Margaret Thatcher was no feminist

From The Guardian UK:

One woman’s success does not mean a step forward for women. Far from ‘smashing the glass ceiling’, Thatcher made it through and pulled the ladder up after her

The Guardian, Tuesday 9 April 2013

She was, of course, the first and so far only female British prime minister, Jon Snow reiterated on Monday night, insinuating that this achievement should in general be celebrated, never mind the specifics of her leadership.

“Yes and that was one of the many weird things about her,” smirked Alexei Sayle. In the pantheon of this comedian’s attacks on Thatcher, it was a retort that probably won’t be treasured longer than the best lines from The Young Ones.

This was hardly the first or even the worst example of a dig at Thatcher tinged so needlessly with sexism. Of all the things to criticise Thatcher for, calling her out for being a woman seems like something of a wasted bullet. Yet despite the attempts of some columnists to claim otherwise, Thatcher can’t really be seen as “a warrior in the sex war”, let alone as “the ultimate women’s libber“. Far from “smashing the glass ceiling“, she was the aberration, the one who got through and then pulled the ladder up right after her. On the same edition of Channel 4 News, Louise Mensch named only three successful female politicians as part of her defence of Thatcher – and only one of those was a Conservative.

In truth, Thatcher is one of the clearest examples of the fact that a successful woman doesn’t always mean a step forward for women. In 11 years, Thatcher promoted only one woman to her cabinet, preferring instead to elevate men whom Spitting Image memorably and, in certain instances, accurately, described as “vegetables”. You may not be a fan of Edwina Currie but, really, was she any worse than John Gummer? “You would see MPs who came into any politics after I had and who were no better than me being promoted over my head,” said Currie this week. “She had been offered the chance to get on and effectively she then refused to offer it to other people.”

As Matthew Parris evocatively put it in Monday’s Times, “She rather liked men (preferring our company, perhaps, to that of women), [but] she thought us the weaker sex.”

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Nearly 100 Percent Of American Women In Jobs That Typically Pay Men More: Analysis

From Huffington Post:


If you insist on celebrating Equal Pay Day, just admit it’s in name only. Because as late as 2011, 97 percent of full-time working women were in jobs that typically paid men more, an analysis by the Center For American Progress revealed today.

Certain professions exhibit particularly drastic gender pay gaps. Take female chief executives, who earn only 69 percent as much as their male counterparts. These 245,000 female chief executives end up earning an average of $658 less per week than the 745,000 men in their profession.

Indeed, of the 534 professions listed by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women on average earn more than men in only seven of them, a group composed of 1.5 million working women, or only 3 percent of the full-time female work force.

And even here, in the seven occupations that women do earn more, the wage difference is quite small. Female operations research analysts, for example, earn just $68 more a week than men with the same job — almost 10 times less than the weekly wage gap between female and male chief executives.

Sarah Jane Glynn, senior policy analyst at American Progress, told The Huffington Post that breaking out the wage gap by occupation debunks the notion that women are earning less than men nationally because of “choices they make.”

“When you break the data down like this, it is really hard to make the argument that women want to stay home with their kids and are choosing lowering paying jobs,” Glynn said. “When you are talking about chief executives, for example, you can’t get there without a huge investment.”

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Mormon Apostle Warns That The Family Is ‘Under Attack’ From The ‘Tolerance Trap’

From Think Progress:

By Zack Ford
Apr 8, 2013

This weekend, Boyd Packer warned his fellow Mormons that the family is “under attack” from same-sex marriage. Packer is president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, making him the second most senior apostle in the Church. In a televised speech Saturday morning, Packer suggested there is a “tolerance trap” with “serious spiritual consequences” if Mormons support a violation of “God’s law of Chastity:”

PACKER: The family, The fundamental organization for time and eternity is under attack from forces seen and unseen… We need to be careful of the tolerance trap, so we do not swallow it up and get swallowed up in it. The permissiveness afforded by the weakening of the laws of the land to tolerate and legalize acts of immorality does not reduce the serious spiritual consequence that is the result from a violation of God’s law of Chastity.

(Watch it on Fox 13 News.)

