Friday, April 18, 2014

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Stephen Cohen on Russia Ukraine Crisis


As a Woman, a Feminist and an Atheist I Support Ayaan Hirsi Ali

To speak specifically of our problem with the Muslim world, we are meandering into a genuine clash of civilizations, and we’re deluding ourselves with euphemisms. We’re talking about Islam being a religion of peace that’s been hijacked by extremists. If ever there were a religion that’s not a religion of peace, it is Islam. – Sam Harris
Recently Brandeis University withdrew an honorary degree promised Ayaan Hirsi Ali.  Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an atheist feminist born in Somali. She documented the horrors of her life under Islam in her best selling book, “Infidel“.

To describe what she wrote regarding growing up female under Islam as a criticism is to do her book an injustice for she documented the monstrous evil of Islamic misogyny that shows itself in the form of female genital mutilation, child marriages and Sharia.

Too often Liberals and Conservatives alike treat the abuse of women as a minor issue.  Too many in academia wear their cultural sensitivity as though it were a matter of pride and a sign of superiority when in point of fact it merely makes them enablers of atrocities.

It is one thing to oppose discrimination against and the persecution of Middle Eastern and other Muslim peoples.  The persecution of classes of people no matter what the basis of that categorization is wrong, it denies individuals their human rights including their right to dignity.

At the same time it is perfectly acceptable to condemn an ideology that perpetuates evil.

That is what Ayaan Hirsi Ali does.

In turn the left acted in a manner that is identical to that of the Christo-Fascist right.  Just as atheists who come from a Christian back ground are accused by Christians of being bigots and Christophobes so too is Ayaan Hirsi Ali accused of being a bigot and Islamophobe.

I sometimes wonder what part of the atheist phrase, “No gods, no masters!” is so hard for the peddlers of various forms of magic invisible misogynistic sky daddy based faiths to understand.

To be an atheist is to view all religions as compendiums of various superstitious beliefs.

It doesn’t much matter what name is given to the magic invisible misogynist in the sky.

What matters more is what the apologists for those various religions are supporting when they condemn those who point out the evils of said religions.

From Newsday: Opinion: Brandeis betrays its educational mission
Brandeis University has withdrawn the honorary degree promised Ayaan Hirsi Ali after realizing that Ali has criticized Islam in the past. In fact, criticizing Islam was the focus of her best-selling memoir Infidel. The petition to reject her was written by a barely literate undergrad peeved that the university would honor someone who is “an outright Islamophobic.” Oh dear. Views are Islamophobic. People are Islamophobes.
Really…

Islamophobe…

What an appropriate charge for a woman pointing out the misogyny that is so ingrained in Islam and Islamic law that women in Saudi Arabia are forbidden to drive cars.  Or how Wahhabism has forced women in to burqas and other coverings.

Or pointing out her own experiences.

Now I know Ayaan Hirsi Ali has become a darling of the right wing in America, a position she would have never obtained had she been attacking the misogyny found in Fundamentalist Christianity.

However considering the voracious attacks leveled upon her from the left one has to wonder if she would have gone there had the progressive feminist movement embraced her.

As to the truth or falseness of her charges I offer the following:

From The American Humanist Association: Saudi Arabia’s New Law Defines Atheism as “Terrorism”, Bans All Criticism of Government
Humanist and secular organizations, as well as civil liberties and human rights groups around the world, have responded with outrage to the news that a new law in Saudi Arabia equates “atheism” with “terrorism”.

The Penal Law for Crimes of Terrorism and its Financing criminalizes as “terrorism” all free expression on a vast range of topics, including advocacy of “atheist thought”, criticism of Islam as it is understood by the state, and any expression deemed to “insult the reputation of the state”.

Saudi Arabia is a current and recently-elected member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

Details of the law

Article 1 of the “terrorism” law prohibits “Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based.” The law was introduced by royal decree without judicial oversight.

Domestic “terrorism” is defined in the decree as “any act” (expressly including non-violent acts) which among other things is intended to “insult the reputation of the state,” “harm public order,” or “shake the security of society”. The terms are very broad, and and could be used to prosecute any criticism of the state, its king or officials, or the state conception of Islam.

