Friday, January 29, 2010

Kansas City man convicted in death of Dr. Tiller

Thanks to the Kansas National Organization for Women on Facebook for linking to a report in the Kansas Free Press that a Kansas jury has convicted Scott Roeder for the murder of Dr.George Tiller. Sentencing is scheduled for March 9th, The Huffington Post also has a report on the case.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein on the State of the Union

On Democracy Now, Noam Chomsky and Naomi Klein discuss President Obama's President Obama's First State of the Union address.

Historian Howard Zinn is dead

Howard Zinn, radical activist, historian, and author of the People's History of the United States, died yesterday at the age of 87.

Amy Goodman has a tribute with Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, and Anthony Arnove at Democracy Now. Daniel Ellsberg has a remembrance at CommonDreams.org.

Common Dreams has also republished this commentary that Zinn wrote in December 2001 for The Progressive, right at the beginning of the "War on Terror." This, of course, was the period of time shortly after the terrorist bombings in New York and Washington in September of that year. Many commentators, at that time, were referring to the US invasion of Afghanistan as a "just war." Zinn wrote:
I have puzzled over this. How can a war be truly just when it involves the daily killing of civilians, when it causes hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children to leave their homes to escape the bombs, when it may not find those who planned the September 11 attacks, and when it will multiply the ranks of people who are angry enough at this country to become terrorists themselves?

This war amounts to a gross violation of human rights, and it will produce the exact opposite of what is wanted: It will not end terrorism; it will proliferate terrorism.

I believe that the progressive supporters of the war have confused a "just cause" with a "just war." There are unjust causes, such as the attempt of the United States to establish its power in Vietnam, or to dominate Panama or Grenada, or to subvert the government of Nicaragua. And a cause may be just--getting North Korea to withdraw from South Korea, getting Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait, or ending terrorism--but it does not follow that going to war on behalf of that cause, with the inevitable mayhem that follows, is just.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I found this by accident on Wikipedia

A biography of the fabulous foresister Marjory Stoneman Douglas was featured on Wikipedia's main page this morning. I'd never heard of her before. She sounds fascinating.
Marjory Stoneman Douglas (April 7, 1890 – May 14, 1998) was an American journalist, writer, feminist, and environmentalist known for her staunch defense of the Everglades against efforts to drain it and reclaim land for development. Moving to Miami as a young woman to work for The Miami Herald, Douglas became a freelance writer, producing over a hundred short stories that were published in popular magazines. Her most influential work was the book The Everglades: River of Grass (1947), which redefined the popular conception of the Everglades as a treasured river instead of a worthless swamp; its impact has been compared to that of Rachel Carson's influential book Silent Spring (1962). Her books, stories, and journalism career brought her influence in Miami, which she used to advance her causes.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Nothing the matter with Massachusetts?

Robert Scheer at Truthdig argues that the reason that Massachusetts voters elected a Republican senator who vowed to opposed President Obama's health care reform plan is because they have experience with a similar plan in their own state -- and it stinks.
Instead of blindly following the failed Massachusetts model, Obama should have insisted on an extension of the Medicare program to all who are willing to pay for it. He squandered the opportunity to bring about meaningful health care change that the public would have supported had it been kept simple and just. Instead, Obama gave away the store to medical profiteers. They, in turn, hopelessly muddied the waters with well-funded scare advertising tactics that principled leadership on Obama’s part could have thwarted.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Keeping hope alive.

I've seen some interesting stuff come across my email and show up on the web in the days since Republican Scott Brown won the special election to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy's Massachusetts US Senate seat.

The oddly titled Losing Hope campaign is actually all about concrete actions that activists can take to work for peace, healthcare reform, financial reform and sustainable energy policy. It includes a letter to President Obama calling on him to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan and to fulfill the spirit of his campaign promises. On the losinghope.com website, there is a link to this commentary by Medea Benjamin of Code Pink.

Then there is this post by blogger Jerry Critter, linking to an incisive commentary on healthcare reform by Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka argues in a YouTube video that the Massachusetts special election is a wake-up call for the Democratic Party -- and unions -- to do more to promote the interests of ordinary working people by creating jobs and affordable healthcare.

Meanwhile, Rethink Afghanistan has a petition calling on President Obama to present a timetable for withdrawal from Afghanistan in his State of the Union address.

I expect that there's more activity out there, but I'm too tired to look for more of it tonight.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Dr. Tiller and Professor Frye

Today, on the 37th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the National Abortion Rights Action League is sponsoring Blog for Choice Day.  According to the Blog for Choice web page, "In honor of Dr. George Tiller, who often wore a button that simply read, `Trust Women,' this year's Blog for Choice question is: What does Trust Women mean to you?

Dr. Tiller, of course, is the Kansas abortion provider who was murdered by an anti-choice terrorist last May. Dr. Tiller was often villified by right-wing Christians because he was one of the few doctors in the country who would provide late-term abortions. To the Christian Right, the only reason that a pregnant woman would end a late-term pregnancy was because she was an irresponsible blood-thirsty fiend intent on murdering her unborn baby (or perhaps was being forced to murder her baby by a fiendish blood-thirsty relative). Real life, of course, is more complicated.

