SpeakOut is Truthout's treasure chest for bloggy, quirky, personally reflective, or especially activism-focused pieces. SpeakOut articles represent the perspectives of their authors, and not those of Truthout.
The following is a quote from Joan Entmacher, Vice President for Family Economic Security at the National Women's Law Center:
"Women are three-quarters of workers in the largest, lowest-wage occupations. And these low-wage jobs account for a disproportionate share of the jobs women have gained since the start of the recovery. What's worse, women in these low-wage jobs are paid ten cents less on every dollar earned by men. These stark facts underscore why it's critical to raise the minimum wage and advance equal pay and equal opportunity for women."
On International Women's Day, although I woke up in America, my heart was in Gaza. After having been detained for over 22 hours in the Cairo airport without explanation, I had been deported to London and ultimately sent back to the United States. I was the youngest American of an International Women's Day Delegation bound for Gaza to answer the call women of Gaza issued to the women of the world to come and stand with them in solidarity. We were "armed" with microscopes for hospitals, toys for children, chocolate gifts and solar lamps as a gesture to give them light in the darkness caused literally and figuratively by the Israeli blockade. As I sat stuck with an amazing group of forty women from around the world between passport control and the arrival gates exit, our thoughts were constantly with the women we were on a mission to visit.
Tired from my seventeen hour flight and looking forward to finally crashing in a bed at the hotel, I was surprised when the guard at passport control picked up the phone after stamping my passport and then told me to go sit down without giving my passport back to me. I knew that it would be difficult to get into Gaza, but I did not think it would be difficult to get into Cairo at least.
"You have no rights here!" barked a U.S. Border Patrol agent to a resident of Arivaca, AZ who was passing through a Customs and Border Protection checkpoint 23 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border.
This remark confirms a sense of violation of rights that many borderlands residents have when encountering one of the 71 permanent or tactical checkpoints scattered across the southwestern U.S. These off-border sites were condoned by the U.S. Supreme Court more than 40 years ago. Stops were intended to be brief, and limited to verifying residence status. They were to be situated within a reasonable distance from the border. This distance was determined to be 100 miles from any external boundary and today roughly encompasses two-thirds of the U.S. population. People in the southwest call this region the "constitution-free zone."
Chicken Little got it wrong. The sky isn't exactly falling, but it does pose lethal threats. Those threats are near and long term, domestic and international. They entail surveillance and terror.
Weaponized unmanned drone aircraft – the Predator, the Reaper, the Global Hawk - have no crew on board. Hence no head, no heart. These drones are amoral robots exquisitely designed to spy and to kill, to maim and to demolish. Out of the blue, their 500-pound bombs and Hellfire missiles strike like lightning bolts.
The United States is currently ranked 46th on the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. As a journalist in this country, I can't rest easy knowing that we are far behind countries like Finland (ranked number one), or Costa Rica and Namibia, ranked 21st and 22nd.
Among the many factors contributing to our nation's fall from number 37th on the list is the treatment of whistle blowers and journalists by the US Department of Justice, but the decline began in 2011 with the arrests and harassment of many reporters and livestreamers during national Occupy Wall Street protests.
Last week, the Wall Street Journal highlighted a Federal Reserve report on total household net worth. Surprise! Americans are richer than ever before, both in nominal and real terms.
At the same time, though, wealth inequality is increasing from its already Gilded Era levels. The main factor behind increasing household net worth over the past year was the rising stock market (followed far behind by rising housing prices). These obviously only help you if you own stocks—not if, say, you never had enough money to buy stocks, or you had to cash out your 401(k) in 2009 because you were laid off. Put another way, rising asset values help you if you are a supplier of capital more than a supplier of labor.
This past week, Washington hosted two of my least favorite annual events. It began with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) bringing their faithful to town to lobby for whatever the government of Israel might want at this particular moment. At week's end, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) was in Washington rallying their crowd to bash the President and defend their "true conservative" principles.
During the past year, several commentators have, on occasion, pronounced both groups weakened and wounded, possibly fatally so. Conservatives were seen to be cannibalizing themselves, while AIPAC was reeling from having picked and lost two separate fights with President Obama: Syria and Iran sanctions. Based on the size and enthusiasm of their respective crowds and from the "red meat" thrown out by major speakers, neither group appeared to be in their death throes, but looks can be deceiving.
If President Obama really wanted these outcomes, there was a way to get them. He could have let the Bush tax cuts expire for good a year ago, making high taxes on the rich a reality. Then, a year later, he could have proposed a middle-class tax cut and dared the Republicans to block it in an election year. (He could also have traded a reduction in the top marginal rate—from the 39.6% that would have resulted, not counting the 3.8% Medicare tax—for the reforms he is now proposing.)
On March 1, the upper house of Parliament in Moscow gave Russian President Putin the authority to use force to protect Russian citizens and soldiers not only in Crimea, but throughout Ukraine. The following day, the new leaders of Ukraine accused Russia of declaring war against their nation and mobilized their armed forces.
Three days later, on March 6, the Crimean parliament voted unanimously to secede from Ukraine and become part of Russia, and to hold a March 16 referendum, in which Crimean voters would be offered two choices: for Crimea to remain in the Ukraine or for it to become part of Russia. On March 7, Russia indicated that should the vote go in favor of secession, Russia would be willing to accept the offer and make Crimea part of Russia.
I travelled to El Salvador in late January to participate as an international election observer (Observador Internacional) for the February 2nd Presidential elections in this, the smallest country in Central America. This is where I spent Super Bowl Sunday. I met up with four lawyers from the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), where we joined seventy other activists, organized through the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) in San Salvador. The grassroots organization CISPES, has a singular mission: supporting the Salvadoran people's struggle for self-determination and social and economic justice.