Thursday, December 31, 2015

Suffragette reminds us why it's a lie that feminists need men's approval

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/suffragette-reminds-us-why-its-a-lie-that-feminists-need-mens-approval

A century on from the British suffrage campaign, feminists are still told that being pleasing is the best strategy for their success – and it’s still not true

Michelle Smith
Monday 28 December 2015

 
The new film Suffragette, released in Australia on Boxing Day, begins with female activists smashing London shop windows and bombing the partially completed home of the chancellor of the exchequer. It dramatises the militant actions of feminists from 1905 until the outbreak of the first world war, as they sought the right for British women to vote.

Edwardian women appear genteel in photographs, but the tactics of the suffragettes transgressed feminine expectations of the era. Suffragettes disrupted debate in parliament and struggled with police in violent marches. One famously slashed a painting of a naked woman in the National Gallery and another even came at Winston Churchill on a train platform with a riding whip.

With England more than a decade behind New Zealand, which had granted women’s suffrage in 1893, it was clear that polite and reasoned requests for women’s political rights had not worked. Emmeline Pankhurst, leader of the suffrage movement, explained that unruly activism was essential:
If the general public were pleased with what we are doing, that would be a proof that our warfare is ineffective. We don’t intend that you should be pleased.
Despite the sustained campaign, full suffrage for women was not achieved until 1928. More than a century on from the British suffrage campaign, the message that being pleasing is not the optimal route to political and social change remains just as pertinent.

Increasingly men are informing feminists that they would be more successful if they made their politics more palatable. The UN’s HeforShe campaign, launched by the unthreatening Emma Watson, is often heralded as a positive way to involve men in work toward gender equality.

Both the idea that feminism needs to be appealing to men and that men should be central to its progress are anti-feminist ideas in themselves.

Regardless of their approach, feminists have always been characterised unfavourably for their social goals, looks, and refusal to defer to men.

Mocking cartoons of suffragettes showed them beating men to the ground with umbrellas or standing over their husbands and forcing them to clean the house. These caricatures took issue with the way that women’s demands for the vote seemed to be upending the natural order in which men were physically dominant and women were best suited to domestic work. Others lampooned the unattractiveness of suffragettes: they were drawn as old, dowdy and either lacking in teeth or suffering from pronounced overbites.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/dec/29/suffragette-reminds-us-why-its-a-lie-that-feminists-need-mens-approval

For the Wealthiest, a Private Tax System That Saves Them Billions

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/business/economy/for-the-wealthiest-private-tax-system-saves-them-billions.html
 
The very richest are able to quietly shape tax policy that will allow them to shield billions in income.
WASHINGTON — The hedge fund magnates Daniel S. Loeb, Louis Moore Bacon and Steven A. Cohen have much in common. They have managed billions of dollars in capital, earning vast fortunes. They have invested large sums in art — and millions more in political candidates.
Moreover, each has exploited an esoteric tax loophole that saved them millions in taxes. The trick? Route the money to Bermuda and back.

With inequality at its highest levels in nearly a century and public debate rising over whether the government should respond to it through higher taxes on the wealthy, the very richest Americans have financed a sophisticated and astonishingly effective apparatus for shielding their fortunes. Some call it the “income defense industry,” consisting of a high-priced phalanx of lawyers, estate planners, lobbyists and anti-tax activists who exploit and defend a dizzying array of tax maneuvers, virtually none of them available to taxpayers of more modest means.

In recent years, this apparatus has become one of the most powerful avenues of influence for wealthy Americans of all political stripes, including Mr. Loeb and Mr. Cohen, who give heavily to Republicans, and the liberal billionaire George Soros, who has called for higher levies on the rich while at the same time using tax loopholes to bolster his own fortune.

All are among a small group providing much of the early cash for the 2016 presidential campaign.
Operating largely out of public view — in tax court, through arcane legislative provisions and in private negotiations with the Internal Revenue Service — the wealthy have used their influence to steadily whittle away at the government’s ability to tax them. The effect has been to create a kind of private tax system, catering to only several thousand Americans.

The impact on their own fortunes has been stark. Two decades ago, when Bill Clinton was elected president, the 400 highest-earning taxpayers in America paid nearly 27 percent of their income in federal taxes, according to I.R.S. data. By 2012, when President Obama was re-elected, that figure had fallen to less than 17 percent, which is just slightly more than the typical family making $100,000 annually, when payroll taxes are included for both groups.

The ultra-wealthy “literally pay millions of dollars for these services,” said Jeffrey A. Winters, a political scientist at Northwestern University who studies economic elites, “and save in the tens or hundreds of millions in taxes.”

Some of the biggest current tax battles are being waged by some of the most generous supporters of 2016 candidates. They include the families of the hedge fund investors Robert Mercer, who gives to Republicans, and James Simons, who gives to Democrats; as well as the options trader Jeffrey Yass, a libertarian-leaning donor to Republicans.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/30/business/economy/for-the-wealthiest-private-tax-system-saves-them-billions.html

Only in America: Four years into life, poor kids are already an entire year behind

From The Washington Post:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/17/how-your-first-four-years-of-life-affect-the-rest-of-it/
 

December 17, 2015

 
Wealthy parents aren't just able to send their kids to top pre-schools—they can also purchase the latest learning technology and ensure their children experience as many museums, concerts and other cultural experiences as possible. Low-income parents, on the other hand, don't have that opportunity. Instead, they're often left to face the reality of sending their kids to schools without having had the chance to provide an edifying experience at home.

