The Health of Children and Consumers is Threatened by Conservative Push for Corporate Speech Rights

From Alternet:

Some pro-business federal judges have shockingly approved a constitutional right for big companies to avoid revealing product dangers on labels.

By Steven Rosenfeld
December 12, 2011

In recent years, corporate lawyers representing industries whose products touch millions of American lives have stopped numerous government efforts to better inform the public about possible health risks with an eyebrow-raising legal strategy. They have asserted a constitutional right not to speak, or say more than they want on labels and advertising, and pro-business federal judges have agreed, rejecting the public’s right to know.

In cases involving manmade hormones fed to dairy cows, heart and lung disease caused by tobacco, the nutritional value of foods contributing to childhood and teenage obesity, and even radiation emitted by cell phones, the industries keep returning to court until a business-friendly judge or majority on an appeals court rules that the First Amendment includes the corporate right not to ‘speak’ if it could harm profits.

“They invoke the Amendment’s protection to accomplish exactly what the Amendment opposes,” wrote U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Pierre Leval, in a lengthy dissent in an early case in which his peers sided with industry and cited the First Amendment to overturn a state law labeling hormone-containing milk products. “The majority’s invocation of the First Amendment to invalidate a state law requiring disclosure of information consumers reasonably desire stands the Amendment on its ear.”

The labeling cases are not the only way corporations have been seeking to enlarge First Amendment speech rights outside the political arena.

This past June the Supreme Court ruled that drug makers’ constitutional speech rights included ‘selling’ patient records, overturning a Vermont law that sought to keep the files private. Justice Stephen Breyer’s dissent said the Court was setting a dangerous precedent by allowing the First Amendment to be used to avoid reasonable government regulation.

“At best the Court opens a Pandora’s Box of First Amendment challenges to many ordinary regulatory practices that may only incidentally affect a commercial message,” he warned. “At worst, it reawakens Lochner’s pre-New Deal threat of substituting judicial for democratic decision making where ordinary economic regulation is at issue.”

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7 Diseases Big Pharma Hopes U Get in 2012

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Home Sweet Home: The New American Localism

From NPR:

December 13, 2011

You can talk about the global village, a mobile society and the World Wide Web all you want, but many in our country seem to be turning toward a New American Localism.

These days, we are local folks and our focus is local. We are doing everything locally: food, finance, news, charity. And maybe for good reasons.

“One bedrock thing that is going on,” says Brad Edmondson, founder of ePodunk and former editor of American Demographics magazine, is that “because of aging and the recession, people aren’t moving around as much.”

The U.S. Census Bureau backs him up with a news release — based on a recent report — titled “Mover Rate Reaches Record Low.” The bureau found that only 11.6 percent of Americans changed their living spaces between 2010 and 2011. That is the lowest rate on record since the Current Population Survey of the United States began tracking geographical mobility in 1948. In 1985, for instance, the changed-residence rate was 20.2 percent.

“With homeowner mobility at an all-time low, more people are putting down roots and getting to know their neighbors,” Edmondson says. “At the same time a lot of households have seen sharp declines in discretionary income. They are looking for ways to relax that don’t cost as much, and they are substituting cooperation for cash.”

The new version of the popular bumper sticker “Support Your Local Sheriff” could become “Support Your Local Everything.”

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It Only Takes a Girl

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Occupy and women’s rights

From Socialist Worker:

Leela Yellesetty explains why the Occupy movement must embrace women’s rights.

December 13, 2011

WOMEN ARE a majority of the 99 percent.

We are still paid, on average, only 77 cents to a man’s dollar (that number drops to 68 cents for African American women and 58 cents for Latinas). When one takes into account the impact of childbearing and the fact the women still bear the brunt of unpaid labor in the home, this figure slides further downwards. One study measuring the cumulative impact over 15 prime-earning years found that women actually make 38 cents for each dollar a man makes.

This should come as no surprise living in one of the only countries in the world–along with Swaziland and Papua New Guinea–which does not require employers to provide paid maternity leave.

Women are disproportionately impacted by the budget cuts that are shredding the social safety net. Nationally, about two-thirds of adult recipients of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program are women. Women and people of color are also overrepresented in public-sector jobs, and therefore are particularly vulnerable to the onslaught of layoffs and pay cuts these budget cuts entail. According to the U.S. Labor Department, women lost 72 percent of 378,000 government posts cut between July 2009 and March 2010.

In my home state of Washington, women constitute 54 percent of individuals enrolled in the government’s Medicare health care program. The governor’s latest budget proposal includes $2 million in cuts to maternal and child health and $1.8 million to family planning–in addition to the complete elimination of the Basic Health Program, which provides coverage to the state’s poorest residents–again, disproportionately women.

