Posts from April 2005

Saturday Poetry Blogging: Canción del jinete (1923)

April is the poet’s month.

Today is the last day of the Ministry of Culture’s celebration of National Poetry Month. Across the border at D.E.D. Space, Diane has some parting thoughts:

Some final thoughts on poetry…

Why read it? Because a poem can do two things for you. It can cause you to have a moment–and a lifetime–of joy over language. And it can say for you what you yourself have not found adequate words, or maybe any words, to express. Such is the nature of art, that we are enriched by both the medium and the message.

When people say they do not like poetry, they are denying the language, and they are denying their connection with the rest of the world.

— D.E.D. Space 2005-04-30: National poetry month–Day 30

The poem selected for this weekend leans on that connection with the rest of the world; it comes from the gay Andalusian poet, playwright, and political martyr, Federico García Lorca (1898-1936). It was written in 1923 and is sometimes titled Canción de jinete (1860), evoking an era of smuggling through the Sierra Morena (the mountain range dividing Andalusia from northern Spain).

Canción del jinete

Córdoba.
Lejana y sola.

Jaca negra, luna grande,
y aceitunas en mi alforja.
Aunque sepa los caminos,
yo nunca llegaré a Córdoba.

Por el llano, por el viento,
jaca negra, luna roja.
La muerte me está mirando
desde las torres de Córdoba.

¡Ay que camino tan largo!
¡Ay mi jaca valerosa!
¡Ay que la muerte me espera,
antes de llegar a Córdoba!

Córdoba.
Lejana y sola.

Here’s a translation, mostly fairly literal, but also attempting to preserve something like the music of García Lorca’s Spanish.

The Rider’s Song

Cordoba.
Lonely in the distance.

A black nag, the giant moon
And olives in my saddlebag.
Even if I know the way,
I never will reach Cordoba.

Over the plain, into the wind,
A black nag, the red moon.
The Reaper is watching for me
From up in the towers of Cordoba.

Oh, such a long road!
Oh, my valient nag!
Oh, but the Reaper awaits me
Before I ever reach Cordoba.

Cordoba.
Lonely in the distance.

National Poetry Month 2005 selections

A feminist shindig in the Dirty South: Southern Girls Convention 2005 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

The Seventh Annual Southern Girls Convention will be held June 17-19, 2005, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Every year for the past 6 years, the Southern Girls Convention has brought out hundreds of rad folks to meet and to talk and to learn from each other–learning skills for activism and everyday life, sharing our experiences organizing deep in the heart of the so-called Red States, and taking it home to raise hell and work together to make our homes freer, safer, more just, and more loving places to be. It’s a place for Southern women and pro-woman activists to find each other, get together, work out our plans and our priorities, and begin to build the communities we want to live in in our own hometowns.

photo: Natasha Murphy

SGC’02 organizer Natasha Murphy

SGC is an unapologetically feminist, bottom-up, grassroots meeting. Each year it’s held in a different Southern community and put together with a new set of local organizers, working together with organizers from years past (if you didn’t know, I’m one myself; together with my friends Claire Rumore and Ailecia Ruscin, I helped put on the third annual Southern Girls Convention, which drew about 600 radical activists to Auburn, Alabama). The convention’s been held in Memphis, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Auburn, Alabama; Athens, Georgia; and Asheville, North Carolina; last year it returned to its birthplace in Memphis, and this year the seventh annual Southern Girls Convention will be held on June 17-19, 2005, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. We’re working to reconnect with the radical history of the American South–the cradle of the Confederacy and the birthplace of the Klan, yes, but also–lest we forget–the home of the modern Civil Rights movement, the birthplace of SNCC, and the home of women like Sarah and Angelina Grimke, Ida B. Wells, Rosa Parks, Fannie Lou Hamer, Elaine Brown, Casey Hayden, Rita Mae Brown, and others. We’re working to build an infrastructure for women’s liberation in the South — because the South is our home, it needs to change, and by God we’re the ones to do it.

There will be a weekend of workshops and social events for sharing skills, learning from each other about issues and campaigns, and just meeting and talking and networking (as they say) with each other. There will be music shows, free food, and a talk by bi feminist artist Magdalen Hsu-Li. There will also be childcare for children over the age of one, incidentally, and children will also be welcome in the convention space. Interested? Consider registering to attend. While you’re at it, if you have a skill you’d like to share or an issue or organization you’d like to talk with radical folks from across the South about, you should consider proposing a workshop! Part of the point of Southern Girls Convention is that we can all learn from each other; we don’t need professional activists coming in from the North to lecture us about how to organize ourselves. (N.B.: this doesn’t mean that professional activists from the North will be unwelcome at SGC; if you are one, we’d love for you to come. Just don’t expect it to be all about you!)

