Help Make ENDA a Reality

Whether you’re a retail clerk, a mechanic, or a surgeon – if you’re gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, you shouldn’t be forced to stay in the closet for fear of losing your job. Today, in 29 states LGBT people can be fired only because they’re lesbian, gay, or bisexual. And in 34 states, people can be fired just because they’re transgender — reasons completely unrelated to their work!For two years, Congress has stalled all action on ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban discrimination just like this — discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

Thankfully, on June 12 a Senate committee will finally hold a hearing on ENDA. This is our chance to shine a spotlight on the real harm caused by these forms of workplace discrimination. But we need the Senate to go further — ENDA needs to be voted out of committee and sent to the Senate floor!

Sign our petition to tell the committee chairman, Sen. Harkin, to bring ENDA to a vote!

It’s simply outrageous that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community STILL does not have clear federal protections from workplace discrimination. Discrimination at work is well-documented, both for LGB people as well as transgender people.

ENDA would ensure that employees are treated based on the quality of their work and nothing else.

We need your help right now to outlaw this form of discrimination, once and for all! Please take a moment to tell Senator Harkin to bring ENDA to a vote!

Rea Carey Sincerely,

Rea Carey, Executive Director
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force builds the power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community from the ground up. The Task Force is the country’s premier social justice organization fighting to improve the lives of LGBT people, and working to create positive, lasting change and opportunity for all. The Task Force is a 501(c)(3) corporation incorporated in Washington, D.C. Contributions to the Task Force are tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law. © 2012, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 1325 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, D.C., 20005. Phone 202-393-5177. TTY 202-393-2284.

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The “Die Cis-Scum” Meme: A Gut Check for NormBorn Privilege

As forty years post-op and long post-transsexual old hippie woman, I assimilated into the dominant culture a long time ago.

Unless you are reading my writings, meet me at a conference, LGBT/T center or demonstration/event I’m presumed normborn and generally have normborn privilege extended to me, albeit privilege that is impacted by my being a visible lesbian.

As a left wing, anti-racist living in Texas my white skin, education, and normborn appearance permits me to listen in on the private thoughts of many very bigoted people.

I was working at a big box store during the 2008 elections. I had to listen to some really vile racist crap regarding Obama.  The presumption was that I shared their ultra right wing politics and would never consider voting for a Democrat, when in reality I’m far to the left of the Democratic Party and would vote Democratic Socialist or Socialist if we had a real Socialist Party as an alternative.

I worked my way up to assistant manager of my department.  Along the way I had to listen to racism directed towards African-American people Asians, Latinos.  Anti-Muslim bigotry was particularly intense, this in a store where 10-15% of our customer base was Muslim.

How does this apply to “Die Cis-Scum”?

I pass as cis-sexual/cis-gender.  Now I’ll admit that I’m not all that fond of those terms.  Mostly because I don’t view the world in black/white binaries.

But having passing privilege means bigots aren’t afraid to spill the hatred in front of me.  They whip out their invisible KKK/Aryan Nation membership card right in front of me and spew, never realizing that I’m Antifa and donate to the Southern Poverty Law Center when ever I can.

Passing privilege means I see the contempt normborns show towards gender-queer or obvious  TS/TG folks.  Hell over the last 40 plus years I have taken numerous TS/TG sisters on their first public walk.

I’ve been able to observe second hand the rudeness and meanness directed at at gender queer as well as non-passing TS/TG people.

When I lived in Hollywood and San Francisco where people almost feel obligated to read you to your face I too was subjected to it.

The sort of in your face transphobia that  gives normborn people the sense of entitlement that permits them to get in your face and call names is identical to the sort of racism that lets white supremacists get in the faces of African-Americans and scream the “N-word” at them.

Normborn privilege gives you the sense of entitlement that permits you to discuss TS/TG people like they are sub-human.

Only gender queer punk rock types of people are going to be militantly anarchistic enough to get back in your face and tell you we hate your overly privileged attitudes and sense of entitlement.

Most of us aren’t that militant, especially if we are assimilated.

We just make notes and remember the scummy bullying behavior you showed to the obvious TS/TG/gender queer person.  You may have even expected us to laugh in tacit approval of your behavior and have been upset when we told you, you were rude to a customer shopping in our department.

