Riki Wilchins’ Pronouncements Regarding the Lives of Transsexual and Transgender People are no longer Relevant

I am Facebook friends with Riki.  I considered myself part of the Transsexual Menace.  (Two “S” version.)

In the early 1990s her writings were so right on they were depression lifting, energizing and life saving.

Back then I was twenty years plus post-op and beaten down by all the radfem crapola, devastated by having watched so many of my TS/TG girl friends die  from prescription drug over doses after having live brief lives of drug addiction.

I had saved my own life by quitting hard drug use in 1988.  When I quit I had to move away from my friends, quit hanging out with them because of the way they pressured me to continue using.  The lived their lives and died like the Amy Winehouse song “Re-hab”.

My family had disowned me when I had SRS.

So I was pretty much alone and while I had quit drugs I was so empty and yet filled with so much pain I drank myself into a state of constant numbness.

When Riki and Kate came along, but more Riki than Kate I started finding purpose to my life again.

I got a computer and fought with people on Usenet for a few months until the level of viciousness that was on Usenet caused me to leave.

I started volunteering at the Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Community Services Center.

I met Jake Hale and Susan Stryker who made me aware of my place in history.  Shirley Bushnell was the public face, one of the outspoken leaders of the transgender movement in LA.  She asked why I wasn’t willing to take a more pubic role and I said I would rather stand behind her.

In 1997 I was 25 years post-op and still working on becoming sober and I didn’t have much to say to people just transitioning except, don’t get strung out on drugs, don’t work the streets and stop hurting yourself.

By about 2000 Riki and the people involved with the Transsexual Menace had pretty much burned out and GenderPac had announced it was shifting its focus.

In retrospect Riki Wilchins relevance started declining the moment she embraced the trans-misogynistic Judith Butler.

Riki never got the reality that most transsexual and transgender people are not gender transgressive unless you have some really narrow ideas of “proper gender behavior”.  Some TS/TG folks are and that is perfectly okay, indeed I admire those people with the courage to not conform.  But most of us are pretty ordinary women and men who dress and act like our non-TS/TG peers.

We even have the same causes, likes and cultural markers as our non-TS/TG peers.  Often times we have more in common with our non-TS/TG peers than we do with our sisters and brothers of different classes and cultures.

I see TS/TG equality and the rights of TS/TG people to live in dignity with equal access to housing, employment education and quality health care as being the same as any other minority groups rights and issues, especially within the context of being a despised and discriminated against minority.

I don’t particularly want to go through the world as a poster child for TS/TG rights and issues.  It is enough that I am open to other sisters and brothers and to friends within the various progressive activist communities I am a member of.

I honestly don’t care if someone chooses to be more out or less out than I am.  Part of the ethos of the freedom to do your own thing as long as it doesn’t interfer in the ability of other people to do their own thing is the idea that I’m okay and you are also okay.

Before plunging into activism it would be a good thing for people to read Saul Alinsky’s books on activism.

One place to start as an activist is listening to what people want and think rather than telling them what they should want and think.

On December 6, Riki Wilchins had the following post in the Advocate:  Transgender Dinosaurs and the Rise of the Genderqueers

In fact, my political identity for 30 years has been built on the foundation of my being visibly transgender, from the day I donned a Transsexual Menace NYC t-shirt and flew to the Brandon Teena murder trial in Falls City, Nebraska.

Memorial vigils for slain transgender women, picketing HRC, books on gender theory and public fights with radical feminists, and being booted from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival on multiple occasions for not being a “born womyn” have made me who I am—inextricably intertwined with being publicly and very much a visible transsexual.

But what if all that were wiped away? Who would I be? What would I have become? With all the activism and writing that identity forced on me during the birth of transgender liberation, would I even be writing this today?

Unlike society’s unwritten rule, “prove you’re really a woman,” nature’s rule is “female, unless proven otherwise.” In that sense we are all born females in utero. It is only through the action of testosterone in the womb that about half of us develop into those “other females,” or men.

