On the floor of the United States House of Representatives, Phil Gingrey railed against the horrors of gay marriage and said:
“[W]e need to go back into the schools at a very early age, maybe at the grade school level, and have a class for the young girls and have a class for the young boys and say, you know, this is what’s important. This is what a father does that is maybe a little different, maybe a little bit better than the talents that a mom has in a certain area. And the same thing for the young girls, that, you know, this is what a mom does, and this is what is important from the standpoint of that union which we call marriage.”
In case you’re wondering, Phil Gingrey is not a caveman. He’s a Republican Congressman from Georgia (although the distinction between the former and latter can sometimes blur). And in case you’re wondering, this did not happen in 1813 or even 1913 but just this past week, in the year 2013. A year in which a record albeit still pathetically low number of women were elected to Congress and yet we still have prominent male politicians and political commentators arguing that incremental progress in women’s equality is a sign of the downfall of civilization, not progress.
But you might also be wondering: What would such gender classes look like? Because before we dismiss Rep. Gingrey’s grunts about raising “ideal” women and men in society, maybe we should explore what he might mean.
To begin with, there’s hunting and gathering. Traditionally, women do the gathering and men do the hunting. So, bonus for Republicans, I’m sure men will be needing more guns. As for the womenfolk, I guess the modern-day equivalent of gathering in America is going to Walmart though if women aren’t working and Republicans refuse to raise the minimum wage for the men who are, I’m not sure how the women are supposed to afford anything. So in our hyper-commodified economy, does “gathering” mean shoplifting? Gonna be a real tragedy when, thanks to conservative three-strikes laws, moms who take food for their kids or socks end up with life sentences.
Okay, so maybe the gender classes would be more circa 1800s. In that era, for the first century or so of our nation’s history, women were considered the property of their husbands. That meant, for instance, that since one could do whatever one wanted with his property, marital rape was not a crime — rape of course being a topic I know Republicans don’t like to talk about but I thought I’d bring it up just in case. Also women couldn’t vote, which might come as a letdown to Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) who chaired the session at which Rep. Gingrey made his tirade and then thanked Gingrey for his remarks. Gingrey’s wife and three daughters might also want to vote and, you know, exert control over their own lives and bodies but, as Rep. Gingrey said himself, “father knows best”.
From The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/cecile-richards/when-an-extreme-agenda-wi_b_3473006.html
The U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a nationwide ban on abortions at 20 weeks.
Just to put any doubt to rest: Roe v. Wade has been the law of the land for 40 years. In that time, the Supreme Court has made it clear that the Constitution protects the right to safe and legal abortion — and that a state may not ban abortion before the point of viability outside the uterus. In fact, unconstitutional abortion bans like this one have already been blocked by federal courts this year in Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, and Idaho.
What’s more, abortions that happen late in a pregnancy are extremely rare, with nearly 99 percent of all abortions taking place before 21 weeks. When a woman seeks an abortion later in pregnancy, it’s often the result of heartbreaking and unusual circumstances — the kind of situation where she and her doctor should have every medical option available.
That was true for Danielle Deaver, a mother from Nebraska. When Danielle found out she was pregnant for a second time, she was overjoyed. But 22 weeks into the pregnancy, her water broke — there was not enough amniotic fluid for her daughter to survive. After careful thought, research, medical advice, and prayer, Danielle and her husband made the agonizing decision to induce labor as soon as possible.
Here’s where an already heart-wrenching story took a turn for the worst.
Because of a law just like the one 228 members of the U.S. House of Representatives stood behind this week, Danielle’s doctor was powerless to help her. He and his legal counsel said their hands were tied — if he intervened, he could go to jail. So Danielle and her husband were forced to wait 10 days, as an infection developed, knowing that their daughter had no chance of surviving.
As Danielle puts it: “That my pregnancy ended — that choice was made by God. How to handle the end of my pregnancy — that should have been private.”
By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Radical anti-war revolutionary turned education advocate Bill Ayers said Tuesday he believed President Barack Obama should be charged with war crimes.
