Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Janet Howell, Virginia State Senator, Attaches Rectal Exam Amendment for Adultry Enabling Hard on PillsTo Anti-Abortion Bill

I think religious institutions shouldn't be permitted to cover the treatment of erectile problems if they aren't willing to cover women's contraception matter.


01/30/2012

To protest a bill that would require women to undergo an ultrasound before having an abortion, Virginia State Sen. Janet Howell (D-Fairfax) on Monday attached an amendment that would require men to have a rectal exam and a cardiac stress test before obtaining a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication.

"We need some gender equity here," she told HuffPost. "The Virginia senate is about to pass a bill that will require a woman to have totally unnecessary medical procedure at their cost and inconvenience. If we're going to do that to women, why not do that to men?"

The Republican-controlled senate narrowly rejected the amendment Monday by a vote of 21 to 19, but passed the mandatory ultrasound bill in a voice vote. A similar bill in Texas, which physicians say has caused a "bureaucratic nightmare," is currently being challenged in court.

Howell said she is not surprised her amendment failed.

India Factory Workers Revolt, Kill Company President

Class War no longer just something waged upon working people by the rich.


Click here to find out more!
1/27/2012

Workers at the Regency Ceramics factory in India raided the home of their boss, and beat him senseless with lead pipes after a wage dispute turned ugly.

The workers were enraged enough to kill Regency’s president K. C. Chandrashekhar after their union leader, M. Murali Mohan, was killed by baton-wielding riot police on Thursday. The labor violence occurred in Yanam, a small city in Andra Pradesh state on India’s east coast. Police were called to the factory by management to quell a labor dispute. The workers had been calling for higher pay and reinstatement of previously laid off workers since October. Murali was fired a few hours after the police left the factory.

The next morning, at 06:00 on Friday, Murali went to the factory along with some workers and tried to obstruct the morning shift, local media reported. Long batons, known as lathis in India, were used by police who charged the workers, injuring at least 20 of them, including Murali. He died on the way to hospital, according to The Times of India. Hundreds of workers gathered outside the police station and demanded that officers be charged with homicide.

Curfew and other civil orders were imposed in Yanam because of the uprising that ultimately lead to the murder of the Regency president a few hours after being attacked with led pipes. Police reported that rioters also torched several vehicles outside the police station. Eight Regency Ceramics workers were injured in police firing that followed; the condition of two of them is critical. More than 100 protesters have been arrested.

"Organized religion" isn't the problem, religion is

Susan G. Komen Halts Grants To Planned Parenthood

Time To Boycott Susan G. Komen and the Rest of the Pink Ribbon Crap


by The Associated Press

January 31, 2012

The nation's leading breast-cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is halting its partnerships with Planned Parenthood affiliates — creating a bitter rift, linked to the abortion debate, between two iconic organizations that have assisted millions of women.

The change will mean a cutoff of hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants, mainly for breast exams.

Planned Parenthood says the move results from Komen bowing to pressure from anti-abortion activists. Komen says the key reason is that Planned Parenthood is under investigation in Congress — a probe launched by a conservative Republican who was urged to act by anti-abortion groups.

The rupture, which has not been publicly announced as it unfolded, is wrenching for some of those who've learned about it and admire both organizations.

"We're kind of reeling," said Patrick Hurd, who is CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Virginia — recipient of a 2010 grant from Komen — and whose wife, Betsi, is a veteran of several Komen fundraising races and is currently battling breast cancer.

'OWS camps banned - where do we convene?'

German trans girl ‘to be institutionalised’

Reparative Therapy aimed at curing transkids is a crime against humanity and a gross violation of both the human and civil rights of trans-children.



News that an 11 year old trans girl in Berlin, Germany, is about to be committed to a mental institution by local authorities – following intervention by her absent father – has prompted grave concern by the International LGBTQ Youth and Student Organisation (IGLYO).

A petition has also been started on change.org.

According to a statement released by IGLYO yesterday, the girl, elsewhere identified only as “Alex” (Alexandra) lives with her mother, who supports her gender expression. However, the girl’s father, divorced and separated from her mother, strongly rejects this view of his daughter’s gender identity and wants to force her to grow up as a boy.

If all else fails, there is a real and present possibility that pressure from her father, supported by the Youth Welfare Office in Berlin, means that Alex will shortly be confined in a closed ward of a psychiatric institution to ensure that “he” returns to “normality”.

This is despite the fact that Alex claims, in an interview published earlier this month in online lifestyle magazine taz.de, that she has identified as female for as long as she can remember. She is accepted as female at school, and has been registered as such from her earliest days there.

This led to conflict with her father, who insisted on calling her “Alexander” and forcing her to wear boy’s clothes. When Alex reacted negatively, he accused her of being badly behaved. Her parents split over the matter of Alex’s gender.

Pregnant, and Pushed Out of a Job


By DINA BAKST
Published: January 30, 2012

FEW people realize that getting pregnant can mean losing your job. Imagine a woman who, seven months into her pregnancy, is fired from her position as a cashier because she needed a few extra bathroom breaks. Or imagine another pregnant employee who was fired from her retail job after giving her supervisors a doctor’s note requesting she be allowed to refrain from heavy lifting and climbing ladders during the month and a half before her maternity leave: that’s what happened to Patricia Leahy. In 2008 a federal judge in Brooklyn ruled that her firing was fair because her employers were not obligated to accommodate her needs.

