The Widdershins

Archive for the ‘Human Rights’ Category

No Shame

Posted on: June 28, 2017

Fall of the Berlin Wall - 20th anniversary - Reception at Bellevue Palace
The most common accusation made against Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Presidential campaign – as well as the entire Democratic party today – is that they have no message. This absence of a message is, they argue, what forced the “working class” (they frequently forget to say “white”) into the arms of Trump. This is blatantly preposterous. There is a difference between “message” and “messaging.” To say Hillary Clinton had no message beyond “Trump is bad,” when she provided detailed policy papers for virtually every subject likely to face an American President, is insane. To say that Trump, who offered no solutions to any problem, had some sort of message beyond “crooked Hillary” is equally insane. Trump’s campaign may have been good at messaging: Make America Great Again. But that is not a message. It’s a slogan devoid of any actual meaning. Clinton and the Democrats had detailed messages. But details are boring. And so CNN aired Trump rallies live, without commentary, and in their entirety because “Make America Great Again” requires no effort to process. It’s goes through your body like rotten fish. Discussing Clinton’s detailed policy, however, was boring. And so they didn’t discuss it. They discussed her e-mails. The Nightly News shows – ABC/CBS/NBC – dedicated x 3 time to “her e-mails” than to all policy combined. But they continue to accuse Clinton and Democrats of not having a message beyond “Trump is bad.”

In fact: “Trump is bad” is actually a pretty good message. If anyone still doesn’t understand why, then they are beyond all hope. But “they have no message” has reverberated still. Bashing Jon Ossoff’s GA campaign pundits and Bernie Bros have been screaming that Democrats still have no message beyond “Trump is bad” 7 months after the election. As Nate Silver and WaPo’s Dave Weigel have pointed out, however, Ossoff never actually discussed Trump. This laziness of the pundits – and obvious intellectual dishonesty of Bernie Bros – is in large part why we have ended up with 45.

The other reason is Democrats’ frequently lack of courage to stand by their candidates and causes. How many times we have seen someone say something nice about Clinton by first saying: “I know she’s very problematic but…” There have been a million variations on this theme, very recently Ezra Klein’s column “In (Partial) Defense of Hillary Clinton.” He starts the column with the following words:

I’m going to do something unpopular now. I’m going to defend Hillary Clinton.

You know what Ezra: go fuck yourself with the horse you rode in on. Even at the height of the election countless Democrats – the ones who were going to vote for Clinton – began their praise of her by saying “I know she’s problematic…” Stop. This. Bullshit. If you don’t have the courage to stand by your candidate, then you are not helping. You are part of the “messaging” problem. It was the same with Ossoff in GA. We are seeing it with Democrats in general. Democrat voters just can’t help flagellating themselves. “I mean, I know D’s aren’t perfect but…” No. Stop. This won’t inspire confidence in anyone to embrace Democrats and our values. Republicans never do this. This is where the “message” vs. “messaging” becomes to clear. Democrats have a great message. But messaging could be improved by just saying: “You know what. We’re pretty fucking awesome because A, B and C.” I tell people I voted for Hillary Clinton not because she was the lesser of two evils (how’s that for an endorsement?). I voted for Hillary Clinton because she was a fantastic candidate. And I’m a Democrat because Democrats have the superior platform. Look at all these policy papers that aim to protect women, children, immigrants, LGBTQ, all minorities. Democratic party is the superior party. I don’t qualify that statement with anything. I am not ashamed to say it loud and clear. That is the message and that should be our messaging: clear, unequivocal and without shame.

 

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You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same decaying organic matter as everyone, and we are all part of the same compost pile.

So wrote Chuck Palahniuk in his 1996 novel “Fight Club,” later adapted into a popular film by David Fincher starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton and Helena Bonham-Carter. Palahniuk proudly claimed that he coined the phrase “snowflake” to describe libtards, but – alas – Palahniuk is not a beautiful and unique snowflake, and his claims that he invented the insult are alternative facts. It’s a little hard to figure out Palahniuk’s politics. He has a  bit of a Milo Snuffleupagus vibe going. He likes to yell, shock and act like a jerk.  Palahniuk, who is gay, also approved the use of “snowflake” to describe liberals. And yet, the characters of “Fight Club” who resemble what one day would become the alt-right (angry, violent white men who wreak havoc upon the world and commit acts of terrorism) aren’t heroes. And it’s main character is literally a schizophrenic with multiple personalities.

