All posts by Slingshot

Free Trade in Action: Disney Contractor Pulls Out of Haiti

H.H. Cutler, the largest manufacturer of Disney clothing in Haiti, announced on July 17 that it will pull all production out of Haiti. The National Labor Committee of New York claims Cutler will relocate to China, where wages are approximately 13 cents an hour, as opposed to Haiti, where the minimum wage is 28 cents, but where a living wage is at least double that amount. 2300 workers, mainly women, will be left jobless. One woman worker interviewed at a bus stop said If I lose my job, I might die, but I’m half-dead already.

Cutler blames the pullback on slumping sales of Disney children’s clothing, but Disney and Cutler have been targets of a worldwide campaign protesting starvation wages and miserable working conditions. Human rights organizations will be unable to monitor Cutler production in China. Cutler had previously moved most production out of its home base in Grand Rapids, MI, to relocate to Haiti. It thus follows the path of Nike, which moved production from the U.S. to Korea and now to Indonesia, Viet Nam and China.

To protest this textbook example of free trade in action, and to ask Cutler to stay in Haiti and pay a living wage, write to:

Tom Austin, President Michael Eisner, CEO
H.H. Cutler Walt Disney Company
120 Iona Avenue SW 500 South Buena Vista
Grand Rapids, MI 49503 Burbank, CA 91521

Encuentro Paper

In late July 4,000 people attended the Second International Encounter For Humanity and Against Neoliberalism held in Spain. Below we reprint excerps of a report issued from the working groups: Work and the Means of Production and Creating Conditions for a Life with Dignity

I. Introduction

We came together to help make a world of dignity and justice and well-being for all humanity. This should include the dignified, democratic participation of us all, women and men, in producing the material things we need, redistributing the wealth, raising our children, and taking care of each other. But neoliberal capitalism offers us misery and exploitation so that to work is to create the chains of poverty and subservience for most of us and wealth for a few.

II. Work

1. Changing North/South/East Relations

Today, there are similarities and differences in the forms of exploitation between north and south. The similarities are increasing, but there remain old forms of imperialism which are now being renewed by neoliberalism. Neoliberalism stimulates both development and underdevelopment in both north and south, so that we find the north in the south and the south in the north. Additionally, the workers in the east are now being prepared for various forms of exploitation by northern corporations. Workers in the north do not fundamentally benefit from imperialism — it is the ruling class and the transnational corporations, and particularly speculative financial capital, that benefit — but there is a lot of complexity and inequality in relations between the working class in the north and the working class in the south. Workers in every part of the world lose under neoliberalism, but the workers in the south lose more.

2. Many Faces of Work

Capitalists try to reduce all of human life to work and consumption in the market. Capitalist work is thus exploitation, so that the demand for capitalist work is the demand to be exploited. Many ways are used to force us into this exploitation. However, to work as humans is to produce and reproduce our conditions of life and means to relate with each other. The human way to work is not of competing atomistic individuals, but of social individuals working in cooperative, dignified, and democratic arrangements. The question of human work therefore opens the political question of direct democracy from below to determine the production and reproduction of our lives. However, we must all live, and to live today it often requires that we participate in one of the many forms of capitalist work.

Today, neoliberal capital uses every kind of work in its efforts to suck profit out of the lives of people. Much of the work in the world, perhaps that of half the people of the world, is done in ways that are not directly or immediately part of the market. This comprises mostly forms of agricultrual work and life, but also includes the many areas of the informal economy. The rule of money finds ways to exploit this work, make profit from it, and to bring it under market control.

At this most recent phase of world capitalist development, in both north and south slavery increases, as well as many forms of work that are semi-slavery, such as debt bondage, child labor, forced prostitution, prison labor and workfare . In free trade zones and the maquiladora factories, workers labor in near-slavery conditions.

