The Moral Underground: How Ordinary Americans Subvert an Unfair Economy

From Yes Magazine:

All around you are everyday heroes who refuse to be complicit in the economic mistreatment of other people.

by Lisa Dodson
posted Mar 18, 2011

Bea, a manager at a big-box chain store in Maine, likes to keep a professional atmosphere in the store. But with a staff struggling to get by on $6 to $8 an hour, sometimes things get messy. When one of her employees couldn’t afford to buy her daughter a prom dress, Bea couldn’t shake the feeling that she was implicated by the injustice. “Let’s just say … we made some mistakes with our prom dress orders last year,” she told me. “Too many were ordered, some went back. It got pretty confusing.” And Edy? “She knocked them dead” at the prom.

Andrew, a manager in a large food business in the Midwest, told me about the moral dilemma of employing people who can’t take care of their families even though they are working hard. This was something that he couldn’t pretend was okay. He came to the decision to “do what [he] can” even at the risk of being accused of stealing. “I pad their paychecks because you can’t live on what they make. I punch them out after they have left for a doctor’s appointment or to take care of someone … And I give them food to take home….”

Ned, who works in a chain grocery store, detours some of the “product” that doesn’t quite pass muster—dented cans, not-quite-fresh produce—to his low-wage employees. “I guess you could say I make the most of that,” he said. “I make the most of it. I don’t see it as a scam. It’s not for me, it’s for them. … At the end of the month … that’s all they have.”

Between 2001 and 2008, I spoke with hundreds of lower- and middle-income people about the economy, work, schools, health care, and what they saw happening around them. When this research began, I was focusing on parents in low-wage families, documenting their accounts of working, being poor, and trying to keep children safe. But that changed when I spoke with Jonathan, a middle-aged “top manager” in a chain of grocery stores in the Midwest. I was asking him about the stresses of running a business that employed lots of low-wage parents. He acknowledged there were plenty. I was getting toward the end of the interview and he seemed to sense that, so he stopped me and asked, “Don’t you want to know what this is doing to me, too?”

At first I thought he was going to tell me his own financial problems. But he wanted to talk about being someone who makes enough to live “fairly comfortably” while having authority over hardworking parents who do not. He spoke of parents whom he got to know pretty well, who headed home each week with less than they needed to feed their families. Yes, he said, it is the “going wage”—America’s “market wage”—that doesn’t cover the market cost of basic human needs. Still, it didn’t seem right to Jonathan. He described how it changed his job, tainted it, to be supervising people who couldn’t get by on what he paid them.

Like Andrew and many others, Jonathan looked beyond the fact that it was legal for the market to set wages below what families need to survive. Does that make it right?

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Almost Fifty Years After Griswold, We’re Still Fighting for Access to Contraception

From RH Reality Check:

by Jodi Jacobson, Editor-in-Chief, RH Reality Check
June 6, 2011

une 7th, 2011 marks the 45th anniversary of the landmark 1965 Supreme Court decision Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized family planning and the right to individual privacy in family planning decisions. But nearly 50 years later, women in the United States can hardly find cause for celebration, because we are engaged in a full-on battle to maintain access to contraception.

The fact that we find ourselves in this situation is astonishing to say the least, and speaks to how deeply we have succumbed to what are commonly referred to as “culture wars,” but in reality is the triumph of pure religious ideology and blibical fundamentalism (on one side) over science, public health, medicine and clinical practice, and human rights on the other.

Family planning–the means through which people exercise their right to decide whether and when to have children, how many children to have and at what intervals–has been cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as one of the ten great public health achievements of the 20th century because of the huge gains it yields in maternal and infant survival and in the health and survival of children ages 0 to 5 years.

Family planning also has vast economic and social benefits. In the United States, analyses conducted by the Guttmacher Institute show that family planning services are vital to the health and well-being of poor and low-income women in general, and marginalized populations in particular.  Publicly-funded family planning programs provide:

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Three arrested, accused of illegally feeding homeless

Can’t have those dangerous commie anarchists out there feeding homeless people and interfering with Religion Inc.’s image.

Besides helping the homeless with food smacks of that un-American vice of altruism.  Go read your Ayn Rand or go to jail…

From The Orlando Sentinel:,0,7226362.story

By Susan Jacobson, Orlando Sentinel1:33 p.m. EDT, June 2, 2011

Members of Orlando Food Not Bombs were arrested Wednesday when police said they violated a city ordinance by feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park.

Jessica Cross, 24, Benjamin Markeson, 49, and Jonathan “Keith” McHenry, 54, were arrested at 6:10 p.m. on a charge of violating the ordinance restricting group feedings in public parks. McHenry is a co-founder of the international Food Not Bombs movement, which began in the early 1980s.

The group lost a court battle in April, clearing the way for the city to enforce the ordinance. It requires groups to obtain a permit and limits each group to two permits per year for each park within a 2-mile radius of City Hall.

Arrest papers state that Cross, Markeson and McHenry helped feed 40 people Wednesday night. The ordinance applies to feedings of more than 25 people.

“They intentionally violated the statute,” said Lt. Barbara Jones, an Orlando police spokeswoman.

Police waited until everyone was served to make the arrests, said Douglas Coleman, speaking for Orlando Food Not Bombs.

“They basically carted them off to jail for feeding hungry people,” said Coleman, who was not present. “For them to regulate a time and place for free speech and to share food, that is unacceptable.”

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In wealthy nations where billionaires get tax cuts basic housing, food and medical care should be a right and not a privilege…


Marching with the SlutWalkers

From The Guardian UK:

The SlutWalk movement has divided feminists. Should women try to reclaim the word? And is undressing the best way to protest against rape?