In any case, whatever Palahniuk’s personal feelings on liberals and snowflakes, the term is very old. It has been traced as far back as 1860s to describe white people who opposed abolition of slavery. The alt-right’s embrace of it – and liberals’ attempts to claim it as ironic – has been an interesting fight over words. Who thought that the age of Trump would usher in a war over language.

And who would have thought that Shakespeare would be reestablished as politically relevant 400 years after his death. “Julius Caesar,” written in 1599, humanizes a despot, showing that assassinations of leaders – even the bad ones – is a terrible idea. Portraying Caesar as a contemporary is hardly a new tradition. They did it in 1930s’s Germany, and more recently on our own shores Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all been portrayed as Caesar. But it’s the Trump version in NYC’s Central Park that has incensed Trumpkins. Multiple performances have now been interrupted by the alt-right and I suspect this will continue for the duration of the production’s run.

How triggered Trumpkins are by a 400 year old play. They accuse the liberal elitists who read Shakespeare of inciting violence by showing Caesar being assassinated. And then they accuse the same liberal elitists of being snowflakes. It’s a little difficult to square the two off. I don’t know what to wear to be a snowflake terrorist!

“Art is not a mirror held up to reality, but a hammer with which to shape it.”

Leon Trotsky

(This quote is frequently attributed to Bertolt Brecht, but actually appears to be by Trotsky!)

Art has been making people angry for as long as people have been creating art. The Pussy Riotpower of art to heighten emotions – every emotion imaginable – is unparalleled. And its ability to inspire social change is undisputed. Pierre Beaumarchais‘ Figaro trilogy was banned in France and Austria in the decade before the French Revolution. Dmitri Shostakovich‘s opera “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District” nearly got him executed, and he was on the brink of arrest by Stalin almost his entire life. The Nazis murdered more artists than one can count and created entire categories of degenerate art, which included everything from the film “Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” to the music of Kurt Weill. We have seen the Fearless Girl on Wall Street – bravely facing off the charging bull – attacked and disfigured. What are they afraid of? (One line of attack on the Fearless Girl, created by Kristen Virbal, is that it was commissioned by an investment management firm, which makes it not art. These people are ironically unaware of quite literally the entire history of art…) In our own times perhaps no act of political art has been more feared than the Russian female punk band Pussy Riot. Arrested, imprisoned, beaten by Putin and his followers: yet they persist. Perhaps in America political artists are fortunate to not be targets of government-led violence. It is imperative that we never allow it to happen.

Warning: this video by Pussy Riot is graphic.

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Eudocia Tomas Pulido (“Lola”), ages 18 and 82

Hello Widdershins,

This will be a short post today! In part because I would like you to take some time and instead of reading my nonsense, read a feature story in The Atlantic instead.

In March I wrote a post here discussing human trafficking.  When we talk about slavery too many of us think of by-gone eras. But slavery exists today and not just in far-off lands. It exists right here in the United States, perhaps involving our next-door neighbors. Nearly 21,000,000 human beings today are victims of human trafficking.

One of the stories I recounted in my post, told by Sister Joan Dawber, who runs a safe-house for victims of human trafficking in NYC, involved a young woman from Africa who came to NYC by family with the promise of going to school. Instead the family enslaved her for 5 years. She escaped eventually with the help of a suspicious neighbor. But how many do not escape?

In the harrowing and heart-breaking story published in The Atlantic, called My Family’s Slave by Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Alex Tizon, Tizon describes his family’s slave – gifted to his mother by his grandfather. The woman they called Lola served the family for 56 years, right here in the United States. She cooked and cleaned for the family, she raised the children. She was not kept in physical shackles. And yet – she remained their slave. Tizon’s shocking realization as he got older than his parents kept the woman who raised him and his siblings as a slave is heart-breaking. Lola’s story is not unique and it needs to be told. (In a sad addendum, Tizon died suddenly on March 23, 2017 at the age of 57.)