That might sound foreboding if not hyperbolic, but it's a serious and widespread problem in the United States, where poor kids enter school already a year behind the kids of wealthier parents. That deficit is among the largest in the developed world, and it can be extraordinarily difficult to narrow later in life.

This is one of the key takeaways from a new book about how United States is failing its children. The book, called Too Many Children Left Behind, is written by Columbia University professor Jane Waldfogel, a long-time researcher of poverty and inequality. And it will force almost anyone to reflect on the impact of unchecked inequality on children.

Waldfogel says the massive achievement gap in the United States is a blemish for a country that aspires to be the greatest in the world. In her book, she shows that achievement gap is pronounced to a startling degree in the first years of life.

I spoke with Waldfogel to learn more about how the early years of a child's life can impact the rest of it, what role school plays in perpetuating inequality, and why the United States isn't doing a great job of creating an equal playing field for its children. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Continue reading at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/17/how-your-first-four-years-of-life-affect-the-rest-of-it/

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The Revolt of the Anxious Class

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/135202830270

Robert Reich
Monday, December 14, 2015

 
The great American middle class has become an anxious class – and it’s in revolt. 

Before I explain how that revolt is playing out, you need to understand the sources of the anxiety.
Start with the fact that the middle class is shrinking, according to a new Pew survey.

The odds of falling into poverty are frighteningly high, especially for the majority without college degrees. 

Two-thirds of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Most could lose their jobs at any time.
Many are part of a burgeoning “on-demand” workforce – employed as needed, paid whatever they can get whenever they can get it.

Yet if they don’t keep up with rent or mortgage payments, or can’t pay for groceries or utilities, they’ll lose their footing.

The stress is taking a toll. For the first time in history, the lifespans of middle-class whites are dropping.

According to research by the recent Nobel-prize winning economist, Angus Deaton, and his co-researcher Anne Case, middle-aged white men and women in the United States have been dying earlier.

They’re poisoning themselves with drugs and alcohol, or committing suicide.

The odds of being gunned down in America by a jihadist are far smaller than the odds of such self-inflicted deaths, but the recent tragedy in San Bernadino only heightens an overwhelming sense of arbitrariness and fragility.

The anxious class feels vulnerable to forces over which they have no control. Terrible things happen for no reason.

Continue Reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/135202830270

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Class Differences in Child-Rearing Are on the Rise

What the books and movies called Hunger Games are really about.  What happens when you have a privileged elite running the world and an under class.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/18/upshot/rich-children-and-poor-ones-are-raised-very-differently.html
 
Dec. 17, 2015

The lives of children from rich and poor American families look more different than ever before.

Well-off families are ruled by calendars, with children enrolled in ballet, soccer and after-school programs, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. There are usually two parents, who spend a lot of time reading to children and worrying about their anxiety levels and hectic schedules.

In poor families, however, children tend to spend their time at home or with extended family, the survey found. They are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods that their parents say aren’t great for raising children, and their parents worry about them getting shot, beaten up or in trouble with the law.

The class differences in child rearing are growing, researchers say — a symptom of widening inequality with far-reaching consequences. Different upbringings set children on different paths and can deepen socioeconomic divisions, especially because education is strongly linked to earnings. 

Children grow up learning the skills to succeed in their socioeconomic stratum, but not necessarily others.

“Early childhood experiences can be very consequential for children’s long-term social, emotional and cognitive development,” said Sean F. Reardon, professor of poverty and inequality in education at Stanford University. “And because those influence educational success and later earnings, early childhood experiences cast a lifelong shadow.”

The cycle continues: Poorer parents have less time and fewer resources to invest in their children, which can leave children less prepared for school and work, which leads to lower earnings.
American parents want similar things for their children, the Pew report and past research have found: for them to be healthy and happy, honest and ethical, caring and compassionate. There is no best parenting style or philosophy, researchers say, and across income groups, 92 percent of parents say they are doing a good job at raising their children.

Yet they are doing it quite differently.

Middle-class and higher-income parents see their children as projects in need of careful cultivation, says Annette Lareau, whose groundbreaking research on the topic was published in her book “Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life.” They try to develop their skills through close supervision and organized activities, and teach children to question authority figures and navigate elite institutions.

Working-class parents, meanwhile, believe their children will naturally thrive, and give them far greater independence and time for free play. They are taught to be compliant and deferential to adults.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/18/upshot/rich-children-and-poor-ones-are-raised-very-differently.html

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Hunger Games world is no country for glamorous women

Being a woman isn't about embracing a social role or gender, gender, gender.  It is about being an adult female bodied person or being assumed to be an adult female bodied person.

Glamour is the stuff of the elite and overly privileged.  Hunger Games allegorically shows how the elites of the world treat the masses.  The working people do the menial work and fight the wars, the privileged bask in their glamour. You don't have to be a Marxist or Tea Party prole to see that one.

