Friday, May 31, 2013

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Summer Time

Chief Auditor Eviscerates Regnerus Study, But Questions Remain

From Bilerico:

By John M. Becker  May 30, 2013

In an explosive interview published yesterday by the Southern Poverty Law Center, Darren Sherkat -- a member of the editorial board of the journal Social Science Research, which published Mark Regnerus's disgraced "study" claiming that gays and lesbians make inferior parents -- once again eviscerated the study as "deeply flawed" and its author as "disgraced." Sherkat, who is also a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University, was appointed by Social Science Research editor James Wright to conduct an audit of the process by which Regnerus's study was reviewed and approved for publication.

Speaking to the SPLC's Evelyn Schlatter, he remarked,
When we talk about Regnerus, I completely dismiss the study. It's over. He has been disgraced. All of the prominent people in the field know what he did and why he did it. And most of them know that he knew better. Some of them think that he's also stupid and an ideologue. I know better. I know that he's a smart guy and that he did this on purpose, and that it was bad, and that it was substandard.

Additionally, Sherkat said that Regnerus's "study" is part of a much larger and very alarming trend: the infiltration of mainstream academia, science, and research by conservative evangelicals, who then conduct and publish dubious studies bought and paid for by private foundations and think tanks with specific ideological agendas. In short, the right wing is hijacking science in a long-term effort to win the culture wars:

There is in fact a movement to change the intellectual and cultural climate of academics. This has been going on for over 30 years. Look at things like James Davidson Hunter's Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, where he talks about the growth of these more intellectual conservative evangelical types in Christian colleges like Wheaton and Gordon and Calvin, which is Regnerus' alma mater. They've actively courted the young, successful people in these colleges to become professors, to become intellectuals, and they support their careers.

One thing that's disturbing to me about the Regnerus study is that Regnerus (right) received a large amount of money from these foundations and this creates a very different scholarly and intellectual atmosphere. It creates a playing field that's not level. Someone like Regnerus is now able to go out and buy his own data, if we're to accept data of this quality.

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Leading neuroscientist: Religious fundamentalism may be a ‘mental illness’ that can be ‘cured’

From Raw Story:

By David Edwards
Thursday, May 30, 2013

A leading neurologist at the University of Oxford said this week that recent developments meant that science may one day be able to identify religious fundamentalism as a “mental illness” and a cure it. 

During a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday, Kathleen Taylor was asked what positive developments she anticipated in neuroscience in the next 60 years. 

“One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” she explained, according to The Times of London. “Somebody who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology – we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.”

“I am not just talking about the obvious candidates like radical Islam or some of the more extreme cults,” she explained. “I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children. These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness.”

“In many ways that could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage, that really do a lot of harm.”

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Christo-Nazi Klingenschmitt: ENDA Promotes Bestiality & There Is A "Demonic Spirit Inside of [Sen.] Jeff Merkley"

Misogynist Erick Erickson makes it worse

From Salon:

Pro-tip: When accused of sexism, don’t reference your opponents’ "panties"

Erick Erickson, the conservative blogger and Fox News personality, became the most hated man on Twitter today after responding to a much-discussed Pew survey on female breadwinners by saying that science says that men should dominate women (to be fair to Erickson, Juan Williams and Lou Dobbs expressed equally retrograde sentiments on the very same segment, but have largely escaped the drubbing).

Erickson tried to clear things up with a blog post this afternoon, but only made matters worse by showing how much he doesn’t get it. The missive started off poorly, with some whining about how feminists and “emo lefties have their panties in a wad” (pro-tip: when accused of sexism, don’t reference your opponents’ panties while mounting your defense) and only got worse from there.
First there was a science lesson:
I also noted that the left, which tells us all the time we’re just another animal in the animal kingdom, is rather anti-science when it comes to this. In many, many animal species, the male and female of the species play complementary roles, with the male dominant in strength and protection and the female dominant in nurture.
There are also species where males castrate themselves before sex to avoid being eating alive by females. Perhaps Erickson would like to experience that — you know, because science?
Erickson goes on to equate all female breadwinners with single mothers, and then to assume that the outrage directed at his comments was about some kind of politically correct effort to destroy families:
But we should not kid ourselves or scream so loudly in politically correct outrage to drown the truth — kids most likely will do best in households where they have a mom at home nurturing them while dad is out bringing home the bacon.
Here he shows he just doesn’t get it. What upset people about Erickson’s comments had less to do with single mothers and the decline of marriage rates than about gender roles. It was his notion that women should always stay at home and tend to the kids and that men should always be the breadwinners and dominate women — because that’s only natural.

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Pat Robertson Threatens 'Full-Scale Exposé' of 'Nasty Group' That 'Misconstrues' His Words

Anti-Government Extremism Has Roots in Prewar South

From Truth Out:

By Robert ParryTuesday, 28 May 2013

One reasonable way of looking at democratic governance is that it carries out the collective will of a society, especially in areas where the private sector can’t do the job or needs regulation to prevent it from doing harm. Of course, there are always many variables and points of disagreement, from the need to protect individual rights to the wisdom of each decision. 

