Category Archives: Spring 2001 (3/9/01)

Plan Columbia

\”We have to win the fight in Columbia. We have to win the fight for the Free Trade Area of the Americas. We have to prove that freedom and free markets go hand in hand. That\’s what you believe, and we\’re going to be given a chance to prove it.\” Thus Clinton ended his March 4th, 2000 address to the Council of the Americas, a Washington-based corporate front group founded in 1965 by David Rockefeller.

That \”chance to prove it\” has taken shape in the form of Plan Colombia, an ambitious package of foreign aid intended to promote US domination of South America and lay the groundwork for further intervention in anticipation of the planned enforcement of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. \”The fight\” is against various Marxist rebel groups that operate in and control large stretches of the Colombian jungle, as well as against farmers and indigenous people who stand in the way of the unbridled exploitation of resources demanded by Clinton\’s, and now Bush\’s, corporate constituency.

A centerpiece of the aid, 90% of which is military, involves funneling over $400 million in taxpayer money to United Technologies subsidiary Sikorsky Aircraft and Bell Helicopter Textron, manufacturers respectively of the Black Hawk and Huey military helicopters, who have recently spend close to 2 million in Capitol Hill lobbying efforts. Similar efforts for increased US interventions have been made by petroleum corporations, including BP Amoco, Occidental and Enron, who wish to secure and extend their access to Colombia\’s oil reserves. \”It\’s business for us, and we are as aggressive as anybody\”, a Bell Helicopter lobbyist said. \”I\’m just trying to sell helicopters\”.

Some of these helicopters have already been delivered, and put into action as US-trained anti-drug battalions began a new campaign of crop eradication by aerial spraying with glyphosate (Roundup), a herbicide marketed by Monsanto Corporation. The spraying is of course indiscriminate. Monsanto has a long history of involvement in chemical warfare, going back to 1949, when an explosion at its Nitro, West Virginia plant produced unexplained disease symptoms in the surrounding population, drawing the attention of the US Army Chemical Corps. The substance responsible, later identified as dioxin-one of the most toxic substances known-was a byproduct in various Monsanto herbicides, which were deployed under the name of Agent Orange in the US government\’s campaign of genocide against the people of Southeast Asia.

Recent reports from the ground in Colombia are that \”The coca trees look really good, but everything else is dead.\” Villagers and indigenous peoples who have been sprayed with the substance, as well as medical personnel who have treated them, have been reporting various intoxication symptoms, including dizziness, nausea, muscle and joint pain, and skin rashes. US officials have vehemently denied the veracity of these reports. Glyphosate is \”less toxic than table salt\”, one US embassy official in Colombia told the New York Times, claiming that the reported adverse effects are \”scientifically impossible\”.

It is feared that this failure of the poison to kill its intended target will lead to the use of even stronger poisons, in particular Fusarium. Fusarium fungus has served as the base for many chemical weapons developed in the US and elsewhere. The last known attempt to use Fusarium was back in 1999, when Col. Jim McDonough, a former colleague of White House drug czar and Plan Colombia proponent Gen. Barry McCaffrey hired by Florida governor Jeb Bush, recommended that it be used to eradicate Florida\’s marijuana crop. The plan was stopped over concerns that the fungus\’s mutagenicity would be impossible to control and that it could damage many other crops. The application of this poison, which is also a powerful biowar agent, to Colombia, would greatly escalate the crop damage and health damage among an already adversely affected and impoverished population.

Elected on a platform of peace, Colombian president Andres Pastrana initially opposed the aerial spraying program, but eventually came around after realizing that it was a pre-condition for the all-important US military aid and political backing that his regime has come to depend upon. This dependency more than anything ensures that the problems plaguing this nation will remain unresolved and most likely spread into surrounding areas. \”The only goal of the Colombian government is to show results to the United States government\” said Oscar Gamboa Zuniga, Executive Director, Colombian Pacific Coast Mayors Federation, commenting on the drug war.

In fact, the \”drug war\” has already spread beyond Colombia\’s borders, notably into Ecuador, where clashes recently took place between Colombian-based left-wing guerillas and right-wing paramilitary groups. A heretofore unknown group, FARE (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Ecuador) has claimed responsibility for the recent detonation of an oil pipeline in Ecuador. To shore up their increasingly unpopular regime against this inevitable spillover, the Ecuadorian government has turned to Washington for assistance, and has offered up the port city of Manta for a US military base to be used to support operations in Colombia and extend the US military presence in South America. The US has been looking for such a base since the loss of Panama.

The culture of violence that is plaguing Colombia has deep roots. From 1948 to 1953, in what is known as \”La Violencia\”, the Colom-bia\’s Liberal and Conservative parties fought a sort of civil war for political control. During this political struggle, bands of gunmen, hired by politicians and often assisted by the police, would attack whole village, scalping and decapitating victims. This program of violence had the effect of forcing some two million rural inhabitants to flee their land, which was quickly snatched up by large landholders and members of the ruling class allied with the Liberal and/or Conservative parties.

