That really is the perfect suggestion and so, two hours later, I called C.I. back and said, "Thank you! I'm thinking about adding a photo." C.I. explained Flickr and gave the password if I didn't want to create my own account and I was on the phone trying to figure it out but no use. Kat, Ava and C.I. were about to start speaking so I said I'd just write about Tammy Baldwin and C.I. said, "Well Dallas knows the passwords and, if he has time, I'm sure he wouldn't mind uploading to Flickr if you tell him the photo you want." So thank you C.I. and Dallas. Dallas said, "Give me a second to boot up the computer."
So that is what Tammy Baldwin looks like. She is a member of the US House of Representatives. She is one of only two openly gay members of Congress. The other is Barney Frank and he was outed after he was a member of the House. Tammy wasn't outed. She ran as who she was. And in Gay Pride Month does that not demonstrate what the month's supposed to be about more than anything else?
Now you look at the photo and, notice, no horns! I doubt anyone coming to my site on purpose would be surprised by that but the way we (the LGBT community) have been demonized so often over the years, maybe I do need to point that out.
And think about how homophobic our Congress has been and continues to be. Tammy Baldwin's side by side in the House and I'm sure it makes a big difference. If she's on a committee and gay issues come up as an aside, I doubt anyone would be disrespecting enough to snicker or make 'jokes.'
When she's in the room or the hall or on the floor, they might not like us, but they have to treat us with some respect. I don't mean to imply she's not her own person because she is. But I am saying that as a breakthrough, she clears the field for all who will come after.
She was first elected in 1998 (she's elected from Madison, Wisconsin) and, if you don't remember, the "Defense" of Marriage Act (aka "Homophobia On Parade" but also known as "DOMA") was passed in September 1996. So that is a big deal. Two years after Congress saw fit to say that gays and lesbians should not marry, Baldwin was elected as an openly gay woman.
Of course gays and lesbians can marry in state. Any gay man can go up to a lesbian he's never met before and say, "Want to get married?" Or vice versa. And they can get married. Strangers, as long as they are two different sexes, can marry. (Transgendered is left out, America's still not ready to deal.) But two women and two men? Only in California. And it started this week. (And some want to overturn that in November.)
So two years after "DOMA," Tammy Baldwin becomes the first openly gay person to be elected. (Barney Frank was repeatedly re-elected after he was outed.) That's a pretty big step.
One thing I especially love about Tammy Baldwin is that she supported Hillary. Even when The Progressive magazine tried to make her defensive about that, she supported Hillary. Of course, Hillary was the progressive choice. But it would have been really easy for her to have played follow the herd.
But maybe there's something about being a breakthrough that makes you take the right stand even when criticized?
Tammy is part of Gay Pride Month and I hope that these people and steps we (LGBT) can take pride in are also seen as "America Pride Month" because it says a great deal about our country that Baldwin was able to become the first. We need a lot more but hopefully -- gay, bi, straight, celebite for life -- we can all take pride in her huge step.
This is a press release she has posted at her site: "Baldwin Co-Chairs LGBT Equality Caucus: Goal is Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Americans:"
In a Capitol Hill press conference today, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) and Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) announced the formation of the House of Representatives LGBT Equality Caucus. Baldwin introduced the bipartisan caucus and its founding members saying, “We represent different races, different genders, different sexual orientations, different geographic regions, different generations, and different parties, but we share a common mission: to promote lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality.”
Congressman Barney Frank, who is co-chairing the caucus with Baldwin said, “With a Democratic majority in the House, we now have both the opportunity and the responsibility to move towards legal equality for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. This caucus will play an important role in helping shape the strategy by which we do this.”
The mission of the LGBT Equality Caucus is to achieve the extension of equal rights, the repeal of discriminatory laws, the elimination of hate-motivated violence, and the improved health and well being for all, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
The Caucus will serve as a resource for Members of Congress, their staffs, and the public on LGBT issues. Congressional action this session on legislation combating hate crimes and employment discrimination based highlighted the need, and the desire people had, for more information on LGBT issues. The LGBT Equality Caucus is one result of those successful efforts.
Baldwin described the purpose of the Caucus as both symbolic and substantive, “…symbolic because, historically, of all the Member caucuses organized in the Congress over the years, none has ever been dedicated to equality for LGBT Americans. The very existence of an LGBT Equality Caucus in Congress makes a strong statement about the values this Congress and this nation hold dear.”
The Caucus will address not only U.S. domestic policies, but our nation’s foreign policy to safeguard the human rights of LGBT people in all parts of the world.