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/nov/30/hunger-games-mockingjay-part-two-women-femininity

Despite its female hero, The Hunger Games constantly depicts the conventional trappings of femininity as decadent, weak and dangerous.


 
In The Hunger Games, the Capitol is the luxurious seat of evil. While the drab working class in the districts toil in poverty and filth and boring clothes, Capitol citizens stroll about in pampered splendour. President Snow raises white perfumed roses. His populace is decked out in gaudily colored costumes, preposterous coiffures and elaborately styled facial hair. The upper-class, in short, is decadent – and decadence, in both Suzanne Collins’ books and the films, means flamboyant femininity.

Disgust with, and hatred of femininity is often linked to hatred of women – as in the uber-masculine James Bond novels, with their casual disdain for the disposable sex objects who cross the hero’s path.
The Hunger Games doesn’t hate women, though. Its hero is a woman. But, as a woman, she is a hero precisely because she rejects the traditional roles of femininity. At home in District 12, Katniss wears utilitarian, drab clothing. After her father dies, she steps into his role as provider and hunter, leaving the confines of the domestic village for adventures in the woods. When her sister is threatened, Katniss does the stereotypical manly, heroic thing. You could certainly say her feelings for her sister are maternal, but she expresses them most dramatically through being iconically paternal – by going into battle to protect her family.

The Hunger Games does put Katniss in female roles with some regularity – but it invariably does so to emphasize those roles’ artificiality, and her distance and discomfort with them. She wears a series of striking, literally incendiary dresses, which in the films emphasise Jennifer Lawrence’s considerable glamour. But, while Katniss admires these dresses (and shares a bond of deep affection with designer Cinna), she’s wearing them because she has to, not because she wants to. She has to dress up first in order to win sponsors to help her during the Hunger Games battle, and then to inspire the resistance against the capital. The dresses are a performance. They function as a kind of drag, not an expression of her own gender identity or choices.

Similarly, Katniss’s romance plot is presented as a front. She and Peeta pretend to be in love for the cameras to, again, woo sponsors and to assure President Snow that their main interest is true love, not rebellion. The wedding preparations are an elaborate ruse, which underlines Katniss’s distance from the traditional feminine romance narrative. She doesn’t want marriage and happily ever after; she is not that feminine archetype. If she could, she would head for the woods.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/nov/30/hunger-games-mockingjay-part-two-women-femininity

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/world/middleeast/isis-enshrines-a-theology-of-rape.html
 
Claiming the Quran’s support, the Islamic State codifies sex slavery in
conquered regions of Iraq and Syria and uses the practice as a recruiting tool.
QADIYA, Iraq — In the moments before he raped the 12-year-old girl, the Islamic State fighter took the time to explain that what he was about to do was not a sin. Because the preteen girl practiced a religion other than Islam, the Quran not only gave him the right to rape her — it condoned and encouraged it, he insisted.

He bound her hands and gagged her. Then he knelt beside the bed and prostrated himself in prayer before getting on top of her.

When it was over, he knelt to pray again, bookending the rape with acts of religious devotion.
“I kept telling him it hurts — please stop,” said the girl, whose body is so small an adult could circle her waist with two hands. “He told me that according to Islam he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God,” she said in an interview alongside her family in a refugee camp here, to which she escaped after 11 months of captivity.

The systematic rape of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority has become deeply enmeshed in the organization and the radical theology of the Islamic State in the year since the group announced it was reviving slavery as an institution. Interviews with 21 women and girls who recently escaped the Islamic State, as well as an examination of the group’s official communications, illuminate how the practice has been enshrined in the group’s core tenets.

The trade in Yazidi women and girls has created a persistent infrastructure, with a network of warehouses where the victims are held, viewing rooms where they are inspected and marketed, and a dedicated fleet of buses used to transport them.

A total of 5,270 Yazidis were abducted last year, and at least 3,144 are still being held, according to community leaders. To handle them, the Islamic State has developed a detailed bureaucracy of sex slavery, including sales contracts notarized by the ISIS-run Islamic courts. And the practice has become an established recruiting tool to lure men from deeply conservative Muslim societies, where casual sex is taboo and dating is forbidden.

A growing body of internal policy memos and theological discussions has established guidelines for slavery, including a lengthy how-to manual issued by the Islamic State Research and Fatwa Department just last month. Repeatedly, the ISIS leadership has emphasized a narrow and selective reading of the Quran and other religious rulings to not only justify violence, but also to elevate and celebrate each sexual assault as spiritually beneficial, even virtuous.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/08/14/world/middleeast/isis-enshrines-a-theology-of-rape.html

'Women's Studies' is Betraying Women under Sharia Law

From The Middle East Forum:  http://www.meforum.org/5680/womens-studies-betrays-women
 
by Phyllis Chesler December 7, 2015

Last week, the National Women's Studies Association membership voted to boycott Israel. The resolution reads, in part: "As feminist scholars, activists, teachers, and public intellectuals . . . we cannot overlook injustice and violence, including sexual and gender-based violence, perpetrated against Palestinians and other Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, within Israel and in the Golan Heights, as well as the colonial displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians during the 1948 Nakba."

