Thursday, January 31, 2013

Catholic bishops: Gays make good parents but still must not marry

From Gay Star News:

Bishops from the Roman Catholic Church of England and Wales have outlined their reasons why gay couples should not get married

By Joe Morgan
30 January 2013

The Catholic Church in England and Wales has said gay people may make good parents but must still be banned from marriage.

Bishops have outlined their reasons why they believe same-sex couples should not be allowed to get married.

In the document published in the Catholic Herald, it states: ‘We recognize that many same-sex couples raise children in loving and caring homes.

‘Nevertheless, marriage has an identity that at its core is distinct from any other legally recognised relationship, no matter how much love or commitment may be involved in these other relationships.
‘Marriage has, over the centuries, been the enduring public recognition of this commitment to provide a stable institution for the care and protection of children, and it has rightly been recognised as unique and worthy of legal protection for this reason.

‘Marriage furthers the common good of society because it promotes a unique relationship within which children are conceived, born and reared, an institution that we believe benefits children.’

The bishops also say refusing marriage to same-sex couples is not discriminatory, as gay couples already have civil partnerships.

Despite the differences between civil partnerships and marriages, they say ‘it is not unequal or unfair to treat those in different circumstances differently.’

Complete article at:

Inside Ex-Gay Therapy: Homosexual Behavior Is A Fantasy Addiction To A Wounded Gender Identity

From Think Progress:

By Zack Ford
on Jan 29, 2013

Joseph Nicolosi, founder of ex-gay group NARTH and trainer of many other ex-gay therapists, is back with another brief article attempting to explain his perspective on the nature of homosexuality. Earlier this month, he explained that his patients can get over their supposed “addiction” to gay porn by simply making friends with more men. This week, he offers a convoluted description of homosexual behavior as an addiction to acting out a fantasy that compensates for a wounded gender identity:
Joyce McDougall has investigated the central role of “theatre and role-playing” in non-typical forms of sexual activity, including homosexuality. She is among the few contemporary psychoanalysts willing to study such forms of sexuality. McDougall understands “sexual theatre” as an acting-out of intrapsychic sexual forces in a symbolic attempt to resolve an identity conflict. In this regard she confirms the classic psychoanalytic understanding of “perverse” (as the term was used in previous years) sexual activity as being rooted in identity confusion. Noting the repetitive-compulsive nature of these role enactments, McDougall found that while her patients complain about the constrained structure of these “erotic theatre pieces,” they could not abstain from their enactments: “…and have to do it again and again and again” (McDougall, 2000, p.182).
What Nicolosi is trying to suggest is that gay people (and “the extreme case of transsexuals”) were somehow sent the wrong messages by their parents about how they are supposed to understand their own gender. This leads to a sense of inner conflict that they then address through compulsively trying to fulfill that “false” identity. Essentially, he thinks that gay people are just actors cast in the wrong role who don’t know how escape the performance because they believe they are trying to fix some kind of “past trauma” by acting it out.

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See also Think Progress:  Ex-Gay Leader Explains Bizarre Interpretation Of Gay Porn

Scientology and the cloak of religion

From CBC Canada:

By Neil Macdonald Jan 30, 2013

Scientology is a religion. Of that there is no doubt.

The U.S. Internal Revenue Service says so, and in this country, that's pretty much the final word.

The designation means a lot legally, but as a matter of objective fact it is neither a laurel nor a pejorative.

It merely lumps Scientology in with all the other belief systems, from the Big Three of monotheism, with their billions of followers and hundreds of sub-sects, right down to self-proclaimed prophets seeking to found new faiths.

To each his own gods and rituals. For those of us who live wholly in the secular world, no religious doctrine is more or less credible, or worthy of ridicule, than any other.

The law must look upon all religious belief with indifference, and does, at least in most Western nations.

But, after reading Lawrence Wright's searing new investigative book, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, my usual indifference has given way to concern.

On second thought, make that fright. And not just about L. Ron Hubbard's secretive army of adherents.

Because Wright's book demonstrates in granular detail what an organization with enough money and zealous acolytes can do once it has wrapped itself in a religious cloak: assault, conspire, burgle, forge, perjure, spy, bully and intimidate anyone who gets in its way.

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Churches threaten to pull funding if Boy Scouts drop anti-gay ban

From Salon:

About 70 percent of Scout troops are sponsored by faith-based organizations. Many are threatening to break ties

Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013

The Boy Scouts of America announced earlier this week that they are considering an end to their decades-long ban on gay members, leaving it to regional and local councils to dictate membership guidelines on sexuality.

The news was met with cheers from scouts across the country who have been banned from the organization after coming out, but many conservative and religious leaders are angry about what they see as the organization abandoning its long-standing commitment to biblical principles.

