Let’s Come Out and Surprise People With the Ordinariness of Being Gay

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-layla-mccay/lets-come-out-and-surprise-people-with-the-ordinariness-of-being-gay_b_2528033.html


If I were Rory Albanese’s sister (or his sister’s girlfriend), I’d have been furious. On Saturday night I went to see Albanese and his Daily Show co-stalwart Adam Lowitt at their inauguration-themed comedy show at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Washington, D.C., but amid the political wit, not one but both of them used their professed support of equal marriage as a springboard to make jokes about how lesbians are ugly. Lowitt was first up, saying that while lesbians sound hot in theory, when you meet them in real life they’re ugly and look like men; Albanese followed up this gem by telling us his that sister is gay and that his sister’s girlfriend has the same name as his own girlfriend — but that there’s no way he could mix them up, because his sister’s girlfriend looks like a man.

The audience, being encouraged (twice) to laugh at the alleged “ugliness” of lesbians, mainly did so uncomfortably, and I sat amongst them feeling offended — and wondering whether it was appropriate for me to feel offended. Was I being overly touchy? Politically correct? Is being gay such a non-issue now that it’s ripe for this sort of treatment by Emmy-winning comedians? I don’t think so. Last week’s awkward coming out by Jodie Foster underlines that — even as she received a lifetime achievement award at the Golden Globes, she struggled to deliver the simple and prosaic information that she is attracted to women, and the Internet has bombarded us with editorials and blogs analyzing her words ever since. Actual or perceived sexual identity remains prime bullying and discrimination material. This isn’t the face of a non-issue. Coming out, or being identified as gay, is still far from business as usual.

Furthermore, generalized, derogatory comments about lesbians’ looks are clearly not OK. Last year Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll told reporters that she couldn’t possibly have engaged in homosexual acts because she didn’t look like a lesbian. This ridiculous statement spawned a huge furor and a social media campaign, “This Is What a Lesbian Looks Like,” that saw lesbians posting photos of themselves to demonstrate that, just like anyone else, lesbians come in all shapes, sizes and styles. People were upset because she was pigeonholing a huge group of people and essentially fanning prejudice and stigmatizing lesbians for being different. And that’s what these two men did in their comedy show: They tried to indoctrinate their audiences, through the use of humor, in the idea that lesbians are ugly. And just as it wasn’t OK for Carroll to promote and seek society’s complicity in this sort of judgmental prejudice, it isn’t OK for them.

Perhaps if the comedians and audience had been lesbians poking fun at themselves, I might have felt differently, but these jokes were overtly “laughing at” rather than “laughing with.” And for me, that just feels inappropriate, and not just inappropriate but crass, pathetic, insulting, and damaging to everyone.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dr-layla-mccay/lets-come-out-and-surprise-people-with-the-ordinariness-of-being-gay_b_2528033.html

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Romney advisor: Republicans ‘largely lost’ the culture wars on marriage equality

From Raw Story:   http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/28/romney-advisor-republicans-largely-lost-the-culture-wars-on-marriage-equality/

By Arturo Garcia
Monday, January 28, 2013

The former Iowa advisor for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign said the Republican party should heed the demographic shift on issues like marriage equality.

“Frankly, the culture wars are kind of over,” Dave Kochel told WHO-TV on Sunday. “And Republicans largely lost.”

Kochel, a longtime GOP strategist in the state, said his stance was informed by his children, one of whom is a high school senior and one a college student.

“When they talk to me about what they care about and what their counterparts in school are talking about, it’s not gay marriage and it’s not abortion and birth control,” he said. “Those are largely settled issues for young voters. And so, I think we’ve got to move past it.”

Romney’s own stance on the issue shifted slightly during his campaign. As The Advocate reported in October 2012, a campaign spokesperson said that while the former Massachusetts governor pledged in writing to support the Defense of Marriage Act and a constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman, he did believe that states had the right to define their own rules regarding same-sex partners’ access to adoption and hospital visitation rights.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/28/romney-advisor-republicans-largely-lost-the-culture-wars-on-marriage-equality/

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Angela Davis Celebrates Sixty-Ninth Birthday

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/26/angela-davis-birthday_n_2557842.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Posted: 01/26/2013

On this day, 69 years ago, the activist, scholar, and revolutionary Angela Davis was born in Birmingham, Alabama.

Davis has spent much of her life fighting for and defending forgotten or marginalized groups in America and abroad. Known for her political activism during the turbulent 1960’s, she became a household name when on August 18, 1970 J. Edgar Hoover made her the third woman ever placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List.

