Friday, April 25, 2008

Fair pay: Women still not getting even

As the Boston Globe editorialized today:

Of all the retrograde reasons to oppose the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act, the one offered by Senator John McCain on Wednesday takes the cake. Ledbetter, who earned $18,000 less than her male counterparts at a Goodyear tire plant for doing the same job, lost her case in the US Supreme Court last year because of a narrow interpretation of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The bill that Senate Republicans killed on Wednesday would have clarified that section of the law. McCain, who didn't even leave the campaign trail to cast a vote, complained that it "opens us up to lawsuits," which is exactly the point. For McCain to say he is for pay equity for women but not for their right to sue to achieve it reveals a basic misunderstanding of US civil rights law

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Poem in Your Pocket, Matzah in Your Meal

I heard about this somewhere and then read about it at

Thursday, April 17 is “Poem in Your Pocket Day,” which asks people to carry a poem in their pocket and read it aloud to friends and co-workers. This is the first year that Poem in Your Pocket Day will be a national event. It originated in New York.

With that, and with Passover beginning Saturday night, let me quote Marge Piercy. I hope she won't mind. This poem's title means "Storytelling," and it is the name of the part of the Passover haggadah that indirectly and intricately tells the story of liberation from slavery.


The courage to let go of the door, the handle.

The courage to shed the familiar walls whose very

stains and leaks are comfortable as the little moles

of the upper arm; stains that recall a feast,

a child's naughtiness, a loud blistering storm

that slapped the roof hard, pouring through.

The courage to abandon the graves dug into the hill,

the small bones of children and the brittle bones

of the old whose marrow hunger had stolen;

the courage to desert the tree planted and only

begun to bear; the riverside where promises were

shaped; the street where their empty pots were broken.

The courage to leave the place whose language you learned

as early as your own, whose customs however

dangerous or demeaning, bind you like a halter

you have learned to pull inside, to move your load;

the land fertile with the blood spilled on it;

the roads mapped and annotated for survival.

The courage to walk out of the pain that is known

into the pain that cannot be imagined,

mapless, walking into the wilderness, going

barefoot with a canteen into the desert;

stuffed in the stinking hold of a rotting ship

sailing off the map into dragons' mouths.

Cathay, India, Serbia, goldeneh medina,

leaving bodies by the way like abandoned treasure.

So they walked out of Egypt. So they bribed their way

out of Russia under loaves of straw; so they steamed

out of the bloody smoking charnelhouse of Europe

on overloaded freighters forbidden all ports--

out of pain into death or freedom or a different

painful dignity, into squalor and politics.

We Jews are all born of wanderers, with shoes

under our pillows and a memory of blood that is ours

raining down. We honor only those Jews who changed

tonight, those who chose the desert over bondage,

who walked into the strange and became strangers

and gave birth to children who could look down

on them standing on their shoulders for having

been slaves. We honor those who let go of everything

but freedom, who ran, who revolted, who fought,

who became other by saving themselves.

from The Art of Blessing the Day: Poems With a Jewish Theme (Knopf).

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Two Conspiracies to Torture the Innocents

Texas officials showed a touching solicitude for the rule of law when they explained why it took them four years to break up a conspiracy to rape teenage girls. The local sheriff had an informer inside the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, which the Boston Globe describes as a "renegade Mormon splinter group." He did nothing. When a terrified 16-year-old girl finally took the risk to call the authorities, "State troopers put into action the plan they had on the shelf to enter the 1,700-acre compound, and 416 children, most of them girls, were swept into state custody because of suspicions that they were being sexually and physically abused."

Yesterday, state and local law enforcement authorities defended their decision to leave the sect alone for four years after it moved in.

"We are aware that this group is capable of" sexually abusing girls, Sheriff David Doran said. "But there again, this is the United States. We are going to respect them. We're not going to violate their civil rights until we get an outcry."

Oh, really?

For more than four years, men have been held and tortured at Guantanamo Bay and at secret locations. They are not the prisoners of Warren Jeffs. The cult leader who keeps them locked up, another Texan, sits in the White House.

The Bush administration has repeatedly claimed that it can imprison these men forever and do anything it wants to them, without answering to any outside authority. Courts have rebuffed that claim. The administration has responded aggressively, using political blackmail to get a fearful Congress to ratify the power of the executive to be judge, jury, and torturer.

Why does the legal system of the United States of America swing into action against Bush's prisoners and let the polygamists' prisoners languish in rape camp? It's not because the people at Guantanamo are terrorists and the people in San Angelo, Texas are not. The best estimate is that two-thirds of the people imprisoned at Guantanamo don't belong there. They were picked up by mistake or fingered by personal enemies. And what do you call a scheme of violence and intimidation that makes teenage girls submit to "spiritual" marriages with much older men besides terrorism and torture?

Are the men in Guantanamo more open to imprisonment because they are foreign and Muslim? Are the girls in San Angelo less worthy of protection because they are young and female?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Timely Death of the "Line of the Day"

A lot of advisors to the presidential candidates, Republican and Democratic, have been sticking their feet in their mouths lately. Some have embarrassed the candidates they support so badly that they've had to resign. Viewing this unedifying spectacle, I have repeatedly had one cheerful thought: "Well, at least they're not following the line of the day any more."

The "line of the day" was an invention of the Reagan campaign. As Mark Hertsgaard described it in his brilliant book On Bended Knee: The Press and the Reagan Presidency, the campaign--and the administration, which was a sort of perpetual campaign--decided every day that Reagan was going to talk about only one thing that day. They worked out the theme, sometimes even the words he was going to use on every occasion. (Reagan was a screen actor: he was used to learning his lines.)

What's more, everyone else working for the campaign, and then the administration, had to say the same thing. No one was allowed to muddle the message. As Deputy Chief of Staff Michael Deaver wrote:

The point of having a line of the day was to get, not just the press saying something, but to get 100 or 200 people saying the same thing in venues all over Washington and the country. And if we could control that message and repeat it constantly, it would have a much better chance of becoming reality.
Now, what Reagan and Deaver pioneered, George W. Bush and Karl Rove repeated, as farce. W has, in effect, a line of the administration. As Stephen Colbert observed at the National Press Club: "When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday - no matter what happened Tuesday." After years of Bush, Cheney, and their surrogates repeating lies no one believes any more, it's actually refreshing to see campaign advisors--and candidates!--shoot from the hip. This may be the historical legacy of the last eight years.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Friend Don't Let Friends Vote McCain

McCain is not what the media make him out to be. He's politically conservative, personally corrupt, repressive, reactionary, calculating, a bully, and no choice for anyone who would even think of voting for Clinton or Obama. Read the bill of particulars by Dan Payne in the Boston Globe. Then, remember: the enemy of my enemy is NOT my friend, no matter how loud the right-wing pundits object.