Here’s the announcement from this year’s organizers. Be sure to spread the word to anyone you think might be interested!

We are counting on you to spread the word for us! Please forward this message to any friends, family, colleagues, bulletin boards, listservs, or web pages that might be interested in the event!


Seventh Annual Southern Girls Convention

June 17-19, 2005 Baton Rouge, Louisiana

WWW: http://www.southerngirlsconvention.org/2005/

WHAT IS SOUTHERN GIRLS CONVENTION?

The Southern Girls Convention is an annual grassroots meeting for networking, organizing, educating, agitating, and activism, devoted to empowering women and girls in the South and furthering the struggle for social justice. Each year’s convention is hosted by a different Southern community and facilitated by local organizers. Past conventions have brought together hundreds of folks in Memphis, Tennessee; Louisville, Kentucky; Auburn, Alabama; Athens, Georgia; and Asheville, North Carolina.

This year’s convention will be heading as deep South as you can get: Southern Girls Convention invites activists from across the country to meet in BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA on the weekend of June 17-19, 2005. Hundreds of activists will meet for discussion, action, and entertainment devoted to building pro-woman community in the South.

WHAT CAN I DO THERE?

Southern Girls Convention is based around discussions, workshops, and presentations which give participants the opportunity to share skills, share ideas, discuss important issues, organize campaigns, and have fun as a community. All workshops are organized and facilitated by the participants themselves–that means you! Other events will include a talk by Southern bi feminist musician MAGDALEN HSU-LI, an “un-shop” swap meet, nightly music shows, and tables for participants and organizations to display information, zines, art, and things they have made.

SGC also allows hundreds of activists from across the country to meet, network, strategize, and organize in their efforts on behalf of social justice. Feel free to bring video projects, zines, writing, and anything you are interested in sharing to the convention.

Childcare will be available at the convention space.

Past workshops at SGC have included:

  • Group discussions on fatphobia, abortion rights and access, radical parenting, “100 Years of Revolutionary Wimmin,” the criminalization of women, “Queer and Trans Youth in the South,” gender bias in schools, sexism in the activist community, “Marginalization and Tokenization within the Grrrl Movement,” roles and strategies for boys in the struggle against male supremacy, and “Radical, Southern, and All Fired Up–Where Do We Go From Here?”

  • Skill-sharing on radical cheerleading, community access television, gun safety and self-defense, workplace union organizing, screen printing, sexercises, Internet organizing, and how to start a consciousness-raising group.

  • Organizing meetings for campaigns from Amnesty International, the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and Planned Parenthood, and state-by-state caucuses for people to meet fellow organizers in their own area.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Website: http://www.southerngirlsconvention.org/2005/
E-mail: SGC’05 Organizers organizers@southerngirlsconvention.org

PLEASE FORWARD THIS E-MAIL FAR AND WIDE! Send it to friends and e-mail lists, post it on your website, blog, or bulletin board… we are counting on YOU to help us spread the word. A fresh copy of the e-mail can be sent from our website at: http://www.southerngirlsconvention.org/2005/spread-the-word

Thank you, and we hope to see you there!

Southern Girls Convention 2005 Organizers
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

I’m doing my part with this note and a banner at the top of the page. If you support SGC and can help out by forwarding an e-mail to activist groups you’re a member of, putting up a banner, posting on your website, or whatever you like, don’t hesitate to do so–or to get in touch with me or with the Baton Rouge organizers to see what you can do to help us out.

Further reading:

Patents kill

So, it turns out that today is–by edict of WIPOWorld Intellectual Property Day 2005. Among the objectives set out for the day are:

  • To increase understanding of how protecting IP rights helps to foster creativity and innovation;
  • To raise awareness of the importance in daily life of patents, copyright, trademarks and designs.

Well, who could disagree with such educational goals? The Ministries of Culture and Science in this secessionist republic of one applaud the educational purposes of World Intellectual Property day, and offer the following in the effort to raise awareness of the importance in daily life of patents and copyrights, and to make sure that you understand exactly how protecting IP restrictions is fostering creativity and innovation.

