Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Sex Abuse Scandals Plague Catholic Institutions -- Will the Church Ever Change?

Why do these abuses keep popping up even after earnest vows of reform from the church?

By Sarah Seltzer
March 29, 2011

It’s been years since the massive wave of Catholic clergy-abuse stories began to break, with victims speaking out and horrors uncovered. It’s true that instances of traumatizing sexual and physical abuse from clergy in many other religions and denominations have surfaced in the ensuing years, proving that the problem is hardly endemic to one religion or group of people. But in Catholic strongholds where abuse was widespread, the problem has been systemic, and the coverup attempts by the church are egregious and often premeditated and coordinated. Centralized hierarchies have led to centralized denial--until recent years, when there has been a centralized attempt to clean house.

Nowadays, the subject of child abuse by the clergy is often one broached by standup comedians and cynics. A disconnect is growing between the American Catholic church and its followers, and not just on this issue: study after study shows that Catholic laypeople are aligned with the rest of the American population--and against the church--when it comes to “social issues” abortion, especially birth control (which a vast majority use, directly countering church doctrine) and now even gay marriage.

Yet the clergy abuse stories continue to unfold in the arenas of church politics, law enforcement and the religious landscape. The last big scandal was in Wisconsin, when abuse at a school for the deaf was revealed, and more have surfaced since.

Just this week a record financial settlement was reached with abuse victims in the Northwest, while the Philadelphia abuse scandal continued. Last Friday alone, the New York Times published three separate stories about Catholic clergy abuse cases; a Google news search for “Catholic priest abuse” revealed ongoing or recently concluded cases in Connecticut, California, Tennessee and the Midwest--and these are just domestic cases. In Ireland, the entire nation remains up in arms about a “smoking gun” document which revealed, essentially, that the coverup of abuses there was sanctioned by the Vatican.

And that culture of denial and collusion that has been so slow to change may explain why these stories keep popping up even after earnest vows of reform from the church. A system that worked for decades one way may not be able to transform overnight--particularly when many of the power dynamics remain the same.

However to listen to Catholic organizations one would never guess that the Church has a problem with pedophilia and the sexual abuse of children that rivals that of NAMBLA.

Instead of honest reflection and prosecution of the guilty parties while taking steps to reform itself Catholic organizations are caught up in right wing religious crusades attacking women's reproductive rights as well as LGBT/T people basic human rights of equality and dignity.

The same week that Alternet ran the above article the following appeared at:

Exchanging the Truth of God for a Lie: Transgender Activists, Cultural Revolution

The Gender Identity Movement demands the recognition of a 'right' to choose one's gender and laws which accommodate, fund, and enforce such a 'right'

The "Gender Identity Movement" is dangerous. It is a part of a broader Cultural Revolution which substitutes an entirely different view of the dignity of the human person, human freedom, human flourishing, human sexuality, marriage and the family and the moral basis of a free society than that which formed Western Civilization.
Anyone who maintains that there is no reference to the rejection of homosexual practices in the Bible has to remove this entire chapter and many other biblical references. They must also get rid of early Church documents which uniformly condemn homosexual practices. Paul refers to these behaviors as resulting from "degrading passions". He details what happened as a result, "their females exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the males likewise gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another. Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own persons the due penalty for their perversity." (Romans 1:26, 27)

One sign of the decline of western civilization is not only the reemergence of such "degrading passions" and the behaviors which result, but a cultural revolution which now demands that these behaviors be recognized in the positive law and people engaging in them be given an equal legal status to marriage if they so request. Further, that the sexual acts involved in these behaviors, and the lifestyles chosen as a result, be called a civil right which the rest of society is compelled to accept and accommodate. One of the many fronts in this Cultural Revolution is called "transgender activism".

A Reuters news story of March 23, 2011 entitled "Transgender New Yorkers sue over birth certificates" reported "A group of transgender residents filed a lawsuit against New York City over what they say are burdensome requirements for them to change the gender on their birth certificates. The city's birth certificate requirements amount to discrimination for transgender residents, said Noah Lewis, an attorney representing the residents in the case. New York's Health Department requires residents to show proof of surgical procedures in order to change the gender status on a birth certificate.

In short we are expected to tolerate the misogyny and bigotry of an organization riddled with perverts who molest young children but Transsexual and Transgender people aren't supposed to be entitled to documents that make it easier, but by no means actually easy to live their lives with a modicum of dignity and a chance at equality.

Transgender and Transsexual people have more legitimacy than the Catholic Church.