“If that is what the leadership is doing, then I think it will be a sad day in the life of the Boy Scouts of America,” Fred Luter, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the Baptist Press. “This is a tradition that so many of us across the country grew up in. We were in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts in elementary school, and this organization has always stood for biblical principles — all the things that grounded our lives as a young kid growing up. To now see this organization that I thought stood on biblical principles about to give in to the politically correct thing is very disappointing.”

About 70 percent of all Boy Scout troops are sponsored by faith-based organizations, with the Southern Baptists, Catholic Church, Lutheran Church, United Methodist Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints representing the most troops, according to Fox News.

And many are suggesting they will break financial and membership ties with the organization if the policy goes through.

“Churches of all faiths and denominations, including Southern Baptist churches, will be forced to reevaluate whether they can, in good conscience, continue to host Scout troops given that the Scouts appear poised to turn their backs on this clear biblical and moral issue,” Roger Oldham, spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, said.

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The Rise of the Permanent Temp Economy

From The New York Times:

January 26, 2013

Politicians across the political spectrum herald “job creation,” but frightfully few of them talk about what kinds of jobs are being created. Yet this clearly matters: According to the Census Bureau, one-third of adults who live in poverty are working but do not earn enough to support themselves and their families.

A quarter of jobs in America pay below the federal poverty line for a family of four ($23,050). Not only are many jobs low-wage, they are also temporary and insecure. Over the last three years, the temp industry added more jobs in the United States than any other, according to the American Staffing Association, the trade group representing temp recruitment agencies, outsourcing specialists and the like.

Low-wage, temporary jobs have become so widespread that they threaten to become the norm. But for some reason this isn’t causing a scandal. At least in the business press, we are more likely to hear plaudits for “lean and mean” companies than angst about the changing nature of work for ordinary Americans.

How did we arrive at this state of affairs? Many argue that it was the inevitable result of macroeconomic forces — globalization, deindustrialization and technological change — beyond our political control. Yet employers had (and have) choices. Rather than squeezing workers, they could have invested in workers and boosted product quality, taking what economists call the high road toward more advanced manufacturing and skilled service work. But this hasn’t happened. Instead, American employers have generally taken the low road: lowering wages and cutting benefits, converting permanent employees into part-time and contingent workers, busting unions and subcontracting and outsourcing jobs. They have done so, in part, because of the extraordinary evangelizing of the temp industry, which rose from humble origins to become a global behemoth.

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Report: Nearly Half of Americans Have No Safety Net to Keep Them Out of Poverty

From Alternet:

Nearly a third of Americans live with no savings account at all.

By Lauren Kelley
January 30, 2013

A new report reveals a fact that too many Americans are familiar with first-hand: nearly half of the nation's residents have no safety net to protect them from falling into poverty in the event of a layoff or other financial misfortune.

The recently published Assets & Opportunities Scorecard from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) shows that "[n]early 44 percent of Americans don't have enough savings or other liquid assets to stay out of poverty for more than three months if they lose their income," as NPR summarized. At the same time, nearly a third of Americans live with no savings account at all.
The nonprofit [CFED] tries to help low- and moderate-income families achieve the American dream. The group's president, Andrea Levere, says that's not easy when all your energy goes into paying the rent and buying food.

"It's only when you have those basic needs satisfied that you then can think, 'How do I make sure I have the best education for my children? How do I make sure I have the skills I need to be more competitive in the workplace?' " says Levere.
Complete article at:

FBI's Stuxnet investigation to target journalists?

Can a Small Community Throw a Monkey Wrench into the Global Fracking Machine?

From Who What Why:

on Jan 29, 2013

While New Yorkers anxiously await Governor Andrew Cuomo’s decision on whether to lift the state’s de facto moratorium on high-volume slick-water horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” Woodstock, the iconic counter-culture capital of the world, has become the first municipality to call for legislation to make fracking a Class C felony.

Woodstock’s action is just one small town’s response to a rapidly escalating global war over fracking. To both sides in this war—environmentalists and citizens who oppose fracking on the one side and the gas industry and its supporters on the other—the upcoming ruling to allow or ban fracking in New York is being viewed as (you should pardon the expression) a watershed event.

Decisions made in Albany and in towns like Woodstock will likely determine whether fracking goes full steam ahead everywhere, or whether its momentum can be slowed or even stopped. New York, after all, has a rich history of environmental activism and democratic movements, and anti-fracking activism has spread like wildfire over the last couple of years. New York is also home to abundant supplies of clean freshwater, an essential resource that is in crisis globally and that could be endangered by the practice.

