Pentagon still banning personnel from accessing LGBT websites

From Gay Star News:

US personnel are still banned from accessing LGBT content from US Department of Defence computers well over a year after the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

By Andrew Potts
05 January 2013

The US Department of Defense is still banning personnel from accessing LGBT websites despite the US having ended its ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military

AMERICAblog discovered that it and an another popular LGBT themed blog, Towleroad could not be accessed from Department of Defense computers.

Towleroad was banned under the webfilter category ‘Blogs/Personal Pages; LGBT’ while AMERICAblog was unaccessible from US Air Force computers for being ‘political’ and ‘activist.’

AMERICAblog asked the OutServe-SLDN association for active duty LGBT military personnel to confirm the continued banning of access to LGBT themed websites and were shocked to find that even, a website discussing LGBT military issues operated by one of OutServe’s own co-directors was banned under the LGBT filter.

However despite some LGBT websites being banned for being ‘political,’ blogs and websites for conservative commentators including talk radio host Rush Limbaugh’s and author Ann Coulter were not banned by the Defense Department. Neither were anti-LGBT lobby groups such as the American Family Association.

‘What’s really offensive is that at least one of the Pentagon’s safe-surfing Internet filters has a censorship category called “LGBT” and if you’re deemed “LGBT” by the Pentagon, they ban you,’ AMERICAblog editor John Aravosis wrote after uncovering the story.

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Gerda Lerner, a Feminist and Historian, Dies at 92

From The New York Times:

Published: January 3, 2013

Gerda Lerner, a scholar and author who helped make the study of women and their lives a legitimate subject for historians and spearheaded the creation of the first graduate program in women’s history in the United States, died on Wednesday in Madison, Wis. She was 92.

Her death was confirmed by Steve J. Stern, a history professor and friend at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where Dr. Lerner had taught for many years.

In the mid-1960s, armed with a doctorate in history from Columbia University and a dissertation on two abolitionist sisters from South Carolina, Dr. Lerner entered an academic world in which women’s history scarcely existed. The number of historians interested in the subject, she told The New York Times in 1973, “could have fit into a telephone booth.”

“In my courses, the teachers told me about a world in which ostensibly one-half the human race is doing everything significant and the other half doesn’t exist,” Dr. Lerner told The Chicago Tribune in 1993. “I asked myself how this checked against my own life experience. ‘This is garbage; this is not the world in which I have lived,’ I said.”

That picture changed rapidly, in large part because of her efforts while teaching at Sarah Lawrence College in the early 1970s. In creating a graduate program there, Dr. Lerner set about trying to establish women’s history as a respected academic discipline and to raising the status of women in the historical profession. She also began gathering and publishing the primary source material — diaries, letters, speeches and so on — that would allow historians to reconstruct the lives of women.

“She made it happen,” said Alice Kessler-Harris, a history professor at Columbia. “She established women’s history as not just a valid but a central area of scholarship. If you look at any library today, you will see hundreds of books on the subject.”

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The Violence Against Women Act is down, but not out

From The Maddow Blog:

By Steve Benen
Fri Jan 4, 2013
As we reported on Wednesday, Congress had until New Year’s Eve to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, which has traditionally enjoyed bipartisan support, but House Republicans let the law expire.

With the passing of the deadline, we’re now getting a better sense of why efforts to renew the law failed. The Huffington Post reported, for example, that House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), who had negotiated directly with Vice President Biden on the law’s fate, refused to allow VAWA to advance in his chamber because he wanted to scrap protections for Native American women. The bipartisan Senate version extended tribal courts limited jurisdiction to oversee domestic violence offenses committed against Native American women by non-Native American men on tribal lands, and the House Republican leader deemed that unacceptable.

Sahil Kapur explained, reauthorization “fell prey to House Republican resistance — in this case, to expanding the Act to cover more women. In the end, House GOP leaders refused bring to a vote a bill that passed the Senate with a bipartisan supermajority.”

But VAWA proponents aren’t done. My colleague Jamil Smith reported yesterday that Cantor’s office is still willing to “move the bill forward,” though it’s unclear what it will take to make that happen, and the National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women will continue to push for the law’s return.

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Violence Against Women—Unfinished Business

From The Women’s Media Center:

By Mary Ann Swissler
January 4, 2013

The new Congress will have to undo the damage caused by GOP House members who blocked reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act—legislation that until now had earned broad bipartisan support.

Four women die each day because of domestic violence. Yet the legislation designed to prevent domestic violence and sexual assault and treat survivors expired after House Republicans blocked it. They objected to the Senate’s proposed expansion of Native American jurisdiction on reservations for domestic violence and sexual assault prosecution by tribal courts. The Senate 2012 reauthorization also expanded programs for immigrant and LGBT victims, provisions that actually met little opposition, according to a Senate staffer.