Androgen blockers, which prevent all the painful and irrevocable effects of puberty that I spent several years of my life trying to reverse – chest hair, beard, Adam’s apple, etc. – had made this blond 13-year-old into an entirely non-transgender transsexual. One whose gender, and social identity, will be always and completely female to every adult she knows or meets. With the right surgeon, she might not ever tell her husband or wife. She didn’t cross gender lines or even rub up against them. She fulfilled them fully and completely in a way I could never know.

In my adolescence, it was unthinkable to even mention being transgender to my parents or doctors, let alone seek treatment. And treatment, if it were forthcoming at all, would have inevitably meant a psychiatrist (not to mention probably having my father try to beat me into manhood – a project which, come to think of it, he pretty much started anyway).

With adolescents increasingly taking androgen blockers with the support of a generation of more protective, nurturing parents, public transsexuality is fading out. And I don’t mean only that in a generation or two we may become invisible in the public space. I mean rather that in 10 years, the entire experience we understand today as constituting transgender—along with the political advocacy, support groups, literature, theory and books that have come to define it since transgender burst from its closet in the early 1990s to become part of the LGB-and-now-T movement—all that may be vanishing right in front of us. In 50 years it might be as if we never existed. Our memories, our accomplishments, our political movement, will all seem to only be historic. Feeling transgender will not so much become more acceptable, as gayness is now doing, but logically impossible.

In other words, I may be a gender dinosaur.

Except Riki became a gender dinosaur long ago.

She became irrelevant the moment she embraced Judith Butler and started issuing pronouncements about her vagina that framed her relationship to her body in terms that sounded as though they came from the most transphobic people at the Michigan Women’s Music Festival.

I came into conflict with a lot of people because I never embraced the sort of outness that Riki and others did.

Riki is decrying how some transkids are able to transition without trauma upon entering puberty, with the support of their parents.  She seems almost bothered that these kids will go through life unmarked by birth-sex hormones.

This group is going to be a minority group for a long time.  Too many kids are still being disowned and thrown out of their homes.  Too many are still becoming teenage street walkers and martyrs on the lists that are read every November.

There have always been those of us who never really view either transsexual or transgender as a permanent identity but rather as a temporary one on our way to reintegrating back into the communities we emerged from.  this has always made the idea of a transgender community questionable for many of us.

At the same time that type of shame and oppression that Riki writes of as producing “community” has also caused people to live lives of denial and attempted cures.

How many lives been damaged because TS/TG people have wound up in sham marriages?  They don’t enter those marriages out of malice.  Instead they enter them filled with shame mixed with love and the hope of a magic cure.

I’ve avoided commenting on a recent case which on the surface seems to be about two adults behaving badly and abusing each other in print.  The ugly divorce of  Christine Benevenuto and Joy Ladin has been taken public like a Jerry Springer produced reality show.  Two adults who should be acting civilized given their positions in life getting down and dirty for public consumption.

When we move beyond the civil rights and other political issues there will come a time when TS/TG communities will have to start providing services instead of doing political activism.

Perhaps the idea of gender transgressiveness amuses both Judith Butler and Riki but that sort of behavior destroys people’s lives and is lethal for way too many.  Naturalizing and making TS/TG just another kind of normal may remove a lot of the drama that has characterized the world of drag bars, Imperial Houses and the like, but that way of life was so brutal.  There is so much to be said for our being able to be ordinary people with ordinary lives and real jobs, having our own secure homes and some one we can love and even marry legally that giving up the trauma associated with the historical TS/TG communities is a no brainer.

I had sort of filed this under Riki being Riki, lost in the thrall of Judith Butler.  The flu really wiped me out and I haven’t had the energy to write much of anything.

