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Archive for January, 2012

How The Plutocracy Actually Works

This is among the best concise explanations of how the plutocracy works:

 

 

The One-Percent In Charts and Graphs

Here is a great slide show on the corporate crime that is the 1%:

 

 

Hitting

I’ve been thinking about hitting a lot lately. Is it ever okay to hit?

Is it ever okay to hit children? Lots of people think it’s okay to hit children at times, to instill discipline.

Is it ever okay to hit dogs? Lots of people think the same about dogs.

Is it ever okay to hit women? Lots of men are good on this, for the same reason.

Is it ever okay to hit gay men? Lots of straight men are just fine with beating them to death.

Is it ever okay to hit black men? Lots of white men are just fine with this.

Is it ever okay for white men to hit white men? Well, that’s just boys being boys.

Is it ever okay for anybody else to hit white men?

Nope.

 

Today

Today I got up at four, and was the first person at a yard sale down the street, where I purchased a six inch cast iron frying pan, an enamel teapot to boil water in, and an excellent black rayon Hawaiian shirt with stylized yellow and orange dragons, for a total of five dollars.

Then I went to the Cat’s Meow thrift shop that is an organ of the local animal welfare foundation that runs the local animal shelter, and gave them a box of books I neither need nor can profitably sell, and also spent two dollars on four books, two of which I might be able to sell for around three fifty, another I will give back, and a fourth I will read.

Then I went to the grocery store and bought some stuff to make lasagna with.

Then I came home and worked on things some, and then I walked Casey out to the vet to get the rest of his shots caught up.

He found this experience fabulous as always. It made my feet hurt for awhile afterwards but it was a good walk with only one loose uncollared potentially rabid Chihuahua to fend off. I didn’t worry about this before the skunk rabies outbreak; previous I merely found it annoying. Casey as always sees this as all in a dog’s day’s work. No starter of fights, my dog, though I have noticed that after managing the occasional attack, he tends to smirk a bit.

Fortunately I had not yet at that point forgotten and left my stick somewhere though I did manage to do so prior to our returning home. Fortunately there are always more sticks.

When we got to the vet they weren’t back from lunch yet so we got to kind of hang around with the other customers out front for about fifteen minutes while the train went by at one point and sufficiently alarmed Casey that he asked me rather strongly whether we could not perhaps go into the vet’s now to get away from the train. (the tracks are quite close by, pretty much a couple-three lots away).

I discussed this with Dr. H. as well, Casey’s great love of the vets and fear of alien noise. Case does not love the machine gods not quite as much as he does not love the thunder gods, but he is fond of neither.

Dr H. said that some dogs are very phobic but others just love them, those vets. Very specific critters, dogs.

Dr. H. turned out to be the main vet who knows me personally via social contacts involving S.B. and P and B, which I had almost forgotten. Usually Case and I see the other guy. So we got to catch up about stuff like S.B. being dead and P having left B after he sold his house here so he could live in a trailer with her so she could go to school and marry him, and we both agreed that generally people are mysterious but also we would have preferred B not sell that house.

Then Casey and I walked back and stopped by the post office, which one can do here with one’s dog. And on home with my feet indeed very sore.

And then I did some more chore stuff and made marinara sauce for the lasagna and somehow I suspect I am not going to make it to the seven a.m. yard sales tomorrow but there won’t be that many and Rome wasn’t built in a day.

As well, this essay won’t have a photograph, as I failed to take more photographs of Casey today, which was foolish of me. I will remedy that this weekend, if something else does not become more immediate. Meanwhile, Casey is good to go just about anywhere he might need to go. Next, gotta work on myself.

 

Shrine

 

Sex, Class, and Occupy Wall Street

Crossposted from Sasha Said

I’ve been following the Occupy movement with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it’s the first thing in a very long time that’s given me any hope for this country. It’s high time that we start focusing on economic injustice and the damage done by the greed of the mega rich and the corruption of those who do their bidding. The system is badly broken, as evidenced by the fact that politicians of both major parties are talking austerity and cuts to safety net programs at a time of record unemployment, growing poverty, and economic inequality comparable to the developing world. Clearly there’s a desperate need for a movement that raises awareness of the class war the wealthy have been waging on the rest of us.

