FOCUS/midwest

Founded in 1962 by Charles L. Klotzer

Archive for February 2009

Trapped in a mirror

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womenarecover1“The euphemism ‘women’s liberation’ tacitly makes an assumption most of us who are so labeled are unwilling to make: that we can liberate other women by our actions. Liberation is a very personal concept, and none of us are about to go around ‘liberating’ others.

“It is as if women have been trapped in a mirror, compelled to conform to an image reflected not from within themselves but from the way society chooses to see them. Women have been confined to the inner depths of a bell jar, to use Sylvia Plath’s terrifying metaphor.

“On the first day of the world, cracks appear in the mirror. A sort of inner illumination begins to take place: awareness of self, consciousness of independent feelings, and wishes. Before too long, the mirror is shattered; the bell jar lifted. The results may be cataclysmic.

“Liberation demands some kind of self-actualization. The individuals who experience such impulses are going to want to enter into relationships in which they can have some say in the formation, the duration, and even the end. They want control, not all of it, but their fair share. These individuals want to be accepted for what they really are, not to be committed to fulfilling some sort of preordained role about which they had nothing to say.

“It’s hard to say exactly who that liberated person is going to be. She may have a strong identity with a group, but most importantly she will be independent even if within a group. Read the rest of this entry »

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February 23, 2009 at 8:38 pm

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End of the line: No more autoworker concessions

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strikeThis open letter was forwarded to FOCUS/Midwest by a former St. Louis area autoworker.

“I found a job working on an assembly line that paid a few more dollars than most.

”I felt blessed to have that job and worked hard at it.

”I felt pride in the job I did each day even though it was hard and heavy and sometimes dangerous and the hours were very long, but it paid my bills and my taxes and at the end of my day I had my dignity and felt satisfied because I knew I did that job to the best of my ability.

”I became a member of the union and I felt blessed because I knew that that union meant a better life for its members but also that it would see its way to bringing a higher standard of living to other workers on the assembly line. Read the rest of this entry »

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February 23, 2009 at 1:43 pm

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Remembering Frank O’Hare

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Two years have passed since cancer took the physical presence of Frank P. O’Hare away from his friends — the exact date was July 16, 1960.

oharefrankYet the most fortunate of O’Hareians still find him popping into their offices unannounced; spot him bustling along a crowded city street with two or three newspapers tucked under an arm; hear his now dulcet now explosive voice on the telephone; receive in the morning mail those cards and notes and letters and manuscripts and embellished booklets on almost every idea under the sun that could have come from him alone.

For Frank O’Hare was a fellow who goes right on doing what he always did and somehow sees to it that nothing, not even death, very much interferes.

Since there may be a few readers of FOCUS/Midwest who do not know as much as they should of the O’Hare story, the thing to do here is to touch some of the high spots, and hope that it soon will have the attention of the understanding biographer that Frank O’Hare deserves.

He was born April 23, 1877 — it always pleased him to celebrate his birthday and Shakespeare’s together — in North Hampton, Iowa. His restless energy came as a paternal inheritance. Peter Paul O’Hare, his father, an Irish emigrant, forsook importing lines from his homeland to seek adventure in the Colorado silver mines. When life in the Rocky Mountains became too quiet he packed a satchel and went off to fight on the side of the Boers in South Africa.

But Frank’s mother, the former Elizabeth Weyers, a native of the Netherlands, made up for the lack of a steady father as best she could and that was mighty well. Read the rest of this entry »

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February 21, 2009 at 7:38 pm

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The Obama answer to Afghanistan: Escalation

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afghanistanThe Associated Press reports Tuesday, Feb. 17, that President Obama has approved sending 17,000 more troops to Afghanistan. It’s the first step in an escalation that could eventually double U.S. presence there to 60,000 soldiers.

The move, though not unexpected, raises broad concerns because the new administration doesn’t have any clearer strategy for the region than did the Bush administration.

Presidential candidate Obama attracted the support of progressives because he was an early critic of the Iraq War. Now he finds himself in the unusual position of becoming a salesman for escalation in Afghanistan.

At least some progressives in Congress are signaling their reservations. “The idea of putting troops in without having more clarity at least gives me pause,” U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., a leading anti-war voice in Congress, told the AP. Read the rest of this entry »

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February 17, 2009 at 9:38 pm

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The disaster that was waiting to happen has happened

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After the overthrow of communist governments in Eastern Europe, capitalism was paraded as the indomitable system that brings prosperity and democracy, the system that would prevail unto the end of history.

the-pyramid1The present economic crisis, however, has convinced even some prominent free-marketeers that something is gravely amiss. Truth be told, capitalism has yet to come to terms with several historical forces that cause it endless trouble: democracy, prosperity, and capitalism itself.

Consider democracy first. In the United States we hear that capitalism is wedded to democracy, hence the phrase, “capitalist democracies.” In fact, throughout our history there has been a largely antagonistic relationship between democracy and capital concentration. Some 80 years ago Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis commented, “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” Moneyed interests have been opponents not proponents of democracy.

The Constitution itself was fashioned by affluent gentlemen who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to repeatedly warn of the baneful and dangerous leveling effects of democracy. The document they cobbled together was far from democratic, being shackled with checks, vetoes, and requirements for artificial super majorities, a system designed to blunt the impact of popular demands.

In the early days of the Republic the rich and well-born imposed property qualifications for voting and officeholding. They opposed the direct election of candidates (note, their Electoral College is still with us). And for decades they resisted extending the franchise to less favored groups such as property-less workingmen, immigrants, racial minorities, and women. Read the rest of this entry »

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February 17, 2009 at 12:50 pm

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Obama: “There are certain things only a union can do”

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President Barack Obama came to Springfield, Ill., Feb. 12, to honor President Abraham Lincoln. Here’s the speech he delivered to the Abraham Lincoln Association:

It is wonderful to be back in Springfield, the city where I got my start in elected office, where I served for nearly a decade, and where I launched my candidacy for President two years ago this week on the steps of the Old State Capitol where Abraham Lincoln served and prepared for the presidency.oldstatecap2

It was here, nearly 150 years ago, that the man whose life we are celebrating today bid farewell to this city he had come to call his own. On a platform at a train station not far from where we’re gathered, Lincoln turned to the crowd that had come to see him off, and said, “To this place, and the kindness of these people, I owe everything.” Being here tonight, surrounded by all of you, I share his sentiments.

But looking out at this room, full of so many who did so much for me, I’m also reminded of what Lincoln once said to a favor-seeker who claimed it was his efforts that made the difference in the election. Lincoln asked him, “So you think you made me President?” “Yes,” the man replied, “under Providence, I think I did.” “Well,” said Lincoln, “it’s a pretty mess you’ve got me into. But I forgive you.”

It is a humbling task, marking the bicentennial of our 16th President’s birth — humbling for me in particular, I think, for the presidency of this singular figure in so many ways made my own story possible. Read the rest of this entry »

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February 12, 2009 at 10:00 pm

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Effective oversight requires an effective press

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“These are extraordinary political and economic times, and even from a distance you can sense the animation on Capitol Hill as Congress debates President Obama’s stimulus package, weighs his executive-branch appointments, and responds to his various initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »

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February 11, 2009 at 11:09 pm

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