Monday, June 30, 2014

What makes a slut? The only rule, it seems, is being female

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/23/slut-female-word-women-being-female

It's a warning more than a word: a reminder to women to adhere to sexual norms or be punished

theguardian.com, Monday 23 June 2014

Sandra Fluke heard it when she talked about insurance coverage for birth control. Sara Brown from Boston told me she was first called it at a pool party in the fifth grade because she was wearing a bikini. Courtney Caldwell in Dallas said she was tagged with it after being sexually assaulted as a freshman in high school.

Many women I asked even said that it was not having sex that inspired a young man to start rumors that they were one.

And this is what is so confounding about the word "slut": it's arguably the most ubiquitous slur used against women, and yet it's nearly impossible to define.

The one thing we do know about "slut" is that it's the last thing a woman should want to be. Society is so concerned over women and girls' potential for promiscuity that we create dress codes, school curricula, even legislation around protecting women's supposed purity. Conservative columnists opine that women having sex is tantamount to a "mental health crisis", and magazine stories wonder if we're raising a generation of "prosti-tots".

Leora Tanenbaum, the author of SLUT! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, told me that "a 'slut' is a girl or woman who deviates from norms of femininity. The 'slut' is not necessarily sexually active – she just doesn't follow the gender script."

This nebulous, unquantifiable quality of the slur is what makes it so distressing – there's no way to disprove something that has no conclusive boundaries to begin with. And because it's meant to be more of an identity than a label, it's a term not easily shaken off. "Slut" sticks to a person in a way that "asshole" never will.

So what makes you a slut? It seems the the only hard and fast rule is that you have to be a woman.
Men, of course, are immune – absent, really – from the frenzy of concern. For instance, a new study out of the University of Michigan showed that teen girls who "sext" are called sluts while boys who do the same remain free-from judgement. In another example, the American Medical Association breathlessly released a study in 2006 with the headline "Sex and Intoxication More Common Among Women on Spring Break", intended to warn women about their "risky" behavior while on break – but there was nothing about the men the majority of these young women would supposedly be having all this drunken sex with.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/23/slut-female-word-women-being-female

Watching the World Destroy Itself

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/26-1

by Robert C. Koehler


The video opens with a few bars of adrenalin-pumping music. We see a topsy-turvy camera angle, sky, trees, darkness, then a staccato pop pop pop that blends rhythmically with the music, but of course it’s gunfire, lots of gunfire, followed by a few urgent words in Arabic, then English. “Down here! Down here!

This chaotic excitement is Iraq, the evening’s International Hot Spot, brought to us by ABC. It’s the news, but it’s also reality TV and big league sports, rolled into an entertainment package of shocking cluelessness. OMG, ISIS is on the move. It’s winning. Stay tuned!

Iraq, Iraq. This is a disaster stamped “made in USA.” Worse than that. It’s a bleeding stump of a nation that we destroyed in our pursuit of empire, at the cost of multi-trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands or perhaps a million Iraqi lives, and spiritual and physical damage to American troops so profound a new phrase had to be coined: moral injury. And now, our official, moneyed media serve up what’s left of Iraq to us as geopolitical entertainment: the moderates (our guys, sort of) vs. the insurgents. Go, U.S.-trained troops! Stand tough and die for American interests, OK?

Of course, as the Washington Post reported earlier this month: “Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the western bank of the city (of Mosul) overnight after U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.”

This is our terrible baby, but hear the words of another Washington Post story:

“For both sides,” write Gregg Jaffe and Kevin Maurer, referring to sides within the U.S. military, “the debate over who lost Iraq remains raw and emotional. Many of today’s military officers still carry fresh memories of friends killed in battle.”

They add, however: “Iraq and the Iraqi people remain something of an abstraction. For much of the war, U.S. troops patrolled Iraq’s cities in lumbering armored vehicles and lived on heavily fortified bases surrounded by blast walls and barbed wire.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/26-1

Candace Roberts -- Not My City Anymore

San Francisco was never my city.  I always thought of it as being a rather nice place to visit but a lousy place to live.  I always thought Berkeley was much nicer than SF.

The Feds Have Turned America Into a War Zone: 4 Disturbing Facts About Police Militarization

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/feds-have-turned-america-war-zone-4-disturbing-facts-about-police-militarization

Why do even small towns now deploy paramilitary forces?

By Aaron Cantú June 25, 2014

For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of “militarization.” They've upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and inculcated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces.

But beyond deep reporting of individual journalists and scholars, little is known about the extent of militarization across the country. The ACLU has attempted to bridge that knowledge gap with a new report called War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.

