Sunday, April 29, 2007

Coalition for Palestinian Rights

Yesterday I went to the first part of a Coalition for Palestinian Rights (CPR) conference at the U. I had the privilege of hearing Farrid Esack give the opening speech. Esack is a veteran of the anti-aparatheid struggle in South Africa and spoke about the similarities and differences between the South Africa under apartheid and Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. I'll write more later when I have my notes handy. You can hear a similar speech at Electronic Intifada here.

Later on in the day I went to a Madyday, the worker's day! celebration at Mayday Books where I heard wonderful rants from representatives of various groups in the Twin Cities. Much fine wine was absorbed and a good time was had by all.

Friday, April 27, 2007

This time in Spanish!

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

And in English, but bigger art:

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Monday, April 23, 2007

Take Back the Blog

Crablaw is hosting a "Take Back the Blog" blogstorm on April 28, 2007.

The goal is both to provide a convenient compilation of (undoubtedly excellent) content for readers' benefit and to make a show of strength and of organization within the blogosphere from bloggers with different perspectives towards common concerns.

If the term "blogswarm" does not appeal to you, that's ok! You can call it a "virtual march" or, if you contribute, anything you like!

NEW: HOW TO SUBMIT POSTS to the Take Back the Blog! Blogswarm. I have set up a new email address at:

solely to receive links for TBTB. If you don't have a blog, but want to contribute, email me and we will work something out. The "cut-off" time will be 7 PM on Saturday, April 28. Submitting early is GREAT - whenever you find it convenient,

Join in!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


There's been some great posts about racism among white feminists lately. Click just about any of the blogs on my favorites list and you'll encounter one or more of them.

Privilege is like a powerful drug that some of us get to indulge in while the rest of the world looks at us in disbelief. I'm sure there are people who have written wonderfully about this and I should probably have a handy list of links to help us recognize the behaviors we engage in when we either deny or fail to recognize our own privilege. That's for another post.

This is personal, so no links, footnotes or asterisks will be harmed in the creation of this post.

I have a mixed up background. I grew up in the city and in the country. I grew up with a wealthy parent and a poor parent. I had a loving parent and a sociopathic parent. Privilege and the lack thereof surrounded me, but in mixed up ways.

For instance, I spent large parts of my life on my grandparent's dairy farm in Michigan. This was a huge house -- nine bedrooms -- surrounded by 160 acres of fertile land. We had plenty of food and clothing.

However, only one room was heated with an oil-powered stove. This is Michigan. It's a northern state. It gets fricking cold there. The strange thing is, nobody had central heat back then. I'd never been in a house that had central heat. We lived in apartments whenever my parents got work in other cities. So until I was 8 or 9, I believed central heat was possible only in apartment buildings and nowhere else.

The farm had a shallow well, we had little running water during the summer and none (the pipes froze) in the winter. That meant chamberpots. It meant an outhouse or the shovel and walk in the orchard. It meant collecting rainwater and melting snow for morning coffee.

There was a lot of work on the farm. More work, dirtier and harder work, than I've ever had to engage in as an adult. There was also a whole lot of love there from my Mom and my Grandmother, the neighbors and my other relatives.

I also spent large parts of my childhood visiting my father. He was a college administrator with beautiful showcase houses, trophy wives (at least five of them that we know of), a private airplane, etc. He was a scam artist and a charmer. He was that jerk at work who never does anything or, worse, seals your ideas and takes full credit for them.

He was also a sociopath who hated women. He hated me with a passion. As far as I can tell, my birth is the trigger that sent him over the edge. He saw the creation of a female child as a horrible and personal betrayal. For me, every visit to this life of privilege also included a vicious expression of this hatred.

My two older brothers, on the other hand, were spared this side of the man. Dad's crap was always hidden from them as well as from the authorities. I kept the secrets, too. I never told my brothers what happened until I was 20 years old. Guess what? They didn't believe it. Later they did -- when Dad escaped from prison and moved in with them, then stole and sold their belongings for the money he heeded.

