Posts tagged South Dakota

Mutual aid for Pretty Bird Woman House: help a woman’s refuge on Standing Rock Reservation rise from the ashes

Pretty Bird Woman House is a women’s shelter on the Standing Rock Lakota Sioux reservation in South Dakota. The refuge was opened in January 2006 against incredible odds and with almost no resources in one of the poorest places in the United States — 45% of Native American women in South Dakota live in poverty, and the unemployment rate on Standing Rock Reservation is 71%. But they stayed open continuously, thanks in part to creative outreach efforts for grassroots funding through the Internet. This year, with a staff of three women, the shelter answered nearly 400 crisis calls, helped 16 women get medical assistance, and gave emergency refuge to 188 women and 132 children. For these courageous and life-saving efforts, they have had to face down the hatred of some violent, controlling men. After two break-ins at the shelter house, the staff went back to using an old, unheated office space and transferring women to far-away shelters off the reservation. The day after they evacuated, the building was firebombed and burned down. They have been operating without an on-site house out of an unheated office in below-zero temperatures, while they reach out to find the money to build a new sanctuary from violence.

In order to rebuild, PBWH is trying to raise $70,000 by the end of next month. They have raised over $50,000 and you can help them reach their goal. Any donation will help immensely (most of what they have raised so far has come from small donations). To learn more about Pretty Bird Woman House, or to follow their progress, you can read more at their blog. Andy Ternay at Street Prophets has an in-depth history of Pretty Bird Woman House, an overview on the violence faced by women on Standing Rock Reservation, an explanation of the shelter’s immediate needs, and comments from the director, Georgia Little Shield.

You can make a contribution immediately online through PayPal:

Or you can send a check made out to Pretty Bird Woman House to:

Pretty Bird Woman House
P.O. Box 596
McLaughlin, SD 57642

All donations are tax-deductible. Please give whatever you can. And please use your blog, e-mail, or whatever means you have at your disposal to let your friends and contacts know about this effort. Pretty Bird Woman House must, and will, rise from the ashes, and together we can help make that happen as soon as possible.

May Day 2006: A Day of Resistance

Let us sink such differences as nationality, religion, politics, and set our eyes eternally and forever toward the rising star of the industrial republic of labor; remembering that we have left the old behind and have set our faces toward the future. There is no power on earth that can stop men and women who are determined to be free at all hazards. There is no power on earth so great as the power of intellect. It moves the world and it moves the earth.

— Lucy Parsons (1905): Speech to the Industrial Workers of the World

From last year’s commemorative post:

Today is May Day, or International Worker’s Day: a day to celebrate the long, hard struggle of workers for freedom, self-determination, and a better life. The day originated during the heady days of the Eight Hour Day campaign in the late 19th century, a campaign led not by bureaucratic union bosses, much less by Marxist thugs, but by ordinary workers agitating and organizing amongst themselves. Most of them were anarchists, and their struggle was as much against State power as it was against the bosses (part of the reason for May Day commemorations, mind you, is to remember the Haymarket martyrs, anarchists murdered by the state of Illinois).

— GT 2005-05-01: May Day, May Day

From Kevin Carson’s commemorative post from last year:

May Day, the international holiday of the socialist and workers’ movements, is popularly viewed in the U.S. as that commie holiday. It’s commonly associated with big parades and displays of military hardware on Red Square, and exchanges of fraternal greetings between leaders of the USSR and its satellites.

In fact, though, it’s a holiday that started in the U.S., and is as American as apple pie. In 1884, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, predecessor of the AFL, called for a nationwide general strike in favor of the eight-hour day. It was to be introduced on May 1, 1886. The political strife resulting directly from that movement included the Haymarket bomb and the subsequent police and judicial riot. The celebration of May Day as a worker’s holiday dates back to that movement.

The foreign and communist associations of May Day, in the popular mind, are in large part the outcome of an elite propaganda campaign in the U.S. U.S. ruling circles attempted to identify the assorted workers’ and populist movements, in popular consciousness, with foreign radicalism, “unAmericanism,” and “Red Ruin.” This campaign finally paid off in the War Hysteria and subsequent Red Scare of the Wilson administration, which was used as an opportunity to suppress (via mass arrests, criminal syndicalism laws, etc.) organizations as diverse as the I.W.W., the Non-Partisan League, and the Farmer-Labor Party. Thanks to the war propaganda, the Palmer Raids and the quasi-private vigilantism of groups like the American Legion, socialism largely ceased to exist as a mass-based movement in the U.S. Around the same time, Congress designated May 1 as Loyalty Day.

— Kevin Carson, Mutualist Blog (2005-04-29): May Day Thoughts: Individualist Anarchism and the Labor Movement

Which is not to say that the Bolsheviks and the business unionists weren’t more than happy to play along, and lay claim to this day (and labor radicalism as a whole) as if it were their idea, or their rightful heritage. Hell, the pro-government trade union bosses and the nostalgic apparatchiks are still using it to mill about in public, longing for the good old days of tanks and commissars and ballistic missiles hauled down the street:

MOSCOW (AFP) — Tens of thousands of people marched through central Moscow on Monday to celebrate May Day in peaceful demonstrations organized by pro-government trade unions and Communists nostalgic for Soviet times.

About 25,000 trade union members called for a social state, holding balloons and flowers, according to police spokesman, Viktor Biryukov, quoted by ITAR-TASS news agency.

Several thousand Communist Party supporters also marched from the Lenin monument on October Square to a bust of Karl Marx near Red Square, carrying red flags and portraits of Stalin, an AFP reporter at the march said.