The War On Child Labor Laws: Maine Republicans Want Longer Hours, Lower Pay For Kids

By Ian Millhiser
Mar 31st, 2011
Maine State Rep. David Burns is the latest of many Republican lawmakers concerned that employers aren’t allowed to do enough to exploit child workers:
LD 1346 suggests several significant changes to Maine’s child labor law, most notably a 180-day period during which workers under age 20 would earn $5.25 an hour.
The state’s current minimum wage is $7.50 an hour.
Rep. David Burns, R-Whiting, is sponsoring the bill, which also would eliminate the maximum number of hours a minor over 16 can work during school days.
Burns’ bill is particularly insidious, because it directly encourages employers to hire children or teenagers instead of adult workers. Because workers under 20 could be paid less than adults under this GOP proposal, minimum wage workers throughout Maine would likely receive a pink slip as their twentieth birthday present so that their boss could replace them with someone younger and cheaper.

And Burns is just one of many prominent Republicans who believe that America’s robust protections against the exploitation of children are wrongheaded:

Green Party is Right Wing’s New “Boogeyman”

March 31, 2011

Typically Democrats and Republicans (and the media) ignore the Green Party whenever possible, but lately there has been a shift in attention as conservative groups are starting to use the Green Party to scare and influence voters to vote for or against other candidates.

Case in point – the Wisconsin Supreme Court election on April 5. The conservative incumbent, David Prosser, has suddenly found himself in trouble in a race against Madison attorney JoAnne Kloppenburg, an Assistant Attorney General. The race has grown to major significance because the collective bargaining rights bill that the GOP passed will likely be addressed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court to determine whether it is legal. If Prosser retains his seat on the Supreme Court than a Conservative bloc will make that decision, while if Kloppenburg wins the race, a “Liberal” bloc will likely overturn the law. Consequently labor unions and others are throwing everything they have to get Kloppenburg elected.

Prosser and the the conservative groups that support him must be feeling the heat, and two weeks ago they began to go on the offensive against Kloppenburg. Among the many charges they have laid against her include her association with Ben Manski, the Green Party candidate for State Assembly who won 31% of the vote last November.

Here is what the Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce (a pro-business lobbying group) sent out in a fund raising letter last week:
WMC Issues Mobilization Council, Inc. is launching a television ad campaign to counter the distortions from government unions and their allies about Justice Prosser. Justice Prosser has been a solid, rule-of-law jurist who has taken on the activist wing of the court. Kloppenburg, who has never been a judge, has strong ties to Wisconsin’s extreme left, including endorsement by the former national co-chairman of the radical Green Party, Ben Manski.
Prosser himself has added the “Green Party Boogieman” to his talking points, using it on public radio interviews and at forums. Here is a quote from Prosser’s piece in the Madison Capital Times:

Indiana GOP Rep Says Women Will Pretend To Be Raped To Get Free Abortions

And some people wonder why I call the Republicans, women hating Nazis.

Mar 30th, 2011

Yesterday morning, the Indiana House considered an anti-abortion bill that “would put some of the tightest abortion restrictions in the nation into Indiana law.” Introduced by state Rep. Eric Turner (R), HB 1210 would make most abortions illegal after 20 weeks. Current law restricts abortions after the fetus is viable, generally around 24 weeks.

In an attempt to soften the blow this bill would land on Hoosier women, state Rep. Gail Riecken (D) introduced an amendment to exempt “women who became pregnant due to rape or incest, or women for whom pregnancy threatens their life or could cause serious and irreversible physical harm” from being forced to carry to term. Fearing this bill would “push women to the back alleys” for illegal abortions, Riecken pleaded with lawmakers to allow women to make the choice in these cases.

Turner then stepped to the podium and insisted that Riecken’s amendment would create a “giant loophole” for women. That loophole? Women “could simply say they’ve been raped”:
TURNER: With all do respect to Rep. Riecken, I understand what she’s trying to do. But as you know that when the federal health care bill was going through Congress there was a lot of discussion whether this would allow for abortion coverage and of course we were all told it would not. And the bill, my house bill 1210, would prevent that for any insurance company to provide abortion coverage under federal health care bill. This [amendment] would open that window and I would ask you to oppose this amendment.

I just want you to think about this, in my view, giant loophole that could be created where someone who could — now i want to be careful, I don’t want to disparage in any way someone who has gone through the experience of a rape or incest — but someone who is desirous of an abortion could simply say that they’ve been raped or there’s incest.

The Repair-Ware Revolution: Say Goodbye to Our Throwaway Culture and Hello to Fixing Stuff Yourself

There is a reason I build my own PCs from off the shelf parts and run the generic OEM Windows.  A. I know I can find replacement parts. B. The OEM windows will work with a different motherboard if  the original MB were to crap out.

A designer from the UK hopes to spark a 'repair-ware' craze that will inspire designers to build products we can actually fix ourselves.

By Ted Cox
March 24, 2011

Do you ever wish that products would last longer, and that they could be easily repaired when they break? So does Samuel Davies. Last week Treehugger linked to a sweet concept iron imagined by Davies, an industrial designer based in the UK. What makes his iron newsworthy? An accompanying diagram shows the iron with just 11 parts -- each of them designed to be repairable by the owner.

Davies dubbed the project "Repair-ware" and he hopes the concept spreads to other household products.