Mom would come home and upbraid Lola for not cleaning the house well enough or for forgetting to bring in the mail. “Didn’t I tell you I want the letters here when I come home?” she would say in Tagalog, her voice venomous. “It’s not hard naman! An idiot could remember.” Then my father would arrive and take his turn. When Dad raised his voice, everyone in the house shrank. Sometimes my parents would team up until Lola broke down crying, almost as though that was their goal.

It confused me: My parents were good to my siblings and me, and we loved them. But they’d be affectionate to us kids one moment and vile to Lola the next. I was 11 or 12 when I began to see Lola’s situation clearly. By then Arthur, eight years my senior, had been seething for a long time. He was the one who introduced the word slave into my understanding of what Lola was. Before he said it I’d thought of her as just an unfortunate member of the household. I hated when my parents yelled at her, but it hadn’t occurred to me that they—and the whole arrangement—could be immoral.

“Do you know anybody treated the way she’s treated?,” Arthur said. “Who lives the way she lives?” He summed up Lola’s reality: Wasn’t paid. Toiled every day. Was tongue-lashed for sitting too long or falling asleep too early. Was struck for talking back. Wore hand-me-downs. Ate scraps and leftovers by herself in the kitchen. Rarely left the house. Had no friends or hobbies outside the family. Had no private quarters. (Her designated place to sleep in each house we lived in was always whatever was left—a couch or storage area or corner in my sisters’ bedroom. She often slept among piles of laundry.)

 

This is an open thread.

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Over the weekend I edited a short fundraising video for organizations that help victims of human trafficking. These are all religious institutions and the women interviewed were all nuns. One from NYC, one from London, and one from Mombasa, Kenya.

Human trafficking is the 2nd largest crime industry in the world, only behind drug trafficking. It generates hundreds of billions of dollars in profit – at the expense of human lives. And it is also the fastest growing “industry” in the world today. In 2012 it was estimated that as many as 20.9 million people around the world were victims of human trafficking. Imagine what those numbers are in 2017. Human trafficking includes sexual exploitation (including sexual slavery), forced labor, organ harvesting. The International Labour Organization (a United Nations agency) last compiled their statistics in 2012. Some excerpts:

90% are forced to labor for private economies or corporations

22% are in forced sexual exploitation

55% are women and girls & 45% are men and boys

26% are under the age of 18

Sister Jane Kimathi, from Mombasa, speaks of victims as young as 4 years old, forced into prostitution. Many, she says, come to their safe houses unable to speak because of the trauma. Some stay with the Sisters for as long as two years, as they try to rehabilitate them and find new homes. While their order is Catholic, they welcome all victims and their prayer room is nondenominational. She mentioned that Mombasa is a popular tourist destination. But the “tourist destination” designation is people who come there specifically searching for young children to abuse. Because of the many conflicts in Africa, the number of refugees spikes the numbers of slaves. They are people looking for ways to support their families. Nobody is looking for glamour or prestige in the sex trade, Sister Kimathi says. “It’s poverty and desperation.” Some of the children were sold by their parents into slavery. Some are orphans and some are runaways who were promised happiness by relatives, who then exploited them.

It’s a story the Sister from New York, Joan Dawber, picks up on. Sister Joan runs safe houses in Queens. She described one woman’s story: She came to New York to be a student, sponsored byp1562069350-3 an extended family. When she arrived, the family forced her to become their slave. She never attended school. She was forced to take care of the family, including raising their young children. She was forced to eat off the floor. Not just having her plate on the floor, she didn’t have a plate. Whatever food she was allowed to eat was put on the floor. If she was hungry and snuck any food out of the fridge, she was punished. She was her family’s slave in Queens, NY for five years. Her salvation came in the form of a neighbor who suspected something odd based on the young woman’s behavior in public. She tried to speak to her repeatedly, ask her how she is, only to have the young woman run away. Eventually the neighbor gave the woman a cell phone with pre-programmed numbers for the police and safe shelters. The young woman finally found courage to escape, using the cell phone to call for help. She has since finished school and lives in New York.

