From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/10/miss-universe-transgender-contestants
Reuters in New York
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 10 April 2012
The decision follows a media outcry over the disqualification of Canadian contestant Jenna Talackova from the Miss Universe Canada contest because she was not a “naturally born female”.
Talackova 23, who underwent gender reassignment surgery when she was 19, was reinstated to the competition last week by Donald Trump, who owns the Miss Universe organisation. Talackova has a Canadian passport, driver’s licence and other documents that identify her as a woman.
Following consultations with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (Glaad), Miss Universe “discussed a policy change that includes transgender women in time for the start of this fall’s 2013 pageant season, a time when most of the competitions around the world begin to take place,” the two groups said in a joint statement.
The change brings Miss Universe into line with other groups that have taken a stand against discrimination against transgender women, including the Olympics, the Girl Scouts of America and the TV show America’s Next Top Model, Glaad said.
Complete article at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/10/miss-universe-transgender-contestants
By Matt Wood, op-ed contributor
April 10, 2012
Marriage for same-sex couples can be a divisive issue – not just for straight people, but among LGBT communities as well. While many LGBT people were thrilled when Maryland and Washington joined the growing list of states affirming marriage equality, others continue to question the logic of spending so much time and money on the marriage effort when other issues, like health care access and economic inequality, are more pressing for many of us.
This issue can seem particularly remote from the daily concerns of many members of transgender communities. A recent survey on transgender discrimination conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force revealed that transgender people are likely to live in extreme poverty, to be under- or unemployed, to be denied health care and housing, and to be harassed in school. Chillingly, a staggering 41% of survey respondents reported attempting suicide. (The full report is available online at http://www.thetaskforce.org)
It’s no wonder that some transgender people are frustrated by the significant resources that primarily lesbian and gay organizations have devoted to marriage equality efforts in recent years, a concern also raised by LGBT people of color, youth, and people living with HIV/AIDS. In the shadow of pervasive poverty and despair, and with virtually no national conversation about transgender rights, transgender community members see the allocation of scarce LGBT movement resources (staff time, community money, political will) on marriage as misplaced at best.
While this frustration is understandable, it may be short-sighted. First, it ignores the fact that many transgender people are also lesbian, gay, or bisexual, or in relationships that the government views as legally “same-sex,” even if the partners consider themselves to be different sex.
For instance, a marriage between a trans man and a non-trans woman might or might not be legally recognized as a valid different-sex marriage. That’s because the standard for having a person’s gender identity legally recognized depends upon where they were born, and where they currently live. While most states permit a person to change the gender on their birth certificate, many require the person to have some kind of medical intervention in order to do so — medical intervention that many transgender people may not be able to afford, or may not want. Some states, including Idaho, Tennessee, and Ohio, refuse to change the gender marker on birth certificates.
By Joan Walsh
Monday, Apr 9, 2012
National Review editor Rich Lowry finally did the right thing and fired John Derbyshire for an unbelievably racist and deeply stupid column (printed elsewhere) about the “advice” he gives his son about avoiding black people. Maybe it represents a ratcheting back of right-wing ugliness about the Trayvon Martin case. But if you want to understand how that tragedy went from being an occasion for bipartisan sorrow to another ugly battle in the culture wars, the National Review is a good place to start.
Although founder William F. Buckley is widely credited with driving John Birch Society extremists out of the conservative movement, he made his own contributions to the ugly coarsening of American politics on the issue of race. He and his magazine defended segregation and white supremacy in the South (though he later apologized), while in the North, he played a leading role in making the issue of rising crime both racial and political – with arguments and tactics still being used in the Trayvon Martin case today.
I just finished “The Cause,” Eric Alterman and Kevin Mattson’s history of modern American liberalism, and I was particularly fascinated by their account of the lasting impact the 1965 New York mayor’s race had not only on the city but on liberalism. Buckley ran against liberal Republican John Lindsay and Democrat Abe Beame, and of course lost. But for a while the elite conservative Buckley became a hero to some working-class New York Democrats, for his ability to channel their anger about the city’s rising crime rate, often in racial terms. He mocked liberals for pointing to racism and poverty to explain crime, arguing that those social forces didn’t “make Negro crime any less criminal.” He declared flatly: ”I believe that young thugs are young thugs, irrespective of race, color or creed.” Before there were Reagan Democrats, there were Buckley Democrats.