Ayers, who co-founded the far left revolutionary Weather Underground group, told Tom Bevan and Charlie Stone of Real Clear Politics that Obama’s use of targeted drone strikes was “absolutely” a form of terrorism.
“Every president in this century should be put on trial for war crimes,” he said. “Absolutely. Every one of them goes into an office dripping with blood and then adds to it. And yes, I think these are war crimes. I think they’re acts of terror.”
Ayers said he would give Obama a failing grade as president, though he was admittedly fond of his curious and intellectual personality.
From Counter Punch: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/24/the-silent-death-of-the-american-left/
by JEFFREY ST. CLAIR
May 24-26, 2013
Is there a Left in America today?
There is, of course, a Left ideology, a Left of the mind, a Left of theory and critique. But is there a Left movement?
Does the Left exist as an oppositional political, cultural or economic force? Is anyone intimidated or restrained by the Left? Is there a counterforce to the grinding machinery neoliberal capitalism and its political managers?
We can and do at CounterPunch and in similar publications, such as Monthly Review and the New Left Review, publish analyses of capitalism and its inherent vulnerabilities, catalogue its predations and wars of military conquest and imperial exploitation. But where is our capacity to confront the daily horrors of drone strikes, kill lists, mass layoffs, pension raids and the looming nightmare of climate change?
It is a bitter reality, brought into vivid focus by five years of Obama, that the Left is an immobilized and politically impotent force at the very moment when the economic inequalities engineered by our overlords at Goldman Sachs who manage the global economy, should have recharged a long-moribund resistance movement back to life.
Instead the Left seems powerless to coalesce, to translate critique into practice, to mobilize against wars, to resist incursions against basic civil liberties, powerless to confront rule by the bondholders and hedgefunders, unable to meaningfully obstruct the cutting edge of a parasitical economic system that glorifies greed while preying on the weakest and most destitute, and incapable of confronting the true legacy of the man they put their trust in.
This is the politics of exhaustion. We have become a generation of leftovers. We have reached a moment of historical failure that would make even Nietzsche shudder.
We stand on the margins, political exiles in our own country, in a kind of mute darkness, a political occlusion, increasingly obsessed, as the radical art historian Tim Clark put it a few years ago in a disturbing essay in New Left Review, with the tragedy of our own defeat.
Consider this. Two-thirds of the American electorate oppose the ongoing war in Afghanistan. An equal amount objected to intervention in Libya. Even more recoil at the grim prospect of entering the Syrian theater.
Yet there is no antiwar movement to translate that seething disillusionment into action. There are no mass demonstrations. No systematic efforts to obstruct military recruiting. No nationwide strikes. No campus walkouts. No serious divestment campaigns against companies involved in drone technology.
Continue reading at: http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/05/24/the-silent-death-of-the-american-left/
By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
In a wide-ranging interview with GRITtv host Laura Flanders, MIT professor and author Noam Chomsky plainly stated that President Barack Obama’s administration is “dedicated to increasing terrorism” all around the world.
In his view, the NSA spying scandal clearly illustrates how subservient to corporate and state power the American media has become. “There would be headlines saying this is a bad joke” if the press wanted to be truly independent, Chomsky told Flanders.
“The Obama administration is dedicated to increasing terrorism,” he went on. “In fact, it’s doing it all over the world. Obama, first of all, is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history. The drone assassination campaigns, which are just part of it… All of these operations, they are terror operations.”
Chomsky continued: “People have a reaction, they don’t say, ‘Fine, I don’t care if my cousin was murdered.’ And they become what we call terrorists. This is completely understood from the highest level, that as you carry out these operations you’re generating terrorism.”
“Sometimes it’s almost surreal,” he lamented, recalling the congressional testimony of a man from Yemen who claimed a single drone strike turned his whole village against the U.S. — something the extremist Muslims in his region had failed to do.
“People hate the country that’s just terrorizing them, that’s not a surprise,” Chomsky added. “Just consider the way we react to acts of terror. That’s the way other people react to acts of terror.” He went on to say the Obama administration risked a nuclear war to kill al-Qaeda financier Osama bin Laden by sending special forces troops into a sovereign nation.