— USA Today (2006-05-01): Trade unions, Communists march through Moscow on May Day

We know, or if we don’t know we damned well should by now, what the Bolshevik cannibal-empire really meant for trade unions and for ordinary workers. To hell with that, and to hell with any holiday that celebrates it. But we also know, or if we damned well should by now, that this holiday isn’t theirs to ruin. As I said last year:

One of the (many) crimes of the state socialists in the 20th century was their wholesale theft of May Day; what had been and properly remains a day for celebrating the free actions of ordinary workers became, in the bloody talons of the so-called workers’ states, a day for celebrating socialist God-Kings and hideous parades of military power. The folks over at Catallarchy have gone so far as to name May Day a Day of Remembrance for the victims of state Communism. What they are doing is important. The Moloch of Marxist-Leninism consumed more victims than any other power that the world has known in history—through mass executions, through unbelievable mass starvation, through pestilence, through death camps, through war. History is important and memory is political; the stories are harrowing but they need to be told. But I do not think that May Day is the day for the solemn observations. I think that this gives the butchers too much credit. Marxist-Leninism stole May Day from anarchists, from workers, like it stole everything else it ever gained in the 20th century. It did its best to silence its victims, like it did to silence all its other victims, with a bullet to the head and piles of pirated loot to parties and unions that would toe the Bolshevik line. I will not give up May Day to them any more than I will give Juneteenth up to William Tecumseh Sherman or give Easter up to the Holy Inquisition. (If you’re looking for a day of remembrance, I’d suggest the 6th of March, the day that the Kronstadt massacre began.) But today is the International Workers’ Day, not the State’s day—meaning neither the bureaucratic-managerial state so beloved of the conservative AFL-line unions, nor the blood-soaked workers’ states (a contradiction in terms).

— GT 2005-05-01: May Day, May Day

May Day is and ought to be a Day of Resistance, of defiance against the arrogance and exploitation of the bosses — whether corporate or political. A day to celebrate workers’ struggles for dignity, and for freedom, through organizing in their own self-interest, through agitating and exhorting for solidarity, and through free acts of worker-led direct action to achieve their goals. So what a real joy it is to see May Day 2006 honored through general strikes across the country, demanding freedom and respect for immigrant workers:

It is being billed as The Great American Boycott 2006. Tomorrow, international labour day in the US, thousands or perhaps millions of people are expected to join in a nationwide boycott to protest against proposals that would toughen existing immigration laws.

Under the slogan No work, no school, no sales, no buying, the boycott will be accompanied by marches and protests across the country. Organisers hope that it will build on the unexpected scale of the anti-immigration reform protest held at the end of March, which saw around half a million people take to the streets of Los Angeles and helped push the immigration debate to the top of the political agenda.

Protesters have been galvanised by the passage of a bill in the House of Representatives in December that focused on tougher restrictions on illegal immigrants without offering any route to legality.

Today’s protests will include events in 72 American cities, 25 of them in California, as well as Mexico, where a boycott of US goods and services is planned. Subcomandante Marcos and his Zapatista rebel movement have promised to hold a rally outside the US embassy in Mexico City.

The biggest US demonstrations are expected to take place in New York, Chicago — where estimates suggest that around 300,000 people will turn out — and Los Angeles, where two demonstrations are planned, each of which could attract 500,000 people, according to police estimates.

— The Guardian (2006-05-01): US protesters stage one-day boycott over immigrant bill

From FOX40 KTXL in Sacramento:

We’re here to make a statement, said Catalina Hernandez, an environmental specialist who brought her niece and nephew to one of the Los Angeles marches. All these people didn’t just appear here overnight. We’ve been here all this time.

Many of the demonstrators were like Juana Teresa Kouyoumdjian, 35, who by 5 p.m. had spent eight hours marching through Los Angeles with her brother, Enrique Orellana, 36, and still faced a long trek back downtown to their car.

Quitting wasn’t an option because I want to fight to the very end, said Kouyoumdjian, who is now legal after illegally coming to the United States from El Salvador 16 years ago.

The boycott’s economic power was evident at the Los Angeles and Long Beach harbors, where despite being the nation’s largest port complex few trucks were rolling. In all, traffic was off 90 percent, said Theresa Adams Lopez, spokeswoman for the Port of Los Angeles.

… In California’s agricultural heartland, immigrant farmworkers took the day off to march and rally in towns throughout the San Joaquin Valley.

Several hundred farmworkers marched in downtown Porterville, 70 miles southeast of Fresno, waving American flags. Outside town, groves still holding some of the winter’s orange crop were empty of workers.

We’ve got to help all the people living here without papers, said Samuel Jimenez, 54, a Mexican farmworker who lives Porterville.

— FOX 40 KTXL-TV Sacramento (2006-05-01): Immigration Rallies Draw Thousands

Chicago, May Day 2006

From the Associated Press, via Forbes online:

More than 1 million mostly Hispanic immigrants and their supporters skipped work and took to the streets Monday, flexing their economic muscle in a nationwide boycott that succeeded in slowing or shutting many farms, factories, markets and restaurants.

From Los Angeles to Chicago, Houston to Miami, the Day Without Immigrants attracted widespread participation despite divisions among activists over whether a boycott would send the right message to Washington lawmakers considering sweeping immigration reform.

We are the backbone of what America is, legal or illegal, it doesn’t matter, said Melanie Lugo, who with her husband and their third-grade daughter joined a rally of some 75,000 in Denver. We butter each other’s bread. They need us as much as we need them.

