would like to see me as an ultra Left Winger based on my support for
environmental causes, workers rights, feminism and LGBT causes.
That evaluation is spot on.
I am also a militant atheist.
A stone Yankee from the far north mountains of upstate New York I militantly embrace the concept of personal freedom/liberty.
a woman who survived rape and dealt with it by plunging into the
martial arts I champion the rights of women to defend themselves
including the use of weapons, most notably knives and handguns.
My embrace of the idea of gun rights causes many on the Left to stereotype me as a Right Winger.
Back in 2001 on September 11 I was stunned and outraged by the murderous terrorist attack upon my country.
I remember the images of the Palestinians dancing for joy in the streets, how they labeled the United States as the great Satan.
was ostracized by people on the Left for my gut reaction to both this
attack and to the Palestinian celebration of the deaths of nearly 3000
American people that resulted from these attacks.
In 2002 I lived
on Long Island and often went into New York City for classes and to
visit museums. I had last been in NYC in 1967 so I never saw the World
I avoided going to the site of the attacks, I was already boiling over with anger.
one day I went to a free Photoshop seminar. I took the East Side
subway down to the station nearest to where the seminar was being held.
I was early and realized I had never been to that part of NYC so I walked around a little.
I came upon the church near the foot print of the WTC, the fence with all the grief messages upon it.
Had you asked me what to do at that moment I would have said, "Turn the countries of those who attacked us into glass."
I understand the gut reactions of the Israelis to the acts of Palestinian terrorism.
am Polish-American on my father's side, third generation, close enough
to the immigrant experience to feel a connection to family in Poland.
Some three million Catholic Poles died at the hands of the Nazis along
with the six million Jewish people. I feel a certain "Never Again"
solidarity, an outrage against the antisemitism too prevalent on the
part of so many on the far left.
As a woman and as a member of the
LGBT communities I see Israel as the only nation in the Middle East
where women and LGBT people have any real rights. Indeed the only
nation in the Middle East where women and LGBT people do not regularly
face the grossest violations of their rights as human beings.
well aware of Israel's love of the United States and how it is one of
several nations in this world that we can count on as a wholehearted
I have watched the ultra left attack both Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren because of their support for Israel.
I do not celebrate the current fighting in the Middle East.
Indeed I wish there would be peace between Israel and its neighbors, there have been far too many deaths to go around.
stress of nearly 70 years of living with terrorism has grievously
harmed the heart and soul of the people of Israel. But they were not
the ones who started the wars. They built the walls to protect
themselves from numerous suicide bombers and other acts of terrorism on
the part of the Palestinians. Israel was not the nation sending those
Palestinians and their allies including Egypt, Syria and Jordan repeatedly launched attacks upon Israel.
Fortunately the efforts aimed at annihilating Israel were doomed thanks to the courageous IDF.
So I guess I fail the test.
I support Israel and the Israeli people.
Even as I wish for peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
If that makes me a Zionist or a supporter of Zionism so be it.
It’s a peculiar thing
to obsess over, and not just because it suggests conservatives have an
unhealthy unwillingness to allow their children to grow up and think for
themselves. It’s because the imagined conspiracies of liberals trying
to “indoctrinate” kids are total phantoms. A little digging shows that
accusations of indoctrination are usually aimed at attempts to educate or simply offer support and acceptance.
While there are always a few rigid ideologues who are out to recruit,
by and large liberals are, well, liberal: More interested in arguing and
engaging than trying to mold young people into unthinking automatons.
I think I know where conservatives get the idea that other people are
sneaking around trying to indoctrinate children into unthinking
ideologies. It’s because they themselves are totally guilty of it, both
in terms of trying to recruit other people’s children and trying to
frighten their own children about the dangers of exploring thoughts
outside of the ones approved by their own rigid ideologies.
Parents in Portland, Oregon were alarmed to hear that a group calling
itself the Child Evangelism Fellowship's Good News Club has been
targeting children as young as five for conversion to their form of
Christianity. The group pretends to be similar to more liberal and
open-minded groups, claiming they are just trying to teach their beliefs
but aren’t trying to be coercive. However, it’s hard to believe, in no
small part because they admit they run around scaring children by
telling them they are “sinners” who are hellbound unless they convert
and start trying to convert others.
