Snark: to annoy or irritate

"Snark" has been in English language dictionaries since at least 1906, and Lewis Carroll used the word to describe a mythological animal in his poem, The Hunting of the Snark (1874). Most recently, the word has come to characterize snappish, sarcastic, or mean-spirited comments or actions directed at those who annoy or irritate us.

At first, this blog was just going be a place to gripe, but because it's more satisfying to take action than it is to merely complain, now most of the posts/reposts suggest ways to get involved in solving problems.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Stand Up to Blackwater, Hillary

The U.S. State Department, led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, just awarded Blackwater an 18-month contract worth $120 million to guard U.S. consulates in Afghanistan.
Remember, Blackwater was kicked out of Iraq by the Iraqi government after Blackwater mercenaries massacred 17 civilians in Baghdad's al-Nissor Square. And that was simply the most notorious example of Blackwater acting in a manner that respected neither common decency nor American national interest.
When this incident came to light, then-Senator Clinton said, "These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised our mission in Iraq." She continued, "The time to show these contractors the door is long past due."  Indeed.
It's simply unconscionable that the American government would funnel more money to a company with such a horrific record. And it's troubling that Secretary Clinton would permit the State Department to award a contract for private security functions when as a Senator she co-sponsored the Stop Outsourcing Security Act, which would require those functions to be performed by employees of the U.S. government.
Thank you for speaking out.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

A month ago, Governor Howard Dean wrote an open letter to President Obama asking him to fulfill his State of the Union pledge to repeal the discriminatory "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy for Americans serving in the United States Military this year. Within a week, almost 100,000 DFA and Courage Campaign members co-signed the letter and then volunteers delivered the open letter -- with all the co-signers -- to every Senator in the country. 

It worked. 

Pressure from constituents helped Democratic leadership find the backbone needed to pass repeal in the House of Representatives and in the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee. But we haven't won yet. The last hurdle is a vote by the full U.S. Senate. 

That's a big hurdle. So to succeed, we need to keep the pressure building and never let up. The next step is your own personal appeal, because when Senators hear directly from you, it adds force and meaning by putting a face and name behind the message. Whether you write one sentence or a whole paragraph, nothing is more powerful than a message from you in your own words. 

Click here to:

A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed 75% of Americans support allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military. Americans clearly understand that if someone is brave enough to take a bullet for our country, they must have the right to serve regardless of their sexual orientation. 

This is about civil rights. It's up to Congress to make sure all Americans are treated equally under the law. Until "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is repealed, gay service members will continue to be treated as second-class citizens and risk discharge, financial penalties and sometimes worse just for being who they are.

It has to stop. And it's up to us to keep the pressure on to make sure it does.


Your Senator needs to know that how he or she votes in Congress has a direct effect on how we'll vote on Election Day. We'll support candidates who deliver and work to defeat those who don't. Because when they stand up for Americans and civil rights, we'll stand up for them at the ballot box. 

Let's make sure they get the message. Please sign your name and add your own statement right now. 
Thank you for everything you do. 

Charles Chamberlain, Political Director 
Democracy for America

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Eve Ensler & The Vagina Monologues

Today's email brought some sad news. Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues, was recently diagnosed with cancer. 
I became aware of Ensler's activism and her play, The Vagina Monologues (TVM), in the late-1990s, when I lived in Oklahoma.  It wasn't until I'd moved back to Idaho that I saw the play, acted in the play, and eventually took a turn directing the play. 

The first three years of my involvement as a TVM actor, I performed one of the more controversial pieces, "Reclaiming Cunt."  As an English teacher, I felt connected with the structure of the piece: it's an exercise in phonics.  Of course, I was aware of the shock value the piece had on the audience.  If "fuck" is the father of all English swear words, surely, "cunt" is the mother.  However, many people overlook the other word in the piece's title: reclaiming.  "Reclaiming Cunt" isn't about saying a forbidden word in order to shock; it's about transforming a word that is used to berate and denigrate women into a word that celebrates and empowers women.

Because Southeast Idaho is so conservative--in every sense of the word--the first year The Vagina Monologues was performed, it was referred to by the local newspaper as merely "a woman's play."  Over the succeeding years, a series of very determined women worked hard to educate the community and overcome resistance to the play--resistance that was, I believe, based primarily on its title, since it was obvious that its most vocal critics had never actually seen the play. TVM eventually became an expected annual event that faced less and less resistance. 