Then, thanks to Stephanie Stevens  Transgender News Mailing List (Her list functions as a one of my main news feeds regarding TS/TG issues) I was turned on to the following article at the The Nuclear Unicorn:  My Transsexual Menace: A Response to Riki Wilchins

by Quinnae Moongazer
on December 22, 2012

If I were to give a measured reaction to Riki Wilchins now infamous “Transgender Dinosaurs” editorial in The Advocate, it would amount to this: it is yet another example of hierarchal inversion where we assign a moral-political value to genders and then exile the ones we disapprove of. The kind of visibility Wilchins writes about is based on a trendy ethic that suggests if you aren’t visibly out of the mainstream, then you’re The Man, and part of The Problem. This, however, neglects the fact that ‘standing out’ in that way carried unacceptable risks for most trans women, historically. It also ignores, from a moral perspective, that if we attach moral value only to accoutrement—or suggest that the latter is indispensable to moral behaviour—then we are creating an exclusionary, even bankrupt political ethic that is based simply on what is fashionable, not what is politically necessary.

We begin with this quote which, in a way, neatly sums up everything that is wrong with Wilchins’ ideas:

“Never having passed as female as I’d grown older I’d finally given up trying. Besides, it seemed somehow counter-revolutionary…”

A revolution is about a substantive change in material relations of power and ruling; it is about making the world less violent, less oppressive, more equitable and just. It is not about whatever Wilchins is suggesting is revolutionary here, which seems to be little more than “women should dress and look the way I want them to look” and “trans people should express their gender in the way I want them to.” Do I even have to say something to the effect of “As a feminist, I think that’s sickening”?

But Wilchins’ transmisogyny goes beyond that. The entire story, an efficient distillation of radical transphobia, pivots around a woman with no voice, a girl that Wilchins renders a mute doll in order to make her trendsetting point that trans girls and women are now insufficiently transgressive, beginning immediately with the kind of objectification that characterises most mainstream media coverage of those same women.

Please go to  Quinnae Moongazer’s blog and read the rest of her critique:  My Transsexual Menace: A Response to Riki Wilchins

FBI labels Occupiers “domestic terrorists”

Crazy people with M4 assault carbines murdering people = Not domestic Terrorists.

Peaceful non-violent demonstrators protesting corporate abuse of most Americans  = Domestic Terrorists

What the Fuck is Wrong with this picture?

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Six Weeks After Reelection, Obama Sells Out Liberal Democrats

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/25

by Ted Rall
Published on Tuesday, December 25, 2012 by Common Dreams

After the election Kerry Eleveld wrote a piece for The Atlantic titled “Why Barack Obama Will Be a More Effective Liberal in His Second Term.”

“In response to their initial disappointment with the president’s early performance, many progressives speculated that Obama was just waiting for a second term to be more liberal,” he said. That was true. They were.

Eleveld continued: “A more likely explanation is that Obama was still finding his groove, figuring out which levers worked best for him in the context of governing the nation. And in some ways, he was still developing the courage of his convictions.”

That, it turns out, was false. He wasn’t.

You can’t develop convictions that you don’t have in the first place.

It’s hard to remember now, more than six weeks later, but there was once a time (six long weeks ago) when liberal Democrats who naïvely chose to ignore Obama’s consistently conservative first term, his consistently conservative career in the Senate, and his consistently conservative pre-politics career as a University of Chicago law professor, seriously believed that his reelection would lead to a progressive second term.

“It’s time for President Obama to assume the Roosevelt-inspired mantle of muscular liberalism,” Anthony Woods wrote in The Daily Beast. “This is his moment. He only has to take it.”

It’s his moment, all right. And he’s taking it. But when it comes to Obama, liberals are once again guilty of some major wishful thinking. Obama’s economic policies are closer to Herbert Hoover than Franklin Roosevelt.

With re-election safely behind him, we hope Obama will be bolder in his second term,” Peter Dreier and Donald Cohen wrote in The Nation.

Again with the Hope!
Change, not so much.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/12/25

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The coming drone attack on America

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/21/coming-drone-attack-america

Drones on domestic surveillance duties are already deployed by police and corporations. In time, they will likely be weaponised

guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 December 2012

People often ask me, in terms of my argument about “ten steps” that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization – which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year – it means that the police state is now officially here.

