Main Street skeptical of the debt deal?

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Debt Ceiling Deal a Blow to Women’s Economic Security Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

NOW Press Release:

August 1, 2011

The debt ceiling agreement reached by the White House and congressional leaders over the weekend deals a serious blow to women’s economic security. If approved by both houses of Congress, the agreement will impose $1 trillion in cuts to programs such as family planning clinics, food stamps, college tuition assistance, child care and a host of other programs that disproportionately serve and employ women. But that is just the first part of the agreement.

This initial set of cuts is to be followed by an even more ambitious deficit-reduction package designed by a “super committee” composed of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats from both houses of Congress. The super committee’s proposal would be put to an up-or-down vote later this year — thus relieving elected officials from doing their job of crafting legislation through a deliberative, committee-based process. So-called triggers in the super committee’s charter are designed to make it more likely than not that the ultimate product will include cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and possibly Social Security (and possibly military spending), but not meaningful taxes on the wealthiest or corporations.

This two-step plan attempts to balance the federal budget on the backs of the most vulnerable people in this country — disproportionately women and especially women of color. And for what? Not for a balanced budget. Sadly, this punishing “deal” will not actually solve our deficit problem, which was caused by Bush-era tax cuts for top income earners, unfunded and ill-conceived wars, and reduced federal income tax revenue due to high unemployment. Those are the root causes that must be addressed.

In addition, this deal is sure to further depress the economy, lead to higher unemployment and further limit consumer spending, which is the reason the economy is not growing. This phony crisis — forced by conservatives in Congress — robs middle- and lower-income families in order to give a free pass to multi-millionaires and big corporations. It is a right-wing, anti-government solution that will lead to even more serious economic problems for the U.S. and will disproportionately impact women.

We call on Congress to reject any deal that fails to require the wealthiest to pay their fair share in taxes, cut wasteful military spending, and protect programs that women rely on in these tough economic times. The Obama administration and allies in Congress must stand up to conservatives and Tea Party activists, who are threatening the economic well-being of this country and apparently do not care if millions suffer thanks to un-called for cuts to vital government programs.

For Immediate Release
Contact: Latoya Veal w. 202-628-8669, ext. 116, c. 301-660-3447

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8 Reasons Young Americans Don’t Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance

From Alternet:

The ruling elite has created social institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance.

By Bruce E. Levine
July 31, 2011

Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans?

1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

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How Abortion Caused the Debt Crisis

From RH Reality Check:

by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
August 1, 2011

Last night, right before the fatal deadline, the U.S. Congress finally came to a deal that allows us to raise the debt ceiling, without which the federal government would basically shut down completely and start to default on its loans, creating a cascade of economic disasters.  Congress came to a deal before we had to learn those Depression-era money-saving skills (sadly, we don’t have flour sacks to make clothes from any longer).  Now it’s time to reflect on how our country has gone so far off track that we can’t even handle the basic responsibility of keeping the country from plunging into a manufactured crisis that nearly led to economic collapse.  There are multiple causes, but one that hasn’t been discussed much is abortion.

Yes, abortion. Or, more specifically, the sustained sex panic that has been going on in this country since the sixties and seventies, when the sexual revolution occurred and women secured their reproductive rights.  If it seems a little strange to argue that sex panic helped bring us to the verge of economic collapse, well, that’s the nature of the circuitous, ever-evolving world of politics.  But it’s sex panic that helped create the modern right-wing populist, and it’s the modern right-wing populist that created the current crisis.

Despite the recent coinage of the term “Tea Party,” what we call the Tea Party has been around under different names forever.  It’s basically right-wing populism, and has been the thorn in the side of democracies for at least the past century.  The modern form of it in the United States really formed in the sixties, in response to two major social changes: desegregation and the sexual revolution/feminism. (Yes, I realize feminism and the sexual revolution are separate things, but for the right wing, they may as well be one thing, since it’s women’s sexual liberation that really gets them going.)  You had this huge group of socially conservative people who were wound up about these social changes, but not a lot of direction for their anger and hate.  Outside of glowering at Gloria Steinem and Martin Luther King Jr., what are you supposed to do to stop widespread social change? They needed direction.

