Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bill Maher, American hero: Laughing at religion is exactly what the world needs

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2015/04/26/bill_maher_american_hero_laughing_at_religion_is_exactly_what_the_world_needs/

Maher's stances get him called a bigot. We should thank him instead, for taking a necessary battle to the faithful

Sunday, Apr 26, 2015

Bill Maher, the host of HBO’s “Real Time,” is a shining beacon of the New American Enlightenment, radiant with goodness and hope.

But first, a bit of background.
 
No matter what anyone says, religion is a deeply, if darkly, hilarious topic, and the sundry tomes of the sacred canon read more like joke books than anything else, albeit sick joke books.  How can we, in the 21st century, having mapped (and even edited) the human genome, engineered pluripotent stem cells, and discovered the Higgs Boson, be expected to revere the dusty old Bible, for example, with its quarreling goatherds and idolatrous tribesmen, and its golden calves and talking snakes, to say nothing of its revenge-porn (against unbelievers) finale?  How can we not laugh aloud when Genesis declares that Almighty God made the world in six days and rested on the seventh, yet had to pilfer a rib from Adam to produce Eve?  What are we to make of Numbers 22:28-30, wherein the Lord intervenes, not to part the sea or still the sun, but to set Balaam’s donkey a-jabbering?  How are we supposed to accept Jesus as an up-to-snuff savior when, in Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13-14, he loses his temper and cusses out a fig tree, condemning it to death, for not bearing fruit out of season?  Any second-grade science-class student would have known better, and possibly even exercised more self-control.

“Properly read,” declared the science-fiction author and biochemistry professor Isaac Asimov, “the Bible is the most potent force for atheism ever conceived.”  He was right.  The same may be said of the Quran, the holy book of Islam, which the late, dearly missed Christopher Hitchens called “not much more than a rather obvious and ill-arranged set of plagiarisms, helping itself from earlier books and traditions as occasion appeared to require.”

The proper response to religion, riddled as it is with absurdities, is, thus, laughter, either of the belly-slapping, table-pounding kind or the pitying, head-shaking sort.  Laughter, but also outrage.  After all, those who take such absurdities as manifestations of the Godhead have, especially since the Reagan years, hogged the moral high ground and commandeered American politics, polluting public discourse with their reactionary cant and halting progress in reproductive rights, science (think the Bush-era ban on stem cell research) and education (to wit: stubborn attempts to have oxymoronic “Intelligent Design” rubbish taught in schools).  Look abroad, and the panorama of savagery religion must answer for curdles the blood.  No rationalist could contemplate all this entirely unnecessary faith-driven regress and backsliding with anything but anger, tempered with despair.  If we want to do true and lasting good in this world, we are morally obligated to fight faith in the open, and root it out from every nook and cranny in which it hides.

Facing such a task, a desire for comic relief is only natural.  Bill Maher is where anger, outrage and religion meet – in humor.  (This essay will address only his stance on religion.)  There is nothing un-American about his faith-bashing – far from it.  Thomas Jefferson, who denied the divinity of Jesus, wrote that, “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions” – and what is religion but a jumble of unintelligible propositions about our cosmos and its origins?  Yet Maher has incited no small amount of ire among both the faith-addled masses (fully two-thirds of Americans believe Jesus actually rose from the dead, and almost half expect him to return in the coming decades) and their muddleheaded sympathizers for his brutal broadsides against religion, and Islam in particular.  Bigot! Racist! Islamophobe! they cry, at times bemoaning the “offense” they purport to have suffered from his words, and illustrating how far the cognitive capacities of so many of us have deteriorated since Jerry Falwell and his Moral Majority began meddling in politics.  (This can be no coincidence.)  Their real message to Maher: Shut up!

Name-calling is the last resort of losers — in this case, losers waging an unwinnable war against the spread of godlessness.  And “shut up!” is the last command of which the Greats of the Enlightenment and their heirs would have approved.  The 19th-century British philosopher John Stuart Mill, in On Liberty, put it best, referring to suppressed speech: “If the opinion is right, [the shutter-uppers] are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.”  If Maher is really so wrong, why not let him hoist himself by his own petard?

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2015/04/26/bill_maher_american_hero_laughing_at_religion_is_exactly_what_the_world_needs/

Monday, April 27, 2015

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How the New Flexible Economy is Making Workers’ Lives Hell

This sort of corporate crap doesn’t even permit a worker to have a second job to make up for being only a part time employee.