“Our investigation is the first to conduct an analysis using raw data received directly from police departments, by looking directly at incident reports themselves,” says Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel at the ACLU’s Center for Justice and the primary author of the report. The ACLU sent public records requests to 260 law enforcement agencies in 25 states plus Washington D.C., asking for records of all SWAT deployments between 2011 and 2012. Below are some of its most significant findings.

1. The federal government’s war on drugs is the single greatest catalyst for local police militarization.

Far from being used for emergencies such as hostage situations, the ACLU found that 62% of all SWAT deployments were for the purpose of drug searches, and 79% were to search a person’s home with a search warrant—usually for drugs.

These deployments are usually violent and feature bands of heavily armed officers ramming down doors or chucking flash bang grenades into homes. Innocent people are often caught up, and sometimes killed, in the ensuing chaos, including Eurie Stamp, a Massachusetts grandfather who was shot dead by an officer as police attempted to locate Stamp’s girlfriend’s son for a drug offense. Other SWAT-induced tragedies abound: The ACLU found that 46 people were injured as a result of paramilitary deployment.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/feds-have-turned-america-war-zone-4-disturbing-facts-about-police-militarization

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Night Fun and Culture: The Yardbirds

Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all played guitar with the Yardbirds at different periods during the 1960s, making the Yardbirds one of the most important rock and roll groups to come out of 1960s England.













Thursday, June 26, 2014

WikiLeaked Doc Reveals Wall Street Plan for Global Financial Deregulation

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/06/19-2

WikiLeaks releases draft text of trade deal exposing efforts to increase stranglehold over global economy

Jon Queally

WikiLeaks published a previously tightly-held and secretive draft of a trade document on Thursday that, if enacted, would give the world's financial powers an even more dominant position to control the global economy by avoiding regulations and public accountability.

Known as a Trade in Services Agreement (TISA), the draft represents the negotiating positions of the U.S. and E.U. and lays out the deregulatory strategies championed by some of the world's largest banks and investment firms.
According to WikiLeaks:
Despite the failures in financial regulation evident during the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis and calls for improvement of relevant regulatory structures, proponents of TISA aim to further deregulate global financial services markets. The draft Financial Services Annex sets rules which would assist the expansion of financial multi-nationals – mainly headquartered in New York, London, Paris and Frankfurt – into other nations by preventing regulatory barriers. The leaked draft also shows that the US is particularly keen on boosting cross-border data flow, which would allow uninhibited exchange of personal and financial data.

TISA negotiations are currently taking place outside of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) and the World Trade Organization (WTO) framework. However, the Agreement is being crafted to be compatible with GATS so that a critical mass of participants will be able to pressure remaining WTO members to sign on in the future. Conspicuously absent from the 50 countries covered by the negotiations are the BRICS countries of Brazil, Russia, India and China. The exclusive nature of TISA will weaken their position in future services negotiations.
Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch, said the deal described in the draft, if approved by national governments, would be a disaster for any regulatory efforts designed to put a check on global finance.

In a statement responding to the TISA draft released by WikiLeaks on Thursday, Wallach said:
“If the text that was leaked today went into force, it would roll back the improvements made after the global financial crisis to safeguard consumers and financial stability and cement us into the extreme deregulatory model of the 1990s that led to the crisis in the first place and the billions in losses to consumers and governments.

"This is a text that big banks and financial speculators may love but that could do real damage to the rest of us. It includes a provision that is literally called ‘standstill’ that would forbid countries from improving financial regulation and would lock them into whatever policies they had on the books in the past.”
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US police departments are increasingly militarised, finds report

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/jun/24/military-us-police-swat-teams-raids-aclu

• ACLU cites soaring use of war zone equipment and tactics • Swat teams increasingly deployed in local police raids • Seven civilians killed and 46 injured in incidents since 2010

in New York theguardian.com, Tuesday 24 June 2014

At 3am on 28 May, Alecia Phonesavanh was asleep in the room she was temporarily occupying together with her husband and four children in the small town of Cornelia, Georgia. Her baby, 18-month-old Bou Bou, was sleeping peacefully in his cot.

Suddenly there was a loud bang and several strangers dressed in black burst into the room. A blinding flash burst out with a deafening roar from the direction of the cot. Amid the confusion, Phonesavanh could see her husband pinned down and handcuffed under one of the men in black, and while her son was being held by another. Everyone was yelling, screaming, crying. “I kept asking the officers to let me have my baby, but they said shut up and sit down,” she said.

As the pandemonium died down, it became clear that the strangers in black were a Swat team of police officers from the local Habersham County force – they had raided the house on the incorrect assumption that occupants were involved in drugs. It also became clear to Phonesavanh that something had happened to Bou Bou and that the officers had taken him away.