This gut check on radfem normborm privilege has been interesting because it has revealed the cult like thinking and how it parallels that espoused by the homophobic radical right.

Here is something for a bunch of feminist studies majors, radical feminists to ponder:  If your parents sent you to private school, you attended an elite university, worked an unpaid internship one summer, spent another summer traveling in Europe, and have the money to fly to England to attend the RadFem Hate Fest you are not a fucking oppressed minority.  You are an overly privileged member of the dominant culture.

I remember the social engineering feminism pulled in the early 1970s making it sound like only one metric was important for measuring oppression and that was sexism, that women were the most oppressed class.

It sounded good.

Just as long as no one said WTF?

As long as no one said, “I went to shitty schools and making it in life is getting promoted to night manager at Micky Ds, while you went to the finest schools and got a Ph.D. and tenure, how are we part of the same class and equally oppressed?”

So people came up with intersecting oppressions.

Now a bunch of radfems are spewing a bunch of crap about TS/TG people, both T to F and T to M people.

I know how the radfem bullies think they are being cute when they call us M to Ts or F to Ts, but they are a bunch of bigoted assholes,  normborn scum if you will, who like to be bullies, but hate it when the bullied fight back.

They sound like the right wing creeps, who love using the “N-word” for African Americans, but think they are being persecuted when African Americans call them honkies.

The ones who get every fucking advantage in the world and make sure that members of minority groups have it harder than anyone else;  the same group that cries bloody murder when a member of a minority group over comes all the obstacles and makes it.

You fucks make TS/TG people and gender queers lives miserable from the time we are in the cradle.

Especially if we were obvious as kids.  No one stands up for us.  Many of our parents turn their backs on us.

And you shit heads channel Focus on the Family/Jan Raymond  at us.

Oh, but we aren’t supposed to hate you back because you can’t accept that you are bigots and bullies.

We aren’t supposed to insist on our rights or our dignity.

When we are murdered, normborns make excuses for the murderer and let him off.

When one of us defends herself against thugs with swastika tattoos and kills one of her attackers, she goes to prison.

And all y’all are upset because a gender queer punk with a pissed off attitude challenges your bigotry with a tat of “Die Cis-Scum”

Maybe you need to really engage in some self examining of your own bigotry and stop sounding like a member of Aryan Nation, who is offended at getting called a Nazi.

Maybe we would have less cause to hate you if you took your jackboots off of our necks and noticed our humanity.

Remember it is hard not to hate some one who has their boot on your neck and a lot of us don’t chant Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Dalai Lama when we are being abused.

Before complaining about TS/TG rhetoric perhaps you should look at the radfem rhetoric that calls for our being  subjected to the final solution.

Janet Mock Remembers Lorena Escalera at the #glaadawards

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Laura Jane Grace and coming out as trans in the public eye

From Whipping Girl:

By Julia Serano
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reposted with permission
(for e-mail up-dates from Julia go to her blog and subscribe)

So about once every year or two, somebody comes out as trans in a rather high profile way. Two years ago it was Chaz Bono. Before that there was Christine Daniels, Susan Stanton, and others before them. When this happens, I usually experience a mix of emotions.

Lots of trans folks celebrate the visibility that comes with these high profile coming outs, and how it can humanize us in the eyes of the world. In my case, when I came out to my family as a trans woman in 2002, they took it really hard. But a year later, when Jenny Boylan appeared on Oprah, my Mom rushed out to buy her book. While my Mom had come to accept who I was before then, the fact that another trans woman was on Oprah (a show she watched every day) really normalized the whole experience for her. Rather than me being the only trans person she knew, my Mom got to see that there were others like me out there in the world.

While visibility is important, these high profile coming outs sometimes do have their downsides. Sometimes the coverage can be overly sensationalistic. But even worse, the media’s fascination with coming outs and physical transitions tend to create a situation where folks who have not been involved with the trans community very long suddenly become our spokespeople, whereas activists who are very knowledgeable about trans issues, and who have been fighting for trans rights for years, couldn’t get five minutes with the media no matter how hard they might try. Sometimes, these high profile trans folks do a pretty good job of representing the community, but other times it can lead to disastrous politics.

