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Fight Slavery Now! Message Board › BOOK REVIEWS


avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 563
I am sure I am not the only member of this group just becoming educated on this subject. That information about human trafficking is not widely reported in the media or taught in the schools is part of the problem we seek to address. The internet is certainly a ready source for much information. But for in depth analysis and fully developed views, it is hard to beat books! Remember those? The things with pages you could carry around. Used to be able to read them for hours. No batteries required. Guess I'm just old fashioned.

A book was mentioned at our last Meetup called "Slave Nation", or more fully:
SLAVE NATION: How Slavery United the Colonies & Sparked the AmericanRevolution

It was written by Alfred W. Blumrosen & Ruth G. Blumrosen, the parents of this group's Organizer, with he contributing as editorial consultant.

I found this review helpful: Progressive Book Review: Slave Nation

"I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of America, if I could have conceieved that thereby I was founding a land of slavery." - Marquis De Lafayette, French nobelman who served as Washington's aide during the revolutionary war

The Bulmrosens, former lawyers for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice, present a well-documented analysis of the origins of the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution this country was founded upon.

Slave Nation postulates that it was not the stamp tax, nor was it the tea tax, nor was it any other direct imposition of obligation upon the American colonies that prompted revolutionary talk on this continent. Instead, it was a British judicial decision published on June 22, 1772. An American slave named Sommerset, who had accompanied his master on a trip to London, decided to remain free in England rather than return to slavery in America. A British High Court justice decided that since slavery was no longer recognized as a lawful institution in England, Sommerset was free once he set foot in that country and thus the law could not be invoked by his former slave holder to enforce Sommerset's return.

The Blumrosens meticulously analyze the debates surrounding the creation of our founding documents, including inspecting drafts leading to the final versions. They demonstrate how Thomas Jefferson, who was a master wordsmith, was brought in to revise George Mason's original wording of the Declaration of Independence. Mason's "All men are born equally free and independent" had to be changed to "All men were created equal" in order to subtlely convert freedom from being a god-given right at birth into an entitlement in which the nobility had a say. The Constitution made provision for the return of runaway slaves from non-slave states back to slaveholders specifically to prevent some wayward judge from pronouncing a Sommerset-like decision.

The review was quite provocative in laying out its synopsis of the book, and certainly made me want to read it.
I will be ordering my copy forthwith.

It is my hope that other members of this group will be able to suggest further reading, both on the institutional underpinnings of slavery, and more to the point on the subject of modern day slavery in all its odious forms.

A short review, or at least a link to one would be much appreciated. I look forward to learning with others.

Peace... and Justice, Avra
avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 615
Received this today among the other dozen emails from this group which were among the other 276 emails received.
I am unsure why it was not simply posted here. But here it is:
NYFightsHumanT. (from Alma)

In our effort to learn more about this horrific subject, the group has made a decision to read an actual book and discuss it during our next meetup. We promise not to make this a book club but, as I am sure people will agree, this maybe necessary from time to time in order for us to do just that - educate ourselves.

As mentioned above in the subject line, the author is E. Benjamin Skinner. The name of the book is, "A Crime So Monstrous" - Face-to-face with modern-day slavery.

"Rigorously investigated and fearlessly reported, A Crime So Monstrous is a passionate and thorough examination of the appalling reality of human bondage in today’s world. In his devastating narrative, Ben Skinner boldly casts light on the unthinkable, yet thriving, modern-day practice of slavery, exposing a global trade in human lives. The abuses detailed in these pages are repugnant, but there is hope to be found: by giving voice to the victims, Skinner helps restore their dignity and makes crucial strides toward closing this shameful chapter in history."

-- Bill Clinton

"Ben Skinner's brains and courage take us into the belly of the beast and expose the ugly truth of modern slavery. Instead of sensation, A Crime So Monstrous gives us desperately needed insight and analysis. This is an important book, the first deep look into America's confused relationship with human trafficking and slavery today. Skinner's balanced dissection of our government's haphazard policies will be controversial, but it can also be the foundation for a new anti-slavery agenda, one that ends the political games being played with the lives of slaves."

-- Kevin Bales
Please understand that we understand that a book, New York, and 2 weeks before next meetup where it is going to be discussed (possibly longer if we decide to have a meetup at the Human Rights Watch film festival on 23rd) do not go well together, but it is hard to think of many other ways that can help us go where we need to go in order to understand this issue appropriately and then act on that understanding.

In light of the fact that this simply is not feasible for some people, I will post a detailed summary of the book as soon as I finish reading it and so, please, do join us to discuss it even if you are unable to read it. The details for this meetup will be forthcoming as soon as we figure out the film festival situation.

Thank you all very much for your attention,

At our most recent Meetup, we were advised that the NYPL has at least four copies of this in circulation and available.
You may see it on where used copies are to be had for as little as $4.15 and 'Kindle' editions are also available.
A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery

Isaiah 58:6(MSG): "This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts."