Neoliberalism depends on increased exploitation of the unwaged and more unpaid work from everyone. Unpaid work includes all the work traditionally done by women in the home to raise children, make men ready for work outside the home, nurse the sick, care for the elderly, and reproduce the entire domestic sphere. It includes unpaid forced overtime, time spent looking for work, and labor obligations for landlords and local political bosses. Neoliberalism also blurs the distinction between waged work and semi- slavery by imposing flex-time, on-call labor, self-employment, working at home — all ways in which the whole life is, like in slavery, reduced to work for capital.

III. Struggles and Alternatives: Reducing Work Time and Creating Non-Capitalist Work

Struggles to reduce capitalist work time, to control land and the means of production, and to build alternative ways to produce and reproduce our life can unite diverse people against the inhuman vampire called neoliberal capital. We recognize that to survive we engage in many particular struggles over immediate issues, but when linked these struggles can open the door to wider and deeper struggles.

We need therefore to develop principles with which we can analyze our struggles to see if they put us in a better position to overcome the inhuman way of life we are forced into, whether they reduce hierarchies and create wider spaces of shared democratic participants. Some of these principles include: to reduce the risk of being co-opted by capital; to ensure that our struggles and demands correspond to many sectors, needs and aspirations; and to ensure they embody a principle of human liberation. We must therefore be sure that reductions in work in one place are not at the expense of work in another. We can also develop principles that distinguish between projects imposed from the top or outside by capitalism, and those from the bottom and inside, from the people.

The struggle to reduce capitalist work allows more time to struggle against capital and more time to develop alternative was to produce, live and redistribute domestic chores. We simultaneously demand higher wages and equalization of wages, between men and women, citizens and migrants, north and south, different kinds of workers, and races. The struggle to reduce work time for capital is a struggle not only of the waged workers, but also of the unwaged workers, the millions of farmers and peasants, students, unemployed, elderly, housewives and indigenous of the world. For example, a well in a village could mean the reduction of arduous work by men and women. When we reduce work time, we must ensure the equal distribution of the work that we decide needs to be done. While we reduce work time, me must insist on conditions that ensure dignity and health for the work that remains to be done.

A guaranteed income assuring life with dignity for all residents of nation is also right. We say residents because this right belongs to migrants as well as citizens: we all have rights to inherit the wealth and knowledge that are products of centuries of collective human activity. This right is independent of requirement to work for capital. Income without work can also be gained through various struggles such as occupying houses or land, reappropriations , and refusing to pay for services.

In the south, and in some places of the north, rights to land, water, and other means of agricultural production are essential to life with dignity and the creation of just societies. These rights must not be limited by requirements to produce for the capitalist market.

Creating alternative spaces for production and social life is good in itself because these spaces enable relations that are outside of and beyond the market. They also can put limits to capitalist expansion and support creation of spaces in which struggles can grow and be protected. We can learn through this how to create many visions of ways to organize our lives and production. The satisfaction of needs outside of direct control of the capitalist market enables us to fight capital on a terrain that is more favorable to us. These forms of alternatives can develop out of traditional forms of work, but some traditional forms involve exploitation and also must be abolished. Many forms of third sector work (supposedly depending neither on the market nor the state) are not true alternatives to capitalist work, but instead are a new form of lower-waged capitalist work.

British Activists Destroy Genetically Engineered Crop

An experimental crop of rapeseed (canola), owned by the US based biotech corporation Monsanto, has been destroyed by local residents in a “Do It Yourself” public protest at a farm near Coventry, England.

The action took place in the interests of public safety on the evening of Wednesday August 6 at Tibs Hall Farm, Kingsbury near Tamworth, Staffs. The genetically altered crop containing mutant DNA was uprooted from its experimental plot by people wearing protective clothing. The plants were then broken before being mixed together with ‘normal’ plants to invalidate the experiment’s results.

In a statement issued this morning, local people said: The mutant DNA in this crop could easily spread to the surrounding area either through cross-pollination or through virus infection. No one can guarantee that this will not happen.

