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Dennis Kucinich and Chris Hedges on the 99 Percent
Posted on Oct 6, 2011
Leilani Albano: Antonio Bernabe is an organizer with CHIRLA, the [Coalition] for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles.
Antonio Bernabe: Now anybody that is in contact with any enforcement officer can be into the deportation process.
Leilani Albano: Immigrations and customs enforcement data shows that the program has led to the deportation of 16,000 immigrants in Los Angeles, and 120,000 throughout the country, since it was launched three years ago. An untold number of them are street vendors.
Antonio Bernabe: These vendors are being targeted from the police, to be giving them tickets and being arrested.
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Antonio Bernabe: There is no reason for an ordinance to be in place. An ordinance has to open the possibility for the people to sell.
Leilani Albano: The Obama administration recently announced that it will cancel more than 40 agreements with states that have signed on to the Secure Communities program. But according to a letter obtained by the L.A. Times, the Department of Homeland Security says that the cancellations will not stop them from sharing fingerprint information. Professor Gabriel Gutierrez, a Chicano studies professor at Cal State Northridge, says Obama wants to maintain Secure Communities as a way to appeal to anti-immigrant voters in the 2012 elections.
Gabriel Gutierrez: Not only is he trying to enforce the laws that are already in place, he’s actually going further than any other administration has in terms of proving how bad-ass he can be against immigration.
Leilani Albano: Homeland Security, which runs Secure Communities, declined to be interviewed for this story. Most street vendors are prohibited from selling in Los Angeles, but the pushcarts that vendors use to hold their items are issued legal permits. The vendors sell ice cream and candy as well as anything they can prepare on their own. That includes cut fruit as well as hot dogs wrapped in bacon strips, tamales and pupusas. Others sell toys. They put in long hours, but earn very little—about $40 to $60 a day.
Antonio Bernabe: When you have nothing to eat, or no money in your home, you buy something, make up something and go out to sell.
Leilani Albano: Bernabe says many Mexican and Central American vendors are confused by the ban on street vending, which is a widespread and legal practice in their countries.
Antonio Bernabe: It’s an honest way to go out and resolve your economical problems.
Leilani Albano: Last February, police arrested Blanca Perez, a single mother of three, for illegal vending. She says she was unaware street selling is against the law. Now she faces deportation.
Blanca Perez: [Translator:] I don’t know why I am getting deported. I was just selling ice pops.
Leilani Albano: She may lose custody of her 1-year-old son, Jonathan, if she’s forced to leave the country. Bernabe says her toddler senses something is wrong, and is starting to cling on to her even tighter.
Antonio Bernabe: He’s feeling something. He’s feeling that there is a threat on his mom, I believe.
Leilani Albano: Secure Communities isn’t just wreaking havoc on families. It’s hurting businesses. Mauricio Funes, who manages Continental Ice Cream and Durango Paleteria in South L.A., says sales have fallen by 25 percent now that run-ins between workers and police have increased.
Antonio Bernabe: Probably in the last few years there has been more increasing [harassment] on the pushcart operators, and they’ve been taken to jail.
Leilani Albano: So far, his workers have received 25 tickets in a span of three years. The increased ticketing has led to an excess of workers who don’t want to run the risk of paying the $650 it costs to replace the confiscated merchandise and pushcarts.
Antonio Bernabe: We’ve been having that problem that people don’t want to work anymore, and so our business has gone down a bit because of that reason.
Leilani Albano: But for every one vendor that quits, others remain. Without other job options, there will always be street vendors who are willing to take the risk of getting deported. Street vendor “Vicente”:
“Vicente”: [Translator:] If they do get me one day because I am selling here and I am just trying to maintain my family, then that’s how it is.
Leilani Albano: Leilani Albano, FSRN, Los Angeles.
Peter Scheer: This is Truthdig Radio and I’m Peter Scheer. Nothing is more precious to a mother than her child, and the birth process can be confusing and even controversial. Ina May Gaskin, author of “Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta,” has been an advocate and innovator of natural birth for decades. She speaks to Truthdig’s Kasia Anderson.
Kasia Anderson: I’m pleased to be talking with Ina May Gaskin about a very important matter, which of course matters to all of us. And that is her new book, called “Birth Matters.” Can you set up some background about yourself and your work for us?
Ina May Gaskin: I started out as an English major, had a master’s degree in English, and I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Malaysia. Grew up in the Midwest, had a dad who was a farmer; went into having a baby in the mid-’60s, which threw me into becoming a midwife, because the care was so inappropriate. I had an unassisted birth and thought, no, we have to have midwives. For my next three babies, I had to start a midwifery service.
Kasia Anderson: Well, what was it about your experience in particular? Was there some aspect of it, or was it just the kind of overall midwife-free moments? [laughs]
Ina May Gaskin: Exactly my question [laughs], at that time. I had to study like mad to find out the answers to it, because it just wasn’t out there. But through a lot of travel to other countries, and seeing how birth is done in other countries, especially wealthy countries, I noticed that midwives prevail. And every single country has 70 percent or so of births attended by midwives. In Germany, a midwife has to be at every single birth. So that’s just to show you how wide a range there is there. And then, as a country, we have always had an excess of intervention. So what we find ourselves with today is nothing new; it’s the way it’s been done here for more than a century. We were the first country that wiped out midwives to where people couldn’t even think that was the solution.
Kasia Anderson: When did that happen?