“They told me that they had taken my baby to the hospital. They said he was fine he had only lost a tooth, but they wanted him in for observation,” Phonesavanh said.

When she got to the hospital she was horrified by what she saw. Bou Bou was in a medically-induced coma in the intensive care unit of Brady Memorial hospital. “His face was blown open. He had a hole in his chest that left his rib-cage visible.”

The Swat team that burst into the Phonesavanh’s room looking for a drug dealer had deployed a tactic commonly used by the US military in warzones, and increasingly by domestic police forces across the US. They threw an explosive device called a flashbang that is designed to distract and temporarily blind suspects to allow officers to overpower and detain them. The device had landed in Bou Bou’s cot and detonated in the baby’s face.

“My son is clinging to life. He’s hurting and there’s nothing I can do to help him,” Phonesavanh said. “It breaks you, it breaks your spirit.”

Bou Bou is not alone. A growing number of innocent people, many of them children and a high proportion African American, are becoming caught up in violent law enforcement raids that are part of an ongoing trend in America towards paramilitary policing.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/jun/24/military-us-police-swat-teams-raids-aclu

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Piketty mania: how an economics lecture became the hottest gig in town

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/17/thomas-piketty-lse-capitalism-talk

The 'rock star' economist sold out his London talk at the LSE – but his doomy prognosis isn't music to everyone's ears

Thomas Piketty's Capital: everything you need to know about the surprise bestseller
The Guardian, Tuesday 17 June 2014

With all due respect to the "dismal science", this doesn't happen often: hundreds of people are queueing round the block for an economics lecture on a lovely summer's evening in London. And those are the people who have successfully booked seats. There's another queue of shifty-looking people hoping for return tickets and steeling themselves for disappointment. This, one might well think, is a microcosm of the dysfunctionally inegalitarian society under late capitalism that the speaker indicts in his book: a society cruelly divided between the haves and the have-nots.

And there are other divisions: black and white, young and old, City suits and flip-flop-sporting slackers, women and men, venerable baldies and twentysomething asymmetric fringes, post-endogenous growth theorists and their bitter foes, pre-post-endogenous growth theorists (sometimes known as endogenous growth theorists). But the most emblematic social division for our purposes is that between those in the queues who moan loudly about being gouged by the merchandising ("£30 for a book? They've got to be kidding. Who can afford that?") and those who've come clutching one, sometimes two copies of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, in the dewy-eyed hope that its author, Professor Thomas Piketty, will deign to sign it. Piketty later apologises for not putting the book online, saying it was because his publisher wouldn't like it: if he was really serious about reducing inequality, though, you'd think he'd ignore his publisher's compunctions.

Outside the Peacock Theatre, round the corner from the London School for Economics, the mood resembles an oversubscribed first night: it's ostensibly genteel and polite, but hides simmering resentments that could switch rapidly from sarcastic exchanges to elbow-shovings to full-on riot followed by zombie apocalypse if we don't all get in.

Don't these people know that they're queueing to hear about the historic shifts in the capital-income ratio, modifications to the Kuznets curve and the elasticity of substitution of labour? The counterintuitive answer is that quite a lot of them do. For those who have lived through austerity years that have made the rich richer and the poor more desperate, for those who read Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett's The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better and wondered how we could become more Nordically egalitarian, Piketty has a message they want to hear: economics should be used for good rather than evil, to effectively redistribute wealth. Pikettians don't chant, but if they did it would go: "What do we want? An egalitarian shift in the ratio between g and r, where r is growth and g the return on capital. When do we want it? As soon as feasible, thanks."

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/17/thomas-piketty-lse-capitalism-talk

Monday, June 23, 2014

Measure Climate-Related Destruction in the Many Trillions of Dollars: UN

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/06/06-0

A look at only one subset of negative impacts of global warming - the loss of vital coral reefs - would cost an estimated $11.9 trillion in the coming years

Jon Queally

Measure the cost of destructive climate change-related impacts in the trillions of dollars, says a United Nations report published Thursday.

The report, which focuses on the world's 52 Small Island Developing States (or SIDS) found predominantly in the Caribbean and the South Pacific, highlights how the nations and people least responsible for the climate crisis face the most severe damage. However, the report notes, the costs associated with the destruction of low-lying nations, coral reefs, and vulnerable coasts will be felt globally.

According to the UN's Environment Program (UNEP), the coral reefs in all SIDS regions are already severely impacted by rising ocean surface temperatures. And the report says that the global net loss of the coral reef cover - around 34 million hectares over the coming two decades - will cost the international economy nearly $12 trillion, with the economies and very existence of those small nations especially impacted.