We see this kind of case in our legal clinic all the time. It happens every day to pregnant women in the United States, and it happens thanks to a gap between discrimination laws and disability laws.

Federal and state laws ban discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace. And amendments to the Americans With Disabilities Act require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees (including most employees with medical complications arising from pregnancies) who need them to do their jobs. But because pregnancy itself is not considered a disability, employers are not obligated to accommodate most pregnant workers in any way.

As a result, thousands of pregnant women are pushed out of jobs that they are perfectly capable of performing — either put on unpaid leave or simply fired — when they request an accommodation to help maintain a healthy pregnancy. Many are single mothers or a family’s primary breadwinner. They are disproportionately low-income women, often in physically demanding jobs with little flexibility.

Thankfully, State Senator Liz Krueger, a Democrat from Manhattan, and Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, a Democrat from Sullivan County, have introduced legislation to fill this gap in New York. Their bills — S. 6273 and A. 9114 — would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant women whose health care providers say they need them, unless doing so would be an undue hardship for the employer.

Belgium Hit by General Strike Over Austerity Measures

"You don’t get growth when you suck the oxygen out of the economy by austerity"

- Common Dreams staff
Published on Monday, January 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Unions staged a general strike in Belgium today in protest of austerity measures. The strike coincides with a summit by EU leaders in Brussels.

The issues behind the strike are the same as those on the agenda for the summit. Greece's desperate plight hovers over the meeting, although formally there is no mention of Greece on the agenda or in the statements drafted for the meeting.

Instead the leaders of the 27 governments will discuss how to underpin an EU recovery – of which there is absolutely no sign – with "smart growth" policies, which would entail medium-term structural reforms, cutting labour costs, reshaping labour markets and redirecting surplus EU budget funds towards the eurozone periphery, where the debt crisis is hitting hardest.

The leaders are also to finalise two new treaties directly dealing with the euro crisis.

The first is the German-led "fiscal compact" which supersedes the currency's rulebook, the stability pact, by enshrining debt and deficit ceilings across the eurozone, giving Brussels greater powers to enforce compliance and penalise offenders, and making the fines imposed on delinquents more automatic and less open to political abuse.

Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2012/01/30

Occupy DC protesters in standoff with police as eviction deadline passes


Demonstrators in Washington refuse to comply after National Park Service orders the camp to be cleared on hygiene grounds

guardian.co.uk, Monday 30 January 2012

Occupy demonstrators in Washington DC have chosen to stand their ground in the face of newly-enforced anti-camping regulations – but protesters worry the authorities could move in at any moment.

The National Park Service in Washington announced it would enforce existing anti-camping rules – which bar demonstrators from holding camping gear, bedding and cooking supplies – at two parks that have served as a home to Occupy DC protesters since the fall. In response, demonstrators have turned the central feature of McPherson Square, a statue of General James B McPherson, into a makeshift tent, and have refused to comply with the orders.

The regulations have largely gone unenforced since the occupation of McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza began in October, but from noon on Monday, the NPS said that would no longer be the case. Critics of the protest camps cite health concerns and an alleged rat infestation as grounds to remove the demonstrators, but some see the sudden vigour to enforce the regulations as a pretext for eviction. Legba Carrefour of Occupy DC described the renewed enforcement of the anti-camping rules as "death by a thousand bureaucratic cuts."

By noon, the confrontation that many expected had not come, and a standoff began. Protesters in McPherson Square had draped a so-called "tent of dreams" over the statue and people quickly gathered inside.

Protester Caty McClure said there were "at least 50" people gathered inside the giant tent. A speaker explained that the tent represents the protesters' dreams of a America where corporations could not guide the democratic process, and where housing existed for all. Gathered around the statue the protesters chanted: "Let us sleep so we can dream." Protesters have surrounded the statue with smaller personal tents.

Clashes in Oakland: 400 Arrests, Tear Gas, Flash-Bang Grenades


Police once again ratcheted up the tension by using force against an entire crowd of protesters.

By Joshua Holland
January 29, 2012

Downtown Oakland turned ugly once again on Saturday, as Occupy activists attempting to squat in a long-abandoned city building were met by lines of heavily-armored riot police. Police officials said that 400 arrests followed – a number that may represent as much as 30 percent of everyone who participated in the day's actions, according to police estimates of the crowd's size.

Occupy Oakland organizers said some protesters were hospitalized, but the exact number of injuries is unknown as if this writing. According to organizers, four journalists were swept up by police, including AlterNet contributor Susie Cagle and Mother Jones correspondent Gavin Aronsen. Cagle was reportedly cited and released; organizers say Aronsen was jailed overnight (update: Aronsen tells us that he was released last night).

It was, once again, a tale of two protests. Accounts in the corporate media relied primarily on police statements to paint protesters as wild animals running amok in the city, while those following the day's events via a small group of “citizen-journalists” broadcasting raw, unedited footage from their cell-phones and flip-cams got a wildly divergent view of exactly how things escalated.