Peace and Justice... Avra

avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 634
The book our group has been reading "A Crime So Monstrous" by E.B. Skinner, has been reviewed at length and in detail by our Asst. Organizer Alma Subasic. Her synopsis and analysis is in itself somewhat of a tour de force and leads me to suspect that she must have been a most formidable student! The effort she has put into this is so considerable that I am compelled to put it in this discussion although it will take some number of posts due to the somewhat stingy Meetup limit of 7,500 characters per post. Those members who wish to read it in it's entirety and without interruption, may download it from our 'Files' section. Alma... thank you! Avra

(Part One)

A Crime So Monstrous


“This is an act so unnatural,” the American abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison wrote, “a crime so monstrous, a sin so God-defying, that it throws into the shade all other distinctions known among mankind.”

The author (E. Benjamin Skinner) defines a slave as, “ a human being who is forced to work through fraud or threat of violence for no pay beyond subsistence.” He then starts out by journaling his trip to Haiti. He argues that if we assume that the center of the moral universe is the UN Secretariat in Manhattan, one will need only 5 hours from there to the streets of Haiti where one can negotiate a sale of a child. Benavil is the word for courtier, a broker who holds an official real estate license and calls himself an employment agent. Two thirds of his sales are child slaves. “The average fifteen-year-old child slave is 1.5 inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than the average free fifteen-year-old. They may have burns from cooking for their overseer’s family over an open fire; or scars from beatings, sometimes in public, with the martinet, electrical cables, or wood switches. They wear faded, outsized castoffs, and walk barefoot, in sandals or, if they are lucky, oversized shoes. If you arrive in the afternoon, you may see their tiny necks and delicate skulls straining as they tote five-gallon buckets of water on their heads while navigating broken glass and shattered roads. Or you might see them picking up their overseer’s smartly dressed children from school.” These children are called restavèks, the “stay-withs.” Most children Benavil sells are around twelve years old. The youngest, he (Benavil interviewed by Skinner) claims, are seven. After a client makes an order, Benavil’s colleague works on convincing poor rural families to give up their child. Normally, all it takes is to tell parents that the child will be well-nourished and educated. Most clients want rural rather than urban children because urban children are street smart and will run away and most want younger because older ones are willful. Most want girls. This one Benavil interviewed by Skinner says that what he does helps these children because they have nothing to eat when at home. He doesn’t sell them, he “places” them. Skinner follows one boy named Bill Nathan (his mother gave him an American name in honor of the boy’s father). He was 7 when he and his sister lost both of their parents. Two neighboring families separated them and one family, Wilton and Sealon Gil took Bill. The lady of the house was ruthless. The studies show that almost every child slave in Haiti is beaten daily. Most girls are sexually abused and many of the prostitutes are former child slaves thrown out after becoming pregnant or after turning 15 when, legally, they would have to be paid. When Bill turned 11, three years after he entered slavery, two men sent by Sister Caroline, an American nun working in Haiti and a good friend of Bill’s late mother, took him from Sealon Gil’s house and set him free.

Skinner then goes on to introduce John Miller, America’s antislavery czar as well as Michael Horowitz, who helped make global abolition a national foreign policy; John Eibner, a Christian activist who mainly worked in Sudan and would pay intermediaries to free slaves through redemption, a buy-back program.

Skinner then moves onto Sudan and follows a boy named Muong Nyong Muong born in 1976 in Bahr el Ghazal (in the south of Sudan). When the civil war between predominantly Arab north and predominantly Dinka south restarted in the mid-1980s and took his father away from him, he and his brother, Garang became the male elders in the family. When the boys left their village with their mother to look for work in the north across the river Kirr, on the second day of their journey an Arab militiaman found them and enslaved them. The Arab’s name is Adamoussa and he took the tree of them to work in his home in southern Darfur. They tended crops and their only pay was leftovers. Throughout their first five years in slavery, Adamoussa raped their mother repeatedly. They tried to escape but Adamoussa found them and beat Garang mercilessly and trained his rifle on the other brother as well as their mother. Similar fate descended upon thousands of Sudanese slaves over the past two decades. They were being captured in violent raids and the argument goes that the idea behind it was to obliterate their cultural identity. Skinner goes on to journal the slave redemption program. “ Eibner redeemed around 100 per trip. As their funding exploded, so did their numbers of slaves. Between 1998 and 1999, they redeemed over 15,000 slaves. Over the next two years, the organization paid for nearly 44,000.” On the trip followed by Skinner, Christian Solidarity International (CSI) of which Eibner is a member and which is the group that does the actual redeeming, redeemed 3,782 slaves. The unfortunate byproduct is the fact that it turned out that many of these “slaves” were “false slaves,” a scheme perpetrated by corrupt middle men who figured this would be a way to get easy money. Having spent years with Adamoussa, during which Muong’s mother bore Adamoussa 2 girls, she became increasingly worried about her two sons because it is not unusual that the slave masters either expel or kill older boys because they represent physical threat. She told them to run. Muong followed her advice and one day while tending to cattle, he started running and didn’t stop until the nightfall. He managed to reach Dinka settlement in neighboring Darfur. There he learned of the Committee for the Eradication of the Abduction of Women and Children (CEAWC) brought to bear by the Sudanese regime as a result of the international pressure. Muong petitioned it numerous times to help him free his mother and brother. They did nothing until, again, due to increased political pressure (pressure didn’t specifically have anything to do with Muong but just a general war politics), CEAWC gave Muong an armed police truck and he managed to save his mother, his brother and his two half sisters.

