Monday, October 31, 2005

NLG in PDX: Radical?

I just returned from the National Lawyers Guild Convention in Portland, Oregon. It was, for me, the most inspiring convention I've been to for the NLG (I've only been to two others - last year in Birmingham and the year before in Minneapolis). Lynne Stewart - a harmless grandmother who the Feds are trying to lock up for decades - spoke from a position of strength despite her very vulnerable situation. There were more people of color present than I've seen previously - both in the audiences and on the panels. The Gender Outlaws and Queer Rebels panel was something I don't believe the Convention has ever seen. A lot of young, bright, people took on positions of power (or are likely to when all the votes are tallied). And I could go on.

Still there were divisions. For me the primary divisions were between those with a more radical outlook versus those who had what they saw as a more practical, reform-minded, (and again in their minds) more effective outlook. For this latter group there tended to be more years of experience, but also lifestyles that were more dependent on the status quo. For this latter group there was also a sense of shame and a desire to be part of mainstream American politics (or at least the political games that are the focus of the corporate media and sadly have a hold on power at the present moment in history). "People don't take us seriously." "Nobody cares about the NLG." "I want to actually win a political battle." These are the types of statements I heard from these folks.

Who does take us seriously? Maybe politicians in Washington, or Sacramento, or Austin don't care about the NLG, but 30 years ago these folks didn't care about the Federalists. They stuck to their crazy, right-wing principles anyway and kept at it. Now the most powerful man in the world (theoretically) consults them on every judicial appointment. Plus, and more importantly, the people who do take us seriously and do care about the NLG are not powerful people, but they should be important to us: The activists we defend; The immigrants we work with; The victims of police abuse for whom we demand justice. For the younger folks, and those with more radical outlooks, it was these people we sought to impress. For us, we were more concerned with expanding on this work - why aren't we helping more of the powerless and earning their respect?

Winning a political battle, after all, isn't always about getting a bill passed or getting a particular person on a Circuit Court. Indeed sometimes passing a bill that appears to provide positive, short-term benefits, is actually a step backwards if in the course of getting that bill passed principles were sacrificed. This is the view of the radicals in the organization, like myself. Stick to our principles of internationalism, genuine equality, and anti-racism, and work hard to convince the doubters, work in coalition, and build our ranks from below. Judging from this year's convention, I believe this is the spirit that will ultimately carry the day for the NLG and in the long run make us a stronger organization, and one that actually has an effect on positive political change.

With that said, I can't report much from Portland about the city. I barely saw any of it, but from what I did see, it seemed very clean and well planned. Plus Mount Hood looked really beautiful from the train. Next year's convention will be in Austin, so to all my pals in TX - get ready for the NLG.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

My Biggest Worries Aren't

>Terrorists Crossing the Mexican Border
>The Plight of Cancun Tourists
>Lesbian Basketball Players Corrupting Young Sports Fans
>What to wear for Halloween
>Drug Smugglers
>Hell

Now I'm off to Portland.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

For Immediate Release: Monday, October 24

SFSU STUDENTS PROTEST MILITARY RECRUITERS ON CAMPUS
Cindy Sheehan flies to White House to protest 2000th US Fatality in Iraq

The expected 2000th US fatality in Iraq will be marked by hundreds of protests around the country, including Cindy Sheehan going directly to the White House to demand a meeting with President Bush. In San Francisco, the major protest will take place at San Francisco State University (SFSU) as students and community members protest both the presence of Marine recruiters on campus and the death of the 2000th US soldier.

Students and protesters will rally at San Francisco State University (SFSU) 10:30 AM this Wednesday to oppose any military recruiters who dare to come onto campus. Matt Gonzalez of the Green Party, Aimee Allison, a conscientious objector in the first Gulf War and currently on the steering committee of the College Not Combat-Yes on Prop I campaign, Sharon Adams of the National Lawyers Guild, and others will be speaking against the presence of military recruiters at the campus job fair and against the brutal war in Iraq which has killed over 100,000 Iraqi Civilians and now 2,000 US soldiers. Cindy Sheehan of Gold Star Families for Peace, grieving mother of a fallen US soldier who camped out outside Bush's ranch in Crawford, lends her support to SFSU students as she travels to Washington DC.

As the military finds it harder to convince recruits to fight, the antiwar and counter-recruitment movement is stepping up its fight to demand “College Not Combat, Money for Education Not Occupation.”