After a nationwide manhunt, Davis was arrested on October 13, 1970 for her alleged connection to the kidnappings and murders that occurred during Jonathan Jackson’s attempt to free the imprisoned Soledad Brothers. Davis had purchased the guns used by Jackson. Upon her arrest, then President Richard M. Nixon congratulated the FBI for capturing Davis, describing her as a “dangerous terrorist.”

Her subsequent trial was covered widely across the world. Stars such as John Lennon and Yoko Ono (with their song Angela) and The Rolling Stones (with their song Sweet Black Angel) showed their support for Davis. On June 4, 1972, after 13 hours of deliberation, an all-white jury acquitted Davis of murder, kidnapping and conspiracy charges. Davis was 28-years-old at the time.

Complete article at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/26/angela-davis-birthday_n_2557842.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

Pension Panic Fueled by Anti-Worker Politics?

From In These Times:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/14479/pension_panic_fueled_by_anti_worker_politics/

By Michelle Chen
Thursday Jan 24, 2013

It’s a common refrain in local papers: State faces pension funding crisis! Retiree benefits out of control! Public pensions bog down taxpayers! Pension costs seem to loom over so many state and local budget battles like a sinister sword of Damocles, a dark reminder of Big Government’s tyrannical profligacy.

Should we panic? Well, according to a new report by the Pew Center on the States, 61 cities face a collective fiscal retirement burden of more than $210 billion, in part because consistent underfunding of benefits leaves yawning gaps in long-term cost projections. The report surveyed all U.S. cities with populations over 500,000, along with the most populous city in each state. Some cities are doing better than others in maintaining funds, but gaps persist, according to Pew’s estimates for fiscal years 2007-2010, especially in municipalities where local governments have lacked the “fiscal discipline” to keep up pension fund contributions — a situation exacerbated by the Great Recession.

But different political actors have different motives for expressing alarm over pension gaps. In some cases, dubiously calculated figures have inflated public concern.

Sometimes, politicians frame cost-cutting proposals as if “generous” benefits themselves are the problem, as opposed to officials failing to uphold the commitments they’ve made to civil servants.

In New Jersey, brazenly conservative Governor Chris Christie has pushed through short-term austerity measures that ostensibly shore up pensions by shifting costs onto beneficiaries, increasing employee contributions and freezing vital cost-of-living adjustments. But the long-term liabilities remained unresolved. Shortly after Christie trumpeted his pension fix, the New Jersey Star Ledger noted that liabilities would spike again after the stopgap measures petered out, warning, “because the state won’t be making full pension payments, the gap will swell again to $58 billion by 2019, according to the state’s estimates.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.inthesetimes.com/working/entry/14479/pension_panic_fueled_by_anti_worker_politics/

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Rumble – We will fight to the death for the 2nd amendment but not the 1st?

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Makers, Takers, Fakers

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/opinion/krugman-makers-takers-fakers-.html?ref=global

Published: January 27, 2013

Republicans have a problem. For years they could shout down any attempt to point out the extent to which their policies favored the elite over the poor and the middle class; all they had to do was yell “Class warfare!” and Democrats scurried away. In the 2012 election, however, that didn’t work: the picture of the G.O.P. as the party of sneering plutocrats stuck, even as Democrats became more openly populist than they have been in decades.

As a result, prominent Republicans have begun acknowledging that their party needs to improve its image. But here’s the thing: Their proposals for a makeover all involve changing the sales pitch rather than the product. When it comes to substance, the G.O.P. is more committed than ever to policies that take from most Americans and give to a wealthy handful.

Consider, as a case in point, how a widely reported recent speech by Bobby Jindal the governor of Louisiana, compares with his actual policies.

Mr. Jindal posed the problem in a way that would, I believe, have been unthinkable for a leading Republican even a year ago. “We must not,” he declared, “be the party that simply protects the well off so they can keep their toys. We have to be the party that shows all Americans how they can thrive.” After a campaign in which Mitt Romney denounced any attempt to talk about class divisions as an “attack on success,” this represents a major rhetorical shift.

But Mr. Jindal didn’t offer any suggestions about how Republicans might demonstrate that they aren’t just about letting the rich keep their toys, other than claiming even more loudly that their policies are good for everyone.

