University Didn’t Call Cops About Sexual Assault For Fear Of Exposing Alleged Rapist’s Grades

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/26/1638001/oklahoma-campus-rape/

By Annie-Rose Strasser
on Feb 26, 2013

Officials at Oklahoma State University did not go to the police with several reports of rape or sexual assault on campus in 2011, falesly believing that they were following procedures protecting the information of the purported assailants.

According to a report by an OSU Board of Regents task force, university representatives “misinterpreted the Federal Education Rights Privacy Act.” The university believed that purported rapists’ educational records might have been involved in the case, and so, to protect those records, decided sexual assault fell under the purview of the school, not law enforcement:

Friday’s report cites a provision in FERPA that allows institutions to contact campus police to ask them to investigate possible crimes on campus. The report notes that members of the news media brought the provision to university officials’ attention.

According to the report, OSU officials rejected that argument, saying a different provision in FERPA wouldn’t have allowed them to turn over educational records, including those generated in student conduct hearings.

But that provision wouldn’t have applied in this case, according to the report. When officials learned of the incidents, no student conduct hearings were pending, meaning no such records had been created.

OSU could have notified the police immediately after it became aware that the sexual assaults had been committed,” the report states.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/health/2013/02/26/1638001/oklahoma-campus-rape/

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Jim Crow isn’t dead, he just got lawyers

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/22/new-jim-crow-laws-at-supreme-court

The US supreme court’s upcoming decision on the Voting Rights Act could let discriminatory laws make a comeback


guardian.co.uk, Friday 22 February 2013

When a black man won the White House in 2008, many in the commentariat declared the United States a “post-racial” society, no longer hamstrung by old hatreds, freed at last from the embarrassments of segregation – finally and triumphantly color blind.

Conservatives have been telling themselves some version of this pretty lie ever since Robert E Lee surrendered at Appomattox. On 27 February, we’ll hear it again when the supreme court takes up a challenge to the 1965 Voting Rights Act. The case, Shelby County v Holder, centers on Section 5 of the VRA, which requires that nine states with histories of discrimination (Virginia, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Louisiana, Texas, Georgia, Alaska and Arizona), and parts of seven more states must seek permission from the justice department to change election laws. The Alabama county argues that Section 5 is an unconstitutional infringement on “state sovereignty”, and a relic from the bygone days of poll taxes and literacy tests.

Granted, citizens in the old Confederacy are no longer forced to say how many bubbles are in a bar of soap before they can cast a ballot. But the last national election provides plenty of examples of voter suppression. Florida (five counties of which are included in Section 5) enacted a largely inaccurate purge of its electoral rolls. The people whose right to vote was challenged were predominantly (the state says coincidentally) minorities.

The state’s Republican leadership cut back the number of polling places and reduced early voting, including the Sunday before election day, when African American churches would traditionally organize trips to the polls. Many, like Desaline Victor, the 102-year-old President Obama featured in his state of the union address, had to wait in line for hours. More than 200,000 others were unable to vote.

Texas and South Carolina (entirely covered by Section 5) tried to institute absurdly restrictive voter ID laws in 2012, but the Department of Justice, citing the Voting Rights Act, shot them down. “Federal courts sided with DOJ, finding that the new rules would disproportionately affect black and Latino citizens.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/feb/22/new-jim-crow-laws-at-supreme-court

7 Ways Sequestration Will Sock the Middle Class

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/14653/republicans_indulge_the_rich_in_sequestration_deals/

Once again, the GOP strips funds from the neediest to pad their own wallets.

BY Leo Gerard, United Steelworkers President
February 26, 2013

Last week, President Obama described the sequestration situation in simple, stark terms: Keep it in place and punch the middle class in the gut. Or, he suggested, soften the blow substantially by ending special tax breaks for the rich.

Here’s what he said:

Republicans in Congress face a simple choice. Are they willing to compromise to protect vital investments in education and healthcare and national security and all the jobs that depend on them? Or would they rather put hundreds of thousands of jobs and our entire economy at risk just to protect a few special interest tax loopholes that benefit only the wealthiest Americans and biggest corporations?