Packer previously said in 2010 that gays and lesbians can “overcome what they feel are inborn tendencies toward the impure and unnatural.” More recently, the Mormon Church clarified some of its positions on homosexuality, admitting that being gay is not a choice, but still condemning it as sinful. To abide by their faith, gay Mormons are expected to be chaste, abandoning any experience of love or marriage in this life because “a just God will provide them with ample opportunity to do so in the next.”

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Chalcedon Pastor Claims There Is ‘a Place for Slavery in Godly Cultures’

From RH Reality Check:

by Vyckie Garrison, No Longer Qivering
April 8, 2013

In a recently posted You Tube sermon, the pastor of Chalcedon Presbyterian Church, Dr. Joe Morecraft says in a Biblical society, the godly must own “the fool who despises God’s wisdom” because it’s the only way to keep those with a “slave mentality” from ruining other people’s families.

Based on Proverbs 11:29, Morecraft makes a case for Biblically justified enslavement of a man who does not “trust in Christ” since slavery is the only way to “keep a fool under wraps.”

The dominionist pastor interprets the Proverb to predict that in a Christian theocracy, an unbeliever will “lose his family, his property, and his freedom,” and “his energies, talents and life will not be used as he himself pleases, but in the service of wise people who work hard to benefit the community.”

“Put him in somebody’s service where they can watch over him and make him do right even though he doesn’t want to do it.”

According to Pastor Morecraft, the consequences of being a “foolish person who is unwilling to live by the Word of God” is to “become a slave of somebody who is godly and who is wise.”

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Eddie Izzard: Religion, Science, The Bible, And Atheism

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Cut Social Security & Veterans’ Benefits? Cut the Pentagon Instead

From Common Dreams:

by Robert Naiman
Published on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 by Common Dreams

The boss organizes the workers, union organizers like to say.

Say what you want about President Obama’s proposal to cut Social Security and veterans’ benefits with the “chained CPI.” He did accomplish one thing for liberals that they often have a hard time doing on their own.

He united them – in opposition to his proposal.

Since Friday, the following groups, among others, have contacted me expressing outrage about and pledging to vigorously oppose the President’s proposal: the AFL-CIO, MoveOn, Progressive Campaign Change Committee, CREDO Action, Americans for Democratic Action, Democracy for America. Some of these groups are explicitly threatening primary challenges to any Congressional Democrat who supports the President’s proposal.

But that’s not all we have to celebrate. If, like most Americans, you prefer to cut what Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel has called the “bloated” Pentagon budget instead of cutting Social Security and veterans’ benefits, you have even more reason to rejoice.

Because at this political juncture, everyone in America who says “no cuts to Social Security or veterans’ benefits” is effectively saying “cut the bloated Pentagon budget,” whether they do so explicitly or not. If the “grand bargain” is killed and Social Security and veterans’ benefits are spared – apparently these are all the same political event – then the Pentagon budget will be cut instead.

And that means that at long last, we’re effectively having the “guns vs. butter” debate in the United States that we have been so long denied.

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Down Is a Dangerous Direction

From Tom Dispatch:

How the 40-Year “Long Recession” Led to the Great Recession 

By Barbara Garson
April 9, 2013.

If you had to date the Great Recession, you might say it started in September 2008 when Lehman Brothers vaporized over a weekend and a massive mortgage-based Ponzi scheme began to go down.  By 2008, however, the majority of American workers had already endured a 40-year decline in wages, security, and hope — a Long Recession of their own.

In the 1960s, I met a young man about to be discharged from the Army and then, by happenstance, caught up with him again in each of the next two decades.  Though he died two months before the Lehman Brothers collapse, those brief encounters taught me how the Long Recession led directly to our Great Recession.

In the late 1960s, I was working at an antiwar coffee house near an army base from which soldiers shipped out to Vietnam.  One gangly young man, recently back from “the Nam,” was particularly handy and would fix our record player or make our old mimeograph machine run more smoothly.  He rarely spoke about the war, except to say that his company had stayed stoned the whole time. “Our motto,” he once told me, “was ‘let’s not and say we did.’”  Duane had no intention of becoming a professional Vietnam vet like John Kerry when discharged.  His plan was to return home to Cleveland and make up for time missed in the civilian counterculture of that era.

