Insecure Boy-Men and Insecure Girl-Women: Gender Stereotypes Hurt Everyone

It has been fifty years since the publishing of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique. The 1950s had fairly rigid gender roles only we called them sex roles in those days.

The latter half or the 1960s and the 1970s with the flowering of the hippie era,sexual liberation, the feminist movements and the gay/lesbian liberation movements brought less rigid sex roles.  Some described it as androgyny.

The acceptance of androgyny as a personal statement in the late 1960s allowed me to have a very easy, soft edged transition.  I added hormones and stopped wearing head bands, I already had long hair to below my shoulders.

Gay and lesbian liberation allowed greater freedom of gender expression which led to the armies of late 1970s mustachioed  gay male clones and flannel shirted lesbian clones but I digress…

Something else was happening as well.

That boomer generation had grown up with rising expectations.  After World War II the vets had the opportunity to go to college, suddenly working class people had college degrees.

While that immediate post war era that lasted through the mid-1960s produced what Betty Friedan described as a malaise with no name among women who had graduated college only to become house wives those women were only a minority of a certain class.

Other women were working, breaking free of that mold.

For all its flaws Playboy magazine taught a generation of men enjoyment of culture and how to be gentlemen, lessons mixed with nudes in what could have been a psy-op to educate those newly minted vet/college grads in the ways of a class they were just entering.

Fast forward to the 1970s.  Women were shedding “traditional sex (gender) roles.  Not just lesbian feminist women but women in general.

So were a lot of men.  There was an element of role questioning to the anti-war movement, when young men questioned the whole warrior ethos and mythology linking manhood to a willingness to kill for your rulers.

Add in an element of questioning mindless consuming of products and services and you have a pattern that threatened not only the military industrial complex but the capitalist ideal of working not to live but to consume and generate profits for the rich.

Ironically we did consume.  We just tended to consume less mass market items and instead consumed more individualistic items.

What are “Traditional Values”?

Those of us who rejected the idea of murdering strangers because our rulers wanted us to fight in Vietnam to stop communism were rejecting the mindless warrior doing the bidding of his master ethos.

Women who wanted to be defined by what they did rather than how they looked were rejecting the princess/object ethos.

Marlo Thomas and other lead a movement to permit children to be themselves without all the division of toys along boy/girl lines.

When I hear the term “traditional values”, I wonder WTF? I grew up in the 1950s and 1960s, I’m a baby boomer and my parents grew up during the great depression.  Our grandparents were alive when the first plane flew and yet the “traditional values” being pushed by the rabid right wingers and religious fanatics are alien and bizarre.

My mother worked outside the house as did my grandmother.

Growing up both boys and girls both rode bicycles, swam at the beach during the summer, formed gangs and played together.

There were unfair dress codes at school and by the 1960s girls/women were fighting for the freedom to wear pants to classes and men/boy were fighting to wear their hair long.

From usage of the term “traditional values” I’ve ascertained that that meme stands for racism, homophobia, misogyny and the oppression of working people.

Hippie Punching or The War Against the 1960s

Most kids in 1967 were not hippies. Those of us who were gathered in certain locations and created an impact on society far greater than anyone looking at our numbers would imagine.

The same was true of the campus radicals, of feminist and the gay liberation movement too.

The right wing and religious fanatics went to war against us.  The war on drugs and prison industrial complex is but part of that war.

The women’s movement was revolutionary.  Women demanded to be treated as equals and have control over their own bodies.

Immediately feminists were attacked using one of the biggest vulnerabilities women have, insecurity regarding their appearance. Feminists were told they weren’t feminine. Men who were gentle, intelligent and treated women as equals were branded as wimps.

What Was the Problem with Gentle Sensitive Men and Strong Secure Women?

I always saw positive traits as being positive for both men and women as well as negative traits being negative for both.

I don’t think men are from Mars and women are from Venus.  We are both from earth and share more traits than we have different.

I think most gender differences are manufactured and the result of intensive programming.

I actually liked the way women were becoming strong and self confident during the 1970s, less concerned about how they looked and more concerned about what they could do.  I like how some men were learning how to be less dickish and care about something other that trying to prove how macho they are.