Two major rallies in Los Angeles attracted an estimated 400,000, according to the mayor’s office. Police in Chicago estimated 400,000 people marched through the downtown business district.

Tens of thousands more marched in New York, along with about 15,000 in Houston, 50,000 in San Jose and 30,000 more across Florida. Smaller rallies in cities from Pennsylvania and Connecticut to Arizona and South Dakota attracted hundreds not thousands.

In all, police departments in more than two dozen U.S. cities contacted by The Associated Press gave crowd estimates that totaled about 1.1 million marchers.

The mood was jubilant. Marchers standing shoulder-to-shoulder filmed themselves on home video and families sang and chanted and danced in the streets wearing American flags as capes and bandanas. In most cities, those who rallied wore white to signify peace and solidarity.

In Los Angeles, the city streets were a carpet of undulating white that stretched for several miles, with palm trees and grass-covered medians poking through a sea of humanity. Marchers holding U.S. flags aloft sang the national anthem in English as traditional Mexican dancers wove through the crowd.

In Chicago, illegal immigrants from Ireland and Poland marched alongside Hispanics as office workers on lunch breaks clapped. In Phoenix, protesters formed a human chain in front of Wal-Mart and Home Depot stores. Protesters in Tijuana, Mexico, blocked vehicle traffic heading to San Diego at the world’s busiest border crossing.

Many carried signs in Spanish that translated to We are America and Today we march, tomorrow we vote. Others waved Mexican flags or wore hats and scarves from their native countries. Some chanted USA while others shouted slogans, such as Si se puede! Spanish for Yes, it can be done! Others were more irreverent, wearing T-shirts that read I’m illegal. So what?

— Gillian Flaccus, Forbes.com (2006-05-01): Update 26: 1M Immigrants Skip Work for Demonstration

Immigration creeps have mostly been muted today, but this is driving them up the wall, because they knowexactly what it means:

Make no mistake. This day is about confrontation, intimidation, and extortion. No American, no person who hopes to be an American, should embrace an action that has criminals demanding that their law breaking be overlooked and even celebrated.

—Kleinheider, Volunteer Voter weblog, quoted by david, the view from below (2006-05-01): Immigrant Action Reaction

Of course, there’s no actual extortion involved in refusing to work for a day; workers are not your servants, not even immigrant workers, and declining to freely give their work for a day is not forcing you to give up anything that was yours to begin with. But you’re damned right that this is about confrontation, and you’re damned right that it’s about defying the law.

You express a great deal of anxiety over our willingness to break laws. This is certainly a legitimate concern. … One may well ask: How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others? The answer is found in the fact that there are two types of laws: There are just and there are unjust laws. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with Saint Augustine that An unjust law is no law at all.

— Martin Luther King Jr. (1963-04-16): Letter from Birmingham Jail

And it is an unjust law: neither you nor the government has any right to commandeer the lives and livelihoods of innocent workers to satisfy your Law-and-Order hang-ups, or your theo-national power trip.

But this is ultimately beside the point anyway. Even if failing to learn English was a dreadful threat to the prospects of liberty; even if not celebrating Veterans’ Day or Flag Day or Arbor Day were an ominous step towards totalitarianism, it would provide absolutely no justification whatever for using force to stop people from traveling to property where they are welcomed by the owner (either out of hospitality, or because they pay rent, or because they are prepared to buy it for themselves). Certain kinds of bad thoughts may very well be corrosive to liberty, but there’s no libertarian justification in restraining, beating, shooting, detaining, jailing, or exiling somebody just for having bad thoughts. Neither you nor the government has any right to force people off of property onto which they have been invited, even if you think that their presence is a looming danger to the future of liberty in America, unless they have actually done or threatened real violence to somebody else. Vices are not crimes, and only crimes can justly be resisted by force.

— GT 2006-03-31: Libertarians Against Property Rights: You Will Be Assimilated Edition

What we are witnessing today, and have been witnessing for the past few weeks, is nothing less than an explosively growing freedom movement. A freedom movement bringing millions into the streets, bringing together labor militancy and internationalism. And it is being done in defiance of the violence of La Migra, the bullying bigotry of the nativist creeps, and the condescending hand-wringing of the sympathetic politicos. It is exactly what May Day was made for. And exactly what the kind of creeps behind the Loyalty Days of the world — whether state-communist or state-capitalist — fear the most: ordinary people standing together, celebrating together, free, happy, irreverant, and unafraid.

There will be a time when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!

—Last words of August Spies (1887-11-11), immigrant, anarchist, and Haymarket martyr

Happy May Day.

Past commemorations

Further reading: immigration and events today

Further reading: the meaning of May Day

Further reading: from Geekery Today

Creative extremism, or: news from the front

From GT 2006-03-08: Abortion on demand and without apology (Dakota Remix):

What you need to realize is that we are facing off with people (and, let’s be clear, most of them are men) who have absolutely no compunction with commandeering real women’s lives, livelihoods, and bodies in the name of their theologico-political power trips, because their victims are women and women are (in the minds of the bellowing blowhard brigade) made for the Culture of Life’s use, even if that means involuntary servitude enforced at the point of a pro-life bayonet. Meanwhile the sanctimonious politicos (and, let’s be clear, most of them are men, too) supposedly on our side bite their lips and palaver about [the tragedy of necessary gynaecological surgery][Pollitt] and generally act as though their brothers’ claims of dominion over other women’s bodies deserved something less than contempt and resistance. We are the new abolitionists, and it is long past time for the Clintonian hand-wringers and the take-one-for-the-party doughfaces who claim to be part of this movement to shut the hell up and get to the back. If they refuse to, I suggest that it’s our duty to jeer them into silence until they do. Can we get some moral outrage here? Some feminism? Some creative extremism?

