Women's Bodies Are Citizens' Bodies

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It was six degrees outside, but about 1000 bundled-up citizens, women and men, many in pink pussy hats, turned out for the third Women’s March on Jan. 19, 2019 in Montpelier, Vermont. The signs they carried showed no evidence that women are resigned to being quiet about a Presidential pussy-grabber. The opposite!

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The group pictured above, draped in American flags (oops, one slipped!) are part of a campaign called #GrabThemByTheBallot, anticipating 2020. They could hardly be ignored!

Other speakers included MacKenzie Murdoch, a youth activist and host for the event, who shared a poem she wrote about her rape on a Vermont campus and its investigation. She reported one of every three women experiences sexual violence of some kind, the reason for #MeToo.

Women’s bodies were also the centerpiece of Vermont’s Nutty Steph’s efforts. The chocolatier brought a basket of specially made chocolate vulvas, with proceeds going to Planned Parenthood, and they stood by a huge fabric vulva, inviting attendees to step through and be reborn as they entered the public space.

Former Bennington Representative Kiah Morris, who in the face of racial threats resigned her position to much national attention, urged attendants to do the real work of “peaceful revolution,” avoiding “narrow identity thinking.”

A theme that threaded through all the speakers’ exhortations, cheered by women and men, was the broad inclusion in government policies of all of us born of women, and living on our Mother Earth—especially in the face of dramatic changes, including racial, gendered and environmental ones.

Divisions had emerged nationally this month, with one organizer citing Louis Farrakhan as a GOAT (Greatest of All Time), and some important organizations, including Planned Parenthood, stepping back from national sponsorship as a result. But the Vermont organizers set up their own Vermont website to declare their principles of nonviolent resistance and inclusion.

The spirit of the event was capped by Patty Casey’s song, whose chorus, sung by all the crowd, really should become a movement hymn:

“We are better than that, we are kinder than that; we are going forward and we’re not going back.”  Yes, even when it’s freezing cold and a huge snow storm is on the way!

One image opposite is an amazing quilt made of tiny pieces of fabric! (quilt photo and #GrabThemByThe Ballot photo by Meg Kuhner)

What's that you say, Mr. Wall Street Banker?

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I’m feeling more hopeful today despite bizarro-freak news that does not appear to be fake, only stupid. The great white hope, our president, is possibly a Putin “asset,” which in economic terms means he is owned. In today’s politics the thing that makes this sleazy is the alleged owner is a foreign billionaire, not an American one.

 So why am I hopeful? Business Insider has focused on the House committee assignment of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She’s the woman who yesterday walked to the Senate to hand-deliver a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, urging him to bring bills he’s sitting on to the Senate floor for a vote. Why isn’t the Senate doing its job, and keeping government open? And who passed a law that says “essential” government workers must work for no pay?

 It’s rare for a House member to do such a bold thing. But no, that’s not the best news. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has placed this daring woman on the elite House Committee on Financial Services. Years ago, it used to be called the banking committee, and traditionally sat only elite white guy “assets,” who had rich white guy owners on Wall Street. It’s no wonder the media focuses on Ocasio-Cortez—she’s so fearless and beautiful. But the news is better than that.

 Rep. Maxine Waters is chair of that committee now. She’s served her time and learned the Wall Street players; she’s the first woman chair, and the first African American. I counted the sixteen members of the committee she just announced and found other formidable newcomers like Rep. Rashida Tiabi of Michigan, and tough veterans like Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii. All told they’re a majority female, another first.

 There are 540 mostly-male billionaires in the US and nearly 15 million millionaires, half of them multi-millionaires. The rest of us tend to come up short because the American political system for the past 40 years has enabled 1 percent of our population to hoard 40 percent of our national wealth and its assets, and the top 20 percent, fully 90 percent. That’ll buy a lot of politicians.

 That means the rest of us have to split the remaining 10 percent of our wealth. Picture it this way: Jeff Bezos gets 40 front row seats in a 100-seat theater for the “show” of our American life. His slightly less rich friend reserves 50 more seats for himself and his 9 guy friends. As a result, 80 people like you and me will have to share the remaining ten seats. The median chair-reservation is about $60,000 a year in income, enough for one butt-cheek. But the bottom 20 of us own nothing but debt. Go sit in that hole in the floor.

 About 49 million people in 19 million households are now below the poverty line, in the hole, on average with around $18,000 a year per household. A bunch of these are women and children. But when women no longer are tokens, they’re harder to silence. The new House Financial Services Committee might just put their pretty little heads together to call out billionaire owners of political assets—and make some real change in who gets a decent seat.