Any company doing this should be required to pay $25 per hour for a minimum 25 hour week plus health care.

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/116924386855

Robert Reich Monday, April 20, 2015

These days it’s not unusual for someone on the way to work to receive a text message from her employer saying she’s not needed right then.

Although she’s already found someone to pick up her kid from school and arranged for childcare, the work is no longer available and she won’t be paid for it.

Just-in-time scheduling like this is the latest new thing, designed to make retail outlets, restaurants, hotels, and other customer-driven businesses more nimble and keep costs to a minimum.

Software can now predict up-to-the-minute staffing needs on the basis of  information such as traffic patterns, weather, and sales merely hours or possibly minutes before.

This way, employers don’t need to pay anyone to be at work unless they’re really needed. Companies can avoid paying wages to workers who’d otherwise just sit around.

Employers assign workers tentative shifts, and then notify them a half-hour or ten minutes before the shift is scheduled to begin whether they’re actually needed. Some even require workers to check in by phone, email, or text shortly before the shift starts.

Just-in-time scheduling is another part of America’s new “flexible” economy – along with the move to independent contractors and the growing reliance on “share economy” businesses, like Uber, that purport to do nothing more than connect customers with people willing to serve them.

New software is behind all of this – digital platforms enabling businesses to match their costs exactly with their needs.

The business media considers such flexibility an unalloyed virtue. Wall Street rewards it with higher share prices. America’s “flexible labor market” is the envy of business leaders and policy makers the world over.

There’s only one problem. The new flexibility doesn’t allow working people to live their lives.
Businesses used to consider employees fixed costs  – like the costs of factories, offices, and equipment. Payrolls might grow or shrink over time as businesses expanded or contracted, but from year to year they were fairly constant.

That meant steady jobs. And with steady jobs came steady paychecks along with regular and predictable work schedules.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/116924386855

Lisa Vogel Announces the End of the Michigan Womyn's Music Festival

From Facebook

Dear Sisters, Amazon, Festival family,

It has been my honor and privilege to produce the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival for 40 years. It has been my life’s work, my deepest commitment, my constant challenge and my most profound joy. Every single thing of value I have learned in the world I have learned in the process of being part of building this beloved community. Almost every friend and family member who I cherish I have met on that hallowed ground, and every single way I have learned to put my mind/heart/shoulder into the purpose of creating something beautiful that honors womyn has come from the sweat I earned on that Land.

I am writing to tell you that the 40th Festival will be the last Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival. The spirit of this community will live on forever, the friends and family we have found on the Land are eternal. Everything we have created together will feed the inspiration for what comes next. It’s possible that I will come back with something else, or that other sisters will take the inspiration of the Michigan community and create the next expression of our Amazon culture. What is true for me is that now is the time to bring this 40-year cycle to a close, stepping out on joy at our most incredible anniversary celebration.

We have known in our hearts for some years that the life cycle of the Festival was coming to a time of closure. Too often in our culture, change is met only with fear, the true cycle of life is denied to avoid the grief of loss. But change is the ultimate truth of life. Sisters – I ask you to remember that our 40 year Festival has outlived nearly all of her kin. She has served us well. I want us all to have the opportunity to experience the incredible full life cycle of our beloved Festival, consciously, with time to celebrate and yes, time to grieve.

There have been struggles; there is no doubt about that. This is part of our truth, but it is not--and never has been--our defining story. The Festival has been the crucible for nearly every critical cultural and political issue the lesbian feminist community has grappled with for four decades. Those struggles have been a beautiful part of our collective strength; they have never been a weakness.

For many of us this one week in the woods is the all too rare place and time where we experience validation for our female bodies, and where the female experience presides at the center of our community focus. A place to lay our burden down from the misogyny that pervades our lives from cradle to grave…a place to live in intergenerational community, and to live in harmony with Mother Earth. I know this is true for me. And I have a deep trust that each and every one of us can take what we have experienced on that Land and continue to create space that feeds our spirit, creates diverse community, honors our experience and supports our struggle as womyn making our way through the patriarchal world. Please take what you love about Michigan and use it to create something new and beautiful.

It is important that each and every one of us knows she is empowered to build on what we have experienced together on the Land. Everything you feel on the Land, everything you see – is something of spirit, and love, and passion for female empowerment….for womyn’s community. The Festival’s 40 years of culture and community are a powerful seed and our communal experiences have created fertile ground to plant in. I know that we will find inspiration and vision to create our next time and space.

