April 1, 2013, Issue #190
HUDSON VALLEY ACTIVIST NEWSLETTER
email@example.com, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561
1. RALLY AGAINST DRONES APRIL 13
2. BEHIND THE U.S.-NORTH KOREA CONFLICT
3. JOCK CULTURE AND RAPE CULTURE
4. MY SON AND STEUBENVILLE
5. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY FUTURE FOR NEW YORK
6. MARX’S REVENGE
7. FIVE EXTREMES OF U.S. INEQUALITY
8. SURVIVING ON $7.25 AN HOUR
9. MINIMUM WAGE STRIKE
10. OBAMA’S PEACE ANTICS IN ISRAEL
11. THE LEGACY OF HUGO CHAVEZ
12. POSTAL WORKERS RALLY FOR SIX-DAY DELIVERY
13. MEN WHO KICK DOWN DOORS: TYRANTS HOME & ABROAD
14. HIJACKING FEMINISM
15. NEW ECUADOR LAW, “FEMICIDE,” FIGHTS VIOLENCE
ABOUT THIS ISSUE
Welcome to 70 new readers who signed up at our Defend Women’s Rights rally a couple of weeks ago. They will be especially interested in five of our articles dealing with women’s issues. Two of them focus on the infamous Steubenville rape attack — one titled “Jock Culture and Rape Culture” by progressive sportswriter By Dave Zirin, and the other titled “My Son and Steubenville,” on raising boys written by a San Francisco mother. There’s also an essay on male violence toward women by Ann Jones headlined “Men Who Kick Down Doors: Tyrants At Home, And Abroad;” an essay on “Hijacking Feminism” by Catherine Rottenberg, commenting critically on the “new trend of high-powered women publicly espousing feminism;” and a piece from Ecuador on a special new “Femicide” law punishing men who murder women.
1. RALLY AGAINST DRONES APRIL 13
By the Activist Newsletter
We encourage our Mid-Hudson Valley readers to join us in New Paltz Saturday, April 13, to take a stand against pilotless drone warfare abroad and intrusive domestic drone surveillance at home.
Our action is part of a nationwide series of similar protests by the ANSWER Coalition the same day urging Washington to remove its drones “from the Middle East, Africa and everywhere.” We also demand tight regulations that respect civil liberties be enforced to restrict the use of drones in the U.S.
The New Paltz event will begin at 11 a.m. with a rally and vigil in front of the Elting Library (93 Main St.). At 12 noon the participants will march with signs and leaflets through the downtown area, returning to the library. Many will stand with signs visible to heavy weekend traffic until 1:30 p.m.
The protest will call on the Obama Administration to end its drone killings in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia and halt plans to extend its drone wars to Niger and possibly other countries in Africa. U.S. drone attacks have killed over 4,000 people in the last few years, including more than a thousand civilians. Washington has deployed more than 11,000 military drones, up from fewer than 200 10 years ago.
The event is being organized by the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter and is co-sponsored by New Paltz Women in Black, Occupy Southern Ulster, Middle East Crisis Response, Real Majority Project, Dutchess Peace, Dutchess Greens and other regional groups. (If your group wants to co-sponsor, use email below.) In a statement, the sponsors declared:
“Drones are clearly becoming America’s weapon of choice in undeclared wars abroad and will inevitably enhance government spying at home to the detriment of civil liberties.
“The American Civil Liberties Union argues that as drones become cheaper and more reliable, law enforcement agencies may carry out persistent surveillance of U.S. citizens. It is entirely possible that thousands of drone licenses eventually will be issued to law enforcement, corporations and private citizens in coming years. Drones come in many sizes — as small as a hummingbird or as large as Boeing’s Phantom Eye, a hydrogen-fueled behemoth with a 150-foot wingspan that can cruise at 65,000 feet for up to four days. More than 1,000 companies, large and small, are now in the drone business.”
An article in Scientific American, noting that drones are a serious threat to privacy, declared: “Because they can perch hundreds or thousands of meters in the air, drones literally add a new dimension to the ability to eavesdrop. They can see into backyards and into windows that look out onto enclosed spaces not visible from the street. They can monitor wi-fi signals or masquerade as mobile phone base stations, intercepting phone calls before passing them along. Using a network of drones, it would be possible to follow the movements of every vehicle in a city.”
— Information, firstname.lastname@example.org, Jack at (845) 255-5779, or http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/
— For further information on drones in America, seehttp://www.digitaltrends.com/cool-tech/drones-congressional-research-service-report/
2. BEHIND THE U.S.-NORTH KOREA CONFLICT
By Jack A. Smith, editor of Activist Newsletter
What’s happening between the U.S. and North Korea to produce such headlines in recent days as “Korean Tensions Escalate,” and “North Korea Threatens U.S.”?
The New York Times reported. “This week, North Korea’s young leader, Kim Jung-un, ordered his underlings to prepare for a missile attack on the United States. He appeared at a command center in front of a wall map with the bold, unlikely title, ‘Plans to Attack the Mainland U.S.’ Earlier in the month, his generals boasted of developing a ‘Korean-style’ nuclear warhead that could be fitted atop a long-range missile.”
The U.S. is well aware North Korea’s statements are not backed up by sufficient military power to implement its rhetorical threats, but appears to be escalating tensions all the same. South Korean President Park Geun-hye also realizes the threats are rhetorical but declared: "We should make a strong and immediate retaliation without any other political considerations if [the North] stages any provocation against our people."
Pyongyang obviously has another objective in mind. I’ll have to go back a bit to explain the situation.
Since the end of the Korean War 60 years ago, the Worker’s Party government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK or North Korea) has repeatedly put forward virtually the same four proposals to the United States. They are:
1. A peace treaty to end the Korean War. 2. The reunification of Korea, which has been “temporarily” divided into North and South since 1945. 3. An end to the U.S. occupation of South Korea and a discontinuation of annual month-long U.S-South Korean war games. 4. Bilateral talks between Washington and Pyongyang to end tensions on the Korean peninsula.
The U.S. and its South Korean protectorate have rejected each proposal over the years. As a consequence, the peninsula has remained extremely unstable since the 1950s. It has now reached the point where Washington has used this year’s war games, which began in early March, as a vehicle for staging a mock nuclear attack on North Korea by flying two nuclear-capable B-2 Stealth bombers over the region March 28. Three days later, the White House ordered F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets to South Korea, a further escalation of tensions.
Here is what is behind the four proposals.
1. The U.S. refuses to sign a peace treaty to end the Korean War. It has only agreed to an armistice. An armistice is a temporary cessation of fighting by mutual consent. The armistice signed July 27, 1953, was supposed to transform into a peace treaty when “a final peaceful settlement is achieved.” The lack of a treaty means war could resume at any moment. North Korea does not want a war with the U.S., history's most powerful military state. It wants a peace treaty and diplomatic recognition from Washington.
2. Two Koreas exist as the product of an agreement between the USSR (which bordered Korea and helped to liberate the northern part of country from Japan in World War II) and the U.S., which occupied the southern half. Although socialism prevailed in the north and capitalism in the south, it was not to be a permanent split. The two big powers were to withdraw after a couple of years, allowing the country to reunify. Russia did so; the U.S. didn’t. Then came the devastating three-year war in 1950. Since then, North Korea has made several different proposals to end the separation that has lasted since 1945. The most recent proposal, I believe, is “one country two systems.” This means that while both halves unify, the south remains capitalist and the north remains socialist. It will be difficult but not impossible. Washington does not want this. It seeks the whole peninsula, bringing its military apparatus directly to the border with China, and Russia as well.
3. Washington has kept between 25,000 and over 40,000 troops in South Korea since the end of the war. They remain — along with America’s fleets, nuclear bomber bases and troop installations in close proximity to the peninsula — a reminder of two things. One is that “We can crush the north.” The other is “We own South Korea.” Pyongyang sees it that way — all the more so since President Obama decided to “pivot” to Asia. While the pivot contains an economic and trade aspect, its primary purpose is to increase America’s already substantial military power in the region in order to intensify the threat to China, but next door North Korea is well within this dangerous periphery .
4. The Korean War was basically a conflict between the DPRK and the U.S. That is, while a number of UN countries fought in the war, the U.S. was in charge, dominated the fighting against North Korea and was responsible for the deaths of millions of Koreans north of the 38th parallel dividing line. It is entirely logical that Pyongyang seeks talks directly with Washington to resolve differences and reach a peaceful settlement leading toward a treaty. The U.S. has consistently refused.
These four points are not new. They were put forward in the 1950s. I visited the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea as a journalist for the (U.S.) Guardian newspaper three times during the 1970s for a total of eight weeks. Time after time, in discussions with officials, I was asked about a peace treaty, reunification, withdrawal of U.S. troops from the south, and face-to-face talks. The situation is the same today. The U.S. won’t budge.
Why not? Washington wants to get rid of the communist regime before allowing peace to prevail on the peninsula. No “one state, two systems” for Uncle Sam, by jingo! He wants one state that pledges allegiance to — guess who? In the interim, the existence of a “bellicose” North Korea justifies Washington’s surrounding the north with a veritable ring of firepower. A “dangerous” DPRK is also useful in keeping Tokyo well within the U.S. orbit and in providing another excuse for once-pacifist Japan to boost its already formidable arsenal.
The U.S.-South Korea war games in March were preceded in February U.S.-Japanese war games named “Iron Fist.” In both cases Washington implicitly demonstrated it would stand with Seoul or Tokyo and against Pyongyang or Beijing if push came to shove. The U.S.-Japanese effort was aimed at capturing an imaginary island — a direct military warning to China, which claims possession to the Senkaku Islands, as does Japan.
According to a Feb. 15 article from Foreign Policy in Focus by Christine Hong and Hyun Le: “Framing of North Korea as the region's foremost security threat obscures the disingenuous nature of U.S. President Barack Obama's policy in the region, specifically the identity between what his advisers dub ‘strategic patience,’ on the one hand, and his forward-deployed military posture and alliance with regional hawks on the other. Examining Obama's aggressive North Korea policy and its consequences is crucial to understanding why demonstrations of military might — of politics by other means, to borrow from Carl von Clausewitz — are the only avenues of communication North Korea appears to have with the United States at this juncture.”
Brian Becker, leader of the antiwar ANSWER Coalition leader, noted March 31: “The Pentagon and the South Korean military today — and throughout the past year — have been staging massive war games that simulate the invasion and bombing of North Korea. Few people in the United States know the real situation. The work of the war propaganda machine is designed to make sure that the American people do not join together to demand an end to the dangerous and threatening actions of the Pentagon on the Korean Peninsula.
“The propaganda campaign is in full swing now as the Pentagon climbs the escalation ladder in the most militarized part of the planet. North Korea is depicted as the provocateur and aggressor whenever it asserts that they have the right and capability to defend their country. Even as the Pentagon simulates the nuclear destruction of a country that it had already tried to bomb into the Stone Age, the corporate-owned media characterizes this extremely provocative act as a sign of resolve and a measure of self-defense.”
