Thursday, February 28, 2013

US: Violence Against Women Act Renewed

From Human Rights Watch:

Lessons From Renewal Process Should Spur Further Reforms

February 28, 2013

(Washington, DC) – Bipartisan efforts to ensure the safety of all domestic violence victims should continue following the vote in Congress on February 28, 2013, to renew the Violence against Women Act (VAWA), Human Rights Watch said today. The bill includes provisions aimed at improving access to justice and services for victims from a range of backgrounds, and continuing efforts should include advancing protections for immigrant victims of violence during the process of comprehensive immigration reform, Human Rights Watch said.

The bill passed by the House of Representatives addresses gaps in access to justice for victims of violence on Native American reservations. It includes protections against discrimination for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) victims, and modestly expands protections for immigrant victims. Efforts to renew VAWA in the last Congress stalled over differences between the House and the Senate on these issues.

“Congress came together today and put partisan politics aside to protect victims of violence,” said Meghan Rhoad, women’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch. “With continued cooperation, Congress can make further strides to ensure that everyone has access to justice, to services, and to safety.”

VAWA is the primary federal law providing legal protection and services to counter domestic abuse, sexual violence, and stalking. Congress has reauthorized VAWA twice since it originally passed in 1994. The Senate passed S. 47, a bipartisan bill to renew VAWA, with 78 votes on February 12. The House approved S. 47 with a vote of 286 to 138. The House took the vote after rejecting another bill that would have watered down protections for victims, Human Rights Watch said.

The bill passed by the House addresses the jurisdictional issues that make it difficult to hold non-Native American men accountable for violence committed against Native American women. The bill would restore Native American tribal courts’ jurisdiction in such cases if domestic violence and dating violence crimes are committed on tribal lands. Currently, neither state nor tribal authorities have jurisdiction in such cases. The federal government has jurisdiction but often does not make prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence and dating violence offenses a priority.

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Bradley Manning pleads guilty to 10 charges but denies 'aiding the enemy'

From The Guardian UK:

Soldier admits guilt in lesser crimes that carry up to 20 years in prison while denying most serious charges against him

in Fort Meade, Thursday 28 February 2013 

Bradley Manning has pleaded guilty to having been the source of the massive WikiLeaks dump of US state secrets, though he has denied the most serious charge against him that he "aided the enemy" that could see him languishing in military prison for the rest of his life.

Through his lawyer, David Coombs, the soldier pleaded guilty to 10 lesser charges that included possessing and wilfully communicating to an unauthorised person all the main elements of the WikiLeaks disclosure. That covered the so-called "collateral murder" video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq; some US diplomatic cables including one of the early WikiLeaks publications the Reykjavik cable; portions of the Iraq and Afghanistan warlogs, some of the files on detainees in Guantanamo; and two intelligence memos.

These lesser charges each carry a two-year maximum sentence, committing Manning to a possible upper limit of 20 years in prison.

Manning also pleaded not guilty to 12 counts which relate to the major offences of which he is accused by the US government. Specifically, he pleaded not guilty to "aiding the enemy" – the idea that he knowingly gave help to al-Qaida and in a separate count that by causing secret intelligence to be published on the internet he knowingly made it accessible to the enemy.

He also denied that at the time he made the transmission of information to WikiLeaks he had "reason to believe such information could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation".

With Manning having pleaded not guilty to these overarching charges, the prosecution is now almost certain to press ahead to a full court-martial which is currently set for 3 June. The judge has indicated that the trial could run for 12 weeks, although Manning's guilty plea to the lesser charges may short-circuit the process as the government will no longer have to prove that he acquired and communicated the trove of classified material to WikiLeaks.

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Bullying’s lasting impact

From The Dallas Morning News:

Emily Bazelon
26 February 2013

A significant new study from Duke provides the best evidence we’ve had thus far that bullying in childhood is linked to a higher risk of psychological disorders in adulthood. The results came as a surprise to the research team. “I was a skeptic going into this,” author and Duke psychiatry professor William Copeland said about the claim that bullying does measurable long-term psychological harm. “To be honest, I was completely surprised by the strength of the findings.”

I’m less surprised, because as I explain in my new book about bullying, Sticks and Stones, earlier research has shown that bullying increases the risk for many problems, including low academic performance in school and depression (for both bullies and victims) and criminal activity later in life (for bullies). But the Duke study is important because it lasted 20 years and followed 1,270 children into adulthood. Beginning at the ages of 9, 11 and 13, the kids were interviewed annually until the age of 16, along with their parents, and then multiple times over the years following.

Based on the findings, Copeland and his team divided their subjects into three groups: people who were victims as children, people who were bullies and people who were both. The third group is known as bully-victims. These are the people who tend to have the most serious psychological problems as kids, and in the Duke study, they also showed up with higher levels of anxiety, depressive disorders and suicidal thinking as adults. The people who had only experienced being victims were also at heightened risk for depression and anxiety. And the bullies were more likely to have an antisocial personality disorder.

