Friday, December 01, 2006

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Kim Gandy, Bay Fang

Do you ever just blank on what to talk about? Tonight's the Iraq Study Group. We're going to be watching some footage we shot at the September 2005 DC protests and discussing it. I have my part of that down and am ready for it. But I've focused on it and that's really all I can think about right now.

I'm reading The Charlotte Perkins Gilman Reader currently. I always found her life interesting. She's an early feminist who made her mark writing about politics and economics. (She also wrote fiction. Her short story "The Yellow Wallpaper" is possibly her most widely known work.) The backlash years weren't kind to her. You may think I mean the late 80s; however, any time there are advances for women, that's always been followed with a backlash period in this country. She lived from 1869 until 1935 (when she killed herself). Women and Economics was her benchmark (1898) and really led to a wider audience. She wrote other books and, for seven years, put out her own magazine (The Frontrunner) for which she wrote everything each month. The backlash for Perkins Gilman began after the first World War.

So having noted an important feminist of the past, let's note one of today.

"Three Strikes by Bush (While Congress is Out!)" (Kim Gandy, Below The Belt, NOW):
In only two weeks, the Bushies have struck three times at women's rights. George W. and his minions are ever-watchful for the opportunity to roll us back a few decades, and with Congress out of session and the media busy covering the rapidly deteriorating situation in Iraq, the administration has thrown us some real curveballs.
Strike One! Get ready for segregated classes at a public school near you. Last Friday, Nov. 24,
new Department of Education regulations took effect, allowing U.S. public schools to establish sex-segregated classes, activities, and schools. Under the guise of "giv[ing] educators more flexibility" and giving parents more choices, the administration has effectively changed a core guarantee of Title IX, part of the 1972 Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. That's right, back in the '70s, gender equity in education was considered a civil right and segregation was considered unacceptable. Welcome to Bush's 2006.
With the new regulations, teachers in public schools can teach more like
Regina Choi, a private school educator who recently told the Los Angeles Times that "it is sometimes more effective posing problems for girls using shopping examples and for boys using sports." (If you haven't gotten around to teaching your children by using gender stereotypes, don't worry, now their teachers can take care of it.) Of course, Choi's girl and boy students are being taught the "same course content"-it's just presented in different (read: more sexist) ways. How far is this teacher's choice of approach from that of the Livingston Parish School Board, which dropped its sex-segregation plans last summer after being sued by the ACLU because the Louisiana school wanted to teach girls "good character" and boys "heroic" behavior?
According to that ACLU lawsuit, one of the experts
cited by the Livingston school system contends that "because of biological differences in the brain, boys need to practice pursuing and killing prey, while girls need to practice taking care of babies. As a result, boys should be permitted to roughhouse during recess and play contact sports, to learn the rules of aggression. Such play is more dangerous for girls, because girls are less biologically able to manage aggression." Seems to me it's the other way 'round.
Meanwhile, U.S. public school students are still performing much worse than those in other developed nations according to
international tests-ranking, for example, 21st in math and 23rd in problem-solving. Who cares if research shows "no conclusive evidence that girls perform better academically without boys in the classroom," let's shoot in the dark when it comes to our kids' education. After all, we know how skilled the Bushies are at shooting…

All three strikes are offensive but I'm focusing on the first one because who would have thought we'd ever return to segregated education? Charlotte Perkins Gilman had many operating principles but one was that males and females had more commonalities than differences. Over a hundred years after she was making that case, we're back to sex-segregated classes?

Is there anything Bully Boy won't destroy? Any sewer he won't dip into to appease the American Taliban?

At the same time that he's cloaked his failure in Aghanistan (destined to doom from the start) in rhetoric about freedoms for women, life's gotten worse for women in that country and Bully Boy's conducted one war after another on American women.

That it could happen and with little to no outcry demonstrates, to me anyway, how fragile rights remain. Women's rights to be sure; however, the rights of all -- women have just been the canary in the coal mines.

