Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Clash of Translations

by Elif Şafak
from the Turkish Daily News, Dec. 10, 2006

The other day I was watching a U.S. TV series with Turkish subtitles when I heard the leading female character exclaim, “Oh, just ignore him, he is so philistine…” All at once, there appeared the Turkish subtitle on the screen and to my astonishment, I noticed the word “philistine” being translated as “Filistinli.” Thus distorted, the whole sentence had become “Oh, just ignore him, he is so Palestinian…” I stared at the screen, flabbergasted.

[ click headline for rest of commentary ]

[ Elif Şafak will read at Elliot Bay Books Feb. 9 ]

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Driving a white county car
to weigh a baby,
to lend an ear to a mother three days old,
the nurse is stopped by a motorcade—
engines rumbling, lights sparkling
to the horizon of Pac Highway
like an angry Christmas tree.
Near the cemetery, men and women
in stiff jackets, green and gold,
line the sidewalk,
faces tightened, hiding tears.
White gloves rise up in the air.
The coffin comes draped in a flag.

The young mother’s aunties and her own mother
live across four countries’ borders.
Her neighbors come and go, 747’s
leaping from the tarmac.
Her husband is her only one
and he is always working.
But the baby’s fine. Eyes are white,
diapers wet, her lungs are strong.
The nurse tells secrets of the first milk,
checks her watch
and promises to return.

In the breakroom, she reads headlines
skipped since Sunday
about the lawyer who came home to White Center
to become a cop,
beloved by all accounts.
Even addicts and delinquents
who sat handcuffed in his backseat
cry outside the precinct. She reads headlines
about the man who shot him.
They say in the afternoon
he made another man lie down naked in the street
and shot him too.
Before dawn, he aimed a bullet at himself.

She shakes her head and wonders.
What makes a man thirst for blood,
for others’ and his own?

What happened to his mother?
And to her mother?
And to hers?

Ode to Walnuts

Nestled in the pantry corner
among shadows and canned tomatoes,
a paper sack of walnuts
are keeping to themselves.
Hard-shelled weevils
turning their backs to the world;
a colony of knowing spheres,
recalling life among the branches,
singing secret songs
of rain and leaves, wind and blossom,
the mythic fall to earth,
the fall to disparate fates:
to be hoarded by squirrel,
trampled underfoot,
or lifted between thumb and forefinger,
and dropped gingerly into burlap sack.

A paper sack of walnuts,
cool, dry and fissured as a grandmother’s cheek.
Tricksters, making fools of hungry eaters
holding slippery nutrcrackers in unsteady hands,
they leap away and fall again,
uncrackable, to the floor.

Forgive me, my little ones,
my walnut darlings,
for the final vise grip,
the cruel hammer blow,
to expose your crunchy flesh,
scent of wood and earth.

(Why must we hurt the ones we love?)

I will honor you,
your flavor of autumn and smoke,
crowning hot cereal with your proud segments.,
layering you lovingly into baklava—
phyllo, walnut, butter, honey,
phyllo, walnut, butter, and honey—
and you will live on in the warm gazes
of brown-eyed children
whose palms cradle cookies
of chocolate
and spice
and walnuts.

[ inspired by Pablo Neruda's Ode To My Socks and an Anna Balint workshop at Richard Hugo House. ]

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Notes on the School of the Americas protest & vigil

I am currently writing about my experience at the Nov. 17-19 protest and vigil against the School of the Americas and will post something here soon. In the meantime, I have posted some photos online at
Much information is available at the School of the Americas Watch
and there's a good, short video at

Monday, November 20, 2006


County Council decides to fund more sergeants, keep clinics open
By Keith Ervin
Seattle Times, 11/18/06

Two King County public-health clinics threatened with closure are safe, at least until the end of 2007.

The Metropolitan King County Council, responding to what some members called a crisis in public-health funding, decided Friday to keep the Northgate and Bothell clinics open, but to fund only part of a proposal to help families obtain government-funded health insurance for their children...

Monday, October 16, 2006

Health Care: Pieces of sky

[An Oct. 4 editorial from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer]

The state's perennial initiative pusher sneered back in 1999 at concerns over the effects of his "$30 tabs" proposal. Politicians, he said, were claiming that the "sky would fall" if everyone paid hundreds less in Motor Vehicle Excise Taxes...

Thanks to the loss of the MVET and rising health care costs, the curtain was about to fall on patients at three north King County health clinics that had been recommended for closure.

County Executive Ron Sims' budget gives the clinics a budget reprieve -- but only until June.

"Patients are very scared. Half have no health insurance," says Dr. Michael Lippman at North Clinic. "They're a sick population and there's nowhere else to go. They're going to be staying home and getting sicker or flooding the ERs."