The researchers also checked to see if the variation could be attributed to differences in socioeconomic status, or family dysfunction/instability, or maltreatment (which they defined as physical or sexual abuse). All three groups had higher rates of family hardship than the kids who didn’t experience bullying. For the victims, the risk of anxiety disorders remained strong even when taking into account family problems, though the risk of depression did not. For bully-victims, the risk of both anxiety and depression held, and for bullies, the risk of antisocial personality disorder did as well. In other words, these results suggest that bullying scars people whether they grow up in a home with two functional parents or with frequent arguing, not much parental supervision, divorce, separation or downright abuse or neglect. It’s a finding that’s in line with other work.

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More Feminist Than Thou: Moving Beyond Self-Defeating “Choose My Choice” Feminism

From RHReality Check:

by Andrea Grimes
February 27, 2013

I am so tired of “I choose my choice” feminism. So, so tired of it. I just can’t have another fight about whether it’s possible to be a stay-at-home mom, shave your legs, wear makeup, date men, have rough sex, have submissive sex, change your name, watch porn, worship a Judeo-Christian God, shop at Wal-Mart, wear hijab, get breast implants, listen to hip-hop, go on a diet, eat meat, or wash the dishes and be a feminist at the same time.

Let’s stop choosing our choices and start choosing our battles.

Choosing is passive. Choosing is not enough. Choosing devolves into finger-pointing, into holier-than-thou posturing, into casting feminism as some kind of private mental exercise, rather than a powerful force for social change. No one person is making all the right feminist choices, but so many people are fighting good fights. 

Choose-your-choice feminism brought us, for example, the so-called Mommy Wars, which pits women against each other, instead of against anti-family work policies and the intersecting mechanics of economic oppression; it pits a very small group of “each others,” usually deeply privileged “each others” against those “each others” who blessedly have the option of choosing at all.

Choose-your-choice feminism implies that all women already have the full spectrum of choices available to them in the first place. Choose-your-choice feminism is for people who don’t play the long game, or who are so blinded by their own privilege that they no longer see the need to. Choose-your-choice feminism is for people who think the fight is over.

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House Republicans Surrender, Prepare To Pass Strengthened Violence Against Women Act

From Addicting Info:

By 2013/02/27

In what would be an epic cave in and an epic victory for women across the country, House Republicans are preparing to bring the Senate version of the Violence Against Women Act to the floor for a full vote.
Talking Points Memo reports that late Tuesday night, the Rules Committee “sent the House GOP’s version of the Violence Against Women Act to the floor with a key caveat: if that legislation fails, then the Senate-passed version will get an up-or-down vote.”

Over the next two days, it is expected that House Republicans will bring their version of VAWA to the floor for a vote where it will likely die. Then out of the ashes of that bill, the beefed up Senate version of the bill will rise and be passed by a coalition of Democrats and sane Republicans. In other words, moderate Republicans are going to ignore the Tea Party caucus of the House to do the right thing for women.

Renewal of the legislation had been hoped for last year, but House Republicans refused to bring the Senate version of the bill to a vote and it died when the 112th Congress came to an end. Republicans objected to new protections in the bill for undocumented immigrants, Native Americans, and same-sex partners. The Senate then returned for the 2013 session and promptly passed the strengthened version again by a vote of 78-22. Republicans accounted for the 22 opposing votes while Democrats and a combination of moderate Republicans pushed the bill to victory. Every woman in the Senate voted in support of the bill. And now the bill looks to be finally passed in the House complete with the new protections.

Senator Patty Murray of Washington told TPM that she praises these new developments in the debate on the bill.
“We are on the cusp of a huge victory for every single woman who has been told over the past 16 months that they didn’t deserve VAWA protections. I applaud those moderate Republicans in the House who are ready to put politics aside and help us get this over the finish line. I know that the broad coalition of women and advocates who I’ve worked with over the course of this long effort have their fingers crossed and will be watching closely.”
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Study shows wealth gap between whites and African-Americans tripled in 25 years

From Raw Story:

By Arturo Garcia
Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The wealth gap between white and African-American households almost tripled within the past 25 years according to a study released on Wednesday by Brandeis University.

The study, (PDF) conducted by the university’s Institute on Assets and Social Policy, tracked 1,700 working-age households between 1984 and 2009 and concluded that the disparity between white and black families went from $85,000 to $236,500 during that period.

According to the study, there was “little evidence” that commonly-held perceptions about personal choices and behaviors held true when it came to measuring the ability to accumulate wealth.

“In my estimation, policies and institutional practices are the main story,” said the institute’s director, Tom Shapiro, who was the principal author of the report, during an online seminar on Wednesday.

Instead, the study pointed to what researchers described as “the configuration of both opportunities and barriers in workplaces, schools, and communities that reinforce deeply entrenched racial dynamics in how wealth is accumulated and that continue to permeate the most important spheres of everyday life.”