By Alan Grayson
18th Jun 2013
You spoke, they listened.
Last month, 10,000 of us submitted comments to the United States Trade Representative (USTR), in which we objected to new so-called free trade agreements. We asked that the government not sell out our democracy to corporate interests.
Because of this pressure, the USTR finally let a member of Congress – little ole me, Alan Grayson – actually see the text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The TPP is a large, secret trade agreement that is being negotiated with many countries in East Asia and South America.
The TPP is nicknamed “NAFTA on steroids.” Now that I’ve read it, I can see why. I can’t tell you what’s in the agreement, because the U.S. Trade Representative calls it classified. But I can tell you two things about it.
1) There is no national security purpose in keeping this text secret.
2) This agreement hands the sovereignty of our country over to corporate interests.
3) What they can’t afford to tell the American public is that [the rest of this sentence is classified].
(Well, I did promise to tell you only two things about it.)
I will be fighting this agreement with everything I’ve got. And I know you’ll be there every step of the way.
For now, I’ve set up an e-mail address where you can ask me questions on this topic or other topics: firstname.lastname@example.org
I’ll pick a few and answer them by video.
True Blue Democrats. Get ready. We’re coming.
Congressman Alan Grayson
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/21-3
Privacy is a sacred word to many Americans, as demonstrated by the recent uproar over the brazen invasion of it by the Patriot Act-enabled National Security Agency (NSA). The information about dragnet data-collecting of telephone and internet records leaked by Edward Snowden has opened the door to another pressing conversation—one about privatization, or corporatization of this governmental function.
In addition to potentially having access to the private electronic correspondence of American citizens, what does it mean that Mr. Snowden—a low-level contractor—had access to critical national security information not available to the general public? Author James Bamford, an expert on intelligence agencies, recently wrote: “The Snowden case demonstrates the potential risks involved when the nation turns its spying and eavesdropping over to companies with lax security and inadequate personnel policies. The risks increase exponentially when those same people must make critical decisions involving choices that may lead to war, cyber or otherwise.”
This is a stark example of the blurring of the line between corporate and governmental functions. Booz Allen Hamilton, the company that employed Mr. Snowden, earned over $5 billion in revenues in the last fiscal year, according to The Washington Post. The Carlyle Group, the majority owner of Booz Allen Hamilton, has made nearly $2 billion on its $910 million investment in “government consulting.” It is clear that “national security” is big business.
Given the value and importance of privacy to American ideals, it is disturbing how the terms “privatization” and “private sector” are deceptively used. Many Americans have been led to believe that corporations can and will do a better job handling certain vital tasks than the government can. Such is the ideology of privatization. But in practice, there is very little evidence to prove this notion. Instead, the term “privatization” has become a clever euphemism to draw attention away from a harsh truth. Public functions are being handed over to corporations in sweetheart deals while publicly owned assets such as minerals on public lands and research development breakthroughs are being given away at bargain basement prices.
These functions and assets—which belong to or are the responsibility of the taxpayers—are being used to make an increasingly small pool of top corporate executives very wealthy. And taxpayers are left footing the cleanup bill when corporate greed does not align with the public need.
With this in mind, let us not mince words. “Privatization” is a soft term. Let us call the practice what it really is—corporatization.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/21-3
From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/edward-snowden-charged_n_3480984.html
By Tabassum Zakaria and Mark Hosenball
WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) – The United States has filed espionage charges against Edward Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who admitted revealing secret surveillance programs to media outlets, according to a court document made public on Friday.
Snowden, who is believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong, was charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person, said the criminal complaint, which was dated June 14.
The latter two offenses fall under the U.S. Espionage Act and carry penalties of fines and up to 10 years in prison.
A single page of the complaint was unsealed on Friday. An accompanying affidavit remained under seal.
The charges are the government’s first step in what could be a long legal battle to return Snowden from Hong Kong and try him in a U.S. court.
