This was a bit painful and not well documented, so documenting here for future reference.

Say you want to parse and normalize dates with timezones (eg. dates in email headers, I believe based on rfc822). Here's what you do:

Install pytz.

import email, time, datetime
import pytz
utctimestamp = email.Utils.mktime_tz(email.Utils.parsedate_tz( msg['Date'] ))
utcdate= datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp( utctimestamp, pytz.utc )
pacificdate = utcdate.astimezone(pytz.timezone('US/Pacific'))

parsedate_tz produces a tuple that can be digested by mktime_tz, which in turn spits out a timestamp based on the UTC timezone. You can turn this into a datetime via fromtimestamp and set its timezone to UTC. Once you have the TZ aware datetime you can manipulate it to your heart's content; the final line above converts it to a US/Pacific date.

Full example:

>>> import email, time, datetime
>>> import pytz
>>> date_eastern = 'Thu, 31 Jan 2008 17:56:13 -0500'
>>> utctimestamp = email.Utils.mktime_tz(email.Utils.parsedate_tz( date_eastern ))
>>> utcdate= datetime.datetime.fromtimestamp( utctimestamp, pytz.utc )
>>> utcdate
datetime.datetime(2008, 1, 31, 22, 56, 13, tzinfo=<UTC>)
datetime.datetime(2008, 1, 31, 14, 56, 13, tzinfo=<DstTzInfo 'US/Pacific' PST-1 day, 16:00:00 STD>)