In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, “a huge push by […] the defense sector” to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won’t necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs.

Others will be as big as passenger planes. Business-friendly media stress their planned abundant use by corporations: police in Seattle have already deployed them.

An unclassified US air force document reported by CBS (pdf) news expands on this unprecedented and unconstitutional step – one that formally brings the military into the role of controlling domestic populations on US soil, which is the bright line that separates a democracy from a military oligarchy. (The US constitution allows for the deployment of National Guard units by governors, who are answerable to the people; but this system is intended, as is posse comitatus, to prevent the military from taking action aimed at US citizens domestically.)

The air force document explains that the air force will be overseeing the deployment of its own military surveillance drones within the borders of the US; that it may keep video and other data it collects with these drones for 90 days without a warrant – and will then, retroactively, determine if the material can be retained – which does away for good with the fourth amendment in these cases. While the drones are not supposed to specifically “conduct non-consensual surveillance on on specifically identified US persons”, according to the document, the wording allows for domestic military surveillance of non-“specifically identified” people (that is, a group of activists or protesters) and it comes with the important caveat, also seemingly wholly unconstitutional, that it may not target individuals “unless expressly approved by the secretary of Defense”.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/21/coming-drone-attack-america

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Real and Virtual Firearms Nurture a Marketing Link

From The New York Times:   http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/business/real-and-virtual-firearms-nurture-marketing-link.html

By and
Published: December 24, 2012

As Electronic Arts prepared to market Medal of Honor Warfighter, the latest version of its top-selling video game released in October, it created a Web site that promoted the manufacturers of the guns, knives and combat-style gear depicted in the game.

Among the video game giant’s marketing partners on the Web site were the McMillan Group, the maker of a high-powered sniper’s rifle, and Magpul, which sells high-capacity magazines and other accessories for assault-style weapons.

Links on the Medal of Honor site allowed visitors to click through on the Web sites of the game’s partners and peruse their catalogs.

“It was almost like a virtual showroom for guns,” said Ryan Smith, who contributes to the Gameological Society, an online gaming magazine. After Mr. Smith and other gaming enthusiasts criticized the site, Electronic Arts disabled the links, saying it had been unaware of them.

The video game industry was drawn into the national debate about gun violence last week when the National Rifle Association accused producers of violent games and movies of helping to incite the type of mass shooting that recently left 20 children and six adults dead at a school in Newtown, Conn.

While studies have found no connection between video games and gun violence, the case of Medal of Honor Warfighter illustrates how the firearms and video game industries have quietly forged a mutually beneficial marketing relationship.

Many of the same producers of firearms and related equipment are also financial backers of the N.R.A. McMillan, for example, is a corporate donor to the group, and Magpul recently joined forces with it in a product giveaway featured on Facebook. The gun group also lists Glock, Browning and Remington as corporate sponsors.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/25/business/real-and-virtual-firearms-nurture-marketing-link.html

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U.N. To Reconsider Arms Trade Treaty Blocked By NRA Conspiracy Theories

From Think Progress:   http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/25/1376111/un-will-re-attempt-arms-trade-treaty-after-blocked-by-nra-conspiracy-theories/

By Aviva Shen
on Dec 25, 2012

The United Nations voted late Christmas Eve to once again take up a global arms trade treaty in March. The treaty would regulate global weapons exports and have no effect on domestic gun laws. Still, the US failed to ratify it in July, mainly due to conspiracy theories advanced by conservatives, former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, and the National Rifle Association that suggested the U.N. would revoke American gun rights.

Member states will try to negotiate an agreement at a conference from March 18-28. But American resistance to the treaty has little basis in fact. NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre claimed in July that the U.N. was infringing on Americans’ right to bear arms and refused to support any treaty involving civilian gun ownership.