The genius of conservative leadership was that they were able to take all this anger about sexual freedom and desegregation and put the blame on two enemies: Democrats and the federal government.  Democrats were blamed for society getting “out of control” and the federal government’s role in enforcing women’s rights and desegregation made them an easy target.  Once these villains were established, all this right-wing populist anger could be pointed towards generic goals of big business Republicans.  If you hate the federal government for enforcing the Civil Rights Act, it’s easy enough to start hating them for levying taxes, especially if you can be convinced those taxes are going to welfare to pay for what you believe is immoral behavior, such as single motherhood.  If you hate the Supreme Court for Roe v. Wade, it’s easy to get you to support putting more conservative justices up there who will routinely vote for business interests.

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Don’t Let Extortion Beat Democracy

From Campaign for America’s Future:

By Dave Johnson
August 1, 2011

The country has been held at gunpoint: a faction of the Congress, in service to a wealthy elite, were able to get away with threatening us, saying “give us everything we want or we will kill your economy.” The other side, inured now to one-dollar-one-vote “market” rule over one-person-one-vote We-the-People democracy, capitulated to the demands. Moreover, they agreed to cede budget-rule to a 12-member “Super Congress.” If it passes, this elite-enriching deal will slow the economy, kill even more jobs, and make it even harder to pay our bills. The deal is announced at the last minute forcing Congress to vote before public opposition can rally. This is not how our system is supposed to work! This is not an America that any of us recognize.

A Pattern

A terrible pattern of naked aggression against democracy has emerged. It began with financial crisis when Congress was stampeded by the threat of complete economic meltdown into a huge taxpayer bailout protecting the fortunes of Wall Street and too-big-to-fail bankers. The “emergency” vote occurred before opposition could rally. Then the obstruction of democracy following the 2008 elections with a Republican majority filibustering … almost everything We, the People tried to do for each other. This unprecedented disruption of the functioning of government frustrated people’s faith and trust in our system and weakened the barely-recovering economy.

Next was the series of “hostage-taking” acts of extortion. The first was the threat to cut off assistance for the unemployed unless the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy were extended. Then the “government shutdown” threat, forcing cuts in the things We, the People do for each other. The latest, this “debt-ceiling” threat to take down the entire economy forcing more cuts, demanding a process that locks them in before people can wake up from the shock and fight back, all occurring outside of the processes of democracy.

Each time the manufactured “crisis” negotiations are stalled until the last minute, the deal is “announced,” and the vote occurs, “locking in” the demage before public opposition can rally.

Again and again, bailouts or tax cuts or favors for the wealthy paid for by cutbacks in the entitlements democracy brings to the public — good wages, pensions, education, health care, infrastructure, environmental protections – or your economy collapses. Again and again the lesson is taught: raw extortion beats democracy.

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A Last Night Among the Spirits at the Chelsea Hotel

A part of old New York dies. When I went to the Village in the 1960s I used to stay at the Hotel Albert on 10th St. It was where so many bands and musicians stayed when in NYC. Like the Chelsea, the Albert was home to musicians, artists and unique people.

Patti Smith writes about living at the Chelsea in her memoir “Just Kids”

From the New York Times:

Published: July 31, 2011

Her head was shaved on both sides, her Mohawk bleached and dyed blond and blue. As she leaned over the front desk of the Chelsea Hotel on Saturday night, her lower lip pierced with a ring and her Doc Martens tapping the floor, Kitty Ramona, a bass player from Baltimore, was every bit the nostalgic punk girl seeking refuge in a place dripping with history and on the verge of being swallowed by time.

Saturday night was, by all indications, the last night that the Chelsea Hotel on West 23rd Street would be open to guests, though the duration of the closing, the first in its history, was unknown.

The building is to be sold for over $80 million to the developer Joseph Chetrit, though the deal had not closed as of Sunday, according to someone close to the matter, who asked not to be named because the negotiations were confidential. Extensive renovations are expected to take at least a year. The hotel’s 100 permanent residents will be allowed to stay, but they have been told nothing beyond what the startled hotel workers learned late last week: that all reservations after Saturday were canceled.