The provisions of the “terrorism” law define and outlaw numerous acts and forms of expression as “terrorism”, including:
  • “Calling for atheist thought in any form”;
  • any disloyalty “to the country’s rulers”, or anyone “who swears allegiance to any party, organization, current [of thought], group, or individual inside or outside [the kingdom]“;
  • anyone who aids, affiliates, or holds “sympathy” with any “terrorist” organization as defined by the act, which “includes participation in audio, written, or visual media; social media in its audio, written, or visual forms; internet websites; or circulating their contents in any form”;
  • contact with groups or individuals who are “hostile to the kingdom”
  • and the article on “Seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion” prohibits all protest, without qualification as to its message or intent, by outlawing “calling, participating, promoting, or inciting sit-ins, protests, meetings, or group statements in any form”.
From Care2: Brunei is Gearing Up to Start Stoning People to Death

by April 16, 2014
Brunei wants to stone more people to death, and it’s about to bring into force a new penal code provision that would allow it to do just that.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah announced in October of 2013 that he would move Brunei, a predominantly Muslim country, toward adopting Islamic Sharia law within the next six months. While Sharia was previously implemented for what are essentially family court disputes, the country officially had secular laws though many of those laws gave great deference to Sharia anyway.

At the time of announcing this change, the Sultan said that Sharia law would only be applied to Muslims. However, the United Nations and international human rights bodies feel that the law change will likely affect all of Brunei’s citizens, if not immediately then over time.

Making it a Crime to be Gay or to Insult Islam

The penal code change would make consensual same-sex sexual encounters a crime punishable by stoning. Homosexual “acts,” and by extension homosexuality, have long been a crime in Brunei. At the moment, though, someone convicted under the penal code can only serve a maximum of 10 years in prison.

Homosexuals are not the only group to be targeted by this law change, however. The revised penal code would proscribe the death penalty for the following (not an exhaustive list but one designed to give a good overview):
  • adultery
  • rape
  • murder
  • insulting any verses of the Quran and/or the Hadith
  • blasphemy
  • declaring that you are not a Muslim (apostasy)
While a lot of media attention has focused on how this penal code change would impact gay people, and for good reason, the penal code also seems particularly malignant to women’s rights, something that the International Commission of Jurists has already noted. Writing in commentary made back in January while the change was still being considered, the ICJ said that because of how a fundamentalist interpretation of Islam privileges men, women would therefore be “more [at] risk of receiving this penalty because they are most likely to be found guilty of adultery or having engaged in extra-marital sexual relations.”

From The Guardian UK: Egypt’s gay community fears government crackdown

Recent series of raids and long jail terms fan fears that gay people may be new target of authoritarian government

in Cairo
The Guardian, Thursday 17 April 2014

Egypt‘s gay community fears it is the latest target of the country’s authoritarian government following a series of recent raids on gay people.

Activists interviewed by the Guardian said they had documented up to nine raids across the country since October 2013 – an unusually high rate of arrests. Most significantly, at least seven raids have seen people arrested at home rather than at parties or known meeting places, raising concerns that the community is facing the start of a targeted crackdown.

The latest and most concerning raid saw four men seized from their east Cairo apartment on 1 April within hours of signing the lease, according to activists. Within a week, the four were given jail terms of up to eight years – sentences unusual for both their length and the speed at which they were handed down.

Interviewees warned against exaggerating the oppression levelled at what is a flourishing underground gay community. But almost all agreed the recent arrests had frightened and perplexed many of its members. One experienced activist, who identified himself as Mohamed A, said: “It has struck fear within many of us. I could be sitting with a couple of friends [at home], and these arrests could happen at any moment.”