Some say The Vagina Monologues is dated and has outlived its usefulness.  I don't think so.  A comment by one of my University colleagues sticks in my head.  After seeing TVM for the first time, she said to me, "That's my life as a woman--and no one ever talks about it."  Exactly.
Below is a message Eve Ensler posted on the V-Day website (, along with a link to an article she has written about violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A Personal Message From Eve
Dear V-Day Activists,
I have been waiting for the right time to share something with you. I was recently diagnosed with uterine cancer. I was fortunate to have excellent doctors and a very successful operation. My prognosis is excellent.
This has been both a difficult and truly transformational time. Cancer has a way of stripping away that which is not important and leaving what is. What remains with me is all of you - your dedication, your commitment, your open hearts, your healing ways. I have learned so much in these two months about care and what it means to be cared for and to care for others. It requires time, attention, stillness and patience. That is the work of V-Day. So, if you truly want to help me now, continue to care, continue to stand up to end violence and work harder than you have ever worked before to make sure women and girls are safe and free, and that men and boys are embodied with their girl cell.
Know that I am taken care of and am focusing my time on resting for the next few months so I can be back with you all in the Fall, stronger than ever.
I love you all and I believe in you. You have been in my heart each and every day. You have been my deepest inspiration throughout this journey.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Boycott BP Update

When Democracy for America started our Boycott BP campaign, we knew we had to get their attention in a language BP understands - profits. Now, we know it's working:
A chain of Convenience Stores in Philipsburg, Pa decided to debrand three of its BP-branded stations:

"We are debranding BP. We will no longer be associated with BP by the end of the month. We are doing this because of the backlash and bad publicity from the handling of BP's catastrophe," Sean Lay, vice president of operations, said in the report. "We don't want to be associated with them anymore. We've had enough."[Convenience Store News]
Our campaign has been covered by everyone from the New York Times to industry trade newspapers. You can be sure that BP is paying attention. Now, let's turn up the heat.
In spite of these early effects of the boycott, BP corporate headquarters is still playing games with the numbers and continues to escape accountability. Just this morning, the government updated estimates of the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf to be much higher than BP originally stated.

And yet, BP continues to deny the extent of the problem. A report from NPR asks: "BP officials insisted this week they have found no large plumes of oil concentrated underwater, although it begs the question: if the oil isn't concentrated in the water, where is it?"

Instead of launching a multi-million dollar public relations offensive on T.V. to shrug off the blame and beg for customers, BP must take full responsibility for the cleanup of this unprecedented disaster. They need to know we're not buying their spin or their gas until they get the job done and the disaster is completely cleaned up.

Pledge to buy your gas from Anyone But BP right now

BP had the resources to drill and create this horrible disaster, now they have the responsibility to clean it up. But, they won't do it on their own. They need to know we will make them pay one way or another.

Thanks for everything you do.
Levana Layedecker, Communications Director
Democracy for America