With Congress’s January 2 adjournment, the laborious process will begin all over again in the current legislative session that opened January 3.

The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), originally passed in 1994, was authored by Joe Biden, then a senator from Delaware. The vice-president recently traveled to the Hill to advocate for renewal  of the act, which enjoyed automatic bipartisan support when it came up for reauthorization in 2000 and 2005.

VAWA is credited with reducing annual rates of domestic violence by more than 60 percent. Still, 24 people per minute report experiencing intimate partner violence in the United States. That’s one in four women and one in seven men.

The Senate passed its version last April and was widely hailed for expanding services to Native American, immigrant and LGBT women. In response, the House passed a bill lacking these provisions, legislation that the American Bar Association opposed as “a retreat in the battle against domestic and sexual violence.”

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Purity Culture Is Rape Culture

From The American Prospect:

The shocking assault in India reveals that rape isn’t about sex—it’s about controlling women’s lives.

E.J. Graff
January 4, 2013

Her intestines were removed because the six men used a rusty metal rod during the “rape.”

That fact—the rusty metal rod—is what’s haunted me about the violent incident that has outraged India and the world. Six men held a 23-year-old woman and her male friend in a private bus for hours while they assaulted her so brutally that, after several surgeries to repair her insides, she died. What happened to this young woman was a gang assault. It can be called a sexual assault because among other things, they brutalized her vagina. Or it can be called a sexual assault because it was driven by rage at the female sex.

Since Susan Brownmiller first wrote Against Our Willthe landmark feminist reconceptualization of rapefeminists have worked on clarifying the fact that rape is less about sex than it is about rage and power. Too many people still conceive of rape as a man’s overwhelming urge to enjoy the body of a woman who has provoked him by being attractive and within reach. As is true in many “traditional” cultures, much of India still imagines that the violation was one against her chastity, as Aswini Anburajan writes at Buzzfeed. But conceiving it as primarily a sexual violation places the burden on women to protect their bodies’ purity. It means that the question that gets asked is this one: Why was she out so late at night, provoking men into rage by being openly female?

But seen from a woman’s own point of view, rape is quite different: It’s punishment for daring to exist as an independent being, for one’s own purposes, not for others’ use. Sexual assault is a form of brutalization based, quite simply, on the idea that women have no place in the world except the place that a man assigns them—and that men should be free to patrol women’s lives, threatening them if they dare step into view. It is fully in keeping with bride-burnings, acid attacks, street harassment, and sex-selective abortions that delete women before they are born.

I’ve now read a number of commentaries exposing India’s, particularly New Delhi’s, culture of street violence against women. The most memorable, by Sonia Faleiro in The New York Times, talks about the fear that was instilled in her during her 24 years living in Delhi:

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Rep. Dennis Kucinich…Congress Hearts Austerity

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Battles of the Budget

From The New York Times:

Published: January 3, 2013

The centrist fantasy of a Grand Bargain on the budget never had a chance. Even if some kind of bargain had supposedly been reached, key players would soon have reneged on the deal — probably the next time a Republican occupied the White House.

For the reality is that our two major political parties are engaged in a fierce struggle over the future shape of American society. Democrats want to preserve the legacy of the New Deal and the Great Society — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — and add to them what every other advanced country has: a more or less universal guarantee of essential health care. Republicans want to roll all of that back, making room for drastically lower taxes on the wealthy. Yes, it’s essentially a class war.

The fight over the fiscal cliff was just one battle in that war. It ended, arguably, in a tactical victory for Democrats. The question is whether it was a Pyrrhic victory that set the stage for a larger defeat.

Why do I say that it was a tactical victory? Mainly because of what didn’t happen: There were no benefit cuts.

This was by no means a foregone conclusion. In 2011, the Obama administration was reportedly willing to raise the age of Medicare eligibility, a terrible and cruel policy idea. This time around, it was willing to cut Social Security benefits by changing the formula for cost-of-living adjustments, a less terrible idea that would nonetheless have imposed a lot of hardship — and probably have been politically disastrous as well. In the end, however, it didn’t happen. And progressives, always worried that President Obama seems much too willing to compromise about fundamentals, breathed a sigh of relief.

There were also some actual positives from a progressive point of view. Expanded unemployment benefits were given another year to run, a huge benefit to many families and a significant boost to our economic prospects (because this is money that will be spent, and hence help preserve jobs). Other benefits to lower-income families were given another five years — although, unfortunately, the payroll tax break was allowed to expire, which will hurt both working families and job creation.

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