A livestream offered by Occupy Oakland's Mark Mason and Chris Krakauer showed protesters approaching the Henry Kaiser Convention Center in the early afternoon, where they were greeted by skirmish lines of police clad in riot gear. At one point, Mason, narrating as he moved through the crowd, could be heard saying, “uh-oh, some people are throwing things at the cops,” before moving away from the front-lines. Later, an Occupier visiting from Los Angeles told Mason of confronting one of the protesters who had thrown an object at police. “That's just stupid, you know,” said the young woman. “And she threw it from the middle of the crowd, which just puts people in the front in danger.”

Quan says she'll call national Occupy leaders

Will Kane,Henry K. Lee, Chronicle Staff Writers
Monday, January 30, 2012

(01-30) 13:55 PST OAKLAND -- Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said today that she is going to call national leaders of the Occupy Wall Street movement and implore them to disown Oakland's protest movement.

Quan said Saturday's demonstration, where 400 protesters were arrested and City Hall was vandalized, showed that the contingent of protesters who have targeted Oakland were not as non-violent as they claim they are.

"I plan to call some of the national leadership of Occupy this week to say that the Oakland group is not nonviolent and has not agreed to be nonviolent," Quan said in an interview on KCBS. "The national Occupy movement has said they are nonviolent."

Saturday's protest involved protesters throwing objects at police, breaking into buildings and vandalizing property. Some officers were injured in the melee.

According to jail records, many of those arrested were cited for remaining at the scene of a riot. Some were cited and released at the scene and others were taken to jail and booked on the misdemeanor count. Some posted $2,500 bail after being booked.

President Obama's Pro-Choice Birth Control Decision Draws Praise From Religious Leaders


01/30/2012

ORLANDO, Fla. -- A group of religious organizations Monday thanked President Obama for his administration's recent decision on contraception, hoping to bring attention to religious pro-choice voices and to show that not all people of faith disagree with the new law.

Seven religious leaders from the Jewish, Unitarian, Baptist and other faiths addressed a letter to Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. All are members of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, a which includes more than 40 denominations and faith groups to promote education and issues of reproductive choice

"We believe that all women deserve access to affordable birth control, regardless of their employer, and we hope that, in the future, HHS will expand the same preventive coverage to women across the board," they wrote in the letter, obtained by The Huffington Post.

"As clergy, we are committed to upholding the important goals of reproductive justice and health, empowering women and men to make decisions about whether and when to have and bear children within their own moral and religious tradition, and assuring them the means and ability to raise their children in a safe and healthy environment. Access to reproductive health services recognizes a moral value embraced across the religious spectrum. We thank you for your decision supporting the fundamental value of reproductive health to women and families."

The Austerity Debacle


Published: January 29, 2012

Last week the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, a British think tank, released a startling chart comparing the current slump with past recessions and recoveries. It turns out that by one important measure — changes in real G.D.P. since the recession began — Britain is doing worse this time than it did during the Great Depression. Four years into the Depression, British G.D.P. had regained its previous peak; four years after the Great Recession began, Britain is nowhere close to regaining its lost ground.

Nor is Britain unique. Italy is also doing worse than it did in the 1930s — and with Spain clearly headed for a double-dip recession, that makes three of Europe’s big five economies members of the worse-than club. Yes, there are some caveats and complications. But this nonetheless represents a stunning failure of policy.

And it’s a failure, in particular, of the austerity doctrine that has dominated elite policy discussion both in Europe and, to a large extent, in the United States for the past two years.

O.K., about those caveats: On one side, British unemployment was much higher in the 1930s than it is now, because the British economy was depressed — mainly thanks to an ill-advised return to the gold standard — even before the Depression struck. On the other side, Britain had a notably mild Depression compared with the United States.

Even so, surpassing the track record of the 1930s shouldn’t be a tough challenge. Haven’t we learned a lot about economic management over the last 80 years? Yes, we have — but in Britain and elsewhere, the policy elite decided to throw that hard-won knowledge out the window, and rely on ideologically convenient wishful thinking instead.

Monsanto petition tells Obama: ‘Cease FDA ties to Monsanto’


A two-year-old Food and Drug Administration appointment is stirring up online protests once more.

01/30/2012

A two-year-old Food and Drug Administration appointment is stirring up online protests once more.

In 2009, President Obama appointed Michael Taylor as a senior adviser for the FDA. Consumer groups protested the appointment because Taylor had formerly served as a vice president for Monsanto, the controversial agricultural multinational at the forefront of genetically modified food.

In recent days, a petition calling for the former Monsanto VP’s ouster is gaining steam.

“President Obama, I oppose your appointment of Michael Taylor,” the petition on Signon.org reads. “Taylor is the same person who was Food Safety Czar at the FDA when genetically modified organisms were allowed into the U.S. food supply without undergoing a single test to determine their safety or risks. This is a travesty.”

Over the weekend, the petition was signed by thousands of people. At this writing, it has around 60,000 signatures of its 75,000 goal.

Requests for comment from Monsanto and the FDA were not immediately returned.

