Quickies: Austrian Child Molester, Josef Fritzl, Gets Life

fritzl470Josef Fritzl, who I blogged about twice in May when the story broke, plead guilty to all charges against him related to the imprisonment and repeated rape of his daughter in a foot cellar in the family home over a period of 24 years. His plea also included the involuntary manslaughter charge for the refusal to get medical attention for his pregnant daughter that resulted in the death of one of her children (he was the father) and the subsequent burning of the baby’s corpse to hide the evidence.

Fritzl was given life in prison, perhaps as an ironic sentence meant to mirror the imprisonment and rape he forced on his own child.

People around the world continue to refer to him as a unique monster, but as I argued in May, Fritzl is not the only Austrian who kept a young girl in one of these cellars for the duration of her youth while sexually assaulting her, nor is the sexual assault of minors, women, or one’s own children unique. Instead these assaults a function of a sexist world that says women and girls have no right to bodily integrity at the hands of men’s desires for power, control, or dominance. Making Fritzly into a unique monster negates the ways in which his behavior is simply a more extreme version of the same behavior engaged in by men around the world, whether they are molesting their own children, raping their wives or girl friends or strangers, or engaging in child prostitution. Several sex abuse imprisonment scandals have rocked the U.S. in the past few years alone. Until we address the issue as systemic, there is always a chance that another Fritzl will pop up somewhere else.

In an unspeakable expression of sickness, 200 “lonely women” are reported to have sent in love letters to Fritzl saying they would willingly sleep with and comfort him. (Fritzl was married to his child’s mother the entire time he was abusing her and presumably sleeping with the child’s mother while raping her.  As I said in May, both his wife and the children he did not imprison in the cellar – which include children from the incest – claim they had no idea what was going on.)

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image: Fritzl, the survivor, and the cellar room. The Sydney Morning Herald. unattributed

Obama: Drunken Negro Face?

racistcookie

A bakery made popular by Sex and the City and frequented by NYC celebs, decided to mark Obama’s inauguration with “Drunken Negro Face” cookies. When questioned about the cookies, the baker responded that the name of the cookies had been reported incorrectly and that they were actually called “Drunken N—-r Cookies.” The baker also implied that he had done nothing wrong b/c . . . drum roll . . . he thought they were “funny” and . . . drum roll . . . anybody who thinks they are more than a joke “should be ashamed of themselves.”

That’s right the Drunken N Cookies were a hilarious joke and it is the handful of people who reported the baker, and not everyone did, who should be ashamed of their own racism that made them see his offer to serve them up the way Lincoln “got his” as anything other than a funny ha ha.

Do you see why I remain cynical about the state of our union?

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read more at The Gothamist here

Survey for Community Organizers

Dear Grassroots Organizers,

We are trying to reach representatives of U.S. and Canada-based grassroots social justice organizations to complete a short online survey about globalization and the Internet.We would be grateful for your help spreading the word!

We are academic researchers from the State University of New York-New Paltz (a cultural anthropology professor and student), with no political or religious affiliation.We are interested in the perspectives of groups and networks working on social justice issues, including but not limited to such issues as race, ethnicity, gender, poverty, sexuality, the environment, healthcare, homelessness, immigration, and natural disaster.

If you represent a social movement, civil society organization, grassroots group or network, we hope you will take a moment to complete the survey by November 30.Your honest input will help us better understand how groups in the U.S. and Canada use the Internet to connect to groups elsewhere in the world, and how they view the causes of social inequality around the globe. We plan to present our findings at the World Social Forum in Belém, Brazil in January 2009.

Our survey is entirely anonymous and takes about 20 minutes to complete.As a token of our appreciation, we’ll enter respondents who complete the survey by November 30 into a drawing for a gift certificate for Amazon.com.

You can find the survey online at:http://www.newpaltz.edu/anthropology/survey.html.Please forward this site to an official representative of your organization (one survey per organization).

Thank you for helping us get the word out, and please feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

Best wishes,

Benjamin Junge, PhD

Dept. of Anthropology/SUNY-New Paltz

http://www.newpaltz.edu/~jungeb/Index.html


Emily Korona

Undergraduate Student, SUNY-New Paltz


I Don’t Want to Start Any Blasphemous Rumors . . .

Another car dragging death went completely unnoticed by mainstream media for over a month. It is the second time Texans have settled their dispute with “uppity black people” by simply dragging them to a painful death along the road.

On Sept. 16 2008 pieces of Brandon McClelland body were found over a 70 mile stretch of rural Texas Farm Road 2648. He is believed to have been dragged at least that long behind or under the pick up truck of Paris Texas resident’s Charles Crostley and Shannon Finley. Eye witness reports say there were blood stained tre tracks all along the road as well as pieces of McClelland’s skull that the police had still not collected as part of critical forensic evidence in the case.

Police have refused to call the incident a hate crime as all three men were supposedly friends attending the same party. According to the intial report McClelland and his presumed murderers left the party together for a beer run to a neighboring town in Oklahoma. At some point, after recrossing into Texas, McClelland was torn to pieces alive underneath or behind the pick up truck. (The suspects claimed to some family members they hit him, internet reports claim he was dragged.) No one heard his cries.