This concept tied the panties of the religious fanatics and right wing fascist into painful knots. You see they hate the very idea of equality.  Their whole world view revolves around their being superior to others.  It doesn’t matter if those others are different due to skin color, sex or sexuality.

The first attacks were directed towards women.  Feminists were all ugly.  Never mind that Gloria Steinem was absolutely gorgeous in comparison to the harridan of the right, Phyllis Schlafly.  Feminists were all man haters when some of the worst men haters seem to be women who make themselves into man pleasing sex objects in order to  exploit the men attracted to them.

By the end of the 1970s we were told “Women like nasty brutish bad boys, not intelligent sensitive men.”

Perpetuating negative stereotypes of both sexes as part of the anti-feminist backlash.

I’m not even going to pretend to understand why the misogynistic religious right takes the positions they do.  It is way beyond the scope of a blog post and would require unpacking the coded language they use to hide their racism and homophobia as well as their misogyny.

So for this blog post let’s just stipulate that the right wingers including the religious right find the entire concept of equality  anathema.

They have a world view that equates differences of sex, race, sexuality as requiring a hierarchical classification that place white heterosexual right wing macho men above all others.

Sexism and Gender Stereotypes hurt everyone.

I don’t like Christina Hoff Sommers.  I think she is part of the anti-woman right wing backlash, nonetheless she saw the problem of boys suddenly falling behind in achievement in schools.  Her book, The War Against Boys outlined the problem but went on to some pretty strange conclusions.

One of the problems with Hoff Sommers that nags me is this: Were boys really only more successful because school favored them over girls and are they now lagging because schools favor girls over boys?  Or could it be something else.

It has long struck me that boomer kids who came of age in the 1960s and 1970s were some of the best and brightest kids to come out of the educational system.  Some good like the communications revolution.  Some evil like the perverting of the economic system.

Christina Hoff Sommers had a recent piece in the New York Times:  The Boys at the Back. She reiterated the premise of her book:

A few decades ago, when we realized that girls languished behind boys in math and science, we mounted a concerted effort to give them more support, with significant success. Shouldn’t we do the same for boys?

When I made this argument in my book “The War Against Boys,” almost no one was talking about boys’ academic, social and vocational problems. Now, 12 years later, the press, books and academic journals are teeming with such accounts. Witness the crop of books in recent years: Leonard Sax’s “Boys Adrift,” Liza Mundy’s “The Richer Sex,” Hanna Rosin’s “The End of Men.”

For a revised version of the book, due out this summer, I’ve changed the subtitle — to “How Misguided Policies Are Harming Our Young Men” from “How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men” — and moved away from criticizing feminism; instead I emphasized boy-averse trends like the decline of recess, zero-tolerance disciplinary policies, the tendency to criminalize minor juvenile misconduct and the turn away from single-sex schooling. As our schools have become more feelings-centered, risk-averse, collaboration-oriented and sedentary, they have moved further and further from boys’ characteristic sensibilities. Concerns about boys arose during a time of tech bubble prosperity; now, more than a decade later, there are major policy reasons — besides the stale “culture wars” of the 1990s — to focus on boys’ schooling.

What happened was part of the anti-feminism backlash?

I hinted at it earlier.  Boys and men were taught to think it was cool to be dumb, socially inept jerks.  Or brutish thug warriors.  Being interested in art, literature or any sort of movie that wasn’t either an action movie filled with violence or men acting stupid made one a “fag”.  One book was actually titled Real Men Don’t Eat Quiche.

Being a nerd was considered unmanly, liking anything in the humanities section of academics was suspect.  We were bombarded with things real men do.  Few of which seemed to involve relationships with women but most of which involved proving oneself to be masculine and not homosexual.

I can’t help but wonder if the male masters of the universe live in a gated world with well rounded educations while the 99% get educations that turn men into immature boy-men or warriors to defend the oligarchies of the masters of the universe.

This sort of sexist indoctrination hurts men.

What about Girl-Women?

I remember when ordinary attractive women had curves and wore sizes like 9/10 or 11/12.  I remember when women had pubic hair. The only women who removed their pubic hair tended to be sex workers.

Why has the infantile hairless pubes look become so popular?  Is it porn chic or something more disturbing such as an unwillingness to accept adulthood?

