In the company of lesbians of my generation and older, I frequently hear conversations about how much things have changed since we were young. And invariably, someone asks: Where have all the butches gone?
The question is driven in part by nostalgia and in part by a discomfort with what seems to have been a shift in the way that young lesbians think about gender. And the first question often leads to others: Why are all the butches becoming men? Why can’t they understand that gender is a social construct and that women don’t have to conform to a feminine ideal? Isn’t that what we were fighting for, a world in which women could wear tool belts and neckties and do anything we damn well please without the constraints of gender?
At its very core, this was the vision of the feminist movement, and lesbians more than anyone understood how transformative this could be.
Years ago I asked the same questions, but today this conversation makes me uncomfortable. Because I am of this older generation, I have seen things change — and not change — for a long time.
In my life I have loved many butches. My relationships and affairs have almost always been with masculine women and, more recently, with trans men as well.
My experience is this: Always, as long as I have found myself in intimate circumstances with butches/studs/masculine-identified women — from way back when I was too young to be in the bars where I was meeting and going home with them — a curious thing happens. Once there is enough trust established, I become witness to a moment of confession: “I don’t know how to explain this, but I don’t exactly feel like a woman. I mean, I’m butch, and that’s close, but honestly, I’m not sure what I am.”
Don’t get me wrong: There are many, many proud butch women who are exactly that: women. In today’s terminology, their gender expression is masculine, and their gender identity is female. They wear their tool belts proudly, and I am happy to admire the show. For them a butch identity resolves the issue, and if people have a problem with it, it’s their sexism or homophobia rearing its head.
But that experience is not everyone’s, and it never has been. Butches may look a lot alike on the outside, but they aren’t the same on the inside.
In the mid 1990s, as a grad student, I wrote about the lesbian history of Detroit. I interviewed 48 women who had lived as lesbians between 1930 and 1970. When I met them, these women were mostly in their 60s and 70s. Of the 48, four — almost 10 percent — said that if they were young today, they would transition their gender and become men.
From The Washington Blade: http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/10/03/smith-levin-natl-guard-benefits/
By Chris Johnson
on October 3, 2013
Top congressional Democrats on defense issues are calling on the Pentagon to take action as additional state National Guard units are refusing to process spousal benefit applications for troops in same-sex marriages, according to a letter obtained Wednesday by the Washington Blade.
In a letter dated Sept. 30, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) write to the Defense Department to express “deep concern” over the unwillingness of certain state National Guard units to process spousal benefits for troops in same-sex marriages.
“Recently, the states of Texas, Mississippi, Louisiana and Oklahoma have refused to issue or have stopped issuing ID cards in state facilities to same-sex spouses of service members,” the lawmakers write. “Citing statewide bans on marriage for same-sex couples, local policymakers have forced these spouses to travel to federal military installations to apply for their military benefits.”
The letter is significant because it’s the first time federal lawmakers have weighed in on the issue of National Guard units refusing benefit applications for same-sex couples and because Smith and Levin are the top Democrats on the House and Senate armed services committees.
Smith and Levin urge Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to take action to reaffirm guidance he issued in August saying spousal benefits for troops in same-sex marriages should be available nationwide following the Supreme Court decision against the Defense of Marriage Act.
“We urge you to issue further guidance on this matter, reaffirming that all married military couples must be treated equally, and clarifying the state National Guards, because they are funded in large part by federal tax dollars, cannot choose to ignore this order by denying some lawfully married military couples equal access to the federal benefits to which they are entitled,” Smith and Levin write.
Continue reading at: http://www.washingtonblade.com/2013/10/03/smith-levin-natl-guard-benefits/
Rebecca J. Rosen
Oct 3 2013
Most of the time, targeted ads are pretty harmless. You searched for a flight to Denver? Here are some hotels in Denver. You looked for new running sneakers? Here are a few options.
But a new “study” from marketing firm PHD recommends a strategy that crosses the line from merely targeted to outright predatory, explicitly advising brands to seize on the times of the day and week when women feel the most insecure about their bodies and overall appearance in order to sell beauty products and other goods.