In a bid to stabilize the domestic situation, the two parties agreed to a power sharing arrangement of alternating presidencies (in effect not unlike the US two-party system), which lasted until 1974. The concentration of economic and political power between the two parties left no room for opposition within the system and spawned various guerilla groups, the biggest of which are the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia) and ELN (National Liberation Army). Some sections of these groups decided to abandon arms and try their hand in the political arena during the 1980\’s. Determined to maintain their hold on power, the ruling class formed groups to thwart these political efforts. These groups, known as the paramilitaries, had the task of ensuring that nobody outside the two-party system won any elections by killing the candidates and terrorizing their would-be supporters.

To further the process of concentration of land and resources, in 1962, backed by the US, the Columbian army launched an \”anti-terrorist\” (i.e. terror) campaign to drive out campesinos (small farmers) off the land in support of the profit interests of the big rancheros (not a few of whom also happened to be big drug dealers). This terror campaign-following a well-established tactic developed by the German Nazis, perfected by the United States in Vietnam (Operation Phoenix), and propagated through the School of the Americas and other agencies-has in essence con-tinued to this day, most recently in the guise of a \”war on drugs\”.

Drugs, primarily cocaine, account for 30% of the Colombian economy. The drug trade is by no means limited to the \”guerillas\”, who tax its revenues in the areas they control-the military, paramilitaries, and other bourgeois interests are likewise deeply involved in it. Thus, for instance, the ACCU-the largest paramilitary group-is estimated to derive 80% of its income from the drug trade.

The \”outlaw\” paramilitaries provide the Co-lombian regime with much needed political cover: they can disown the brutal tactics of torture and murder, while still reaping the benefits. The \”human rights\” provisions that Congress cynically attached to Plan Colombia, and which Clinton waived in an effort to get the intervention under way, were supposedly intended to force the Colombian government and military to disown these right-wing para-militaries. Of course, they were already \”disowned\”, which is precisely what has allowed them to fulfill their purpose.

These drug war efforts should not be viewed as some sort of absolute principled opposition to the drug trade on the part of the US ruling class. A principal architect of the world-wide drug trade is in fact the US Central Intelligence Agency, which has traditionally used narcotics as a vehicle to fund various sub rasa \”counter-insurgencies\” and other efforts. At the same time, wars on drugs provide the US government with political justification for further intervention and domination, both at home and abroad, as well necessitating more funding for the military-corporate complex.

With the notion of drug war starting to show signs of aging and losing popular support despite a steadfast propaganda campaign, there have been some stirrings within the US government apparatus to the effect that the war may have to be restyled. Conditions for the possible new scenario of military intervention are already in place: the FARC and ELN are considered terrorist groups. Right-wing para-military organizations are exempted from this designation-they do not attack US economic interests.

On a visit to Washington February 27th, Pastrana, in a bid to further his faltering regime and shore up his political legitimacy, asked Bush for increased US aid and involvement, including US participation in peace negotiations with FARC. His requests were rejected. Bush has of course pledged to continue the drug war, but for now, US aid will remain at the level set by his predecessor Clinton. In an effort to save face in the wake of the rejection, Pastrana claimed that \”We never invited the US to be in the talks\”. The FARC have likewise invited the US and various other national and international bodies to the negotiating table. Knowing that internationalization of the stalled Colombian peace negotiations could at this stage undermine US influence in the region, the Bush administration for now wishes to stick solely with the military option.

As things now stand, the Colombian government does not have the military force necessary to defeat the guerilla groups in an all-out conflict, and thus is forced into negotiations, which have been restarted after Pas-trana\’s visit February 8th to the jungle headquarters of FARC leader Manuel \”Sure-shot\” Marulanda. Talks had been broken off last November by the FARC in protest over government connections to paramilitary groups. Thus, the government doesn\’t have the stick to compel rebel groups to do anything.

Neither does it have much of a carrot, as giving in to the more substantive demands of the leftist rebels would undermine support from the regime\’s imperial backers in Washington, as well as unleashing further right-wing para-military violence and in all likelihood leading to Pastrana\’s own elimination. Thus, for now, the government has on one hand been giving in to rebel demands, extending the status of the previously existing demilitarized zones and considering the establishment of new ones, as well as engaging in peace negotiations, while on the other hand, it has not reigned in the paramilitaries and has continued with the ecocidal Plan Colombia agenda, thus ensuring that no substantial peace will be achieved.

The political situation and culture of violence in Colombia is not new, and has at its root an entrenched and extreme wealth disparity-which would only be maintained and extended by the FTAA agenda which the US seeks to impose upon the continent. This agenda must be exposed, challenged and opposed.

World Rises to Resist \”Free Trade\”

For at least 500 years, people have been struggling against forces of colonization and globalization. The latest chapter in the struggle is the fight over the Free Trade Area of the Americas. This agreement, which is currently under the secret review of 31 governments and 500 corporate heads, attempts once more to fortify corporate power at the expense of local people and the environment. Luckily, resistance all over the western hemisphere is growing strong.