And from Stratfor, the commercial intelligence group that is often in the know: “Much of North Korea's behavior can be considered rhetorical, but it is nonetheless unclear how far Pyongyang is willing to go if it still cannot force negotiations through belligerence.” The objective of initiating negotiations with the U.S. is here taken for granted.
Pyongyang’s “bellicosity” is almost entirely verbal — several decibels too loud for many ears, perhaps — but North Korea is a small country in difficult circumstances that well remembers the extraordinary brutality Washington visited up the territory in the 1950s. Millions of Koreans died. The U.S. carpet bombings were criminal. North Korea is determined to go down fighting if it happens again, but hopes their preparedness will avoid war and lead to talks and a treaty.
Their large and well-trained army is for defense. The purpose of the rockets they are building and their talk about nuclear weapons is principally to scare away the wolf at the door.
In the short run, the recent inflammatory rhetoric from Kim Jong-un is in direct response to this year’s month-long U.S.-South Korea war games, which he interprets as a possible prelude for another war. Kim’s longer run purpose is to create a sufficiently worrisome crisis that the U.S. finally agrees to bilateral talks leading to a peace treaty, an end to Washington’s sanctions, the normalization of trade relations, and removal of foreign troops from the south.. Some form of reunification could come later in talks between north and south.
The present confrontations will simmer down with the end of this year’s provocative war games. The Obama Administration has no intention to create the conditions leading to a peace treaty — especially now that White House attention seems riveted on East Asia where it perceives an eventual risk to its global geopolitical supremacy.
3. JOCK CULTURE AND RAPE CULTURE
[Two teen football players for the Steubenville, Ohio, high school were convicted and ordered to
juvenile prison after a five-day rape trial March 17. The state attorney general is continuing the investigation, which involved dozens of their peers who failed to speak up during or after 16-year-old “Jane Doe” was publicly raped, humiliated and photographed at parties during the night. It has been alleged “Jane” was drunk but possibly the victim of a date-rape drug. A grand jury will convene in April to evaluate evidence from dozens of police interviews, including with the team's 27 coaches. Trent Mays, 17, and Ma'Lik Richmond, 16, were sentenced to juvenile prison for a minimum of one year to a maximum of until they are 21. This case has led to suspicions of a cover-up to protect the Steubenville High team — the pride of this Rustbelt Ohio city of 18,000 people. Mays was ordered to serve an additional year for photographing the underage girl naked, but it will be concurrent. The convicted athletes broke into sobs when Judge Thomas Lipps delivered his sentence, though they were hardly crying as they tormented their victim.]
By Dave Zirin
As a sportswriter, there is one part of the Steubenville High School rape trial that has kept rattling in my brain long after the defendants were found guilty. It was a text message sent by one of the now-convicted rapists, team quarterback Trent Mays. Mays had texted a friend that he wasn’t worried about the possibility of rape charges because his football coach, local legend Reno Saccoccia, “took care of it.” In another text, Mays said of Coach Reno, “Like, he was joking about it so I’m not worried.”
In this exchange we see an aspect of the Steubenville case that should resonate in locker rooms and athletic departments across the country: the connective tissue between jock culture and rape culture. Rape culture is not just about rape. It’s about the acceptance of women as “things” to be used and disposed, which then creates a culture where sexual assault—particularly at social settings—is normalized. We learned at the Steubenville trial that not only did a small group of football players commit a crime, but 50 of their peers, men and women, saw what was happening and chose to do nothing, effectively not seeing a crime at all.
We need to ask the question whether the jock culture at Steubenville was a catalyst for this crime. We need to ask whether there’s something inherent in the men’s sports of the twenty-first century, which so many lionize as a force for good, that can also create a rape culture of violent entitlement. I am not asking if playing sports propels young men to rape. I am asking if the central features of men’s sports — hero worship, entitlement and machismo — make incidents like Steubenville more likely to be replicated. There are many germs in the Petri dish of sports. Growing up I had the great fortune of having big-hearted, politically conscious coaches, some of whom patrolled sexism in the locker room with a particular vigilance. As the great Joe Ehrmann has written so brilliantly, a “transformational coach” can work wonders. But different germs also exist. Ken Dryden, Hall of Fame NHL goalie, once said, ”It’s really a sense of power that comes from specialness…. anyone who finds himself at the center of the world they’re in has a sense of impunity.”
[A probing article by William Boardman into the many unanswered questions in this case, including whether numerous witnesses are getting off free and whether the victim was drugged, is at http://www.alternet.org/print/gender/good-two-steubenville-rapists-have-been-judged-guilty-are-dozens-more-community-getting-scot]
On colleges, there is reason to believe that the same teamwork, camaraderie and “specialness” produced by sports can be violently perverted to create a pack mentality that either spurs sexual violence or makes players fear turning in their teammates. A groundbreaking 1994 study showed that college athletes make up 3.3% of male students but 19% of those accused of sexual assault. One of the studies authors, Jeff Benedict, said, “Does this study say participation in college sports causes this? Clearly, no. We’re not saying that. We just think that at some point there is an association between sports and sexual assault…. the farther you go up, the more entitlements there are. And one of those entitlements is women.”
That was two decades ago but there is no indication that anything has changed. In a February 2012 Boston Globe article about sexual assault charges levied against members of the Boston University hockey team, reporter Mary Carmichael wrote about the findings of Sarah McMahon, “a Rutgers University researcher who studies violence against women.” McMahon “said it is unclear whether college athletes are more likely to commit sexual crimes than other students. But she said her work had found a unique sense of entitlement, sexual and otherwise, among some male college athletes, especially those in high-profile or revenue-producing sports like BU hockey.”
You can’t extricate the entitlement at the heart of jock culture from McMahon’s comments about its particular prevalence in revenue-producing sports. The insane amounts of money in so-called amateur athletics and the greasy desire of adults in charge of cash-strapped universities to get their share also must bear responsibility for rape culture in the locker room. They have created a system where teenage NCAA athletes can’t be paid for what they produce, so they receive a different kind of wage: worship. Adults treat them like heroes, students treat them like rock stars, and amidst classes, club meetings and exams, there exists a gutter economy where women become a form of currency. You’re a teenager being told that you are responsible for the economic viability of your university and everything is yours for the taking. This very set-up is a Steubenville waiting to happen.
If people think that this doesn’t translate to high school, they’re wrong. I spoke with Jon Greenberg, an ESPN journalist and also a graduate of Steubenville High. He describes a school “with a pretty high poverty rate” that was still able to get state funds to build “a swimming pool, a new on-campus gym, cafeteria and more.” The dynastic “Big Red” football program drove those changes. As Greenberg says, “The football players themselves, at least in my experience, weren’t treated as heroes or above the law, but the team itself was put on a pedestal, especially when they were good…. There are some very good people who played Big Red football and coached football. But there needs to be some changes, most importantly a very serious seminar, for all male students, on the definition of rape and similar curriculum.”
In thinking about Steubenville, thinking about my own experiences playing sports, thinking about athletes I’ve interviewed and know, I believe that a locker room left to its own devices will drift toward becoming a breeding ground for rape culture. You don’t need a Coach Reno or a Bob Knight to make that happen. [Knight a Hall of Fame basketball coach (1998), is remembered for stupidly declaring: “I think that if rape is inevitable, relax and enjoy it.”] You just need good people to say or do nothing. As such, a coach or a player willing to stand up, risk ridicule and actually teach young men not to rape, can make all the difference in the world. We need interventionist, transformative coaches in men’s sports that talk openly about these issues. We need an economic setup in amateur sports that does away with their gutter economy. But most of all, we need people who recognize the existence of rape culture, both on and off teams, to no longer be silent.
As for Steubenville, Coach Reno needs to be shown the door, never to be allowed to mold young minds again. Football revenue should go toward creating a district-wide curriculum about rape and stopping violence against women. And “Jane Doe,” the young woman at the heart of this case, should be given whatever resources she and her family needs to move if they choose, pay for college or just have access to whatever mental health services she and her family require. After the trial, testimony and verdict, they deserve nothing less.
— From The Nation, March 18, 2013. Dave Zirin, The Nation’s sports correspondent, is the author, most recently, of “Game Over: How Politics Has Turned the Sports World Upside Down.”
4. MY SON AND STEUBENVILLE
By Kim Simon
When Max was just a few months old, I sat cross-legged on the floor with him in a circle of other mothers. The facilitator for our “Mommy and Me” playgroup would throw a question out to the group, and we would each volley back an answer.
“What quality do you want to instill in your child? What personality characteristic would you most like for your son to be known for?” she asked.
One by one, the mothers answered. “Athletic,” “Good sense of humor,” “Brave,” “Smart,” “Strong.” The answers blended together until it was my turn to speak. I looked down at the tiny human wiggling around on the blanket in front of me, his perfectly round nose, his full lips that mirrored mine. I stroked the top of his very bald head, and said with confidence “kind.” I want my son to grow up to be kind.
The eyes of the other mothers turned towards me. “That’s not always a word that you hear used for boys” one said. “But yes, you’re right….so I guess, me too.” At the end of the day, we wanted our tiny, fragile, helpless baby boys to grow up to be kind. Strong, resilient, athletic, funny... but above all else, kind.
Max is almost 4 years old. He knows nothing about the horrific things that young men did to a young woman on the saddest night that Steubenville has ever seen. He doesn’t know, but I sure do. I know that someone’s daughter was violated in the most violent way possible, by someone’s son. By many sons. The blame for that night falls squarely on the shoulders of the young men who made terrible choices, but it also falls in the laps of their parents.
Sexual assault is about power and control. But it is also about so much more. While it’s true that big scary monster men sometimes jump out of bushes to rape unsuspecting women, most rapists look like the men who we see every day. Acquaintance rape (or date rape) accounts for the majority of sexual assaults that we see among young people. In colleges, in high schools, at parties, in the cars and bedrooms that belong to the men who women trust. These men are your fraternity brothers, your athletes, your church-going friends. They are somebody’s son. Date rape is often saturated with entitlement. It feeds off of the hero worship that grows rampant like weeds on school campuses and in locker rooms. Young men are taught to be strong, to be athletes, to be feared. Young women are taught to be meek, to be feminine, to be small. As our young people begin to sort out relationships with each other and relationships with alcohol, they encounter an endless menu of ways to hurt each other.
As a community we give our athletes free reign. Young men are filled with the heavy power of triumph, their heroism illuminated by the bright lights of a brisk Friday night football game. Young cheerleaders spend hours painting signs for them, adorning hallways with fluorescent notes of encouragement. Young men are known by their football number, their last touchdown pass, their ability to get any girl they choose. Young women fill the stands with hopeful smiles, dying to be noticed.
We have created this. We have allowed this. We choose not to demand more from our young men, because we see how big they grow in the spotlight. We give them adult power, without instilling in them an adult sense of responsibility and ethics.
Moms, it is time. Now is the time to make this stop. If you are the mother of a son, you can prevent the next Steubenville. It doesn’t matter if your boy is 4 or 14 or 24. Start now.