About a week or so back    had an article on Huffington Post:  10 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started My Transition:

1. Brace yourself for beauty culture.

This is especially true for my fellow femme girls, and there’s a reason it’s #1 on my list. Before I started presenting as female, I had no idea just how toxic beauty culture is in this country. Women are constantly inundated with airbrushed images and messages aiming to tear down our self-esteem and make us feel inadequate. Fashion magazines and the beauty industry make billions every year by exploiting these insecurities with the promise that if we only try harder to be prettier, we too can be happy.

As a trans girl, beauty culture can be especially difficult to navigate, because most of us have haven’t been exposed to it very long. Our cis partners and friends have been dealing with it since middle school (if not earlier), and many have had years to develop effective coping strategies, so we DMAB (“designated male at birth”) ladies have to make up for lost time, and on top of that, cissexist standards of beauty add another way for us to feel insecure.

It helps to maintain a sense of perspective. Many trans girls, including me, have a habit of romanticizing the cisgender experience. A month or two into my transition, I told my girlfriend that I couldn’t wait until I could look in the mirror and see a pretty girl staring back at me. “You realize that’s never going to happen, right?” was her response. “You’re going to look at your reflection and feel unsatisfied — just like every other woman.” And it’s true: Even the most gorgeous of my friends can list a dozen things she’d change about her appearance. So the next time you’re feeling unattractive, don’t blame yourself; blame capitalism and a beauty culture designed to make you feel that way.

This was followed a day later by an article by Tracy Moore on Jezebel:  Why Don’t Women Say ‘I’m Pretty?’ Here Are Ten Reasons.:

If you are alive and female, you are all too aware of your own prettiness factor. And how could you not be? We spend our lives being told exactly where we rank by one person or another, not to mention offered an ideal example constantly, and sometimes (if you’ve ever walked through a shopping district) at literally every turn we take. But what are our alternatives? It’s all too easy to say that women’s obsession with prettiness is, ultimately, a fool’s errand, not to mention the small fortune we spend chasing an ideal unreachable for most. Fighting the beauty industrial complex and going rogue, while certainly admirable, is unrealistic (not to mention easier said than done). Women may never stop thinking about their prettiness on the Great Big Scale — duh, does a bear apply mascara in the woods? — but it may be far less emotionally driven (or depressing) than we might assume. In fact, many women approach their own looks with an economist’s appraisal more than a spiritual embrace. And in a world where our looks are used irrevocably for or against us either way, why not?

In response to a piece called “Why Can’t Women Think They Are Pretty?” — a thoughtful look at how rare it is for women to simply admit they are pretty, when instead they are armed with a laundry list of their flaws at the ready — I was all prepared to write at length about the fact that it would do us well to focus on anything but the pursuit of beauty, so tenuous and undependable it is.

But then I put the question to four of my twenty- and thirty-something friends instead, and discovered that rather than hand-wring about the issue, every one of them had a totally figured-out narrative about their own prettiness and prettiness in general, full of exceptions and asterisks and rules, honed over a lifetime. The idea that they would ever not think about it was ludicrous, nor were they about to go blabbing about it all that often. And more importantly, it wasn’t a cause for upset.

What’s going on?

Seriously when I was in my 20s and early 30s during that 1970s feminist decade I didn’t have all that much problem thinking I was pretty although I might have chosen the word cute as being a better fit.  I didn’t consider myself all that narcissistic, didn’t even spend all that much time or energy on make up and clothes.  Indeed most of the time I wore t-shirts and jeans with running shoes.  Maybe I was getting a lot of feedback from people telling me I was cute and sexy but the reality was that I felt I was cute and sexy.

Maybe it helped that I mainly looked at Vogue for the photography and ignored the articles.  I know I had girl friends who bought into the fashion/beauty culture and were a lot more obsessed with it than I was, but what we have today seems quantitatively as well as qualitatively different.

I didn’t look at fashion magazines for years, when I started looking at them they seemed different.  Women didn’t look real in them.  They looked like these Sci-Fi androids, almost human but the Photoshop version.

Then about two weeks ago I came across an article by Eric W. Dolan on Raw Story:  Objectification suppresses women’s desire to engage in social activism, study finds.