At its founding today, the Equality Caucus is comprised of the following Members with more expected to join in the coming months:
Co-Chairs: Reps. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Barney Frank (D-MA)
Vice Chairs: Reps. Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Xavier Becerra (D-CA) Lois Capps (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Mike Honda (D-CA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Hilda Solis (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT)
Members: Reps. Howard Berman (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Robert Brady (D-PA), Michael Capuano (D-MA), Susan Davis (D-CA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Phil Hare (D-IL), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-TX), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Doris Matsui (D-CA), James Moran (D-VA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), José Serrano (D-NY), Chris Shays (R-CT), Pete Stark (D-CA), Betty Sutton (D-OH), Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), Niki Tsongas (D-MA), Robert Wexler (D-FL), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA)
Now for presidential politics. This is a Ralph Nader video featuring Nader and Patti Smith with music.
Kat's "Kat's Korner: Patti from the Mount" is a must read if you're a Patti fan or someone who doesn't know Patti's music. I have to include the first few lines of the review because I'm a huge Patti fan and I loved the way Kat did it:
Patti Smith. Jesus died for somebody's sins but, you know, not hers. G-L-O-R-I-A. Patti got big and Patti got bigger. One minute, she was dancing barefoot, the next, because the fame, because the fame, she was pulling a Laura Nyro in Detroit. The priestess of punk returned, as Ronnie Ray-gun was up to the neck in Iran-Contra, to demonstrate that "People Have the Power" and then she was gone again until the 90s.
Kat's referencing several of Patti's songs in that. I wish I could tell you that I knew her when punk was all the rage. But (a) I'm not old enough and (b) as an African-American, I probably wouldn't have gone near punk (Jesse Jackson went after New Wave -- after as in opposing them). The first time I heard Patti was in the 90s when my then-girlfriend dragged me to a Dylan concert. I'm not that keen on Dylan. But Patti was on the bill and I was like, "WHO IS THAT!" I have most of her CDs now (I don't have Radio Ethiopia due to the fact that I buy music in person and I never find it at any store, other than that, I have them all, including the double disc anthology). If you ask me to think about the late 90s, Patti will spring to mind because I lived on her. I got Dream Of Life first because it has "People Have The Power" -- her anthem that especially blew me away at the concert. And I really loved it. Then I started talking to friends and heard, "No, no, you have to get Horses." So that was my second Patti CD. And I would listen to one over and over for about six months and then get another. So the late 90s are pure Patti times in my memory. I do love CDs but I really hope she puts out a live CD at some point because that was probably my favorite concert performance. (Even highter than George Clinton whom I love!)
Okay, be sure to read Ruth's "Sexism and more" which went up last night. We all lost our posts last night (all got the "502 error") and had to redo them except for Ruth who was smart enough to call C.I. and say, "Help!" So Ruth's post was saved and what a post.
Here's C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"
Wednesday, June 18, 2008. Chaos and violence continue, the refugee crisis continues, Nader confronts myths, and more.
Starting with war resistance. Courage to Resist reports the latest on James Burmeister:
James Burmeister was serving in Baghdad, Iraq when his humvee was caught in an IED explosion and he was hit in the face with shrapnel. Suffering from the physical wounds, as well as emotional ones resulting from his injury and working with the military "bait and kill" teams, James went to Canada and was AWOL until earlier this year when he decided to turn himself in.
At this point, his fate is undecided. Because of his PTSD, James and his family are requesting that the Army gives him an "Other Than Honorable Discharge" in leiu of a special court martial which could send James to a military prison for up to a year. You can help!
1. Please contact the Post Commander General Campbell to request a speedy discharge for James. Contact the Fort Knox Public Affairs Office at 502-624-7451 or email@example.com and demand better treatment for our soldiers. Ask that they discharge PFC James Burmeister now so that he can get the help that he needs.
2. Attend a Press Conference at Fort Knox, KY on Thursday, June 19, at 11am.
At N Wilson Rd & Knox Blvd, Radcliff, KY 40160 (map with directions)
3. Write James and give him words of support and encouragement.
PFC James Burmeister; HHC - Building 298, Gold Vault Road; Fort Knox KY 40121
Meanwhile on Firday, war resisters in Canada will share their stories. Stathroy Age Dispatch reports that war resisters Josh Randall, Tim Richard and Rich Droste will share their experiences and answer questions and Michele Mason's Breaking Ranks documentary will be shown. The event will take place at the Quaker Meeting House, 359 Quaker Lane Coldstream in Ontario. What time? No time's given in the report at the Quaker Meeting House. You can use both links to continue checking for when a time is posted.