This vote is an utter betrayal of both reality and of women — especially women who live under Sharia law.

In 1970, I taught one of the first Women's Studies courses in the country. What I had envisioned for the discipline has nothing to do with today's anti-American, anti-Israel, post-colonial, faux-scholarly feminist academy.

Marxism triumphed among radical feminists—and then they became "Palestinianized." Women's Studies professors are less concerned with the "occupation" of women's bodies world-wide than they are with the alleged occupation of a country that has never existed: "Palestine."

So I wasn't surprised that the association held a plenary panel last year on that crucial feminist issue: "The Imperial Politics of Nation-States: US, Israel, and Palestine." Panelists included former communist Angela Davis, the recipient of the Lenin Peace Prize; Rebecca Vilkomerson, the executive director of the infamous anti-Israel Jewish Voice for Peace; and Dr. Islah Jad of Birzeit University, whose focus seems to be Palestinian women only.

They vowed to get the association to boycott Israel. Now they've succeeded.

But these "Feminists for Palestine" are in denial about Islam's long and ugly history of imperialism, colonialism, gender and religious apartheid, anti-black racism, conversion via the sword, executions of apostates and slavery.

The association doesn't condemn, for example, the atrocities being practiced by Hamas, ISIS, Boko Haram and the Taliban against Muslim women, children and dissidents and against Christian, Yazidi and Kurdish women whom ISIS has captured as sex slaves.

Continue reading at:  http://www.meforum.org/5680/womens-studies-betrays-women

Monday, December 7, 2015

A welcome blow to the myth of distinct male and female brains

From New Scientist:  https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28584-a-welcome-blow-to-the-myth-of-distinct-male-and-female-brains/

A major study that undermines the damaging idea that male and female brains are fundamentally different could be a game-changer

Gina Rippon
30 November 2015

 
One of the biggest barriers to equality is crumbling, thanks to a study that blows away the misconception that male and female brains are distinct.

Based on detailed and careful analysis of core features seen in scans of more than 1400 female and male human brains, Israeli researcher Daphna Joel and colleagues demonstrated that most are unique mixes or “mosaics” of features previously thought to be either “male” or “female”. A brain that is not a mix was found to be extremely rare.

The result is a major challenge to the entrenched misconceptions typified by the “men are from Mars, women are from Venus” hokum. My hope is it will be a game-changer for the 21st century.

Crucially, it means the power of neuroimaging to explore and explain the links between brain and behaviour can at last come into its own, freed from the constraints of preconceived stereotypes. Our understanding of sex-related brain differences will move beyond simple and outdated dichotomous thinking.

Knowing the controversy associated with such declarations, the authors have been very careful to use a range of different datasets from different laboratories and to investigate the veracity of their findings using more than a single neuroimaging measure.

Their paper adds to similar discussions in neuroscience, as well as to the canon of recent research findings that previously “well-established” sex differences in brain structures turn out to be false when careful analytical techniques are applied.

And it gels with the broader idea that the biology of sex differences is not what we thought. A news feature in Nature last year proclaimed: “Sex redefined: the idea of two sexes is simplistic”, reporting data showing that, even in the most fundamental aspects of sexual differentiation, including chromosomes, cells and genital anatomy, thinking in simple male/female terms is no longer tenable.
What’s more, for several years, psychologists have been saying that, in terms of cognitive skills and personality characteristics, the “two” sexes are much more similar than different. Just knowing whether someone is male or female is a very poor predictor of almost any kind of behaviour.

Continue reading at:  https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn28584-a-welcome-blow-to-the-myth-of-distinct-male-and-female-brains/

Thursday, December 3, 2015

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/132819483625

Robert Reich
Sunday, November 8, 2015


I’ve just returned from three weeks in “red” America.

It was ostensibly a book tour but I wanted to talk with conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers.

I intended to put into practice what I tell my students – that the best way to learn is to talk with people who disagree you. I wanted to learn from red America, and hoped they’d also learn a bit from me (and perhaps also buy my book).

But something odd happened. It turned out that many of the conservative Republicans and Tea Partiers I met agreed with much of what I had to say, and I agreed with them.

For example, most condemned what they called “crony capitalism,” by which they mean big corporations getting sweetheart deals from the government because of lobbying and campaign contributions.

I met with group of small farmers in Missouri who were livid about growth of “factory farms” owned and run by big corporations, that abused land and cattle, damaged the environment, and ultimately harmed consumers.

They claimed giant food processors were using their monopoly power to squeeze the farmers dry, and the government was doing squat about it because of Big Agriculture’s money.

I met in Cincinnati with Republican small-business owners who are still hurting from the bursting of the housing bubble and the bailout of Wall Street.





Whenever I suggested that big Wall Street banks be busted up – “any bank that’s too big to fail is too big, period” – I got loud applause.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/132819483625

Monday, November 30, 2015

There's no such thing as a 'male brain' or 'female brain,' and scientists have the scans to prove it

From The Los Angeles Times:  http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-no-male-female-brain-20151130-story.html
 
Karen Kaplan November 30, 2015

Do you have a male brain or a female brain? The answer, according to science, is no.