Skinner then introduces Michael Gerson , Bush’s senior speech writer who happened to be sympathetic to Miller’s cause. While Gerson did succeed in bringing the issue to Bush’s attention and getting the President to say a couple of things about it, in the long run, it was a lost cause as politically, it didn’t have a desired effect.


avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 635
(Part Two)

Skinner then introduces Michael Gerson , Bush’s senior speech writer who happened to be sympathetic to Miller’s cause. While Gerson did succeed in bringing the issue to Bush’s attention and getting the President to say a couple of things about it, in the long run, it was a lost cause as politically, it didn’t have a desired effect.

Skinner then moves on to Romania. He befriended Tatiana, a former sex slave who founded an organization called, Atalantas, “an organization that reached trafficked women by placing stickers on bathroom mirrors of brothels, slipping them contact information in lipstick containers, letting slaves know they were not alone.” What is different about what happened to Tatiana was that her parents really warned her more than once before she was to go to Amsterdam at her “boyfriend’s” suggestion where she was to work as an au pair. When she got to Amsterdam she was told by her new boss that she had to pay off a debt which also included all of the dinners and presents her “boyfriend” bought her back in Romania. Skinner went to one of the worst ghettos in Bucharest, Basarab, situated among the Roma population. Skinner went under the precept that he wanted to buy a girl. He wanted to see if he could “buy” a girls’ freedom by telling the pimp that he wanted a girl for good.. The pimp wouldn’t allow it despite Skinner’s numerous attempts. When the pimp showed him one girl, Skinner asked if he could get anyone who is younger than that. He was then told of a blond girl who happened to not want to come down when prompted so Skinner and his translators went up to see the girl who was forcibly taken out of her room by another woman. “ She had bleached, rust-colored hair. Her head was shrunken, her nose flattened against her face. Mascara ran from pools of tears around deep-set eyes, cast downward at her bare feet with widely spread toes. Her hastily applied makeup could not conceal the evidence of Down syndrome. Lipstick was smeared beyond the boundaries of her parted mouth. Her flesh rolled out of the tight yellow tank top and shorts. Her captor held her left arm so tightly as to hunch her shoulder. Below her right bicep were no less than ten deep, angry red slashes, raised, some freshly scabbed…..’Do you like her?’ one of the women asked….Her captor asked if she would go with me. The girl mumbled something……about being hit. ’She said yes,’ the woman said.” At this point Skinner reiterates that “fewer than half of all trafficking victims were forced into commercial sex work,” but that sex slavery dominated Washington’s antislavery efforts. Skinner then went to interview Florian Costache, who was in prison at the time after receiving a three-yearn sentence, the average sentence for traffickers. Florian was a top trafficker for Nuţu Cămătaru. Skinner goes on to say that brothers Nuţu and Sile Cămătaru “were the most prolific Romanian slave traders since the Ottoman period.” Florian said that he had good instincts for the business. He was looking for girls that had family problems as well as many orphans. Most of the girls were 15 or 16 . “At the time, three in four Romanian sex slaves were trafficked west through Timişosrs, over the Transylvanian Alps, then west across the Danube at the Iron Gate gorge to Serbia, a country that the Canadian journalist Victor Malarek called ‘the breaking grounds’ for trafficked women. Costache blazed his own northwestern trail. He never had problems acquiring forged passports and visas for the women, and border police always facilitated the traffic for fee. ‘The business took off at the end of 1996,’ he said. ‘We expanded operations into Hungary, where I have relatives.’ In Budapest, a larger Russian organized crime (ROC) group purchased the women at wholesale, prices varying according to looks and experience. From there, the Russians sold the women to one of hundreds of ROC affiliates operating in nearly sixty countries. Often the girls would be sold five or six times. Slavery is the dark side of commercial sex – a $100 billion global industry – and Costache’s women wound up in some far-flung corners. Some went to Amsterdam, others to Israel. ROC cells in Vladivostok channeled women to Japan and South Korea’s mammoth sex markets.”