The third emotion I feel is empathy/sympathy. It’s hard to come out as trans, no matter who you are. It’s hard to do all that explaining, and reacting to the various reactions (which for me, ranged from friends congratulating me, to friends never speaking to me again, as well as every imaginable response between those two extremes). But to do all that in the public eye, with even more people watching you, judging you, that must be especially hard.

So a couple weeks ago, when I heard that the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for the band Against Me! recently came out as a trans woman, and is now going by the name Laura Jane Grace, I felt this usual mix of emotions. I hadn’t heard of her or her band before (no offense meant by that, it’s just that the last six years I’ve been listening to jazz more so that rock/pop music). So I had a rather generic reaction – in my mind, I wished her the best, and hoped that her high profile coming out would be one more small step toward public understanding and acceptance of trans people.

But then @eastsidekate on Twitter informed me that the Rolling Stone article in which Laura Jane Grace comes out mentions that Grace read my book Whipping Girl. (Funny, I always used to dream of being mentioned in Rolling Stone magazine. But as a musician, not as a trans author. Life is strange…)

So of course, like any person who hears such news, I went out to my local newsstand to buy Rolling Stone. And I read the article. It was typical mainstream fare: Lots of talk about medical/transitioning procedures, and language choices that bothered me. I wish they referred to Grace with female pronouns rather than male ones (although that could have been Grace’s choice, as she was not yet presenting female at the time of the interview). And seriously Rolling Stone, in 2012, do you still need to trot out a “transgender expert” from the Kinsey Institute to tell us that “one in 30,000 men is clinically diagnosed as being transgender.” Really. Are we still using those ancient statistics? According to that statistic, there are only 5,000 trans women living in the US right now. I personally have probably met well over 1,000 trans women in my life simply by being an activist and attending trans conferences over the years. Seriously, there is no chance that I’ve met over 20% of all trans women in the US!!!

Having said all that, the article could have been far worse. At least Rolling Stone handled this better than their article about Lana Wachowski (which I refuse to link to because it was *so* bad). Interestingly, the Wachowski article was called “The Mystery of Larry Wachowski” and Grace’s article is called “The Secret Life of Tom Gabel.” Apparently, we transsexuals are an enigma, wrapped in a riddle, and surrounded by Rolling Stone editors who are fond of mystifying us.

Aside from annoyances about how it was written, the article brought up a lot for me personally. I have heard a countless trans people’s stories before, and I find myself identifying with some elements of their lives, but not other parts. But Grace’s story really brought a lot of memories racing back to me, mostly because, like Grace, I was a lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for an indie rock band at the time that I transitioned.

My band was called Bitesize. We were not nearly as big as Against Me! mind you. But we were a fixture in the local SF Bay Area music scene from 1998-2005, and we toured up and down the West coast quite a few times. KEXP in Seattle used to play songs from our second album “Sophomore Slump” quite a bit, so we had a number of fans up there too. And we received some college radio airplay elsewhere. But that’s about it, we never made it to the next level of touring nationally or getting much recognition beyond the West coast.

The Rolling Stone article discusses a number of Against Me! lyrics that strongly hinted that Grace might be transgender, even though most people did not pick up on it. That very much resonated with me. Music was my main creative outlet back then, and one of the ways that I expressed my trans-ness was through songwriting. One of the first Bitesize songs was called “I Forgot My Mantra,” and it was basically about being a crossdresser (how I saw myself at the time). The chorus was a single line: “I’m a hermaphrodite, but that’s beside the point.” (For the record, I was not trying to claim an intersex identity with that line – I didn’t even know what intersex was back then. I was just trying to express that I saw myself as both female and male at the time.)

Another Bitesize song, called “Switch Hitter,” was an embellished sort-of-true-ish story about how I first decided to change my sex at my little league’s All-Star game. The chorus of the song was: “A year from now I’ll be the center of attention/After I have had my sex change operation.” It was so empowering for me to get up on stage and belt out those lines. And as Grace mentions about some of her lyrics in the article, I thought I was completely outing myself as trans with that line, but nobody else seemed to connect the dots.

The first two songs on our second album were also trans-themed: “Surprise Ending” was about a trans women who accidentally runs into the bully who picked on her as a child. And “Understudy” (which is my favorite Bitesize song) is about a transgender teenage thespian who gets to play the role of Ophelia in a Catholic boy’s school rendition of Hamlet.