We must teach our boys to be kind. A toddler can learn how to use words of kindness. It’s never too early to teach empathy, compassion, and awareness. “Friend, are you OK?” “I’m sorry friend, did you get a boo-boo?” Encourage tiny boys to be aware of how others are feeling. Name what they see. “Mommy is sad right now, honey. Our friend G is sick, and I want her to feel better.” Give children tasks that they can do to help someone in need. Bake cookies to take to the local firehouse. Bring dinner to a mother on bed rest. Choose a toy to share with the new child that just joined your preschool class. Teach your child to go towards a child who is upset, instead of walking away.
When I picked Max up from school the other day, his teacher remarked on how “kind” he was. He checks in on other students. He runs to them when they get hurt. At first I was embarrassed….oh how my husband will tease me for instilling my “Social Worker” traits in our son. He must be brave and tough instead. But I am so proud that he is kind. That he is a helper. That he sees the emotions of those around him. Would he have hurt for the girl in Steubenville? Would he have felt her fear, and said something? Teach your sons to tune in, name emotions for them, give them words to match their feelings.
We must teach our boys what it truly means to be brave. Bravery doesn’t always feel good. I’ve heard it said that “Courage is being afraid, and doing it anyway.” How many of those young men in Steubenville knew in their sweet boy hearts that what was happening was wrong, but still they remained silent? They were afraid to ruin their own hard-earned reputations, afraid of what their peers would think of them. They were afraid of getting in trouble, afraid they wouldn’t know what to say. Teach your boys that bravery can be terrifying. Courage can be demanded of you at the most inopportune times. Let them know that your expectation is that they are brave enough to rise to the occasion. And show them how.
We must not shy away from telling our sons the truth about sex. Of course this looks different in a conversation with a 4 year old than it does with a 12 year old. In our house, we are still working on giving body parts their appropriate names. Making family rules about how we always wear clothes when people come to visit (ok, Sean and I are good on that one, but Max keeps answering the door in his underwear). As uncomfortable as it is, the conversation needs to evolve as your boy gets older. Sex feels good. Sex is overwhelming. Sex is confusing. Sex tricks you into thinking that you are receiving what you need (physical satisfaction, comfort, companionship, love, respect). Sex education is more than just giving your child condoms and reminding them about STDS.
As parents, we need to worry about our sons being respectful of their sexual partners, not just about them getting someone pregnant. Our boys need to know that they will find themselves at a crossroads one night, or on multiple nights. Their body will be telling them one thing, and their partner may be telling them another. It is a young man’s responsibility to listen to his partner. Explain to your son what consent looks like (and doesn’t look like).
They need to know what sex looks like. Not the Playboy magazine/online porn version, but the logistics of how it actually works. Teach them to ask their partners. Teach them to check in as they take the next step with someone. Teach them to stop if they don’t think they’re getting a clear answer.
We must give our sons the tools they need to protect themselves, and each other. Can your teenager call you in the middle of the night, no questions asked? Can they tell you the truth, without you flipping out and getting angry? Do they trust that you are on their team, that you will sit down and talk things through with them, making a calm plan together? Role play with your son about how to find help, who to go to for help, what numbers to call. An embarrassed, terrified bystander in Steubenville could have quietly snuck outside to call the police for help. Or to text an anonymous tip. Or to call a parent or older sibling for advice. Instead, at least a dozen sons were paralyzed by fear. And intoxicated. And probably overwhelmed by the sexual feelings of their own that they were experiencing….feelings that they were never given the context for.
Give your sons the tools they need to understand that their sexuality is a powerful thing, one that they are solely responsible for. Give them a framework for understanding that sex carries an enormous responsibility, not just to themselves, but to their partners. Does your son know what rape is? Does he know what it means? Does he know that it’s not just creepy smelly guys who hide in alleys who are responsible for rape? That it’s his peers? Discuss the ways that a woman can give consent. Pull the curtains back on the grey areas, and demand that your son learns how to protect himself and his partner.
When I found out that I was having a son, I was relieved at first. I thought I had dodged a bullet, not having a daughter who I would have to protect from the big, scary, violent world that is still so unkind to women. This will be so much easier, I thought. But it’s not. It’s harder.
I am now pregnant with my second son. As a feminist and a mother, a survivor and an activist, a human and a writer, I have discovered that my job in preventing sexual assault is even bigger than it would be if I had a daughter. Because every rapist is someone’s son. We have the chance to fix that, one little boy at a time.
—Kim Simon lives in San Francisco and blogs at http://mamabythebay.com.
5. ALTERNATIVE ENERGY FUTURE FOR NEW YORK
By Science Today, 3-13-13
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo will soon decide whether to approve hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in the state. To date, no alternative to expanded gas drilling has been proposed.
But a new study finds that it is technically and economically feasible to convert New York's all-purpose energy infrastructure to one powered by wind, water and sunlight (WWS). The plan, scheduled for publication in the journal Energy Policy, shows the way to a sustainable, inexpensive and reliable energy supply that creates local jobs and saves the state billions of dollars in pollution-related costs.
Mark Z. Jacobson, a senior fellow with the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy, co-authored the study with scientists from Cornell University and the University of California-Davis.
"Converting to wind, water and sunlight is feasible, will stabilize costs of energy and will produce jobs while reducing health and climate damage," said Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering.
The study is the first to develop a plan to fulfill all of a state's transportation, electric power, industry, and heating and cooling energy needs with renewable energy, and to calculate the number of new devices and jobs created, amount of land and ocean areas required, and policies needed for such an infrastructure change. It also provides new calculations of air pollution mortality and morbidity impacts and costs based on multiple years of air quality data.
The study concludes that while a WWS conversion may result in initial capital cost increases, such as the cost of building renewable energy power plants, these costs would be more than made up for over time by the elimination of fuel costs. The overall switch would reduce New York's end-use power demand by about 37 percent and stabilize energy prices, since fuel costs would be zero, according to the study. It would also create a net gain in manufacturing, installation and technology jobs because nearly all the state's energy would be produced within the state.
According to the researchers' calculations, New York's 2030 power demand for all sectors (electricity, transportation, heating/cooling, industry) could be met by:
4,020 onshore 5-megawatt wind turbines
12,770 offshore 5-megawatt wind turbines
387 100-megawatt concentrated solar plants
828 50-megawatt photovoltaic power plants
5 million 5-kilowatt residential rooftop photovoltaic systems
500,000 100-kilowatt commercial/government rooftop photovoltaic systems
36 100-megawatt geothermal plants
1,910 0.75-megawatt wave devices
2,600 1-megawatt tidal turbines
7 1,300-megawatt hydroelectric power plants, of which most exist
According to the study, if New York switched to WWS, air pollution-related deaths would decline by about 4,000 annually and the state would save about $33 billion -- 3 percent of the state's gross domestic product -- in related health costs every year. That savings alone would pay for the new power infrastructure needed within about 17 years, or about 10 years if annual electricity sales are accounted for. The study also estimates that resultant emissions decreases would reduce 2050 U.S. climate change costs -- such as coastal erosion and extreme weather damage -- by about $3.2 billion per year.
Currently, almost all of New York's energy comes from imported oil, coal and gas. Under the plan that Jacobson and his fellow researchers advance, 40 percent of the state's energy would come from local wind power, 38 percent from local solar and the remainder from a combination of hydroelectric, geothermal, tidal and wave energy.
All vehicles would run on battery-electric power and/or hydrogen fuel cells. Electricity-powered air- and ground-source heat pumps, geothermal heat pumps, heat exchangers and backup electric resistance heaters would replace natural gas and oil for home heating and air-conditioning. Air- and ground-source heat pump water heaters powered by electricity and solar hot water preheaters would provide hot water for homes. High temperatures for industrial processes would be obtained with electricity and hydrogen combustion.
"We must be ambitious if we want to promote energy independence and curb global warming," said study co-author Robert Howarth, a Cornell University professor of ecology and environmental biology. "The economics of this plan make sense," said Anthony Ingraffea, a Cornell engineering professor and a co-author of the study. "Now it is up to the political sphere."
To ensure grid reliability, the plan outlines several methods to match renewable energy supply with demand and to smooth out the variability of WWS resources. These include a grid management system to shift times of demand to better match with timing of power supply, and "over-sizing" peak generation capacity to minimize times when available power is less than demand.
6. MARX’S REVENGE
By the Activist Newsletter
Has Time Magazine — the popular establishment publication for promoting American capitalism, culture and consumerism — turned sharply to the political left? Not by any means, but it has just published a long, thoughtful article by one of its major correspondents suggesting that Karl Marx, author of the Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, “may have been right.”
Although American academic disciplines — primarily economics, sociology and history — have incorporated ideas associated with Karl Marx (whether or not it is acknowledged), Marxism itself and socialist ideology are treated with contempt by ruling circles in the United States. After all, Marx predicted, and revolutionary socialists worked toward, their demise.
For the last five generations, therefore, all Americans have been exposed to ceaseless anti-Marxist invective from the capitalist state, the mass media, educational systems, and religious institutions. Consequently, Marx has become anathema to most Americans.
Could that be changing? It’s too early to draw conclusions but there has been more Marxist-type criticism in the U.S. in recent years. This is mainly the product of increasing economic hard times experienced in recent decades by the working class, lower middle class and more recently the middle class — all exacerbated by the Great Recession and its lingering punishments for these sectors of society. Opposition to the top 1% in wealth during the several months of the Occupy Wall Street uprising attracted considerable support nationwide even though it was in essence a class attack against big money and the ruling class itself (which either comes from, or is in liege to, the 1%).
Now, Time (March 25) has published an article titled “Marx’s Revenge: How Class Struggle Is Shaping the World.” It was written by author, business journalist and foreign correspondent Michael Schuman, who worked for the Wall St. Journal and Forbes before coming to Time. Schuman is hardly a revolutionary socialist. He just told the truth as a warning to those in power that working people around the world remain capable of uniting and rebelling against those responsible for gross economic inequality, repression and the corruption of democracy. He wrote:
“With the global economy in a protracted crisis, and workers around the world burdened by joblessness, debt and stagnant incomes, Marx’s biting critique of capitalism — that the system is inherently unjust and self-destructive — cannot be so easily dismissed. Marx theorized that the capitalist system would inevitably impoverish the masses as the world’s wealth became concentrated in the hands of a greedy few, causing economic crises and heightened conflict between the rich and working classes. ‘Accumulation of wealth at one pole is at the same time accumulation of misery, agony of toil, slavery, ignorance, brutality, mental degradation, at the opposite pole,’ Marx wrote.
“A growing dossier of evidence suggests that he may have been right. It is sadly all too easy to find statistics that show the rich are getting richer while the middle class and poor are not. A September study from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) in Washington noted that the median annual earnings of a full-time, male worker in the U.S. in 2011, at $48,202, were smaller than in 1973. Between 1983 and 2010, 74% of the gains in wealth in the U.S. went to the richest 5%, while the bottom 60% suffered a decline, the EPI calculated. No wonder some have given the 19th century German philosopher a second look….
