Democrats vs. the New Deal: Who really runs the party — and why it might surprise you

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/09/democrats_vs_the_new_deal_who_really_runs_the_party_and_why_it_might_surprise_you/

Dems taking pride in FDR’s historic legacy need to reckon with a basic truth: The party is now firmly anti-New Deal


Tuesday, Dec 9, 2014

In the aftermath of the shellacking they took in the midterm congressional and state elections, many Democrats are calling for their party to return to its New Deal roots.

 This is inadvertently comical.  The present-day Democratic Party has next to nothing to do with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal or Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society.  Today’s Democratic Party is a completely different party, which coalesced between 1968 and 1980.  And this half-century-old party has been anti-New Deal from the very beginning.

Now that I have your attention, allow me to explain.

While there have been two parties called “the Democrats” and “the Republicans” since the mid-19th century, these enduring labels mask the fact that party coalitions change every generation or two.  Franklin Roosevelt created a new party under the old name of “the Democrats” by welding ex-Republican Progressives in the North together with the old Jacksonian Farmer-Labor coalition.  The contentious issue of civil rights nearly destroyed the Roosevelt Democrats in 1948 — and finally wrecked it in 1968, when George Wallace’s third party campaign proved to be a way-station for many working-class whites en route from the Democrats to the Republicans.

Today’s Democratic Party, in contrast, took shape between 1968 and 1980.  Although George McGovern lost the 1972 presidential race to Richard Nixon in a landslide, the McGovernites of the “New Politics” movement wrested control of the Democratic Party from the old state politicians and urban bosses of the Roosevelt-to-Johnson New Deal coalition.  Robert Kennedy’s aide Fred Dutton, one of the architects of the disempowerment of the old New Deal elite, called for a new coalition of young people, college-educated suburbanites and minorities in his 1971 book “Changing Sources of Power: Politics in the 1970s.”  Sound familiar?  That’s because, nearly half a century later, the same groups are the core constituents of today’s Democrats.

Jimmy Carter was the first New Politics president (or New Democrat or neoliberal, as they were later called).  He was a center-right Southern governor who ran against big government and touted his credentials as a rich businessman.  He did not get along with organized labor, one of the key constituencies of the Roosevelt Democrats.  His major domestic policy achievement was dismantling New Deal regulation of transportation like trucking and air travel.  He appointed a Federal Reserve chairman from Wall Street, Paul Volcker, who created an artificial recession, the worst between the Great Depression and the Great Recession, to cripple American unions, whose wage demands were blamed for inflation.

Even before Carter’s election, the Democratic “class of ’74” in Congress wrested power from the old largely Southern politicians of the New Deal era. The  northern Irish Catholic-Southern alliance, symbolized by House Speakers Tip O’Neill and Jim Wright, gave way among congressional Democrats to a new Northeastern-West Coast domination, beginning with Democratic House Speaker Tom Foley, of the state of Washington.  Many of these younger Democrats were deficit hawks, like Bill Bradley of New York and Paul Tsongas of Massachusetts.  Democrats like these supported the 1983 Social Security “reform,” which cut Social Security benefits by raising the formal retirement age from 65 to 67.  In his 1984 presidential campaign, Carter’s former vice-president, Fritz Mondale, made deficit reduction his central issue.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/09/democrats_vs_the_new_deal_who_really_runs_the_party_and_why_it_might_surprise_you/

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Chelsea Manning was transgender ‘in secret’ while serving in US army

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/08/chelsea-manning-transgender-secret-us-army

in New York
Monday 8 December 2014

Chelsea Manning, the soldier jailed for her part in the Wikileaks affair, has revealed that she was transgender “in secret” while serving in the US army.

At the time of her May 2010 arrest over the leaking military and diplomatic documents, Manning was known as Bradley. Until now, very little has been known about Manning’s history of gender identity, despite her very public legal battle with the US military over her civil rights – the army private won the right to change her name, and her push for medical treatment while in prison has become something of a cause célèbre for transgender rights in the military and even worldwide.

Writing for the Guardian from military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in a passionate essay about “largely invisible” discrimination against transgender people, Manning declares: “We’re banned from serving our country in the armed services unless we serve as trans people in secret, as I did.”

In August 2013, Manning was jailed for 35 years, for passing files to Wikileaks. The following day, Manning said she would from then on be known as Chelsea. In April 2014, a Kansas judge formally granted her request to change her name.

Manning’s request for clemency was denied, before proceeding to appeal. She has formally applied to President Barack Obama for a pardon or reduced sentence.

Separately, she is suing the US military over its denial to her of gender dysphoria treatment, despite defense secretary Chuck Hagel having approved the process in July.