By the time the treaty is discussed in Quebec City April 20-22, people from Bolivia to Brazil to Mexico, the US and Canada will be hard at work creating networks of international solidarity that can stand up to the threat of corporate-controlled globalization. In addition to massive protests at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, local actions, teach-ins and events are expected worldwide. In Quebec, thousands of police are planning Canada\’s largest ever security operation to handle expected large protests. A 3 meter tall fence cordoning off several square miles of downtown Quebec is under construction and the city council has passed a law banning face masks. US activists attempting to enter Canada have been stopped at the Border because they appeared on blacklists supplied by US authorities.

So what exactly is this treaty that is important enough to generate these massive protests? Essentially, the FTAA is an expansion of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The FTAA would force every nation in the western hemisphere (except Cuba) to comply with the rules of \”free trade.\” Tariffs on imported goods, restrictions on toxic chemicals or genetically engineered foods, union organizing, or refusal to trade with human rights abusers all constitute barriers to \”free\” trade. Furthermore, the FTAA would use the WTO as a model for dispute settlement, giving itself more power to penalize nations that interfere with trade.

Under the FTAA, any labor or environmental protection in the hemisphere could be challenged by a corporation, judged by a secret tribunal, and found to be a violation of \”free trade.\” Once found guilty of obstructing profit-making, the country would be forced to pay out huge settlement fines, or else be subject to economic sanctions from all other nations in the agreement. In effect, any people\’s attempt to rule themselves could be overruled by the corporate-controlled, unelected, and unaccountable officials of the FTAA.

Interestingly, since Cuba is excluded from the negotiations, the US government can continue to defend us from the red menace with its unilateral trade embargo on Cuba. Furthermore, corporate welfare like the huge subsidies to giant factory farms would continue allowing huge companies to drive out smaller competitors by selling their products for less than the cost of production.

At the same time as expanding NAFTA geographically, the FTAA would expand the types of trade covered to include services like education and health care. Schools and hospitals would be forced to open up to the lowest bidder, drastically undercutting their ability to provide quality services. Whether governments themselves should be running the services may be argued, but the current \”energy crisis\” in California provides a small scale example of the type of disaster than can arise when corporate interests buy out service providers. And just as corporate welfare will be overlooked as a barrier to trade, we can bet that the same corporations who demand to make a profit off schools, jails, and hospitals will have no qualms accepting government bailouts when those profits are threatened.

Despite the scope of the FTAA, the Bush administration is hoping to slip it past the congress with Fast Track negotiating power, a procedure which violates this country\’s Constitution by granting the president extra authority to enact treaties without Congressional debate. These changes to the rules of international trade will have a major and almost immediate effect on the lives of people throughout the hemisphere. Because the FTAA is modeled after NAFTA, we can predict its likely effects by looking at what NAFTA has done since its ratification in 1994. Notably, the first thing NAFTA did was give rise to the Zapatista Rebellion in Chiapas, Mexico. The Zapatistas understood that the new treaty was one more attempt to drive indigenous people from their land and to exploit the poor for the profit of the rich.

As the years pass, the Zapatista analysis has been proven true again and again. Despite governmental promises of new jobs, higher living standards, and environmental protections in the brave new world of free trade, NAFTA has benefited only a handful of corporate elites. Meanwhile the US has lost countless jobs, wages have dropped 40% in Mexico, and environmental protections in all three countries have been weakened by corporate lawsuits.

It is important to recognize that the FTAA like NAFTA is part of a continuing history of colonization and oppression. Under these treaties, the hardest hit tend to be people of color and women, while the benefits of globalization flow to the corporate elite of the north.

NAFTA\’s effect on small corn farmers in Mexico provides a case study. First off, to qualify for the treaty, the Mexican government dropped article 27 of its constitution, which protected communally owned \”ejido\” land. Then, multinational agri-corporations were able to move into Mexico, and run out local producers by selling subsidized, monocropped corn at below the cost of growing it. Farmers lost their land, and were forced to join the legions of displaced migrant workers forced into maquiladora jobs or into the US where they may survive INS persecution to find below-minimum wage jobs working in the fields of those same agri-businesses. Under the FTAA, this scenario would expand into Central and South America.

In another case, S.D, Myers, an Ohio-based company, sued the Canadian government for potential profits lost during a two year ban on the export of highly toxic PBCs. On November 13, 2000, a three-judge NAFTA tribunal decided that the company was due between $20 and $40 million dollars for profits lost during the ban.

NAFTA undoubtedably sparked an increased focus on globalization. Since 1994, not only the Zapatistas have rebelled. People have held now-famous mass demonstrations in places like Seattle and Prague. From the farmers of France to the shrimp harvesters of India, people are fighting back against the corporate crackdown. There have even been some legislative victories, such as the campaign to defeat the MIA and the decision by the Canadian government last December to release some of its FTAA text. Only by building a strong movement of mass solidarity can we hope to stop the FTAA on its fast track to a hemisphere of corporate control.

This April 20-22, thousands of activists will converge on Quebec City, the site of the Summit of the Americas where the FTAA will be discussed. They aim to get past the border patrol and the wall being built to keep them out and make sure that the elite group of rulers can\’t meet in secrecy and peace to devise their schemes to control us.