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Conservative “Women’s” Group Applauds Senate Decision To Deny Military Rape Victims Abortion Coverage

BTW for years Concerned “Women” of america was headed by Phyllis Schlafly’s gay son.

From Think Progress:

By Marie Diamond
Dec 8, 2011

The Senate decided last week to keep in place a policy that denies abortion coverage for military rape victims who became pregnant as a result of their sexual assault. Female service members who fight and die for their country are not extended the same rights as civilian government employees, who can use their government-funded insurance to pay for abortion if they’re victims of rape or incest, or even rape survivors in prisonwho receive government-funded abortion coverage.

Rape is rampant in the military, with nearly one in three women sexually assaulted while serving. Yet the Senate declined to vote on Sen. Jeanne Shaheen’s (D-NH) amendment that would restore abortion coverage and give military rape victims the same options as civilians and prisoners.

Anti-abortion activists are cheering the decision, and the conservative group Concerned Women for America had some particularly infuriating things to say about the Senate’s inaction:

Concerned Women for America (CWA) revealed exactly how little concern they have for actual women, much less for America, this week when they sent out a letter attacking women who defend our country for having the nerve to believe they deserve full medical care after being raped.

The mind-bogglingly vicious swipe at female soldiers had a couple of doozies, including the claim that allowing raped service members to access abortion “serves as a political distraction” from national security, as if it’s in the interest of national security to subject raped service members to forced childbirth. […]

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Ultra Right Wing Republican Lindsey Graham: The CFPB is a ‘Stalinist era’ thing

Taking a page from the German Nazi Party, ultra right wing Republican engages in the McCarthyite tactic of red baiting and labeling something aimed at protecting the average working or poor American as “Communist”. Thus showing the Republican Party’s True Colors.

From Raw Story:

By Andrew Jones
Sunday, December 11, 2011

In the mind of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), protecting consumers from financial malpractice is something from the Joseph Stalin playbook.

Continuing another attack on President Barack Obama over economic policies, Graham appeared on Meet The Press Sunday morning to express his further dislike of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

“This Consumer Bureau that they want to pass, is under the federal reserve, no appropriation oversight, no board,” he said. “It is something out of the Stalinist era. The reason Republicans don’t want to vote for it is we want a board, not one person making all the regulatory decisions. There is no oversight under this person. We want it under the Congress so we can oversee the overseer.”

Unsurprisingly, Graham has his facts incorrect. Under the Dodd-Frank bill, the Financial Stability Oversight Council can overturn the CFPB’s rules by a two-thirds vote. The American Banker points out that no other regulator is under those rules.

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Kyoto Protocol: Canada Withdrawing From Climate Change Agreement

From Huffington Post:

First Posted: 12/12/11

Canada made good Monday on speculation that surfaced two weeks ago regarding the country’s intentions to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol.

Speaking at a news conference in Ottawa, Canada’s minister for the environment, Peter Kent, said the decision would save the nation some $14 billion in penalties that would accrue for failure to meet emissions targets agreed to by a previous government in the 1997 pact — the first international accord aimed at reducing global emissions of planet-warming gases.

“As we have said, Kyoto — for Canada — is in the past,” Kent said, according to a wire transcript forwarded by the environment ministry. Kent had just returned from global climate talks in Durban, South Africa. “As such,” he continued, “we are invoking our legal right to formally withdraw from Kyoto.”

Canada’s conservative government under Stephen Harper, who assumed the title of prime minister in 2006, has long been hostile to the Kyoto agreement, which was ratified by Liberal Party Prime Minister Jean Chrétien in 2002.

The Harper government has charged its predecessors with never making any real attempts to comply with Kyoto’s emissions limits. It has also issued concerns, shared by the U.S. and other developed countries, that Kyoto’s emissions rules apply only to rich nations, leaving up-and-coming polluters like India and China off the hook.

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Occupy Houston protestors being handled in private

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Parsing Hate: The motivation behind the “Transsexual Registration Act”

Some nasty dickwad set up a page on Facebook collecting support for a movement to demand the registration of all TS and TG people in a manner similar to that required of convicted sex offenders. His perverted logic was that heterosexual men required protection from being tricked into sex with TS/TG people.