"I developed Repair-ware as a response to society's attitude of 'throwawayism'," wrote Davies in an email interview. "Consumers don't think twice about throwing products away and buying a new one when they cease to function properly, and perhaps rightly so when these products need a level of technical expertise to diagnose a problem or even just to open them up!"

The iron is just a concept for now, designed for his graduation project from Sheffield Hallam University.

"It was a conceptual project asking whether this could be a possible solution. I think the solution is an ideal that we should work toward, but the reality is that there are many issues which would make implementing the concept quite difficult," Davies wrote. "For example, passing safety standards would be much more difficult when inviting the user to expose internal components, although I have possible solutions to this in my design also."

He picked an iron as his first project as that particular appliance carries a reputation for being difficult to repair on fix-it-yourself Web sites like

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season Will Be Active, Have More U.S. Landfalls

By Gina Cherundolo and AccuWeather
March 30, 2011 Hurricane Center meteorologists, led by Meteorologist and Hurricane Forecaster Paul Pastelok, are predicting an active season for 2011 with more impact on the U.S. coastline than last year.

The team is forecasting a total of 15 named tropical storms, eight of which will attain hurricane status and three of which will attain major hurricane status (Category 3 or higher).

In a normal year, there are 10 tropical storms, six of which become hurricanes and two of which become major hurricanes, or attain winds that exceed 110 mph.

2010's historic season had a total of 19 named storms and ranks as the third most active season on record, but there was little impact on the United States coastline. Twelve of these storms became hurricanes, five of which were major hurricanes. Two names from the 2010 season were retired on March 16.

"It looks like we're going to have more impact on the mainland of the U.S. coming up this year compared to last year," Pastelok said. "We had a lot of storms last year, but not a lot of impact [on the U.S.]."

Nebraska Denies Prenatal Care to Undocumented Women

More  proof that Republicans aren't pro-life but are really just woman hating misogynistic racist scum.

By Jen Phillips
Wed Mar. 30, 2011

So much for being pro-life. Nebraska, the state that outlawed nearly all abortions past 20 weeks, eliminated prenatal care for about 1600 Medicaid patients last March. A year later, the results are stark: at least five babies have died and more women are foregoing prenatal care, with sometimes tragic consequences. As the Lincoln Journal Star reports:
At least five babies have died. Women are traveling 155 miles to get prenatal care. Babies have been delivered at clinics, in ambulances and hospital emergency rooms... About half of the women dropped from the program are undocumented. Those babies are U.S. citizens as soon as they are born and will automatically qualify for Medicaid health services upon delivery.
At the Good Neighbor Community Health Center in Columbus, the number of female patients has doubled, and the income for the prenatal program has dropped drastically, said Rebecca Rayman, executive director. Women are coming to the center from 22 counties. Even with shifting money from other programs, the clinic finished 2010 losing $167,530. Four infants died in utero at the Columbus health center, she said. In the previous seven years, the clinic had never had an in utero death.

Maine GOP Legislators Looking To Loosen Child Labor Laws

More proof that Republicans are elitist scum who hate working people.

Amanda Terkel

WASHINGTON -- Far from places like Ohio and Wisconsin, Maine has become a new battleground in the labor fight. Gov. Paul LePage (R) recently sparked the anger of the union community by ordering a mural depicting workers throughout the state's history removed from the Department of Labor. Now, Republican members of the state legislature are attempting to loosen child labor laws that the community fought hard to put into place.

The minimum wage in Maine is $7.50 an hour, and there is no training or subminimum wage for students. But under a new piece of legislation introduced in the state's House of Representatives, employers would be able to pay anyone under the age of 20 as little as $5.25 an hour for their first 180 days on the job.

The bill, LD 1346, also eliminates the maximum number of hours a minor 16 years of age or older can work on a school day and allows a minor under the age of 16 to work up to four hours on a school day during hours when school is not in session.

With Maine's unemployment above 7 percent, state Rep. Paul Gilbert (D) wonders why Republicans are pushing to create a pool of cheap labor when so many people are begging for jobs.

"If we had a shortage of job applicants or potential workers, then you could look at other populations to ease that strain on the workforce," Gilbert told The Huffington Post. "But we don't have that right now. We have an excess of job applicants here in Maine, as well across the country."

Republicans Conjuring Up the Spirit of Joe McCarthy

Now you just know the neo-Nazis of the Republican Party love everything about the professional scumbag Joe McCarthy, so why should their eagerness to engage in the same sort of Witch Hunting come as any surprise.

Perhaps they can have all of their Christo-Fascist closet cases buddies engage in some  buggery in a bus station Tea room in honor of Roy Cohn.

Conservative Think Tank Seeks Michigan Profs' Emails About Wisconsin Union Battle ... And Maddow
Evan McMorris-Santoro
March 29, 2011

A free enterprise think tank in Michigan -- backed by some of the biggest names in national conservative donor circles -- has made a broad public records request to at least three in-state universities with departments that specialize in the study of labor relations, seeking all their emails regarding the union battle in Wisconsin, Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) and MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, TPM has learned.

