Skip to main content

Tidbits - Mar. 14, 2019 - Catch-up Edition - Reader Comments on just about everything - Portside readers have lots of opinions and views...

Reader Comments: Youth Climate Strike, Impeachment, Ilhan Omar, AIPAC; Chicago's Black Youth; Bernie Sanders; Southwest Airlines; Amazon; Venezuela; Iran; Military Budget; Russia; Socialism; Women; Ecosocialism; Green New Deal; Sex Trade.....

printer friendly  
Reader Comments and Announcements, Portside

Students Strike For A Safe Climate (Fridays for Future; Rethinking Schools)

Trump Has Got to Go (Seymour Joseph)
Re: Ilhan Omar, AIPAC, and the 2020 Democratic Presidential Contenders (Jonah Boyarin)
Re: Chicago’s Moral Debt to Black Youth (Ted Pearson)
Re: We Absolutely Could Give Reparations To Black People. Here’s How (Jim Campen; Jon Weisberger)
Re: Bernie Sanders and Black Democratic Primary Voters (Kathy Lipscomb)
Re: When Socialists Won Women’s Suffrage (Stan Nadel)
Re: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Myth of American Innovation (Mike Liston; Sylvia Hill; Gordon Galland; Michael O'Rourke)
Re: SouthWest Airlines Sues Mechanics Union (Paul Krehbiel)
Re: Amazon’s Decision To Pull Out of NYC Is a Massive Blow To Corporate Welfare (John Case; Howie Leveton)
Re: Notes From the Streets of Venezuela—The People Are Resilient in the Face of Foreign Intervention (Joe Grogan; Charles Ostman)
Re: How The CIA Overthrew Iran's Democracy In 4 Days (Capn' Steve Krug)
Re: Decades after Reagan’s ‘Star Wars,’ Trump Calls for Missile Defenses That Would Blast Warheads from the Sky (Mark Gillespie)
Re: The Military is Poisoning America’s Groundwater (Julie Weiner; Kerry Pollard)
Re: Mapping the American War on Terror Now in 80 Countries, It Couldn’t Be More Global (Bruce Smith)
Re: Russia Without Putin by Tony Wood Review – Myths of the New Cold War (Rob Prince)
Re: We Need to Say What Socialism Will Look Like (Ethan Young; Pat Turnbull)
Re: From Marx to Ecosocialism (John Stuckey)
Re: Socialism and the Self-Made Woman (Vickie Quillin; Ed Griffin; Enrico Campomizzi

For a Green New Deal - A Statement of Goals, a Measuring Stick, an Organizational Impetus (Peter Marcuse)
Can a writer send an ‘imaginary letter’ to Nicolás Maduro In the name of Salvador Allende? (Jorge Magasich)
Filling the Sex Trade Swamp: Robert Kraft and His Predecessors (Janice G. Raymond)

Resources:

Youth Climate Action Resources  --  from Rethinking Schools

 

Students Strike For A Safe Climate

Click here to find action near you.

STUDENTS STRIKE FOR A SAFE CLIMATE
#CLIMATESTRIKE

Tomorrow, Friday, March 15, students in over 100 countries are walking out in a global student strike for a safe climate. The actions were inspired by 16-year-old Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, who skipped school every Friday demanding Sweden take the climate crisis seriously.

Students across the world are demanding that politicians act with a renewed sense of urgency to confront the environmental crisis. Rethinking Schools supports this student movement for a safe climate and encourages educators to help students learn about the climate crisis.

Below are some resources to help you bring climate justice into your schools. (scroll to bottom of this post)

Rethinking Schools

For More Information

Contact:  climatestrikeusa@gmail.com

Media Inquiries:  pressyouthclimatestrike@gmail.com

 

Trump Has Got to Go
 

If I were in office — city, state or federal — and I announced that I was not born of woman but was created by the hand of God, you could expect two things: (1) some portion of my constituency would believe me, and (2) it would explode all over the media.

