What Equality Means

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeleine-m-kunin/what-equality-means_b_3517106.html


June 26, 2013 will go down in history. The Supreme Court decisions on same-sex marriage have given those couples, who live in states which approved gay marriage, full citizenship under the constitution.

The Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which had denied federal benefits to gay couples, is dead. It was signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996. What a different time it was. No state had approved gay marriage. Men and women who openly declared their sexual preferences did so at great risk. Vermont was not to adopt its Civil Unions until the year two thousand. The controversy that followed caused the defeat of half a dozen legislators in the next election.

With the court’s decision on California’s Proposition 8, 13 states will have sanctioned same-sex marriage — that amounts to thirty percent of the population. The latest polls show 55 percent of Americans approve of same-sex marriage; 44 percent oppose.

What is so stunning about the decision is that is was made by a conservative sharply divided court — five to four in each case, but not the same coalition. Supreme Court Justices, it appears, also have gay friends and family members.

The majority opinion n DOMA, written by Justice Kennedy stated that DOMA violates the equal protection clause, an argument similar to one made by the Vermont Supreme Court in 1999.

What do these combined decisions mean to Americans? The opponents will not give up and it is their right to continue to uphold their beliefs. But the assumption that same-sex married couples destroy heterosexual marriages has been denied. The court found no evidence for that claim.

The belief that same-sex couples have the civil right to be protected by the constitution has been affirmed. These landmark decisions have an impact far beyond the rights of married couples. It tells all gay and lesbian men and women, and their children that they have a legitimate place in society. They do not have to hide, as they once did in deep dark closets. Yes, 37 states have passed laws which prohibit same-sex marriage. Some will continue to do so, regardless of the court’s decisions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/madeleine-m-kunin/what-equality-means_b_3517106.html

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Wendy Davis channels anger of millions as new Texas makes itself heard

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/28/wendy-davis-texas-abortion-bill

The dramatic events of Tuesday night brought to the surface tensions that had been building for years – in an increasingly diverse Texas where white Republican men still call the shots

Reported in partnership with the Texas Observer

Dave Mann and Forrest Wilder
guardian.co.uk, Friday 28 June 2013

The moment was years in the making. It was 11.45pm Tuesday night, and the Texas Senate was poised to enact perhaps the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in the United States. State senator Wendy Davis had filibustered the bill for 11 hours in a remarkable attempt to run out a 30-day special legislative session.

Hundreds of thousands of people across the country began to follow Davis’s dramatic filibuster on an internet livestream. They saw Republicans use procedural technicalities to cut her off, and with just 15 minutes left before a midnight deadline, Democrats finally seemed out of maneuvers.

Then state senator Leticia Van de Putte, a Democrat from San Antonio who had rushed back to the Texas Capitol from her father’s funeral, asked to be recognized to speak. The Republican presiding officer at first ignored her. When she was finally given the floor for an inquiry, Van de Putte asked: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”

The orange-clad abortion-rights supporters packed in the gallery burst into cheers. Their shouts grew louder and louder until they drowned out the final minutes of the session, preventing Republicans from passing the bill. No one in the Texas legislature had ever seen anything like it.

The day’s dramatic events that captivated people across the country – the 11-hour filibuster, the dramatic fight over arcane Senate rules, and the decisive 15 minutes of ear-splitting whooping and hollering from the gallery – were the result of political tensions building in Texas for years.

There’s a saying: “Texas is paradise for men and dogs, but hell for women and horses.” That’s a little outdated and not completely accurate: in fact, horses are treated pretty well here. Women in Texas have had a difficult time.

For two decades, since Ann Richards was governor, Texas politics has been dominated by a small group of mostly Anglo-Republican men, elected by a few hundred thousand GOP primary voters.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/jun/28/wendy-davis-texas-abortion-bill

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Obama’s Dirty War on Journalism

From In These Times:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15207/obamas_dirty_war_on_journalism/

Despite a facade of openness, the president has sought to crack down on “inconvenient” reporting.

BY David Sirota
June 28, 2013

Out of all the harrowing storylines in journalist Jeremy Scahill’s new film Dirty Wars, the one about Abdulelah Haider Shaye best spotlights the U.S. government’s new assault against press freedom.

Shaye is the Yemeni journalist who in 2009 exposed his government’s coverup of a U.S. missile strike that, according to McClatchy’s newswire, ended up killing “dozens of civilians, including 14 women and 21 children.” McClatchy notes that for the supposed crime of committing journalism, Shaye was sentenced to five years in prison following a trial that “was widely condemned as a sham” by watchdog groups and experts who noted that the prosecution did not “offer any substantive evidence to support [its] charges.”