Thousands more will participate in an historical Mexican-US border mobilization, where farmers, unions, students, workers and activists on both the Tijuana and the San Diego will stage massive, non-violent protests. On the weekend of April 21st, they will show the absurdity of a world where corporations can zip across borders, but southern people face death attempting to cross. Organizing for this protest creates new levels of communication and trust between people in the two countries. To maintain that trust, it is crucial that US activists recognize that the border is a highly militarized zone, and people living there have taken on great risk in organizing this protest. It is agreed that to respect those who will stay on at the border past April, the border protest will not involve civil disobedience or law breaking of any kind. This, once again, is not out of respect for the laws, but out of respect for those who will live in the area after the US activists head home.

A series of local events are scheduled in the Bay Area, both leading up to the weekend of April 21st and on the actual day. These events are examples of the local protests, teach ins and self-education events happening around the hemisphere. Going to protests that weekend is only one tactic activists can use to defeat the FTAA. Just as the FTAA is part of an ongoing war on poor, women, people of color and the environment, anti-FTAA organizing is part of an ongoing story of resistance and solidarity building. Whether you end up in Quebec city, Tijuana, or San Francisco, the FTAA protests are a way to get involved in defeating the forces that would lead us into a corporate-ruled, barren world. Check out this list for ways to get involved.

  • Bay Area Coalition to stop the FTAA meets every other Tuesday at 6:30, usually at Centro del Pueblo, on Valencia between 15th and 16th. call for details, or check the website. Committees on Action, Outreach, Education, Labor, and Borders also meet weekly.
  • There will be a teach-in Tuesday March 20 7-10:30 pm at La Peña cultural center. Contact Global Exchange at 415-558-9486 for more solidarity building info. Also contact 2001 Comite de acciones Fronterizas 626-403-2530

BorderActions@aol.com
www.actionla.org/border.htm

Reclaiming My Body

In a past conversation with a friend about junk food, I expressed a concern that I eat too much of it. Not because I\’m worried about gaining weight, but because of the harmful effects of the empty calories, saturated fat, sugar, and excessive salt. He commented, \”Don\’t worry about eating too much, you look great.\” He had no idea how that comment irritated me. I got to thinking about the way a woman\’s body is viewed, both by herself and others. Too often, if a woman is talking about food, it\’s in the context of the way it will look on her outside, not what it\’s doing for her inside. \”Oh, I may as well just apply this ice cream straight to my thighs,\” says the guilty dieter. For most of my life, that\’s the way I felt about food, guilty for eating it & worrying about how it was going to make me look.

I learned to diet from all of the women around me; my mother, my aunts, my older sister. Even my grandma was always apologizing for indulging in something \”too fattening\”. This wasn\’t so unusual, considering that a quarter of American adults are on diets and two thirds of all American women, including many who are average-sized or thin, believe they\’re overweight. I have a very clear memory of the official start of my diet career. My older sister\’s meals were all of a sudden being modified. The skin was being taken off her chicken. She wasn\’t eating potatoes & bread. Salads had become her mainstay. I was told she was \”on a diet\”. Why, I wondered? She looked fine to me. As a matter of fact, I was bigger than she was. That must mean I should be on a diet, too. From that moment on I was filled with a nagging self-doubt every time I put something in my mouth.

I was being primed for that moment early on. Studies have shown that by the 4th grade, 60% of all girls want to be thinner. From kindergarten on, if you show kids drawings of children with different body types & ask them what kind of people they are, they\’ll say that the thin children are cuter, more popular, nicer, neater & smarter than those with an average or chubby body.

I had never considered that the \”thin is good\” paradigm may be wrong. Rather, I thought there was something wrong with me, for I had tried for so many years to be thin, without success. In my early 20\’s I turned to \”professional\” help, I went to a diet clinic. They started by taking my check in exchange for an extremely limited list of foods I could eat and how many servings of each I could have per day. I became obsessed with food. I could only think of it in terms of whether or not I was allowed to eat it. Finally, one night, after cheating on my diet with a candy bar, I snapped. I gorged myself with everything I could find in the house that wasn\’t on my list, then ate a raw egg to make myself throw up. It wasn\’t long before I was able to make myself throw up at will. My bulimia lasted for 3 years, which I overcame when I became a vegetarian and developed a much healthier attitude toward food.

I became a vegetarian in college, when I learned how our food consumption was tied into environmental degradation. I read everything I could get my hands on about being a vegetarian & began to realize how good it was for my health, as well as the health of the planet. As I became more familiar with the health effects of the food I was eating, I began to worry less about weight loss. My decisions about what to eat were based on the nutritional value of the food, not what it was going to do for my body. When I became a vegetarian, I developed a new attitude towards food & began to think of it in terms of what was good for me. I no longer felt guilty for engaging in the basic necessity of eating.

I also decided I was going to buy a bike instead of a car, again for environmental reasons. Up until then, the only physical activity I engaged in was the time my misguided boyfriend talked me into a joining a gym because he thought I would feel better about myself if I were thinner. Fumbling around in aerobics class, a step off from everybody, and trying to hear instructions from an aerobics instructor who pumped the students up for class with ear splitting music did more to erode my self-esteem than build it up.