"For example," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, "these 52 nations, home to over 62 million people, emit less than one per cent of global greenhouse gases, yet they suffer disproportionately from the climate change that global emissions cause."

The threats to low-lowing nations and those highly-dependent on their proximity to ocean resources, according to the report, are increased flooding, shoreline erosion, ocean acidification, warmer sea and land temperature, and damage to infrastructure from extreme weather events.

The UNEP reports says that though the challenges are enormous, there do existence mitigation efforts that could lessen or forestall the worst impacts, but only if governments quickly create new policies and change course.
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What Piketty Forgot: The Crisis of Capitalism Isn't Just about Inequality

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/18-13

It's not just about the distance between rich and poor, but about the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

by Noel Ortega


By now, it’s no secret that French economist Thomas Piketty is one of the world’s leading experts on inequality. His exhaustive, improbably popular opus of economic history—the 700-page Capital in the Twenty-First Century—sat atop the New York Times bestseller list for weeks. Some have called it the most important study of inequality in over 50 years.

Piketty is hardly the first scholar to tackle the linkage of capitalism with inequality. What sets him apart is his relentlessly empirical approach to the subject and his access to never before used data—tax and estate records—that elegantly demonstrates the growing trends of income and wealth inequality. The database he has compiled spans 300 years in 20 different countries.

Exactingly empirical and deeply multidisciplinary, Capital is an extremely important contribution to the study of economics and inequality over the last few centuries. But because it fails to address the real limits on growth—namely our ecological crisis—it can’t be a roadmap for the next.

Inequality and Growth

One of the main culprits of inequality, according to Piketty (and Marx before him), is that investing large amounts of capital is more lucrative than investing large amounts of labor. Returns on capital can be thought of as the payments that go to a small fraction of the population—the investor class—simply for having capital.

In essence, the investor class makes money from money, without contributing to the “real economy.” Piketty demonstrates that after adjusting for inflation, the average global rate of return on capital has been steady, at about 5 percent for the last 300 years (with a few exceptions, such as the World War II years).

The rate of economic growth, on the other hand, has shown a different trend. Before the Industrial Revolution, and for most of our human history, economic growth was about 0.1 percent per year. But during and after the rapid industrialization of the global north, growth increased to a then-staggering 1.5 percent in Western Europe and the United States. By the 1950s and 1970s, growth rates began to accelerate in the rest of the world. While the United States hovered just below 2 percent, Africa’s growth rates caught up with America’s, while rates in Europe and Asia reached upwards of 4 percent.

Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/18-13

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Dr. Oz and Nutritional Supplements


Friday, June 20, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/12/pentagon-mass-civil-breakdown

Social science is being militarised to develop 'operational tools' to target peaceful activists and protest movements

Posted by Thursday 12 June 2014

A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term "warfighter-relevant insights" for senior officials and decision makers in "the defense policy community," and to inform policy implemented by "combatant commands."
Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD 'Minerva Research Initiative' partners with universities "to improve DoD's basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US."

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model "of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions." The project will determine "the critical mass (tipping point)" of social contagians by studying their "digital traces" in the cases of "the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey."

Twitter posts and conversations will be examined "to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised."

Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington "seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate," along with their "characteristics and consequences." The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on "large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity," and will cover 58 countries in total.

Last year, the DoD's Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine 'Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?' which, however, conflates peaceful activists with "supporters of political violence" who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on "armed militancy" themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists:
"In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence."
The project's 14 case studies each "involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence."

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/12/pentagon-mass-civil-breakdown

Blowback As Canada Muzzles Public Talk of Climate Change

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/06/11-6

Thousands sign petition condemning ban on weather forecasters discussing global warming

Sarah Lazare


The public is up in arms after Canadian officials decided to prohibit government weather forecasters from publicly discussing climate change.

As of Wednesday, nearly 14,000 people had signed a petition penned by Canadian resident Janelle Martel that slams "another move on the government’s part to keep the public uninformed about climate change."

In late May, government agency Environment Canada confirmed to investigative journalist Mike De Souza that weather forecasters employed by government weather forecasters are banned from discussing global warming.

Environment Canada spokesperson Mark Johnson told De Souza that Environment Canada prohibits meteorologists from discussing climate change, citing the need for them to speak to their "area of expertise."

