Economic Populism at Heart of Emerging Debate Among Democrats

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/07/11-0

by Robert Borosage

Over at The Washington Post, the usually sensible Greg Sargent endorses the notion that divisions among Democrats are “mostly trumped up.” The tension between the Wall Street wing of the party and the Warren (as in Elizabeth) wing is an overblown fiction of a press corps desperate for some action.

It’s true that the prior divisions on social issues have dissipated, as liberals have swept the field. Obama’s halting attempts to wean the US from its foreign wars have garnered widespread support. And on economics, Sargent argues that Democrats “largely agree on the menu of policy responses to the economic problems faced by poor, working and middle class Americans — a higher minimum wage, universal pre-K, higher taxes on the wealthy to fund a stronger safety net, job creation and job training — whatever the broader rhetorical umbrella is being used.” Even Hillary says she agrees with Thomas Piketty that extreme inequality is a “threat” to our democracy.

There are differences on how aggressively to go after the big banks or whether to expand Social Security, Sargent admits, and a debate underway about “whether to push the Democratic Party in a more populist direction,” which he declines to define. But generally, he argues, there’s broad agreement that Hillary or any Democratic candidate will run on.

All of this is true except the conclusion. There is a broad agreement on what might be called a “populist lite” agenda — one that has been put forth repeatedly by Obama and frustrated by Republican obstruction. And the reforms — from the minimum wage to universal pre-K — are important and will make a difference.

But it strikes me as bizarre to suggest that there is no serious debate among Democrats when the National Education Association, the largest teachers union in the country and a key power in Democratic circles, has just called for the resignation of Obama’s education secretary. Democratic House and Senate leaders refuse to allow even a vote on fast-track trade authority sought by the president, and a majority of the Democratic caucus lines up against Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. Progressives in both houses demand bold action on jobs, on taxing and investing that the president resists. Democrats revolt against the White House desire to trim Social Security benefits.

In fact, there is a fundamental debate brewing in the party, grounded on very different perspectives that lead in significantly different directions.

On one side are the passive voice populists, which include both Clintons and Obama. They argue that our Gilded Age inequality is the product of technology and globalization, as if these were autonomous forces like the weather. The effects — a declining middle class, stagnant wages, spreading misery — can be ameliorated by sensible policies, like the agenda Sargent ticks off. Most of all, Americans need to make certain the next generation gets better education and training so they can better compete in the global marketplace. Universal preschool is a first step to that. But the largest thrust — driven by the party’s deep pocket donors — is an assault on teacher’s unions and public schools, investment in charters, public and private, and a focus on high-stakes testing to measure teacher and school performance.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/07/11-0

There’s a fitness tracker for vaginas. Quantifying your life has gone too far

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/14/fitness-tracker-vagina-quantified-life

Biofeedback is great … right up until you use it to get positive feedback from everyone you know


theguardian.com, Monday 14 July 2014

The other night, a friend told me that he was trying to spend more time taking cabs. This surprised me, because I happen to know this friend has a Fitbit, and that he’s rather proud of how far he’s walked under its watchful electronic eye. (I’m being polite: you never just “happen to know” that a friend has a Fitbit because they tell you on social media.)

The Fitbit – if you’ve somehow managed to avoid this – is a little dingus that records how many steps you take in a day and allows you to compete with your friends for the most steps or to post the results to social media. Aficionados will happily march aimlessly up and down the hallway if it means narrowly edging out the next competitor on their leaderboard.

So why was a step-counting devotee actively trying to walk less? “Look,” he told me, “not all my shoes are comfortable. Some of them are really nice. If I walk too far in nice shoes, my feet hurt. So, I’m trying to take cabs.”

It might be the first time I’ve heard a Fitbit user say something akin to “I’m not going to walk more right now, because I don’t want to.”

The Fitbit may have been the first tracker of its kind to go really big – though pedometers have been around for a while – but it has certainly many cousins. There are devices to track your sleep patterns (though Fitbits will do this as well), to keep an eye on your posture, to monitor your dog’s activity levels, to analyze the fuel efficiency of your car or tweet your weight.

Perhaps emboldened by this profusion of interest in data, last month a company called Mark One launched the Vessyl, a cup that analyzes the nutritional content of anything you put in it and tracks your sugar, caffeine, and water consumption. And the KGoal, touted as a “Fitbit for your vagina”, is currently crowdfunding on Kickstarter. The latter device looks like a silicone hand grenade and is designed to record your progress as you do kegels, the exercise for pelvic floor muscles that women do to improve childbirth, continence and – most importantly, in my opinion – sexual pleasure. To emphasize that benefit, the KGoal even vibrates when you’re doing your exercises right.

Like the Fitbit, these newest health trackers don’t come cheap; the Vessyl has a $99 promotional price and you can preorder a KGoal for $125, though the projected retail prices are $199 and $175, respectively. But, hey, how much is too much to spend to know that you’re drinking a soda or clenching your vag?