“[T]he consequence of this widening inequality is just what Marx had predicted: class struggle is back. Workers of the world are growing angrier and demanding their fair share of the global economy. From the floor of the U.S. Congress to the streets of Athens to the assembly lines of southern China, political and economic events are being shaped by escalating tensions between capital and labor to a degree unseen since the communist revolutions of the 20th century. How this struggle plays out will influence the direction of global economic policy, the future of the welfare state, political stability in China, and who governs from Washington to Rome. What would Marx say today? Says Richard Wolff, a Marxist economist at the New School in New York: ‘Some variation of: “I told you so.” The income gap is producing a level of tension that I have not seen in my lifetime’….
“Marx not only diagnosed capitalism’s flaws but also the outcome of those flaws,” meaning social revolution. “If policymakers don’t discover new methods of ensuring fair economic opportunity [reforms], the workers of the world may just unite. Marx may yet have his revenge.”
Many Americans have been taught that the implosion of the Soviet Union and China’s decision to create a state capitalist economy closed the book on revolution and socialism. Today’s socialists understand that what was closed was the first chapter of a much longer book. Time magazine is warning the capitalist system that chapter two may still be written.
—The full article is athttp://business.time.com/2013/03/25/marxs-revenge-how-class-struggle-is-shaping-the-world/.
7. FIVE EXTREMES OF U.S. INEQUALITY
By Paul Buchheit, Alternet, 3-24-13
Here are some of the facts involved in the relentless transfer of wealth in the United States to a small group of rich families.
1. $2.13 per hour vs. $3,000,000.00 per hour. Each of the Koch brothers saw his investments grow by $6 billion in one year, which is three million dollars per hour based on a 40-hour 'work' week. They used some of the money to try to kill renewable energy standards around the country. Their income portrays them, in a society measured by economic status, as a million times more valuable than the restaurant server who cheers up our lunch hours while hoping to make enough in tips to pay the bills. A comparison of top and bottom salaries within large corporations is much less severe, but a lot more common. For CEOs and minimum-wage workers, the difference is $5,000.00 per hour vs. $7.25 per hour.
2. A single top income could buy housing for every homeless person in the U.S. On a winter day in 2012 over 633,000 people were homeless in the United States. Based on an annual single room occupancy (SRO) cost of $558 per month, any one of the 10 richest Americans would have enough with his 2012 income to pay for a room for every homeless person in the U.S. for the entire year. These ten rich men together made more than our entire housing budget. For anyone still believing "they earned it," it should be noted that most of the Forbes 400 earnings came from minimally taxed, non-job-creating capital gains.
3. The poorest 47% of Americans have no wealth. In 1983 the poorest 47% of America had $15,000 per family, 2.5% of the nation's wealth. In 2009 the poorest 47% of America owned 0% of the nation's wealth (their debt exceeded their assets). At the other extreme, the 400 wealthiest Americans own as much wealth as 80 million families -- 62% of America. The reason, once again, is the stock market. Since 1980 the American GDP has approximately doubled. Inflation-adjusted wages have gone down. But the stock market has increased by over ten times, and the richest quintile of Americans owns 93% of it.
4. The U.S. is nearly the most wealth-unequal country in the entire world. Out of 141 countries, the U.S. has the 4th-highest degree of wealth inequality in the world, trailing only Russia, Ukraine, and Lebanon. Yet the financial industry keeps creating new wealth for its millionaires. According to the authors of the Global Wealth Report, the world's wealth has doubled in ten years, from $113 trillion to $223 trillion, and is expected to reach $330 trillion by 2017.
5. A can of soup for a black or Hispanic woman, a mansion and yacht for the businessman. That's literally true. For every one dollar of assets owned by a single black or Hispanic woman, a member of the Forbes 400 has over $40 million. Minority families once had substantial equity in their homes, but after Wall Street caused the housing crash, median wealth fell 66% for Hispanic households and 53% for black households. Now the average single black or Hispanic woman has about $100 in net worth.
What to do? End the capital gains giveaway, which benefits the wealthy almost exclusively. Institute a Financial Speculation Tax, both to raise needed funds from a currently untaxed subsidy on stock purchases, and to reduce the risk of the irresponsible trading that nearly brought down the economy. Perhaps above all, we progressives have to choose one strategy and pursue it in a cohesive, unrelenting attack on greed. Only this will heal the ugly gash of inequality that has split our country in two.
8. SURVIVING ON $7.25 AN HOUR
By Allison Linn
Meet Crystal Dupont and John White. Both are struggling to live on the federal minimum wage, one at the start of her career and the other toward the end of his.
Dupont has no health insurance, so she hasn’t seen a doctor in two years. She’s behind on her car payments and has taken out pawn shop and payday loans to cover other monthly expenses. She eats beans and oatmeal when her food budget gets low. When she got her tax refund recently, she used the money to get ahead on her light bill.
“I try to live within my means, but sometimes you just can’t,” said Dupont, 25. The Houston resident works 30 to 40 hours a week taking customer service calls, earning between $7.25 and $8 an hour. That came to about $15,000 last year. It’s a wage she’s lived on for a while now, but just barely.
Dupont didn’t expect her working life to start out this way. She graduated from high school in 2006, a year after her father passed away, got a job and moved out of the family home. But Dupont soon found that she couldn’t earn enough money to live on her own. She also needed to be home to help her mother, who is disabled and can’t drive because she has seizures.
Without her father’s income, Dupont and her mother couldn’t keep up on house payments, and the home they’d lived in since 1998 went into foreclosure in 2009. They moved into an apartment and now live on Dupont’s salary and her mother’s disability benefits and food stamps.
In January, Dupont started taking classes at Houston Community College, where she is in the business technology and computer science programs. She took out a $3,500 student loan but is hoping that she can use scholarships and grants, or perhaps find a second job, to avoid taking on more debt.
Low wage worker John White is 61. “It’s by the grace of God that I am having ends meet,” said White, who was out of work for 20 months before he got his current, part-time job delivering pizzas for eight hours a week. [He is among 22 million American workers seeking, but not obtaining, full time employment.] White has applied for a number of jobs, but he worries that at his age he is often overlooked for younger, more highly trained workers.
He earns a base salary of $7.25 an hour when he is prepping or doing other chores, but that drops to $4.50 an hour when he goes out on a delivery because he is supposed to also earn tips.
The Department of Labor allows tipped employees to be paid a base salary that is below minimum wage, but the employer must be able to show the employee receives minimum wage when tips are included.
In the past few years, White has relied on help from his church when he couldn’t pay his electric or phone bill, or needed car repairs. His fellow parishioners also helped him pick up odd jobs. He gets $135 a month in food stamps, now known as SNAP, but lost his state-subsidized health insurance after he got his pizza delivery job. A lifelong bachelor, he lives in a family home in Robesonia, Pa., that he and his sibling inherited.
White’s wages have fallen steadily over the past decade. He worked in a warehouse of a regional department store for nearly 14 years and was earning $12.50 an hour before he was let go in 2003 after a dispute with a co-worker. He was unemployed for about half a year until he got a job as a security guard in 2004. He earned $10.60 an hour in that job, and held it for six years until he was let go in June of 2010. He’s been in the part-time pizza delivery job for nearly a year, but his financial situation remains precarious.
About 3.6 million Americans were earning at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour in 2012, and those weren’t all high school students flipping burgers. About half of them were 25 or older, a little more than one-third were working full time and a little less than three-fourths had graduated from high school, according to the most recent government data.
A person working full time for minimum wage would take home an annual salary of $15,080. That’s a shade higher than the poverty threshold for a household containing two adults. These are the workers who answer your customer service calls, deliver your pizzas, take care of your children, bag your groceries and serve your food….
President Barack Obama has called on Congress to increase the minimum wage to $9 an hour by 2015.
[From the Activist Newsletter: Conservatives, as usual, are opposing any hike., which is one of the reasons that the real value of the federal minimum fell 30% since 1968. The right wing always charges that a higher minimum hurts the economy, but opposite is true.
[Assuming the $9 proposal eventually passes Congress, it’s still way too low. The Institute for Policy Studies noted recently: “Over the last 40 years, minimum-wage workers have not seen the benefits of a growing economy. As productivity has increased and the economy has expanded, the minimum wage has been left to stagnate…. If the minimum wage had kept pace with average wages and inflation —i.e., if minimum wage workers saw their paychecks expand at the same rate as the average worker — it would be about $10.55 today.”]
— From NBC News, In Plain Sight, 3-6-13
9. MINIMUM WAGE STRIKE
By David Rovics
When I awoke one morning
There was a feeling in the air
Everything was quiet
Things were different everywhere
The Wobblies were back again
With Joe Hill at the mike
When all the minimum-wage workers went on strike
There was no one flipping burgers
All the grills were cold
Onion rings were in their bags
Fries were growing mold
There were no baristas at Starbucks
Asking, "how many shots would you like?"
When all the minimum-wage workers went on strike
There was no one pumping gasoline
No one driving from town to town
No one at the registers
All the highways were shut down
The cars were stuck in their garage
Businessmen on bikes
When all the minimum-wage workers went on strike
The fruit was falling off the trees
No one to load the trucks
Corn was rotting on the stalk
No farm hands to shuck
The workfare workers were hanging at home
Spending the day with their tykes
When all the minimum-wage workers went on strike
Yuppie parents were housebound
Their nannies left the job
Wal-Mart workers said enough
Of our labor has been robbed
The Foot Locker was locked up
The boss had to take a hike
When all the minimum-wage workers went on strike
10. OBAMA’S PEACE ANTICS IN ISRAEL
By Ramzy Baroud, editor of the Palestine Chronicle
At the precise moment U.S. President Barack Obama's Air Force One touched down at Ben Gurion Airport on March 20, persistent illusions quickly began to shatter. And as he walked on the red carpet, showered with accolades and warm embraces of top Israeli government and military officials, a new/old reality began to sink in: Obama was no different than his predecessors. He never had been.
On the day of Obama's arrival, Israeli rights group B'Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories) released a disturbing video. It was of Israeli soldiers carrying out a ''mass arrest'' of nearly 30 Palestinian children on their way to school in the Palestinian city of al-Khalil (Hebron). The children pleaded and cried to no avail. Their terrified shrieks echoed throughout the Palestinian neighborhood as they tried to summon the help of passersby. ''Amo'' (Uncle), one begged, ''for God sake don't let them take me.''
Nonetheless, several military vehicles were filled with crying children and their school bags. But what made the release of the video truly apt is the fact that it was released on the day President Obama was meeting Israeli children at a welcoming ceremony at the home of Israeli President Shimon Peres.
''Their dreams are much the same as children everywhere,'' Obama said, referring to Israeli children, of course. ''In another sense though their lives reflect the difficult reality that Israelis face every single day. They want to be safe, they want to be free from rockets that hit their homes or their schools.''
Many Palestinians immediately pointed out the moral discrepancies in most of Obama's statements throughout his stay in Israel. Still, his visit was ''historic,'' declared numerous headlines in the U.S. and Israeli media.
However, aside from the fact that it was his first trip to Israel as a president, it was barely momentous. His unconditional support for Israel has been tedious and redundant, predictable even. Those who have followed his unswerving pro-Israel legacy — including his visit to Israel as a presidential candidate in 2008, his talks before the Israeli lobby group AIPAC and many other examples — could barely discern a shift, except perhaps, in the total disinterest in political sensibility and balance.
