Bill de Blasio will be the next mayor of NYC because he’s the only candidate endorsed by drag queens

Lady Bunny
 
Okay, that’s not the only reason Bill de Blasio will be the next mayor of American’s greatest city. He advocates for paid sick leave, he’s spoken out against the racist “stop and frisk” NYPD tactic, and he’s been incredibly frank about raising taxes for the rich, all while wishy-washier Democrats faltered (or embarrassed the hell out of themselves). In fact, current NYC Mayor (and resident rich billionaire asshole) Bloomberg has referred to his campaign as “class warfare and racist,” so you know he’s gotta be doing something right!

But let’s talk about what (and who) has to be the first drag queen in a campaign commercial for a major political race! It’s Wigstock founder and and all arounf drag legend, Lady Bunny, who’s never shied away from politics (her Sarah Palin-themed parody of Harper Valley PTA is brilliant). While de Blasio’s biggest competition, Christine Quinn, is the first openly gay Speaker of the New York City Council, her race and class politics are absolute shit, and don’t fool savvy radical queer folk like Lady Bunny! What’s more, Bunny is featured in the ad as a dignified, concerned citizen, and not some socially liberal window-dressing to indicate how socially progressive the candidate is.

Fun fact: While jabbering moron and New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd has mistakenly portrayed de Blasio’s wife Chirlane McCray as somewhat homophobic, McCray self-identified as lesbian until meeting de Blasio. (She was even a member of the black feminist lesbian organization, the Combahee River Collective. So there, Maureen Dowd!)
 

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Hilarious: Sign petition to name hurricanes after global warming deniers!


 
Every time I check to see how many YouTube views this clever video has gotten, it goes up by tens of thousands of views. The first time I looked, it had 150,000 views, the next day it was double that and just now, it’s at an impressive 876,672.

It’s only been up for two days. Must’ve touched a nerve!

Via AlterNet:

The environmental group petition 350 Action is urging the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) to name hurricanes after policy makers who deny climate change.

The campaign entitled, “Climate Name Change”, released an accompanying video, which features prominent politicians who are skeptical of climate change such as Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Washington Post reported.

The video includes satirical news bulletins that could result from the proposed naming system, such as:  “If you value your life, please seek shelter from Michelle Bachmann” or “thousands of animals have been displaced or killed by Governor Rick Perry.”

Wunderbar! You can sign the petition here. The video is a must-see piece of well-made political messaging. Whoever came up with this concept, bravo!
 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
America is awash in money, yet poverty grows: We need a Basic Income Guarantee


 
This is a guest editorial by Allan Sheahen, the author of the new book Basic Income Guarantee: Your Right to Economic Security (Palgrave/MacMillan, NYC). A previous essay from Mr. Sheahen, “Jobs are not the answer: The BIG idea that libertarians and socialists alike can agree on?” was published at Dangerous Minds last week and proved to be very popular.

America is awash with money.

Yet poverty continues to grow.

Does anybody care?

The latest government figures show that 46 million Americans live in poverty, more than at any other time in our nation’s history. That’s 15.1 percent of our population. One in five children live below the poverty line of $22,314 for a family of four, compared to one in twelve in France and one in 38 in Sweden.

Yet whenever elected officials ask their constituents what issues are most important to them, poverty isn’t even on the list. The economy, jobs, Afghanistan, the environment, health care, and education always show up. But not poverty.

Accordingly, Congress is now debating not whether to cut food stamps for the poorest Americans, but by how much.  The Senate is proposing $4 billion in cuts. The House wants to cut $20 billion. Many Democrats are supporting the Senate version.

More than a half-million people are homeless in America. Food banks and homeless shelters are serving more people now than a year ago.  Unemployment is at 7.6 percent.

The problem is that all the private charities in America can’t end hunger and poverty. Ending poverty demands government programs, such as Social Security, unemployment compensation, Medicare, welfare, food stamps, child care, and more.

The 1996 Welfare Reform Act was sold to us as a way to get people off welfare, and it did.  Welfare rolls in the United States are down more than 50 percent.  But it didn’t reduce poverty. That’s because welfare reform dumped many recipients into low-paying jobs—with no benefits or ability to move up.

Does anybody care?

Maybe we care, but we don’t know what to do about it. So we shrug, say the poor will always be with us, and forget about it.

In 1969, a Presidential Commission recommended we establish a Basic Income Guarantee (BIG) at the poverty level for all Americans.

On that Commission, the chairmen of IBM, Westinghouse, and Rand, former California Gov. Edmund G. (Pat) Brown and 17 others unanimously agreed with economist Milton Friedman that: “We should replace the ragbag of welfare programs with a single, comprehensive program of income suplements in cash—a negative income tax.  It would provide an assured minimum to all persons in need, regardless of the reasons for their need.”

Fast-forward 44 years, and we find that welfare has failed because it has destroyed people’s ability to take control of their own lives and make their own decisions. We assume the poor are incapable of making sound decisions; that they can’t be trusted with cash and have to be protected from themselves. It’s as if your employer thought you so irresponsible that he sent part of your paycheck to your landlord, another part to your grocer, another to the bank that provided your car loan, another to your doctor.