This stuff all sounds a bit silly, but I’m not enough of a curmudgeon to truly bemoan our national data fixation. It’s often easier to understand what to do with data than to evaluate how you feel, and devices that can quantify your walking or blood pressure or vaginal strength let you take advantage of that. If spending $199 on a cup or $175 on a vagina grenade is the shortcut you need to generate and pay attention to your caloric intake and pelvic floor muscles, for instance, then godspeed.

Plus, human brains respond directly to feedback about bodily functions: watching your heartbeat tracked on a monitor, for instance, gives you the ability to consciously slow them down with uncanny ease, through which you can eventually develop into a coping strategy for anxiety attacks and manage anger.

Having access to biofeedback – real-time data about your body’s functioning – has been shown to help people manage migraines, high blood pressure and even epileptic seizures. It is a powerful enough phenomenon that L Ron Hubbard essentially based a whole religion on it: Scientology’s e-meter is a biofeedback device. And, in the 1940s, Dr Arnold Kegel invented a biofeedback device to help woman improve their pelvic floor muscle exercises and manage urinary control – an obvious precursor to the kGoal, and the very origin of the term “kegels”.

But the pitfall of data devices – and the external sharing of information that they encourage or require – is that they hijack your reward pathways. Instead of walking because it makes you feel good, or because it gets you out in the air or (my personal favorite reason) because sometimes there is bonkers stuff to see in between point A and point B, you walk in order to improve your stats. This sometimes means you walk even if it’s a bad idea – if your shoes hurt, if you’re not feeling well, if it’s dangerously hot, if you’re running late – because doing otherwise will mean a black mark on your record. Your stats will slide, and your stats (and the ability to brag about them on social media) are your reward.

One friend tells me that, when her office did a step-counting competition, she was initially distressed because she couldn’t adjust the pedometer’s minimum “success” condition below 10,000 steps: she has fibromyalgia and isn’t always up for that much walking every day. But, chastened by her colleagues’ successes, she ended up trying valiantly to make the daily minimum – and subsequently spent at least one day per weekend asleep for most of the day, and had to take extra medication for pain in her legs and feet.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jul/14/fitness-tracker-vagina-quantified-life

Dept. of Defense: Chelsea Manning May Begin Transition in Prison

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/07/18/dept-defense-chelsea-manning-may-begin-transition-prison

Nearly a year after her lawyer put in a request to begin hormone replacement therapy, it appears that the Department of Defense has agreed to treat Chelsea Manning.

BY Parker Marie Molloy
July 18 2014

WikiLeaks source Chelsea Manning has been approved to begin receiving hormone replacement therapy while serving her 35-year prison sentence at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Associated Press reports.

This comes two months after an unidentified Pentagon source told the AP that Manning might be transferred out of military custody to be placed into a civilian prison for treatment and directly follows the Bureau of Prisons’ rejection of that Army request.

In lieu of transferring Manning from the all-male military facility to a civilian prison, U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel reportedly signed off on a plan that will allow Manning to receive “rudimentary” treatment for her diagnosis of gender dysphoria.

Although the specific treatment to be provided was not detailed, Manning’s attorney, David Coombs, told the AP he is optimistic that such care will include hormone replacement therapy, widely recognized as a standard course of treatment to begin facilitating a gender transition and part of best practices for providing health care to transgender people.

“It has been almost a year since we first filed our request for adequate medical care,” Coombs told the AP. “I am hopeful that when the Army says it will start a ‘rudimentary level’ of treatment that this means hormone replacement therapy.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/07/18/dept-defense-chelsea-manning-may-begin-transition-prison

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Elaine Stritch (February 2, 1925 – July 17, 2014)

California farms are sucking up enough groundwater to put Rhode Island 17 feet under

From Grist:  http://grist.org/food/california-farms-are-sucking-up-enough-groundwater-to-put-rhode-island-17-feet-under/

By
16 Jul 2014

California, the producer of nearly half of the nation’s fruits, veggies, and nuts, plus export crops – four-fifths of the world’s almonds, for example – is entering its third driest year on record. Nearly 80 percent of the state is experiencing “extreme” or “exceptional” drought. In addition to affecting agricultural production the drought will cost the state billions of dollars, thousands of jobs, and a whole lot of groundwater, according to a new report prepared for the California Department of Food and Agriculture by scientists at UC-Davis. The authors used current water data, agricultural models, satellite data, and other methods to predict the economic and environmental toll of the drought through 2016.