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Three-Quarters of Progressive Caucus Not Taking a Stand Against Cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

From Common Dreams:

by Norman Solomon
Published on Wednesday, February 27, 2013 by Common Dreams

For the social compact of the United States, most of the Congressional Progressive Caucus has gone missing.

While still on the caucus roster, three-quarters of the 70-member caucus seem lost in political smog. Those 54 members of the Progressive Caucus haven’t signed the current letter that makes a vital commitment: “we will vote against any and every cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or Social Security benefits -- including raising the retirement age or cutting the cost of living adjustments that our constituents earned and need.”

More than 10 days ago, Congressmen Alan Grayson and Mark Takano initiated the forthright letter, circulating it among House colleagues. Addressed to President Obama, the letter has enabled members of Congress to take a historic stand: joining together in a public pledge not to vote for any cuts in Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid.

The Grayson-Takano letter is a breath of fresh progressive air, blowing away the customary fog that hangs over such matters on Capitol Hill.

The Progressive Caucus co-chairs, Raul Grijalva and Keith Ellison, signed the letter. So did Barbara Lee, the caucus whip. But no signer can be found among the five vice chairs of the Progressive Caucus: Judy Chu, David Cicilline, Michael Honda, Sheila Jackson-Lee and Jan Schakowsky. The letter’s current list of signers includes just 16 members of the Progressive Caucus (along with five other House signers who aren’t part of the caucus).

What about the other 54 members of the Progressive Caucus? Their absence from the letter is a clear message to the Obama White House, which has repeatedly declared its desire to cut the Social Security cost of living adjustment as well as Medicare. In effect, those 54 non-signers are signaling: Mr. President, we call ourselves “progressive” but we are unwilling to stick our necks out by challenging you in defense of Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid; we want some wiggle room that you can exploit.

In contrast, the House members on the short list of the letter’s signers deserve our praise for taking a clear stand: Brown, Cartwright, Conyers, DeFazio, Ellison, Faleomavaega, Grayson, G. Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, A. Hastings, Kaptur, Lee, McGovern, Nadler, Napolitano, Nolan, Serrano, Takano, Velazquez and Waters.

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Politics Rumble - Is Voting about to blown up

John Lewis to Justice Scalia: The right to vote is ‘what people died for, bled for’



Congressman John Lewis, a hero of the civil-rights movement, said he was appalled to hear Justice Antonin Scalia refer to the Voting Rights Act as a “racial entitlement” today. Rep. Lewis was at the nation’s highest court to listen to arguments about whether the 1965 Voting Rights Act should be struck down as unconstitutional.

“It was unreal, unbelievable, almost shocking, for a member of the court to use certain language,” he said “I can see politicians and even members of Congress–it is just appalling to me.”

For Lewis, the comments were especially offensive because he knows from experience how hard he and others fought to win those rights. He was severely beaten by Alabama state troopers as he marched across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Al., on March 7, 1965, a date that’s now known as Bloody Sunday.

“It is an affront to all of what the civil rights movement stood for, what people died for, what people bled for, and those of us who marched across that bridge 48 years ago, we didn’t march for some racial entitlement,” he said. “We wanted to open up the political process, and let all of the people come in, and it didn’t matter whether they were black or white, Latino, Asian-American or Native American.”

Reverend Al Sharpton, who was also in the court, called Scalia’s words “shocking.”

“How is that an entitlement?” Sharpton asked. “I thought African-Americans were citizens! For us to have the right to vote protected is some kind of entitlement program?”

Lewis agreed, calling the right to vote “precious, almost sacred. It is the most powerful nonviolent instrument that we have in a democratic society. And if the courts come to that point where they declare this section, section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, unconstitutional, it would be a  dagger in the heart of the democratic process.”

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Supreme Court: Racism deniers?

From Salon:

If the Scalia wing strikes down the Voting Rights Act, it thinks we're beyond our history of racial bias

Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013

This morning, the Supreme Court heard arguments regarding the constitutionality of the pre-clearance provisions of the Voting Rights Act, which require certain states with a history of disenfranchising African-American voters to have any changes in their law regulating voting to be approved by the Department of Justice first.

Most observers expect the court to declare those provisions unconstitutional, even though they were extended by the Senate by a unanimous vote less than seven years ago, while facing only token opposition in the House. All in all, 488 of 521 members of Congress voted to renew the pre-clearance provisions.

The enthusiasm with which the court’s righter wing appears to be greeting constitutional attacks on provisions adopted and renewed by overwhelming legislative majorities could make a cynic suspect that “conservative” criticisms of judicial review can often be reduced to the axiom, “the democratic process should be respected, unless it produces a result we really don’t like.”  (Reportedly, during this morning’s oral argument, the increasingly egregious Justice Scalia likened congressional renewal of the Voting Rights Act to a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”)

The policy arguments for getting rid of pre-clearance boil down to the claim that the sort of disenfranchisement motivated by racial bias that pre-clearance was designed to combat has largely if not completely disappeared. This may or may not be true, but it’s hard to see why unelected judges should decide whether or not it is rather than elected legislators.