“My research focused on self-objectification, which is a self-perspective that many women adopt as a primary consequence of regular encounters of sexual objectification,” the study’s author, Rachel M. Calogero of the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, explained to Raw Story.

The study, published last month in Psychological Science, found that women who were primed to evaluate themselves based on their appearance and sexual desirability had a decreased motivation to challenge gender-based inequalities and injustices.

“Self-objectification has been causally linked to a number of negative physical, mental, and behavioral health outcomes in girls and women, and even some men,” Calogero added. “My research went further to test the theoretical notion that objectifying practices sustain inequality at a broader level. I demonstrated that self-objectification is connected to women’s motivation to challenge the status quo.”

The study contained two separate experiments to investigate the relationship between self-objectification and social activism.

The first experiment tested whether female college students who valued appearance-based attributes like “physical attractiveness” over competence-based attributes like “physical fitness” were more or less likely to accept the current state of gender relations.

See also:  Rachel M. Calogero Psychological Sciences: Objects Don’t Object: Evidence That Self-Objectification Disrupts Women’s Social Activism.

See also:  Anna Mikulak Association for Psychological Science:  Self-Objectification May Inhibit Women’s Social Activism.

Keeping people insecure allows corporations to sell people products to ally their insecurities.  One of the firearms corporations headlined an ad for an AR15 rifle variation with “Get Your Man Card Back.” Much of the advertising aimed at men is selling them on the idea that they have been unmanned and need to take back their brutish man card.

Christina Hoff Sommers and others of the right would have men think it was the evil feminists who took away men’s masculinity.  Setting one oppressed group against another oppressed group is a game as old as empire.

Many years ago in The Second Sex, Simone de Beauvoir outlined how society keeps women off balance and denies them the autonomy of adulthood.  One is the beauty obsession.

See Dodai Stewart: Jezebel:  The Sephora Problem That Has No Name.

Fucking Sephora, man. There’s nothing like it. Part store, part museum, part laboratory, part psychologist. Densely packed with products, brightly lit as an operating room, gleaming like a jewelry counter, frenzied like a factory, Sephora is not just a cosmetics store. It’s a beacon, a flame to which women flit and flock like moths.

Sephora’s irresistible allure is global. Earlier this month, Sephora opened a flagship store in Shanghai, China. It has 7,000 products spread over five floors. FIVE FLOORS. Five floors of perfumes, eyeshadows, moisturizers, tweezers, serums, makeup brushes, lipglosses, teeth whiteners, eye creams, nail polishes, hair dryers and body glitter. My god.

The top four fascinating things about Sephora are:

Gender insecurity isn’t just something transsexual and transgender people experience.  Corporations base whole advertising campaigns around gender insecurity.  Obviously much of the population has anxiety about not being man enough or woman enough, not living up to some sort of fictional standard based on some pretty grotesque stereotypes.

I suspect that this gender anxiety suppresses men’s desire to engage in social activism as much as it does women’s.

After all we have been pushed practically to the breaking point by corporations that exploit all workers.  If we were to stop focusing on our own imagined inadequacies we might just figure out who is responsible for the shitty state of our world.

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Dress Codes or How Schools Skirt Around Sexism and Homophobia

From Huffington Post:


Spring is coming, which means we are entering the season of the regulation of how much skin girls around the country are allowed to bare. Dress codes, while usually regulating boys’ slovenliness, tend to police girls for how much of their bodies are visible. Anyone who’s ever painted or stood in a room surrounded by Kara Walker silhouettes can tell you that white space is defining and when we talk about dress codes, girls’ skin is the white space we’ve all been trained to ignore in these discussions. And, while everyone is in theory affected by dress codes, girls and LGTBQ youth are disproportionately affected by them. Challenging schools to align unexamined, traditional dress codes to contemporary values is a tangible place to start if you’re interested in teaching kids to live in a diverse, tolerant society. Of course, many parents are not interested.

When it comes to girls, skimpy and skin-baring clothes are often the primary issue. Kids know that many words, like “unladylike,” are code for “slutty.” Other words that are frequently used include “distracting” and “unprofessional.” Many teachers worry that girls’ skin will “so addle boys’ brains that they will be unable to concentrate.” Boys, and apparently in Iowa, adult men who can now legally fire “irresistible” women, we are told, simply cannot concentrate in this environment.