Which brings me to my first issue with Occupy Wall Street. Who exactly are “the rest of us”? From a branding perspective, the 99% versus the 1% is very appealing. But is it accurate? Clearly not. If your household income is half a million a year, I’d say the system has been working very well for you. You may even be part of the problem if you outsource jobs or pay workers less than a living wage. But you’re still part of the 99%.

At the same time, “the 99%” has become synonymous with the downtrodden, debt-ridden, and dispossessed. I remember a Tumblr entry written from the perspective of a small child who’d witnessed her mom cry because she was unable to buy her kid a birthday present. It ended with the words, “My mom doesn’t know that I know we’re part of the 99%.” Huh? The mom doesn’t realize her kid knows she makes less than $590,000 a year? No wonder people are confused. I’ve seen numerous blog posts and comments by individuals with low six-figure incomes stating that they “stand with the 99%.” No, actually, if you have a low six-figure income, you are the 99%. In fact, if your household income totals $190,000, it could triple and you would still be part of the 99%.

So. Not very useful, is it? The bottom 90%, on the other hand, have an average household income of $31,244, which is probably more like what people have in mind when discussing the economic difficulties experienced by “the 99%.”

Okay, so maybe the focus is on the top 1% because they’ve been gobbling up a disproportionate share of income and productivity gains and wield a toxic amount of political influence. But then, why stop at the 1% mark (average annual income $1,137,684)? The top 0.1% (average annual income $3,238,386) are even more culpable and the top 0.01% (average annual income $27,342,212) are the most culpable of all.

Ultimately the 99% is more about branding than reality. Which, I suppose, is okay, as long as we don’t forget that there are HUGE differences among the 99% and that we are NOT all in the same boat. Even if we ignore the 99 percenters with household incomes topping $200k, there’s an enormous difference between a family making $160,000 and a family making $60,000 a year. And there’s an even bigger difference between a $60,000 household and a $16,000 household.

If the power elites had half a brain, they would have been content with exploiting and oppressing the people at the bottom, while continuing to provide economic opportunities for those in the middle. Most 99 percenters were just fine with a system in which the disproportionately black, brown, and female folks at the bottom of the income pyramid were paid so little for their labor that an entire lifetime of hard work was insufficient to escape poverty. And even the ones who saw the injustice and had a problem with it weren’t about to take to the streets to protest the exploitation of the working poor.

Alas, the greed of the power elites knows no bounds and they began outsourcing middle class jobs and cutting middle class pay and benefits. So here we are. We’ve now got the beginnings of an economic justice movement. People are starting to wake up to what those of us at the bottom of the pile have known for a long time: The system is rigged. Hard work and skill are not enough. The rules that apply to most of us don’t apply to the people at the top. And these people have been waging war on workers for over three decades. Their greed commodifies and destroys everything in its path.

So, yeah, I realize that this newfound solidarity with workers came about only because those who grew up expecting to live a middle class life with decent pay, home ownership, vacation time, health care access, and savings accounts are seeing their prospects evaporate. But you know what? I’ll take it.

As for the much-discussed demographics of the Occupy movement, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that white dudes with middle class upbringings are disproportionately represented among the “full-time” occupiers. With the exception of those currently unemployed, the working poor are typically too busy working two or three jobs to keep a roof over their head to occupy stuff. If we don’t show up for work, we don’t get paid, and if we don’t get paid, we can’t make the rent. The Occupy movement doesn’t just protest the economic realities in this country, it also reflects them.

Women are not only more likely to be poor and underpaid (roughly two-thirds of all minimum wage workers are women), but with all the unpaid domestic work and caretaking we are saddled with, we’re going to have far less time to join protests. On top of that, the ever-present threat of rape serves as a powerful deterrent against overnight stays in tents surrounded by dudes.

It’s absolutely critical that the white male protesters who are in the majority at every “occupation” understand *why* they outnumber female activists. I’ve seen some pretty disturbing statements from dudes who clearly don’t. Suggesting that those present 24/7 at Occupied sites are more committed to the movement’s goals than those who are able to stay only a short time demonstrates a stunning lack of awareness of male, white, ableist, and class privilege.

