Jerry Garcia (August 1, 1942 – August 9, 1995)

Miss ya, Jerry, miss ya…

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Transphobia in the Academy: Feminist Edition

From Shakesville:

[Content note: transphobia and transphobic hate speech, rape, death, violence.)

Last week, Liss sent me a link to this story at the Transadvocate; it details a chilling letter sent to trans* activist Dallas Denny from a group of anonymous radical feminist academics. She asked if I would try to address the matter as an academic, since I am more familiar with that environment than she is. Academic or no, this is pretty terrible.

The threatening letter was in response to a year-old letter that Ms. Denny and Dr. Jamison Green had penned to Routledge Press. In it, they had expressed their concerns regarding the publication of an upcoming book by Dr. Sheila Jeffreys and Dr. Lorene Gottschalk, Gender Hurts, which included transphobic material.

That was a year ago. On July 26, Denny received a letter “signed” by an anonymous group calling themselves “Women for Academic Freedom,” who are apparently Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs). In it, WFAF claimed that trans* activists were trying to silence women and feminists. They promised, as of fall 2013, to launch a wave of new classes that would indoctrinate teach an entire new generation of feminists to view trans* advocacy as a patriarchal silencing tool, and to distrust and denigrate trans* folk.

My first thought? WFAF’s letter is remarkably reminiscent of the comments left by asshats who show up at Shakesville in response to critiques of Penny Arcade or Fat Princess. Quite remarkably.


The classic hallmarks were all there: conflating critique with censorship (nope!), lots of projection, circular arguments, embarassingly inaccurate reference to Orwell and McCarthy, and threats made behind the mask of anonymity. It’s also reminiscent of right-wing concern trolls: references to a vast conspiracy, the promise to indoctrinate a generation of students into “right” thinking, mistaking criticism for hate speech, and a name invoking quite the opposite of what the group actually does. “Women for Academic Freedom”? Sure.

I’ve seen some pretty bad behavior in academe before, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a group of feminists so perfectly mimic fanboy trolls and rightwing assholes. And lest anyone think that we get to hide behind the argument that they’re not “real” feminists, let me direct you to the link Liss Tweeted last week about “real Christians.” I hope you can see the parallel. I don’t get to dismiss transphobic radical feminists as not “real feminists,” but I sure as hell don’t have to let them speak for me. Nor do I have to let their bullshit go by unchallenged.

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Fewer Than Ten People Show Up For Ex-Gay Pride Event That Expected to Draw ‘Thousands’

From Right Wing Watch:

by Brian Tashman
on Wednesday, 7/31/2013

Yesterday, American Family Radio’s Sandy Rios spoke to Ex-Gay Pride Month organizer Christopher Doyle about today’s ex-gay lobby day on Capitol Hill. Doyle, who was organizing the since-canceled Ex-Gay Pride banquet at the Family Research Council, complained in an interview with the Christian Post that “un-American” LGBT rights advocates have “shut us out,” explaining that “because of all this homo-fascism and indoctrination in the media, ex-gays aren’t given a fair shake.”

Rios confidently predicted that “thousands of ex-gays are descending” on Washington for a press conference planned for today at the Supreme Court. She lamented that when she led Concerned Women for America the media refused to hear “our ex-gay friends” because it “undermined the whole effort of the homosexual lobby.”

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Fox News’ Right Wing Radical Neil Cavuto: Workers should be grateful for whatever jobs they can find

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Wednesday, July 31, 2013

On Wednesday afternoon’s edition of “Your World with Neil Cavuto,” host Neil Cavuto said that U.S. workers are spoiled and greedy because they want a higher minimum wage. He pointed to his own first job making two dollars an hour as an example of a job that Americans should be thankful to take.

“Get ready,” he said, “for me to sound like the old fart that I am.”

“It’s like jobs aren’t enough these days,” he opined. “They damn well better pay well or folks just really going to apply for them at all. Did I ever tell you that when I was a kid, you’d be grateful for any job you could find. Now a lot of kids are just the opposite, turning up their nose at fast food jobs that go begging at 11 bucks an hour. It’s true!”

“Only in America today,” he continued, “can our politicians bemoan a livable wage, forgetting a lot of folks would be grateful for any wage, any chance, any job, anytime. All I know is as soon as I turned 16 and heard a fast food chain called Arthur Treacher’s was opening a store in my town of Danbury, Connecticut, I stood in a line for a position — any position. I got the job, and soon rocketed to relief manager, then weekend manager, then by 16 and a half, full-time store manager! And it all started at two bucks an hour. And all the fish I could eat.”

