If I had a hammer—nostalgia with the great PP&M

For those of us who remember the 60’s (and yes, there are some of us who lived through them and still remember), it was a night to wax nostalgic and hopeful. Last evening, I had the pleasure of listening to Peter and Paul (two-thirds of the great Peter, Paul & Mary trio) talk and sing about what it has meant for them and still means for them, to sing about justice, freedom and a love between their brothers and sisters all over the land. They were in Santa Barbara, my home town, to receive the prestigious Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Distinguished Peace Leadership Award.
The award is presented annually to individuals who have “demonstrated courageous leadership in the cause of peace.” To put this award in context, some of its prior recipients include: Dr. Helen Caldicott, Dr. Carl Sagan, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Walter Cronkite, Anne and Paul Ehrilich and Daniel Elsberg (among others). Obviously, a pretty impressive group.
While Mary was, unfortunately, back home in Connecticut recovering from back surgery (having won her battle against a virulent form of leukemia as well ), Peter and Paul sang gallantly (clearly missing that magnificent Mary Travers sound). They talked of their life-long commitment to peace, social justice and community well-being.
In addition to those of us who remember them with full heads of hair, there were 120 young people in the audience—primarily college students, but some high school students who were selected as the next best hope to restore a sense of commitment to the principles that moved so many of us during our college years back when the Vietnam War and Civil Rights battles were raging in this country.
In that earlier era,we sang and danced to the Movement for political and social justice, peace in our time, brotherly and sisterly love and respect. We hoped for a better world that was comprised of these things, not material things. We dreamed about justice and goodness and love and kindness. The notion of dreaming for Versace, BMW’s, 10,000 square foot mansions and diamonds were nowhere on our radar-screens or desires. We wanted peace, and a more just world for ourselves and all humankind.
It brought tears to the eyes of many of us as Peter Yarrow implored the youngsters in the audience to pursue these goals as our next generation of leaders. He and Paul (actually Noel Paul Stookey) spoke eloquently about these causes and their hopes that we can, yet again, regain our footing by pursuing a kinder, more peaceful planet.
Although partially immersed in the music and nostalgia, I couldn’t help asking: “What has happened in our nation that we see our youngsters dancing to gangsta rap and other ‘music’ that glorifies killing and objectification of women? Why are our youngster’s heroes packing heat along with their ostentatious gold and diamond jewelry? How is it that the nation’s heroes today do not call for social justice or self-sacrifice or human kindness? Rather, they are admired and even worshiped for the number of cars, or girl-friends or houses they own.
Where are the young people crying out for social justice or marching against this illegal and hopelessly failed war? Why are we and they not calling for accountability by a White House that believes it is above the law? Why are we not challenging Bush and Chaney for their corrupt and destructive management of our environment, their criminal indifference to the poor who are living on the streets or in gang-infested communities where neither they nor their children are safe from violence? Where is the public outcry against corporate greed and irresponsibility in the pursuit of greater and greater wealth, to the detriment to our own workers?
Where are we on all this, Peter and Paul ask? We of the so-called “peace generation’ demanding social justice, peace and the freedom to think and be who we are and want to become. We HAVE the hammer, we ARE the hammer….of justice, of freedom of love between our brothers and our sisters………. We are at a cross-roads in our nation’s history and in our own sense of purpose. There should be little doubt: It’s time to bring that hammer back.

Women’s Equality Day- How far have we come?

In celebration of Women’s Equality Day this Sunday, Speak Out California has asked the state Chair of one of Calilfornia’s most influential Women’s groups to share the goals and work of her organization. The National Women’s Political Committee (NWPC) is a non-partisan organization dedicated to electing women nationwide who share its vision. Celeste Weingard, its current state president, has provided this entry in honor of the 87th anniversary of the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment giving women the right to vote after a 75 year battle.
Although we’ve seen women make great strides, there is still much to be accomplished to achieve parity in all fields of endeavor. Until we see an equal number of women in public office (and one finally as Commander in Chief), women reaching pay equity, equal opportunity and respect in the workforce, full control over their reproductive decisions and equal partnerships at home, there is still much work left to do.
While this is no time to be complacent, with the US Supreme Court systematically working to undermine women’s hard-fought gains, it is still a time to acknowledge that women are making strides in the battle for equal rights. We here at Speak Out California and all progressives in California, share in that celebration.