This is what Donald Trump is doing. He does not really believe that “the Democrats are anti-Jewish,” nor that his beloved wall “is already being built.” He says these easily disproven outrages for the reasons mentioned above.

He has already told us as much when he said he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and would still receive support.

Trump is an egotist who believes that all publicity is good publicity. (How many times have you seen his funny-haired face plastered on our TV screens?) And when he was incredibly elected president, after insulting and lying his way through the campaign, he realized that a huge portion of the electorate disregarded his evil character, and were gullible enough to believe his outrageous promises — most notably that Mexico would pay for the wall along our southern border.

The danger in this is that the farce named Donald J. Trump is sitting in the Oval Office. We're not sure at this moment what is in store for him and the country in the next few months, but one thing is essential: that he be removed from office as quickly as possible.

Seymour Joseph

 

Re: Ilhan Omar, AIPAC, and the 2020 Democratic Presidential Contenders
 

You just ran a thoughtful piece on Ilhan Omar today. Here's another that may interest you: AIPAC Isn't the Whole Story
 


IfNotNow activists Binya Koatz (right) and Adam Hirsch (left) unfurl a banner in front of speaker Victor Styrsky at a CUFI event in Stockton, California, June 2017. Photo courtesy of IfNotNow.

AIPAC Isn't the Whole Story
By Jonah S. Boyarin
March 4, 2019
Jewish Currents

Jonah Boyarin

 

Re: Chicago’s Moral Debt to Black Youth
 

Note must also be taken of the fact that at every one of over a dozen hearings held in the last two years throughout the city, called by the City Council Progressive Caucus and the Council’s Committee on Public Safety, the overwhelming cry was for genuine community control of the police – for an ell-elected Civilian Police Accountability Council (CPAC).  Close to 60,000 people have sent postcards to their aldermen in the past few years demanding passage of this ordinance, introduced in the outgoing Council by Alderman Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and sponsored by 7 other council members.

Based on the election results from the primary there are guaranteed to be at least 13 Council members in the new Council that support CPAC – 11 elected outright and four who support CPAC in runoffs in two Wards.  In addition there are ten more candidates who support CPAC in runoffs, so the new City Council could have as many as 23 who do, closed to a majority.

CPAC replaces the current Mayor-appointed Police Board and Civilian Office of Police Accountability with an all-elected Council with offices and investigative staff in each police district.  It has the power to fire police officers at all levels, up to an including the police chief, whom they appoint.

Ted Pearson

 

Re: We Absolutely Could Give Reparations To Black People. Here’s How
 

this piece on reparations is from Feb 22, 2016, NOT 2019 - 

an excellent piece, but misleading to present it as new!

Cheers,
Jim Campen

      =====

For what it’s worth, all of the links and quotes related to Bernie Sanders’ position on reparations in this piece appear to come from 2016.  

Jon Weisberger,
Cottontown, TN

 

Re: Bernie Sanders and Black Democratic Primary Voters
 

Sherrod Brown has dropped out.  Thanks for this; it's encouraging.  hope that smiley creep biden stays out, but doubt it.

Kathy Lipscomb

 

Re: When Socialists Won Women’s Suffrage
 

Not always by any means, but often.
See Mari Jo Buhle's Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920

This splendid book should demonstrate to the still unconvinced that the new scholarship of the past decade on women has, by enriching our understanding of the place of women, deepened our understanding of the historical process in general. . . . The exhaustive and imaginative research in this study creates a texture of rich detail about a variety of little-known aspects of women's history, labor history, and radical history and begins the rewriting of the history of American socialism."
    -- Journal of American History

". . . a brilliantly comprehensive, analytical, and perceptive work on an important movement in US history. Highly recommended."
    -- Library Journal
 

Women and American Socialism, 1870-1920
By Mari Jo Buhle
University of Illinois Press, 1983
384 pages; part of The Working Class in American History Series

Stan Nadel

 

Re: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Myth of American Innovation
 

I am going to have soooo much fun presenting some info from this article to my Chinese students, 

thanks, 

Mike Liston

      =====

An important example of congressional inquiry! Her approach is a teachable moment worth others following!