HUD SECRETARY DONOVAN ANNOUNCES NEW REGULATIONS TO ENSURE EQUAL ACCESS TO HOUSING FOR ALL AMERICANS REGARDLESS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY

HUD No. 12-014
Charmion Kinder
(202) 708-0980
FOR RELEASE
Monday
January 30, 2012
HUD SECRETARY DONOVAN ANNOUNCES NEW REGULATIONS TO ENSURE EQUAL ACCESS TO HOUSING FOR ALL AMERICANS REGARDLESS OF SEXUAL ORIENTATION OR GENDER IDENTITY

New regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect in 30 days

WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today new regulations intended to ensure that HUD's core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Donovan previewed the announcement at the 24th National Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Equality – Creating Change. View the final rule here.

“The Obama Administration has viewed the fight for equality on behalf of the LGBT community as a priority and I’m proud that HUD has been a leader in that fight,” said Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With this historic rule, the Administration is saying you cannot use taxpayer dollars to prevent Americans from choosing where they want live on the basis sexual orientation or gender identity – ensuring that HUD’s housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all.”

The new regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect 30 days after the rule is published.

U.S. Congressman Barney Frank (D-Mass.) also expressed support for the publishing of final LGBT housing guidelines, “I am grateful to the Obama administration for instituting this important policy.”

The final rule, published as Equal Access to Housing in HUD Programs – Regardless of Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, makes the following provisions:
  • Requires owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing, or housing whose financing is insured by HUD, to make housing available without regard to the sexual orientation or gender identity of an applicant for, or occupant of, the dwelling, whether renter- or owner-occupied. HUD will institute this policy in its rental assistance and homeownership programs, which include the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) mortgage insurance programs, community development programs, and public and assisted housing programs.
  • Prohibits lenders from using sexual orientation or gender identity as a basis to determine a borrower’s eligibility for FHA-insured mortgage financing. FHA’s current regulations provide that a mortgage lender’s determination of the adequacy of a borrower’s income “shall be made in a uniform manner without regard to” specified prohibited grounds. The rule will add actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity to the prohibited grounds to ensure FHA-approved lenders do not deny or otherwise alter the terms of mortgages on the basis of irrelevant criteria.
  • Clarifies that all otherwise eligible families, regardless of marital status, sexual orientation, or gender identity, will have the opportunity to participate in HUD programs. In the majority of HUD’s rental and homeownership programs the term “family” already has a broad scope, and includes a single person and families with or without children. HUD’s rule clarifies that otherwise eligible families may not be excluded because one or more members of the family may be an LGBT individual, have an LGBT relationship, or be perceived to be such an individual or in such relationship.
  • Prohibits owners and operators of HUD-assisted housing or housing insured by HUD from asking about an applicant or occupant’s sexual orientation and gender identity for the purpose of determining eligibility or otherwise making housing available. In response to comments on the proposed rule, HUD has clarified this final rule to state that this provision does not prohibit voluntary and anonymous reporting of sexual orientation or gender identity pursuant to state, local, or federal data collection requirements.
Other actions HUD has taken for LGBT Americans include:
  • HUD conducted the first-ever national study of discrimination against members of the LGBT community in the rental and sale of housing. Every ten years, HUD does a study of the impact of housing discrimination on the basis of race and color. HUD undertook this important research in 1977, 1989 and 2000 and is currently undertaking this study again. It is believed that LGBT individuals and families may remain silent because in many local jurisdictions, they may have little or no legal recourse. While there are no national assessments of LGBT housing discrimination, there are state and local studies that have shown evidence of this sort of bias. For example, a 2007 report by Michigan’s Fair Housing Centersfound that nearly 30 percent of same-sex couples were treated differently when attempting to buy or rent a home.
  • HUD currently requires its recipients of discretionary funds to comply with local and state non-discrimination laws that cover sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • In 2011 HUD issued new guidance that treats discrimination based on gender nonconformity or sex stereotyping as sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act, and instructs HUD staff to inform individuals filing complaints about state and local agencies that have LGBT-inclusive nondiscrimination laws.
  • The Fair Housing Act prohibits discrimination in rental, sales and lending on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, sex, disability and familial status. Approximately 20 states, and the District of Columbia, and more than 150 cities, towns and counties across the nation have additional protections that specifically prohibit such discrimination against LGBT individuals. Under the guidance issued in June 2010, HUD will, as appropriate, retain its jurisdiction over complaints filed by LGBT individuals or families but also jointly investigate or refer matters to those state, district and local governments with other legal protections.
  • HUD, HHS and the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) hosted the first ever federal government summit addressing issues for LGBT seniors in December 2011.
###
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.
HUD is working to
strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the
need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build
inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business.
More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at
www.hud.gov and
http://espanol.hud.gov
. You can also follow HUD on twitter @HUDnews, on facebook at
www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.

Why New Birth Control Benefits are the Right Choice and Why Religious Conservatives Have it Wrong


In a country of alarmingly high unplanned pregnancy, American women need access to affordable birth control for economic and health reasons.

January 29, 2012

The Obama administration’s recent decision to require most religious-affiliated employers to cover birth control for their employees is good news for the women who work for religious employers and do not share the male hierarchy’s opposition to birth control. It is also good news for a country with the one of the highest unplanned pregnancy rates in the developed world.