He truly delivered in Israel. This was to the total satisfaction of the Israeli prime minister and his pro-settler government which was assembled shortly before Obama's arrival. Obama spoke as if he were entirely oblivious to the political shift to the extreme right underway in Israel.
Indeed, the new Israeli government is more right-wing than ever before. The extremist Jewish Home party has three important ministries, including Jerusalem and Housing, and the ultra-nationalists of Yisrael Beiteinu have been awarded the tourism ministry. It means that the next few years will be a settlement construction bonanza, ''ethnic cleaning'' and greater apartheid.
''It's good to be back in The Land [Israel],'' Obama said in Hebrew, at the Tel Aviv airport. ''The United States is proud to stand with you as your strongest ally and your greatest friend.''
It is believed that for four years, though he tried his best, Obama has failed to live up to the nearly impossible expectations of Israel. Israel requires a president with good oratory skills to emphasize the ''eternal'' bond between his country and Israel, as Obama did, and who is able to sign big checks and ask few questions.
Obama has of course done that and more. Aside from the $3.1 billion in annual financial support, he has rerouted hundreds of millions of U.S. funds to bankroll Israel's air defense system, the Iron Dome, whose efficiency is questionable at best.
Obama's past transgression, as far as Israel is concerned, is that he dared ask the right-wing government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to temporarily freeze settlement construction as a pre-condition to restart the stalled — if not dead — peace process. Of course, there is the widely reported matter of Obama's lack of fondness of Netanyahu, his antics and renowned arrogance. But that matters little, since Israel's illegal settlements continued to thrive during Obama's first term in office.
Expectedly, Netanyahu was gloating. He has managed to assemble a government that will cater mostly to extremist Jewish settlers in the West Bank and also masterfully managed to humble the U.S. president, or at least quash his ambitions that Washington is capable of operating independently in the Middle East, without Israeli consent or interests in mind.
Now that Jewish colonies are flourishing — with occupied East Jerusalem area EI being another major exploit — Netanyahu is once more aspiring for a war against Iran, one that would not be possible without U.S. funding, support and likely direct involvement.
''Thank you for standing by Israel at this time of historic change in the Middle East,'' Netanyahu said while standing near the mostly U.S.-funded Iron Dome. ''Thank you for unequivocally affirming Israel's sovereign right to defend itself, by itself against any threat.''
Obama did in fact spare a few, although, spurious thoughts for Palestinians.
''Put yourself in their shoes — look at the world through their eyes,'' he said to an Israeli audience. ''It is not fair that a Palestinian child cannot grow up in a state of her own, and lives with the presence of a foreign army that controls the movements of her parents every single day.''
One would even applaud the seeming moral fortitude if it were not for the pesky matter that the U.S. had voted against a Palestinian state at the United Nations last November and tried to intimidate those who did. And of course, much of the horror that Palestinian ''eyes'' have seen throughout the years was funded and defended by U.S. money and action.
If Obama is trying to resurrect the myth that Washington is a well-intentioned bystander or an ''honest broker'' in some distant conflict, then he has utterly failed. His country is fully embroiled in the conflict, and directly so. Many Palestinian children would still be alive today if the U.S. government had conditioned its massive support of Israel by ending the occupation and ceasing the brutality against Palestinians.
In a joint press conference in Ramallah, alongside Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Obama even demanded Palestinians drop their condition (proposed by Obama himself) of a settlement freeze in order to return to the so-called peace talks.…
Meanwhile, the families of the 30 children kidnapped by the Israeli army in Hebron will have many days ahead of them in Israeli military court. But that, of course, is a different matter, of no concern to Obama and his many quotable peace antics.
— Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is: “My Father was A Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press).
11. THE LEGACY OF HUGO CHAVEZ
[The U.S. government and most of the corporate mass media always despised Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who died at age 58 from cancer March 5. Obituaries from these sources were mostly grudging. Chavez, like his hero, Simon Bolivar, was a liberator — a liberator from poverty, oppression and imperialism. The Yankee press often described him as a dictator — this of a man who won three honest presidential elections with greater victory margins than recent American presidents. He served from 1999 to 2013, during which time he started to bring socialism to Venezuela. The hope of much of the world — at least in many parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America — is that it is allowed to develop far into the future. The following political analysis of Chavez and his government by James Petras takes an honest measure of this extraordinary political figure.]
By James Petras
President Hugo Chavez was unique in multiple areas of political, social and economic life. He made significant contributions to the advancement of humanity. The depth, scope and popularity of his accomplishments mark President Chavez as the “Renaissance President of the 21st Century.”
Many writers have noted one or another of his historic contributions highlighting his anti-poverty legislation, his success in winning popular elections with resounding majorities and his promotion of universal free public education and health coverage for all Venezuelans.
In this essay we will highlight the unique world-historic contributions that President Chavez made in the spheres of political economy, ethics and international law and in redefining relations between political leaders and citizens. We shall start with his enduring contribution to the development of civic culture in Venezuela and beyond.
From his first days in office, Chavez was engaged in transforming the constitutional order so that political leaders and institutions would be more responsive to the popular electorate. Through his speeches Chavez clearly and carefully informed the electorate of the measures and legislation to improve their livelihood. He invited comments and criticism – his style was to engage in constant dialogue, especially with the poor, the unemployed and the workers. Chavez was so successful in teaching civic responsibilities to the Venezuelan electorate that in 2002 millions of citizens from the slums of Caracas rose up spontaneously to oust the U.S.-backed business-military junta which had kidnapped their president and closed the legislature. Within 72 hours – record time – the civic-minded citizens restored the democratic order and the rule of law in Venezuela, thoroughly rejecting the mass media’s defense of the coup-plotters and their brief authoritarian regime.
Chavez, as all great educators, learned from this democratic intervention of the mass of citizens, that democracy’s most effective defenders were to be found among the working people – and that its worst enemies were found in the business elites and military officials linked to Miami and Washington.
Chavez’ civic pedagogy emphasized the importance of the historical teachings and examples of founding fathers, like Simon Bolivar, in establishing a national and Latin American identity. His speeches raised the cultural level of millions of Venezuelans who had been raised in the alienating and servile culture of imperial Washington and the consumerist obsessions of Miami shopping malls.
Chavez succeeded in instilling a culture of solidarity and mutual support among the exploited, emphasizing “horizontal” ties over vertical clientelistic dependency on the rich and powerful. His success in creating collective consciousness decisively shifted the balance of political power away from the wealthy rulers and corrupt political party and trade union leaders toward new socialist movements and class oriented trade unions. More than anything else Chavez’s political education of the popular majority regarding their social rights to free health care and higher education, living wages and full employment drew the hysterical ire of the wealthy Venezuelans and their undying hatred of a president who had created a sense of autonomy, dignity and "class empowerment” through public education ending centuries of elite privilege and omnipotence.
Above all Chavez’ speeches, drawing as much from Bolivar as from Karl Marx, created a deep, generous sense of patriotism and nationalism and a profound rejection of a prostrate elite groveling before their Washington overlord, Wall Street bankers and oil company executives. Chavez’ anti-imperialist speeches resonated because he spoke in the language of the people and expanded their national consciousness to identification with Latin America, especially Cuba’s fight against imperial interventions and wars.
At the beginning of the previous decade, after 9/11/01, Washington declared a “War on Terror.” This was a public declaration of unilateral military intervention and wars against sovereign nations, movements and individuals deemed as adversaries, in violation of international law.
Almost all countries submitted to this flagrant violation of the Geneva Accords, except Venezuela. Chavez made the most profound and simple refutation against Washington: “You don’t fight terrorism with state terrorism.” In his defense of the sovereignty of nations and international jurisprudence, Chavez underlined the importance of political and economic solutions to social problems and conflicts – repudiating the use of bombs, torture and mayhem. The Chavez Doctrine emphasized south-south trade and investments and diplomatic over military resolution of disputes. He upheld the Geneva Accords against colonial and imperial aggression while rejecting the imperial doctrine of “the war on terror,” defining western state terrorism as a pernicious equivalent to al-Qaeda terrorism.
One of the most profound and influential aspects of Chavez’ legacy is his original synthesis of three grand strands of political thought: popular Christianity, Bolivarian nationalist and regional integration, and Marxist political, social and economic thought. Chavez’ Christianity informed his deep belief in justice and the equality of people, as well as his generosity and forgiveness of adversaries even as they engaged in a violent coup, a crippling lockout, or openly collaborated and received financing from enemy intelligence agencies. Whereas anywhere else in the world, armed assaults against the state and coups d’état would result in long prison sentences or even executions, under Chavez most of his violent adversaries escaped prosecution and even rejoined their subversive organizations. Chavez demonstrated a deep belief in redemption and forgiveness. Chavez’s Christianity informed his “option for the poor,” the depth and breadth of his commitment to eradicating poverty and his solidarity with the poor against the rich.
Chavez deep-seated aversion and effective opposition to U.S. and European imperialism and brutal Israeli colonialism were profoundly rooted in his reading of the writings and history of Simon Bolivar, the founding father of the Venezuelan nation. Bolivarian ideas on national liberation long preceded any exposure to Marx, Lenin or more contemporary leftist writings on imperialism. His powerful and unwavering support for regional integration and internationalism was deeply influenced by Simon Bolivar’s proposed “United States of Latin America” and his internationalist activity in support of anti-colonial movements.
Chavez’ incorporation of Marxist ideas into his world view was adapted to his longstanding popular Christian and Bolivarian internationalist philosophy. Chavez’ option for the poor was deepened by his recognition of the centrality of the class struggle and the reconstruction of the Bolivarian nation through the socialization of the “commanding heights of the economy.” The socialist concept of self-managed factories and popular empowerment via community councils was given moral legitimacy by Chavez’ Christian faith in an egalitarian moral order.
While Chavez was respectful and carefully listened to the views of visiting leftist academics and frequently praised their writings, many failed to recognize or, worse, deliberately ignored the president’s own more original synthesis of history, religion and Marxism. Unfortunately, as is frequently the case, some leftist academics have, in their self-indulgent posturing, presumed to be Chavez’ “teacher” and advisor on all matters of “Marxist theory.” This represents a style of leftist cultural colonialism, which snidely criticized Chavez for not following their ready-made prescriptions, published in their political literary journals in London, New York and Paris.
Fortunately, Chavez took what was useful from the overseas academics and NGO-funded political strategists while discarding ideas that failed to take account of the cultural-historical, class and rentier specificities of Venezuela.
Chavez has bequeathed to the intellectuals and activists of the world a method of thinking which is global and specific, historical and theoretical, material and ethical and which encompasses class analysis, democracy and a spiritual transcendence resonating with the great mass of humanity in a language every person can understand. Chavez’ philosophy and practice (more than any “discourse” narrated by the social forum-hopping experts) demonstrated that the art of formulating complex ideas in simple language can move millions of people to “make history, and not only to study it.”
Perhaps Chavez greatest contribution in the contemporary period was to demonstrate, through practical measures and political initiatives, that many of the most challenging contemporary political and economic problems can be successfully resolved.
