Friday Night Fun and Culture British Invasion

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Barbara Grier, Lesbian Icon, Dies

From She Wired:

By: Victoria A. Brownworth
Fri, 2011-11-11

Barbara Grier, lesbian publisher, activist and archivist, died Thursday of heart disease. She was 79.

When I first met Barbara Grier, I was 19 and knew even then that she was one of the most important lesbian figures I would ever meet. More than 30 years later, after I’ve interviewed countless other lesbians over the years, Grier still ranks as a mover and shaker of iconic proportions.

For a lifelong queer activist, Grier grew up in unlikely circumstances, in the heart of the Midwest — Kansas and Missouri, where she lived for decades — the daughter of a feminist mother before the word feminist was even known. In the many interviews I did with her over the years, Grier was always succinct about her origins: The pioneer spirit of the Plains states had infused her. She was born to be a pioneer, she believed, and she was one.

Irascible and cantankerous, with a dry and acid wit, she could make a sailor blush and have you laughing till you cried. She worked hard and expected everyone else to work equally hard, because to her, there was always something else to be done.

Grier was a librarian and archivist by trade and an activist by avocation. The two great loves of her life, her first partner, Helen, and then the woman she spent over 40 years with, Donna McBride, were also librarians. McBride survives her.

Grier told me many stories over the years of how she came to lesbian activism — through meeting the town butch dyke as a child, through wooing Helen at the library, through meeting McBride and, as she said about their relationship, “falling as deeply in love as anyone ever could.”

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Preventing and Reporting Child Abuse: The Questions Raised by the Penn State Scandal

From RH Reality Check:

by Steve Brown, Traumatic Stress Institute
November 10, 2011

Last week, a Pennsylvania Grand Jury indicted former Penn State defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky for sexually abusing eight boys over the course of a 15-year period. The indictment also charged two top university officials with perjury and failure to report what they knew about the allegations.  The indictment has kicked off a firestorm of media attention both in the sports world and the US at large. On November 9th, the Penn State Board of Trustees fired legendary football coach Joe Paterno and Penn State President Graham Spanier. Allegedly, a graduate assistant told Paterno that he observed Sandusky abusing one of the boys. Paterno reported this to Athletic Director Tim Curley although did not follow up later on the matter or alert legal authorities himself. The indictment stated that President Spanier was made aware of the incident reported to Paterno as well.

In any particular abuse situation there is an abuser, a victim, and (almost always) bystanders. This is true in bullying, street violence, as well as child sexual abuse. One of the most important questions that the Penn State situation, and cases like it, raise is — what is it about the nature of intimate sexual violence that stops so many bystanders from taking action when they either have direct information that abuse has occurred or, more commonly, just an inkling that something might not be right.

It is true that men like Mr. Sandusky can often be well-regarded, upstanding citizens, involved in the community, even loved as a role-model by many.  However, it is ALSO true, as has come out in the press, that numerous people had direct knowledge of, and even directly witnessed, Mr. Sandusky sexually abusing boys. Despite this knowledge, they were passive bystanders, not active ones. If any one of these adults took appropriate action to report this to the proper legal authorities, maybe the abuse would have ended with one or two boys rather than eight. Maybe the victims would have been given help and protection.

While some adults in this situation had direct knowledge of the abuse, I’m guessing there are likely many others who had troubling gut feelings about Mr. Sandusky –family, neighbors, players, coaches, etc.  Many such people are now wracking their brains about what signs they might have missed, why didn’t they trust their gut, and, most importantly, what prevented them from coming forward. These are good and important questions. Even Joe Paterno, whose Penn State football team proudly extolled a reputation for being “squeaky clean” and whose motto was “success with honor,” could not see clear to act on his moral responsibility to protect current and future victims.  It is especially disturbing that those with direct knowledge could not muster the resolve to actively speak out.

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Tim Wise – The Pathology of White Privilege

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Hartmann: Your Take/My Take – What is a “me” vs. “we” society?