Lindsay won the election, but Buckley won the debate about crime. After the newly elected mayor appointed a civilian complaint review board to examine rising reports of police brutality, New York cops fought back with a ballot measure to repeal it. Buckley and conservatives backed the measure, while the liberal establishment fought it ferociously. The measure passed thanks to a once unthinkable alliance of outer-borough Jews and “white ethnics,” mainly Catholics – two pillars of the so-called New Deal coalition that kept Democrats in the White House for 36 years, with a short break for Dwight Eisenhower. National politics has never been the same.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2012/04/09/racism_and_the_national_review/singleton/
By Alex Formuzis, Vice President of Media Relations
April 9, 2012
New online videos from a chemical agribusiness front group show conventional growers straining to convince consumers that it’s just fine to eat bug killers and weed killers.
The Alliance for Food and Farming, or AFF, which has lobbied the U.S. Department of Agriculture to tone down its annual pesticide residue tests on fruits and vegetables, has rolled out short videos in which California farmers answer questions usually reserved for scientists and health experts.
Among AFF’s unsupported claims:
Is organic farming better for the environment than conventional farming?
AFF says: No. Rod Braga, a vegetable farmer from Soledad, Calif., says conventional agriculture is actually “very much easier on the environment.”
Truth: The environmental benefits of organic agriculture far outweigh any offered up by conventional operations. Conventional farmers apply more than one billion pounds of highly toxic manmade pesticides and fungicides each year. These chemicals pollute not only the food supply but also air, drinking water and ultimately people’s bodies. They have been found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. Chemical fertilizer runoff from Midwest crop operations has introduced so much nitrate into the Mississippi River that the Gulf of Mexico has a Dead Zone the size of New Jersey literally chocking off aquatic life. Mega-farms throughout the country have also played a significant role in greenhouse gas emissions.
From Mother Jones: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/04/alec-gates-foundation-pepsi-kraft
By Andy Kroll
Tue Apr. 10, 2012
It’s been a rough week or two for the American Legislative Exchange Council, the corporate-backed group that writes model legislation for state legislators on everything from voter ID to privatizing public schools to curbing workers’ rights. Since the GOP’s massive gains at the state level in the 2010 elections, liberal activists have sought to expose ALEC by publishing its model bills and listing its legislative and corporate members. The pressure is having an effect. Last week, Kraft, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi all announced they would cut ties with ALEC. On Monday, another big name ALEC funder joined the list of defectors: the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The foundation, which boasts an endowment of $33.5 billion, had given ALEC $375,000 in the past two years to provide “information to “ALEC-affiliated state legislators on teacher effectiveness and school finance,” a spokesman told Roll Call. But no more. The spokesman, Chris Williams, said the Gates Foundation would finish its existing grant but discontinue future ALEC funding.
Here’s more from Roll Call:
Last week, Kraft Foods Inc., Coca-Cola Co., and Intuit Inc. each said they would withdraw support. The announcements came after months of behind-the-scenes pressure from another liberal group, Color of Change, an African-American advocacy group.
Color of Change went public today with demands that AT&T Corp., one of ALEC’s 21 corporate board members, also sever ties with the organization. Over the past year, the group has reached out to 15 consumer product companies that back ALEC, highlighting the organization’s connections to voter ID laws passed in at least a half-dozen states.
Complete article at: http://motherjones.com/mojo/2012/04/alec-gates-foundation-pepsi-kraft
From The New Civil Rights Movement: http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/nom-moves-starbucks-boycott-into-countries-that-kill-gays-for-being-gay/news/2012/04/10/37836
by David Badash
on April 10, 2012
NOM, the National Organization For Marriage, is moving its failing Starbucks boycott into countries that support the killing of gay people for being gay. NOM has translated its “Dump Starbucks” boycott of the coffee retailer into Arabic, along with three other languages spoken in countries that are generally opposed to homosexuality and same-sex marriage, many of which also support Sharia law and the killing of homosexuals for merely being homosexual.