In Manning’s case, gender dysphoria refers to an innate sense of being female though her sex at birth was male. Treatment includes psychotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery to change her primary and/or secondary sex characteristics.

A hearing in the case, in which Manning is also seeking to be allowed to grow her hair long and use cosmetics, is scheduled for January.

Last week, in a case heralded by the American Civil Liberties Union, the US army “fully recognised” the new names of two transgender veterans from New Jersey. The decision cleared a path for the two, who were named only as Jennifer and Nicolas, to receive veterans’ benefits.

Beginning her piece for the Guardian, Manning quotes Martin Luther King – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” – and writes: “I am a young trans woman. And I can attest to the ‘long’ part, but I hope the bend toward justice will soon become more pronounced.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/08/chelsea-manning-transgender-secret-us-army

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Propaganda Has Triumphed over Journalism, and the Consequences Are Enormous

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/propaganda-has-triumphed-over-journalism-and-consequences-are-enormous

We need a press that teaches the young to be agents of people, not power.

By John Pilger
December 5, 2014

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and theWashington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity?  And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.

This power to create a new “reality” has been building for a long time. Forty-five years ago, a book entitled The Greening of America caused a sensation. On the cover were these words: “There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual.”

I was a correspondent in the United States at the time and recall the overnight elevation to guru status of the author, a young Yale academic, Charles Reich. His message was that truth-telling and political action had failed and only “culture” and introspection could change the world.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/propaganda-has-triumphed-over-journalism-and-consequences-are-enormous

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“Slow-motion disaster”: Paul Krugman sounds the alarm about Europe’s economic mess

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/01/slow_motion_disaster_paul_krugman_sounds_the_alarm_about_europes_economic_mess/

The economist explains why the continent’s woes keep him up at night


Monday, Dec 1, 2014

A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of a lost decade.

So warns Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in his New York Times column today, which examines the continent’s “slow-motion disaster.” As Krugman notes, the United States and Europe are diverging in their economic paths: while the U.S. seems to be slowly but surely recovering from the financial crisis, Europe is in the midst of another, with high unemployment and a looming risk of deflation. Why is the continent staring down the economic abyss? “The conventional wisdom among European policy makers is that we’re looking at the price of irresponsibility,” Krugman observes, with countries like Greece, Spain, France, and Italy blamed for alleged profligacy and uncompetitive economic policies. But the conventional wisdom is dead wrong, Krugman argues.

If you want to know how Europe reached its current state of affairs, don’t look to the continent’s traditional scapegoats. “[T]he bad behavior at the core of Europe’s slow-motion disaster isn’t coming from Greece, or Italy, or France,” Krugman contends. “It’s coming from Germany.”

Purveyors of the standard narrative about the European economy depict countries like Greece, Italy, and France as racked with high labor costs and reckless fiscal policies. But this narrative is bunk; just glance at some of the data:

Since the euro came into existence in 1999, France’s G.D.P. deflator (the average price of French-produced goods and services) has risen 1.7 percent per year, while its unit labor costs have risen 1.9 percent annually. Both numbers are right in line with the European Central Bank’s target of slightly under 2 percent inflation, and similar to what has happened in the United States. Germany, on the other hand, is way out of line, with price and labor-cost growth of 1 and 0.5 percent, respectively.

Moreover, Krugman writes, costs are coming under control in Spain and Italy. And as for the argument that fiscal irresponsibility is wrecking economies, Krugman points out that France’s borrowing costs are barely higher than Germany’s; there’s no fiscal crisis on the horizon.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/01/slow_motion_disaster_paul_krugman_sounds_the_alarm_about_europes_economic_mess/

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Bela Fleck / Abigail Washburn

Myths About Transition Regrets

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/myths-about-transition-regrets_b_6160626.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


11/18/2014

Every few months I find myself reading something written by a person with no actual psychological, psychiatric, or medical training expounding on why they believe transgender people aren’t real, shouldn’t be allowed to transition, or just need some old-school “reparative therapy” complete with screaming, pillow whacking and cuddling with a “therapist.”

Recently there has been a spate of blog posts raising the specter of transgender people regretting transitioning. They cite their two favorite studies, without actually looking at what the actual studies said, and drag out some old anecdotes. In short, they try to muddy the waters the way climate-change deniers or creationists do by throwing up a cloud of chaff and hoping no one will look any closer. And then there’s the fact that the authors of these blog posts also think that same-sex marriage will abolish all marriage.

Let’s deconstruct the arguments being trotted out one by one.