But there’s a deeper problem with claims that America has “moved past” our history of racial discrimination to the point where a vigorously enforced Voting Rights Act is no longer necessary.

The Voting Rights Act, and its equally important cousin the Civil Rights Act, were both adopted in the mid-1960s, when, incredible as it may seem to today’s youth, Jim Crow still flourished throughout the American South. (My mother, who grew up in Mexico, attended the University of Texas in the 1950s, and was deeply shocked to encounter “colored” and “whites only” public facilities.)

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See also:

Talking Points Memo:  Scalia: Voting Rights Act Is ‘Perpetuation Of Racial Entitlement’

Daily Kos:  John Roberts has always had it in for the Voting Rights Act

Mother Jones:  Chief Justice Roberts' Long War Against the Voting Rights Act

Somewhere In New Mexico Before The End Of Time

Five More States Consider ‘Ag Gag’ Laws To Silence Factory Farm Whistleblowers

From Think Progress:

By Aviva Shen
on Feb 26, 2013

As state legislatures begin their 2013 sessions, a flurry of new “ag gag” bills to protect factory farms from potential undercover whistleblowers have been introduced in 5 states. This week, the Indiana Senate is debating a proposal to criminalize taking photographs or videos inside an agricultural or industrial operation without permission.

Senate Bill 373 is the first of two ag gag bills introduced during Indiana’s 2013 session. New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wyoming and Arkansas are also considering them.

Since trespassing is already illegal, ag gag laws can only have one clear motive: to punish whistleblowers, advocates, and investigative reporters who use undercover recordings to reveal the abysmal conditions in which our food is produced. Undercover investigations have captured factory farms all over the country abusing livestock, passing off sick cattle as healthy, and discharging unregulated amounts of animal manure, which the US Geological Survey identified as the largest source of nitrogen pollution in the country.

The bill’s author, Sen. Travis Holdman (R), added a provision exempting anyone who turns over their video or photos to law enforcement within 48 hours — as long as they do not also share the footage with non-law enforcement, such as media or an animal rights group. But, as the Indy Star points out, many exposés are “undertaken precisely because the authorities failed to do their job. Sometimes, they have spotlighted conditions that were not illegal but were disturbing enough to inspire new laws.”

Indeed, factory farms have largely escaped regulatory and legal scrutiny. Last year, the Environmental Protection Agency abandoned an effort to require these operations to report even basic information like location, number of animals, and amount of manure discharged. Meanwhile, the meat lobby’s grip on lawmakers is so powerful that the USDA was pressured into apologizing for an internal “Meatless Monday” last year by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who claimed the optional vegetarian day was a full-scale attack on agriculture.

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We’re All Guinea Pigs

From Other Words:

I don't want to expose the most precious people in my life to an endocrine disruptor.

February 27, 2013
A few years ago, my world changed when I began dating a single dad whose youngest child was a toddler. Bonding with and loving his two kids has been the single most enriching and rewarding — and sometimes frustrating and exhausting — experience of my life.

During the three years we lived together, I became a de-facto stepmother. Parents, you know how it is with 3-year-olds. The name of the game is “choice.” Either you yield some control and decision-making power or they’ll assert themselves in ways you might find inconvenient.

As we introduced the little one in my life to normal routines like brushing her teeth, washing her hands, and going to bed at a reasonable hour, we tried to make it fun.

“Do you want to use the bubbly soap or the fruity soap?” we’d ask her. “Do you want to wear SpongeBob or princess jammies?” This was a much more successful strategy than simply commanding her to go to bed.
Around the same time, I began reporting on some very scary chemical news. One by one, I’d discover the dangers of this toxic chemical or that one. I carefully eliminated these chemicals from my own life, replacing them with affordable and effective alternatives.

Out went Herbal Essences, and in came Dr. Bronner’s castile soap. And who needs a chemical cocktail labeled “aloe” when they can easily keep an aloe plant in the front yard or their windowsill to take care of sunburns?

But occasionally, out of curiosity, I’d pick up Miss Toddler’s bubbly soap or princess pajamas to read the ingredients label. Lo and behold, the kid products — which should be the safest things in the house — were often the most toxic.

One offending ingredient in the soaps and toothpaste marketed for tots is triclosan. It’s common in anti-bacterial soaps aimed at the grownup market too — as well as facial cleanser, shave gel, lip gloss, deodorant, and even dog shampoo.

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GM Seeds and the Militarization of Food - and Everything Else

From Truth Out:

By Jon LetmanWednesday, 27 February 2013
Indian physicist and philosopher, activist and ecofeminist pioneer Vandana Shiva talks with Truthout in Hawaii about GMO, the militarization of agriculture, the politics of occupation and the primacy of biodiversity.