According to friends and family of Finley and Crostley, the two said that McClelland opted to walk home after an argument about sobriety and they had simply followed him, “tapping him” with the car, until he “fell” underneath it. Finley and Crostley told police that McClelland had opted to walk home and they did not know what happened to him.

While we may never know if the incident that incited McClelland’s murder was a racist one, I think it is quite clear that the way he was killed was racialized. Finley, one of the suspected murderers, is also suspected of having been recruited into a white supremacist organization while serving time for a different murder. And the “justice” system in Paris Texas, charged with investigating the crime, is the same system that has notoriously thrown the book at black youth while letting white youth off with minimum or transmuted sentences. Worse the DA charged with prosecuting the case was once Finley’s attorney. And certainly, in these heated racial times in which presidential candidates make thinly veiled references to the import of race in one’s election decisions and remain silent in the face of racialized and racist name calling, inciting of violence, and calls to murder, there can be little doubt that these two men also assumed they would get away with it.

you can read more here or here

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  • Jacqueline McClelland with photo of her son Brandon. AP/Matt Slocum
  • Crostley and Finley’s mug shots. AP/ Lamar County Sheriff’s Office

Quote of the Week: No Me Estresa Edition

This thought provoking piece came way today at exactly the right moment:

Is truth something that finds you… or do you find it by diligently removing the lies and excuses?
– open appologies

So I sit, still. breathe. read the quote again. Shine the smallest light into the darkness, lift my cup, and commit to be an active seeker of truth and not just a passive consumer of soundbites and others’ paranoia

Columbus Day

And for those who will shrug and say “can’t change the past” remember that celebrating such a past, instead of critically examining and learnng from it, dooms us to repetition,

GW Bush Authored Sterilization Plan

Conflicts between federal governments, often protecting or extending corporate interest against existing treaties, and Native Americans (this one was done by a student in an anthro class 😀 )

If you are like me, you spent part of today griping about the mail not being picked up/delivered or not being able to get something done at the bank. I didn’t even remember what day it was when I left the house this morning.  I’d love to blame it on jet lag but the reality is that apathy in the U.S. about our history/ies permeates everything. People make lynching “jokes” and rape “jokes,” they celebrate genocide and praise a man who voted against Martin Luther King Day for standing up to a single elder woman after stirring up here Islamaphobia for weeks. And I write posts about current politics without even realizing what day it is until the middle of the day.

When Palin made her comment about Community Organizers, several pundits asked if her comment was racial. I remember shrugging because I know that there are conservative Christian organizers who have been community organizers just as much as there have been radical people of color, feminists, and liberal faith groups (including Christians) who have organized and they crossed race. Yet when Palin started in with the “palled around with terrorists” madness, I thought about the community organizer comment again. I though about Chavez and Huerta and the Chicano Movement. I thought about Elaine Brown and Erika Huggins and the Black Panthers. I thought about Buffy Saint Marie and Annie Mae Aquash and the American Indian Movement.

Today, I thought about how choosing these particular youtube videos would silence the message I am trying to send for the people who most need to hear it. How for them, like Palin, the right to self-determination is frightening when it comes from the mouth of radical poc social justice workers, whether they are Freedom Riders or the first Black Presidential candidate to make it this far in the election process. They are afraid of women who exert their right to express their sexuality, to seek their desires, and to choose what they do with their bodies. They are afraid of women of color who are a constant reminder of the occupation of this nation, the perpetuation of enslavement, and the trafficking of sex. They are afraid of radical white people and poc who stood up against corruption, inequality, and state sanctioned violence. They are afraid of the sons and daughters of a colonial era that is long over and yet still taints us.

And in their fear they build militias and lynch mobs and have rallies where even now they feel emboldened to yell out “kill them.” They create secret prisons and midnight torture flights. They bomb clinics and federal buildings. They hang effigies and nooses. They taser queers, youth, and mentally unstable people to death. They repeal 1878 Posse Comitatus Act and allow Blackwater to build huge domestic training bases and weapons lockers near the major freeway arteries for the South and the West. 

So I find myself concerned that for the first time in my adult life, my first thought on Columbus Day was “why the hell isn’t the post office open?!” and that we as a nation were so caught up in election fever that no one else mentioned the connections we could make between recent campaign tactics and the history of this nation as a cautionary tale to do better if nothing else.

And I find myself thinking about something Michelle Obama said about the call to imagine the world that could be and then work together to create it. I am imagining a world where indigenous lands are not taking over by encroachment and then force to obtain mineral or water rights for corporations. I am imagining a world in which the cultural trauma of colonialism has finally been healed. I am imagining a world where regardless of what you believe about the nation or faith or any other hot button topic, your opinion is based in fact, and you are able to listen and communicate with respect for those who differ from you. I am imagining a world where no politician, regardless of affiliation, tells me that separate cannot only be equal but it the best option; whether that seperation is physical like internment or reservations or institutional like marriage or competing conferences with decidedly different racial agendas, or ideological like the people who say that what woc need is beyond their comprehension but they support their rights “too.” I don’t know how to get there but I hope that even in the midst of all this apathy and economic fear, that we don’t lose sight of trying.