More Than Just Using Condoms

Contraception, as every woman knows, is a system that depends on developing the right habits and getting consistent reinforcement from partners, parents and/or friends. In other words, effective contraception takes more work than simply remembering to use condoms. As a result, many women are more devoted to their gynecologists than other doctor in their lives – and gynecologists can be expensive. One of us visited hers after the birth of a third child. By the late thirties, pregnancy becomes riskier for mother and child and few families feel they can afford a fourth even on a law professor’s income. The gynecologist explained that methods of contraception that work for young women often don’t work as well after childbirth. The solution: an IUD. There was only one problem, the doctor sheepishly explained: It cost $400 and insurance wouldn’t cover it for an employee of a Catholic university. For a professional, $400 is not out of reach; for many women it is.

Conservatives insist that women know about contraception, condoms are cheap and available, and the high rate of unplanned pregnancies reflects conscious decisions not to bother with protection. What this argument overlooks is that the use of birth control is the result of a system – a system that encourages use, makes it easy to get access, and promotes a culture that associates responsibility with contraception. Middle class communities have that. The trip to Planned Parenthood is a rite of passage in many suburban high schools. Many knowledgeable parents drive their daughters to doctors’ appointments soon after puberty explaining that the pill helps control menstrual camps. In European countries with low teen birth and abortion rates, the government provides free birth control to anyone who wants it with information in public schools making it easy to understand and obtain. Widespread use, however, follows not just from access but from the development of a culture that says taking the pill is the right thing to do (which is why the notion that the pill alleviates menstrual cramps is even more prevalent in Holland than here) and the accidental pregnancy is a mark of failure.

Hershey’s targeted in Super Bowl ad for alleged African child-slave labor


By Eric W. Dolan
Monday, January 30, 2012

The International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) plans to use the Super Bowl in Indianapolis this year to pressure Hershey’s into taking action over forced labor practices that continue to plague the West African cocoa industry.

The ad, titled “Hershey’s Chocolate: Kissed by Child Labor,” will appear on a jumbotron screen immediately outside Lucas Oil Stadium during the Super Bowl.

“In West Africa, where Hershey’s sources much of its cocoa, over 200,000 children are forced to harvest cocoa beans every year,” said Judy Gearhart, Executive Director of the ILRF. “Hershey prides itself on its commitment to supporting underserved children in the United States, yet it lags behind when it comes to putting policies in place to end the exploitation of children in the cocoa industry.”

Mars and Nestlé have both committed to begin sourcing cocoa that is independently certified to comply with labor rights standards, but Hershey’s has not.

In Bad Faith: New Study Further Underscores Lack of Truth in Anti-Choice Claims


by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
January 30, 2012

One of the most frustrating parts of dealing with the modern conservative movement is their incredibly practiced disingenuousness. From a bunch of white people denying racism while pushing racist policies to a bunch of straight people claiming that they want to ban gay marriage not because they hate gays, but because they love “traditional marriage,” the constant pose of the modern right winger is one of bad faith.

Nowhere is this more true than when it comes to the anti-choice movement. Despite arsons, vandalism and occasional assassinations, anti-choice activists demand the right to label their movement “non-violent.” And despite the fact that the movement is organized by religious people whose religion teaches that women should be constrained to traditional gender roles and that sex outside of marriage (or for pleasure instead of procreation) is wrong, anti-choicers cry foul if you suggest that their activism against women’s liberation or sexual freedom somehow is rooted in opposition to women’s liberation or hostility to sex.

All this means that liberals have to spend a lot of time collecting evidence that conservatives are arguing in bad faith. Some times that takes the form of catching them in moments of honesty when they’re only speaking to their fellow travelers, and their relaxed state allows racist or sexist language to fly. And some times that means proving that it’s literally impossible for someone who claims to be accepting of liberal value like anti-sexism or anti-racism to hold the views that conservatives do.

Corporations Have No Use for Borders


Posted on Jan 30, 2012

What happened to Canada? It used to be the country we would flee to if life in the United States became unpalatable. No nuclear weapons. No huge military-industrial complex. Universal health care. Funding for the arts. A good record on the environment.

But that was the old Canada. I was in Montreal on Friday and Saturday and saw the familiar and disturbing tentacles of the security and surveillance state. Canada has withdrawn from the Kyoto Accords so it can dig up the Alberta tar sands in an orgy of environmental degradation. It carried out the largest mass arrests of demonstrators in Canadian history at 2010’s G-8 and G-20 meetings, rounding up more than 1,000 people. It sends undercover police into indigenous communities and activist groups and is handing out stiff prison terms to dissenters. And Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a diminished version of George W. Bush. He champions the rabid right wing in Israel, bows to the whims of global financiers and is a Christian fundamentalist.

The voices of dissent sound like our own. And the forms of persecution are familiar. This is not an accident. We are fighting the same corporate leviathan.

“I want to tell you that I was arrested because I am seen as a threat,” Canadian activist Leah Henderson wrote to fellow dissidents before being sent to Vanier prison in Milton, Ontario, to serve a 10-month sentence. “I want to tell you that you might be too. I want to tell you that this is something we need to prepare for. I want to tell you that the risk of incarceration alone should not determine our organizing.”

“My skills and experience—as a facilitator, as a trainer, as a legal professional and as someone linking different communities and movements—were all targeted in this case, with the state trying to depict me as a ‘brainwasher’ and as a mastermind of mayhem, violence and destruction,” she went on. “During the week of the G8 & G20 summits, the police targeted legal observers, street medics and independent media. It is clear that the skills that make us strong, the alternatives that reduce our reliance on their systems and prefigure a new world, are the very things that they are most afraid of.”