Skinner then moves on to trace a new “Middle Passage,” a slave trail that begins in Moldova, a country that, he argues is Europe’s largest source of sex slaves. From there, he was to go through Transnistria to Ukraine and then across the Black Sea to Turkey. Once there he was going to act as an entrepreneur looking to buy a group of women at wholesale. In this chapter he addresses this peculiar situation of women who after having been freed return to prostitution because they say they have nothing else to go back to. But heroes like Dr. Gorceag who runs the only functional shelter for sex slaves in Moldova does everything she can to convince these women that they have something to go back to by reaching out to them and speaking to their families telling them that their daughters are not whores. She also helps them to start their own small businesses. Skinner visited a small village in Moldova called Carpeşti that traffickers almost completely drained of its women and he managed to speak to the mayor whose wife also left. The mayor said that this really wasn’t a problem economically because these women are sending money back to the village but that it is a big problem psychologically. He gives an example of a friend who shot himself leaving 6 children behind after his wife left him while abroad. The mayor kept denying the fact that these women, including his wife, entered the sex trade and he said that he did ask himself why only women but not men were leaving. The answer he gave himself was that it was easier for women to find jobs, “in the service sectors, in Italy taking care of old people, whatever.” Skinner then went to Transnistria, the main point for Moldovan women sold into Istanbul brothels via Odessa. It was a known fact that police officers here moonlighted as slave dealers. Skinner then went to Turkey and while at the airport, he randomly chose a tourist agency and openly told the individual there, Kerem, that he was looking for a woman. Kerem turned over his badge, took Skinner into the office and gave him a cup of coffee. He took Skinner to the pimp he knew and while Skinner was in the process of negotiating to buy 3 girls for good, Kerem, serving as a translator, became increasingly worried because that transaction would take them to Russians which he wanted to avoid at all costs. Skinner then introduces the “mongers,” the sex tourists as well as something called International Sex Guide, “the Internet site that is the world’s largest forum for mongers,” which, at the time this book was being written had 160,000 registered members.


avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 636
(Part Three)

In the next chapter, Skinner pays some more attention to Miller and describes his appointment to ambassadorship. Miller’s troops in the fight against slavery were mostly nongovernmental organizations and he fought hard to get them money fast. Skinner argues that most of $375 million allocated by the U.S. to combat trafficking went to these organizations around the world. Miller worked hard to get the first President Bush to tackle global poverty and did the same with the second President Bush believing that poverty must be addressed before abolishing slavery can be addressed. At this point he also indicates that, “sex slavery might represent the greatest proportion of cross-border trafficking.”

In the next chapter Skinner moves on to India and follows Gonoo Lal Kol in Lohagara Dhal in the corner of Uttar Pradesh , a North Indian state that contains 8% of the world’s poor. Every single person in this village, including children, was a slave and they were working off a debt that for most families spanned over two generations. Gonoo, his wife and all of his children are working in a quarry breaking rock to produce silica, a debt that began when his grandfather borrowed 62 cents from a Brahmin farmer. At this point, Skinner mentions that, “Every credible study has estimated that worldwide, the number of slaves in debt bondage dwarfs the number that has been trafficked into all other forms of slavery. Yet, in trafficking conferences and press campaigns of the so-called New Abolitionists, Gonoo is the invisible man; sex slaves like Tatiana take center stage.” Skinner then introduces Rampal, a journalist as well as an organizer of an NGO called Sankalp that ran an informal school to which one of Gonoo’s sons went (his first son, Vishnu who died when he was 8 from a disease not identified in this book). Sankalp was “in the revolution business” which together with Amar Saran, a lawyer managed to inspire the slaves and get them to fight their slave masters. This occurred on January 1, 2000. Over 4,000 slaves managed to hold on to 8 quarries out of 46 in that area and to begin to manage themselves by forming over 200 micro credit mitra mandals, a self governing credit union. Gonoo’s quarry was not one of these 8. But Gonoo did say that slavery was so deeply ingrained in him and his family that he wouldn’t know what to do even if he did become free.

In the next chapter, Skinner goes back to Miller who at this point was thinking of resigning having pretty much lost faith in his own government. Another blow was the fact that Michael Gerson, Bush’s senior speech writer and a human rights advocate resigned. At this point Bush’s administration considered the issue of trafficking closed. Miller’s marriage disintegrated as did his relationship with his son, a clear testament to his own words that this thing consumes a person.

Next, Skinner ends with the issue of slavery in the U.S. and describes the bondage of a little 9-year-old girl, Williathe Narcisse also known as “Little Hope.” It was a nickname she received from the Haitian-American community after police had freed her. After her mother died back in Haiti, she was taken by a woman named Marie Pompee who was a sister of the woman for whom Williathe’s mother worked. After Marie brought the nine-year-old Williathe to Miami, she turned her into a domestic laborer. Naturally, to make matters beyond horrific, Williathe had been repeatedly raped by Marie’s 20-year-old son. After having spent 3 years with Pompees, Williathe was freed and her mistress got 6 months because the judge said that he believed her when she said that she didn’t know that Williathe had been raped despite the fact that Williathe told her. Her son as well as her husband fled to Haiti. Here Skinner goes on to say that “Annually, traffickers now take more slaves into the United States than seventeenth-century slave traders transported to pre-independence America…But even cautious officials in the U.S. government estimate that traffickers turn up to 17,500 humans into slaves on American soil every year….With an average term of enslavement lasting at least three years, there are now some 50,000 slaves in the United States.

