Friday Night Fun and Culture

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As Women Lose Ground in Latest Round of Jobs Numbers, Can We Stop Talking About the “Mancession”?

From Alternet:

The recent jobs report shows an uptick for female unemployment. So much for the ‘mancession’!

New Deal 2.0 / By Lynn Parramore
June 9, 2011

Jennifer, a Pittsburgh public school teacher, is one of those women you remember from the best of your grade school days. She’s empathetic and enthusiastic. Her large brown eyes flash with keen intelligence. She loves her fourth-grade students, and laughs at the idea of ‘productivity experts’ coming in to tell her how to do her job and measure student progress. “Each child is different,” she insists. “How is an accountant going to measure a special needs student who gained the confidence to raise his hand in class this year?”

When our conversation turns to teachers and their job security, Jennifer’s face darkens. “We teachers — we call ourselves the ‘bottom-feeders’. Decisions are made all around us that we have no control over. Every time someone is laid off, we all put in more hours to make up the difference. It’s exhausting. And we never know who will be the next to go.” Jennifer has something to worry about. By the start of the next school year, she could very well be out of a job.

The term ‘mancession’ popped up in discussions of a 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics report that showed a greater job loss for men than for women at the outset of the Great Recession. Sensing cultural jitters over this finding, the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry seized the moment, drumming up outrage about an ‘unprecedented’ gender gap favoring women by 2 percentage points. Quelle horreur! On New Deal 2.0, historian Alice O’Connor challenged this conclusion, noting that the gap was already closing in 2010 as pink slips in manufacturing and male-dominated sectors slowed, while those in female-dominated professions like education and human services started coming fast and furious. In October 2010, O’Connor explained that the real picture of how how the downturn impacted men and women is far more complicated than Perry let on:

“More fine-grained analyses of the data… show considerable differences in the impact of male job loss across lines of class, race, age, and region; not all men have been affected equally by the downturn, nor women for that matter, suggesting at the very least that there is more to the so-called gender gap than meets the eye. Nor has the Great Recession shown any “favor” to women when it comes to wage losses and poverty rates, both of which are on the rise. And historical experience reminds us that men have also lost the large majority of jobs in past recessions, as they did in the Great Depression, due to the fact that they are disproportionately represented in traditionally hard-hit and better-paying sectors of the economy. Indeed, one could use this observation to conclude that the gender gap in job loss reveals just how stratified the labor market remains, with nearly 90 percent of construction jobs held by men, and nearly 70 percent in manufacturing. The “mancession,” however, comes to a simpler, if misleading conclusion: men suffered far more from the Great Recession than women, and by the time we actually recover, they may find themselves even further behind.”

Fast-forward to June 2011. The jobs report released last Friday makes one thing abundantly clear. The jobs crisis sucks for everyone. It sucks for men. It sucks for women. The suckage is particularly intense for young people and people of color, no matter what their gender. The Center for American Progress reports that May is the 23rd month of unemployment at or above 9 percent since the Great Recession began. This is more months of high unemployment of such magnitude than during any other recession going back to the Great Depression.

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The Right’s Favorite Historian: Founding Fathers Opposed Darwin

From Mother Jones:

By Tim Murphy
Thu Jun. 9, 2011

Talk to a prominent social conservative these day and the odds are pretty good that he or she is a fan of David Barton. Perhaps more than any other person, the Texas-based amateur historian has provided grist for the idea of American Exceptionalism—the argument that America’s unique success in the world is divinely caused and due to its committment to core Judeo-Christian principles. Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, the tea party champion and likely 2012 presidential contender, invited him to teach members of Congress about the Constitution; former House Speaker Newt Gingrich says he learns something new every time he listens to Barton.

He’s a pretty influential guy. So what, exactly, does he teach? On Wednesday, Right Wing Watch flagged a recent interview Barton gave with an evangelcial talk show, in which he argues that the Founding Fathers had explicitly rejected Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.* Yes, that Darwin. The one whose seminal work, On the Origin of Species, wasn’t even published until 1859. Barton declared, “As far as the Founding Fathers were concerned, they’d already had the entire debate over creation and evolution, and you get Thomas Paine, who is the least religious Founding Father, saying you’ve got to teach Creation science in the classroom. Scientific method demands that!” Paine died in 1809, the same year Darwin was born. Here’s the clip:

Ultra Right Wing Extremist Perry and “Hate Group” Team Up for Rally

“Next time I tell you someone from Texas should not be president of the United States, please pay attention.”

Molly Ivins

From The Advocate:

By Lucas Grindley
June 08, 2011

Texas governor Rick Perry plans to fill a football stadium with Christians to pray for solutions to the country’s problems. And he’s partnering with one of the nation’s most notoriously antigay groups to launch the big event.
The American Family Association will pick up much of the bill for the rally, which will be held in August at Reliant Stadium in Houston. The organization was listed this year as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center because of a long history of spreading falsehoods about gay people, including that they are child molesters. But Perry’s spokesman used a different phrase to describe the group Tuesday.