 —Rickey Gard Diamond

Rounding Up Children, Then and Now

Marian Pritchard with Erica Polak, a Jewish baby she was hiding in 1944. Part of the Dutch resistance under Nazi occupation, Pritchard later told an audience at a 1996 lecture at University of Michigan: “By 1945, I had lied, stolen, cheated, deceived and even killed.".” (photo from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

Marian Pritchard with Erica Polak, a Jewish baby she was hiding in 1944. Part of the Dutch resistance under Nazi occupation, Pritchard later told an audience at a 1996 lecture at University of Michigan: “By 1945, I had lied, stolen, cheated, deceived and even killed.".” (photo from the US Holocaust Memorial Museum)

During my 13 years researching and writing An Address in Amsterdam, I often tried to imagine how I would have felt as a Gentile as the Nazis rounded up my Jewish neighbors— especially the children.

We know of at least one young woman, Marian Pritchard, who just couldn’t bear it when she saw Nazis storming a home for Jewish children and tossing them into trucks.  Although she was only 19, Pritchard became a staunch resistance worker who kidnapped, stole, lied, deceived and even killed by the end of the war, protecting 150 Jewish lives in the process. 

Far more people looked away from the roundups, or walked past the groups being marched through the city, or wished the war was over already.  Their indifference and collusion were a factor in the mass murder of 80% of Amsterdam’s Jewish population of 75,000.

Now, when I see stories about the children we are incarcerating at the border, I understand the position of the Dutch in 1940-45 so much better.  Something terrible is happening in my country, and I have a share of responsibility for it – more than the Dutch did, because they were occupied by a foreign power.  In this case, my money is paying for it.  My elected officials are allowing inhumane policies unless they are out front and center opposing and organizing against it.  How should I respond when I see photographs of young kids sleeping under mylar blankets and nothing else?  “Basic child welfare standards do not apply,” according to the Huffington Post.

I have read that no one is allowed to touch or comfort them.  Hundreds have been separated from everyone they love, and many have little hope of reunification.  Toddlers are taken into court hearings with representation that is a complete charade. In fact, 12,800 children were in custody in September 2018.  Two have actually died under our roof, 8-year-old Felipe Gómez Alonzo and 7-year-old Jakelin Caal Maquin.

The prison (called a “tent city”) in Tornillo, Texas has been releasing some children for the last few weeks, and is slated to close— but this is no guarantee that the situation is better.  According to WLRN in Miami, “With the recent releases of children, migrant advocates are cautiously hopeful. But they question why more of the 12,400 children who remain in the HHS shelter system have not been released. And they wonder why the government is closing Tornillo, but expanding another unlicensed emergency shelter in South Florida?”

Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new “zero tolerance” policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Immigrant children now housed in a tent encampment under the new “zero tolerance” policy by the Trump administration are shown walking in single file at the facility near the Mexican border in Tornillo, Texas, U.S. June 19, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Blake

It’s so easy to feel sickened by all this and turn away, to agree with those who say “It’s just too depressing” or “I can’t stand it, so I try not to think about it.”  Those are understandable reactions.  But they don’t help the kids.  How can we take personal responsibility to stop the cruelty we are engaging in as a nation?

Maintain the pressure on our Senators and Representatives.  Praise those who are taking action, such as California Rep. Ted Lieu (D), and those who are starting investigations in the House of Representatives.  If your Congresspeople are not among those who are leading the charge, goad them until they do, or ensure that they are hearing the full range of their constituents’ views.

Write or speak directly to those who perpetrate these crimes against humanity – the President, Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Kevin K. McAleenan.  Write them, but also call their staffs.  These people are paid to listen to you – except right now they aren’t, because of the government shut down.  They’ll be back one day.

Get together with others to take creative action to protest and resist.  Link up with the peace and justice organizations in your community to see what’s possible as a group.  Depending on where you are, children and adults are being held in multiple locations.  Just as in Amsterdam under the Nazis, the invisibility of these prisons makes it possible for the outrages to continue.

People protest against U.S. immigration policies on the American side, right, of the Mexico-America border near Tijuana on Dec. 10, 2018. RNS photo by Jair Cabrera Torres

Support the organizations which are providing humanitarian and legal aid to these persecuted people, both adults and children.  No one will help them but you and me.  Many groups are worthy, but for whatever it’s worth these are my choices:

Keep the stories alive.  Pass them along.  Don’t let these children be forgotten – or their parents.   Talk about them at home and in your places of worship, write and post about them on your social media.  Tell your kids and grandkids what is going on.  Get them involved in trying to communicate why their country shouldn’t treat anybody this way, much less another child.  If we involve children now, maybe we can face them when they grow up.

