Friday Night Fun and Culture: Judy Collins

On Wednesday evening Tina and I had the pleasure of seeing Sweet Judy Blue Eyes in concert at the Lakewood Theater here in Dallas.

Her voice was as lovely as ever, reminding me of the days when escaping to New York City to hang out in the Village helped me find the courage and ability to fly.  I escaped the oppression of life in a pollution filled small town for the magic of places like San Francisco and Berkeley.  Joan was one of the artists who inspired me to make that escape.

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ACI Radical Voices: Juliet Jacques

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My story: I’ve been an outcast at school because I’m transgender

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/11/transgender-discrimination-in-schools-my-story

Our education system mistreats and bullies transgender students. I survived, but the institutions have to change


guardian.co.uk, Thursday 11 April 2013

When I graduate high school in June, I will receive a diploma signed by a school administration that has marginalized me. Despite the suicides of two queer students, my school leaders have done absolutely nothing to improve the lives of the sexually diverse and gender diverse youth in my community. To add insult to injury, as I walk across that stage to receive that diploma, I will be accompanied by a group of students who have treated me as an outcast because of my identity.

Despite all of this, I count myself profoundly privileged. Unlike many other young trans women, I have never found myself on the streets, been forced to have survival sex, or been incarcerated. I’ve found the resolve and been given the resources needed to get to the point where I can count on my fingers the number of weeks between the present and the moment when I indignantly grab my diploma. Even more significantly, I’ll be able to walk off the graduation stage with the knowledge that, come the following semester, I’ll be working toward an undergraduate degree.

While I was able to make it within the system, earning grades and test scores that got me into numerous universities, the current K-12 education model was not meant for people like me. Consider the recent case of Coy Mathis, a transgender six-year-old girl whose school would not allow her to use the girl’s bathroom or George Zamazal, a transgender girl who had to involve the ACLU in order to just wear a dress to prom.

Those are the stories that make the news, but there are plenty that do not. For the majority of us, we go on to be successful despite our state-provided educations, not because of them. As you can imagine, we deal with marginalization, cultural erasure, minority stress and overt acts of hostility from students, staff and family – things that are in no way conducive to the health or academics of any student. To those young people who were unable to find a way through it all, no blame should ever be levied.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/11/transgender-discrimination-in-schools-my-story

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The Marriage Con

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/173746/marriage-con#

Jessica Valenti
on April 10, 2013

The talk of marriage these last few weeks—whether about same sex marriage, young marriage or, most hilariously, Ivy League marriage—reminds me of a fight I had with a high school boyfriend. We had just gotten back together after a brief break up, during which time we both saw other people. He felt very strongly that I had done something wrong by dating someone else. He, of course, was in the clear.

When I pointed out the double standard, he explained his position thusly: If both women and men went around hooking up and having sex, society would be besieged by sexually transmitted diseases. It was up to women to be monogamous and sexually conservative in order to ensure that this wouldn’t happen. (Apparently men are incapable of such a feat.) The health of society, he argued, was dependent on women’s sexual decisions and relationship trends. No readers, I did not date Ross Douthat.

His teen boy logic—as baffling as it was—is actually not far off from conservative culture’s last grasp at saving marriage as they imagine it. And the core of these death throe attempts to hold onto a version of marriage that never really existed is the idea of women—chaste women—as a stabilizing force in society.

Take Focus on the Family’s “talking points” on marriage. Under the headline, “Marriage is Essential to a Thriving Society,” the organizations says straight marriage is necessary because it “socializes men.”

A society’s most serious problem is the unattached male, and marriage links men to women who help channel male sexuality and aggression in socially productive ways. Marriage and parenthood socialize men to care for and respect their wives, other women and children.

See, ladies? We need to be married so that men won’t go raping and pillaging. And let’s not even get into how single moms are told they’re a scourge on society—as if their relationship choices (or non-choices) determine the wellness of the country.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/173746/marriage-con#

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The Savita Halappanavar case: Judicial inquiry told, Killing her by denying her a medically necessary abortion was ‘Catholic thing’

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/10/the-savita-halappanavar-case-judicial-inquiry-told-abortion-refusal-was-catholic-thing/

By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

An Irish inquest into the death of a pregnant Indian woman who was allegedly denied a termination heard from a witness Tuesday who said an abortion was refused due to a Roman Catholic ethos.

