Violence in Cairo's Tahrir Square

When the first demonstrations took place in Tahrir Square I was thrilled that the people were able to demand Mubarak step down, because I love Cairo and have been there often for work and pleasure. As I watched the Arab Spring unfold I began to wonder if we, here at home, would ever take to the streets again, and we did. 

Would that the world could calm down in the new year. Things have taken a very violent turn in Cairo and other countries. Below you will find a link to an article and video that absolutely breaks my heart. The violence is beyond anything I've seen on the news. Enlarge the video to fill your screen so you can get a better look at what's happening. 
Egypt - Violence Up Close & Personal (
The whole world should be watching, so please have a good look and then write to our President (, or yours, and ask that she or he join with other heads of state to put pressure on the Egyptian military to resume civility towards civil society. Even with all my years of demonstrating and activism, I am horrified at the level of pure viciousness and wild rage that these armed (with metal clubs) and dangerous military perpetrators unleashed on demonstrators, including women, in Tahrir Square. 

Please spread the word about this.

                                             ~ enough said ~  

World AIDS Day

The phrase “30 Years, 30 million funerals” has been bandied around in the build-up to the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and it has resurfaced just in time for World AIDS Day. But a newly funded study tells us that good news is on the horizon. The world seems to be getting the message that treatment and prevention are not competitors for funding; rather, they are one and the same. In other words (as many of us have known but not yet used as an official message), treatment is prevention. Now, in our 30th year, it is official: 
“NIH-funded research released this year showed that anti-retroviral treatment for HIV+ people reduced the risk of HIV transmission by 96 percent--a breakthrough finding that has driven much of the conversation.” 
And this press release from activist organization HEALTHGAP (see sidebar for more info):
For immediate release: President Barack Obama today announced that the U.S. will get 6 million people access to antiretroviral AIDS treatment through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief--doubling the pace of scale up for the program.  Speaking on World AIDS Day along with Presidents Bush and Clinton, President Obama committed the U.S. to using emerging science to begin to end the global AIDS crisis—a concept unimaginable just a few years ago. 
I’d like to commend CNN for using World AIDS Day to educate, elucidate and discuss AIDS. They presented a series of interviews with everyone from their own Sanjay Gupta to Bono.

U.S. to Use Foreign Aid to Promote Gay Rights Abroad

President Obama announced a broad effort to use U.S. foreign aid as a tool to promote rights for gays and lesbians abroad as human rights (which I personally think should be obvious even to detractors). This initiative includes combating attempts by foreign governments to criminalize homosexuality. He issued a memorandum directing American agencies to look for ways to combat such attempts. In the memorandum, the President said that the State Department would lead other federal agencies to help ensure that the government provided a “swift and meaningful response to serious incidents that threaten the human rights” of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people abroad. I am thrilled that he has taken this stand and hope that he intends to direct these actions to apply to the United States (all 50 of them) as well. But don't just leave it up to the administration. Let's all write to him ( and to Secretary Clinton ( to congratulate them on this stand and let them know that you want them to follow through swiftly so that their actions meet their welcomed words.

In Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke the following words to an audience of diplomats: "Gay rights are human rights.… It should never be a crime to be gay." She added that a country's cultural or religious traditions are no excuse for discrimination, which I can attest is an important statement. I can’t even estimate how many times I have heard such excuses used in countries around the world, including within fundamentalist cultures throughout America. Secretary Clinton also noted that, "Being gay is not a Western invention. It is a human reality.…Gay people are born into, and belong to every society in the world." You can let her know your thoughts at

    Dear President Obama:

    I recently read a very powerful statement that you made: "The universal rights of assembly and free speech must be protected, and the United States stands with all who seek to exercise those rights." If you stand with the protesters of the Arab Spring, who called for their rights to speak truth to power, then you surely must offer the same rights and protections to members of Occupy Wall Street and other Occupy protests, who speak truth to bankers and politicians. America needs you to speak out to protect our rights and assure us that you do not condone the actions of enraged and rogue cops, some of whom moonlight for the corporate thugs who have actively, freely and callously helped impoverish everyday Americans.

    We are in jeopardy of loosing our status as a country “of the people, by the people, for the people.” Do you want that loss to be the legacy of your presidency? The choice is yours.