Palin’s Half-Truths and the Domestic Violence Connection

The Troopergate fiasco has turned into yet another partisan discussion about Palin’s fitness to serve on the basis of her general leadership style. While I agree that questions about the way she leads, her hiring and firing decisions, and her behavior with members of the cabinet and public servants in general is critical to assessing her overall fitness, one thing seems to be consistently sacrificed in this story: the opportunity to address Domestic and Sexual Violence. Since this is Domestic Violence month, and since Troopergate proves an ideal case to open discussion of DSV and policing and state and national leadership around ending DSV, I think its time we reframe and refocus the discussion onto the impact of Palin’s decisions on women living with or surviving abuse.

In an interview with Local Alaska News outlets, Palin claimed she had

“been cleared of any wrongdoing”

repeatedly, despite the fact the report found her

“Governor Sarah Palin abused her power by violating Alaska Statute 39.52.11(a) of the Alaska Executive Branch Ethics Act.”

The McCain camp is also continuing to float the idea that the investigation was a

“partisan circus”

despite the fact that the board is overwhelmingly Republican. There are 10 Republicans and 4 Democrats on the board; they voted unanimously to investigate and unanimously to release the findings. If the Board is partisan than the party they would be

aligned with would be Palin’s own.

While I personally think any police officer/state trooper who tasers his own children should be removed from service on the basis of both abuse and the use of police issued weapons outside of his duties this is unfortunately not the law.  I also agree with one of Palin’s early comments that we should be able to remove people from state policing who are guilty of abuse. (You’ll note Palin embraces the disconnect between legal guilty and ethical guilt when it benefits her but not when it does the same for others.)

Unfortunately, instead of using her considerable base of power to work to change the law, Palin used that power to punish a supervisor who was following existing law. The problem here is two-fold:

  1. Abuse of power – a pattern in her administration
  2. the failure to represent and protect all Alaskans – resulting in the failure to protect women experiencing abuse in the long run

I’ve already written about the former, so let’s focus on failure to protect and serve. Had Palin worked with her cabinet to change the law governing police misconduct in Alaska to include issues of Domestic violence instead of threatening and ultimately firing a supervisor guilty of neither violating the law or DSV, she would have:

  1. paved the way for legally removing her brother-in-law from his position – which her threats ultimately did not do (he still works there)
  2. set legal precedent for removing police officers from duty for DSV

Using her power for legal and rational means then would have meant that women experiencing DSV in Alaska, the state with

one of the highest rates of domestic and sexual violence in the US, would have been safer for multiple reasons:

  1. DSV calls would not be being taken by police officers with potential records of abuse themselves – research shows that abusive police/lawyers/judges/caseworkers make DSV calls worse for women not better
  2. the abuse record of Palin’s ex-brother-in-law would have been public from the outset, ensuring that he would not be able to tazer other women’s children (or any other activities we still don’t know about) with the ease he could have prior to Palin’s White House VP bid
  3. the police would not have closed ranks against the Governor over the firing of Monegan ensuring better cooperation between the “rank and file” police and the Governor’s Office on any policing issues including a DSV Taskforce (which she could have implemented or strengthened as part of her plan)
  4. Could have led to a stronger stance on use of force on and off the job in general – creating or bolstering an atmosphere of respect that one should expect from “community policing” rather than antagonism which often comes from police forces riddled with corruption or consistent use of excessive force (it is unclear what type of policing they have in Alaska, the pt. is about inculcating or further supporting a culture of cooperation over one of violence)

A non-personal approach would have also ultimately impacted the safety of all N. American women by giving us case law to refer to in trying to remove police officers from their positions for DSV outside of Alaska as well as statistics showing the impact of an anti-DSV policy on policing. Even more important, since Alaska is the site of such high DSV incidents, had this kind of law and supporting Task Force been created and shown dramatic impact, it would make it all the more possible to make this a uniform policy across the nation.

Palin could be running on a platform of actual reform and support for women in DSV, instead of looking like she is using DSV “allegations” to get out of a modus operandi in her administration of firing people who disagree with her.

Since October is Domestic Violence Month, I wish more people were approaching the Troopergate issue from a feminist perspective that critically unpacks the real issue of Domestic Violence in the Palin case, the police force, and our culture and what Palin’s myopic and self-serving leadership style has done to undermine women’s safety rather than support it. This is not a partisan statement, it is a feminist one.

  • You can listen to the full interview and read full transcripts here
  • htp to Mudflats which runs alot of posts about Palin. Read the piece  here.

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  • Grapevine Texas Police PSA Campaign Against DSV
  • graphic unattributed
  • San Antonio protest against police beating from The Minority Advocate
  • Officer Friendly visit to Palentine Illinois Middle School unattributed

Don’t forget October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

As if there were not enough causes shoved into October, it is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. So don’t forget to get regular check ups and keep up your sense of humor about it b/c it really does make a difference.

Monica Palacio

If you live in the following places you can also still participate in the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

Philadelphia October 17-19
Atlanta October 24-26
Tampa Bay October 31 – November 2
Dallas November 7-9
Arizona November 14-16
San Diego November 21-23