—Mary Dingee Fillmore, author of An Address in Amsterdam


Will a New Congress End War Profiteering without End?

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This past few weeks has been full of news about the US military, the most prominent tale, the resignation of General “Mad Dog” Mattis as Trump’s Defense Secretary. Much was made of his role as the last standing general (the Generals Flynn, McMaster, and Kelly already dumped by Trump by then). Often called an “intellectual,” Mad Dog’s regard for military tradition and restraint, for allies and diplomacy, butted heads with Trump’s even madder one-man genius.

 When Trump wanted a big and pricey military parade, Mattis advised against it, and so, we’re told, did he hold the line against other ill-advised moves. The general’s last straw was possibly a tweet about Syria, or maybe Trump’s order for US troops to rush to the Mexican border just before an election to defend us from an invasion of desperate refugees, mostly women and children.

 But a couple of related stories are worth bigger headlines and get less play, possibly because so much corporate money is at stake in DoD’s unthinkably huge contracts. The US Constitution calls for regular audits to ensure that money authorized by Congress is spent the intended way. Other agencies have met audit standards set by experts—except for the biggest discretionary expense in our national budget, the DoD.

 In its most recent issue, The Nation’s Dave Lindorff highlighted the DoD’s inability to complete its single long-called-for audit, and continued funding, despite a missing $21 trillion of taxpayer dollars from 1998-2015, a number five times larger than our government spends for everything each year. Regular laundering of money in changed accounts via what’s called “plugs,” apparently makes funds impossible to track, despite nonsensical numbers giving away the chicanery at work. One now retired supervisor of audits who worked for the DoD’s Inspector General’s office told Lindorff, “All those proposed budgets we’ve been presenting to you are a bunch of garbage.” It’s nice he can be frank, now that he’s got a pension.

 Increased budget requests based on fraudulent numbers belie a shrinking number of troops. The 15,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, for instance, are about 2.8 percent of deployment during Vietnam, and clues about grunt pay levels surround our military bases with pawn shops, repo car lots, and PayDay loan sharks. So where is our money going? And why does Congress continue to allocate growing budget numbers at DoD discretion, without demanding accountability?

 A TruthDig op-ed by Major Danny Sjurnsen of the US Army and a former West Point history instructor, draws attention to another nagging little detail—like whether or not those trillions of our tax dollars expended are even legal. Sjurnsen, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan points out that military action requires what is called an AUMF, or Congressional authorization for the use of military force. American soldiers are actively bombing, killing and dying in at least seven nations right now, but are doing so under two expired AUMFs. The first is a 2001 authorization issued by Congress after the 9/11 attacks by Al Qaeda, and the second, issued in 2003, for what Sjurnsen calls “the tragic and comic invasion…to remove Saddam Hussein.”

You need only see the new movie Vice to understand what he means about our current shooting wars, in Syria, Libya, Niger, Iraq, Yemen, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, none rightly authorized by Congress, but all apparently a cash cow.

This Holiday, Help Yourself to Some Hope for a Change!

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who surprised all the old Dems by getting elected in the first place, is now shaking up Congressional hallowed halls by presenting a Green New Deal. Today, Axios, HuffPo and Earther are all talking about a survey just taken that shows a wide bipartisan range of people reporting positive feelings about this. Sounds good!

 However, media guys point out, few people know that much about it. Well, that’s because what she’s proposed is a select committee to hold hearings, to listen to experts, and to draw up a huge plan. The goal? To move quickly with a 10-year action plan, begun Jan. 1, 2020, to lead the world with green technology, and decarbonize.  

Holy smokes. That’s ambitious. It’s a lot like Canada’s recent move toward the Great Leap Manifesto, led by Naomi Klein!

Such a Green New Deal will need an inspiring and confident leader in the White House to bring it about, someone good at cooperation and collaboration, and with a vision. Someone who wants to wage economic life, not economic war. Sounds womanly, yes? Probably we’ll need new leaders in the Senate too, with some of those same emergency collaborative urges.

One of the things we most love about Alexandria’s plan is its double emphasis. She sees that this would not only address dangerous climate disruption, but also spread wider prosperity. She intends for it to “mitigate deeply entrenched racial, regional, and gender-based inequalities in income and wealth.” This means ensuring that “federal and other investment will be equitably distributed….” And she insists the historically impoverished, marginalized, and deindustrialized communities be included. 