I suspect that there are indeed cases -- particularly in fundamentalist families in which pregnancies "out of wedlock" are considered shameful -- where a pregnant woman chooses, or is forced by her family, to abort a viable late-term fetus. I suspect that this secret, shameful family history is part of what motivates some anti-choice activists. But in most cases, when a woman ends a late-term pregnancy, it is because continuing the pregnancy would seriously endanger her health, or because the fetus has a serious condition that would doom it to a brief and very painful life. By oversimplifying the issue of late-term abortion, and exaggerating its frequency, the anti-choice movement hopes to turn the public against abortion rights in general.

The button that Dr. Tiller wore was meant to say that women, in general, are reasonable people, and not bloodthirsty fiends. We can be trusted to make decisions about  what goes on inside our bodies. Why would anyone argue otherwise?

Tulsa native Marilyn Frye suggests an answer in her essay Some Reflections on Separatism and Power. First, Frye notes that both feminist and anti-feminist literature seem to agree that males and females live in a parasitic relationship -- "a parasitism of the male on the female... that it is, generally speaking, the strength, energy, inspiration and nurturance of women that keeps men going, and not the strength, aggression, spirituality and hunting of men that keeps women going." She says that it is this analysis that accounts for right-wing panic over the issue of abortion.
The fetus lives parasitically. It is a distinct animal surviving off the life (the blood) of another animal creature. It is incapable of surviving on its own resources, of independent nutrition; incapable even of symbiosis. If it is true that males live parasitically upon females, it seems reasonable to suppose that many of them and those loyal to them are in some way sensitive to the parallelism between their situation and that of the fetus. They could easily identify with the fetus. The woman who is free to see the fetus as a parasite might be free to see the man as a parasite. The woman's willingness to cut off the life line to one parasite suggests a willingness to cut off the life line to another parasite. The woman who is capable (legally, psychologically, physically) of decisively, self-interestedly, independently rejecting the one parasite, is capable of rejecting, with the same decisiveness and independence, the like burden of the other parasite. In the eyes of the other parasite, the image of the wholly self-determined abortion, involving not even a ritual submission to male veto power, is the mirror image of death.

Another clue here is that one line of argument against free and easy abortion is the slippery slope argument that if fetuses are to be freely dispensed with, old people will be next. Old people? Why are old people next? And why the great concern for them? Most old people are women, indeed, and patriarchal loyalists are not generally so solicitous of the welfare of any women. Why old people? Because, I think, in the modem patriarchal divisions of labor, old people too are parasites on women. The anti-abortion folks seem not to worry about wife beating and wife murder-there is no broad or emotional popular support for stopping these violences. They do not worry about murder and involuntary sterilization in prisons, nor murder in war, nor murder by pollution and industrial accidents. Either these are not real to them or they cannot identify with the victims; but anyway, killing in general is not what they oppose. They worry about the rejection by women, at women's discretion, of something which lives parasitically on women. I suspect that they fret not because old people are next, but because men are next.
To the Christian Right, the parasitism of men upon women is ordained by God and unavoidable. To me as a radical lesbian feminist, it is obvious that men really are quite capable of taking care of their own physical and emotional well being, and it is neither necessary nor right for them to control women's bodies and lives.Once the rest of the world figures that out, the world will be a very different and much better place.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

How to fix the economy with shorter work weeks and longer vacations

For anyone who lives in the real world (rather than, say, on Wall Street), I suppose it isn't news that The Economy Is a Disaster: We Should Fix It. Nevertheless, over at truthout.com, Dean Baker tells us how we can do this:
There is an incredible complacency about this unemployment rate around Washington even though all the official projections show it remaining high years into the future. For example, the Congressional Budget Office projects that the unemployment rate will not fall below 7.0 percent until well into 2012 and will not return to normal levels until 2014. Perhaps, if more of the people in policymaking positions faced unemployment they would be more concerned about the problem.

The especially disturbing part of the story is that we do know how to get the unemployment rate down. In principle, we could create demand through another stimulus package, with the government directly or indirectly creating the demand needed to employ many of the 15 million unemployed workers. For political and superstitious reasons, a stimulus package large enough to substantially boost demand does not seem feasible.

However, we can also go the route that has proven successful at keeping unemployment down in Europe: work-sharing. The concept is very simple. Instead of paying workers unemployment benefits when they are not working, we pay companies to keep workers employed, but working shorter hours at pretty much the same pay.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Six scenarios in search of an election result

Generally, I think it is better to avoid the old game of "what if?" but John Nichols at thenation.com has created an interesting and useful analysis with Six Scenarios for the Massachusetts Vote and After.

The other side of microfinance

Microfinance -- particularly the provision of small loans to women entrepreneurs in developing countries -- is often portrayed as one of the most effective economic development strategies. But as Rebecca Harshbarger at Womens eNews points out, when these loans are directed toward teenage girls, problems often result. For instance:
Partnering with a Kenyan microfinance institution called K-Rep, the Population Council's Tap and Reposition Youth, or TRY, program offered female teens loans at an interest rate of 15 percent.