But the petition, created on the website of company Care2, charges, “These meteorologists undergo years of training to learn about severe weather changes. This, along with the fact that the government has barred other scientists from discussing climate change without political clearance, makes it seem as though the government [wants] to limit and control the information Canadians have access to regarding climate change.”
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Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Blocking Science: How Congress and the DEA Have Thwarted Official Research on Pot for 40 Years

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/drugs/blocking-science-how-congress-and-dea-have-thwarted-official-research-pot-40-years

By April M. Short June 15, 2014

Ever wonder why, despite millions of personal anecdotes about pot's healing effects, there is a stark lack of government-approved, clinical studies to back up that human experience? The research gap is no accident. Cannabis is the only illicit substance with an extra set of governmental requirements specifically intended to prevent independent study.

While medical marijuana patients in nearly half of the states swear by the herb’s medicinal properties, prohibitionists can conveniently point their fingers at that lack of scientific evidence whenever cornered by a pro-legalization argument. Stacks of research have affirmed the extraordinary potentials of the cannabis plant, but none received the official approval of the U.S. government.

Hiding behind these outdated prerequisites, the US Drug Enforcement Administration has effectively blocked government approval of all independent scientific studies on pot for four decades. Created in the '70s as part of Richard Nixon's Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Prevention Act of 1970, the DEA, a policing agency tasked with enforcing national drug laws, has the authority to decide how each drug is restricted under the law and whether/where it is produced. This has allowed the DEA to restrict the production of cannabis allowed for federal research to the point of near non-existence.

In a new report titled “ The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science,” the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance teamed up with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to point out the many ways in which the law enforcement agency stifles science.

“This concerns me greatly as someone who has studied marijuana and given thousands of doses of the drug,” said psychiatry professor Carl Hart during a June 11 teleconference about the DEA report.
Hart pointed out the existence of government-funded studies showing “some potential for marijuana” to help people with serious illnesses, for example HIV and AIDS. “The notion that the DEA is has not acknowledged this and thought about reconsidering the scheduling of marijuana just seems to be against the scientific evidence,” he said. “It seems to be against what we’re trying to do in terms of having a society that relies on empirical evidence to base our decisions.”

Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/drugs/blocking-science-how-congress-and-dea-have-thwarted-official-research-pot-40-years

Fossil Fuels' 'Easy Money' and the Need for a New Economic System

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/11-4

by David Suzuki


Energy giant Kinder Morgan was recently called insensitive for pointing out that “Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term.” The company wants to triple its shipping capacity from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, in part by twinning its current pipeline. Its National Energy Board submission states, “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

It may seem insensitive, but it’s true. And that’s the problem. Destroying the environment is bad for the planet and all the life it supports, including us. But it’s often good for business. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico added billions to the U.S. gross domestic product! Even if a spill never occurred (a big “if”, considering the records of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies), increasing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day would go hand-in-hand with rapid tar sands expansion and more wasteful, destructive burning of fossil fuels—as would approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, as well as increased oil shipments by rail.

The company will make money, the government will reap some tax and royalty benefits and a relatively small number of jobs will be created. But the massive costs of dealing with a pipeline or tanker spill and the resulting climate change consequences will far outweigh the benefits. Of course, under our current economic paradigm, even the costs of responding to global warming impacts show as positive growth in the GDP — the tool we use to measure what passes for progress in this strange worldview.

And so it’s full speed ahead and damn the consequences. Everything is measured in money. B.C.’s economy seems sluggish? Well, obviously, the solution is to get fracking and sell the gas to Asian markets. Never mind that a recent study, commissioned by the Canadian government, concludes we don’t know enough about the practice to say it’s safe, the federal government has virtually no regulations surrounding it and provincial rules “are not based on strong science and remain untested.” Never mind that the more infrastructure we build for polluting, climate-disrupting fossil fuels, the longer it will take us to move away from them. There’s easy money to be had—for someone.

We need to do more than just get off fossil fuels, although that’s a priority. We need to conserve, cut back and switch to cleaner energy sources. In Canada, we need a national energy strategy. And guess what? That will create lasting jobs! But we must also find better ways to run our societies than relying on rampant consumption, planned obsolescence, excessive and often-pointless work and an economic system that depends on damaging ways and an absurd measurement to convince us it somehow all amounts to progress.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/11-4

Mansplaining, explained: 'Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady'

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/06/mansplaining-explained-expert-women

Author Rebecca Solnit admits that even penning a book titled 'Men Explain Things to Me' doesn't stop some men

theguardian.com, Friday 6 June 2014

Rebecca Solnit is a prolific author (she's working now on her sixteenth and seventeenth books), historian, activist and a contributing editor to Harper's. Her most recent book, Men Explain Things to Me, is a collection of Solnit's essays, including the title piece that launched a million memes. Solnit, on the road in Seattle, took some time to explain "mansplaining", writing and how the post-Isla Vista misogyny conversation is a little like climate denialism.