Foot soldiers in the battle against corporate globalization and the privatization of commons like land and water have long been aware of Indian physicist and philosopher Dr. Vandana Shiva. An ecofeminist pioneer, today she is best known as an outspoken opponent of the GMOs (genetically modified organisms) being developed by transnational biotechnology and chemical corporations like Monsanto and Dow.

Shiva disputes the notion that patenting genes and controlling the world's seeds, and thus much of its food supply, will better serve humanity. Biotech companies claim their genetically engineered (GE) crops are able to withstand threats from insects, disease, and man-made pesticides and herbicides while making a serious contribution to feeding an increasingly hungry world.

Such claims are straight-up fabrications - lies - according to Shiva. GMOs, she says, destroy the natural web of life, threaten biodiversity and the environment, and are a scourge for human health and society.

Raised by conservation-minded parents (her father was a forest conservator, her mother a farmer) in the foothills of the Himalayas, Shiva was at the heart of the original "tree hugger" Chipko movement.

After earning a Ph.D. in "hidden variables and non-locality in quantum theory," Shiva branched out from science and academia to environmental activism and helping small farmers in India and around the world save seeds - a practice that puts her in direct conflict with biotech giants who insist their GE seeds are protected by patents.

It was at a biotechnology conference at which Shiva had been invited to speak that a representative from the chemical firm Ciba-Geigy (which later merged with other companies to become biotech giant Syngenta) told her that its goal was to control health and food by the turn of the 21st century.

"That’s the day I decided I was going to start saving seeds," Shiva says.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Widow asks supreme court to strike Doma on grounds of discrimination

From The Guardian UK:

Lawyers for Edith Windsor file brief ahead of March 7 hearing that urges justices to find anti-gay legislation unconstitutional

in New York, Tuesday 26 February 2013

Edith Windsor, the New York widow at the centre of a US supreme court legal challenge to the act that bans federal recognition of same-sex marriage, put her case on Tuesday in a brief arguing that the law contributes to the "pervasive history of discrimination" experienced by gay people in the US.

Windsor, 83, and her long-term partner, Thea Spyer, married in Canada in 2007, after Spyer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. When Spyer died two years later she left everything to Windsor, her partner of 44 years, but because the marriage was not recognised under federal law, Windsor was required to pay $363,000 in federal estate taxes. She requested a refund from the government but her request was rejected because of the Defense of Marriage Act (Doma).

In her brief to the court, Windsor's legal team argues that laws like Doma that classify people based on their sexual orientation should be subjected to "heightened scrutiny", a standard which calls on the court to presume that anti-gay legislation is unconstitutional and asks the government to provide a strong explanation for the law in question.

Windsor's lawyers wrote: "As this court has already recognized, laws burdening lesbians and gay men that were 'once thought necessary and proper' may in fact 'serve only to oppress'."

The brief notes that "gay men and lesbians have experienced a pervasive history of discrimination" and that "as a result lesbians and gay men have confronted discrimination at the hands of both government and private actors".

On Friday, the Obama administration also filed a brief in the case with a similar argument that laws targeting individuals based on their sexual orientation should face additional scrutiny by courts reviewing them. In it, solicitor general Donald Verrilli argued the law is unconstitutional because it violates "the fundamental guarantee of equal protection".

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Rape: The Universal Crime

From Reader Supported News:

By Ruth Rosen,
24 February 13

The feminist writer Susan Griffin called rape "The All American Crime" in Ramparts Magazine in 1971. She was the first feminist to explain that men rape children, elderly and disabled women, not just girls dressed in mini-skirts. In other words, she challenged the belief that that rape was a sexual act, fueled by men's irrepressible sexual drive. Instead, she argued that rape was an assault against a woman, fueled by the desire to control and harm her, not a sexual act at all.

While I became a professor of history at the University of California a few years later, an elderly woman was raped by a man who stalked the campus looking for prey. He finally found a woman in her 90s and raped her in Davis's Central Park. (I can't find the newspaper story, but I remember the terror he caused among the town's women.) In 2012, a 43-year-old man raped a 73-year-old woman in New York City's Central Park and even boasted about how many elderly women he had raped. So, no, rape is not a sexual act.

Griffin was right. Even more, we now know that rape is the universal crime. Men don't need seductive young bodies scantily dressed to incite them to use their overwhelming power over a vulnerable woman. Even though rape has been declared illegal in war as a means of demoralizing an enemy, the Balkan wars revealed the creation of "rape camps" on all sides.

And has anything changed? Well yes, there was a huge outpouring of protest against the rape and murder of a 23-year-old woman in India in December 2012. But after that atrocity, countless rapes followed in Timbuktu, Mali, just weeks later. In every ethnic strife, opponents rape women as part of the spoils of their victory. It's in the newspaper every day with sickening regularity.

Closer to home, I recently received a message from the Berkeley police, notifying me that the number of rapes in Berkeley, California, has doubled during the last year. The twenty rapes that occurred in 2011 jumped to 39 in 2012. Many of these crimes took place near campus, where I live, and some, as you would expect, involved alcohol and drugs, according to the local news station, KGO. Very likely, some of these involved date rape, a term not used until the women's movement coined it.