Nothing is more difficult than changing the social structure, institutions and attitudes of a rentier petro-state [depending on the export of oil], with deeply entrenched clientelistic politics, endemic party-state corruption and a deeply-rooted mass psychology based on consumerism. Yet Chavez largely succeeded where other petro-regimes failed. The Chavez Administration first began with constitutional and institutional changes to create a new political framework; then he implemented social impact programs, which deepened political commitments among an active majority, which, in turn, bravely defended the regime from a violent U.S. backed business-military coup d’état. Mass mobilization and popular support, in turn, radicalized the Chavez government and made way for a deeper socialization of the economy and the implementation of radical agrarian reform. The petrol industry was socialized; royalty and tax payments were raised to provide funds for massively expanded social expenditures benefiting the majority of Venezuelans.
Almost every day Chavez prepared clearly understandable educational speeches on social, ethical and political topics related to his regime’s redistributive policies by emphasizing social solidarity over individualistic acquisitive consumerism. Mass organizations and community and trade union movements flourished – a new social consciousness emerged ready and willing to advance social change and confront the wealthy and powerful. Chavez’ defeat of the U.S.-backed coup and bosses’ lockout and his affirmation of the Bolivarian tradition and sovereign identity of Venezuela created a powerful nationalist consciousness which eroded the rentier mentality and strengthened the pursuit of a diversified “balanced economy.” This new political will and national productive consciousness was a great leap forward, even as the main features of a rentier-oil dependent economy persist. This extremely difficult transition has begun and is an ongoing process. Overseas leftist theorists, who criticize Venezuela (“corruption and bureaucracy”) have profoundly ignored the enormous difficulties of transitioning from a rentier state to a socialized economy and the enormous progress achieved by Chavez.
Throughout the crisis-wracked capitalist world, ruling labor, social democratic, liberal and conservative regimes have imposed regressive “austerity programs” involving brutal reductions of social welfare, health and education expenditures and mass layoffs of workers and employees while handing our generous state subsidies and bailouts to failing banks and capitalist enterprises. Chanting their Thacherite slogan, “there is no alternative,” capitalist economists justify imposing the burden of capitalist recovery onto the working class while allowing capital to recover its profits in order to invest.
Chavez’ policy was the direct opposite: In the midst of crisis, he retained all the social programs, rejected mass firings and increased social spending. The Venezuelan economy rode out of the worldwide crisis and recovered with a healthy 5.8% growth rate in 2012. In other words, Chavez demonstrated that mass impoverishment was a product of the specific capitalist formula for recovery. He showed another, positive alternative approach to economic crisis, which taxed the rich, promoted public investments and maintained social expenditures.
Many commentators, left, right and center, have argued that the advent of a globalized economy ruled out a radical social transformation. Yet Venezuela, which is profoundly globalized and integrated into the world market via trade and investments, has made major advances in social reform. What really matters in relation to a globalized economy is the nature of the political economic regime and its policies, which dictate how the gains and costs of international trade and investment are distributed. In a word, what is decisive is the class character of the regime managing its place in the world economy. Chavez certainly did not de-link from the world economy; rather he has re-linked Venezuela in a new way. He shifted Venezuelan trade and investment toward Latin America, Asia and the Middle East — especially to countries which do not intervene or impose reactionary conditions on economic transactions….
Chavez’ programmatic and comprehensive reconfiguration of Venezuela from a disastrous and failed neo-liberal regime to a dynamic welfare state stands as a landmark in 20th and 21st century political economy.
Chavez rejected privatization – he re-nationalized key oil related industries, socialized hundreds of capitalist firms and carried out a vast agrarian reform program, including land distribution to 300,000 families. He encouraged trade union organizations and worker control of factories – even bucking public managers and even his own cabinet ministers. In Latin America, Chavez led the way in defining with greater depth and with more comprehensive social changes, the post neo-liberal era. Chavez envisioned the transition from neo-liberalism to a new socialized welfare state as an international process and provided financing and political support for new regional organizations like ALBA, PetroCaribe, and UNASUR. He rejected the idea of building a welfare state in one country and formulated a theory of post-neo-liberal transitions based on international solidarity. Chavez’ original ideas and policies regarding the post-neo-liberal transition escaped the armchair Marxists and the globetrotting Social Forum NGO pundits whose inconsequential ‘global alternatives’ succeeded primarily in securing imperial foundation funding.
Chavez demonstrated through theory and practice that neo-liberalism was indeed reversible – a major political breakthrough of the 21st century.
The U.S.-EU promoted neo-liberal regimes have collapsed under the weight of the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Massive unemployment led to popular uprisings, new elections and the advent of center-left regimes in most of Latin America, which rejected or at least claimed to repudiate neo-liberalism. Most of these regimes promulgated legislation and executive directives to fund poverty programs, implement financial controls and make productive investments, while raising minimum wages and stimulating employment. However few lucrative enterprises were actually re-nationalized. Addressing inequalities and the concentration of wealth were not part of their agenda. They formulated their strategy of working with Wall Street investors, local agro-mineral exporters and co-opted trade unions.
Chavez opened a new path to socialism based on free elections, re-educating the military to uphold democratic and constitutional principals, and the development of mass and community media. He ended the capitalist mass media monopolies and strengthened civil society as a counter-weight to U.S.-sponsored paramilitary and fifth column elites intent on destabilizing the democratic state.
No other democratic-socialist president had successfully resisted imperial destabilization campaigns – neither Jagan in Guyana, Manley in Jamaica, nor Allende in Chile. From the very outset Chavez saw the importance of creating a solid legal-political framework to facilitate executive leadership, promote popular civil society organizations and end US penetration of the state apparatus (military and police). Chavez implemented radical social impact programs that ensured the loyalty and active allegiance of popular majorities and weakened the economic levers of political power long held by the capitalist class. As a result Venezuela’s political leaders, soldiers and officers loyal to its constitution and the popular masses crushed a bloody rightwing coup, a crippling bosses’ lockout and a U.S.-financed referendum and proceeded to implement further radical socio-economic reforms in a prolonged process of cumulative socialization….
Chavez’ legacy is multi-faceted. His contributions are original, theoretical and practical and universally relevant. He demonstrated in theory and practice how a small country can defend itself against imperialism, maintain democratic principles and implement advanced social programs. His pursuit of regional integration and promotion of ethical standards in the governance of a nation – provide examples profoundly relevant in a capitalist world awash in corrupt politicians slashing living standards while enriching the plutocrats….
— James Petras is a former long-time professor at Binghamton University (SUNY) in New York. He is the author of more than 60 books published in 29 languages, and over 600 articles in professional journals. He has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. In 1973-76 he was a member of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada.
12. POSTAL WORKERS RALLY FOR SIX-DAY DELIVERY
By Donna Goodman
Rallies were held in hundreds of towns and big cities March 24 on a National Day of Action sponsored by the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) and backed by other postal unions. The purpose was to demand retention six-day mail delivery and prevent the closing of many post offices and distribution centers.
Thousands of postal workers, their families and supporters attended a spirited rally in New York City that day in opposition to budget cutters in Washington, backed by President Obama, who want to reduce delivery to five days a week, eliminating thousands of jobs.
Over 70 Mid-Hudson Valley unionists joined the rally, mostly from a bus organized by the Hudson Valley Area Labor Federation and Local 137 of the NALC, with many others traveling to the city on their own. In addition to NALC, local unions and organizations represented on the bus were the American Postal Workers Union, Workforce Development Institute, and United University Professions (UUP)
In the upper Hudson Valley, some 300 postal workers and supporters rallied in the Capital District.
Supporting the “USA for Six Day Delivery” campaign, the New York State AFL-CIO declared: “The Postal Service’s plan to end Saturday mail is an attack on the future of this great institution, on the customers who need it, and on the employees who support it. The American people depend on Saturday delivery to keep us connected and to facilitate our business. Eliminating a day of delivery will hit rural communities, small businesses, and senior citizens the hardest. This isn’t a change the American people want or that the Postal Service needs.”
The New York City rally took place across from the immense, historic James A. Farley Post Office in midtown Manhattan. Protesters were packed into block-long metal pens — the NYPD’s method of treating peaceful demonstrators like potential rioters.
Speaker Charlie Heege, president of NALC Local 36, demanded of Congress and Postmaster General Patrick Donohoe: "Do not cut Saturday delivery. Do not dismantle the Postal service."
George Mignosi, vice president of the NALC, reminded the crowd of the importance of postal delivery for the elderly and those in remote rural areas who have no Internet access. He pointed out the folly of the proposed cuts, which would reduce service by 17% for a cost savings of 3%.
Chants of "Donohoe must Go!" and "Five Days No Way! Six Days the Only Way!" were accompanied by the constant din of honks of support from passing motorists and by roars from the crowd, especially when Post Office trucks passed by.
According to Postal Service management, cutbacks are needed to make up for the loss of revenues caused by the public's reliance on the Internet and email for their communications. However, the real culprit is a Congressional mandate, passed in 2006, that requires the Postal Service to pre-fund retiree health benefits for 75 years into the future. These benefits must be paid in 10 years. There is no other enterprise, public or private, that is required to pre-fund benefits in this way, and this mandate has cost the Postal Service more than $32 billion, pushing it to its debt limit and forcing it to operate in the red. (In 2005 the USPS was debt free.)
Postal workers and their allies claim that the proposed cutbacks will destroy the postal service and the postal unions, the largest population of unionized federal workers. Reducing mail delivery to five days would cost 80,000 jobs in the postal service alone. The loss of these jobs would have a ripple effect on local economies all over the country.
Despite the draconian pre-funding rule, there is considerable support for six-day delivery in Congress. The New York State delegation is almost unanimous in its support: 26 of its 27 members of Congress are co-sponsors of H.R. 30, which would retain six-day delivery. Fourteen of the 27 are co-sponsors of H.R. 630, which would overturn the pre-funding mandate. Donohoe sought to end six-day service this coming August. Congress has extended funding through September.
Congressman Jerrold Nadler said: " We will protect six-day delivery service. We will protect the post office. We will protect all the jobs, and we will repeal the mandate for 75 years' pre-funding of pensions…. We won't let them use the pension system as an excuse to destroy unions, to destroy the federal services, to destroy your jobs…." He called the pre-funding rule a "plot" to privatize the postal service by producing an "artificial crisis and an artificial deficit." He compared the postal deficit to the federal deficits that are being used as an excuse to attempt cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
The most moving speech of the afternoon was delivered by Victoria Pannell, a13-year-old community activist from Harlem. She began: "Being a child, my first thought was: what about the children's Christmas toys? Then my thoughts went deeper. How are the postal workers' children going to college?" She expressed concern for the residents of rural areas, where poverty rates are higher than the national average and whose post offices would be the first ones targeted to close if services are cut back.
Speaking truth to power, Jonathan Smith, president of New York Metro Area Postal Union, APWU, declared: "Sometimes the fight comes down to right and wrong. And the Postal Service works. And it was working until Congress decided to steal to supply wars."
