioned in 1949 in The Story of Language by Mario Pei, who attributed it to feminists.

"Simple etiquette and expediency" was the goal of the original writer in 1901, notes Zimmer.

The term was recommended in Practicial Business Writing (Fraily and Schnell, 1952) and Business Executive's Handbook (Doris, 1954).

Sheila Michaels, a civil rights activist, found it in 1961 and campaigned for it, but it wasn't until the feminist movement got started that she was able to get publicity and interest in the term.

Hooray for Anonymous, Mario Pei, Fraily and Schnell, Doris, Sheila Michaels, and Gloria Steinem!

They gave me "Ms.", Ben Zimmer gave me this amazing history, and my spouse left the October 25 NYT Magazine on the dining room table last night.

Note: German and other languages are making changes like this as well.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"Our Ramin is not dead"

He was only 26 years old--a year younger than my oldest daughter.

Take time to read his story in the Wall Street Journal, written by Farnaz Fassihi:

Born in 1983 in Tabriz, Iran, to a schoolteacher and a merchant in a traditional bazaar.

Named for a legendary hero who fights against unjust rulers.

Reading and writing by age 3.

Entering a school for gifted and talented children at age 11.

Winner of a national poetry contest at age 13.

Starting at Tabriz Medical University at 18 in 2001.

Graduating at the top of his class as a doctor in 2008.

Delivering the valedictory address and quoting a poem:

The person whose heart is filled with love will never die.
Our perseverance is recorded in the book of time.

Assigned to a clinic in Tehran responsible for a rundown detention center (work that would count as military service).

Tending the 140 students detained there on July 9 after a large demonstration protesting the rigged election in June--students raped and beaten in the prison.

Asked to sign death certificates saying that three of them had died of meningitis.

Recording the true cause: "Physical stress, multiple blows to the head and chest, severe injuries."

Ordered to revise the cause of death to "Meningitis."

Testifying to the parliamentary committee assigned to investigate.

Being arrested, warned, and threatened.

Released on bail, making plans to study abroad in April, 2010, when his military service ended.

Telling his parents he feared for his life because he refused to cover up the murders.

Going to Iran's Parliament to ask for help.

Poisoned by a meal at his clinic.

Honored by hundreds at the memorial service on the fortieth day after his death.

Revered alongside Neda Agha Soltan as another martyr, courageously standing up for truth.

The crowds shout:
Our Neda is not dead.
Our Ramin is not dead.
It's the Supreme Leader who is dead.

The Iranian government has admitted the violent deaths of three students.
The committee that covered up the cause of Ramin's death is being forced to look into his murder and that of others.
Huge demonstrations took place today at the funeral of elderly Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri, who had been denouncing the violence at Kahrizak prison as well as the fraudulent election last June.

See also these reports:

Friday, December 18, 2009

30 Years of Refusing Equality

CEDAW turned 30 years old today--and the US still refuses to ratify the UN treaty.

Thank you to Linda Tarr-Whelan and Women's eNews for pointing out this anniversary.

You wouldn't think that approving a Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women would be so hard for the US House and Senate to pass.

Ukraine, Nepal, and Thailand have all passed it and found it useful to reduce sex-trafficking, Tarr-Whelan reports.

Only Sudan, Iran, Somalia, and a few small island nations are holding out, along with the USA.

"This international agreement was Eleanor Roosevelt's dream and is one of the pillars of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights," she reports, noting the rush of nations to sign the CEDAW in 1979.

"In those heady days, I was deputy assistant to President Jimmy Carter for women's concerns. We expected speedy action after he sent the treaty to the Senate," she reveals.

We were so hopeful in1979, also still expecting 38 states to approve the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.

Instead, we continue to live in disillusionment and accommodation.

Here's what Langston Hughes said about a dream deferred:

What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

Guilt-tripping of raped women

Thank you to Letha Dawson Scanzoni and, a young women's online feminist community, for alerting me to this report on the Reproductive Health Reality Check website.

In a nutshell, the "Human Life" (sic) Alliance is saying that women who are raped, whether by strangers, acquaintances, or family members/incest, should not choose abortion. It will only "make matters worse."

Sheesh! Please let us each retain the right to decide if carrying a rapist's baby to term will make things better or worse--as US law now allows us to do.

Don't decide for us.

And don't tell us we are murderers if we don't want to take a year out of our lives to bear a child that we then either have to raise or place up for adoption, hoping it will find a good home.

Note: take time to join the RH Reality Check website. If it had 310 million members, maybe this anti-choice nonsense would go away.

Death Threats to Obama

"Appalling"--that was the only comment of Ginny Hearn, who forwarded to me this commentary by Cathleen Falsani, written as a "special to USA Today."

I can't find it on the USA Today website, nor on Falsani's, so I will just reprint it here without a link.

Just War?