So, what exactly is wrong with saying girls are “distracting”? I mean, everyone know this, right?

  • Who gets to be distracted? And, whose distraction is central? What is a girl supposed to think in the morning when she wakes up and tries to decide what to wear to school? They aren’t idiots. The logical conclusion of the “distracting” issue is, “Will I turn someone on if I wear this?” Now who is doing the sexualizing? My daughters would never have thought these things without the help of their school. The only people these policies worry about distracting are heterosexual boys. When I was a teenager, there was a boy who distracted the hell out of me. It was the way his hair brushed against his neck and an insouciant ease with his large body. I managed just fine academically, and so can straight boys who encounter girls they are attracted to. When have you ever heard someone talk about what is distracting to girls or gay kids? This idea ignores that fact that girls and LBGTQ kids exist as sexual people. But, do you know what is distracting? Trying not to be distracting. This framing of the problem is marginalizing, sexist and heteronormative.
  • In addition, it implies strongly that girls have responsibility for boys’ responses and that boys cannot control themselves. Boys should be insulted. People need to get a super-firm grip on the fact that girls are not sexual thermostats for their male peers. They need to manage themselves and are fully capable of doing so.

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Yale Health considers sex change surgery

From Yale Daily News:

By Cynthia Hua
Monday, February 25, 2013

Though Stanford, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard and Brown offer health insurance coverage for students to receive gender reassignment surgery, Yale is still reviewing its policies for the procedure.

The Yale Health Plan does not currently cover gender reassignment surgeries for students, but coverage was extended to faculty and staff at the managerial and professional levels in 2011 and to the unionized workforce last month. Dr. Paul Genecin, director of University Health Services, said he has noticed “increasing interest” both at Yale and other Ivy League institutions in offering insurance coverage for the procedure. Yale Health has received “a small number” of requests from students for gender-related surgery insurance coverage in the past, he said, and changes to student benefits are currently “under consideration.”

Gabriel Murchison ’14, president of the Resource Alliance for Gender Equity, said the lack of coverage is a sign of how unwelcoming the campus environment is for prospective transgender, gender nonconforming and queer students.

“The [current] policy sends a message to trans and gender nonconforming students that our concerns are not a priority, not to mention its effect on students who need this care and rely on the Yale Health Plan for their health coverage,” Murchison said.

Yale currently offers coverage for endocrine hormonal treatments and mental health services for students with gender identity disorder with assessment, support and treatment during transitions, Genecin said. Although gender reassignment surgeries are known to be costly, Genecin said offering insurance coverage for the procedure would only have a negligible impact on student premiums because few people choose to undergo the surgery.

Genecin added that Yale Health did not grant gender reassignment surgery coverage to students when coverage was extended to faculty and staff because policies for students are considered separately. Few patients have received medical care at Yale Health for transgender issues since coverage was offered to staff and faculty, Genecin said.

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Poll: More New Zealanders support equal marriage than oppose it

When used by totalitarian right wing religious fanatics, family is just another word for fascist.

From Pink News UK:

25 February 2013

A new poll commissioned by a New Zealand group opposed to equal marriage has found that more people support the idea than oppose it.

The poll, commissioned by Family First, and run by Curia Market Research in February, found that, out of 1000 respondents, 47% were in support of equal marriage, and 43% thought that civil partnerships were sufficient for gay couples.

Respondents were asked the question: “Do you think Parliament should change the definition of marriage to allow same-sex couples to marry, or do you think civil unions are sufficient for same sex couples?”

49% of respondents were in favour of a referendum on the equal marriage bill, with 41% opposed.

Bob McCoskrie, director of Family First, said that, despite more people supporting than opposing equal marriage, the number of those in support had dropped.

