Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Prostitutes threatened my life!" and other ridiculous foolishness

Last Friday the DC Council Committee on Public Safety and the Judiciary held a hearing on "Strategies to Combat Prostitution." I (dj bent) was unable to attend but I did catch some crucial moments on the DC Council video streaming - OMG it was so awful. I was at work or else I would have been screaming at the computer screen "What is wrong with you idiots!!!?!?!"

The Washington Post had an interesting article on the hearing (chaired by Phil Mendelson, At-Large Democrat) and includes a neat video that I like:

I am so impressed with Sharmus, she is the bomb and really stuck it to them - I didn't get a chance to see her testify, but I helped her craft her testimony and my sources at the hearing said she was the best and strongest voice present for sex worker rights.

Some of the proposals put forward by witnesses from PSA 102 in Northeast included:
-making prostitution a felony offense
-mandatory HIV testing for anyone arrested of a prostitution offense
-increasing the length of time of prostitution free zones and expanding the area that they can cover
-longer sentences for prostitution charges (currently they are up to 30 days first offense, up to 60 second offense, and up to 180 third offense and beyond)

To show how uninformed and operating on assumption and moralistic foolery these people are, they also proposed two "solutions" that are not only offensive like the ones abose, but:
-already law: increasingly long sentences the more convictions you have
-impossible and contradictory/ie make no sense: mandating diversion programs

Diversion programs are when people agree to plead guilty so that the charges are suspended and they participate in a program, which would be helpful (like drug treatment) or bad (like re-education programs for clients of sex workers). If they fail to fulfill any part of the program they face the jail time for the guilty plea and full sentence.

The atmosphere and language of the anti-prostitution dudes was vitriolic with them complaining that there are condoms everywhere in their neighborhood that their kids try to eat them, that sex workers threaten them and make everyone in the area afraid for their lives, and more foolishness. Incredibly, Chairman Mendelson seemed to be taking their recommendations seriously!! WTF?!?! He is supposed to be this measured, thoughtful guy and I've heard him in other hearings repeatedly say to advocates of harsher criminal penalties on other topics "It's important to hear individual stories but we need to think about the broader policy issues and find what is going to work." Not once did he bring that critical eye to this issue. It's so obviously about political calculations - as Mendelson told researchers with the Alliance for a Safe & Diverse DC that he thought it's time to try new approaches to sex work that don't rely on criminalization but that it's not politically viable. Plus he used the passage of the prostitution free zones in his campaign literature for re-election and probably is worried about being portrayed as "soft on crime" again in the next election.

Folks in the community recognize the seriousness of the situation, that this hearing is probably going to lead to new proposed legislation that will be horrible, so we are organizing to put pressure against that kind of solution. Between this debacle and the overt, violent efforts to remove all non-yuppies from 5th and K Street area now that there are new condos and such there, this violent battle for public space in DC continues. They are even fighting against social services! When does it end? Oh that's right, when every poor, person of color, gender non-conforming, homeless, etc person is run out of the District. That's probably when DC will become a state too.

It is really a shame that more groups are not working on these issues, recognizing the fundamental threat to all of us that they represent, and creating stronger coalitions across issues to fight back. Low income housing advocacy groups, homeless advocacy groups, people of color groups, LGBT groups and more should all be working on this and educating their membership about the issues. Because of the fiercest witnesses demanding the heads of all sex workers at this hearing: most of them were white gay men.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Election thoughts Part III

This amazing clip from the Colbert Report (Nov 5) has many high points (and a few weird ones) but the best comes at the very end - when Andrew Young puts the election of Barack Hussein Obama into context of the first elections of black mayors across the country...

It's really amazing to me that the election of Obama has given people so much license to just spew ridiculous racist BS. It's been a week now and not only are hearing the classic racism from here in the US but even from abroad. Of course the same election night that Obama won the presidential election Nebraska eliminated affirmative action, and Colorado came close. This will naturally be a time of people saying that "racism is over" (as one comment I saw on a photostream said "blacks haven't been oppressed since the seventies") and "I don't see color, I voted for Obama" but will it also be a time of people engaging with those kinds of comments? I wonder if Obama himself will shy away from taking these topics head on, or if he will tackle them head on. Meanwhile I guess we can at least hold him to his words about MLK that King would not have endorsed any candidate but would organize people to pressure the elected president to do the right thing.