But something extreme has surfaced in modern American politics: an ideological hatred of government. From the Tea Party to libertarianism, there is a “principled” rejection – at least rhetorically – of almost everything that government does (outside of national security), and those views are no longer simply “fringe.” By and large, they have been embraced by the national Republican Party.

There has also been an effort to anchor these angry anti-government positions in the traditions of U.S. history. The Tea Party consciously adopted imagery and symbols from the Revolutionary War era to create an illusion that this contempt of government fits with the First Principles.

However, this right-wing revision of U.S. history is wildly askew if not upside-down. The Framers of the U.S. Constitution – and even many of their “anti-federalist” critics – were not hostile to an American government. They understood the difference between an English monarchy that denied them representation in Parliament and their own Republic.

Indeed, the key Framers – James Madison, George Washington and Alexander Hamilton – might be called pragmatic nationalists, eager to use the new Constitution, which centralized power at the national level, to build the young country and protect its fragile independence.

While these Framers later split over precise applications of the Constitution – Madison opposed Hamilton’s national bank, for instance – they accepted the need for a strong and effective federal government, unlike the weak, states’-rights-oriented Articles of Confederation.

More generally, the Founders recognized the need for order if their experiment in self-governance was to work. Even some of the more radical Founders, the likes of Sam Adams, supported the suppression of domestic disorders, such as Shays’ Rebellion in Massachusetts and the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. The logic of Adams and his cohorts was that an uprising against a distant monarch was one thing, but taking up arms against your own republican government was something else.

But the Tea Partiers are not entirely wrong when they insist that their hatred of “guv-mint” has its roots in the Founding era. There was an American tradition that involved resisting a strong and effective national government. It was, however, not anchored in the principles of “liberty,” but rather in the practice of slavery.

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Misplaced Honor

Commemorating the traitorous Confederates by naming military bases and other things after them is the same as naming our military bases after Nazis.

The Confederacy stood for treason and slavery, racism and bigotry.  Its history is a blot upon America.

From The New York Times:

IN the complex and not entirely complete process of reconciliation after the Civil War, honoring the dead with markers, tributes and ceremonies has played a crucial role. Some of these gestures, like Memorial Day, have been very successful. The practice of decorating the graves arose in many towns, north and south, some even before the war had ended. This humble idea quickly spread throughout the country, and the recognition of common loss helped reconcile North and South. 

But other gestures had a more a political edge. Equivalence of experience was stretched to impute an equivalence of legitimacy. The idea that “now, we are all Americans” served to whitewash the actions of the rebels. The most egregious example of this was the naming of United States Army bases after Confederate generals.

Today there are at least 10 of them. Yes — the United States Army maintains bases named after generals who led soldiers who fought and killed United States Army soldiers; indeed, who may have killed such soldiers themselves.

Only a couple of the officers are famous. Fort Lee, in Virginia, is of course named for Robert E. Lee, a man widely respected for his integrity and his military skills. Yet, as the documentarian Ken Burns has noted, he was responsible for the deaths of more Army soldiers than Hitler and Tojo. John Bell Hood, for whom Fort Hood, Tex., is named, led a hard-fighting brigade known for ferocious straight-on assaults. During these attacks, Hood lost the use of an arm at Gettysburg and a leg at Chickamauga, but he delivered victories, at least for a while. Later, when the gallant but tactically inflexible Hood launched such assaults at Nashville and Franklin, Tenn., his armies were smashed. 

Fort Benning in Georgia is named for Henry Benning, a State Supreme Court associate justice who became one of Lee’s more effective subordinates. Before the war, this ardent secessionist inflamed fears of abolition, which he predicted would inevitably lead to black governors, juries, legislatures and more. “Is it to be supposed that the white race will stand for that?” Benning wrote. “We will be overpowered and our men will be compelled to wander like vagabonds all over the earth, and as for our women, the horrors of their state we cannot contemplate in imagination.” 

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Confederate Loving Historical Revisionist David Barton: "You Can't Drink Starbucks And Be Biblically Right"

As if I give a shit what this Neo-Nazi thinks about anything.  As far as I'm concerned the Joseph Goebbels of the Tea Party can go play in traffic with Louie "the Goofball" Gohmert.

Is the Monsanto Protest the Next Salt March?

From Truth Out:

By Stephanie Van Hook and Michael Nagler
Wednesday, 29 May 2013

When a people is faced with a destructive system that has been insidiously putting its tendrils down in many sectors of society, steadily taking over its institutions, it can seem all but impossible to dislodge that evil; but it always seems that a system like that will have some vulnerability, some leverage point that an aroused people can ferret out and be rid of the evil.