Far from touching Second Amendment rights, the treaty seeks to control the $60 billion illicit weapons trade that has helped along some of the worst human rights violations in history, and continues to kill hundreds of thousands of people every year. The Associated Press explains:

Many countries, including the United States, control arms exports but there has never been an international treaty regulating the estimated $60 billion global arms trade. For more than a decade, activists and some governments have been pushing for international rules to try to keep illicit weapons out of the hands of terrorists, insurgent fighters and organized crime.

The treaty also specifically acknowledges that domestic constitutional protections for arms owners would be unchanged.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/25/1376111/un-will-re-attempt-arms-trade-treaty-after-blocked-by-nra-conspiracy-theories/

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Glenn Hubbard, Leading Academic and Mitt Romney Advisor, Took $1200 an Hour to Be Countrywide’s Expert Witness

From Rolling Stone:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/glenn-hubbard-leading-academic-and-mitt-romney-advisor-took-1200-an-hour-to-be-countrywides-expert-witness-20121220

Matt Taibbi
December 20, 2012

Karma is a bitch. Just ask Glenn Hubbard.

A few months ago, the Dean of Columbia’s business school was a leading economic advisor to Mitt Romney and a rumored (perhaps even consensus) candidate for the Treasury Secretary job.

Now Romney’s out of the presidential picture and Hubbard – well, he’s just yet another grasping jobholder who’s been exposed as a paid mouthpiece in a court proceeding.

Anyone who’s seen the movie Inside Job will recall the stupendously angering scene in which Hubbard pissily snaps at his interviewer for asking about his outside relationships with the financial services industry.

In the movie, renowned filmmaker Charles Ferguson pointed out that, among other things, Hubbard had co-authored a paper with former Goldman chief economist William Dudley in which he praised credit derivatives as having improved the “allocation of risk” and helped produce “enhanced stability.” It was fair to ask how much Goldman’s “Global Markets Institute” had to pay one of the Ivy League’s leading minds to endorse the giant daisy chains of credit default swaps and collateralized debt obligations that led to the crisis – it was quite a coup, after all, like getting the Dean of Harvard Medical School to pose in public smoking a pack of Kools.

Anyway, when asked if he did consulting work for big banks, Hubbard refused to answer. And when asked if he just didn’t remember who was writing checks to him when he wasn’t overseeing the education of American youth, he fumed.

“This isn’t a deposition, sir,” he hissed. “I was polite enough to give you time, foolishly I now see. Give it your best shot.”

Again, there’s just nothing like karma. If your answer to a perfectly sensible question is going to be, “Screw you, this isn’t a deposition,” exactly how long do you think it’ll be before you end up actually getting deposed? And forced to answer, under oath, just how much your opinions cost?

Continue reading at:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/glenn-hubbard-leading-academic-and-mitt-romney-advisor-took-1200-an-hour-to-be-countrywides-expert-witness-20121220

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Paul Krugman: Deficit Hawks Are ‘Remarkably Foolish’

From Huffington Post:   http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/25/paul-krugman-deficit-hawks_n_2362551.html


Paul Krugman is doubling down in his battle with deficit hawks.

The Nobel Prize-winning economist struck back at those who doubted his rationale for not being concerned about the budget deficit in a blog post Monday afternoon. Krugman described in a column in The New York Times that morning how The Wall Street Journal, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and others predicted that fears over rising U.S. government debt would spook investors. In reality, he noted, interest rates on U.S. government debt are at historic lows, indicating that investors aren’t worried about America’s ability to pay off its debt.

Still, Krugman wrote in his blog post that he received “remarkably foolish” feedback on his column as deficit hawks continued to doubt that low interest rates prove investors aren’t concerned about America’s debt.

“The persistence of the inflationista, eek! deficits! view despite year after year of failure — and the amazing effort put into making excuses for year after year of failure — are a wonder to behold,” Krugman wrote in the blog post.