This comes during an intense legal struggle between students and the university. National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Attorneys have filed suit against SFSU on behalf of two student groups, Students Against War (SAW) and the International Socialist Organization (ISO). The suit arises from a protest against military recruiters on March 9th of this year that took place on the SFSU campus. The NLG accuses SFSU administrators of violating their own policies against discrimination based on sexual orientation by allowing recruiters on campus, and of violating the due process rights of the student organizations by punishing them at the end of an unfair disciplinary process. Disciplinary action is still pending for three individual students, and the university’s actions have significantly hindered students’ rights to organize on October 26.

The crackdown on students is matched with leniency toward recruiters who shamelessly defy the anti-discrimination policies of universities such as SFSU. “The people and the City of San Francisco have consistently supported gay rights and opposed discrimination,” stated Matt Gonzalez of the Green Party, “The University should publicly condemn the military's discriminatory policy and back the students in their efforts to keep recruiters off campus.”

“Our university officials are systematically trying to keep us from protesting the military coming onto our campus,” stated Michael Hoffman of Students Against War, one of the students facing disciplinary action for last semester’s protests. “We are not going to let them strip us of our right to free speech and our right to demand that not one more student die for this immoral war!”

On November 8th, the city of San Francisco will vote on Proposition I to get military recruiters out of San Francisco schools. The passage of this resolution is sure to bolster future actions at SFSU and beyond.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Peliculas y Mas

I wasn't feeling too hot this weekend, so I watched a few movies. First, Crash was fantastic. I cried when the little girl ran to her dad to protect him from getting shot. Then Prozac Nation was o.k. I liked the acting, but thought it ended feeling like an ad for the pharmaceutical companies. Still, Christina Ricci is hot (or so says Colby). Gunner Palace was boring. I thought there was going to be some soldiers bad-mouthing Donald Rumsfeld and maybe we might see some major combat, but the first 45 minutes was just some boring soldiers hanging out in a bombed-out palace. Maybe the good stuff came later, but I stopped watching it. Then there is THX-1138 - the first movie by George Lucas. It was really cool. I especially liked the futuristic, nonsensical digital displays. But by far the best thing I watched on DVD this weekend was the 3rd season of Dave Chappell. Oh my god, he did not just say that! The gay Ku Klux Klan dude was the best.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Police Deserve Psychiatry, Criminals Deserve Prison and Torture

Check out this Washington Post article, titled NEW ORLEANS POLICE STRUGGLE WITH UPHEAVAL. The premise is that the New Orleans police are working long hours and under a lot of stress and this is why you see actions like the beating of an elderly black man without provocation.

If only the Post and other journalists had this same concern for the people accused of violating criminal statutes, or victims of police abuse who have broken no law. Why would a poor black man drink too much and act a little beligerently? Who cares - throw him in jail!
Abolish the New Orleans Police Department

In the spirit of starting from scratch in New Orleans, it seems the perfect opportunity to get rid of a racist, oppressive, and violent institution. The video of these police beating a senior citizen is disgusting. The nagging question that I have, though I wonder whether the "rotten apple" proponents have contemplated this, is how often does this sort of thing happen when there aren't Associated Press cameras around?

In the aftermath of Katrina, it was clear that racism was alive and well in America, and not surpisingly in the South. The police were not competent enough to help people after the storm, many apparently decided to go on their own crime sprees. The only thing they are good for is oppressing people and protecting property. So get rid of the whole thing.

What will replace it? Something better.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

U.S. Navy Terrorizes Peaceful San Francisco

Since Thursday or so the Blue Angels have been flying over my city, often really low and really loud. On Friday I actually saw the windows shake by my desk. It is fleet week I believe, so I assume that means a bunch of Navy ships are docked here in some nostalgic practice that harkens back to the carefree years following World War II. I wonder how those year's were for Japan.

At any rate, I used to go to air shows as a kid and was thoroughly bored. I actually sustained my worst injury at an airshow in Corpus Christi, so guess how that happened. I can only see two reasons for enjoying the acrobatics, noise, and dizzying fly-overs of the Angels or other such airplanes. One is the amazement some feel when watching airplanes because of their abilities as flying machines. Flying machines are cool and people who believe this like watching them - kind of like that kid in Empire of the Sun. The second reason is patriotic machismo, or perhaps imperialistic team spirit. When you see those planes flying so fast, and they are so loud you feel kind of scared but assured because you know they are on your side. You get a taste of what those bad guys must feel when they climb out of their caves with their machine guns and see what they're up against. It makes you want to pound your chest and shout "U S A . . . U S A!"

In my case, I'm not usually interested in flying machines, except the really big ones. And being an internationalist who is appalled at America's militarism and its foreign policy, I don't like the Blue Angels and wish they would leave. I hope to gods that my tax dollars aren't paying for those jets.