A couple days later, Dain commented:

So just what is the decentralist and libertarian response to this move by South Dakota?

Well, here you go. First:

In the 1960s and early 1970s, when abortions were illegal in many places and expensive to get, an organization called Jane stepped up to the plate in the Chicago area. Jane initially hired an abortion doctor, but later they did the abortions themselves. They lost only one patient in 13,000 — a lower death rate than that of giving live birth. The biggest obstacle they had, though, was the fact that until years into the operation, they thought of abortion as something only a doctor could do, something only the most trained specialist could perform without endangering the life of the woman.

They were deceived — much like you have probably been deceived. An abortion, especially for an early pregnancy, is a relatively easy procedure to perform. And while I know, women of South Dakota, that you never asked for this, now is the time to learn how it is done. There is no reason you should be beholden to doctors — especially in a state where doctors have been refusing to perform them, forcing the state’s only abortion clinic to fly doctors in from elsewhere.

No textbooks or guides existed at that time to help them, and the equipment was hard to find. This is no longer true. For under $2000, any person with the inclination to learn could create a fully functioning abortion setup allowing for both vacuum aspiration and dilation/curettage abortions. If you are careful and diligent, and have a good grasp of a woman’s anatomy you will not put anyone’s health or life in danger, even if you have not seen one of these procedures performed.

Today, I will discuss dilation and curettage — what used to be the most common abortion procedure before vacuum aspiration took its place. Vacuum aspiration is an easier method, but sometimes remaining fetal/placental material necessitates doing a cleanup D&C anyway, so you should know how to do this procedure first. …

— Molly Saves the Day (2006-02-23): For the women of South Dakota: an abortion manual

And reader, she does. Read the whole thing. Save a copy on your own computer. I hope you never need it, but do it anyway.

Secondly, here’s another good suggestion, and some even better news:

This might be the time non-Indian South Dakotans might want to carefully and respectfully approach their neighbors on sovereign Indian reservations and discuss funding good quality private health clinics which also include access, for tribal members as well as reservations visitors, to reproductive services. … However, since Indian reservations are not subject to state regulations and since abortion, according to the federal government, is still legal nationally, South Dakota could not regulate such private, Indian-owned clinics on tribal land.

— MB, commenting at Pandagon (2006-02-23)

And:

The President of the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, Cecilia Fire Thunder, was incensed. A former nurse and healthcare giver she was very angry that a state body made up mostly of white males, would make such a stupid law against women.

To me, it is now a question of sovereignty, she said to me last week. I will personally establish a Planned Parenthood clinic on my own land which is within the boundaries of the Pine Ridge Reservation where the State of South Dakota has absolutely no jurisdiction.

Strong words from a very strong lady. I hope Ms. Fire Thunder challenges Gov. Rounds and the state legislators on this law that is an affront to all independent women.

— Tim Giago at Indianz.com (2006-03-21): Oglala Sioux president on state abortion law

The story is thanks to Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-03-22), who also relays this:

If you want to mail donations to the reservation, you may do so at:

Oglala Sioux Tribe
ATTN: President Fire Thunder
P. O. Box 2070
Pine Ridge, SD 57770

OR: and this may be preferred, due to mail volume:

ATTN: PRESIDENT FIRE THUNDER
PO BOX 990
Martin, SD 57751

Enclose a letter voicing your support and explaining the purpose of the donation. Bear in mind, the Pine Ridge Res is not exactly dripping with disposeable income, so do consider donating funds directly to the tribe as well as specifically for this effort.

ETA: Make checks out to OST Planned Parenthood Cecelia Fire Thunder. This will ensure that the funds get routed properly.

For email contact, you can contact the president at:

firethunder_president@yahoo.com
cc: vbush@oglala.org

For the sake of record keeping, do cc: the listed address on all correspondence; that’s her official secretary.

— Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-03-22): Quick post: Show love!

Do it. Seriously. Now.

I can’t think of a better direction for the pro-choice movement than this: defiance, direct action, and polycentric law. These are grim times that we face, but this is the way that hope lies.

Abortion on demand and without apology (Dakota Remix)

Bill Napoli, member of the arbitrary Senate over the state of South Dakota, 3 March 2006:

You know, I we are really think we’re pushing the envelope on that issue. I’m not sure that the Supreme Court is ready for us yet, but what’s that old saying, There’s no time like the present?

— Bill Napoli, interviewed, Online NewsHour (2006-03-03): South Dakota Abortion Ban

The Guardian, 8 March 2006:

But, unusually for conservatives emboldened by the installation in the White House of a committed Christian, the prospect of a confrontation over abortion has caused some uneasiness in the anti-abortion movement. Is the US public ready for an absolute ban on abortion? Is the supreme court prepared to reverse 30 years of legal precedence? Governor Rounds apparently thinks so.

He and other abortion opponents argue the time is ripe for the supreme court to overturn Roe v Wade, the 1973 decision that granted a woman’s legal right to abortion. In the past five months, two justices have been sworn in to America’s highest court, chosen by Mr Bush for their conservative credentials. The reversal of a supreme court opinion is possible, Mr Rounds said.