Two U.S. sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the United States was preparing to seek Snowden’s extradition from Hong Kong, which is part of China but has wide-ranging autonomy, including an independent judiciary.
Continue reading at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/21/edward-snowden-charged_n_3480984.html
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/20-2
A terrible formula has taken hold: warfare state + corporate digital power = surveillance state.
“National security” agencies and major tech sectors have teamed up to make Big Brother a reality. “Of the estimated $80 billion the government will spend on intelligence this year, most is spent on private contractors,” the New York Times noted. The synergy is great for war-crazed snoops in Washington and profit-crazed moguls in Silicon Valley, but poisonous for civil liberties and democracy.
“Much of the coverage of the NSA spying scandal has underplayed crucial context: The capacity of the government to engage in constant surreptitious monitoring of all civilians has been greatly enhanced by the commercialization of the Internet,” media analyst Robert McChesney pointed out this week.
Overall, he said, “the commercialized Internet, far from producing competition, has generated the greatest wave of monopoly in the history of capitalism.” And the concentration of online digital power is, to put it mildly, user-friendly for the surveillance state.
It’s a truly odious and destructive mix — a government bent on perpetual war and a digital tech industry dominated by a few huge firms with an insatiable drive to maximize profits. Those companies have a lot to offer the government, and vice versa.
“The giant monopolistic firms that rule the Internet — Google, Facebook, Apple, Amazon, Version, AT&T, Comcast, Microsoft — all have tremendous incentive to collect information on people,” McChesney said. “There is a great deal of profit for these firms and others to work closely with the national security apparatus, and almost no incentive to refuse to participate. In short, there is a military-digital complex deeply embedded into the political economy and outside any credible review process by elected representatives, not to mention the public.”
Central pieces of the puzzle — routinely left out of mainline media coverage — have to do with key forces at work. Why such resolve in Washington’s highest places for the vast surveillance that’s integral to the warfare state?
What has not changed is the profusion of corporations making a killing from the warfare state in tandem with Washington’s quest for geopolitical positioning, access to fossil fuels and other raw materials — and access to markets for U.S.-based industries ranging from financial services to fast food.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/20-2
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret-world-communications-nsa
Britain’s spy agency GCHQ has secretly gained access to the network of cables which carry the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and has started to process vast streams of sensitive personal information which it is sharing with its American partner, the National Security Agency (NSA).
The sheer scale of the agency’s ambition is reflected in the titles of its two principal components: Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation, aimed at scooping up as much online and telephone traffic as possible. This is all being carried out without any form of public acknowledgement or debate.
One key innovation has been GCHQ‘s ability to tap into and store huge volumes of data drawn from fibre-optic cables for up to 30 days so that it can be sifted and analysed. That operation, codenamed Tempora, has been running for some 18 months.
GCHQ and the NSA are consequently able to access and process vast quantities of communications between entirely innocent people, as well as targeted suspects.
This includes recordings of phone calls, the content of email messages, entries on Facebook and the history of any internet user’s access to websites – all of which is deemed legal, even though the warrant system was supposed to limit interception to a specified range of targets.
The existence of the programme has been disclosed in documents shown to the Guardian by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as part of his attempt to expose what he has called “the largest programme of suspicionless surveillance in human history”.
“It’s not just a US problem. The UK has a huge dog in this fight,” Snowden told the Guardian. “They [GCHQ] are worse than the US.”
However, on Friday a source with knowledge of intelligence argued that the data was collected legally under a system of safeguards, and had provided material that had led to significant breakthroughs in detecting and preventing serious crime.
Britain’s technical capacity to tap into the cables that carry the world’s communications – referred to in the documents as special source exploitation – has made GCHQ an intelligence superpower.
Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2013/jun/21/gchq-cables-secret-world-communications-nsa
20 Jun 2013
As brutal fires torch tinder-dry dense forests and neighboring homes in the American West, researchers are examining the relationships between drought, wildfire, and a warming climate, predicting mass forest die-offs and prolonged megadrought for the Southwest. These forces are accelerating, they say, and already transforming the landscape. Unchecked, they may permanently destroy forests in the southwestern U.S. and in some other regions around the world.
