In defense of the sanctimonious women's studies set || First feminist blog on the internet

Petition to Investigate Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Reign of Terror

Feministe has posted before about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County (which contains Phoenix, AZ).  This is the man who has reinstated chain gangs, refused to feed inmates anything except bologna sandwiches, set up tent cities as a way to combat prison over-crowding, refused to transport female inmates for abortions they planned to pay for themselves, and more.  He is known especially for his choice to specifically target undocumented immigrants, and jail them (as opposed to the normal protocol for those without criminal records, which is turning them over to federal authorities, who normally send them back to their home countries).

Most importantly of all, many prisoners have died on his watch, due to abuse, neglect, and a lack of medical treatment.

Now, ACORN is calling on House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers to investigate Sheriff Arpaio both at state and federal levels. This man needs to be out of a job immediately — and  it seems clear to me that he also needs to be criminally prosecuted.  But they need your help

Sign ACORN’s petition calling for the investigation of Arpaio. Then, make sure that all of your like-minded friends do the same by March 11th.  Because this really is an issue of life and death for far too  many people.

Immigration Prosecutions Drain Resources

Hopefully, all of us here can agree that the United State’s current policies surrounding prosecuting undocumented immigrants for entering the country, and the ways that those immigrants are treated while in custody, are cruel, inhumane and blatantly racist. But this NY Times article also takes the time to highlight how these prosecutions inevitably take resources away from prosecuting, you know, real crime:

Federal prosecutions of immigration crimes nearly doubled in the last fiscal year, reaching more than 70,000 immigration cases in the 2008 fiscal year, according to federal data compiled by a Syracuse University research group. The emphasis, many federal judges and prosecutors say, has siphoned resources from other crimes, eroded morale among federal lawyers and overloaded the federal court system. Many of those other crimes, including gun trafficking, organized crime and the increasingly violent drug trade, are now routinely referred to state and county officials, who say they often lack the finances or authority to prosecute them effectively.

Bush administration officials say the government’s focus on immigration crimes is an outgrowth of its counterterrorism strategy and vigorous pursuit of immigrants with criminal records.

Immigration prosecutions have steeply risen over the last five years, while white-collar prosecutions have fallen by 18 percent, weapons prosecutions have dropped by 19 percent, organized crime prosecutions are down by 20 percent and public corruption prosecutions have dropped by 14 percent, according to the Syracuse group’s statistics. Drug prosecutions — the enforcement priority of the Reagan, first Bush and Clinton administrations — have declined by 20 percent since 2003.

Well, I guess that at least the drop in drug prosecutions — which frankly, I’m surprised to hear about — is good news. But the drop in prosecutions for white-collar crimes, weapons crimes, organized crime and public corruption? Um, not so good.

There’s lots more interesting stuff in the full article, so I recommend checking it out.  But the gist is this: we’re not only propping up racist policy with the lie that prosecuting men and women (and locking up their children in the process) who were just looking for a way to feed their families is for the safety of the American people.  Us Good, Worthy American Folk who are supposedly being protected?  We’re actually being made less safe as a result.

Good work there, Bush administration.  Good work.


My mother is adorable. She’s lived in the US for over 35 years now. She has authored, edited or translated a half-dozen books — in English! But she still sends me e-mails with lines like this, in her recipe for Japanese curry, from ten minutes ago:

“In the same flying pan, add some more oil and quickly fly carrot, potato, onion, diced; and pepper, salt (other veggie, such as cerery, is also good; a bay leaf if you have one).”

Frying pan, mom. Frying pan! Celery!

I don’t know why, but it’s this kind of thing that endears me to my family the most, tugs at my heartstrings. The perfectly normal and understandable behavior that just happens to play into silly stereotypes (belly solly, sah!) even as it makes me slap my forehead. It’s not like I think confusing the English letters “r” and “l” is some kind of problem or deficit — after all, most of you probably can’t pronounce ryu, the word for dragon in Japanese. (And yes, the name of the guy from the Street Fighter series.)

Maybe it’s because it reminds me of when I was a kid and I had to proofread her galleys for little slip-ups like these. Maybe it’s because it’s just an essential part of the second-generation immigrant experience. You’re a kid, you’re an American because you grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons and saying “duh, dookie brains.” And you’re kind of embarrassed sometimes, around some other people, that your folks talk funny or eat weird food. But you’re proud too, even if you don’t realize it. And then you grow up, and realize a lot more about what it all means and how it’s part of who you are.