The question is, has the Monsanto Corporation become that leverage point by attacking which we could be on our way to the crumbling of the entire system of militarism, racism, greed, and violence that we loathe. Could 2 million-person worldwide March Against Monsanto that took place on May 25 be our Salt March? And our answer is, yes; if we choose to use it as such.

We are aiming high here. Monsanto is a giant corporation; it has a firm grip on many elements of our government. It has created an internal system, including the personnel it attracts and holds, of an insensitivity to life and nature that is unparalleled even in our insensitive age. That is their strength. It is also their vulnerability.

Gandhi, with his insight and his passion, saw that with the simple mechanism of the salt tax the British Raj had a chokehold on the life of India, particularly its impoverished millions. Vandana Shiva has rightly named her movement in India against the corporate giant a “seed Satyagraha” to emphasize the parallel with Gandhi’s pivotal campaign. (“Let the seed be exhaustless, let it never get exhausted, let it bring forth seed next year” are the words of a Indian peasant prayer). In the case of Monsanto, of course, we have a subtler situation than that tackled by the Salt Satyagraha; Monsanto’s employees do not come from another country and wear a different-colored skin. Still, it is as dangerous and as offensive as the British attempt to commoditize salt to the extent that Indians were not allowed to harvest it from their own seashores.

We would like to offer some suggestions for seizing the opportunity presented by the widespread revulsion against this one corporation’s practices to not only humanize some of those practices but turn the tide of corporatization and de-democratization of which they have become an emblem.

However the present march turns out, we should consider it a step on a long journey – and plan that journey. A great deal of what Gandhi would have called “Constructive Programme” – education, community building, long-term efforts like organic and community-based farming to replace the old system (the center of our town, Petaluma, has a GMO-free seed bank that used to be an old-paradigm money bank) – and the beginnings of a robust, diverse, and smart resistance movement represented by, among other things, the present march. We need to plan how to continue the steady pulse of constructive alternatives while escalating, as needed, the resistance.

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The American Party

From Huffington Post:


My remarks when receiving the Ridenhour Courage Award were written in Union Station on my way to the event. But my concluding comment -- that we are near a point when the American people should contemplate a centrist third party -- was not an idle spur-of-the-moment reflection.

I was in government 40 years, long enough to understand how aging organizations can evolve into self-licking ice cream cones1, organizations whose main purpose becomes self-perpetuation rather than accomplishment of their supposed objectives. The public can see this tendency in our politicians, our Congress, and our major political parties.

Our government has failed to address climate, energy, and economic challenges. These challenges, addressed together, actually can be a great opportunity. Our democracy and economic system still have great potential for innovation and rapid adoption of improved technologies, if the government provides the right conditions and gets out of the way.

The Solution is Not Rocket Science

Conservatives and liberals alike can recognize the merit of honest pricing of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels today receive subsidies and do not pay their costs to society. Human health costs of pollution from fossil fuel burning and fossil fuel mining are borne by the public. Climate disruption costs are borne by the victims and all taxpayers.

This market distortion makes our economy less efficient and less competitive. Fixing this problem is not rocket science. The solution can be simple and transparent.

I have described a fossil fuel "fee-and-dividend" approach, summarized on Charts 1 and 2. 100% of a continually rising carbon fee, collected from fossil fuel companies at the domestic mine or port-of-entry, is distributed uniformly to all legal residents (electronically to bank account or debit card). 60% of people receive more in the dividend than they pay in increased prices, but to get or stay on the positive side of the ledger they must pay attention to their fossil fuel use. Millions of jobs are created as we move toward clean energy. Economic modeling shows that our fossil fuel use would decrease 30% after 10 years. A rising carbon fee provides a viable international approach to reduce global emissions, the basic requirement being a bilateral agreement between the U.S. and China. A border duty on products from nations without an equivalent carbon fee or tax would provide a strong incentive for other nations to join.

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Exxon’s $100m Algae Investment Falls Flat

From Oil Price:

By Jen Alic
Tue, 28 May 2013

Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM) is cutting its losses on algae biofuels after investing over $100 million only to find that it couldn’t achieve commercial viability. 

Earlier this week, Exxon announced that while it wasn’t throwing in the towel, it would be forced to restructure its algae research with partner California-based Synthetic Genomics Inc (SGI). 

When the two launched their algae-derived biofuels program in 2009, Exxon planned to invest around $600 million with the goal of developing algae fuels within 10 years.

But it’s been more complicated than expected, and after $100 million down the drain, it has become clear that much more research—and at least another decade and half—are needed. 

Exxon spokesman Charles Englemann told Bloomberg that the partners had “gained significant understanding of the challenges that must be overcome to deliver scalable algae-based biofuels.”

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State Department Inspector General Investigating Keystone XL Contractor ERM's Conflicts of Interest

From DeSmogBlog:

Steve Horn
Thu, 2013-05-30

The Checks and Balances Project has announced that the U.S. State Department's Office of Inspector General (OIG) has launched a conflicts-of-interest investigation into dirty dealings pertaining to the contractor tasked to perform the environmental review for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline on behalf of State. 
Environmental Resources Management, Inc. (ERM Group) declared the northern portion of Keystone XL as environmentally safe and sound on behalf of State in March, in defiance of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's assessment, among others.