Curiously, NOM opted not to host their “Dump Starbucks” boycott website on domains that would be easily accessible by people in those countries they are attempting to reach, rather, they have just offered translations of the sites. Not an effective strategy.
Also curious is why NOM didn’t choose to translate the boycott into, say, Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, or other languages a little closer to home. Could it be because they know it would fail in those regions as well?
Of course, this is merely an extension of NOM’s already revealed plans to attempt to ban same-sex marriage worldwide, and to further race and ethic hatred and bigotry. The best thing equality supporters can do is help people in these lands understand who we are and try to make inroads ourselves.
“By making gay marriage core to his brand, Starbucks CEO Howard Schulz is telling millions of customers and partners who support traditional marriage in the Middle East, China, South America and North America that they aren’t truly part of the Starbucks community,” NOM president Brian Brown wrote in a statement:
April 10, 2012
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
3211 4th Street, Northeast
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Dear Cardinal Dolan:
On behalf of the Human Rights Campaign and Freedom to Marry, the two largest organizations working to secure marriage equality in America, we are writing to ask that you and affiliated organizations such as the Knights of Columbus end your financial support and collaboration with the fringe group known as the National Organization for Marriage or NOM. Last week, HRC uncovered a series of documents that shed light on the racially and ethnically divisive strategies and tactics used by NOM.
The documents reveal that NOM’s key goals are to “drive a wedge between gays and blacks,” and to manipulate Hispanic communities by “making support for marriage a key badge of Latino identity” and “to make opposition to gay marriage an identity marker, a badge of youth rebellion to conformist assimilation to the bad side of ‘Anglo’ culture.” Perhaps most shocking, NOM planned “to identify the children of gay parents willing to speak on camera,” essentially tricking minors into publicly criticizing their families.
Sadly, the evidence shows that the funding provided to NOM has been used to exploit people of color and the children of gay parents in this country as pawns in a political chess game. NOM’s attempt to manipulate these communities and “fan… hostility” has outraged fair-minded Americans and civil rights leaders all across the country. The NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the National Council of La Raza are just a few of the many national organizations condemning NOM and these poisonous strategies.
It is hard to believe that the Catholic Church hierarchy, which professes to “promote the greater good which the Church offers humankind,” would continue to funnel funds into, and align itself with, an organization that explicitly uses such toxic tactics to pit American against American, minority against minority, family member against family member. The Knights of Columbus, to give just one example, has acknowledged pouring at least one million dollars into NOM.
The truth is the great majority of Catholics support the freedom to marry. The Public Religion Research Institute recently found that 71 percent of American Catholics support civil marriage for same-sex couples. Increasingly, church-going Catholics question why hospitals, soup kitchens, and even parish churches are being closed for lack of funds at the same time their Church leadership is spending millions of dollars to divide families.
Freedom to Marry and HRC implore you to stop collaborating with, and to immediately stop funding, the National Organization for Marriage and such tactics. By doing so you would send a resounding message that race-baiting, ethnic exploitation, division, and anti-gay campaigns have no place in the Church, or in America.
President, Human Rights Campaign
President, Freedom to Marry
From Nation of Change: http://www.nationofchange.org/car-right-wing-can-t-kill-1333720827
By Froma Harrop
Friday 6 April 2012
Imagine that. Former Republican President George H.W. Bush recently bought his son Neil a Chevrolet Volt as a birthday present. This is the car that all right-thinking right-wingers demand we hate. In their political prism, the Volt has everything going against it: It’s beloved by environmentalists for getting 61 miles to the gallon. It’s assembled by unionized workers at General Motors’ Detroit-Hamtramck plant. It enjoys government subsidies intended to encourage the production of fuel-efficient cars (started actually by H.W.’s oldest son, former President George W. Bush).