According to professors subject to the request, filed under Michigan's version of the Freedom Of Information Act, the request is extremely rare in academic circles. An employee at the think tank requesting the emails tells TPM they're part of an investigation into what labor studies professors at state schools in Michigan are saying about the situation in Madison, Wisc., the epicenter of the clashes between unions and Republican-run state governments across the Midwest.

One professor subject to the FOIA described it as anti-union advocates "going after folks they don't agree with."

The Mackinac Center For Public Policy, based in Midland, Mich., submitted the FOIA requests last Friday and Monday to the Labor Studies Center at the University of Michigan and the Douglas A. Fraser Center for Workplace Issues at Wayne State University. A third FOIA was directed to Michigan State University, which has a School of Human Resources & Labor Relations.

The requests specifically seek emails from all labor studies faculty at each school.

The Mackinac Center For Public Policy describes itself as a "nonpartisan research and educational institute" focused on providing free market "solutions to state and local policy questions" in Michigan. The center does not disclose its donors but  according to recent reporting by Mother Jones, Mackinac "is part of a network of state-based groups associated with the Heritage Foundation."

American Thought Police

Published: March 27, 2011

Recently William Cronon, a historian who teaches at the University of Wisconsin, decided to weigh in on his state’s political turmoil. He started a blog, “Scholar as Citizen,” devoting his first post to the role of the shadowy American Legislative Exchange Council in pushing hard-line conservative legislation at the state level. Then he published an opinion piece in The Times, suggesting that Wisconsin’s Republican governor has turned his back on the state’s long tradition of “neighborliness, decency and mutual respect.”

So what was the G.O.P.’s response? A demand for copies of all e-mails sent to or from Mr. Cronon’s university mail account containing any of a wide range of terms, including the word “Republican” and the names of a number of Republican politicians.

If this action strikes you as no big deal, you’re missing the point. The hard right — which these days is more or less synonymous with the Republican Party — has a modus operandi when it comes to scholars expressing views it dislikes: never mind the substance, go for the smear. And that demand for copies of e-mails is obviously motivated by no more than a hope that it will provide something, anything, that can be used to subject Mr. Cronon to the usual treatment.

The Cronon affair, then, is one more indicator of just how reflexively vindictive, how un-American, one of our two great political parties has become.

The demand for Mr. Cronon’s correspondence has obvious parallels with the ongoing smear campaign against climate science and climate scientists, which has lately relied heavily on supposedly damaging quotations found in e-mail records.

The GOP's Absurd Plan for the Economy: Lowering YOUR Wages

The GOP is embracing some very dangerous voodoo economics.

By Joshua Holland
March 28, 2011

Earlier this month, House Republicans laid out a perverse plan to lower working Americans' wages, supposedly in a bid to get employers to hire more of them (PDF). One would be hard-pressed to find a better example of the “race to the bottom.”

 Republican staffers on the Joint Economic Committee released the study in response to widespread criticism that the deep public sector cuts they've advocated threaten to derail an already anemic “recovery” -- economist Mark Zandi estimated last month that if enacted, the spending cuts would cost the U.S. economy 700,000 jobs through 2012.

So, as Tim Fernholz and Jim Tankersley wrote in the National Journal, the GOP report “makes the party’s ... case that fiscal consolidation (read: spending cuts) can spur immediate economic growth and reduce unemployment.”

The paper calls for cuts that are “large, credible, and politically difficult to reverse once made,” and offers a typical conservative fantasy about shuttering entire federal agencies. But topping the list of what should be on the Republicans' chopping block is “decreasing the number and compensation of government workers,” which the staffers say will spur job creation because “a smaller government workforce increases the available supply of educated, skilled workers for private firms, thus lowering labor costs.”

“Labor costs,” of course mean “wages” – Americans' paychecks. So, a central plank in the GOP's economic recovery plan is to flood the market with yet more unemployed people in order to drive wages (which have stagnated for an extended period) further down.

Dukes v. Wal-Mart and the Importance of Class Action Lawsuits in Addressing Systemic Sex Discrimination in the Workplace

By Jennifer Clark and Ariane Hegewisch
March 29, 2011

The Supreme Court heard arguments on Tuesday to decide whether the lower courts rightly certified the one million or more women at Wal-Mart as a class. According to Wal-Mart’s own salary data, women earn on average $1,100 per year less than men, differences that cannot be explained by experience or performance, and women are much less likely to get promotions than men. 

An unprecedented number of amicus curiae (or ‘friend of the court’) briefs were submitted to the court, from groups as varied as the Chamber of Commerce, the NAACP, and the American Sociological Association, as well as the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Below is a roundup of resources that break down what is at stake, not just for the million-plus women affected by this specific lawsuit, but for the country’s ability to address systemic employment discrimination.