Our natural world is being tampered with for private profit. We are not prepared to see the people and plants of Staffordshire – or anywhere else in the UK – used as guinea pigs in somebody else’s experiment.

Despite Monsanto’s claims that their field trials of genetically engineered crops are entirely risk-free, several studies have shown that the pollen of transgenic rapeseed plants can cross-pollinate with traditional or wild species, spreading the genetic pollution.

The campaign against genetic engineering has also taken to the fields in Germany where testing is carried out. In 1996 at least 12 fields were destroyed by protesters, and action by local people stopped the planting of several more. Four fields are currently being squatted full-time by German activists determined to stop them being planted with Monsanto’s herbicide-resistant sugar beet.

Industry Selling Its Hazardous Wastes as Fertilizer

In an example of prevailing attempts to greenwash industries by co-opting progressive terminology, heavy industry has been selling its hazardous waste as fertilizer while claiming to be recycling byproducts. Federal regulation has made the cost of disposing of toxic waste a significant factor. A loophole in EPA regulations allows the use of industrial waste products as fertilizer, no matter what they contain. This is now a fast-growing phenomenon, saving industry millions of dollars at the expense of public health.

It’s really unbelievable what’s happening, but it’s true, Patty Martin, mayor of Quincy, WA, a small farming community, said. They just call dangerous waste a product, and it’s no longer a dangerous waste. It’s a fertilizer.

Ingredients Not Regulated

Unlike Canada and European countries, the U.S. has a hands-off policy as to what can constitute fertilizer. There are actually state programs to match up recyclers of toxic waste with fertilizer companies and farmers. Factories are building fertilizer plants close to their emissions control systems, to increase convenience and profitability. The resulting fertilizer needs no labeling as to the dangerous ingredients it contains. Industry representatives would like the public to believe that they are civic-minded (and smart and wise) enough to police themselves, but horror stories resulting from the use of such fertilizers indicate otherwise.

Consequences to Farmers

In Tifton, GA, more than 1,000 acres of peanut crops aimed for human consumption were killed by Lime Plus, a brew of hazardous waste and limestone that had been sold to unsuspecting farmers.

An Oregon farmer, Wes Behrman of Banks, OR, won an out-of-court settlement from L-Bar fertilizer company after seeing his red-clover crop mysteriously wilt. He refused to discuss terms of the settlement with reporters, but he had told other people it was substantial.

In Gore, Oklahoma, a uranium-processing plant is getting rid of low-level radioactive waste by licensing it as a liquid fertilizer and spraying it over 9,000 acres of grazing land (with 2-nosed cows, 9-legged frogs, and very high rates of cancer and birth defects occurring in the vicinity).

In Quincy, WA, to dispose of a 54-foot long concrete pond full of toxic waste, the Cenex fertilizer company struck a deal with lessee farmer Larry Schaapman. He was paid more than $10,000 to let Cenex put the material, which the company claimed had fertilizer value, on his 100 acres. It killed the land. The corn crop failed there in 1990, even though Schaapman and Cenex applied extra water to try to wash the toxics through the soil. Hardly anything grew there the next year, either.

The land belonged to Dennis DeYoung, whose family had farmed it since the early 1950s before he leased it to Schaapman. Since the land was poisoned, DeYoung couldn’t make his payments, and the company that financed him foreclosed on a $100,000 debt. DeYoung also owed Cenex money for fertilizer and seed. Soon after, Cenex bought the land from the financing company. DeYoung sued Cenex for damages for ruining the soil, lost in summary judgment but won a reversal in the State Court of Appeals earlier this year. He’s preparing for a new trial.

Tom Witte is a 53-year-old farmer with 200 acres and about 100 cows a few miles east of Quincy, WA. His father purchased the farm in 1956. Witte had a disastrous year in 1991, associated with the use of contaminated fertilizer. His red spring wheat, silage corn, and grain corn all yielded about one-third the normal levels. Six of his cows got sick and died. The veterinarian found cancer in the three that were tested.

