Feminist and Queer Movements Need to Rethink

From Women’s E-News:  http://womensenews.org/story/books/131004/feminist-and-queer-movements-need-rethink#.UlHeXBB1Epk

Sexism-based exclusion runs rampant in these movements, says Julia Serano in this excerpt from “Excluded: Making Feminist and Queer Movements More Inclusive.” In part this is thanks to false assumptions that we need to overcome.

By Julia Serano
WeNews guest author
Sunday, October 6, 2013

(WOMENSENEWS)– All of us have been excluded at some point in our lives. Perhaps because of our size, or class, or age, or race, or nationality, or religion, or education, or interests, or ability. And of course, many of us are excluded because of different forms of sexism; that is, double standards based on one’s sex, gender or sexuality. Many of us are undermined and excluded by our culture’s male/masculine-centrism; that is, the assumption that male and masculine people and perspectives are more legitimate than, and take precedence over, female and feminine ones. And those of us who are gender and sexual minorities are stigmatized and excluded by our culture’s insistence that only “normal” bodies and “straight” and “vanilla” expressions of gender and sexuality are valid.

This sense of exclusion drives many of us to become involved in feminism and queer (i.e., LGBTQIA+) activism. We seek out like-minded people who share our goals to eliminate sex-, gender- and sexuality-based hierarchies, and together, we work hard to build new movements and communities with the intent that they will be safe and empowering for those of us who have been shut out of the straight male-centric mainstream.

And yet, somewhere along the way, despite our best intentions, the movements and communities that we create almost always end up marginalizing and excluding others who wish to participate.

Sometimes we are consciously aware that exclusion is a bad thing, and we may deny that it is taking place within our feminist or queer circles. We may even resort to tokenism, pointing to one or a few minority members in order to make the case that our movement or community is truly diverse. But in other cases, we are blatantly exclusive.

Condemning Other Feminists

Some feminists vocally condemn other feminists for dressing too femininely or because of the sexual partners or practices they take up. More mainstream gays decry the presence of drag queens and leather daddies in their pride parades and there is a long history of lesbians and gay men who outright dismiss bisexual, asexual and transgender identities. Within the transgender and bisexual umbrellas, there are constant accusations that certain individuals do not qualify as “real” members of the group or that their identities or actions somehow reinforce “the gender binary” (i.e., the rigid division of all people into two mutually exclusive genders). And in most queer communities, regardless of one’s sex or identity, people who are more masculine in gender expression are almost always viewed as more valid and attractive than their feminine counterparts.

The astonishing thing about these latter instances of exclusion is not merely their brazen, unapologetic nature, but the fact that they are all steeped in sexism; in each case, exclusion is based on the premise that certain ways of being gendered or sexual are more legitimate, natural or righteous than others. The sad truth is that we always seem to create feminist and queer movements designed to challenge sexism on the one hand, while simultaneously policing gender and sexuality (sometimes just as fiercely as the straight male–centric mainstream does) on the other.

Continue reading at:  http://womensenews.org/story/books/131004/feminist-and-queer-movements-need-rethink#.UlHeXBB1Epk

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Welcome to Commonomics: How to Build Local Economies Strong Enough for Everyone

From Yes Magazine:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/commonomics/welcome-to-commonomics-how-to-build-local-economies-strong-enough-for-everyone

In our new series, YES! Magazine investigates what it will take to strengthen our local economies for the benefit of all.

Oct 04, 2013

Chokwe Lumumba was an unlikely candidate for high office in Mississippi. But last June, the former Black Nationalist and one-time attorney to Tupac Shakur was elected Mayor of Jackson. He’s now in hot pursuit, not of big box stores or the next silver bullet solution to what ails the state’s capital city. He wants to create worker-owned cooperatives and small-scale green businesses and to invest in training and infrastructure. It’s the program of change he ran on in the election: local self-reliance.

Jackson’s population is 80 percent black, 18 percent white, and the rest largely immigrant, with heavy concentrations of Indians, Nigerians, and Brazilians.

“Without question, the ideas of economic democracy that we want to propose come from the Southern context,” says Kali Akuno, a member of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement and a coordinator of special projects for the Lumumba administration.

That Lumumba won the election came as a surprise to some, but not to Akuno: “There exists an audience in the black community that is way more willing than others to experiment with distribution.”

Self-reliance “is in our history. It’s had to be,” he continues. “People know about Fannie Lou Hamer organizing black voters to fight segregation, but do they know she also helped to start cooperatives with retail distribution across Mississippi that are still around today?”