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Kansas Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Adoption

From Think Progress:

By Zack Ford
on Feb 25, 2013

On Friday, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling protecting the rights of same-sex couples to both be recognized as the legal parents of the children they are raising together. The case involved two women, Marci Frazier and Kelly Goudschaal, who had been raising children together, but then faced a custody dispute after they separated. The Court ruled that the coparenting contract the couple had signed is valid and should be recognized, because their children are better off having two parents than just one:

To summarize, the coparenting agreement before us cannot be construed as a prohibited sale of the children because the biological mother retains her parental duties and responsibilities. The agreement is not injurious to the public because it provides the children with the resources of two persons, rather than leaving them as the fatherless children of an artificially inseminated mother. No societal interest has been harmed; no mischief has been done. Like the contract in Shirk, the coparenting agreement here contains “no element of immorality or illegality and did not violate public policy,” but rather “the contract was for the advantage and welfare of the child[ren].”

The decision remands the case back to the district court with this guidance to work out the details for the couple.

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Gay Americans pay more taxes for fewer rights

From CNN:

By Suze Orman
Mon February 25, 2013

(CNN) — That nine states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage is encouraging progress for those of us who believe that everyone deserves to have basic civil rights. But, even if every state in the country could pass a similar legislation, it would not be enough. What we need is for our federal government to step up and make this basic right a law of the land.

Beyond the social discrimination, the refusal of our federal government to legally recognize same-sex marriages imposes steep financial penalties on same-sex couples. That two of the most costly penalties are triggered upon the death of one partner just adds to the ache of the senseless discrimination.

I have been with my partner, Kathy Travis, for 12 years. If I am lucky I will spend the rest of my life living and sharing my joys and happiness with her. We have worked very hard as a team to save for our future together and consider everything we have as equally owned by the other.

If the federal government recognized same-sex marriage, then when one of us dies our assets would seamlessly transfer free of tax to the survivor. That’s a basic right that every heterosexual married couple has.

But because there is no federal recognition of same-sex marriage, if I die first, or vice versa, before either of us can inherit what is now jointly our assets, there would be a federal estate tax bill that one of us would currently have to pay. Again, to be clear: If we were a heterosexual married couple, there would be no estate tax regardless of the size of the estate or who died first.

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It’s Time for MoveOn to Move and Stop Blocking Change

From Fire Dog Lake:

Thursday February 21, 2013

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities (RMBS) task force received ample attention from news and activist organizations alike following its dramatic announcement at last year’s State of the Union Address. The task force was supposed to investigate and prosecute Wall Street fraud that led to the housing bubble and the eventual collapse of the broader economy. FDL alum David Dayen’s recent piece in Salon reminds us that, one year later, the “new” task force has essentially amounted to what the “old” task force always was: “a conduit for press releases about investigative actions already in progress.”

Firedoglake was among a few groups that met the news of the taskforce with skepticism, but others like, Rebuild the American Dream and the Courage Campaign were ebullient in their praise of the president and NY attorney general alike. My inbox was flooded with emails like this one, calling on me to thank the President, and get ready for the Wall Street prosecutions to come rolling in.

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“We Must Unleash Radical Thought”: Harry Belafonte’s Stirring Speech Accepting NAACP Spingarn Medal

Calling Out the Robocaller

We get phishing calls from these scam artists several times a week.

The cyber pigs seem to have time to hunt down people who unlock their cell phones but don’t have time to bust up a major ring of con artists making robocalls all over the country.

From The New York Times:

Published: February 23, 2013

LAST month, the Haggler was sitting at home when the phone rang.

“This is your second and final notice,” intoned the stern voice of a robocaller. This vaguely threatening opener segued quickly into a lilting spiel about credit cards and consolidation. Something about an offer to lower rates? It was hard to tell, but when the Haggler heard he could press 1 for more information, naturally, he pressed 1.

After a pause, a man introduced himself as Robert, and offered the services of Account Management Assistance. It was hard to tell exactly what A.M.A. was selling, but the Haggler was assured it would cost him nothing and reduce his credit card interest payments.

“Sure, I’m interested,” quoth the Haggler, hoping to draw out some information. But Robert was soon spooked by this softball question: “Where are you guys located?”


Intrigued, the Haggler typed A.M.A.’s phone number — captured on caller ID — into a Web site called, which provides a forum for those on the receiving end of unwanted calls. On pages dedicated to 855-462-3833, the Haggler found dozens of complaints, and many of those complainers had signed up for A.M.A.’s service. The company had charged as much as $2,000, promising to negotiate lower credit card rates with banks.

