Monday, January 28, 2008

Stop Stalkers Before They Become Headlines

By Marianne Hill

She could have been my daughter, or my neighbor’s daughter. Carnesha Nelson was a bright, attractive 19-year-old college student who unfortunately became the obsession of a young man who worked on her campus. He hounded her and wouldn't take no for an answer. The night he assaulted her, she ran screaming from him, pounding on the doors of neighboring apartments. Residents called the police, but did not let her in. He caught and killed her.

January is stalking awareness month, an appropriate time to assess our treatment of stalkers, and unfortunately "awareness" is lacking. Most are not aware that stalking that ends in violence is not uncommon. Each year there are many young women who say no to boyfriends and suitors, and lose their lives as a result. Over 1,100 women were killed by intimate partners in 2005, and another 860 by male acquaintances, with women from 18 to 30 years old the most at risk. However the number of women killed by stalkers is only a fraction of those affected by the violence: over one million protective orders are issued annually by the states to protect women from assault or stalking. Stalking is a growing problem on college campuses where over 20 percent of college women report fearing for their safety as a result of being stalked, according to a 2004 study cited by the National Center for Victims of Crime.

The suffering inflicted by stalking is great. Fearing for their safety, victims will often move, change jobs, or drop out of college and training programs to elude their pursuers. If they rely instead on protective orders, they can expect to find an angry stalker taunting them at their home or workplace: over 69 percent of protective orders for women are violated, according to a 1996 Justice Department survey. At times the stalker is not even served with papers notifying him of the protective order, since budget priorities lie elsewhere. In many states, some victims cannot even apply for protective orders: teens under 18 years old or women who have never dated their stalkers may not have this legal recourse. These same women may also be ineligible for access to women's shelters.

The first anti-stalking law went into effect in 1990 in California, and such laws now exist in all the states. The states and several college campuses remain in the process of working out effective protocols for dealing with stalkers. Anti-stalking laws can be a strong deterrent to violence, but only if effectively enforced. In a few cases, a serious discussion with the stalker may be all that is needed. But persistent stalkers, who ignore court orders and pose a threat to the victim, must face certain arrest and jail time, if such stalking is to be stopped. However, only 44 percent of persons violating a protective order were arrested, according to the National Center for Victims of Crime.

Stronger protections for women who are stalked would save the lives of thousands of women, and would increase the security and well-being of the young adults on our college campuses. The funding of the necessary interventions should be a high priority.

A shift towards such a policy requires a change in national attitudes. Our communities will be better off when we get tough on stalkers: the young, good-looking college student or businessman who persistently stalks and threatens his ex-girlfriend with violence is a threat not only to her, but to her family, friends and co-workers and should serve time. Our legal system must in fact protect those whose only crime is to have chosen the wrong partner, or in some cases, simply to have become the obsession of the wrong person. The need is urgent. Without such protection, many more lives will be unnecessarily lost to violence, and millions of young adults will lack the safety and security they need to flourish.
Hill is a Jackson economist and a founder and member of the Mississippi Coalition for Women.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Arnie Arnesen and her regular woman problem

photo © 2008
Talk Radio News Service

Arnie Arnesen interviews Elizabeth Kucinich on the Talk Radio News Service radio row.

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Deborah "Arnie" Arnesen is a lot of things: attorney, television producer, radio talk show host. Recently named by The Nation magazine as one of the country's Most Valuable Progressives, Arnesen was also the first woman to run for governor in the state of New Hampshire. In 1992, while facing off against Republican Steve Merrill, to whom she lost by a hair, Arnesen also helped shepherd a young presidential candidate around the state. His name was Bill Clinton.

Arensen has been broadcasting her radio show, Political Chowder (WCCM 1110 AM in Southern New Hampshire), this week from the Talk Radio News Service radio row in Manchester, and I had the good fortune to get Arnie to sit down for an interview on primary night, in between interviews she was giving to media outlets as far flung as
Australian TV and Al Jazeera.