Women, the study claims to have found, feel less attractive on Mondays, especially in the morning. Thus, as the release explains, “Monday becomes the day to encourage the beauty product consumer to get going and feel beautiful again, so marketing messages should focus on feeling smart, instant beauty/fashion fixes, and getting things planned and done. Concentrate media during prime vulnerability moments, aligning with content involving tips and tricks, instant beauty rescues, dressing for the success, getting organized for the week and empowering stories.” Yuck.
To go along with this approach, labeled the “encourage” strategy*, marketers should deploy a complementary “empower” phase on Thursdays, when women are supposedly feeling their best. “Thursday offers prime opportunities for marketing messages and in-store/promotional activity around celebrating best beauty looks, dressing for the weekend, and shopping get-togethers,” the study cheerfully advises.
And, if timing ads for the time of the week when women in general are feeling kind of meh about themselves isn’t gross enough, the study hints at an even more cynical possibility: Women can feel bad about themselves at any time! Particularly, the study finds, when they are stressed, sick, or crying. Good news: This means there are great opportunities for brands all week long—if only they could know when a woman is stressed, sick, or crying, perhaps as evidenced by the texts of their chats and emails. We can all look forward to this happy day.
An infographic from Adweek (used with permission) provides a good summary of the “findings”:
By Travis Gettys
Thursday, October 3, 2013
A national craft store chain is reexamining its holiday merchandise selection after a blogger reported it didn’t stock items for Hanukkah or other Jewish holidays and events.
“I will never set foot in a Hobby Lobby. Ever,” wrote blogger Ken Berwitz on Friday after his wife visited a store in Marlboro, N.J.
Berwitz said he asked why the store didn’t stock any items for the Jewish festival of lights, although Hobby Lobby, which is owned by conservative billionaire Steve Green, had plenty of Christmas merchandise on display.
One of his wife’s friends asked about bar mitzvah cards, and Berwitz said the clerk said: “We don’t cater to you people.”
Berwitz said he called the store later to ask why it didn’t stock any Jewish items, and he said the spokesperson indicated the oversight was intentional.
“Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values,” Berwitz said the employee told him.
Green owns more than 550 Hobby Lobby stores across the country, and they’re all closed on Sunday.
He has filed a lawsuit over the health care reform law because it offers employees coverage for birth control.
Green also holds one of the nation’s largest collections of ancient biblical artifacts, including a Hebrew prayer book from 840 C.E. that’s believed to be the oldest known copy.
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/10/03-6
Five years ago today, on October 3rd, 2008, the federal response to the financial crisis began with the signing into law by then President Bush of the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP). After a half-decade of emergency measures—including not only the bailout, but the temporary nationalization of major auto manufacturers and round after round of “quantitative easing”—have we managed to put the economy back on a secure footing?
Unfortunately, the clear answer is that we have not.
To the consternation of both the public and the economists, this “recovery”—and the two which preceded it—have been “jobless recoveries.” While the government measure of the unemployment rate has declined to a modest extent, the absolute percentage of the population employed has remained more or less constant since 2009, as people resign themselves to joblessness and leave the labor force. Furthermore, even this anemic and halting climb back towards increased employment has been vastly uneven: a massive gap exists between the unemployment rate of lower income families (21%) and the rate for higher income families (3.2%). 15% of Americans—nearly 1 in 6—are seemingly consigned to live in poverty. Meanwhile, the banks that were “too big to fail” in 2009 are, despite scandal after scandal, bigger than ever. And while wages stagnate, corporate profits and the income of the 1% is soaring.
The title of my recent book, taken from Tolstoy, is straightforward: What then must we do? For some, the answer is simply that we need to remove or neutralize the conservative forces holding back a sensible Keynesian economic policy; a little more stimulus, a little more public spending, a few reforms around minimum wages and everything will be back on track. Yes, this would be better than nothing. But when we look soberly at the long-term trends, it is clear that we face a systemic crisis: a deep failure of the institutional basis of the traditional strategy for holding corporate capitalism in check. Poverty rates, income inequality trends, global warming, incarceration rates—these and many other three and four decade trends began long before the recent House Republican difficulties—and they are all but certain to continue on their current course long beyond the political problems of the moment.