For those of us who will be gathering for our 40th anniversary this August – let’s joyously hold up our incredible community and allow ourselves to be strong enough to consciously let go of this incarnation of her, with all the love we each hold in our beautiful hearts. Let us gather this August knowing that what we truly cherish about the Festival lives on in each of us, and more will come from this fertile ground. Let’s do this up together – Amazon proud!

I will meet you there in August – my eyes meeting yours, heart wide open.

With all of my love and respect,
Lisa

This Year's Michigan Womyn's Music Festival Will Be the Last

From She Wired:  http://www.shewired.com/music/2015/04/21/years-michigan-womyns-music-festival-will-be-last

The 40-year-old festival, the subject of controversy in recent years, 'is coming to a time of closure,' says its founder and organizer.

By: Trudy Ring April 21 2015

The 40th Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival, to be held this August, will be the last, its founder announced today.

The storied women-only event, first held in 1976, has been the subject of controversy in recent years because of its exclusion of transgender women, with many artists and organizations deciding to boycott. Founder and organizer Lisa Vogel gave no reason for ending the fest, however, in a Facebook post announcing the decision.

“We have known in our hearts for some years that the life cycle of the Festival was coming to a time of closure,” she wrote. “Too often in our culture, change is met only with fear, the true cycle of life is denied to avoid the grief of loss. But change is the ultimate truth of life. Sisters — I ask you to remember that our 40 year Festival has outlived nearly all of her kin. She has served us well. I want us all to have the opportunity to experience the incredible full life cycle of our beloved Festival, consciously, with time to celebrate and yes, time to grieve.”

She acknowledged, “There have been struggles; there is no doubt about that. This is part of our truth, but it is not — and never has been — our defining story. The Festival has been the crucible for nearly every critical cultural and political issue the lesbian feminist community has grappled with for four decades. Those struggles have been a beautiful part of our collective strength; they have never been a weakness.” She urged the “Festival family” to “please take what you love about Michigan and use it to create something new and beautiful.”

The exclusion of transgender women from the fest has led performers such as the Indigo Girls, Antigone Rising, and Lea DeLaria to withdraw from the event, and last year several national LGBT organizations signed on to a petition from statewide LGBT group Equality Michigan calling on the festival to change its rule limiting attendance to “womyn-born-womyn.” Festival organizers have said this is not a formal policy but rather an “intention” that puts “the onus on each individual to choose whether or how to respect it,” but petitioners said that did not equate to inclusion and noted that the controversy dated back to a transgender woman being thrown out of the festival in 1991. Just in the last couple of weeks, however, three signatories withdrew their endorsement of the petition.

The National Center for Lesbian Rights “has removed our name from the petition and will be actively engaged in conversations in which we honor our differences while also pursuing a conclusion that supports the gender identity and inclusion of all women in Michfest,” wrote NCLR executive director Kate Kendell in an April 8 letter to Vogel, posted by the online publication TransAdvocate, which withdrew as well.“We have faith that such a resolution is possible.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.shewired.com/music/2015/04/21/years-michigan-womyns-music-festival-will-be-last

Monday, April 20, 2015

Screw leaning in. It's time to slam the door in Silicon Valley's face

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/15/screw-leaning-in-its-time-to-slam-the-door-in-silicon-valleys-face

Opting out of sexist workplaces is straight out of the universe of boycotts and strikes. It acknowledges that this is a political problem, not one to be solved by HR

15 April 2015

Women in tech have been told to lean in, back off, be bigger blowhards and simultaneously let others shine. But by far the most inspiring – and probably the most effective – piece of advice is the one found on the otherwise rather mysterious new website tableflip.club: “Fuck that, we’re done. It’s not us, it’s you.”

Meaningful change, the anonymous woman behind the site told me over email, requires not just tweaking but reinvention from the top down: “It’s virtually impossible to change a sick system without being the one in charge.”

You can’t destroy the master’s house, it seems, when the master’s a tool.

Her site went up on Monday and hosts a single, 500-word piece of writing giving voice to years (or decades) of exasperation:
“When we try to play by the rules (which we do because we’ve seen what happens to women who don’t) we’re denied opportunities because we aren’t “ready” for them - and we are ALSO denied the things you say we need in order to BE ready. When we do these things without your corporate approval, we do it knowing that we may be the next woman who gets quietly fired for being too forward. When we try to take a seat at the table like Sheryl said we should, we’re called presumptuous.”
The solution: “It’s time we take our potential elsewhere.”
What makes her campaign so novel is that it applies the language and techniques of political activism to something that’s been treated as a business problem. Many self-help books and workshops designed to support women at work actually place the onus of responsibility on them, encouraging women to brag more but promise less, to be more assertive and less aggressive.