From Dented Blue Mercedes:


From Bilrico:

By Mercedes Allen
December 12, 2011

Reposted with Permission

On December 10th, Monica at TransGriot pointed toa Facebook Group advocating for the creation of a “Transsexual Registration Act.”  The creator of that page and the idea he presents are fringe enough that we typically don’t dignify them with attention, but sometimes it’s important to point to these things and discuss them.  Far too often, we try to talk about the kinds of attitudes that we face and why we need to defend against them, but because those attitudes are rarely spoken out loud, the general public is allowed to rest easy in the conviction that these attitudes don’t really exist or aren’t really representative, and that addressing them is unnecessary.  When we parse the perspective of the person who made this page and the connected video, there is a direct correlation with those that drive a type of violence that trans people can face, and that result in some of the tragedies we remember during the Transgender Day of Remembrance.  There is actually significant value in documenting and parsing that hate, determining where it comes from, and reflecting on how prevalent it might be in society.

Some of the quotes will be difficult for some, so the discussion will follow after the fold — save it for when you’re prepared to delve into some incredibly disheartening attitudes.  Consider this your trigger warning.

“I was watching this Tyra Banks video about transsexual children, and I just want to say…”

An online person who uses the moniker TheBistro360 at YouTube posted a group page on Facebook (which was at this link but has since been taken down) and a YouTube video (which at the time of writing was still online, but has been flagged for ToS violations) [Update: this has also now been taken down] which attempted to rally widespread support for a “Transsexual Registration Act.” In his words, this legislation would require that trans people and people of trans history “register their birth name, city/state of residence, date of surgery, date of birth, and any other vital information the government need.”

One cringes at what such a registry could or would be used for, but this person’s concern seems to be particularly fixated on ensuring that heterosexual males can avoid dating someone who is or ever was transsexual.  TheBistro360 says in his video that this hasn’t happened to him, but that he was inspired to post all of this after seeing a discussion about trans kids.

Here are the memes that inspired him, and the conclusions his fear and revulsion lead him to, feels they’re perfectly acceptable.

Biology as Destiny

“… If you are male born with a penis, but you have a burning desire to be a woman you are considered transgender? No if you are born a man, You ARE MALE!! Period….”

We’ve heard more than enough of the argument that “you can’t change your chromosomes,” or whatever other excuse people use to deny who we are, to refuse outright to acknowledge us as the women and men we need to be — to excuse treating us in whatever manner they wish.

Usually, those who are saying it are completely closed to even listening to any of the emergent study and research that has been revealing sex and gender to not be neatly and clearly divided between two polarized options. Chromosomes?  Genitals?  Socialized role and conduct?  Hormones?  There isn’t even a single benchmark that people who take this stance can agree on and still yield identical results.  At some point, this chant becomes so mindless that it loses meaning, and it’s no longer about who a person is, but who is entitled to define the question in the first place.

This is about “Real.”  And “not real.”  And who gets do define which is which, and decide “what to do” about the non-reals.  The underlying assumption, of course, is that The Other is evil and something needs to be done about them, in the first place — if only to protect the reals.  History tells us that that’s how it starts: regulation of The Other.  Then later, those doing the regulating start to wonder why they should even tolerate The Other, anyway.  On a systemic level, it can potentially lead to genocide.  On an personal level, it can potentially lead to vigilante-style eradication.

Godwin’s Law states that the longer any discussion continues, the more likely it will inevitably lead to some comparison to Nazi Germany. There’s an extension to that adage that the moment this happens, the discussion has lost all meaning and reality.  On the contrary, I’m not all that convinced that humanity is ever more than five steps from repeating genocide, and this progression involving the failure of empathy, othering, entitlement, regulation and then impatience.  As long as society insists on structuring humanity into us-es and thems, the capacity for this to happen will persist.

“… Not as nasty and disgusting as you mutilated, faked body transsexuals lol.. At least everything on my body is real… I don’t need to cut off my penis or take any hormones to know who the fuck I am lol…”

It’s about framing life in a way that makes one superior according to one or another criteria.

The Deception Meme

“… If this is put into action alot of heterosexual people wouldn’t have to worry about dating a tranny accidently…..”

TheBistro360′s primary (though not only) fear is of possibly dating a woman, only to discover that she is or was transsexual.

We’ve discussed issues about dating and disclosure before, with strongly divergent viewpoints on if and / or when a person should have to disclose trans history. I have to wonder if there is ever a moment when it would be safe to disclose trans history to TheBistro360, and (assuming safety) whether anyone doing so could ever expect any anonymity and / or respect in their mutual circles ever again.

But regardless of that, there remains an undercurrent argument that alleges that choosing not to disclose is deliberate deception.  Personally, I’d think that if there was a possibility or likelihood of sex while one’s genitals are not what their partner would likely expect, disclosure would probably be wise — though I admit that there may be circumstances when it isn’t.  But TheBistro360 isn’t only talking only about anatomy:

“… And for those who are already transsexuals, and those who are already pre-op or post-op, they will have to sign this paperwork too….”