I began to bike because it was a clean form of transportation, but soon the physical activity began to feel more rewarding than stepping on the scale at the gym everyday with the dread that the needle hadn\’t moved down. When I began to bike, I developed an entirely new relationship with my body. I started thinking about how I could use my body to get from point A to point B. I began to look at it in a new way. It was the first time I appreciated what I could do with it instead of feeling ashamed of it.

In giving up eating meat and giving up driving, I realized how both of those acts were questioning huge paradigms. One night, watching TV during a very popular string of shows on prime time, I started really looking at the commercials. It was eery how one was for meat, then one was for a car, then another for some other kind of meat, than another car commercial. No wonder the people around me couldn\’t imagine how I could live my life without either. They were constantly bombarded with messages about how they needed both to survive, when in reality factory farms and auto-dependancy are two of the most destructive forces on our planet. When I realized that not only was I surviving without meat and a car, but I was healthier in both body and mind without them, a shift occurred in me. I began to question other so called \”truths.\”

I started by looking critically at what I was being told I should look like. This naturally lead me to a critique of women\’s magazines. Surprisingly, 150 years ago, women\’s magazines contained insightful, relevant articles about women & what was happening in the world. It was during the late 1800\’s that publishers realized they would make more money if they catered to the advertisers rather than the subscribers, so the next logical step was to begin to groom women as consumers. By the end of the 1800\’s, being a consumer was becoming an essential part of a woman\’s identity and advertisers learned that they could sell more products if they offered women an unattainable dream of beauty & thinness. Up until then, women were allowed to come in all sorts of shapes and sizes , as long as their waists were cinched in with corsets. Corsets were sold in varying sizes. It wasn\’t as important for a woman to be made up and make-up wasn\’t a concern for women in the 1800\’s. Feminity was defined by their soft curviness.

As women gained more freedoms during the turn of the last century, their looks became more important. Ads were no longer just for corsets, now they needed to worry about having healthy hair, eliminating embarrassing body odor, having a very made-up face. The list of beauty concerns grew as they became more independent. These concerns not only distracted women from important issues of equal rights, it also allowed advertisers to make tons of money of their new insecurities.

Currently, women\’s magazines contain 70% advertising & 30% text, much of which is complementary copy encouraging women to buy the products being advertised. That\’s a long way from the early issues of Cosmopolitan that contained only one ad! Gloria Steinam once said the goal of women\’s magazines was \”to create a desire for products, instruct in the use of products, & make products a crucial part of gaining social approval.\” In our consumer society, this philosophy is not just limited to women\’s magazines. Economists have realized that behavior that is essential for economic reasons is transformed into a social virtue, so, even if I avoid the women\’s magazines, I still am subjected to images everywhere confirming that I\’m not skinny enough, I have the wrong hair, & I still haven\’t learned how to wear the right shade of lipstick for my coloring. At the age of 32 my self-esteem is only now beginning to recover.

I look back at pictures of myself as a child & think \”I thought I was fat?\” I wasn\’t fat at all. I was just a little girl who was completely uncomfortable in her body because she watched too much TV, wasn\’t encouraged to exercise, & didn\’t have enough vegetables in her diet. I\’m amazed at how skewed my perception of \”fat\” was. Well, maybe not amazed when I think about it. My warped perception is a reflection of a culture that defines fatness based on height/weight charts developed 100 years ago for a very small segment of the population (wealthy, white men who could afford insurance), then vilifies anyone who does not fit into that formula. Women, in particular, since our culture also teaches girls from day one that our main job is to look good for Prince Charming. And she can\’t look good if she\’s fat. End of story.

This dream we\’re fed that we\’ll be happy if we look like supermodels is erroneous since only about 5% of the population have bodies the size & shape of supermodels. As a matter of fact, the average size for women is size 14, which is considered a plus size. (Plus what?) This unattainable dream of thinness is great for the diet industry. They get to make about 50 billion dollars a year off of our destructive, self-loathing desire to lose a few pounds. It\’s to their benefit that our society worships thinness, when most diets have a 95% failure rate. They keep telling us that we\’ll be fitter if we\’re thinner. They don\’t tell us how diets keep us fatter by wrecking our metabolism, putting our bodies into starvation mode so they hang onto the fat, & screwing up our natural tendencies to eat when we\’re hungry. You\’ll never hear them say that weight is not a true indicator of good health, that as long as you\’re exercising regularly & you have good blood pressure, good cholesterol levels, & good blood sugar levels, you\’re in pretty darn good shape. I\’m willing to bet that the fat, vegetarian bicycle messenger I know is healthier than any emaciated model I\’ve seen on a billboard.

I regretfully think of all of those lost hours I spent in the mall, beating myself up for eating too much, dreaming of the new commitment I was going to make to my diet so I can be the person Victoria\’s Secrets told me I should be. I\’m brought to tears by a Glamour poll that reported over 80% of the women surveyed listed \”losing weight\” as their main goal in life. I can only begin to imagine a world in which women were allowed to live up to their full creative potential instead of having so much of their energy directed into finding the right diet, hairdo, outfit, shoes, plastic surgeon, eyeliner, and on and on and on. I\’m not sure that it\’s such a coincidence that the first Miss American Pageant was in 1920, the same year women got the vote. Some feminists believe this was the beginning of the recurring checks & balances that are still preventing women from attaining equality as human beings. The beauty ideal became a way to distract women from their newfound emancipation by emphasizing the importance of looking thin & beautiful, and it continues to do that. Women now have 3 jobs; to look good, to take care of the home, and their real job. They undercut their already lower salaries by spending billions of dollars on beauty supplies, clothes, & diets.