13. MEN WHO KICK DOWN DOORS:
TYRANTS HOME & ABROAD
By Ann Jones
Picture this. A man, armored in tattoos, bursts into a living room not his own. He confronts an enemy. He barks orders. He throws that enemy into a chair. Then against a wall. He plants himself in the middle of the room, feet widespread, fists clenched, muscles straining, face contorted in a scream of rage. The tendons in his neck are taut with the intensity of his terrifying performance. He chases the enemy to the next room, stopping escape with a quick grab and thrust and body block that pins the enemy, bent back, against a counter. He shouts more orders: his enemy can go with him to the basement for a “private talk,” or be beaten to a pulp right here. Then he wraps his fingers around the neck of his enemy and begins to choke her.
No, that invader isn’t an American soldier leading a night raid on an Afghan village, nor is the enemy an anonymous Afghan householder. This combat warrior is just a guy in Ohio named Shane. He’s doing what so many men find exhilarating: disciplining his girlfriend with a heavy dose of the violence we render harmless by calling it “domestic.”
It’s easy to figure out from a few basic facts that Shane is a skilled predator. Why else does a 31-year-old man lavish attention on a pretty 19-year-old with two children (ages four and two, the latter an equally pretty and potentially targeted little female)? And what more vulnerable girlfriend could he find than this one, named Maggie: a neglected young woman, still a teenager, who for two years had been raising her kids on her own while her husband fought a war in Afghanistan? That war had broken the family apart, leaving Maggie with no financial support and more alone than ever.
But the way Shane assaulted Maggie, he might just as well have been a night-raiding soldier terrorizing an Afghan civilian family in pursuit of some dangerous Talib, real or imagined. For all we know, Maggie’s estranged husband/soldier might have acted in the same way in some Afghan living room and not only been paid but also honored for it. The basic behavior is quite alike: an overwhelming display of superior force. The tactics: shock and awe. The goal: to control the behavior, the very life, of the designated target. The mind set: a sense of entitlement when it comes to determining the fate of a subhuman creature. The dark side: the fear and brutal rage of a scared loser who inflicts his miserable self on others.
As for that designated enemy, just as American exceptionalism asserts the superiority of the United States over all other countries and cultures on Earth, and even over the laws that govern international relations, misogyny -- which seems to inform so much in the United States these days, from military boot camp to the Oscars to full frontal political assaults on a woman’s right to control her own body -- assures even the most pathetic guys like Shane of their innate superiority over some “thing” usually addressed with multiple obscenities.
Since 9/11, the further militarization of our already militarized culture has reached new levels. Official America, as embodied in our political system and national security state, now seems to be thoroughly masculine, paranoid, quarrelsome, secretive, greedy, aggressive, and violent. Readers familiar with “domestic violence” will recognize those traits as equally descriptive of the average American wife beater: scared but angry and aggressive, and feeling absolutely entitled to control something, whether it’s just a woman, or a small wretched country like Afghanistan.
It was John Stuart Mill, writing in the nineteenth century, who connected the dots between “domestic” and international violence. But he didn’t use our absurdly gender-neutral, pale gray term “domestic violence.” He called it “wife torture” or “atrocity,” and he recognized that torture and atrocity are much the same, no matter where they take place -- whether today in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Wardak Province, Afghanistan, or a bedroom or basement in Ohio. Arguing in 1869 against the subjection of women, Mill wrote that the Englishman’s habit of household tyranny and “wife torture” established the pattern and practice for his foreign policy. The tyrant at home becomes the tyrant at war. Home is the training ground for the big games played overseas.
Mill believed that, in early times, strong men had used force to enslave women and the majority of their fellow men. By the nineteenth century, however, the “law of the strongest” seemed to him to have been “abandoned” -- in England at least -- “as the regulating principle of the world’s affairs.” Slavery had been renounced. Only in the household did it continue to be practiced, though wives were no longer openly enslaved but merely “subjected” to their husbands. This subjection, Mill said, was the last vestige of the archaic “law of the strongest,” and must inevitably fade away as reasonable men recognized its barbarity and injustice. Of his own time, he wrote that “nobody professes” the law of the strongest, and “as regards most of the relations between human beings, nobody is permitted to practice it.”
Well, even a feminist may not be right about everything. Times often change for the worse, and rarely has the law of the strongest been more popular than it is in the United States today. Routinely now we hear congressmen declare that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world because it is the greatest military power in history, just as presidents now regularly insist that the U.S. military is “the finest fighting force in the history of the world.” Never mind that it rarely wins a war. Few here question that primitive standard -- the law of the strongest -- as the measure of this America’s dwindling “civilization.”
Mill, however, was right about the larger point: that tyranny at home is the model for tyranny abroad. What he perhaps didn’t see was the perfect reciprocity of the relationship that perpetuates the law of the strongest both in the home and far away.
When tyranny and violence are practiced on a grand scale in foreign lands, the practice also intensifies at home. As American militarism went into overdrive after 9/11, it validated violence against women here, where Republicans held up reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (first passed in 1994), and celebrities who publicly assaulted their girlfriends faced no consequences other than a deluge of sympathetic girl-fan tweets.
America’s invasions abroad also validated violence within the U.S. military itself. An estimated 19,000 women soldiers were sexually assaulted in 2011; and an unknown number have been murdered by fellow soldiers who were, in many cases, their husbands or boyfriends. A great deal of violence against women in the military, from rape to murder, has been documented, only to be casually covered up by the chain of command.
Violence against civilian women here at home, on the other hand, may not be reported or tallied at all, so the full extent of it escapes notice. Men prefer to maintain the historical fiction that violence in the home is a private matter, properly and legally concealed behind a “curtain.” In this way is male impunity and tyranny maintained.
Women cling to a fiction of our own: that we are much more “equal” than we are. Instead of confronting male violence, we still prefer to lay the blame for it on individual women and girls who fall victim to it -- as if they had volunteered. But then, how to explain the dissonant fact that at least one of every three female American soldiers is sexually assaulted by a male “superior”? Surely that’s not what American women had in mind when they signed up for the Marines or for Air Force flight training. In fact, lots of teenage girls volunteer for the military precisely to escape violence and sexual abuse in their childhood homes or streets.
Don’t get me wrong, military men are neither alone nor out of the ordinary in terrorizing women. The broader American war against women has intensified on many fronts here at home, right along with our wars abroad. Those foreign wars have killed uncounted thousands of civilians, many of them women and children, which could make the private battles of domestic warriors like Shane here in the U.S. seem puny by comparison. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the firepower of the Shanes of our American world. The statistics tell us that a legal handgun has been the most popular means of dispatching a wife, but when it comes to girlfriends, guys really get off on beating them to death.
Some 3,073 people were killed in the terrorist attacks on the United States on 9/11. Between that day and June 6, 2012, 6,488 U.S. soldiers were killed in combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, bringing the death toll for America’s war on terror at home and abroad to 9,561. During the same period, 11,766 women were murdered in the United States by their husbands or boyfriends, both military and civilian. The greater number of women killed here at home is a measure of the scope and the furious intensity of the war against women, a war that threatens to continue long after the misconceived war on terror is history.
Think about Shane, standing there in a nondescript living room in Ohio screaming his head off like a little child who wants what he wants when he wants it. Reportedly, he was trying to be a good guy and make a career as a singer in a Christian rock band. But like the combat soldier in a foreign war who is modeled after him, he uses violence to hold his life together and accomplish his mission.
We know about Shane only because there happened to be a photographer on the scene. Sara Naomi Lewkowicz had chosen to document the story of Shane and his girlfriend Maggie out of sympathy for his situation as an ex-con, recently released from prison yet not free of the stigma attached to a man who had done time. Then, one night, there he was in the living room throwing Maggie around, and Lewkowicz did what any good combat photographer would do as a witness to history: she kept shooting. That action alone was a kind of intervention and may have saved Maggie’s life.
In the midst of the violence, Lewkowicz also dared to snatch from Shane’s pocket her own cell phone, which he had borrowed earlier. It’s unclear whether she passed the phone to someone else or made the 911 call herself. The police arrested Shane, and a smart policewoman told Maggie: “You know, he’s not going to stop. They never stop. They usually stop when they kill you.”
Maggie did the right thing. She gave the police a statement. Shane is back in prison. And Lewkowicz’s remarkable photographs were posted online on February 27th at Time magazine’s website feature Lightbox under the heading “Photographer As Witness: A Portrait of Domestic Violence.”
The photos are remarkable because the photographer is very good and the subject of her attention is so rarely caught on camera. Unlike warfare covered in Iraq and Afghanistan by embedded combat photographers, wife torture takes place mostly behind closed doors, unannounced and unrecorded. The first photographs of wife torture to appear in the U.S. were Donna Ferrato’s now iconic images of violence against women at home.
Like Lewkowicz, Ferrato came upon wife torture by chance; she was documenting a marriage in 1980 when the happy husband chose to beat up his wife. Yet so reluctant were photo editors to pull aside the curtain of domestic privacy that even after Ferrato became a Life photographer in 1984, pursuing the same subject, nobody, including Life, wanted to publish the shocking images she produced.
In 1986, six years after she witnessed that first assault, some of her photographs of violence against women in the home were published in the Philadelphia Inquirer, and brought her the 1987 Robert F. Kennedy journalism award “for outstanding coverage of the problems of the disadvantaged.” In 1991, Aperture, the publisher of distinguished photography books, brought out Ferrato’s eye-opening body of work as Living with the Enemy (for which I wrote an introduction). Since then, the photos have been widely reproduced. Time used a Ferrato image on its cover in 1994, when the murder of Nicole Brown Simpson briefly drew attention to what the magazine called “the epidemic of domestic abuse” and Lightbox featured a small retrospective of her domestic violence work on June 27, 2012.
Ferrato herself started a foundation, offering her work to women’s groups across the country to exhibit at fundraisers for local shelters and services. Those photo exhibitions also helped raise consciousness across America and certainly contributed to smarter, less misogynistic police procedures of the kind that put Shane back in jail.
Ferrato’s photos were incontrovertible evidence of the violence in our homes, rarely acknowledged and never before so plainly seen. Yet until February 27th, when with Ferrato’s help, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz’s photos were posted on Lightbox only two months after they were taken, Ferrato’s photos were all we had. We needed more. So there was every reason for Lewkowicz’s work to be greeted with acclaim by photographers and women everywhere.
Instead, in more than 1,700 comments posted at Lightbox, photographer Lewkowicz was mainly castigated for things like not dropping her camera and taking care to get Maggie’s distraught two-year-old daughter out of the room or singlehandedly stopping the assault. (Need it be said that stopping combat is not the job of combat photographers?)
Maggie, the victim of this felonious assault, was also mercilessly denounced: for going out with Shane in the first place, for failing to foresee his violence, for “cheating” on her already estranged husband fighting in Afghanistan, and inexplicably for being a “perpetrator.” Reviewing the commentary for the Columbia Journalism Review, Jina Moore concluded, “[T]here’s one thing all the critics seem to agree on: The only adult in the house not responsible for the violence is the man committing it.”
Viewers of these photographs -- photos that accurately reflect the daily violence so many women face -- seem to find it easy to ignore, or even praise, the raging man behind it all. So, too, do so many find it convenient to ignore the violence that America’s warriors abroad inflict under orders on a mass scale upon women and children in war zones.