“This is an organization that promotes safe and strong families,” spokesman Mark Miner toldThe Texas Tribune while defending their joint event, called The Response, which is advertised as “a call to prayer for a nation in crisis.”

What the group really promotes is “propaganda” that leads directly to criminal violence against gay people, says Mark Potok, director of the SPLC’s Intelligence Project, which investigates hate groups. Potok wants Perry “to walk away” from the event.

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It has been alleged by several sources that Governor “Good Hair” Perry’s homophobia is a common symptom of closet cases and that he should come out before the “wide stance” moment.

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Is the Catholic Church overstepping its bounds in marriage equality fight ?

From Holy Bullies and Headless Monsters:

Reposted with Permission

By Alvin McEwen
Thursday, June 09, 2011

The more the National Organization for Marriage fight against marriage equality statewide, the more it becomes clear just how deep the Catholic Church seems to be involved in the organization’s efforts.

And now with the campaigns in New York and Minnesota, possibility is becoming a bit more disturbing. Today, Archbishop John C. Nienstedt, Archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, wrote a piece called Marriage amendment deserves our support. Nienstedt is speaking about the amendment which will be voted on by Minnesotans in 2012:

Theologically, the definition of marriage predates any government or religious denomination. As we read in the Bible, it reflects God’s plan for man and woman to share in his creative power of bringing new life into the world (Genesis 1:27-28). This is ratified by Jesus himself in Matthew 19:8-9. It is a truth that is also evident in light of the natural moral law, which grounds our understanding of the dignity that belongs to each human person.

In addition, the very biological, not to mention spiritual, complementarity of the two sexes defines the reproductive nature of their relationship which, in turn, enhances the well-being and joy of that union. The enfleshed oneness of a man and a woman is indeed a communion of life and love.

Ironically, Nienstedt chose to end his piece by publishing, word-for-word a piece from Archbishop of New York Timothy Dolan called Marriage: the core of every civilization. New York is also facing a fight over marriage equality.

Nienstedt really shouldn’t have bothered because Dolan’s piece says pretty much the same thing as his:

“We are not anti anybody; we are pro-marriage. The definition of marriage is a given: it is a lifelong union of love and fidelity leading, please God, to children, between one man and one woman.”

“History, Natural Law, the Bible (if you’re so inclined), the religions of the world, human experience, and just plain gumption tell us this is so. The definition of marriage is hardwired into our human reason.”

I can’t help wondering if the two archbishops wrote these pieces themselves or did they lend their name to press releases written by someone else?

Am I being paranoid? Maybe or maybe not. NOM is already rumored to be a bit more linked to the Catholic Church than a non-profit group should be. From the webpage NOM Exposed:

NOM is comparatively unguarded about its ties to the Catholic Church, acknowledging that its early funds in California came from “well-off Catholic individuals,” and NOM openly aligned with the Catholic Archdiocese in Maine. The largest known donation to NOM is $1.4 million from the Catholic fraternal organization the Knights of Columbus in 2009; that comes on top of the Knights’ $500,000 donation in 2008.

All three of NOM’s top leaders – Brian Brown, current president, Maggie Gallagher, founding president, and Robert George, board chairman emeritus – are Catholics. Additionally, NOM founding board member Luis Tellez, is a numerary of Opus Dei, a highly secretive Catholic organization. He lives in a house on the Princeton University campus that the Daily Princetonian has described as the hub of Opus Dei activities in the area.

NOM and the Catholic Church teamed up to fund almost the entire Maine campaign against same-sex marriage in 2009. According to the Bangor Daily News, “…$1.1 million of the $1.4 million raised by Stand for Marriage Maine in October 2009 came from a single source: the National Organization for Marriage. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland has poured more than $550,000 into the campaign to repeal the law, including more than $150,000 from its general treasury since October 1, 2009. The Portland diocese also collected more than $200,000 for Stand for Marriage Maine from bishops and dioceses outside of Maine.”

According to Jeremy Hooper of, Gallagher appeared at “a ‘private meeting for Catholic clery’…at the request of Maine’s Bishop Malone” in Maine in September 2009 at the height of the Question 1 campaign.

At least a half-dozen Roman Catholic bishops met with NOM board chairman emeritus Robert George to discuss his 4700-word manifesto called the “Manhattan Declaration” that warned of civil disobedience if same-sex marriage or stem cell research were approved by the New York legislature. According to Church & State, the Declaration “also represents perhaps the most far-reaching effort to date to juice up the Religious Right by adding the political power and media respectability of the Catholic and Orthodox hierarchies.”