Anyway, when I did eventually come out as trans (btw, in writing this, I found that my original coming out letter is still up on the Bitesize website), it was a fairly public coming out, as our band was very well known in the local music scene. There wasn’t really a precedent for it at the time. Back then, there were a few trans-fronted bands scattered across the country, but they were all (as far as I could gather) bands where the front person was out as trans from the get-go, rather than one where the person transitioned mid-stream. So I really didn’t know how people would react.

It turns out that things went mostly well. Part of it was probably because we were a part of an indie-pop scene that was the farthest thing from macho imaginable – most of the bands we played with were mixed genders, and many bands had openly queer (albeit not trans) members. We were punk-pop-ish enough that sometimes we would play on more punk rock bills. I know that some folks from that scene were somewhat less accepting of my transition. Our drummer Steve used to be more involved in that scene, and he said that people would occasionally come up to him and say something like “Dude, what the fuck is up with your guitarist?” in a really negative way. And then they’d seem taken aback when Steve would reply “Well Julie’s really happy now and we all love and support her.” That apparently neutralized them. In any case, I’m sure that people who were bothered by me being trans usually talked shit behind my back, not to my face.

Another thing that Grace’s article reminded me about was coming out to my bandmates. From the start pretty much, my bandmates knew that I was trans. Well, initially they knew that I considered myself to be a crossdresser. Then as I began learning more, I started calling myself transgender. I personally made the decision to transition about 2 weeks before we began recording our second album “Sophomore Slump.” Recording a record is super stressful, and I didn’t want to add any unforeseen tension to the mix, so I decided not to tell them until recording was complete. The first band practice that we had after finishing the record, Leslie and Steve came in talking about recording and the potential song order of the album. And I said, “Hey guys, I have something serious that I want to talk about.” They paused, and Steve kind of jokingly said, “What is it? Are you going to have a sex change?” And I just said, “Um…yeah.” Leslie and Steve were both super supportive, and that made the public aspects of my transition far easier knowing that they both had my back.

Anyway, I hope things go similarly well for Grace. It is ten years later, and there is certainly way more trans awareness in the mainstream now than when I transitioned, so that bodes well for her. But I also know that her transition is *way* more high profile than mine ever was – mine was largely confined to Bay Area music and artist circles, and hers is taking place in the pages of Rolling Stone magazine. In any case, I personally found that coming out as trans was very much an exercise in learning how not to give a fuck about what anybody else thinks about me. Obviously, none of us is capable of completely letting go of other people’s opinions about us. But learning how to be generally unconcerned with other people’s thoughts, assumptions and negative comments regarding me being trans was a huge life lesson for me, one that has allowed me to be more self-confident and remain true to myself in countless areas outside of my gender. I would like to think that this same life lesson (which many trans folks eventually learn) might be helpful no matter how public one’s transition is.

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Canada: Federal gender identity bill passes second reading

From XTRA Ca:

‘It’s only a first step,’ says NDP MP Randall Garrison

Christin Scarlett Milloy
Tuesday, June 05, 2012

UPDATE: June 7 —In a late vote June 6, NDP MP Randall Garrison’s Bill C-279 passed second reading by a vote of 150 to 132.

Several Conservative MPs were among those who rose to support the bill.
“I’m excited, but it’s only a first step,” Garrison says.
The bill now goes to committee before returning to the House for third reading and, ultimately, to the Senate.
Some trans activists reacted skeptically June 1 when Garrison announced his intention to support amendments removing “gender expression” from the bill and adding a definition for “gender identity.”

“If Randall Garrison [makes these amendments], then I probably would no longer support this bill,” wrote Alberta blogger Mercedes Allen. “The moment we start establishing definitions, we are placing limits and defining who can be excluded from those protections.”
Garrison maintains he’s sensitive to these concerns. “We are going to write a definition for gender identity that I hope will include the ‘expression’ phrase,” he says. “Once gender identity is in the Human Rights Code, the courts and human rights commissions will interpret what that means.”
Garrison believes the amendments are necessary to pass the bill.
Support from select Tories in the House was key to the vote.
“We worked hard to win support on the other side. I had very good cooperation from the parliamentary secretary to the minister of justice, Kerry-Lynne Findlay. She is [the Tories’] main representative on the justice committee, and I look forward to working with her on getting the bill the rest of the way through,” Garrison says.
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ENDA Gets Senate Hearing But Anti-Gay ‘Religious Liberty’ Dominionist To Testify