To many, this resembles progress. But to “conservatives” wanting government-bailed-out Detroit to go down in flames, especially if the United Auto Workers union goes with it, this plug-in hybrid is the car that has to die.
Lo and behold, U.S. car sales were hot last month, with General Motors selling over 100,000 vehicles that get at least 30 miles to a gallon. And sales of its Chevy Volt more than doubled from the month before.
The irony is that GM has temporarily stopped production of the Volt following earlier weak sales. And here’s why the Volt wasn’t flying out of the lots: The right-wing media had launched an outrageous smear campaign against it. As former GM executive Bob Lutz sarcastically put it, the Volt had become “the poster child for President Obama’s socialist meddling in the free automotive market.”
Lutz responded with special anger to a recent Bill O’Reilly Fox News show in which the host condemned the Volt as “an unmitigated disaster.” Joshing over the disappointing Volt sales, O’Reilly’s guest Lou Dobbs said, “It doesn’t work.” Also, “It catches fire.”
None of this happens to be true. The European-market Volt worked well enough to be named the European Car of the Year. The “catching fire” claim is pure fiction, Lutz said, based on battery tests “under extremely destructive experimental conditions.” Two of the three batteries involved weren’t even in a car.
Continue reading at: http://www.nationofchange.org/car-right-wing-can-t-kill-1333720827
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/10/european-stock-market-panic-selling
Europe‘s sovereign debt crisis exploded back into life on Tuesday, with markets across the continent rocked by a wave of panic selling amid renewed fears about the impact of savage austerity measures in Spain and Italy.
The mood of uneasy calm seen across Europe since the Greek bailout in February was shattered as financial markets took fright at evidence of a double-dip recession and growing popular opposition to welfare cuts and tax increases.
Italy and Spain, the eurozone’s third and fourth biggest economies, were at the centre of the market turmoil, with investors demanding an increasingly high premium for holding their bonds.
“Spain is right in the centre of a European storm,” admitted finance minister Luis de Guindos, who declined to rule out an eventual bailout but insisted it could be avoided.
In Italy, Mario Monti’s coalition government is facing growing hostility to reforms of its labour market, while the sheer size of the country’s public debt made it an obvious target for nervous traders. The prospect of Greek voters rejecting austerity and the French electorate denying Nicolas Sarkozy a second term as president was also weighing on the markets.
The Greek government said it would hold a general election on 6 May, with opinion polls showing support for the mainstream pro-austerity parties is too weak to allow them to form a government.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/apr/10/european-stock-market-panic-selling
From In These Times: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/12867/why_american_needs_the_left
The fight for true equality since 1776.
BY Eli Zaretsky
April 5, 2012
From the beginning of the American republic, most of the country’s thinkers and politicians have argued that our nation neither had nor needed a Left.
Historians of the so-called liberal consensus school argue that the United States has simply always enjoyed agreement on such matters as private property, individualism, popular sovereignty and natural rights. Others claim that the country never developed the leftist working class or peasantry seen in other nations, a claim often termed American exceptionalism. Still others say that the country doesn’t need a Left because it already believes in, or has even achieved, such goals as democracy and equality – a view held by Cold War liberals and neoconservatives.
But these are all false and misleading ways to understand America. The country has always needed, and typically has had, a powerful, independent, radical Left. While this Left has been marginalized (as it is today) and scapegoated (during periods of national emergency), the Left plays an indispensable role during the country’s periods of long-term identity crisis.
The United States has gone through three such crises: the slavery crisis culminating in the Civil War; the Great Depression precipitated by the rise of large-scale corporate capitalism, culminating in the New Deal; and the present crisis of “affluence” and global power, which began in the 1960s. Each crisis has generated a Left – first the abolitionists, then the socialists, and finally the New Left – and together, these movements constitute a tradition.