Unfortunately there seems to be quite a bit of that going around. There have been reports of general sexism (lots of it), sexual harassment, and even a couple of sexual assaults. While that’s no different than what happens outside of the Occupy movement’s encampments every minute of every day (don’t get me started on the hypocrisy of right-wing blogs who have seized on these incidents as supposed evidence that OWS represents the end of Western civilization), male OWS protesters are supposedly trying to fight injustice and inequality. That, my brothers, will require tearing down patriarchy, male privilege, as well as porn and rape culture.

It probably won’t come as a shock that many lefty men have no intention of abandoning male supremacy. That became, once again, abundantly clear during the Occupy Wall Street Perv Project fiasco (otherwise known as “Hot Chicks of Occupy Wall Street”). Women can be objectified, dehumanized, and used as perv bait without their knowledge or consent, and, judging from blog comments, about half the pro-Occupy dudes think that’s a-okay. Oh, and feminists are overreacting, of course. Perv project creator Steven Greenstreet is actually helping the movement by getting more people dudes to show up at the protest, so it’s all good! Who cares that he’s creating an unsafe and oppressive environment for women in the process.

The absolute lowest point, however, came when Occupy London Stock Exchange invited probable rapist and definite sexist sleazoid Julian Assange to speak at the LSX protest. While there were some boos and a few people left, the vast majority of the crowd cheered for this piece of shit. I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. LSX sent a clear message that day to women and rape survivors that we’re not part of their “justice” movement.

So I understand why most radfem blogs have concluded that Occupy Wall Street is a men’s movement in which dudes set the agenda and women clean, cook, and look pretty. Same as it ever was.

And yet. Linking to right-wing blogs that claim to be outraged about sexual assaults occurring at OWS encampments while they support candidates and policies that make women even more vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment? If you must link to them, it would be nice to at least call out their breathtaking hypocrisy. But then, just like left-wing dude politics have a blind spot where women’s oppression is concerned, feminism can be amazingly oblivious to class-based (and race-based) oppression.

While pointing out that “we” are not the 99%, that the 99% are made up of predominantly women and children, all women are presumed to be in the same boat. In fact, I’ve even seen statements to the effect that low income women have more in common with women in the 1% than with low income men. There are indeed experiences women share across class or race. But there are also important differences, and in some instances, poor women and women of color are going to have more in common with men of their class or race than with rich white women. The point is, we shouldn’t have to choose. We shouldn’t have to ignore one form of oppression to focus on another.

Some of the most troubling comments I’ve seen on radfem blogs question the Occupy movement’s legitimacy because “worldwide, the 99% are the 1%.” Apart from the fact that this statement is untrue (Western industrialized nations are home to substantially more than 1% of the world’s population, and not everyone in the so-called developing world is poor), it comes perilously close to the right-wing talking point that poor people in the US have nothing to complain about because we have it so much better than poor people in the developing world. Sort of like feminists have no business complaining about sexism and misogyny in the US, because, hey, women here are so much better off than women in Saudi Arabia or Afghanistan.

Let me be clear. Being poor in the US of A is not just about not being able to “buy stuff.” Being poor frequently means going to bed hungry. It means watching your partner collapse after a day of hard physical labor in 100+ degree heat for which he was paid $5 an hour. It means walking home seven miles in icy cold wind and rain because you can’t afford a car and public transportation is extremely limited. It means cops automatically regarding you with suspicion, and courts locking you up for minor offenses. Most of all, being poor in the US means suffering, and possibly dying, because you can’t afford medical, dental, or psychiatric care–and being forced to stand by helplessly as your friends and loved ones suffer.

For women, being poor also means that you are more likely to be raped and less likely to see your rapist brought to justice. It means you are more likely to be sexually harassed on the street and at work, and less likely to have recourse against employment-based harassment and exploitation because you really need that job. It means you’re more likely to become a victim of domestic violence and less likely to be able to escape because you’re not paid enough to live alone. And yes, being a poor woman also means that you’re more likely to turn to prostitution or other sex work–either as a “career choice” because that’s the one form of employment open to you that pays enough to possibly escape poverty, or as something you do occasionally to make ends meet.