At the same time, my mother was a college professor with intelligence and respect. But she was making less than the janitors at her college. That was the way things were for a woman in the 1960s and 70s. Our community was full of upper middle class academics, while my Mom was barely making ends meet, bringing up three children alone with no support coming from Dad. He simply refused to pay it.

So my eyes were open early to the unfairness of privilege and its misapplication. Somehow, I got it. I saw through a lot of the lies and bullshit. I saw that privilege was handed out in unfair ways. I saw that you couldn't trust the "good guys" to be good and you couldn't believe the downtrodden were there as a result of laziness or lack of effort.

I also learned very early to never trust the authorities. In every case that the cops were called or a social worker made an attempt to intervene, my father was believed and my mother and the other wives were considered hysterical whiners.

I wouldn't wish my childhood on anyone else, but I am grateful for what it taught me. Even though I hated my father and I'm glad he's dead and I am safe from his cruelty, I also love him and admire some of the marvelous grifts he managed to pull off.

My life now is wonderful and full of friends and good people who care and do good in the world. And maybe that's because I learned early when to recognize unfair privilege. Maybe having a mixed up childhood has benefits that other folks miss out on.

One of my brothers is still pretty messed up because of his relationship with Dad. I am glad that he was there at Dad's funeral, because he saw the corpse and confirmed the death. The chances were 50/50 it was just another elaborate scam of his to get out of something he didn't want to do. I'm pretty sure my brother still doesn't really believe what happened to me and thinks the man was just grossly misunderstood.

The last time I talked to Dad, before I cut off all relations with him and moved away to avoid contact, was when he was on trial for assaulting his fourth wife. I was 21 or so. He called and begged me to testify for him at his trial. I told him there wasn't anything I could say. He said, "Don't worry: I've got your testimony all typed up for you. I can send it to you and you can memorize it on the plane." Seriously, this is the kind of shit he'd pull and he usually got away with it.

He begged me to come. He told me he'd kill himself if I didn't come and it would be my fault. He could play me and I actually worried about that. I called the psychiatric hospital where he'd been committed and spoke to his doctor. The doctor could reveal nothing, of course, but he tipped me off in not so subtle ways that, first, my father was too damn selfish to kill himself, and that second, I needed to be worried about myself and not my father. He was one of many strangers who have helped me when I needed it.

In my life, then, privilege wasn't something inherent: it was pretty arbitrary and based on a whole lot of myths. It's not difficult to see when I benefit from unfair privileges. I recognize it and I'm loathe to benefit from it because it is so reminiscent of my Dad's scams. He benefitted unfairly because too many people were unwilling to believe a privileged, white, intelligent man could do the things he did. It was just way too easy for him and it's way to easy for us white women, too.

I want to continue to feel uncomfortable when I notice my privilege. I want to continue to remember what I knew so early in life from the contrast between my mother's life and my father's life. I learned a lot way too early and, at the very least, I want to honor that brave little girl I was by keeping the lessons she learned close to heart and in my mind as I make my way through life.


Another flyer, this time for the local infoshop:

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Mother's Day antiwar protest

I'm not feeling very creative today. Too lazy! First draft of a flyer for the Mother's Day protest:

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nikki Giovanni on the killings at Virginia Tech

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today and we will be sad for quite awhile. WE are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to know when to cry and sad enough to know we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did not deserve it but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, but neither do the invisible children walking the night to avoid being captured by a rogue army. Neither does the baby elephant watching his community be devastated for ivory; neither does the Appalachian infant in the killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokier Nation embraces our own with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds. We are strong and brave and innocent and unafraid. We are better than we think, not quite what we want to be. We are alive to the imagination and the possibility we will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears, through all this sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail, we will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Easy Anti-Racist Activism

Do you ever wonder what a white person can do to put an end to everyday racism? I've got what you need right here:

Wander over to the That Good Ol’ Everyday Racism post at Spotted Elephant's blog and feast your eyes on the tacky little product that manages to combine racism with sexism. You can write a letter or send an e-mail to the company to let them know what you think about their idea. If you check in the comments, you can see what others have written and appropriate some of their language in your own letter.

Go on, it'll be fun!