The law he endorsed this week takes a maximalist approach, affirming that: Life begins at the time of conception, a conclusion confirmed by scientific advances since the 1973 decision, including the fact that each human being is totally unique immediately at fertilisation. It would make it a crime for doctors to perform an abortion even in cases of rape or incest, punishable by a $5,000 (£2,850) fine and a five-year jail term. It makes an exception where a woman’s life is endangered.

The law does not come into effect until July 1 - giving supporters of abortion rights time to challenge it in the courts.

Abortion opponents in other states also believe the balance at the supreme court has swung in their favour and have readied their own challenges to Roe v Wade. The state legislature in Mississippi voted for an abortion ban last Thursday - with exceptions for rape and incest - and legislation has been introduced in Missouri, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee since the second Bush term began.

— Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian (2006-03-08): State’s abortion ban fires first shot in a long war over women’s rights

Mike Rounds, arbitrary governor over the state of South Dakota, 6 March 2006:

HB 1215 passed South Dakota’s legislature with bi-partisan sponsorship and strong bi-partisan support in both houses. Its purpose is to eliminate most abortions in South Dakota. It does allow doctors to perform abortions in order to save the life of the mother. It does not prohibit the taking of contraceptive drugs before a pregnancy is determined, such as in the case of rape or incest.

In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. The sponsors and supporters of this bill believe that abortion is wrong because unborn children are the most vulnerable and most helpless persons in our society. I agree with them.

Because this new law is a direct challenge to the Roe versus Wade interpretation of the Constitution, I expect this law will be taken to court and prevented from going into effect this July. That challenge will likely take years to be settled and it may ultimately be decided by the United States Supreme Court. Our existing laws regulating abortions will remain in effect.

— Statement by Gov. Mike Rounds on the Signing Of House Bill 1215 (2006-03-06)

The Guardian, 8 March 2006:

The South Dakota challenge marks a change in strategy for the anti-abortion movement, which had focused its energies on limiting the numbers of abortions in the US. Over the years, activists have restricted government funding, access to abortion past the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and access for minors.

In South Dakota, there is only one abortion clinic, on the edge of a state that spans some 400 miles. Abortions are performed only eight days a month. The state’s Planned Parenthood clinic in Sioux Falls was already fielding calls yesterday from women anxious that the facility might close. There already were huge logistical mountains to climb for women in South Dakota. It is an intolerable situation today, and the South Dakota legislature and governor made it even worse if such a thing can be imagined, said Sarah Stoesz, president of Planned Parenthood for Minnesota, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

The situation is nearly as dire in Mississippi - which also has just one clinic prepared to perform abortions - and also difficult in other states.

— Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian (2006-03-08): State’s abortion ban fires first shot in a long war over women’s rights

Scott McClellan, official press flack for the arbitrary President over the United States, 7 March 2006:

Q Scott, as you probably know, the Governor of South Dakota has now signed this abortion measure that the state legislature passed. Do you anticipate the administration will weigh in on this as it makes its way through the courts?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me express to you the President’s views. The President believes very strongly that we should be working to build a culture of life in America, and that’s exactly what he has worked to do. We have acted in a number of ways, practical ways, to reduce the number of abortions in America. The President strongly supported the ban on partial-birth abortions. This is an abhorrent procedure, and we are vigorously defending that legislation. We have acted in a number of other ways, as well.

Now, I think this issue goes to the larger issue of the type of people that the President appoints to the Supreme Court. And the President has made it very clear he doesn’t have a litmus test when it comes to the Supreme Court, that he will nominate people to the bench that strictly interpret our Constitution and our laws. But this is law that was passed by the South Dakota legislature and signed into law by the Governor of that state. And the President’s view when it comes to pro-life issues has been very clearly stated, and his actions speak very loudly, too.

Q So, again — now it’s going to wend its way through the courts. Will the administration weigh in, in the appeals process that is going to inevitably —

MR. McCLELLAN: Again, this is a state — this is a state law.

Q No, but it’s going to become a federal matter —

MR. McCLELLAN: It’s a state matter. The President is going to continue working to build a culture of life. He believes very strongly that we ought to value every human life, and that we ought to take steps to protect the weak and vulnerable, and that’s exactly what we have done. Now, you’re getting into the question of a state law, and so that’s something that will — the state will pursue.

Q But, Scott, no, maybe you don’t understand — it’s going to become a federal issue because it’s going —

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, let me reiterate. Maybe I’m not being clear — because the President has stated what his view is when it comes to the sanctity of life. He’s committed to defending the sanctity of life. He is pro-life with three exceptions — rape, incest and the life of — when the life of the mother is in danger. That’s his position. This is a state law, Peter. And I’m not going to —

Q So he would embrace this law as passed by South Dakota?

MR. McCLELLAN: This state law, as you know, bans abortions in all instances, with the exception of the life of the mother.

Q And not rape and incest, and so therefore, he must disagree with it, doesn’t he? Doesn’t he, Scott?

MR. McCLELLAN: The President has a strong record of working to build a culture of life, and that’s what he will continue to do.

Q I know, but you’re not answering my question, you’re dodging.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I’m telling you that it’s a state issue —

Q He is opposed to abortion laws that forbid it for rape and incest —

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, look at the President —

Q Isn’t that true, Scott? That’s what you said.

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, let me respond. Look at the President’s record when it comes to defending the sanctity of life. That is a very strong record. His views when it comes to pro-life issues are very clearly spelled out. We also have stated repeatedly that state legislatures, when they pass laws those are state matters.

Q He disagrees with South Dakota on this one, though, doesn’t he?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I’ve addressed the question.

Q He does, on rape and incest.