Fracking? Please Explain

On January 15, the Woodstock Town Board unanimously passed a resolution to petition New York State to introduce New York Public Law #1—which would impose stiff penalties for fracking and related activities. Before taking this step, the Woodstock Town Board took two others: banning fracking within its borders and outlawing the use of frackwaste fluid, some of which is known as “brine” (because of its heavy salt content), on its roads. This material is used as a de-icing agent in the winter and for dust control on dirt roads in the summer. Despite the fact that brine from oil and gas wells (whether fracked or not) is laden with heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and radioactivity, since 2008 the Department of Environmental Conservation has granted approval for it to be spread on roads in the western part of the state.

New York Public Law #1 was conceived and drafted in May 2011 by the Sovereign People’s Action Network (SPAN) and FrackBusters NY—two citizen anti-fracking groups spearheaded by the late Richard Grossman, a legal historian, democracy activist, and founder of a movement to ban corporate personhood and strip corporations of their special legal privileges.

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The Surprising Connection Between Food and Fracking

From Mother Jones:

By Wed Jan. 30, 2013

In a recent Nation piece, the wonderful Elizabeth Royte teased out the direct links between hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and the food supply. In short, extracting natural gas from rock formations by bombarding them with chemical-spiked fluid leaves behind fouled water—and that fouled water can make it into the crops and animals we eat.

But there's another, emerging food/fracking connection that few are aware of. US agriculture is highly reliant on synthetic nitrogen fertilizer, and nitrogen fertilizer is synthesized in a process fueled by natural gas. As more and more of the US natural gas supply comes from fracking, more and more of the nitrogen fertilizer farmers use will come from fracked natural gas. If Big Ag becomes hooked on cheap fracked gas to meet its fertilizer needs, then the fossil fuel industry will have gained a powerful ally in its effort to steamroll regulation and fight back opposition to fracking projects.

The potential for the growth of fracked nitrogen (known as "N") fertilizer is immense. During the 2000s, when conventional US natural gas sources were drying up and prices were spiking, the US fertilizer industry largely went offshore, moving operations to places like Trinidad and Tobago, where conventional natural gas was still relatively plentiful. (I told that story in a 2010 Grist piece.) This chart from a 2009 USDA doc illustrates how rapidly the US shifted away from domestically produced nitrogen in the 2000s.

Today, Trinidad and Tobago, an island nation off the coast of Venezuela and our leading source of imported N, is in the same position the US found itself in the early 2000s: Its supply of conventional, easy-to-harvest natural gas is wearing thin. In 2012, the International Monetary Fund estimated (PDF) that at current rates of extraction, the nation had sufficient natural gas reserves to last until just 2019.

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Sen. Reid proposes chopping $4 billion in oil subsidies to help the economy

From The Grist

By Philip Bump30 Jan 2013
A bit of surprising news this morning: The economy actually shrank in the fourth quarter of 2012. It was only down by an annual rate of 0.1 percent, but it had been expected to grow by 1.1 percent. And it didn’t drop because of burdensome regulation or slow job growth. It dropped because of the Pentagon.
From The Washington Post:
[F]ederal defense spending fell at an astounding 22.2 percent annual rate in the quarter, which subtracted 1.28 percentage points from GDP growth. That was in part a reversal from the unusual 12.9 percent gain in the third quarter. But when the two quarters are averaged together, the defense sector was a drag on the economy in the second half of 2012 — and that’s before a “sequester” of automatic defense cuts goes into effect this year if Congress doesn’t act to avert it.
That “sequester” is the result of a poison pill that Congress administered to itself. Last year, knowing full well that Congress couldn’t be trusted to get anything done without some sort of threat hanging over its head, Congress decided to force Congress to act, passing a bill that created huge, automatic spending cuts unless Congress got its act together and figured out a budget package. Well, Congress was not smart enough to avoid Congress’ trap, so now those $1.2 trillion in budget cuts are slated to go into effect.

At the end of 2012, the Pentagon saw those cuts looming; this week, it announced 46,000 layoffs. If the full weight of the cuts go into effect, the damage to the economy could be severe.

Enter Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) with an idea. From Environment and Energy Daily:

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Major climate changes looming

From SF Gate:

Carolyn Lochhead Sunday, January 27, 2013

Washington -- In his inaugural address last Monday, President Obama made climate change a priority of his second term. It might be too late.

Within the lifetimes of today's children, scientists say, the climate could reach a state unknown in civilization.
In that time, global carbon dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels are on track to exceed the limits that scientists believe could prevent catastrophic warming. CO{-2} levels are higher than they have been in 15 million years.

The Arctic, melting rapidly and probably irreversibly, has reached a state that the Vikings would not recognize.