There were no satisfied customers.

“They got me too!” wrote one. “Lying freaks,” wrote another.

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After Ruining America, the Era of Giant Chain Stores Is Over

From Alternet:

The coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies.

By James Howard Kunstler
February 20, 2013

Global currency wars (competitive devaluations) are about to destroy trade relationships. Say goodbye to the 12,000 mile supply chain from Guangzhou to Hackensack. Say goodbye to the growth financing model in which it becomes necessary to open dozens of new stores every year to keep the credit revolving.

Then there is the matter of the American customers themselves. The WalMart shoppers are exactly the demographic that is getting squashed in the contraction of this phony-baloney corporate buccaneer parasite revolving credit crony capital economy. Unlike the Federal Reserve, WalMart shoppers can’t print their own money, and they can’t bundle their MasterCard and Visa debts into CDOs to be fobbed off on Scandinavian pension funds for quick profits.

They have only one real choice: buy less stuff, especially the stuff of leisure, comfort, and convenience.

The potential for all sorts of economic hardship is obvious in this burgeoning dynamic. But the coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies.

Back in the day when big box retail started to explode upon the American landscape like a raging economic scrofula, I attended many a town planning board meeting where the pro and con factions faced off over the permitting hurdle.

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Why less debt among young adults is bad news

These days I find myself thinking that the most radical thing people can do is not buy things that will be obsolete before the credit card debt to buy them is paid off.  If I want a camera or something like that I look on eBay and buy used.

One can get a used Volvo or Mercedes for less than a new econo car and have a really nice vehicle that will get a couple of hundred thousand miles if properly taken care of.

Screw debt.  Debt lets corporations enslave us instead of paying us enough to buy things without going into debt.

But then when interest is the main product that the rich use to make money they need us to be in debt.

From Fortune:

By February 25, 2013
Adults under 35 have more student loan debt and less exposure to credit card, car, and home loans. That’s a troubling sign for the economy.
FORTUNE – Since the Great Recession, countless Americans have shunned the idea of taking on more debt. Homeowners discovered that stretching to buy bigger houses would result in years of financial turmoil. Jobless college grads unable to pay down their student loans now wonder if their degrees are really worth it. And as Europe grapples with its own debt problems, Washington lawmakers struggle to find a way to reduce the U.S. deficit.

Indeed, many have learned a few harsh lessons. But debt isn’t always a bad thing. More of it can reflect a healthy economy — one where consumers, as well as lenders feel comfortable taking on more risks.

Young adults, however, haven’t taken on nearly as much debt as their parents. It’s uncertain if the trend will continue as the economy improves, but for now, those under 35 years old have shed debt faster than older ones, according to a report by Pew Research Center released last week. The study doesn’t say if this is a good or bad development, but many signs suggest the drop means Millenials are more anxious than responsible about their finances.

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75-Year-Old Farmer Fights Monsanto in Supreme Court

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When Pigs Don’t Fly: Trouble on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline

From Truth Out:

By Richard A. Fineberg
Monday, 25 February 2013

Despite tracking devices and personal escorts, the problem of lost, stray and damaged “pigs” points to chronic performance problems along the Trans-Alaska Pipeline caused by the operator’s failure to learn from past mistakes.

Fairbanks, Alaska – Chronic problems with pigs on the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) seldom make headlines in the 49th state. But the Alyeska Pipeline Service Company’s struggles with the large, bullet-shaped devices that perform in-line cleaning and inspection tasks raise questions concerning safety of operations on the 800-mile pipeline that currently ships more than half a million barrels of Alaska North Slope crude oil daily, primarily to West Coast refineries.

On two occasions since late 2010, TAPS operators were unaware that pigs had gone astray on their watch. In both cases, several days later pig pieces were found, broken and stuck in damaged pressure relief piping. These incidents occurred at Pump Station 5 in northern Alaska on November 25, 2010 and at the pipeline’s southern terminal at Valdez on May 14, 2012. The pressure relief systems at each site consist of auxiliary piping and flow control valves installed to smooth turbulent flows encountered as oil speeds downhill from major mountain crossings.