What is known is that Canada's House of Commons passed a motion to grant war resisters safe harbor and you can keep pressure on the Harper government right now. Gerry Condon, War Resisters Support Campaign and Courage to Resist all encourage contacting the Diane Finley (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration -- 613.996.4974, phone; 613.996.9749, fax; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org -- that's "finley.d" at "parl.gc.ca") and Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, 613.992.4211, phone; 613.941.6900, fax; e-mail email@example.com -- that's "pm" at "pm.gc.ca").
Matthis Chiroux announced May 15th that he would not deploy to Iraq. The day he was due to report was June 15th and he did not deploy and explained why in a public statement. Leo Shane III (Stars & Stripes) quotes him explaining, "I don't feel like I'm doing illegal at all. We basically have no cause for military presence in Iraq. I'm making this decision because I believe my first loyalty is to the higher ideals of this country, which are being blatantly violated by our leaders. . . . It's not about what job I'd do. Any order to deploy there is unlawful."
Courage to Resist interviewed Matthis ahead of June 15th and in one section he explains how he came to learn about his rights and how he enjoys getting that information out to others:
I went to a peace event in Brooklyn where I met up with a number of Iraq Veterans Against the War and this is an organization that that I completely agree with all their basic points of unity. I basically felt like 'wow this is maybe the most intelligent and well spoken and in touch group of soldiers that I have ever seen in my life and they are all speaking out freedom and justice and peace in the wake of having their rights so violated and having violated the rights of others so badly." And one soldier in particular really, really did it for me. And her name is Selena Coppa and she's actually an active duty soldier who is stationed in Germany and she was on leave speaking out against the war in Iraq. And she started off with a disclaimer where she said you know 'the opinions expressed here are my own and not of the US military' and went on to talk about her feelings about the Iraq War and I looked at that and said, 'Oh my goodness. Here is an active duty soldier with the courage to speak up and speak out and, then you know return from leave to uniform and face her command afterwards.' And I looked at that and I said if she can do it then there's absolutely no reason I can't do it. And furthermore, I've been wasting my time with silence these last five years because somehow I've been convinced that I didn't have a right to participate in speaking for peace and justice at all because I had signed away those rights when I listed. And so many people believe this is true. And I have such a good time actually informing soldiers of what their actual rights are and then pointing them out in the regulations because a lot of it is jaw dropping when they realize 'Oh, you mean even as an active duty soldier you mean I can participate in peace protests as long as they're non-partisan and I'm not in uniform and I'm not speaking for the army? I had no idea that was possible.' And so I started there and I started going to IVAW meetings and I started planning an IVAW beneift at my college which finally came to fruition May 13th and I started speaking on the radio about my feelings concerning the Iraq occupation and why it broke my heart that I would have to deploy there June 13th.
Information on war resistance within the military can be found at The Objector, The G.I. Rights Hotline [(877) 447-4487], Iraq Veterans Against the War and the War Resisters Support Campaign. Courage to Resist offers information on all public war resisters. In addition, VETWOW is an organization that assists those suffering from MST (Military Sexual Trauma).
Today, some categories of people can obtain a visa. These include academics and their immediate families; Iraqi students enrolled in Syrian universities and other higher education institutions; children attending schools; truck and passenger drivers operating on the Baghdad-Damascus route; Iraqis who need medical treatment in Syrian hospitals, provided they have relevant official documentation; members of cultural and sporting delegations visiting or passing through Syria; and traders and business people with commercial interests needing to travel to Syria.
Families with children attending schools in Syria or with family members in need of medical treatment can apply for temporary residence permits, which must be renewed monthly and only for up to a year. Such permits allow Iraqis to obtain permission from the Syrian authorities to travel to Iraq with an option of returning to Syria within three months. With the school year nearing an end, concern is growing in the refugee community about the future of visas obtained this way.
The international community has failed to respond adequately to the Iraqi refugee crisis. Rather, governments have tended to ignore the crisis or distort reality for political reasons – for example, to try and back up claims of military "successes" or to distance themselves from the issue.
In this respect, examples of Iraqi refugees returning home have received substantial media coverage, particularly since October 2007, while little attention has been given to the limited choices available to the refugees or the dangers they might face back in Iraq.