In short, what we need is not just simply more pressure for reform around the edges of the system, but a movement to build a new economy, a movement that will build steadily over time as the civil rights, feminist, environmentalist and, indeed, conservative movements built up long term strength, step by step, until major political power was achieved.
Thankfully, a “New Economy” movement is beginning to emerge all around us, and part of helping it grow is making it more visible. A recent debate on new banking institutions appeared yesterday in the New York Times. Annie Leonard’s just released new video The Story of Solutions is a powerful followup to her Story of Stuff that highlights transformative work in the new economy. Worker-owned co-ops are developing in many areas. Even the august Academy of Management—an organization of leading business school professionals—opened a serious debate on the future of capitalism at their annual meeting this past summer.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2013/10/03-6
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/30/opinion/krugman-rebels-without-a-clue.html?ref=opinion
By PAUL KRUGMAN
Published: September 29, 2013
This may be the way the world ends — not with a bang but with a temper tantrum.
O.K., a temporary government shutdown — which became almost inevitable after Sunday’s House vote to provide government funding only on unacceptable conditions — wouldn’t be the end of the world. But a U.S. government default, which will happen unless Congress raises the debt ceiling soon, might cause financial catastrophe. Unfortunately, many Republicans either don’t understand this or don’t care.
Let’s talk first about the economics.
After the government shutdowns of 1995 and 1996 many observers concluded that such events, while clearly bad, aren’t catastrophes: essential services continue, and the result is a major nuisance but no lasting harm. That’s still partly true, but it’s important to note that the Clinton-era shutdowns took place against the background of a booming economy. Today we have a weak economy, with falling government spending one main cause of that weakness. A shutdown would amount to a further economic hit, which could become a big deal if the shutdown went on for a long time.
Still, a government shutdown looks benign compared with the possibility that Congress might refuse to raise the debt ceiling.
First of all, hitting the ceiling would force a huge, immediate spending cut, almost surely pushing America back into recession. Beyond that, failure to raise the ceiling would mean missed payments on existing U.S. government debt. And that might have terrifying consequences.
Why? Financial markets have long treated U.S. bonds as the ultimate safe asset; the assumption that America will always honor its debts is the bedrock on which the world financial system rests. In particular, Treasury bills — short-term U.S. bonds — are what investors demand when they want absolutely solid collateral against loans. Treasury bills are so essential for this role that in times of severe stress they sometimes pay slightly negative interest rates — that is, they’re treated as being better than cash.
Now suppose it became clear that U.S. bonds weren’t safe, that America couldn’t be counted on to honor its debts after all. Suddenly, the whole system would be disrupted. Maybe, if we were lucky, financial institutions would quickly cobble together alternative arrangements. But it looks quite possible that default would create a huge financial crisis, dwarfing the crisis set off by the failure of Lehman Brothers five years ago.
By Lynn Stuart Parramore
September 27, 2013
Lips are smacking on Wall Street. Today’s tasty treat? The pensions of hard-working people across America. Financial hustlers have been working overtime to convince the population that we are in the midst of an “unfunded liability crisis” in which states and cities can no longer afford to pay pensions to public workers. Here’s the truth: Wall Street predators have had their hands in the pension cookie jar for decades, and now they’re poised to gobble up the retirements of teachers and firefighters in yet another orgy of greed.
Unknown to much of the public, Wall Street has been soaking state and municipal coffers with derivatives schemes and various frauds for years. As Alexander Arapoglou and Jerri-Lynn Scofield have explained, not only have Wall Street banks screwed public finances with fancy credit default swaps and other “innovative” financial products that blow up in the faces of cities and states, they have also been engaged in widespread frauds that squeeze pension yields. This happened in the LIBOR rate-rigging scandal, in which big banks were found to be manipulating interest rates, which has resulted in lower returns on pension fund investments and has caused shortfalls in pension plans. The lack of actions from authorities means this kind of hustling will surely continue.
Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi has just published an article outlining how this gigantic heist is going down. While Wall Street has been on its scam-a-licious rampage, no-good politicians have been taking taxpayer money meant for pensions and spending it on whatever they wanted, depleting funds. (This is actually securities fraud, but the nearly toothless SEC has barely lifted a finger to address it.) Even so, pensions were still in fairly decent shape when the crash of 2008 came and wrecked budgets across America. The Wall Street-driven financial crisis crushed state and local revenues, and the financiers decided this was the perfect moment to dive in for yet another helping of public money by seizing control of public pensions.