    You Have to be Carefully Taught

    Napoleon Hill said that, “One comes, finally, to believe whatever one repeats to one's self, whether the statement is true or false.” Some of us are very lucky because we were brought up to think freely and creatively. We take that freedom for granted at our own peril, since things are very different for millions of the world’s citizens.

    Fundamentalism doesn’t stand up well against reality or creativity. It is those most unable to think for themselves who fall easy prey to smooth-talking ideologues. When Ahmadinejad gets fired up, he can manipulate crowds, most of whom have never met an American, with hate-America rants. Our Tea Party can work up similar loathing among followers, ranting about those with differently colored skin, like our President, or with accents, or who worship a different God. Furthermore, they proudly pass their hatred down from one generation to another. They don’t strive to stimulate creativity, curiosity or passion in their children. After all, if young students looked too deeply into some of the precepts they are expected to hold sacred, they would likely see their folly. For instance, they would likely discern that the words “intelligent design” stand as a feeble attempt to cover up the fact that there is nothing intelligent about creationism, and choose to embrace science-based evolution. An intelligent society doesn’t present a biblical metaphor in a science curriculum.  

    As history bears witness, the propagation of fundamentalism for political ends in the schools is pretty universal. In America the far right is supported by private and religious schools that teach history as if America the beautiful has always been in the right. So it’s not surprising that the products of this education are stunned to discover, if they ever leave the country or watch something other than FOX News, that it’s all been a lie. And across the Muslim world there are Madrasas, which propagate the study of Islamic religion and thought. Children, primarily boys, are taught to read and write through the Holy Quran, which they accept as truth and do not question or analyze. The interpretation they are given supports the politics of their local region, which can easily seem to support the destruction of all things not Muslim. In either case, education by edict and arbitrary rules is counterproductive to the healthy socialization, curiosity and learning that children need in order to grow into healthy, thoughtful adults.  

    Without learning to think for ourselves, we are left with an unhealthy reflection of the brokenness of family and society. Begun early enough, “Because I said so” and other givens can eliminate the capacity for critical thinking and annihilate our ability to tune into our own conscience, our innate sense of right and wrong, and replace it with someone else’s imprint, someone else’s system of morality. This is the way many a terrorist or flag-follower shouting, “I’m standing by my country or religion, right or wrong!” is bred.  

    Of course if we want to inspire other countries to let their children think for themselves, then we will have to see to it that American children are given the tools they need to do just that. Let’s support the Obama administration and his Secretary of Education, Anre Duncan, in making a fair and well-balanced system of education a national priority that treats our children’s future as the best investment an intelligent society can make, because it is. And let’s keep religion and politics out of public education. That would really be leaving no child behind.
    I’ll write more about educating our children very soon, but I would really appreciate your comments and thoughts, so please add them below. To close I want to leave you with something that Nicholas Kristof said in a New York Times editorial that gets right to the point. “The dumbing-down of discourse has been particularly striking since the 1970s. Think of the devolution of the emblematic conservative voice from William Buckley to Bill O’Reilly. It’s enough to make one doubt Darwin.” Never underestimate the “Coming of the Right.” It’s still coming.  

    What We Can Do:
    If you have children in school at any level, and even if you don’t, please don’t fail to take an interest in your local school boards. See what you can find out about the people who are running for or sit in those seats, or who populate your local PTA. Knowing that the younger you begin to tell children what you want them to believe, the better, the Religious Right has been making a practice of getting themselves on school boards for decades. In this way their fundamentalist beliefs can seep into public school curricula—but not if our first priority is to raise generations of creative thinkers.  
    1. Think back on your education. Were you taught by rote or were you taught to dig deep and think for yourself? 
    2. How can you have input into the kind of education being offered in our schools now?  
    3. If you don’t have children in the system, just remember that what children are currently learning may impact your future, and think about what you can do to make sure that these children are getting the best and most open-minded education possible.   
    4. What might you want to tell President Obama and Secretary Duncan about your views and thoughts and needs around educating our children? Write to them:,
    5. Journalist Nicholas Kristof suggests looking up Child Education on the Citizens Foundation website ( to see how you can support education that tells a different story to children in Madrasas in Pakistan, where we definitely need to improve relations. 
    Things are still fairly crazy on our lovely planet, but it seems that this is a period where things are shifting. Women have been honored with the Nobel Prize and there are progressives in the streets of cities across the United States expressing our desire for great shifts. Best of all, we seem to be witnessing a shift in the national consciousness.