I often sat with him during my breaks, enjoying his warmth and his self-aware sense of humor.  But thousands of GIs passed through the coffee house and, to be honest, I didn’t really notice when he left.

In the early 1970s, General Motors set up the fastest auto assembly line in the world in Lordstown, Ohio, and staffed it with workers whose average age was 24.  GM’s management hoped that such healthy, inexperienced workers could handle 101 cars an hour without balking the way more established autoworkers might.  What GM got instead of balkiness was a series of slowdowns and snafus that management labeled systematic “sabotage” until they realized that the word hurt car sales.

I visited Lordstown the week before a strike vote was to be taken, amid national speculation about whether a generation of “hippy autoworkers” could “humanize the assembly line” and so change forever the way America worked.  On a guided tour of the plant, I was surprised to spot Duane shooting radios into cars with an air gun.  He recognized me and slipped me a note with his phone number.

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Obama’s Social Security Cuts Are Our Wake-Up Call

From Campaign for America’s Future:

By April 7, 2013

No jobs. No growth. Falling income. Unaffordable colleges. A dying middle class. Young people without hope.  The greatest economic inequality in modern history.

And yet, in the midst of the Long Depression, we’re told that President Obama intends to cuts Social Security.

According to reports, the new presidential budget proposal will also include job-killing spending cuts and a Medicare cost hike that will increasingly affect the middle class with every passing year.

The president says this isn’t his “ideal plan,” but he doesn’t say what his ideal plan would look like – and he certainly isn’t fighting for a better one.  He also claims his budget offers “tough reforms,” which rings of self-satisfaction rather than sorrow.

He’s decided on his next move. What’s yours?

This budget represents a moral challenge for everyone, especially those of us who voted for him. I’ve already gone here to let my elected officials know that I unconditionally oppose these budget cuts. Join me.

Death of a Thousand Cuts

Call it “the unkindest cut of all.” What makes the chained CPI particularly unkind is the fact that millions of Americans have already had their Social Security benefits cut.  Benefits are determined based on a person’s lifetime earnings, so any significant loss in income now results in a benefit cut later. (More details here.)

Long-term unemployment is a benefit cut. A stagnating wage is a benefit cut. Wealth inequity is a benefit cut.

How many more cuts can the American people stand?

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Government spying hurts the economy

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The War on Drugs Is a War on America! Time to End It!

From Huffington Post:


For 42 years, we have waged war against our own people that we have disguised as the “War on Drugs.” Forty-two years of failure that has cost the American taxpayers $1 trillion dollars, resulted in 45 million drug arrests, and overfilled America’s prisons while failing to reduce the availability, sale, or use of drugs in the United States. Instead, it destroyed the fabric of communities of color, where diseased, innocent people in need of drug rehabilitation were trained in violent criminal behavior and became lifetime consumers of the prison industrial complex. All the while, it led America to become the world’s leading jailer, with 2.3 million of our citizens behind bars, more than any country on earth. Tomorrow, we will begin a “cyber march” on Washington to stop this five-decade-long misery and devastation of humanity, that has resulted in one in every 15 African-American men in prison.

It is a despicable disgrace that drug-addicted, diseased members of entire generations of African-Americans and Latinos were massively thrown into horrific prisons that mainly exposed them to the vices of violent criminal practices. Then these victims of brutal long periods of unjust incarceration were dumped back into communities without any hope or chance for gainful employment, which only resulted in the downward spiral of self-destruction, youth gun violence, poverty and the rise of a cold-hearted prison culture that rules most of streets today across the nation. But all of this can be challenged and changed. Yet it is with a renewed sense of urgency that we must speak out and build an effective movement. The lives of millions of people are at stake.

Upon reflecting with my friend, Dr. Boyce Watkins, recently, we asked ourselves how we could we engage our collective resources to do something about this injustice. It hit me that there was no greater contribution that I have made in my lifetime than the effort that I helped to wage 10 years ago with Dr. Ben Chavis, Andrew Cuomo, the Drug Policy Alliance, the hip-hop community and a coalition of politicians, activists, artists, celebrities and other concerned people to reform and end the Rockefeller Drug Laws in New York, then the harshest drug laws in the country. When Puffy, Jay-Z, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys, Wyclef, the Beastie Boys, Wu-Tang Clan, Mariah Carey and countless other celebrities jumped on the stage in front of 100,000 people in downtown NYC, it was that collective power of popular culture that made the media and politicians pay attention to the needs of the people. The demand for change resulted in thousands of people in NY being released from prison, after Republican Gov. Pataki and later Democratic Gov. Paterson ultimately reformed these draconian laws.