To focus on Afghanistan for a moment, this highlight.

"School's Out: Afghan girls are losing the ground they recently gained" (Bay Fang, Ms. Magazine):
In March 2002, after the repressive Taliban government was ousted from the country, 1.5 million schoolchildren in Afghanistan went back to school. Girls in wispy white head scarves and black frocks swung their book bags alongside the boys, and the world looked on and cheered. That number grew to 5.1 million children by December 2005, of which 1.5 million were girls.
Today, however, girls’ schools are under attack. The United Nations estimates that every single day a girls' school in Afghanistan is burned down or a female teacher killed. In four southern provinces, more than 100,000 children are being denied an education because of school closures. Although the issue of Afghan women's rights has garnered plenty of international attention, an increasingly powerful insurgency and a corresponding backlash of conservatism have combined to lessen the gains that have been made. And the social and economic indicators for women in the country are still staggeringly low: U.S. charity Save the Children estimates that one in six Afghan women--about 20,000 per year--die during or just after childbirth. The female illiteracy rate is estimated at 80 percent or higher, as compared with about 50 percent for the men. Girls as young as 11 or 12 are still married off to men a few decades older. Further more, a UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women) study released in August concludes that, although the practice is illegal, some girls are still forced into marriages in order to settle a family feud or to compensate for a crime.

C.I. (and Kat) is on a plane right now or I'd call for the name of someone. She was once Miss Afghanistan. There was a book that she another woman were on a book tour promoting. It was a compilation with pieces by many women (including Gloria Steinem) focusing on Afghanistan. I believe this is 2003. (I have the book but I'm at Mike's. Monday, I'll note the book title and the name of the woman.) Both women were very vocal about what was happening. I remember hearing them speak. I actually remember being worn out and thinking, "I hope this goes quickly." C.I. had really talked it up (the book and the presentation) so that, combined with the issue, meant I shouldn't miss it. But I'm remembering it being on a busy day and a rainy one. I also remember sitting and waiting for it to begin. I was telling myself I'd stay for the first part and then duck out. Then it started and there was no way I was leaving. (I bought several books for friends and strongly regretted not attempting to round up some friends to attend.)

I believe it was only supposed to last an hour but we had too many questions for the women (which they were kind enough to answer). I kept thinking it would get press attention because they really were doing a strong presentation. If it did (it got none locally or nationally from the mainstream), I didn't see or hear it. But, considering that Congress was basically ignoring them and the issue, that doesn't surprise me.

Bombs were never the answer, the country was already suffering. But there was no "answer" because Bully Boy wasn't concerned with catching Osama bin Laden (as we all know too well). Was it about the Unical pipeline? I have no idea. But it wasn't about 'freedom' or 'liberation.' I remember how the king was cleared out of the way by the US so they could install Karzi. That was just in the capital. Outside, the warlords were never held accountable and remained in power. Over two decades, the country was destroyed and Bully Boy's actions were just the latest in a long series. The fact that he cloaked them in 'liberation' may make it more offensive but it's also true that in the 90s, the US government was more than willing to look the other way repeatedly.

What was the objective in Afghanistan for the US? If you ask most people, I would assume they'd say to catch Osama. But that wasn't a high priority in actuality. The 'liberation' talk was just talk. Possibly before Bully Boy starts the next war (Iran?), he should have to clearly state the objective of the war? He should have to clearly outline how 'success' will be measured?

I think if he (or any leader) had to do that there would be far less support for war. But instead, he'll probably attempt to market it on fear again. I hope we're smart enough not to fall for it but the administration really seems to want a war. Maybe they think it will raise his popularity again?

Well, I warned at the start that I didn't have any clear idea of what to write about tonight. Let me recommend Kat's "Don't gas bag on Tower, spare us all" and "Kyle Snyder." Also please visit Mikey Likes It! for Mike's thoughts and read the Iraq Study Group's recommendations that he, Nina and Tony wrote.