Far from Mississippi, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, indigenous entrepreneur Mark Tilsen has just begun the process of turning ownership of his local food products company over to his workers. Tilsen founded Native American Natural Foods with his partner Karlene Hunter in 2006. Five years later, they won a Social Innovation Award from the Social Venture Network. Today, they’re innovating again: joining a cohort of Native American leaders in a program to strengthen the local economy by democratizing wealth and ownership. The program has been developed by the Democracy Collaborative and the Northwest Area Foundation.

Tilsen and I talked via cellphone in August, as a hailstorm pelted down on the reservation. For many years, Pine Ridge has ranked as this nation’s poorest place according to the U.S. Census. Eighty percent of the residents are unemployed; 49 percent live below the poverty line. In 2007, life expectancy was estimated at 48 for men and 52 for women. “Why co-ops?” I asked.

Continue reading at:  http://www.yesmagazine.org/commonomics/welcome-to-commonomics-how-to-build-local-economies-strong-enough-for-everyone

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Health Care for All

From Reader Supported News:  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/272-39/19737-focus-health-care-for-all

By Bernie Sanders, Reader Supported News


06 October 13


I start my approach to health care from two very basic premises. First, health care must be recognized as a right, not a privilege. Every man, woman and child in our country should be able to access the health care they need regardless of their income. Second, we must create a national health care system that provides quality health care for all in the most cost-effective way possible. Tragically, the United States is failing in both areas.

It is unconscionable that in one of the most advanced nations in the world, there are nearly 50 million people who lack health insurance and millions more who have burdensome copayments and deductibles. In fact, some 45,000 Americans die each year because they do not get to a doctor when they should. In terms of life expectancy, infant mortality and other health outcomes, the United States lags behind almost every other advanced country.


Despite this unimpressive record, the U.S. spends almost twice as much per person on health care as any other nation. As a result of an incredibly wasteful, bureaucratic, profit-making and complicated system, the U.S. spends 17 percent of its gross domestic product –approximately $2.7 trillion annually — on health care. While insurance companies, drug companies, private hospitals and medical equipment suppliers make huge profits, Americans spend more and get less for their health care dollars than people from any other nation.


What should the United States be doing to improve this abysmal situation? President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a start. It prevents insurance companies from denying patients coverage for pre-existing conditions, allows people up to age 26 to stay on their parents’ insurance, sets minimum standards for what insurance must cover and helps lower-income Americans afford health insurance. When the marketplace exchanges open for enrollment on Tuesday, many Americans will find the premiums will be lower than the ones they’re paying now. Others will find the coverage is much more comprehensive than their current plans. Most importantly, another 20 million Americans will receive health insurance. This is a modest step forward. But, if we are serious about providing quality care for all, much more needs to be done.


The only long-term solution to America’s health care crisis is a single-payer national health care program. The good news is that, in fact, a large scale single-payer system already exists in the United States and its enrollees love it. It is called Medicare. Open to all Americans over 65 years of age, the program has been a resounding success since its introduction 48 years ago. Medicare should be expanded to cover all Americans.


Such a single-payer system would address one of the major deficiencies in the current system: the huge amount of money wasted on billing and administration. Hospitals and independent medical practices routinely employ more billing specialists than doctors, and that’s not the end of it. Patients and their families spend an enormous amount of time and effort arguing with insurance companies and bill collectors over what is covered and what they owe. Drug companies and hospitals spend billions advertising their products and services. Creating a simple system with one payer covering all Americans would result in an enormous reduction in administrative expenses. We will be spending our money on health care and disease prevention, not on paper pushing and debt collection.

Continue reading at:  http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/272-39/19737-focus-health-care-for-all

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Pension-Fund Looters Get Tax Breaks, Too

From Rolling Stone:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/taibblog/pension-fund-looters-get-tax-breaks-too-20131004

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America Has Become a “Cheater-Take-All” Nation

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/fraud-and-american-economy

Why do people like Tyler Cowen still equate wealth with merit? Many rich people are just crooks.

By William K. Black
October 4, 2013

Tyler Cowen’s new book Average is Over: Powering America Beyond the Age of the Great Stagnation warns that inequality will only get worse as a “hyper-meritocracy” of smart, energetic people at the top commanding machines and data speed ahead and the lazy, not-very-bright folks at the bottom fall further behind.

One thing seems to be left out of the discussion: those hyper-meritocrats are led by criminal morons.