Finally, Skinner argues that the biggest flaws in American strategy to fend off slavery started with being unclear as to what slavery meant. The other major flaw was a lack of creative preventive strategies. He continues by saying that poverty alleviation must be part of any realistic global strategy of abolition. The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 included economic alternatives to prevent and deter trafficking through micro credits and grants to nongovernmental organizations. He continues by saying that, “The most common trigger of debt bondage is a health crisis,” and that the free markets can be the most effective tools when it comes to ending poverty.


avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 662
This from the estimable web pages of CHANGE.ORG / HUMAN TRAFFICKING. Members are welcome and encouraged to post reviews of any of these recommended reads as well as to recommend others...

10 Essential Human Trafficking Reads
More books and articles are being published about human trafficking each year. These are 10 of my favorites, all of which have been published this decade.

Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy by Kevin Bales (2004)
Maybe it's because this book quite literally changed my life (I was a corporate advertising student before I read it), but if you read one human trafficking book this year, let this one be it. Bales masterfully weaves narratives of former trafficking victims in with statistics and global trends. It's compelling and juicy, and unlike a lot of other reads in this genre, you will walk away feeling empowered. This is an excellent book. I own multiple copies, and sometimes I hug them.

Not for Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and How We Can Fight It by David Batstone (2007)
Batstone was a well-known journalist before he became an anti-trafficking advocate, and Not For Sale shows his experience. He does a great job of telling the story of the new abolitionist movement. The book is well-planned, accessible and acts as a great call to action.

Prostitution, Trafficking, and Traumatic Stress by Melissa Farley (2003)
Anyone who has ever seen Pretty Woman should read this book. Farley dispels the popular myth that prostitution is empowering for women and that "sex work" is healthy labor. Farley achieves a rare balance of passion and scholarship in this much under-researched field. So read this book, and then leave it strategically outside a massage parlor or prostitution zone in your town. Maybe someone who really needs to read it will pick it up....

Human Trafficking Evokes Outrage, Little Evidence by Jerry Markon (2007)
It was the Washington Post article heard (and cringed at) ‘round the abolitionist world! While I vehemently disagree with several of the points Markon makes, he said what a lot of people were thinking then and what possibly more are thinking now. This article raises some tough issues the anti-trafficking community faces, including unreliable statistics and low identification rates.

2008 Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. State Department (2008)
This isn't much of a holiday beach read, but the State Department didn't set out to write a page turner. They have, however, pulled together a stellar amount of information, with more stories and graphics than you'd expect from a government report. The TIP Report is the best snapshot of what the U.S. government thinks is happening in trafficking around the world. And what the U.S. government thinks matters.

A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face With Modern Slavery by Benjamin E. Skinner (2008)
Equal parts Magnum P.I. and Anthony Bourdain (if you replace "restaurant" with "brothel"), journalist Benjamin Skinner has written a fascinating travelogue of global sex trafficking and sex tourism. The text is unafraid and unapologetic in its raw depiction of the horrific and prolific nature of this global crime.

Captive Teenage Cousins Suffer Crash Course in Forced Sex Trade by Robin Erb and Roberta de Boer
Unfortunately, there are a number of newspaper articles about American kids being abducted/lured/tricked into sex trafficking. This particular one, part of a three piece series by the Toledo Blade, is especially useful and powerful because it demonstrates a.) sex trafficking happens in Toledo, Ohio (not exactly what folks think of as a hotbed of moral turpitude); b.) one of the traffickers/pimps was a woman (which happens not infrequently) and c.) the victims were English-speaking American teens, abducted and sold in the same part of the country.

Sex Trafficking: The Global Market in Women and Children by Kathryn Farr (2005)
Farr's book is well-written and well-researched. However, its particular strengths are in its willingness to address the role the military plays in sex trafficking and the economics of the industry. This book would be especially helpful to anyone writing a thesis on global sex trafficking.

With These Hands by Daniel Rothenberg (2000)
There are many more books and articles written about people trafficked into prostitution than into agricultural labor, for one reason because sex (even abusive sex) sells. However, exploitation is rampant for migrant workers in America. While not specifically a trafficking book, With These Hands thoroughly documents farm labor in America and deftly demonstrates the ease with which trafficking and exploitation can occur.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood (2004)
Margaret Atwood is, in my not-a-literary-critic's opinion, the most talented living novelist and poet. Her dystopian, post-apocalyptic stories offer us a glimpse of where society is headed if we continue commoditizing human beings, especially women. Many of her books have similar messages, but Oryx and Crake especially revolves around themes of child abuse, child sex trafficking and the sale of persons, and it examines the idea that when people become property they cease to be people. This novel is also a superb example of how art can further social justice.
avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 721
A recent article in the NY Times reminded me of a book I first read more than 30 years ago, Saul Alinsky's
'Rules for Radicals'.