Mother Jones writer Tim Murphy said, “That’s a good story. But the math makes the opposite point Cavuto intended.”

Adjusted for inflation, Cavuto’s two dollars an hour in 1974 would be about $9.47 today, which is 28 cents more than the highest minimum wage in the country, Washington state’s $9.19 per hour. In Connecticut, the minimum wage is only $7.25, meaning workers who start at that same Arthur Treacher’s restaurant now earn about $1.40 per hour in 1974 Cavuto-dollars.

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Can anyone survive on $7.25?

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XKeyscore: NSA tool collects ‘nearly everything a user does on the internet’

From The Guardian UK:

• XKeyscore gives ‘widest-reaching’ collection of online data
• NSA analysts require no prior authorization for searches
• Sweeps up emails, social media activity and browsing history
NSA’s XKeyscore program – read one of the presentations, Wednesday 31 July 2013

A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its “widest-reaching” system for developing intelligence from the internet.

The latest revelations will add to the intense public and congressional debate around the extent of NSA surveillance programs. They come as senior intelligence officials testify to the Senate judiciary committee on Wednesday, releasing classified documents in response to the Guardian’s earlier stories on bulk collection of phone records and Fisa surveillance court oversight.

The files shed light on one of Snowden’s most controversial statements, made in his first video interview published by the Guardian on June 10.

“I, sitting at my desk,” said Snowden, could “wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge or even the president, if I had a personal email”.

US officials vehemently denied this specific claim. Mike Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House intelligence committee, said of Snowden’s assertion: “He’s lying. It’s impossible for him to do what he was saying he could do.”

But training materials for XKeyscore detail how analysts can use it and other systems to mine enormous agency databases by filling in a simple on-screen form giving only a broad justification for the search. The request is not reviewed by a court or any NSA personnel before it is processed.

XKeyscore, the documents boast, is the NSA‘s “widest reaching” system developing intelligence from computer networks – what the agency calls Digital Network Intelligence (DNI). One presentation claims the program covers “nearly everything a typical user does on the internet”, including the content of emails, websites visited and searches, as well as their metadata.

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The Madness of the Willful Destruction of Our Dependable Popular Way of Life

From Alternet:

Ubiquitous cameras are normal. Subverted freedoms are normal. Effective public dissent is now controlled by police, whose intimidation is normal.

By John Pilger
July 30, 2013

London — I have known my postman for more than 20 years. Conscientious and good-humoured, he is the embodiment of public service at its best. The other day, I asked him, “Why are you standing in front of each door like a soldier on parade?”

“New system,” he replied, “I am no longer required simply to post the letters through the door. I have to approach every door in a certain way and put the letters through in a certain way.”


“Ask him.”

Across the street was a solemn young man, clipboard in hand, whose job was to stalk postmen and see they abided by the new rules, no doubt in preparation for privatisation.  I told the stalker my postman was admirable. His face remained flat, except for a momentary flicker of confusion.

In Brave New World Revisited, Aldous Huxley describes a new class conditioned to a normality that is not normal “because they are so well adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does”.

Surveillance is normal in the Age of Regression — as Edward Snowden revealed. Ubiquitous cameras are normal. Subverted freedoms are normal. Effective public dissent is now controlled by police, whose intimidation is normal.

The traducing of noble words like “democracy”, “reform”, “welfare” and “public service” is normal. Prime ministers who lie openly about lobbyists and war aims are normal. The export of $5.5 billion worth of British arms, including crowd control ammunition, to the medieval state of Saudi Arabia, where apostasy is a capital crime, is normal.

The willful destruction of efficient, popular public institutions like the Royal Mail is normal. A postman is no longer a postman, going about his decent work; he is an automaton to be watched, a box to be ticked.  Huxley described this regression as insane and our “perfect adjustment to that abnormal society” a sign of the madness.

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They’re stealing Bradley Manning’s life

From Socialist Worker:

Nicole Colson
July 31, 2013


MILITARY JUDGE Col. Denise Lind found Pfc. Bradley Manning guilty of almost every charge leveled against him for his role as a military whistle-blower–but not guilty of the most serious charge of “aiding the enemy.”


While the outcome on the “aiding the enemy” charge is seen by supporters as a victory, Manning, who released classified documents and video to the muckraking WikiLeaks website, still faces as many as 136 years in prison on 19 other charges, including six counts of violating the Espionage Act and five counts of stealing government property.


The sentencing phase of the trial will begin on July 31 and is expected to take at least a month before Lind rules. But Manning will almost certainly spend most of the rest of his life behind bars–unless pressure is brought to bear on the military to relent.