JESSICA VALENTI: How do you feel about being considered the creator of the concept of "mansplaining"? Your now-famous essay – which really gave women language to talk about the condescending interactions they've had with men – certainly gave birth to the term, but you write in the book that you didn't actually make up the word.

REBECCA SOLNIT: A really smart young woman changed my mind about it. I used to be ambivalent, worrying primarily about typecasting men with the term. (I have spent most of my life tiptoeing around the delicate sensibilities of men, though of course the book Men Explain Things to Me is what happens when I set that exhausting, doomed project aside.) Then in March a PhD candidate said to me, No, you need to look at how much we needed this word, how this word let us describe an experience every woman has but we didn't have language for.

And that's something I'm really interested in: naming experience and how what has no name cannot be acknowledged or shared. Words are power. So if this word allowed us to talk about something that goes on all the time, then I'm really glad it exists and slightly amazed that not only have I contributed about a million published words to the conversation but maybe, indirectly, one new word.

Do men still explain things to you?

Do they ever! Social media are to mansplainers what dogs are to fleas, and this recent feminist conversation has brought them out in droves. I mean, guys explain ridiculous things to me like that the Louisiana Purchase gave the United States a Pacific Coast. But more than anything since I wrote Men Explain Things to Me, they've explained women's experience to me and other women. With this explosive new conversation since the Isla Vista murders, there's been a dramatic uptick in guys mansplaining feminism and women's experience or just denying that we need feminism and we actually had those experiences.

If there were awards to be handed out, one might go to the man who told me and a woman friend that 1) women actually like all those catcalls 2) as a man who's spent time in men's-only locker rooms, he knows men don't actually speak to women that way. So we like street harassment, but that doesn't actually exist, because we're just crazy that way, us subjective, imaginative, unreliable ladies. Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/06/mansplaining-explained-expert-women

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Recipe for Ripoffs

From Other Words:  http://otherwords.org/trade-deals-are-recipe-for-ripoffs/

Deals that amount to NAFTA on steroids benefit corporations and hurt the rest of us.

By and
June 11,2014

Creative Commons  Permission to repost citing original source and linking to original source

President Barack Obama is a surprisingly devout disciple of so-called “free trade.”

During his first presidential bid he promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), indicating some concern over the U.S.-Canada-Mexico pact. A month after his 2009 inauguration, Obama declared that he would “be very careful” and take his time meeting that goal.

Instead, he crossed fixing that accord off his to-do list and became a cheerleader for new deals that amount to NAFTA on steroids.

What’s the big deal?

The United States has inked free-trade deals with 20 countries over the past three decades. This country plunged headfirst into the World Trade Organization before it formally launched in 1995. It’s now clear that this zeal benefits corporations while hurting the rest of us.

These accords stoke inequality by driving down wages. The United States exported nearly 700,000 jobs between NAFTA’s 1994 debut and 2010, despite promises that it would expand employment. Following 25 years of stagnation, typical household income remains about $51,000 a year.

Free trade deals hand corporations a shield to fend off national regulations. Hitching its fortune to rules rigged by the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), a Canadian-based mining company called Pacific Rim claims to have a right to dig for gold in El Salvador — even though that country has banned the practice to protect its meager supply of drinkable water.

Pacific Rim is suing El Salvador’s government for $300 million.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal could render this kind of corporate power grab routine. The pact would skew global economic rules for a dozen countries, including our own and Japan, which account for 40 percent of world trade. Among other things, this deal would make it easier for corporations to use “investor-to-state” lawsuits like the El Salvador debacle to get their way over the objections of foreign governments.

This recipe for ripoffs isn’t really about trade. And that’s the point. These arrangements are a gimmick intended to trump local and national laws to suit the whims of corporations.

That’s why merely five of the looming Trans-Pacific deal’s 29 “chapters” have much to do with trade. The rest hand big companies privileges and protections.

With people taking a backseat to profits, it’s no wonder our leaders are negotiating pacts like this behind closed doors. When WikiLeaks spilled the beans on the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s environmental chapter, it turned out that this deal included weaker safeguards than its predecessors, outraging people who spend their lives fighting for cleaner air and water.

The Obama administration is also pursuing a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with European nations. Those talks are just as secret, and that pact would also make it easier for corporations to override environmental safeguards by suing foreign governments to get their way.
Why is WikiLeaks rooting around for these documents and releasing them to the public? The pacts will require Senate approval, yet lawmakers have had to beg for any details about them. Based on leaks, other big concerns center around health issues. For example, some provisions would block government policies that discourage smoking. There are also many concerns about labor rights.

