October 24, 2007

October Media Coverage of Domestic Violence Awareness Month

Thanks to CALCASA for the sourcing...

Lucinda Marshall, from AlterNet, reviewed nine magazine publications this month and compared the amount coverage devoted to breast cancer and domestic violence.
“Although October is also Domestic Violence Awareness Month (DVAM), we’d much rather be aware of breasts, even sick ones, than talk about black eyes and things that aren’t supposed to go on behind closed doors. That point is reflected in women’s magazines, which devote much more space in their October issues to breast cancer than they do to domestic violence.”
All of the magazines Marshall reviewed advertised breast cancer articles on their covers but only two contained information on Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Marshall also pointed out, “that we shrink away from black eyes. Breasts, on the other hand, are highly marketable commodities…Such irresponsible coverage of breast cancer and blindness to domestic violence suggest that many publications are less concerned with women’s health than with making a buck.”
This story highlights how difficult it is to get effective coverage of both domestic violence and sexual assault in today’s media. Although the media is perfectly happy covering “public health issues” to varying degrees of accuracy, they rarely if ever address the broad societal costs associated with violence against women. Sexual assault in particular is often relegated to stories focusing on sex offenders and “stranger-danger” coverage made common for their ability to “scare up” ratings.
To read the full article, click here.

October 23, 2007

"Gray Rape"

There has been a discussion recently about something called "gray rape," a contrivance proposed by author Laura Sessions Stepp that only serves to support men's excuses and explanations for sexually assaulting women. There have been good discussions about this at Feministing .

Any man who has sexual relations with a woman knows, deep in his heart, whether he has coerced her or not, whether she has consented or not, whether she has relented or not, whether he has pressured her or not, whether he has threatened her or not, whether he has assaulted her or not. Any man who says he was confused or not sure is prevaricating. There is no gray area about it.

Spend some time talking with men in court-ordered batterer intervention programs. Almost every one of them has sexually assaulted his female partner, under the influence or not. Being drunk is a disinhibitor, not an excuse or an explanation. Neither party is having "consensual" sex when he or she is drunk. But every batterer will tell you that they knew exactly what they were doing. The fact that they are batterers, of course, makes drunken sex just as non-consensual as sober sex.

Scary People in America

One of the scariest slideshows I have ever scene.


Hat-tip to BAGNewsNotes

August 25, 2007

The Amazing Grace Paley

Grace Paley died this week at age 84. What follows is quite possibly the last interview with her and major story written about her (full disclosure: Rickey Gard Diamond is my partner).