"Iraq snapshot" (The Common Ills):
December 1, 2006. Chaos and violence continue in Iraq, early numbers for November indicate a dramatic rise (another dramatic rise) in the number of civilian deaths, does the puppet of the occupation feel the EARTH . . . MOVE . .. under his feet (nod to Carole King "I Feel The Earth Move"), and the James Baker Circle Jerk continues to raise eyebrows.
Alastair Macdonald (Reuters) reports that the Iraq Interior Ministry has released their statistics for November's death toll in Iraq, 1,850 -- and increase of 44% from their count of 1,289 for October. Macdonald reminds, "Although it does not appear to encompass all violent deaths in Iraq, the Interior Ministry's statistical series has reflected trends".
And for the living? Not much better as
Dahr Jamail discussed with Nora Barrows-Friedman on KPFA's Flashpoints yesterday. Dahr explained how the violence was so common, the attacks so rampant, that for fear of their safety, many Iraqis no longer sent their children off to school (approximately 30% was the number given). On the topic of the daily violence and the people effected, Isam Rasheed (Alive in Baghdad) provides a video report from a clinic in Adhamiya where Ahmed Hameed (cigarette vendor) explains how a car bombing resulted in his hand and leg being lost, "I was working and someone left a car bomb. It blew up shortly after they had left. I woke up and found myself thrown against a wall beside my friend Shukri."; Shukri Abdul (owner of the Al-Areesh restaurant) then explains being outside his restaurant speking with an ice vendor when the car bomb went off "And I can remember landing on the ground. I was blown into the air, and when I landed, everything piled on top of me, the pots & corrugated metals." Shurki Abdul also lost his arm and foot and experienced severe damage to his back. This is the daily reality and, as Dahr pointed out, the only area under US control was the Green Zone section of Baghdad but now even the Bremer walls that wall off the section do not translate as 'safe.' Dahr spoke of speaking with a US marine stationed in Ramadi where he was part of 200 US forces expected to provide order to a city of 400,000.
Dahr noted that move to pull forces out of Ramadi and the rest of the Al-Anbar Province in order to send them to Baghdad to secure the capital. Earlier this week,
Dafna Linzer and Thomas E. Ricks (Washington Post) reported on a Marine Corps intelligence report entitled "State of Insurgency in Al-Anbar" which tagged the area "a failed province," one that was beyond US control. Also earlier this week, Jonathan Karl (ABC News) reported that, in an effort to 'secure' the capital -- 'crackdown' in any version didn't, the Pentagon is weighing pulling the 30,000 US troops out of the province and redeploying them to Baghdad.
Also addressed by Dahr was the issue of the realignmment on the ground in Iraq's parliament where new alliances are being formed with Muqtada al-Sadr's group and Dahr wondered exactly how much longer the puppet, Nouri al-Maliki, would be in place?
CBS and AP report that Tariq al-Hashemi, one of Iraq's two vice-presidents, has stated "he wanted to see al-Maliki's government gone and another 'understanding' for a new coalition put in place with guarantees that ensure collective decision making" while Salam Zikam Ali al-Zubaie (handmaiden to the puppet) has said the fault lies with the presidency (a ceremonial position) and not with the prime minister he (al-Zuabaie) serves under. If the memo Stephen Hadley penned November 8th is taken at all seriously don't be surprised to discover US monies are being tossed around right now in an attempt to ensure that new coalitions will be to the US administration's liking. Tom Hayden (Huffington Post) examines the events and notes "the sudden move by al-Sadr's Shiite bloc, which pulled out of the Baghdad government over al-Maliki's meeting with Bush, provides the anti-occupation coalition with significant, perhaps decisive, power, if they choose to bring down al-Maliki's shaky coalition." [Hayden's earlier reports on the al-Maliki upset are: "U.S. Retreat from Iraq? The Secret Story" and followed that with "Documents Reveal Secret Talks Between U.S. and Iraqi Armed Resistance."]
Did someone say shaky?
