New bill ending federal ban on marijuana to be introduced in Congress

From Raw Story:

By Eric W. Dolan
Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Reps. Barney Frank (D-MA) and Ron Paul (R-TX) will introduce legislation on Thursday to the U.S. House of Representatives that ends the federal prohibition on marijuana.

The Oakland Tribute reported that the bill would limit the federal government to enforcing cross-border or inter-state smuggling laws, and allow people to grow, possess, use or sell marijuana in states where it is legal to do so.

Although over a dozen states have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons, it is still outlawed under the federal Controlled Substance Act.

The legislation authored by Frank and Paul would allow each state to propose and enforce its own marijuana laws without federal interference.

Democratic Reps. John Conyers (MI), Steve Cohen (TN), Jared Polis (CO) and Barbara Lee (CA) are co-sponsors of the bill.

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Bill Clinton’s Legacy of Denial

From Truthdig:

By Robert Scheer

Does Bill Clinton still not grasp that the current economic crisis is in large measure his legacy? Obviously that’s the case, or he wouldn’t have had the temerity to write a 14-point memo for Newsweek on how to fix the economy that never once refers to the home mortgage collapse and other manifestations of Wall Street greed that he enabled as president.

Endorsing the Republican agenda of financial industry deregulation, reversing New Deal safeguards, President Clinton pursued policies that in the long run created more damage to the American economy than any other president since Herbert Hoover, whose tenure is linked to the Great Depression. Now, in his Newsweek piece, Clinton has the effrontery to once again revive his 1992 campaign mantra, “It’s the economy, stupid,” as the article’s title without any sense of irony, let alone accountability. But that has always been the man’s special gift—to rise above, and indeed benefit from, the messes he created.

His list of safe nostrums—painting tar-surface roofs white and seeking more efficient solar and battery production—to be featured at his lavishly funded Clinton Global Initiative conference in Chicago next week is vintage Clinton hype. All of those solutions are of the win/win sort that he loved to ballyhoo as president; who in his or her right mind would be against green job creation? But that hardly speaks to a crisis in which, as was reported Tuesday, the housing meltdown continues unabated as the toxic mortgages sold and packaged by the leading banks and investment houses clog the real estate market, destroying consumer confidence and hobbling job creation.

Conceding that the bailed-out banks are sitting on $2 trillion that they won’t lend, Clinton offers not a word about mortgage relief for swindled homeowners. With an all-time high of 44 million Americans living below the poverty line, Clinton once again brags of his success in ending the federal welfare program.

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The ERA Rides Again

From Ms. Magazine:

by Michele Kort
June 22, 2011

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) have reintroduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Congress. Maloney has been joined, so far, by 159 co-sponsors in the House, with more to come.

Coming just days after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected class-action status for the sex-discrimination case against Wal-Mart, the latest push for the ERA has added resonance. Said Maloney,

The Wal-Mart [decision] … is a classic example of how far attitudes must still come. The facts of the case support the view that over a million women were systematically denied equal pay by the nation’s largest employer.

In the past year, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (who wrote the majority opinion in the Wal-Mart case), also declared that the 14th Amendment to the Constitution–which guarantees equal justice under the law for all persons–does not protect women from sex discrimination. The ERA–which reads simply “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex”–would make Constitutional protections against sex-discrimination undeniable.

Women’s groups now intend to “score” legislators based on their support for the ERA. Said Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal at a press conference announcing the bill’s re-introduction:

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To Keep Off Pounds: Pass The Nuts, Hold The Chips

From NPR Blog:

by Scott Hensley
June 23, 2011

To keep from gaining weight as you age, the conventional wisdom says you have to cut calories and exercise more.

But exactly what you eat and drink can make a big difference, too, according to provocative findings just published by Harvard researchers.

“All foods are not equal, and just eating in moderation is not enough,” lead researcher Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, an epidemiologist, told the Washington Post. The results appear in the latest issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Eating more nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains and yogurt can keep help keep age-related weight gains in check. In what could almost pass for deadpan humor, the authors write, “Obviously, such foods provide calories and cannot violate thermodynamic laws.”

So what’s going on? They figure that eating more of these foods may have led to lower consumption of foods that are higher in calories.