The Amazing Grace Paley
Vermont's Poetic Conscience

By Rickey Gard Diamond

It wasn't easy for Thetford writer Grace Paley to find time for this interview. Nearing 85, Paley has been fighting breast cancer for a number of years and, the month before, she'd finished a new round of chemotherapy. Yet she and poet husband, Bob Nichols, had just collaborated on a new book, Here and Somewhere Else, out the same week I visited. She looked thinner than when I last saw her, but put me at ease, beginning our talk the way women often do: she admired my sweater.
I complimented her beret, worn at a jaunty angle, and she took it off to show me how short her hair is now, and darker - no longer snowy white. "It's beginning to grow back now," she said, running her hand over her head. "I was bald." Blunt, her voice still hails from the Bronx, edged with kindliness.
Paley first began spending summers in Vermont in the early 1970s. I asked her how she liked living here now, a place still snowy in April, and so different from her home town. "I feel lucky to be here," she answered. "But I was lucky to live in New York City, too. Both places are so different and both exciting to me. I wouldn't be who I am if I hadn't had both these places."
I told her I had made my decision to move to this state about the time I discovered her stories, 25 years ago. I was a working single mom with three kids. Poor, I dreamed of being a writer. Knowing that Paley was living in Vermont, I thought that breathing the same air she breathed might help my writing. Her stories had already changed my world.
Before reading Paley, I'd never seen my "secret woman's life" made visible, made literature. Her early path, like mine, looked conventional. Paley and I had both married by age 19; she a generation earlier, in 1942. I surely recognized what she said about it in her biography: "The whole atmosphere in the house was that if you didn't get married, you were in trouble."
Grace Goodside was born in New York City in 1922 to Russian Jewish immigrants (the family name altered from Gutseit). Her parents had expected their bright, pretty, funny, strong and determined child to excel, writes biographer Judith Arcana in Grace Paley's Life Stories. "But it never entered their minds she wouldn't also be a wife and mother."
"[My parents] were radical people in Russia," Paley told me, crediting them for her disposition and her politics. Paley carried that legacy into her college days, befriending an African American woman at Hunter College, according to Lucy Nichol, a childhood friend who attended college with Paley and now lives in Montpelier. Hunter College's fairly sizeable population of black students sat separately at lunch. "We were pretty radical, but it was a little unusual for Grace to pal around with an African American," Nichol said.
Paley remarked on her own education in Arcana's Life Stories. "Something happened to me at school. After junior high I just sort of went inside myself. I became desperately unhappy." When Paley was 13, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. When she was only 15, she graduated high school and entered Hunter College in 1939. Not surprisingly, for someone so young, she cut classes and dropped out after a year. She worked at clerical jobs until she married Jess Paley.
Later Paley tried more classes, including one with poet W.H. Auden. She had begun writing poetry. Her friends and family recognized Paley's talents. In fact, two years ago, at a special Vermont event in Paley's honor, Lucy Nichol read an early poem Paley had written for a mutual friend in the Bronx, who had saved the poem for 60 years. Could any of them have imagined Paley would one day be named Vermont's poet laureate, as happened in 2003?
Paley's early adult life was shaped by World War II. She followed her soldier husband across the nation, and lived with a friend when he went overseas. When Jess returned, the young Paleys settled in Greenwich Village in lower Manhattan.
In 1948, Paley's mother died, just a year before Paley's daughter Nora was born. A son, Danny, came in 1951, and in 1952, ill and exhausted, Paley had an illegal abortion, about which she later wrote in Just as I Thought. She was becoming deeply concerned about women's lives, though the greatest changes still lay ahead.
Writing in Secret
Paley's son Danny told Judith Arcana that by the time he was six, he knew his mother was a writer. He recalled Paley "typing away, I always saw her typing….I read her first book when I was eight or nine." That book, The Little Disturbances of Man, established his mother's reputation, not for poetry, but for short stories.
Paley had begun writing in secret. She later said she regretted not sharing her work with others sooner; friends reported it was hard to get her stories out of her clutches. When I asked her why, she said, "Because in those days, women's lives weren't considered to be interesting. That was the common thought. We [later] found out, it was interesting. I feel very lucky to have lived and written in these times when there was a great woman's movement, the greatest political movement of the 20th century."
Paley's material was her life-rich material. She worked with parent organizations at the school, went to meetings at the Peace Center she helped found in the neighborhood, took part in demonstrations and stood on street corners, handing out leaflets. Meanwhile, she wrote and managed a busy family. Children played a central role in all these realms.
I was given a glimpse of this period in Paley's life from another Montpelier woman, Fran Krushenick, who lived for ten years in the same apartment building as Paley in the Village. It was a dilapidated old apartment building, Krushenick said, even in 1962 when they first moved in. It was near Public School 41, the neighborhood full of the sounds of children. Krushenick's kids were much younger than Paley's, so the two mothers never met in nearby parks for those intimate talks famous in Paley's fiction, but she said Paley still visited regularly.
"She was constantly forgetting her key. I'd hear a knock, and there would be Grace, and I'd say, oh, you've forgotten your key again, and Grace would nod and go right through the apartment, into my son's bedroom and out his window to climb down the fire escape to her apartment below. She kept a window unlocked."
Krushenick's daughter, Andra, always looked forward to Paley's Halloween Haunted House, renowned in the neighborhood. Krushenick recalls a sweet story Paley once told her about her own girl. Out of milk, Krushenick had put a dollar bill in a little purse for her six-year-old's first solo trip to the grocery store, around the corner. Andra was very proud, said Fran. Streets were safer then. Plus neighbors, like Paley, paid attention.
Paley told Krushenick she'd then noticed Andra looking very forlorn. What's wrong? Paley asked. Andra had opened the purse to find it empty. Let me look, said Paley. The purse clicked open to two different compartments, and Paley found the dollar and showed Andra how the closure worked. Paley kept a look-out until Andra returned, beaming with success-but where's the milk? Paley asked, seeing she'd forgotten it in her excitement. Paley sent Andra back to the store, later sharing a laugh with Krushenick.
Keeping the Family Close
Today, the youngest four of Paley's grandchildren live very close by, and they visit her every day, she told me. Her house in Thetford is as scruffy as that old apartment building. In the center of her living room is a support beam, tacked with dozens of curling photos of the children in her life. She rose from her chair to show me each picture, and sympathized when I confided that my grandkids live far away. "That's hard," she agreed. Her phone rang, as it had several times, and she answered it in the next room. This time there was pleasure in her voice when she recognized the caller - it was the grown granddaughter, whom she'd already mentioned when I asked her if we really lived in a post-feminist age: were we all done?
"That's not really true," she answered, "but in my own family, for my granddaughter, who's in her mid-20s-she's going to law school. And for her, it's just natural. It's not the biggest thing anymore." She shrugged but then added, "I think young women shouldn't lose what the women's movement has gained. Don't make light of that sisterhood we found. They should keep their loyalty to each other, as women, and not give it away."
I heard her talking to her granddaughter. "I'm in an interview. I'll call you back, but first I want to know how you are. No, right now." She listened, gave encouraging hmms, then said, "While I have you, give me your new address, yeah, right now. Okay, pussy cat-kiss you."
When she came back in, I said, gesturing toward the childrens' photos, "You've been involved in the politics of social change for a long time. What do you dream of for these little ones?"
She sighed and took a moment. "It would be a world where all of my grandchildren-you saw two of them are black, not white-could feel at home in their world. I know when those children grow up, they're going to face some hard things. So it would be a world without militarism and racism and greed-and where women don't have to fight for their place in the world."
Paley's second book, the short story collection Enormous Changes at the Last Minute, was released in 1975 and included a wider cast of outspoken women. Grace and Jess Paley had divorced 1972. She'd begun teaching writing some years before that to help support her family. That same year she had married Bob Nichols, who had a home in Vermont.
That book and another story collection, Later the Same Day, published in 1985, reflected a changing world and included divorces, careers, arguments, always arguments, and black and lesbian voices, along with familiar women's friendships. About the change in her later stories, she told me, "There has to be some political movement before there can be a literature. Black literature came because first there was a black political movement. Women's literature came with a women's movement."
I asked her what she thought about contemporary women's writing. "I look for women in publications and I count how many women are being published. I consciously support publications that publish women because it's easy not to-like The New York Times Book Review sometimes. Women's writing needs to be supported by women."
Long-Distance Runner
Poet Susan Thomas, who lives in Marshfield, was one of Paley's students at Sarah Lawrence College, a short commute north of the city, where Paley taught writing for 22 years. "I knew Grace, first as an undergrad, from political stuff," Thomas said. "We were starting to march against the [Vietnam] war. Then I was with her for graduate school, 1977-1980. Now I've been her friend for longer than I was her student."
I'd already noticed Paley values relationships that last. In the forward to her autobiography, Just as I Thought, she thanked both of her husbands for their friendship and support. This seemed unusual, I commented, but she shrugged, matter-of-fact. "I was married to the other guy for 25 years and I've been married to Bob for 35. I'm just a long-distance runner." I laughed, recognizing the title of one of her best-known stories.
"Her writing class was not hierarchical," Thomas told me, emphatic. "We'd sit in a circle and listen to each writer read her story. Grace wanted us to hear the voice. We had to listen, because everyone had to say something. Then Grace would say something-like 'You don't have to talk so fancy about that story.'" Thomas laughed. "You know how she likes to dumb it down, but she's brilliant; she has her own cadences, her own language. She told us the process of editing is when you take out the lies. She said, you have to give all your characters integrity, including the bad ones."
Once, when Paley was away, a new teacher filled in, fresh from the Iowa Writers Workshop, where reputations are still made or destroyed. "She pitted us against each other, until we were all miserable," said Thomas, "so I told her, we don't do it that way here. We don't backbite. Everyone gets an equal amount of time and consideration." Thomas ran into that teacher years later, and they both remembered. "Paley taught us not only to be generous but to accept everyone's work as [being as] important as ours. There was no feeling of competition or hierarchy; we were all behind each other very, very strongly."
I experienced something similar in 1982, when Paley gave a reading at Vermont College in Montpelier. I was a student in the MFA in Writing program and Paley had recently been elected to the National Academy of Arts and Letters, an august post. My move to Vermont had obviously been wise, because there I was, not only breathing the same air, but sitting in the same room with Paley, a witness to her straight, strong posture. Surprisingly short, Paley carried a full head of bright, white hair and, out of her friendly-looking face, I now heard the voice that had jumped off the page at me so many times before. Her language rolled triple somersaults that took my breath away, more intimate than ever, speaking to me. Okay, there were other would-be writers in the group, too, listening-but she has a way of talking to each one, and personally.
Paley's story that day made us laugh and cry, and I noticed things I hadn't intended or understood could be in a woman's story. Afterward, she said to us, "Every story should be about the whole world." Her stories did seem that large, I saw, and from then on, mine wanted to be. But first, in the question period afterward, I tried to show off, disparaging Donald Barthelme, a writer very different from Paley. My tone gave away my scorn, as I'd learned was "done" in literary circles.
Paley surprised me, saying she valued his contributions, and that every writer has to find an authentic voice, however different. I didn't know at the time that Barthelme lived in her New York neighborhood and had been one of her earliest encouragers. But she didn't sneer at me in return. It was just as Thomas said: with Paley, everyone's words counted.
After the reading, I found the courage to invite Paley to my home, where an informal writers' workshop was meeting. I told Paley my writer friends would be honored to have her join us. She came and listened to our stories with interest, openly enjoying what everyone read. When she left, she kissed me on the cheek, thanking me. I've since tried to imagine Ernest Hemingway or John Updike mentoring this way-and the contrast always makes me smile.
Gender, Art and Politics
Paley's work continued to be published widely. In 1985 she penned a first book of poems, Leaning Forward, and the next year she helped organize a Women's Committee for PEN, the national writers' organization that advocates freedom from censorship. She and other women writers had noticed that only 16 of 117 speakers at PEN's 48th Congress were women.
Then-President of PEN, novelist Norman Mailer publicly explained it was because the speakers had to be of "real distinction." This was an intellectual event, and the only woman intellectual in America was Susan Sontag, he joked, and she couldn't attend. I've been told he later said from the podium that real writers had to have balls, and one of the women writers in the rear of the audience raised a hand to nicely ask him, "In what color ink does he dip them?"
This sounded so much like a comment Paley might have said that I asked her about the story. She laughed, but couldn't remember who it was, "maybe Nadine Gordimer."
"I don't know why he said such dumb things; it'll stick to him," she mused about Mailer. "I used to feel like I could talk to him, maybe, since both of us came from the Bronx. So I said once, Norman, don't talk that way! It's very upsetting to the women. And he said, they're just getting older and uglier, that's all. That was the end of my trying, so now when I see him at things, like at the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, and he's older, I think to myself, hey, look, Norman, you've lost your neck."
Paley's friendly protests for inclusion, for peace, cannot be separated from her art. Her wide-armed participation in life translates into stories and poems and actions and talks. Her political life is expressed as boldly as her literary one, the two a kind of yin and yang, nesting together, curling into a beautiful round shape that comes full circle.
Childhood friend Lucy Nichol reconnected with "Gracie" Goodside Paley at a Montpelier rally in 1979, and they have since worked together with the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). Both of them have sung with the Raging Grannies, a chorus group whose funny lyrics disarm conventional thinking about violence, war and commercialism.
Burlington activist and WILPF member Robin Lloyd told me, "Every time I hear her speak or read her poetry, she's able to cut through the jargon, the politically correct way of looking at things, which is often tedious. She gets to the kernel of it and describes it in a way that reaches your heart, with simplicity, directness, and this nitty-gritty realism that's so appealing. Her poetry is one with herself - and how she looks and how she dresses, there's no artifice."
Paley has worked with and founded dozens of organizations that give voice to those silenced by economic and military violence. They include The War Resisters League, the Women's Pentagon Action, The Clamshell Alliance, Resist, The Feminist Press, The Writers and Teachers Cooperative, and her and husband Bob's own Good Day Press. In 1979, she helped organize the first feminist environmental conference, "Women and Life on Earth," while just this March, another international women's group she sponsors, Madre, produced a report on the devastating effects of Iraq's government on women, a topic seldom reported.
I said, "When I look at the long perspective you have, Grace, your span of experience - like being a young girl and seeing firsthand the Depression, and then being a young woman, married and hanging out with soldiers during WWII, and then you worked a long time to end the Vietnam war and the wars in Central America - I wonder what advice you might have for Vermont women today."
"Advice? I don't give advice. It's not what I do," she said, voice curt. "If anything, the important thing is to remain interested in the world. It's a natural thing, I think, to be interested in different people and different cultures. And if you're not, well, that's too bad. It's important to pay attention to what's going on in the world."
"What do you think is most important now?"
"The war! It's so horrendous. I can't believe we've ended up going there. How can mothers bear it, to send their children off to this war in Iraq? There was no build up to it, no way it had made itself real to us, we're just suddenly there."
"Did you notice that hyper-masculinity during the last presidential campaign?" I asked. "I wonder what you think of this American posture-being so tough, so strong?"
"It's always been that way. That's how they make a war happen. They have to turn it into some big, exciting thing that will make all the boys feel like they should fight, and that they can be successful. But I have the sense that they're not getting their way this time." She paused a moment, then said. "I hope," a wry smile lifting one corner of her mouth.
Wrapping up our interview, I learned that Paley and Nichols were planning to make the two-hour drive to Burlington the next day for a sit-in at Congressman Peter Welch's office.
Sure enough, I read the following day that Paley had taken part in the protest, among those refusing to leave until Welch personally explained why he had voted to fund the Iraq war, when voters had elected him to help end it. Six Vermonters, including 87-year-old Bob Nichols, had been arrested. Paley decided to forego arrest this time. But through her stories and her actions, she continues to inspire many to speak up and refuse silence.