But the tableflip.club founder rejects the idea that women should try to adapt to the demands of an already-broken system in order to survive: “Flipping the tables takes the ‘just try harder, just sit at the table’ advice and flips it on its head. We’re already trying so goddamn hard and it’s not working, women are leaving in droves. So we need to change something”.

Opting out is straight out of the universe of boycotts and strikes. It acknowledges that the problems faced by women in tech are inherently political, and can’t be solved by a human resources department. The difficulties women face aren’t the problems of one woman, or one team or one company. They’re not just limited to Adria Richards or Brianna Wu or Ellen Pao; they’re not just Twitter with its no-women board or Wikipedia with its 91% male editors. The problems are systemic – and no amount of attitude adjustment or leaning in on the part of those who get screwed by the system can possible change it.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/15/screw-leaning-in-its-time-to-slam-the-door-in-silicon-valleys-face

Why is it okay to discriminate against women for religious reasons?

From The Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-is-it-okay-to-discriminate-against-women-for-religious-reasons/2015/04/19/95939e9e-e519-11e4-b510-962fcfabc310_story.html


April 19, 2015

 
Not very long ago I met a young man at a business function. “Hello, I’m Amanda,” I said, sticking out my hand in greeting. He kept his arms glued to his side. “I don’t touch women,” he said.

He was, I realized belatedly, a deeply Orthodox Jew whose tradition prohibited even minor physical contact between men and women outside their families. I nodded politely and moved on. But the encounter deeply troubled me, then and now. Faced with someone who refused to shake my hand because of who I was, I defaulted to social courtesy, wishing neither to make a fuss nor disparage this young man’s religious beliefs.

Yet later I wondered: Why are biased acts against women — even religiously motivated ones — considered so much less toxic than biased acts of any other kind? Why do women often demur and accept humiliation rather than make a fuss? Why does respect even for admittedly extreme religious beliefs trump respect for half the human race?

My encounter came to mind again as I pondered recent stories of ultra-Orthodox Jewish men refusing to take airline seats next to women. Several cases were reported in the New York Times this month. Others have appeared in the Israeli press as far back as 2012.

On some flights women reportedly moved when asked. Some men switched places with women to eliminate the adjacency problem. Some flight attendants assisted the Orthodox men in relocating. Yet when others did not, some flights were delayed as men refused to be seated. The incidents have spawned lively discussions among Jews and non-Jews alike.
 
Yet I wonder: Why are we even discussing this?

Would such blatant behavior be treated merely as a social choice, a courtesy issue or an awkward airline customer-service problem if the targets were anyone other than women?

Let’s test it. What if we recast my encounter, giving me a different race and gender. How do I react now if someone says, “I don’t touch black men.” Do I quietly move on? How would this young man have reacted had the tables been turned? What if I had done something I could never imagine myself doing? Would he have treated it as a social issue if I had refused his hand, saying: “I don’t shake hands with Jews?”

Continue reading at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/why-is-it-okay-to-discriminate-against-women-for-religious-reasons/2015/04/19/95939e9e-e519-11e4-b510-962fcfabc310_story.html

Victim of Southold fire renowned feminist Sidney Abbott

Sidney Abbott and Barbara Love wrote "Sappho Was a Right On Woman"

From Southold Local:  http://southoldlocal.com/2015/04/15/victim-of-southold-fire-renowned-feminist-sidney-abbott/


Apr 15, 2015


The woman who died tragically in a house fire in Southold this morning was a well-known figure in the feminist movement who left a rich legacy.

Although police have not yet officially released the victim’s identity, multiple sources, including friends, her pastor, and Southold Fire Chief Peggy Killian confirmed that the woman, who was wheelchair-dependent and who lost her life was Sidney Abbott, 77, a world-renowned crusader in the women’s movement and co-author of  “Sappho Was a Right-on Woman: A Liberated View of Lesbianism”; the book was written with Barbara Love in 1971.

According to the Southold Fire Department, the fire broke out at 435 Willow Pond Lane, Abbott’s home, at approximately 10:45 a.m. Wednesday.