The northern half of Keystone XL will connect to the over 75-percent complete southern half and - if built - will carry Alberta's tar sands bitumen south to Texas refineries, with most of the final product shipped to the highest bidder on the global market. State and eventually President Barack Obama have the final say over the proposal because the northern section of pipeline crosses the international border. 

The overarching problem with that ERM assessment, as first revealed on Grist by Brad Johnson: ERM Group was chosen not by the State Dept., but by TransCanada itself. Furthermore, as first revealed on Mother Jones by Andy Kroll, the State Dept. redacted biographical portions of the EIS that pointed to ERM's ongoing close consulting relationship with ERM Group and TransCanada.
"The American public was supposed to get an honest look at the impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline," writes Checks and Balances' Gabe Elsner. "Instead...a fossil fuel contractor, hid its ties from the State Department so they could green light the project on behalf of its oil company clients."

Instead of an honest look, the public got deception, perhaps not surprisingly given ERM's historical contracting relationship with Big Tobacco, as first revealed here on DeSmogBlog. ERM seems to have blatantly lied to the State Dept. - which apparently did no homework of its own, or turned a blind eye at least - and answered "no" to the question shown in the screenshot below.

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It's Time to Stop Investing in the Fossil Fuel Industry

From The Guardian UK:

It makes no sense to pay for one's pension by investing in companies that make sure we won't have a planet to retire on

by Bill McKibben

Earlier this month, the trustees of the city graveyard in Santa Monica, California (final resting place of actor Glenn Ford and tennis star May Sutton) announced they were selling their million dollars worth of stock in fossil fuel companies. As far as I know they were the first cemetery board to do so, but they join a gathering wave of universities, churches and synagogues, city governments and pension funds.

In the last few months, fossil fuel divestment has turned into one of the fastest-growing protest campaigns in recent American history – and it’s already reached all the way to Australia, where portions of the Uniting Church have announced they’ll sell their fossil fuel stock as well.

It’s happening because it’s one of the few ways for concerned people and institutions to take a stand on climate change, and confront the enormous power of the fossil fuel industry. But it’s also happening because once you run the numbers, there’s no way to escape the conclusion that this industry is now an outlaw industry. Not outlaw against the laws of the state – they generally have a large hand in writing those – but outlaw against the laws of physics.

Here’s the maths: almost every country on earth, including Australia, has signed on to the idea that we shouldn’t raise the planet’s temperature more than two degrees – that was the only tangible outcome of the otherwise pointless Copenhagen conference on climate change in 2009. The one degree we've raised so far has already melted the Arctic, not to mention laid the ground for Australia’s "angry summer". As such, two degrees is too high but it’s the only red line the planet’s governments have ever agreed to.

We know roughly how much more carbon we can emit before we go past two degrees: about 500 billion tons. And at current rates of emissions, that will take us less than 40 years. But the math gets really impossible when you consider how much carbon the world’s coal, oil and gas industries already have in their reserves. That number is about 2,800 gigatons – five times what the most conservative governments and scientists on earth say would be safe to burn.

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Neo-Nazi Misogynist Schlafly Urges GOP to Focus Exclusively on White Voters

Is It Wrong to Perform at Michfest?

From The Advocate:

With the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival sticking by its policy against admitting openly transgender women, some performers distance themselves or keep quiet.

BY Karen Iris Tucke
May 28 2013

Iconic pop duo the Indigo Girls have long been a staple at the annual Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, but this is the last time Emily Saliers and Amy Ray will take the stage — unless the festival reverses a long-standing policy that only “women born women” may attend.

“It became clear that we had to take a stand and let people know exactly how we felt,” says Saliers. She and Ray issued a statement on their website in April announcing that while they will perform this year, it will be their last until Michfest moves to formally admit transgender women after nearly four decades of being excluded. Saliers and Ray also vowed to donate any money made from the performance to trans activism. They plan to use the stage as a pulpit to discuss the issue, and their statement has already helped start the debate.

On August 6, the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival will take place, with roughly 3,000 women in attendance, as it has for the past 38 years in the remote woodlands of Michigan. It began with a simple, yet radical idea: an annual gathering where women alone could congregate from around the world, pitch tents, and enjoy music. Yet its bedrock separatist credo of being an event to create safe space solely for “women born women” has increasingly come under fire as discriminatory, and even transphobic.

The conflict reached a boiling point in April, when writer and comic Red Durkin, a lesbian trans woman, launched a petition calling on performers to boycott the festival until its organizers would “explicitly welcome all self-identified women.” The petition now has more than 2,000 signatures.