Since that time, we have seen a dramatic shift in the public’s opinion on how we can reduce crime and how we can alleviate the suffering of addiction of millions of Americans. No longer do we believe that the suppression-based model of the past has more effective results than a prevention and rehabilitation model of the future that many states have already implemented. We have been encouraged by action taken by President Obama on federal policy, including the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010, as well as significant investments in re-entry programs, “problem-solving” courts, prevention and treatment programs. As we enter the second term, we know that there is no time to waste and that is why we are doubling down our efforts to work with the president in his desire to end the “War on Drugs” once and for all.

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India Strikes Blow Against Big Pharma

From Truth Out:

By Dean Baker
Monday, 08 April 2013

Last week, India’s Supreme Court rejected the Swiss pharmaceutical company Novartis’ patent on the cancer drug Gleevec. While the immediate issue was the ability of Novartis to charge its patent-protected price for the drug in India, the decision will have an enormous impact on the future of public health not only in India, but around the world.

The key issue is whether we will follow a pattern in which patent monopolies are continually lengthened and strengthened. This has been the goal of the U.S. government in trade negotiations led by both Democratic and Republican presidents. The TRIPs provisions of the Uruguay Round of the WTO negotiations were the clearest manifestation of this drive. These provisions, which were added at the request of the U.S. pharmaceutical industry, require countries throughout the world to adopt U.S.-type patent laws. In addition, the United States has sought to further strengthen patent protections in all the bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that it has negotiated over the last two decades.

There is a similar story domestically, where the duration of patents was increased from 14 years in the 19th century to 17 years up until 1994. Currently, the duration is 20 years from the date of filing. More importantly, the United States has a notoriously lax patent system which makes it possible for drug companies to patent almost anything in order to throw obstacles in the path of would-be competitors.

In 1997, there was a famous incident in which an “inventor” was able to obtain a patent on a peanut butter sandwich.

The result of stronger and longer drug patents is incredibly high drug prices. The United States is the only country in the world that effectively gives drug companies a complete monopoly on the production of drugs that are essential for life or health and then lets them charge whatever they want. The result is that we spend almost $300 billion a year for drugs that would likely sell for less than $30 billion in a free market.

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The GOP’s Drug-Testing Dragnet

From The Nation:,0#

Isabel Macdonald
April 3, 2013
The annual Drug & Alcohol Testing Industry Association (DATIA) conference, held in 2012 in San Antonio, Texas, looks like any other industry gathering. The 600 or so attendees sip their complimentary Starbucks coffee, munch on small plates of muffins and fresh fruit, and backslap old acquaintances as they file into a sprawling Marriott hotel conference hall. They will hear a keynote address by Robert DuPont, who served as drug policy director under Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Nothing odd about any of this until you consider that the main subject of the conference is urine.

Seventy-seven years old, DuPont adopts the air of a sprightly televangelist as he outlines what he calls “the new battle lines” in the war on drugs, one that “begins with kids.” At the climax of his speech, DuPont offers “the new paradigm” of drug treatment: a program that one controversial Hawaiian judge administers to all drug-addicted probationers he oversees. “If they test positive,” he says, his voice slowly rising into a high-pitched yell, “they go to jail that day! No discussion!… No discretion! To jail that day!”

As DuPont finishes his speech, the hundreds of drug-testing company representatives in the audience rise to give him a standing ovation.

DuPont is in an expansive mood following his speech. Since the 1980s, he has been in the business of selling drug-testing services to employers. As far as he’s concerned, drug tests should be given to “anybody who receives a benefit,” from unemployment insurance to welfare. “Test ‘em all!” he exclaims.

