Monday, June 30, 2008

No Girls Allowed In Golf

It turns out that the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia isn’t the only “no girls allowed” golf club. Veronica at WorkItMom points to a New York Times article about Phoenix, Arizona country club, where women’s weren’t allowed in the men’s dining room.
Women at the club are not permitted to have lunch in the men’s grill room with their husbands after a round of golf; they have been barred from trophy ceremonies after tournaments, even ones they have sponsored, and may not participate in one of the most sacred rituals of the men’s grill room — sealing a deal over a beer with a client.
Of course separate but equal, right?
“The ladies’ grill is a very small room where a bunch of little old ladies gather to play cards,” said Wanda Diethelm, a health care executive. “And if you make any noise, they shush you.”
The fact is most so-called "private clubs" aren't private at all -- and instead benefit from companies that get tax benefits to underwrite the clubs. As Veronica writes:
These clubs may not have to be fair, but the companies that we work for do. They should not be allowed to pay for memberships to any group that discriminates and certainly should not encourage workers to take clients to discriminatory places either. We’re not that far from the time when business meetings were held at strip clubs too.
Martha Burk of course has been writing and protesting about this injustice for years but few people have been listening. It seems that even the spouses of the women of Phoenix Country Club, can’t even advocate for change without having their lockers defaced. The spouses should consider themselves lucky. Martha's gotten death threats.

--Rachel Joy Larris

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bias in Cocaine Sentencing Remains

By Kara Gotsch

Willie Mays Aikens was not a drug kingpin, but he received a kingpin-sized sentence for selling crack cocaine. A former Kansas City Royal and 1980 World Series record holder, Aikens received a 21-year sentence for selling 63 grams of crack. At the end of his baseball career he had become addicted to powder cocaine but had no previous record for drug distribution when an undercover officer asked him to sell the drugs that led to his lengthy incarceration in 1994. This month Aikens received a sentence reduction after 14 years in prison -- authorized due to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s determination that penalties for crack cocaine offenses are unnecessarily harsh. He returned to his major league hometown, Kansas City, to enter a halfway house, and hopes to soon reunite with his daughters, who live in Mexico with their mother.

Aikens’s release coincides this month with the 22-year anniversary of the death of Len Bias, another prominent sports figure who played basketball at the University of Maryland. His legendary cocaine overdose on the night he was drafted by the Boston Celtics launched the punitive legislative reaction by Congress that would later subject Aikens to a stiff mandatory sentence for selling crack cocaine.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Food Policies Leave People Hungry

By Yifat Susskind

This week the U.N. convened world leaders in Rome to hammer out solutions to the food crisis. Once again policy leaders are forgetting that food is about people. Over the past few months, 30 countries have been wracked by food riots. The government of Haiti has been toppled. Rice reserves in the Philippines are now under armed guard. And U.S. corporate agribusinesses have a starring role in this disaster. Farmers in poor countries have gone broke by the millions because they can't compete with the artificially low prices of U.S. food imports.

Take Mexico, for example. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. demanded that Mexico open up its markets to cheap U.S. corn. Since NAFTA took effect, U.S. corn exports to Mexico have tripled, flooding the Mexican market and causing domestic corn prices to drop by more than 70 percent. As a result, most of the country’s 15 million corn farmers have gone from being poor -- but getting by -- to watching their children go hungry. Mexican President Felipe Calderon explains the food crisis in his country as a direct outcome of U.S. food policy.

The same story is repeated in nearly every country where the food crisis is raging. Millions of rural families from Colombia to Cameroon have been forced to go from growing their own food to buying imported staple items, putting them at the mercy of global markets. In the past year, the costs of basics like corn, rice, and wheat has doubled and tripled. Farming families whose livelihoods were destroyed by U.S. agribusiness can no longer afford to buy food from these same companies. That injustice -- not any absolute “food shortage” -- is at the heart of today’s crisis.


The Anti-Family Planning Movement: Coming to a Bedroom Nearest You

By Cristina Page

Like lawn ornaments in summer, protesters outside the local abortion clinic are fixtures in many places in the United States today.