Poet Andrea Gibson dropped out of this year’s lineup. Conversely, songwriter Melissa Ferrick, who admits she’s waffled on the issue in recent years, plans to perform. “I believe boycotting should be a last-resort tool for activism when dealing with like-minded folks with whom you generally share political solidarity and a grassroots worldview,” Ferrick says. Other performers reached by The Advocate were loath to take sides.
In its early years, second-wave feminists and members of an erstwhile fledgling lesbian movement traveled to Michfest simply to revel for a week in the clothing-optional atmosphere “on the Land,” and escape the typical trappings of patriarchy and homophobia. Many of those women — now with children in tow — still return for that same experience.

Saliers theorizes that history is why some Michfest attendees continue to support excluding trans women: “It’s this great fear that this really, really small community will come in and take over and ruin the institution of a safe space that women born women have created."

Lisa Vogel, 57, a founder of the festival and its artistic director, is no stranger to controversy. “In my 38 years of being involved with this festival, there have been a fair number of junctures where the festival has come under fire,” Vogel says. “In the beginning it was because it was a women-only event. It was construed as anti-male."

Vogel released her own statement on the heels of Durkin’s petition, essentially reiterating the women-born-women position. “I respect the politics of separate space,” she says. “What I am trying to address in my statement is that if you are born female, deemed female at birth, raised as a girl, experienced the rigid enforcement of gender hierarchy from the time that you are a baby, you have a certain shared group experience that is different from someone who was born, deemed male, and raised as a boy."

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Regnerus Is ‘Disgraced,’ Anti-Gay Parenting Study ‘Deeply Flawed’ Says Chief Reviewer

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by David Badash
on May 29, 2013

The Regnerus anti-gay parenting “study” by Mark Regnerus (image, above) is “deeply flawed” and as a result, the author himself is “disgraced,” says the study’s top appointed scholarly reviewer.

In a lengthy interview with the Southern Poverty Law Center, Darren Sherkat, a professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University, and a member of the editorial board of Social Science Research — the publisher of the Regnerus “study,” officially the “New Family Structures Study” (NFSS) – once again decimates the Regnerus paper.

“When we talk about Regnerus, I completely dismiss the study,” Sherkat tells the Southern Poverty Law Center:
It’s over. He has been disgraced. All of the prominent people in the field know what he did and why he did it. And most of them know that he knew better. Some of them think that he’s also stupid and an ideologue. I know better. I know that he’s a smart guy and that he did this on purpose, and that it was bad, and that it was substandard.
Regular readers will note that The New Civil Rights Movement was at the forefront of investigating the background and methodology of the Regnerus work, which falsely claimed that adult children raised by gay and lesbian parents by far more likely to perform poorly in life. The Regnerus study claimed that these adults of gay parents had far great chances of using drugs, being on welfare and food stamps, have behavioral problems, and exhibit self-destructive behaviors. The list of negative outcomes was lengthy — and false.
In fact, Regnerus used a sample of adults who were asked not if their parents were LGBT, but if they thought their parents had ever had sex or a relationship with a member of the same-sex. Only a handful of the study’s participants were actually raised by a same-sex couple.

Here at The New Civil Rights Movement, Scott Rose authored dozens upon dozens of articles on Regnerus, and was instrumental in convincing the academic community to re-examine the Regnerus work and the University of Texas to conduct a review of Regnerus’ study.

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Regnerus Study: Suspect ‘Science’

From The Southern Poverty Law Center:

by Evelyn Schlatter
Intelligence Report, Summer 2013, Issue Number:  150

In July 2012, the journal Social Science Research published a study by University of Texas at Austin sociology professor Mark Regnerus that seemed to indicate that the children of LGBT parents are more likely to get involved with self-destructive behaviors like using drugs and to suffer from depression than those raised by heterosexual parents, despite many studies that have indicated otherwise. The Regnerus study was immediately trumpeted by anti-gay groups as proof that children are in danger in LGBT households. Just a day after its release, for example, it was cited in an amicus brief by the American College of Pediatricians, a tiny anti-gay breakaway from the main pediatricians’ professional association, that was filed in support of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). At press time, the U.S. Supreme Court was weighing arguments on DOMA’s constitutionality.

But the study also engendered serious criticism. More than 200 other sociologists signed a letter to journal editor James Wright that decried the study’s allegedly faulty methodology, and major medical and psychological associations criticized it for similar reasons. Regnerus himself subsequently conceded that his study had problems (key reasons are detailed in the interview below), and he also said his analysis did not conclude that “gay or lesbian parents are inherently bad.” But at the same time, he has continued to defend the study’s results and to push them in anti-LGBT circles. This summer, he is to speak about it to a gathering sponsored by the anti-marriage equality National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

Questions were also raised about Regnerus’ motives, seeing as how he’d accepted almost $700,000 for the study from the Witherspoon Institute, a think tank that opposes same-sex marriage and includes fellows like Robert George, one of the founders of NOM. The Bradley Foundation, another conservative think tank, gave over $60,000. Most recently, documents obtained by the American Independent suggest that Regnerus’ funders choreographed the timing of the study’s release to influence “major decisions of the Supreme Court.” The court this spring heard both the DOMA case and another involving an anti-gay marriage California referendum.