Thomas Wagner and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) report a double car bombing claimed one life and left six family members wounded in the Sadiyah section of Baghdad; while mortar rounds "near Muqdadiya" killed three and left 14 wounded; and, in Kirkuk, a car bomb took two lives and left three wounded. CBS and AP note a car bomb in Baghdad ("near a fruit and vegetable market") that killed two and left 16 more wounded. AFP notes, "A bomb exploded in the centre of Baghdad on the east side of the Tigris river, killing three people and wouding 16, while another car bomb killed three people on the outskirts of the capital."
Alastair Macdonald and Ahmed Rasheed (Reuters) report: "Machinegun fire rained from U.S. helicopters in central Baghdad . . . the Interior Ministry said one soldier had been killed and nine people wounded, including five soldiers." Reuters reports three people were killed by gunfire (two police officers, one civilian) in Samawa.
Reuters reports that 20 corpses were discovered in Baghdad and fourteen in Mosul while noting the fourteen had been kidnapped on Thursday.
Thomas Wagner and Sinan Salaheddin (AP) report that, Thursday, "Hadib Majhoul, chairman of the popular Talaba soccer club" was kidnapped.
In addition, the
US military announced: "A Multi-National Division - Baghdad Soldier was killed during combatoperations here Nov. 30." The death brings to 2,888 the total number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war according to ICCC's count and CNN's as well. Twelve away from the 2900 mark.
This as
Antonella Cinelli (Reuters) reports that "Italy pulled its last remaining troops out of Iraq on Friday, lowering the tricolour flag at its base in the south of a country where 32 of its soldiers have died since the contingent arrived in June 2003."
Meanwhile, although the
Iraq Study Group has released its findings, people continue to ponder the James Baker Circle Jerk. As noted by Amy Goodman (Democracy Now!) today, the James Baker Circle Jerk is rumored to call for a 2008 'withdrawal' that is not, in fact, a withdrawal. It's a continuation of the air war that Norman Solomon has been describing for months now. It's also the James Baker Circle Jerk stroking themselves on the public dollar. The onanistic nonsense not only revolves around the air war, it also pushes embedding US forces with Iraqi police squads and forces.
For those who've forgotten how Patrick McCaffrey died and the battle his mother Nadia McCaffrey has had to fight to force the US government to get honest could see the 'suggestion' as worthy of suggesting. (Patrick McCaffrey and Andre Tyson, with the US National Guard, were killed in Iraq. The US government told the families that the two men were killed by 'insurgents.' In reality, they were killed, June 22, 2004, by Iraqi security forces they were training.)
Addressing the James Baker Circle Jerk on this week's CounterSpin,
Gary Younge (Guardian of London; The Nation) observed to Steve Rendall,, "The fact that this study group was necessary itself highlights a flaw in American politics. Democracy should have been able to deal with this, not an appointed study group." As Younge explained the responsibility the group was tasked with was Congress' own responsibility . . . until they outsourced it.
In peace news,
Aaron Glantz (IPS) reports that the revelations of the US government spying on peace activists is not slowly plans for the march in Washington, DC January 27th. Among the groups spied on were CODEPINK, United For Peace and Justice, Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, the War Resisters League and the American Friends Service Committee.
War Resisters League will be presenting Sir! No Sir! tomorrow (Saturday, December 2nd) at both seven pm and nine-thirty pm. This kicks off the War Resisters League and the Brecht Forum's Screenpeace: An Antiwar Film Festival that will hold screenings of other films on Fridays during January.
In other activism news,
Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) are asking for a National "Mandate for Peace" Call-in Day, Monday, December 4th. To sign the petition click here. To phone your rep and senators, you can dial 202-224-3121. PDA notes: "On Election Day, voters said enough is enough -- we want a new direction. Let's make sure Congress hears it again by jamming the switchboards on Dec. 4 with our pleas to bring our troops home immediately."

the washington postdafna linzerthomas e. ricks