There are more than 300 income-tested social programs costing more than $400 billion a year. Much of that money goes for administrative expenses, not to the needy.

Charles Murray, whose 1984 book Losing Ground claimed that welfare was doing more harm than good, now agrees with the BIG approach.

“America’s population is wealthier than any in history,” Murray writes in his new book, In Our Hands.  “Every year, the American government redistributes more than a trillion dollars of that wealth to provide for retirements, health care, and the alleviation of poverty. We still have millions of people without comfortable retirements, without adequate health care, and living in poverty. Only a government can spend so much money so ineffectually. The solution is to give the money to the people.”

Murray calls for giving an annual cash grant of $10,000—with no work requirements—to every adult over age 21.

Indeed, the U.S. is a wealthy nation. Our 2011 Gross Domestic Product was $14.4 trillion. That’s an average of $46,000 for each man, woman and child in the country. It’s an average of $61,000 per adult. It’s more than enough to end poverty.

Poverty is wrong. A Basic Income Guarantee would establish economic security as a universal right. It gives each of us the assurance that, no matter what happens, we won’t go hungry.

Allan Sheahen is the author of the new book: Basic Income Guarantee: Your Right to Economic Security (Palgrave/MacMillan, NYC).  For more information, go to www.basicincomeguarantee.com

Below, footage of FDR’s so-called “Second Bill of Rights” speech which was filmed right after he had finished his State of the Union Address on radio on January 11, 1944.
 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
‘They’ll Be Laughing in Moscow and Beijing’ over Scotland Yard’s idiotic Snowden blunder


 
British Labour MP Tom Watson wrote a scathing must-read essay for nsfwcorp.com on L’affaire Miranda and the news that some boneheads from Scotland Yard thought getting all heavy at The Guardian offices was, like, a good idea:

We still don’t know the full circumstances surrounding David Miranda’s detention at Heathrow airport but I think we probably know enough to conclude that: a) he is not a terrorist and b) it is not a coincidence that he is Glenn Greenwald’s partner.

I think that we can also usefully assume that the spooks did not find enough to detain David Miranda under any UK law and that Greenwald and The Guardian are not dumb enough to forget to make copies of the files that prove illegal state surveillance.

The spooks are not going to get the NSA files back; that genie is well and truly out of the bottle. So why do it? The conclusion must be, as Greenwald speculates, that we were just roughing up his boyfriend in order to psyche him out. I am no Carrie Mathieson but I think the wrong case officer is in charge of this investigation if they think this will shut Greenwald up. He thrives on this stuff. The UK intelligence services have created a global audience for the spectacle of him beating them with a big stick of indignant rebuke.

And they have horrified people across Westminster who know the “inside.” As a former defence minister I have authorised special forces to conduct hostage rescues, covert military entry to foil terrorist plots, as well as approved nuclear submarines to travel to places you do not want to know. So I think I can assess an ill-conceived plan when I see one. And this was a howler.

LOL! Real Tom Watson’s full editorial at nsfwcorp.com
 

 
Thank you Michael Backes of Los Angeles, California!

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
On the first anniversary of the Pussy Riot conviction, August 17


 
This is a guest editorial by Hunter Heaney, executive director of The Voice Project, a US-based NGO that has raised over $100,000 for support and safety monitoring efforts for the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.

They were tired of their rights being stripped away. Tired of their government not representing them any more. Tired of ultra right-wing policies that seemed to be driven by oligarchs and secret concentrations of wealth divorced from the needs of everyday citizens and oppressive to those with less political power in the current plutocracy that seems and acts more and more intimidatingly, more authoritarian every day.

So they sing. In public. They raise their voices as a way to express the basic human right to be heard by those would purport to govern them. And for that they are arrested. Sounds familiar.

It’s not Pussy Riot.

It’s not Russia.

It’s America.

The Solidarity Singers and the Raging Grannies gather every weekday at the Wisconsin state house to sing. They are trying to express their feelings about Governor Scott Walker and the run amok right-wing policies their state seems to be implementing at ALEC’s behest. And the powers that be are having none of it. Not only are the singers being arrested, but so are the spectators, just for attending, just for watching, just for reporting on it. And remember this is all happening in the public space of the state capitol building, the people’s building, the people’s property.

Free speech? Free press? The right to peaceably assemble? Not so much in Russia, not so much in Wisconsin, not so much in a lot of places these days.

Welcome to the modern world, welcome to modern America. Bit by bit we’ve lost the things we held dear. We’ve slowly let the freedoms we were so proud of, that were associated with our dream of this country, be disappeared like an extraordinary rendition to Guantanamo.  No trial, no explanation, just a black bag over the head. Habeas corpus is just a thing we once had, or we thought we had. An effective free press, well, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert remind us every weeknight where that’s gone (and they help us laugh to keep us from sinking into a national depression).