Darren Sherkat, professor of sociology at Southern Illinois University and a member of the editorial board of Social Science Research, was tapped by journal editor Wright to conduct an audit of the process of publishing the Regnerus study. Sherkat was given access to all the peer reviews and correspondence connected with the paper, and was told the identities of the reviewers. What he found, he says, was a study that is deeply methodologically flawed and a peer-review process that failed to identify significant problems. Sherkat also says that the story of the study’s publication is part of a much larger trend in academia and the social sciences: the rise of conservative ideologues in academia whose tendentious studies are paid for by private sources and think tanks with a specific ideological axe to grind. The Intelligence Report spoke to Sherkat about the Regnerus study and its flaws.

Dr. Sherkat, we’ve heard criticism that Dr. Regnerus was somehow “bought off” by conservative money. Is there anything to that?
I don’t think this is an ASA [American Sociological Association] ethics issue at all. What this is, is bad scholarship. We don’t have any ASA ethics rules about bad scholarship done for political reasons. It’s up to colleagues in departments as to whether or not people violate their own internal rules.

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Alejandro Garcia Padilla, Puerto Rico Governor, Signs Gay Rights Bills

From Huffington Post:


SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Puerto Rico's governor has signed a bill that prohibits employment discrimination based on gender or sexual orientation.

Alejandro Garcia Padilla said Wednesday that he met his obligations as a Christian by signing the bill and congratulated legislators on approving the proposal.

The original measure would have also banned discrimination in commercial transactions, property rentals, public transportation and other circumstances. Those clauses were removed after heavy opposition by religious groups.

Most government agencies in the U.S. territory already have anti-discriminatory policies, but human rights activists say they are often not enforced.

Garcia also signed a separate bill that extends a domestic violence law to gay couples.

Damsel in Distress: Part 2 - Tropes vs Women in Video Games

Christo-Nazi Misogynist Bryan Fischer: Women Were Designed To Be Ruled Over And Make A Home For Their Children & Husband

The Vatican and women: Beyond sex, lies and scandals

From Al Jazeera:

Although the new Pope is seen as a reformer, equality for women clearly isn't on the agenda.

26 May 2013

In light of the historic resignation of one pope and the election of another, Empire has travelled to Rome asking after the future of the Catholic Church as it bleeds worshipers and loses influence. As we take stock of the new Pope's priorities, it's clear that the role of the women in Church isn't one of them.

Ever since the 4th century Christianisation of the Roman Empire, which gave birth to an imperial Vatican, the Church has had a global reach like no other.

The Vatican has enjoyed religious authority worldwide, directly controlling more than a million bishops and nuns who are followed by 1.2 billion worshipers: more than any other Christian sect.

However, in recent decades, the Church has been losing the faithful at an alarming rate.

In Latin America, the home of half a billion Catholics, the Church has been losing more than a million adherents each year.

And in North America, US bishops closed down 1,373 churches from 1995 to 2010, according to Jason Berry, author of Render unto Rome: The Secret Life of Money in the Catholic Church - that's more than one parish per week for fifteen years.

While there's been a surge of believers in Africa and Asia, the Church has lost even more in Europe, including in Italy, which has witnessed a two thirds-drop among churchgoers over the last several decades.

Sex abuse scandals

There is little doubt that the latest sex abuse scandals have played a major role in shrinking the Church's membership and undermining its credibility.

In a recent New York Times article "Beyond the Bedroom", columnist Frank Bruni argued that "It's on matters of sexual morality that the church has lost much of its authority. And it's on matters of sexual morality that it largely wastes its breath."

And that's true to a large degree, Ending mandatory celibacy would go a long way to deal with much of the hypocrisy witnessed over the years. It would also confirm the Church's pronounced commitment to the family and so-called "family values".

However, sexual matters in all forms - abusive, excessive, "sinful" - are symptoms of a greater problem facing not only the Vatican but also the other organised Abrahamic faiths.

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Is rape legitimate if she dresses provocatively? One author argues yes

From Salon:

Rape apologist author compares dressing provocatively to leaving a laptop in the back seat of a car


British author Nick Ross insists that “I’m not saying rape isn’t rape” – except when he says, “Rape isn’t always rape.”

He says things like, “Rape is one of the most defiling crimes and there is never excuse or justification for it.” Then he says, “In any other crime we take account of provocation and contributory factors. Even in murder. Why not with sex?” And he wonders why readers are a little confused.