So at this point, we return to sex and gender essentialism, and the assumption about an entitlement to define.  But this goes an additional step toward justifying special, othering treatment.  Because this person probably doesn’t feel that there needs to be a special registry to alert potential dates about their medical history (which transition actually is), dating history, political affiliation, all possible racial heritages, family medical concerns, criminal records, sexual interests or religion.  Some of them do come up during dating, and some that don’t can be points of contention or concern later in a relationship — but of these, it seems only transsexuality or trans history (regardless of existing genitals) that this person feels is deception if undisclosed… to a level that it requires legislation of some kind.

Of course, the assumption that any male should be entitled to establish characteristics that automatically disqualify women from consideration as their romantic and / or sexual partner is also misogynistic at its core, but it sort of gets into territory that men and women both regularly go, gets into the politics of desire and is a whole other discussion.

Transsexual Children

“It has gotten to the point where we have transsexual children and teens attending elementary, middle school, and high school UNNOTICED!”

The fear that we might pass unnoticed returns to the deception meme again, but a significant portion of TheBistro360′s panic has to do with his discovery of the existence of trans kids.  The fact that society allows kids to transition repulses him.  As it does the religious and non-religious far-right.

Of course, much of this results from a failure or refusal to dig deeper to discover that those few kids who do transition often do so after exhibiting severe gender dysphoria and unhappiness, sometimes to the point of self-harm or tracked in that direction — or else a failure of empathy on that point.  No parent sets out to change their child’s gender.  And speaking as a leftie trans activist, too, I wouldn’t wish being trans on any kid, if it were a matter of choice.  But those parents who discover that transition causes their individual child to do a complete 180-degree turn from depression and negative trajectories to happiness and self-esteem will inevitably embrace the process.

Transitioning as a kid is difficult, and the portrayal of that life-changing decision as whimsical delusion is grossly uninformed.  But this person seems not only uninterested in digging to see the reality, he also feels that transsexuality should be a scarlet letter that stays with a person for the rest of their life.

“… It’s actually… it’s actually getting to the point where they got children going to elementary, um, teenagers going to high school, middle school and shit like that and they’re fucking transsexuals before they’re even the age of 18.  Something is wrong there.  Now, we’re going to have to put a stop to it.  Or we’re going to have to let them let us know who they are….”

The assumptions don’t stop there.

How Erasure and Invisibility Don’t Help

At this point, I want to pre-emptively say that racial generalizations and strike-backs are inappropriate and not welcome in comments.  One individual’s targeting of a characteristic group is not justification for targeting another characteristic group.

TheBistro360 also assumes that transsexuality is a white characteristic, saying that this is “not in any other place in Africa, but just in South Africa, right now.”  He jumps to this conclusion twice in his YouTube video.

“… White people — I mean, honestly, how may white people do you see on that show?  I think a lot of them were white, or probably biracial.  You know, as a mix or something…”

I’m not the most suited person to speak to this, but it speaks to how erasure and invisibility can result in totally inaccurate conclusions.  It also speaks to how the intersections of prejudices such as trans + race tends to silence and terrorize trans people of colour more, and how that invisibility can be further used to cast aspersions.  I don’t want to imply that all trans people of colour should be out, because those intersections of prejudice add risk, and that’s for each individual to decide.  But I do think it’s a valid issue to put out there, and then invite those who experience more trans + racial prejudice than I to speak about what visibility and invisibility mean.

The God Connection

There’s no indication from the pages or video whether TheBistro360 is religious in any way.  For all we know, he may not be.  And yet, there are a couple points where God is used to justify trannsphobia:

“… They are, they were not born that way.  First of all, if they were, they were supposed to be a girl, then they were going to be born a girl. They wasn’t going to be born with a penis and then later on say, God would say, “hey, your brain was not built for the man’s body, it was built for a woman’s body,” and then BOOM….”

I recently wrote about the danger of conflating far-right Christianity’s hatred of LGBT people with the position of all of Christianity.  It is a far-right viewpoint that pushes the idea that God hates trans people.  But it is silence that allows it to remain the perceptively definitive viewpoint.  And as long as this is so, God will continue to be used as justification.

Conflation Junction

“… I would like to start a transsexual registration act.  It’s no different from those who are pedophiles: they have to register their name and all that stuff and then they go into the system where you can look ‘em up to see if they’re a pedophile and what not.  This’d be no different.  But instead of being in the pedophile system, they’d be in the transsexual system….”