"We are poised right at the edge of some very major changes on Earth," said Anthony Barnosky, a UC Berkeley professor of biology who studies the interaction of climate change with population growth and land use. "We really are a geological force that's changing the planet."

Wholesale shift needed

The Arctic melt is occurring as the planet is just 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 degree Celsius) warmer than it was in preindustrial times.

At current trends, the Earth could warm by 4 degrees Celsius in 50 years, according to a November World Bank report.

The coolest summer months would be much warmer than today's hottest summer months, the report said. "The last time Earth was 4 degrees warmer than it is now was about 14 million years ago," Barnosky said.

Continue reading at:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Christo-Fascist Hate Monger Bryan Fischer Explodes over Boy Scouts Ending National Ban on Gays

Not Selling Gray Hair Short

From The New York Times:

By Published: January 25, 2013

Cindy Joseph, a model, knew she was being subversive when she stopped tinting her long, loose waves more than a decade ago.

“Some people think that if you wear your silver hair long, you look like a witch or ‘that frumpy old hippie lady,'” she said.

But she and a significant cohort of graying Americans seem intent these days on proving otherwise.

Last fall Ms. Joseph, still modeling at 60 but also now a blogger and cosmetics entrepreneur, led a band of silver-haired marchers to Times Square. It was a mini demonstration that she and Diana Jewell, a writer and fellow organizer, called the Silver Sisters Strut. “We are the women that we wished we would have had in our lives,” Ms. Joseph said, “if they weren’t busy getting their hair dyed.”

In a series of portraits by Vicki Topaz, a photographer based in San Francisco, inveterate rule breakers like Susan Kim, 54, a boutique owner, showily fans out her steel-colored hair, while Gloria Frynn, 60, a college professor, runs her fingers through a mass of curls.

“Believe me, these are women who have fun,” said Ms. Topaz, whose exhibition of photographs, “Silver: a State of Mind,” is on view through February at the Buck Institute for Research on Aging in Novato, Calif., in Marin County. Reveling in their manes, she said, “reflects their confidence, their ease with being who they are.”

Still, wearing one’s gray hair long is viewed in some quarters as ill-advised. If the cut is not precise, “you’re going to run the risk of looking haggard,” warned Lisa Cicchini, a stylist in Manhattan. She nonetheless finds herself frequently fielding questions from clients, she said, about “where we can push the envelope.”

Continue reading at:

One Billion Rising: 'It's like a feminist tsunami'

From The Guardian UK:

Flashmobs in Mogadishu, marches in Bute and mass rallies in India: Eve Ensler on the global response to her One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women

The Guardian, Monday 28 January 2013

Since Eve Ensler launched the One Billion Rising campaign to end violence against women she has been repeatedly asked: is it a dance movement or overtly political? A protest or a giant global celebration? Just a few weeks before 14 February, the date that Ensler, activist and author of The Vagina Monologues, designated the "day to rise", she says: "I've never seen anything like it in my lifetime."

One in three women around the world are subject to violence at some point in their life, a statistic that prompted Ensler, who wrote the Monologues in 1996, to set up One Billion Rising. With such violence encompassing domestic abuse, gang rape, female genital mutilation and war, it is perhaps unsurprising that the campaign has taken on a different hue in each of the 190 countries where events to mark 14 February are planned.

"It is something that has gone across class, social group and religion. It's like a huge feminist tsunami," she said on a stopover in Paris.

Local protests range from the first ever flashmob in Mogadishu, Somalia, to the town square in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute and encompass Maori women in New Zealand and an estimated 25m protesters in Bangladesh. Ensler's idea for One Billion Rising came from her work in the Congo, where she set up the City of Joy to help female victims of violence and where she plans to be on 14 February itself, a day chosen partly to take back the idea of love from the soppy commercialism of Valentine's Day. Her last stop before Congo will be London, with a sold-out event at the Café de Paris including Thandie Newton and other campaigners.

Ensler says a combination of social media and the world's grassroots feminist movements have driven the way the campaign has taken off globally. In south Asia for three weeks over Christmas, she was struck by how much the horror over the gang rape of the 23-year-old medical student Jyoti Singh in Delhi had given impetus to the campaign. "In India, One Billion Rising is at the centre of the biggest breakthrough in sexual violence ever seen," she says.

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Why Consumers are Bummed Out

From Robert Reich:

By Robert Reich
Tuesday, January 29, 2013     

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that the preliminary January figure for consumer confidence in the United States fell to its lowest level in more than a year.

The last time consumers were this bummed out was October 2011, when there was widespread talk of a double-dip recession.

But this time business news is buoyant. The stock market is bullish. The housing market seems to have rebounded a bit.

So why are consumers so glum?