Deficit reduction has become a major point of contention as Congress and President Obama scramble to reach a budget deal before the end of the year to avoid the “fiscal cliff” of tax increases and spending cuts, which some economists say could plunge the economy into recession. Republicans have insisted on a deal that includes major spending cuts and minimal tax increases on the rich to reduce the deficit, while Obama is seeking to raise taxes on Americans making more than $250,000 to narrow the budget gap.

Complete article at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/25/paul-krugman-deficit-hawks_n_2362551.html

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Occupy Wall Street Forgives $100,000 of Medical Debt (and Counting!)

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/13508-occupy-wall-street-forgives-100000-of-medical-debt-and-counting

By Beth Buczynski, Care2
Monday, 24 December 2012

Last month, Care2 reported on an exciting new project coming out of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Called “The Rolling Jubilee,” this effort claimed that it would use the power of crowdfunding to buy and pay off the 99%’s debt for pennies on the dollar.

“If you’re a debt broker, once you own someone’s debt you can do whatever you want with it — traditionally, you hound debtors to their grave trying to collect,” wrote blogger and OWS organizer David Rees. “We’re playing a different game. A MORE AWESOME GAME.”

More awesome indeed! The campaign to raise funds for the Rolling Jubilee kicked off with a telethon and variety show at Le Poisson Rouge in New York City on November 15th. Although the plans made headlines around the world leading up to the event, there have been no updates, until now.

Just in time for the holidays, members of Strike Debt and The Rolling Jubilee recently announced that the campaign raised nearly half a million dollars — enough to buy and forgive nearly $10 million of debt. And just this week, the activists gathered to send out notifications to the unsuspecting recipients of this first round of debt forgiveness.

Most of the collected money will be used to purchase a big hunk of distressed medical debt next month, reports the Village Voice. But as a sort of proof-of-concept, Strike Debt has already spent $5,000 to buy $100,000 of distressed medical debt owed by 44 people in upstate New York. In order to avoid getting tossed out with the junk usually found in mailboxes, the forgiveness letters were packaged in a small box wrapped in festive paper. Here’s what they say:

“Seasons Greetings from Strike Debt!”

“We write with good news: the above referenced account has been purchased by the Rolling Jubilee Fund, a 501(c)(4) non-profit organization. The Rolling Jubilee Fund is a project of Strike Debt. The mission of this project is to buy and abolish personal debt. We believe that no one should have to go into debt for the basic things in our lives, like healthcare, housing, and education. You no longer owe the balance of this debt. It is gone, a gift with no strings attached. You are no longer any obligation to settle this account with the original creditor, the bill collector, or anyone else.”

Can you imagine what it would be like to open that letter? Better yet, can you imagine the profound impact it makes to realize that this wasn’t the work of a national charity or wealthy benefactor, but the result of thousands of people just like you coming together to support and lift each other up?

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/13508-occupy-wall-street-forgives-100000-of-medical-debt-and-counting

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Obama Gets Four More Years to Bash Hugo Chavez and the Latin American Left

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/world/obama-gets-four-more-years-bash-hugo-chavez-and-latin-american-left

President Obama’s crass comments about newly-elected Chavez only serve to further alienate himself from Latin America.

By Mark Weisbrot 
December 18, 2012

President Obama went too far in throwing gratuitous insults at President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela on Friday,  in an interview in Miami. By doing so, he not only offended the majority of Venezuelans, who voted to re-elect their president on October 7, but even many who did not. Chavez is fighting for his life, recovering from a difficult cancer operation; in Latin America, as in most of the world, this wholly unnecessary vilification of Chavez by Obama is a breach not only of diplomatic protocol but also of ordinary standards of civility.

Perhaps even more importantly, Obama’s ill-timed aspersions sent an unpleasant message to the rest of the region. While Obama can get away with anything in the major media outlets, you can be sure that his remarks were noticed by the presidents and foreign ministries of Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Bolivia, and others. The message was clear: Expect four more years of the same failed,  Cold War policies toward Latin America that President George W Bush championed and  Obama continued in his first term.