What, you might ask, does this have to do with the American government’s attitude toward press freedom? That’s where Scahill’s movie comes in. As the film shows, when international pressure moved the Yemeni government to finally consider pardoning Shaye, President Obama personally intervened, using a phone call with Yemen’s leader to halt the journalist’s release.

Had this been an isolated incident, it might be easy to write off. But the president’s move to criminalize the reporting of inconvenient facts is sadly emblematic of his administration’s larger war against journalism. And, mind you, the word “war” is no overstatement.

As New York Times media correspondent David Carr put it: “If you add up the pulling of news organization phone records (The Associated Press), the tracking of individual reporters (Fox News), and the effort by the current administration to go after sources (seven instances and counting in which a government official has been criminally charged with leaking classified information to the news media), suggesting that there is a war on the press is less hyperbole than simple math.”

In this unprecedented global war, President Obama has been backed by the combined power of Justice Department prosecutors, FBI surveillance agents, State Department diplomats and, perhaps most troubling of all, a cadre of high-profile Benedict Arnolds within the media itself.

Continue reading at:  http://inthesetimes.com/article/15207/obamas_dirty_war_on_journalism/

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The Naked Empire

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/28-0

by Robert C. Koehler

Certainly Edward Snowden’s crime is one of public relations. In this day and age, power ain’t just jackboots, tanks and missiles. What he did by outing the NSA and its gargantuan surveillance operation was mess hugely with the American image — the American brand — with its irresistible combination of might and right.

That’s the nature of his “treason.” The secret he gave away was pretty much the same one the little boy blurted out in Hans Christian Andersen’s tale: “The emperor has no clothes!” That is, the government’s security industry isn’t devoted, with benevolent righteousness, to protecting the American public. Instead, it’s obsessively irrational, bent on accumulating data on every phone call we make. It’s a berserk spy machine, seemingly to no sane end. How awkward.

For instance, the government of Hong Kong, in refusing to extradite Snowden as per the Obama administration’s request, explained in its refusal letter that it has “formally written to the U.S. Government requesting clarification on reports about the hacking of computer systems in Hong Kong by U.S. government agencies. It will follow up on the matter, to protect the legal rights of people of Hong Kong.”

In other words, sorry, Naked Empire. We’re not going to do what you ask, and by the way, we have some issues with your behavior we’d like to discuss.

This is not the sort of insolence the world’s only superpower wants to hear, and it’s Snowden’s fault, along with other whistleblowers who preceded him, some of whom, such as Bradley Manning, are enduring harsh consequences for their truth-telling. Traitors, all of them — at least as far as the government is concerned, because, when you strip away the public relations mask, the primary interest of government is the perpetuation of power. And anyone who interferes with that perpetuation, even, or especially, in the name of principle, is a “security risk.”

Incredibly, so much of the Fourth Estate goes along with this, aligning itself with the raw, unarticulated interests of power — with the idea that security equals the status quo. Mainstream coverage of the Snowden affair assumes that a crime has been committed and has no further interest in that aspect of the story: a crime is a crime. The unspoken assumption is that the government protects us by doing whatever it does, and we don’t really need to know the details. We just need to round up the transgressors and bring them to justice, because this, rather than the upholding of some sort of principle independent of raw power, is what constitutes the “national interest.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/06/28-0

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The Wonderful American World of Informers and Agents Provocateurs

From Tom Dispatch:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175718/

Close Encounters of the Lower-Tech Kind

By Todd Gitlin
June 27, 2013

Only Martians, by now, are unaware of the phone and online data scooped up by the National Security Agency (though if it turns out that they are aware, the NSA has surely picked up their signals and crunched their metadata).  American high-tech surveillance is not, however, the only kind around.  There’s also the lower tech, up-close-and-personal kind that involves informers and sometimes government-instigated violence.

Just how much of this is going on and in how coordinated a way no one out here in the spied-upon world knows.  The lower-tech stuff gets reported, if at all, only one singular, isolated event at a time — look over here, look over there, now you see it, now you don’t.  What is known about such surveillance as well as the suborning of illegal acts by government agencies, including the FBI, in the name of counterterrorism has not been put together by major news organizations in a way that would give us an overview of the phenomenon.  (The ACLU has done by far the best job of compiling reports on spying on Americans of this sort.)

Some intriguing bits about informers and agents provocateurs briefly made it into the public spotlight when Occupy Wall Street was riding high.  But as always, dots need connecting.  Here is a preliminary attempt to sort out some patterns behind what could be the next big story about government surveillance and provocation in America.

Two Stories from Occupy Wall Street

The first is about surveillance. The second is about provocation.