Most recently, I was practicing some martial arts techniques with a friend of mine in the park. She was letting me practice on her & showing me a few new things, like judo rolls & other stuff that seemed scary for me to do, at first. She kept encouraging me & saying things like, \”You\’re a natural, Tracey. You\’ve got it in you.\” I suddenly felt a spark of self-confidence. Yeah, I do have this in me. I\’ve always had this in me. It\’s just been covered up with piles & piles of body image crap that goes way back before I even knew what the word \”diet\” meant. It\’s been taken away by the diet industry, the beauty industry, & everyone else who benefits from keeping women in a constant state of self-hatred. As I did more judo rolls I once again felt the confidence in my inner beauty grow, like a shoot of grass that\’s sprouted through the cracks in a sidewalk.

Letters

Still for Revolution

Dear Slingshot,

Thank you for the Slingshot Organizer, which delights me. Someday I\’d like to talk to you about \”Your Vision\” in the informative appendix. I well remember the days when, during the McCarthy period, the FBI spent a good deal of time questioning people in Roosevelt [New Jersey] about their radical neighbors. Our neighbors managed to get our auto insurance company to cross us off their list. Luckily we had an insurance agency friend help get us a new policy whether we were dangerous politically or not.

I spent the afternoon boxing up the notes my husband kept when he was doing a column of dates for a magazine called New Masses in the 1930s. You may find a lot of events too concerned with the interests of communists, which we were at the time. But there are also a lot of significant labor and progressive events that he noted, too. The slips of paper reflect our finances – too poor to buy many 3×5 cards. At any rate, I hope you find the stuff of some use [in the 2002 Organizer], and – if not – of interest as reflecting the radicalism of people in your grandparents\’ day.

Thanks also for the copy of Slingshot. I expect you don\’t approve of The People\’s Weekly World, which I also get, but your paper complements it for me with its different take on some of the news. Since I\’m 94 years old, I guess you\’ll have to forgive me for such a liberal attitude. Secretly, though, I\’m still for revolution.

And also Peace! Mary

Glad You didn\’t send Slingshot

Slingshot,

I\’m writing to let you guys know that my last issue received was the Spring 2000 issue and I\’d be very happy if you renewed my subscription. I\’ve missed almost a year of your zine but wouldn\’t have gotten it anyway because I\’ve been in \”segregation\” most of the time for refusing to slave in the state sweatshop for 30 cents a day and have refused to submit to urinalysis tests or take part in any disciplinary hearings (kangaroo court). So I guess it\’s kind of goodyou didn\’t send me any more issues since I wouldn\’t have gotten them anyway. I have since been released from segregation and moved to another facility of a higher custody level.

I also have a favor to ask. Would it be possible for you to send me a list of addresses so I can become more familiar with some of the movements out there? I\’ve been entrenched in the EF! Journal and Green Anarchy but have been interested in contacting the Ruckus Society and Black Bloc and other anarchist organizations. I was wondering if you\’d maybe help. Thanks for the time and free subscription, it really means a lot to me.

Down By Law, Your Friend,

Joshua Vail, #96918, LCF 4-B, Box 10000

Limon, CO 80826

America\’s Largest Public Housing Project

Dear Friends:

I am a hostage of the federal government, held in what has become amerika\’s largest public housing project, prison. We are crowded into cells barely big enough for one, some holding three men, and now they are taking away our TV rooms to make them into ten man cells. In the past nine months, the population in the federal prison system has grown by more than 7,500 people. That\’s an increase of more than 5%, while the U.S. Justice Dept. says that the national average in all of 1999 for prison population growth was only 3.4%. But, I guess, the federal government wants to be the biggest, outdoing all the states.

With such a large population, and so little to do, a person could really go crazy in this place, losing touch with all reality. Our library, if you could call it that, is a major joke! With books missing pages, so old that my grandfather read it years ago, or written on subjects that even the most bored person wouldn\’t find interesting, it is hard to find a decent book to read. Non-fiction books are virtually non-existent, and books on political subjects(other than– and I joke not– Truman and Eisenhower) are not even considered by the powers that be to be placed in our non-library.

Hence my plea to you, please consider sending me any materials that you have available, especially a copy of your newspaper. I am very interested in getting on your mailing list, however, with the slave wages we are paid here, I am unable to pay for a subscription. Please help me to stay in touch with reality, and maintain my sanity, by sending me the materials you have available.

Thank you for considering my request, and please know that whatever is sent will be appreciated, read, and shared with others in here. And, perhaps once we finish with it, I might even be able to slip it into our library!

In Struggle and Solidarity!

Glenn Wright #40494-004

FCI PO Box 5000, Greenville, IL 62246

Wiccans in Prisons

Dear Slingshot:

I read Slingshot with great interest when it arrives. What continues to dismay me is how the Wiccan prison population continues to have their prison issues ignored by you editorial collective.