Thank you to T. Christian Miller, Propublica, and the LA Times for this eye-opening report on wounded and killed translators in Iraq and Iran:,0,1870828.story

Last week I listened to President Obama's speech to the Nobel Committee arguing that US fighting in Afghanistan should be considered a just war.

Here's my question after reading this article:

Is a just war still just if the interpreters and others hired to fight it are treated unjustly?

I include our own soldiers in the category of those hired to fight, as well as all contracted workers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Along the lines of How much wood... :

Is a just war just
if the those paid to help
are just not treated justly?

Monday, December 14, 2009

To the men I love...

My kids say, "Mom hates men."

The marriage therapist, Dr. Richard Friedman, asks, "Do you have a problem with men?"

My answer: No.

I have a keen appreciation of the effects of men's control of human government and institutions over the past several millennia.

I have a radar that alerts me to patriarchal males on my horizon. That is, I notice statements and behaviors that indicate a man wants to control women or does not consider them his equal.

Finally, I have an inclination to speak and act on what I notice. With the authority of 61 years on the face of this earth, I am no longer intimidated by propriety.

"Life doesn't frighten me at all," as Maya Angelou says in her poem.

Friday, December 11, 2009

For Maryam and Fateme

Every time we think of Mary, mother of Jesus, this holiday season, we should also remember Maryam Sabri and Fateme Faneian.

They are among the refugees from Iran who are currently living in Turkey while awaiting processing by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to be placed permanently in another country.

Today's Wall Street Journal reports on them and others: "Thousands Flee Iran As Noose Tightens."

Maryam is a 21-year-old artist who was imprisoned in Tehran in August while protesting the killing of Neda Agha-Soltan. In prison, Maryam was repeatedly raped and told that she would be killed if she did not stop working for opposition presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Fateme and her husband also demonstrated against the handling of last June's election in Iran. During one protest, a police officer kicked her in the stomach, causing her to miscarry, she reports.

We celebrate the joy of Jesus' birth, but Fateme's arms are empty and Maryam's body and spirit were violated.

Come, come, Emmanuel, God-with-us. Bring peace on earth.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

"War is peace..."

I applauded when President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009, but today when he accepted the prize with a speech justifying his recent decision to send more troops to Afghanistan, I could not applaud.

I feel uneasy.

Some wars are necessary to keep the peace, he explained, sounding very much like the demagogues in George Orwell's

But the Roman Empire waged wars to preserve the
pax romana. Even Hitler felt his motives for killing were impeccable.

Perhaps the Nobel Committee should think twice before awarding a Peace Prize to a sitting president. They say power corrupts, and who in the world is more powerful than a US president?

Well, I hope my Republican friends are happy. Their candidate didn't win, but their pressure is pushing President Obama into decisions John McCain would approve.

My only hope is that Obama is giving the Right more troops and time in Afghanistan in order to win a few more friends and votes for healthcare reform.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Healthcare: Hopeful?

The good news: compromises are being made to get some kind of healthcare bill passed before Christmas.

The bad news: compromises are being made.

The "public" option has been bargained into an option run by a private nonprofit insurer? That's what today's LA Times says:,0,7688557.story

Kaiser-Permanente is a nonprofit insurer--would this option look somewhat like that?

I'm confused but hopeful about these developments. The expansion of Medicare to people between 55 and 64 years old sounds good to me--fiscal conservatives don't seem to argue against Medicare any more.

A word of comfort from an advisor to Senate Majority leader Harry Reid: "No one believes this is going to be the last word."

Monday, December 7, 2009

Ted Haggard Preaching Again

How interesting that Ted Haggard is preaching again in Colorado Springs.

According to DeeDee Correll of the LA Times, he began in November and uses a barn on his property to seat about 75 people on folding chairs.,0,2372048.story

His marriage is under repair, and he regards his sexual relationship with a male sex worker as a sin. Yes, it was adultery.

What's unclear is how Haggard now publicly regards faithful same-sex unions.

He speaks at churches around the country--does anyone know what his views on gays and lesbians are these days?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ita, Maura, Jean & Dorothy

Today we shared a "Liturgy for Four Women Martyrs" prepared by Joann Lamb for our Advent gathering of Women-Church in Claremont.

More than twenty of us gathered to listen to these women's words and to pray for a rebirth of justice in our world.

Pat Hynds spoke about knowing Maura Clark and Jean Donovan in 1980 when she was in training with Maryknoll before going to serve in Nicaragua (after raising four children).

She was at Maryknoll on December 3 when there were rumors that some women were missing in El Salvador, last seen Dec. 2 while driving to the airport.

The women had been raped and murdered by National Guardsmen, their bodies left on the side of the road. Nearby peasants were told to bury the remains, but one also told his priest.

A few days later the bodies were exhumed and identified.

"Carter was president," Pat said. "Right away he cut off aid to the Salvadoran government, but pressure was put on him and the US aid started again."