We’re surveilled like something out of the pages of Orwell, propagandized like scenes from V for Vendetta with fear campaigns like The War on Terror, beaten and pepper sprayed for peaceful protests, resigned to our running jokes about how Congress seems to have now abandoned even the facade of representing the people in favor of the supranational corporations and the 1% who finance their campaigns and their lives.

And the poor, well, forget about them. At least that seems to be the hope anyway. How much have you personally heard about one in four kids in this country being on food stamps now? Pensions being stripped away from those who worked and saved for them, just like George Carlin predicted they would be? It happens now through “strategic municipal bankruptcies” and other financial and legal maneuvers. It starts with carefully planned campaigns hatched by conservative think-tanks that talk endlessly about “entitlements.” Isn’t that clever?

We are now a shadow of our former selves. The “Greatest Generation” are dying. My dad was one. There are a few left, but they must not be impressed by what they see, what we are doing with what they fought for. Some of them certainly know that in no universe of realistic thought does Scott Walker’s Wisconsin or our modern America respect the sentiments they held dear enough to defend. They’re codified in Wisconsin’s State Constitution as:

“Every person may freely speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that right, and no laws shall be passed to restrain or abridge the liberty of speech or of the press.”

and

“The right of the people peaceably to assemble, to consult for the common good, and to petition the government, or any department thereof, shall never be abridged.”

No wonder the dystopian-future fantasies are so popular at the box office, they must ring true, or maybe they let us think it’s not quite so bad right now in comparison. But make no mistake, we’re there, welcome to Dystopia. You’re soaking in it. Sometimes I think we’ll wake up from it all—take the red pill.  It does seem to be happening in other places around the world, like Gezi Park and the streets of São Paulo, even if the dissent suppression machines seem stronger than ever.
 

 
Here in America though, I often think we’re just like slow boiling frogs, nodding off to sleep while the heat is steadily turned up, too late realizing what happened as things fade to black. Hopeless and specious tropes about how protest songs don’t matter anymore appear to have even some musicians convinced, and seem to signal our giving up. And that’s when I give thanks for Pussy Riot, for the Solidarity Singers, for the Raging Grannies. Let the armchair quarterbacks debate their musical quality or performance characteristics or predict the demise of protest singing. While they’re at it perhaps spoken and written words, literature, ideas and the rest of the humanities should be thrown in there too.

Of course there are ideas and words and performances that matter, like “I Have a Dream” or “We Shall Overcome” or “Redemption Song” or yes, “Punk Prayer” that will speak truth to power, that will inspire, that provide aid and succor to those who will resist. The Solidarity Sing-Alongs are to me without a doubt among the most important performances taking place today. Same with the 40-second performance that landed Pussy Riot in labor camps for two years.

Content matters. Ideas matter. So Pussy Riot is my band. The Raging Grannies are my band and the Solidarity Singers, too. They’ve inspired me to write this, and I’m going to go check and see if some friends want to join me in supporting these singers and what’s going on in Wisconsin.

When members of Pussy Riot were here in New York this past spring, they stayed over and we had some long talks. “Shaiba” said, “It feels like we’re building this great mafia around the world, friends everywhere.” I hope so. I think this is the way it’s going to need to work if we’re ever going to stage a comeback here. We’re going to need to look out for each other, work with each other in the face of great concentrations of power. Some say the key will be localism, a renewed reliance on our geographically proximate communities, but I sometimes worry an overzealous application of these ideas as a solution may lead to isolationism. I believe we’ll need to help each other, even across great distances and divides.

Helotism” is a word I learned from Pussy Riot. Worth checking out the etymology on that one. One of the many things I learned from the girls. These are the kinds of things I’m remembering today, that I’m thinking about on this anniversary. That we can learn from each other, help each other, that we can stick together, we can make songs matter and turn ideas into action, that we can inspire each other, and we can decide to lay down and take it… or not.

Hunter Heaney is executive director of The Voice Project, a US based NGO that has raised over $100,000 for support and safety monitoring efforts for the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot.

 

 

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Pre-sellout, proto-punk Jerry Rubin accuses Phil Donahue of slingin’ dope in balls-out anti-war rant
08.14.2013
08:26 am

Topics:
Activism
History
Television

Tags:
Jerry Rubin
Phil Donahue


 
Jerry Rubin, one-time Youth International Party ringleader, turned grown-up at 37, turned Wall Street businessman, turned ‘90s jaywalking casualty, lets Phil Donahue have it in this endlessly entertaining hyper-caffeinated near soliloquy on why you have to be a freak to get the attention of the suits.

Highlights include the dope dealer accusation mentioned in my title, Jerry calling “Phil or Tom or whatever” constipated, a shameless book promotion and an astute Nazi comparison for Dick Nixon. Rubin comes off here like he’s just snorted about a pound of cocaine.