Because they’re deeply worried about their jobs and their incomes – as they have every right to be.
The job situation is still lousy. We’ll know more this coming Friday about what happened to jobs in January. But we know over 20 million people are still unemployed or underemployed.

Personal income is in terrible shape. The median wage continues to drop, adjusted for inflation.

Most people can’t get readily-available loans because banks are still cautious about lending to anyone without a sterling credit history. (Eliminate student loans and you find Americans aren’t borrowing any more than they were a year ago.)

And the payroll tax hike has reduced paychecks for the typical American by about $100 a month. That’s just about what the typical family spends to fill up their gas tanks per month. Or half what they spend for groceries each week.

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FDR's Four Freedoms: Diminished and Defiled

From Common Dreams

by Paul Buchheit
Published on Monday, January 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

If asked why we live in a great country, an American is likely to respond: "Because we are free." Fortunately for the respondent, explanation is rarely required. Freedom is difficult to define, and today it seems to exist more in our minds than in reality.
In a 1941 Message to Congress Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to explain what it means to be free. He outlined the "four essential human freedoms":

The first is freedom of speech and expression...
The second is freedom of every person to worship...
The third is freedom from want...
The fourth is freedom from fear.
The 2013 version shows how our freedoms have been diminished, or corrupted into totally different forms.
Freedom from Want? Poverty Keeps Getting Worse.
For every three people in poverty in the year 2000, there are now four. Almost 50 million people were impoverished in 2011. Over 20 percent of our children live in poverty, including almost half of young black children. Among industrialized countries only Romania has a higher child poverty rate than the United States.

It goes well beyond economics. Not long after the FDR era, in 1960, the U.S. ranked near the top among 34 OECD countries in Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality. By 2008 we were close to the bottom. A 2007 UNICEF report ranked us last among 21 OECD nations in an assessment of child health and safety.

Freedom from Want has been least attainable for people of color. For every $100 owned by a white family, a black family has $2. For every $100 owned by a single white woman, a single black or Hispanic woman has 25 cents.

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Latest Pathetic Conservative Attack on Social Security: Disability Fraud Hysteria

From Alternet:

Move over Welfare Queen. The Disability King is the new pet scapegoat for all that’s wrong with America.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
January 28, 2013

Conservatives are not happy. Despite their best efforts, the public continues to give Social Security a big thumbs up, and the President has just launched his second term with a speech hailing the program as a force that strengthens America.

You can understand their frustration. They’ve tried so very hard to make Americans think that we cannot afford to treat sick, disabled and elderly people with dignity while we subsidize the rich and fight unnecessary wars. But the public hasn't bought their solvency fabrications. And we haven’t been fooled by various pretenses for cutting, from the “chained CPI” adjustment to extending the retirement age again. Even the means-testing ruse, cloaked as sensitivity to the poor but intended to drain public support for the program, hasn’t worked out for them so far.

Conservatives still hate Social Security. Since the day the program was passed under Franklin Roosevelt, the greedy rich who don’t want to pay taxes and the financiers who want to stick Americans with private retirement accounts on which they can charge fees continue to invent new ways to attack and discredit the country's best-loved program. The think-tank minions and PR units attached to these Scrooges keep themselves up at night imagining new ways to dupe the public into accepting grotesque economic inequality as the norm and a downgraded future as the price we must pay for Wall Street greed.

Now the Social Security haters are taking a page from the Welfare Queen smear campaign book of the ‘90s to conjure a new scapegoat for all that is wrong with America: the Disability King. According to this meme, the problem with America’s economy and society is vast numbers of lazy, lying, good-for-nothing loafers cheating the American taxpayer through disability fraud.

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Smart Talk On The Next Austerity Disaster

From Campaign for America's Future:


The United States is in the midst of the most protracted unemployment crisis in modern history, and for vast segments of the population, the recession has never ended. Wages are still sinking; more than 20 million people are in need of full-time work. Yet, the national debate is fixated on fixing the debt rather than fixing the economy.

This is “austerity” economics, which demands cuts in government spending in the belief that this will reduce government deficits, even as it costs jobs and imposes hardships on people.

Mass unemployment, declining wages, and faltering growth suggests the United States has already suffered too much austerity, too soon. And yet the political debate is focused on how much more to impose. 

Washington imposed $1.5 trillion in spending cuts over 10 years in the 2011 “debt ceiling” deal. Washington stumbled past the year-end “fiscal cliff” with a deal that featured about $600 billion in tax hikes over ten years, including returning rates for the richest Americans back to Clinton era levels, and ending the payroll tax holiday, adding 2 percent to every working family’s payroll tax rate.