Savita Halappanavar, a 31-year-old dentist originally from India, died in a hospital in Galway, on the west coast of Ireland, last October after suffering a miscarriage.

She was 17 weeks pregnant and miscarrying when she went to Galway University Hospital on October 21, complaining of backache.

During evidence on the opening day Monday, her husband Praveen said his wife, a Hindu, repeatedly requested that doctors terminate the pregnancy when it was clear the pregnancy was not viable but they refused because there was still a foetal heartbeat.

In evidence Tuesday, family friend Mrudala Vasepalli recalled being present when Savita asked if anything could be done to save her baby, and when told there was not, requested if anything could speed up the inevitable.

“We don’t do that here, dear. It’s a Catholic thing,” Vasepalli recalls being told by the midwife.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/04/10/the-savita-halappanavar-case-judicial-inquiry-told-abortion-refusal-was-catholic-thing/

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Maddow features PCCC activism

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Solidarity NOT Forever: How the Supreme Court Kicked Retirees Into the Gutter

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/15664-solidarity-not-forever-how-the-supreme-court-kicked-retirees-into-the-gutter

By Ann Hodges and Ellen Dannin
Thursday, 11 April 2013

The Supreme Court’s decision in Allied Chemical Workers v. Pittsburgh Plate Glass to give employers complete control of retiree benefits undercuts the purpose of the National Labor Relations Act and leaves vulnerable, retired employees powerless to protect themselves from costly changes in benefits.

Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act to balance the power of employers – who could operate as corporations or partnerships – by giving employees the right to band together and deal with their employer as a group. A second way Congress gave employees power was by giving them the legal right to support any employee, whether or not they were employed by the same employer. In other words, the NLRA gave employees the right to make common cause with other workers, just as employers had the right to form industry groups to support one another.

The courts, however, have judicially limited employees’ rights to make common cause by deciding that certain types of employees are not actually employees under the law. In 1971, the Supreme Court decided to remove NLRA protections for retirees.

Deciding that retirees were not employees might seem reasonable, because we usually think of employees as active workers. But Congress wanted the NLRA to provide broad protections to workers. Broad protections were only possible if the definition of employee was broad. As a result, Congress defined “employee” in the NLRA to include “any employee,” and, to make it clear that Congress meant what it said, the NLRA says that “employee” is not “limited to the employees of a particular employer.”

Despite this broad definition, the US Supreme Court has decided certain categories of workers are not employees. With each exclusion, those excluded have had less power to protect themselves. In addition, the workers still protected by the NLRA also lose power. Here is how defining retirees as non-employees weakened the rights of all.

For years, unions negotiated retirement benefits to provide employees income and insurance during their retirement. These benefits are deferred compensation, like putting money into the bank to use in later years. The benefits compensated retirees for their years of dedicated work for the employer. The two most important retiree benefits were – and still are – pensions and health insurance. As inflation eroded those benefits for retired workers, unions negotiated increases or resisted decreases.

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/15664-solidarity-not-forever-how-the-supreme-court-kicked-retirees-into-the-gutter

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The Elephant in the Room: Militarism

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/09-1

by Jeff Cohen
Published on Tuesday, April 9, 2013 by Common Dreams

I spent years as a political pundit on mainstream TV – at CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. I was outnumbered, outshouted, red-baited and finally terminated. Inside mainstream media, I saw that major issues were not only dodged, but sometimes not even acknowledged to exist.

Today there’s an elephant in the room: a huge, yet ignored, issue that largely explains why Social Security is now on the chopping block. And why other industrialized countries have free college education and universal healthcare, but we don’t. It’s arguably our country’s biggest problem – a problem that Martin Luther King Jr. focused on before he was assassinated 45 years ago, and has only worsened since then (which was the height of the Vietnam War).

That problem is U.S. militarism and perpetual war.

In 1967, King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” – and said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Nowadays MSNBC hosts yell at Fox News hosts, and vice versa, about all sorts of issues – but when the Obama administration expanded the bloody war in Afghanistan, the shouting heads at both channels went almost silent. When Obama’s drone war expanded, there was little shouting. Not at MSNBC, not at Fox. Nor at CNN, CBS, ABC or so-called public broadcasting.