One of Arnesen's great concerns is that, when challenging people to transcend their prejudices, it is done strategically. To make her point, she told me this story:

[As the] first woman to run for governor of my state, I never talked about being a girl. I never did, because I said -- you know why? They notice. I walk into a room, and they see two breasts. So I don't ever have to explain to them who I am. What they have to do is process whether I'm a leader...

About a year into my campaign, it was 1992; I hadn't won the primary yet. So, I had just given a speech on the economy and what we needed to do to dealt with some of the economic issues facing our state. It was at a Rotary Club, so it was predominately male. A guy comes up to me and says, "That was the most economically sophisticated speech I have ever heard." He said, "I am absolutely blown away by you." And I'm thinking to myself, I'm not that good.

And then he looks at me and says, "But it's too bad that I can't vote for you." And I said, "Excuse me? Why?"

And then he gets a little red in the face and he says, "Well, it's because of that woman problem." And I just said, "What?"

And now he's getting really red in the face, and says, "Well you know -- that regular woman problem."

So I looked at him and I said, "How did you describe my speech again?" And he said, "You are obviously very bright, you obviously know your policy issues, and you are very funny and very smart."

And I said, "Let me tell you something. You know that regular woman problem? Well, I'm having it right now." And I said, "If I'm so good at this time of the month, imagine me during the rest of the month." And that was 1992.

Do you know how excited I am that we have a woman [running for president] who is never asked a question about her period? But I was.

You know, I told that story over and over on the campaign trail. Because I knew that for that one person who asked me, there were a lot of other people thinking the same thing. That guy gave me a gift. I used that story over and over...I used it to educate all the men in the room.

--Adele M. Stan

So You Think You Can Be President

Craig Greager and Iris Burnett, authors of So You Think You Can Be President?

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Iris Burnett has a question for you: So You Think You Can Be President? That's the title of a soon-to-be-published book that Burnett co-wrote with Clay Greager. They're a bi-partisan team; Burnett has a long career in Democratic politics, while her co-author is a retired military man who identified as Republican for much of his life. The book was born out of an e-mail exchange between the two friends. Greager joked to Burnett that she should run for president; she retorted that she didn't think she could pass the test. "Is there a test?" Greager shot back. "No, but there should be," thought Burnett.

So the two, for their own amusement, according to Burnett, started devising questions they would like to see on such a test, and soon the two had a book's worth. Written in a light tone, the book is amazingly informative. "I think people don't have any idea of just how vast the federal government is," Burnett says. "There are 192 independent agencies, and they all need to be staffed [by the incoming president]."

One of the questions on Burnett's and Greager's test asks respondents to choose between a list of resources most useful upon winning office. One is "a discarded copy of the plum book." That's the best pick, says Burnett. "[The plum book is] a catalog of all the politically appointed positions. So after your candidate wins, you rush to buy the plum book because then you look in the plum book to find the job you want. Then they tell you you can't have that job, so you find another job. And eventually you wind up with a job."

Iris Burnett's career in government has ranged from communications strategy for campaigns to managing transition teams, ans working within government agencies. To date, she is the only woman to have served as security director for a national political convention: she ran security for the 1980 Democratic National Convention in New York City's Madison Square Garden. Asked how she got the job, she said Bill Dixon, who was staffing the convention, got to the end of his job list, and realized he had no women in key positions. And by 1980, the party was feeling the heat of the feminists. So, he gave the last job he had to fill to Iris Burnett. "But I've never done security," she told Dixon. "Are you saying you can't do the job?" Dixon goaded her. "Well, of course I can do the job, " she replied, and wound up coordinating contingents from law enforcement agencies ranging from the FBI to the New York City Police Department.

So, does she think she could be president? Maybe not. But now she can pass the test.

--Adele M. Stan

The View From Radio Row

photos © 2008 Talk Radio News Service

Laura Ingraham broadcasting from radio row in New Hampshire.

Ellen Ratner, founder of Talk Radio News Service (TRNS), and former presidential candidate Tom Tancredo.

Presidential candidate Mike Gravel. (NWEF's Adele Stan blogs in the background.)