Friday, June 11, 2010

Help Mississippi's Women

Feminist Majority Foundation - Equality around the world

Two weeks ago, an anti-abortion extremist invaded the wait-
ing room of the Jackson Women's Health Organization in 
Jackson, Mississippi. Law enforcement authorities were not 
only slow to respond when called, but once on site, chose 
only to talk with the aggressor instead of filing a police 
report. This is the only abortion provider in the entire state of 
Mississippi. Extremists are trying to shut down this vital women's 
clinic. This clinic and its doctors need our help now.
Thankfully, many of you have responded to our requests for 
help for this clinic, with your support we has just funded an 
improvement to the clinic's security system that will help 
prevent future invasions. But we must do more.Two weeks 
ago, an anti-abortion extremist invaded the waiting room of 
the Jackson Women's Health Organization in Jackson, 
Mississippi. Law enforcement authorities were not only 
slow to respond when called, but once on site, chose only 
to talk with the aggressor instead of filing a police report.
This is the only abortion provider in the entire state of 
Mississippi. Extremists are trying to shut down this vital 
women's clinic. 
This clinic and its doctors need our help now.
Just one year ago, Dr. George Tiller was brutally murdered. 
His killer, Scott Roeder, has been sentenced to life in prison, 
but the extremists have not been deterred.
The leading anti-abortion extremist in Jackson is an advocate 
of Justifiable Homicide - or the belief that justifies the murder 
of doctors who perform abortions. The clinic and its doctors 
have been repeatedly threatened.
The clinic needs immediate help to pursue legal 
strategies and to make additional enhancements to its 
security system.
Our National Clinic 
Access Project 
legal coordinator 
has traveled to 
Jackson to assist 
the clinic. She met 
with clinic staff 
and community 
supporters to 
ways to improve security, to assess legal needs and to 
devise new ways for the local community to support this 
critically needed health facility. We are determined to do 
everything we can to keep Jackson Women's Health 
Organization open and its patients, doctors and staff safe.
Help the doctors, health care workers, and patients of 
Jackson Women's Health Organization today by making 
an emergency, tax-deductible contribution. Half your 
contribution will go directly to the clinic to help pay for 
upgraded and additional enhanced security measures.
The other half of your emergency contribution will help 
support our National Clinic Access Project's work to keep 
this clinic and other besieged clinics across the country 
safe and open. The demand for our work is dramatically 
As I write this, we are also working with Dr. Carhart and 
his clinic in Nebraska. Dr. Carhart, who had worked with 
Dr. Tiller, and his clinic were immediately targeted for closing 
by Wichita-based Operation Rescue after the murder of Dr. 
Tiller. This group had harrassed Dr. Tiller for seven years.
And we are also working very closely with Family 
Reproductive Health in Charlotte, NC under siege by 
Operation Save America/Operation Rescue. Recently, 
anti-abortion extremists published the photographs of and 
information about the clinic's doctors in a WANTED poster. 
Similar posters appeared before the brutal murders of two 
doctors in Pensacola, Florida.
Without doctors and clinics to provide safe, legal abortions 
and access to birth control, there can be no choice for women.
Please make an emergency contribution today to help 
Jackson Women's Health Organization and our National 
Clinic Access Project.
Together we are making a difference.
For Women's Lives,
Kathy Spillar
Eleanor Smeal
Kathy Spillar
Katherine Spillar
Executive Vice President

P.S. Act now to ensure the safety of the courageous doctors 
and staff as well as women seeking health services at the 
Jackson Women's Health Organization.
 1600 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 801, Arlington, VA, 22209 
703.522.2214 |

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pay Gap is a Man's Issue, Too

AAUW Action Network
The Pay Gap is a Man's Issue, Too
On this day in 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed the Equal 
Pay Act into law, giving women the promise of equal pay for equal 
work.  And yet today, 47 years later, woman still get paid only 77 
cents on average for every dollar a man makes; women of color 
still face an even wider pay gap; and we're still fighting for pay 

The wage gap is obviously a problem for women, but what's not 
often talked about is that it's also a problem for men.  Women now 
comprise 50 percent of the paid workforce for the first time in 
history, and two-thirds of mothers are either the primary or co-
breadwinners for their families.  The wages women earn have 
never been more important to individual families or the overall 
American economy.

The wage gap may hit women directly, but it clearly affects men 
as well.  Over the course of a year, the gender pay gap results in 
the average woman earning $10,622 less than she should be 
taking home.  How important is that money to the husband who 
was laid off and is still depending on his wife to get the family 
through his period of unemployment?  How significant is that 
money to the son who starts college in the fall and is counting 
on his mother to help him shoulder the enormous cost of tuition?  
How different would the economy look if women were actually 
receiving that money every year?  Did you know that men of 
color face a pay gap, too, when compared to white men?

That's why, as we mark the anniversary of the Equal Pay 
Act and anticipate Father's Day just around the corner, 
we're asking you to get the men in your life involved in 
our efforts to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act as well.  
Forward this alert to all the men you know and ask them to urge 
their senators to quickly move and pass this critical legislation.  
Then, consider giving Dad the gift of AAUW membership for 
Father's Day.  After all, it literally pays dividends.

Women need the updated protections and tools the Paycheck 
Fairness Act can provide, and so do men.  The bill passed the 
House well over a year ago with strong bipartisan support, and 
new polling data just released by the Paycheck Fairness 
Act Coalition, of which AAUW is a key leader, shows that 
84 percent of voters support a new law like the Paycheck 
Fairness Act.  But the Senate has been sitting on it for far too 

Take Action!
In honor of the Equal Pay Act anniversary today, urge your 
senators to move the Paycheck Fairness Act by clicking on 
the "Take Action!" link in the upper right corner or copying and 
pasting the following URL into your internet browser.  Then, 
with Father's Day approaching, forward this email or use the 
"Tell a Friend" option to urge all the men in your life to take 
action as well.
Learn more about the Paycheck Fairness Act, and see what 
to your site or blog and a Twibbon to your avatar, and share
your thoughts about how pay equity affects men on AAUW 
DialogFacebook, and Twitter.  You can also visit AAUW's 
Kit and Pay Equity Program in a Box for ideas, tips, and
resources to use in your community throughout the year.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