TheBistro360 never actually equates trans women with pedophiles or allege predatory behaviour of any kind.  He does, however, see it as entirely acceptable to treat transsexual women the same way that society treats pedophiles, so there is some level of equation happening.  And in fact, there are places on Earth where being trans can result in being put on a sex offender registry, such as taking cyproterone acetate (Androcur) as a testosterone blocker in Australia, a circumstance that trans women share with intersex persons there.

In fact, when you consider some regulations in even the Western world — such as Sweden’s requirement that trans people undergo sterilization in order to transition — the “Transsexual Registry Act” idea doesn’t really sound that fringe.  One thing that Fox News and other right-wing entities have succeeded at is pushing the overall social conversation so far to the right that welfare and minimum wage regulations sound like communism.  They accomplished this by broadcasting all manner of wild spin and allegation, demonizations and strategies to deal with non-existent problems.  The genius was to repeat insanity until it sounded possible, then reasonable, then necessary, then inevitable.  Our failure was to think that that insanity didn’t need to be countered.  Better to face down something like this now when it’s naked bigotry than to wait for National Organization for Marriage to spin a stealthy, rationalized way to force it onto the ballot as a referendum.

But TheBistro360 doesn’t simply conflate transsexuals with pedophiles.  Because of assumptions and sex essentialism and his belief in the deception meme, he also conflates transsexuality with homosexuality — a reminder that whether we like it or not, society does not parse language and identity the same way that we do.

“… and then they find out they was fucking men all the time — that’s going to make a person go bonkers….”

And in so doing, he starts to go a dangerous direction: rationalizing the regulation of an entire class of peoples’ lives and justifying whatever they may experience as a consequence.

The Squick

Something else that the pages and video raise is the instantaneous, often knee-jerk reaction that happens when a person assumes that the fact that something bothers them and makes them uneasy means that the something is automatically wrong for everybody.  “Gross,” “sick” and the language of deviance comes up often.  It’s a language that translates to the discrimination that all sexual minorities experience, and to a lesser degree, some other characteristic classes as well.

“It’s sick.  America is starting to become a sick place.”

This will be something to write about another time, but again, it stems from entitlement, framing life to assert superiority, and in this case, is also fueled by rigid attitudes governing sex.  But this impulsive squick reaction further fuels his rationalization, and brings it to a point where it begins to reduce people to non-personhood.


“… and in certain cases some of them still date the thing.”

At a few different points, transsexuals become “things.”  This is a dangerous path to take, and objectification of this magnitude is recognized widely as a classic step toward serial murder.  This person may not take that path, but his words offer a chilling window into this trajectory.

“… transgender motherfuckers, those things that they call themselves women when they’re really was a boy before, and those things that they’re called men, and they were really a freaking girl before….”

Because when a person becomes a thing, it becomes less consequential if something happens to them.

Understandable Murder and the Acceptability of Disposable People

In an earlier quote, TheBistro360 talks about what he perceives as deception and the implication that someone might be gay if he has sex with a transsexual woman leading someone to “go bonkers.”  That’s direction of blame.  That’s a rationalization set-up that implies whatever follows can’t be helped, and is just a natural progression of being a heterosexual man:

“… I don’t… I’m tired of seeing these stories about men, dating these transsexuals, transsexual women, and they end up killing these motherfuckers.  Them straight men are like, “I don’t, you know, I don’t do gay shit and blah blah” and then they find out they was fucking men all the time — that’s going to make a person go bonkers.  And I’m just glad that shit ain’t ever happened to me, but look at the growing rate….”

So it cease’s being the responsibility of the murderer for committing murder, and becomes our responsibility for existing.  If this sounds unreflective of the mainstream, remember the groundswell of excuse-making that existed for Allen Ray Andrade after murdering Angie Zapata.  And the fact that the one point of hate crimes laws is that in the absence of regulation that makes it imperative to take crimes that target characteristic groups seriously at all, these crimes are often rationalized in a way that actually does leave them without consequence.

So once it becomes easier to empathize with the murderers of transsexuals than with the transsexuals themselves, TheBistro360 decides to possibly benevolently spare us this fate by regulating our existence.  Totally reasonable, huh?

“Maintaining these people”

As TheBistro360 says, “And that’s why I came up with a solution to our problem.”  Because reducing us to the level of Thing wasn’t enough, and now we’re seen as society’s problem.  Requiring his solution, of course.