On September 17, 2011, Plan A for the New York activists who came to be known as Occupy Wall Street was to march to the territory outside the bank headquarters of JPMorgan Chase.  Once there, they discovered that the block was entirely fenced in.  Many activists came to believe that the police had learned their initial destination from e-mail circulating beforehand.  Whereupon they headed for nearby Zuccotti Park and a movement was born.

Continue reading at:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175718/

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The Expendables: How the Temps Who Power Corporate Giants Are Getting Crushed

From Pro Publica: http://www.propublica.org/article/the-expendables-how-the-temps-who-power-corporate-giants-are-getting-crushe

by Michael Grabell
ProPublica, June 27, 2013

It’s 4:18 a.m. and the strip mall is deserted. But tucked in back, next to a closed-down video store, an employment agency is already filling up. Rosa Ramirez walks in, as she has done nearly every morning for the past six months. She signs in and sits down in one of the 100 or so blue plastic chairs that fill the office. Over the next three hours, dispatchers will bark out the names of who will work today. Rosa waits, wondering if she will make her rent.

In cities all across the country, workers stand on street corners, line up in alleys or wait in a neon-lit beauty salon for rickety vans to whisk them off to warehouses miles away. Some vans are so packed that to get to work, people must squat on milk crates, sit on the laps of passengers they do not know or sometimes lie on the floor, the other workers’ feet on top of them.

This is not Mexico. It is not Guatemala or Honduras. This is Chicago, New Jersey, Boston.

The people here are not day laborers looking for an odd job from a passing contractor. They are regular employees of temp agencies working in the supply chain of many of America’s largest companies – Walmart, Macy’s, Nike, Frito-Lay. They make our frozen pizzas, sort the recycling from our trash, cut our vegetables and clean our imported fish. They unload clothing and toys made overseas and pack them to fill our store shelves. They are as important to the global economy as shipping containers and Asian garment workers.

Many get by on minimum wage, renting rooms in rundown houses, eating dinners of beans and potatoes, and surviving on food banks and taxpayer-funded health care. They almost never get benefits and have little opportunity for advancement.

Across America, temporary work has become a mainstay of the economy, leading to the proliferation of what researchers have begun to call “temp towns.” They are often dense Latino neighborhoods teeming with temp agencies. Or they are cities where it has become nearly impossible even for whites and African-Americans with vocational training to find factory and warehouse work without first being directed to a temp firm.

In June, the Labor Department reported that the nation had more temp workers than ever before: 2.7 million. Overall, almost one-fifth of the total job growth since the recession ended in mid-2009 has been in the temp sector, federal data shows. But according to the American Staffing Association, the temp industry’s trade group, the pool is even larger: Every year, a tenth of all U.S. workers finds a job at a staffing agency.

Continue reading at:  http://www.propublica.org/article/the-expendables-how-the-temps-who-power-corporate-giants-are-getting-crushe

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The Reagan Revolution is an Utter Failure

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TD Bank Gets Punked: Tar Sands Blockade Highlights Bank’s Tar Sands Support

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/28-2

The bank “should be held accountable” for bankrolling “the most dangerous and ecologically devastating practice on earth,” says group

Andrea Germanos

Tar Sands Blockade pulled a prank on TD Bank on Friday in an action to highlight the bank’s support for the Keystone XL pipeline and the tar sands, which the group described as “the most dangerous and ecologically devastating practice on earth.”

“The bank should be held accountable” Ron Seifert, a spokesperson with Tar Sands Blockade, told Common Dreams Friday afternoon, confirming that the group was responsible for the action.

-Tar Sands Blockadepress release issued Friday, purportedly from the bank, said that the institution was going to begin selling its $1.6 billion stake in the tar sands carrying pipeline and “other oil sands related ventures” following President Obama’s recent climate speech and “increasing controversies and economic difficulties for Alberta’s oil sands.”  It continued:

“Divesting from Keystone XL not only makes financial sense given the uncertainties surrounding the project, but it fits with out pledge to be ‘As Green As Our Logo’,” says TD Bank Environmental Director Diana Glassman.

“The short term dictates of the market and the concerns of our shareholders are of course the primary motivation behind the move away from oil sands, but thankfully, doing so will serve to protect other investments in the long term.” says TD Chief Economist Craig Alexander, “Climate change is bad for business and economic stability in general, and the scientific community has been very clear about the climate change impacts of Alberta’s oil sands.”

The release was sent out and posted to yourtdbank.com, a site that appears to mirror the actual tdbank.com site.

Obviously getting some attention—perhaps including some praise for the recognizing the climate change impacts of the tar sands—TD Bank tweeted this morning:

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/06/28-2

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