US Ambassador to the UN Jean Kirkpatrick said the victims were "not just nuns but activists," implying that their activism had caused their deaths, Pat said.

In 1981 Secretary of State Alexander Haig said that the nuns were not murdered but "caught in crossfire." Thus the US covered up the horror of the attack and any responsibility for it.

Five lower-ranking National Guardsmen were convicted and punished for the crimes. The higher-up men who ordered it were never held accountable.

"This was my baptism of fire into US foreign policy," Pat explained. "The beginning of my coming to terms with what US foreign policy is capable of doing and denying... and so many of these things haven't changed today."

We remembered in prayer:

Ita, Maura, Jean, and Dorothy

Sr. Dorothy Stain, who died in Brazil

the women of Juarez, Mexico

the women of the Congo

the women of Afghanistan

all women priests

women of the US Congress who can work to change US foreign policy.

Welcome, Bishop Mary

"Bishop Mary"--I like the ring of that.

Thank you to the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles for a special gift this Christmas: the election of two women to serve as suffragan bishops under Bishop Jon Bruno.

Diane M. Jardine Bruce is married and rector of a church in San Clemente.

Mary D. Glasspool has been in a committed relationship with another woman since 1988 and currently works for the Diocese of Maryland.

How many Protestant pastors today can say they have been faithful for 21 years? How many Roman Catholic priests have honored their celibacy that long?

With a life of quiet, humble service, this Mary is indeed a blessing to the church, a reason to diminish our fears of approving pastors who are in same-sex unions.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Our "Homeland" ?

I was with you, Mr. President, almost all the way through your speech, until you spoke those words: "...defend our homeland."

Don't you know that the word homeland comes straight out of Nazi Germany? Die Heimat.

I never heard the US described as "our homeland" until after September 11, 2001. No presidents used the term, as far as I can remember.

But in the patriotic frenzy after attacks on Wall Street and the Pentagon, suddenly that word appeared. Bush even invented a "Department of Homeland Security."

I'm extremely skeptical of this plan to send 30,000 more young men and women to Afghanistan to "stabilize" the country and try to knock down Al Qaeda, but I trust your judgment.

At least you promised to begin withdrawing troops in July 2011, though commentators noticed vagueness in many areas of the speech. There's no date given for complete withdrawal.

I wonder if this new "surge" is offered as a bone to pacify the right-wing and win a few more votes for passage of a national health care plan that includes a significant public option.

If so, I'll support your plan, Mr. President. Anything to get health care passed--I'm even willing to accept the Stupak amendment defunding legal abortion.

I also trust the analysis of Doyle McManus, LA Times Washington correspondent, who describes sitting in a quiet room with President Obama and a few other reporters hours before the speech at West Point. His analysis is worth reading:,0,591124.story

Doyle notes, "Obama never wanted to be a war president. His speech at West Point was more dutiful than eloquent, with little of the passion that fueled his presidential campaign, or even his Sept. 9 address to Congress calling for a healthcare reform bill." He's concerned that the cost of the war could limit his domestic agenda.

A friend invited me to join her in protesting the build-up of the war in Afghanistan today at the Federal Building on Wilshire in Westwood. During the lead-up to the bombing of Baghdad in March 2003, we protested against attacking Iraq.

But I'm so grateful that Barack Obama was elected president--I'm not yet ready to go into the streets against his policies.

Nevertheless, that word homeland disturbs me. My president is using a demagogue's word to win support for sending our children half-way around the world to kill Muslims who want to regain a totalitarian state.

Afghan president Hamid Karzai is ceding more ground to the Taliban. He's weak and he stole the election held last August. Why should we support his government? And why militarily, with the loss of more Afghan and American lives?

I admit that I'm pacifist to the core and a card-carrying liberal--but even my military brother says we should get out of Afghanistan. He served in the Army for twenty years and still works as a surgeon at Fort Lewis, the US Army post south of Tacoma, Washington.

We can't win, he says. We should leave.

Members of Military Families Speak Out are also opposed to Obama's Afghan surge.

LA Times reporter Louis Sahagun watched Obama's speech with them last night, and he quotes one young vet as saying, "In World War II, the average combat time was 60 days. Now it's 280 days of people taking pot shots at you.",0,6128336.story

These people oppose continued fighting in Afghanistan because it's their kids who are being sent there.

"We're also going to keep a candle lit in front of our homes until every troop comes home," one mother, Pat Alviso, told Sahagun. Her son, a Marine, has served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan so far.

Let's support them by lighting candles in front of our homes, too.

For the full text of Obama's speech, see:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Of Minarets and Danger

How can a building be banned?

Yes, local ordinances often define height and other limits on design, but to ban the distinctive symbol of one religion in the 21st century is incredibly backward.

See the NY Times discussion of the recent public referendum in Switzerland:

Looks like I'll have to avoid visiting Switzerland.