At the core of each of these Lefts is a challenge to the liberal understanding of equality – the formal equality of all citizens before the law. In the first case, the abolitionists, the issue was racial equality. In the second case, the socialists and communists, the issue was social equality, the insistence that democracy requires a minimum level of security in regard to basic necessities. In the third case, the New Left, the issue was equal participation in civil society, the public sphere, the family and personal life.
Indeed, more than the struggle between Left and Right, the struggle between the Left and liberalism over the meaning of equality is at the core of U.S. history. Without a Left, liberalism becomes spineless and vapid; without liberalism, the Left becomes sectarian, authoritarian and marginal. In contrast, the Right is merely a reaction to the Left.
Continue reading at: http://www.inthesetimes.com/article/12867/why_american_needs_the_left
By Henry A Giroux
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
In spite of being discredited by the economic recession of 2008, market fundamentalism has once again assumed primacy as a dominant force for producing unprecedented inequalities in wealth and income, runaway environmental devastation, egregious amounts of human suffering and what Alex Honneth has called an “abyss of failed sociality.”(1) The Gilded Age is back with big profits for the ultra-rich and large financial institutions and increasing impoverishment and misery for the middle and working class. Political illiteracy and religious fundamentalism have cornered the market on populist rage providing support for a country in which, as Robert Reich points out, “the very richest people get all the economic gains [and] routinely bribe politicians” to cut their taxes and establish policies that eliminate public goods such as schools, social protections, health care and important infrastructures.(2)
It gets worse. Everywhere we look, the power of the rich and powerful operates to create a “suicidal state”(3) in which regulations meant to restrict their corrupting power are shredded; shamelessly and without apology, they use their unchecked power to lay off millions of workers while simultaneously cutting the benefits and rights of those on the job in order to dramatically increase corporate profits. As social protections are dismantled, public servants denigrated and public goods such as schools, bridges, health care services and public transportation deteriorate, the current neoliberal social order embraces the ruthless and punishing values of economic Darwinism and a survival-of-the-fittest ethic. In doing so, the major political parties now reward as its chief beneficiaries the mega banks, ultralarge financial industries, the defense establishment and big business.
Reinvigorated by the passing of tax cuts for the superrich, the right-wing dominated House of Representatives along with number of right-wing state governorships have launched an ongoing war on women’s rights, the welfare state, workers, students, and anyone who has the temerity to speak out against such attacks. The corporate-controlled media, especially Fox News and Clear Channel Communications, emulate the former Soviet Union’s version of Pravda, its once laughable propaganda rag. At the same time, the liberal media is as spineless as it is complicit with existing relations of power – more willing to compromise with right-wing ideology than exercising civic courage in searching for the truth and exposing the lies of normalizing power.
Hiding behind the mantle of balance and objectivism, the liberal media is incapable of a discriminating judgment and moral position and, increasingly, resembles a game show nervously repeating bad jokes, promoting sensationalist stories, emulating celebrity culture and garnering elevated ratings in order to lure in big money from advertisers.
Continue reading at: http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/8421-the-suicidal-state-and-the-war-on-youth
By Chris Hedges
Posted on Apr 9, 2012
The debate surrounding the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act illustrates the impoverishment of our political life. Here is a law that had its origin in the right-wing Heritage Foundation, was first put into practice in 2006 in Massachusetts by then-Gov. Mitt Romney and was solidified into federal law after corporate lobbyists wrote legislation with more than 2,000 pages. It is a law that forces American citizens to buy a deeply defective product from private insurance companies. It is a law that is the equivalent of the bank bailout bill—some $447 billion in subsidies for insurance interests alone—for the pharmaceutical and insurance industries. It is a law that is unconstitutional. And it is a law by which President Barack Obama, and his corporate backers, extinguished the possibilities of both the public option and Medicare for all Americans. There is no substantial difference between Obamacare and Romneycare. There is no substantial difference between Obama and Romney. They are abject servants of the corporate state. And if you vote for one you vote for the other.