From The New Civil Rights Movement:

by David Badash
June 7, 2012

ENDA will finally be debated before a Senate committee next week, but the witness list includes one notable Republican, Craig Parshall, an anti-gay dominionist and advocate of an extremist perspective of  ”religious liberty.” Parshall works as the Senior Vice President and General Counsel of a group named the National Religious Broadcasters. The NRB just two weeks ago touted their unpublished study that accused most social media sites — except Twitter — of censoring Christians’ anti-gay speech. ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, “has been introduced in every Congress since 1994 (except the 109th) while previous employment anti-discrimination legislation has been proposed since 1974.”

Since 2005, the NRB has been accused of being “one of the leading groups of the Dominionist movement.”

Writing, “Parshall, the one Republican witness, testified in opposition to ENDA in the 2009 House hearing on the bill, saying it would ‘impose a crippling burden on religious organizations,’ according to a report from The Christian Post at the time,” MetroWeekly today reports:

This morning, the Senate Housing, Employment, Labor and Pensions Committee announced the witness list for the upcoming June 12 hearing on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act — a bill to outlaw sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in private employment.

The witnesses include:

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Another DOMA Win!

From The ACLU:!

By James Esseks
June 8, 2012

When it rains, it pours! Late this afternoon, another federal judge ruled that the so-called federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) violates the federal constitution. The ruling came in an ACLU case brought by Edie Windsor after the death of her spouse and partner of 44 years, Thea Spyer.

Edie and Thea became a couple way back in 1965. By 1967, long before marriage for same-sex couples was anything more than a pipe dream, Thea proposed marriage to Edie – that’s just what their relationship meant to them. Thea couldn’t give her an engagement ring, because Edie wouldn’t have been able to explain it to her colleagues at IBM, so she gave her a diamond pin instead. They were inseparable for the next four decades.

In 1977, Thea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, and they both worked, over the next 30 years, to accommodate Thea’s progressive paralysis. She first used a cane, then crutches, then a manual wheelchair, and finally a motorized one that she could operate with her one good hand.

In 2007, with Thea’s health failing, they got married in Canada. In Edie’s words, “If you live together for 42 years, and you love each other for all those years, how could marriage be different? It turns out it’s different, and you don’t know why.”   Edie and Thea enjoyed married life for the next two years, until Thea died.

In New York, Edie and Thea were a lawfully married couple, but because of DOMA, they weren’t in the eyes of the federal government. So when Thea left their apartment and the rest of her possessions to Edie, the IRS taxed that inheritance as though they were strangers. Where a straight widow would have owed nothing at all, Edie had to pay over $363,000 in federal taxes.

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Don’t 30 Million Workers Deserve 1968 Wages?

From Common Dreams:

by Ralph Nader
Published on Friday, June 8, 2012 by Common Dreams

Thirty million American workers arise, you have nothing to lose but some of your debt!

Wednesday morning, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Ill.) introduced the “Catching Up to 1968 Act of 2012” (H.R. 5901) – legislation to raise the federal minimum wage to $10 per hour. The present minimum wage is $7.25, way below the unrealistically low federal poverty definition of $18,123 per year for a family of three. Adjusted for inflation, the 1968 minimum wage today would be a little above $10 per hour.

Together with Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, I was pleased to be with Rep. Jackson at a news conference to explain this long-overdue necessity for millions of hard-pressed, working Americans of all political persuasions.

The policy behind the minimum wage, first enacted in 1938 under President Franklin Roosevelt, was to provide a minimally livable wage. This implied at least keeping up with inflation, if not with new living expenses not envisioned seventy-five years ago. While businesses like Walmart and McDonalds have been raising their prices and executive compensation since 1968, these companies have received a windfall from a diminishing real minimum wage paid to their workers.

The economics behind the Jackson bill are strongly supportive of moral and equitable arguments. Most economists agree that what our ailing economy needs is more consumer demand for goods and services which will create jobs. Tens of billions of dollars flowing from a $10 minimum wage will be spent by poor families and workers almost immediately.

Historically, polls have registered around 70 percent of Americans favoring a minimum wage keeping up with inflation. That number includes many Republican workers who can be consoled by learning that both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, during their political careers, have supported adjusting the minimum wage.