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Why Income Inequality Suddenly Matters

From Common Dreams:

by David Sirota
Published on Friday, November 11, 2011 by

A few weeks ago, as the Occupy Wall Street protests were first spreading, something amazing happened: For 10 whole seconds, the local reporter on my TV screen actually talked about the realities of the recession. He even uttered the phrase “economic inequality.”

My guess is that you’ve seen something similar on your local affiliate — and that’s no minor event. When even the most local of television journalists are compelled to acknowledge this crushing emergency in a country whose media aggressively promotes American Dream agitprop, it means the Occupy protestors have scored a monumental victory. You can almost imagine a Wall Street CEO turning to an aide and muttering a slightly altered riff off LBJ: “If we’ve lost Ron Burgundy, we’ve lost Middle America.”

In response to this stunning turn of events, conservative politicians are retreating to non sequiturs. They seem to think that if they shout the phrase “class warfare” enough, the nation will go back to not caring about the divide between the rich and poor.

But something has changed.

For most of the post-World War II era, we tolerated relatively high inequality because we envisioned it as a necessary side effect of an exceptional economy that (supposedly) guaranteed opportunities for advancement. As The Wall Street Journal put it, we believed that “it is OK to have ever-greater differences between rich and poor … as long as (our) children have a good chance of grasping the brass ring.”

However, the last three decades have invalidated our standing hypothesis. After the conservatives’ successful assault on the New Deal, America has lived a different reality — one perfectly summarized by a new Federal Reserve study revealing that today’s increasing inequality accompanies comparatively low social mobility.

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War is a Racket by Smedley Butler

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Veterans’ Day

When I was very young what we call Veterans’ Day was called Armistice Day.

It did not celebrate the military, it commemorated the end of World War I.  It did not celebrate war, it celebrated peace.

While World War I, which was also dubbed the War to End All Wars caused the death of hundreds and hundreds of thousands of young men who died on all sides and all fronts it was not the War that ended all wars.  It was only a harbinger of new and previously unimaginable horrors.  Unending wars made ever more terrible with the creation of each new instrument of war.

When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and you argue about what to do
about it only after you have had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.
J. Robert Oppenheimer

Now, I am become death, the destroyer of worlds.
J. Robert Oppenheimer

We no longer call November 11th Armistice Day, at least not in the United States where being anti-war is seen as not being patriotic, as being Red.  In 1954 at the height of the Red Scare, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans’ Day.

We were at the height of the Cold War. We have become the most belligerent nation in the world, exercising hegemony everywhere, we glory in war, not in peace or our humanity.  We have no respect for the sovereignty of other nations or their often times duly elected governments.  If they have a resource our corporations covet and their people are considered people of color we find a pretext to bomb and invade them, to over throw their government and murder their people.

We used to draft our young men from the ranks of the working people, the poor and the middle classes.  During the war in Vietnam we learned that non-volunteer soldiers might think for themselves and rebel against the horrible acts they were asked to commit.

For the last 40 years we have been bombarded with propaganda in the form of movies, TV and video games aimed at ridding our people of compassion, teaching us to kill without emotion.

Now we draw our military from those eager to participate in the game of war, from the poor and economically deprived who see the military as a way out of poverty.

When they return broken, wounded physically and emotionally we disregard them.  Those World War I vets still remembered in the 1950s how the government stiffed them on their bonuses.

Today’s vets from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are committing suicide at an appalling rate.

The hospitals and care are treated as a budget item that is optional.

But worst of all is how the right wing treats those returned disillusioned.  The Anti-war Vet from the Vietnam era to the anti-war Iraq and Afghanistan vets.

They are condemned, treated as traitors for speaking the truth about war.

Now, we have become death, the destroyer of worlds

War is a Racket!
(General Smedley Butler)

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European Crisis Explained

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Fossil fuel users’ subsidies six times those for renewable energy

From Kansas City Star:

Bloomberg News
Posted on Wed, Nov. 09, 2011

Fossil-fuel consumers worldwide received about six times the government subsidies given to the renewable-energy industry, according to the chief adviser to oil-importing nations.