Intellectual property restrictions are government-granted monopolies. They have nothing, actually, to do with property rights; what they do is seize ordinary people’s property and hold it hostage to the license-holders’ demands for ransom. They kill innovation because they kill new products; they kill new products because they invade other people’s real property — meaning pens, paper, scanners, computers, DVD players, and so on — in the attempt to lock down ideas — which are, by nature, non-rivalrous resources; this amounts to nothing less than a systematic and ruthless intellectual enclosure movement against what is and ought to be the common property of all humanity.

Now, as a techno-geek, I don’t like how this strangles the amazing innovation that we could be seeing in the intelligent use of audio, video, and text content, in this age of cheap computers and plentiful storage. But the plain fact is that this isn’t, really, about what your latest gizmo can or can’t do with your music library, and it’s not a topic for polite debate and economic wonkery. This is life and death. For example, in India recently:

India, a major source of inexpensive AIDS drugs, passed a new patent law yesterday that groups providing drugs to the world’s poorest patients fear will choke off their supply of new treatments.

The new law, amending India’s 1970 Patent Act, affects everything from electronics to software to medicines, and has been expected for years as a condition for India to join the World Trade Organization.

But because millions of poor people in India and elsewhere — including by some estimates half the AIDS patients in the Third World — rely on India’s generic drug industry, lobbyists for multinational drug companies as well as activists fighting for cheap drugs had descended on New Delhi to try to influence the outcome.

It’s very disappointing, but it could have been worse, said Daniel Berman, a coordinator of the global access campaign for the medical charity Doctors Without Borders. All generics could have been removed from the market.

Instead, all the generic drugs already approved in India can still be sold, though sellers must now pay licensing fees. There are also provisions allowing companies that make generics to copy drugs in the future.

But there are relatively tough criteria for such copying, and activists predicted that prices for newly invented drugs will be much higher, because drug makers will have the same 20-year patent monopolies as they have in the West. As AIDS patients develop resistance to old drugs, new treatments will become less affordable, they said.

In addition, it is unclear whether makers of generic drugs in other countries, like Brazil, China and Thailand, will fill any increasing demand for cheaper medicines.

All Western countries grant product patents on new inventions. Since 1970, India has granted process patents, which allow another inventor to patent the same product as long as it was created by a novel process. In pharmaceuticals, that has meant that a tiny tweak in the synthesis of a molecule yields a new patent. Several companies can produce the same drug, creating competition that drives down prices.

Before 1970, India’s patent laws came from its colonial days, and it had some of the world’s highest drug prices. Process patents on drugs, fertilizers and pesticides have extended life expectancy and ended regular famines.

In Africa, exports by Indian companies, especially Cipla and Ranbaxy Laboratories, helped drive the annual price of antiretroviral treatment down from $15,000 per patient a decade ago to about $200 now. They also simplified therapy by putting three AIDS drugs in one pill. Dr. Yusuf Hamied, Cipla’s chairman, called the new law a very sad day for India.

— New York Times 2005-03-24: India Alters Law on Drug Patents

And the same folks want to do the same thing to Latin America, through the adoption of CAFTA:

Found to be HIV-positive shortly before her husband died of AIDS-related complications last fall, an ailing Garcia was convinced of her own death sentence. But generic drugs have kept the virus in check and restored 60 lost pounds to her frame.

I now have hope, said the 52-year-old grandmother and flower vendor, who gets her medicine free from a nonprofit clinic.

Public health experts fear that hope might fade for Garcia and thousands of the region’s chronically ill if the Dominican Republic-Central American Free Trade Agreement, known as CAFTA, is approved this year.

Under the pact American pharmaceutical giants would gain a five-year edge on the development of new drugs by low-cost competitors. Generic versions of name-brand drugs are the main weapon for battling the AIDS pandemic in the developing world.

Healthcare activists say those intellectual property protections would drive up the cost of treating chronic conditions, particularly HIV/AIDS, sufferers of which routinely develop resistance to old medications. About 40 million people worldwide are infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and more than 275,000 of them live in the six Latin American CAFTA nations, according to United Nations statistics.

— LA Times 2005-04-22: AIDS Patients See Life, Death Issues in Trade Pact

Patents kill people. They mean that the pharmaceutical cartel can call up the armed bully-boys of almost every government in the world in order to enforce artificially high prices for their top money-makers; and that means that State violence is being used to prevent affordable, life-saving drugs from reaching the desparately poor of the world. The multilateral so-called free trade agreements of the past couple decades — NAFTA, the WTO, and upcoming plans such as CAFTA and the FTAA — are slowly cutting back on traditional industrial protectionism while dramatically expanding the scale, scope, and deadly reach of intellectual protectionism.