While homosexuality is technically legal in Egypt, citizens suspected of being gay have long been the target of sporadic detentions – with those arrested often convicted of debauchery or insulting public morals. But some activists claim the recent arrests, which began at a gay meeting-place in a poor Cairo suburb last October, are happening at a faster rate than at any point since 2004.
Considering the horrific behavior on the part of so many Muslims in the name of their faith I have a hard time believing atheist infidels like Ayaan Hirsi Ali and  Salman Rushdie are simply Islamophobes meriting the condemnation of all correct thinking progressive people.  Actually I tend to see them as highly courageous people standing up to a force filled with numerous fanatics, who would consider murdering them an act of faith.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Judges Blind To Justice

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/16422/the_divide_judges_blind_to_justice

Matt Taibbi’s new book, The Divide, illuminates the corruption in our courtrooms.

BY Moe Tkacik April 3, 2014

Matt Taibbi’s The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap is a book about what happens in American courtrooms. Immigrants are deported for traffic violations. Lawyers retained by relatively honest billionaires to defend themselves against attacks from more classically psychotic billionaires are treated by judges with a contempt typically reserved for telemarketers. Wrongful termination lawsuits filed by corporate whistleblowers are thrown out. Bail gets set just high enough to feed prison contractors hordes of accused loiterers, and just low enough to ensure bail bondsmen won’t take the business. Day after day, megabanks win the legal authority to repossess the car or house or bank account of this or that alleged debtor on the basis of her failure to show up in court to answer a summons she never received, because in lieu of actually delivering that summons, the megabank paid some bucket shop four dollars to produce a signed affidavit swearing one of its employees had physically delivered it, while in fact depositing it and thousands like it in a dumpster, a technique known in the business as “sewer service.”

And day after day, five o’ clock rolls around and thousands of alleged jaywalkers, obstructors of pedestrian traffic and open-container possessors are instructed to show up again next month because the arresting officer was too preoccupied with nabbing fresh loiterers to show up to court that day, or because there are simply too many defendants—50,000 marijuana possession cases, 80,000 disorderly conduct cases and 140,000 open container cases a year in New York City alone. Cases rarely go to trial: Innocent 99 percenters admit guilt, and guilty financial crime syndicatesshell out millions for the privilege of admitting nothing.

I visited one such courtroom myself last July, after $100 parking tickets started appearing on my car window every other night or so, for the alleged infraction of “failure to secure D.C. tags.” I collected 11 before I finally found a free day to haul myself into a courtroom to explain: My car was not registered in D.C. because I didn’t live in D.C.; I just happened to work at a restaurant in D.C. that closed after the metro stopped running.

“Why did you allow so many tickets to accumulate before disputing them?” the judge wanted to know.

“Well, I had work, and since ticketing people for failure to register their cars in states in which they do not actually reside seemed to clearly be an illegal racket I wanted to contest in person,” I said.

“What you refer to as an illegal racket,” he replied, “is the broadly recognized power of the state to tax its citizens.”

Taibbi never quite articulates this, but virtually all the judges presiding over the bureaucratic atrocities described in the book seem to view themselves fundamentally as tax collectors. “Get your wallets ready! We take Visa and MasterCard!” one judge ghoulishly announces before a room filled with public urinators and sidewalk bicyclists. Another upholds California’s subjection of food-stamp applicants to terrifying unannounced searches by the welfare-fraud Gestapo on the grounds that the public “interest in ensuring the aid provided from tax dollars reaches its proper and intended recipients” trumps the Fourth Amendment. Undocumented immigrants in particular are viewed as what one lawyer calls “walking ATM machines”; one single mom in Los Angeles named Natividad Felix finally catches a “break” when a judge reduces her $1,700 fine for driving without a license to $500—plus 170 hours of community service.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/16422/the_divide_judges_blind_to_justice

Meet the spiritual forefather of conservatives’ War on Women

Radical Feminists like Dworkin and McKennon joined Keating and the Moral Majority  in this campaign.  Today there is the same sort of sketchiness surrounding the anti-trafficking movement.

Yet another case where the most important question one can ask is: Cui Bono?  Who benefits?

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/04/13/meet_the_spiritual_forefather_of_conservatives_war_on_women/

Charles Keating was best known for his shady financial dealings, but his politics were even more destructive

Sunday, Apr 13, 2014

The late Charles Keating, who died last week at the age of 90, is remembered primarily for his role in the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s, as a symbol of the frauds and excesses of an unregulated financial sector — a debacle from which we seem to have learned very little. Yet, ironically, those of us interested in American sexual politics remember a very different side of Keating: the smut-fighting moral entrepreneur who called for more regulation — as long as it pertained to matters of obscenity, rather than investment.