MR. McCLELLAN: I’ve addressed the question.

— Scott McClellan, White House Press Flack (2006-03-07): daily White House Press Briefing

The Guardian, 8 March 2006:

But there are a lot of conservatives who are afraid of the prospect of galvanising liberal and women’s groups into action by backing so uncompromising an assault on abortion as South Dakota’s. They fear that the supreme court is still delicately balanced on the issues of abortion and life, and it would be more prudent to wait, and hope that Mr Bush has the opportunity to make another conservative appointment.

This probably wouldn’t be the best law to do, and the best time to sign it, said Daniel McConchie, vice-president of Americans United for Life. If this was to show up on the supreme court desk tomorrow they would just reject it out of hand, and having this law waiting in the wings will certainly make it more difficult to get that fifth potential justice that might vote in favour of overturning Roe in this way. Now that Mr Rounds had signed the law, Mr McConchie said his organisation would support it. But we are advising the other states to pass laws that would do other things to help reduce abortion.

Supporters of abortions rights also face tough choices. They can file a lawsuit against South Dakota in a federal court and wait for the matter to reach the supreme court where they say they are confident it would be thrown out — the standard strategy. Or they can fight a direct challenge by gathering the signatures to put a referendum on the South Dakota ballot in the November elections, a course of action Ms Stoesz says is needed to rouse liberal organisations who have failed to organise effectively.

We have controlled a lot of bad public policy but we haven’t built a movement. I am not trying to be overly self-critical here, but it’s hard to organise around a lawsuit, Ms Stoesz said. And so we have given people a false sense of complacency: Don’t worry. Planned Parenthood will file a lawsuit and save the day — and that alleviates responsibility for them taking action.

— Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian (2006-03-08): State’s abortion ban fires first shot in a long war over women’s rights

Lucinda Cisler (1969):

… The most important thing feminists have done and have to keep doing is to insist that the basic reason for repealing the laws and making abortions available is justice: women’s right to abortion.

… Until just a couple of years ago the abortion movement was a tiny handful of good people who were still having to concentrate just on getting the taboo lifted from public discussions of the topic. They dared not even think about any proposals for legal change beyond reform (in which abortion is grudgingly parceled out by hospital committee fiat to the few women who can prove they’ve been raped, or who are crazy, or are in danger of bearing a defective baby). They spent a lot of time debating with priests about When Life Begins, and Which Abortions Are Justified. They were mostly doctors, lawyers, social workers, clergymen, professors, writers, and a few were just plain women—usually not particularly feminist.

Part of the reason the reform movement was very small was that it appealed mostly to altruism and very little to people’s self-interest: the circumstances covered by reform are tragic but they affect very few women’s lives, whereas repeal is compelling because most women know the fear of unwanted pregnancy and in fact get abortions for that reason.

… These people do deserve a lot of credit for their lonely and dogged insistence on raising the issue when everybody else wanted to pretend it didn’t exist. But because they invested so much energy earlier in working for reform (and got it in ten states), they have an important stake in believing that their position is the realistic one—that one must accept the small, so-called steps in the right direction that can be wrested from reluctant politicians, that it isn’t quite dignified to demonstrate or shout what you want, that raising the women’s rights issue will alienate politicians, and so on.

Because of course, it is the women’s movement whose demand for repeal—rather than reform—of the abortion laws has spurred the general acceleration in the abortion movement and its influence. Unfortunately, and ironically, the very rapidity of the change for which we are responsible is threatening to bring us to the point where we are offered something so close to what we want that our demands for radical change may never be achieved.

—Lucinda Cisler (1969), Abortion law repeal (sort of): a warning to women, ¶¶ 2–10

Hopelessly Midwestern on Gov. Round’s statement, 6 March 2006:

In the history of the world, the true test of a civilization is how well people treat the most vulnerable and most helpless in their society. We in South Dakota feel that the best way of getting around this difficult moral obligation is to pretend that human embryos and fetuses constitute a class.

Oops, I might be paraphrasing a little bit.

— L., Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-03-06): South Dakota HB 1215

Geekery Today, 8 March 2004:

Today I want to honor the occasion with a reflection, and a call to action. Abortion rights are the front line of the battle over women’s reproductive rights, and women’s reproductive rights are an absolutely central issue in the struggle for women’s liberation. A woman has the right to control her own body, and that includes her uterine walls; that means that no-one, neither a foetus nor the State, can rightfully compell her to carry a pregnancy to term if she wants to end it. Any State that says or acts otherwise is legalizing reproductive slavery; the forced pregnancies, the jailing of women who defy the prohibition, and the back-alley butcheries that will inevitably rise again if abortion is outlawed are nothing less than forms of State violence against women.

Those who are against abortion are saying nothing more and nothing less than that they have the right to force women not to end their pregnancies against their will; they are saying that if someone else depends on the use of a woman’s body (even if that someone else is, as it usually is, an undifferentiated cluster of cells or an embryo no larger than a grain of rice) she does not have the right to say No. They are, that is, saying that they have the right to control her body and her behavior just because she has a womb—that is, just because she is a woman. In this respect the George W. Bushes and Jerry Falwells of the world are no different from batterers and rapists writ large. (That there are anti-choice women does not impact the analysis, either: a woman who professes the right to force other women to carry their pregnancy to term because those other women are women and pregnancy is a woman’s natural duty is no better than a man who does this. Nevertheless, it’s worth pointing out that 77% of anti-abortion leaders are men…)

— Rad Geek, GT 2004-03-08: April March

Bill Napoli, member of the arbitrary Senate over the state of South Dakota, 3 March 2006:

FRED DE SAM LAZARO: Napoli says most abortions are performed for what he calls convenience. He insists that exceptions can be made for rape or incest under the provision that protects the mother’s life. I asked him for a scenario in which an exception may be invoked.

