Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Eye of Sauron

I remember the morning of 9/11. I was in Eugene working on my 3rd album. The impression I got on that day was that the attack was going to awaken the right, and focus its attention on the West Coast. It would give the right an excuse to come after us and everything we hold dear. I imagined something like the Eye of Sauron from Lord of the Rings, gazing balefully on the Bay Area and resolving to take our progressive enclave from us.

And sure enough last night, House Republicans rejected a Democratic resolution to name a post office in Berkeley, Calif., after a longtime local activist and city councilwoman. Usually it's routine for post offices to get named after local luminaries, and these renamings get approved without incident. But those Republicans said Berkeley couldn't have a post office named after 94-year-old Maudelle Shirek. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, led the opposition and said Shirek's background "sets her apart from, I will say, the most consistent of American values."

The SF Chronicle says King gave no details in a speech on the House floor beyond citing Shirek's support for freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal, convicted for the 1981 murder of a Philadelphia police officer. In an interview later he said Shirek had an "affiliation with the Communist Party," citing her sponsorship of a Marxist library.

Shirek is actually an advocate for civil rights, seniors and peace and served eight terms on the Berkeley City Council before losing a write-in bid for a ninth term in November.

This is the first I've heard of it, even though Barbara Lee has been trying to rename the downtown post office after Ms. Shirek since 2003, each time getting shut down by Republicans who've kept the resolution from coming to a vote.

So are Republicans going to tell us what we can do out here? Wouldn't it be strange for Californians to start bombasting about "states' rights?"

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