Sister Dawber points out that human trafficking exists in every state of the USA. It is not an issue that only happens out there somewhere. It exists all around us. It could be the waitress in a restaurant, or a manicurist at the nail salon. They could be of any age and any race. It can be almost impossible to know that this person ringing up our groceries is indentured to someone.

Sister Lynda Dearlove runs a safe house in London. Their organization primarily helps prostitutes. The interesting thing is that their mission isn’t strictly to “rescue” the women from prostitution. It is to offer them a safe home and counseling when in need. Many only come to sister-lynda-dearlovespend the night, take a shower and eat. Some then return to the streets. The Sisters there never force anyone to stay. Many women have been coming to them for years for a night or two of peace. The Sisters hope that by offering women a shelter and offering them counseling they can help them enable themselves. Sister Dearlove passionately says that the can not force anyone to do anything. The best they can do is show the women that there is hope and they need to find it for themselves. Maybe not today, but possibly tomorrow. “They are valued and they are loved, and if anything happens to them we want them to know that we will miss them.” She says that people blame women for becoming prostitutes and that it is one of the biggest challenges we as a society face: The need to understand that if any of these women choose prostitution it is only because they are fleeing abuse, or drugs, or so many other possible traumas. Many are trying to support families and stay alive. They must never be judged or condemned, she says. They must be offered hope.

Note: Sister Dearlove was appointed a member of the Order of the British Empire in 2010.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind fellow Widdershins?

hrc-reading-about-pence

Oh, No He Dwa – Wa

Good Monday, Widdershins! It’s been another dizzying, crazy-making week in Washington. It’s almost impossible to make sense of all the Republicans melting down in public, including the fact that Mike Pence (currently being marketed as “The Normal One”) used a private email server to conduct government bidness as Indiana’s governor! Yes, that’s Our Girl reading about it over there on the right side.

Let’s take a little break from the cray-cray and talk about some of the good things going on. As we know, March is Women’s History Month, and March 8, 2017 is International Women’s Day. Thanks to the Women’s March, a spontaneous outpouring of love, positivity and opposition the day after Drumpf’s inauguration, women, and those who support us, have been energized for activism in a way they haven’t been in decades.

This year, March 8 is A Day Without A Woman.

In the same spirit of love and liberation that inspired the Women’s March, we join together in making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, recognizing the enormous value that women of all backgrounds add to our socio-economic system–while receiving lower wages and experiencing greater inequities, vulnerability to discrimination, sexual harassment, and job insecurity. We recognize that trans and gender nonconforming people face heightened levels of discrimination, social oppression and political targeting. We believe in gender justice.

Anyone, anywhere, can join by making March 8th A Day Without a Woman, in one or all of the following ways:

  1. Women take the day off, from paid and unpaid labor
  2. Avoid shopping for one day (with exceptions for small, women- and minority-owned businesses).
  3. Wear RED in solidarity with A Day Without A Woman

Ah, but what are we women yammering about, skeptics may grumble. After all, women aren’t that far away from being equal. And it’s true, we’ve made some strides. Maybe we should wait! According to the IWD website, if we continue on our current course, women will achieve gender parity in 2186.

I’ll just let that sit there for a minute.

When I read that figure, I thought, huh. Weren’t we doing better a few years ago? Why yes. Yes we were.

On average, the 144 countries covered in the Report have closed 96% of the gap in health outcomes between women and men, unchanged since last year, and more than 95% of the gap in educational attainment, an improvement of almost one full percentage point since last year and the highest value ever measured by the Index. However, the gaps between women and men on economic participation and political empowerment remain wide: only 59% of the economic participation gap has been closed—a continued reversal on several years of progress and the lowest value measured by the Index since 2008—and about 23% of the political gap, continuing a trend of slow but steady improvement. Weighted by population, in 2016, the average progress on closing the global gender gap stands at a score of 0.683—meaning an average gap of 31.7% remains to be closed worldwide across the four Index dimensions in order to achieve universal gender parity.