Meanwhile, hundreds of corporate insiders get a seat at the table without making a fuss. A list of 605 big-business insiders leaked in 2012 offers a glimpse of the scope of this influence. It includes industry-wide lobbyists like the American Farm Bureau and the Nuclear Energy Institute, along with a who’s-who of corporate America.

Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar Inc., Walmart and Yum! Restaurants International, the fast-food powerhouse that includes KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, all made the list while environmentalists and labor leaders remain locked out.

Thankfully, the Senate is denying Obama his request for “fast-track” negotiating authority. Given the kind of gridlock prevailing in Congress, perhaps these deals won’t ever be sealed.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies @ESGrecoOtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut. OtherWords.org

How Inequality Shapes the American Family

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/how-inequality-shapes-american-family

Inequality changes who we are, individually and collectively.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore June 4, 2014

How do you decide who to marry, or whether to marry at all? How many children to have? Whether to engage in short-term hookups or long-term partnerships?

We don't like to think that economic forces outside our individual control can shape the most intimate aspects of our lives, like whether or not we wed, when to have kids, and what kinds of families we create. But a growing body of evidence suggests that inequality is changing not only American family structures, but the roles men and women play and the calculations they make in pairing and establishing households. Inequality changes who we are, individually and collectively.

Inequality is changing the stakes for forming partnerships. It means, for example that there are fewer men with stable economic cicrumstances for women to choose from as appropriate long-term partners at both the lower and middle rungs of the economic ladder. A shortage of men in the less financially stable groups means that the guys who do look like good prospects realize don't feel any particular pressure to commit. So they don't. On the other hand, working-class and poor women who consider marrying men who may get laid off or become financial burdens are less ready to commit themselves.

At the top of the economic ladder, conditions are quite different. There people have resources to cope with childcare, good schools, therapy, and other things that can help families succeed. More lasting commitments and greater family stability go hand-in-hand with greater resources.

Law professors June Carbone and Naomi Cahn have been investigating how inequality influences family life. In their new book, Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family, they find we are creating profound social changes through America's tolerance of wealth and income disparities. In the New Gilded Age, class once again becomes a dominant force in human life, just as it was aboard the Titanic. In an email interview, I caught up with the authors to delve further into the new class-based American family.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/how-inequality-shapes-american-family

"Iraq" Is Still Arabic for "Vietnam"

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/17

by Ira Chernus

When George W. Bush and the neocons launched their war in Iraq, critics coined the slogan, “‘Iraq’ is Arabic for ‘Vietnam.’” The point was obvious: Another long quagmire of a war in an inhospitable foreign land would lead once again to nothing but death, suffering, and defeat for America.
That was back in 2003 and 2004, when the parallel was to the Vietnam war of 1965 – 1973.

To see why “Iraq” is still Arabic for “Vietnam” we have to turn the historical memory dial back just a few more years, to 1962 and 1963. That was when John F. Kennedy struggled with the same dilemma now facing Barack Obama: How much, if it all, should we get involved militarily to help a corrupt leader who stays in power by terrorizing his political enemies?

Here’s what JFK told interviewers in September, 1963, about South Vietnam under President Ngo Dinh Diem: “I don’t think … unless a greater effort is made by the  Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there.”

Here’s what Barack Obama told reporters on June 13, 2014: “Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together. … and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.”

JFK: “In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it.”
Obama: “We can’t do it for them. …  The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together.”

JFK balanced his calls for Diem to reform with what sounded like a promise that the South Vietnamese government would get U.S. aid no matter what it did or failed to do: “I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw…. This is a very important struggle even though it is far away. … We also have to participate — we may not like it — in the defense of Asia.”

Obama sounded a similar note: “Given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well. Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces. …  They will have the support of the United States. …  We have enormous interests there.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/17

The Challenge of Sustaining Our Oceans

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/04-2

by David Suzuki


June 8 is World Oceans Day. It’s a fitting time to contemplate humanity’s evolving relationship with the source of all life. For much of human history, we’ve affected marine ecosystems primarily by what we’ve taken out of the seas. The challenge as we encounter warming temperatures and increasing industrial activity will be to manage what we put into them.

As a top predator, humans from the tropics to the poles have harvested all forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to the largest whales, from the ocean’s surface to its floor. The staggering volume of fish removed from our waters has had a ripple effect through all ocean ecosystems. Yet the ocean continues to provide food for billions of people, and improved fishing practices in many places, including Canada, are leading to healthier marine-life populations. We’re slowly getting better at managing what we catch to keep it within the ocean’s capacity to replenish. But while we may be advancing in this battle, we’re losing the war with climate change and pollution.