After serving a short prison term in the early ‘70s, Rubin went through what you might call a spiritual crisis. When he came out on the other side of it, he had invested some cash in a little company called Apple Computer, married a former debutante and by the mid-80s was hosting late-night networking parties for “young urban professionals” at places like the Palladium nightclub in Manhattan. Long story short, he straight-up became, well, you know, one of the very rich, white men that he rails against in this rather one-sided “interview.”

Amazingly, during the mid-80s, Rubin would eventually travel the country on a speaking tour called “Yippie vs. Yuppie” with old pal Abbie Hoffman sticking up for the counterculture.
 

Posted by Jason Schafer | Discussion
This could be HUGE: Anglican Church goes after immoral payday lenders, will US Christians follow?
07.25.2013
08:46 am

Topics:
Activism
Belief
Class War

Tags:
payday lenders
Justin Welby


 
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby is the leader of the Church of England and the world’s 80 to 85 million Anglicans. He’s also, of course, a member of the House of Lords, and sat on the panel of the 2012 Parliamentary Commission on Banking Standards. I think it’s safe to say that he’s got a lot of clout. Welby, a former oil executive, revealed yesterday to Total Politics magazine that he had put Errol Damelin, CEO of British payday lender Wonga, on notice that he wanted to shut him down:

“I said to him quite bluntly, ‘We’re not in the business of trying to legislate you out of existence, we’re trying to compete you out of existence’. He’s a businessman, he took that well.”

Via Raw Story:

Wonga is one of Britain’s best-known providers of short-term, high-interest loans. It also operates in South Africa.

Its customers are typically charged an interest rate that, expressed in annual terms, equates to 5,853 percent.

The loans are usually for amounts well under £1,000 ($1,500, 1,200 euros) and are agreed for up to six weeks.

Payday lenders are increasingly coming under fire in Great Britain, where the industry reportedly makes £2 billion a year with often quite predatory loans.

There’s a word for this, that word is “Usury” and it’s something that, funnily enough, is severely frowned upon in both The Bible and The Koran (Banks operate much differently in predominantly Muslim countries, where charging interest is, generally speaking, outlawed. Why not here?)

“The archbishop is clearly an exceptional individual and someone who understands the power of innovation,” said Damelin, Wonga’s founder, of the meeting with Welby. “There is mutual respect, some differing opinions and a meeting of minds on many big issues. On the competition point, we always welcome fresh approaches that give people a fuller set of alternatives to solve their financial challenges. I’m all for better consumer choice.”

He’d have to say that, wouldn’t he? If there is such a thing as “social justice,” (or karma for that matter) may Errol Damelin’s immoral business be crushed by the free market like a bug on a car windshield. Anyone who sets themselves up in life to siphon off money from those who can least afford it deserves whatever he gets. I’m not a believer myself, but I harbor a secret hope that there’s a special compartment of Hell reserved for child molesters and the financial elites of this brief passage of history that we find ourselves passing through…

“One of the most exciting trends in western Christianity is that the Spirit of God is drawing Christians together,” Archbishop Welby said recently. I’d go one step further and say that it would be a monumentally exciting trend for Christians and non-believers to START AGREEING ON WHO THE REAL VILLAINS ARE. Justin Welby could be an important part of that.

Worth noting in this context that the British government is also getting in on this, investing £38 million in credit unions to fight the scourge of payday lenders gouging the poor.

Archbishop Welby launched a non-profit credit union for clergy and church staff last month and is campaigning to expand credit unions as alternatives to the high interest rates payday lending firms charge. It’s an absolutely brilliant idea. Use the free market—and hello, let’s not forget about a lil’ thing called morality!) against the “bad guys.”

What would Jesus do, right?

Posted by Richard Metzger | Discussion
Femen Attacked From All Sides: Shut Up and Put Your Shirts Back On
07.16.2013
11:09 am

Topics:
Activism
Feminism
Politics

Tags:
Femena
Antigones

femen paris
 

The radical feminist street-theater protest group Femen has come under fire from all political sides, including some unexpected voices from the Left.

Femen is famous for its topless protests in Europe against sex trafficking, homophobia, right-wing politicians, Roman Catholic teachings about sexuality, and the Muslim laws and customs dictating women’s behavior and clothing.

Femen member Inna Shevchenko fled Ukraine last year after cutting down a wooden cross in central Kiev, which commemorated the victims of the Famine-Genocide in Ukraine of 1932-33, with a chainsaw to protest the conviction of three members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot for “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.” She has recently been given political asylum in France.

Femen protests, which began in 2008 (the topless part began in 2009 on Ukrainian independence day) are announced ahead of time to the media and attract a substantial amount of attention, probably more for their bare breasts than the slogans (reminiscent of early 1990’s Riot Grrrls) written on them or the Amazonian flower garlands on their heads. Their in-your-face tactics are in the tradition of surrealism, punk, and the Guerrilla Girls.