State spending to cut retail prices of gasoline, coal and natural gas rose 36 percent to $409 billion as global energy costs increased, the Paris-based International Energy Agency said Wednesday in its World Energy Outlook. Aid for biofuels, wind power and solar energy rose 10 percent to $66 billion.

The figures don’t include subsidies for nuclear power or to producers of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels meet about 80 percent of world energy demand, but their subsidies are “creating market distortions that encourage wasteful consumption,” the agency said. “The costs of subsidies to fossil fuels generally outweigh the benefits.”

The Group of 20 nations in 2009 pledged to phase out state aid for carbon-based fuels dug or pumped out of the earth. In the U.S., energy subsidies are becoming an issue in next year’s presidential election after Solyndra LLC went bankrupt with $535 million of loan guarantees by the federal government.

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Capitalism vs. the Climate

From The Nation:

Naomi Klein
November 9, 2011 

There is a question from a gentleman in the fourth row.

He introduces himself as Richard Rothschild. He tells the crowd that he ran for county commissioner in Maryland’s Carroll County because he had come to the conclusion that policies to combat global warming were actually “an attack on middle-class American capitalism.” His question for the panelists, gathered in a Washington, DC, Marriott Hotel in late June, is this: “To what extent is this entire movement simply a green Trojan horse, whose belly is full with red Marxist socioeconomic doctrine?”

Here at the Heartland Institute’s Sixth International Conference on Climate Change, the premier gathering for those dedicated to denying the overwhelming scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet, this qualifies as a rhetorical question. Like asking a meeting of German central bankers if Greeks are untrustworthy. Still, the panelists aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to tell the questioner just how right he is.

Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute who specializes in harassing climate scientists with nuisance lawsuits and Freedom of Information fishing expeditions, angles the table mic over to his mouth. “You can believe this is about the climate,” he says darkly, “and many people do, but it’s not a reasonable belief.” Horner, whose prematurely silver hair makes him look like a right-wing Anderson Cooper, likes to invoke Saul Alinsky: “The issue isn’t the issue.” The issue, apparently, is that “no free society would do to itself what this agenda requires…. The first step to that is to remove these nagging freedoms that keep getting in the way.”

Claiming that climate change is a plot to steal American freedom is rather tame by Heartland standards. Over the course of this two-day conference, I will learn that Obama’s campaign promise to support locally owned biofuels refineries was really about “green communitarianism,” akin to the “Maoist” scheme to put “a pig iron furnace in everybody’s backyard” (the Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels). That climate change is “a stalking horse for National Socialism” (former Republican senator and retired astronaut Harrison Schmitt). And that environmentalists are like Aztec priests, sacrificing countless people to appease the gods and change the weather (Marc Morano, editor of the denialists’ go-to website,

Most of all, however, I will hear versions of the opinion expressed by the county commissioner in the fourth row: that climate change is a Trojan horse designed to abolish capitalism and replace it with some kind of eco-socialism. As conference speaker Larry Bell succinctly puts it in his new book Climate of Corruption, climate change “has little to do with the state of the environment and much to do with shackling capitalism and transforming the American way of life in the interests of global wealth redistribution.”

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Reawakening The Radical Imagination: The Origins Of Occupy Wall Street

From Huffington Post:

By Matt Sledge
Posted: 11/10/11

In late August, 45,000 Verizon workers walked off the job amid contract negotiations, claiming the company was greedily taking advantage of the economic downturn to stiff them on wages and benefits. A proposal was brought up to actually hold a meeting of the General Assembly on the Verizon picket line, demonstrating Occupy Wall Street’s solidarity — but one person, Alexa O’Brien, strenuously objected.

Fellow organizers describe O’Brien, an IT professional in her mid-30s, as a hard worker whose fierce devotion to a single issue conflicted with others’ vision of a more broad-based protest. Before AdBusters’ call had been issued, O’Brien had founded an organization called US Day of Rage — its name taking a page from protests in Egypt — focused on getting money out of politics.

O’Brien says that while she doesn’t personally have anything against unions, she didn’t want the movement to be cast as simply another labor-backed protest.