New Research

Key to the Wal-Mart case is not just whether the class should be certified, but on which basis it should be certified. The lower courts certified the case on the basis of ‘injunctive relief,’ which asks primarily for changes to personnel policies and practices to prevent future discrimination; it does not ask primarily for monetary damages (although the women would still be entitled to get back pay for any discrimination they suffered).  This approach is what Wal-Mart and its proponents take issue with. They argue that if there was class certification, then the certification should be on the basis of monetary damages—a procedure that requires, as it happens, a much higher burden of proof than certification on the basis of injunctive relief. Wal-Mart also claims that class certification is not necessary in the first place, because if there were discrimination anywhere, Wal-Mart reasons, then it could be tackled just as effectively by each woman suing Wal-Mart on her own.

Ending Sex and Race Discrimination in the Workplace: Legal Interventions That Push the Envelope, a new report released yesterday from IWPR, finds otherwise. The report reviews injunctive relief in over 500 court-supervised employment discrimination settlements—also known as consent decrees—involving alleged sex and/or race discrimination in employment. The report finds that class action lawsuits are much more likely than other settlements to introduce changes to make a long term and sustained impact on discrimination. For instance, over 70 percent of certified class action settlements, compared to five percent of other settlements, mandate the introduction of objective and transparent criteria for job assignments and promotions. Lack of posting of promotion opportunities, or of criteria for being admitted to the training programs that were essential requirements for promotions, is a key complaint by women at Wal-Mart. More information on employment discrimination consent decrees are available on IWPR’s website.

Barney Frank, Jared Polis and George Miller to Introduce ENDA in House

by SheWired Editors
Article Date: 03/30/2011

Rep. Barney Frank and colleagues will introduce the Employment Non-Discrimination Act in the House on Wednesday — a bill that Frank described in a statement as a "difficult but winnable fight."

The prospects of the bill, which would cover sexual orientation and gender identity in federal employment antidiscrimination laws – are bleak in the current Republican-controlled House, though Frank said that the bill is an "important vehicle" for "a serious lobbying effort."

Rep. Frank will be joined by Reps. Jared Polis and George Miller in introducing the legislation Wednesday.
Here is the press release from Frank's office:

WASHINGTON -- On Wednesday morning, March 30th, Congressman Barney Frank and other prominent Members of the House of Representatives will make an important announcement about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

The legislation would extend federal employment laws, which currently prevent job discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, national origin, age, and disability, to also cover sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill applies both to the public and private sectors.

On the night before the event, Frank said that “passing an inclusive ENDA is a difficult but winnable fight – winnable if supported by a serious lobbying effort. The bill we are about to introduce provides an important vehicle for that effort.”

Main Street moves against Wall Street

At last, the first signs that politicians are heeding popular anger at the austerity measures imposed to pay for bankers' greed

Published on March 28, 2011

When the current economic crisis hit, the Obama campaign blew away Bush and McCain by promising hope, change and a solution that would overcome this crisis and prevent future crises. Likewise, some governments in Europe came to power based on public fear reacting to the global meltdown. Ongoing crisis, mass economic pain and deepening public anger keep shifting political winds.

Within six months of Barrack Obama's election, those winds had changed again. His liberal campaign rhetoric had hit a wall. What humbled Obama was the determination of business interests to shift onto others the costs of the crisis and of the government's response, namely its hugely expensive bailout of major corporations especially in finance. We watched and learned who was really in charge of how this economic crisis would be "managed".

There would not be a 2011 rise in the federal income tax rate from 35 to 39% for the richest Americans (even though it had been 91% in the 1960s). There would be no legal or other requirement that corporate beneficiaries use their bailout billions in economically and socially useful ways (rather than only for their private profits). There would be no federal employment programme, no matter how high the US unemployment rate went, nor how long workers remained unemployed. There would be no real programme to lift wages or otherwise offset millions of homeowners' inability to make mortgage payments even if that omission meant that the housing market would tank again – the double dip downward in that crucial industry is now under way.

US governments at all levels (city, state and federal) dared not raise taxes on businesses or the rich – even as their general tax revenues fell because of unemployment and consequent reductions in incomes and consumers' expenditures. The federal government also slowed its borrowing. Reduced taxes plus reduced borrowings cut the funds all governments had to spend. Political leaders mostly responded by curtailing employees (worsening unemployment) and social services. Federal officials justified no more borrowing by pointing to the trillions added to the national debt since 2007 to finance Washington's "crisis response" programme. State and local officials just restated the usual homilies about "living within our means" – as if doing so would alleviate the problems caused by the economic crisis.

Global Crunch in Supplies of Key Fertilizer Could Threaten Food Supply and Raise Prices

Newswise — WASHINGTON, March 27, 2011 — Global production of phosphorus fertilizer could peak and decline later this century, causing shortages and price spikes that jeopardize world food production, five major scientific societies warned today. The crisis will come at a time when Earth’s population may surge past 9 billion.