BILL NAPOLI: A real-life description to me would be a rape victim, brutally raped, savaged. The girl was a virgin. She was religious. She planned on saving her virginity until she was married. She was brutalized and raped, sodomized as bad as you can possibly make it, and is impregnated. I mean, that girl could be so messed up, physically and psychologically, that carrying that child could very well threaten her life.

— Bill Napoli, interviewed, Online NewsHour (2006-03-03): South Dakota Abortion Ban

Hopelessly Midwestern, 23 February 2006:

If pressed, they probably won’t deny that we’re human. But so what?

— L., Hopelessly Midwestern (2006-02-23): South Dakota

Geekery Today, 18 November 2004:

This is a culture of life we’re building here, folks. And that means doing everything we can with pro-life laws to stop young women from getting abortions from a safe, medical provider. And throwing them in a pro-life prison when they finally make a desparate attempt to end the pregnancy at home without the aid of a doctor.

Or taking a pro-life gun and shooting them in the neck with a pro-life bullet if they do make it to the clinic:

INDIO, Calif. A California teenager has been convicted of attempted murder for shooting his pregnant girlfriend inside a Riverside County abortion clinic.

The shooting left the 16 year-old victim a quadriplegic.

She testified during the trial that 17-year-old Jeffrey Fitzhenry told her before the shooting that she was depriving him of his unborn child.

The prosecutor told jurors he also threatened, If you take something of mine, I’ll take something of yours.

As Sheelzebub puts it at Pinko Feminist Hellcat:

Apparently, he didn’t like the idea of her getting an abortion. Or rather, he was an abusive sociopath. He reportedly told her: If you take something of mine, I’ll take something of yours.

Except the fetus was in her body not his, and she’d be the one to deal with the health risks and potential complications, not him.

Now, you might think that it’s unfair of me to sit here pinning the actions of one abusive boyfriend on the anti-abortion movement as a whole—but how are Jeffrey Fitzhenry’s actions different in any salient respect from the legal action that pro-life laws are pushing pro-life prosecutors to take in Macomb County? Enforcing laws that stop young women from obtaining medical abortions means stationing armed men who are ready to shoot you in the neck to keep you from getting an abortion. Enforcing laws that punish women for getting an unauthorized abortion means using violence against young women who try to get one through other means. The fact that the abusive sociopath wears a suit and works in Congress does not make it any different. The fact that the shooting is done by men with badges does not make it any different. The fact that any complaints against the men who shoot you will be dismissed by men in black robes does not make it any different. The only difference is that Jeffrey Fitzhenry is only one sociopath, with only one woman as his target. The pro-life state would be a sociopath with armies at its disposal, with all young women as its targets. …

Jeffrey Fitzhenry didn’t care about life; he shot his ex-girlfriend in the neck because he wanted control over her body, and he wanted to take revenge when she didn’t comply. He is not pro-life; he is an abusive sociopath. And nothing less is true of the legislators, presidents, or prosecutors who use deceptive bills to enforcing a culture of life at the barrel of a gun.

— Rad Geek, GT 2004-11-18: Culture of Life

What you need to realize is that we are facing off with people (and, let’s be clear, most of them are men) who have absolutely no compunction with commandeering real women’s lives, livelihoods, and bodies in the name of their theologico-political power trips, because their victims are women and women are (in the minds of the bellowing blowhard brigade) made for the Culture of Life’s use, even if that means involuntary servitude enforced at the point of a pro-life bayonet. Meanwhile the sanctimonious politicos (and, let’s be clear, most of them are men, too) supposedly on our side bite their lips and palaver about the tragedy of necessary gynaecological surgery and generally act as though their brothers’ claims of dominion over other women’s bodies deserved something less than contempt and resistance. We are the new abolitionists, and it is long past time for the Clintonian hand-wringers and the take-one-for-the-party doughfaces who claim to be part of this movement to shut the hell up and get to the back. If they refuse to, I suggest that it’s our duty to jeer them into silence until they do. Can we get some moral outrage here? Some feminism? Some creative extremism?

William Lloyd Garrison, abolitionist and feminist, 1 January 1831:

I am aware that many object to the severity of my language; but is there not cause for severity? I will be as harsh as truth, and as uncompromising as justice. On this subject, I do not wish to think, or to speak, or write, with moderation. No! no! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; — but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest — I will not equivocate — I will not excuse — I will not retreat a single inch — AND I WILL BE HEARD.

— William Lloyd Garrison, To the Public, in The Liberator (1831-01-01)

Happy International Women’s Day.

Further reading

The American Indian Relief Council are scammers, swindlers, and flim-flam men.

I recently received a letter in the mail from the American Indian Relief Council, signed by Brian J. Brown. Maybe you have too. Mine was printed on bright yellow paper, and goes like this, except that it is printed in ALL CAPS:

Dear Mr. Johnson,

A true emergency may soon confront the Indian people here on the Sioux reservations of South Dakota.

As you know, Americans in the cold-weather regions of our nation have seen heating fuel costs spiral out of control.

Here in Indian country on the northern plains — with winters that can be as bitter as most anywhere in the world — this can be a matter of life and death.

The cost of propane fuel — which is used by most of the people on our reservations who have any heat at all in their homes — has climbed every year.