The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq had the effect of displacing millions from their homes within the country or driving them into exile in foreign lands. Rates of rape and atrocity were staggering, as I learned firsthand when in 2008-2009 I spent time in Syria, Jordan, and Lebanon talking with Iraqi refugees. In addition, those women who remain in Iraq now live under the rule of conservative Islamists, heavily influenced by Iran. Under the former secular regime, Iraqi women were considered the most advanced in the Arab world; today, they say they have been set back a century.
In Afghanistan, too, while Americans take credit for putting women back in the workplace and girls in school, untold thousands of women and children have been displaced internally, many to makeshift camps on the outskirts of Kabul where 17 children froze to death last January. The U.N. reported 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries as a result of the war in 2012, the majority of them women and children. In a country without a state capable of counting bodies, these are undoubtedly significant undercounts. A U.N. official said, “It is the tragic reality that most Afghan women and girls were killed or injured while engaging in their everyday activities.” Thousands of women in Afghan cities have been forced into survival sex, as were Iraqi women who fled as refugees to Beirut and particularly Damascus.
That’s what male violence is meant to do to women. The enemy. War itself is a kind of screaming tattooed man, standing in the middle of a room -- or another country -- asserting the law of the strongest. It’s like a reset button on history that almost invariably ensures women will find themselves subjected to men in ever more terrible ways. It’s one more thing that, to a certain kind of man, makes going to war, like good old-fashioned wife torture, so exciting and so much fun.
— From TomDispastch.com March 21. Ann Jones, historian, journalist, photographer, chronicled violence against women in the U.S. in several books, including the feminist classic Women Who Kill (1980) and Next Time, She’ll Be Dead (2000), before going to Afghanistan in 2002 to work with women. She is the author of “Kabul in Winter” (2006) and “War Is Not Over When It’s Over” (2010).
14. HIJACKING FEMINISM
By Catherine Rottenberg
A new trend is on the rise. Suddenly high-powered women are publically espousing feminism. In her recently published book, “Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead” Facebook's chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg advocates for a new kind of feminism, maintaining that women need to initiate an “internalized revolution.”
Sandberg's feminist manifesto comes on the heels of Ann-Marie Slaughter's much-discussed Atlantic opinion piece, "Why Women Still Can't Have It All,” which rapidly became the most widely read essay in the magazine's history. In her piece, Slaughter explains why professional women are still finding it difficult to balance career demands with their wish for an active home life: social norms and the inflexibility of U.S. workplace culture continue to privilege career advancement over family.
The buzz that has surrounded these two "how-to-reinvigorate-feminism" programes suggests that Sandberg and Slaughter have struck a deep cultural chord. Indeed, the two women are quickly becoming the most visible representatives of U.S. feminism in the early 21st century.
Part of the media hype, however, involves their public disagreements. But the attempt to pit these two women against one another is actually ironic, since their fundamental assumptions about what constitutes liberation and progress for women are virtually indistinguishable.
Sandberg urges women to reaffirm their commitment to work, while insisting that this will provide women more choice about how to carve out a felicitous work-family balance. Slaughter urges women to reaffirm their commitment to family, while asserting that this will provide women more choice about how to carve out a felicitous work-family balance.
Thus, despite the surface disagreement, both women ultimately agree on the basics, while the difference is merely a matter of emphasis. Sandberg focuses on changing women's attitudes about work and self. Slaughter focuses on legitimating women's "natural" commitment towards families, while urging social institutions to make room for these attitudes.
In both cases, there is a deeply held conviction that once high potential women undertake the task of revaluing their ambition (Sandberg) or the normative expectation that work comes first (Slaughter), then all women will be empowered to make better choices.
Transforming women's orientation and attitude, which in academic parlance is now called affect, becomes the necessary condition for ensuring women's liberation and happiness as well as changing society. Ultimately, both feminists offer affective solutions that they claim will allow women to stay in the rat race. These two aspects — positive affect as antidote and the importance of balance — mark an extremely disturbing cultural shift.
These two women's worldview is clearly informed by the still dominant and uncritical feminist narrative of progress in the U.S., which unfolds in this manner: traditionally, middle and upper class women were confined to the domestic realm, but as a result of first-wave feminism's mobilisation at the end of the 19th century, women increasingly demanded recognition as public subjects.
Women's participation in the war (WWI) effort, the passage of the 19th Amendment in the U.S. and the coalescing of the modern New Woman norm were all fruit of this long-standing demand and activism. Freedom, especially for middle-class women who had been associated with the domestic realm, translated into the ability to transcend the private sphere and enter into the public world of political representation and work.
Consequently, throughout the 20th century, upwardly mobile women were often forced to make choices between having a family and pursuing a career — between traditional definitions of womanhood and progressive ones.
Even after the accomplishments of second wave feminism in the 1970s, it was still very difficult for middle-class women to bridge both spheres, and except for a few Superwomen, most women had to choose between family and a successful professional career; according to this narrative, the private and public have always been framed as either/or for women.
Sandberg insists that it has finally become possible for women to bridge private and public spheres at the same time. She is convinced that by leaning into their careers women will fare better at balancing their lives (since too many are still opting out of the fast track), which will, in turn, allow them to stay in the game and make it to the top.
For Slaughter the emphasis is slightly different. She is convinced that only once high powered women speak out about the value of family and insist on transforming workplace norms, social institutions will begin changing those norms; and changing these norms, in turn, will facilitate women's ability to pursue their own happiness project, which is inextricably related to the right work-family balance.
Yet the ideal for both women remains the same — having a very successful career and a heteronormative family and being able to enjoy them both. From Private Woman through the New Woman and Superwoman, it has finally become possible to speak about the Balanced Woman.
This, unfortunately, is how the "truly liberated" woman of the 21st century is increasingly being construed. What is particularly troubling about this feminist moment — especially since both women espouse liberal ideals — is exactly how little emphasis either Slaughter or Sandberg ultimately places on equal rights, justice or emancipation as the end goals for feminism.
The move from a discourse of equal rights and social justice to "internalising the revolution" or, in Slaughter's case, "a national happiness project" is predicated on the erasure or exclusion of the vast majority of women. Put differently, the feminist project these women advocate does not and cannot take into account the reality of the vast majority of U.S. women. A national project it is not.
Writing for Al Jazeera, Lynne Huffer has already reminded us that Sandberg is addressing a tiny group of elites, while ignoring the fact that capitalism is profit-driven economic system shaped like a pyramid, with workers at the bottom and executives like Sheryl Sandberg at the top. Also, Zillah Eisenstein calls this imperial and trickle-down feminism. And the numbers prove them right.
Figures show, for example, that in 2009, 27.5% of African-American women, 27.4% of Hispanic women and 13.5% of white women in the U.S. were living below the poverty line. Moreover, 35.1% of households headed by single moms were food insecure at some point in 2010, meaning that they did not have enough food at all times for an active, healthy life.
Many working mothers in the U.S. are working double shifts, night shifts or two to three jobs just in order to provide for their families.
Given these blatant class and race-biases, there is something profoundly illiberal — and fundamentally incongruous — in the re-envisioning of liberated womanhood as a reorientation of affect and as a better balancing act. U.S. women do not need to change their attitude; they need, first, job security, good childcare, livable wages for the work they do, and physical security.
If Sheryl Sandberg is serious about sparking a conversation, then perhaps she should start by asking who the cleaning women at Facebook are and how much money they take home every month. Do they have a viable pension plan? Do they receive paid holidays? And what kind of childcare services does Facebook offer them?
Indeed, it is extremely disturbing that for these high-powered women the "woman problem" is no longer about social justice, equity and women's emancipation — as if these have already been achieved — but about affect, behavior modification and well-roundedness.
Articulated at a time when Western liberal democracies are loudly decrying women's lack of freedom in the Muslim world while lionizing gender equality in their own societies, it actually makes a kind of cultural sense to shift the conversation away from the gendered division of labor and profound social injustices upon which U.S. liberalism itself is constituted.
The turn to the language of balance, internalizing the revolution and a happiness project, in other words, puts the burden of unhappiness, failure and disequilibrium once again on the shoulders of individual women while diverting attention away from U.S. self-scrutiny with respect to its own "woman problem.”
—Catherine Rottenberg is currently a visiting scholar at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton and has most recently edited “Black Harlem and the Jewish Lower East Side: Narratives out of Time.” Article from Al Jazeera.
15. NEW ECUADOR LAW, “FEMICIDE,” FIGHTS VIOLENCE
By Angela Melendez
QUITO, March 25, 2013 (IPS): Ecuador hopes to reduce violence against women with a new law in the penal code — “femicide,” meaning gender-motivated killings. Femicide is to be punishable by up to 28 years in prison, similar to the sentence handed to hired killers.
The first statistics on gender violence in this South American country were presented in 2012, indicating that 60% of women had suffered some kind of mistreatment. The aim now is to include the crime of femicide in the penal code reform introduced in Congress in late 2011. The new code is expected to be approved by the legislature to be sworn in on May 24.
The bill describes femicide as the murder of a woman “because she is a woman, in clearly established circumstances.” It goes on to describe these circumstances: the perpetrator unsuccessfully attempted to establish or re-establish an intimate relationship with the victim; they had family or conjugal relations, lived together, were boyfriend/girlfriend, friends or workmates; the murder was the result of the “reiterated manifestation of violence against the victim” or of group rites, with or without a weapon.
Ecuador follows on the heels of other Latin American countries that have adopted femicide in their legislation: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Peru. However, in several of those countries — most notoriously Mexico and Guatemala — the classification of femicide as a crime has failed so far to reduce the wave of violence against women.
Ecuador adopted the crime of femicide after academic studies and police reports indicated that crimes against women increased sharply. The Metropolitan Observatory of Citizen Security reported 21 femicides in Quito in 2012 and 28 in 2011.
In the most populous city, Guayaquil, on the Pacific coast, of 137 murders of women committed between January 2010 and June 2012, 47 were femicides and just four ended in prison sentences, according to the report “The paths of impunity,” presented Mar. 14 by the Ecuadorean Centre for Women’s Promotion and Action (CEPAM).
Another reason that femicide was classified as a crime was the shockwaves sent out by recent murders of women. Karina del Pozo, 20, went missing in Quito on Feb. 20. Her body was found eight days later in an empty lot on the north side of the city, showing signs of abuse and a blow to the head that caused her death. According to the police investigation, she was allegedly killed by three young male acquaintances when she refused to have sexual relations with one of them, after a party which they attended together.
In mid-February, the body of a 16-year-old adolescent girl was found in a burlap sack in the Andean province of Cotopaxi in the center-north of the country, with signs of sexual violence. And on Feb. 28, 24-year-old Gabriela León was strangled and her body was dumped in a bag in the northern city of Ibarra. In every case, the suspects or confessed murderers were men.
Thousands of people took to the streets to demand greater security, and the families of victims organized to demand that femicide be classed as a specific crime.
— You may also be interested in “Latin America: How to Prevent Femicide” at http://www.ipsnews.net/2011/11/latin-america-how-to-prevent-femicide/