The Party People of Wall Street


Published on Monday, January 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

A week or so ago, we read in The New York Times about what in the Gilded Age of the Roman Empire was known as a bacchanal – a big blowout at which the imperial swells got together and whooped it up.
This one occurred here in Manhattan at the annual black-tie dinner and induction ceremony for Kappa Beta Phi. That’s the very exclusive Wall Street fraternity of billionaire bankers, and private equity and hedge fund predators. People like Wilbur Ross, the vulture capitalist; Robert Benmosche, the CEO of AIG, the insurance giant that received tens of billions in bailout money; and Alan “Ace” Greenberg, former chairman of Bear Stearns, the failed investment bank bought by JPMorgan Chase.

They got together at the St. Regis Hotel off Fifth Avenue to eat rack of lamb, drink and haze their newest members, who are made to dress in drag, sing and perform skits while braving the insults, wine-soaked napkins and petit fours – those fancy little frosted cakes — hurled at them by the old guard. In other words, a gilt-edged Animal House, food fight and all.

This year, the butt of many a joke were the protesters of Occupy Wall Street. In one of the sketches, the bond specialist James Lebenthal scolded a demonstrator with a face tattoo, “Go home, wash that off your face and get back to work.” And in another, a member — dressed like a protester – was told, “You’re pathetic, you liberal. You need a bath!”

Pretty hilarious stuff. The whole affair’s reminiscent of the wingdings the robber barons used to throw during America’s own Gilded Age a century and a half ago, when great wealth amassed at the top, far from the squalor and misery of working stiffs. Guests would arrive in the glittering mansions for costume balls that rivaled Versailles, reinforcing the sense of superiority and the virtue of a ruling class that depended on the toil and sweat of working people.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Why No Responsible Democrat Should Want Newt Gingrich to Get the GOP Nomination


By Robert Reich
Thursday, January 26, 2012

Republicans are worried sick about Newt Gingrich’s ascendance, while Democrats are tickled pink.

Yet no responsible Democrat should be pleased at the prospect that Gingrich could get the GOP nomination. The future of America is too important to accept even a small risk of a Gingrich presidency.

The Republican worry is understandable. “The possibility of Newt Gingrich being our nominee against Barack Obama I think is essentially handling the election over to Obama,” says former Minnesota Governor Tom Pawlenty, a leading GOP conservative. “I think that’s shared by a lot of folks in the Republican party.”

Pawlenty’s views are indeed widely shared in Republican circles. “He’s not a conservative – he’s an opportunist,” says pundit Joe Scarborough, a member of the Republican Class of 1994 who came to Washington under Gingrich’s banner. Gingrich doesn’t “have the temperament, intellectual discipline or ego control to be either a successful nominee or president,”says New York Republican representative Peter King, who hasn’t endorsed any candidate. “Basically, Newt can’t control himself.”

Gingrich is “an embarrassment to the party,” says New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie, and “was run out of the speakership” on ethics violations. Republican strategist Mike Murphy says “Newt Cingrich could not carry a swing state in the general election if it was made of feathers.”

Angels We Have Heard On High: Activist Priest, 83, In Solitary Confinement

This Priest is a Real Christian... Unlike the Anti-Christian Right Wing Scum that call themselves "Born-Again"


by Abby Zimet
01.27.12

Jesuit priest and peace activist Father Bill "Bix" Bichsel, 83, is in his second week of a hunger strike to protest solitary confinement at Washington's SeaTac Federal Detention Center, where he'd been held for an earlier action against a proposed nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee. A member of Disarm Now Plowshares, Bichsel has been arrested several times for nonviolent civil disobedience at military bases, nuclear weapons manufacturers, and the School of the Americas. He is currently being punished - including having to wear shackles at his hearing - for an "unauthorized" visit by two Buddhist monks who drummed and prayed outside for him. Despite cold and health problems, Father Bichsel says he sings to himself in his cell. His resolve remains strong to fight against nuclear weapons and other US policies "that are without conscience." He has alot of work ahead of him.

Addresses:

William J. Bichsel, S.J
# 86275-020 SHU
P.O. Box 13900
Seattle, WA 98198 – 1090

Here is list of people to contact:

Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
Director, Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First St., NW,
Washington, DC 20534
Office hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Eastern time
Monday through Friday
For general information, call 202-307-3198.