The Southold Town Police dispatch center was advised of a house fire at the above location by a private fire alarm company.

Killian said former Southold Fire Chief George Berry, Abbott’s next-door neighbor, tried valiantly to enter the house to save Abbott, who was home alone; he was “turned back by flames and heavy smoke,” a release from the Southold Police Department said.

Once fire department personnel entered the home, they found the female occupant of the house on the first floor; Killian said she was found in the living room, sitting in a recliner, a wheelchair nearby. Abbott had a home health aide who had already left for the day, Killian said.

Her dog, Killian said, was at the kennel and survived the blaze; a cat’s body was found at the scene.
Southold detectives, Suffolk County arson and homicide squads and the Suffolk County Medical Examiner’s Office are all investigating the fire. Greenport and Cutchogue Fire Departments also responded to assist.

Continue reading at:  http://southoldlocal.com/2015/04/15/victim-of-southold-fire-renowned-feminist-sidney-abbott/

World's mountain of electrical waste reaches new peak of 42m tonnes

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/19/worlds-mountain-of-electrical-waste-reaches-new-peak-of-42m-tonnes

The biggest per-capita tallies were in countries known for green awareness, such as Norway and Denmark, with Britain fifth and US ninth on the UN report’s list

A record amount of electrical and electronic waste was discarded around the world in 2014, with the biggest per-capita tallies in countries that pride themselves on environmental consciousness, a report said.

Last year, 41.8m tonnes of so-called e-waste – mostly fridges, washing machines and other domestic appliances at the end of their life – was dumped, the UN report said.

That’s the equivalent of 1.15m heavy trucks, forming a line 23,000km (14,300 miles) long, according to the report, compiled by the United Nations University, the UN’s educational and research branch.
Less than one-sixth of all e-waste was properly recycled, it said.

In 2013, the e-waste total was 39.8m tonnes – and on present trends, the 50-million-tonne mark could be reached in 2018.

Topping the list for per-capita waste last year was Norway, with 28.4kg (62.5lbs) per inhabitant.
It was followed by Switzerland (26.3kg), Iceland (26.1kg), Denmark (24.0kg), Britain (23.5kg), the Netherlands (23.4kg), Sweden (22.3kg), France (22.2kg) and the United States and Austria (22.1kg).
The region with the lowest amount of e-waste per inhabitant was Africa, with 1.7kg per person. It generated a total of 1.9m tonnes of waste.

In volume terms, the most waste was generated in the United States and China, which together accounted for 32% of the world’s total, followed by Japan, Germany and India.

Waste that could have been recovered and recycled was worth $52bn, including 300 tonnes of gold – equal to 11% of the world’s gold production in 2013.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/apr/19/worlds-mountain-of-electrical-waste-reaches-new-peak-of-42m-tonnes

Grayson on Money & Politics: "If We Do Nothing, We Can Kiss This Country Goodbye. Well, Pucker Up"


Why Gay Rights Trumps Women’s Rights

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17864/why-gay-rights-trumps-womens-rights

Why aren’t we standing up against the assault on women’s rights?

BY Marilyn Katz April 17, 2015

Well, finally someone’s finally pointed out what I (and I imagine many others) have been thinking about but have been hesitant to point out, while gay rights are doing great, women’s rights have gone down the tube. And, as bad, men don’t seem to care.

Bringing these nasty inverse trends to light was Gail Collins who in her April 3 New York Times column contrasted the uproar over potential discrimination against same-sex couples with the silence that met the passage of new anti-abortion laws in Texas and Arizona.

While the Indiana law created an instant call for boycotts and mobilized a broad swath of opposition—including from the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, so great that Governor Pence and the legislature mounted a hasty retreat, as did those in Arkansas—not a word of ire was spoken about the egregious acts in Texas.

Back home in Indiana at the same time the wrath of entertainers, business leaders and politicians was focused on the potential harm to gays, Purvi Patel, a 33-year-old Indiana resident, became the first person in the history of the United States to be prosecuted, tried and convicted of feticide—for what she says was a miscarriage and the State argued was an illegal abortion.

Yet for this actual, not theoretical, harm to a woman, who was sentenced to 20 years in prison, there was no outcry, no threat of boycott and very little news coverage.

While I and most other feminists applaud the successful protests against Indiana’s retrograde actions and have been among the most staunch defenders of gay rights—and in fact I would argue that we are the birth mothers of the movement through our insistence on decoupling sex from procreation—I find the disparate trajectories of our movements and society’s disparate response to our injuries more than a little disturbing.