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Celebrating Women’s Equality through Workforce Justice

Now that the budget impasse is over (we’ll have more to say on that subject in this coming week’s update,”While California Dreams” ),we are focusing on Women’s Equality Day. This Sunday, August 26th marks the 87th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution which gave women the right to vote after a 75 year struggle. There are many ways to mark the occasion. In California, there are at least two such ways we can ensure that victims of employment discrimination continue to have the opportunity to seek redress in the courts. For that to happen, our legislature should pass Assemblymember Julia Brownley’s AB 435 and Assemblymember Dave Jones’ AB 437 Both of these measures are pending in the California State Senate.
Brownley’s bill, AB 435, specifically extends the statute of limitiations within which women can file suits for gender-based wage discrimination. It requires that all employers maintain their records of wages, wage rates, job classifications and other terms and conditions of employment for five years, and extends the statute of limitations for a civil action to collect back wages to four years, or, in the case of willful misconduct, to five years. The current statute of limitations is two years, unless the violation is willful in which case it is three years.
The Jones bill, AB 437 is necessary because the current US Supreme Court has demonstrated a commitment to overturn, and thus destroy, many hard-fought gains for women, minorities and other “protected classes” of people in this country. One such effort occurred in May of 2007 when the Court voted, by a 5-4 majority, to overturn decades of precedent in the Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. In doing so, the Supreme Court severely limited workers’ ability to bring pay discrimination claims against employers who break the hard-fought laws prohibiting discriminatory compensation practices on the basis of gender, race or other prohibited criteria.

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It’s time for Civil Unions, at the least

At this point in the budget stalemate, to talk about the budget standoff during recess is almost like watching maple syrup run in winter. Fortunately, at least one branch of government is alive and functioning. Tomorrow, August 17, 2007, is the deadline for filing written briefs to the California Supreme Court, which will then schedule oral arguments on same sex marriage rights in California sometime next year.
We asked Speak Out California Board Member and former Assemblymember, Jackie Goldberg, to update us on what this means for the gay and lesbian community. As a leader in the fight to advance the rights of same-sex couples, Jackie talks a little about the background of her landmark legislation, AB 205, and where the question of equality for gay and lesbian couples has taken us. Here’s what she has to say:

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The Big Corporate Bullies Are At It Again

The Big Corporate Bullies are at it again! Just when we thought they’d be embarassed and hiding from their latest shenanigans—pawning off bad medicine (think VIOXX) or seeing their Chinese competitors getting caught trying to sneak tainted pet food, toothpaste and fish into the U.S., they’re back themselves trying to slam the courthouse doors shut so they can’t be prosecuted for their own often dangerous antics.
What is it now? It’s a new initiative they’ve just filed with the California Attorney General’s office which will allow them to avoid accountability when they get caught doing things like discriminating against their employees on the basis of race, gender, age or disability. If this initiative makes it to the ballot and passes, they’ll be able to get away with refusing to pay their workers for their earned pay, be passing off known damaged and dangerous products, illegally pollute our air and water with inpugnity. The list goes on and on.
How are these profiteers planning their next attack on protecting the public? They’re staking out an initiative which will all but end class action lawsuits in the state of California by making them so hard and expensive for the little guy to bring to court, that they’ll all but vanish. Using Bush-like double-speak to hide their true identity, these greedy CEO’s and corporate polluters go by the totally misleading title of ” Civil Justice Association ” otherwise known as C-JAC. Like Bush’s cronies, they’re anything but seeking justice—it’s just more and more about their profits and the public be damned.

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Speaking plainly

Recently Governor Schwarzenegger rekindled the English-only debate while speaking to a group of Spanish-language news-media. In his remarks, he suggested that the Spanish-speaking community turn off those very T.V. stations hosting him and focus on listening to English only networks and reading English language newspapers. While pretty gutsy to challenge the reason for being of the group tho which you’ve been invited to speak, Schwarzenegger’s propensity for indelicately putting his foot in his mouth on the controversial English vs. Spanish debate stirs up strong emotions on all sides of the issue. Nonetheless, it IS a discussion worth having as it tends to divide us in ways that make it difficult, if not impossible, to unite around the things that we have in common.

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Has the U.S.Supreme Court officially reinstated racism in our schools?

