LGBT Workplace Discrimination: Out of Work for Being Out at Work?

From Huffington Post:

05/ 2/2012

For those who share a vision for a country in which all LGBT Americans can show up at work each day with the security of knowing that they cannot be fired simply for who they are or whom they love, the last month has been marked by great disappointment and a historic victory.

But both are stark reminders that even in our own LGBT and allied community, too few understand the significance of either the disappointment or the victory. Shockingly, a large percentage of us are unaware that LGBT people do not actually have federal employment protections. In most states in most of the country, it is perfectly legal to be fired for who you are or whom you love. Really? That is the reaction, in large part, of LGBT people and the public alike. And that’s a hurdle we need to overcome in order to move forward.

Let’s look at some recent developments and address the problems we face in educating ourselves and the public that the playing field is anything but level and we certainly haven’t yet achieved full equality.

The disappointment came on April 11. The White House announced that contrary to the hopes of advocates, and despite polls showing that a large majority of Americans support nondiscrimination protections for LGBT workers, President Obama would not sign — at this time — an executive order banning anti-LGBT discrimination by businesses that take contracts with the government. In an attempt to clarify their reasoning behind not protecting scores of people immediately, the White House took the opportunity to reemphasize its support for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). Many people are simply scratching their heads, since there is no chance whatsoever of passing ENDA in the current Congress. The road is clear: we must continue to advocate for his signing the executive order in the shorter term, and we must pass federal employment protections for LGBT people.

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Facing and Fighting Transphobic Violence for Both the Living and the Dead: CeCe McDonald and Brandy Martell

From Tikkun Daily:

by: Ianna Hawkins Owen
on May 2nd, 2012

It is not easy to mourn the dead, it’s an assignment without hope of closure. Nor is it easy to defend the living, but for other reasons. The living pose questions that we hesitate to answer: Whose bodies are grievable? Are our responses sustainable? How much do we have to give, for whom, and for how long? We do not sign up for shifts of pain, they spirit us away. But we do we have a choice to show up – in myriad ways, to make eye contact, to pack the court, to pick up the phone. We must not remember the dead at the expense of the living but instead balance our dedication to freedom.

Just three nights ago here in downtown Oakland Brandy Martell, a trans woman of color, was murdered. There were a lot of people gathered at an emergency vigil on Sunday night at the site of her passing on 13th and Franklin. Friends, community members, and family spoke and witnessed, shouted and cried. An Occupy Oakland street medic, who happened to be out late that night responding to another shooting (despite a curfew order), described trying to save Brandy’s life with CPR and pressure applied to her bullet wounds while the police came late and stood idly by as she died.

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The Tinder-Box Society

From Robert Reich:

By Robert Reich
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 13,338 Tuesday, its highest since December, 2007. The S&P 500 added 16 points. Wall Street will remember May 1 as a great day.

But most of these gains are going to the richest 10 percent of Americans who own 90 percent of the shares traded on Wall Street. And the lion’s share of the gains are going to the wealthiest 1 percent.

Shares are up because corporate profits are up, and profits are up largely because companies have figured out how to do more with less.

Payrolls used to account for almost 70 percent of the typical company’s costs. But one of the most striking legacies of the Great Recession has been the decline of full-time employment – as companies have substituted software or outsourced jobs abroad (courtesy of the Internet, making outsourcing more efficient than ever), or shifted them to contract workers also linked via Internet and software.

That’s why most of the gains from the productivity revolution are going to the owners of capital, while typical workers are either unemployed or underemployed, or else getting wages and benefits whose real value continues to drop. The portion of total income going to capital rather than labor is the highest since the 1920s.

Increasingly, the world belongs to those collecting capital gains.

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How to spot a misogynist*

From Daily Life Australia:

*By the five classic lies they tell

Clementine Ford
May 1, 2012

When you’re a feminist, you get used to misogynists trying to challenge the necessity of your politics. “Feminism’s finished! Women are equal now and there’s no use for all the hairy arm-pitted rubbish! Quit your yapping! Embrace your curves!”