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Visual DNA

Found via anti-princess

Rutgers smashes Imus

Heather Zurich's remarks Following is a transcript of remarks made this morning by Heather Zurich, a member of the Rutgers women’s basketball team, at a news conference in Piscataway, N.J., as recorded by The New York Times:

I’m Heather Zurich, a sophomore and proud member of the Rutgers women’s basketball team. This week and last, we should have been celebrating our accomplishments this past season.

Many of the media here may not realize my team started out the season with a record of 2-4. We were at the lowest of lows. Coach Stringer called us her worst defensive team ever. But we — the 10 of us here — prevailed. We fought, we persevered and most of all we believed in ourselves. We won 22 of 25 games to finish the season before falling to Tennessee in the national championship game. We won the Big East championship along the way, the first ever, and advanced to the N.C.A.A. tournament. We shocked a lot of people and arrived in Cleveland at the Final Four.

But this team did not settle for just showing up. We reached what many would only dream of, the N.C.A.A. title game. But all of our accomplishments were lost, our moment was taken away, our moment to celebrate our success, our moment to realize how far we had come both on and off the court as young women. We were stripped of this moment by the degrading comments made by Mr. Imus last Wednesday.

What hurts the most about this situation is that Mr. Imus knows not one of us personally. He doesn’t know that Matee is the funniest person you will ever meet, Kia is the big sister you never had but always wanted, and Pipf would make an unbelievable lawyer one day. These are my teammates, my family. And we were insulted, and yes we were angry. Worst of all, my team and I did nothing to deserve neither Mr. Imus’ nor Mr. McGuirk’s deplorable comments. Our families are upset and with good reason. Instead of enjoying our first day off in a month to celebrate Easter with our families, this was the topic of conversation.

The 10 of us up here attend the eighth-oldest institution of higher education in the country, and not to mention one of the most difficult academically. We are 10, simply put, student athletes. But this morning, instead of attending study hall and class, I stand here to address you about something that never should have happened.

I’m extremely proud of my teammates. I’m proud when we walk through an airport on the way to or from a road trip, dressed alike in Rutgers gear with pressed pants and nice shoes. I believe we present ourselves well, both on and off the court, even though Mr. Imus seemed to think differently.

But then again, he knows not one of us.

Team captain Essence Carson "At first we thought to let it slide, but when we read the transcript, we decided it was unacceptable." Carson added, "He's a broadcaster that gets his show across to so many people. Can you imagine how many people thought, 'Maybe there is some truth to this'?"

Coach C Vivian Stringer "In my mind, this is a time for change because it’s not about just these young women. I ask you, no matter who you are, who could have heard these comments and not been personally offended? It’s not about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, it’s about women. Are women hos? Think about that. Would you want your daughter called a ho? It’s not about us as black people or as nappy-headed. It’s about us as people—black, white, purple or green. And as much as I speak about that, it’s not even black and white—the color is green. How could anyone not have been personally hurt when there is no equality for all or when equality is denied? These young ladies have done nothing wrong. Some of you might point to the fact that he (Don Imus) makes comments about other political figures or other professionals. But these ladies are not professionals or political figures. They are 18, 19, 20 year-old women who came here to get an education and reach their gifts for all to see. These are young women little girls look up to and we as adults, at what point do not call upon people to stop? There is a bigger issue here, more than the basketball team. It’s all women athletes, it’s all women. Have we lost a sense of our own moral fiber? Has society decayed to such a point where we forgive and forget because it was just a slip of the tongue? I’m going to suggest that people give thought before they speak."

Imus Protest! Unruly-Haired Hater at WIMN’s Voices: A Group Blog on Women, Media, AND…

Your Standard Sucks (The White Lens IV) at The Unapologetic Mexican

Imus Updates and Commentary at The Primary Contradiction

Asshat Imus at Zuky

Memo to White Folks and the Mass Media
at Zuky

Transcript of the press conference

An awesome roundup of links on the issue:
Resources for Oustin Imus – A Round-up at The Antiessentialist Conundrum

Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Photo Hosted at Buzznet

Found at techeblog


Gene Weingarten at the Washington Post magazine pulled a stunt and nobody got the message.