President Obama is recommending reducing the pain of sequestration by raising revenue. This could be accomplished by eliminating cushy deals that the rich and corporations have bought for themselves over the years with lobbyist dough.

Specifically, it breaks down like this:

  1. Do Republicans want to evict 70,000 low income children from Head Start to ensure that the nation’s largest corporation, GE, which is massively profitable, continues to pay no taxes and instead demands rebates from the American people?
  2. Do Republicans want to furlough 750,000 civilians employed by the Army to ensure that one of the richest men in the world, Warren Buffett, can continue paying a lower tax rate than his secretary, a situation that Buffett has described as unconscionable?
  3. Do Republicans want to slash $550 million from the FBI, hindering response to cyber and terrorist attacks after the equivalent of 7,000 workers are furloughed each day just to ensure that corporations can continue to get tax breaks when they offshore jobs?
  4. Do Republicans want to end treatment for 373,000 seriously mentally ill adults and severely emotionally disturbed children just to ensure that the 1 percent continue to receive tax breaks for their corporate jetsyachts and golf carts?

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/14653/republicans_indulge_the_rich_in_sequestration_deals/

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The People’s Will Be Damned

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/02/26-0

What exactly Is “politically acceptable?”

Published on Tuesday, February 26, 2013 by Common Dreams

So here we are again, approaching another self-inflicted economic cliff.  This time it’s the sequester – a truly stupid idea that will result in a mindless meat cleaver approach to cutting the budget in order to solve a problem that’s disappearing, using the same tactics that caused the problem in the first place. Oh, and quite possibly it will plunge us back into a recession.

What is Washington doing?  Trying to fix blame, of course.

The truth is, both Parties agreed to this uniquely idiotic idea.  Yes, it ultimately comes from the Republican’s decision to play brinksmanship with the budget and the debt ceiling, but Democrats in general and Obama in particular let them make debt and deficits into the all-purpose bogeyman it has become.  By failing to confront the myth, they empowered it.

But the Republicans have backed themselves into a corner.  They’ve been clamoring for austerity for 30 years as part of their “drown the beast” strategy, and now they are faced with a popular backlash against austerity.  Their response has been to blame Obama.  Mitch McConnell keeps saying the President hasn’t offered a politically viable alternative to the sequester.  Boehner says much the same.  Even the less rabid David Brooks has repeated this line.  In fact, it’s become one of those cascading talking points that the rightwing chants in unison, over and over again.

The key here is the qualifiers they use: “politically viable,” “politically acceptable,” or something comparable. They must, because Obama has put forth a plan. More about that later.

So what, exactly, is “politically viable?”

One would think it is defined by the will of the people.  And as we just had an election in which the people soundly rejected the Republican platform of drastically cutting social programs benefiting low- and middle-income Americans so that they could preserve – or in the case of Romney and Ryan increase – tax cuts for the rich, the will of the people is quite transparent.  The recent election, exit polls and polling in general all tell us the people want to increase taxes on the rich, preserve the social safety net, and invest in job creation.

Which sounds something like Obama’s plan, with the exception that the compromiser-in-chief is offering up cuts in Medicare and Social Security.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/02/26-0

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Lakoff: Why Extreme Conservatives Like the Sequester

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/lakoff-why-extreme-conservatives-sequester

The far right sees maximal elimination of the public sphere as the right direction for America.

By George Lakoff
February 26, 2013

Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and other major economists have pointed out that the deficit is not an urgent economic problem and that, to the contrary, the economy would be helped by an increase in public investment and harmed by drastic cuts. The Sequester would hurt the economy, millions of people, and the country as a whole.

President Obama has detailed the vast range of harms that the sequester would bring. They are well-known. And they are not necessary.  The president sees the sequester, if it happens, as an enormous self-inflicted wound, inflicted on America by a Republican-dominated House elected by Americans.