Out of the 142 countries covered by the Index both this year and last year, 68 countries have increased their overall gender gap score compared to last year, while 74 have seen it decrease. It therefore has been an ambiguous year for global gender parity, with uneven progress at best.

Sometimes statistics like this can seem dry. This year, in which we saw a feces-throwing orangutan being inaugurated as President, instead of the first woman ever, it’s as pertinent and full of emotional impact as the shameful and terrifying deportations, anti-Semitic hate crimes, and virulent, violent racism flourishing in the Age of Republican Hate.

But damn, I was going to talk about the good things, right? Here are 31 days of sheroes to inspire us. And for those who want to talk about the insanity du jour, this is an open thread.

 

 

Paging the White House Physician!

I’m sure tRump has completely blown a gasket.  Of course the tweets will probably wait until late at night or early in the a.m.

To quote our Prolix:

 

With due deliberation and a judicious nature, the 9th Circuit whacked Donnie’s little peepee. Hard.

 

So here’s a new post.

 

Discuss

 

Oh my, oh my. What a Super Bowl, what a Week 2 of the Worst Presidency Ever. The atrocities are too many to document, which is why I’ve added a link to the sidebar where you can find them yourself. And, US Uncut is keeping track of the victories against the Drumpf agenda, which are also starting to pile up.

I have to say that this year’s Super Bowl commercials had a very, VERY anti-Trump and pro-Hillary message. This one in particular, from Audi, made me teary. Is it a coincidence that the girl is a blonde? I think not.

And it’s not just people in the streets and courageous judges who are fighting the Mango Meerkat. It’s businesses, too – in particular, the IT sector, which relies  heavily on talent from all areas of the world. And hey, what about those Democrats? Chuck has been everywhere. After Drumpf declined to criticize Pooty-Poot for murdering journalists and dissidents, Pelosi has called for an investigation into the Cheeto’s Russian connections. It’s about freaking time! Meanwhile, civic-minded states and cities are preparing for big legal fights against the Muslim ban. (I refuse to call it a “travel ban.” There’s a religious test, for heaven’s sake!) And the ACLU has received tens of millions in unprecedented donations.

Perhaps the most encouraging thing is the defection of two moderate Republican Senators (Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski). In response to thousands of calls and letters from their constituents, they refused to vote yes on Betsy DeVos, one of the least qualified of all of the feces-throwing orangutan’s horrific Cabinet nominees. Sadly, she’ll probably get confirmed anyway…but remember, it’s only Week 2, and there are already signs of abandoning ship. Even McTurtle is starting to try to put distance between himself and POTUS.

My feeling about this nightmare in the White House is that it’s just too late for Trump to succeed. Had he come in after Al-Qaeda attacked on 9/11, he might have had a chance. But Bush did his damage, and we have at least partially recovered. America has elected and re-elected an African-American president with a Muslim-ish name; we’ve seen a beloved sports figure celebrated for coming out as transgender; we’ve legalized same-sex marriage and seen millions of women march in solidarity across the country and the world. We’ve moved on. Trump is the least popular President since the tracking started, and he’s going down, down, down.

Somehow, some way, I have faith that we will get rid of this existential threat to our democracy and our planet. I can’t tell you how, and if I did, I’d probably be wrong. But I think it will happen, and sooner rather than later.

This is an open thread.

 

 


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Our 2016 Ticket!

Our girl is gonna shine

Busted: Glass ceiling

HRC bumper sticker

She’s thinking “Less than 2 weeks I have to keep seeing that face”

Yeah I can make it

The team we’re on

Women’s March on Washington!

Right-click the pic for more info

Kellyanne Conway’s new job

So similar

Take the kids to work? NO!

3 turds control fate of healthcare for millions

That moment when *your* pussy gets grabbed