We can have raging debates in mainstream media about issues like gun control and gay marriage and minimum wage, but when the elites of both parties agree on military intervention – as they so often do – debate is nearly nonexistent. Anyone in the mainstream who goes out on a limb to loudly question this oversized creature in the middle of the room known as militarism or interventionism is likely to disappear faster than you can say ‘Phil Donahue.’

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/04/09-1

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The ATF Wants ‘Massive’ Online Database to Find Out Who Your Friends Are

From Wired:  http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/04/atf-database/

By Robert Beckhusen04.05.13

The ATF doesn’t just want a huge database to reveal everything about you with a few keywords. It wants one that can find out who you know. And it won’t even try to friend you on Facebook first.

According to a recent solicitation from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the bureau is looking to buy a “massive online data repository system” for its Office of Strategic Intelligence and Information (OSII). The system is intended to operate for at least five years, and be able to process automated searches of individuals, and “find connection points between two or more individuals” by linking together “structured and unstructured data.”

Primarily, the ATF states it wants the database to speed-up criminal investigations. Instead of requiring an analyst to manually search around for your personal information, the database should “obtain exact matches from partial source data searches” such as social security numbers (or even just a fragment of one), vehicle serial codes, age range, “phonetic name spelling,” or a general area where your address is located. Input that data, and out comes your identity, while the computer automatically establishes connections you have with others.

Many other specific requirements are also to be expected for a federal law enforcement agency: searching names, phone numbers, “nationwide utility data” and reverse phone searches. The data will then be collected to help out during investigations and provide “relevant information and intelligence products.” There’s no hint the database is to be used to track gun sales, which is a big part of the ATF’s job, as the bureau is prohibited by law from establishing a centralized electronic database for gun purchases.

It’s necessary to note, however, that the ATF already does most of these things. Tracking down your identity, financial data, and finding connections between you and your kinfolk — your relatives, friends and business associates — is what criminal investigations are all about. And the bureau’s intelligence analysts already use a number of databases to help piece this information together.

Continue reading at:  http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2013/04/atf-database/

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Wrongly foreclosed on? Here’s a few bucks from the billion-dollar banks

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How America’s fast food industry makes a quick buck

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/10/america-fast-food-industry-quick-buck

The gulf between CEO pay and staff McWages is shockingly wide: a strike serves this system of super-exploitation right


guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 10 April 2013

Last week, approximately 400 workers in the fast food industry went on a one-day strike protesting the “McWages” that keep them them living at or even below the poverty line. Despite their modest demands – the workers want to be able to exercise their right to form a union without intimidation or harassment and they want to be paid a living wage of $15 per hour – they face an uphill battle to achieve them.

One of the catch phrases used by striking workers was “we cannot survive on seven twenty-five,” a reference to the insulting $7.25 average hourly wage most fast food workers in New York get paid. This paltry sum, which adds up to less than $300 pre tax for a 40-hour week, would not amount to a living wage anywhere in the country, and doesn’t even come close in New York, one of the most expensive of cities in the US to live in. That is the federal minimum wage, however – and it’s not hard to imagine that employees would be paid even less than $7.25 an hour if their bosses could get away with it.

One striking worker, Joseph Barrera, who works for TacoBell, told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes that when he started working at the chain, at the age of 15, he was paid $7.15 an hour. Six years later, as a supervisor, his pay has increased to $7.25 an hour, a ten cents raise. If you’re finding it hard to imagine how Barrera makes it through the month on such meager wages, that’s because he can’t. He says he often has to skip meals or walk to work because he can’t afford the subway fare and he hasn’t bought clothes in years. He’d like to be able to get married and start a family, but doing so on his full-time supervisor’s salary is impossible.

Treating an employee this badly might be excusable if the company that hired him was struggling for survival, but this is far from the case. Yum Brands Inc, which owns Taco Bell, as well as KFC and Pizza Hut, proudly boasts on its website an EPS growth of 13% in 2012, an increased dividend for shareholders of 18%, and a net income of $1.6bn. Rival fast food companies like McDonald’s, Burger King and Wendy’s are all doing similarly well: according to Business Wire, fast food is one of the fastest growing industries, thanks to a competitive cost advantage.