Across the West, “megafires” have become the norm. With climbing temperatures, after a century of fire suppression, the total area burned has tripled since the 1970s, and the average annual number of fires over 10,000 acres is seven times what it was then. Fighting and suppressing fires costs more than $3 billion a year, not to mention lives lost. So understanding what, if anything, can be done to reduce intense forest fires has assumed an urgent priority.
Currently suffering the worst drought in the U.S., New Mexico has emerged as a “natural experiment” in megadrought, a laboratory for understanding drought’s deep history in the region — and what might lay in store in an era of rapid, human-caused warming.
With a highly variable climate, the Southwest boasts perhaps the best-studied megadrought history in the world. It’s the home of dendrology, the science of studying tree-rings, first developed at the University of Arizona. The pronounced seasonality of hot summers followed by cold winters produces well-defined rings, while archaeological fascination with Southwestern cultures — Chaco Canyon, Mesa Verde, and other sites where ancient peoples flourished and disappeared — has supported the collection and study of centuries of tree-ring data. Temperate-zone trees lay down wider rings in wet years, which narrow or vanish during drought. What’s more, rings can be precisely dated, with sets matched against each other, revealing burn scars and patterns of climate, precipitation, drought stress, and tree mortality.
From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/james-cameron-vegan-diet_n_3459199.html
James Cameron is still a vegan — and he picked a massive celebration to remind the world.
The 58-year-old filmmaker and ocean explorer was honored on June 13 during the National Geographic Society’s 125th anniversary gala with “Explorer of the Year” for his successful solo dive last year to the deepest point of the Pacific Ocean. During his speech, Cameron urged the packed house of scientists and explorers to consider dropping animal products and reap the benefits.
“I’ve had an epiphany recently,” Cameron said. “I want to challenge all of you as people of deep conscience, people who are environment stewards of the earth and oceans … By changing what you eat, you will change the entire contract between the human species and the natural world.”
Cameron, who announced he’d gone vegan in October of last year, told the crowd that the switch had a huge impact on him. “I felt like I was waking up from a long sleepwalk. I believe we are all sleepwalking off a cliff if we don’t do this.”
The “Avatar” director’s decision to go vegan isn’t much of a surprise. Back in July of last year, he revealed that his wife, Suzy Amis, was gradually shifting the family toward a more plant-based diet, something that impacted their decision to transform their new farm in New Zealand from dairy to crop-based. “I don’t want to be a hypocrite,” Cameron told the NY Times, adding that they were moving to organically improve the soil on their 2,500-acre spread.
Up next for June’s National Geographic cover boy? The “Avatar” sequels — potentially followed by some more deep sea ocean dives.
“You already own the most important thing to do anything you want do in life,” he told Variety earlier this month. “It’s the most sophisticated computer ever created. And there are a couple of apps that run on that computer that you all have. One’s called curiosity, and the other’s called imagination. You put those two powerful apps running on this little three-pound computer, you can do just about anything you put your mind to.”
Continue reading at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/18/james-cameron-vegan-diet_n_3459199.html
by Damien Gillis
Thursday, 20 June 2013
Jessica Ernst, a high-profile, Alberta-based environmental consultant, has released a comprehensive summary of science, facts and documents relating to groundwater contamination from the controversial practice of natural gas hydraulic fracturing (fracking).
The culmination of ten years of research, the 93-page reportis sure to cause a stir with the energy sector and its critics. Groundwater contamination has been a key concern surrounding the booming fracking industry.
“Jessica Ernst has made a strong case,” says Will Koop, BC Tapwater Alliance Coordinator. “Her collection provides excellent and technically friendly working tools, enabling the public to draw their own conclusions from the critical information. This is not just an invaluable document for North Americans, but for the world.”
Having consulted for the oil and gas industry for thirty years, Ernst became concerned about its impacts when they began to hit home – “living with dangerous contamination after EnCana hydraulically fractured my community’s drinking water aquifers.”