Here is the article: Know Thine Enemy by Noam Cohen

Saul Alinsky, the Chicago activist and writer whose street-smart tactics influenced generations of community organizers, most famously the current president, could not have been more clear about which side he was on. In his 1971 text, “Rules for Radicals,” Mr. Alinsky, who died in 1972, explains his purpose: “What follows is for those who want to change the world from what it is to what they believe it should be. ‘The Prince’ was written by Machiavelli for the Haves on how to hold power. ‘Rules for Radicals’ is written for the Have-Nots on how to take it away.”

ORGANIZER Saul Alinsky’s rules stand the test of time.

It is an irony of the current skirmishing about health care that those who could be considered Mr. Alinsky’s sworn enemies — the groups, many industry sponsored, who are trying to shout down Congressional town hall meetings — have taken a page (chapters, really) from his handbook on community organizing. In an article in The Financial Times last week, Dick Armey, the former Republican House majority leader, now an organizer against the Democrats’ proposals on health care, offered his opinion: “What I think of Alinsky is that he was very good at what he did but what he did was not good.”

The disruption of the town hall meetings has many Alinsky trademarks: using spectacle to make up for lack of numbers; targeting an individual to make a large point; and trying to use ridicule to persuade the undecided. Here are excerpts from “Rules for Radicals.”

Mr. Alinsky observes that “any effective means is automatically judged by the opposition as being unethical”:

One of our greatest revolutionary heroes was Francis Marion of South Carolina, who became immortalized in American history as “the Swamp Fox.” Marion was an outright revolutionary guerrilla. ...Cornwallis and the regular British Army found their plans and operations harried and disorganized by Marion’s guerrilla tactics. Infuriated by the effectiveness of his operations, and incapable of coping with them, the British denounced him as a criminal and charged that he did not engage in warfare “like a gentleman” or “a Christian.”

Don’t worry, Mr. Alinsky advised, if they call you names:

The job of the organizer is to maneuver and bait the establishment so that it will publicly attack him as a “dangerous enemy.” ... Here again we find that it is power and fear that are essential to the development of faith. This need is met by the establishment’s use of the brand “dangerous,” for in that one word the establishment reveals its fear of the organizer, its fear that he represents a threat to its omnipotence. Now the organizer has his “birth certificate” and can begin.

The first step:

The organizer dedicated to changing the life of a particular community must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression. He must search out controversy and issues, rather than avoid them, for unless there is controversy people are not concerned enough to act.

Being on TV can be empowering:

A man is living in a slum tenement. He doesn’t know anybody and nobody knows him. He doesn’t care for anyone because no one cares for him. ...When the organizer approaches him part of what begins to be communicated is that through the organization and its power he will get his birth certificate for life, that he will become known, that things will change from the drabness of a life where all that changes is the calendar. This same man, in a demonstration at City Hall, might find himself confronting the mayor and saying, “Mr. Mayor, we have had it up to here and we are not going to take it any more.” Television cameramen put their microphones in front of him and ask, “What is your name, sir?” “John Smith.” Nobody ever asked him what his name was before. ... Suddenly he’s alive!

Make yourself look as big and scary as possible:

For an elementary illustration of tactics, take parts of your face as the point of reference; your eyes, your ears, and your nose. First the eyes; if you have organized a vast, mass-based people’s organization, you can parade it visibly before the enemy and openly show your power. Second the ears; if your organization is small in numbers, then do what Gideon did: conceal the members in the dark but raise a din and clamor that will make the listener believe that your organization numbers many more than it does. Third, the nose; if your organization is too tiny even for noise, stink up the place.

Find a single person to focus your energies on:

It should be borne in mind that the target is always trying to shift responsibility to get out of being the target. There is a constant squirming and moving and strategy — purposeful, and malicious at times, other times just for straight self-survival — on the part of the designated target. The forces of change must keep this in mind and pin that target down securely.

In one of his sharpest passages, Mr. Alinsky tells his readers, living in their “radicalized dream world,” not to ignore the lower-middle class:

They are a fearful people, who feel threatened from all sides: the nightmare of pending retirement and old age with a Social Security decimated by inflation; the shadow of unemployment from a slumping economy, with blacks, already fearsome because the cultures conflict, threatening job competition; the high cost of long-term illness; and finally with mortgages outstanding, they dread the possibility of property devaluation from non-whites moving into the neighborhood. ...Remember that even if you cannot win over the lower middle-class, at least parts of them must be persuaded to where there is at least communication, then to a series of partial agreements and a willingness to abstain from hard opposition as changes takes place.