October Sun

Before these leaves trickle
down the air they pause
among the alders and the fir,
the evergreens. Holding their breath
and their goldenness they catch
slanted rays of autumn sun
which add a rusty, burning sheen.
Unhurried, it slopes a patient arc,
slipping heavily behind the distant ridge
and into the burnished Sound.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Once facing closure, two public health clinics get a booster shot

Click the headline above for the Sep. 29 article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, or to watch a video on the Physicians for a National Health Program, see

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Rushing to try to save 2 county health clinics"

By Susan Phinney
Photo by Gilbert W. Arias

The proposed closure of two county health clinics in Northgate and Bothell has doctors, nurses and patients organizing and agonizing over the possible loss of health care for people who have few other options.

Jill Hoffman, a public health nurse who said she was speaking as a citizen, not a representative of Public Health -- Seattle & King County, said the sites targeted for closure accounted for 80,000 visits in 2005, and other clinics that handle underinsured and uninsured clients couldn't handle the overflow if they closed.

"People will be taking themselves and their children to emergency rooms for treatment. That will cost everyone money," Hoffman said ... [click headline for link to full article]

Monday, September 25, 2006


Blackberries grow sweet from the sadness
of cloudy days at summer’s end.
Go to them. Step into the prickly thicket.
Take care of thorns—
they may claim drops of your blood,
exchanged for purple juice.
Cup the bunches
with a gentle hand.
Let the ripe fruit fall
like the breasts of a young lover undressing.
Take care of spider webs,
silent strings quivering
when you brush against the branches.
These are friends. Take care
when shadows drop lower every evening.
Remember that the blackberries
need picking.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Keep our Public Health clinics OPEN.

Public Health of Seattle and King County provides affordable health care across the county—even when people don’t have health insurance. Public Health provides immunizations for children, care for pregnant mothers, family planning, general family medicine, nutrition counseling, mental health services, disaster preparedness and many other critical services.

But in its latest budget proposal, Public Health proposed to close North and NorthShore Public Health Centers, and the North Seattle Dental Clinic, because of a lack of funds. If this happens:

• The entire North King County region will lose access to Public Health care
• Clients will have to travel farther for health care services; many will simply not be able to go
• Every Public Health clinic around the county will be under greater strain
• More than 150 employees will lose their jobs, hurting the local economy

If Public Health Centers close, everyone loses. You can help.

“Health Care Access for All” Rally
Saturday, September 30th
10AM to Noon, Rain or shine
North Seattle Public Health Clinic
10501 Meridian Ave N., north parking lot
(On bus route 16)

Sponsored by Communities for Public Health, endorsed by IFPTE Local 17, OPEIU Local 8, WA State Jobs with Justice, Coalition of Labor Union Women, WA Citizen Action & many others. For more information, contact:


Call King County Executive Ron Sims and your County Council member, and say:
"Keep ALL our Public Health clinics open, running at 100%."
Ron Sims: 206-296-4040
King County Council: 206-296-1000 (Tell the receptionist your zip code and ask to speak to your council member.)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Sep. 19 -- It's IMPORTANT to vote for judges this time!

This Sep. 19, in the Washington state primary elections, voters will have some drastically different judges to choose from, and the far right is already very organized in getting its base to support the bad guys. Click the headline above for a PDF version of the "Guide to Judicial Candidates for Progressive Voters and Democrats."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Where are you from?

In a Seattle neighborhood lined with shady trees and pampered bungalows, a campaign volunteer knocks on a heavy oak door. A woman with white hair and brilliant blue eyes answers. When she hears the unexpected visitor is there to talk about a candidate, she cuts him off with an apology.

“I’m terribly sorry, I should invite you in to sit down, but we’re just about to leave, and in any case, I’ve already made up my mind. I’m voting for the other guy.” She points over her shoulder at a man reading the newspaper. “You could talk to my husband, but it’s not worth your time. He doesn’t vote. He’s from Norway, and he’s still a Norwegian citizen. He’s only been living in this country for 46 years.”

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Rally & March: Stop the Korea-US "Free Trade" Agreement

Wednesday, September 6th
12:30pm Rally at Westlake Park
Then March to the WA State Convention Center

(Click the headline above for a flyer in PDF format.)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

La rama robada

Un poema de Pablo Neruda


They tore down the wartime bungalows
built in rows along the dry spines of glaciers.
The land lay fallow a while, a graveyard
of dirt and weeds locked behind chain link

'til the rains sprouted frames and foundations.
Men appeared with tools in hand, grumbling trucks
moved the earth, and homes the color of Easter eggs
stacked up in the afternoon sun.