But pointing out Republican-caused harms to millions of people — many of them Republicans — does not sway the ultra-right. Why? Democratic pundits say that Republicans want to hurt the president, to show government doesn’t work by making it not work, and to protect “special interests” from higher taxes.  All true. But there is an additional and deeper reason. Ultra-conservatives believe that the sequester is moral, that it is the right thing to do.

Progressives tend to believe that democracy is based on citizens caring for their fellow citizens through what the government provides for all citizens — public infrastructure, public safety, public education, public health, publicly-sponsored research, public forms of recreation and culture, publicly-guaranteed safety nets for those who need them, and so on. In short, progressives believe that the private depends on the public, that without those public provisions Americans cannot be free to live reasonable lives and to thrive in private business.  They believe that those who make more from public provisions should pay more to maintain them.

Ultra-conservatives don’t believe this. They believe that Democracy gives them the liberty to seek their own self-interests by exercising personal responsibility, without having responsibility for anyone else or anyone else having responsibility for them. They take this as a matter of morality.  They see the social responsibility to provide for the common good as an immoral imposition on their liberty.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/lakoff-why-extreme-conservatives-sequester

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Sequestering common sense

From The Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/katrina-vanden-heuvel-sequestering-common-sense/2013/02/26/1eb2c70a-7f68-11e2-b99e-6baf4ebe42df_story.html

By ,
Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The media is going sequester 24-7. Anyone who hasn’t been paying attention to the across-the-board spending cuts about to hit this Friday is about to have little choice. The brouhaha about the austerity bomb is drowning out any attention to what is actually going on in the economy — which is supposedly the point of the whole debate.

The stark reality is the economy is still in trouble and Americans are still hurting. The economy contracted last quarter, even before Americans got hit with the end of the payroll tax holiday, which will take $1,000 out of the typical family’s annual paycheck. The Congressional Budget Office projects that growth will inch along at about 1.5 percent this year. That translates into continued mass unemployment — with more than 20 million people in need of full-time work — and falling wages. The richest 1 percent captured an unimaginable 121 percent of all income growth in 2009 and 2010, coming out of the Great Recession. They pocketed all of the growth in income, while 99 percent of Americans actually lost ground. That trend is likely to get worse rather than better.

Federal Reserve Governor Janet L. Yellen described the tragic human costs of widespread, long-term unemployment in an important speech this month. Families lose their homes; divorce and depression rise; children are scarred; skills are lost. A young generation is leaving school to sit on the couch.

Yet most of Washington — from the newly reelected Democratic president to the self-described insurgent Tea Party Republicans — is ignoring this reality to focus on cutting deficits.

The Republican Congress seems intent on letting the “sequester” take place — the idiotic across the board cuts that were explicitly designed to be anathema to both parties. Senate Democrats call not for repealing these cuts, but for “paying for” delaying them for a few more months.

Why this fixation? Deficits aren’t careering out of control. In fact, as the Congressional Budget Office reports, in relation to the economy, the deficit has fallen faster over the past three years than at any time since the demobilization after World War II. Calls for cutting Medicare benefits ignore the reality that the slowing rise in Medicare costs has already cut about $500 billion from its projected costs over 10 years compared to estimates made two years ago.

Continue reading at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/katrina-vanden-heuvel-sequestering-common-sense/2013/02/26/1eb2c70a-7f68-11e2-b99e-6baf4ebe42df_story.html

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A Better Plan Than ‘Endless Growth’: Enough Is Enough

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/02/25-1

by Rob Dietz and Dan O’Neill
Published on Monday, February 25, 2013 by Common Dreams

The World Economic Forum held its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland last month.  The official theme was “Resilient Dynamism,” a catchphrase that makes about as much sense as the futureless economic policies trotted out at the meeting.  At least the attendees had something to ponder at cocktail hour. The mission of the forum, on paper at least, is “improving the state of the world.”  And there is clear room for improvement: trillions of dollars of public debt, billions of people living in poverty, escalating unemployment, and a distinct possibility of runaway climate change.

The popular solution to these problems is sustained economic growth.  In fact, the first item of the Davos meeting’s global agenda was “how to get the global economy back on to a path of stable growth and higher employment”  The thinking is that if we could just get people to produce and consume more stuff, then we could also pay off the debt, create jobs, eradicate poverty, and maybe even have some money left over to clean up the environment.