But misogynist isn’t a very fashionable kind of word – I mean, no one saunters into a room proudly pronouncing, ‘My name’s Don and I’m a misogynist!’, unless it’s the latest Charter Meeting of Online Trolls Monthly, or Channel Nine. So because people know it’s not really kosher to be a codified turd, they try and hide their misogynist views under the guise of legitimate arguments.

If you’re not trained in the spotting of smug, self-satisfied misogynists, you might not know the general thrust of their shtick. Luckily for you, I’ve become somewhat of an expert in the field since they all started following me on Twitter. So to help novices and outsiders, I’ve taken the following five popular misogynist arguments and parsed them into some kind of legible (if not logical) format for your benefit.

1. If you want to see real oppression, go to the Middle East.

The problems here are threefold. First, it implies women in the west should be grateful for the benevolence of their natural overlords. Who cares if 1 in 3 of you will experience sexual assault in your lifetime, while also enjoying the privilege of lower pay than your male counterparts and the symbolic annihilation of yourselves in literature and film? In case you didn’t know, women in Afghanistan are being stoned to death. So why don’t you just go ahead and submit your complaint to the STFU file known as my PENIS?

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Oranizers, Not Occupiers: The Young People Working in the Shadows of a National Movement

From Truth Dig:

By Bill Boyarsky
Posted on May 1, 2012

By chance, the revelation of how Apple evades millions of dollars in taxes broke three days before May Day, when workers of the world traditionally protest such injustice.

Although the Apple practices aren’t illegal, the dodging of taxes on revenue generated, to a large extent, by low-wage Chinese workers, was a perfect introduction to this year’s May 1 observance, highlighted by the Occupy movement’s call for strikes and demonstrations around the country. The goal: Protest corporate domination of an economy being pulled downward by growing income inequality and intractable unemployment.

The New York Times reported that the technology company has used loopholes to reduce its tax bills in 21 states and overseas by billions of dollars annually by creating subsidiaries in places with low-tax or no-tax policies. In January, the paper told how Apple’s Chinese workers “often labor in harsh conditions” with “onerous work environments and serious—sometimes deadly—safety problems … excessive overtime, in some cases seven days a week, and live in crowded dorms.”

The latest Apple story broke at an opportune moment. Occupy and other campaigners for social justice are hoping this exposé of the evil side of globalization will enrage American workers and persuade them to join protests.

Thousands of Angelenos demonstrating against income inequality and immigration policy marched Tuesday into the financial heart of Downtown Los Angeles. Last week, not far from there, I spent a day with more than 400 activists, most of them young community organizers not working with Occupy. They discussed turning protests into political action that will lead to economic reform.

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Thousands join girl in urging Seventeen magazine to publish unedited images

From The Guardian UK:

Julia Bluhm, 14, a ballet dancer and aspiring activist, says she’d like one spread a month that shows bodies that aren’t ‘fake’

in New York, Wednesday 2 May 2012

A teenage reader of Seventeen magazine is hoping to change the title’s practice of airbrushing images to make young girls appear flawless and thin.

Eighth-grader Julia Bluhm, 14, from Maine, delivered a 15,000-name petition to the Hearst magazine’s editor-in-chief, Ann Shoket, on Wednesday calling for the magazine to publish at least one unaltered photo spread a month.

“A lot of my friends are happy in their skin, but I know people who aren’t comfortable and wished they looked differently,” said Bluhm, who dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer and activist. “There are pictures all over the media that show photoshopped girls that have no flaws and they are perfect.”

In her petition, titled Give Girls Images of Real Girls, Bluhm, a blogger with Sparksummit, a “girl-fuelled” movement against the sexualisation of young women, wrote: “Those ‘pretty women’ that we see in magazines are fake. They’re often photoshopped, air-brushed, edited to look thinner, and to appear like they have perfect skin. A girl you see in a magazine probably looks a lot different in real life.”