Meanwhile, back in Louisiana Mr. Jindal is pushing a plan to eliminate the state’s income tax, which falls most heavily on the affluent, and make up for the lost revenue by raising sales taxes, which fall much more heavily on the poor and the middle class. The result would be big gains for the top 1 percent, substantial losses for the bottom 60 percent. Similar plans are being pushed by a number of other Republican governors as well.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/28/opinion/krugman-makers-takers-fakers-.html?ref=global

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To End Extreme Poverty, End Extreme Wealth

By Inequality.org:  http://inequality.org/extreme-poverty-extreme-wealth/

The world’s wealthy gathered in the Swiss Alps once again last week to discuss how to ‘solve’ the world’s toughest problems. The world’s biggest problem, suggests one top global anti-poverty outfit, may be their fortunes.

By Sam Pizzigati
January 27, 2013

Apologists for inequality have a standard retort to anyone who calls for a more equal distribution of the world’s treasure. If you took all the wealth of the wealthy and divvied it up equally among all the poor, the retort goes, no one would gain nearly enough to accomplish much of anything.

Oxfam International, one of the world’s premiere anti-poverty charitable organizations, would beg to differ. The world’s top 100 billionaires now hold so much wealth, says a new Oxfam report, that just the increase in their net worth last year would be “enough to make extreme poverty history four times over.”

“Oxfam’s mission is to work with others to end poverty,” Oxfam analyst Emma Seery noted last week. “But in a world with limited resources, this is no longer possible without an end to extreme wealth.”

Oxfam timed its new analysis, The cost of inequality: how wealth and income extremes hurt us all, to appear right on the eve of last week’s World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. This earnest “issues” confab annually brings together a glittering array of global business and political leaders.

The world’s corporate and financial elites began this January trek into the Alps back in 1971. But the Davos sessions really didn’t start grabbing big-time global media attention until the go-go 1990s.

“Throughout the boom years,” as a UK Guardian profile last week noted, “chief executives would gather every winter high up in the Swiss Alps to discuss in a lordly fashion the world economy and how it could be revised to suit their objectives and views.”

But in these days of deep global economic uncertainty, the power suits that frequent Davos have lost their mojo — and even feel pressured to address the global economic inequality they’ve so long tried to sweep under the rug.

Continue reading at:  http://inequality.org/extreme-poverty-extreme-wealth/

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Europe Authorizes “Robin Hood Tax” on Financial Transactions

From Yes Magazine:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/europe-authorizes-robin-hood-tax-financial-transactions-ftt

Support for the tax on stocks, bonds, and derivatives was so strong among EU finance ministers that it wasn’t even necessary to take a formal vote.
posted Jan 25, 2013

EU finance ministers were scheduled to vote January 22 on whether to authorize 11 member states to proceed with the introduction of a financial transaction tax (FTT). As it turned out, the ministers didn’t even have to take a formal vote because it was obvious that there was sufficient support to move ahead.

The 11 countries are Belgium, Germany, Estonia, Greece, Spain, France, Italy, Austria, Portugal, Slovenia and Slovakia. It will be possible for other governments to opt in at a later date. And in fact, the Netherlands has expressed interest, but they want to negotiate an exemption for their pension funds.

The aim of this proposal is “for the financial industry to make a fair contribution to tax revenues, whilst also creating a disincentive for transactions that do not enhance the efficiency of financial markets.”

Next steps

The next step is for the European Commission to make a proposal for the tax. The proposal will be based on one introduced by the Commission in September 2011 that would apply a 0.1 percent tax rate on trades of stocks and bonds, and a 0.01 percent rate for derivatives trades. As described in the European Council statement released today, the aim of this proposal is “for the financial industry to make a fair contribution to tax revenues, whilst also creating a disincentive for transactions that do not enhance the efficiency of financial markets.”

The proposed tax is based on the “residence principle,” meaning that a financial transaction would be taxed in each case where a resident of one of the participating EU member states was involved even if the transaction was carried out in a country that is not a participant.

The tax proposal will have to be adopted by unanimous agreement of the participating member states. EU Tax Commissioner Algirdas Semeta says it is possible that the tax could enter into force beginning January 1, 2014.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/new-economy/europe-authorizes-robin-hood-tax-financial-transactions-ftt

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Cowardice in the face of climate change is just bad politics by Mark SumnerFollow for Daily Kos

From Daily Kos:   http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/27/1182404/-Cowardice-in-the-face-of-climate-change-is-just-bad-politics

Mark Sumner
Sun Jan 27, 2013

The dictionary defines a tax as a fee levied on goods or services for public use, but Republicans were never trusted what they read in books. So health care is a tax. Health inspections are a tax. And most of all, anything that the government does to try and preserve the air, land, or sea is a tax.