Rice, corn, wheat and other staple food crops require phosphorus, which along with nitrogen and potassium, is one of the three key fertilizer substances that sustain world food supply. Projections indicate that world population will rise from 6.8 billion today to 8.9 billion in 2050.

Chemistry for a Sustainable Global Society warns not only about “peak phosphorus” — an echo of the more familiar concerns about “peak oil” — but raises red flags about the supply of other natural resources where monopolies or political instability could cut off supplies or inflate prices. They include rare earth elements (REEs) and precious metals like lithium, platinum and palladium that are needed to produce computers, mobile phones, rechargeable batteries, solar cells, fuel cells, medications, pollution control devices for cars and other key products.

“It is a national security concern for many nations that a small group of countries control the remaining stocks of many precious and vital resources,” the white paper states. “Politically motivated national policies restricting export of certain minerals are already being put into practice. Limited availability and high prices of scarce natural resources will quickly start to affect industries across many different sectors.”

North Carolina bill would prohibit cities from upgrading Internet access

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

The Republican-dominated North Carolina State Assembly this week approved a bill that would prohibit communities from upgrading their internet access, forcing individual municipalities into a private monopoly of managed broadband services by companies like Time Warner and Comcast.

Both firms have been restricting the amount of bandwidth users can consume, even though bandwidth itself is not a tangible, meter-able commodity.

The bill, which was heavily supported by telecom giant Time Warner, comes on the heels of several communities successfully launching their own fiber-optic broadband programs. One program in Wilson, North Carolina, called Greenlight, even features speeds up to 100 Megabits-per-second (Mbps) at a lower price than its corporate competitors.

That's because Greenlight is a public utility, instead of a profits-making scheme, that places access and quality of service above harvesting dollars off customers. Instead of focusing on margins or how to impose fees on metered bandwidth use, they're able to focus on simply providing the best the Internet has to offer.

Prior to the arrival of Greenlight, most Internet users in Wilson only had access to 7 Mbps speeds, at a much higher price than the public utility's plans. For about the same price as the slower connection, Greenlight users get access to 20 Mbps speeds, with options to upgrade to 100M for about $150 a month.

However, in a Monday night vote, North Carolina assemblymen voted 81-37 to bring that to a halt, banning any other communities from upgrading their own connections and forcing them to continue patronizing private providers.

Grayson on Gov. Scott: "We'll all have to bend over... and cough."

Garden As If Your Life Depended On It, Because It Does

As someone who lived in the 1960s and 1970s counter-culture I remember what it was like to be part of a multi-faceted movement rather than the narrowly focused identity politics of today. One can be a feminist, support workers rights, be anti-war, garden, support LGBT/T rights, practice yoga or the martial arts, be interested in the role of art in both life and politics and so much more, in a manner that is a way of life.

Taking back control of your own life from the corporate interests, claiming your dignity and rights requires creating an alternative to the pre-packaged crap we are sold on credit.

There are at least five reasons why more of us should take up the spade, make some compost, and start gardening with a vengeance.

By Ellen LaConte
March 29, 2011

Spring has sprung -- at least south of the northern tier of states where snow still has a ban on it -- and the grass has 'riz. And so has the price of most foods, which is particularly devastating just now when so many Americans are unemployed, underemployed, retired or retiring, on declining or fixed incomes and are having to choose between paying their mortgages, credit card bills, car payments, and medical and utility bills and eating enough and healthily. Many are eating more fast food, prepared foods, junk food -- all of which are also becoming more expensive -- or less food.

In some American towns, and not just impoverished backwaters, as many as 30 percent of residents can't afford to feed themselves and their families sufficiently, let alone nutritiously. Here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina where I live it's 25 percent. Across the country one out of six of the elderly suffers from malnutrition and hunger. And the number of children served one or two of their heartiest, healthiest meals by their schools grows annually as the number of them living at poverty levels tops 20 percent. Thirty-seven million Americans rely on food banks that now routinely sport half-empty shelves and report near-empty bank accounts. And this is a prosperous nation!

In some cases this round of price hikes on everything from cereal and steak to fresh veggies and bread -- and even the flour that can usually be bought cheaply to make it -- will be temporary. But over the long term the systems that have provided most Americans with a diversity, quantity and quality of foods envied by the rest of the world are not going to be as reliable as they were.

What's for Supper Down the Road?

Gay Scientists Isolate Christian Gene

Thanks to Sherry Wolf on Facebook

Republicans Hate Hard Working Americans: Vote to Kill Main Obama Foreclosure Aid

By Corbett B. Daly, Reuters
30 March 11

Republicans in the US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to kill President Barack Obama's signature program to help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure.

A bill to terminate the program was approved on a 252-170 vote. But the bill is unlikely to clear the Senate.
It was the last in series of four measures brought forward by newly empowered House Republicans to end government assistance for homeowners hurt by the housing crisis.