Now Congress has created an even more precarious fiscal peril to extort even greater cuts. Between now and the middle of May, we’ll hit the debt ceiling again, the automatic cut (sequester) of military and domestic budgets for the remainder of the year will kick in, and the temporary appropriations for government will expire. This sets up a new negotiation to forestall these ruinous calamities, now with Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid directly targeted.

The leaders of both parties suggest that more deficit reduction is needed and that it would help the economy. Not surprisingly, polls suggest that most Americans believe that cutting spending will help the economy, not harm the recovery. The reality is that spending is not out of control, the deficit is already plummeting, and we should be focused on fixing the economy to make it work for working people, not on austerity driven by wrong-headed deficit hysteria.

Here’s how we can make the case against it.

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The Politics of Debt in America: From Debtor’s Prison to Debtor Nation

From The Indypendent:

January 29, 2013
Shakespeare’s Polonius offered this classic advice to his son: “neither a borrower nor a lender be.”  Many of our nation’s Founding Fathers emphatically saw it otherwise.  They often lived by the maxim: always a borrower, never a lender be.  As tobacco and rice planters, slave traders, and merchants, as well as land and currency speculators, they depended upon long lines of credit to finance their livelihoods and splendid ways of life.  So, too, in those days, did shopkeepers, tradesmen, artisans, and farmers, as well as casual laborers and sailors.  Without debt, the seedlings of a commercial economy could never have grown to maturity.

Ben Franklin, however, was wary on the subject. “Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt” was his warning, and even now his cautionary words carry great moral weight.  We worry about debt, yet we can’t live without it.

Debt remains, as it long has been, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of capitalism.  For a small minority, it’s a blessing; for others a curse.  For some the moral burden of carrying debt is a heavy one, and no one lets them forget it.  For privileged others, debt bears no moral baggage at all, presents itself as an opportunity to prosper, and if things go wrong can be dumped without a qualm.

Those who view debt with a smiley face as the royal road to wealth accumulation and tend to be forgiven if their default is large enough almost invariably come from the top rungs of the economic hierarchy.  Then there are the rest of us, who get scolded for our impecunious ways, foreclosed upon and dispossessed, leaving behind scars that never fade away and wounds that disable our futures. 

Think of this upstairs-downstairs class calculus as the politics of debt.  British economist John Maynard Keynes put it like this: “If I owe you a pound, I have a problem; but if I owe you a million, the problem is yours.”

After months of an impending “debtpocalypse,” the dreaded “debt ceiling,” and the “fiscal cliff,” Americans remain preoccupied with debt, public and private.  Austerity is what we’re promised for our sins. Millions are drowning, or have already drowned, in a sea of debt -- mortgages gone bad, student loans that may never be paid off, spiraling credit card bills, car loans, payday loans, and a menagerie of new-fangled financial mechanisms cooked up by the country’s “financial engineers” to milk what’s left of the American standard of living.

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Disaster Capitalism Hits New York

From In These Times:

The city will adapt to flooding—but at the expense of the poor?

BY Arun Gupta January 28, 2013

For more than a decade before Hurricane Sandy, oceanography professor Malcolm Bowman, head of the Storm Surge Research Group at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, warned that a superstorm would someday drown New York City. There were plenty of precedents, he noted, such as the 1992 nor’easter that crippled train lines and Tropical Storm Floyd in 1999, which dumped a foot of rain in 24 hours and caused flash flooding.

“My middle name is Noah,” laughs Bowman, who looks the part of an old salt, with a tanned complexion and trimmed white beard. “The flood’s coming, you better build the ark, get everybody aboard.”
In 2008, Bowman was asked to join Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s New York City Panel on Climate Change, and he recommended that the city build surge barriers like those protecting London and the Netherlands. But his advice wasn’t heeded. According to Bowman, “the panel thought that it was too ambitious, too expensive, too futuristic.”

Now, in the aftermath of the most devastating storm New York has ever seen—one that claimed more than 100 lives in the region, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and notched a record storm surge of 13.8 feet in Lower Manhattan—an idea that was once seen as implausible now seems inevitable. One poll found that 80 percent of the public favors fortifying the city with surge barriers. “Money shouldn’t be a problem,” declared the New York Times. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has thrown his weight behind barriers, as have the state’s top Congress members and New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the frontrunner in this year’s mayoral contest.

Bowman and his Storm Surge Research Group have sketched out a plan that could cost an estimated $25 billion and centers on a five-mile-long “Outer Harbor Gateway” between Sandy Hook, New Jersey and the Rockaway peninsula. The barrier would be a belt of landfill, stone and reinforced concrete, possibly topped with a highway that would provide an alternate route from the mid-Atlantic to New England. Thirty-foot-high sand berms would be piled on Sandy Hook and the Rockaways to prevent flood waters from circumventing the gateway. Another gate, this one a mile long, would be built in the upper East River to stop surges coming in from the Long Island Sound to the north.