    Our Own Tahir Squares
    Rob Cammiso in Liberty Square
    The protests in the streets of Egypt may have inspired those in Madison, WI, and cracked the code of silence for a global network of humanity that is mad as hell and needs to have its say about the state of the world. I remember watching the Arab Spring unfold on CNN International and wondering if such a thing could ever be possible here, or if the U.S. would simply lapse into another winter of discontent. So I am thrilled by the latest developments. Oddly, Tahrir Square is more familiar to me than Liberty Square. I have walked the streets of Cairo many times, unlike Wall Street. So I was not surprised at how beautiful and peaceful the Egyptian protest was. In fact, if demonstrators had not been attacked by what even the Arab media referred to as “Mubarak’s thugs,” there would likely have been no Libya moment there. The same is true of the Wall Street protests. But then the police did what police so often do when faced with protesters. They swarmed into a peaceful situation and asserted authority where none was needed, required, or desired. Imagine how things could be from this point on if the cops determined to protect the peaceful protests that are our right. The smart thing for them to do would be to use the orange netting for traffic control, allowing both demonstrators and drivers to coexist in an easier, friendlier manner, so we could all just have a nice day.

    Let Us Celebrate These Powerful Women

    It has been announced in Oslo that this year's Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded jointly to three amazing women, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Tawakkul Karman of Yemen, and Leymah Gbowee from Liberia. Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said that the oppression of women is the most important global issue: "We cannot achieve democracy and lasting peace in the world unless women achieve the same opportunities as men to influence developments at all levels of society."

    Ellen Johnson Sirleaf: In 1980 Samuel K. Doe, an army officer, staged a coup and seized power over Liberia. Two decades of turmoil and bloodshed followed. During his stronghold, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was arrested and threatened with death. Johnson Sirleaf, who had served as a vice president of Citibank in Kenya for a time, became active in politics and an outspoken critic of Doe's brutal and corrupt regime. After calling government officials idiots, she was jailed in 1985 and again in 1986, then fled to the United States. But she always considered Liberia to be her home, and returned frequently. When she made an unsuccessful bid for Charles Taylor’s presidency in 1997, compatriots and critics alike began to call her Liberia’s Iron Lady. Not taking "no" to mean "never," Johnson Sirleaf ran again in 2005 and defeated soccer sensation George Wea for the presidency, becoming Africa's first female elected head of state. She inherited a nation that Taylor had plunged into more than a decade of civil war. The conflict had left 200,000 dead, a third of the population displaced and 60 percent of it under the age of 25, and no infrastructure to speak of. But she has proved to be up to the task at hand.

    Are We In or Are We Out?

    I feel that it would be remiss of me not to spend a moment remembering that October marks the tenth anniversary of the bloody war in Afghanistan that George W. Bush waged against an entire nation because it “sheltered” Osama Bin Laden, rather than tracking down the culprit as President Obama finally did. This war turned out to be more costly by a mile than the war in Vietnam, which brought thousands of protesters to the streets of America. To date the cost in human life is more than 1,600 U.S. military personnel, and an estimated 17,611 to 37,208 civilian in-country direct and indirect deaths (indirect indicates deaths that are a byproduct of war, such those due to starvation, lack of medical care, lack of basic needs, and destruction of infrastructure). The financial cost to the United States comes in at around $459.8 billion. Also, it is a good time to remember that a primary inspiration to the voters who elected Barak Obama to the presidency was his promise to get us out of Afghanistan and Iraq right away. He has failed to keep that promise. Please make him stick to his latest pledge.
    A Few Simple Actions
    1. Write to President Obama or call the White House to remind him of his campaign promises: or 202-456-1111
    2. Imagine what America could do if we reallocated the funds being squandered on war and convey your ideas to the appropriate people
    3. Write to your representatives and ask them to insist we stick to the withdrawal schedule and to sever ties with the lobbyists who are making a fortune by supplying and sustaining every aspect of the bloodshed and occupation
    4. Remind President Obama that outside of the major cities in-country, the plight of women is still dictated by brutal and misogynist cultural habits


    Ten years ago, the unthinkable happened to America, to New York; my country and city. I’m a news junkie, so CNN was on when the first plane struck the first tower. I did what so many who lived with the World Trade Center as part of their landscape did: I left my apartment and hit the street with neighbors to assess the horror. I called my son and a few others who lived further downtown just to make sure they were all right. They were. Then came the shock of witnessing the second plane aim for and hit the second tower. A guy from the third floor of my building pulled his car up so we could hear the radio news. We also got firsthand accounts from people who had fled the scene. The corner deli distributed bottles of water and the pizza place passed out slices.
    Things are fairly crazy on our lovely planet lately. The following are short pieces about some of the craziness that is cropping up and I’d like to know what you’re thinking. So I hope you will comment on Cheney, Church | State / Bachmann, Qaddafi, how you think Obama is handling Libya and more....