One mother, Mia
Marceau, told the Associated Press about her 8-year-old son’s encounter
with the group. “Within a few hours, however, she didn't like what the
group was telling her 8-year-old son and his friends: They were headed
to hell, needed to convert their friends and were duty-bound to raise
money for the organization.” Those kinds of tactics aren’t about
encouraging free discourse, but about creating a cult-like mentality
that discourages questions and free thought.
an exclusive interview with Salon, astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson
talked about his role as a scientist, how the media presents scientific
breakthroughs, and about how climate change will have to get worse
before citizens force their elected representatives to do anything about
Tyson explained that he doesn’t see himself as an advocate,
but as an educator whose job it is to present “emergent scientific
consensus,” in the hope that the public and policy makers will use it to
make informed decisions.
“I’m just trying to get people as fully
informed as they can be so that they can make the most informed
decisions they can based on their own principles or philosophies or
mission statement,” Tyson explained. ” What concerns me is that I see
people making decisions, particularly decisions that might affect policy
or governance, that are partly informed, or misinformed, or
under-informed.” Tyson notes that during the Cold War, physicists
actively advocated for specific policies because those policies were
directly related to their work in developing nuclear weapons. When it
comes to climate change, he would like to see more climate scientists
take the lead instead of an astrophysicist like himself just because
“I’m an astrophysicist. But there are people who are
climate scientists. I think more climate scientists should step up to
the plate and serve that same corresponding role that the physicists
played during the Cold War, and if they want, to empower lawmakers and
the citizenry to make informed decisions about the future of the
country,” he said.
Prevailing neoliberal ideology, which perverts capitalism
as an economic system into capitalism as an unyielding political
ideology, lurks in the shadows of almost every major issue in America,
though nowhere is its influence more obvious or profound than in the
spiraling rise of income and wealth inequality today.
Thomas Piketty’s “Capital in the 21st Century” was first released in
English, it followed the Culture War Playbook to perfection: First came
the triumphant plaudits from like-minded thinkers, followed shortly by
the hasty rebuttals of their ideological opponents, followed
themselves by a torrent of commentary from pundits left and right
who skimmed the book before adding their own two cents. Soon, there was
the predictable “unskewing” by the right, after which came the
fact-checking of the “unskewers” on the left… at which point the whole
process had reached its inevitable conclusion. High-traffic angles fully
juiced, our treadmill news cycle moved on to the next plank in our
bitter, pointless culture clash, what author William Gibson has termed
our “cold civil war.”
So it goes.
What’s so interesting
about this Kabuki dance is just how few commentators at the time
bothered to note that Piketty’s findings were never particularly
controversial or groundbreaking. Piketty’s book became such a
sensation on the left precisely because it gave weight to what anyone
with a pair of eyes in the real world (i.e., not Lower Manhattan, the
Washington Beltway, or Silicon Valley) can already plainly see: Wealth
inequality grows each and every day, while the middle class keeps
getting pummeled by this Glorious Free Enterprise System. What used to
be good, stable jobs are converted into temp positions or contract work —
automated, downsized or simply eliminated entirely, they’re replaced in
the labor market by the worst-paying, most utterly dehumanizing
low-wage gigs that our much ballyhooed “job creators” can imagine
The consequences for our democracy and our economy are perilous and unlikely to be easily remedied.
or not one is generally convinced by Piketty’s thesis that r > g (or
more plainly, that capital tends to grow at a faster rate than income
without some form of outside intervention), it should be plain that in oursystem,
the stage has been uniquely well-set for the unbridled expansion of
wealth that his book describes. When the effective tax rates are lower
for capital gains than for the incomes of the less affluent; when
political processes are legally corrupted and circumvented for a price;
when regulatory agencies are gutted, stalled, or simply staffed
with careerists eager to make their way through the revolving door —
this is not a political or economic system likely to become less unequal
Will this trend toward inequality continue? According to “U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth,”
a recent survey of wealthy Americans that aims to “[shed] light on the
direction and purpose of the more than $15 trillion that will be passed
across generations in high-net-worth families over the next two
decades,” it seems increasingly likely.
The survey, which polled
680 Americans holding at least $3 million in investable assets,
unearthed a troubling trend — the birth of a new American aristocracy.