In the U.K., Ross, the former host of a show called “Crimewatch,” has been making headlines with his new book, “Crime” — especially the chapter on sex crimes. In a controversial excerpt that ran in the Sunday Mail, Ross declared that:
“The main argument of my book is this: we can aggravate crime by tempting fate, and we curb it by playing safe. We have come to acknowledge it is foolish to leave laptops on the back seat of the car. We would laugh at a bank that stored sacks of cash by the front door. We would be aghast if an airport badly skimped on its security….  Our forebears might be astonished at how safe women are today given what throughout history would have been regarded as incitement … they would be baffled that girls are mostly unescorted, stay out late, often get profoundly drunk and sometimes openly kiss, grope or go to bed with one-night stands.”
It’s a theme he expands upon in his book, in which he says research reveals that “half of all women who have had penetrative sex unwillingly do not think they were raped and this proportion rises strongly when the assault involves a boyfriend, or if the woman is drunk or high on drugs: They led him on, they went too far, it wasn’t forcible, they didn’t make themselves clear … For them rape isn’t always rape.” He adds, “We should not forget, of course, that women can sometimes turn sex to their own advantage, which occasionally has other implications for crime.”

In other words, if a woman blames herself for her rape, that’s just dandy, because ladies are always using their feminine wiles anyway.

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Breaking News on Facebook's "Tape Her & Rape Her"

Truthdigger of the Week: Medea Benjamin

From Truth Dig:

By Alexander Reed Kelly
May 25, 2013

Voices of protest crying out against the direction of their age feature prominently in many, if not most of humanity’s major mythological traditions. There have always been people who feel themselves at odds with the direction of their tribe, community or nation, so the figure of lone protester has understandable appeal.

But those audiences are almost always a minority, as Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the activist group Code Pink and author of the book “Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control,” discovered for the umpteenth time when she interrupted President Obama on Thursday during his first major counterterrorism address of his second term.

Obama was explaining to the audience at National Defense University in Washington, D.C., that Congress was preventing him from closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay when Benjamin raised her voice to inform him that he, as commander in chief, has the power to close the facility with the stroke of a pen.
Obama is known for displaying almost supernatural cool in the face of criticism, but on this occasion he was obviously flustered. No doubt he was wondering how this woman, an activist, had gotten past the Secret Service. As Benjamin told “Democracy Now!” in a show broadcast the day after the speech, the president’s security team immediately rushed to her and threatened her with arrest if she refused to leave.

Benjamin didn’t budge. “Don’t touch me,” she told the agents with a resolve that obviously made them think twice. “I’ll scream. You don’t want to make a scene in front of the president. You will regret this if you do it.”
The tactic worked. Benjamin was able to interrupt Obama not just once, but a total of three times during his address. “They were really confused about what to do,” she told “Democracy Now!”

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Alternet:  Meet the Woman Who Stood Up to Obama and Made World News: A Conversation with Peace Activist Medea Benjamin

Engineering Empire: An Introduction to the Intellectuals and Institutions of American Imperialism

From Truth Out:

By Andrew Gavin Marshall
Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Educating yourself about empire can be a challenging endeavor, especially since so much of the educational system is dedicated to avoiding the topic or justifying the actions of imperialism in the modern era. If one studies political science or economics, the subject might be discussed in a historical context, but rarely as a modern reality; media and government voices rarely speak on the subject, and even more rarely speak of it with direct and honest language. Instead, we exist in a society where institutions and individuals of power speak in coded language, using deceptive rhetoric with abstract meaning. We hear about 'democracy' and 'freedom' and 'security,' but so rarely about imperialism, domination, and exploitation.

The objective of this report is to provide an introduction to the institutional and social structure of American imperialism. The material is detailed, but should not be considered complete or even comprehensive; its purpose is to function as a resource or reference for those seeking to educate themselves about the modern imperial system. It's not an analysis of state policies or the effects of those policies, but rather, it is an examination of the institutions and individuals who advocate and implement imperial policies. What is revealed is a highly integrated and interconnected network of institutions and individuals - the foreign policy establishment - consisting of academics (so-called "experts" and "policy-oriented intellectuals") and prominent think tanks.

Think tanks bring together prominent academics, former top government officials, corporate executives, bankers, media representatives, foundation officials and other elites in an effort to establish consensus on issues of policy and strategy, to produce reports and recommendations for policy-makers, functioning as recruitment centers for those who are selected to key government positions where they have the ability to implement policies. Thus, think tanks function as the intellectual engines of empire: they establish consensus among elites, provide policy prescriptions, strategic recommendations, and the personnel required to implement imperial policies through government agencies.

Among the most prominent American and international think tanks are the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), the Bilderberg meetings, the Trilateral Commission, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), the Brookings Institution, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and the Atlantic Council. These institutions tend to rely upon funding from major foundations (such as Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie, etc.) as well as corporations and financial institutions, and even various government agencies. 
There is an extensive crossover in leadership and membership between these institutions, and between them and their funders.

Roughly focusing on the period from the early 1970s until today, what emerges from this research is a highly integrated network of foreign policy elites, with individuals like Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Brent Scowcroft, and Joseph Nye figuring prominently in sitting at the center of the American imperial establishment over the course of decades, with powerful corporate and financial patrons such as the Rockefeller family existing in the background of American power structures.