With that understood, it’s a little easier to decipher last session’s H.R. 910, also known as the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011. Despite the name, the purpose of the bill was not to reduce the (ridiculously low) federal tax on gas, or to reduce the (ridiculously low) rate that corporations pay for rights on federal land, or even to reduce the (ridiculously low) level of efforts made to develop alternative energy sources. Here’s the purpose of that bill:

To amend the Clean Air Act to prohibit the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from promulgating any regulation concerning, taking action relating to, or taking into consideration the emission of a greenhouse gas to address climate change, and for other purposes.

That’s about as clear as it can be, but just to restate for those still shaking off the shock, it was a bill to make it impossible for the EPA to do anything about greenhouse gases. Not just to keep the EPA from levying any sort of theoretical fee on carbon emissions, but to stop the EPA from even thinking about the climate.

Mind-blowingly stupid as this idea might be, the bill passed the House. Not only did it pass, it passed with 19 Democrats voting in favor. Democrats who voted to strip the EPA of the right to regulate greenhouse gases or take any action on the basis of climate change:

Continue reading at:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/01/27/1182404/-Cowardice-in-the-face-of-climate-change-is-just-bad-politics

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Hate Eating Corporate Food? Democracy Is the Best Recipe

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/food/hate-eating-corporate-food-democracy-best-recipe

Wenonah Hauter discusses her new book “Foodopoly,” a deep dive into our country’s history and our relationships with farmers.

By Tara Lohan
January 25, 2013

his article was published in partnership with  GlobalPossibilities.org.

We may be able to agree that much of our food system is broken, but how we begin to fix it is much harder to understand. Wenonah Hauter, director of Food and Water Watch, takes on this challenge in her new book, Foodopoly: The Battle Over the Future of Food and Farming in America.

Hauter, who grew up and lives on a farm in Virginia, uses Foodopoly to take readers on a deep dive into our country’s history and our relationships with farmers. Through her book, readers learn about farmers as the heart of the Populist movement, whose organization and alliance with labor leaders made them a political threat. She writes about the systems that were put in place to move men off of farms for cheap labor in cities, to lower prices for crops, and to whittle away at the fabric of rural America — for the sake of corporate profit.

“The food system is in a crisis because of the way that food is produced and the consolidation and organization of the industry itself. Solving it means we must move beyond the focus on consumer choice to examine the corporate, scientific, industrial, and political structures that support an unhealthy system,” she writes in the Introduction. “Combating this is going to take more than personal choice and voting with our forks — it’s going to take old-fashioned political activism. This book aims to show what the problem is and why we must do much more than create food hubs or find more opportunities for farmers to sell directly to consumers. We must address head-on the ‘foodopoly’ — the handful of corporations that control our food system from seeds to dinner plates.”

Hauter sat down with AlterNet to discuss her new book and talk about the contentious issue of subsidies, why solving our democracy issues are paramount to fixing our food system, and the biggest challenges to creating a sustainable and just food system. (You can read the Introduction to the book here.)

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/food/hate-eating-corporate-food-democracy-best-recipe

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Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant Rakes in $3 Million from Shares As Biotech Giant Continues Destroying Planet

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/monsanto-ceo-hugh-grant-rakes-3-million-shares-biotech-giant-continues-destroying

Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant sold 30,000 shares of stock in Monsanto in January, netting over $3 million.

By Alex Kane
January 28, 2013

The head of agribusiness giant Monsanto is raking in cash while his company continues to help destroy the environment.

Barron’s reports that Chief Executive Officer Hugh Grant sold 30,000 shares of stock in Monsanto on January 22. That sale netted over $3 million. “Grant’s direct holdings now stand at 423,382 shares, a stake of less than 1% of Monsanto. He also holds 120,000 shares through a trust alongside 6,689 shares through a 401(k),” reports Barron’s.

Meanwhile, the multinational agricultural company continues to sow the seeds of the planet’s destruction. One example of Monsanto’s destructive practices is highlighted in a recent case being litigated in Washington, D.C.

American farmers are currently challenging the “Biotech giant’s right to sue farmers whose fields have become contaminated with Monsanto’s seeds,” notes Al Jazeera’s Charlotte Silver. “The seemingly modest objective of the current lawsuit, OSGATA et al v Monsanto, originally filed in March 2011, is to acquire legal protection for organic and conventional farmers from Monsanto’s aggressive prosecution of inadvertent patent infringements. But the implications of the suit are momentous. If the DC Court of Appeal reverses the dismissal, a process of discovery will be instigated that could unveil a reservoir of information, access to which Monsanto has withheld from public knowledge – both by not disclosing it and preventing independent research.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/monsanto-ceo-hugh-grant-rakes-3-million-shares-biotech-giant-continues-destroying

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