Witte and DeYoung submitted hair samples to a laboratory that tests for heavy metals in human tissues. The lab found high levels of aluminum, antimony, lead, arsenic and cadmium in hair samples from DeYoung, Witte, and Witte’s children.

Jaycie Giraud of Quincy, WA, said that the Giraud family, which has been farming in the area for three generations, is now broke due to the use of toxic fertilizers. Her father-in-law, a farmer for 50 years, lost a $1 million potato crop. Her husband and their two children, aged 7 and 14, have all developed respiratory problems that she believes are related to fertilizer products.

Farms Destroyed

The industries that are benefiting financially from recycled waste are claiming that there are no known risks in the use of toxic waste in fertilizer. However, farmers‚ land has been destroyed, livestock has been dying of cancer, and the health of the farmers themselves has been damaged by recycled waste. After determining that these problems coincided with the application of these fertilizers, some farmers have begun to protest the devastation of their lives and livelihoods.

Kerr-McGee Bags

Monsanto’s Waste

Monsanto Corp., a major pesticide manufacturer, sold the toxic waste from its Soda Springs, ID factory as a fertilizer component for six years. In 1994, they became the first company so far to STOP, because of fear of possible liability. They are still selling some waste to Kerr-McGee, who have taken over the process of turning it into fertilizer. A Monsanto rep stated that, in effect, Kerr-McGee is being paid to take on the risk of liability. Kerr-McGee is a pretty big company. If they have a (liability) problem, they’ll probably face their problem without dragging Monsanto into it.

A Growing Phenomenon

Although a big corporation like Monsanto has seen the liability at the end of the tunnel, this phenomenon is not about to go away. It is increasing. Soil scientists report that waste brokers from metal-, cement-, paper- and wood-products companies call constantly, trying to get matched up with farmers who will accept their waste products so that they will not have to pay to dispose of them.

Nor is it just currently produced toxics that are being cycled into fertilizer. Toxic waste from old dump sites is also making its unregulated way into fertilizer. And at one of the sites on the EPA’s Superfund list, Lowry Landfill near Denver, there is a plan to send liquid waste from the site through sewage treatment and apply it to government-owned wheat farms. The EPA is considering the novel disposal plan in a pending ruling that may set a precedent for new ways to clean up Superfund sites. The official EPA fact sheet on the landfill omits the fact that the waste is radioactive.

Follow-ups and Food Slander

Fertilizer industry reps seem willing to admit that mistakes were made (by scofflaws), but seem to define mistakes as the instances in which crops or livestock were destroyed or obviously damaged. They do not seem to acknowledge that (1) poisons put into the soil will become part of the plants or (2) eating such plants will have harmful effects. They would like to deny the following:

- Toxic heavy metals build up in soil.

- Radioactivity does not go away.

- Pesticide residues have harmful effects.

- Some plants take up more or less of certain chemicals from the ground than others.

- When the plants are eaten by animals, the toxins build up and multiply in their tissues. It’s the animals at the top of the food chain (such as predatory animals and meat- and dairy-eating humans) that receive the heaviest doses of toxins.

There has been very little coverage of this issue in the mainstream press, possibly because of the new Food Slander laws in 13 states, which warn that anyone saying bad things about agribusiness is likely to be sued (e.g., Oprah Winfrey is being sued by Texas cattle business for her show about mad-cow disease).

But the one major article, which appeared July 3 in the Seattle Times, apparently did have an effect. On August 7th regulators from states all over the US convened to discuss the labeling of fertilizers. A panel of regulators and fertilizer executives was appointed to come up with a policy on labeling, and it was announced that it would be proposed in six weeks. One thing that is not known is whether there will be actual testing, which would be difficult and expensive, especially since the toxic products are variable in nature.