Sylvia Hill
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

      =====

Quite so: Every airliner on Earth is a direct descendant of the USAF’s Boeing KC-135 aerial refueling tanker; paid for by the US taxpayer...

Gordon Galland
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

      =====

And they didn’t even mention the Tennessee Valley Authority.

Michael O'Rourke
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Re: SouthWest Airlines Sues Mechanics Union

(posting on Portside Labor)
 

When I read the article that you recently posted about Southwest Airlines filing a lawsuit against its mechanics for alleged job actions during prolonged contract negotiations, the following question came to mind:

What do the mechanics and their union say about this, not only about the company’s charges, but about the issues that mechanics are facing?

Without this informational the article leaves the impression that the mechanics are irresponsible and are to blame in this labor dispute.  

Please see the attached documents from the  union.  They don’t answer all the questions but they do give us a fuller picture of the dispute, and express some of the union’s concerns and thinking.

Perhaps in the future, if you can’t find a better balanced article on this issue (or any other issue) - one may not exist - you could add an editor’s note before the beginning of the article to include the thinking of the other side, in this case, the union’s side. These negotiations have gone on for 6 years, a very unusually long time, and management admitted that unsafe aircrafts have been an issue that the company needs to better address.  Having more information about what the mechanics want, and what their grievances are, would be very helpful.  Associated Press isn’t necessarily interested in workers concerns, grievances, nor proposals.  

Paul Krehbiel

 

Re: Amazon’s Decision To Pull Out of NYC Is a Massive Blow To Corporate Welfare
 

A *massive blow" that does not put a dime in workers pockets, or create a single job?

John Case

      =====

Look at what happened in Wisconsin with Foxcon.

How does buying jobs at such a high price help the state?
This has been Walmart’s blueprint for years.
This was nothing but a not so transparent attempt at getting votes.

NY would never get back what they paid Amazon for these jobs.
Illinois rejected them too.
I hope this scam is over.

Howie Leveton
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

 

Re: Notes From the Streets of Venezuela—The People Are Resilient in the Face of Foreign Intervention
 

Thank you!  This perspective is very important.

Joe Grogan,
Bolton, Ontario

      =====

I think you are missing the point here . . . completely.

I'm not supporting any sort of invasion into Venezuela, nor is any other sane or rational person here.

But, to be in blind denial of the obvious is not helping the people of Venezuela, at all.

The harsh reality is that the governance and economic management there has been horrifically dysfunctional and corrupt.

One has to be willing to face reality and deal with the genuine circumstances that has led to this current economic disaster, or be doomed to be simply repeating the same nightmare with whatever next "revolution" takes place, or worse.

Publishing this story about Mariela and her housing coalition efforts has nothing to do with the over arching reality that has led to this currently crushing economic disaster in Venezuela . . . it's perhaps personally interesting, but in the larger picture it's just a localized distraction.

It's the systemic failure of recent governance that has be uprooted and cured, that's just how it is.  

Charles Ostman,
Sebastopol,  CA

 

Re: How The CIA Overthrew Iran's Democracy In 4 Days
 

Regarding the NPR piece on Iran: To add to the suggested reading America's Great Game, by Hugh Wilford. 

The name of the book is based on Britain's great game, a phrase from the days of the British empire, where they learned how to mess with the world for the empires advantage. When "we" decided to move into the middle east, "we" were going to allow self-determination, unlike the French and Brits, this ideal rapidly evaporated when the Iranians had the nerve to think they should control their own resources...

Capn' Steve Krug

      =====

AMERICA'S GREAT GAME
The CIA?s Secret Arabists and the Shaping of the Modern Middle East

by Hugh Wilford
Basic Books/Hachette Book Group; 384 pages
December 3, 2013

 

Re: Decades after Reagan’s ‘Star Wars,’ Trump Calls for Missile Defenses That Would Blast Warheads from the Sky
 

Tens of billions $$$ later, missile defense is a boondoggle useful only for politicians scaring voters and lining the pockets of arms dealers. It doesn’t work and is a waste of money. This would also break yet ANOTHER TREATY. INSANITY.