And how could that be? More fiber and slower digestion of these foods could be part of the answer.

Yogurt, though, was also a winner, and it’s no fiber bomb. The researchers aren’t exactly sure how it helps keep waistlines in check, though it could have something to do with good work the bacterial cultures do inside our intestines. It’s also possible that people who eat a lot of yogurt have other healthful habits.

The worst of the bad food news can be summed up in one word: potatoes.

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Term Bender

From The Baltimore City Paper:

Cathy Brennan
Published: June 22, 2011
Reposted with Permission

I read with keen interest “Transgender Gap” (The Queer Issue, June 15), which addressed the Maryland gender-identity legislation. I supported HB 235 because I have friends who are trans and who are impacted by irrational discrimination. Although I supported HB 235, I have long questioned the definition of gender identity in this bill and others like it. Additionally, HB 235 avoided the thorny issue of public accommodations by excluding them. If Maryland will consider a bill that includes public accommodations in 2012, bill proponents will have difficulty if they do not address why we have sex-segregated facilities in the first instance.Females rationally discriminate in some instances because of our biology, and Maryland has installed protections based on such rational discrimination into the Maryland human relations title. Specifically, the law allows, with regard to public accommodations, sex-based discrimination by a facility 1) uniquely private and personal in nature, and 2) designed to accommodate only a particular sex. This exception to the antidiscrimination law for public accommodations covers all space segregated by sex, including bathrooms, locker rooms, and public showers.

I do not believe that any transwoman is especially likely to harm females. However, males as a class harm females as a class based on female biology (i.e., rape, sexual violence, harm from unwanted pregnancy). Stating this does not mean I think any individual male is more likely to harm females. It is a general statement that simply recognizes the harm that can come to females because of our biology. Accordingly, gender-identity advocates must ensure that protections for transwomen don’t inadvertently render protections for females moot.

The current definition of “gender identity” does not protect females. Rather, it incorporates stereotypes about males and females into law and allows anyone—including nontrans people—to assert a “gender identity” claim to invade all space segregated by sex. The current definition— “gender identity” as a “gender-related identity or appearance of an individual regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth” —has no objective standard and would allow all males—including registered sex offenders, men subject to domestic violence orders of protection, and other bad actors—to assert “gender identity” as a means to invade female-only space and have a legal basis for being there, without being questioned. How is this a good result for females, and why should females support this?

We need a narrow, objective definition of “gender identity” that limits the ability of people to assert the protection to only the group we want to protect: trans people. And before you ask, I am unconcerned about FTMs as a class, because if they want to enter male spaces and put themselves at potential risk by doing so, that’s their choice. I have no interest in limiting the choices of FTMs. However, females have a vested interest in a narrow definition of “gender identity” to preserve our rational sex-based protections. We can strike a balance here—let’s do it.

Cathy Brennan

A Reminder of How Being Post-Transsexual is Different From Being Transgender

In retrospect I view being transsexual as something that was  actively the center of my life for about a half dozen years.

Yes, there was a before when having been born transsexual was repressed, denied and festered like a deep desire, a desire to be, that I was afraid to answer.  The struggle to find both the courage and the words to accept myself and then face the world with that inner truth took time.

Some of us have a supportive parental environment others do not. For my generation it took the spread of the availability of medical treatment that coincided with that era of freedom and liberation.

I was in what might have been the ultimate accepting environment of Berkeley in the late 1960s, among hippie radicals, where we  the ethos of “Do as you must, but harm no one” and “Do your own thing” was fostered.

The hardest part was saying the words, but once I spoke those words and came out it was like jumping on a bobsled.  There was a time of focused frantic activity centered upon transition and surgery and yet more surgery to correct the initial surgery. Then there was healing and more social adjustment.

Then time created distance and growth in directions that took me away from the transgender community and even from the people with transsexualism in transition community.

Many years have passed, so many that I have been female far longer than I was male.  So many years have passed I have been Suzan for two thirds of my life

I don’t feel hostile the way some do, I even feel supportive, but so many of the concepts I hear from the modern trans-activist community seem so alien.