Here are four key takeaways:

  • The drought will cost the state $2.2 billion this year: Of these losses, $810 million will come from lower crop revenues, $203 million will come from livestock and dairy losses, and $454 million will come from the cost of pumping additional groundwater. Up to 17,100 seasonal and part-time jobs will be lost.
  • California is experiencing the “greatest absolute reduction in water availability” ever seen: In a normal year, about one-third of California’s irrigation water is drawn from wells that tap into the groundwater supply. The rest is “surface water” from streams, rivers, and reservoirs. This year, the state is losing about one-third of its surface water supply. The hardest hit area is the Central Valley, a normally fertile inland region. Because groundwater isn’t as easily pumped in the Valley as it is on the coasts, and the Colorado River supplies aren’t as accessible as they are in the south, the Valley has lost 410,000 acres to fallowing, an area about 10 times the size of Washington, D.C.
  • Farmers are pumping enough groundwater to immerse Rhode Island in 17 feet of it: To make up for the loss of surface water, farmers are pumping 62 percent more groundwater than usual. They are projected to pump 13 million acre-feet this year, enough to put Rhode Island 17 feet under.

Continue reading at:  http://grist.org/food/california-farms-are-sucking-up-enough-groundwater-to-put-rhode-island-17-feet-under/

 

California Braces for the Worst: El Niño May Be Too Little, Too Late to Save It From Drought

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/water/california-braces-worst-el-nino-may-be-too-little-too-late-save-it-drought

The Golden State issues statewide water restrictions as it prepares for the worst shortage in its history.

By Cliff Weathers
July 16, 2014

California has imposed statewide water-use regulations for the first time as its three-year drought worsens. Yesterday, state regulators approved stringent new measures limiting outdoor water, which include $500 fines for using an outdoor hose without a shut-off nozzle.

Meanwhile, hopes that the drought would break by autumn have been tempered. The National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center downplayed the help that El Niño may bring to the drought-plagued West in its monthly report of Pacific Ocean weather patterns. While the Center is still projecting that sea surface temperatures will be warmer than usual—a phenomenon known as El Niño—it is now saying that the effect will be only “weak to moderate.”

The forecast strength of the El Niño was downgraded because Pacific Ocean temperatures near the International Date Line have not continued to rise since earlier this year when they were well above average. While strong El Niño weat​h​er patterns usually create more rain for California, weaker El Niños typically don’t bring more rains to the region.

The Center said that there is a 70% chance El Niño will develop by the end of the summer, and an 80% chance that one will develop by the early winter.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology concurred with U.S. climate forecasts in a press release  yesterday. It further suggests that El Niño has been effictively counteracted by the arrival of cooler water.

All of California is under drought conditions and will likely remain that way through autumn. Reservoirs are precariously low in many places. The nation’s largest reservoir, Lake Mead in Nevada, is now at an all-time low.

It is the first time in 15 years that the entire state suffers from a water shortage. The U.S. Drought Monitor, a government-funded weekly map of drought conditions, says that the entire state now suffers from conditions ranging from “abnormally dry” to “exceptional drought.” Heavy-population centers all suffer from “extreme drought” or “exceptional drought.”

El Niño refers to a recurring weather pattern that develops in the southern Pacific near South America. Usually, scientists can predict El Niño a few months before it occurs. Researchers say it can spark droughts in Australia and increase rain and floods in parts of the U.S. and South America. Land areas bordering the Pacific Ocean are the most affected. El niño is Spanish for “the boy” and the capitalized term El Niño refers to the infant Jesus, because periodic warming in the Pacific near South America usually begins near Christmas. The most recent occurrences of El Niño were in 2006 and 2009.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/water/california-braces-worst-el-nino-may-be-too-little-too-late-save-it-drought

California court backs Christian university’s expulsion of transgender student for ‘fraud’

I really don’t understand why any TS/TG or LGB person would ever go to a “religious” school.  Hell I don’t know why any self respecting woman would buy into the bullshit put forth by the Bible thumping bigots/misogynists.

There is no god.  There are only a bunch of manipulative power hungry scumbags peddling superstition and lies in order to further their own quest for power over people.

No fucking god, no fucking masters.

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/16/california-court-backs-christian-universitys-expulsion-of-transgender-student-for-fraud/

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A California judge ruled Tuesday that a private Southern Baptist college was within its rights to expel a transgender student who applied to the school as female, but only as regards the school’s private courses. The student was found to have been discriminated against with regards to the college’s public facilities.

According to the Global Christian Post, the college was ordered to pay the student’s court fees and award her $4,000 in damages for denying her access to the public facilities.

Superior Court Judge Gloria Connor Trask ruled in favor of California Baptist University, a private, Christian college in four of five claims against it by 27-year-old Domaine Javier, a nursing student who was expelled from the school in 2011. The school claimed that Javier had engaged in “fraud” by applying as a woman, although she has identified as female from childhood.

In her ruling, Trask wrote that California Baptist University is a private religious institution and can therefore impose its own strictures on students and faculty regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.

“The undisputed facts establish, as a matter of law, that for its on-campus educational activities, CBU is not a ‘business establishment,’” wrote Trask, and therefore is not covered under California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits all forms of discrimination in businesses and public institutions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/07/16/california-court-backs-christian-universitys-expulsion-of-transgender-student-for-fraud/

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