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Recovery? What Recovery?

From Ted Rall Blog:

By Ted Rall
June 7th, 2012

Behind the New Jobs Numbers, Dull Statistics Tell a Terrifying Story

“Worst U.S. Jobs Data in a Year Signals Stalling Recovery,” The New York Times ran as its lead headline on June 2. The Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy created 69,000 jobs during May. The three-month job-creation average was 96,000. Unemployment ticked up a tenth of a point, from 8.1 to 8.2 percent.

Once again, the media is downplaying a blockbuster story—recovery? what recovery?—by dulling it down with a pile of dry, impenetrable statistics.

Wonder why you can’t find a job or get a raise, and your house has been sitting on the market for years? The new jobs numbers are the key to understanding how bad the economy is—and why it’s not likely to get better any time soon.

Q: If nearly 100,000 Americans per month are finding jobs, why are securities markets tumbling?

A: Because it’s actually a net jobs loss. The U.S. population is growing, so the work force is too. We need 125,000 new jobs a month just to keep up with population growth. “In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than three million jobs,” President Obama claimed in his January 2012 State of the Union speech. True or not, a more straightforward claim would have been net job creation: 350,000 jobs over 22 months, or 15,000 per month. (Politifact rates Obama’s line as Half True.)

Q: If we’re losing jobs, why is the unemployment rate hovering? Why isn’t it going up faster?

A: Discouraged workers, i.e. people who would take a job, but have given up looking, don’t count as officially unemployed. Neither do those whose unemployment benefits have run out, yet haven’t found new work. Ditto for those who are underemployed—a laid-off middle manager who earned $100,000, now scraping by on a fraction of her former salary by taking odd jobs.

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Bernie Sanders on the ‘Aggressiveness Among the Ruling Class’

From The Nation:

John Nichols
on June 8, 2012

Governor Scott Walker says that, with his victory in Tuesday’s recall election, he will “tell Wisconsin, tell our country, and we tell people all across the globe that voters really do want leaders who stand up and make the tough decisions…”

Actually, cutting taxes for CEOs and corporations and then balancing budgets on the backs of teachers, nurses and snowplow drivers isn’t exactly tough work. Redistribution of the wealth upward is common practice these days.

That said: Walker’s right about the fact that his victory speaks to the state, the nation and the world.

But what does it say?

US Senator Bernie Sanders has a wiser assessment than Walker, who raised and spent the better part of $35 million to defend himself—and had another $15 million spent in his favor by so-called “independent” groups. The whole process, say Sanders, is “hugely scary stuff.”

“There is,” the senator says, “an aggressiveness out there among the ruling class of this country, among the billionaires who are saying: ‘You know what? Ya, we got a whole lot now, but we want even more. And we don’t give a damn about the middle class. We don’t care about working families. We want it all. And now we can buy it.’ ”

Referring to Wisconsin as a “testing ground” for the no-limits campaign spending that has been ushered in by the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, Sanders said, “I have a deep concern that what we saw in Wisconsin can happen in any state throughout this country and in the presidential election.”

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While New Orleans Slept, an Arsonist Sent a Message

From  RH Reality Check:

by Regina Quattrochi, CEO of Bailey House
June 4, 2012

Last Friday morning at 4 AM, when most of New Orleans was sleeping, one or more arsonists torched the offices of Women With A Vision (WWAV), a group run by activist women of color. Deon Haywood, the Executive Director, and the other women of WWAV and their legal team recently won a major victory against Louisiana’s “Crimes Against Nature” law. This law, which was resurrected by the New Orleans police post-Katrina, targets female sex workers and requires those convicted to register as sex offenders (“johns” do not have to register). These women must then pay hundreds of dollars annually to maintain the registration or be jailed. Once registered, women face losing their children, being denied employment, police harassment – the list tragically goes on.

The arsonist(s) knew what he was doing. He targeted rooms where WWAV holds women’s health and HIV-education groups. He stacked up plastic replicas of breasts and vaginas used to teach women how to do self-exams, and ignited them. Silencing women is an age-old art. Often it is done with slurs, fists, rape, and other violence. He just now added fire to the list. With bombings of abortion clinics in the South rising, it is of little surprise that someone or some group felt at liberty to teach WWAV a lesson by burning down their offices. Did he just mean to ignite fear in a community already struggling for healing? Was it punishment for the legal victory in March? Was it because WWAV dares to work with women, including transgender women, to help them obtain what they need to survive – housing, healthcare, support? We may never know exactly, but the overall message is clear.