“… Now, do I have anything against homosexual people? No.  One thing I do have a thing against is how we are not doing anything about maintaining these people.  To make sure our chil… our people… that people that haven’t came out about their sexuality… will be… will help the heterosexuals avoid them….”

It’s amazing that requiring that society respect trans people and treat them as equals is regularly seen as an unreasonable burden, yet invading our privacy, exposing us to potential hatred and marginalization and justifying our exclusion seems a totally acceptable alternative.

“… You’d actually be able to know that they are transgendered.  And it’d be on the application as well.  And if they do not… and if they choose not to… they choose not to agree with this, then they would either be jailed and forced to do it in prison, or before… if not… if they’re thinking about actually going to the doctor’s office and they want to get a transition, they will be denied because they don’t want to take that chance.  And for those who are already transsexuals, and those who are already pre-op or post-op, they will have to sign this paperwork too.  Or they will be jailed and forced to do it regardless of how they went.  And then they will be [indecipherable] of their reluctance…”

Never more than five steps, for as long as we are willing to separate ourselves into us-es and thems in order to absolve ourselves of any need to feel empathy and to bother to learn.

The Power of Denial

“All you idiots can hate all you want, and this is not a discrimination page, we are just simply looking out for our heterosexual men and women… We have the right to know who the fuck we are messing with, so whine and moan all you want…”

And the clincher is that through it all, the bigoted remain blind to their bigotry.

“… Am I strongly against homosexuals?  No.  Whatever they do on their own [that part is mumbled, and could also be “whatever they do on the low,” possibly meaning “down-low”], they do on their own.  But what I do not like is that we got a lot of transsexuals running around here, and we’ve got to watch out for them.  Because you’ll never know who has… who is a woman or a man….”

But we need not be blind to it.

On the surface, TheBistro360′s brand of hatred seems fringe.  It doesn’t repeat the talking points of the usual far-right speakers and leaders, although there are shades of flavours of those attitudes underneath, and their prevalence was enough to make this person feel confident enough to formulate and publicize a plan to “maintain” people.  It’s hard to know how many people share this kind of perspective but are afraid to say so out loud.  Certainly, this person thought that his idea was something general society could get behind, but also knew that it could be unpopular enough that he sported a hood to communicate his message.

But in the end, this is still a flavour of hate that is out there, and important to be aware of.  It also offers a chilling look at how hate can progress.

Meet 8 Right-Wing Groups Practicing Scorched-Earth Anti-Choice Nuttery Against Women

From Alternet:

They’ve sent a strong message to Republicans: It’s not enough to be “pro-life” anymore. They want full-on war on women and sex.

By Amanda Marcotte
December 11, 2011

Is there a rift in the anti-choice movement? A recent story in the New York Times centered around Ohio Right To Life’s unwillingness to lend their support or endorsement to a bill banning abortion from the time a heartbeat is detected in an embryo certainly makes that clear. As reproductive rights activists have noted for a couple of years now, there’s a war breaking out between two anti-choice groups, the incrementalists and the absolutists. Both largely agree on the goals of the movement, which is a complete ban on all abortion, with severe restrictions and possibly bans on contraception as well. What they disagree about is tactics. Incrementalists view themselves the more mainstream branch of the movement, and they focus mainly on chipping away at abortion rights. They’re wary of taking the fight to the courts, who tend to routinely shoot down any legislation perceived as an out-and-out ban on abortion.

The absolutists, on the other hand, claim this is a failed strategy and want to come out of the closet as full-throated soldiers in the war on women and sex, by directly attacking Roe v. Wade and taking the fight beyond abortion to contraception. Absolutists have managed to go around the more mainstream anti-abortion movement, passing legislation and gaining ground in the Republican Party. They’ve even managed to make Democrats cower, as evidenced by the highly unusual decision of the HHS to overrule the FDA’s decision to make Plan B available over the counter.

Who are some of these absolutists? Here’s a snapshot of some of the organizations that are demanding not just immediate challenges to Roe, but also want a rapid escalation of the war on women’s right to contraception and other forms of basic reproductive health care.

Who are some of these absolutists? Here’s a snapshot of some of the organizations that are demanding not just immediate challenges to Roe, but also want a rapid escalation of the war on women’s right to contraception and other forms of basic reproductive health care.

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Like a Virgin, but Not Quite: Olive Oil’s Dirty Secret

From Mother Jones:

By Tom Philpott
Sat Dec. 10, 2011

The bottle of “extra virgin” olive oil on your kitchen shelf? It’s probably not extra virgin, defined as cold-pressed and otherwise unrefined. And it might not even be 100 percent olive oil.