Mark Gillespie
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Re: The Military is Poisoning America’s Groundwater
 

Ironic that U.S. military “defends” country by poisoning its people.  With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Julie Weiner

      =====

All this so they can sell water in bottles...trust it comes down to greed...when someone does something that appears to make no sense you just have to figure out why it makes sense to them.

Kerry Pollard
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Re: Mapping the American War on Terror Now in 80 Countries, It Couldn’t Be More Global
 

Just finished reading Stephanie's article about the "War on Terror."  And, I want to share a thought with you in terms of background. 

In 1968 or early '69, as an anti-war/anti/draft activist in Richmond, Va, I was visiting with a former room-mate who had been drifted and was involved with basic training at Ft.. Bragg, NC. Besides helping GIs (who were part of the "base compliment" and serving as training officers ) start an anti-war newspaper called Bragg Briefs, my friend took me on a tour of the Special Warfare Museum at Ft. Bragg. 

Inside the museum, we saw displays dedicated to secret US military operations in the "Cold War". At that times, there were several dozen exhibits, usually made up of captured arms, uniforms, etc from the various adventures.  Such a museum today would have to have dozens if not hundreds of room in order to show visitors what we were just becoming aware of then and what you have described in the above referenced article. 

It must most not still exist... but it just might. Why don't you all try to see if you can find out more about it? I would be happy to share recollections with anyone interested. I currently live about 20 miles south of DC in Woodbridge, Virginia. Some of my recollections are available on the internet.

Best wishes,

Bruce Smith

 

Re: Russia Without Putin by Tony Wood Review – Myths of the New Cold War
 

I have read this book and up to a point was impressed. His development of Russia's domestic policies, strategies is excellent - worth reading it for that alone.

However the foreign policy section is disappointing - the kind of stuff one can read about in the NY Times be it on Ukraine, Syria or more generally NATO-Russian relations. He's very soft on NATO's security stranglehold of Russia - on its bullying policies of sanctions, etc. - seems to buy into that stuff; it weakens the overall effect of the book.

Rob Prince

 

Re: We Need to Say What Socialism Will Look Like
 

Sam Gindin has really gone to town on this one. But IMO, the idea that what happens 'after capitalism' is premeditated - either by doctrine or vanguard - is a historical. Twas ever thus. Lenin did not make the Soviets happen - the workers formed them and he could see that they could be a greater force for revolutionary change (and democracy) than any parliament of mixed classes - and each step away from capitalist rule was tortuous, and there were missteps all along the way. To an extent, it's improv. The tide in the class struggle turns when social movements - not exclusively labor - become politicized, contend for power, and in that context, socialism as democracy over capital is shaped and fulfilled. As that develops, the left must stay on terra firma with every win or loss. But I'm glad Gindin went to the trouble of laying all this out, and hope we can make the most of it.

Ethan Young
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

      =====

If people weren't blinded by decades of capitalist propaganda, they would find in out of print books and pamphlets plenty of examples of how socialism DID offer people a vastly superior quality of life for many decades. This can't be simply negated by the fact that capitalism finally succeeded in its mission to destroy it - for the time being!

Pat Turnbull
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

Re: From Marx to Ecosocialism

(posting on Portside Culture)

Marx' most important contribution to the world was his development of dialectical materialism as a methodology for interpreting the world. Our task is to use said methodology to analyze today's world and formulate responses that will further the goals of justice, in all arenas of society. 'Inconsistency' in his discussions of ecology or politics or any specific sphere simply ignore the centrality of systematic thinking. 