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Sea Shepherd Intercepts Japanese Whale Murdering Fleet

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Anti-whaling activist group Sea Shepherd said Wednesday it had intercepted the Japanese fleet in its annual Southern Ocean hunt “before a single harpoon has been fired”.

Sea Shepherd claims to have saved the lives of 4,000 whales over the past eight whaling seasons with ever-greater campaigns of harassment against the Japanese harpoon fleet.

The militant environmentalist group said the Brigitte Bardot, a former ocean racer, had intercepted the harpoon ship Yushin Maru No. 3 in the Southern Ocean at a relatively northern latitude.

“Given that the large concentrations of whales are found further south, closer to the Antarctic continent where there are high concentrations of krill, this would indicate that they have not yet begun whaling,” said Brigitte Bardot captain Jean Yves Terlain.

Former Australian politician Bob Brown, who assumed leadership of the anti-whaling campaign from fugitive Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson due to legal issues earlier this month, said it was welcome news.

“It is likely that we have intercepted these whale poachers before a single harpoon has been fired,” said Brown.

Continue reading at:

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Let's Come Out and Surprise People With the Ordinariness of Being Gay

From Huffington Post:


If I were Rory Albanese's sister (or his sister's girlfriend), I'd have been furious. On Saturday night I went to see Albanese and his Daily Show co-stalwart Adam Lowitt at their inauguration-themed comedy show at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C., but amid the political wit, not one but both of them used their professed support of equal marriage as a springboard to make jokes about how lesbians are ugly. 

Lowitt was first up, saying that while lesbians sound hot in theory, when you meet them in real life they're ugly and look like men; Albanese followed up this gem by telling us his that sister is gay and that his sister's girlfriend has the same name as his own girlfriend -- but that there's no way he could mix them up, because his sister's girlfriend looks like a man.

The audience, being encouraged (twice) to laugh at the alleged "ugliness" of lesbians, mainly did so uncomfortably, and I sat amongst them feeling offended -- and wondering whether it was appropriate for me to feel offended. Was I being overly touchy? Politically correct? Is being gay such a non-issue now that it's ripe for this sort of treatment by Emmy-winning comedians? I don't think so. Last week's awkward coming out by Jodie Foster underlines that -- even as she received a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, she struggled to deliver the simple and prosaic information that she is attracted to women, and the Internet has bombarded us with editorials and blogs analyzing her words ever since. Actual or perceived sexual identity remains prime bullying and discrimination material. This isn't the face of a non-issue. Coming out, or being identified as gay, is still far from business as usual.

Furthermore, generalized, derogatory comments about lesbians' looks are clearly not OK. Last year Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll told reporters that she couldn't possibly have engaged in homosexual acts because she didn't look like a lesbian. This ridiculous statement spawned a huge furor and a social media campaign, "This Is What a Lesbian Looks Like," that saw lesbians posting photos of themselves to demonstrate that, just like anyone else, lesbians come in all shapes, sizes and styles. People were upset because she was pigeonholing a huge group of people and essentially fanning prejudice and stigmatizing lesbians for being different. And that's what these two men did in their comedy show: They tried to indoctrinate their audiences, through the use of humor, in the idea that lesbians are ugly. And just as it wasn't OK for Carroll to promote and seek society's complicity in this sort of judgmental prejudice, it isn't OK for them.

Perhaps if the comedians and audience had been lesbians poking fun at themselves, I might have felt differently, but these jokes were overtly "laughing at" rather than "laughing with." And for me, that just feels inappropriate, and not just inappropriate but crass, pathetic, insulting, and damaging to everyone.

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Romney advisor: Republicans ‘largely lost’ the culture wars on marriage equality

From Raw Story:
By Arturo Garcia
Monday, January 28, 2013

The former Iowa advisor for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign said the Republican party should heed the demographic shift on issues like marriage equality.

“Frankly, the culture wars are kind of over,” Dave Kochel told WHO-TV on Sunday. “And Republicans largely lost.”

Kochel, a longtime GOP strategist in the state, said his stance was informed by his children, one of whom is a high school senior and one a college student.

“When they talk to me about what they care about and what their counterparts in school are talking about, it’s not gay marriage and it’s not abortion and birth control,” he said. “Those are largely settled issues for young voters. And so, I think we’ve got to move past it.”

Romney’s own stance on the issue shifted slightly during his campaign. As The Advocate reported in October 2012, a campaign spokesperson said that while the former Massachusetts governor pledged in writing to support the Defense of Marriage Act and a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, he did believe that states had the right to define their own rules regarding same-sex partners’ access to adoption and hospital visitation rights.