“Where are all the punk kids? Maybe they don’t know,” said Ms. Ramona, an adrenaline-fueled, self-described “forever teenager” (in her early 30s) who had booked a room, hopped in her car and gunned it to New York City as soon as she heard the news. For a decade, Ms. Ramona has journeyed to the hotel several times a year, drawn by two of its famous guests from decades past. “Sid Vicious in caps, and Dee Dee Ramone,” she said. “If I could be anywhere tonight, this is the place to be.”

Mr. Chetrit, who did not return calls for comment, is said to want to keep the Chelsea as a hotel, but the plans are unclear. The building, a looming Queen Anne that opened as a co-op in 1884, is landmarked.

Gene Kaufman, an architect hired to oversee the renovations, said the plumbing, ventilation and electrical systems and the lobby all had to be overhauled, but added that much of the hotel’s original charm, including the wrought-iron interior stairwell and the art, would be preserved. “People should not be nervous about that,” he said.

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People should not be nervious, the bones will remain long after the soul is departed as per the  letter of the preservation of historic sites laws.

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NOW Urges HHS: No Refusal Clauses on Contraception

Now Press Release:

August 1, 2011

The National Organization for Women commends the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for issuing new guidelines for insurance plans to cover women’s preventive health services under the Affordable Care Act. Among those guidelines, as recommended by the Institute of Medicine, is one that requires provision of contraceptive services without co-pays and deductibles. NOW had just sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, calling for the adoption of these recommendations and urging the department not to allow so-called refusal or conscience clauses to undermine women’s access to birth control.

An Aug. 1 HHS press release indicates that the guidelines do allow religious institutions the option of not covering contraception services when offering insurance to their employees, noting that “this is the most common accommodation for churches available in a majority of the 28 states that already require insurance companies to cover contraception.”

NOW President Terry O’Neill stated that no woman should be denied health care as basic as contraception, not even a woman who happens to work for a religious institution. “The U.S. Constitution guarantees freedom of religion and freedom from being forced to observe any particular religious dictate. This so-called conscience clause is bad enough — but even worse, we’ve heard that a more expansive refusal clause may be included in the final regulation. That’s unacceptable. It would be a tragedy if millions of women were denied affordable access to contraception because HHS is ready to give in to a tiny minority of religious extremists who oppose birth control,” said O’Neill.

O’Neill also expressed disappointment that HHS will not require insurers to implement this change immediately, allowing them to wait a full year before providing women’s preventive health care services without co-pays or deductibles. “There is no good reason for further delay,” O’Neill said. “Women need preventive health services now, especially as they are economically squeezed by unemployment or underemployment.”

Read NOW’s full letter (PDF) to Secretary Sebelius

More information on the HHS guidelines

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Sam Seder: Satan Sandwich: The Debt Deal’s Austerity is the Plat du Jour

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Don’t Get Me Started…

This last weekend I joined the Facebook group “The Gray Panthers”.  Way back when…  Even before the Vietnam Anti-War Movement there were the politically active old folks, who were an influence on me.

The WW I veterans who used to talk about how the government screwed them over by denying them bonuses.

The labor activists who had been Socialists and Communists during the 1930s but who were muted by the McCarthyism of my childhood, only pointing me to books like Grapes of Wrath and authors like Studs Turkel.

There were the adults who form the anti-nuclear movement.  Pete Seeger who taught us the songs.

Later in the 1960s there were the old men and women who always marched and came to all the rallies.  Not new comers to social activism, but lifers in the pursuit of social justice movement that has so many faces.

Our stories, memoirs made up of the joys and sorrows of a lifetime of dissent and struggle, a living history.

The trans-activists of Transgender Inc. would have had me stay frozen in time, forever linked to something in my distant pass.

I listen to their trans-centric homophobia and I find myself speechless.  What can I say other than, “I’m a dyke and that shit is totally offensive .”

Because that is my reality.  I am an old hippie dyke with a partner of of ten years a garden that is being burnt to a crisp, a bunch of cats, a huge library and our eclectic taste in art and music.