Nobody in the 19th century could predict the 21st, and Marx would have been the first to say so. Therefore, there is no need to defend Marx on this or any other issue. Those discussions will only, justifiably, be seen as arcane, at best. Let us not forget his 11th thesis on Feuerbach: "Philosophers have only interpreted the world differently; the point is to change it."

John Stuckey

 

Re: Socialism and the Self-Made Woman
 

Great article explaining the myths of upward mobility and how we are being lied to about the chances of getting out of the class you were born into. The democrats need really start explaining how so called socialism equalizes are country and actually makes it stronger not weaker

Vickie Quillin
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

      =====

She's just one of those people who was born on third base and thinks she hit a triple and everyone who didn't just wasn't trying hard enough.

Ed Griffin
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

      =====

Why is that all these people who were spoonfed millions of dollars want to tell the rest of us how we work our asses off to make a few scraps of dollars together

Enrico Campomizzi
Posted on Portside's Facebook page

 

 

For a Green New Deal - A Statement of Goals, a Measuring Stick, an Organizational Impetus
 

Reading the “Green New Deal Resolution, which has just been introduced in Congress, jointly supported by an impressive number of prominent political leaders and socially concerned writers.It was drafted and circulated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, It has been, I believe, widely misunderstood, intentionally by conservatives, haltingly defended by many who  agree with its emphasis on the urgency of environmental issues but less sure of its effectiveness as a political statement.

I believe it is a mistake to read the Green New Deal Resolution as if it were the working schedule that a group of legislators had adopted as a detailed formal step by step agenda and time-table for legislative activities for the next session of Congress. It is much too early for that.

That’s not how the proposed Green New Deal should be read. It is somewhere between a vision and a rallying -cry, and is important as both. It has three aspects, which together make a real contribution to the signers’ objectives: 

1) setting forth what goals they have set for themselves and how they are connected to each other[1],

2) how they or others might gauge their progress to those goals, and, implicitly,

3) a possible way to use their effort organizationally and politically.

The signers presumably hope to lure many others to join them in developing and implementing their jointly developed goals through realistic programs and legislation that will pass political muster and work. The New Green Deal Resolution is not a set of draft legislative measures or the platform for an organization, though it could well be steps to them.

Peter Marcuse

 

Can a writer send an ‘imaginary letter’ to Nicolás Maduro In the name of Salvador Allende?
 

By Jorge Magasich

February 28, 2019
Investig'Action

Chilean writer Ariel Dorfman sent an ‘Imaginary Letter’ allegedly written by Salvador Allende toSeñor Presidente Nicolás Maduro. [1] The author of the celebrated essay How to read Donald Duck : (with Armand Mattelart) and of the play Death and the Maiden, a. o. works, claims he felt he had to imagine what kind of advice the President of Chile (1970-1973) would have offered his Venezuelan colleague, who sees Allende as a hero and a model. The device raises an ethical question. Can an opinion, however ‘imaginary’ be projected upon the martyr president about the current government of Venezuela?

Let us first look at what it says. Contrary to those who are out against Nicolás Maduro and deny any parallel between 1973 Chile and 2019 Venezuela, Ariel Dorfman acknowledges similarities between the destabilization of the Chilean government and what is happening in Venezuela.

He explains that in 1973 Nixon, Kissinger and the US corporations joined forces against Chile while today Trump, Pence, Pompeo and Elliot Abrams are at the helm. Their aim is fairly limited: to oust you, the constitutional president of Venezuela, through the force of arms. There is no hint in the ‘Letter’ to the fact that they aim at destroying Chavez’ redistributive project so as to make it possible for corporations to own oil resources.

Next, rather unimaginatively, the ‘Letter’ rehashes common charges: strong authoritarian tendencies; limitations to opponents’ freedom of association and to the freedom of the media; opponents who are arrested and tortured because of their opinions; ‘humanitarian disaster plaguing Venezuela’.