Then I read a story in the New York Times that women are now among the loudest voices against gun control. They are crowding the shooting ranges, learning how to shoot and protect themselves. Why? Because of fear of rape, fear of gender violence of all kinds, and probably fear of criminals as well as immigrants in the border states.

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University Didn’t Call Cops About Sexual Assault For Fear Of Exposing Alleged Rapist’s Grades

From Think Progress:

By Annie-Rose Strasser
on Feb 26, 2013

Officials at Oklahoma State University did not go to the police with several reports of rape or sexual assault on campus in 2011, falesly believing that they were following procedures protecting the information of the purported assailants.

According to a report by an OSU Board of Regents task force, university representatives “misinterpreted the Federal Education Rights Privacy Act.” The university believed that purported rapists’ educational records might have been involved in the case, and so, to protect those records, decided sexual assault fell under the purview of the school, not law enforcement:
Friday’s report cites a provision in FERPA that allows institutions to contact campus police to ask them to investigate possible crimes on campus. The report notes that members of the news media brought the provision to university officials’ attention.
According to the report, OSU officials rejected that argument, saying a different provision in FERPA wouldn’t have allowed them to turn over educational records, including those generated in student conduct hearings.

But that provision wouldn’t have applied in this case, according to the report. When officials learned of the incidents, no student conduct hearings were pending, meaning no such records had been created.

OSU could have notified the police immediately after it became aware that the sexual assaults had been committed,” the report states.
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Jim Crow isn't dead, he just got lawyers

From The Guardian UK:

The US supreme court's upcoming decision on the Voting Rights Act could let discriminatory laws make a comeback, Friday 22 February 2013

When a black man won the White House in 2008, many in the commentariat declared the United States a "post-racial" society, no longer hamstrung by old hatreds, freed at last from the embarrassments of segregation – finally and triumphantly color blind.

Conservatives have been telling themselves some version of this pretty lie ever since Robert E Lee surrendered at Appomattox. On 27 February, we'll hear it again when the supreme court takes up a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The case, Shelby County v Holder, centers on Section 5 of the VRA, which requires that nine states with histories of discrimination (Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Alaska and Arizona), and parts of seven more states must seek permission from the justice department to change election laws. The Alabama county argues that Section 5 is an unconstitutional infringement on "state sovereignty", and a relic from the bygone days of poll taxes and literacy tests.

Granted, citizens in the old Confederacy are no longer forced to say how many bubbles are in a bar of soap before they can cast a ballot. But the last national election provides plenty of examples of voter suppression. Florida (five counties of which are included in Section 5) enacted a largely inaccurate purge of its electoral rolls. The people whose right to vote was challenged were predominantly (the state says coincidentally) minorities.

The state's Republican leadership cut back the number of polling places and reduced early voting, including the Sunday before election day, when African American churches would traditionally organize trips to the polls. Many, like Desaline Victor, the 102-year-old President Obama featured in his state of the union address, had to wait in line for hours. More than 200,000 others were unable to vote.

Texas and South Carolina (entirely covered by Section 5) tried to institute absurdly restrictive voter ID laws in 2012, but the Department of Justice, citing the Voting Rights Act, shot them down. "Federal courts sided with DOJ, finding that the new rules would disproportionately affect black and Latino citizens.

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7 Ways Sequestration Will Sock the Middle ClassFebruary 26, 2013

From In These Times:

Once again, the GOP strips funds from the neediest to pad their own wallets.

BY Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President February 26, 2013 

Last week, President Obama described the sequestration situation in simple, stark terms: Keep it in place and punch the middle class in the gut. Or, he suggested, soften the blow substantially by ending special tax breaks for the rich.

Here’s what he said:
Republicans in Congress face a simple choice. Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and healthcare and national security and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations?
President Obama is recommending reducing the pain of sequestration by raising revenue. This could be accomplished by eliminating cushy deals that the rich and corporations have bought for themselves over the years with lobbyist dough.

Specifically, it breaks down like this:
  1. Do Republicans want to evict 70,000 low income children from Head Start to ensure that the nation’s largest corporation, GE, which is massively profitable, continues to pay no taxes and instead demands rebates from the American people?
  2. Do Republicans want to furlough 750,000 civilians employed by the Army to ensure that one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffett, can continue paying a lower tax rate than his secretary, a situation that Buffett has described as unconscionable?
  3. Do Republicans want to slash $550 million from the FBI, hindering response to cyber and terrorist attacks after the equivalent of 7,000 workers are furloughed each day just to ensure that corporations can continue to get tax breaks when they offshore jobs?
  4. Do Republicans want to end treatment for 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and severely emotionally disturbed children just to ensure that the 1 percent continue to receive tax breaks for their corporate jetsyachts and golf carts?
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The People's Will Be Damned

From Common Dreams:

What exactly Is “politically acceptable?”

Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 by Common Dreams

So here we are again, approaching another self-inflicted economic cliff.  This time it’s the sequester – a truly stupid idea that will result in a mindless meat cleaver approach to cutting the budget in order to solve a problem that’s disappearing, using the same tactics that caused the problem in the first place. Oh, and quite possibly it will plunge us back into a recession.

What is Washington doing?  Trying to fix blame, of course.

The truth is, both Parties agreed to this uniquely idiotic idea.  Yes, it ultimately comes from the Republican’s decision to play brinksmanship with the budget and the debt ceiling, but Democrats in general and Obama in particular let them make debt and deficits into the all-purpose bogeyman it has become.  By failing to confront the myth, they empowered it.

But the Republicans have backed themselves into a corner.  They’ve been clamoring for austerity for 30 years as part of their “drown the beast” strategy, and now they are faced with a popular backlash against austerity.  Their response has been to blame Obama.  Mitch McConnell keeps saying the President hasn’t offered a politically viable alternative to the sequester.  Boehner says much the same.  Even the less rabid David Brooks has repeated this line.  In fact, it’s become one of those cascading talking points that the rightwing chants in unison, over and over again.

The key here is the qualifiers they use: “politically viable,” “politically acceptable,” or something comparable. They must, because Obama has put forth a plan. More about that later.

So what, exactly, is “politically viable?”

One would think it is defined by the will of the people.  And as we just had an election in which the people soundly rejected the Republican platform of drastically cutting social programs benefiting low- and middle-income Americans so that they could preserve – or in the case of Romney and Ryan increase – tax cuts for the rich, the will of the people is quite transparent.  The recent election, exit polls and polling in general all tell us the people want to increase taxes on the rich, preserve the social safety net, and invest in job creation.
Which sounds something like Obama’s plan, with the exception that the compromiser-in-chief is offering up cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

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Lakoff: Why Extreme Conservatives Like the Sequester

From Alternet:

The far right sees maximal elimination of the public sphere as the right direction for America.

By George Lakoff
February 26, 2013

Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and other major economists have pointed out that the deficit is not an urgent economic problem and that, to the contrary, the economy would be helped by an increase in public investment and harmed by drastic cuts. The Sequester would hurt the economy, millions of people, and the country as a whole.

President Obama has detailed the vast range of harms that the sequester would bring. They are well-known. And they are not necessary.  The president sees the sequester, if it happens, as an enormous self-inflicted wound, inflicted on America by a Republican-dominated House elected by Americans.

But pointing out Republican-caused harms to millions of people — many of them Republicans — does not sway the ultra-right. Why? Democratic pundits say that Republicans want to hurt the president, to show government doesn’t work by making it not work, and to protect “special interests” from higher taxes.  All true. But there is an additional and deeper reason. Ultra-conservatives believe that the sequester is moral, that it is the right thing to do.

Progressives tend to believe that democracy is based on citizens caring for their fellow citizens through what the government provides for all citizens — public infrastructure, public safety, public education, public health, publicly-sponsored research, public forms of recreation and culture, publicly-guaranteed safety nets for those who need them, and so on. In short, progressives believe that the private depends on the public, that without those public provisions Americans cannot be free to live reasonable lives and to thrive in private business. 

They believe that those who make more from public provisions should pay more to maintain them.

Ultra-conservatives don’t believe this. They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality.  They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.

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Sequestering common sense

From The Washington Post:

By ,
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The media is going sequester 24-7. Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the across-the-board spending cuts about to hit this Friday is about to have little choice. The brouhaha about the austerity bomb is drowning out any attention to what is actually going on in the economy — which is supposedly the point of the whole debate.

The stark reality is the economy is still in trouble and Americans are still hurting. The economy contracted last quarter, even before Americans got hit with the end of the payroll tax holiday, which will take $1,000 out of the typical family’s annual paycheck. The Congressional Budget Office projects that growth will inch along at about 1.5 percent this year. That translates into continued mass unemployment — with more than 20 million people in need of full-time work — and falling wages. The richest 1 percent captured an unimaginable 121 percent of all income growth in 2009 and 2010, coming out of the Great Recession. They pocketed all of the growth in income, while 99 percent of Americans actually lost ground. That trend is likely to get worse rather than better.

Federal Reserve Governor Janet L. Yellen described the tragic human costs of widespread, long-term unemployment in an important speech this month. Families lose their homes; divorce and depression rise; children are scarred; skills are lost. A young generation is leaving school to sit on the couch.

Yet most of Washington — from the newly reelected Democratic president to the self-described insurgent Tea Party Republicans — is ignoring this reality to focus on cutting deficits.

The Republican Congress seems intent on letting the “sequester” take place — the idiotic across the board cuts that were explicitly designed to be anathema to both parties. Senate Democrats call not for repealing these cuts, but for “paying for” delaying them for a few more months.