His final rule is that there is no handbook for life:

I hesitate to spell out specific applications of these tactics. I remember an unfortunate experience with my “Reveille for Radicals,” in which I collected accounts of particular actions and tactics employed in organizing a number of communities. For some time after the book was published I got reports that would-be organizers were using this book as a manual, and whenever they were confronted with a puzzling situation they would retreat into some vestibule or alley and thumb through to find the answer!
avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 733
I came across this book that discusses the case prominently featured in the movie we have been screening ("Dreams Die Hard"), that of the Ramos brothers and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers.

Nobodies: Modern American Slave Labor and the Dark Side of the Economy by John Bowe ($26, Random House, 2007).

Book Review by Emily Schmall
Slaves To Profit

Bowe exposes modern-day slavery at several U.S. companies in the States and Saipan, and reveals a chilling corporate view--that what is "an embarrassment to modern notions of human rights" is a necessary consequence of free trade. Bowe also posits that more often than not, there is an enslaved worker hunched over a sewing machine or a sun-beaten fruit picker behind every cheap good American consumers enjoy.

Bowe begins his investigation in central Florida, which one former DOJ prosecutor he interviews calls "ground zero for modern slavery." He arrives in 2002, in time for the trial of Juan and Ramiro Ramos, brothers accused of operating a slavery ring in Immokalee, Fla., an agricultural area carved out of the swamps where farm workers pick tomatoes and oranges for such companies as Taco Bell and Tropicana. The U.S. District Court for the Southern District in Florida found the Ramos brothers guilty of conspiracy to hold people in involuntary servitude, among other things. The workers were indentured to the coyotes who charged extortionist fees to bring them across the border, to the men who drove them from Arizona to the Florida farmland and to the petty and cruel overseers who ultimately employed and provided them shelter in "filthy, crowded barracks." Although the plight of the Immokalee workers has been the subject of numerous documentaries and newspaper articles, Bowe's renewed account adds an unsettling dimension--that slavery has become a crutch for globalized business.

avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 858
CHEAP, The High Cost of Discount Culture
by Ellen Ruppel Shell

Most of us readily understand that sex trafficking is driven largely by the demand for sexual services. But what drives the equally odious crime of labor trafficking? Is it possible that our appetite for 'all-you-can-eat' shrimp and our incessant bargain hunting has made us unwittingly complicit in child slave labor? That is exactly what is suggested in the remarkably enlightening book CHEAP, The High Cost of Discount Culture by Ellen Ruppel Shell.

Here we are treated to a breezily written yet cogent analysis of modern globalization. We discover the many ways we are tied together in what Martin Luther King called "an inescapable network of mutuality". The author looks at economics, history and psychology as she unravels our present situation where quantity trumps quality and cost is valued above craftsmanship. In examining the production of both food and merchandise she contends: "Technology, globalization, and deregulation have made competition a death march."

Along the way we are introduced to many remarkable and sometimes amusing personalities. Ms. Shell names names and uncovers more than a few corporate skeletons. The inner workings of chain stores and discount outlets are exposed. We get the skinny on WalMart, Ikea, Whole Foods, and many brands that are household names. We learn how many governmental agencies and international organizations act as little more than lobbyists and enforcers for multi-national corporations. China comes under scrutiny, along with how we enable, while at the same time deplore, its labor practices.

Disturbingly, we are confronted with our acquiescence to this state of affairs. Who, after all, does not love a bargain? But the author argues convincingly that we are really getting much less than we think, and at much greater cost than we realize to our health and safety, to the environment, and ultimately to our own economy. Marketing psychologists have gone to considerable lengths to learn how to manipulate our desires, our perceived needs, and the reward centers of our brains, all to the benefit of filling corporate coffers. Many experts are quoted and many facts and figures are marshaled to eye opening affect. The book is well annotated and does end on a hopeful note with solid suggestions about how we might do better.

I whole-heartedly recommend this provocative and enjoyable read to anyone interested in examining some of the root causes of slave labor and human trafficking, or simply wishing to know more about where stuff really comes from and how it is produced.

avra c.
New York, NY
Post #: 903
A Reading List for International Women's Day
Happy International Women's Day! UN Dispatch is celebrating by asking friends and readers to compile a list of their favorite books, articles, and blogs that touch on the themes of women’s rights and human rights. What do you think should be required reading for International Women's Day?

Linda Hirshman: (author “Get to Work: A Manifesto for Women of the World”) "Michelle Goldberg's The Means of Reproduction: Sex Power and the Future of the World" is an amazingly thorough, historical survey and contemporary analysis of the way in which the global movement to control reproduction, and its crucial element, women, explains the past and predicts the future. Goldberg’s stories of the lengths women will go to to control their own reproductive fate would move a heart of stone.”