On another note (kinda related) I really like this song and video (minus one stupid mini-moment), which I came across in dj/rupture's post on Earplug about Auto-Tune:

Friday, November 7, 2008

Thoughts on Election 08' Part II

So election reflections are still a part of the genderfatigue mind this week. And instead of giving our own. We thought we'd share some from our friend, radio producer and all-around journalist, Jenka Soderberg:

jenka's journal: a black president

ok! i admit it. It does feel good to actually have a black president. i mean, yeah ok, he's compromised, corporate, and part of a system that was set up to maintain inequalities... but damn!!!! we actually have a black president!!!!

i have to admit it, i was cynical up to the end - i didn't believe it would actually happen, no matter what the polls said - i was absolutely convinced that the bush/cheney gang would figure out a way to steal yet another election. but it didn't happen! i mean....... how could i NOT be moved when i, sitting in the radio studio providing live coverage of the election returns, started getting the reports phoned in from washington dc, so loud i could hardly hear the reporter on the phone,
telling me about watching black people pour out of their homes by the thousands, into the streets .....the same streets that had burned in the anger of the 1968 riots when martin luther king was killed.... and had remained burned out and dismal until the last few years when they've been whitened by gentrification....but on election night, the streets were black again - with the exuberant reality that we finally have a black president!

and so i start wondering - how will this be remembered ..... will barack obama be assassinated before he takes office? will he turn out to be a mediocre leader that lets the nation be led into even more war? will people take the action for the change that so many are talking about, or just go back to sleep now that the election is over?

i wonder.....

and then i think to myself wow!!! it sure is good to be feeling WONDER - instead of exasperated outrage! because after eight years of having to steel myself to not be shocked by the latest atrocity carried out by the gang in power, i don't think i could take another day of
exasperated outrage.

i don't know if i even realized just how deep and pervasive my feeling of exasperated outrage had become - every time the bush administration came out with another insane policy to further erode the constitution, to run the economy further into the ground, to further entrench the
imperial occupations of iraq and afghanistan, to justify torture and other atrocities - i just became more and more exasperated, more and more outraged..... and sheesh....that really wears a person down! even a person engaged in ceaseless struggle against such injustice.

So .... now that everything is possible (...i say with a smirk and wry smile....), I'd like to offer this suggestion on the question of Israel-Palestine.

A lot of talk has been made about a 'two state solution'. In my humble opinion, the only just two-state solution would include the following:

-The original UN Resolution of 1948 that created the State of Israel should be implemented. The borders of Israel and Palestine should be set according to that resolution, and the city of Jerusalem should be an international city, administered by the United Nations.

-Palestinian refugees have an internationally-recognized right to return to their homeland. Israel should offer all of those refugees registered with the United Nations Refugee and Works Association a choice of residency rights in Israel or compensation. Those who choose compensation should be allowed full citizenship rights in the countries where they have chosen to reside (mainly Jordan and Lebanon). The leaders of those nations housing Palestinian refugees who choose compensation over a return to their ancestral home should allow the Palestinians full and equal rights, including allowing them freedom to travel and freedom to build homes.

-Israel should implement a general amnesty for all Palestinians currently being held in Israeli detention camps. These prisoners number about 10,000, many of whom have never been charged. Israel has no jurisdiction over the Palestinian people, and no right to enter
Palestinian areas and take Palestinians prisoner at a whim, as is the Israeli practice now.

-Palestinians should hold a general assembly to determine the type of government they prefer, which may not necessarily use the model of the Palestinian Authority, which was imposed upon them by Israel since 1967, Israel has controlled all aspects of Palestinian life. The following controls must all be lifted in order for there to be a just peace:

-Israeli control of all Palestinian residency rights
-Israeli control of all Palestinian water rights
-Israeli control of all Palestinian airspace
-Israeli control of all Palestinian sea borders, including control over
fishing boats -Israeli control of all Palestinian land
-Israeli control of all Palestinian borders and travel abroad
-Israeli control of all Palestinian movement within Palestine
-Israeli control of all Palestinian construction permits
-Israeli control of all Palestinian imports and exports
-Israeli control of all Palestinian taxation
-Israeli control of all Palestinian farmland
-Israeli control of Palestinian freedom to worship (banning most Palestinians from praying at Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem)
-Israeli control of all Palestinian vehicle registration and licensing
-Israeli control of all Palestinian ID cards -Israeli control of Palestinian students' right to education (Israel has the final say on whether a student, once accepted to university, is allowed to go to the university)
-Israeli court system and laws enforced on Palestinians

If all of these things are implemented by Israel, then we can begin to talk about a two-state solution.