While same sex marriage laws have been approved in 37 states and the Supreme Court is poised to overturn the laws of the 13 states where such marriages were banned, nearly 100 years after its introduction, the Equal Rights Amendment for women still languishes.

While I laud the fact that gay men have fought for and won the $24.1 billion that the federal government allocates each year to fight HIV and the 56,000 new cases that arise each year, I cannot help but compare this amount to the less than $600 million the our government spends on breast cancer for which there are 231,840 new cases and 40,290 deaths each year.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/17864/why-gay-rights-trumps-womens-rights

And Now, Political Virgins

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/04/opinion/gail-collins-and-now-political-virgins.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fgail-collins&_r=0

April 3, 2015

On Tuesday in Texas, the House of Representatives voted to take $3 million earmarked for prevention of H.I.V. and other sexually transmitted diseases, and spend it instead on abstinence-only sex education. It was a fascinating moment — particularly when the sponsor of the motion, a Republican named Stuart Spitzer, told the House that he had been a virgin until he got married at age 29.

“What’s good for me is good for a lot of people,” he said.

This had historic reverberations. Several years ago, then-Gov. Rick Perry conducted a fabled interview with The Texas Tribune in which Perry defended the state’s stress on abstinence-only sex education while his interviewer pointed out that Texas had one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the country.

“I’m just going to tell you from my own personal life. Abstinence works,” Perry retorted.
Does Texas traditionally decide state policy based on politicians’ sexual history? If so, that’s terrifying.

The debate in Austin degenerated when a Democrat demanded to know whether Representative Spitzer — who, I have to point out, is a doctor — had ever tried to proposition other women before his wife accepted.

That was going overboard. The Democrats should have stuck with their earlier lines of argument, which included pointing out that Texas gets more federal money for abstinence-only sex education than any other state, and that Texas has a teen birthrate that is almost twice as high as California’s, which has completely barred schools from limiting their courses on sex to the advisability of not having any.

All that was news to Dr. Spitzer, who did admit that abstinence-only education “may not be working well.” This had no effect whatsoever on his insistence that Texas needed to do more of it. His proposal passed and went to the State Senate.

So that was lawmaking on sex in Texas. Meanwhile, over in Arizona, the State Legislature was passing a bill that requires doctors who perform drug-induced abortions to tell their patients that the procedure may be reversible, even though most scientists say it isn’t.

This business of legislating fiction is rather widespread. The Guttmacher Institute, which keeps track of these things, has counted 12 states where women seeking abortions have to be informed that a 20-week-old fetus can feel pain, research to the contrary notwithstanding. Four states require that women be given inaccurate portrayals of the effects of an abortion on future fertility. In five states, a woman who wants an abortion has to be informed that abortions are linked to an increased risk of breast cancer.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/04/opinion/gail-collins-and-now-political-virgins.html?rref=collection%2Fcolumn%2Fgail-collins&_r=0

Friday, April 17, 2015

China’s gruesome live organ harvest exposed in documentary

Think about this one and maybe ask why our Democans and Republicrats are so eager to shove the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement down our throats.  Yet another case of fucking the American people over while shipping our manufacturing to places with no respect for human rights.  At the same time one has to ask: Cui bono? Who benefits?

The answer the rich assholes on Wall Street, who get ever richer while the middle class gets foreclosed on and sink into the working and poverty classes.

From The Brisbane Times:  http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/chinas-gruesome-live-organ-harvest-exposed-in-documentary-20150407-1mgabb.html

Kate Aubusson April 8, 2015

China's hospitals are harvesting the body parts of thousands of political prisoners and removing their vital organs while they are still alive, according to a harrowing documentary exposing the horrific state-sanctioned practice. 

Doctors and medical students working in state-run civilian and military hospitals take up to 11,000 organs a year from donors under no anaesthetic to supply China's lucrative "organs on-demand" transplant program, say a network of invesitgators comprised of international researchers, doctors and human rights lawyers attempting to end the macabre abuses.

The documentary, Human Harvest: China's Organ Trafficking, by Canadian filmmaker Leon Lee, followed these investigators for eight years as they worked to mobilise international condemnation of what they say is a booming billion-dollar organ harvesting industry for the benefit of wealthy paying organ recipients.