This may sound overzealous, but Republican lawmakers around the country are already enthusiastically embracing the idea of making clean urine a condition of receiving public benefits. Since 2011, seven states have passed laws mandating drug tests for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) applicants and recipients, and in 2012 at least twenty-five other states considered proposals to tie welfare cash assistance, and in some cases also food stamps, to drug tests. In February 2012, Congress passed a law paving the way for states to urine-test the recipients of unemployment benefits seeking work in sectors where such screenings are required. Since then, sixteen states have considered laws tying unemployment insurance benefits to drug tests.

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Big Pharma Company Jacks Up Price of Overdose Life Saver by 1100%: Now, More People Will Die

From Alternet:

Naloxone is key to fighting overdose deaths, but sky-high prices threaten community distribution programs.

By Tessie Castillo
April 8, 2013

A remarkable thing happened in 2008:  drug overdose surpassed auto fatalities as the leading cause of accidental death in the United States. Public health officials declared an epidemic, and communities united to battle this new enemy that had left a staggering body count in its wake. The people had a weapon,  naloxone, an antidote that reverses opiate overdose, and programs began popping up across the country to provide training and free naloxone to people at risk for overdose. But then Big Pharma stepped in. The same year that naloxone became so critical to saving lives, one pharmaceutical company secured a monopoly on its production and jacked up the prices by 1,100%.

The company, Hospira, claims its monopoly on injectable naloxone was unintentional. Naloxone has enjoyed price competition from manufacturers since it first came on the market in the 1960s, but in the early 2000s  manufacturers began closing production lines without explanation. Hospira became the sole producer of injectable naloxone by default – a position it still holds today as no new manufacturers have stepped into the market. Generic, sterile injectables like naloxone can be difficult and costly to produce, and  low return on investment is likely a deterrent to new manufacturers.

Whether Hospira maintains its grip on naloxone due to natural market forces or deliberate attempts to monopolize a product of increasing value to our over-prescribed nation, the price increases have been detrimental to overdose prevention programs. When costs blew up in 2008, threatening the sustainability of one of the largest naloxone distribution centers in the country, the Chicago Recovery Alliance, director Dan Bigg called Hospira to plead for a price break.

“One of Hospira’s marketing executives explained the rationale behind the increase,” says Bigg. “He told me that Hospira wanted to increase the average customer bill by 3-4%. Instead of raising all their prices and risk losing customers to the competition, they combed through their list of products and chose one item for a price increase so high as to cause the average bill to go up 3-4%.”

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A Walking Revolution: Movement Making Americans Happier & Healthier

From Common Dreams:

by Jay Walljasper
Published on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 by Common Dreams

THE NEXT BIG HEALTH CARE BREAKTHROUGH! — which could cut rates of heart disease, diabetes, colon cancer, and Alzheimer’s by at least 40 percent and save Americans $100 billion a year — comes from a place you’d least expect. On your block. At the park. Everywhere.

So what’s this amazing treatment, which also happens to be easy, enjoyable and virtually free? It’s as simple as taking a walk.

“Walking is like medicine for my patients,” says Dr. Bob Sallis—a Kaiser Permanente family practitioner from Fontana, California—describing the connection between how much time his patients spend walking and their overall health. “If walking was a pill or surgical procedure, it would be on 60 Minutes.”

“Being physically active is one of the most important things people of all ages can do for their health,” explains Joan Dorn of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). She notes that walking ranks #1 as Americans’ favorite physical activity, and that doing it for as little as 30 minutes is one way to achieve significant health benefits.

US Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin announced that she is preparing a Call to Action on Walking, which is being compared to the famous 1964 Surgeon General’s Report on the dangers of smoking. “Walking is easy,” Dr. Benjamin told a group of health, business, education, and government leaders who came together in Washington, D.C. to advance a national walking movement. “Everyone can do it and it’s fun. We have to make being healthy joyful.”

More than 100 organizations, ranging from the National PTA to the American Lung Association to AARP to NAACP to Nike, were on hand at the meeting. Despite their wide-varying missions, the vast majority of groups agreed on two common goals: 1) Encouraging everyone to walk more; and 2) Boosting policies, practices, and investments that will make communities everywhere more walkable. A national summit to launch a walking movement is now being planned for October 1-3 (see details below).

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