To hell with that. Intellectual property is not about incentivizing or encouraging or opportunities. It’s about force: invading other people’s property to force them to render long-term rents to you long after you have stopped putting any particular work into what you’re claiming to be yours. A necessary corollary is that it also means invading those who offer innovations based on the work that you have done unless those innovations comply with a very narrow set of guidelines for authorized use. You have no right to do that, and you sure don’t have the right to do it at the expense of innocent people’s lives. A free society needs a free culture. Patents kill and freedom save people’s lives. This is as simple as it gets. Écrassez l’infâme: écrassez l’etat.

Further reading

Peace Officers

(Thanks to Marian Douglas for shining light on this.)

We already knew that Florida cops were willing to electrify a 6 year old boy and a 12 year old girl with a 50,000 volt blast from a taser. The 6 year old was distraught and threatening to hurt himself (after all, why hurt yourself when you can have a cop immobilize you with pain?); the 12 year old’s crime was playing hooky and maybe being a little tipsy, and the incredibly dangerous imminent threat she posed was that she ran away from the cop and so might have been able to skip school. Back when it happened, I mentioned that the main reaction from the police brass was to review the decision to equip cops with tasers–as if the equipment were the primary problem here. I also mentioned that we might be better served by scrutinizing the paramilitary police culture that we have, in which peace officers are trained to take control of every situation at all times, by any means necessary, and where any notion of proportionality between the possible harm and the violence used to maintain control is routinely chucked out the window in the name of law and order and winning the war on crime.

I hate being proven right.

It doesn’t take fancy electric tasers for Florida cops to be overbearing, brutal assholes. They can do it the old-fashioned way: for example, by sending three adult officers to pin a five year old girl’s arms behind her back and handcuff her.

A lawyer has threatened to sue police officers who handcuffed an allegedly uncontrollable five-year-old after she acted up at a Florida kindergarten.

The officers were called by the school after a teacher and assistant principal failed to calm down the little girl.

The incident was caught on a video camera which was rolling in the classroom as part of a self-improvement exercise at the St Petersburg school.

A lawyer for the girl’s mother said the episode was ncomprehensible.

The video, made public by the lawyer this week, shows the unfolding of the violent tantrum, which started when the little girl refused to take part in a maths lesson.

She then ripped some papers off a bulletin board and lashed out at staff trying to calm her down.

After calling her mother and learning she would not be able to pick up the child for at least one more hour, the teachers resorted to calling the police.

Three officers rushed to the scene and handcuffed the girl, by that time apparently calm, after pinning her arms behind her back.

The footage showed her in distress after being handcuffed.

— BBC 2005-04-23: U.S. police handcuff five-year-old

One of the minor consolations of subjecting schoolchildren to a school police state is that the surveillance has left a video record of the handcuffing.

So a kindergardner is uncontrollable and this justifies calling the cops, and then (even though she wasn’t doing anything anymore, just in case she got any ideas) hand-cuffing her as she screams.

By the way, this is not the first time that this has happened

Trayvon McRae is 6 years old.

After throwing a tantrum in music class, and kicking and hitting a St. Petersburg police officer who was taking him home, this kindergartener was handcuffed and arrested on a charge of battery on a law enforcement officer. Both of his wrists fit neatly into a single cuff.

Mikey Rao was 8 when he got arrested.

He didn’t want to go to the principal’s office, so he ran out of his class and kicked and scratched a teacher’s aide. He spent several hours in the Citrus County Jail.

Demetri Starks turned 9 last week.

One day this summer, when he was still 8, he swiped a neighbor’s jar of change. Police stopped the 60-pound St. Petersburg boy wearing a T-shirt covered with monsters from the cartoon Digimon. They handcuffed him and sent him to a detention center where he stayed locked up for nine days.

— St. Petersburg Times 2000-12-17: Under 12, Under Arrest

Hell, it’s not even the only time that it’s happened recently.

Two boys, aged 9 and 10, were charged with second-degree felonies and taken away in handcuffs by the police because they drew stick figures depicting violence against a third student.

There was no act of violence, no weaponry. According to news reports, the arrested children had no prior history of threatening the student depicted in the drawing. The parents were not advised or consulted. The school’s immediate response was to call the police and level charges “of making a written threat to kill or harm another person.”