I’m sure you all have stories too.

Hmm, should I post the whole recipe? It might be a family secret, but the secret mostly seems to have to do with the weird crap she throws in at the end. OK… it’s behind the cut!

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The Good, The Bad, and The Downright Ugly

The Good

President Obama.  Of course.

The Democrats now have 56 seats in the Senate. Four seats are still undecided, according to CNN, but it looks like they’re all going to go Republican.  Our best shot to pick up one last seat is Al Franken in Minnesota — who, with supposedly 100% of the vote counted, is less than 600 votes behind.

The Democrats now have 252 seats in the House, which is a 16 seat gain.  Ten seats are still undecided.

Democrats have a majority in the NY State Senate for the first time since the New Deal. Wow.  Do you mean that we might actually get some shit done?

Kay Hagan got Elizabeth Dole out of office. Gotta love that.

The South Dakota abortion ban, Measure 11, was decisively knocked down by a 10 point margin. A huge congrats to all of my friends at SD Healthy Families!

Amendment 48, the so-called Human Life Amendment, was shot down by remarkable margins, with 73% voting No.

It looks like California has shot down Prop 4, the anti-abortion parental notification initiative, with 95% of the vote in and 52% voting No.

Michigan has voted to allow stem-cell research and possession of medical marijuana.

Anti-immigrant initiative Measure 58 was shot down in Oregon.

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The Mortgage Crisis: Blame the Brown and Black People

Ann Coulter says that the mortgage crisis is caused by “affirmative action.” That is, efforts by the Clinton administration to prevent racial discrimination in lending led to a situation where:

Instead of looking at “outdated criteria,” such as the mortgage applicant’s credit history and ability to make a down payment, banks were encouraged to consider nontraditional measures of credit-worthiness, such as having a good jump shot or having a missing child named Caylee.”

Michelle Malkin blames “illegal immigrants,” a term she uses interchangeably with “Hispanics.”

And this is why we have the “assholes” tag.

Good Asylum News

Mukasey actually got something right. And luckily, it’s a big, important thing.

The U.S. attorney general is trying to prevent immigration authorities from sending a Muslim woman to her home country, where she was a victim of female genital mutilation.

In a stinging order overriding federal immigration courts, Mukasey blasted a decision that said a 28-year-old citizen and native of Mali should be expelled “because her genitalia already had been mutilated [so] she had no basis to fear future persecution if returned to her home country.”

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Requiring Gardasil for U.S. Immigrants

Well this is effed up.

The federal government is considering making Gardasil vaccination, made by Merk pharmaceuticals, mandatory for female immigrants applying for citizenship. These shots, which vaccinate against certain types of HPV related to potential development of cervical cancer, are not mandatory for U.S. citizens.

I am all for making Gardasil more accessible and affordable. I think there’s a good argument to be made for making it a mandatory vaccine for school-age children — with an easy voluntary opt-out clause — because in many states that’s the only way that low-income families will be able to afford it, since mandatory vaccines are more likely to be covered by Medicaid (I also think there’s a better argument against it, but that’s another post). I think there’s a very good (and obviously widely-accepted) common-sense argument to be made for making certain vaccines mandatory for new immigrants or visitors to the U.S. — and some vaccines for highly communicable and airborne diseases are mandatory. That’s reasonable.

But making the HPV vaccine a requirement? It’s both unnecessary and frightening. It’s also shamelessly xenophobic.

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South Central Farm to Forever 21?

This just in: Turns out the former site of the South Central Farm – where low-income, indigenous/immigrant Latino farmers grew food in the midst of a toxic industrial area for 14 years before being evicted two summers ago in one of the saddest, most maddening examples of private business interests trumping community and environmental good that I’ve ever personally witnessed – is being developed as a Forever 21 warehouse.

You know, that clothing company that was the subject of a national boycott for exploitative labor practices a few years ago? Turns out LA’s supposedly progressive mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa – who campaigned at the then-flourishing farm several years ago and claimed to support it, only to fail to find a way to help save it despite massive community (and celebrity) support, clear social and environmental benefits, and his own celebrated promises to “green LA”“has received nearly $1.3 million in contributions and commitments from Forever 21 and its executives over the past two years.”