To receive a loan, the teens were required to provide 4 percent of the loan to the program as collateral.

The program also encouraged the teens to apply peer pressure to ensure members of the borrowing group paid back the loan. In order to borrow, the teens formed watanos, or groups of five, who helped each other to keep up with payments.

Less than 20 percent of the participants lived with their parents or said they had friends they could turn to for support. Most lived transient lives, often staying with boyfriends or male friends.

The program started out well, but most of the teens were soon unable to pay back their loans and lost their collateral. Starting hairdressing salons, food salons and other small businesses was very challenging. An emergency would come up in their personal lives--losing their shelter or getting ill--that require more cash than they had and participants would fall behind on repayments.

The teens told TRY that they disliked the pressure they were under to both take out and pay back the loans.

Harshbarger's entire article is well worth reading.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New York rep posts healthcare poll

New York Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner has an online poll asking whether he should oppose the final health insurance reform bill "unless it represents a genuine improvement on the Senate Bill."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti

I think that Haiti is on many people's minds today after a devastating 7.0 earthquake hit that country yesterday. Angry Black Bitch has links to sites where you can donate to relief efforts and search for family members and friends in Haiti. Truthout has reposted a report from the Christian Science Monitor. It's interesting to compare the CSM report--which notes that "Wracked by political instability and poverty, and hammered by a series of hurricanes in 2008, Haiti faces a tough recovery ahead"--with this account from Democracy Now, which shows the origins of that instability and poverty in an ongoing history of intervention by the US and European powers. (Thanks to Common Dreams for reposting that account.)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

US forces execute eight Afghani children

Dawg's Blawg from Canada has this disturbing report of the murder of eight children by US-led forces in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Kern confronts heterosexual menace

Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern is well known for promoting the view that gay men and lesbians -- particularly those who advocate gay marriage -- are a threat to the stability of marriage as an institution. Reasonable people have been inclined to answer, but what about all those straight people who wreck their marriages and get divorced without any help from evil homosexuals?

Kern's answer is to propose a bill to make it much more difficult for heterosexual Oklahomans to get divorced. Oklahoma City television station KOCO provides a video of Kern explaining her proposal here.

Thanks to Right Wing Watch and Pam's House Blend for alerting me to this story.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mary Daly is dead

Bridget Crawford at Feminist Law Professors reports that radical feminist philosopher and theologian Mary Daly is dead at the age of 81. In the comments to Crawford's post, Ann Bartow of FLP links to this obituary at Reclusive Leftist.
Mary Daly was a colossus. She was an absolutely towering influence on modern feminist thought. If you’re a feminist alive today, then Mary Daly influenced you. Even if you’ve never heard of her, even if you’ve never read her books — she influenced you.
Crawford links to Daly's obituary at National Catholic Reporter online.
Daly most often contemplated the divine essence as a verb, Be-ing itself, so that worship is "not kneeling in front of a so-and-so but swirling in energy." Her language echoed quantum physics, and she was flattered if you said so: "I do think about space-time a great deal," she admitted. "It's a kind of mysticism which is also political."
The Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Modern Western Theology also has an interesting biography.As in life, in death Mary Daly remains controversial. Her Wikipedia biography, while grossly oversimplified, gives some sense of the controversies that surrounded her.
In Gyn/Ecology, Daly wrote that the number of people killed as witches during the Witch Hunt in early modern Europe added up to nine million people, mostly women. This high figure, which is rejected by most researchers,[12] caused her to coin the term 'Gynocide' and to draw comparisons with the Holocaust. Nearly all estimates today range from 60,000 to 100,000 people killed between the 14th and 18th centuries.[13]

Also in Gyn/Ecology, Daly asserted her negative view of transsexual people, whom she referred to as "Frankensteinian." She labels transsexualism a "male problem" and claimed that post-operative transsexuals exist in a "contrived and artifactual condition."[14] Daly was also the dissertation advisor to Janice Raymond, whose dissertation, published in 1979 as The Transsexual Empire, is critical of "transsexualism." Transsexual activist Riki Wilchins has accused Daly of being transphobic.

In a personal letter to Daly, published after four months without any reply, Audre Lorde expressed a fondness for Daly's work, but expressed concern over Gyn/Ecology, citing homogenizing tendencies, and a refusal to acknowledge the "herstory and myth" of women of color. [15] The letter, and Daly's decision not to publicly respond, greatly affected the reception of Daly's work among other feminist theorists, and has been described as a "paradigmatic example of challenges to white feminist theory by feminists of color in the 1980s." [16]
I would say that one of the biggest reasons that Daly remains controversial is the utter seriousness with which she took women's lives and patriarchal oppression. For an analysis of Daly's work that gives due respect to Mary Daly's work, while also criticizing it, I would recommend the anthology Feminist Interpretations of Mary Daly edited by philosophers Sarah Hoagland and Marilyn Frye, which was reviewed by Carol Anne Douglas in off our backs. I admit that it's been sitting on my bookshelf for years, and I've kept it because it looks so interesting. When I'm finished reading it, you're welcome to borrow it.

In the meantime, you can get some of the flavor of Mary Daly's work by visiting her web site.