Some Anti-toxics Organizations

The Pure Food Campaign
860 Highway 61
Little Marais, MN 55614

Citizen’s Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste
150 S. Washington, Suite 300
P.O. Box 6806
Falls Church, VA 22040

Pesticide Action Network

http://www.igc.apc.org/panna/others.html

Ian Ray: 1964-1997

Ian Ray, an early member of Slingshot and a Berkeley activist in the late 1980s, died on August 24. He was 33 years old.

Ian was remarkable both for his commitment to radical political movements and for the way he lived his life. In the late 80s he organized the Berkeley chapter of the Rainforest Action Network. He was arrested repeatedly protesting militarism, injustice and environmental destruction. Ian always pushed toward greater awareness of environmental issues at a time when those issues seemed less prominent.

After moving to Berkeley in 1986 to attend UC Berkeley, he almost immediately moved to the fringes of Southside wingnut culture. Ian had such a creative mind and liberated spirit that the confines of hierarchical, industrial education couldn’t hold him. He turned not only his dorm room, but his entire floor in the uptight dorm, into a musical, pharmacological and artistic experiment.

Ian later moved to Barrington Hall, a large and extremely weird University cooperative in South Berkeley. It is hard to explain to someone who never saw Barrington what it was all about. It was a liberated zone within puritan America. Every surface in Barrington was covered with psychedelic murals and layer upon layer of graffiti. The graffiti wasn’t just tags–it contained long debates about revolution, religion, art, everything. Ian’s handwriting was often visible in the long graffiti debates, which would go on for years.

Most of the people in Barrington were outside of mainstream culture in one way or another. Often, residents were outside the mainstream in almost every way. Ian became part of an informal Nudity Liberation Front at Barrington and would often go entire days without clothes. If you visited him at Barrington, you might find him coming out of the shower. After drying off, he would just walk away and go about his business.

When conservative coop officials campaigned to shut Barrington down in 1989-90, Ian was in the forefront of unsuccessful efforts to save it. Ultimately he was one of the squatters who stayed until police moved in.

Ian was a drummer who loved music. He studied bugs (entomology) at UC Berkeley. He dropped out of school because he loved bugs so much: he had to kill bugs for his classes and after a while, he just couldn’t do it anymore.

He wrote numerous articles for Slingshot, some under the pen-name Dinsdale Pirranha. He was one of 4 Slingshoters featured naked on the back of issue #28. He loved being silly and he loved life, living things and being alive. He hugged everyone he met. He will be missed and remembered. After years of struggling against illness, Ian took his own life.

Letters

A shorter work-week in Ecotopia

Dear Slingshot:

With regard to a critique of my recently published articles, (see letters, issue #58) Jan Lundberg is to be commended for understanding that a saner society of the future would not work as many hours as we do at present. In spite of being on the right track in that regard, Lundberg claimed that I ‘believe in work, productivity, and everyone having plenty of stuff’, but the extent of my belief about productivity is that it is constantly increasing. The only condition under which I could be tempted to become a religious believer in productivity would be if constant gains were automatically compensated by instant reductions in the amount of time that we work, precisely in order to prevent over-exploitation of natural resources and the environment, exacerbation of class differences, explosive population growth, and to enable workers’ control and increasing freedom for producers of useful commodities and services.

In spite of my written record on these issues, I was amazed to find myself accused of ‘nudging people in a dangerous direction’, as though proceeding in the direction of less work, which we both believe in, were not good enough a reason for us to collaborate.

Fixing our problems with a new economic system to be known as ‘bioregional-based subsistence’ sounded wonderful to me, but, if the new economic system will be at all based upon changing property relations, there may be a hard row to hoe. If it took a Civil War to abolish as unpopular a form of property ownership as slavery, then enlisting the services of everyone whom Lundberg knows, or would like to know, may not suffice to change ownership of much else, so precious are the principles and privileges of private property to ‘the man on the street’.