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Angela Davis Celebrates Sixty-Ninth Birthday

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 01/26/2013

On this day, 69 years ago, the activist, scholar, and revolutionary Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama.

Davis has spent much of her life fighting for and defending forgotten or marginalized groups in America and abroad. Known for her political activism during the turbulent 1960's, she became a household name when on August 18, 1970 J. Edgar Hoover made her the third woman ever placed on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List.

After a nationwide manhunt, Davis was arrested on October 13, 1970 for her alleged connection to the kidnappings and murders that occurred during Jonathan Jackson's attempt to free the imprisoned Soledad Brothers. Davis had purchased the guns used by Jackson. Upon her arrest, then President Richard M. Nixon congratulated the FBI for capturing Davis, describing her as a "dangerous terrorist."

Her subsequent trial was covered widely across the world. Stars such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono (with their song Angela) and The Rolling Stones (with their song Sweet Black Angel) showed their support for Davis. On June 4, 1972, after 13 hours of deliberation, an all-white jury acquitted Davis of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges. Davis was 28-years-old at the time.

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Chris Christie Vetoes Minimum Wage Bill Over 25¢

From Addicting Info:

Oh, Chris Christie, you feisty New Jersey truth-teller who eschews partisan politics in lieu of street savvy solutions! We loved it when you fought for the little guy before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy. There was something noble about your embrace of Obama while collaborating to get things done during that rough patch. How refreshing has it been to watch a real politician put people over demagoguery, truth over party line, and personal principles over pontification.

So, tell me, why is a $1.25/per hour raise to the minimum wage veto-worthy? And why, when you had a minute to think about, did it seem that lowering it by one quarter, 25¢/per hour, was doable? I guess going all the way up to the staggering $8.50, instead of the current $7.25, was just too big of a leap, yeah? But go with $8.25, bring you that 25¢ decrease on a platter, and you’re ready to go?

One New Jersey governor knocked off his pedestal.

Who in this life and times thinks even $8.50/per hour represents anything more than the most basic – most “minimum” – of wages? Yes, anyone who’s desperate for a job, anyone who needs income regardless of the rate, would gladly accept that amount; but any businessperson, anyone who’s been part of the working world and is older than the age of 15, understands that this is exactly what it’s called: minimum wage. The lowest you can go. It’s not a good wage, it’s a minimum wage.

So as a father of four, a man of the streets, a guy who knows what it’s like for people out there in the real world, how does Christie justify squabbling over 25¢?

According to SFGate, Christie hit the January 28th deadline affixed to the bill and activated a “conditional veto,” returning the bill to lawmakers with his conditions:
Christie’s conditional veto returns the bill with the suggestion that lawmakers scale back the increase by 25 cents, to $1 per hour and phase it in over three years in increments of 25 cents the first year, 50 cents the second year and 25 cents the third year. Christie also rejected the idea of implementing automatic annual adjustments while encouraging the Democratic-led Legislature to restore a tax credit to the working poor.
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Pension Panic Fueled by Anti-Worker Politics?

From In These Times:

By Michelle ChenThursday Jan 24, 2013
It’s a common refrain in local papers: State faces pension funding crisis! Retiree benefits out of control! Public pensions bog down taxpayers! Pension costs seem to loom over so many state and local budget battles like a sinister sword of Damocles, a dark reminder of Big Government’s tyrannical profligacy.
Should we panic? Well, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States, 61 cities face a collective fiscal retirement burden of more than $210 billion, in part because consistent underfunding of benefits leaves yawning gaps in long-term cost projections. The report surveyed all U.S. cities with populations over 500,000, along with the most populous city in each state. Some cities are doing better than others in maintaining funds, but gaps persist, according to Pew’s estimates for fiscal years 2007-2010, especially in municipalities where local governments have lacked the “fiscal discipline” to keep up pension fund contributions -- a situation exacerbated by the Great Recession.

But different political actors have different motives for expressing alarm over pension gaps. In some cases, dubiously calculated figures have inflated public concern. 

Sometimes, politicians frame cost-cutting proposals as if “generous” benefits themselves are the problem, as opposed to officials failing to uphold the commitments they've made to civil servants.

In New Jersey, brazenly conservative Governor Chris Christie has pushed through short-term austerity measures that ostensibly shore up pensions by shifting costs onto beneficiaries, increasing employee contributions and freezing vital cost-of-living adjustments. But the long-term liabilities remained unresolved. 

Shortly after Christie trumpeted his pension fix, the New Jersey Star Ledger noted that liabilities would spike again after the stopgap measures petered out, warning, “because the state won’t be making full pension payments, the gap will swell again to $58 billion by 2019, according to the state’s estimates.”

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