“The idea of allowing a diversity of voices, including those on the conservative end, are really critical to the independence of the assembly, but also to enacting the kind of reform that we’re going to need,” she says.

That insistence that conservatives, even Tea Partiers, needed to feel welcome at Occupy Wall Street struck others as wrongheaded. Graeber described O’Brien as “shadowy” in an essay, and conspiracy theories sprouted that she might be some sort of plant.

“I think a lot of people thought that I was a libertarian, or that I was some kind of constitutionalist,” O’Brien says. “I am a constitutionalist — not in the sense that’s understood in the media. I believe that we need structural reform.”

She didn’t want the group to look like a union tool. In the end she won the point, but almost created a deep split among the organizers.

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Social Psychosis and Collective Sanity

From Common Dreams:

by Winslow Myers
Published on Thursday, November 10, 2011 by

We know from the sad experience of Nazi Germany or Khmer Rouge Cambodia that it is possible for whole nations to become mentally ill, with horrendous consequences. At the time, however, the Nazis or the Khmers had no idea that they were deeply out of touch with the reality that all people are equally worthy of respect and care.

The population of the earth recently surpassed 7 billion. As we move further into the condition of global villagehood, it becomes more important than ever to assess our shared mental health. Collectively we can less and less afford the distortions that afflict the psyches of individual persons, such as denial, regression into infantile rage, fantasy ideation, or blind projection outward onto “enemies” of our unresolved inner tensions. Everyone is aware of the potential horror, for example, of a nuclear weapon falling into the hands of someone not in the clearest of minds.

The social psychosis of denial is one of the greatest of our temptations. As I write I’m sitting outdoors on my back porch in Boston. It is November 8. The “expected” temperature for an average day at this time of year might be around 40. Today it is 70. News stories in the last week have once again sounded the alarm of the amounts of CO2 going into the atmosphere being much greater than previously estimated. The displacement of millions of people by climate instability has the potential to be the primary cause of future conflict.

No upstanding citizen from whatever country will find it congenial to be lumped together with the coldly murderous Nazis or the ruthless Khmer Rouge—or even with the notion of the “good German” who professed not to know what was happening to the Jews around him. It is painful enough merely to think of ourselves as people who, because we did not do enough, accelerated untenable conditions with which our children and grandchildren will have to cope down the time-stream. No previous generation has had to make prospective judgments about what they needed to change or sacrifice to ensure the distant future for the entire human species.

Few of our national figures are leading on such issues. Instead, the value-ideal of consumerist economic prosperity built upon models of endless growth continues to dominate the marketplace of ideas and determine the criteria for political success.

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Sexual Harassment: Not Really About Sex At All

From RH Reality Check:

by Marianne Møllmann, Amnesty International
November 10, 2011

This week, a national study found that sexual harassment affects about half of the students in grades seven to 12. Some might see this as an indication that there is too much talk about sex in our schools. They would be wrong. Others have chalked it up to teenage hormones and suggested that we leave well enough alone. They would be equally wrong.

Sexual harassment is nothing new. In 2008, a study found that just over a third of middle and high school students had been sexually harassed. The National Coalition for Women’s and Girls Education put the percentage at almost 90 in 1997. And, indeed, discrimination based on gender has been an actionable offence under Title IX of the Education Amendments since 1972, and since then the courts have applied Title IX to various types of sexual harassment.

But the motivation for sexual harassment seems to be shifting. Bill Bond, a school safety expert for the National Association of Secondary School Principals, notes that attempts to exploit fellow students sexually have become less common, and that now students seem to use sexual remarks to degrade or insult someone else.

This sense, that sexual harassment nowadays is more about hostility than about sex, was validated by the study published this week as well as by the study published in 2008. Both concluded that most sexual harassment in middle and high schools in the United States is directed at girls and at children suspected of being gay or lesbian.

Where straight girls are targeted, the harassment is generally about their level of sexual activity, which is either deemed too much (they are “sluts”) or too little (they are “prudes”). In the case of youth who are thought to be gay, it is the mere fact that they might even want to have sex that is “wrong.”

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