Keating’s pioneering activity in junk-bond innovation has all but eclipsed what may, in fact, be his most lasting legacy. As founder and longtime leader of Citizens for Decent Literature (CDL), Keating pioneered a new form of sexual conservatism, modernizing it to meet the changing mores of the mid-20th century. Through CDL, Keating developed a legalistic, pseudo-empirical anti-porn movement that worked hard to show itself as not anti-sex, but rather anti-perversion. As such, Keating brilliantly framed CDL for a post-Kinsey America, leaving a lasting imprint on conservative sexual politics.

A young Catholic lawyer in socially conservative Cincinnati in the 1950s, Keating watched with alarm as the newsstands and paperback racks of the nation filled with pulp novels and Playboy imitators, and he assessed the American moral landscape with a clarity few at the time possessed. Even as the Cold War witnessed a dramatic sexual retrenchment that ranged from aggressively domestic ideals for women to state-sponsored violence and suppression toward queer “deviants,” anti-smut activism seemed to be at low ebb. “Censorship” was unpopular, viewed through a Cold War prism as a tactic of the totalitarian Soviet Union, not freedom-loving Americans — none less than President Dwight D. Eisenhower castigated “the book burners” in 1953. Meanwhile, old forms of moral activism had fallen into disrepute. Anti-smut activist Anthony Comstock, in whose name the 1873 federal obscenity law had been passed, was now viewed through a post-Freudian lens as a repressed Victorian, and Catholic cultural influence was on the wane, with the traditional boycott methods of the Legion of Decency under attack in the media and the Hollywood Production Code disintegrating rapidly.

Yet Keating uniquely recognized the opportunities afforded by the Supreme Court, whose 1957 Roth v. United States opinion determined that obscene materials were not protected by the First Amendment. Today we remember Roth for helping unleash the sexual revolution. Because Justice William Brennan restricted obscenity to only those works completely devoid of “socially redeeming value,” the case cleared the path for Henry Miller novels, “Lady Chatterley’s Lover,” and ultimately “Deep Throat.” But Keating recognized the conservative opportunity the Court afforded: Banning books could be framed as something other than censorship. If a sleazy book with a name like “Lust Agent” is obscene, it has no constitutional claim to free speech. Ipso facto, to suppress it is not to censor it.

Or at least, that’s how Keating’s semantic gambit went — and it worked, marvelously. His CDL rapidly rose from a local Cincinnati group to a national behemoth, easily the nation’s preeminent anti-pornography organization in the 1960s and beyond. Keating stripped the movement against smut of its association with repression and prudery, instead boldly declaring that his cause could be reconciled with a sexually liberated age. “I spent over 8 years in the Navy,” his right-hand man declared in a typical 1962 CDL stock speech, “and I think sex is great!” The right kind of sex, of course: heterosexual and married, not “deviant.” Though himself Catholic, Keating kept CDL militantly broad-based to avoid the charge that it was an extension of sectarian Catholic beliefs. To the notion that moral offenses were victimless crimes, an idea promoted by Alfred Kinsey and others, Keating had an answer as well.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/04/13/meet_the_spiritual_forefather_of_conservatives_war_on_women/

What Do the Koch Brothers Really Want?

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/04/11-10

by Bernie Sanders


As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires and large corporations can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence the political process.
Perhaps, the biggest winners of Citizens United are Charles and David Koch, owners of the second-largest privately run business in America Koch Industries.

Among other things, the Koch brothers own oil refineries in Texas, Alaska, and Minnesota and control some 4,000 miles of pipeline.

According to Forbes Magazine, the Koch brothers are now worth $80 billion, and have increased their wealth by $12 billion since last year alone.

For the Koch brothers, $80 billion in wealth, apparently, is not good enough. Owning the second largest private company in America is, apparently, not good enough.  It doesn’t appear that they will be satisfied until they are able to control the entire political process.