That’s the conclusion of Tom Mueller’s new book, Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil. Mueller first took on the subject in his 2008 New Yorker article, “Slippery Business,” painting the European olive oil business as a shadowy underworld populated by crooks, liars, and hucksters—some of them occupying corner offices at transnational food firms. One EU investigator tells him that dealing counterfeit olive oil brings “profits comparable to cocaine,” with “none of the risks.”

Berkeleyside blog sums up Mueller’s findings:

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Occupy: you can’t evict an idea

From Open Democracy:

Ruth Rosen,
12 December 2011
The Occupy movement has changed the national conversation in America, and challenged the rightward tilt of the political landscape with its clear message that wealth inequality is incompatible with democracy, says Ruth Rosen

As snowstorms and freezing rain announce the arrival of winter, it’s hard to remember that the Occupy Wall Street movement emerged just a few months ago, in September. Enraged by the government bailout of Wall Street, but not of those who had lost their jobs and homes, angry at the rise of university tuition, frightened by the precarious decline of the middle class, several generations—not only the young— began a movement that quickly spread from Zuccotti park in New York across the nation. “We are the 99%,” they chanted, until it became the slogan of the movement. The 1%, they explained, owned as much wealth as the rest of the population.

Now that the police have dispersed most of the encampments, often with gratuitous and unnecessary cruelty, many protesters are asking, “What next?”  The answer to that question is unclear and will unfold in time, but now is a good time to pause and assess how the Occupy movement has affected American political culture.

Many of these changes are hidden in plain sight.  The Occupy movement, for example, has eclipsed the media’s obsessive coverage of the right-wing Tea Party. The difference between these movements has also become clearer.  While the Tea Party blames the government for the current economic crisis, the Occupy movement has identified corporate greed and the financial industry as the real thieves of Americans’ lives.

The emphasis on wealth inequality has also made it possible to discuss class in a society in which the much of the middle class has considered itself potential members of the wealthy.  As they have lost their jobs and homes, the middle class has come see itself as part of the 99%, rather than as potential members of the 1%.  The taboo on discussing the struggles of the poor and the economic insecurity of the middle class has faded. The Occupy movement has allowed people to discuss the privileges of the rich in a nation that has long viewed “class warfare” as a treasonous idea.

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Occupy is Not Just About Occupying

From Dissident Voice:

by Kevin Zeese
December 12th, 2011

With encampments being closed across the country it is important to remember the end goal is not to occupy public space, it is to end corporate rule. We seek to replace the rule of money with the rule of people.  Occupying is a tactic but the grand strategy of the Occupy Movement is to weaken the pillars that hold the corporate-government in place by educating, organizing and mobilizing people into an independent political force.

The occupations of public space have already done a great deal to lift the veil of lies.  People are now more aware than ever that the wealth divide is caused by a rigged economic system of crony capitalism and that we can create a fair economy that works for all Americans.  We are also aware that many of our fellow citizens are ready to take action – extreme action of sleeping outside in the cold in a public park.  And we also now know that we have the power to shift the debate and force the economic and political elites to listen to us. In just a few months we have made a difference.

Occupying public space involves a lot of resources and energy that could be spent educating, organizing and mobilizing people in much greater numbers.  There is a lot to do to end corporate rule and the challenges of occupying public space can divert our attention and resources from other responsibilities we have as a movement.

When we were organizing the Occupation of Washington, DC – before the occupation of Wall Street began – we were in conversation with movements around the world.  The Spanish Indignados told us that an occupation should last no more than two weeks.  After that it becomes a diversion from the political objectives.  The occupation begins to spend its time dealing with poverty, homelessness, inadequately treated mental illness and addiction – this has been experienced by occupies across the country.

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Thom Hartmann: Conversations w/Great Minds – Dr. Peter Beilenson – Are healthcare co-ops coming?

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NASA: Earth’s Prehistoric Record Warns of Nearing Rapid Climate Change

From Voice of America:

VOA News
December 10, 2011

A new U.S. space agency study warns the Earth this century could see rapid and catastrophic climate changes if man-made global warming levels are allowed to reach an internationally-recognized so-called “safe limit” of two degrees Celsius.

The NASA researchers examined prehistoric climate conditions during past interglacial periods – the time between ice ages – and compared them with the interglacial period the Earth is currently experiencing. The last interglacial period ended around 115,000 years ago when temperatures were less than one degree Celsius warmer than today, and sea levels were six meters higher.

The scientists say looking at how the prehistoric climate responded to natural changes gives them more insight into determining a dangerous level of man-made global warming for today’s world.