The not guilty verdict on the most serious charge against Manning–of aiding the enemy–is important. The failure of the government to make this charge stick is an indication of its overreach.


Prosecutors tried a desperate eleventh-hour move to win a guilty verdict on this charge, too. Toward the end of the case, they recalled former Army Specialist Jihrleah Showman–a one-time supervisor of Manning’s–who suddenly claimed that Manning had expressed “anti-American” sentiments, and that she had at one time suspected Manning of being a spy. Showman had never documented any of these alleged concerns.


The wild accusations were in keeping with the prosecution’s attitude throughout the trial. Manning was portrayed as a traitor and “anarchist,” maliciously bent on harming American interests–rather than what he is: someone who believed the American people have the right to know about the crimes being committed by their government in their name.


The outcome on the “aiding the enemy” charge is important for another reason–it represents a small pushback against the Obama administration’s all-out war on whistle-blowers. If Manning had been convicted on this charge, it would have opened the door to accusing anyone responsible for publishing classified information, including journalists working for mainstream publications, of treason.

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Have gay rights groups abandoned Bradley Manning?

From The Guardian UK:

Mainstream LGBT rights groups like Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD have stayed quiet about Manning, Tuesday 30 July 2013

Gay 25-year-old US army private Bradley Manning stood trial for supposedly aiding the enemy by passing classified information to Wikileaks, including several hundred thousand pages of army reports, diplomatic cables and information that detailed the killing of civilians by American soldiers. His verdict is expected today.

The trial, which ended last week, was marked by government intimidation of the media and comes after Manning spent almost a year in solitary confinement in Quantico, Virginia, prompting international outrage.

One of the interesting factors is that two of the largest and most well funded LGBT rights groups in the US have stayed quiet about Manning, his reprehensible treatment in custody and his trial. Why has Manning, whose revelations about the US Army’s actions epitomize social justice in action, gotten the cold shoulder from the Human Rights Campaign and GLAAD (formerly known as the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation)? The silence of these groups has been deafening.

First, Manning is the opposite of everything that these groups seek to portray as the image of “gay Americans”. I use those quotes because the majority of LGBT Americans don’t conform to these upwardly mobile, white, polished, virile male stereotypes. Manning doesn’t look like CNN anchor Anderson Cooper. With his slight frame, lower-class background, questioning of his gender identity, inability to hold down a typical job, general dorkiness and dysfunctional family life, Manning does not fit the poster boy image that GLAAD or the HRC would hold up and promote. It’s bizarre because Manning is actually what many, if not most, LGBT people have been at one point or another – an outsider, a loner, a person who does not fit in or conform.

Second, organizations like the HRC, which had net assets of over $32.7m at the end of last year and claims more than a millions members and supporters, happens to have the financial backing of major military industrial corporations, including Lockheed Martin, which is sponsoring the HRC’s upcoming national gala in Washington DC and Booz Allen Hamilton, a corporate partner for the national event, as well as Northrop Grumman a sponsor of their Los Angeles gala.

US government contracts account for at least 85% of Lockheed Martin’s work, Northrop Grumman is intricately tied to our military and Booz Allen Hamilton is wrapped up in Washington‘s lobbying morass – kicking into high gear now that legislators are finally considering limits on the NSA’s surveillance capabilities.

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With Nearly 100,000+ Signatures Collected, ‘Manning for Peace Prize’ Petition Heading for Oslo

From Common Dreams:

Jon Queally

In the wake of Tuesday’s verdict against Pfc. Bradley Manning that now threatens to put him in prison for the rest of his life, a petition urging the Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Norway to award this year’s award to the 25-year-old whistleblower is gaining widespread public traction., the advocacy group behind the petition, says that the online petition has now swelled to nearly 100,000 signatures and plans are underway for the group’s director, journalist and activist Norman Solomon, to visit Oslo in order to hand-deliver the petition to the committee.

The message of the petition is simple. Directed to the Nobel committee itself, it reads: “I urge you to award the Peace Prize to Bradley Manning.”

In an op-ed in USA Today on Wednesday, Solomon championed Manning by writing,

Thanks to [him], vast troves of information have become public knowledge, making possible more informed debate about war and peace. For instance, he leaked the now-infamous “collateral murder” video, with a soundtrack of chilling banter as U.S. servicemen in a pair of gunships fired on civilians in Baghdad.