Contributing Editor Rickey Gard Diamond has earned her living by writing, publishing a novel, Second Sight, and other fiction, and editing Vermont Woman from 1985 to 1988. She now teaches writing at Union Institute and University's Vermont College campus. She would like to thank Paley's daughter Nora and her stepson Duncan for their kind assistance with this article.

August 19, 2007

Like A Rat.....

If I were George Bush, I would be pretty ticked off at Karl Rove. After having his manipulative fingers in my brain for all these years, having led me into the morass of all my failures and disasters, I would be outraged that he would CUT and RUN before the end of my presidency. Like a rat from a sinking ship, Rove is leaving his doo-doo behind, his presidential Frankenstein drowning in the stinking stew of their mutual creation.

Karl Rove will wink on his way out the door, letting Bush and Cheney and the rest of us know that the joke is on us. He must be gulping hard, knowing that he won't have to be there at the end, waving to a thoroughly discredited George Bush slinking away on a helicopter out of Washington, headed back to his Texas ranch to continue to play his little boy cowboy games.

The disloyalty and cowardice of Karl Rove's decision is immensely disrespectful to Bush. It boggles my mind how none of his supporters view that way. Nevertheless, it does underscore how little respect he has actually had, all along, for Bush the man. And it certainly reflects the level of disrespect he has had for the American people throughout his dominion of fraud, trickery, lies and mercenary behavior.

All I can hope for is that justice will catch up with him as a private citizen.

January 17, 2007

Finish Ratifying the ERA

Remember the ERA? Here's an update. For more go to: www.4era.org Thanks to WomensENews

ERA Has Nothing to Do With Same-Sex Marriage

Run Date: 01/17/07

By Idella Moore, WeNews commentator

Opponents of the Equal Rights Amendment have for decades depicted it as a proxy case for same-sex marriage. Idella Moore calls it a 30-year case of propaganda and says recent court cases have caught perpetrators coming and going.

Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.

(WOMENSENEWS)--Last month Maryland's Court of Appeals agreed to review lower court Judge Brooke Murdock's ruling that the state's ban on same-sex marriage violated the state's Equal Rights Amendment, adopted in 1972.
As a longtime ERA proponent I hope the Maryland Appellate Court will follow other recent higher courts in deciding that same-sex marriage and the ERA are two completely separate issues.
Advocates for a constitutional guarantee of legal equality for women have been working since 1923 for an ERA to our U.S. Constitution.
We have watched as other countries have added similar gender equality language to their constitutions. We have cried "foul" as the U.S. government shamelessly insisted that a statement giving men and women equal rights be included in the new constitutions of Afghanistan and Iraq while denying that same right to American women.
Our campaign is seeking to add these simple words to our constitution: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex." Yet today we must battle not only long-time opponents of the amendment, but defend this amendment against misinterpretation by those whom most would consider our natural allies.
Maryland's state ERA has the same wording as the proposed federal amendment, yet in reaching her ruling Murdock decided to side with gay marriage lawyers' claims that the reference to "sex" includes "sexual orientation." This interpretation of the ERA has been tried before and has been consistently rejected in higher court decisions since 1974.

Ban Applies Equally

Again and again, higher state courts have said that a ban on gay marriage does not constitute sex discrimination because the ban applies equally to women and men causing no inequity on the basis of gender, since neither men nor women are allowed to marry members of their same gender.
The connection between the ERA and gay marriage began in the 1970s, when STOP ERA activists employed it as one of several scare tactics. They depicted the amendment as a threat to the structure of our entire society that would cause social upheaval and destroy the family unit.
Enough lawmakers believed--or purported to believe--the claims that the ERA ratification deadline came and went on June 30, 1982, with only 35 of the 38 required state ratifications.
Now, 24 years after the 1982 ratification deadline, a new campaign to finish ratifying the ERA is well underway. We want to gain ratification in three more states and then challenge the 1982 deadline. Ratification legislation has been introduced in several states--such as Illinois, Missouri, Florida and Arkansas--that never ratified the ERA.
The renewed ERA campaign has riled up opponents who are taking advantage of the same-sex marriage issue's high profile to once again claim the ERA is a backdoor route to legalizing same-sex marriage.

Strange Allies

In a case of strange political allies, anti-ERA and anti-gay marriage activists are teaming up with same-sex marriage lawyers to make the same erroneous claims about the ERA. In early 2005, for instance, gay marriage lawyers in Washington argued before their supreme court that the state ERA rendered a ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Who did they find agreeing with them? None other than arch-social conservative Phyllis Schlafly, founder of STOP ERA, who for 30 years has been declaring the ERA will grant same-sex marriage.
In July of last year, after 18 months of deliberation, the Washington State Supreme Court reaffirmed its 1974 decision and ruled that the state's ERA has no bearing on gay marriage because the ban on gay marriage affects women and men equally.
This echoed decisions handed down in Vermont in 1999 and in Massachusetts in 2003. Although both those courts found other reasons for siding with gay marriage couples, they both explicitly rejected arguments that a ban on same-sex marriage constituted gender discrimination.
But despite these decisions Schlafly and her Eagle Forum nonprofit group continue to argue that the ERA is a same-sex marriage initiative in disguise.

Cracks Appearing

Cracks in this anti-ERA strategy, however, are beginning to appear.
The Family Research Council, a staunch Schlafly ally, publicly continues to support the spurious proposition that an ERA equals gay marriage. But it is furtively arguing just the opposite.
In the wake of the Washington ruling this past summer, the Family Research Council, based in Washington, D.C., filed a brief in the Maryland case accusing Judge Murdock of using "flawed Equal Rights Amendment analysis" and offering the Washington state decision as proof that the ERA cannot be used to legalize gay marriage. Yet in November, the Family Research Council's Tony Perkins wrote an article saying that Schlafly is correct when she says the ERA is "an excuse for legalized same-sex marriage."
Unfortunately for our campaign, the ERA is so far off the media radar that no journalists have bothered to connect the dots enough to find Schlafly siding with gay marriage attorneys in one state and the Family Research Council both supporting and not supporting the Equal Rights Amendment in another.
If any were watching, they'd see clearly enough that ERA opponents are in a state of legal inconsistency and getting caught, finally, in their own trap.

Idella Moore is founder of 4ERA.org, a national single-issue, non-partisan organization working to finish ratification of the federal Equal Rights Amendment.

Women's eNews welcomes your comments. E-mail us at editors@womensenews.org.
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December 11, 2006

Rape Used as Major Weapon in Darfur

A group of international women leaders has called for sending peacekeepers to Darfur to protect women from an onslaught of rapes committed by the pro-government Arab Janjaweed against mostly black African women and girls. Other than murder, rape is a favored, ultimate tool used by men to exert power and control over women, not just in Darfur, but in the United States as well.

We continue to behave like bystanders, watching the murders and rapes in Darfur and doing absolutely nothing to protect the women, children and men there. We learned nothing from our failure 12 years ago in Rwanda, despite all our crocodile tears and our earnest commitments to never let it happen again.

If you want to help, go here or here

December 10, 2006

What is the Bush Administration Thinking?

Juan Cole asks the obvious question about how serious the Bush administration is about Iraq being the epicenter of our fight against terrorism: How can we be serious about such a fight if only 33 out 1000 people who work at our embassy speak Arabic, and only 6 of them speak it fluently?