Femen’s performance-like protests have gone way beyond the old cliché about feminist bra burning. For example, in 2010 they protested the egregious sexual harassment of women on the street and on public transportation (“the rush hour perverts that like to trespass up our skirts and undo their pants”) by protesting in the Kiev metro, holding signs that said, “I Will Rip Your Balls Off.”  In December 2012 Egyptian blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy stood outside the Egyptian embassy in Stockholm naked except for black stockings and red shoes – in the snow – with the slogan “Sharia is not a constitution” written on her torso. This year they protested at the Grand Mosque of Paris, chanting “Our Boobs Are Stronger Than Their Stones” and got away before security guards could restrain them. Vladimir Putin, however, liked what he saw when a group of Femen protesters rushed him and Angela Merkel in Germany this April and regretted that his security guards hadn’t been gentler with the women when they tackled them. International Topless Jihad Day began this year in support of a young Tunisian woman, Amina Tyler, who posted two topless photos of herself (Smoking! Wearing lipstick!) on the Internet with the words “Fuck your morals” and “My body is mine, not somebody’s honor!” written across her chest.

A group of young conservative French women have started their own group in response to Femen, Les Antigones. (Doesn’t Antigone die at the end of the Sophocles’ play of the same name?) Based on their officially released video statement and their publicity photos, the Antigones are comprised entirely of young white women who are dressed in modest white dresses, looking as demure as Big Ten college sorority girls at their freshman initiation ceremony. They don’t identify as feminists and object to the shock tactics of Femen as much as their message.

The Antigones describe themselves as, “Daughters of our fathers, wives of our husbands, mothers of our sons, we do not reject men. Instead, we are persuaded that it is with them, in complementarity, that we will build our future.”

After failing to engage the Femen leaders in a dialogue at a protest in Paris this year, the Antigones united to film an official message challenging Femen’s values. One of the Antigones apparently infiltrated Femen as a potential member for seven weeks. At the end of their message to Femen she calls for the arrest and deportation of leaders Oksana Shachko and Inna Shevchenko back to Ukraine.

Traditionalist men are breathing a very loud sigh of relief at the Antigones and celebrating their beauty, femininity, traditional values, classiness, and are hailing them as “real” French women.

One would expect to hear criticism of Femen from, say, Rush Limbaugh, even though the body types and BMI’s of the Femen protesters murder his credo that “feminazis” are ugly, hideous monsters: (“Truth of Life Number 24: Feminism was established so that unattractive women could have easier access to the mainstream.”) But on the other end of the political spectrum are leftist critics of Femen, 1960’s and 1970’s feminist icon Germaine Greer among them. She wrote “Is this feminism?” for Australia’s News:

As a revolutionary movement, Femen is fledgling. Its manifestations, though photogenic, are tiny.

If it could drive out sex tourism and the mail-order bride business, and protect women at risk of honour killing and infanticide, it will have accomplished much, but its attack is aimed as much at religion of any kind.

It belongs to the old order of radical feminism that sought to abolish marriage and patriarchy.

Its leaders tell us classical feminism is dead, but what’s happened is deeply conservative equality feminism has usurped its position. Daring as the young women in the flower garlands are, they don’t need to reinvent the wheel.

Though Femen claims 150,000 members, most are virtual. If ever a mass demonstration were needed, most of them wouldn’t show. Virtual isn’t real; breasts aren’t bombs…

For nudity to be a guerilla tactic, it has to go further. The women of Femen are, first of all, young; but they’re also slim.

They may be all colours of the rainbow but they’re not fat, or even plump, or even well-covered.

The breasts they make so much of tend to be small and neat. Not a stretch mark to be seen. Femen offers a very marketable version of contemporary femaleness.

Meghan Murphy wrote on Rabble:

Contrary to popular belief, I am not opposed to boobs. Rather, I am opposed to women’s bodies constantly being objectified and sexualized. I am also opposed to the fact that nobody gives a shit about women or feminism unless women and feminism look like a beer commercial or a burlesque show.

Though Shevchenko claimed that Femen’s topless protests are about taking back power over their own bodies, she contradicts her point by saying that which is true — when it comes to women the focus is almost always on the body.

Many progressive Muslim women are offended by the fact that non-Muslim Femen members are insulting their religion and condescendingly offering to save them. When Femen members wore burqas at a protest in Paris (urging Muslim women to “get naked with me!”) and also burned a salafist flag (containing Muslim professions of faith), they succeeded in alienating many of the Muslim women they want to help. These Femen critics – Muslim Women Against Femen and Muslimah Pride – photographed themselves in their headscarves holding their own signs: “I am already free,” “Freedom of choice,” “Nudity DOES NOT liberate me and I DO NOT need saving,” and “There is more than one way to be free.”

Sara M. Salem wrote in Al-Akhbar

Feminism has the potential to be greatly emancipatory by adopting an anti-racist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic and anti-Islamophobic rhetoric, instead of often actively being racist, homophobic, transphobic and Islamophobic. By clearly delineating the boundaries of what is “good” and “bad” feminism, Femen is using colonial feminist rhetoric that defines Arab women as oppressed by culture and religion, while no mention is made of capitalism, racism, or global imperialism. It is actively promoting the idea that Muslim women are suffering from “false consciousness” because they cannot see (while Femen can see) that the veil and religion are intrinsically harmful to all women.

