From the September-October 2020 issue of News & Letters
QUEER SAFETY IS A HUMAN RIGHT
I was happy to hear that the UN Human Rights Council had a comprehensive discussion of why “conversion therapy” should be banned worldwide. They are correct that it causes harm, especially to youth, and that it is a violation of human rights. It is also important that different tactics employed in therapy were revealed. I was surprised that Germany outlawed the therapy as late as this past May and that it is banned in Brazil. I’m dreading the day that anti-Queer brutal Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reverses that ban. I am dismayed that the therapy is not illegal across the US. Let’s encourage the UNHRC to endorse an international ban on conversion therapy. You can reach them at: https://unfoundation.org/contact-us/.
Rogers Park, Chicago
FAKE GREEN POLITICS
The fact that “Green Recovery” from the COVID-19 recession and things like the Green New Deal are being seriously talked about by politicians shows that they have been put on the agenda by the pressure of social movements and of the noticeable, sometimes disastrous, impacts of climate change. Politicians are busy trying to co-opt and water down what the movements thought these things were supposed to mean. Now Joe Biden has his climate plan and the Democratic Party is revising its platform along these lines—although at the last minute they threw out the plank calling for an end to subsidies for fossil fuels. Many important Biden advisers on environment have ties to the natural gas industry and he refuses to endorse a ban on fracking, let alone quickly winding down fossil fuels.
WOMEN IN INDIA
If India’s leader, Narendra Modi, was trying really hard to think of what he could pretend to do for women without actually doing anything, he couldn’t have come up with anything better than replacing 240 traffic light pedestrian signals in Mumbai with stick figures in skirts rather than pants. Well, that will certainly stop rape and abuse of women. Why didn’t anyone think of it sooner? Hey, Modi, if you really want to help women—which is doubtful—how about getting rid of your heinous Citizenship (Amendment) Act, effectively excluding Muslims from citizenship. Half of those Muslims are women. So go stuff your stick figures and your racism.
Not a stick figure
WOMEN IN THE U.S.
I’m 83 years old. I was in the women’s liberation wave that obtained Roe v. Wade. Planned Parenthood (PP) and NARAL behaved badly. We told them then that they settled too quickly and too easily. They didn’t hold out for abortion to be a right and for women’s reproductive care to be paid for by the government for those who could not afford it. Now PP and NARAL are singing the blues because that law didn’t hold and abortion is not a right. It’s a service you can get if you can afford it.
I am sick of the half measures that were settled for back then. Women are a class in the U.S. and many of us have been class traitors; and that goes for the women who settled for a crummy law that only protected the middle and upper class of women. Now there are much fewer middle incomes in the class named “women”; and the former members of the middle-income group are singing the blues.
Why is there no will among U.S. leaders to stop the shattering of people’s lives from the coming tsunami of evictions? The Wall Street Journal shamelessly gives us the answer: “A growing number of property investors are preparing for what they believe could be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to buy distressed real-estate assets at bargain prices.” Senator Elizabeth Warren and Carroll Fife tell us what happens then: “Following the 2008 crash, corporations that grabbed up properties on the cheap converted those homes into rentals, and turned into the worst kind of slumlords—jacking up rents, neglecting maintenance requests and health and safety concerns, and eagerly assessing fines, fees and eviction notices. Other corporate-owned homes were left vacant in a hoarding of housing stock.” We live in a society that rewards those who prey on the poor. That’s got to STOP!
VOICES FROM BEHIND BARS
I’m really missing your newsletter(s) in print big time! Will you guys ever go back to printing N&L? Please do as soon as possible. Some states are closing again because the COVID-19 positive numbers are spiking due to premature reopening of the states. So, I do understand, mostly, always have. I don’t have a television or radio. I’m indigent, so N&L is a blessing. Take care of yourselves, be safe, and please, as soon as you’re able, please send me your next available print N&L—including previous issues. Thank you.
Editor’s note: Yes, we will resume printing and mailing News & Letters as soon as possible.
Prisoners don’t have cell phones, we can’t facetime or chat on computers because we have no access to the internet. In North Carolina, the prison system has been on lockdown and we can’t even visit with our loved ones during this quarantine. All this is exacerbated by the harsh censorship policies that permit officials to intercept prisoners’ incoming mail, to use the mail as tools of torture. It’s sad that America doesn’t feel the need to see its shame and misery manifesting in its prisons. Bill Clinton’s 1994 crime bill, supported by Democrats like Joe Biden, only benefits the rich and corporations. Where’s the rehabilitation? Where’s America’s integrity? When America learns empathy and compassion for the poor, the working class, people of color, the homeless and the imprisoned, then maybe we can return to apple pie, baseball and good old-fashioned honesty.
Elizabeth City, N.C.
Warden J. Fikes recently gave rejection slips to senior prisoners who filed for compassionate release and are terrified of dying from the coronavirus. The overcrowded prison of FCI Sandstone is considered a “low” and costs taxpayers $3 million a month to house mostly middle-aged and senior prisoners classified “unlikely to re-offend.” Each unit houses 162 inmates in a single 30 by 90 foot space, sharing open bathrooms and forced to double bunk in cubes just six by nine feet. According to USA Today, former Assistant Attorney General Laurie Robinson had stated, “There is no way to set up an effective quarantine because prisoners are confined to a small cell.” Inmates cannot purchase hand sanitizer bottles and extra masks. Mysterious sickness is rampant in the units. Nurses tell inmates to just “sleep it off” and are hush-hush about what the sickness is. Sandstone refuses to test for COVID-19 and has no adequate plan for confronting it. Prisoner advocates worry that the decision not to send prisoners home is based on a “human dollar sign” and not safety. A coalition of civil rights groups called governments to “apply compassionate release” for the elderly or chronically ill inmates. The evidence overwhelmingly leads to the conclusion that prison profiteering is the driving force behind excessive incarceration and federal prison overcrowding. Inmates are not a “human dollar sign,” and a bed-filling quota is not more important that human safety and fair sentencing.