Yet, the fast food companies are not only unembarrassed about how they exploit their workers, but they actually seem to think they are doing employees like Barrera a favor in providing him with a job that is a step above indentured servitude. This attitude is evident in the various statements made by the companies to the media following the strike. Burger King issued a communique saying that the company has provided “an entry point into the workforce for millions of Americans” and that they “offer compensation and benefits that are consistent with the QSR [quick service restaurant] industry”.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/apr/10/america-fast-food-industry-quick-buck

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Rep Joe Barton cites Great Flood as evidence against man-made climate change

Joe Barton, Rick Perry and Louie Gohmert.  People here in Texas have to stop electing these clowns  for the amusement value.  Government isn’t a reality show like Jack-Ass.

From The Daily Kos:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/11/1200742/-Rep-Joe-Barton-cites-Great-Flood-as-evidence-against-man-made-climate-nbsp-change

Hunter
Thu Apr 11, 2013

Congressman Joe Barton’s most significant contribution to the public discourse will probably always be the bit where he apologized to BP on behalf of the government for the hardships BP was forced to undergo after the various shorelines of the Gulf Coast made off with a few hundred million gallons of the good company’s hard-earned crude oil. He’s a proponent of eff you politics, the kind of politics that says we should be getting down on our grubby American hands and knees and thanking the oil companies for all the days that they do not crap all over the wilderness, because hey—it’s a free country, sport. Well, it’s free if you can pay for it.

Anyway, Joe Barton considers himself a learned man, and part of being learned, nowadays, means recognizing that climate change is happening. But it’s not caused by man, because that would make the oil companies sad. He explained it again during the subcommittee debate on whether to allow the Keystone pipeline expansion (Barton is a big supporter, again because oil companies. Sorry—diluted bitumen companies. Where are my manners).

“I would point out that people like me who support hydrocarbon development don’t deny that climate is changing,” he added. “I think you can have an honest difference of opinion of what’s causing that change without automatically being either all in that’s all because of mankind or it’s all just natural. I think there’s a divergence of evidence.”

A divergence in evidence means, in this case, that Joe Barton’s pockets do not get lined with shorebirds or unbleached corals or the deeds to a million sea-level properties, they get filled with oil money, and that is all the evidence Joe Barton needs. Well, that and a little bullshit for the rubes:

Continue reading at:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/04/11/1200742/-Rep-Joe-Barton-cites-Great-Flood-as-evidence-against-man-made-climate-nbsp-change

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Cleanup Workers Collect Oil Faster Than Media Collect Information

From Reader Supported News:  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/276-74/16890-cleanup-workers-collect-oil-faster-than-media-collect-information

By William Boardman, Reader Supported News
10 April 13

And ExxonMobil isn’t saying how much oil is still in the pipeline

Ten days after the ExxonMobil Pegasus pipeline burst, spewing thousands of barrels of Canadian tar sands oil into the North Woods residential development in Mayflower, Arkansas, much of the oil spill has been collected, although it continues to spread slowly, seeping into wetlands and nearby Lake Conway.

Slow as the oil’s movement may be, it seems to move faster than news related to the spill, the cleanup, or ExxonMobil and the local, state, and federal agencies who keep tight control over information that, in ordinary circumstances, the public would expect to hear in a timely fashion.

Even those directly affected say they are told little, mostly generalities from ExxonMobil public relations people. As RT.com reported April 7, “Town residents say they are being kept in the dark over compensation and the cleanup by Exxon.”

Over at Lighthousesolar.com, the sardonic view of this tight-liddedness was that the news control machine was working:

The big news is that for the most part, only fringe online new outlets are reporting on the disaster! The federal and state government appear to be working together to keep the news of the spill from making it onto front page news. Consider this:

The oil spill was kept off front page news on all major new outlets.

Exxon has asked the FAA to enforce a no-fly zone over the area, most likely to prevent aerial photography. The FAA did as Exxon asked.

Local and state police are keeping the media and public away from the spill site.

This situation continues to raise questions like these, increasingly in need of future refinement.

Who’s taking care of the 40 or so people evacuated from 22 houses close to the spill?

They seem to be pretty much taking care of themselves as far as one can tell. Despite a wide range in their ages, and hence vulnerability to the toxic exposure they’ve suffered, there’s no word that they’re being screened by public health officials or anything like that.

Continue reading at:  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/276-74/16890-cleanup-workers-collect-oil-faster-than-media-collect-information

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