This is why, despite all the problems, I support the Occupy movement. No, it’s not a radical movement (at this point), and yes, it’s far from perfect, but it’s still the best thing that has happened in this country in a long time. Unfettered capitalism is killing us and the planet. Hell, it may already be too late. But maybe, just maybe, we can still turn this thing around. People are finally waking up and figuring out that something has gone very, very wrong. Our elected representatives don’t represent us; they’re on the payroll of massive corporations intent on devouring everything they can turn into profits–human beings, animals, natural resources, social programs. I’m not going to turn my back on the first (and possibly the last) inkling of a chance to change course because some of the dudes involved are fauxgressive douchenozzles.

Get involved in the Occupy movement and point out how unbridled capitalism, environmental destruction, and patriarchy are inextricably linked? I’m all for it. But not support the movement at all? I don’t have that luxury. I need this movement to succeed. And, really, so do you.

 

“How Would You Like This Wrapped?”

Editorial cartoons are so powerful.

 

Good Example of Grassroots Education

Concise educational video explaining what’s wrong with PIPA and SOPA.

 

Portraits in Leadership

From CBS News.

Who do you think is the one-percenter: the Captain of the Cruise Ship Costa Concordia or the Italian Coast Guard officer who had to order him back to his ship?

“You go on board! Is that clear? Do you hear me?” Coast Guard Capt. Gregorio De Falco shouted as [Costa Concordia Captain] Schettino sat safe in a life raft “It is an order. Don’t make any more excuses. You have declared ‘Abandon ship.’ Now I am in charge.”

“Listen Schettino,” De Falco can be heard shouting in the audio tape. “There are people trapped on board. … You go on board and titian chen you will tell me how many people there are. Is that clear?”

But Schettino resisted, saying the ship was listing and he was with his second-in-command in the lifeboat.

“I am here with the rescue boats. I am here. I am not going anywhere. I am here,” he said. “I am here to coordinate the rescue.”

“What are you coordinating there? Go on board! Coordinate the rescue from aboard the ship. Are you refusing?” came the response.

Schettino said he was not refusing, but he still did not return to the ship, saying at one point: “Do you realize it is dark and here we can’t see anything?”

De Falco shouted back: “And so what? You want to go home, Schettino? It is dark and you want to go home? Get on that prow of the boat using the pilot ladder and tell me what can be done, how many people there are and what their needs are. Now!”

 

Who Is Killing Iran’s Nuclear Scientists?

This week the 4th Iranian nuclear scientist in two years was murdered.

An article in The Atlantic condemns the killings as counterproductive to American interests, and urges the US “demonstrate its commitment to diplomacy as the only means of resolving Iran’s nuclear impasse” rather than “covert operations.” The authors don’t say whose covert operations they oppose, but suggest that the US might at least have been party to an act of terrorism.

Iran says the US and Israel did it.

An article in the UK Guardian cites an expert who says it must have been Israel:

“If you look at the choice of target it really could only be Israel,” says Robert Baer, a former CIA agent in the Middle East, currently working on a book on assassination called The Perfect Kill. “If it was an internal group, like the MeK ([Mujahedin-e-Khalq] it would be security official or policeman who had been torturing their guys. If you look at the motivation, it must be Israel.”

However, Baer adds that it is quite likely that Israel is acting in tandem with an Iranian dissident organisation. “To do this in the middle of the day, with a limpet charge and then getaway, you need a lot of people on the ground,” he says. ” You need an extensive network of the kind only someone like MeK can provide.”

Baer continues:

Baer argues that the impact on the nuclear programme itself is likely to be so minimal, it is unlikely to be the aim of the murder campaign.

“It’s a provocation,” he says. “My theory is that Israel couldn’t get the White House to agree to bombing. It is not satisfied with sanctions, so the Israelis are trying to provoke the Iranians into launching a missile and starting a war.”

People don’t like what Obama is doing. I don’t like what Obama is doing. But it must be the case that if Bush/Cheney/McCain/Republicans were in the White House now, we’d be already be at war with Iran.