It is well known that the Koch brothers have provided the major source of funding to the Tea Party and want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

In 1980, David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980. 
Let’s take a look at the 1980 Libertarian Party platform. 

Here are just a few excerpts of the Libertarian Party platform that David Koch ran on in 1980:
  • “We urge the repeal of federal campaign finance laws, and the immediate abolition of the despotic Federal Election Commission.”
  • “We favor the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”
  • “We oppose any compulsory insurance or tax-supported plan to provide health services, including those which finance abortion services.”
  • “We also favor the deregulation of the medical insurance industry.”
  • “We favor the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system. Pending that repeal, participation in Social Security should be made voluntary.”
  • “We propose the abolition of the governmental Postal Service. The present system, in addition to being inefficient, encourages governmental surveillance of private correspondence.  Pending abolition, we call for an end to the monopoly system and for allowing free competition in all aspects of postal service.”
  • “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes.”
  • “We support the eventual repeal of all taxation.”
  • “As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”
  • “We support repeal of all law which impede the ability of any person to find employment, such as minimum wage laws.”
  • “We advocate the complete separation of education and State.  Government schools lead to the indoctrination of children and interfere with the free choice of individuals. Government ownership, operation, regulation, and subsidy of schools and colleges should be ended.”
  • “We condemn compulsory education laws … and we call for the immediate repeal of such laws.”
  • “We support the repeal of all taxes on the income or property of private schools, whether profit or non-profit.”
  • “We support the abolition of the Environmental Protection Agency.”
  • “We support abolition of the Department of Energy.”
  • “We call for the dissolution of all government agencies concerned with transportation, including the Department of Transportation.”
  • “We demand the return of America's railroad system to private ownership. We call for the privatization of the public roads and national highway system.”
  • “We specifically oppose laws requiring an individual to buy or use so-called "self-protection" equipment such as safety belts, air bags, or crash helmets.”
  • “We advocate the abolition of the Federal Aviation Administration.”
  • “We advocate the abolition of the Food and Drug Administration.”
  • “We support an end to all subsidies for child-bearing built into our present laws, including all welfare plans and the provision of tax-supported services for children.”
  • “We oppose all government welfare, relief projects, and ‘aid to the poor’ programs. All these government programs are privacy-invading, paternalistic, demeaning, and inefficient. The proper source of help for such persons is the voluntary efforts of private groups and individuals.”
  • “We call for the privatization of the inland waterways, and of the distribution system that brings water to industry, agriculture and households.”
  • “We call for the repeal of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”
  • “We call for the abolition of the Consumer Product Safety Commission.”
  • “We support the repeal of all state usury laws.”
In other words, the agenda of the Koch brothers is not only to defund Obamacare.  The agenda of the Koch brothers is to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.

It is clear that the Koch brothers and other right wing billionaires are calling the shots and are pulling the strings of the Republican Party. 

And because of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, they now have the power to spend an unlimited amount of money to buy the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the next President of the United States.

If they are allowed to hijack the American political process to defund Obamacare they will be back for more. 

Tomorrow it will be Social Security, ending Medicare as we know it, repealing the minimum wage.  It seems to me that the Koch brothers will not be content until they get everything they believe they are entitled to.

Our great nation can no longer be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers.
For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, for the sake of our economy, we have got to let democracy prevail.

Occupy was right: capitalism has failed the world

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/13/occupy-right-capitalism-failed-world-french-economist-thomas-piketty

One of the slogans of the 2011 Occupy protests was 'capitalism isn't working'. Now, in an epic, groundbreaking new book, French economist Thomas Piketty explains why they're right

The Observer, Saturday 12 April 2014

The École d'économie de Paris (the Paris School of Economics) is actually situated in the most un-Parisian part of the city. It is on the boulevard Jourdan in the lower end of the 14th arrondissement, bordered on one side by the Parc Montsouris. Unlike most French parks, there is a distinct lack of Gallic order here; in fact, with lakes, open spaces, and its greedy and inquisitive ducks, you could very easily be in a park in any British city. The campus of the Paris School of Economics, however, looks unmistakably and reassuringly like nearly all French university campuses. That is to say, it is grey, dull and broken down, the corridors smelling vaguely of cabbage. This is where I have arranged an interview with Professor Thomas Piketty, a modest young Frenchman (he is in his early 40s), who has spent most of his career in archives and collecting data, but is just about to emerge as the most important thinker of his generation – as the Yale academic Jacob Hacker put it, a free thinker and a democrat who is no less than "an Alexis de Tocqueville for the 21st century".