If you didn’t expect this to be a yes-or-no question, you’re not alone. Male brains do seem to be built differently than female brains. An analysis of more than 100 studies found that the volume of a man’s brain is 8% to 13% greater than the volume of a woman’s brain, on average. Some of the most noticeable differences were in areas of the brain that control language, memory, emotion and behavior, according to a 2014 report in the journal Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews.
To find out whether these structural differences translated into cognitive differences, scientists examined detailed brain scans of more than 1,400 men and women. No matter which group of people they looked at, what type of scan was used or which part of the brain was examined, the researchers consistently failed to find patterns that set men and women apart.

“Although there are sex/gender differences in brain structure, brains do not fall into two classes, one typical of males and the other typical of females,” the team wrote in a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “Each brain is a unique mosaic of features, some of which may be more common in females compared with males, others may be more common in males compared with females, and still others may be common in both females and males.”

They started with a set of MRIs that measured the volume of gray matter in the brains of 112 men and 169 women ages 18 to 79. On these scans, they examined 116 separate regions and zeroed in on the 10 that showed the greatest difference between men and women. In each case, the 281 scans were divided into three categories – one-third considered “most male,” one-third considered “most female” and one-third in the middle.

Continue reading at:   http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-no-male-female-brain-20151130-story.html

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Why Are Student Protesters So Fearful?

Some 20 years ago Todd Gitlin wrote The Twilight of Common Dreams: Why America Is Wracked by Culture Wars. He was roundly booed by everyone with an investment in identity politics.

I remember that period as it was when I first got on-line.  I wasn't much vested in the politics of identity and was constantly catching a bunch of crap for being politically incorrect.

Over the last 20 years I have come to view identity politics as one of the most universally oppressive piles of bullshit to ever come down the pike.

You see once there was something called the common good, things most people could agree were good for the majority of people in this country and for the country in general.  There were enough things we could agree on.

Not everything turned into a fight complete with name calling.

Maybe we used to feel we actually had some control over our lives, some real say in how things were run.  Maybe living in the real world was less overwhelming than being flooded 24/7 with pleadings for support accompanied by an inability to do anything about much of anything.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/why-are-student-protesters-so-fearful.html?_r=0
 
Todd Gitlin
Nov. 21, 2015


The message coming out of recent student protests on college campuses, from Princeton and Yale to the University of Missouri, couldn’t be clearer: Students are rightly pained by the racist and sexual abuse still shockingly common into the 21st century, and for good reason they are indignant that institutions they trust — or wish to trust — fail to stop the culprits, or even to acknowledge publicly the harm they do.

But rumbling under the surface of some recent protests is something besides indignation: an assumption of grave vulnerability. The victims too often present themselves as weak, in need of protection. Administrators are held, like helicopter parents, wholly responsible. To a veteran of movements of the ’60s like myself, this is strikingly strange.

Surely there are reasons to feel vulnerable to abuses of power. There is a rape culture. Black people are killed by the police in grotesque proportions. Hatred of immigrants has reached a high pitch of hysteria and looms large in the thinking of one of our major political parties.

It is also true that many administrators are caught flat-footed; just consider how long it took the University of Missouri to acknowledge longstanding concerns by minority students about campus racism.

And yet, when that recognition came and the president and chancellor resigned, instead of celebrating an extraordinary victory — with football players as their crucial allies — demonstrators blocked photographers from taking pictures of their assembly. They apparently believed that public assemblies ought to be “safe spaces,” meaning, safe from photography, which might have been thought to be useful for bringing the news to a larger public. Their starting assumption was that the press had it in for them.

At Yale, meanwhile, administrators cautioned students about how to dress properly for Halloween, and when another administrator publicly questioned whether this was an issue the administration needed to take a position on, protesters demanded her resignation.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/22/opinion/sunday/why-are-student-protesters-so-fearful.html?_r=0

Consume more, conserve more: sorry, but we just can’t do both

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/24/consume-conserve-economic-growth-sustainability
 
Tuesday 24 November 2015

We can have it all: that is the promise of our age. We can own every gadget we are capable of imagining – and quite a few that we are not. We can live like monarchs without compromising the Earth’s capacity to sustain us. The promise that makes all this possible is that as economies develop, they become more efficient in their use of resources. In other words, they decouple.

There are two kinds of decoupling: relative and absolute. Relative decoupling means using less stuff with every unit of economic growth; absolute decoupling means a total reduction in the use of resources, even though the economy continues to grow. Almost all economists believe that decoupling – relative or absolute – is an inexorable feature of economic growth.

On this notion rests the concept of sustainable development. It sits at the heart of the climate talks in Paris next month and of every other summit on environmental issues. But it appears to be unfounded.
A paper published earlier this year in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences proposes that even the relative decoupling we claim to have achieved is an artefact of false accounting. It points out that governments and economists have measured our impacts in a way that seems irrational.