Ina May Gaskin: Early 20th century. And so someone like myself, my great-grandmother had been a midwife, and she was very important in the area where she was from [in] Iowa. So I grew up knowing that, for instance, my grandmother was the eldest of 13, and they were all born at home and they were all fine. So I could know that that’s possible. Well, it’s kind of special [laughs], you know, given what people think about birth today. And so I wrote the book because I want people to look at how it’s relevant to everybody. We all get born, and birth—how we do it makes this, like, water all around us; we can hardly put our minds around all the ways it affects us. But if we’re born scared, and if our mothers are terrified when we’re being born, we’re kind of different people.
Kasia Anderson: You believe that that experience carries over into kind of the tenor of a person’s life?
Ina May Gaskin: Absolutely. If you take any species, know any farmer—the farmers that I was used to as a little kid—I didn’t grow up on a farm, but I knew farm people and I knew they kind of looked down on us from the city because we were so ignorant. Not that they would, you know, rub it in all the time, but they would—‘oh, there’s some important things you don’t know.’ I would be very surprised that you could disturb the laboring mother so much so that she wouldn’t know how to raise her young, but I was told that by my aunt, who raised all kinds of things. And so I learned you can’t touch. You can’t do the things that a town kid would feel like, oh, it’s my right, of course. I mean well, therefore it won’t have a bad consequence. Well, as a country, we’ve stifled that opinion. We set humans apart from all other species; we have this special place; it’s human exceptionalism. We are exceptional [in] that we can do things that other species can’t; the flip side of that is when it comes to birth, we actually have shown ourselves that there are a lot of women who are so scared of giving birth that they would ask for surgery.
Kasia Anderson: Now, tell me about that part of it. It seems like—I’m not a mother, so I’m not attuned to a lot of the choices and issues around having C-sections and those types of considerations. But is it correct, my impression, that there are a lot of people getting them these days? A lot of women?
Ina May Gaskin: Yes, that’s very true. When I began as a midwife, 5 percent was the C-section rate nationally. And it was a big deal to have a Cesarean; I mean, there was, I think, a healthy fear of it.
Kasia Anderson: Well, it should be a big deal, yeah. [laughter]
Ina May Gaskin: I think so. Well, some—there are women who’ll tell you, who had Cesareans—and I have not, so I mean, their words carry some weight in some way, I would think, their having experienced it—what I hear from them, it’s everything from post-traumatic stress disorder; fatal complications that can happen right after or during or even years after, because the injured uterus is more liable to have certain problems later in life. And it’s not just the injured uterus, it’s what happens to the abdominal wall. When you—any surgery puts that person at a much higher risk for a bowel obstruction later in life. And a bowel obstruction, when ignored too long, and it’s quite painful, can be fatal. That has to do with scar tissue growing. And so that’s one thing. Then, future fertility for the woman, because sometimes a C-section, and it certainly is associated with loss of fertility in some women; then you also have placental problems. Oh, I forgot to tell you the current rate of C-sections: 34 percent.
Kasia Anderson: Wow.
Ina May Gaskin: Some hospitals 60 percent, 70 percent. And so what happens is there turns out to be this huge controversy over hospital birth and home birth, as if that’s something that we should be really excited about, when the C-section rate ought to be bigger news, because it’s correlated with a rising and rather unreported death rate for mothers. And this is not—this result doesn’t go with a lower rate of newborn deaths. So we used to rank around 20th when I first started hearing news reports on maternal death rates; then it was 30 percent; it was 40 percent; I don’t mean percent, I mean 40th in the world, following 39 other countries in lowering maternal death rates. When we think about it, we know that in poor countries it’s because you don’t have enough hospitals, in part, distributed well enough; and in a country like ours, you tend to have too much use of technology, and this too much can be fatal for the mother.
Kasia Anderson: Well, Ina May, we just have about a minute left. So I wanted to make sure I got a little hope in edgewise here, if possible. Do you have …
Ina May Gaskin: The body rocks. That’s the hope part, is that you know what? Contrary to what you’ve been told, our species can give birth as well as the other, you know, almost 5,000. And we just have to kind of learn from them that it does, and that to doubt it is really a little strange. So that’s something to think about, and … don’t obey when forced into a position that feels horrible, when you could be moving. We could start with that.
Kasia Anderson: That sounds like a good place to start. And hopefully some expectant mothers are listening.
Ina May Gaskin: I know that women—we can change this. So we have to count our dead; we have to analyze it, look at it, and go, what are we doing wrong and what could we be doing better? Oh, look around. Who’s doing it better? Oh, we have a lot to learn from Mexico. Those midwives know how to turn breeches; they know how to do breeches. But they’re not yet licensed by the government in large part. We have to think about all the ways birth matters, and change it so that it’s good.
Kasia Anderson: And our listeners can read more about this in Ina May Gaskin’s “Birth Matters: A Midwife’s Manifesta.” Thanks so much for your time.
Ina May Gaskin: Thank you.
Kasia Anderson: Bye.
Peter Scheer: That interview by Truthdig’s Kasia Anderson. That’s it for this week’s edition of Truthdig Radio. Find us next Wednesday at 2 on 90.7 KPFK or anytime online at Truthdig.com. The show was produced by Joshua Scheer. Thanks to Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Chris Hedges, Ina May Gaskin, Howie Stier, Leilani Albano, board op Gee, engineer Stan Misraje and Alan Minsky. I’m Peter Scheer. Thanks for listening.
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