From Reuters

- Among the 1,000 people who work in the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, only 33 are Arabic speakers and only six speak the language fluently, according to the Iraq Study Group report released on Wednesday.
"All of our efforts in Iraq, military and civilian, are handicapped by Americans' lack of knowledge of language and cultural understanding," the bipartisan panel said in its report. "In a conflict that demands effective and efficient communication with Iraqis, we are often at a disadvantage."
The report, written by five Republicans and five Democrats, recommended the U.S. government give "the highest possible priority to professional language proficiency and cultural training" for officials headed to Iraq.

November 23, 2006

Protect Corporations, Not Children!!!


By Peter Montague

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) -- formerly known as the Chemical Manufacturers Association -- on November 16 filed a second lawsuit against the City of San Francisco, aiming to prevent the City from protecting children from toxic chemicals in toys. San Francisco passed a law in June prohibiting the sale of toys containing six toxic chemicals called phthalates (tha-lates) and another toxicant called bisphenol-A.

In October, the ACC and other corporations sued the city in California state court, claiming that state law preempted the city's right to protect children by controlling toxics in toys. The second lawsuit was filed in federal court and it claims that federal law preempts the city's right to protect its children from toxic chemicals in toys. Specifically, the ACC's complaint says theFederal Hazardous Substances Act, plus decisions by the Consumer Product Safety Commission, make it illegal for municipalities to pass laws to regulate toxic materials in toys.

This is a definite trend -- corporations trying to prevent local governments from passing laws to protect citizens against hazards and dangers created by corporations. In many instances the federal Congress is passing laws that prevent local governments from passing laws to curb corporate abuses. It's called "federal preemption."

We can draw three conclusions from this second lawsuit:

1. This is a major attack on the precautionary principle. The American Chemistry Council has hired a fancy-pants law firm to pursue this case. Clearly the ACC is putting a lot of money behind its effort tostop San Francisco from taking a precautionary approach to protecting children.

2. This lawsuit is a sign of just how powerful and bold corporations have become that they would sue San Francisco, asserting that corporations have the right to expose children to known poisons and there's nothing local governments or individual citizens can do about it. They are thumbing their noses at the Moms of the world and at everyone else who may try to protect children from chemical trespass.

3. There is one benefit from a lawsuit like this: It allows us to see clearly that the system we call "regulation" was set up not to protect citizens from harm, but to protect corporations from citizens who try to curb corporate power. The regulatory system doesn't regulate polluters -- it regulates citizens, by strictly limiting how they are allowed to respond to corporate abuse.

From www.rachel.org

Happy Thanksgiving.

November 16, 2006

Minimizing Male Violence

[I wrote this piece for publication as an op-ed in Vermont newspapers, in response to a recent upsurge here in murders by men of their girlfriends, and some minimizing coverage by media covering the stories.]

October was National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you didn't know that, it wasn't your fault. For the most part, the media chose to ignore the issue.

So, perhaps it was not surprising that, in some of the press reports about the murder of the woman in Lyndonville by her boyfriend, this murder/suicide was described as a "domestic dispute." Think about it. She wanted to break up with him, and in an act of ultimate power and control, he kills her and then himself. If a man rapes a woman on a date, is this a "dating dispute?" If a man rapes his wife, is this a "marital dispute?" If a man doesn't let his wife work, or have money, or see her friends, or drive a car, or he regularly threatens her, can this possibly be a "domestic dispute?" The "domestic dispute" characterization minimizes and normalizes what is actually an ongoing epidemic of male violence against women.

Every 15 seconds in America, a man beats his wife or girlfriend. Every 45 seconds, a man rapes a woman or girl, most often one he knows -- a wife, a girlfriend, a co-worker, or a family member. In the last ten years in Vermont, half of the murders of women by men were directly related to domestic violence. In the last few months, that figure has gone up, because of the murders in Lyndonville and Essex.

Women have led the way in America working to bring the issue of violence against women to the attention of our media, our community organizations, our governments, our schools, and our religious institutions. The time has come for men to stop being bystanders.

Most men in this country are not violent, most do not beat their wives and girlfriends. Despite that fact, domestic violence is really a gender issue. Men commit 90 to 95 percent of domestic violence acts. I think most men instinctively know this is true, but most men find it really hard to talk about it, think about it, or much less do anything about it. Some men believe that because he is not violent or it's not happening in his family, he needn't do anything. Some men believe it is a "woman's" issue, so he can really ignore it. Some men can't imagine talking about this issue with other men, some of whom he might suspect are abusing women in their lives.

Let's face it. This is an embarrasing issue for men. It's much easier for us to simply let women try to take care of this problem. It's really hard for most men to admit that this is our problem. Violence against women is men's violence. Can we find a way to help men own this problem and work together to solve it? How can we end the pervasive silence? How can we help our communities get past the attitude that this happens someplace else, certainly not where we live?
Given the prevalence of male violence against women, why has this not been a very public men's issue. Isn't it really in men's self-interest to address gender violence? Don't most of us really care about the women and girls in our lives?

Most men have a woman or girl in his life who has been a victim of male violence, a mother who was beaten, a co-worker who was abused, a sister or daughter who was raped or killed, a friend whose daughter was attacked, a friend whose wife was battered in a previous marriage. How would things change if our male governmental leaders, our male religious leaders, our male media leaders, our male teachers, our male business leaders, all of us began to speak out, identify male violence around them, and begin working to end it? How can we empower men to learn more, stand up and be heard on these issues? Knowledge is the first step.

In conjunction with Meg Kuhner of Battered Women's Services and Shelter in central Vermont, I co-facilitate a program in the schools about domestic and dating violence issues. Some schools have invited us, some have not. The information we bring to junior high school and high school students, girls and boys alike, is challenging and gives the students an opportunity to talk and ask questions. It really is encouraging to see how well most of these young men and women respond to learning about and talking about dating and domestic violence. It's almost as if they feel some relief to be able to talk about it.

The important institutions in our daily lives -- including our newspapers -- can be among the first places where men begin to address men's violence issues. Knowledge, information and understanding are the first steps. Maybe one day enough men will say that letting a ten-year old boy take a baseball bat and beat to death a black female prostitute might not be something we want in our video games. Maybe one day enough men will say to boys that calling each other names using denigrating terms for women and female body parts is not creating a good image of women in their heads. Maybe one day enough men will know that it takes more strength and courage to speak out than it does to remain silent.

November 12, 2006

What to Do About Mexico

Here is one reason of many why Mexicans want to come to America to live and work.

Editor Found Dead After Running Corruption Stories

Published: November 11, 2006 10:00 AM ET

ZIHUATANEJO, Mexico -- A newspaper editor was found dead in a hotel room in this Pacific resort city, a day after running stories about organized crime and corruption in the city government.

Misael Tamayo Hernandez, editor of El Despertar de la Costa, was found early Friday nearly naked, with his hands tied behind his back, in a room at the Venus Motel, Zihuatanejo police officials said.He was lying on a bed, covered only with a sheet, and investigators found three puncture marks on his body, one in his right hand and two others in a forearm. The cause of death was a heart attack, forensic investigators said.

Tamayo Hernandez, who was well-respected in the local journalism community, published a story on Thursday alleging that city officials gave illegal discounts on water services to individuals and businesses. The same edition also contained stories on organized crime.

Workers at the motel said they saw the editor arrive in a gray Volkswagen Jetta about 1:25 a.m. local time Friday, and that the car left at 2:30 a.m. Tamayo Hernandez's body was found at about 7:30 a.m., District Attorney Raciel Gonzalez said.

Numerous journalists have been attacked or killed in recent years in Mexico, presumably as revenge for unfavorable reports on criminals, including drug traffickers and corrupt government officials.

In some parts of Mexico, prosecutors go to work, do absolutely nothing, and then go home safely to their families. Corruption, greed, murder, and threats are everyday occurrences in Mexico. Essentially gangs are terrorizing Mexico.

Unemployment is rampant, despite all the vaunted NAFTA and CAFTA promises. And despite Rush Limbaugh's uninformed protestations to the contrary, millions of migrant Mexican workers, illegal and legal, work in jobs almost all Americans don't want. In fact, some American companies are leaving Mexico because they have found cheaper labor elsewhere.

Instead of focusing on how to keep these millions of people out, perhaps we should be focusing on how we can help them survive and thrive in their own country. Unfortunately, that would take more creative thinking, courage and compassion than this current US administration has.

Is There a Limit to Corporate Rapacity?

The corporate mentality that motivates tax breaks for the rich is itself richly reflected in the new advertisement from Lexus touting its new system that permits the car to park itself. The wealthy (the Lexus is not for the average worker) are too busy watching stock quotes on their Blackberrys to bother with parking the car themselves. This is a kind of wanna-be limousine driver for the not-yet super-rich.