    He's Back!
    Dick Cheney has a brand new book out with contributions from his wife, Liz, called, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir. I have not bought this book, nor do I have any intention of reading it. It was enough for me and, I’m sure many of you and other fellow Progressives, to live though eight years of listening to the then-Vice President reinvent reality in real time. According to responses to the memoir from Colin Powell and others who are included in his narrative, he continues taking that liberty when it comes to offering his perspective of history. It seems that Cheney has remained as ill-willed and dark-spirited as ever.

    Church | State – Never the Twain….

    It seems that Michelle Bachmann has never heard of the separation of church and state that Thomas Jefferson introduced as a "wall of separation between church and state," and which was embraced by our Founding Fathers because they understood that the freedom to worship as one chooses was indeed an important freedom. Bachmann has a slightly different take on say, the Declaration of Independence, which she uses, along with Thomas Jefferson, to justify her positions. For instance, she uses the latter part of, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness," to promote her anti-choice position, while ignoring the word "all" when speaking of equality when it comes to gays and Lesbians.

    Violence in Qaddafiland

    It is a real shame, as in, we should be ashamed, to have ever sanctioned anything that the despot Muammar el-Qaddafi has done. There is nothing that George W. Bush ever said about Saddam Husain that can not be said of this tyrant; Saddam/Qaddafi might as well be the same person. Yet, if we learned anything from the nightmare mistake of going into Iraq, besides the fact that grudges and oil are no excuse for waging war, it is that we cannot continue to support despotic regimes in the name of economic interests. War is difficult even for the noblest of reasons, but unlike Bush's decision to enter Iraq, which was among the worst moves the United States has ever made, Obama understood that assuming the lead when it came to Libya would have been more than we could bear. Of course the Republicans would disagree with me, which is comforting.

    This is not America’s Finest Hour

    As I watched President Obama address the nation on July 25th, I found myself trying to bring back the happiness I felt when I voted for him to be the leader of the free world. Then a familiar sensation enveloped me as I realized that I had done with candidate Obama what I had done with most of the men in my life, from my very first boyfriend, to my ex-husband, and on thru every other man I ever fell in love (or convinced myself I was in love) with. I listened to their story; let them tell me about their feelings, their dreams, what moved them deeply, how they saw the world, what they wanted to do, and all of the wonders that accompany discovering someone new. But what I almost always failed to recognize was that their words were both the truth and a combination of how they wanted to experience themselves and how they wanted to be seen, and I had the audacity to expect them all, including the President, to be everything they promised to be. 

    President Obama’s speech was followed by a rebuttal delivered by Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, which basically boiled down to saying, “NO!” to every insight, every position, every passionate idea, and everything else the President offered to the country to help us get through these turbulent times.

    One Little Word ~ Married

    On the stroke of midnight, Sunday July 24th, the first moment that Gay and Lesbian couples could legally become wedded partners in New York State, Gay-rights activists Kitty Lambert, 54, and Cheryle Rudd, 53, of Buffalo, New York, took their vows before the splendor, beauty and rainbow display of Niagara Falls. They were among the first gay couples to pledge their love until death do them part, with the blessing of the state of New York, which last month became the sixth and largest of the United States of America to sanction gay marriage when Governor Andrew Cuomo signed it into law. The couple was reported to be excited and even nervous, because they have been in a committed relationship for eleven years and never thought they would have this opportunity.