We have our stories, our history and our concern for the causes that have been important through out our lives.  Having been transsexual once upon a time sometimes seems less important than the having been a Berkeley hippie with a deserter boyfriend even though both those things occurred simultaniously.

Mostly now I look at myself in the photos Tina takes of me at demonstrations and I think, “Damn I expected to be thinner. But I also think I’ve turned into one of the gray haired elders of the movement.”

And damn Obama for selling out us seniors.


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Polygamist Leader Says God Demands Judge’s Removal In Child Sex Assault Trial


Warren Jeffs is accused of sexually assaulting two girls, ages 12 and 15


SAN ANGELO, Texas — Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs made a third attempt Monday to remove the Texas judge overseeing his child sex assault case — this time based on the claim that God himself demands a change.

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A quick search of Texas Bar Association Records failed to reveal any entity named “God” as bearing a Texas License to practice law.

However,  as I was taking out the garbage I heard the voice of god, she spoke unto me and said,  “This poor Warren Jeffs is put upon from all sides.  He needs a good deep rest with sedation and a helpmate named Catherine Kieu Becker (Google her) to watch over him as he sleeps.  And she shalt be armed with a sharp knife to better serve me and a food processor so as to better serve Warren Jeffs.

Gender, Gender, Gender, It’s Just Oppressive Sex Roles in New Drag

How to Talk to Little Girls

From Huffington Post:

Author of ‘Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed Down World’
Posted: 06/22/11

I went to a dinner party at a friend’s home last weekend, and met her five-year-old daughter for the first time.

Little Maya was all curly brown hair, doe-like dark eyes, and adorable in her shiny pink nightgown. I wanted to squeal, “Maya, you’re so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!”

But I didn’t. I squelched myself. As I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.

What’s wrong with that? It’s our culture’s standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn’t it? And why not give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem? Because they are so darling I just want to burst when I meet them, honestly.

Hold that thought for just a moment.

This week ABC News reported that nearly half of all three- to six-year-old girls worry about being fat. In my book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, I reveal that 15 to 18 percent of girls under 12 now wear mascara, eyeliner and lipstick regularly; eating disorders are up and self-esteem is down; and 25 percent of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize. Even bright, successful college women say they’d rather be hot than smart. A Miami mom just died from cosmetic surgery, leaving behind two teenagers. This keeps happening, and it breaks my heart.

Teaching girls that their appearance is the first thing you notice tells them that looks are more important than anything. It sets them up for dieting at age 5 and foundation at age 11 and boob jobs at 17 and Botox at 23. As our cultural imperative for girls to be hot 24/7 has become the new normal, American women have become increasingly unhappy. What’s missing? A life of meaning, a life of ideas and reading books and being valued for our thoughts and accomplishments.

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Gender Bias Fought At Egalia Preschool In Stockholm, Sweden

From Huffington Post:


STOCKHOLM — At the “Egalia” preschool, staff avoid using words like “him” or “her” and address the 33 kids as “friends” rather than girls and boys.

From the color and placement of toys to the choice of books, every detail has been carefully planned to make sure the children don’t fall into gender stereotypes.

“Society expects girls to be girlie, nice and pretty and boys to be manly, rough and outgoing,” says Jenny Johnsson, a 31-year-old teacher. “Egalia gives them a fantastic opportunity to be whoever they want to be.”

The taxpayer-funded preschool which opened last year in the liberal Sodermalm district of Stockholm for kids aged 1 to 6 is among the most radical examples of Sweden’s efforts to engineer equality between the sexes from childhood onward.

Breaking down gender roles is a core mission in the national curriculum for preschools, underpinned by the theory that even in highly egalitarian-minded Sweden, society gives boys an unfair edge.

To even things out, many preschools have hired “gender pedagogues” to help staff identify language and behavior that risk reinforcing stereotypes.

Some parents worry things have gone too far. An obsession with obliterating gender roles, they say, could make the children confused and ill-prepared to face the world outside kindergarten.