Republicans argued the foreclosure prevention plan, known as the Home Affordable Modification Program, is ineffective and not worthy of taxpayer support amid soaring budget deficits. The vote broke largely along party lines.

The program, which offers incentives for lenders to modify loans, was launched to great fanfare in the spring of 2009. The Obama administration had hoped it would permanently lower mortgage payments for 3 million to 4 million homeowners.

But fewer than 600,000 borrowers have received permanent loan modifications, and the program has been widely criticized as ineffective from critics on both the left and the right.

"The HAMP program is a failure," said Representative Patrick McHenry, the North Carolina Republican who sponsored the bill. "If we can't eliminate this failed program, what program can we eliminate?"

Analysts see the votes as an effort by Republicans, who last seized control of the House in an election in November with an anti-bailout, anti-spending message, to score points with their political base.

Holly Near Performs "Gentle Angry People" at March For Women's Lives

Suddenly Death Panels want to Screw the Working People by Raising the Age of Medicare Eligibility to 67

Then successive Republicans followed the same practice of borrowing money from the Social Security Trust Fund so they could put money in the pockets of the undeserving rich in the form of tax cuts, tax rebates and write-offs.

Now they want to fuck the hard working American People by raising the age at which we can collect Social Security or get Medicare.  Never mind the fact that people over fifty are among the under-employed and unemployed with no health insurance at a time when we are starting to desperately need health care for a wide variety of age related health issues including cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes, high cholesterol and hypertension.

It is almost as though the Republicans have Death Panels establishing plans to euthanize the elderly working class people.

I about choked on my coffee this morning while reading the paper, when I saw the following story:
BTW:  We could save a shit load of money by ending Faith Based Initiatives and closing a bunch of overseas military bases.

Medicare Could Save $7.6B by Raising Eligibility Age to 67

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media,
March 29, 2011

Raising the Medicare eligibility age from 65 to 67 in 2014 would generate about $7.6 billion in net savings to the federal government, but it would add $5.6 billion in out-of-pocket costs for 65- and 66-year-olds, and $4.5 billion in employer retiree healthcare costs, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation study.

The study – Raising the Age of Medicare Eligibility: A Fresh Look Following Implementation of Health Reform – examines the potential changes suggested in several deficit reduction plans.

The study also estimates that raising the Medicare eligibility age would raise premiums by 3% for those who remain on Medicare and for those who get coverage through health reform's new insurance exchanges. The study assumes both full implementation of the Affordable Care Act and the higher eligibility age in 2014.

Among the estimated five million affected 65- and 66-year-olds, about three in four would pay an average of $2,400 more for their healthcare in 2014 than they would have paid if covered under Medicare, the study said. Nearly one in four are expected to have lower out-of-pocket spending, mainly due to the ACA's coverage expansions through Medicaid and the premium tax credits available to low- and middle-income Americans.

"Raising Medicare's age of eligibility would obviously reduce Medicare spending, but would also shift costs onto seniors and employers, and increase costs elsewhere on the federal ledger," said Kaiser Family Foundation Vice President Tricia Neuman. "This analysis drives home the tough policy choices that lie ahead when Washington gets serious about reducing the federal deficit."

How come tough choices on balancing the budget all ways seem to involve suffering on the part of the working class.  For once I'd like to see some serious sacrifice on the part of the rich.

I'm sick and tired of Class War being a one sided fucking affair.

Class War! Not just for the rich anymore...

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Anti-Choice Religious Bloc Began With Tax Battle

It is important to remember that the Religious Right is not only anti-choice, but misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and racist.

It is religious in the same way the KKK's cross burnings are religious.

But even more insidious is how it not only pays no taxes but is subsidized by American Tax payers including atheists like me who would never give a dime to fund any sort of religious institution or charity.

Consider the following articles:

Anti-Choice Religious Bloc Began With Tax Battle

By Carol Roye
WeNews commentator
Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The religious right's righteous condemnation of abortion began with anti-integration, anti-taxation efforts in the 1970s, says Carol Roye. Along the way it turned into the current assault on the needs of women and children.

(WOMENSENEWS)--The torrent of moral rhetoric that accompanies the current spate of anti-abortion bills would make you think that conservative Christians have never looked on abortion as anything short of evil.

Think again.

In 1971 (two years before the Supreme Court constitutionally protected a woman's right to abortion in Roe v. Wade) the Southern Baptist Convention--which wound up becoming synonymous with the religious right and its anti-choice movement--issued a resolution that might surprise you.

It called for legalizing abortion in cases of "rape, incest, clear evidence of severe fetal deformity, and carefully ascertained evidence of the likelihood of damage to the emotional, mental, and physical health of the mother."
The group was responding to grim statistics. Every year several hundred women (many of them already mothers) died from botched abortions and thousands more were seriously injured attempting to end their unwanted pregnancies. The Southern Baptists were taking a moral stand in order to protect women and their families.