The incident was not an aberration but one of three similar occurrences in the Florida school system during the same week. In another case, a 6-year-old was led away in handcuffs by police. And those three incidents are only the ones that managed to attract media attention.

— Wendy McElroy 2005-02-10: On Handcuffed and Felonious Children

(Just in case you Blue Staters were thinking about getting smug about those barbarians down yonder in Florida, you might also be interested to know about the California cops who beat the shit out of a non-verbal autistic teenager who didn’t follow their orders–using bludgeons, a taser, and pepper spray.)

photo: Two cops hunker down with tactical gear and assault rifles

Hello, we’re the cops, and we’re here to keep you safe!

The cops, of course, continue to treat these cases as a P.R. management problem, not a public safety problem created by out-of-control cops. That’s because the cops aren’t out of control; they are doing what cops normally do in our society; we only know about it here because the victims were vulnerable enough that their caretakers were able to get the attention of the newsmedia and the civil courts. We are not talking about a few bad apples here; we are talking about a systematic feature of policing in our society. We’re not talking about something that a bit of administrative hand-wringing and P.R. management and tinkering with equipment will solve. Police brutality, especially police brutality against unruly Black people, ain’t exactly new. This is what happens when the means of defense are almost entirely in the hands of a professionalized paramilitary force. You get an institutional culture of command-and-control. You get unaccountable peace officers who go on a rampage when their orders are questioned, and who apparently don’t have any principled inhibitions about using force on people that is wildly out of proportion to any possible threat. (Restraint can especially go out the window if they are Black. Or if they are otherwise thought to be unlikely to get sympathetic attention from the courts.)

So just remember, Johnny: the cops are here to keep you safe. By hurting you for no reason when you pose absolutely no threat to anyone.

Further reading

Credo

Bitch. Ph.D. is always a good place to go for a good discussion. Several days ago she started one that has been fascinating reading, and that I’d like to see spread more broadly: we often talk about so-called feminisms–emphasizing the variety amidst our unity. Well, O.K.; but that does mean that at some point you’re going to have to come out and say what your commitment to feminism does mean for you. So, she asks, What is your feminism about?

Here’s what the good doctor had to say about it herself:

In many ways, I suspect my feminism is fairly bourgeois. I don’t want a revolution that doesn’t allow me to dance, flirt, and buy shoes. On the other hand, my feminism is fairly absolute in that I will not allow myself (or others) to demonize “radical feminists” or to ignore poor women or women of color, and I object very strongly when I see women fighting with each other over crumbs. I’m sure I do it too, sometimes, but I try very hard not to. My feminism is material in the sense that I believe that the body is irreducible (more and more so, as I age, and more since becoming a mother). I do not believe that there are no differences between men and women; but I believe that what differences there are have been vastly exaggerated by social conditioning, and I reject essentialism. My feminism likes men, and is sympathetic to the ways that they, too, suffer from narrow definitions of gender. My feminism insists on being heard, and will not give up a fight, and will not back down. On the other hand, my feminism deplores unfairness, meanness, and insensitivity. I believe in principles, including the principle that people matter. I believe in forgiveness and second chances, and in teaching, and in learning; and I also believe in having high expectations and firm boundaries. My feminism is polemical but embraces ambiguities. My feminism is aggressive and protective.

— Bitch. Ph.D. 2005-04-17: Feminisms

I think that most of what I would have to say at length would come around to many (tho’ not all) of the same points. I’m actually probably less concerned than she is with whatever suffering men might face (as men–gay-baiting and gay-bashing are different issues) under patriarchy. But I thought this was beautiful, and when it comes to teaching, and learning, sympathy and solidarity, high expectations and an absolute commitment to compassion over hurtfulness and meanness, I couldn’t agree more.

And for myself? Here’s how I try to put things when I come to think about what my commitment to feminism means for me:

My feminism is simple and direct. Politics is hard and complicated, but ideology shouldn’t be. If you like ticking things off, you could say that my feminism rests on Five Pillars. Here they are:

  1. It’s wrong to hurt other people. There are no excuses for hurting other people who have done nothing to deserve it.

  2. Women are people.

  3. In the society we live in, men hurt women who have done nothing to deserve it, all the time, more or less with impunity, because these men regard hurting women as something that they have a right to do.

  4. I have a responsibility (and so do you) to do what I can toward ending that–immediately, entirely, and for good.

  5. Women know more than I do about how men hurt them, and about how to end that.

The rest is all details.

So. What about you? What is your feminism about?