There is a clamor regarding transgender representation on Gay and Lesbian Organization Boards.  But I never saw very much transgender participation in the gay and lesbian community prior to the late 1990s and mostly what I saw then was demanding from the gay and lesbian communities rather than contributing to those communities.

I honestly see my place in the alphabet soup as being more accurately described by the “L-word” (not the series) than the “T-word” and even that is a stretch as I am more a left wing old hippie dyke and don’t much fit the up-scale lesbian marketing demographic.

Which brings us to the latest tizzy.  About numbers on Boards.  I notice Get Equal has the highest percentage.  It is also one of the newest formed.  But how big a percentage is enough?  I doubt TS/TG people even make up .01% of the population while gay and lesbian people make up about 10% so would a 10% representation be considered  proportional?

Would I be counted as “Trans” even though I resist that label?

What if I would rather be part of the gardening dykes with cats who like both jazz and folk music?

The Transgender Borg Collective’s propaganda line goes as follows:

In the bad old days transsexuals were told not to associate with other transsexual transgender people.  The were told to go stealth and vanish.

Never mind that half of that is fiction, lets do some unpacking, some examining of the above concept.

Actually no one told us to not associate with transgender people.  Something that should be obvious from the friendships of both post-transsexual and transgender sex workers.

Also many post-transsexual folks are life long friends with several other post-transsexual people.

As for vanishing…  Is that even possible for those of us on-line?

What makes membership in the transgender community problematic for long term post-transsexuals who have any sort of life beyond the community is that the self -centered focus of transgender folks is boring.

Even the activists.

Transsexuals get SRS and then, if they have any brains and any desire to grow beyond the pre-op mentality, do so.

Even places like the Gay and Lesbian Ghettos are mostly for the young and single.

Older couple go therefor restaurants and entertainment but the pace of life in those communities  is frantic with its hysterical trendiness and constant cruising.

I know it upsets transgender people and even my pre-op sisters that post-transsexual women can go places and do things they cannot.  People think we should fight for their inclusion but the years after SRS make us more and more members of the sex were were surgically reassigned to and our values become those of other women and in the case of brothers, men.

We don’t want your label.  We do not want to be deprived of our lives that we have worked for.

We might be willing to work for laws and the like but we have our own circles of friends, our own interests and even our own politics.

I’m bothered when my straight sisters make blanket statements about post-transsexuals or even all transsexuals not being part of the gay and lesbian communities.  Many of us are and we don’t need a “T”, as many of us are lesbians and many brothers are gay.

Michele Bachmann’s Holy War

From Rolling Stone:

The Tea Party contender may seem like a goofball, but be warned: Her presidential campaign is no laughing matter

By Matt Taibbi
June 22, 2011 8:00 AM ET

Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and, as you consider the career and future presidential prospects of an incredible American phenomenon named Michele Bachmann, do one more thing. Don’t laugh.

It may be the hardest thing you ever do, for Michele Bachmann is almost certainly the funniest thing that has ever happened to American presidential politics. Fans of obscure 1970s television may remember a short-lived children’s show called Far Out Space Nuts, in which a pair of dimwitted NASA repairmen, one of whom is played by Bob (Gilligan) Denver, accidentally send themselves into space by pressing “launch” instead of “lunch” inside a capsule they were fixing at Cape Canaveral. This plot device roughly approximates the political and cultural mechanism that is sending Michele Bachmann hurtling in the direction of the Oval Office.

Bachmann is a religious zealot whose brain is a raging electrical storm of divine visions and paranoid delusions. She believes that the Chinese are plotting to replace the dollar bill, that light bulbs are killing our dogs and cats, and that God personally chose her to become both an IRS attorney who would spend years hounding taxpayers and a raging anti-tax Tea Party crusader against big government. She kicked off her unofficial presidential campaign in New Hampshire, by mistakenly declaring it the birthplace of the American Revolution. “It’s your state that fired the shot that was heard around the world!” she gushed. “You are the state of Lexington and Concord, you started the battle for liberty right here in your backyard.”