This is on account of his latest work, which is called Capital in the Twenty-First Century. This is a huge book, more than 700 pages long, dense with footnotes, graphs and mathematical formulae. At first sight it is unashamedly an academic tome and seems both daunting and incomprehensible. In recent weeks and months the book has however set off fierce debates in the United States about the dynamics of capitalism, and especially the apparently unstoppable rise of the tiny elite that controls more and more of the world's wealth. In non-specialist blogs and websites across America, it has ignited arguments about power and money, questioning the myth at the very heart of American life – that capitalism improves the quality of life for everyone. This is just not so, says Piketty, and he makes his case in a clear and rigorous manner that debunks everything that capitalists believe about the ethical status of making money.

The groundbreaking status of the book was recognised by a recent long essay in the New Yorker in which Branko Milanovic, a former senior economist at the World Bank, was quoted as describing Piketty's volume as "one of the watershed books in economic thinking". In the same vein, a writer in the Economist reported that Piketty's work fundamentally rewrote 200 years of economic thinking on inequality. In short, the arguments have centred on two poles: the first is a tradition that begins with Karl Marx, who believed that capitalism would self-destruct in the endless pursuit of diminishing profit returns. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the work of Simon Kuznets, who won a Nobel prize in 1971 and who made the case that the inequality gap inevitably grows smaller as economies develop and become sophisticated.

Piketty says that neither of these arguments stand up to the evidence he has accumulated. More to the point, he demonstrates that there is no reason to believe that capitalism can ever solve the problem of inequality, which he insists is getting worse rather than better. From the banking crisis of 2008 to the Occupy movement of 2011, this much has been intuited by ordinary people. The singular significance of his book is that it proves "scientifically" that this intuition is correct. This is why his book has crossed over into the mainstream – it says what many people have already been thinking.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/apr/13/occupy-right-capitalism-failed-world-french-economist-thomas-piketty

Who Goes To Jail? Matt Taibbi on American Injustice Gap From Wall Street to Main Street




Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Arbitrary Way Companies Are Labeled 'Anti-Gay'

From The Daily Beast:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/12/the-arbitrary-way-companies-are-labeled-anti-gay.html

04.12.14

GM, yes. Washington Post, no? The Human Rights Campaign’s standards for corporate America’s gay-friendliness have modernized—but it’s evaluation methods haven’t.
 
On April 1, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation honored more than 300 major employers at the 12th Annual LGBT Workplace Awards Reception.  Some of the biggest names in corporate America were celebrated at the gala event, including AT&T, Viacom, Nike, and Boeing. Even companies that have recently faced criticism for ethically questionable business practices were honored, including Bank of America, Pfizer, Monsanto, and General Motors.

All of these companies earned their spots at the dinner at the Time Warner Center in New York City by receiving a perfect score of 100 percent on HRC’s Corporate Equality Index. Absent from the night’s honorees was the Washington Post (which was evaluated by its 2013 record, before it was formally purchased by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos in October). In fact, not only was a publication of the so-called liberal media at the heart of the Beltway not invited to the reception, it received a lowly 20 percent in the CEI report. Its score was worse than Dominos, BJs, Autozone, and Dick’s Sporting Goods.

But before you cancel your subscription to the Washington Post, take a look at what earned one of the most prestigious publications in the country a measly 20 percent. The newspaper received 15 points for offering health insurance to the same-sex partners of employees and an additional 5 for offering other, “soft” benefits to partners, though apparently not enough to earn the full 10 points.