Lies stand shoulder to shoulder with little truths.
From the old homes families carried
suitcases and slips of paper
that promise to pay the rent—
at least until the budget’s cut.
As they say, White Center aint so white,
and Greenbridge, well, there’s no bridge either.

But this morning it hardly matters.
First one from the corner has lace curtains,
candles and flowers line the panes.
The sun’s not risen yet
above the park and the lake.
Tea steeps on a countertop
and one bright bulb lights the faces
of a grandmother and child in the window.

At the front door a broom stands guard,
its fight with construction dust now done,
and shoes of all sizes lie in a row,
sound asleep.

Monday, August 21, 2006

"Significant deficit" may force closure of two county health clinics

Public Health of Seattle & King County, where I work, provides essential health care services to county residents, many of whom have no insurance and nowhere else to turn. This year King County insisted that the Public Health department submit a balanced budget for 2007, despite increasing health care costs, decreasing returns as fewer people have health insurance, and an acute need for subsidies to be able to stay in business. Dorothy Teeter, interim director of Public Health of Seattle & King County, obliged the bean counters' request, and proposed closing two of the county's ten Public Health centers in order to break even.

Now it is up to Public Health clients, workers and the community at large to convince King County Executive Ron Sims and the King County Council to go beyond the budget Teeter submitted and fully fund Public Health, without any cuts or closures. Between now and late November, when the council votes on the budget, there's a lot of work to do.

Love, with Trees and Lightning: a poem by Catie Rosemurgy


(click on photo to see Scott Alberts' original)

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Update from the teachers' movement in Oaxaca

On August 1, several thousand women and girls marched through the streets of Oaxaca city demanding the resignation of state governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. Many of these women are schoolteachers who were joined by students, housewives, workers, and campesinas. Many marched in their aprons, carrying pots and pans, spoons and spatulas. Later several hundred women took over the Oaxacan state television station ...

Click headline above to

Monday, July 31, 2006

The voices of raptors

From somewhere among the branches
fall the voices of raptors.
A Cooper's hawk swoops into position
outside the clinic window, interrupting
the business of the day, scaring
a brown-eyed boy balanced
on the scale. The nutritionist gasps,
stops talking of rice cereal and mashed fruit,
startled by the rodent prey dangling from your beak.

The boy curls his toes, jaw dropped,
metal clanks metal beneath his feet.
From somewhere among the higher branches
fall the voices of young hunters
raspy like kittens mewling,
hungry for meat and bone,
sharp talons clamped tight,
awaiting your return.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

A bit of Truth and Reconciliation

The Guardian: Spain finally attempts to lay ghosts of the Franco era

Spain's Socialist government yesterday proposed measures to help families of the victims of General Franco's dictatorship dig up mass graves, but refused to annul tens of thousands of summary death sentences handed down by his regime.

A long-awaited proposed law, to compensate victims of the Spanish civil war and the 36-year dictatorship that followed it, also bans the far right from holding rallies at Franco's grave in the Valley of the Fallen outside Madrid ...

Saturday, July 22, 2006

My city, on fire again

As Israeli bombs rain down on Beirut, the people of the city are once again living with the horror of war. In an intimate diary, 30-year-old Lebanese artist Zena el-Khalil describes helping foreigners escape, the nightly rocket attacks - and how she couldn't leave her sick friend behind

Monday, July 17, 2006

More than a million march against electoral fraud in Mexico

Candidate Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said yesterday "a fraudulent election cannot be erased even with all the waters of the oceans."

Imagine how different the world might be today if a million Americans had marched in 2000 to protest what happened in Florida and elsewhere ...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Refugee All Stars benefit Thursday!

Thursday, July 13, 2006, 8:00 PM
A benefit concert for NW Immigrant Rights Project

The Refugee All Stars of Sierra Leone

DJ: Darek Mazzone, Host of Wo'pop on KEXP 90.3
Tickets: available at all TicketsWest outlets for $15, day of $17

Neumos - 925 E. Pike St. - Seattle, WA 98122

Info: (206)957-8609 or

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Emma Goldman again makes the headlines

My pals and former housemates at the Emma Goldman Finishing School somehow ended up on the front cover of the Seattle Weekly. The house is really much more pleasant and friendly than what comes across in the article, as anyone who has been there for a dinner or a party can attest. (I'll admit, however, that I don't miss the three-hour meetings.) Check out these lovelies and their big dreams.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Seattle Times: From farmhand to farm owner

... Other farm operators, Lopez says, are on their radios all day, issuing orders. "But look," he says, seizing Reinhardt's hand across the picnic table and turning it over to show his friend's dirt-smudged fingers. "This is a hand that works."