Other evidence that Manning brought to light includes a U.S. diplomatic cable about a covered-up massacre of at least 10 civilians, including young children, in the Iraqi town of Ishaqi. That revelation stiffened the resolve of Iraq’s government to seek jurisdiction over American troops for criminal actions. Washington found the demand unacceptable, thus hastening full U.S. military withdrawal from the country.

Manning was officially nominated for the prize earlier this year by Mairead Maguire, the Nobel laureate from Ireland, who said that she could “think of no one more deserving” than Manning. “His incredible disclosure of secret documents to Wikileaks helped end the Iraq War, and may have helped prevent further conflicts elsewhere,” she said.

Agreeing with Solomon’s estimations and citing past abuses as well as ongoing military crises—like the current civil war in Syria—Maguire argues that Manning’s decision to expose the manner in which the US conducts its foreign policy has had far-reaching implications for peace, saying:

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See Also

USA Today: Manning deserves Nobel Peace Prize

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Manning Spy? Whistleblower faces 136+ yrs jail time under Espionage Act

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Global Warming = Melting Glaciers = ‘Himalayan Tsunamis’

From Common Dreams:

As global temperatures rise Himalayan glaciers are melting rapidly and taking entire communities with them

Jacob Chamberlain

Unprecedented glacier melting caused by warming global temperatures has spawned an increase in massive water surges known as “Himalayan tsunamis” that are causing vast destruction in Himalayan communities in India and threatening countless others across Afghanistan, Pakistan, Tibet, India, Nepal and Bhutan, according to a recent report by India Today.

The phenomenon known as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFS) “are capable of releasing billions of cubic meters of glacial water, stored for decades, in a few short hours, or even in a matter of minutes and virtually without warning to those living downstream,” India Today reports.

As the average global temperature continues to rise, a combination of “rapidly melting Himalayan glaciers,” extreme rainfall, and unpredictable seismic events are causing the GLOFS in which massive waves of water suddenly charge down mountains and wipe out entire villages and communities.

“The Kedarnath floods may be only a small precursor to never-seen-before mega floods,” said Maharaj K. Pandit, director, Center for Inter-disciplinary Studies of Mountain & Hill Environment at Delhi University, in reference to a recent and deadly GLOFS that “entombed most of Kedarnath town in just 24 hours on the evening of June 16 and on June 17,” India Today reports.

“Survivors say they witnessed tonnes of waterborne debris flattening almost anything that stood in the way. Screaming pilgrims, their voices drowned out, did not stand a chance in the face of the ferocious flood that unbelievably tossed around boulders, several meters across, like paper balls,” India Today writes.

Such instances have increased over recent decades, along with steady warming in the region, while proliferating glacial lakes currently pose an imminent threat to more and more communities.

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Confessions of a climate change denier

From Waging Non-Violence:

July 30, 2013

I suppose it wasn’t really until I was standing on the west side of Hoboken, N.J., in water and oil up to my thigh, that climate change really made sense. And it wasn’t until I was out organizing on New York City’s outer beaches after Hurricane Sandy that I understood my sluggishness on climate justice was nothing short of climate change denial.

It seems like everywhere we turn, we’re being fed the same old climate Armageddon story. You’ve heard it, I’m sure: If we continue to be dependent on fossil fuels, hundreds of gigatons of CO2 will continue to pour into the atmosphere, the temperature will rise above 2 degrees Celsius, and we’re done. There will be a biblical cocktail of hurricanes, floods, famines, wars. It will be terrifying, awful, epic and, yes, as far as any reputable scientist is concerned, those projections are for real.

I call this narrative the Armageddon Complex, and my own denial was a product of it. I spun all sorts of stories to keep the climate crisis out of my life, ranging anywhere from “it can’t be that bad” to “if it is that bad, there’s nothing I can do about it,” and “it’s not my role. That’s for climate activists; I’m a different kind of activist.”

I did not act alone, but rather as part of a culture of climate denial among activists, who are already plagued by a tendency to see our work as separate issues vying for attention. The Armageddon Complex tells us that climate activism is about some far-off date, not about the pressing and time-sensitive needs that people around us experience in their day-to-day struggles. It pounds into us the idea that the crisis is more titanic than any other, so if we’re going to do anything about it, we have to do everything. Most of us won’t put off the pressing needs of our families and communities for something we abstractly understand is going to happen later, and most of us aren’t willing to drop the other pieces of our lives and our movement to do everything, because we already feel like we’re doing everything and barely scraping by as it is. So we deny.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth to this story: The crisis is gargantuan, and it’s getting worse. Ultimately only a fundamental social, political, economic and personal transformation is going to get us out of this mess.

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