But you would never know this by listening to the Democratic Party and the advocacy groups that purport to support universal health care but seem more intent on re-electing Obama. It is the very sad legacy of the liberal class that it proves in election cycle after election cycle that it espouses moral and political positions it will not pay a price to defend. And since we have no fight in us, since we will not punish politicians like Obama who betray our core beliefs, the corporate juggernaut rolls forward with its inexorable pace to cement into place our global neofeudalism.
Protesting outside the Supreme Court recently as it heard arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act were both conservatives from Americans for Prosperity who denounced the president as a socialist and demonstrators from Democratic front groups such as the SEIU and the Families USA health care consumer group who chanted “Protect the law!” Lost between these two factions were a few stalwarts who hold quite different views, including public health care advocates Dr. Margaret Flowers, Dr. Carol Paris and attorneys Oliver Hall, Kevin Zeese and Russell Mokhiber. They displayed a banner that read: “Single Payer Now! Strike Down the Obama Mandate!” They, at least, have not relinquished the demand for single payer health care for all Americans. And I throw my lot in with these renegades, dismissed, no doubt, as cranks or dreamers or impractical by those who flee into the embrace of empty political theater and junk politics. These single payer advocates, joined by 50 doctors, filed a brief to the court that challenges, in the name of universal health care, the individual mandate.
“We have the solution, we have the resources and we have the money to provide lifelong, comprehensive, high-quality health care to every person,” Dr. Flowers said when we spoke a few days ago in Washington, D.C. Many Americans have not accepted the single payer approach “because people get confused by the politics,” she said. “People accept the Democratic argument that this [Obamacare] is all we can have or this is something we can build on.
Continue reading at: http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_real_health_care_debate_20120409/
Much of America’s real drug addiction problem is with drugs that Doctors prescribe. Pot is not the problem. The dangerous drugs are legal because huge corporations make a ton of money off of the dangerous narcotics they peddle.
Pot is a weed that can grow almost anywhere. Including a person’s back yard. Legalize it and the criminal profits disappear. After all there isn’t a tomato based criminal empire.
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/apr/09/america-prescription-drug-addiction
We Americans really like to pop pills. The Associated Press has just reported that we’re increasingly strung out on prescription opioids, with sales ballooning from 2000 to 2010. In some parts of the US, receipts for oxycodone-based products – such as OxyContin, Percoset, and Percodan – surged sixteenfold; hydrocodone-based products such as Vicodin continue to gain solid ground in Appalachia and Middle America.
Indeed, insatiable demand for “hillbilly heroin” – sometimes doled out by doctors who want to legitimately treat pain, sometimes by physicians who want simply to shut up their patients – has prompted pharmacy robberies, and much worse. In fact, so many people have died from medication overdoses of late that they come to exceed car crashes as the US’s top cause of accidental death – a first since the government started tabulating such data in 1979, according to the LA Times. This equates to “more deaths than heroin and cocaine combined”.
Meanwhile, scripts for benzodiazepines – the class of anti-anxiety drugs including Xanax, Valium, Ativan, and Klonopin – have gone up 17% since 2006 to 94m annually, New York magazine notes. Generic Xanax, which goes by the name alprazolam, has become 23% more popular in that same timeframe “making it the most prescribed psycho-pharmaceutical drug and the 11th-most prescribed overall, with 46m prescriptions written in 2010″.
Let’s also not forget that one in four American women is on psychiatric medication. That’s right – 25% of US women undergo chemical treatment for depression, anxiety, ADHD or another mental disorder. While it’s clear that the US has a thing for drugs – which seems both dangerous and disconcerting – what is not immediately clear is why this is the case.
In the New York magazine article Listening to Xanax, author Lisa Miller ponders whether the demands of modern American life necessitate routine benzo use, quoting one expert as saying they “stop a gap that evolution has yet to fill. As humans try to control an exponentially growing number of inputs with which they are confronted, ‘our attention becomes less flexible, our minds become more chattering, and the next thing we know, we’re frantic’. Humans are ill-equipped to process or accommodate all these new signals.” The result? Perhaps “people need a bridge – a pill – between what life doles out and what people can realistically handle”.