Alanna Shaikh: "The Wisdom of Whores, by Elizabeth Pisani is a truly exceptional book. To investigate the spread of HIV in the developing world, she talked to the people who know most about it – sex workers and drug users. Her street level view of HIV transmission will give you new respect for the women at ground zero for HIV infection.

Vanessa Valenti: Feminisms Without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity, by Chandra Talpade Mohanty. "This book is an exceptional analysis of critical issues that exist within contemporary feminism, particularly concerning women's global issues. Mohanty raises questions around the conflict of globalization, the practice of reclaiming language, the crossing of boundaries between “third-world” and “first-world” women, and international feminist mobilizing by using key concepts that helps the reader better understand the complexity of these issues. By the end of the book, Mohanty forms a very comprehensive and very possible solution to these obstacles, which is rare in books tackling problems of such depth."

Michael Kazin: "Christine Stansell has a great new history of feminism --- The Feminist Promise, 1792 to the Present -- coming out next month. And Ruth Rosen's The World Split Open is the best history of the "second wave.""

Carolyne Petri: "Why This World: A Biography of Clarice Lispector. She's the most famous Brazilian novelist (they sell her books in vending machines) unknown nearly everywhere else until this book, which I'm fanatical about. Clarice was also was the wife of a diplomat, traveled the world. Born to a syphilitic mother out of the pogroms of Ukraine, she emigrated to Brazil at 6 months and led an incredibly mysterious, feminist, and thoughtful life. The book's up for the National Book Critics Circle award in biography. Author Ben Moser is Harper's New Books columnist."

"Also, this one's rather wonky, but...The Mathematics of Sex: How Biology and Society Conspire to Limit Talented Women and Girls."

Steven Teles: "Where political science is concerned, two books worth reading are Anna Harvey's Votes Without Leverage, and Suzanne Mettler's Dividing Citizens: Gender And Federalism In New Deal Public Policy."

Heather Hurlburt: "Lili Mansour’s essay: Iranian Women Poised to Benefit from Crisis, An an iranian journalist on women and the green movement."

Kathleen Greier: "Marilyn Waring's Counting for Nothing (also known as If Women Counted) is an oldy but goodie. First published in 1988 and republished in a new edition 11 years later, this book by a New Zealand economist is a groundbreaking work that looks at how national accounting schemes systematically exclude the unpaid labor of women, and the devastating impact fo women that these exclusions can have on public policy and the distribution of economic benefits. It got rave reviews from John Kenneth Galbraith (among others), and is very readable and completely accessible even to non-specialists. It's a great illustration of the powerful ways that economic theories can have concrete, real-life impact."

"I would also like to strongly recommend The Penguin Atlas of Women in the World. First published in 1989, its most recent edition, the 4th, came out last year. Written by geographer Joni Seager, it's a feminist nerd's delight -- chockfull of fascinating maps, charts, and statistics about women around the world, Topics covered range from the average number of hours per week women around the world spend fetching water, to what countries are the world's biggest markets for cosmetics, to male literacy rates in various countries, to the status of lesbian rights across the globe.

I was particularly struck by the stats on violence against women. Some


-- In Russia, 70% of adult women say they have experienced physical abuse by a male partner or intimate.

-- In Bangladesh in 2002, 68% of women who were physically abused say they never told family or officials about their abuse.

-- In the U.S., between 22% and 35% of women who visit the emergency room do so because of domestic violence.

-- In Japan, out of 104 gang rapes that were reported in 2005, there were only 5 convictions.-- In the U.K., the rate of criminal convictions on rape charges is 7%."

And some picks from our friends at the United Nations Foundation:

Kathy Calvin: Tatterhood and Other Tales, Ethel Johnston Phelps; The Fun Of It: Random Records Of My Own Flying And Of Women In Aviation, Amelia Earhart;

The Blue Sweater, Jacqueline Novogratz

Gillian Sorenson: The Little House on the Prairie series, Laura Ingalls Wilder

Jenna Sauber: Stones into Schools, Greg Mortenson; The Means of Reproduction: Sex, Power, and the Future of the World, Michelle Goldberg; From Outrage to Courage: Women Taking Action for Health and Justice, Anne Firth Murray; Women Who Light the Dark, Paola Gianturco

Tamara Kreinin: Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn; Girls’ Night Out, Tamara Kreinin and Barbara Camens

Tieneke Van Lonkhuyzen: Three Cups of Tea, Greg Mortenson; I Am An Emotional Creature, Eve Ensler; Population, Nature, and What Women Want, Robert Engelman

Kathy Hall: Women Lead The Way: Your Guide to Stepping Up to Leadership and Changing the World, Linda Tarr-Whelan

Phoebe Lee: A Pivotal Moment: Population, Justice, and Environmental Challenge, Laurie Mazur

Julia Rocchi: Reading Lolita in Tehran, Azar Nafisi; Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi; A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf; The House on Mango Street, Sandra Cisneros

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