Another delicious example of corporate rapacity can be found in a recent story and editorial from the New York Times. Here's part of the story by Stephen Labaton:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 28 — Frustrated with laws and regulations that have made companies and accounting firms more open to lawsuits from investors and the government, corporate America — with the encouragement of the Bush administration — is preparing to fight back.
Now that corruption cases like Enron and WorldCom are falling out of the news, two influential industry groups with close ties to administration officials are hoping to swing the regulatory pendulum in the opposite direction. The groups are drafting proposals to provide broad new protections to corporations and accounting firms from criminal cases brought by federal and state prosecutors as well as a stronger shield against civil lawsuits from investors.
Although the details are still being worked out, the groups’ proposals aim to limit the liability of accounting firms for the work they do on behalf of clients, to force prosecutors to target individual wrongdoers rather than entire companies, and to scale back shareholder lawsuits.
The groups hope to reduce what they see as some burdens imposed by the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, landmark post-Enron legislation adopted in 2002. The law, which placed significant new auditing and governance requirements on companies, gave broad discretion for interpretation to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The groups are also interested in rolling back rules and policies that have been on the books for decades.

Here's part of the editorial from today's edition:

It seems almost unbelievable, then, that corporate America would pick this moment to beg for relaxed regulation and enforcement, as well as more protection from investors’ lawsuits. But as Stephen Labaton reported recently in The Times, industry groups are seeking broad new protections for corporations and accounting firms, not through legislation but from the Bush administration through agency rule changes.

Corporate profits are never high enough. Corporate protections are never strong enough. Corporate personhood must be protected above and beyond any individual American's protections or rights. Whatever can be done to protect, serve, soothe and bouy corporations must be done. And while we're at it, let's not force the human agents of the corporatocracy be forced to park their own cars either.

November 10, 2006

Observations and Cautions

Have you noticed that, in the wake of the elections, Rumsfeld and Bush, among others, have been talking about how "complicated" the war in Iraq is, and how not many people really understand all the complexities? How odd to hear this from two men who had so little insight into the social, cultural, religious and political complexities of a country they decided they were going to invade. What hubris from two men who ignored the warnings from a slew of people who actually did understand the complex nature of Iraq and warned against the invasion. And what a convenient excuse for two men to employ in the face of defeat and rejection, as if they are saying "if only more people understood what we were trying to do."


Bush II is now looking to some personnel resources from Bush I whom he has ignored. Brent Scowcroft was one of Bush I's chief policy advisors, but he was not brought into the inner circle of Bush II advisors. Scowcroft has been critical of Bush II's Middle East policy of neglect, Bush II's "failing venture" in Iraq, and Bush II's unilateral approach around the world which has hurt our relations everywhere. Now, Bush II is looking to Scowcroft's former chief assistant, Bob Gates (and former Bush I CIA head), to help correct the course of the Iraq war and lead America out of this mess as the new Secretary of Defense.


The Democrats need to be careful about how they celebrate. If they begin to behave like Republicans did when they took over the House and Senate, they will just show themselves to be only another form of legislative bullies. They have a chance to set an example. The Democrats ought not to begin impeachment proceedings against Bush and they ought not to seek revenge against arrogant and anti-democratic behavior toward Democrats while Republicans ruled Congress.


Have you heard much from Karl Rove or Dick Cheney in the aftermath of their "thumping"? Not much, huh? Maybe we have seen a demotion of these two ideological creeps, and a muzzle on their ceaseless sneering, bragging, and disdainful words. Maybe I am wrong, but I think we will see less of them. Bush realizes he must, some how, some way, save whatever he has left of his legacy. Cheney and Rove are probably not the ones who are going to save his bacon. I think it's going to be his daddy.


Let's not expect too much. There will be some Congressional hearings and investigations that the Republicans have killed up to this point -- and that's a good thing. But what Congressional Democrats can accomplish is really limited. They do not have a veto-proof majority and are at the mercy of the process they fought to preserve -- the filibuster.

There is no "good" decision on the Iraq war. As one pundit put it, it's a choice among bad, worse and catastrophic. I will be surprised if anything even approaching a good resolution comes in the next two years. The next President will spend an enormous part of her or his time cleaning up this horrible mess.

November 02, 2006

What Would Karl Rove Have Done?

John Kerry is pilloried, hoisted on his own petard, ridiculed -- and all unnecessarily so. Why? Because he waffled. Because he hedged. Because he shuffled his feet and then apologized. All for something he did not need to apologize for.

Kerry's initial instincts were right. He got tough and stood up for himself.

What exactly did he say? Here it is:

"Do you know where you end up if you don’t study, if you aren’t smart, if you’re intellectually lazy? You end up getting stuck in a war in Iraq. Just ask President Bush.”

Why, in heaven's name, did he feel he needed to apologize for that remark? Here is the spin Karl Rove would have devised were he a Democratic Party strategist:

Rove would have turned it into an advantage. He would have had Kerry ask: "What's the matter with you all? Don't you get it? Bush didn't study, Bush isn't smart, Bush is intellectually lazy....and look where it has gotten us! The disaster in Iraq. All you have to do is ask most Americans who now disagree with the Bush Iraq war. He is stuck in his own mess. Let me repeat -- didn't study, isn't smart, and is intellectually lazy. How did we get in this horrible mess? George Bush. Need I say more?"

"And any convoluted inference that I am dissing American troops is ludicrous and insulting. And those who attempt to misuse my words are the ones who are insulting our troops, not to mention insulting the intelligence of the American people."

Karl Rove would not have let Kerry apologize for anything.

Don't the Democrats have anyone who could have turned this to their advantage?

I despair when I see something like this happen.

A Liberal Screed Fails to Inspire

Thomas Jefferson and his fellow revolutionaries spent a great deal of time enumerating the crimes of King George, but once understood and felt intimately by most colonists, they then offered some very specific "political imagination" and inspiration that created a new country.

Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin, along with 44 other "distinguished" liberals, have issued a joint statement in The American Prospect, defending and defining their idea of what it means to be a liberal. Starting off employing Bush's words "stay the course" and ending with his words "hard work," the authors offer almost nothing in the way of political imagination, nor much in the way of specifics. The online version of the statement refers to it, promisingly, as a "manifesto."

I was disappointed by the statement's concentration on "liberal" opposition to the Bush administration's war on terror and the war in Iraq. The statement never misses an opportunity to focus on the delusion and incompetence of the Bush administration and the "conservative movement." And as early as the second paragraph of the statement's substance (following two paragraphs of introduction), the authors feel compelled to take a gratuitous shot at Israel in a statement about "a moment for liberals to define themselves."

In one paragraph, these liberals give short-shrift to some heavyweight issues by declaring that they "believe passionately" in equal treatment under the law, rights to housing, affordable health care, equal opportunity for employment and fair wages, physical security, and a sustainable environment. Egads, it sounds like some planks from the platform of the Democratic Party. So what's new? And big deal.

Given an opportunity to defend and define liberalism, the signers, instead, obsess on the crimes of Bush and Cheney and, thus, miss the chance to illuminate and educate Americans in favor of alternatives.

For instance, there is no mention of corporate personhood and the catastrophic influence of corporate money that has corrupted our entire political system. There is not a word about trade policies that have denigrated the workforce in this country, resulting in the loss of substantial and rewarding jobs, and creating a service economy of underpaid and underskilled Americans by the millions -- essentially, millions who work and eat at fastfood joints, work and shop at Wal-Marts, and sit and watch reality TV and violence for hours at a time.

There is not a word about the huge budget deficit which sits like an anvil on the backs of future generations of Americans.

There is no imaginative solution offered to address the crisis of health care, or the inequitable tax system, or the corruption of the electoral process, or the challenges to social security. What do liberals stand for? This is more a statement of what liberals stand against.

There no mention of the ceaseless war that has been waged on trade unions and the right to organize, and what to do about it. No mention of the war on secular education, and what to do about it. No mention of the incessant attack on a woman's right to her own sovereign health decisions, and what to do about it. No mention of the male culture of violence, of a hyper-masculinity, indeed, of a cult of misogyny in America which has transformed our country into the most violent, gun-obsessed, most heavily-policed industrialized nation in the world, and what top do about it. No mention of a smaller and smaller concentration of media ownership and control which ignores anything that does not serve the bottom line and which promotes, among other things, a national obsession with emaciated women who are silent and submissive, and what to do about it. And no mention of a country which has more people in prison than most totalitarian states in the world, and what to do about it.

Nowhere could I find a word about the current genocidal slaughter in Darfur. How many of the signers of this statement wrote about Rwanda 12 years ago?

There is a great deal of substantive criticism in this statement of what the Bush administration has done wrong, and not enough of what could have been done right.