Though exploiters would certainly like to see work-time maximized, the amount that we allow one another to work is not as absolute a principle as is property ownership. Until we adopt the philosophy that ‘too much work for me means too little work for my brothers and sisters’, we will remain in the grips of a dog-eat-dog philosophy of cutthroat competition that may have enabled societies of the past to prosper and triumph, but has since been superannuated by unprecedented levels of productivity, the result of which goes mainly to the rich. 98% of new wealth accrues to the upper 20%, while the lower 80% mindlessly ‘race each other to the bottom’ for bits of their measly 2% class share.

Billions of people all over the world feel as if no one gives a damn about anyone but themselves, because everyone is allowed to compete for scarce jobs. Remove this state of desolation by adopting reasonable measures to cut down on wasteful competition for jobs, and people will begin to give a damn, not only about themselves, but about everything else on the planet as well.

–Ken Ellis

What would Freud have to say?

What’s happening Slingshot collective:

Whenever I whip out my 1997 Slingshot Organizer, I get looks of envy from passersby. Sooo, to rid myself from wanton glaring and lecherous leers, except when I want to impress my coworkers with obvious (I pull out my 1997 Slingshot) organization capabilities, I want as many of those dang handy organizers as you can send.

Keep on lovin’

Martin Johnston

Refuse the California Police State

Dear Slingshot:

I just moved here. I went to the DMV to try to transfer my license from New York State to the Police State. First I was told that I needed a birth certificate. I called up my Dad and asked him to go to the town hall in Massachusetts (where he still lives) and get a copy of the record. He asked why, and I told him that I needed it to transfer my drivers license. Strange eh? So we both thought.

A week later I got the certified copy of the record of my distinguished birth. Sure enough, my birthday really was October 7. I then drove to the DMV (mind you, I’ve never had an accident or speeding ticket, or even parking ticket in my 15 years as a licensed driver). I jumped through the appropriate hoops, and got to the next to the last window, right before they are to take your photograph. Here is the sign Fingerprinting Mandatory. What the fuck?

I saw a whole line of dutiful citizens voluntarily lining up for their thumb printing. I took my completed application and told the woman at the desk I found it offensive they first wanted my birth certificate (to prove I was a citizen), but I sure as hell wasn’t giving them my finger prints. She was surprised to hear me, a non-threatening white female tell her I found this policy offensive. I said I’d have to think about it before I finished the process.

I asked the flip question how long before you start taking people’s blood? Don’t laugh, she said we might just start doing it. That made it very easy for me to make up my mind. I took my old trusty NY drivers license from the counter, and all my records and left the premises. I almost thought someone was going to prevent me from illegally leaving the building or something.

REFUSE to succumb to the Police State. I’ve been in CA for less than one month, and have had to refuse finger printing twice already, once at the DMV, once at my teaching job which also asked me to sign a loyalty oath. Pay attention to when your personal freedoms get slowly taken away. Soon you might forget you ever deserved them.

–Donna

Radio Free Allson Rocks Boston

Dear Slingshot

I’ve been a subscriber to Slingshot for about 5 years, I think, and it’s been well worth it. I am sending in my renewal soon (as soon as I get paid)….

Anyway, I wanted to tell you about our pirate/community radio station here in Boston. It’s called Radio Free Allston, and we broadcast four days a week, from 5 pm to 1 am at 106.1 fm. Our antenna should give us 20 watts, but mostly we get only 10, which gives us a broadcast radius of about 5 miles. We have news, public affairs, and music programming in five languages.

The difference between us and other pirates is that we are doing our best to involve everyone in the neighborhood, and we are broadcasting from right out in the open, figuratively and literally. Our regular home is in a gallery space in the Allston Mall, which is a collection of interesting small businesses – a vintage clothes shop, a movie store, (formerly a cool record store), a body piercing shop, and now us.