Marion Feather, Warden
Federal Detention Center SeaTac
P.O. Box 13901
Seattle, WA 98198
Phone: 206-870-5700
Fax: 206-870-5717

Terry McGuire
The Catholic Northwest Progress
710 9th Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-382-4560
Fax: 206-382-4840

The News Tribune
P.O. Box 11000, Tacoma, WA 98411
Phone: 253-597-8742
Matt Misterek
(253) 597-8472

The Seattle Times
PO Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111
Newsroom: (206) 464-2200
Newsroom fax: (206) 464-2261
Newsroom and Seattletimes.com staff
Main: (206) 464-2111
Accepts letters of up to 200 words at opinion@seattletimes.com

Contact your government representatives

Tacoma Office
950 Pacific Avenue, Ste. 650
Tacoma, Washington 98402
Phone: (253) 572-3636
Fax: (253) 572-9488


Gov. Christine Gregoire

Norm Dicks

Archbishop Sartain
Archdiocese of Seattle, 710 9th Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104
Phone: 206-382-4560 | Fax: 206-382-4840

Islamophobia Has No Place in the United States of America


Posted: 01/26/2012

Recently speaking at a town hall meeting at an American Legion Hall in Lady Lake, Florida, presidential hopeful Rick Santorum fielded a question, or rather, a comment from a woman in the audience who forcefully proclaimed: "I never refer to Obama as President Obama because legally he is not. He constantly says that our constitution is passé, and he ignores it as you know and does what he darn well pleases. He is an avowed Muslim, and my question is, why isn't something being done to get him out of government? He has no legal right to be calling himself president!"

Though Santorum opposes President Obama on many of the issues, he had a magnificent opportunity to take an ethical stand when addressing this woman, but he chose instead to virtually play into her obvious Islamophobic statements by merely responding to issues she raised related to the Constitution.

"Well look, I'm doing my best to get him out of the government right now, and you're right about how he uniformly ignores the constitution," Santorum responded. "He did this with these appointments over the recess that was not a recess, and if I was in the United States Senate I would be drawing the line."

As the old truism goes, "If you are not a part of the solution, you are a part of the problem." By not standing up to this woman's obvious Islamophobia, Santorum was complicit in the demonization, marginalization,, and victimization of Muslims and those perceived as Muslim.

Islamophobia can be defined as prejudice and discrimination toward the religion of Islam and Muslims who follow its teachings and practices. Like racism, sexism, and heterosexism, for example, Islamophobia is much more than a fear, for it is a taught and often learned attitude and behavior, and, therefore, falls under the category of oppression.

Remember Rousseau: Property Rights and Human Rights Are Still At War


Published on Sunday, January 29, 2012 by Common Dreams

The conflict between property rights and human rights has entered a new chapter. It is a debate that goes back to the challenge by landowners and merchants behind the American Revolution’s war on British control over the colonial economy.

Only today, as those speaking in the name of the 99% challenge the super wealthy of the 1% (actually the .001 %) there is a new battleground in what’s known as the housing market with as many as 14 million Americans in or facing foreclosure.

The defense of property rights is the holy of the holies for the propertied classes with a whole industry set up to enforce their claims of ownership.

We have seen how this plays out with the courts, run by often bought off and complicit judges rubber-stamping claims by banks and realty interests even when laws are disregarded amidst fraudulent filings, biased contracts, and phony robot signings. They control the marshals who seize your property, and constantly denigrate the real victims as “irresponsible.”

It’s not surprising any more to read about banks foreclosing on properties they don’t even own.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau who postulated the “social contract” that gives property rights a moral claim would be turning in his grave if he knew of the many abuses that homeowners in the US face daily.

According to one scholarly presentation I read, “In order to clearly present Rousseau's views on property in the Social Contract, we must first define what he means by property. Property according to Rousseau is that which is obtained legally thereby purporting legitimate claim to ones holdings. Now we must consider what gives an individual the right to openly claim ownership.

GOP race-baiting masks class warfare

By demonizing some, the Republicans seek to discredit the safety net for the 99 percent

By Daniel Denvir
Friday, Jan 27, 2012

It’s commonplace to note that Newt Gingrich’s dog-whistle appellation that Barack Obama is the “food stamp president” is both racist and politically cynical. But the stereotyping of black government dependency also serves the strategic end of discrediting the entire social safety net, which most Americans of all races depend on. Black people are subtly demonized, but whites and blacks alike will suffer.

Gingrich persists because it’s a dependable applause line, and because his political fortunes keep rising. Compare that to September, when Mitt Romney attacked then-candidate Rick Perry for calling Social Security a “Ponzi scheme.” Perry backtracked, insisting that he only wanted to bolster the program and ensure its solvency. But in his 2010 book “Fed Up,” Perry made his opposition to Social Security clear, calling it “a crumbling monument to the failure of the New Deal.” Scrapping entitlements is a core tenet of contemporary fiscal conservatism, but most of the time politicians only get away with attacking the most vulnerable ones: Medicaid, food stamps and welfare cash assistance, which are means-tested and thus associated with the black (read: undeserving) poor, although whites make up a far greater share of food stamp recipients. Government welfare programs with Teflon political defenses — Medicare and Social Security — are nearly universal entitlements and thus associated with “regular” (read: white) Americans.

“Ending welfare as we know it,” as Bill Clinton and congressional Republicans did in 1996, is one thing. “Ending Medicare,” Republicans were last year reminded, is something else altogether. “Keep your government hands off my Medicare,” declared a 2009 Tea Party town hall attendee who today might very well be an ardent supporter of Gingrich’s assault on food stamps. It is a political lesson that free-market fundamentalists have to relearn with some frequency. It was only 2005, after all, when President George W. Bush launched his ill-fated proposal to privatize Social Security — a setback he later called his greatest failure.

Yet as more government programs of any sort are framed as pernicious, laissez-faire ideologues are again emboldened to get rid of everything.