The authors conclude:

"We must engage in large acts of political imagination and inspire a new generation to take up liberal principles and adapt them inventively in a new century."

Unfortunately, the authors had an opportunity to perform an act of what they called "political imagination," but they didn't. They could have inspired, but they ended up mostly offering pablum and warmed-over pieties.

Yes, yes, you can only say so much in a short statement that you want alot of "distinguished" people to sign, but these liberals might have taken a look at some of the conservative messages that are replete with specifics about what they want to do. The Republican Contract with America is a good example of that. While some Republicans tried to fulfill all of the goals contained in that statement, in fact, many were not achieved. But at least it was a specific agenda behind which they recruited support, sufficient enough eventually to gain control of the Congress, White House, and the Supreme Court.

It would have been nice to see such clarity and specificity from Ackerman, Gitlin, et.al.

October 31, 2006

Cutting and Running from the Oil Companies

When it comes to collecting Americans' fair share of royalties owed the American people from oil companies, the Bush administration cuts and runs from its responsibility to collect them.

The New York Times today reports how the Bush administration's Interior Department has dropped its efforts to collect full royalties due the American government from oil companies for its leases, royalties which these companies have consistently underpaid.

According to the Times, "the agency had ordered Chevron to pay $6 million in additional royalties but could have sought tens of millions more had it prevailed. The decision also sets a precedent that could make it easier for oil and gas companies to lower the value of what they pump each year from federal property and thus their payments to the government."

As usual, this administration gives away the American people's money to corporate interests, whether they are no-bid contractors in Iraq, or oil companies taking oil on American land.

October 22, 2006

The Republican Tough Guise

How many times have we heard from Republican Party strategists, policymakers, officeholders, and other Party "true believers" that it is only the Republican Party that has kept us safe and can keep us safe in the future. How many times have we heard this in the context of denegrating the Democratic Party as the party of "cut-and-run" and surrender.

The essence of the claim that only Republicans can protect us ignores the fact that it was a President who brags that he does not read very much who ignored warnings, in writing, from the Clinton administration, as well as from his own intelligence community about impending Al-Queda attacks. Three thousand American are dead in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania on Bush's watch, 3000 Americans dead in Iraq on Bush's watch, 20,000 plus Americans wounded on Bush's watch in Iraq. And in the face of this, Republicans are actually convincing a large percentage of Americans that we are safer under their rule. It defies logic, but logic apparently doesn't count when it comes to Republican braggadocio.

It is true that since 9/11 we have not had another attack in America like 9/11, but it has nothing to do with the Republican Party. It has to do with hard working Americans, by the tens of thousands, who work every day for the FBI, the CIA, the National Security Agency, the United States Coast Guard, US Customs, the Border Patrol, along with every police force in the country. These are the people who protect us, not Dick Cheney's tough-guy sneering, or George Bush's awkward cowboy posturing.

The fact is that these Americans would still be doing their jobs protecting Americans regardless of what party is on power, and the suggestion by Republicans that the Democratic Party would be any less dedicated to protecting Americans is purely shameful and reprehensible.

September 23, 2006

What Drives the Know-Nothing 33% of Americans

Here are two disturbing facts to ponder, and taken together, they lead me to an understanding of how Bush has a solid one-third, unwavering support for his Iraq war.

Fact # 1 --
As reported by the Associated Press on September 22, 2006, the number of Americans killed in Iraq now outnumbers the number killed on 9/11. This does not count the tens of thousands of wounded, maimed, emotionally and mentally wounded, and those poisoned by the huge amount of depleted uranium our troops have been exposed to. Nor does it count the 6,599 violent deaths among Iraqis reported in July and August alone. Nor does it count the estimated 40,000 to 100,00 plus Iraqis who have died as a result of the US invasion in 2003.

But then again, who important enough is really counting?

Fact #2 --
According to a New York Times/CBS poll, one in three Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in 9/11 -- proof positive of how well the Bush administration's repeated lies have worked. Imagine it. Thirty-three (33%) percent of Americans believe what is a bald faced lie about why our American men and women are dying in Iraq. These are the dittohead Americans, those whose heads bobble in unthinking, uncritical belief.

In light of these two facts, I can understand how this 33% (one-third) of Americans can justify to themselves all of the deaths in Iraq, American and otherwise. It is a righteous war against a man that attacked us, he had it coming, and the terrible price is worth it. Because Saddam attacked us on 9/11, this war is just.

If you believe a lie, you can justify almost anything.

September 17, 2006

W is Not for Wobble, Indeed.

Rich Lowry of the National Review has some interesting takes on George W. in his face-to-face interview with him.

"He has a restless energy when he sits in a chair..."
"He exudes an easy self-confidence."
(He) "... asks what the correct expression is..."
(He) "...makes fun of himself."
"Bush’s confidence goes well beyond comfort in his own skin."
"He exhibits a sincere, passionate, and uncompromising conviction in his principles."
"He is arguably losing a war in Iraq that could destroy his hopes for the Middle East and sink his party’s hope in the midterm elections." (Did Lowry wink when he wrote this line?)
"But there’s no wobble in Bush. If anything, the opposite."

And there it is, in a nutshell -- Bush's unshakeable, what-me-worry, head-in-the-sand, don't-confuse-me-with-the-facts, everything-is-black-and-white mindset and Lowry's unswerving admiration for it. It's as if Bush's boyish pluck and obstinacy was some kind of virtue, an icon of American patriotic fervor worthy of a kind of Republican mythology of manhood and doing the right thing.

Here is Bush in his own words:

“Let me just first tell you that I’ve never been more convinced that the decisions I made are the right decisions. I firmly believe — I’m oftentimes asked about, well, you’re stubborn and all this. If you believe in a strategy, in Washington, D.C. you’ve got to stick to that strategy, see. People want you to change. It’s tactics that shift, but the strategic vision has not, and will not, shift.”

Lowry emphasizes it by repeating and italicizing never more convinced. Lowry then reports that Bush memorializes his obdurate thinking by claiming that it is "essential to meaningful governance." Lowry suggest that it is this kind of thinking that "drives Bush's critics batty." No kidding.

Lowry's National Review piece goes on to emphasize that when Bush talks about "principles" these days, he really is talking about THE WAR ON TERROR. Lowry has that right. That's about all Bush is thinking about these days -- THE WAR ON TERROR. 9/11 was Bush's saving grace, and he has exploited it to his every partisan advantage. It energized his presidency in ways he could only dream about before. Had it not happened, he likely would have been a one-term President, having accomplished nothing other than cutting taxes for his wealthy friends.

But it is THE WAR ON TERROR that has concretized his thinking about things in his your-with-us-or-with-the-terrorists' bunker mentality. It consumes him in ways most Americans can't imagine. And as Bush's legacy has fallen apart, it eats at him even more. He can do nothing else other than sink deeper and deeper into his one-track world where there are no grays, no complicated issues, no compromises, and no ifs, ands, or buts.

Rich Lowry merely helps reinforce Bush's simplicity and reaction with his puffery.

Crocodile Tears for Ford Motor Company

The name, the Ford Motor Company, conjures up the historic American automotive pioneering spirit and a proud heritage. But is anyone feeling the slightest bit of sympathy for Ford Motor Company these days? Who can sympathize with corporate decision-makers who have brought this once proud company to this level of incompetence, bad planning, poor design and thoughtless forecasting? Why have they not resigned or been fired long ago? Whatever happens to them, you can be sure they all have their golden parachutes.

To be sure, it is the Ford workers who will suffer the most. It is their jobs that are being eliminated. Eventually, it will probably be their pensions and benefits that will be reduced or lost entirely. It's particularly insidious how the trade union jobs are the main target. How does the reasoning go? Well, we wouldn't be in this trouble if it weren't for all those overpaid union workers. See how easy it is to blame someone else? Especially union employees?

Watching C-SPAN this morning, I was struck by the vast majority of people calling up telling how shoddy their Ford vehicles are, and how they would never buy another one. I pass by my local Ford dealers and what do I see? Their parking lots are filled with huge SUVs and F-350s, F-250s, and F-150 pickup trucks. I saw a local TV ad pushing the Ford Expedition, a 9 seater, 14 miles per gallon (the reality is probably less), over two-and-a-half ton tank, as a family car. This is the insanity that has been governing the American automobile industry for years.

American car companies have been the walking dead for years and they are only just discovering it. They will soon be sitting on the biggest pile of automotive scrap metal and plastic in history and will maintain it wasn't their fault.

September 11, 2006

Republican Fascism Revealed

Thom Hartmann, writing at Common Dreams, helps us understand through the words of Henry Wallace, among others, how we have come to the Republican fascism of 2006.

Read this essay.