Every once in a while, we take the show on the road. We’ve done mobile broadcasts from a Homes Not Jails building takeover, a fundraising bike ride for a youth mentoring program, and a festival called Wake Up the Earth. At each one of these, we broadcast from a van with a huge Radio Free Allston banner on it, for maximum visibility. We have been written up in all the large and small newspapers in the area, and we were just featured on the evening news here in Boston. We have benefits for the station in the local clubs and our flyers are in all the record stores.

From what I’ve read of the stories of pirates who try to hide from the cops and the FCC, I like our strategy much better, although I probably wouldn’t be so brave if I were in it all by myself. At least this way, when the FCC comes knocking (heads), we will all be in the fight together, along with the people of the community.

I hope this info is useful to potential pirates, and I am very excited about all the micropower stations popping up all over the country. They’re starting so fast, no one can keep a complete list of them! Here’s a commercial for my show: I am known on-air as Tasty Aileen the Beauty Queen, and I host the Grrrly Show, which is by, about, and for the women who rock Boston. If anyone wants to write to me, or send me stuff to play, my address is: P.O. Box 2061, Jamaica Plain, MA 02130. I am also the new webmaster of our old site, which is here: http://www.tiac.net/users/error/radiofreeallston/ although it may be moving, so you might have to search for it again.

Also, there is a fight going on in Cambridge, where they are trying to tear down a whole block of small businesses, including the Lucy Parsons Bookstore, and build, of all things, a hugeapartment building and a GAP! Please read about this effort and support it in any way you can – their website is here: http://www.worldmedia. com/madness/directtest/hnj4.htm or you can call the Save Central Square committee organizers John Bekken at (617) 783-4328 or George Salzman at (617) 547-5033.

Peace, Stacey.

p.s. Do you have any of those Slingshot organizers left? Here it is July, and I could really use one.

Inevitability of freedom

Greetings comrades of Long Haul,

I hope you are well and a continued spirit of struggle. As for me, I am well and confident of the inevitability of our freedom and our nation’s independence. Next year, July 25, 1898 will mark the 100th Anniversery of the imposition of U.S. colonial domination (of Puerto Rico). It is a time for action and concrete steps of international solidarity.

I would like to continue receiving your newspaper as well as news on our struggle.

In Struggle,

Edwin Cortés P.O.W.

Marriage

I just met two women who were recently married, a new option that the LesBiGay community is fighting for. Even a good straight liberal can agree with the gay agenda on this one, equal rights to such benefits as tax breaks, medical insurance, pensions, hospital visitation, medical power of attorney, immunity from testifying against a spouse in a court of law, automatic transfers of housing leases, right to sue for wrongful death, and the billion other things that heterosexual married couples are entitled to.

The landmark 1996 case Baeher v. Mike in Hawaii opened the door, so to speak, to legal civil registration of marriage between same-sex couples. This marks the beginning of the end to sex discrimination in civil marriage in America, setting many states into motion trying to justify the discrimination they have perpetrated.

Of course gay marriage should exist as a choice. The open closet door couples could put their nuptials in the local newspapers and have very public weddings if they chose. These weddings could take the same range of possibilities as heterosexual weddings, anywhere from the religious to secular, elaborate to simple. Couples who remain in the closet could still benefit from a legal union and keep their marital status secret if they felt the need to protect their privacy. Of course, some couples would still choose not to enter into a legal civil marriage, just like their heterosexual counterparts who prefer to live together without the legal sanctions and benefits of marriage.

But is this normalization of the gay community something we really want? Doesn’t it make perfect sense that we all, regardless of our marital status, deserve medical insurance? Shouldn’t everyone be able to decide who they count as family? Shouldn’t we all bevalued as individuals, rather than as part of a couple–regardless of our sexuality? What will become of the lesbian and gay communities that we have worked so hard to develop once we are married off, living isolated lives in suburbia?