Yasmin AmatUllah (@YasminBSikdar) posted an open letter to Femen on Twitter on April 6th:

Accusing women of being oppressed is not only patronising and belittling but a form of control also. Funny how my so called feelings are forever being dictated to me, funny how I’m told that I’m oppressed when I’ve never uttered this, funny how I’m harassed for the way I dress – yet in this clothing I feel free from social pressures and most liberated.

Women in Islam don’t need western ‘freedom’ where you force her to strip away her dignity, limit her to flesh, undermine her ability to use her mind – in order to exploit her and then call it (her) freedom of choice, when you’ve dictated this to her. This is real oppression.

It isn’t likely that Femena is going to drop its nudity or its hostile attitude toward Islam any time soon. In fact, Shevchenko’s response to criticism from Muslim women in The Huffington Post UK was dismissive:

And you can put as many scarves as you want if you are free tomorrow to take it off and to put it back the next day but don’t deny millions of your sisters who have fear behind their scarves, don’t deny that there are million of your sisters who have been raped and killed because they are not following the wish of Allah! We are here to scream about that.

The Antigones’ message to Femen, below:

 

Posted by Kimberly J. Bright | Discussion
Stevie Wonder boycotts Florida: Could the Sunshine State become the new Sun City?

Stevie Wonder and Nelson Mandela
Stevie Wonder and Nelson Mandela

During his concert Sunday in Quebec City, Stevie Wonder declared he would not be playing Florida again until the abolition of “Stand Your Ground,” the law that allowed George Zimmerman to go free after murdering Trayvon Martin. His impassioned speech to the crowd:

The truth is that—for those of you who’ve lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world—we can’t bring them back. What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody. That’s what I know we can do.

And I know I’m not everybody, I’m just one person. I’m a human being. And for the gift that God has given me, and from whatever I mean, I decided today that until the “Stand Your Ground” law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again. As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world.

Because what I do know is that people know that my heart is of love for everyone. When I say everyone I mean everyone. As I said earlier, you can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it. We can make change by coming together for the spirit of unity. Not in destruction, but in the perpetuation of life itself.

Wonder is no stranger to artistic boycotts. He was a part of a wave of musicians who refused to play South Africa’s Sun City resort to protest apartheid, even penning a song, “It’s Wrong (Apartheid)” to raise awareness. It’s possible Wonder’s declaration could spark a trend of boycotts to shame Florida into overturning its draconian laws.

Of course, boycotts today don’t really have the same cultural context they once did for Apartheid. Last November, Wonder himself played a concert for Israeli Defense Forces, in spite of emphatic demands from activists for artists to boycott Israel in protest of the Palestinian occupation. Overwhelming international public sentiment opposed Apartheid, which was easily identified as cut and dry racial segregation, but for the west, the topic of Israel is mired in Islamophobia, and is much more difficult to organize around. Likewise, we have a lot of paranoid, reactionary gun nuts in this country, and artists might argue that playing Florida isn’t an endorsement of a single law. Regardless, I do think famous spokespeople (for better or worse) help steer the national dialogue, and we need to do everything we can to keep focus on the abolition of the “Stand Your Ground” law.
 

 
Via Vulture

Posted by Amber Frost | Discussion
Anarchism, Activism and El Movimiento: Dangerous Minds Goes Inside the Second Spanish Revolution


“Are you not ashamed to kick people out of their homes?”

Barcelona, it occurs to me, as our plane descends towards the unfortunately named El Prat, must have some strange and singular relationship to concrete. Due to the national tendency to live stacked up, from above the city undulates in a wild concrete wave—coming to a dead, teetering halt at the brink of the Mediterranean, which meets it with almost parodic calm. Yet, elegant Barcelona somehow manages to make the best out of concrete. Hell, even La Sagrada Familia is moulded from stuff that wouldn’t look out of place in a public housing high rise.

And, ironically enough, it is concrete Barcelona finds its feet encased in, as along with the rest of Spain it sinks to the bottom of the economic ocean…

Of all the houses built in Spain between 2001 and 2007 (and there were a lot: this was the property boom that engendered the economic collapse that has left the country with around 26% unemployment, and around 55% youth unemployment) over a quarter stand empty. But despite being dotted with veritable ghost towns, there were over 75,000 evictions in Spain last year, a figure that looks ready to rise in 2013.

Now, in Spain, if a bank kicks you out of your home, seizing your assets, their value is only deducted from your debt. And since the value of Spanish property, post-crash, is a slither of what it was when most evictees bought their properties, and since there were a lot of forty and fifty year mortgages going around, this means many are still expected to pay hundreds of thousands of Euros for an abruptly worthless cube of concrete that will henceforth stand empty, redundant as a sprung trap.

Odd that this should happen in Spain, with its historical antipathy (among a significant portion of its population, anyway) to the very notion of “private property”. “ALL PROPERTY IS THEFT!” declared the anarchist philosopher Proudhon. Well, Spain, you might say, was bound to balk at such daylight robbery. And balk it did, in the spontaneous 15M nationwide protests that marked the proper beginning of what everyone there refers to as the movimiento in the spring of 2011.