Reclaiming The Issues: Islamic Or Republican Fascism?
by Thom Hartmann

In the years since George W. Bush first used 9/11 as his own "Reichstag fire" to gut the Constitution and enhance the power and wealth of his corporate cronies, many across the political spectrum have accused him and his Republican support group of being fascists.
On the right,The John Birch Society's website editor recently opined of the Bush Administration's warrantless wiretap program: "This is to say that from the administration's perspective, the president is, in effect, our living constitution. This is, in a specific and unmistakable sense, fascist."
On the left, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. specifically indicts the Bush administration for fascistic behavior in his book "Crimes Against Nature: How George W. Bush and his Corporate Pals Are Plundering the Country and Hijacking Our Democracy."
Genuine American fascists are on the run, and part of their survival strategy is to redefine the term "fascism" so it can't be applied to them any more. Most recently, George W. Bush said: "This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation."
In fact, the Islamic fundamentalists who apparently perpetrated 9/11 and other crimes in Spain and the United Kingdom are advocating a fundamentalist theocracy, not fascism.
But theocracy - the merging of religion and government - is also on the plate for the new American fascists (just as it was for Hitler, who based the Nazi death cult on a "new Christianity" that would bring "a thousand years of peace"), so they don't want to use that term, either.
While the Republicans promote the term "Islamo-fascism," the rest of the world is pushing back, as the BBC noted in an article by Richard Allen Greene ("Bush's Language Angers US Muslims" - 12 August 2006):
"Security expert Daniel Benjamin of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed that the term [Islamic fascists] was meaningless.
"'There is no sense in which jihadists embrace fascist ideology as it was developed by Mussolini or anyone else who was associated with the term,' he said. 'This is an epithet, a way of arousing strong emotion and tarnishing one's opponent, but it doesn't tell us anything about the content of their beliefs.'"
Their beliefs are, quite simply, that governments of the world should be subservient to religion, a view shared by a small but significant part of today's Republican party. But that is not fascism - the fascists in the US want to exploit the fundamentalist theocrats to achieve their own fascistic goals.
Vice President of the United States Henry Wallace was the first to clearly and accurately point out who the real American fascists are, and what they're up to.
In early 1944 the New York Times asked Vice President Wallace to, as Wallace noted, "write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?"
Vice President Wallace's answers to those questions were published in The New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan:
"The really dangerous American fascists," Wallace wrote, "are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power."
In this, Vice President Wallace was using the classic definition of the word "fascist" - the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)
As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is: "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism." (The US dictionary definition has gotten somewhat squishier since then, as all the larger dictionary companies have been bought up by multinational corporations.)
Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled "The Doctrine of Fascism" he wrote, "If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government." But not a government of, by, and for We The People - instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.
In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the "Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni" - the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like John Boehner and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.
Vice President Wallace bluntly laid out his concern about the same happening here in America in his 1944 Times article:
" If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. ... They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead."
Nonetheless, at that time there were few corporate heads who had run for political office, and, in Wallace's view, most politicians still felt it was their obligation to represent We The People instead of corporate cartels. The real problem would come, he believed, when the media was concentrated in only a few hands:
"American fascism will not be really dangerous," he added in the next paragraph, "until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information..."
Noting that, "Fascism is a worldwide disease," Wallace further suggested that fascism's "greatest threat to the United States will come after the war" and will manifest "within the United States itself."
In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated "conservative" radio talk show host. The politician - Buzz Windrip - runs his campaign on family values, the flag, and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American. When Windrip becomes President, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new "patriotic" laws that make it illegal to criticize the President. As Lewis noted in his novel:
"The President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: 'There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don't belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!' The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy." And, President "Windrip's partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the 'Corpos,' which nickname was generally used."
Lewis, the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize, was world famous by 1944, as was his book "It Can't Happen Here." And several well-known and powerful Americans, including Prescott Bush, had lost businesses in the early 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler. These events all, no doubt, colored Vice President Wallace's thinking when he wrote in The New York Times:
"Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases."
Thus, the rich get richer (and more powerful) on the backs of the poor and the middle class, giant corporate behemoths wipe out small and middle sized businesses, and a corporate iron fist is seizing control of our government itself. As I detail in my new book "Screwed: The Undeclared War Against The Middle Class," the primary beneficiaries of this new fascism are the corporatists, while the once-outspoken middle class of the 1950s-1980s is systematically being replaced by a silent serf-class of the working poor.
As Wallace wrote, some in big business "are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage." He added, "Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself."
But American fascists who would want former CEOs as President, Vice President, House Majority Whip, and Senate Majority Leader, and write legislation with corporate interests in mind, don't generally talk to We The People about their real agenda, or the harm it does to small businesses and working people. Instead, as Hitler did with the trade union leaders and the Jews, they point to a "them" to pin with blame and distract people from the harms of their economic policies.
In a comment prescient of George W. Bush's recent suggestion that civilization itself is at risk because of gays or Muslims, Wallace continued:
" The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination..."
But even at this, Wallace noted, American fascists would have to lie to the people in order to gain power. And, because they were in bed with the nation's largest corporations - who could gain control of newspapers and broadcast media - they could promote their lies with ease.
"The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact," Wallace wrote. "Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy."
In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism the Vice President of the United States saw rising in America, he added:
"They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."
Finally, Wallace said, "The myth of fascist efficiency has deluded many people. ... Democracy, to crush fascism internally, must...develop the ability to keep people fully employed and at the same time balance the budget. It must put human beings first and dollars second. It must appeal to reason and decency and not to violence and deceit. We must not tolerate oppressive government or industrial oligarchy in the form of monopolies and cartels."
This liberal vision of an egalitarian America in which very large businesses and media monopolies are broken up under the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act (which Reagan stopped enforcing, leading to the mergers & acquisitions frenzy that continues to this day) was the driving vision of the New Deal (and of "Trust Buster" Teddy Roosevelt a generation earlier).
As Wallace's President, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party's renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia:
"...Out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties.... It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.... And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man...."
Speaking indirectly of the fascists that Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core:
"These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power."
But, he thundered in that speech:
"Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!"
In 2006, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II. Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself "compassionate conservatism," and "the free market" in a "flat" world. The RNC's behavior today eerily parallels the day in 1936 when Roosevelt said:
"In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for."
President Roosevelt and Vice President Wallace's warnings have come full circle. Thus it's now critical that we reclaim the word "fascist" to describe current-day Republican policies, support progressive websites that spread the good word, and join together this November at the ballot box to stop fascist election fraud and this most recent incarnation of Republican-fascism from seizing complete and irretrievable control of our nation.

Thom Hartmann is a Project Censored Award-winning best-selling author, and host of a nationally syndicated daily progressive talk show carried on the Air America Radio network and Sirius. http://www.thomhartmann.com/ His most recent book, just released, is "Screwed: The Undeclared War on the Middle Class and What We Can Do About It." Other books include: "The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight," "Unequal Protection," "We The People," and "What Would Jefferson Do?"

September 06, 2006

Bush National Security Policy Failures Abound

In spite of all their macho talk, in spite of their claims to be the only men the American people can trust to fight global terrorism and radical Islam, the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld triad has actually failed when it comes to defending America. The Third Way National Security Project has just released a detailed study of the policies of the Bush regime and its national security failures. Here is a summary from the study:

• Iraq: The numbers show that the security situation is deteriorating rapidly – a chart shows that the number of average weekly attacks has risen steadily since the invasion, and the estimated number of insurgents in the country has gone from 5,000 in 2003 to more than 20,000 in April 2006. The report also compares the cost of Operation Desert Storm to the estimated costs of the Iraq War ($61.1 billion in 1991, compared to $549 billion-$1.27 trillion today). And the data show that indices of Iraqi quality of life have plummeted and our alliances have suffered significantly under the Bush Iraq policies.
• Terrorism: Despite the Bush claim that his administration had “arrested or otherwise dealt with” much of al Qaeda’s command structure, the estimated number of al Qaeda members has jumped from 20,000 in 2001 to 50,000 today, worldwide attacks are up sharply, and 86% of national security experts believe that the world is more dangerous for Americans today.
• Afghanistan: The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating rapidly – the data in the report show that number of Taliban attacks rose from 22 in 2001-2003 to 251 in 2004-2006, and the numbers continue to rise. Moreover, as recent news reports confirm, the unrest and Taliban resurgence have helped the country’s opium production to hit all-time highs.
• Iran: The data show that Iran’s nuclear program has made significant progress during Bush’s terms in office.
• North Korea: Similarly, the data show that North Korea’s nuclear capabilities have skyrocketed – they may have had one nuclear weapon in 2001, but experts are fairly certain they have between 3 and 9 today (and the ability to make many more), combined with a rapidly moving missile production system.
• The US Military: The data show that the Bush stewardship of the military and the Iraq War have had serious dilatory effects on readiness and the overall state of the military, especially the Army, National Guard and Reserves.
• China: While Bush has been focused on Iraq and elsewhere, China has become a powerful regional broker, our largest creditor and an ally of some of our most serious enemies.