In Taibbi’s colorful words: “This is the third act in an improbable triple-fucking of ordinary people that Wall Street is seeking to pull off as a shocker epilogue to the crisis era.”
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/hard-times-usa/wall-street-and-retirement
By The Christian Science Monitor
Wednesday, October 2, 2013
Let me make sure I understand. The tea party Republicans in the House and Senate have determined that the Affordable Care Act is so reprehensible, so pernicious, and so destructive of American liberties that it poses an existential risk to the republic.
The problem is, it isn’t.
But it’s not an existential threat that deserves an existential response.
By Katie Valentine
on October 1, 2013
As you’ve probably heard, the U.S. government has shut down for the first time in 17 years.
That means many of the agencies responsible for weather, climate and energy regulation are largely shuttered as well, forced to whittle down their staffs to only their most essential employees. These include:
The Environmental Protection Agency. The EPA is taking one of the biggest hits of any federal agency — about 96 percent of the agency’s staff aren’t coming to work, meaning the agency, in EPA Chief Gina McCarthy’s words, has “essentially shut down.” The staff that will be coming to work include employees who “ensure continued public health and safety, including safe use of food and drugs and safe use of hazardous materials,” as well as workers who protect federal lands and research property and provide disaster and emergency aid. Managers of some Superfund cleanup sites must come to work if stopping the work would pose a threat to human health; pesticide regulators, staff who write and implement major air pollution rules, and staff who are in charge of the EPA’s proposal for renewable fuel standards, on the other hand, will stay home.
National Parks. Google celebrated the 123rd anniversary of Yosemite National Park today; ironically, because the park — and all other national parks, monuments and government-funded museums — is now closed to the public. The oil and gas industry, however, will keep on drilling on public lands, though the process for issuing new oil and gas permits will be halted. Only a few employees will be at work overseeing drilling activities such as “well shut-ins, re-completions, and downhole/equipment changes in drilling/plugging operations.”
From In These Times: http://inthesetimes.com/article/15623/where_farmers_markets_and_csas_fall_short
BY John Collins
September 30, 2013
Everything we eat has a story behind it. The bread aisle (at the store with the massive parking lot) is a thrill ride. That story starts on stretches of land in places you’ve never been. Its main characters are gene-splicing scientists, patented life forms and huge industrial robots. Fleets of 18-wheelers make epic road trips before the narrative climaxes in the cash register of one mega-corporation or another. By comparison, the story of sustainably raised, locally marketed food is a bucolic tale: a hop from farm to table.
In 1975, Wendell Berry—the poet, novelist, farmer, activist and philosopher—released The Unsettling of America. That collection of essays focused on the cultural and environmental implications of modern agriculture and the need to put intelligence before profit when it comes to the business of farming. On October 4 on PBS, Moyers & Company will present Wendell Berry: Poet and Prophet, a documentary produced by the Schumann Media Center that features a conversation between veteran journalist Bill Moyers and rural America’s man of letters.
Thirty-eight years after the publication of The Unsettling of America, we remain disconnected from the production of the food that keeps us alive. What we put in our mouths we trust to the hands of an industry so massive it’s difficult to comprehend. Transforming the current system into one that values healthy land, production on a sensible scale and a reliable marketplace for small farmers requires a David-at-the-heels-of-Goliath kind of mindset.
Small farmers must select which stones to throw at Big Ag. And Mary Berry, Wendell’s daughter, is helping them take aim as executive director of the Berry Center in New Castle, Ky.
Why did you and your father create the Berry Center?
The Berry Center’s goal is to institutionalize agrarian thought and make a movement towards cultural change. We’ve been developing a four-year farm degree at St. Catherine College in Washington County, Kentucky. We’re also working on a farm school, in Henry County, to help new or existing farmers learn what they need to know to get out of the commodity economy and into a local food economy. We’re talking about everything farmers and landowners can produce on their land—from timber to tomatoes—and how to keep them secure, and out of a boom and bust economy.