Bluhm hopes to fight back through her work with Sparksummit, which began after the American Psychological Association task force reported the harm to girls’ self-esteem caused by sexualised images of young women.

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Is Your Stuff Falling Apart? Thank Wal-Mart

From Alternet:

Wal-Mart’s cheap stuff is hugely costly – right where it matters most.

By Stacy Mitchell
May 1, 2012

My friend Tony’s closet is as good a place as any to begin an investigation of Walmart’s environmental impact. Tony has a pair of Levi’s that date back to high school more than 20 years ago. They still fit him and they’re still in rotation. The fabric has a smooth patina that hints at its age, but, compared to another pair of Levi’s he bought only a couple of years ago, this pair actually looks far less worn. The denim is sturdier, the seams more substantial, the rivets bigger.

Tony’s old pair of Levi’s may well have been made in the U.S, and they likely cost more than his new pair. The new ones were manufactured abroad — Levi’s closed its last U.S. factory in 2003 — and, though Tony didn’t buy them at Walmart, their shoddy construction can be blamed at least in part on the giant retailer and the way it’s reshaping manufacturing around the world.

Since 1994, the consumer price of apparel, in real terms, has fallen by 39 percent. “It is now possible to buy clothing, long a high-priced and valuable commodity, by the pound, for prices comparable to cheap agricultural products,” notes Juliet Schor. Cheapness — and the decline in durability that has accompanied it – has triggered an astonishing increase in the amount of clothing we buy. In the mid-1990s, the average American bought 28 items of clothing a year. Today, we buy 59 items. We also throw away an average of 83 pounds of textiles per person, mostly discarded apparel, each year. That’s four times as much as we did in 1980, according to an EPA analysis of municipal waste streams [PDF].

Most consumer products have followed a similar trajectory over the last two decades. Walmart has done more than any other company to drive these changes, though other retailers have since followed its model. Where once we measured value when we shopped, Walmart trained us to see only price. Its hard bargaining pushed manufacturers offshore and drove them, year after year, to cut more corners and make shoddier products. As union-wage production jobs and family-owned businesses fell by the wayside, many Americans could no longer afford anything but Walmart’s cheap offerings.

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The Obesity epidemic…blame Reagan!

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The People Behind the Lawmakers Out to Destroy Public Education: A Primer

From Common Dreams:

What You Need To Know About ALEC

by Diane Ravitch
Published on Wednesday, May 2, 2012 byBridging the Difference Blog / Ed Week

Since the 2010 elections, when Republicans took control of many states, there has been an explosion of legislation advancing privatization of public schools and stripping teachers of job protections and collective bargaining rights. Even some Democratic governors, seeing the strong rightward drift of our politics, have jumped on the right-wing bandwagon, seeking to remove any protection for academic freedom from public school teachers.

This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. It drafts model legislation that conservative legislators take back to their states and introduce as their own “reform” ideas. ALEC is the guiding force behind state-level efforts to privatize public education and to turn teachers into at-will employees who may be fired for any reason. The ALEC agenda is today the “reform” agenda for education.

ALEC operated largely in the dark for years, but gained notoriety because of the Trayvon Martin case in Florida. It turns out that ALEC crafted the “Stand Your Ground” legislation that empowered George Zimmerman to kill an unarmed teenager with the defense that he (the shooter) felt threatened. When the bright light of publicity was shone on ALEC, a number of corporate sponsors dropped out, including McDonald’s, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Mars, Wendy’s, Intuit, Kaplan, and PepsiCo. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said that it would not halt its current grant to ALEC, but pledged not to provide new funding. ALEC has some 300 corporate sponsors, including Walmart, the Koch Brothers, and AT&T, so there’s still quite a lot of corporate support for its free-market policies. ALEC claimed that it is the victim of a campaign of intimidation.

The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?

