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Archive for October, 2011

Racism and Intimidation In Nassau County – An Ugly History

Posted in Editorials on October 20th, 2011

Two years ago, I posted a diary over at Feministing about why I disagree with people who claim that those of us who have respect for others regardless of race, gender or sexuality can be Republicans. The idea of the Republican “big tent” is easily disproved.

The video below and the campaign that followed were a lesson to me in Republican dirty tricks. It wasn’t that I hadn’t seen mud slinging before on Long Island. I had heard Republicans use racist code words about to discredit Democrats, especially candidates who were people of color – if a person was Black, they would talk about how “the neighborhood is changing” and if the candidate was Latin@, “immigration” would suddenly become the top priority for local government. But the summer of 2009 and the time I spent on Nina Petraro Bastardi’s campaign was when I realized how much their prejudice meant to Republicans and how far they were willing to take it. I watched as the Nassau County Republican Party lost all claim to plausible deniability with regards to their bigotry. They really are burning with hatred. Listen to this man’s voice.

It doesn’t stop with screaming. One of the reasons that Ms Petraro Bastardi became a Democrat was because of explicitly racist voter suppression tactics used by the Republican party:

Nassau County Republican Board of Elections Commissioner John A. DeGrace [attempted] to reproduce and mail the bogus ACORN letter to newly registered African-American voters in the Hempstead-Uniondale district. The letter allegedly told the would-be voters not to go to the polls on Election Day, that their votes would be cast for their respective parties’ candidates.

Some blamed the outburst on anger that Ms Petraro Bastardi had left the Republican party. But this is just not true. Claims of intimidation have surfaced again, this time made by Carrie Solages, a local attorney who is running for the Nassau County Leigslature in the 3rd district against incumbent John Ciotti, the same contest Ms Petraro Bastardi attempted to win previously.

Does the man calling for “animal control” to come and take away the Black people look familiar?

John Ciotti denies that he knows Vinnie Prisco. But that’s patently false. In this followup video, it’s reported that Mr. Prisco’s mother said that he’s John Ciotti’s right hand man. In addition to the coverage by WPIX, ABC also gets the story right, putting it into context with past racism and voter suppression. NBC interviewed John Ciotti, and he insisted it was “an isolated incident” but the video from Nina Petraro Bastardi’s campaign announcement above, her statement, and statements from Patrick Nicolosi and others who have campaigned in Nassau prove otherwise.

Kudos to those who got the story right. It would be easy to let this devolve into a “he said/she said” story, but the evidence is clear – the actions of the Nassau County Republicans have been despicable and show a clear pattern of racism and voter intimidation. It’s time we started calling them out for it.

And if John Ciotti cares so much about justice, if he really was sickened by these events, then he should stop worrying about Vinny Prisco and start worrying about all of his other thugs. If Mr. Ciotti has seen the light, and really wants a fair election, then he should support Carrie Solages call for for Federal Election monitors on November 8th.

Letter Writing Friday – Occupy Wall Street

Posted in Editorials on October 14th, 2011

I have been following the Occupy Wall Street protests with great interests. Like many on the left, at first I wasn’t sure what I thought – but every day that they stayed, I was more captivated. I haven’t been there in person yet. Most of my free time in these past few months has been spent volunteering for a campaign for a local election on Long Island. I would like to visit after election day. But like many Americans, I worry about the threat to my day job if I were to be arrested.

Last night, I went to sleep after reading the news that Mayor Bloomberg had decided that this morning at 6AM he would force the protesters from the park, for cleaning. This was exactly how Los Indignatos were forced from their protest in Barcelona, while Adam and I were visiting in May. When the protesters tried to return, they were beaten with clubs by the police. I worried about something similar happening in New York.

This morning, however, brought good news. Mayor Bloomberg has backed down. I opened my email and revised the message I had started to write to my City Councilman, Mark Weprin last night, and sent it.

This morning I was very relieved to hear that Mayor Bloomberg decided not to remove the protesters from Zuccotti Park. I am writing this email to urge you to do everything you can to support New Yorkers’ First Amendment Rights. Our city is made great by the diversity of people who live here, and that includes differences in politics. I am proud to live in a place where the Occupy Wall Street Protests are taking place, and where the right to peaceful protest is respected by the government.

I sent a similar email to Mayor Bloomberg, and included a reference to his inspiring speech defending Park 51 last year where he claimed to champion diversity and freedom. Here’s hoping he will continue to be that Mayor and not the misguided one he was last night.

Orgasm, Inc.

Posted in Editorials on October 4th, 2011

Although I missed it in theaters, I was able to watch Orgasm, Inc. on DVD this weekend. It’s a documentary about the quest to find a drug that can increase sexual function in women, a “female Viagra.” What I learned was compelling.

As you might have guessed, the quest for a “female Viagra” began immediately after the original hit the shelves, drug companies were heady with success and had dollar signs in their eyes. The filmmaker, Liz Canner, follows one company racing to be the first to stake a claim and win FDA approval and also the New View Campaign, a group of activists led by several feminist academics who claim that drugs are not the answer to Female Sexual Dysfunction (FSD).

For a drug to be approved by the FDA, it must treat a specific medical condition. New View claims that FSD was made up by the drug companies who are looking to sell more drugs to women. I have always been skeptical of the claim that 40% of women are sexually dysfunctional. It sounds like whatever traits these women have in common would be within the range of normal human sexuality, which varies wildly. However, I was curious, perhaps it was like nearsightedness or flat feet – an incredibly common ailment but one that was also harmful and could be easily treated.

The opposite point of view argues that if women are having trouble with sex, the culprit may be that women’s expectations of sex are much too high or that they are simply uneducated. One of the women in the movie who claimed to have FSD was capable of orgasm, but could not do so during intercourse! I was aghast. Most women cannot orgasm during intercourse. Research indicates that the ability to orgasm during intercourse might be related to a physical characteristic – the distance between the clitoris and the vaginal opening – not a medical problem.

Dr. Leonore Tiefer from New View repeatedly states that an orgasm does not come from a bottle. She talks about how sexual desire is something created by the people having sex. It seemed like a call to women who prefer to view sex as something that “just happens.” In a culture that views women as sexually passive and objects to be acted upon, this is a challenge. It is a radical shift to see oneself not only as a person who is sexually desired by others but as a person who has sexual desires and can act to pursue them.

Orgasm Inc. explores other topics related products and services related to women’ sexuality, pornography and sex toys, labiaplasty and even media personalities who have made a name for themselves advising women about sex. A storyline about a sex educator who crashes an FSD conference, and a suspenseful FDA hearing create the climax (!!) of the film. This documentary  updated my sex education – there were several stories I had heard about briefly in the news, like the orgasmatron – a spinal implant that can dispense bliss with the push of a button that I had never followed up with.

In our increasingly sex negative culture, it was refreshing to spend some time thinking about efforts being made to improve the sexual happiness of women – even if many of the people doing it have agendas that are entirely profit motivated. In exposing the marketing blitz of Female Sexual Dysfunction, Orgasm Inc. encourages us to think critically about our sexuality – something that can be a little bit scary, but can lead to great beauty and joy.