What exactly did the former Washington Post Co. do that was so antagonistic to LGBT employees that it couldn’t scrape up a few more points? For that matter, how did Whole Foods, which rather surprisingly does not grant employees’ same-sex partners health insurance, manage to score a far more respectable 75 on the CEI?

Continue reading at:  http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/12/the-arbitrary-way-companies-are-labeled-anti-gay.html

HAPPY TAX DAY, AND WHY THE TOP 1% PAY A MUCH LOWER TAX RATE THAN YOU


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Years of Living Dangerously Trailer


#CancelColbert and the Return of the Anti-Liberal Left

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179160/cancelcolbert-and-return-anti-liberal-left#

Michelle Goldberg on April 2, 2014

Perhaps every political generation is fated to be appalled by the one that succeeds it. In the 1960s, longtime socialist intellectuals were horrified by the anarchic energies of the new left. Then some of those new leftists reached middle age and watched, aghast, as new speech codes proliferated on college campuses during the first iteration of political correctness. I was in college then and am now in my thirties, which means it’s my turn to be dismayed by a growing left-wing tendency towards censoriousness and hair-trigger offense.

It’s increasingly clear that we are entering a new era of political correctness. Recently, we’ve seen the calls to #CancelColbert because of something outrageous said by Stephen Colbert’s blowhard alter ego, who has been saying outrageous things regularly for nine years. Then there’s the sudden demand for “trigger warnings” on college syllabi, meant to protect students from encountering ideas or images that may traumatize them; an Oberlin faculty document even suggests jettisoning “triggering material when it does not contribute directly to the course learning goals.” At Wellesley, students have petitioned to have an outdoor statue of a lifelike sleepwalking man removed because it was causing them “undue stress.” As I wrote in The Nation, there’s pressure in some circles not to use the word “vagina” in connection with reproductive rights, lest it offend trans people.

Nor is this just happening here. In England’s left-wing New Statesman, Sarah Ditum wrote of the spread of no-platforming—essentially stopping people whose ideas are deemed offensive from speaking publicly. She cites the shouting down of an opponent of the BDS movement at Galway University and the threats and intimidation leveled at the radical feminist Julie Bindel, who has said cruel things about trans people. “No platform now uses the pretext of opposing hate speech to justify outrageously dehumanising language, and sets up an ideal of ‘safe spaces’ within which certain individuals can be harassed,” wrote Ditum. “A tool that was once intended to protect democracy from undemocratic movements has become a weapon used by the undemocratic against democracy.”

Call it left-wing anti-liberalism: the idea, captured by Herbert Marcuse in his 1965 essay “Repressive Tolerance,” that social justice demands curbs on freedom of expression. “[I]t is possible to define the direction in which prevailing institutions, policies, opinions would have to be changed in order to improve the chance of a peace which is not identical with cold war and a little hot war, and a satisfaction of needs which does not feed on poverty, oppression, and exploitation,” he wrote. “Consequently, it is also possible to identify policies, opinions, movements which would promote this chance, and those which would do the opposite. Suppression of the regressive ones is a prerequisite for the strengthening of the progressive ones.”

Note here both the belief that correct opinions can be dispassionately identified, and the blithe confidence in the wisdom of those empowered to do the suppressing. This kind of thinking is only possible at certain moments: when liberalism seems to have failed but the right is not yet in charge. At such times, old-fashioned liberal values like free speech and robust, open debate seem like tainted adjuncts of an oppressive system, and it’s still possible for radicals to believe that the ideas suppressed as hateful won’t be their own. 

“One of the most striking characteristics of ‘60s radicalism was its aversion to liberalism,” wrote Alice Echols in Daring to Be Bad, her history of radical feminism. “Radicals’ repudiation of liberalism was not immediate; rather, it developed in response to liberalism’s defaults—specifically, its timidity regarding black civil rights and its escalation of the Vietnam War.” Something similar, albeit on a much smaller scale, happened after Bill Clinton ended welfare as we know it, and it’s happening now, as economic misery persists under Barack Obama. There’s disenchantment not just with electoral politics, but with liberal values as a whole. “White liberal” has, once again, emerged as a favorite left-wing epithet.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/179160/cancelcolbert-and-return-anti-liberal-left#