Similar charges where formulated against Salvador Allende forty years ago, except for the last one: humanitarian interference is a 21st century invention. Indeed on 22 August 1973, the Chilean opposition, which held a majority of seats in Parliament voted a text that charged Allende with wanting to set up a ‘totalitarian’ system. He was said to have ‘created illegitimate parallel forms of power,’ ‘usurped’ prerogatives of the parliament and of the judiciary system; to deny freedom of speech, of meeting, of education and freedom to leave the country. He was also said to have ‘infiltrated’ the army. Conclusion: the army was called to immediately put an end to the situation described above.

Nowadays these charges are perceived as shameful nonsense, except by those who still vindicate the coup on account of the majority in Parliament. But in 1973, they were so relentlessly repeated in the opposition media that simultaneously controlled information and claimed they had no freedom that they were accepted as ‘truth’. A significant part of the population, who thought Allende was an abject figure, rejoiced at his being ousted.

As in Chile in 1973, Venezuela in 2019 is presented through fake news about ‘exactions’ to demonize the government and so justify its overthrow. It is therefore important to check them carefully before releasing them.

Unfortunately, the author of our ‘Letter’ has not checked his sources, for instance when he has Allende ‘say’ that Nicolás Maduro can rely on Russia and China’s support ‘whereas I asked what was then the Soviet Union for help and received not a penny in aid’. Reliable sources on Allende’s visit to the USSR in December 1972 indicate that Moscow granted Chile a loan for a significant amount, though not as high as the U$80 million the Chilean government had asked for. The minister for planification Gonzalo Martner, who was a member of the delegation, mentioned U$45 million; Allende’s adviser Joan Garcés claimed that the USSR granted U$27 in raw material and food and added U$20 million to an earlier loan of U$80 million.

Finally, Allende blames Nicolás Maduro for the way he has run his country and tells him: ‘I decided to hold a referendum that would allow the people to determine the road that our country should take’. Now, referendums and elections are common enough in Venezuela. From 1999 to 2019 the country could choose the road it should take on the occasion of six elections of governors, six referendums, three municipal elections, two elections for a constituent assembly, for the MPs and five presidential elections. In all of these except two the Chavist road was chosen.

Let us also note that giving this kind of advice to other countries was not something the Popular Unity government would have condoned: its international policy consisted in substituting ‘ideological pluralism’ for the ‘ideological borders’ of the Cold War and in promoting the principles of peoples’ self-determination and of non-interference. Allende stood for the right of each country to choose its own road. On the other hand, his government had shown its solidarity with Vietnam, when bombed by the US, and indicted the boycott against Cuba, which suffered from a disinformation campaign and an economic war similar to what is currently waged against Venezuela.

Several intellectuals, including some who were close to the Allende government, sent an open letter to Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. [2] The consequences of the ‘economic sanctions’ enforced by the US on Venezuela, which resulted in U$ 23 billion losses, are a key issue and they asked her to do something about it.

The objective of those ‘sanctions’ is to prevent the country’s economic recovery and to starve the people to ‘accelerate collapse’, in the words of William Brownfield, former US ambassador in Venezuela. Such aggression against the population violates the UN Charter, the International Covenant in Civil and Political Rights as well as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and more generally International Law.

Let us go back to the initial question: can we accept, in the name of artistic freedom, that anyone should imagine words a real character never said?

This is not the first time Allende is charged with positions contradicted by facts. In 2015, members of government claimed that faced with Bolivia’s maritime claim, Allende’s policy was limited to adhering to treaties whereas in 1971, he had sent an emissary to La Paz to negotiate an access to the sea.[3]

More recently, in a film that presents an ‘imaginary’ reconstitution of the day of the coup, the author first invented a phone call in which Allende and the President of the Socialist party disagreed; then staged the coalition parties disavowing Allende, which they never did, and last has the President acknowledged, while the palace is being bombed, that his management had been a ‘failure’.