On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

Well, you guessed it, almost nobody stopped to listen. Which is a useful way to make the argument that most Americans have poor taste. But how about thinking about a society that has people in such a hurry that they can't even consider the beautiful things in live? Isn't this a story about pressure, not poor taste?

Apparently not. The story and video clips are available at the link above.

A follow-up article talks about the responses from readers.

Thursday, April 05, 2007


Recently I've been commenting on blogs about some of the main disagreements within the feminist community.

And I have to admit something. To a large extent, my experiences are far removed from the lives of the feminists I read.

For many women, the pressure to confirm to a female ideal is extreme. Decisions about what to wear and how to present oneself are difficult, frustrating and infuriating for many women.

For me, this isn't an issue. Part of that is privilege: I can get away without wearing makeup or fashionable clothing because our society can accept plainness in older white women.

Part of this is trade privilege: if you have a valuable skill that affects the bottom line, you're odd habits are acceptable. Think of all those cartoons showing scruffy tech support people who are treated like Goddesses.

For a lot of women, pornography is a big issue. For me, not so much. I have a wide variety of friends and acquaintances, almost none of whom are interested or participate in pornography. I find it difficult to identify with women who think all men enjoy pornography and all women suffer from its effects.

The vast majority of people I know have no interest in or are repelled by most pornography. It's difficult to explain this, but I'll try.

For me, pornography is performance. It is individuals using tools: their bodies and their technologies to perform an idea of sexuality. We both enter into the transaction realizing its unreality, but appreciating its ability to represent something compelling.

It's the difference between watching a shoot-out in a TV drama and watching news coverage of a battle in Iraq.One is fake, one is real.

For me and my friends, real trumps fake every time. Some anti-porn feminists don't seem to understand this. They tell me that fake (pornography) leads directly to reality (abuse).

I disagree.

But.... this discussion has brought up an important memory for me.

I've spoken before about living with my father, a sociopath who hated women. One of the effects of that upbringing has been insomnia. From a very young age (8 or 9), I discovered that a surefire treatment for insomina was to imagine myself being tortured.

Pretty weird, right? But, you do what you need to do.

Over the years I developed an elaborate fantasy that involved being strapped down on an assembly line and being transported through several levels of abuse. This was genuinely comforting for me. After a half hour of fantasized pain, I could put aside my worries and fall into a deep sleep.

I could look at that and be appalled or disgusted. Or I could look at that and see a child adapting tools to handle difficult circumstances.

I guess I'll stop here.

Billionaires Suck!

Via Woods Lot there is an article by James Petras called Global Ruling Class: Billionaires and How They "Made It". Some excerpts:

The total wealth of this global ruling class grew 35 per cent year to year topping $3.5 trillion, while income levels for the lower 55 per cent of the world's 6-billion-strong population declined or stagnated. Put another way, one hundred millionth of the world's population (1/100,000,000) owns more than over 3 billion people.


What is most amusing about the famous Forbes magazine's background biographical notes on the Russian oligarchs is the constant reference to their source of wealth as 'self-made' as if stealing state property created by and defended for over 70 years by the sweat and blood of the Russian people was the result of the entrepreneurial skills of thugs in their twenties. Of the top eight Russian billionaire oligarchs, all got their start from strong-arming their rivals, setting up 'paper banks' and taking over aluminum, oil, gas, nickel and steel production and the export of bauxite, iron and other minerals.


Given the enormous class and income disparities in Russia, Latin America and China (20 Chinese billionaires have a net worth of $29.4 billion in less than ten years), it is more accurate to describe these countries as 'surging billionaires' rather than 'emerging markets' because it is not the 'free market' but the political power of the billionaires that dictates policy.

Go. Read. Learn.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

We've put off paying a couple of bills long enough to be getting those annoying automated phone calls. One of them works like this:

Phone: ring! ring! ring!

Me (picking up phone): Hello?

Automated male voice: Hello! We have a very important call for you!

Ravenhub had a great response: "What is that, an interpretation service for the phone? Am I supposed to think, 'Oh! That's what that ringing was all about. Thank you for explaining!'"

He makes me smile. :)