"When I cut through [the body] blood was still running ... this person was not dead," said one doctor of his first encounter with live organ harvesting as a medical student filmed by Lee.

"I took the liver and two kidneys. It took me 30 minutes," he said.

A former Chinese hospital worker and doctor's wife, whose identity was withheld, told Lee that her husband had removed the corneas of 2000 people while they were still alive. Afterwards the bodies were secretly incinerated. 

China has the second highest rate of transplants in the world, with startlingly short wait times for transplant recipients of just two to three weeks.

But a recent Red Cross report found only 37 people nationwide were registered organ donors and harvesting organs from executed prisoners did not come close to accounting for the more than 10,000 transplant procedures performed every year.

Human Rights Lawyer and Nobel peace prize nominee David Matas told Lee that living political prisoners make up for the shortfall, with the long-persecuted and banned religious group, the Falun Gong, key targets.

"Somebody's being killed for the organs," human rights lawyer David Matas says.

"There's no other way to explain what's happening."

Continue reading at:  http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/world/chinas-gruesome-live-organ-harvest-exposed-in-documentary-20150407-1mgabb.html

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The 1 percent rigged everything: Why no one can end Ronald Reagan’s “dead wrong” voodoo economics

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2015/03/19/the_1_percent_rigged_everything_why_no_one_can_end_ronald_reagans_dead_wrong_voodoo_economics/

A thriving middle class is the cause of growth. The middle class creates rich people -- not the other way around

Thursday, Mar 19, 2015
Venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, a highly visible champion of Seattle’s $15/hour minimum wage, wrote a piece in the Atlantic last month pushing on another front in the war against toxic income inequality. “Stock Buybacks Are Killing the American Economy,” he warned, and getting rid of them would be a tremendous boon to the economy.

This latest front rebukes those who say that raising the minimum wage does little to address what ails the American middle class. First, it underscores the obvious: that battling against decades of bad economic policy must necessarily be a multi-pronged affair, with no single action able to solve everything at once. But second, it starkly highlights how much of the problem can be traced to a single source—the profoundly misguided notion that giving even more money to rich people would produce prosperity for all. Instead, the exact opposite has happened. That’s why the attack on stock buybacks is an even more profound attack on economics as usual, even if it, too, only represents one facet of what has to be a multi-faceted approach.

Corporate profits have doubled since the post-World War II boom years, from an average of 6 percent of GDP to more than 12 percent today, Hanauer pointed out, and yet “job growth remains anemic, wages are flat, and our nation can no longer seem to afford even its most basic needs.” Stock buybacks—which (as explained here) were virtually forbidden from 1934 through 1982—are a key reason why our economy is so cash-starved when it comes to wealth-producing investments:
Over the past decade, the companies that make up the S&P 500 have spent an astounding 54 percent of profits on stock buybacks. Last year alone, U.S. corporations spent about $700 billion, or roughly 4 percent of GDP, to prop up their share prices by repurchasing their own stock….

It is mathematically impossible to make the public- and private-sector investments necessary to sustain America’s global economic competitiveness while flushing away 4 percent of GDP year after year.

Hence, Hanauer argued, it’s time to end stock buybacks—they are crippling our ability to grow our economy robustly. Along the way, Hanauer also sharply criticized what he called “the 40-year obsession with ‘shareholder value maximization’” [SVM] as the narrow-minded definition of corporate purpose, which has been used to justify, rationalize and obfuscate the buyback explosion, and other ills of corporate misgovernance that have become commonplace in the post-1980 era.

Hanauer has plenty of company raising this argument and his critique of SVM, from UMass economist William Lazonick writing in the Harvard Business Review (“Profits Without Prosperity”) to a book by Cornell Law School’s Lynn Stout (“The Shareholder Value Myth: How Putting Shareholders First Harms Investors, Corporations, and the Public,” author’s overview here),  to the white paper Hanauer himself cited, titled “The World’s Dumbest Idea,” by GMO asset allocation manager James Montier, to a 2014 report from the Aspen Institute, cited by Steve Denning of Forbes, noting it “showed that thought leaders were coming to the same conclusion [questioning SVM]. In a cross-section of business leaders, including both executives and academics, a majority, particularly corporate executives, agreed that the primary purpose of the corporation is not to maximize shareholder value, but rather ‘to serve customers’ interests.’”
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2015/03/19/the_1_percent_rigged_everything_why_no_one_can_end_ronald_reagans_dead_wrong_voodoo_economics/