I’m certainly not trying to offend anyone who is Catholic but the subject of marriage equality isn’t necessarily a religious issue. It’s a state issue. The Catholic Church is not forced to marry same-sex couples.

Now as for the adoption mess (i.e. the Catholic Charities in Illinois which are suing for the right to use taxpayer money to discriminate against same-sex couples), I stand by the belief that the Catholic Charities shouldn’t take state money if they aren’t willing to follow state rules. There is nothing with the Catholic Charities pursuing private adoptions.

But the fact of the matter is this – I feel very uncomfortable when I think of the possibility of how deep the Catholic Church is putting itself into this state issue. I think people should vote as their faith dictates. But I have a serious problem with a church official using his office or name to marshal  large groups of people to vote in a particular way. And my problems become even more deep when I realize that the church where that official belongs is tax-exempt.

And the Catholic Church is rumored to be involved in efforts to hinder marriage equality via NOM in ways that may not ethical or legal. Perhaps this is why NOM has fought so hard against statewide disclosure laws.

An entity flexing its power over how large groups of people should vote while being exempt from laws which cover this sort of thing is a dangerous entity in terms of manpower and money. Moreover this entity’s actions is a slap in the face to an American core belief – the right to vote as your conscience dictates and not be threatened via implied threats, be they physical (you are going to be murdered) or spiritual (you are voting against God’s law and will go to hell for it.)

It’s definitely a license to create havoc. You may not think it’s a big deal but it is. In fact, it is a nasty precedent. Today it’s marriage equality. Tomorrow it could be another issue decided, not by individual choice, but by spiritual groupthink.

The Catholic Church needs to be upfront with just deeply involved it is with the political fight of marriage equality. And if it has legally or ethically overstepped its bounds, then the Catholic Church needs to make amends.

You cannot defend morality through unethical actions.

First therapeutic study of LSD in 35 years finishes treatment of last subject

From Raw Story:

 By Eric W. Dolan
Thursday, June 9th, 2011

Psychiatrists in Switzerland have nearly completed their study of LSD-assisted psychotherapy in the treatment of anxiety associated with life threatening illnesses.

The study is the first of its kind to be undertaken in 35 years. Although most people associate the psychedelic drug LSD with the hippie counterculture of the 1960’s, psychiatrists had been studying the use of LSD as an aid to psychological therapy before it was federally banned in the United States in 1968.

Peter Gasser, M.D., a psychiatrist and lead investigator of the study, said in a letter (PDF) to friends and colleagues that “all the 12 participants reported a benefit from the treatment.” The study was begun in 2007 after being approved by Swiss legal authorities and the final LSD-assisted psychotherapy session was completed on May 26.

“I am proud to say that we had in 30 sessions (22 with full dose 200 μg LSD and 8 with placebo dose 20 μg LSD) no severe side effects such as psychotic experiences or suicidal crisis or flashbacks or severe anxieties (bad trips),” Gasser wrote in his letter. “That means that we can show that LSD treatment can be safe when it is done in a carefully controlled clinical setting.”

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Why won’t the pope let women protect themselves from HIV?

From The Guardian UK:

As the UN reviews its HIV/Aids strategy, papal representatives are putting doctrine before African women’s health

Nancy, Wednesday 8 June 2011

Who can forget Pope Benedict XVI‘s first tour of Africa as pontiff in spring 2009? He told the continent hardest hit by the global HIV/Aids crisis that more stringent moral attitudes toward sex would help fight the disease – indeed, that condom distribution “increases the problem”. There was no sign that his Holiness understood the depth of the pandemic in sub-Saharan Africa, which accounted for 75% of all HIV-related deaths that year, or had made any attempt to reconcile religious doctrine with compassionate public health policy.

Now, it’s June 2011, the 30th anniversary of the Aids pandemic, and the Holy See is at it again.

Today marks the opening of a United Nations general assembly “high level meeting” on Aids in New York City that will evaluate the progress of that body’s response to the pandemic over the past five years and set the agenda for the next decade. Serra Sippel, president of the Centre for Health and Gender Equity (Change), declares that “this meeting is where we decide how serious we are about beating HIV, and how serious we are about women’s equality.” If so, the Holy See has left no doubt about their stance on either issue.

For months now, their all-male team has been trying to strip all references to sexual and reproductive health and rights from the meeting’s declaration; gutting all mentions of education and prevention other than marriage and fidelity; and insisting that “families” be replaced with “the family”, as though that monolith even exists or that it provides some kind of magic shield against HIV.

Either the Holy See does not understand, or does not care that their hardline stance is not actually “pro-life” in any sense. They ask that paragraph 60 of the declaration, which addresses research and development for treating and curing HIV, delete all mention of “female-controlled prevention methods”. This despite the fact that female condoms and the very promising looking microbicides now being developed have no relation to abortion and represent the single greatest potential life saver for women worldwide.

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