The Republican strategy for this November's mid-term elections is a "robust" defense of the status quo policies of an administration whose policies have failed. There can be no other strategy for them, because any other would be an admission of failure, something this President will never allow.

September 04, 2006

What's Wrong With America

This horrible story from the Chicago Tribune about the deaths of six children in a fire caused by a candle is just one small example of what's wrong with America. Here we have an immigrant family that has had no electricity since May, much less smoke detectors, in one of our richest cities having to provide light by candle. This family is only one of so many in this country which don't have their basic needs met.

Think how much help we could have provided to our own people in America over the past several years with the hundreds of billions of dollars we have wasted in Iraq, so little of which has gone to the Iraqi people, so much of which has gone to the military-industrial complex.

What's wrong with America? All you have to do is examine the lives these six children were living, without basic needs, to find the answer.

Bush's phony war on terror in Iraq has amounted to a war on America.

Afghanistan Ignored

Some of you may wonder why I have not been active on my blog. To put it simply, I have been involved in a new business startup and have had no time at all to even think about it. But I hope to spend some more time now

[Here is a brilliant piece by Rep. Barney Frank on Afghanistan and Iraq, and how wrong the Bush administration has gotten the war on terrorism.]

August 30, 2006, By Barney Frank (Boston Globe)

A WAR is missing. Sadly, it is not missing from the physical location in which it is taking place, and people continue to die as it is waged. But it has largely disappeared from our national debate, and that debate has been sorely distorted as a consequence.
The war in question is in Afghanistan, and it isn't missing because it's no longer of consequence -- in fact, conditions there appear to be deteriorating -- but because of a conscious, unfortunately successful effort by the Bush administration and its conservative allies to ignore it. That's because acknowledging the war there would invalidate their charge that their political opponents are unwilling to take a forceful stand against terrorism.
During the years after World War II, academics popularized the concept of the ``big lie." This is a technique successfully used by some European regimes to manipulate the public perception of reality. It turned out that if enough people in official positions simply repeated things that were not true, and found elements in the media ready to reinforce them, lies would be believed and truths forgotten.
This approach surfaced in Vice President Dick Cheney's assertion that the defeat of Senator Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut's Democratic primary, largely but not entirely because of his support for the Iraq war, demonstrated that Democrats were unwilling to use appropriate force against terrorism. The theme has been a constant in this campaign season, repeatedly asserted by the administration and its congressional allies, and elaborated on by media figures. Their argument is that the refusal of many Democrats to support the war in Iraq shows that President Bush's opposition is unwilling to use force against terrorism.
There is, of course, one factual refutation of this partisan distortion. Every Democratic senator and representative but one voted for the war in Afghanistan. It is this war that represented America's reaction to the murders of thousands of Americans on Sept. 11 . It was the Taliban regime in Afghanistan that was sheltering Osama bin Laden. The reaction of the overall majority of Americans, including virtually all Democrats, was to support the Afghan war as a necessary act of self-defense.
But the fact that the Bush-Cheney claims that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks have been totally repudiated does not stop the administration and its allies from equating willingness to combat terror with support for the war in Iraq.
Not only does support for the Afghan struggle demonstrate our willingness to resort to war in self-defense, but one of the reasons why the Iraq war does America so much harm is that it has diverted attention, resources, and support from Afghanistan. Violence is rising there, along with the drug trade, and support is eroding for what we had hoped to establish as a democratic regime.
I feel particularly strongly about this effort to obliterate the Afghan war from the national debate because I sat in a church in Raynham early last month and watched a family grieve over the death of a brave young man who had been killed there. I do not regret voting for the war in Afghanistan. But I very much regret the necessity of having to do so. The fact that I voted for the war in which that young man was killed weighs heavily on me as a reminder that while war is sometimes necessary, it is an instrument to use only with strong justification, and when alternatives are not available.
Whether or not one subscribes to the geopolitical aims that motivated the Bush administration's intervention in Iraq, it is clearly invalid to assert that support for that war is the indispensable badge of one's willingness to confront terrorism. Only by adopting the techniques of the big lie can the vice president make his case that those opposed to the Iraqi war fail to understand the importance of a firm response to terrorists. In fact, given the deleterious effect it has had on our effort in Afghanistan, and the enormous boost it has given to anti-American forces around the world, the big truth is that the Iraq war has damaged our ability to fight terrorism.
Americans were united in their response to the mass murders of 9/11. The war in Iraq has weakened the United States internationally and divided it domestically, while draining needed resources. It is precisely because the Iraq war is not defensible on any other terms that the Bush/Cheney approach uses the big lie to defend the war in Iraq on grounds that in fact describe the war in Afghanistan.

US Representative Barney Frank serves in Massachusetts' 4th Congressional District.

August 06, 2006

Detestable Behavior

How can we continue to stomach the actions of men like Senator Bill Frist who holds the poorest paid in our society hostage to tax breaks for billionaires? Frist is one of many Senators who supported the detestable idea that minimum wage workers cannot get a raise in the hourly wage until, and unless, millionaires and billionaires receive more tax breaks.

Of course, Frist and his other fellow misanthropic greedy-guts never mentioned that since the last raise in the minimum wage ten years ago, the Senate has seen fit to give itself several raises totalling $35,000.

How have we come to a time in America when we are led by such men?

Running Scared

If you have not read Frank Rich's column today , stop what you are doing and take a few minutes to read it.

A few weeks ago, my friend and I wrote a piece in this blog about the "occupation" of Iraq. This is no longer the war in Iraq -- we won that war against Saddam Hussein -- or the war against terror -- the people who are killing Iraqis and Americans in Iraq are Iraqis, not Al-Queda, deadenders, or Saddamists. Quite simply, it is a failed occupation that is getting worse every day.

Because it is a failed occupation, Rich writes, the American people are turning off the TV news on Iraq, and, as a result, turning off caring about Iraq. The TV news people are helping this by covering Iraq and our failure less and less. Just how much bad news can we stomach? It has become a sinkhole of an occupation from which the only possible extraction is another "defeat" for America. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld know it and they are running scared.

Bush's failure in Iraq has undermined America's power for years to come. I also agree with Frank Rich's assessment that Bush has undermined the one democracy in the Middle East that we have supported - Israel. I have always contended that George Bush and his "Christian" base are Israel's worst enemies. He and his base hate the very idea of Islam, its foundations and beliefs, and they can't escape their conclusions. Bush has made the war on terror an all-consuming, undefined, boundless battle against Islam. Let's face it, that's what it is, despite the rhetoric about tolerance. In so doing, Bush has created circumstances that hold Americans responsible for waging a world war against an entire religion.

Just why are we in Iraq now? What purpose are we serving? Just how much more hollow and meaningless can words coming from Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld's mouths be about "freeing the Iraqi people," "promoting democracy in the region," and securing a stable supply of oil from the Middle East? When will we stop listening to this ideology of ignorance?

July 27, 2006

High Mileage Hard to Find

I have been looking around for a high mileage vehicle, because I am going to be driving 50 miles a day to my new business. What a revelation! High mileage cars are few and far apart. Honda, Toyota, and a few others have Hybrid vehicles, but for the most part, the parking lots that make up most automobile dealers are overflowing with cars and trucks that guzzle gas like American kids guzzle Big Gulps.

I found one car that intrigued me, the VW Wagon TDI, which has a diesel engine. This car gets almost 50 miles per gallon on the highway, 43 mpg in the city. I can't buy it in Vermont. In fact, I can't buy it in any of the northeast states because it doesn't meet emission standards. Imagine that. One of the most efficient cars can't be bought. I visited a VW dealer who said they can sell the TDI used, with over 8000 miles on the odometer. The salesman said when the owner announces he has bought one at an auction, the dealership contacts a list of people who then rush to the dealership to bid on the TDI.

The sales manager suggested I look at a Jetta or Passat (nice cars) which get 23 mpg in the city. He spoke admiringly of the 23 mpg figure and I couldn't help laughing. Here we are 30 years after the oil embargo of the early 1970s with long lines at the gas stations, and we haven't learned a thing. Gas mileage is less efficient now than it was then. 23 mpg in the city is awful. We've had 30 years to make technicological advances in mpg and we have done almost nothing. How pathetic. And now here we are with automobile dealers' parking lots overflowing with huge gas-eating vehicles baking in the heat of global warming.