This past week has been a woefully sorry one for the rights of the American people. The neocons have gained total control of the Supreme Court and are gleefully and unquestionably overturning the hard-fought gains of the past seventy-plus years. Many of us saw this coming but can only wish, sadly, that we had been wrong.
This court has thrown judicial precedent out the window. Both John Roberts and Samuel Alito obviously lied about their commitment to it when they testified before the Senate of the United States, but it seems lying and cheating and commuting sentences of convicted criminals is all within the Bush playbook. Such arrogance now extends to Bush’s court and seems to continue unabated. This past week it was civil rights, consumer rights and first-amendment rights of individuals all paying the price of this lawless and reckless administration’s blind allegiance to a corporate ideology. But the most stunning of all is the rejection of one of the pillars of our society over the past 50 years—that segregation in education is, as a matter of fact and law, unequal. Not anymore.
We asked Speak Out California’s own Jackie Goldberg to take a look at the right-wing spin on this decision—that we don’t need such legal protections any longer; that Brown v. Board of Education is passe and irrelevent to today’s world and that destroying its mandate is not a big deal. Of course it’s a big deal and Jackie pulls no punches in dissecting the neocon attempt to downplay the significance of this offensive and dishonest opinion by the Court.Here is her response to an opinion piece that ran last week in the New York Times by one Juan Williams:

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UCSB Student Detained After Homeland Security Interrogated Her Roommate

From the Courage Campaign
Last Thursday, at about 5:30 in the morning, agents from the Department of Homeland Security visited the apartment of some UCSB students. They interrogated a graduate student — the target of the pre-dawn raid — and compelled her to produce documents proving her legal immigration status. The federal agents also asked if anyone else in the apartment was an immigrant. Presumably frightened at the early morning intrusion and eager to comply with the agents’ requests, the graduate student’s roommate volunteered that she, too, was not born in the United States. Probably confident that she was doing the right thing, the roommate — who is an undergraduate student at UCSB — looked for her documentation but was apparently unable to find enough proof to satisfy the agents. She was arrested on the spot. She’s currently in a detention facility in Ventura.
I have just been informed that the detained woman is a student in the class I am teaching this quarter. I am horrified. This student has visited me in office hours. She’s almost always at lecture, and she has been a frequent contributor to the class discussion. I cannot believe that this is the reason that she’s missed lecture the past few days.
Ironically, this week the class will talk about immigration policy in the United States, but I’ve been notified by the Associate Dean that this student is likely to miss class since she’s in an immigration detention facility. I’m told that university counsel is working with the student’s family and their legal representative and they hope to secure a quick release for the student.
I wonder how often this kind of thing happens. I obviously don’t know all the facts, but from what I do know, the interrogation of these students seems utterly ridiculous. Any questions as to the status of the graduate student targeted for suspicion surely could have been answered in less intrusive ways than an unannounced, pre-dawn interrogation at her apartment. And what made the Department of Homeland Security think that these students, who study sociology and religion, would be some kind of threat deserving of this kind of rough treatment in the first place? Why did they decide that my student, who apparently couldn’t find her documents on the spot in the early morning hours, needed to be arrested right then and there? Why not just come back later to check on her, or require that she report to an immigration office within 48 hours or something like that? The immediate arrest and detention appears to me to be totally unwarranted.
I’ve been an “immigrant” myself when I lived in Japan, and I’m not sure that if agents came storming into my room in the early morning that I’d be able to produce my passport and all my documents fast enough to satisfy them. Thankfully, I was an immigrant in a country that didn’t conduct any raids on me. Unfortunately, these students do live in a country where we raid people’s homes, asking them to prove that they’re legal.
I’m not just horrified by this incident, but I’m also embarrassed. I’m embarrassed as an American that we’ve sunk to this level in our quest for “securing the borders.” How sad.

Liveblogging TALC

I’m at the High Speed Rail session at the Bay Area Transportation and Land Use Coalition conference in Oakland today, where my laptop just stepped up to play this great video that the High Speed Rail Authority has put together:

This is a great conference – almost 400 people, and with a strong social justice focus along with the expected environmental one. This is the kind of citizen-led event that flies right in the face of the “California is ungovernable” argument.

Ideas and consequences: the case for interdependence

Over at StreetProphets, PastorDan asks “Who is My Neighbor?” in relation to the ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) raids that have been happening all over the country – including many in California. Latina Lista broke some great coverage of the “privatized detention facilities” (maybe the three scariest words in the American lexicon right now) that families broken up by the raids are being placed in.
PastorDan’s post includes a treatment of how birthright citizenship challenges the authoritarian familial structures favored by conservatives – and why they want that law changed. The whole article, and a lot of the pieces linked from it, are very much worth a read. But where it really gets interesting is this:

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