Here’s how the false accounting works. It takes the raw materials we extract in our own countries, adds them to our imports of stuff from other countries, then subtracts our exports, to end up with something called “domestic material consumption”. But by measuring only the products shifted from one nation to another, rather than the raw materials needed to create those products, it greatly underestimates the total use of resources by the rich nations.

For instance, if ores are mined and processed at home, these raw materials, as well as the machinery and infrastructure used to make finished metal, are included in the domestic material consumption accounts. But if we buy a metal product from abroad, only the weight of the metal is counted. So as mining and manufacturing shift from countries such as the UK and the US to countries like China and India, the rich nations appear to be using fewer resources. A more rational measure, called the material footprint, includes all the raw materials an economy uses, wherever they happen to be extracted. When these are taken into account, the apparent improvements in efficiency disappear.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/nov/24/consume-conserve-economic-growth-sustainability

Monday, November 23, 2015

University yoga class canceled because of ‘oppression, cultural genocide’

I for one am fed up with this cultural appropriation bullshit.  

Call the stretching exercises something else.  Like Stretching Exercises based on Yoga. 

I guess all the TaeKwondo, Karate and Kung-fu schools are going to have to close too.


No more studying languages other than your own or reading books, watching movies outside your own culture.  Better yet outside your own particular identity group classification.

Absolute conformity to your designated identity community is mandatory otherwise you could be labeled as having a psychiatric disorder called ODD (Opposition Defiant Disorder).

Wait I saw movies from this dystopian nightmare.  The series is called Divergent and is based on a young adult series by the same name.

Fuck me.  Being anti-authority/questioning authority/not being a good sheeple makes one mentally ill in the Brave New World Order.  Resisting the 24/7 programming is being ...  Well for want of a better term Divergent.

I should have known I was in deep shit some 20 years ago when I faced ostracism for resisting the ideology of the Transgender Borg Collective

Growing up in the 1950s and 1960s, particularly in a place where I was immersed in the history of the American Revolution I considered my rights and freedom to decide things for myself to be innate, as natural as a breath of mountain air.  I saw myself as an individual endowed with with basic rights including the ability think for myself.

Telling people they can't study things and learn for themselves about the world around them is the worst sort of totalitarianism.  It imposes ignorance and places that ignorance on a pedestal of correct thinking.

I don't give a shit if it is the right wing denying the importance to others of their particular holidays that come at the end of the year or denying sex education or denying climate change.  Fuck those who claim sacred status for yoga and other exercise techniques.  Fuck those who demand the world conform to their particular ideology. Fuck those who demand the world conform to their particular ideology. I don't give a shit if it is so called progressives demanding I believe their bullshit and accommodate their ultra sensitivities.

You can believe what ever the fuck you want.  But I will go to war to defend my right to believe something different if my learning and life experiences have taught me something different.

From The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/23/university-yoga-class-canceled-because-of-oppression-cultural-genocide/
 

November 23, 2015

 
In studios across the nation, as many as 20 million Americans practice yoga every day. Few worry that their downward dogs or warrior poses disrespect other cultures.

But yoga comes from India, once a British colony. And now, at one Canadian university, a yoga class designed to include disabled students has been canceled after concerns the practice was taken from a culture that “experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy,” according to the group that once sponsored it.

In a telephone interview with The Washington Post, Jennifer Scharf, who taught the class for up to 60 people at the University of Ottawa, said she was unhappy about the decision, but accepted it.

“This particular class was intro to beginners’ yoga because I’m very sensitive to this issue,” she said. “I would never want anyone to think I was making some sort of spiritual claim other than the pure joy of being human that belongs to everyone free of religion.”

The trouble began on Sept. 7. That’s when Scharf, who said she had taught a class since 2008 through the school’s Centre for Students with Disabilities — part of the university’s Student Federation — got an e-mail.

“I have unfortunate news,” the e-mail from a student representative of the center read. “Apparently our centre has chosen not to do yoga for programming this year. Let me know if you have any questions or concerns in regards to this and I am welcome to explain. Thank you so much for volunteering to do yoga over the past couple years. It has truly been wonderful and I hope to stay in touch in the future.” (Scharf provided the e-mail exchange to The Post, but removed the name of the representative so the person could not be identified, saying: “I don’t want to get anyone in trouble.” A message sent to the representative’s e-mail address was not immediately returned.)

Scharf was sorry to hear of the cancellation — attributed by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation to the University of Ottawa Student Federation, which describes itself as the “instrument of political action” for the undergraduate population at the university.

“That’s disappointing news for sure, is there someone I can speak to about this?” she wrote. “Do you know why the decision was made? I don’t mind doing it for free so if money is a concern, that’s no problem.”

Money was not a concern, however. Culture was.

“I think that our centre agreed … that while yoga is a really great idea, accessible and great for students, that there are cultural issues of implication involved in the practice,” the response read. “I have heard from a couple students and volunteers that feel uncomfortable with how we are doing yoga while we claim to be inclusive at the same time.”

Explaining that yoga has a fraught history, the representative continued.

“Yoga has been under a lot of controversy lately due to how it is being practiced and what practices from what cultures (which are often sacred spiritual practices) they are being taken from,” the e-mail read. “Many of these cultures are cultures that have experienced oppression, cultural genocide and diasporas due to colonialism and western supremacy, and we need to be mindful of this and how we express ourselves and while practicing yoga.”