NASA study leader James Hansen says the findings show that Earth’s climate is more sensitive than even recent estimates suggest. He described the notion of limiting man-made global warming to an increase of two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels as “a prescription for disaster.”

Recent studies, including those by NASA, indicate the average global surface temperature since 1880 has gone up 0.8 degrees Celsius and is on course to continue rising by 0.1 degrees every decade.

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Special rules for transsexual strip searches

One of the things I really like about Canada is how they at least try to exercise a bit of common sense and respect for people’s dignity.  Strip searches are never pleasant for anyone being subjected to them.  For transsexual (especially pre-op) and transgender folks they are often occasions marred with added abuse and humiliation at the hands of the authorities.

This piece from a Canadian source suggest an attempt to avoid some of the embarrassment and humiliation.

From IFP Press:

By Daniel Proussalidis, Parliamentary Bureau
Last Updated: December 7, 2011

Anyone who’s had a sex-change operation – or just feels neither fully male nor fully female – has a special option available if pulled aside for a strip search by a border services officer (BSO).

QMI Agency has learned the Canada Border Services Agency issued a directive in August telling officers that transsexual and intersexed individuals can choose whether a man or a woman will search them.

Or they can opt for a “split search,” notes the directive, which involves two sets of border services officers – one all male, the other all female.

“The first set completes the search of the upper body while leaving the lower body clothed,” says the directive. “The individual is then permitted to fully dress, and is turned over to a second set of BSOs of the opposite sex to conduct the search of the lower body, while the upper body remains clothed.”

Officers can pull aside someone entering or leaving Canada and require a strip search if the traveller is suspected of violating the Customs Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act or the Proceeds of Crime and Terrorist Financing Act.

Sgt. Shamar Thomas Introduces – A New Online Library that Can’t Be Destroyed

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Depression and Democracy

From The New York Times:

Published: December 11, 2011

It’s time to start calling the current situation what it is: a depression. True, it’s not a full replay of the Great Depression, but that’s cold comfort. Unemployment in both America and Europe remains disastrously high. Leaders and institutions are increasingly discredited. And democratic values are under siege.

On that last point, I am not being alarmist. On the political as on the economic front it’s important not to fall into the “not as bad as” trap. High unemployment isn’t O.K. just because it hasn’t hit 1933 levels; ominous political trends shouldn’t be dismissed just because there’s no Hitler in sight.

Let’s talk, in particular, about what’s happening in Europe — not because all is well with America, but because the gravity of European political developments isn’t widely understood.

First of all, the crisis of the euro is killing the European dream. The shared currency, which was supposed to bind nations together, has instead created an atmosphere of bitter acrimony.

Specifically, demands for ever-harsher austerity, with no offsetting effort to foster growth, have done double damage. They have failed as economic policy, worsening unemployment without restoring confidence; a Europe-wide recession now looks likely even if the immediate threat of financial crisis is contained. And they have created immense anger, with many Europeans furious at what is perceived, fairly or unfairly (or actually a bit of both), as a heavy-handed exercise of German power.

Nobody familiar with Europe’s history can look at this resurgence of hostility without feeling a shiver. Yet there may be worse things happening.

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Portuguese workers hit by massive austerity package

From World Socialist Web Site:

By Paul Mitchell
12 December 2011

Manuel Carvalho da Silva, head of the General Confederation of Portuguese Workers (Confederação Geral dos Trabalhadores Portugueses, CGTP), declared last week that the recent budget, together with earlier cuts, will see public sector take-home pay decline by 27 percent next year compared to 2010.

The budget for 2012 passed at the end of November by Portugal’s Congress was designed by the so-called troika of Portugal’s international lenders: the European Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the European Central Bank (ECB). Virtually all of Portugal’s economic policy is now set by the troika.

Portugal has so far avoided the installation of a technocratic overlord, as the EU has done in Greece and Italy. This is because of the united front presented by the Social Democrat-Popular Party (PSD-CDS) coalition government and the opposition Socialist Party (PS), in support of austerity.

The 2012 budget eliminates bonuses equivalent to two months’ salary, in 2012 and 2013, for public sector workers and for pensioners making more than €1,000 (US$1,340) a month. It allows private sector companies to extend the working day by 30 minutes without any additional pay. Taxes will be increased, including the sales tax (VAT) on gas and electricity—from 6 percent to 23 percent.

Spending cuts in 2012 represent 4.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), including cuts in health care spending. At the same time, the government raided pension funds for cash, transferring €6 billion worth of assets to the state balance sheet.

The budget measures are only the latest onslaught on living standards in the last year by the right-wing government and its Socialist Party (PS) predecessor that includes:

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