Víctor Pey was involved in a similar situation since the Spanish Republican who had arrived in Chile in 1939 and had soon befriended Salvador Allende and Pablo Neruda, was presented in Pablo Larraín’s film Neruda as the traitor who told on the future Nobel-prize winner to the police whereas facts show that he had been among those who helped Neruda to escape. Before he died last year at 103, Pey had brilliantly answered to those who had ‘imagined’ his behaviour in 1948: ‘Although freedom in art is and should be infinite, it stops where information makes it possible to relate facts to real life characters.’ Indeed nobody has a right to distort historical facts or to have people write things they could not possibly have written.

Ariel Dorfman has a right to write about how he views the Venezuelan government. But why should he present it as Allende’s perception, thus making him one of those who criticize Nicolas Maduro? Dorfman cannot ignore that the way he uses the figure of Chile’s former President, even under cover of an ‘imaginary letter’, is ethically highly questionable.

1.  Published in the United States by The Nation on 2 February and in Belgium on the Barril website.

2.  https://radio.uchile.cl/2019/02/15/activistas-piden-a-michelle-bachelet-hacer-valer-la-carta-de-naciones-unidas-ante-bloqueo-a-venezuela/

3.  https://radio.uchile.cl/2015/03/03/allende-bolivia-el-mar-y-la-historia/

[Jorge Magasich, Honorary Professor of Contemporary History at IHECS (Brussels)]

 

Filling the Sex Trade Swamp: Robert Kraft and His Predecessors
 

By Janice G. Raymond

The Mar el Largo neighborhood in Florida has accommodated several of the state's most notorious sexual abusers including alleged abuser-in-chief, Donald Trump, Jeffrey Epstein, serial rapist of hundreds of young girls and most recently, the septuagenarian sex buyer, Robert Kraft. Robert Kraft, the super rich owner of the New England Patriots, faces first-degree misdemeanor charges of solicitation of prostitution, after he was filmed in the Orchids of Asia Day Spa receiving more than a regular massage. Cameras caught him enjoying a genital "rub 'n tug" and featured a scene that suggested an oral sex act. 

As Kraft was exploiting women in prostitution, he had also contributed money to organizations working against violence against women. One of his donations of $100,000 went to My Life, My Choice, a Boston based non-profit dedicated to ending the sexual exploitation of children through survivor mentorship and empowerment. Kraft's hypocrisy is a tale of Eliot Spitzer Redux. Spitzer, then-Governor of New York was arrested for purchasing women for sex at a high-priced "service" called the Emperor's Club. Spitzer had also facilitated prostitution across state lines when he paid for transporting his favored "escorts" from New York to Washington for his purposes of prostitution. As a former Attorney General of New York, Spitzer had worked with women's groups to toughen the legal penalties for "patronizing a person in prostitution." 

Like Kraft, Spitzer appears to have had a different standard for himself than for other sex buyers who faced penalties attached to the very law that he had helped pass. Both the feds and the state absolved Spitzer of all criminal charges alleging "he had been punished enough." The investigation of Kraft has expanded into a full-scale scrutiny of a network of traffickers whose reach crossed many state lines. 

It was a perspicacious female health inspector who first suspected that something was amiss and reported her concerns to the police. The Asian women who staffed the spa brothel were confined for 24 hours daily, sleeping at night on the massage tables and forced to serve 8-15 men a day. They were transported to and from locations in different states. Authorities confirmed that the Florida investigation was just the "tip of the iceberg" that at this point had arrested 300 sex buyers and seized $2 million in assets. 

The Martin County Florida Sheriff, William Snyder, gave a progressive view of the ravages of prostitution and its toll on victims. Refusing to call the women prostitutes and not using the euphemism of "sex worker," he affirmed that the Asian women were victims. "The coercion is not that they're at gunpoint. The coercion is more subtle, nuanced and more difficult to discern." Sheriff Snyder placed the blame squarely on the johns — the sex buyers. "I would contend today that it's the men in the shadows that are the monsters in this equation...none of this would happen if those men were not availing themselves and participating in this human misery." Florida State Attorney Dave Aronberg also got it right when he stated, "human trafficking is evil in our midst. It is fueled on the demand side." 