Abortion wasn't a concern for the Christian right until the mid-1970s.

Jerry Falwell, the founder of the Moral Majority, did not preach a sermon on abortion until 1978.
The bedrock issue for evangelical Christians had always been simple--preserving the separation between church and state. Since colonial days, Baptists in America had insisted on this, believing that the Kingdom of God and the world of government each function better when kept apart. That's a far cry from today, when religious activists are doing all they can to control public health policy.

To understand how outlawing abortion became such a central cause, a brief history of the period can be cribbed from the book "With God On Our Side" by William Martin.

First Mobilized in the 1970s

The Christian right first mobilized in the 1970s in response to a tax issue tied to white Southern Christian groups' antipathy to school desegregation.

After school integration became federal law, white Christian academies were formed in the South, in part to circumvent the law, enabling white parents to send their children to all-white religious schools.

During the Carter administration the IRS said these academies should be denied tax-exempt status because they did not conform to the law on school integration.

To fight back, some fundamentalist and evangelical groups came together.

This represented a joining of quite different sects. Fundamentalists believe that the Bible is the literal, true word of God. Evangelicals, on the other hand, have shades of gray in their belief system, allowing for a more nuanced approach to some scientific issues, such as climate change and evolution.

But in fighting for tax-exempt status for their all-white religious schools, important factions of the groups united to form the religious right.

They became very adept at raising money to advocate for their cause, and they became powerful. The IRS ultimately relented and allowed them to keep their tax exemption.

Lately cutting aid to students, especially in the form of Pell Grants has become a big deal.

One would think that since conservative Christian groups are among the most vocal advocates of these cuts they would not be lining up at the trough to feed like greedy little piglets, but this is not the case.

Liberty tops state in federal aid for its students

Online enrollment spurs big increase in assistance 

By Liz Barry
Published: March 27, 2011

Liberty University students received approximately $445 million in federal financial aid money last fiscal year, according to U.S. Department of Education data, making LU the top recipient in Virginia.

The rapid growth of Liberty’s online program has fueled the increased reliance on federal aid dollars, said Robert Ritz, LU’s executive director of financial aid.

Last year, Liberty enrolled about 52,000 online students, plus another 12,000 through its residential programs.

“It has ballooned,” said Ritz of Liberty’s financial aid volume. “In some categories, I’ve seen us rank no. 3 nationally, or in the top ten. It’s because of our size and the growth.”

In the span of a year, Liberty’s experienced about a 56 percent spike in federal student aid, from $284 million in 2008-2009 to $445 million in 2009-2010, according to Department of Education data compiled by The News & Advance.  (LU calculates the total aid at $432 million and $277 million, still a 56 percent increase.)
The $445 million included $385.9 million in student loans. The rest came in the form of grants and other student aid like work-study.

Contributing to the rise were the faltering economy, the federal stimulus program and the government’s expansion of the Pell grant program, Ritz said. Last year, Liberty received upwards of $55 million in Pell money, ranking 28th in the nation and no. 1 in Virginia. The Pell program serves the country’s neediest students.

In some financial aid programs, Liberty was a top ten recipient nationwide.

For example, LU was the eighth highest recipient of Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) money last year, topping more than 4,000 other colleges and universities.

One of two major federal loan programs, FFEL allowed students to borrow government-backed money from banks and other lenders. Liberty was the lone Evangelical Christian school on a top-ten list dominated by for-profit institutions. Other top recipients were the University of Phoenix and Kaplan University.
For Ritz — a financial aid veteran who got his start at a small Bible college — Liberty’s use of federal financial aid does not run counter to the university’s conservative values. Liberty does not receive the federal money directly, Ritz said, but through students, who use it to pay for tuition, room and board and other expenses.

Why are tax payers dollars being used to fund church based education?  what ever happened to the wall of separation articulated by the founding fathers?

Something similar is happening with the right wing attempts to discredit and defund Planned Parenthood, which does far more than provide abortion services and is often the only low cost medical provider offering health care services to women that include such matters as cancer screening.

At the same time the right wing is  pushing for funding of "Abortion alternative" aka Crisis Pregnancy Centers, which offer little or no qualified health care and which function to disseminate   right wing religious propaganda and misinformation.

Repeated studies have shown that Sex Education that provides honest wide ranging sex education and frank discussion cuts down on unplanned pregnancies, STDs and lessens sexual ignorance regarding not only heterosexual issues but LGBT/T issues.

The right wing has argued that legitimate Sex Education infringes on the rights of "religious people" and should not be funded.

At the same time they push for faith based Abstinence Only programs which have been shown to result in greater numbers of unplanned pregnancies and abortions and greater numbers of STDs.

Perhaps it is time for us to look into the cost savings benefits of defunding all these failed faith based programs.

At the same time perhaps all faith based programs should be held to the same Civil Rights Standards of Compliance and Non-Discrimination that secular institutions are held to.