At this point in time, we have a real opportunity to escape from the patriarchal institution of marriage and the state that enforces it. But this requires that we create and maintain communities supportive of a wide variety of relationships–relationships that are not based on ownership and domination. Is our future as bleak as the heterosexual world’s, in which possessive marriages and the subsequent alienation of divorce is the norm? There’s a postcard going around now – Gay Marriage? May as well be straight! All I ask is that after you finish opening the new toaster ovens and silverware, please come back out and continue helping us change the world.

Norma Jean Croy is Free!

After 19 years in prison, Native American lesbian political prisoner Norma Jean Croy is free! She made her first public appearance on International Women’s Day for an evening in solidarity with women political prisoners. Croy now resides in Oakland where she works as an auto mechanic.

Radioactive Art!

WASHINGTON

What markers might be sufficiently ominous or impressive to prevent people from drilling into a nuclear waste dump or otherwise releasing its radioactive burden 10,000 years from now?

Specialists estimate that English will have retained as few as 12 percent of its current basic words, and still less of its complex vocabulary. These specialists recommend a menacing earthworks design, with the land above the repository to be surrounded by immense, lightning-shaped mounds of earth.

Visitors walking through the earthworks would lose sight of the horizon and experience a loss of connection to any sense of place. In an open central area, there would be a large walk-on world map showing the location of all radioactive waste repositories.

The basic warning: Do not dig or drill here before 12000 A.D. in seven languages would be flanked by human faces, one denoting horror and the other denoting sickness and nausea.

The experts agreed that exposed site markers must be large enough to withstand centuries of wind and water erosion. They must also resist the tendency of human beings to vandalize or remove pieces of structures. They recommended using materials of little value and in shapes that make them poorly suited for reuse. What do you recommend?

Submit your artwork, or proposals and ensure your art has a half-life of 10,000 years. Still art, video, music, text, installations, whatever you think is appropriate. Enough entries will cause us to have an art show!

Radioactive Art
3124 Shattuck Ave.
Berkeley, CA 94705

35 for 40 proposal

Every year the rich get richer and the people who do the work stagnate, or get paid less. The wealth of the richest 1 percent of Americans has increased almost 50 percent since 1989, while the median family wealth has remained unchanged for the last 15 years. The stock market has doubled over the last 30 months and corporate profits are exploding. Meanwhile, wage levels are declining, benefits are being cut, working conditions are deteriorating and good jobs are moving to low wage countries. Even when wages aren’t cut, but just stay the same, workers lose the amount of inflation every year. These invisible losses have been going on for 20 years.

The Committee for a Shorter Work Week in Berkeley is hoping to do something about this attack on the working class. Building on the immensely successful state initiative petition drive to increase the minimum wage which was passed in the last California election, they hope to pass an initiative in Berkeley to cut the work week to 35 hours a week with no decrease in pay. The Berkeley initiative would be a demonstration project for an idea that, if it was implemented nationally, would materially improve the lives of workers.

A shorter work week not only gives workers extra personal time in these hectic times, but it creates a labor shortage which increases the negotiating power of workers. With technological improvements constantly reducing the amount of labor needed to create social wealth, it is only natural that the average work week should be reduced to keep pace. Throughout the industrial revolution, the labor movement struggled to reduce the length of the work week. By the 1930s, the 40 hour week had become the standard. Workers have been stuck at the 40 hour week since then.

It takes a minimum of 4,363 valid Berkeley signatures, out of about 100,000 registered Berkeley voters, to get an initiative on the ballot. The committee has come up with draft language for the initiative, which they are hoping to revise, improve and then submit to the city. After the initiative is published by the city, there are 180 days to circulate the petition. The Committee is aiming to have the initiative on either the June or November, 1998 election ballot. They hope to use innovative, community based tactics, and avoid paid signature gatherers, in getting the initiative on the ballot.

If you want to get involved, contact the Committee at PO Box 451, Oakland, CA 94604. Or call (510)595-3229 for more information. Meetings are going to be every other Saturday starting October 11 at 10a.m. at the Berkeley Public Library Claremont Brach at Ashby and Benvenue in Berkeley.