Continue reading at:  https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2015/11/23/university-yoga-class-canceled-because-of-oppression-cultural-genocide/

Thursday, November 19, 2015

De Blasio, Bratton On ISIS Threat


8 Things Later-in-Life Lesbians Want You To Know

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helene-tragos-stelian/things-lesbians-want-you-to-know_b_8577926.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices&ir=Gay%20Voices
 
11/18/2015

At an event earlier this year, I met two women who, as it turned out, were not only business partners but also life partners. They left their marriages and grown children in their 50s and have been together ever since. My curiosity piqued, I'm afraid I monopolized their time with my many questions. As someone who writes about midlife reinventions on my site, Next Act for Women, I am always on the lookout for women who have made major life changes, whether personal or professional, later in life. This certainly qualified.

As luck would have it, soon after, I received an unsolicited request from Lisa Ekus, who fell in love with another woman at 51 and wanted to share her story. It was kismet. After hearing more about Lisa's background, and talking to my sister, Kat, who also came out late, I felt there was a lot we "straight" people needed to learn. Starting with my most glaring misconception...

1. I DIDN'T "BECOME" GAY

 
Most of the women I interviewed were adamant that they did not suddenly turn from straight to gay, but rather only awakened later in life to their attraction to women. They feel this attraction has always been there but had been previously inaccessible, for reasons individual to each situation.


Lisa Dordal, who came out after being married to a man for five years, explains, "I finally embraced the fact that I was a lesbian when I came out of the closet at age 30. I believe strongly that I was knit in the womb as a lesbian. In retrospect, the clues had been there all along. In high school and college, I wrote poems about girls and women I had crushes on and can also remember falling in love with my best friend at 14--as much as one can 'fall in love' at that age."

Candace Talmadge agrees: "It's a question of acknowledging that which is already within you and deciding to act on it instead of ignoring or burying it in the closet. I tried to act straight and dated men without any success. I could have continued on that unhappy road but I found a person who loves and respects me and has been my best friend since 1986, and my spouse since last year. She just happens to be female instead of male."

Dr. Lauren Costine, Psychologist, LGBTQ Activist, and author of Lesbian Love Addiction: Understanding the Urge to Merge and How to Heal When Things Go Wrong, shares her journey: "Once I had worked on my internalized LGBTQ phobias, I finally felt good enough about myself to be my authentic self. I stopped worrying about what anyone thought about my identity and who I loved and had sex with--especially my mother, who made it very clear she did not want me to be a lesbian. It was very hard on me for a long time because I did not want to disappoint her and I know her inability to love this part of me affected my ability to come out earlier in life. Unfortunately, she never accepted my lesbian identity but I finally moved past needing her approval and started living my life. And it's amazing! I love my life. I love being different and don't want to be like everyone else. Life was way harder when I was trying to be straight. Being an LGBTQ activist--trying to make the world a better place for LGBTQ folks--takes away any discomfort I may have being a sexual minority."

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/helene-tragos-stelian/things-lesbians-want-you-to-know_b_8577926.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices&ir=Gay%20Voices

Sanders speaks on democratic socialism


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Rising deaths among white middle-aged Americans could exceed Aids toll in US

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/nov/02/death-rate-middle-aged-white-americans-aids
 
Alarming trend among less-educated 45- to 54-year-olds largely thought to be a result of more suicides and the misuse of drugs and alcohol
 

Monday 2 November 2015

 
A sharp rise in death rates among white middle-aged Americans has claimed nearly as many lives in the past 15 years as the spread of Aids in the US, researchers have said.

The alarming trend, overlooked until now, has hit less-educated 45- to 54-year-olds the hardest, with no other groups in the US as affected and no similar declines seen in other rich countries.
Though not fully understood, the increased deaths are largely thought to be a result of more suicides and the misuse of drugs and alcohol, driven by easier access to powerful prescription painkillers, cheaper high quality heroin and greater financial stresses.

The turnaround reverses decades of falling mortality rates achieved through better medical care and lifestyle choices that continue to improve public health in other groups in the US and in other nations around the world.

“This was absolutely a surprise to us. It knocked us off our chairs,” said Anne Case, an economics professor at Princeton University who worked on the study. Since discovering the trend, Case and her colleague Angus Deaton, also an economics professor at Princeton, have shared the findings with healthcare professionals. “We wanted to make sure we weren’t missing something,” Case said. “Everyone’s been stunned.”

The findings emerged from a review of national surveys in the US and six other rich industrialised countries, namely the UK, Australia, France, Germany, Sweden and Canada.

They showed that from 1978 to 1998, the mortality rate for US whites aged 45 to 54 fell by 2% a year, a figure very much in line with the celebrated improvements in health seen in the other countries.