As the survey notes, “Nearly three-quarters of those over 69, and 61% of
Baby Boomers, were the first generation to accumulate significant
wealth. Among the younger Millennial generation, inherited wealth is
About two-thirds are from families in which they are the
second, third or fourth generation to be wealthy.” Now, it should be
noted briefly that this survey relies on self-reporting, which makes
these figures somewhat suspect. (More on this in a bit.) But consider
two charts: The first shows the highest marginal tax rates on income and
capital gains throughout the last hundred years, while the second
outlines the estate tax rate during the same period.
There’s been a lot of ink spilled about the increasing political polarization in America , which is at historically high levels.
There are a lot of reasons for it, including changing demographics,
women’s growing empowerment, the internet, the economy and cable news.
But religion and religious belief plays an important role as well.
There’s no way around it: America is quickly becoming two nations, one
ruled over by fundamentalist Christians and their supporters and one
that is becoming all the more secular over time, looking more and more
like western Europe in its relative indifference to religion. And caught
in between are a group of liberal Christians that are culturally
aligned with secularists and are increasingly and dismayingly seeing the
concept of “faith” aligned with a narrow and conservative political
That this polarization is happening is hard to deny, even if it’s harder to measure that political polarization. The number of Americans who cite “none” when asked
about a religious identity is rising rapidly, up to nearly 20% from 15%
in 2007, with a third of people under 30 identifying with no religious
faith. Two-thirds of the “nones” say they believe in God, suggesting
that this is more of a cultural drift towards secularism than some kind
of crisis of faith across the country.
But even this may
underrepresent how secular our country really is getting, as many people
who say they belong to a church don’t really go to church much, if at
all. While Americans like to tell pollsters they go to church regularly,
in-depth research shows they are lying and many of them blow it off, putting our actual church-going rates at roughly the same level of secular Western Europe. Even
when people identify with a label like “Catholic” or “Methodist”, that
doesn’t mean they consider it an important part of their identity in the
way that people used to. Take, for instance, the way that weddings have
quietly changed in this country. It used to be that you had a wedding
in a church, and only people who were eloping got married by someone
other than a minister. Now, outside of very religious circles, it’s more
common to see weddings on beaches or at country clubs, and very often
officiated by friends of the couple rather than clergy. Indeed, state laws are slowly beginning to change to reflect this reality, allowing more flexibility for people to have the secular weddings they increasingly desire.
of those who remain religious, being affiliated with a fundamentalist
or conservative religion is becoming a little more common. The same Pew
research that found while all Christian faiths are slowly receding,
mainline Protestant churches are shrinking a little faster and have
fewer followers, at 15% of the country, than white evangelicals (19%) or
Catholics (22%). This comports with other research that finds evangelicals have a bigger piece of the shrinking pie called “Christianity.”
in Iraq have ordered that all women between the ages of 11 and 46 must
undergo female genital mutilation, which could affect up to four million
women and girls in the war-ravaged country, a UN official said
The UN’s second most senior official in Iraq, Jacqueline
Badcock, said, “It is a fatwa (or religious edict) from ISIS, we learnt
about it this morning. We have no precise numbers.”
State, formerly known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
(ISIS), took over large swathes of the country last month and has begun
imposing its extreme Salafist interpretation of Islam. Badcock said that if you took UN population figures as a guide, around “four million girls and women could be affected”.
Female genital mutilation is unusual in Iraq and is only practised in “certain isolated pockets of the country”, she added.
when you think you've got a handle on how bad wealth inequality is in
America's Second Gilded Age, researchers find it's even worse than you
The European Central Bank has crunched the numbers and
it looks like wealth inequality in the U.S. is even more astounding than
previous statistics have shown. Of the 10 rich countries the
researchers analyzed, America's wealthy have grabbed the largest portion
of the country's wealth. The most affluent 1 percent is sitting on
between 35 percent and 37 percent of the nation’s wealth, according to a working paper by
ECB senior economist Philip Vermeulen. The Federal Reserve figure that
has been previously cited had the 1 percent's share at 34 percent. But
actually it looks like that's a lowball figure.
studying wealth have been dealing with the fact that when you reach the
stratosphere, wealth becomes a sort of dark matter. It's got a huge
gravitational pull, but it's very hard to trace. It likes to hide, and
slip over borders and between bank accounts in the blink of an eye.
Vermeulen calls the billionaires whose wealth manages to evade
researchers the "missing rich."