Current TAPS oil shipments are down by nearly 75 percent from 1988’s peak average of more than two million barrels per day, with the super-giant Prudhoe Bay oil field declining and replacement production from smaller fields uncertain. During this decline Alyeska has closed six of its ten pumping facilities.

Since 2003, Alyeska has been engaged in automating the remaining pumping units and converting them from jet to electrical power. That project was anticipated to cost $250 million with completion by 2005. However, costs have tripled and the project is not yet complete.

With new pumping systems and lower throughput, TAPS runs colder, resulting in increased water and wax precipitants from pipeline oil. Pigs, which now run weekly, have difficulty removing precipitants from the pipeline, creating recurring problems.

Three major transnational oil companies – British Petroleum (BP), ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil – own 95 percent of TAPS and control a similar share of North Slope oil. At the end of 2012, these companies were in the process of acquiring the final five percent of TAPS. BP owns the largest share of TAPS (46.9 percent) and also runs the Prudhoe Bay oil field on behalf of producers.

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In Nebraska, I Stand with the Many Who Stand Against Keystone XL

From Common Dreams:

by Amy Schaffer
Published on Monday, February 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

Besides the uncontrollable urge and feelings that consume me to fight KXL, to defend our land and water, to stand up for what is right and good, to preserve what has been handed to me through the generations, to have the foresight to think of the consequences that the next generation may face, I stand against KXL for these Nebraskans. For the men diagnosed with cancer who continue to fight for their water and land even though they should first care for their health.

I stand with the women who instantly form tears in their eyes when I mention TransCanada and eminent domain.

I stand with the Sandhills and the Ogallala Aquifer lovers. The men and women who have left no stone unturned while spending every waking hour researching ways to compete with big oil. The woman who seeks consolation in hugs from strangers to comfort the sadness and anger she feels towards TransCanada for taking the land passed to her from her great grandparents. The man on the other end of the phone who says, “I signed with TransCanada, but I wish I wouldn’t have. I lost my wife, and I was tired and couldn’t take it anymore I finally just gave into them.” The happily married couple who saved to build their dream home and later learned that KXL would go right through the middle of their newly poured basement.

I stand with the little old woman who says she is tired of dealing with TransCanada, so she just signs with them so they will leave her alone. For those that appreciate the Sandhills not just for their beauty but also for the delicately balanced ecosystem that supports Nebraska.

I stand with the farm wife who relays on the phone her disgust of the politics being played with Nebraskans land and water. For those who have an appreciation for the Ogallala Aquifer and all life that it sustains.

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Deepwater trial: US lawyers say BP ignored warnings on ‘well from hell’

From The Guardian UK:

As 11 teams of lawyers deliver opening statements in trial over 2010 disaster, judge sets out a three-month timetable

in New Orleans
The Guardian, Monday 25 February 2013

The man in charge of BP‘s ill-fated Deepwater Horizon rig warned his boss that staff were operating in “chaos, paranoia and insanity” just days before a fatal blowout killed 11 men and caused the worst oil spill in US history, a New Orleans court heard on Monday.

In opening arguments Michael Underhill, the lawyer representing the US Department of Justice, said BP knew it was drilling a “well from hell” but that its managers refused to deviate from a “course of corporate recklessness” that ultimately led to the fatal blowout at the Gulf of Mexico well.

In a difficult day for BP, Underhill was followed by statements from BP’s partners in the fatal rig, Transocean and Halliburton, who also slammed BP. The dead rig workers “put too much trust in BP and paid for that trust with their lives,” said Transocean attorney Brad Brian.

The company was guilty of “willful misconduct,” said Underhill. It had calculated it needed $7bn (£4.6bn) to pay shareholders their dividend and put immense pressure on staff to save money and drill faster in order to reach that target, he said. “A safety corner cut a day saved was a $1m saved for BP,” said Underhill.

BP set out its defense in the afternoon. Attorney Mike Brock defended BP and its choice of partners. He said drilling was a “team sport” and that BP had chosen the best partners. He argued that the evidence showed BP was not “grossly negligent”. Mistakes had been made and the rig’s operators were collectivily responsible.

Brock said detractors were taking emails out of context and BP would present a fuller picture at trial. He pointed one email where John Guide, BP’s manager of the Macondo well, said his team was “flying by the seat of their pants”.

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