MANCHESTER, N.H. -- Thanks to our friends at Talk Radio News Service, the National Women's Editorial Forum has an inside view of the madness known as radio row here at the Center of New Hampshire Radisson Hotel, where the national and local media have all clustered for coverage of the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

In two hotel meeting rooms talk radio hosts occupy tables laden with microphones and computers, and representatives from all the campaigns come and make the rounds. Behind me, right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham holds court. At the table next to hers, New Hampshire's own Arnie Arnesen receives her guests. Arnesen was just named as one of the nation's "most valuable progressives" by The Nation magazine.

This morning, the place experienced a major swarm of Hillary Clinton's surrogates, along with representatives from virtually all the presidential campaigns, Democrat and Republican. A few chairs down from me, David Bonior, the former congressman who chairs the John Edwards campaign, is giving an interview to University of New Mexico radio. Over in the corner, Republican candidate Ron Paul is being mobbed by both radio and television folks.

Me, I'm just trying to keep from getting knocked in the head with a mic or a television camera.

--Adele M. Stan

Investing to Re-Energize Ohio

By Amanda Woodrum

There is a gaping hole in Ohio’s economy. At current energy prices, we are sending nearly $20 billion every year out of Ohio and out of our country in order to purchase two-thirds of our coal, 89 percent of our natural gas, and 98 percent of the oil and petroleum products we use.

We currently rank fourth among states for industrial energy use and sixth for total energy consumption. To make our economy more energy independent and reduce our need to purchase expensive and polluting fuels, we should expand Ohio’s clean energy fund. This will allow us to become more energy efficient and to replace some of our polluting energy sources with renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, and biomass, which can be produced domestically.

Eighteen states and District of Columbia are together spending nearly $2 billion for clean energy to help break down existing market barriers to energy efficiency and renewable energy products and services. Why? Because each dollar invested in renewable energy and energy efficiency creates more manufacturing, construction, retail, and service jobs than an equivalent dollar spent on conventional energy. And every public dollar spent for clean energy leverages an additional $3 in related business and consumer investment, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

These clean energy funds, including Ohio’s Advanced Energy Fund, are used to reduce equipment costs for clean energy products through consumer rebates, grants, and low-interest loans; to conduct statewide public-awareness campaigns; to provide incentives for industrial production of clean energy products; and to train workers for the green economy.

Clean energy funds, across the 18 states, range from $2.3 million to $440 million per year. Ohio is near the bottom of that pack. Other industrial states collect more money than Ohio annually in order to jumpstart their economies, Michigan over $66 million, New York $175 million, and Wisconsin over $82 million. Pennsylvania’s governor proposed an $850 million Energy Independence Fund.

The state of Ohio currently collects $5 million each year, through a nine cent surcharge on Ohio electric utility bills, to spend on clean energy projects and services. Compared to the $20 billion we spend on conventional energy purchased from other states and other countries, $5 million seems almost trivial.

The public benefits funds we have spent thus far on clean energy in Ohio indicate the potential for much more far-reaching gains. A little over $5 million in public fund expenditures from Advanced Energy Funds leveraged an additional $21 million in outside investment. Ohio consumers are eagerly using clean energy funds to invest in energy efficiency, solar power, wind power, and biomass equipment. Recently, $5 million in grant funding was also allocated to aid in the creation of two large-scale wind farms to help provide electricity to 45,000 Ohioans.

Ohio’s Advanced Energy Fund should be expanded, made permanent, and used to encourage both the supply of and demand in Ohio for energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy systems. A $0.003 per kilowatt-hour surcharge on energy use, or three-tenths of a cent for every 1000 watts consumed for an hour, would generate an annual fund of over $465 million. To the average residential consumer this would mean a $2.80 increase in their monthly electric utility bill.

A greatly expanded clean energy fund in Ohio could be used to implement a statewide outreach campaign to educate the public on their energy efficiency and renewable energy options, and to provide free energy audits to Ohioans and simple customer rebates for green products such as solar panels. We can also expand Ohio’s clean energy supply chain by providing financial support to potential suppliers of green energy products and services to retool their infrastructure and retrain their workers. We could create a Green Jobs Corps program to provide green employment services and weave together vocational skills training programs, union apprenticeship programs, and recognized pre-apprenticeship programs that create pathways out of poverty.