The Iraqi authorities too have an interest in promoting an overly positive and optimistic picture of Iraq's security situation and expectations. The Syrian government's introduction of strict visa regulations in October 2007 followed a visit to Damascus by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who requested closure of the border. The request appeared to be aimed at limiting the negative press coverage spurred by the continuing mass exodus from Iraq – the most visible indicator of the continuing high level of danger and insecurity in Iraq.
Following this, the focus shifted to highlighting what were portrayed as widespread "voluntary" returns of refugees to Iraq as a sign of improved security. Amnesty International was informed by the Iraqi Embassy in Damascus that three private coaches were being used to take hundreds of people back to Iraq. The Iraqi government has strongly encouraged "voluntary" returns, particularly since the end of 2007. Such encouragement has taken the form of advertisements on state-owned television channels, asking people to tell friends and relatives to return because of the perceived decrease in violence, and an organized return convoy. There have also been official statements at the highest level, including Prime Minister al-Maliki's April 2008 speech to the European Parliament in Brussels, which called for Iraqis to return home. Figures given by the Iraqi authorities of the numbers returning continue to be much higher than those provided by other sources, including UNHCR and the Iraqi Red Crescent.
Think about oil prices for big consumers, not just your pocketbook. Airlines are groaning, limiting flights, and laying off employees because of the skyrocketing price for aviation fuel. Executives in that industry say that fuel costs are close to 40 percent of the cost of flying you to your destination.
The powerful chemical industry is under pressure from the prices they're paying for petroleum-probably their main raw material.
The powerful trucking industry is beside itself with diesel fuel going to $5 per gallon.
You can add your own examples-cab companies, tourist industry, auto companies, etc.
Why aren't these very influential lobbies throwing their weight around Washington to get something done about the speculators on Wall Street determining what is paid for gasoline and related petroleum products? It is in their own economic interests.
Nader is running for president as an independent. Matt Gonzalez is his running mate. Today Amy Goodman interviewed him for approximately a half-hour on Democracy Now!. Earlier this week she asked someone who had not served in Iraq to tell her about his service in Iraq. This morning Goody got off another groaner:
AMY GOODMAN: Ralph Nader, you said in 2000 it doesn't really matter whether Gore or Bush is president. Do you feel that way today?
RALPH NADER: I didn't say that. I said the similarities between Bush and Gore tower over the dwindling real differences that they're willing to argue over. And, of course, my focus is not on some of the single issues. Obviously, Gore is better on Social Security, better on Medicare, better on gay, lesbian rights. Obviously in those areas, the Democrats have a much clearer position, better position, than the corporate Republicans. But in the gross area of corporate power and domination of every agency and department in our government, from the Department of Defense and Department of Labor, the Democrats are moving in the direction of the Republicans. It's quite clear in terms of their voting record. There are exceptions, like Henry Waxman and Ted Kennedy, Ed Markey. But for the most part, these parties have moved very heavily into the grip, the iron grip of corporate power, corporate money, corporate ultimatums on globalization, for example, and above all, the distortion of the federal budget in the direction of corporate contracts, subsidies, handouts, giveaways, and the swelling of this enormous, corrupt, wasteful military budget that's draining money.
We're going to repeat this reality: Candidates get the votes they win. The ones they lose go to another candidate. Goodman repeatedly used the angle that Nader's taking votes from Barack Obama. Well, if Barack would drop out of the race right now, think of all the votes Ralph could get! It's nonsense. Candidates earn your vote or they don't. They are responsible (and the media). Ava and I will address the interview Sunday at Third. Here is Nader responding to the issue of Iraq:
Six-month corporate and military withdrawal from Iraq, during which we negotiate with the Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis for modest autonomy, which they worked out in the 1950s before the dictators took over. Under a unified Iraq, continue humanitarian aid, some peacekeepers from nearby Islamic countries, and UN-sponsored elections. That's the way you knock the bottom out of the insurgency. That's the way you get the authority figures, the tribal leaders and the religious leaders and others, who still have authority over millions of Iraqis, to get together, because the alternative is constant bloodshed and civil strife. So you give them a stake by using the only chip we have, which is to give back Iraq to the Iraqis, including their oil. Now that--otherwise, it's constant, constant strife.
You saw that huge explosion in Iraq, in Baghdad, yesterday. The Pentagon doesn't count Iraqi civilian tolls. They don't even count officially US injuries unless they occur right in the middle of combat. So US injuries are triple what their official figure is. And all the press, including the liberal press and the indie press, still uses that figure of some 32,000 injured soldiers, when it's triple that. I don't understand why they follow that kind of Pentagon line. So that's the way to deal with it.