In the coming years, our ties to the oceans will be defined by what we put into them: carbon dioxide, nutrients washed from the land, diseases from aquaculture and land-based animals, invasive species, plastics, contaminants, noise and ever-increasing marine traffic. We once incorrectly viewed oceans as limitless storehouses of marine bounty and places to dump our garbage; now it’s clear they can only handle so much.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report described how ingredients in the ocean’s broth are changing dramatically. Life in the seas is closely linked to factors in the immediate surroundings, such as temperature, acidity or pH, salinity, oxygen and nutrient availability. These combine at microscopic levels to create conditions that favour one form of life over another and emerge into complex ecosystems.

The oceans now absorb one-quarter of the atmosphere’s CO2. That’s bad news for organisms with calcium carbonate shells that dissolve in acidic conditions. We’re witnessing the effects of ocean acidification on shellfish along the West Coast of North America. Earlier this year, a Vancouver Island scallop farm closed after losing 10 million scallops, likely because of climate change and increasing acidity. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also linked oyster die-offs along the Pacific coast to climate change.

While we may be getting better at figuring out how to sustainably harvest crabs, lobsters and sea urchins, we’re just starting to investigate whether they can even survive in oceans altered by climate change.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/04-2

Doing for the Poor and Doing to the Poor

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/doing-for-the-poor-and-do_b_5501484.html

Washington is full of well-meaning types who want to help the poor. The list of prospective helpers includes not only the standard liberal do-gooder types talking about programs like pre-K education, but also conservatives like Paul Ryan who argue that taking away food stamps and other benefits will give low-income people the motivation they need to go out and get a job.

While sincere efforts to help the poor should be encouraged, we should also realize that our current economic policies are doing much to harm the poor. First and foremost we should realize that the decision to maintain high rates of unemployment is having a devastating impact on the well-being of millions of low- and moderate-income workers and their children.

The reasons are straightforward. When the overall unemployment rate goes up, the rate for the less-educated and minorities rises even more. This has been a regular pattern in the data for many decades that has been very visible in the current downturn.

Before the recession the overall unemployment rate was at 4.5 percent. It peaked at 10.0 percent in the fall of 2009 before gradually falling back to its current 6.3 percent. By contrast, the unemployment rate for workers without high school degrees rose from just over 7.0 percent in the months before the recession to a peak of more than 15.0 percent in peak months in 2009 and 2010. This is an increase of 8.0 percentage points. The unemployment rate for blacks rose from just over 8.0 percent before the recession to a peak of more than 16.0 percent, also a rise of 8.0 percentage points.

High unemployment doesn't just hurt those at the bottom by denying them jobs, they also work fewer hours than they would like. The analysis in my book with Jared Bernstein, Getting Back to Full Employment, found that hours worked for families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution increased by 17 percent in the boom at the end of the 1990s. By contrast, hours worked barely increased at all for those in the top fifth.

And a lower unemployment rate means higher wages for those at the bottom. We found that a sustained one percentage point decline in the unemployment rate is associated with a 9.4 percent rise in real wages. To summarize, for the poor, lower unemployment translates into more jobs, more hours, and higher pay.

While the data on these points may be clear, many people will question that having high unemployment is a policy choice. That requires a little bit of thought.

At this point we have solid evidence that we can reduce the unemployment rate with increased government spending or tax cuts targeted to those who would spend the money. We have opted not to do so in order to reduce the deficit.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dean-baker/doing-for-the-poor-and-do_b_5501484.html

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Fog Machine of War

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/chelsea-manning-the-us-militarys-campaign-against-media-freedom.html?_r=1

Chelsea Manning on the U.S. Military and Media Freedom

By Chelsea Manning June 14, 2014

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — WHEN I chose to disclose classified information in 2010, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. I’m now serving a sentence of 35 years in prison for these unauthorized disclosures. I understand that my actions violated the law.

However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved. As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of how the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan. I believe that the current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance.

If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.
Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.

Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed.

Early that year, I received orders to investigate 15 individuals whom the federal police had arrested on suspicion of printing “anti-Iraqi literature.” I learned that these individuals had absolutely no ties to terrorism; they were publishing a scholarly critique of Mr. Maliki’s administration. I forwarded this finding to the officer in command in eastern Baghdad. He responded that he didn’t need this information; instead, I should assist the federal police in locating more “anti-Iraqi” print shops.
I was shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election. Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar.

It was not the first (or the last) time I felt compelled to question the way we conducted our mission in Iraq. We intelligence analysts, and the officers to whom we reported, had access to a comprehensive overview of the war that few others had. How could top-level decision makers say that the American public, or even Congress, supported the conflict when they didn’t have half the story?

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/15/opinion/sunday/chelsea-manning-the-us-militarys-campaign-against-media-freedom.html?_r=1