Exactly two years later, I am visiting Barcelona to see where the second Spanish revolution is at.

I have, however, a vicious summer cold, and am unsure if my skittish temperature and face full of snot is infecting my view of the city. I’ve heard a lot about how inconspicuous the economic crisis is to the naked eye, but for me, sweating a fever out beneath the first sustained sunshine to touch Catalonia all year, Barcelona seems everywhere composed of two distinct layers.

Along the surreally telegenic beach, for example, there is the expected abundance of tourists, bathers, bars. But there is also, there by the outdoor showers, two apparently underage girls in the early stages of a porn shoot, listlessly palming water at one another’s bikini tops while a photographer snaps and a crowd gawp on.

A random sight, perhaps, but it feels like a symbol.
 

 
Further up the promenade we see some anarchist graffiti: “Tourist! Save the planet. Kill Yourself.” Beneath this it reads “Guirifobia Power.” Guiri (sounds like “giddy”), explains Sara Marquez, our friend, hostess and guide to the movimiento, is the derogatory slang for tourist. “There is increasing hostility against visitors—that is, rich foreigners—among some,” she elaborates, for the benefit of this slightly affronted guiri. “As the crisis deepens the only economic sector that really works is tourism. Many feel that the city council is ruling the city thinking in terms only of tourists rather than citizens.”

We stop at a bar for some food—washing it down with cheap beer and tobacco that do my virus few favors. Sara tells us some typical examples of people she knows in the city: University Lecturers earning a couple of hundred Euros a month, and even some doctors and lawyers either unable to get work or earning relatively negligible amounts. Presently in vogue, she says, is the notion of a mileurista—somebody lucky enough earn over a thousand Euros a month. No wonder there is a steady seeping abroad of Barcelona’s young, an exodus massaged by the government, who don’t even bother pretending their homeland has a future for them.

We get up to pay. “Why are you with these foreigners,” the waiter hisses at Sara, “why are you speaking English?” (Earlier today, some respectable-looking old crone had spun on her heel to shout abuse up the street at Sara for the same reason.)

While she tells the geezer where to go, I stand there sniffing and squinting at the street. Rich-looking American girls saunter by in designer shades, swaying honeyed limbs, and platoons of British lads march between bars. But there is also, I note, a continuous quiet traffic of disheveled elderly Catalans and gypsies, all pushing warped trolleys piled with scrap metal. “There seems to be more of this all the time,” says Sara. There is something ominous about the trade, as if they are picking the bones of an economic corpse.

That evening I interview Marc Pradel, an activist and academic. Marc has that air of slightly weary integrity that proliferates whenever a political class manages to entirely monopolise corruption. We begin by discussing the development of the movimiento.

“Two years ago it was as if no one was protesting anything, and then there was this small thing,  ¡Democracia Real YA! [Real Democracy Now!], and then this demonstration, and suddenly, surprisingly, everybody came and it was huge. And the last two years, more or less, have highlighted the difficulty in organizing a coherent, conventional political response. There are many things happening at a local level and neighborhood level, a lot of new ideas and discussions, but the movement is in danger of losing momentum unless it can organize.”

I ask to what extent this generation of activists identify with the Spanish libertarian socialist tradition.

“Some parts of the movement are not that conscious of continuing this political tradition, while others are very aware of it, and are openly inspired by Cooperatism and decentralization. Sometimes the movement acknowledges this heritage in a very symbolic way—for instance they tend to organize in columns when they demonstrate, just as the anarchists did in the civil war. But there is also a general awareness they’re not going to solve anything in a classical fashion.”

Yet, on its second birthday, the crossroads the movimiento finds itself at would be readily recognizable to any Spanish anarchist of the 1930s…
 

Pau Faus, Barcelona PAH
 
“In Barcelona especially there is a real hostility towards political centralization, a fear of being co-opted, a fear of becoming part of the problem. This is very typical of the social movements here, and I think you can see the continuity from the old anarchism to now, a commitment to decentralization, which can become problematic. Many people say that this movement needs leadership. We do need some kind of organisation, because otherwise you cannot expect major changes. The only time anarchism has been effective is when there was a trade union or something behind it.”

For now, the onus remains entirely on the grass roots.

“There are, in Barcelona and everywhere in Spain, lots of things emerging. For instance we have the community banks: Coop57 is a credit cooperative that gives credit to social projects and gives people the chance to invest in social causes… Som Energia is a renewable energy cooperative… La Fageda is a more traditional cooperative but is very significant in Catalonia. Their workers are handicapped and the company adapts its production accordingly. There are lots of examples of businesses trying to overcome the logic of capitalism.”

He describes the network of community centers, cooperative allotments and squats across Barcelona, created to provide food, shelter, work and support for people. I ask about the state’s response to such initiatives.