But since Obama decided to set the tone of his presidency by selecting, as his first act as President-elect, Rahm (nickname Rahm-bo, middle name Israel, who volunteered for the Israeli army and is described as more hard-line than Bush on the Israel-Palestine issue) Emmanuel as his Chief of Staff, ......well, I kinda doubt that'll happen.

still, i can't help but wonder if we could maybe make it happen......just maybe.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Thoughts on Election 08' Part I: Proud to Live in D.C.

This is Mothershiester writing from the inner depths of her ex-home office. There's a lot going on in my mind. I'm sure it's the same with you all. I wanted to update our blog with a letter I wrote to Obama. I think I'm going to send it:

Dear President-Elect Barack Hussein Obama,

Last night, when bent and I emerged from the Columbia Heights Metro elevator to head home to pick up records for our election show, it hit me that the chances of you becoming the President of the United States was inevitable. And that broke me down. I never thought I'd ever live to see our country led by anybody else that didn't look like those that have been minions to this power structure that has time and time again proven to suppress us.

When bent and I started hearing the exuberant yelling, it became clear that this was going to happen. I couldn't do anything but scream your name at the top of my lungs with the dozens of other people outside that were also making the same realization. I was so overwhelmed with tears that I couldn't hold myself up at one point because my head couldn't wrap around the idea of not only a black president but a black president that could possibly inspire agency amongst people. Someone that had the background that could shape our lives for the better despite the hard road this country is set to follow. I didn't realize how much the Bush administration had strangled a part of my soul until my wounded yelling of your name would not cease. I didn't realize how your election to this seat of power meant something, something that I needed to restore my belief in people. Because everywhere we went people took to the streets: dancing, crying, smiling ear to ear, screaming, setting off fireworks, hugging strangers, shaking hands with strangers, showing the best sides of themselves. Usually the idea of unity seems corny if not naive. And usually the idea of unity comes after something tragic and it often signifies that to be unified, you can't question. But I didn't feel any of that last night. I just felt alot of hope.

Don't get me wrong, I was never one of your great supporters. I didn't door knock for you. I didn't vote for you [because of citizenship issues but I probably would've voted for Cynthia Mckinney]. I never contributed money to your campaign. My deep critiques of the state apparatus, the electoral process, and the U.S. as a irresponsible global mega power shaped my attitude towards the election. And over the next 4 years, I'm going to make some critiques--hopefully constructive--concerning your presidential actions. But with all of that said and done, you really inspired me, you gave me more upliftman than any person in higher office has ever done and I thank you for that. I look forward to seeing what you do in the next 4 years. It's going to be so hard for you but if you can continue to find ways to maintain the spirit that I saw the night of November 4, 2008--I will keep the faith that the people in this country can stop surviving and start building communities that rely on each other out of respect of differences and love for each other.

Peace from your Kenyan Compatriot,


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Halloween is past but scary things could be yet to come

Gender Fatigue was super excited to rock out with our dearly beloveds DJs Choque y Fuga at the Black Cat on Halloween - hopefully some pics coming soon! Yours truly, mothershiester and bent, had a duo costume as "You Can't Do That On Television" for which we rekindled our love that lay dormant since childhood. In case you forgot how amazing, smart and excellent this show was:

After all the sliming was done we had a blast of a night, including judging costume contest in Mt Pleasant, party hopping and eating too much candy. Now it is election day in the United States - and Gender Fatigue is special because we are also half-Kenyan! We will be joining other exciting Radio CPR DJs this evening for a special elections broadcast - who knows what shenanigans we will get up to?!? Of course our regular broadcast is also tonight, 6-7, and the "elections coverage" (if you haven't gotten sick of it by then) starts at 9pm - we'll be on again from 11pm to midnite. Tune in and give us a ring with your opinion about the emerging results!

Don't make Glen angry!