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Forgotten Sol's new CD release!

My pals in Forgotten Sol are releasing their new CD, Contradiction, at a party July 1st. That's Saturday night, 9pm, at Chop Suey. You in?

Catalan voters approve "Statute of Autonomy"

It's not often that a national government agrees to decentralize and allow one of its regions to assume greater powers, but that's exactly what a popular referendum did this weekend in Catalunya.

The power struggle between Spain and Catalunya is of great interest to me for a number of reasons: my sister lives in Barcelona; the region has a rich history of powerful social movements; and because I'm researching the role Catalan soldiers played in occupying California in the 18th century, around the same time Spain laid siege to Barcelona and consolidated its control over Catalunya.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


May the Sun shine upon you all day long.

Monday, June 19, 2006


Yesterday I saw this movie at the festival, where audiences voted it one of the five best. It is as good as they say. See it as soon as you can.

words like blossoms.

Recently my friend Ms. Tara invited me to be "Guest Poet" at her second grade class at the New School at South Shore. I read the story The Boy Who Loved Words, about a boy who fills his pockets with his scribbled favorites and one night places them at the tips of a tree's many branches. Afterward we had the kids choose some of their own favorites, write them on cards, and paste them onto this illustration ...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Protest Police Attack on Mexican Schoolteachers

2132 Third Ave., at Blanchard St., Downtown Seattle
Monday, June 19, 1:00-2:00 PM

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Police smackdown on striking Mexican teachers

See Jill Friedberg's Granito de Arena film webpage for updates, or Indymedia Mexico.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Seattle Civil Rights & Labor History Project

A note from a friend ...

As Project Coordinator for the Seattle Civil Rights and Labor History Project, I'd like to bring your attention to a research report recently posted on our web site by an undergraduate at the University of Washington, Jennifer Taylor.

Jennifer did outstanding work looking into the history of the 1965 police shooting of Robert Reese, an unarmed African American, that touched off a direct action campaign of "freedom patrols" that operated as "walking civilian review boards." We recently posted her full research paper about this campaign, along with some scans of associated newspaper articles, here:

Our web site also features video clips from oral history interviews with two different civil rights leaders-- Bishop John H. Adams, and Judge Charles V. Johnson-- who discuss their leadership of the Freedom Patrols. You can find their interviews (and many more) here:

In addition, you can find a number of other outstanding undergraduate student papers about campaigns for racial justice in Seattle, including one that was reprinted in ColorsNW this past February for Black History Month, here:

We will be putting much more online in the next couple months, including papers about the Black Student Union, the Christian Friends for Racial Equality, the origins of the internment redress movement in Seattle, desegregation campaigns at Boeing, and new interviews about the local Chicano/a movement and urban Indian movement during the 1970s. Stay tuned,

Trevor Griffey

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The big man Berlusconi

April, 2006. The big man Berlusconi, richest in Italy, is feeling desperate in the days before elections. He tells a crowd of shopkeepers: I have too much esteem for the intelligence of Italians to think that they could be such coglioni as to vote against their own interests.

Literally, "testicles." Millions of countrymen and women reduced by their Prime Minister to anatomical unmentionables.

Then something happens. In sunlit piazzas, under stone arcades, where old men in knit caps smoke filterless cigarettes, in country towns where Roman ducts still bring the water, in fashion capitals, everywhere, on people’s lips, on buttons pinned to smart sportcoats, on t-shirts, on stickers adorning the bums of small cars, above the din of motor scooters and factories and loud insistent conversation, the same phrase stands out, steps up, everywhere and everyone together says WE ARE ALL COGLIONI.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Stephen Colbert's guts and glory

I can't think of any other moment in Bush Jr.'s presidency when anyone criticized him to his face for more than 30 seconds. Here, he is seared, roasted, basted, turned on the spit and served with an apple in his mouth. A very satisfying counterpunch to the years of murderous lies.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The truthiness hurts |

Stephen Colbert's brilliant performance unplugged the Bush myth machine -- and left the clueless D.C. press corps gaping.

Friday, March 17, 2006

Stop the law that would criminalize immigrants, and people who help them

The U.S. Congress is currently considering legislation that make it a felony to be an undocumented immigrant or for anyone to provide them help. For a brief summary, follow the link above to read the Seattle Times article "Unusual local alliance fears possible immigration changes," by Lornet Turnbull. For more background and action alerts, see For people in the Seattle area, there is a march for comprehensive immigration reform, which protects the rights and dignity of immigrants, tomorrow in White Center, at 12:30. Details in the article.