I said lunch, not launch! But don’t laugh. Don’t do it. And don’t look her in the eyes; don’t let her smile at you. Michele Bachmann, when she turns her head toward the cameras and brandishes her pearls and her ageless, unblemished neckline and her perfect suburban orthodontics in an attempt to reassure the unbeliever of her non-threateningness, is one of the scariest sights in the entire American cultural tableau. She’s trying to look like June Cleaver, but she actually looks like the T2 skeleton posing for a passport photo. You will want to laugh, but don’t, because the secret of Bachmann’s success is that every time you laugh at her, she gets stronger.

In modern American politics, being the right kind of ignorant and entertainingly crazy is like having a big right hand in boxing; you’ve always got a puncher’s chance. And Bachmann is exactly the right kind of completely batshit crazy. Not medically crazy, not talking-to-herself-on-the-subway crazy, but grandiose crazy, late-stage Kim Jong-Il crazy — crazy in the sense that she’s living completely inside her own mind, frenetically pacing the hallways of a vast sand castle she’s built in there, unable to meaningfully communicate with the human beings on the other side of the moat, who are all presumed to be enemies.

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Top tea party group tied to extremism, report charges

From Yahoo News:

By Zachary Roth
June 21, 2011

Since the tea party movement exploded onto the political scene over two years ago, one of its key players has been the advocacy organization FreedomWorks. Founded and run by Dick Armey, a former top Republican congressman, FreedomWorks isn’t exactly a tea party group itself. Rather, it’s a well-funded Washington-based lobbying organization that has played a crucial role in supporting and co-ordinating the grassroots activism of the movement’s far-flung factions. FreedomWorks was a central organizer, for instance, of the 9/12 March that last year brought tens of thousands of conservative activists to Washington.

FreedomWorks also has helped defend the tea party movement against charges of racism. “Ours is a colorblind movement based on principles not race,” the group’s president, Matt Kibbe, has said.

But a new report questions FreedomWorks’ commitment to keeping bigotry on the margins of the movement.

The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR), a group that monitors extremism, has taken a close look at FreedomConnector, a new site created by FreedomWorks that’s designed to help put conservative activists in touch with each other. Since launching FreedomConnector in February, FreedomWorks’ online membership has roughly quintupled, rising to more than 94,000.

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From The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights:

Special Report: FreedomWorks and the John Birch Society Problem

Devin Burghart & Leonard Zeskind
June 20, 2011

FreedomWorks has a John Birch Society problem.

When FreedomWorks head Dick Armey appeared on the March 10, 2010 edition of the Charlie Rose Show, he was asked about which parts of the Tea Party tent made him most uncomfortable. After rightly criticizing groups like the “LaRouchies,” and called them “an embarrassment.” Armey was then asked directly about the John Birch Society (JBS).

Armey’s response: “The John Birch Society has been very little evident in my association with the tea party.  I have not seen anybody, have not encountered anybody who says I’m here and I’m from the John Birch Society. So I mean, I know it’s alleged that they’re there.  I’ve not encountered them. But I do think that John Birch Society historically has had a good deal of people that have regretted them.”

Dick Armey may have some regretting of his own.

New research by the Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights highlights how colossally wrong Armey was about the relationship between the Tea Party movement and the John Birch Society. The data in this report shows just how entangled FreedomWorks is with the Birchers.

FreedomWorks and the John Birch Society

As described in IREHR’s October 2010 special report, Tea Party Nationalism: A Critical Examination of the Size, Scope, and Focus of the Tea Party Movement and Its National Factions, FreedomWorks successfully turned Tea Party energy into additional political influence inside the Beltway. Nevertheless, the organization had lagged behind other national Tea Party factions when trying to harness the social networking power of the movement. At the end of 2010, FreedomWorks still had the second smallest online Tea Party membership, with only 19,274 members.

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From Think Progress:

John Birch Society Celebrates Koch Family For Their Role In Founding The Hate Group

By Lee Fang
Jun 10, 2011

Billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch have been dominant financiers for conservative front groups and nonprofits for nearly three decades. Their money has flowed to organizations dedicated to lobbying for corporate and upper income tax cuts, as well as to groups responsible for mobilizing Tea Party rallies against President Obama. But the Koch family’s association with fringe right-wing groups began a generation earlier with Fred Koch, the patriarch of the clan.