Just in case you are (or claim) to be ignorant of our plight in prison, here is a brief recap of the issues we currently face:

  1. A Wiccan in prison has no right to practice their religion.
  2. A Wiccan in prison has no right to have, own, or craft any ritual item connected to the practice of Wicca.
  3. A Wiccan in prison has no right to celebrate Esbat or Sabbat in peace and safety.
  4. Books on Wicca, obtained in a legitimate manner, are often confiscated improperly.

Many prisoners draw their strength and ability to survive prison through the practice of Wicca, which is a most positive and life affirming religion, one opposed to abuses of both persons or the earth itself. This helps to explain why the opposition to us is so implacable; we are the very opposite view and belief of those that control and profit from prisons.

If there are any who wish to know more about the plight of Wiccans, please contact me.

Vernon Maulsby

Box 224 #AY-4429

Graterford, PA 19426

Horny for Slingshot

Dear Slingshot,

Your paper make me inspired and passionate. Whenever Iget my hands on it I devour it and then carry it everywhere with me for days. Yeah SLingshot. – Jessamyn, Portland

Don\’t Break With the Left

Dear Editor:

A collective member in your Fall 200 issue wrote that she believed that anarchists were not part of the left, and should stop working with \”leftists\” on actions and other projects. Ironically, another member wrote forcefully in the same issue on the need to broaden coalitions. Obviously, there is a diametric tension between these perspectives.

The first writer\’s position is, at best, ahistorical. Anarchism as a set of principles or ideas came out of the Enlightenment, during the time of the old aristocracy\’s decline, and emergent capitalism. All ideologies of that time (I would suggest now as well) took positions vis a vis the new class relationships. Ideologies which favored the poor were (are ) called \”left.\” Those which favored privilege were \”right.\”

Since the hallmark of anarchism is advocacy of the state, we can say that the opposite of anarchism is statism. The stae has always functioned, in various times, both to protect privilege, and to protect the poor against the worst excesses of privilege. Thus, just as there have always been left and right statists, there have always been left and right anarchists. The question is, which are you?

This question, on the individual level, is easily answered. If you believe in basic human rights (what the Enlightenment chauvinistically called the Rights of Man) and especially if you believe that the earth is a common treasury to which we all have equal entitlement, limited only by the ability f the earth to reproduce its bounty and beauty for future generations, then you are a left anarchist. If, on the other hand, you believe that the law of the jungle in which the strong eat the weak is the highest form f justice, then you are a right anarchist.

Presumably, most anarchist readers and writers for Slingshot belong, more or less, to the former group. Do not abandon the left. The law of the jungle has been gaining ground now for a quarter century, and threatens to engulf us all.

-Dave Linn, Berkeley

Communique from Red Cloud Thunder

Fuck You Forest Service! and greetings from Fall Creek tree occupation, Oregon! Yes, we\’re still here well into our third year of occupation of this lovely old forest, still keeping the lying, thieving de-Forestation Service at bay. Although the Clark timber sale has been on hold since December 99 for red tree vole surveys, the bastards have rushed all that through as quickly as possible, allowed Zip-O Lumber (of Eugene) a 1 year extension on their contract and, by all indications, plan on letting them in here to cut this spring (May 1 possibly). We\’ve girth-climbed lots of trees, found several more vole nests to jam up their bloody gears but have no delusions about our enemy and its intentions, one who writes, breaks and re-writes the rules to suit its own felonious fancies. In one of the most classic true-life tales of Good vs. Evil ever told, we\’ve put our lives on the line (literally) to keep those greed eyed federale nature-raping chain-sawing sons & daughters of clear-cutting bastards and bitches greedy money-grubbing hands the Fuck off this magical ancient forest and we ain\’t about to give up now!

Honka hey! I don\’t have to tell you that strength is in numbers but I will tell you that we need you badly this spring. If you truly love what little wilderness that\’s left (thanks to them, less than 5 percent of Mother Nature\’s-our-your kid\’s ancient forests remain) then you\’ll be here this spring to walk your talk and help us put this god be-cursed white-Anglo-Saxon Protestant male-oriented techno-industrial-manifest destiny juggernaut in its place and keep it there. Many folks have flaked on us feeling the vole hold has saved the forest. Wrong. Hopefully they\’ll be back this spring or you\’ll be here to take their place, either up in one of our many tree sits or fucking shut up on the ground-whatever best suits you. If you are for the trees then we are for you, and if your heart\’s not in it, get your ass out. Infiltrators, agents, disruptors will be tarred, feathered, bound, gagged, pissed and shat upon. All others will achieve some level of sainthood (so long as you don\’t injure or kill one of the bastards.)

Come Out! Help out!! Do Something!!! Wake Up!!!

For more info, contact Red Cloud Thunder, PO Box 11122, Eugene, OR 97440, (541) 684-8977, redcloud@efn.org, www.ecoecho.org. Drop by Out of the Fog Cafe or Morning Glory Cafe in Eugene for directions to the Forest (just 45 miles away.)