Unfortunately for researchers,
rich people don't tend to respond to surveys that aim to study their
wealth; some don't have the time, but undoubtedly many just don't want
anyone getting their mitts on that sensitive information. So researchers
have to figure out other ways to track wealth, including the popular
Forbes' billionaires list, which, while not entirely accurate (it misses
a lot of people, like dictators whose money derives from the state), at
least makes an attempt to shine a light on the wealth amassed by global
Vermeulen warns that even what's been revealed so far
doesn't give the whole picture. “The results clearly indicate that
survey wealth estimates are very likely to underestimate wealth at the
top." You heard that right. Even 37 percent is probably not high enough.
other countries Vermeulen's report studied, the 1 percent have also
been getting a bigger share of the pie, like the Netherlands, whose rich
now hold 17 percent of wealth, up from 9 percent. The French and
Spanish wealthy have also increased their share by a couple of points.
By Robert Reich Tuesday, July 15, 2014 In a new Pew poll,
more than three quarters of self-described conservatives believe “poor
people have it easy because they can get government benefits without
In reality, most of America’s poor work hard, often in two or more jobs.
The real non-workers are the wealthy who inherit their fortunes. And their ranks are growing.
In fact, we’re on the cusp of the largest inter-generational wealth transfer in history.
wealth is coming from those who over the last three decades earned huge
amounts on Wall Street, in corporate boardrooms, or as high-tech
It’s going to their children, who did nothing except be born into the right family.
“self-made” man or woman, the symbol of American meritocracy, is
disappearing. Six of today’s ten wealthiest Americans are heirs to
prominent fortunes. Just six Walmart heirs have more wealth than the
bottom 42 percent of Americans combined (up from 30 percent in 2007).
The U.S. Trust bank just released a poll of Americans with more than $3 million of investable assets. Nearly
three-quarters of those over age 69, and 61 per cent of boomers
(between the ages of 50 and 68), were the first in their generation to
accumulate significant wealth.
by Robert Borosage Published on Friday, July 11, 2014 by Campaign for America's Future Blog Over at The Washington Post, the usually sensible Greg Sargent endorses the notion that
divisions among Democrats are “mostly trumped up.” The tension between
the Wall Street wing of the party and the Warren (as in Elizabeth) wing
is an overblown fiction of a press corps desperate for some action.
true that the prior divisions on social issues have dissipated, as
liberals have swept the field. Obama’s halting attempts to wean the US
from its foreign wars have garnered widespread support. And on
economics, Sargent argues that Democrats “largely agree on the menu of
policy responses to the economic problems faced by poor, working and
middle class Americans — a higher minimum wage, universal pre-K, higher
taxes on the wealthy to fund a stronger safety net, job creation and job
training — whatever the broader rhetorical umbrella is being used.”
Even Hillary says she agrees with Thomas Piketty that extreme inequality
is a “threat” to our democracy.
There are differences on how
aggressively to go after the big banks or whether to expand Social
Security, Sargent admits, and a debate underway about “whether to push
the Democratic Party in a more populist direction,” which he declines to
define. But generally, he argues, there’s broad agreement that Hillary
or any Democratic candidate will run on.
All of this is true
except the conclusion. There is a broad agreement on what might be
called a “populist lite” agenda — one that has been put forth repeatedly
by Obama and frustrated by Republican obstruction. And the reforms —
from the minimum wage to universal pre-K — are important and will make a
But it strikes me as bizarre to suggest that there is
no serious debate among Democrats when the National Education
Association, the largest teachers union in the country and a key power
in Democratic circles, has just called for the resignation of Obama’s
education secretary. Democratic House and Senate leaders refuse to allow
even a vote on fast-track trade authority sought by the president, and a
majority of the Democratic caucus lines up against Obama’s
Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Progressives in both houses
demand bold action on jobs, on taxing and investing that the president
resists. Democrats revolt against the White House desire to trim Social
In fact, there is a fundamental debate brewing
in the party, grounded on very different perspectives that lead in
significantly different directions.
On one side are the passive
voice populists, which include both Clintons and Obama. They argue that
our Gilded Age inequality is the product of technology and
globalization, as if these were autonomous forces like the weather. The
effects — a declining middle class, stagnant wages, spreading misery —
can be ameliorated by sensible policies, like the agenda Sargent ticks
off. Most of all, Americans need to make certain the next generation
gets better education and training so they can better compete in the
global marketplace. Universal preschool is a first step to that. But the
largest thrust — driven by the party’s deep pocket donors — is an
assault on teacher’s unions and public schools, investment in charters,
public and private, and a focus on high-stakes testing to measure
teacher and school performance.
other night, a friend told me that he was trying to spend more time
taking cabs. This surprised me, because I happen to know this friend has
and that he's rather proud of how far he's walked under its watchful
electronic eye. (I'm being polite: you never just "happen to know" that a
friend has a Fitbit because they tell you on social media.)