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already at work, jumping into Washington’s swamp with real ideas!

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is already at work, jumping into Washington’s swamp with real ideas!

How long since you’ve heard an inclusive, smiling vision like this one? So here’s the first step: Make sure the select committee is well populated by women, and the men who love and listen to us, not the men who abuse us!  Then, let women write and call their representatives to get behind the most exciting leader we’ve seen in a long time!

 

For the Men Who Love Us

Courtney Wild, now 31, was 14 years old when Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein first recruited her to his child sex ring. She’s one of dozens of, victims betrayed by Alex Acosta, then US Prosecutor, now Labor Secretary. Before the story by Julie K. Brown at  The Miami Herald  broke Nov. 28, 2018, Acosta was in the running for Sessions’ job as US Attorney General, Photo by Emily Michot. .

Courtney Wild, now 31, was 14 years old when Palm Beach hedge fund manager Jeffrey Epstein first recruited her to his child sex ring. She’s one of dozens of, victims betrayed by Alex Acosta, then US Prosecutor, now Labor Secretary. Before the story by Julie K. Brown at The Miami Herald broke Nov. 28, 2018, Acosta was in the running for Sessions’ job as US Attorney General, Photo by Emily Michot. .

If I were a guy, about now I’d be feeling pretty awful.  You’ve maybe seen your mom or daughter or sister all upset and crying, or mad as hell about the Kavanagh hearings. Maybe you’ve laughed at Matt Damon’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live, feeling uncomfortable, remembering times you’d seen guys like him in action, not the least bit sorry for acting like an ass.

Those guys, never sorry as a point of religious practice, like Roger Stone, brag about their philosophy. Never apologize. Never reflect. Lie if you need to, and keep on lying if you have to. You can see Stone say so in this film, Get Me Roger Stone. He openly credits his mentor, Roy Cohn, who was Joseph McCarthy’s right hand man, and also Donald Trump’s guru.

Their priesthood promises that if you’re strong enough, trouble goes away. You’ll outlast all those crybaby complainers, and win. Be sure to call them crybabies, because name-calling hurts and scares pussies. That’s what Alphas call men who reflect or apologize. Winners have to use these mean methods; you’ve been told in a million ways.

And too often assholes do win in exclusively male-constructed, male-populated, and male-governed institutions, which our most powerful institutions have been, in fact, until pretty recently. Until women began to be journalists and lawyers and professors and politicians, shaking things up.

For instance, if you’re a Beta male, and you probably are, because “Nice Guys Finish Last,” you may be as appalled as your girlfriends are by this week’s story of Florida federal prosecutor Alexander Acosta’s immunity deal with a girl sex-trade dealer, a.k.a. hedge fun manager Jeffrey Epstein. The Miami Herald’s pictures of those fresh-scrubbed faces speak of innocence, or naiveté. For them, $200 was a big deal, and he did say he only wanted a massage. Haven’t we heard that one before?

Palm Beach Epstein had money to spend on whatever was needed to protect his bad habits, and so did his rich customers, all wealthy men with similar bullying instincts. That made him a winner, even when caught: got his own suite in a jail for a year, though he didn’t have to stay there, and his clever immunity deal also ended an FBI investigation into Epstein’s out-of-state sex buddies. Acosta the prosecutor won too: he was rewarded by a Trump cabinet position, now Secretary of Labor.

You mean “labor” as in girly “massages?” Sure, why not.

 The mainstream media doesn’t often encourage men (or women) to think complicated thoughts, which usually come with feelings. But this story breaks the norm. I’ll bet you’ve asked some questions in your deep male voice:  What the hell were these men thinking, or feeling?  What awful spirit moves these guys we’ve so often rewarded?

Like a girl, I’ll respond with more questions, wanting more to be joined with you in conversation, than to argue in battle. What would happen if the men who control enough money to buy whomever they want to screw—employees, investors, suckers who pay taxes, the naïve, the snowflake crybabies—had a change in heart. Or were maybe put in jail?

More men, even conservative men, might join their moms, sisters, and girlfriends then—oh, and the founding fathers—to openly call for an end to a corrupt money power, and its fake masculinity coupled with cruelty. Did I mention that high five between Putin and MBS? Have you ever read the Bible story about Judith and Holofernes?

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“Judith and Holofernes” by baroque painter Artemesia Gentileschi, who was raped as a girl by an old friend of her famous painter father. She dared take her assailant to court in the early 1600s, testifying under duress, but he got away with it. It inspired her art.