    AIDS at 30

    Now that all of the hoopla surrounding the 30th anniversary of AIDS has died down, there’s an opportunity for more sober reflection. In the AIDS Mastery Workshops that I created in 1985, there was an opening visualization which asked participants to go back in time to before they ever heard the word AIDS, look at what they were doing, what their lives were like, and how AIDS had changed their dreams and plans. Facilitators still begin these weekend workshops with that process. AIDS at 30 still has a day before, a day of diagnosis and the day when it sinks in. There are other similarities, but there are thankfully huge differences. AIDS has gone from, “odds are you’re going to die from this,” to a pretty sure bet that with the latest medication you can live a rich and rewarding life. And now in Germany, a man no longer has any trace of HIV, something that could not have been anticipated when Larry Kramer’s The Normal Heart was first introduced at the Public Theater. For those of you who have not seen The Normal Heart, it chronicles the dawning of the epidemic among a group of gay men in New York, including Ned Weeks, the Larry Kramer character, portrayed in a transcendent performance by Joe Mantello, and how the group, the gay community and society responded.

    The Next Step for Progressives

    Let me repeat the Seneca quote above, “It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare; it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” At this juncture in human history Progressives, among whom I count myself, must dare to dream of the America in which we want to live. And if we want that dream to become a reality we must also pursue that dream passionately, and against all odds we must dare to participate passionately regardless of: busy lives, family, friends, career, relationships, the fact that it’s not election time, whatever ugly public relations stunt the Republicans are up to. If we intend to restore progressive values to our local, national, and international interactions and to our democracy, we can envision an America without the waging of war; and intensify the work of ending racism, sexism, anti-unionism, among other -isims.

    Our Voice Is Still Our Vote

    It’s important to remember that Our Voice is Our Vote, election or no election. Our present reality doesn’t give us the luxury of relaxing, When I cast my vote for Barack Obama on Election Day 2008, I did so because I thought he would be great for the country and I feared the terrifying potential of four long McCain/Palin years, which would only have served to extend the Bush Doctrine. How could my country repeat such a gross error of judgment? We had to know better. Einstein said that, “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the true definition of insanity.” It speaks volumes about politics American style.

    And yet America did something different. We went to the poles in great numbers to select the first African American president in our history; a president with a new look and a new outlook. My relief was palpable. After the swearing in, there followed a considerable period of hope; halleluiah! a fresh new era was upon us, and progressives needed that halleluiah moment. But the halleluiahs have faded and our great liberal hope turned out to be less than he promised. Some of us have become discouraged, sad or angry. And not just with President Obama, but let’s start there. The next Presidential election is still far enough away for him to deliver on his election promises so as to distinguish him from the Republicans. Click below to read more & take action:

    Who Are Democrats Now?

    Did Democrats think that they could rest on the laurels of 2008? Did they think they didn’t have to fulfill their campaign promises to be re-elected? Was it a lack of party leadership? Was it that they have had no clear take on what’s going on in the country? Did they miss the vociferous hatred on the part of the religious right and others on the far right? What did they think that guy we saw on the nightly news with a shotgun slung over his shoulder was saying about the President at the Obama rally he was stalking? What did they think was meant when Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that, "The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term President?" Do they think they don't have to worry until 2012?

    Democrats seem to have a propensity for turning possibility into missed opportunities. Remember that it practically took shooting themselves in the foot to let a Gore Presidency slip away in the wake of his popularity. That George Bush ever won the White House is a crime that left Obama to inherit huge disasters. But the right is still trying to sell the lies that would have their minions believe that Obama invented our wars, the deficit, and the fact that he is an American. Think about it for a moment. Is it possible that those accusations are in part meant to cover their racism? Can you imagine how offensive it is for Tea Partiers to even think about this intelligent, educated attractive African American as the leader of the free world? You may have a few things you’d like to say to them as well, because in the final analysis the fate of the future does not lie just in their hands, the Democrats’ hands or the President’s hands. The future lies in the hands of each and every one of us.  And that’s just the beginning: we also have to look out for more Mitch McConnells, who just want all progressive and liberal types gone. So we have to be inventive and look at how daringly we are going to play our hands.

    President Obama gave us the slogan, “Change We Can Believe In,” and though the Democrats blew the chance to create change through the strength of controlling both houses of Congress, they’ve become adept at overcoming, which means they are even better suited to create change, so let’s not count them out. In fact we must never forget how skilled and artful the Democrats have become over the years at misreading opportunities. The time has come to turn politics as usual into a government that is actually, rather than theoretically, “of the people, by the people and for the people,” including our “people,” and not just at election time. Reality lives between elections where the less glamorous work pleads with us, urges us, and demands us to become more deeply involved as we are called upon to look towards the future where America once again begins to live up to its original promise. It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to take work, and it’s going to take a massive effort. It’s been a long time.