We need to look at the economic system first. Farmers aren’t moving toward local food, but they will if they think there’s a reliable market. Right now, they’re in corn and soybeans because that’s where the money is. And in Kentucky there are a lot of beef cattle, and beef cattle, if they’re well raised, and are dependent on perennial grasses, that’s good. If they’re raised on CAFOs [concentrated animal feeding operations]—on feedlots—that’s not good.
The excitement for local food in Louisville, the closest big city, is not matched in the countryside where I live. It’s an uncertain market. Farmers are scared of it, and rightly so. Even farmers who are doing well at farmers markets are uncertain because they are unable to plan ahead. We need a food system that allows farmers to plan their economic year. That would mean farmers signing contracts. A good example: The largest school system in Kentucky is now contracting with some local farmers for produce and meat. The interest in the entrepreneurial aspect of small farms is wonderful and needs to continue, but we’re trying to take it a step further.
Continue reading at: http://inthesetimes.com/article/15623/where_farmers_markets_and_csas_fall_short
By Lou Miller
Thursday, 03 October 2013
As the consequences of climate change become more apparent and the window to act closes, an unprecedented battle is growing in ferocity. Energy and fossil fuel interests and their supporters now face opponents including a sizable chunk of the remaining world power brokers.
Those who keep claiming that climate change is a “hoax” need to become aware that the conspiracy they describe is growing in strength and numbers. Only a concerted effort – more than a Murdoch media blitz or a House Committee hearing – will be sufficient to defeat the growing consensus. Just consider:
While the over 97% of climate scientists who have concluded that human greenhouse gas emissions are warming our planet are vulnerable to attacks and threats, other groups will not be as easily intimidated.
The Pentagon is a formidable opponent that’s reconfiguring its global presence to take climate change into account. All too many of its generals and admirals are cautioning us about the national security implications of a warmer planet. They refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” and “accelerant of instability” – not good news for those who’ve relegated it to the status of a hoax.
Defense’s posture is supported by our State Department and all sixteen agencies of our Intelligence Community. NATO, the UK, Germany and Australia have, for years, integrated the threats posed by global warming into their military planning and deployment.
To military power, add money. The financial community poses an even greater threat to those who still cling to the idea that climate change is a hoax. For instance, for decades the largest reinsurance companies like Lloyds of London, Allianz and Munich Re – those responsible for backing up the companies that insure us against extreme weather events – have been taking climate change seriously.
PwC, the world’s largest professional services firm, has concluded that “the level of corporate reduction [of greenhouse gas emissions] is nowhere near what is required” and calls for a”rapid uptake of renewable energy, sharp falls in fossil fuel use or massive deployment of carbon capture and storage, removal of industrial emissions and halting deforestation.”
October 2, 2013
In the state of Pennsylvania, home to the lucrative Marcellus Shale formation, 74 facilities treat wastewater from the process of hydraulic fracturing (a.k.a. “fracking”) for natural gas and release it into streams. There’s no national set of standards that guides this treatment process—the EPA notes that the Clean Water Act’s guidelines were developed before fracking even existed, and that many of the processing plants “are not properly equipped to treat this type of wastewater”—and scientists have conducted relatively little assessment of the wastewater to ensure it’s safe after being treated.
Recently, a group of Duke University scientists decided to do some testing. They contacted the owners of one treatment plant, the Josephine Brine Treatment Facility on Blacklick Creek in Indiana County, Pennsylvania, but, “when we tried to work with them, it was very difficult getting ahold of the right person,” says Avner Vengosh, an Earth scientist from Duke. “Eventually, we just went and tested water right from a public area downstream.”
Their analyses, made on water samples collected repeatedly over the course of two years, were even more concerning than we’d feared. As published today in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, they found high concentrations of the element radium, a highly radioactive substance. The concentrations were roughly 200 times higher than background levels. In addition, amounts of chloride and bromide in the water were two to ten times greater than normal.
“Even if, today, you completely stopped disposal of the wastewater,” Vengosh says, there’s enough contamination built up that”you’d still end up with a place that the U.S. would consider a radioactive waste site.”