As recently as November 2009, the New York Times reported that stigma around food stamps had faded; the program received strong bipartisan support as millions of newly impoverished Americans reached out for food assistance. But temporarily cautious politicians had only stashed the old playbook on the top shelf, and the revival of welfare queen demagoguery made for quick political results. Nationwide, state legislatures are moving to impose drug testing of welfare, and even unemployment insurance, recipients.

“If you go apply for a job today, you are generally going to be drug-tested,” Florida Gov. Rick Scott said in October 2010. “The people that are working are paying the taxes for people on welfare. Shouldn’t the welfare people be held to the same standard?”

Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2012/01/27/gop_race_baiting_masks_class_warfare/singleton/

Yes Some People Can Choose To Be Straight or Gay. They are Called Bisexuals

A few days ago Cynthia Nixon created a controversy when she said that for her lesbianism is a choice. It is for me too. You see like Cynthia I've loved both men and women over the course of my lifetime. Bisexuality doesn't mean someone can't make up their mind as to be either straight or lesbian/gay. It certainly doesn't mean we are unfaithful to the person we love or over the course of a life time the people we love.

For some bisexual people there is a gravitation to one or the other either straight or gay. For me that direction has been towards lesbianism. This is encouraged by the greater equality one can find in a same sex marriage/partnership.

Cynthia Nixon’s Comments Prove We Still Don’t Know How To Talk About Sexual Identity


on Jan 27, 2012

The LGBT blogosphere has been wrestling with comments made by actress Cynthia Nixon (immortally Sex in the City‘s ”Miranda”) to the New York Times that she chose to be a lesbian:
I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.
She doubled down in an interview with the Daily Beast, but in a way that helped clarify where she’s really coming:
I don’t pull out the “bisexual” word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals… but I do completely feel that when I was in relationships with men, I was in love and in lust with those men. And then I met Christine and I fell in love and lust with her. I am completely the same person and I was not walking around in some kind of fog. I just responded to the people in front of me the way I truly felt.

Is It a Choice to Be Gay? It Depends on the Meaning of 'It'


Posted: 01/25/2012

When Cynthia Nixon, who became famous for her role on Sex and the City, recently told The New York Times that being a lesbian was, for her, "a choice," her words lit up the LGBT listservs, angering many who believe that Nixon is giving comfort to the enemy. Those who believe sexual orientation is a choice are far more likely to oppose our equality, while folks who think we are "born that way" are more likely to support us. If we can't help it, goes the thinking, we shouldn't be punished for it; and the corollary to that: if you can't choose to be gay, there's no need to stigmatize it as a way to discourage people from making the wrong choice.

Those angered with Nixon's comments felt they were both unhelpful and incorrect. They say that research, along with so many of our own experiences, make clear that being gay or lesbian is not a choice. And what Nixon was really describing, although she refused to apply the term, was the fact of being bisexual, since she had previously been partnered with a man (Nixon later said, "I don't pull out the 'bisexual' word because nobody likes the bisexuals").

But many have also defended her words, particularly lesbian and bisexual women. They say she was only speaking of her own experiences and that if she feels it was a choice for her, it's not for anyone else to say otherwise.

The problem is that this is not just about what Cynthia Nixon "feels." It requires more rigorous thinking about what identity and choice really entail. Nixon's comments further muddy a matter that sometimes seems to stem from a vast but rather simple confusion in American thinking. To paraphrase President Clinton, the question depends on what the meaning of "it" is. When I hear "it's a choice" (or "it's not a choice"), I can only make sense of the statement if I know if we're discussing same-sex attraction or same-sex action. I can't say it better than the blogger John Aravosis: "It's only a choice among flavors I already like." That is, I don't choose to like chocolate ice cream, but I choose whether, when, and how much to eat it. The idea that one can choose to be attracted to one type of person over another is nonsensical, just as no one is accused of choosing to prefer chocolate over strawberry. The question is what someone will choose to do with those feelings (eat chocolate or strawberry, partner with this person or that), and whether any particular choice is morally good, bad, or neutral.

Genetic or Not, Gay Won’t Go Away


Published: January 28, 2012

That has long been one of the rallying cries of a movement, and sometimes the gist of its argument. Across decades of widespread ostracism, followed by years of patchwork acceptance and, most recently, moments of heady triumph, gay people invoked that phrase to explain why homophobia was unwarranted and discrimination senseless.

Lady Gaga even spun an anthem from it.

But is it the right mantra to cling to? The best tack to take?

Not for the actress Cynthia Nixon, 45, whose comments in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday raised those very questions.

For 15 years, until 2003, she was in a relationship with a man. They had two children together. She then formed a new family with a woman, to whom she’s engaged. And she told The Times’s Alex Witchel that homosexuality for her “is a choice.”

“For many people it’s not,” she conceded, but added that they “don’t get to define my gayness for me.”

They do get to fume, though. Last week some did. They complained that she represented a minority of those in same-sex relationships and that she had furthermore handed a cudgel to our opponents, who might now cite her professed malleability as they make their case that incentives to change, not equal rights, are what we need.

But while her critics have good reason to worry about how her words will be construed and used, they have no right to demand the kind of silence and conformity from Nixon that gay people have justly rebelled against. She’s entitled to her own truth and manner of expressing it.