It’s tempting to believe this economic fairy tale.  But if growth is the cure to all of our ills, why are we in such a bind after sixty years of it?  Even though the U.S. economy has more than tripled in size since 1950, surveys indicate that people have not become any happier.  Inequality has risen sharply in recent years, and jobs are far from secure.  At the same time, increased economic activity has led to greater resource use, dangerous levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, and declining biodiversity.  There is now strong evidence that economic growth has become uneconomic in the sense that it costs more than it’s worth.

Maybe it’s time to consider a new strategy—an economy of enough.  Suppose that instead of chasing after more stuff, more jobs, more consumption, and more income, we aimed for enough stuff, enough jobs, enough consumption, and enough income.

To build a successful economy of enough, we would first need to eliminate the “growth imperative”—factors that make the economy reliant on growth.  These include reliance on inappropriate measures of progress, creation of debt-based money, and the use of aggregate growth as a tool (albeit a blunt one) for generating jobs.  With key policy changes, it is possible to dismantle the growth imperative and build an economy that works for people and the planet.

Let’s start with measures of progress.  Our main economic indicator, GDP, is a good measure of economic activity—of money changing hands—but a poor measure of social welfare.  It lumps together desirable expenditures (food, entertainment, and investment in education) with expenditures that we’d rather avoid (war, pollution, and family breakdown).  In the language of economics, GDP does not distinguish between costs and benefits, but counts all economic activity as “progress.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/02/25-1

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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:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/school-dress-code_b_2711533.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices&ir=Gay%20Voices


02/19/2013

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.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/soraya-chemaly/school-dress-code_b_2711533.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices&ir=Gay%20Voices

 

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Yale Health considers sex change surgery

From Yale Daily News:  http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2013/02/25/yale-health-considers-sex-change-surgery/

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.

Continue reading at:  http://yaledailynews.com/blog/2013/02/25/yale-health-considers-sex-change-surgery/

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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:    http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/02/25/poll-more-new-zealanders-support-equal-marriage-than-oppose-it/

by
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.

Continue reading at:  http://www.pinknews.co.uk/2013/02/25/poll-more-new-zealanders-support-equal-marriage-than-oppose-it/

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Kansas Supreme Court Rules In Favor Of Same-Sex Adoption

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/02/25/1633621/kansas-supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-same-sex-adoption/

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.

Complete article at:  http://thinkprogress.org/lgbt/2013/02/25/1633621/kansas-supreme-court-rules-in-favor-of-same-sex-adoption/

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Gay Americans pay more taxes for fewer rights

From CNN:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/25/opinion/orman-marriage-equality/

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.

Continue reading at:  http://www.cnn.com/2013/02/25/opinion/orman-marriage-equality/

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

From Fire Dog Lake:  http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2013/02/21/its-time-for-moveon-to-move-and-stop-blocking-change/


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 MoveOn.org, 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.

Continue reading at:  http://fdlaction.firedoglake.com/2013/02/21/its-time-for-moveon-to-move-and-stop-blocking-change/

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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:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/your-money/telemarketers-tactics-and-regulators-response-elicit-complaints.html

By
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?”

Click.

Intrigued, the Haggler typed A.M.A.’s phone number — captured on caller ID — into a Web site called 800notes.com, 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.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/24/your-money/telemarketers-tactics-and-regulators-response-elicit-complaints.html

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

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/after-ruining-america-era-giant-chain-stores-over

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.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/after-ruining-america-era-giant-chain-stores-over

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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:  http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2013/02/25/debt-young-adults/?iid=HP_LN

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.

Continue reading at:  http://finance.fortune.cnn.com/2013/02/25/debt-young-adults/?iid=HP_LN

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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:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/14693-when-pigs-dont-fly-trouble-on-the-trans-alaska-pipeline

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.

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/14693-when-pigs-dont-fly-trouble-on-the-trans-alaska-pipeline

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