These presidents see Chavez as a close friend and ally, someone who has helped them and the region; like millions of Venezuelans they are praying for his recovery. They also see Washington as responsible for the bad relations between the US and Venezuela (as well as the hemisphere generally), and these unfortunate remarks are additional confirmation.  At the 2012 Summit of the Americas, Obama found himself as  isolated as George W Bush was at the notorious 2005 summit. It was a sea change from the 2009 Summit, where everyone – including Chavez –  greeted Obama warmly and saw in him the potential for a new era of US-Latin American relations.

To these governments, Obama’s broadsides about Chavez’s “authoritarian policies” and “suppression of dissent” have a bad smell, even ignoring the offensive timing. Venezuela just had an election in which the opposition, which has most of the income and wealth of the country, as well as most of the media, mobilised millions of voters. The turnout was 81 percent of registered voters, with about 97 percent of the voting-age population registered. The government did not “suppress dissent”, nor has it done so in other elections; or even when the dissenters shut down the oil industry and crippled the economy in 2002-2003 – actions which would have been illegal and blocked by the force of the state in the United States. Peaceful protesters in Venezuela are far less likely to get beaten or tear-gassed or shot with rubber bullets by security forces than  they are in Spain, and probably most other democracies.

Yes, there have been abuses of authority in Venezuela, as in all of the hemisphere – as President Obama should know. It was Obama who  defended the imprisonment without trial for more than two-and-a-half years, and  abuse in custody, of Bradley Manning, which was  condemned by the United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Torture. It is Obama who has refused to grant freedom to  Native American activist Leonard Peltier, widely seen throughout the world as a political prisoner, now in a US prison for 37 years. It is Obama who claims the right, and has used it,  to kill American citizens without arrest or trial.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/world/obama-gets-four-more-years-bash-hugo-chavez-and-latin-american-left

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RT Recall 2012: Austerity & Anger in EU

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One Nation Under God?

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/opinion/sunday/american-christianity-and-secularism-at-a-crossroads.html

Published: December 22, 2012

THIS week millions of “Chreasters” — Americans who attend church only on Christmas and Easter — will crowd into pews to sing carols and renew their vague relationship with the Christian God. This year, there may be fewer Chreasters than ever. A growing number of “nones” live in our midst: those who say they have no religious affiliation at all. An October Pew Research Center poll revealed that they now account for 20 percent of the population, up from 16 percent in 2008.

Avoiding church does not excuse Americans from marking the birth of Jesus, however. Most of us have no choice but to stay home from work or school — and if you complain about this glaring exception to the separation between church and state, you must be a scrooge with no heart for tradition. Christmas has been a federal holiday for 142 years.

Yet Christianity’s preferential place in our culture and civil law came under fire this year, and not simply because more Americans reject institutional religion. The Obama administration subtly worked to expand the scope of protected civil rights to include access to legal marriage and birth control. Catholic bishops and evangelical activists declared that Washington was running roughshod over religious liberty and abandoning the country’s founding values, while their opponents accused them of imposing one set of religious prejudices on an increasingly pluralistic population. The Christian consensus that long governed our public square is disintegrating. American secularism is at a crossroads.

The narrative on the right is this: Once upon a time, Americans honored the Lord, and he commissioned their nation to welcome all faiths while commanding them to uphold Christian values. But in recent decades, the Supreme Court ruled against prayer in public schools, and legalized abortion, while politicians declared “war on Christmas” and kowtowed to the “homosexual lobby.” Conservative activists insist that they protest these developments not to defend special privileges for Christianity, but to respect the founders’ desire for universal religious liberty — rooted, they say, in the Christian tradition.

The controversial activist David Barton has devoted his career to popularizing this “forgotten history” through lectures, books and home-school curriculums. Mr. Barton insists that “biblical Christianity in America produced many of the cherished traditions still enjoyed today,” including “protection for religious toleration and the rights of conscience.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/23/opinion/sunday/american-christianity-and-secularism-at-a-crossroads.html

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