Why this fixation? Deficits aren’t careering out of control. In fact, as the Congressional Budget Office reports, in relation to the economy, the deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than at any time since the demobilization after World War II. Calls for cutting Medicare benefits ignore the reality that the slowing rise in Medicare costs has already cut about $500 billion from its projected costs over 10 years compared to estimates made two years ago.

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A Better Plan Than 'Endless Growth': Enough Is Enough

From Common Dreams:

by Rob Dietz and Dan O'Neill
Published on Monday, February 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland last month.  The official theme was "Resilient Dynamism," a catchphrase that makes about as much sense as the futureless economic policies trotted out at the meeting.  At least the attendees had something to ponder at cocktail hour. The mission of the forum, on paper at least, is "improving the state of the world."  And there is clear room for improvement: trillions of dollars of public debt, billions of people living in poverty, escalating unemployment, and a distinct possibility of runaway climate change.

The popular solution to these problems is sustained economic growth.  In fact, the first item of the Davos meeting's global agenda was "how to get the global economy back on to a path of stable growth and higher employment"  The thinking is that if we could just get people to produce and consume more stuff, then we could also pay off the debt, create jobs, eradicate poverty, and maybe even have some money left over to clean up the environment.

It's tempting to believe this economic fairy tale.  But if growth is the cure to all of our ills, why are we in such a bind after sixty years of it?  Even though the U.S. economy has more than tripled in size since 1950, surveys indicate that people have not become any happier.  Inequality has risen sharply in recent years, and jobs are far from secure.  At the same time, increased economic activity has led to greater resource use, dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and declining biodiversity.  There is now strong evidence that economic growth has become uneconomic in the sense that it costs more than it's worth.
Maybe it's time to consider a new strategy—an economy of enough.  Suppose that instead of chasing after more stuff, more jobs, more consumption, and more income, we aimed for enough stuff, enough jobs, enough consumption, and enough income.

To build a successful economy of enough, we would first need to eliminate the "growth imperative"—factors that make the economy reliant on growth.  These include reliance on inappropriate measures of progress, creation of debt-based money, and the use of aggregate growth as a tool (albeit a blunt one) for generating jobs.  With key policy changes, it is possible to dismantle the growth imperative and build an economy that works for people and the planet.

Let's start with measures of progress.  Our main economic indicator, GDP, is a good measure of economic activity—of money changing hands—but a poor measure of social welfare.  It lumps together desirable expenditures (food, entertainment, and investment in education) with expenditures that we'd rather avoid (war, pollution, and family breakdown).  In the language of economics, GDP does not distinguish between costs and benefits, but counts all economic activity as "progress."

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dress Codes or How Schools Skirt Around Sexism and Homophobia

From Huffington Post:


Spring is coming, which means we are entering the season of the regulation of how much skin girls around the country are allowed to bare. Dress codes, while usually regulating boys' slovenliness, tend to police girls for how much of their bodies are visible. Anyone who's ever painted or stood in a room surrounded by Kara Walker silhouettes can tell you that white space is defining and when we talk about dress codes, girls' skin is the white space we've all been trained to ignore in these discussions. And, while everyone is in theory affected by dress codes, girls and LGTBQ youth are disproportionately affected by them. Challenging schools to align unexamined, traditional dress codes to contemporary values is a tangible place to start if you're interested in teaching kids to live in a diverse, tolerant society. Of course, many parents are not interested.

When it comes to girls, skimpy and skin-baring clothes are often the primary issue. Kids know that many words, like "unladylike," are code for "slutty." Other words that are frequently used include "distracting" and "unprofessional." Many teachers worry that girls' skin will "so addle boys' brains that they will be unable to concentrate." Boys, and apparently in Iowa, adult men who can now legally fire "irresistible" women, we are told, simply cannot concentrate in this environment.

So, what exactly is wrong with saying girls are "distracting"? I mean, everyone know this, right?
  • Who gets to be distracted? And, whose distraction is central? What is a girl supposed to think in the morning when she wakes up and tries to decide what to wear to school? They aren't idiots. The logical conclusion of the "distracting" issue is, "Will I turn someone on if I wear this?" Now who is doing the sexualizing? My daughters would never have thought these things without the help of their school. The only people these policies worry about distracting are heterosexual boys. When I was a teenager, there was a boy who distracted the hell out of me. It was the way his hair brushed against his neck and an insouciant ease with his large body. I managed just fine academically, and so can straight boys who encounter girls they are attracted to. When have you ever heard someone talk about what is distracting to girls or gay kids? This idea ignores that fact that girls and LBGTQ kids exist as sexual people. But, do you know what is distracting? Trying not to be distracting. This framing of the problem is marginalizing, sexist and heteronormative.
  • In addition, it implies strongly that girls have responsibility for boys' responses and that boys cannot control themselves. Boys should be insulted. People need to get a super-firm grip on the fact that girls are not sexual thermostats for their male peers. They need to manage themselves and are fully capable of doing so.
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