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Walmart found guilty of dumping hazardous waste nationwide

Panel - If GMOs are so safe, why not label them?

Think Fracking Is Bad? Wait Until You Hear about the Gas Industry's "Acid Jobs"

From Common Dreams:

It is a 'scandal' how little the public knows about 'rock melting' extraction process

Jacob Chamberlain

Think fracking is bad? You should know about 'acid jobs,' environmental groups are warning.
Acid jobs,' a highly toxic method of fossil fuel extraction, have gone vastly unregulated by lawmakers, particularly in California where the method is commonly used.

An 'acid job' is a process whereby companies pump chemicals such as hydrofluoric acid into an already built gas and oil well to "melt rocks" and objects that are obstructing oil flow.

"These are super-hazardous, poisonous chemicals and we have no idea what they are doing out there with it - how deep it is going, the volumes - nothing," said Bill Allayaud of the Environmental Working Group. "Why shouldn't our state agency be regulating it as we hope they'll be regulating hydraulic fracturing?"

Acid jobs differ from fracking in that the chemicals are used to quickly eat away at rock and debris formations. Alternatively, fracking blasts away rock formations with a toxic concoction of water and chemicals.

Both processes are widely used and highly toxic, and the long-term environmental damage from each are equally untold.

Companies are currently not required to report when they perform acid jobs and the process has mostly sneaked by while fracking has garnered widespread international criticism.

The method is particularly pervasive in California's Monterey oil formation, the largest shale reserve in the United States.

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Smithfield Foods sale to Chinese firm gives US pork giant entry to China

From The Guardian UK:

Boards approve Shuanghui International's buyout of world's largest pork producer but deal likely to face regulatory hurdles

Dominic Rushe in New York, Wednesday 29 May 2013

China's Shuanghui International has made a $4.7bn bid to takeover Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, in what would be the biggest takeover of a US company by a Chinese firm to date – if it passes regulatory hurdles.

The deal is likely to run into heavy opposition in Washington, where a series of Chinese takeovers have been blocked by politicians and regulators. Shuanghui, also known as Shineway, is China's largest pork producer and is part owned by an investment firm run by Goldman Sachs.

A takeover would give Smithfield entry into China, the biggest and fastest growing market for pork. Per-capita pork consumption last year was 86 pounds, up from 70 pounds in 2002, according to Northstar Commodity Investment. In the US consumption was 58 pounds last year, down from 66 pounds in 2002.
And as demand has risen China's domestic pig farmers have been subject of scandals with thousands of dead pigs found dead in Chinese rivers, disease outbreaks and illnesses.

"This is a great transaction for all Smithfield stakeholders, as well as for American farmers and US agriculture," said Larry Pope, president and chief executive officer of Smithfield. "It will be business as usual – only better."

Shuanghui chairman Wan Long called the deal an "historic opportunity". Wan is a high-profile business leader in China, where he is known as the country's "No 1 butcher" because his company slaughters more than 15m pigs a year.

In March, local media reported that Wan told the National People's Congress that he planned to make Shuanghui a major multinational company and one of the world's largest meat processors.

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We can't let Monsanto win on genetically modified food

From The Guardian UK:

Monsanto has been victorious in court, Congress and the White House. Protests will need to grow to stop them

by Sadhbh Walshe

Last weekend, 2 million people around the world took to the streets to protest genetically modified food, drawing attention to its dangers and the environmental harm caused by its production. Two million people is a pretty good showing by any standard, but especially so when event organizers said they would have considered 3,000 a success. According to Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director of the Center for Food Safety, the turnout was a welcome sign of a growing safe food movement:
A decade ago we would have been happy if 10 people showed up at a march about food safety, now if we get less than a million people signing a petition we are disappointed.
Sadly for Kimbrell and other food safety activists, a million signatures on a petition or majority support for food labeling does not guarantee the government will submit to the public will.

In March, congress passed an emergency budget bill containing a provision dubbed the Monsanto Protection Act. It was a major victory for the biotech sector, and more evidence of the reach of its influence in the halls of power.

Fortunately for anyone who shares Jon Stewart's fears that this we'll soon be eating meat carrots, or the "tomato that throws itself", public opposition has vocally called out this overreaching by the "agro-industrial complex". Whether the public can lure our government away from their apparently unyielding support for these harmful and unsustainable agricultural practices is another matter, entirely.

Surveys have consistently found that around 90% of the American people support mandatory labeling of GM foods. In March, around the same time the government was signing the so-called Monsanto Protection Act into law, the Center for Food Safety submitted a petition to the US Food and Drug Administration with over a million signatures, demanding mandatory labeling. The FDA's response? "Don't call us, we'll call you."

Meanwhile, just this past week, the Senate voted down a measure that simply would have allowed states to make their own decisions about labeling requirements on GM products by an overwhelming margin of 71 to 27.

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