And experts are already predicting even higher prices this year — which were already too expensive for thousands of Sioux families.

undsowie. I’m used to getting lots of junk mail from non-profits, and I’m used to high-pressure sales tactics; if I think the cause is worthy I usually pass over it in silence and put myself down for a small contribution. But a couple of things raised an eyebrow: the sheer intensity of the high-pressure pitch (escalated by the sensationalistic use of the phrase freeze to death, emphasized just like that, three times in the course of the letter), my unfamiliarity with the organization, the fact that they were a subsidiary council of a suspiciously vague-sounding charitable organization rather than an independent organization exclusively concerned with a specific group of Indians, and a number of small signs (starting with President Brian J. Brown) that this might not be an organization directed by the Lakota Indians themselves. So I checked up on them through Google. It’s a good thing I did: the American Indian Relief Council is using high-pressure sales tactics because they are swindlers. They sound like they aren’t run by Lakota Indians because they aren’t run by Lakota Indians. If you like throwing your money away on white people’s comfortable offices, then by all means give it to them. Otherwise, don’t.

Here’s the breakdown on AIRC, courtesy of In These Times (April 2001). Emphasis is added:

Charitable organizations are latching on to Native American causes because they are an easy sell. Americans feel guilty about their nation’s treatment of Native peoples, and they give money with the intention of correcting history’s wrongdoings, says Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy. These charities exploit the tremendous reservoir of goodwill that exists worldwide for Indian people, agrees Vernon Bellecourt, an American Indian Movement leader.

… One rogue charity, the Rapid City, South Dakota-based American Indian Relief Council (AIRC), gained notoriety in the early ’90s when it was accused of dumping useless textbooks and outdated gardening seeds on the Sioux reservation as part of its relief program. One of the AIRC’s largest services was its employment-training program, which consisted of hiring Native Americans to make fundraising calls. Employees blew the whistle on the organization’s dubious fundraising pitches, which they said were manipulative exaggerations and lies. They complained that the money the AIRC raised for Native Americans wasn’t making it to the reservations.

Eventually the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office sued the AIRC in 1993 for lying to donors about certain reservations, claiming they were hit by catastrophic natural disasters and needed funds to prevent famine and death. The lawsuit also charged that the AIRC overvalued the prices of goods it donated to tribes—like the expired seeds—listing them at market value. In 1999, AIRC President Brian Brown settled the lawsuit and agreed to pay the state $350,000.

But instead of shutting down the AIRC, Brown—who had previously been sued by the attorneys general of Connecticut and Pennsylvania in 1991 for inflating commodity values and deceiving donors—discreetly downsized the group’s South Dakota operations and shifted its focus to the American Southwest. The AIRC has been born anew under a different parent organization, National Relief Charities (NRC), which operates two new subsidiaries—the Council of Indian Nations and Southwest Indian Relief—in Apache Junction, Arizona. Brown keeps a low profile in his current office, tucked away in a nondescript industrial park outside of Portland, Oregon.

However, the charity’s makeover is entirely superficial. The NRC is still distributing a pitiful portion of its revenues to the constituency it purports to serve. According to the NRC’s 1999 federal tax filings, it earned more than $8.3 million in donations last year, but only 30 percent was spent on programs. In contrast, Brown’s salary has hovered at about $120,000 for the past two years. The National Charities Information Bureau, an Arlington, Virginia-based watchdog group, suggests charities should spend a minimum of 60 percent of total expenditures on programs and services, with the available balance going to fundraising and administration.

— In These Times (2 April 2001): Indian givers

In case you were wondering, their 2004 Form 990 reports that they raised $17,494,328 in revenue in 2004, and their spending on programs and services had climbed … to 50.6%. President Brian Brown raked in $168,669.

Where you can give

The bad news is that although AIRC are a pack of flim-flam men profiting off the penury of others, Plains Indians are facing a real crisis from the spike in propane heating costs. We’ve had the good fortune of an unusually mild winter this year, but that good fortune only goes so far.

The good news is that it’s not all bad news. There are lots of scamsters out there looking for a quick buck from you, and an increasing number are using sympathy for American Indians to get it. But there are also lots of good folks, many of them living on or by the reservation, providing real mutual aid who could benefit from whatever help you can offer. The best place to start is by finding groups directly associated with the actual reservations, and directed by the Indians that they claim to benefit. That is to say, by finding efforts that have more to do with mutual aid and less to do with the pretense of charity for others. As an example, here’s what I found, with the help of Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation, for groups on the Pine Ridge Reservation (home of the Oglala Sioux Tribe) that are helping folks out with heating costs this winter:

Update 2006-10-06: Last year I listed a number of groups, including Cangleska, Inc., OST Healthy Start, PTI Propane, and Bob’s Gas Service, which offered help with heating costs in Winter 2005. I recently got a note from Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation pointing out that this information is out-dated for Winter 2006. Since the information and the groups offering help change so often, the best thing for you to do is check out the latest information from the Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation Lend a Hand with Utilities page.

I’m sending $20 by PayPal to the Cangleska shelter tonight. (In case you’re interested, I found Cangleska’s Form 990 for 2004; it reports $2,815,490 in expenditures with $2,730,924 on services, meaning that 97% of expenditures go directly to services.) Please do give what you can. It’s important. And, as I was reminded tonight, it’s also important to keep an eye out for those who exploit our sympathy for the poor and suffering in order to make a fast buck. There is real need out there; unfortunately need all too often draws scamsters like circling vultures. You can help out; just make sure that you check up to find out who it is that you’re helping.