So why is Kraft not subject to anti-trafficking laws, which carry far greater penalties than state prostitution charges? One reason is the U.S. legal system that drives a wedge between sex trafficking and prostitution, a disconnect promoted by pro-prostitution groups whose message is that trafficking is forced and prostitution is voluntary. Legally this translates into trafficking is a felony and prostitution is a misdemeanor. Evidence collected from many victims and survivors of prostitution and trafficking, as well as from service providers and law enforcement authorities, verifies that women who have been trafficked internationally and also women who are in local prostitution industries endure the same kinds of violence and health consequences of being sexually abused. 

The legal minimizing of perpetrators of prostitution is proven again and again by the outrageously low penalties they receive, as in the case of Jeffrey Epstein. Accused of raping and sexually abusing hundreds of young girls, Epstein received a cushy plea deal that included a paltry punishment of two counts of solicitation of prostitution effectively casting his victims as child prostitutes when there is no such creature as a child prostitute. 

As Yasmin Vava, director of the organization Rights4Girls has written, "Federal law defines these children as victims of human trafficking... In any other instance what happens to these youth would be considered statutory rape or sexual assault of a minor, landing their abusers behind bars." Pro-prostitution groups use examples like Kraft as teachable moments to promote decriminalization of prostitution, which is actually decriminalization of the sex industry. In a press release that appears to be taken down from their website, The Erotic Service Providers Legal, Education and Research Project (ESPLERP) put out a press release that read: "We really hope Robert Kraft fights these charges...He has the legal resources to expose police entrapment and argue that private sex between consenting adults is protected...Sex work should be decriminalized." 

I asked Cherie Jimenez, survivor of prostitution and longtime director of the EVA Center, an exit program for prostituted women and girls in Boston Massachusetts, to respond to ESPLERP's press release. "I have met hundreds and hundreds of young women caught in systems of prostitution, fueled by demand of mostly white, very wealthy, men of privilege and entitlement like Robert Kraft. These organizations like ESPLERP are using the age-old narrative that Kraft is the real victim here as a billionaire celebrity who has been wronged, and they end up protecting the powerful. They use the same old argument that it's all consensual with no regard to the actual realities of what it is to sell parts of your body and all the situational factors such as poverty, racism, gender violence and a growing economic disparity that has rendered so many vulnerable women into systems of prostitution." 

Many well-intentioned people support decriminalization of prostitution because they think this means decriminalizing the women in prostitution. But decriminalization means making the criminals legal by transforming pimps into third party managers, brothel owners into sexual entrepreneurs, and sex buyers into cordial clients or customers. In contrast, groups campaigning against decriminalization of prostitution fight for prostituted women to be decriminalized, but not sex buyers, pimps or brothels. 

State Attorney Aronberg in his public statement described the wider ramifications of Robert Kraft's crime: "This is not about lonely old men or victimless crime. This is about enabling a network of criminals to traffic women into our country for forced labor and sex." Sex buyers prop up pimps, traffickers and organized crime by contributing the funds that keep sexual slavery alive and well. They are the men whose continuous pursuit of easy and abusive sex forges the grooves in women's continuous disintegration in prostitution. 

[Janice G. Raymond is the former co-director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Professor Emerita at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. She has published articles in the Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, the Christian Science Monitor, Truthdig, Portside, and OpEd News. Dr. Raymond is the author of six books, most recently, Not a Choice, Not A Job: Exposing the Myths about Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade. Her website is janiceraymond.com]

 

Youth Climate Action Resources  --  from Rethinking Schools
 

Learn more.

CLIMATE JUSTICE "SEED PACKET" RESOURCE KIT

In 2016, the Portland, Oregon school board passed the most comprehensive climate justice resolution in the country. Here are materials to help initiate similar policies in other school districts.

DOWNLOADABLE TEACHING MATERIALS

Check out the Zinn Education Project for free lesson plans, teaching articles, and other resources to bring climate issues into our classrooms. 

Learn more.