It’s time for Ohio to get serious about investing in a clean energy economy by creating a strong Advanced Energy Fund.
Woodrum is the Policy Liaison at Policy Matters Ohio, a non-partisan policy research institute. Her recent report on Ohio’s Advanced Energy Fund is on the web at

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Three Reasons to Oppose Cliffside Expansion

By Alice Loyd

What should North Carolina do in response to the growing effects of global climate change, a statewide health advisory on mercury tainted fish, and an exceptionally serious statewide drought? Apparently the answer for Duke Energy and state regulators is to build a new massive carbon dioxide spewing, mercury emitting, and water-depleting coal burning power plant just west of Charlotte. If built, this 800-megawatt coal-fired unit at Duke’s Cliffside power plant will be the largest coal burning unit ever built in North Carolina.

The answer for people who practice what they preach about environmental responsibility is quite different. These people work for a new energy economy in which officials would not permit Duke to build this proposed coal plant. Here are just three of the reasons not to build:

THE DROUGHT: North Carolina is currently under a severe statewide drought and Governor Easley is urging residents to find creative ways to conserve water. But what isn’t often mentioned is that coal and nuclear power plants are some of the state’s biggest water hogs. If the Cliffside unit is built, it would double the amount of water lost to evaporation at the Duke plant from 10 million to about 20 million gallons -- each day.

To put that number in perspective, the additional 10 million gallons of lost water would be equivalent to the combined water consumption on one day this November by the cities of Lexington, Boone, Nashville, Goldsboro, and Brevard.

The drought is serious enough that Duke and Progress Energy have begun looking at contingency plans in the event there isn’t enough water to run their coal and nuclear plants. Here’s a plan for Duke and Progress: invest in renewable sources of energy like solar and wind power, which are drought-proof.

CLIMATE CHANGE: Duke Energy’s plan for more coal comes just as the overwhelming scientific evidence points to humanity’s impact on global climate change. If built, the new Cliffside unit will annually emit over 6 million tons of carbon dioxide, one of the leading factors in global warming.

State regulators in Washington soundly rejected a plan for a 793 mega-watt coal plant this November because of their concerns about the plant’s emissions. This ruling followed similar recent decisions to halt coal plants in Florida, Kansas, Minnesota, Oklahoma and Texas. These states understand that the addiction to coal power must be kicked. Why doesn’t North Carolina?

MERCURY TAINTED FISH: Coal fired power plants are also the number one source of mercury emissions in North Carolina. Those emissions eventually fall into our waterways and make their way up the fish food chain.

Coincidentally, the state Department of Public Health has issued its largest ever fish consumption advisory based on unsafe levels of mercury found in fish consumed by North Carolinians. Most women and children are urged to avoid eating 22 types of fish due to high levels of mercury contamination. Mercury is particularly dangerous for women of child-bearing age because of the potential for harm to a developing fetus. Unsafe levels of mercury can lead to developmental disabilities and other adverse health effects. Burning more coal in North Carolina will only increase the mercury health risks for mothers and their babies.

In today’s world of technological advances in clean and renewable energy, it is irresponsible to commit this state to decades more coal pollution. Who will take responsibility and protect the people of North Carolina?

Perhaps state regulators at the Division of Air Quality will deny the permit Duke needs before beginning construction of the plant. Perhaps state legislators will pass legislation halting new coal power plants in North Carolina while the state studies the impact of global warming and the drought. Perhaps Governor Easley will use the power of the Governor’s mansion and follow the lead of Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius. She wrote the following after Kansas regulators denied a request for a new coal plant in October:
Of all the duties and responsibilities entrusted to me as governor, none is greater than my obligation to protect the health and well-being of the people of Kansas…Instead of building two new coal plants, which would produce 11 million new tons of carbon dioxide each year, I support pursuing other, more promising energy and economic development alternatives.
That sounds like real leadership. North Carolina needs our state’s decision makers to stand up for the public good and break our addiction to dirty energy by saying no to Duke Energy’s plans to expand their Cliffside coal plant.
Loyd is the director of North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light, a project of the North Carolina Council of Churches.