But after 1998, the death rates of US whites began to buck the trend. While other countries saw their mortality rates continue to fall, they began to rise among middle-aged white non-Hispanic Americans by 0.5% a year. The effect was not confined to the 45- to 54-year-olds. In the 35- to 44-year-old bracket, the mortality rate stopped falling in 2000. For 55- to 59-year-olds, the fall slowed to 0.5% a year.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/nov/02/death-rate-middle-aged-white-americans-aids

Despair, American Style

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/09/opinion/despair-american-style.html?_r=1
 
Paul Krugman November 9, 2015

A couple of weeks ago President Obama mocked Republicans who are “down on America,” and reinforced his message by doing a pretty good Grumpy Cat impression. He had a point: With job growth at rates not seen since the 1990s, with the percentage of Americans covered by health insurance hitting record highs, the doom-and-gloom predictions of his political enemies look ever more at odds with reality.

Even more striking are the proximate causes of rising mortality. Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves, directly or indirectly. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive drinking can cause. We’ve seen this kind of thing in other times and places – for example, in the plunging life expectancy that afflicted Russia after the fall of Communism. But it’s a shock to see it, even in an attenuated form, in America.
Yet the Deaton-Case findings fit into a well-established pattern. There have been a number of studies showing that life expectancy for less-educated whites is falling across much of the nation. Rising suicides and overuse of opioids are known problems. And while popular culture may focus more on meth than on prescription painkillers or good old alcohol, it’s not really news that there’s a drug problem in the heartland.

But what’s causing this epidemic of self-destructive behavior?

If you believe the usual suspects on the right, it’s all the fault of liberals. Generous social programs, they insist, have created a culture of dependency and despair, while secular humanists have undermined traditional values. But (surprise!) this view is very much at odds with the evidence.

For one thing, rising mortality is a uniquely American phenomenon – yet America has both a much weaker welfare state and a much stronger role for traditional religion and values than any other advanced country. Sweden gives its poor far more aid than we do, and a majority of Swedish children are now born out of wedlock, yet Sweden’s middle-aged mortality rate is only half of white America’s.

You see a somewhat similar pattern across regions within the United States. Life expectancy is high and rising in the Northeast and California, where social benefits are highest and traditional values weakest. Meanwhile, low and stagnant or declining life expectancy is concentrated in the Bible Belt.
What about a materialist explanation? Is rising mortality a consequence of rising inequality and the hollowing out of the middle class?

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/09/opinion/despair-american-style.html?_r=1

The Great Grief: How To Cope with Losing Our World

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/05/14/great-grief-how-cope-losing-our-world
 
In order to respond adequately, first we may need to mourn

by Per Espen Stoknes Thursday, May 14, 2015

Climate scientists overwhelmingly say that we will face unprecedented warming in the coming decades. Those same scientists, just like you or I, struggle with the emotions that are evoked by these facts and dire projections. My children—who are now 12 and 16—may live in a world warmer than at any time in the previous 3 million years, and may face challenges that we are only just beginning to contemplate, and in many ways may be deprived of the rich, diverse world we grew up in. How do we relate to – and live – with this sad knowledge?

Across different populations, psychological researchers have documented a long list of mental health consequences of climate change: trauma, shock, stress, anxiety, depression, complicated grief, strains on social relationships, substance abuse, sense of hopelessness, fatalism, resignation, loss of autonomy and sense of control, as well as a loss of personal and occupational identity.

This more-than-personal sadness is what I call the “Great Grief”—a feeling that rises in us as if from the Earth itself. Perhaps bears and dolphins, clear-cut forests, fouled rivers, and the acidifying, plastic-laden oceans bear grief inside them, too, just as we do. Every piece of climate news increasingly comes with a sense of dread: is it too late to turn around? The notion that our individual grief and emotional loss can actually be a reaction to the decline of our air, water, and ecology rarely appears in conversation or the media. It may crop up as fears about what kind of world our sons or daughters will face. But where do we bring it? Some bring it privately to a therapist. It is as if this topic is not supposed to be publicly discussed.

This Great Grief recently re-surfaced for me upon reading news about the corals on the brink of death due to warming oceans as well as overfishing of Patagonian toothfish in plastic laden oceans. Is this a surging wave of grief arriving from the deep seas, from the ruthlessness and sadness of the ongoing destruction? Or is it just a personal whim? As a psychologist I’ve learned not to scoff at such reactions, or movements in the soul, but to honor them.

A growing body of research has brought evidence from focus groups and interviews with people affected by droughts, floods, and coastal erosion. When elicited, participants express deep distress over losses that climate disruptions are bringing. It is also aggravated by what they perceive as inadequate and fragmented local, national and global responses. In a study by researcher  Susanne Moser on coastal communities, one typical participant reports: “And it really sets in, the reality of what we're trying to hold back here. And it does seem almost futile, with all the government agencies that get in the way, the sheer cost of doing something like that – it seems hopeless. And that's kind of depressing, because I love this area.” In another study by sociologist Kari Norgaard, one participant living by a river exclaims: “It’s like, you want to be a proud person and if you draw your identity from the river and when the river is degraded, that reflects on you.” Another informant experiencing extended drought explained to professor Glenn Albrecht’s team that even if “you’ve got a pool there – but you don’t really want to go outside, it’s really yucky outside, you don’t want to go out.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/views/2015/05/14/great-grief-how-cope-losing-our-world