The former site of the South Central Farm has sat vacant for the past two years. The South Central Farmers are now growing food at a new site about an hour outside of LA. They sell food at several farmers’ markets in the area, and they recently set up a CSA

(Background: A few years ago, I wrote several articles about the South Central Farm for the late and lamented NewStandard, including this history of how the community has used the land since 1985.)

The Expat Perpetual

“People are strange, when you’re a stranger.” – The Doors

The first time I became an expat, I was ten. My parents and I moved from Ukraine to the U.S. We bought a home in a quiet neighbourhood, and deer came to graze in our backyard. I nearly had a nervous breakdown when I discovered that the windows of our new house were OMIGOD NOT BULLETPROOF. Sounds hilarious now, doesn’t it? I got over the non-bulletproof thing eventually, and went on to have a pretty good life as an American, with no small thanks to Mama & Papa.

Moving to the Middle East for work, and occasionally going back to Ukraine (where my family is presently located), means that I’ve almost made peace with the fact that I will be, to some extent, a stranger everywhere. After all, being a stranger is can be made easier by being a white person with an American passport. I learned that even before I moved to Jordan.

While on a visit, I went to register at the local police station, and witnessed an officer shout abuse at a family of Iraqi refugees, then turn to me with a smile and ask me if I want a cup of tea in the same breath (!!!).

I ask readers to refrain from forming stereotypes of Jordanians based on that encounter, but I do wish to bring it up to highlight the fact that different people have different experiences, and mine is not the gospel.

Now if only people would stop assuming I’m soulless and sexually available to all and sundry…

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Xenophobic Nutbag Politicians: Not Just in America!

Yes, they’re in Italy too (and a whole lot of Europe).

That victory last month, which included the election of Rome’s first right-wing mayor since World War II and the stiffest rejection ever of communists, was part of a significant shift in favor of the Italian political right, composed of restyled former Fascists, anti-immigrant forces and traditional conservatives.

Bossi and three other members of his Northern League party were given choice seats in the new Cabinet, including control of the Interior Ministry, which oversees police and most domestic security.

In this climate, it came as little surprise that the government’s first action has been a harsh police crackdown on the Rom, an oft-targeted minority also known as Gypsies.

Bossi and the Northern League are widely seen here as the moving force behind the decision to target Gypsies and illegal immigrants, two groups blamed for a rash of recent crimes. Hundreds of Rom and foreigners were arrested, scores deported, and ramshackle Gypsy camps razed or burned to the ground by either authorities or vigilantes.

“All Gypsies must go,” the league’s Davide Boni, an official in the Lombardy regional government, said in an interview in his office in Milan.

The league, which is based in Lombardy, would add most Romanians and Muslim immigrants to the list, Boni said. Overall, he said, the party advocates reducing immigration to between 5% and 10% of its current level. “That way, you have immigration and integration,” he said. “What you have now is invasion.”

Well that sounds familiar. And these dudes may be even bigger assholes than their American counterparts:

“People want this country to remain theirs,” said Bossi, who once advocated shooting at boats bringing immigrants to Italy’s shores.

Another Cabinet post went to the league’s Roberto Calderoli, best remembered for appearing on television in a T-shirt emblazoned with a cartoon of the prophet Muhammad and for planning to parade pigs on land where Muslims were attempting to build mosques, both gestures seen as insults to Islam.

And they’re preying on (and encouraging) existing anti-immigrant sentiments:

The most shocking incidents occurred last week in Naples, where residents, reacting to reports that a Gypsy woman had attempted to kidnap an Italian child, torched several camps, forcing hundreds of men, women and children to flee. Many were later loaded in the back of trucks and taken to safety, in scenes that United Nations officials compared to “ethnic cleansing” in the Balkans in the 1990s — the very events that drove some of these Rom to Italy in the first place.

The European Union, Spain and international human rights organizations condemned the actions. Italy could face sanctions.

Although the interior minister, the league’s Roberto Maroni, publicly condemned the vigilante violence, Bossi chimed in with an apparent justification: “People do what the state can’t manage.”

But nah, I’m sure that just like over here, Italy’s anti-immigrant politicians are totally not at all racist.