Groups like Common Cause and have been putting ALEC’s model legislation online and printing the names of its sponsors. They have also published sharp criticism of ALEC’s ideas. This is hardly intimidation. It’s the democratic process at work. A website called has published ALEC’s policy agenda. Common Cause posted the agenda for the meeting of ALEC on May 11 in Charlotte, N.C. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards has dropped out of ALEC and also withdrawn from the May 11 conference, where it was originally going to be a presenter.

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Uniting on the War Against Women

From Huffington Post:

05/ 2/2012

On Saturday, April 28, in the shadow of the 60 Centre Street courthouse engraved with the words, “The true administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good government,” a crowd of over 500 people assembled. It was a gathering that was part of a network of events taking place across the nation, put into play by

Two women co-founded the grassroots organization. Karen Teegarden (Michigan) and Desiree Jordan (New York) connected online. They were alarmed by the rapid erosion of women’s rights. The distance between their home states did not deter them from a motivation to do something. They created a Facebook page called United Against the War Against Women, with the theory if they built it women would come.

I was able to interview Jordan about the demonstration she had spearheaded. It “began” for her on February 19, 2012, as she watched the hearings on birth control led by Rep. Darrell Issa. “I was in shock,” Jordan told me. “They decided to drag my uterus onto Capitol Hill without reading me my Miranda Rights. I realized if I don’t do anything, I will be wrapped in a blanket of complicity.”

The day commenced at the site of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory with approximately 800 in attendance. A walk down Broadway led to Foley Square where politicos, celebrities, and activists addressed, entreated, and revved up listeners from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The conversation covered women’s rights, health concerns, economic security, and the nightmare that would ensue if complacency took precedence. There were placards embracing sentiments such as, “We Will Not Be Marginalized,” “Keep Your Laws Away from My Uterus,” and one held by a man, “GOP: Get Your Hands Off Our Women.” My personal favorite was, “Probe Banks, Not Women.”

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Spain’s foreign minister admits economic and social crisis “of huge proportions”

From World Socialist Web Site:

By Vicky Short
1 May 2012

“The figures are terrible for everyone and terrible for the government,” Popular Party (PP) Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo told Spanish National Radio. “Spain is in a crisis of huge proportions.”

The PP president of the regional government in Valencia, Alberto Fabra, declared, “The government has found that it has no money to be able to guarantee the welfare state.”

Spain is officially in recession—the second in little more than two years. Unemployment has soared to nearly one quarter of the population (over half of the youth)—the highest level in almost two decades and far worse than predicted.

Fears the government will not meet deficit-cutting targets agreed with the European Union and International Monetary Fund have pushed up its borrowing costs. There is also growing speculation that bank debts are much higher than admitted.

“It’s a very challenging situation. I don’t think that the banks are cornered yet, but the government must come out soon to say how they will address them,” Deutsche Bank economist Gilles Moec said.

As a result, credit ratings agency Standard and Poor’s downgraded the country’s credit-worthiness and further downgrades are likely.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he was determined to stick to austerity measures. His government has slashed spending by 42 billion euros this year, equal to some four percent of economic output.

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Study: Atheists more driven by compassion than highly religious people

It has been my experience in life that the more religious people claim to be the more likely they are to be utterly lacking in compassion and mercy.  Also the more judgmental they are likely to be.

From Raw Story:

By David Edwards
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Highly religious people are less motivated by compassion than atheists, agnostics and less religious people, according to a new study.

Research from University of California, Berkeley published in the most recent edition of the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found a stronger link between compassion and generosity among non-religious or less religious people.

“Overall, we find that for less religious people, the strength of their emotional connection to another person is critical to whether they will help that person or not,” UC Berkeley social psychologist and study co-author Robb Willer explained. “The more religious, on the other hand, may ground their generosity less in emotion, and more in other factors such as doctrine, a communal identity, or reputational concerns.”

Lead author Laura Saslow recalled she became interested in the topic after an atheist friend said he had only donated money for earthquake relief in Haiti after watching a touching video of a woman being pulled from the rubble.

“I was interested to find that this experience – an atheist being strongly influenced by his emotions to show generosity to strangers – was replicated in three large, systematic studies,” she noted.

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