In the HIV/AIDS community we all know how to turn a message on its head and make it our own. HIV+ women and women at risk have been doing that for almost 30 years as the HIV/AIDS epidemic unfolded around them and then left them behind. Clinical trials have excluded them, new breakthroughs have often eluded them, and neither federal policy nor funding has reflected their needs. Organizations like WWAV, often female-led, have struggled to serve women marginalized by poverty, homelessness, HIV, and gender-based health disparities – but they have been marginalized too. They have operated on a shoestring. They have always been vulnerable. Fire isn’t the only way used to silence them. Funding cuts or no funding at all silences them too.

We join the women of WWAV in fighting for the lives of marginalized women. We support their rebirth. We want them to expand. We ask funders both public and private to make funding for women’s services a priority. By doing this, we send a message loud and clear that that we won’t allow women struggling for their lives to be left behind again.

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The Price of Inequality

From The Project Syndicate:

Jun. 5, 2012

NEW YORK – America likes to think of itself as a land of opportunity, and others view it in much the same light. But, while we can all think of examples of Americans who rose to the top on their own, what really matters are the statistics: to what extent do an individual’s life chances depend on the income and education of his or her parents?

Nowadays, these numbers show that the American dream is a myth. There is less equality of opportunity in the United States today than there is in Europe – or, indeed, in any advanced industrial country for which there are data.

This is one of the reasons that America has the highest level of inequality of any of the advanced countries – and its gap with the rest has been widening. In the “recovery” of 2009-2010, the top 1% of US income earners captured 93% of the income growth. Other inequality indicators – like wealth, health, and life expectancy – are as bad or even worse. The clear trend is one of concentration of income and wealth at the top, the hollowing out of the middle, and increasing poverty at the bottom.

It would be one thing if the high incomes of those at the top were the result of greater contributions to society, but the Great Recession showed otherwise: even bankers who had led the global economy, as well as their own firms, to the brink of ruin, received outsize bonuses.

A closer look at those at the top reveals a disproportionate role for rent-seeking: some have obtained their wealth by exercising monopoly power; others are CEOs who have taken advantage of deficiencies in corporate governance to extract for themselves an excessive share of corporate earnings; and still others have used political connections to benefit from government munificence – either excessively high prices for what the government buys (drugs), or excessively low prices for what the government sells (mineral rights).

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Lone Liberal Rumble — Why do the unemployed make Cantor happy?

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Earth Tipping Point Study In Nature Journal Predicts Disturbing And Unpredictable Changes

From Huffington Post:

By Stephanie Pappas, LiveScience Senior Writer

Earth is rapidly headed toward a catastrophic breakdown if humans don’t get their act together, according to an international group of scientists.

Writing Wednesday (June 6) in the journal Nature, the researchers warn that the world is headed toward a tipping point marked by extinctions and unpredictable changes on a scale not seen since the glaciers retreated 12,000 years ago.

“There is a very high possibility that by the end of the century, the Earth is going to be a very different place,” study researcher Anthony Barnosky told LiveScience. Barnosky, a professor of integrative biology from the University of California, Berkeley, joined a group of 17 other scientists to warn that this new planet might not be a pleasant place to live.

“You can envision these state changes as a fast period of adjustment where we get pushed through the eye of the needle,” Barnosky said. “As we’re going through the eye of the needle, that’s when we see political strife, economic strife, war and famine.” [Top 10 Ways to Destroy Earth]

The danger of tipping

Barnosky and his colleagues reviewed research on climate change, ecology and Earth’s tipping points that break the camel’s back, so to speak. At certain thresholds, putting more pressure on the environment leads to a point of no return, Barnosky said. Suddenly, the planet responds in unpredictable ways, triggering major global transitions.

The most recent example of one of these transitions is the end of the last glacial period. Within not much more than 3,000 years, the Earth went from being 30 percent covered in ice to its present, nearly ice-free condition. Most extinctions and ecological changes (goodbye, woolly mammoths) occurred in just 1,600 years. Earth’s biodiversity still has not recovered to what it was.

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