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Are we living in the Soviet Union?

News of the protests in Madison is so absent, everybody is starting to notice. I worry about the protesters, I wanted to know how they were doing. I checked Saturday on CNN, NYtimes, and a string of other web sites I don’t remember. Nothing noticeable. That’s odd, I thought. You’d think this would be the biggest story in the country. We devoted a lot of time to Egypt.

Sunday I knew there was a deadline to evict the protesters from the Madison Capitol. I was anxious how that would go down and tried to find out.

Nothing. That was more than odd. That was bizarre. “Showdown at the Capitol” had to be newsworthy for our infantile media. But apparently it wasn’t. That made no sense.

So I started searching around. I discovered First Draft, reporting from the ground. It was sounding more like Egypt every day, in the organization of the protesters and the sympathy of the ones behind the guns. Susie Madrak noted a march, 100,000 strong, a hundred thousand, had taken place on Saturday in temperatures well below freezing. Huh? And that hadn’t been anywhere near the front page? What was this? A conspiracy of silence?

And then more and more people pointed it out. Corrente, Digby, also here. Now Krugman pointed out how much this feels like the media chorus leading up to the Iraq War.

This is a chorus of silence, but it’s also a chorus of misdirection, just like that earlier massive failure. They say, “It’s about money.” No, the unions agreed to the outrageous pay cuts to finance tax cuts for Governor Walker’s campaign contributors. They’re refusing to give up collective bargaining rights. It’s about rights, not money. “It’s about greedy unions.” No, it’s not. it’s about greedy Governors and their millionaire beneficiaries. We either hear no news, or we hear the wrong news.

As I mentioned a while ago, I come from a Russian family. I visited the Soviet Union back in the day. Friends there told us how you had to crouch over the faint voice of the BBC on a shortwave radio to get any news. That, or perhaps you’d hear something in letters from friends or the occasional leaflet. And now, here we are. The only difference that I can see is that the Russians all knew they were being lied to.

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Your children’s keepers

These are the people who work for your kids. Teachers. Go read one of the most powerful essays I’ve seen on any topic, anywhere.

Brandi Martin, Learning from the LuminousPage:

I Ruined Everything (& Why It Was More Work Than You Thought) @INTERNETTAXTROLLS

To earn this $20k I taught art on a cart to 850 kids at 3 different schools every week. Almost every kid was on free lunch. My budget was $1.50 per child per year. … We made puppets, paper mache, tissue snowflakes, and lots of chalk and tempera paintings. I loved going to work every day. I loved festooning each little school with the happy art.

I feel less and less that way when I read angry tweets and newspaper comments about my profession. Maybe I shouldn’t read what angry tax paying trolls write and say on the internet, but I’m so appalled I keep checking to see if it’s still there. I’m told I’m ungrateful. I read that I am greedy, or a tool of greedy union bosses. I am a selfish son of a bitch, one guy informed me, when I was trying to explain the details and the facts of current legislation. I read that everyone’s life is going down the toilet, because I am breaking their backs. I have ruined everything. Everything is ruined.

Please know it did not feel like ruining everything. It felt like sitting in a tiny plastic chair at a tiny table, cajoling an autistic preschooler into brushing watercolor across a white wax face i had pre drawn, then watching him laugh at the big reveal. It felt like receiving a drawing as a gift from a talented little boy who drew like an adult, but suffered crippling arthritis in his hands and for whom i had arranged free classes at SAIC. … It feels like a 6’2 kid standing up from his computer animation to announce loudly “I AM AN ARTIST”.

After you take every tool and incentive and support away from me, and millions like me, you won’t suddenly have anything great that you don’t already have. And then you will be terribly disappointed to find out that this isn’t a scam after all.

Go read her post and see how it all comes out in the end. Really. Go.

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Women Don’t Need Their Own Revolution


Mary Rogers has made one of the saddest statements I’ve read on the horrible treatment of CNN’s Lara Logan. The gut-wrenching sexism of some of the commentary is sad. One more reminder that we’ve indeed “come a long way, baby.” A long way backward. That such commentary is considered normal — crude, but normal — is sadder. We should, by now, be in a place where it’s unacceptable to think such crap, let alone say it. But the saddest thing of all is a sentence in her article about the crime.

She knows the situation.

If you are a woman living in Cairo, chances are you have been sexually harassed. It happens on the streets, on crowded buses, in the workplace, in schools, and even in a doctor’s office. … 98 percent of foreign women and 83 percent of Egyptian women have been sexually harassed. [That's the number who would acknowledge they'd been harassed.] … what happened in 1994, shortly after I moved here. … A man walked up to me, reached out, and casually grabbed my breast.

In a flash, I understood what the expression to “see red” meant. … But the satisfaction of striking back quickly dissipated. By the time I walked away, I was feeling dirty and humiliated. After a couple of years enduring this kind harassment, I pretty much stopped walking to and from work.

Of course, harassment comes in many forms. … At times it can be dangerous. … I was walking on the street, when a car came hurtling towards me. Aiming for me!

… women who have been sexually harassed here have been too afraid or ashamed to speak up.

Any woman who’s not in denial doesn’t need to have the situation explained to her. For those men who don’t get it, try this thought experiment. You live in a world where you’re only allowed to go outside naked. No way to hide erections. No way to hide the fact that you’re male. Then, because you’re male, it’s an understood thing that anyone on the street can grab your ass, or poke an umbrella between your legs, or laugh when you double up in pain.

That is not sexy. That is not normal. That is not women expressing their hormones.

It’s a power trip. That’s all. It’s saying, “I’ll put you down because I can. And if you don’t hide, I’ll do it again.”

So, like Mary Rogers, you stop walking to work. You may have rights on paper, but you can only go where you’re allowed to go or people can grope your penis any time they feel like it. (No, you can’t just beat them up. The uppity sometimes get their bits sliced off.) Without freedom of movement, your whole world is limited. There are jobs you can’t do, raises you won’t get, recognition you’ll never see. The price of hiding is that nobody knows you’re there. The price of being a target is that you have no actual rights, no matter what it says on paper.

And don’t forget, being a man, you have to tough it out and pretend none of it matters. If you stop hiding, the humiliation will get worse. Much worse.

One more thing: being a man, you represent half the population.

With all that in mind, I come to the saddest thing Rogers said.

A law regarding sexual harassment will have to wait. The country has greater concerns now — forming a new government; writing a new constitution….

Greater concerns? Greater concerns than the basic human rights of half the human race? Say what?

What chance is there anyone’s going to get it, if even people who aren’t in denial can’t figure out which way is up?

Until people understand what human rights are, they can write constitutions till they’re blue in the face and it’ll just be sound and fury, signifying nothing. After the next round of kleptocrats, they can do it again, and it’ll still signify nothing.

The headline of Rogers’ article is “Egypt’s harassed women need their own revolution.” No, they don’t. The people who need it, of any gender, are the ones who think human rights don’t matter enough to put first.

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Congratulations to Egypt! … But …

Now comes the hard part.

Mohammed El-Baradei talked about the “joy and happiness of every Egyptian at the restoration of our humanity and our freedom.”

Unfortunately, no. The regime is out. The restoration is yet to happen. If the Egyptians manage that, too, then I’ll be really exhilarated. Maybe then they can show us how to do it.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping and hoping that the parking on the left doesn’t just turn into parking on the right.

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