1. A Swedish study shows post-operative people are more much more likely to commit suicide.

This statement grossly misrepresents the findings of the study and suggests that the study argues against transition-related care. Quite the opposite. The study outright states that medical transition is supported by the other research, and the study is not intended as an argument against the availability of such treatment:

For the purpose of evaluating whether sex reassignment is an effective treatment for gender dysphoria, it is reasonable to compare reported gender dysphoria pre and post treatment. Such studies have been conducted either prospectively or retrospectively, and suggest that sex reassignment of transsexual persons improves quality of life and gender dysphoria.

Indeed, another Swedish study in 2009 found that 95 percent of individuals who transitioned report positive life outcomes as a result.

Additionally, the higher mortality rates are in comparison with the general populace (and not other transgender people who have not received treatment) and only apply to people who transitioned before 1989:

In accordance, the overall mortality rate was only significantly increased for the group operated on before 1989. However, the latter might also be explained by improved health care for transsexual persons during 1990s, along with altered societal attitudes towards persons with different gender expressions.

It should come as no shock that as society accepts transgender people, they suffer fewer side effects of minority stress. This conclusion is supported by other recent studies (Murad 2010 and Ainsworth 2011) that found that individuals who receive treatment not only are better-off than those who didn’t but are not significantly different in daily functioning than the general population:

Male-to-female and FM individuals had the same psychological functioning level as measured by the Symptom Checklist inventory (SCL-90), which was also similar to the psychological functioning level of the normal population and better than that of untreated individuals with GID….

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/myths-about-transition-regrets_b_6160626.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Technology is making us blind: The dangerous complacency of the iPhone era

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/29/technology_is_making_us_blind_the_dangerous_complacency_of_the_iphone_era/

The rise of smartphones and social media has ushered in a new age of techno-optimism. And that’s a big problem


Saturday, Nov 29, 2014

The technology pages of news media can make for scary reading these days. From new evidence of government surveillance to the personal data collection capabilities of new devices, to the latest leaks of personal information, we hear almost daily of new threats to personal privacy. It’s difficult to overstate the implications of this: The separation of the private and public that’s the cornerstone of liberal thought, not to mention the American Constitution, is being rapidly eroded, with potentially profound consequences for our freedom.

 As much as we may register a certain level of dismay at this, in practice, our reaction is often indifference. How many of us have taken to the streets in protest, started a petition, canvassed a politician, or even changed our relationship with our smartphone, tablet or smartwatch? The question is why are we so unconcerned?

We could say that it’s simply a matter of habit, that we have become so used to using devices in such a way that we cannot imagine using them any differently. Or we could, for example, invoke a tragic fate in which we simply have no option but to accept the erosion of our privacy because of our powerlessness against corporations and governments.

These are, however, retrospective justifications that miss the kernel of the truth. To reach this kernel, we have to excavate the substratum of culture to uncover the ideas that shape our relationship with technology. Only here can we see that the cause is a profound ideological shift in this relationship.

Over the last few hundred years, it has been one characterized by deep ambivalence. On the one hand, we have viewed technology as emancipatory, and even, as David Nye, James Carey and other scholars have argued, as divine. On the other hand, we have seen it as dehumanizing, alienating and potentially manipulative — a viewpoint shaped by historical figures as diverse as William Blake, Mark Twain, Mary Shelley, Charlie Chaplin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ned Lud, Samuel Beckett and Karl Marx. However, over the last 20 years or so, this latter perspective has largely been thrown out of the window.

There are many areas of culture that witness this shift, but none does so as lucidly as science fiction film. Even when set in the future, science fiction explodes onto the silver screen the ideas held about technology in the present. Indeed, the success of many of the best science fiction films is undoubtedly because they illustrate their time’s hopes and fears about technology so clearly.

Those of the late 20th century clearly suggest the prevalence in American culture of the old fearful view of technology. The 1980s, for example, saw the advent of personal computing, innovation in areas like genetic engineering and robotics, job losses brought about by industrial mechanization, and the creation of futuristic military technologies such as the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka Star Wars).

Lo and behold, the science fiction films of the time betray cultural fears of keeping up with the pace of change. Many explore the dehumanizing effects of technology, depicting worlds where humans have lost control. “Terminator,” for example, conjoins fears of mechanization and computing. The human protagonists are powerless to kill Schwarzenegger’s cyborg directly; it ultimately meets its end via another piece of industrial technology (a hydraulic press). Another classic of the era, “Blade Runner,” is a complex thought experiment on the joining of technology and humans as hybrids. The antagonist, Roy, whom Harrison Ford’s Deckard must kill, represents the horrific synthesis of unfettered human ambition and technological potency.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/29/technology_is_making_us_blind_the_dangerous_complacency_of_the_iphone_era/

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