Communique from the Army of the Working Poor

You want us out of our homes;

you want us out of our city.

We want you out, too.

On the night of December 13, we broke the windows of Zephyr Real Estate, and we smeared paint on their building. Zephyr real estate deserved it: [they are] responsible for the evictions of hundreds, maybe thousands, of San Francisco families, responsible for what happens to us after we are evicted (hunger, homelessness, displacement).

They break our spirits and our families; we broke a few windows.

They evict us from our homes; we smeared some paint on their building.

They have insurance to replace their windows; and we have residential hotels, soup lines, and unemployment.

On the uneven field of combat we find ourselves on we are not the antagonists Forced out of our city and forced out of our homes, all we can do is react.

We tried reasoning and understanding, we tried the streets and the planning commission, and we tried the ballot box; now we try bricks and the cover of fog.

What we try next is up to you, we have our eye on escalation.

We isolated a symptom, a real estate agent, the cough that lets us know we have bronchitis.

The disease is the government and capitalism. This action should not be seen as an attack, not as a response in like; we haven\’t gotten there yet. It is more like a greeting card; a statement of intent; a breaking of the ice.

The warning shot is coming, and the war is after that. Don\’t think that we aimed low this time, we just aimed reasonably.

We look forward to the day that you will leave us alone, we look forward to peace, good education, good food, and no police. We look forward to freedom. We dream, but when we wake up you are still there. Please leave.

RadioActive Queers 87.9 FM

Do you want to hear radio programming that is more than 50% Queer, more than 60% weird, and more than 100% non-commercial, non-profit, and non-professional (in the very best way)?

RadioActive Queers 87.9 FM is a microradio station broadcasting every Saturday (9 am-midnight) and Monday (3pm-10pm) in North Oakland and South Berkeley.

Programming includes almost everything you might want on the airwaves: techno, punk, hip hop, old sci-fi radio plays, Noam Chomsky, discussions of masturbation, science news, porn, the weekly literary hour, ….. and it varies every week!

Station highlights include live anal sex, a live interview with Company of Prophets, and a covert broadcast in front of the National Association of Broadcasters conference.

You too can get involved. You don\’t have to be queer; we think hearing straight dj\’s announce the \”Radioactive Queers\” station ID is a small yet important revolutionary act. The point of the station is not to provide programming just for queers, but to point out how everyone, in some way or another, might be queer.

Call the voicemail: (510) 239-2239 x 2477. Send tapes or $ or love if you live outside our broadcast range!

Recyclers go IWW

The East Bay Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) won a unanimous NLRB election on February 7 to represent largely spanish-speaking workers at Community Conservation Centers/ The Buy Back in Berkeley, CA. The election was 16 yes, 0 no.

None of the usual union-busting allowed by NLRB regulation loopholes occurred. However, the process was smooth only because the boss chose not to cause problems; the NLRB system still sucks.

Occupy Vandenberg AFB!!

Protesters will occupy South Vandenberg Air Force Base on Armed Forces Day, May 19, 2001. Anti-ballistic missiles and counter-intelligence satellites, including surveillance technology being used in the war against Columbia, are launched from South Vandenberg AFB.

Vandenberg, a nexus of Star Wars activity, was the site of major protests during the Reagan era. The Bush administration has raised Star Wars from its grave; the $60 billion scheme is a cover -up for Theater Missile Defense (TMD), a strategy for deploying an umbrella of anti-ballistic missiles over US troops anywhere in the world. Both Star Wars and TMD are basically subsidies for the defense/aerospace industries, diverting money away from good science like renewable energy research.

Protests at Vandenberg are in solidarity with the indigenous people of the Kwajalein Islands, the landing site for anti-ballistic missile tests launched at Vandenberg.

The May action is a nonviolent backcountry security zone occupation. A film about Vandenberg will be available soon. For more information, contact

Bookstores Need Your Support

A few anarchist book sources have been going through some major changes, and we thought we\’d keep you up to date.

After many years as a bookstore/infoshop, Blackout books closed its doors on Manhattan\’s Lower East Side this past fall, due to a loss of funding source and a lack of volunteer support in securing a much-needed new location.

Another long-time anarchist collective, Left Bank Distribution in Seattle, has been going through financial crises and as a result will be scaling down its operations somewhat to cut overhead costs. They are reducing stock on hand and moving all inventory to their retail space on Pike Street. Individuals can order books online at www.leftbankbooks.com.

AK Press, the publishing and distribution collective has settled into their new digs in Oakland. They are indeed up and running but need volunteer support, since they lost some of their San Francisco volunteer staff. You can inquire about volunteering or about AK\’s upcoming readings & other events by calling (510) 208-1700 or e-mailing them at akpress@akpress.org. You can also order books online at www.akpress.org.

The Long Haul Infoshop in Berkeley just starting carrying new books (from AK press) and still has its used bookstore as well as zine shop and library running Sunday-Thursday, 6-9 p.m.

Please patronize distribution collectives in our anarchist community when purchasing radical literature. A lot of folks have invested time and energy over the years to make these collectives work, and the pernicious omnipresence of chain bookstores threatens these collectives specifically and the future availability of radical literature in general.