74 Democrats Sold Out to AT&T, Verizon, & Comcast

Infuriatingly, they signed an industry-backed letter telling the 
FCC to abandon efforts to protect Internet users by prohibiting 
big companies from blocking Internet traffic.
Not only is this letter an attack on net neutrality, but by signing 
the industry letter, these Democratic members of Congress 
are attempting to drastically undercut the FCC's ability to make 
a fast, affordable and open Internet available to everyone in 
America — they are actually taking a position against the 
interests of rural and low-income communities. This is 
We need to make sure they know that their constituents 
and other consumers are paying attention and will hold 
them accountable when they undermine net neutrality 
What this comes down to is a principle known as "net 
neutrality." Net neutrality means that Internet users, not 
Internet service providers, should be in control. It ensures 
that Internet service providers can't speed up, slow down, 
or block Web content based on its source, ownership, or 
Of course broadband providers are insisting that we should 
just trust them and there's no need for consumers to be 
protected by net neutrality rules. But we cannot trust AT&T, 
Verizon or Comcast to protect a free and open Internet any 
more than we could trust BP to protect the oceans.
Without strong net neutrality rules, we might have to rely upon 
the good will of large telecoms to protect our access to the 
diversity of political perspectives. We might have to trust 
companies like Comcast, which actively and secretly 
interfered with users' ability to access popular video, photo 
and music sharing applications. We might have to trust 
companies like AT&T, which censored anti-Bush 
comments made by Pearl Jam's lead singer during a concert.
A free and open Internet is an important part of 21st Century 
democracy, but these members of Congress signed a letter 
that undercut the efforts of the FCC to make sure the 
Internet stays free and open.
In other words, they decided to stand with wealthy 
corporations rather than stand up for your interests.

The simple fact of the matter is that powerful companies 
with a vested interest in this fight like AT&T have 
armies of lobbyists to push their agenda.
If these 74 Democrats are going to get the message that 
it's unacceptable for them to sell out American consumers, 
it's only going to be because people like you speak up.
Thank you for standing up for a free and open Internet.
Matt Lockshin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Consider a Credit Union

I've been a satisfied credit union member for over 30 years, and I couldn't agree more with the letter (below) from Democracy for America's Political Director. Many people don't know that money in credit unions can be protected just as well as money in banks. Most credit unions don't charges fees for membership, either. Call your local credit union and ask a few questions. You may be pleasantly surprised at the answers you get.

From Democracy for America:

The big banks on Wall Street -- JP Morgan/Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley -- have had an incredible year, getting huge taxpayer bail-outs, making record profits and paying out multi-million dollar bonuses to their CEOs while many of them are still participating in all the highly leveraged activities that caused our housing and credit crisis in the first place.

I'd like to say the good news is that Congress is poised to pass major financial reforms later this month, so the President can sign the bill before the 4th of July. The problem is the bill they're planning to pass isn't good enough. Don't take it from me. Here's what the New York Times said about it last week:
The financial reform legislation making its way through Congress has Wall Street executives privately relieved that the bill does not do more to fundamentally change how the industry does business.

Despite the outcry from lobbyists and warnings from conservative Republicans that the legislation will choke economic growth, bankers and many analysts think that the bill approved by the Senate last week will reduce Wall Street's profits but leave its size and power largely intact.
In other words, too big to fail banks will still be too big to fail. It's time to take matters into our own hands. So today we're joining the Move Your Money campaign started by the good people at The Huffington Post. Declare your independence from big banks and pledge to Move Your Money to a local community bank or credit union today.

Community banks and credit unions don't act like the big banks. Typically, they're more responsible in how they manage their money, they're more closely connected to the people and businesses who live near them, and they're more inclined to make loans they know will get paid back. And your local credit union isn't going to ask Congress for a multi-billion dollar bail-out either. These are the qualities most people want banks to have.

The idea is simple. To regular Americans this issue isn't Left or Right -- it just makes sense. If enough people move their money from a big bank to a smaller, more local, more traditional community bank, we can break up the big banks ourselves. By working together, we won't have to wait for Congress make change happen.

Click here to

We can send a message to Congress, the President and every candidate running for office that we don't trust big banks with our money. But it's up to us to do it.  Let's get started right now. Thank you for everything you do.

-Charles Chamberlain, Political Director
Democracy for America