“They expect this kind of thing. As long as they’re not attacking some basic things, like the financial system of whatever, they know it can help them, relieve their responsibilities. For instance, if there’s some empty land being cultivated which belongs to the banks, it has no value anyway and if somebody’s growing food it’s helping to solve some social problems. But when there’s a more political approach, or organised protesting, then you find opposition—and often very violent opposition. The level of violence is high. Just to scare citizens—normal citizens—from joining the movement. Because the movement was initially very apolitical, a citizen’s movement with nothing to do with the traditional party politics or allegiances, and they tried to scare people away. And they succeeded, in part.”

The most powerful part of the movimiento remains the PAH—the Platforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (Platform for those Affected by the Mortgage).     

“The numbers affected by evictions are huge, incredibly huge. The PAH movement actually started before the crisis, defending the rights of people who were unable to afford a mortgage—then in 2008 the speculative housing bubble burst, and it transformed itself into something that defended the rights of people facing eviction because of the crash, going to places where people were being evicted, blocking evictions. Many, many people started to participate in it, and it became quickly linked with the indignados movement and the local assemblies. But because the PAH were working for a very specific thing, they were very successful in terms of receiving support, because everybody saw that this was a very precise thing that could be aimed for, changing a specific law on housing—and keeping people from becoming homeless. Because of that we have the support of eighty percent of Spanish society.”
 

Banker Emilo Botin and his “juicy booty”

This specific change in the law, Marc explains, was to “approve the dation in payment”—in other words, your debt would be cancelled when you lost your dwelling. The PAH gathered 1.4 million signatures to petition for this change, which was rejected by the government in April.

“This was denied because it generates a problem for the banks, who receive a property without value and don’t have any other way to recover the money they have lent. This is not important for the Spanish banks themselves, but for the European banks—German ones mainly—who were behind their capacity to give credit.”

On Friday Sara and I visit the working class district Encants to see the PAH in action. This requires a strange early evening journey, through somnolent shopping centers and amnesiac underpasses, until Barcelona finally cuts the shit and we find ourselves in breezeblock central: vacant balconies jut out from the dull high apartment blocks, like the handles of empty filing cabinets.     

We approach what might be a club or a bar—a large crowd mills about on the pavement outside smoking and talking. It is the local PAH center, though, and we enter a large, swelteringly hot space, with raw concrete walls plastered in printouts, schedules and slogans. It is packed. Over three hundred people are sitting close together, fanning out around a small panel of middle-aged, robust, blonde women, who are passing a microphone to and fro and filling the space with echoing bursts of musical, exhortative Spanish.

Clearly this entire audience is facing eviction—eviction and a lifetime of debt. It’s no small burden. Just a few months ago a forty-seven-year-old woman walked into her local bank in Valencia and set herself on fire. (She survived, just about.)

Here, though, there is something in the atmosphere besides tension, something like relief. Eviction, penury—these are definitively lonely ordeals, and through the PAH people can find emotional, practical and political support and solidarity. 

My assumption, as I watch the panel move through the endless succession of questions—everyone here has at least one—is that it consists of pro bono professionals. Apparently not. “They are not qualified,” whispers Sara, “they are just normal, working class women, but they sound like property lawyers.”

These panelists, it transpires, know every twist in the labyrinth because they were lost in it themselves, and so by necessity became expert at frustrating and thwarting the banks. In the week the PAH holds separate surgeries for the victims of the separate banks, organize sit-ins to stop evictions, and protest at the banks. They have been awarded a European Citizen of the Year award from the European Parliament, and enjoy—it warrants repetition—over 80% support from the public.
 

Pau Faus, Barcelona PAH
 
The Spanish government, meanwhile, has compared the PAH to ETA, to terrorists, to Nazis, and wants to see them stripped of their award…

This hysterical reaction was in response to escrache, a PAH approach that brought protest to these politicians’ literal doorsteps. However, it ain’t hard to see why the PAH might make the Spanish establishment generally nervous. In reality, there is nothing “apolitical,” say, about their guiding asservation that “having a home is a basic right,” or about their effort to remove the unjust financial yoke so cynically fastened upon the necks of hundreds of thousands of Spaniards. On the contrary, such ideas and actions are potentially revolutionary.

A hesitant African woman stands up. Her bank, she explains, are offering her a so-called “social rent” (whereby you lose your home but can go on living there). This is a very rare concession, so rare that it inspires one of the panelists to stand on her toes and flamboyantly flap her “Si Se Puede!” t-shirt high enough to flash the audience a glimpse of her bra.

Laughter flows through the crowd and out onto the pavement. The noise level instantly rises, interfering with the discussion and sparking a collective shhhhhh. It carries a hint of the Spanish lisp, this shhhhhh, making it sound more like a hiss than a hush, and this crowd of debtors, activists and volunteers a very large, very angry snake.

I remember what Marc said yesterday about the movimiento needing leadership, and wonder what on earth could happen if it finds it.

Masses of thanks to Sara, Moritz, Marc & Rebecca
 

 

Posted by Thomas McGrath | Discussion
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