Tanya GoldThe Guardian, Tuesday 7 June 2011

SlutWalking entered the UK on Saturday with marches in Cardiff, Newcastle and Edinburgh and Glasgow. I stood under Grey’s Monument in Newcastle, watching the protesters gather. As I write about SlutWalking, I first wonder if I can call the SlutWalkers “sluts”, without the ironic speech marks. I think I should. Isn’t this the point? To decontaminate the term through overuse? If I am repelled by repeatedly writing it – and you by reading it – perhaps we will learn whether the “reclaiming” of abusive terms is helpful, as the fight for equality stalls and porn culture swallows everything.

Grey’s Monument is a phallic column, commemorating the white male Charles Grey’s role in passing the Reform Act of 1832. So, as a symbol for female emancipation, it doesn’t work. A first generation feminist might say we were standing under a patriarch’s penis that is covered in pigeons. Some sluts, like me, are dressed in jeans or long skirts and jumpers, like Tories seeking labradors. Some wear spidery black underwear and bovver boots, like pole dancers in fear of broken glass. Others wear pink dresses and wigs and carry teddy bears. There are also some normal-looking men and a delegation from the Socialist Workers party, who for some reason don’t want to give their names. They carry signs, made from cardboard or sheets. “Feminism: Back by Popular Demand.” “Stop Telling Me – Don’t Get Raped. Tell Men – Don’t Rape.” “My Clothes Aren’t My Consent.”

The SlutWalk is the latest chapter in the story of modern feminism, perched between the Rise of the Fragrant Good Wife – Samantha Cameron, Catherine Wales – and the Return of the Bunnies and Their Big Ears to the new Playboy club in London. The SlutWalk is not poised and it is not reticent. It is a scream of dirty, unfeminine rage ripping through conventional gender stereotypes, which seem more solid and irritating than ever.

It began on 24 January this year, when policeman Michael Sanguinetti walked into the Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto, to tell women how to avoid sexual violence. “I’ve been told I’m not supposed to say this,” Sanguinetti said. “However, women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimised.”

Sonya Barnett and Heather Jarvis decided to publicise this random example of women being damned for sexual violence by a law-enforcement officer. So on 3 April, they organised the first SlutWalk. Thousands of women walked through Toronto, some with the word “slut” painted on their almost nude bodies. Their manifesto said: “We are tired of being oppressed by slut-shaming; of being judged by our sexuality and feeling unsafe as a result. Being in charge of our sexual lives should not mean that we are opening ourselves to an expectation of violence, regardless if we participate in sex for pleasure or work. No one should equate enjoying sex with attracting sexual assault.”

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House Republicans Look To Privatize Social Security

From Talking Points Memo:

Benjy Sarlin
June 7, 2011

Republican leaders left Social Security untouched in their House budget this year, but a group of GOP lawmakers are looking to fill the gap themselves with legislation that would create a voluntary privatized version of the program.

Introduced by Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), who also chairs the House’s campaign efforts at the NRCC, the “Savings Account For Every American Act” would allow people to immediately opt out of Social Security in favor of a private “S.A.F.E.” account. Eventually the program would expand to let employers send their matching contribution to workers’ Social Security to a “S.A.F.E.” account as well.

“Our nation’s Social Security Trust Fund is depleting at an alarming rate, and failure to implement immediate reforms endangers the ability of Americans to plan for their retirement with the options and certainty they deserve,” Sessions said of the plan, according to The Hill. “To simply maintain the status quo would weaken American competitiveness by adding more unsustainable debt and insolvent entitlements to our economy when we can least afford it.”

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Killing Us Softly 4: Advertising’s Image of Women

Did The Cable Industry Pay Ralph Reed Millions of Dollars to Orchestrate Tea Party Opposition to Net Neutrality?

From Truthout:

by: Lee Fang, ThinkProgress
Sunday 5 June 2011

As the New York Times and ThinkProgress have reported, Ralph Reed has returned as a force in the political world. A decade ago, Reed was a kingmaker in Republican politics and a corporate lobbyist who counted Fortune 100 companies like Enron and Microsoft as clients. His fall from grace, starting with the Jack Abramoff scandal and culminating in a humiliating loss in his run for lieutenant governor of Georgia, is apparently now behind him. Times reporter Erik Eckholm points out that Reed has successfully revived his work as an operator within the Republican Party, most notably with his ability to ensnare nearly every Republican presidential contender to a conference he’s hosting this weekend.

However, little is known about Reed’s work reviving his business as an astroturf lobbyist. According to documents obtained by ThinkProgress, the National Cable and Telecom Association (NCTA), a trade association that represents cable providers like Comcast and Qwest Communications, has provided Reed’s lobbying firm with at least $3,462,117 worth of contracts in the last three years alone. Century Strategies, the firm founded by Reed and fellow astroturf lobbyist Tim Phillips in 1997, received the contracts for what NCTA deemed “legal and advertising” services. View a screenshot of the relevant documents here and here.

ThinkProgress has queried several staffers at Reed’s lobbying firm to learn about the contract. At CPAC this year, one employee for Reed told us that he did not work on the NCTA account and knew little about it. I spoke to another staffer in Reed’s Atlanta office this week and asked if the firm ever provides any kind of legal or advertising work for clients. “None at all,” she replied to the legal question. “Nope, we don’t,” she said in response to a question I had about Century Strategies creating or purchasing advertisements for clients. Why did the cable industry pay Reed millions for advertising work, then?

I asked Brian Deitz, the vice president for communications and public affairs at NCTA, about the over $3 million given to Reed. “We do not comment on specific financial matters related to NCTA,” was his only response.

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