Fred not only founded the company now known as Koch Industries, he also was a founding member of the John Birch Society. As a founding board member, Fred helped engineer a hysterical wave of attacks on labor, intellectuals, public education, liberal clergy members, and other pillars of society he viewed as a threat. Birchers decried everyone from former President Eisenhower to water utility administrators as pawns in a global communist conspiracy. In the last two years, as the Koch name has become synonymous with right-wing plutocracy in the United States, the Koch family has played down its relation to the Birchers.

However, the New American, the official mouthpiece of the John Birch Society, published a piece this morning celebrating Fred and the Koch family’s pivotal role in developing the group:

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Maybe now when I call these people Nazis people will stop accusing me of hyperbole.

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Progressives Can’t Afford to Exclude the Working Class

From New Deal 2.0:

by Frank L. Cocozzelli
Tuesday, 06/21/2011

Without explaining how the government can create prosperity for all, progressives risk playing into charges of elitism.

Contemporary liberalism runs the risk of becoming isolated. But this threat does not solely come from the likes of Michele Bachmann or Glenn Beck. It also comes from some self-described liberals whose behavior feeds into the right’s caricature of who we are. We risk becoming a group that restricts membership to a certain kind of liberal, one that is educated, not merely nonreligious but anti-religious, and one that is simultaneously smug and self-righteous.

One of the dark risks in an open society is the ascendancy of the enemy/friend dichotomy: one helps only those seen as having similar goals, customs, and beliefs and opposes those who don’t. Just observe the poisoning of American political discourse over the past few decades. Discussion and engagement have given way to rants and demonization. In his September 2, 2009 edition of The Daily Howler, Bob Somerby identified a good example of how the right uses this to its advantage — and how liberals enable its use:

It’s simple-minded – but it works. On our side, we stand in line to help. For decades, almost all conservative spin has derived from two simple messages. When you get to work with such clear messaging, being a conservative pundit is the easiest job in the world:

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Recalls of Imported Foods Are Flawed, a Government Audit Reports

From The New York Times:

Published: June 21, 2011

Government food officials are often sloppy and inattentive in their efforts to ensure that contaminated foods from abroad are withdrawn promptly and completely from the nation’s food supply, according to government investigators.

In an audit of 17 recalls, investigators found that the Food and Drug Administration often failed to follow its own rules in removing dangerous imported foods from the market, according to Daniel R. Levinson, inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services. The products included cantaloupes from Honduras contaminated with salmonella, frozen mussel meat from New Zealand infected with listeria and frozen fish from Korea that contained the bacterium that causes botulism.

In one case, more than three months passed from the time the F.D.A. became aware of the contamination to the time a recall was initiated. In another case, the lag was nearly a month. In 13 of the 17 cases, the companies that supplied the tainted goods failed to provide accurate or complete information to their customers so that the products could be withdrawn completely, the audit found.

In a response to the audit, David Dorsey, the F.D.A.’s acting deputy commissioner for policy, planning and budget, said that the landmark food safety law signed in January by President Obama would fix some of these problems. For instance, the law for the first time gave the F.D.A. the authority to order companies to withdraw foods suspected of being contaminated. Until this year, the F.D.A. could only ask manufacturers to withdraw suspect foods.

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US Mayors Call for End to Wars and Nuclear Weapons

From Truth Out:

by: James Russell, Truthout
June 21, 2011

Peace activists won a major victory on Monday, June 20, when the US Conference of Mayors voted to adopt two resolutions that call for a drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and the abolition of nuclear weapons. Both resolutions also demand the reprioritization of defense spending, including the $126 billion spent each year in Iraq and Afghanistan, toward the needs of municipalities.

The group, which represents mayors of municipalities with 30,000 or more residents, has not passed such a resolution in 40 years.

Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) fellow Karen Dolan directs IPS’s Cities For Peace project, which organizes elected officials and activists to take action against war on a local level. In a statement to Truthout, Dolan said that the mayors, “are responsive to the needs of the people in a way in which Congress and the president have not been. Unless money is better spent at the state and local level, we will not see an economic recovery.” According to IPS, hundreds of municipalities around the United States have called for the end to the wars in the Middle East.

While the antiwar resolution was subject to vote after a contentious proposal to pull it, the nuclear weapons resolution passed unanimously, according to observers.

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