Their presence and message have long been so predictable that, without looking or listening, people believe they understand the point. And so you might not notice that the protest taking place outside your local clinic today has fundamentally changed.

It is no longer about abortion. June 7 is the anniversary of Griswold v Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court decision that granted married people the right to use contraception. To mark the day, anti-abortion groups are taking to their normal posts outside clinic entrances not to convince Americans to oppose abortion but rather to stop using contraception.

The national campaign is called "Protest the Pill Day 08'" and it is organized by several leading anti-choice groups including the American Life League and Pharmacists for Life. The groups’ website is full of unscientific, medically inaccurate information.

Anti-contraception activism has been working its way up the priority list of the anti-choice movement in the United States in recent years and today's campaign is one of the most organized and visible displays of this broadening agenda.

Currently, there is not one pro-life organization in the U.S. that supports contraception. In fact, the multi-pronged attack against the right to use contraception is led entirely by anti-abortion groups. Their initiatives (to name just a few) include opposing health insurance of contraception, urging pharmacists to deny women's birth control prescriptions, and attempting (with no scientific rationale) to reclassify the birth control pill, and all other hormonal forms of contraception, as abortion methods with the goal of banning them. This represents an important and frightening shift in focus by the anti-abortion movement.

Despite the fact that contraception is the only proven way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce abortion rates, anti-choice groups would forgo these benefits, and even risk dramatically increasing abortion rates, in favor of a larger, more insidious goal: changing Americans' sex lives.

As the American Life League, the nation's largest pro-life educational organization, explains in its materials, "The American Life League denies the moral acceptability of artificial birth control and encourages each individual to trust in God, to surrender to His will, and to be predisposed to welcoming children." The American Life League prefers to put the choices in the hands of God, a choice they want to impose on everyone. "It must be clear that couples understand that when they ask God to not send them another child just now they are also saying, ‘If it is Your will to send us another child at this time, we praise You for Your divine providence,’” the group says.

Buoyed by their success in rolling back abortion rights, these groups seek nothing less than a complete American lifestyle makeover: sex can't ever exclude the possibility of procreation. But instead of convincing Americans to see things their way, groups like the American Life League have decided the more expeditious path is to attack the right to use contraception.

The right to use contraception is relatively new: the Griswold decision was rendered in 1965 and Supreme Court granted single people the right to use contraception as recent as 1972. But the changes these decisions set in motion now form a list of what Americans won't live without. Today, 95 percent of people have sex before marrying. Indeed, studies show that most Americans in a relationship are having sex, on average, once a week. The typical American female is fertile for approximately 30 years of her life. For about 23 of those years she is trying not to get pregnant. Much of our lifestyle, and the architecture of our most intimate relationships, is rooted in family planning. And we should be grateful for this.

In the 1950s, when there was no sex education, no birth control, no legal abortion (the exact legislative agenda of today's pro-life movement!) teen birth rates soared and have not been equaled since. Today, the rate of teen motherhood, not coincidentally, has been reduced by more than half.

The right to plan your family to the size you want and can support is a cherished, and frequently exercised, American family value. So, the next time you pass by the protest outside your local clinic listen carefully: their real target is your way of life.

Page is the author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex and spokesperson for
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 6/08

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Immigration Raids Lead U.S. to a Moral, Legal Crisis

By Raquel Aldana

Postville, Iowa has been turned into a ghost town. Nearly a third of its residents, mostly undocumented workers from Guatemala and Mexico, sit in jail convicted of identity crimes or awaiting deportation. Hundreds more hide in fear. Their children, too scared to go to school, have left the town’s classrooms nearly empty. For this, Postville should thank their local police, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), and a failed immigration policy.

Aided by local law enforcement, ICE arrested 389 workers during the largest single-site immigration raid in U.S. history at the Postville meatpacking plant, the area’s major employer. In an unprecedented move, ICE criminally charged 302 of these workers with aggravated ID theft and/or using false social security numbers. Within days, ICE resolved their fate: 297 men and women pled guilty and were sentenced to prison and subsequent deportation. Only a few await criminal trials or immigration hearings.

Postville is one of the latest in a series of immigration raids that have intensified in the past three years. These raids are leading our nation to a moral, legal and humanitarian crisis.