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Think! Encouraging Girls To Stay Smart In A Dumbed-Down World

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 06/16/11

In her gutsy book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World, attorney and national television legal analyst Lisa Bloom paints a dire picture:

The problem is not just about that 25 percent of young women who would rather be hot than smart; rather, it’s about a culture that actually makes that a rational choice: rewarding girls for looks over brains. And it’s about ALL of us, intelligent American females, ranging from girlhood to old age, who are dazzling ignorant about some critically important things.An aggravating thing happened in the last generation. As girls started seriously kicking ass at every level of education (girls now out-perform boys in elementary, middle, and high schools; we graduate from college, professional, and graduate schools in greater number than males — go team!), our brains became devalued.

I had to take a break after reading those paragraphs and ask myself four questions:

Did Lisa Bloom drink an extra shot of espresso before she penned those paragraphs? Does she have a hidden agenda that is fueling her passion? Is she exaggerating a personal opinion just to be heard? OR are we, in fact, raising stupid girls?

A few hours later, I sat down with my daughter as she watched the Disney Channel and, in between segments of Witches of Waverly Place, where Selena Gomez plays Alex, the naughty girl who has never opened a book in her adolescence (unlike her intellectual brother Justin, who loves the life of the mind), I saw the music video of the pop star Selena as she danced around a set in a skimpy dress, singing about lightning and thunder — which apparently meant more than lightening and thunder by the way she was groping the microphone, practically licking it.

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Me? I Am Supposed To Teach My Girls About Boys?

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 7/25/11

I began the conversation early.

“Listen, there will be male people in the nursery,” I warned, the moment her beanie-clad head hit my bosom. “You may be placed next to them. Do not worry. Just do not look, no matter what they do. And they will do things. They will attempt tricks. They will make noises. But remember, whatever you do, do not look. You look, you’re sunk.”

Some might say that I could have waited until we were wheeled out of the operating room and lifted off of the gurney, or at least until the stitches were removed from the six-mile incision across my lower abdomen, but I thought differently, having birthed a daughter, a daughter who would one day encounter boys. Knowledge is power, I knew, as a nurse removed the shower cap from my head.

In light of my success with males up until that November day in 1995 and, I should say, following it, I feel a certain concern, okay, terror and penetrating dread regarding the notion that I am the wizard who will steer my daughters through the choppy seas of romance. I, a girl who spent most of her adolescence and well, adulthood, hiding in broom closets or diving into running taxis as if from a political uprising, must now impart advice into the brains of impressionable little women. How can a person with such a clear and calamitous resume guide the process of love? How can someone who failed the class teach the course?

Naturally, I want my girls to grow up and find the most wonderful mates, yes I do, despite the trail of testosterone in my history. I am not lying, really. Boys are okay, I think. Or at least, two boys are okay. We only need two.

For the past 15 years, we have been continuing the chat that began under anesthesia at Beth Israel Hospital in Boston. I realized a while back, oh, at some party in a really white and poufy dress, that I would need to rely on theory, not personal example. Please, do not make the choices I made, make the choices I would make now, the ones you don’t actually see. Make those.

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Tim Gunn: Hillary Clinton Fashion Shows Gender Confusion

From The Advocate:

By Julie Bolcer
Posted on July 28, 2011

Celebrity style expert Tim Gunn appeared on Lopez Tonight and issued a judgment against the “unflattering” pantsuits that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton wears, saying, “I think she’s confused about her gender.”

“Why must she dress that way? I think she’s confused about her gender,” said the Project Runway star, in a comment that caused audible discomfort among some Lopez Tonight audience members. “All these big, baggy menswear-tailored pantsuits. No, I’m really serious. She wears pantsuits that are really unflattering.”

Host George Lopez introduced the topic and encouraged the criticism of Clinton by asking at one point how any tailoring could hide “cankles.” He compared a recent “floral outfit” worn by Clinton to his memories of No Bugs M’Lady, a type of insecticidal shelf liner used by his grandmother.

Gunn commended the former first lady and U.S. senator from New York briefly for “her intellect and her tenacity” and service to country before adding, “I just wish she could send a stronger message about American fashion.”

The comments played poorly among feminists and transgender advocates, who saw the words as evidence of the double standard faced by women in public life and an oversimplified understanding of gender.

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