Ernst’s battle with Encana prompted her to bring a landmark lawsuit against the company in Alberta last year.
Ernst cites the industry’s propensity for secrecy and covering up impacts from its operations as a key motivation for compiling this broad spectrum of evidence. In the preface to her report, she quotes renowned energy journalist Andrew Nikiforuk: “As somebody who has reported for 20 years on this industry in [Alberta], I can tell you I’ve met hundreds of people in this province who have signed confidentiality agreements once their water was blown, once their livestock was killed, once a member of their family were injured, once they lost most of their grass or their trees as a result of fouling events, contamination events, air pollution, you name it.”
The claim was made during a meeting with residents who say the “cloudy, odd-tasting water” is making their children sick.
By Steven Hsieh
June 21, 2013
A representative for the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation told a group of concerned citizens that complaining about water quality could be considered an “act of terrorism,” The Tennessean reports.
Sherwin Smith, deputy director of TDEC’s Division of Water Resources, made the claim during a meeting with residents of Maury County, Tennessee. Organized by State Rep. Sheila Butt, R-Columbia, the gathering sought to address complaints by residents that area water was making their children sick. In audio obtained by The Tennessean, Smith can be heard equating water quality complaints, an act of citizenry, with DHS-defined acts of terrorism:
We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously … But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism.
According to The Tennessean, several residents saw the statement as “an attempt to silence complaints.” One 68-year-old woman who says she “prays” before sipping the “cloudy, odd-tasting water,” felt that Smith’s message was, “Leave us alone. Don’t come back anymore. We’re not going to continue on dealing with whatever problem you may have.” An official TDEC spokesperson says the department is investigating the matter:
In terms of the comments made by a member of the Water Resources Division at the meeting, we are just receiving the information and looking into this on our end … The department would like to fully assess what was said in the meeting. I am told that the meeting was far longer than the audio clip provided by SOCM and that Mr. Smith actually clarified his remarks. But again, we are looking into it.
At time of publication, the Department of Homeland Security could not be reached for comment.
From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/19/iceland-fin-whale-hunting-greenpeace
Iceland has resumed its commercial hunting of fin whales after a two-year suspension by landing the first of an expected 180 whales in Hvalfjördur. The first kill prompted protests from environment and animal welfare groups that the hunt is “cruel and unnecessary”.
Undercover pictures taken aboard the Hvalur 8 by Greenpeace show the harpooned whale being cut up for meat that is likely to be exported to Japan. Fin whales are the second largest animal on earth after the blue whale and are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) red list of threatened species.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) condemned the Icelandic whaler Kristján Loftsson who has resumed fin whaling after a two year break. “It is a very sad day seeing these images and knowing that this endangered animal has suffered a cruel death, only to be cut up for meat that nobody needs,” said Robbie Marsland, UK director of IFAW.
“It is time that this dying industry was ended. We urge the Icelandic government to listen to its whale watching and tourism operators and many members of the public both within and outside Iceland and recognise that slaughtering whales is uneconomic as well as inhumane. Whale watching brings greater benefit to coastal communities.”
Iceland cancelled fin whale hunts in 2011 and 2012 partly because Japan, the largest market, was suffering an economic downturn after of the devastating tsunami in March 2011. Seven fin whales were killed in Iceland’s waters in 2006, 125 in 2009 and 148 in 2010.
Loftsson’s company Hvalur plans to hunt up to 180 fin whales in the 2013 season. The International Whaling Commission has banned commercial whaling but its authority is not recognised by Iceland. More than 1 million people from around the world signed a recent online petition against the trading of Icelandic fin whale meat amid revelations that some of it has ended up in dog food products in Japan.
“Whaling is brutal and belongs to a bygone era not the 21st century,” said John Sauven, director of Greenpeace UK. “It is deeply regrettable that a single Icelandic whaler backed by the government is undermining the global ban on commercial whaling which is there to secure the future of the world’s whales.”