Fitbit – if you've somehow managed to avoid this – is a little dingus
that records how many steps you take in a day and allows you to compete
with your friends for the most steps or to post the results to social
media. Aficionados will happily march aimlessly up and down the hallway
if it means narrowly edging out the next competitor on their
So why was a step-counting devotee actively trying to
walk less? "Look," he told me, "not all my shoes are comfortable. Some
of them are really nice. If I walk too far in nice shoes, my feet hurt.
So, I'm trying to take cabs."
It might be the first time I've
heard a Fitbit user say something akin to "I'm not going to walk more
right now, because I don't want to."
The Fitbit may have been the
first tracker of its kind to go really big – though pedometers have been
around for a while – but it has certainly many cousins. There are
devices to track your sleep patterns (though Fitbits will do this as
well), to keep an eye on your posture, to monitor your dog's activity levels, to analyze the fuel efficiency of your car or tweet your weight.
Perhaps emboldened by this profusion of interest in data, last month a company called Mark One launched the Vessyl,
a cup that analyzes the nutritional content of anything you put in it
and tracks your sugar, caffeine, and water consumption. And the KGoal, touted as a "Fitbit for your vagina", is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter.
The latter device looks like a silicone hand grenade and is designed to
record your progress as you do kegels, the exercise for pelvic floor
muscles that women do to improve childbirth, continence and – most
importantly, in my opinion – sexual pleasure. To emphasize that benefit,
the KGoal even vibrates when you're doing your exercises right.
the Fitbit, these newest health trackers don't come cheap; the Vessyl
has a $99 promotional price and you can preorder a KGoal for $125,
though the projected retail prices are $199 and $175, respectively. But,
hey, how much is too much to spend to know that you're drinking a soda
or clenching your vag?
This stuff all sounds a bit silly, but I'm
not enough of a curmudgeon to truly bemoan our national data fixation.
It's often easier to understand what to do with data than to evaluate
how you feel, and devices that can quantify your walking or blood
pressure or vaginal strength let you take advantage of that. If spending
$199 on a cup or $175 on a vagina grenade is the shortcut you need to
generate and pay attention to your caloric intake and pelvic floor
muscles, for instance, then godspeed. Plus, human brains respond
directly to feedback about bodily functions: watching your heartbeat
tracked on a monitor, for instance, gives you the ability to consciously
slow them down with uncanny ease, through which you can eventually
develop into a coping strategy for anxiety attacks and manage anger. Having access to biofeedback – real-time data about your body's functioning – has been shown to help people manage
migraines, high blood pressure and even epileptic seizures. It is a
powerful enough phenomenon that L Ron Hubbard essentially based a whole
religion on it: Scientology's e-meter is a biofeedback device. And, in the 1940s, Dr Arnold Kegel invented a biofeedback device
to help woman improve their pelvic floor muscle exercises and manage
urinary control – an obvious precursor to the kGoal, and the very origin
of the term "kegels".
But the pitfall of data devices –
and the external sharing of information that they encourage or require –
is that they hijack your reward pathways. Instead of walking because it
makes you feel good, or because it gets you out in the air or (my
personal favorite reason) because sometimes there is bonkers stuff to
see in between point A and point B, you walk in order to improve your
stats. This sometimes means you walk even if it's a bad idea – if your
shoes hurt, if you're not feeling well, if it's dangerously hot, if
you're running late – because doing otherwise will mean a black mark on
your record. Your stats will slide, and your stats (and the ability to
brag about them on social media) are your reward.
One friend tells
me that, when her office did a step-counting competition, she was
initially distressed because she couldn't adjust the pedometer's minimum
"success" condition below 10,000 steps: she has fibromyalgia and isn't
always up for that much walking every day. But, chastened by her
colleagues' successes, she ended up trying valiantly to make the daily
minimum – and subsequently spent at least one day per weekend asleep for
most of the day, and had to take extra medication for pain in her legs
I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.