Cowen’s embrace of Social Darwinism assumes that the winners have a selective advantage that arises from “merit” – which Cowen conflates with the ability to create wealth.  This is passing strange as we are still suffering from an orgy of wealth destruction led by the “winners.”  The people who grew wealthiest were often the people most responsible for the largest destruction of wealth in history.  That it is an anti-meritocratic system.  We do not live in a “winner-take-all” nation.  We increasingly live in a “cheater-take-all” system.

What Cowen has missed is the famous (but nearly famous enough) warning sounded by George Akerlof and Paul Romer in 1993 in their classic article “Looting: The Economic Underworld of Bankruptcy for Profit.”

“[M]any economists still [do] not understand that a combination of circumstances in the 1980s made it very easy to loot a [bank] with little risk of prosecution. Once this is clear, it becomes obvious that high-risk strategies that would pay off only in some states of the world were only for the timid. Why abuse the system to pursue a gamble that might pay off when you can exploit a sure thing with little risk of prosecution?” (Akerlof & Romer 1993: 4-5).

The result of these perverse incentives is the epidemics of accounting control fraud that drive our recurrent, intensifying financial crises.  In the savings and loan debacle, for example:

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/fraud-and-american-economy

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About 15% of Americans live in poverty, so why is no one talking about it?

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/05/american-media-ignores-poverty-issues

Mainstream media give very little coverage to poverty and the working class. It’s a public interest failure

theguardian.com, Saturday 5 October 2013

It’s not my intention to belittle the government shutdown or the political showdown underway between President Obama and the GOP, but more often that not, America’s fickle news media is dominated by one subject. It’s what gets left out that is often more telling than what everyone (or at least the news) is talking about.

Remember the food stamp fight? It was only two weeks ago that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill that would strip $40bn from Snap (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, aka the food stamp program) over the next 10 years by imposing work requirements and eliminating waivers for “some able bodied adults”. The move, which would effectively cut support for millions of poor Americans, was seen by critics as a heartless attempt by House Republicans to hack away at the nation’s dwindling social safety net. But, what is more outrageous is that it took a draconian piece of legislation to even get the nation’s attention on what has become one of the country’s most ignored issues: poverty.

The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism found that out of 52 mainstream media outlets analysed, coverage of poverty amounted to less than 1% of available news space from 2007 to 2012. It’s even more astonishing considering that period covered a historic recession.

One of the report’s conclusions was that media organizations chose not to cover poverty because it was potentially uncomfortable to advertisers seeking to reach a wealthy consumer audience. As Barbara Ehrenreich, who contributes articles on social issues for Time Magazine, put it:

They don’t want really depressing articles about misery and hardship near their ads.

Poverty coverage is seen as non-lucrative, time-consuming and involves high levels of commitment that editors are unwilling to give their reporters in this age of newsroom budget tightening. The greatest irony, however, is that poverty, as Tampa Bay Times media critic, Eric Deggans, told The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard earlier this year “is in some ways the ultimate accountability story – because, often, poverty happens by design”.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/05/american-media-ignores-poverty-issues

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bike lanes by Casey Neistat

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Abandoned homes are the future: Imaginative ideas turn blight into beauty

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/10/05/abandoned_homes_are_the_future_imaginative_ideas_turn_blight_into_beauty/

Countless homes remain vacant nationwide — but some cities see it as an opportunity to remake themselves

Saturday, Oct 5, 2013

From the belly of one of America’s boomtowns, where the rent rises with the elemental certainty of a helium balloon, the housing vacancies of America’s less fortunate urban areas almost defy the imagination. In Merced, Calif., undergrads do their math homework in the hot tubs of unsold McMansions. Gary, Ind., is selling homes for the price of a candy bar. In the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, though in many ways an exceptional case, rabbits and rattlesnakes roam free.

If the recent housing crisis has a public face, it is the empty subdivisions of cities like Merced, Las Vegas and Tampa. Much of the country’s older vacant residential stock, those boarded-up row houses or dilapidated Victorians, provided the visual icon for a prior calamity, the decline of the American city. In the popular narrative, that story is over: farmers markets and yoga studios have since taken hold; even the South Bronx has come back.

In reality, countless homes remain vacant in both cities and suburbs. Over 10 percent of the 132 million housing units in the U.S. – 14 million homes – were vacant in 2011. Old-fashioned blight, compounded by the mortgage crisis, remains as much a problem as ever. The USPS analysis of blighted addresses, vacant homes and empty lots reveals the scale of the problem in America’s older cities. Last March, Detroit had more than 83,000 unoccupied residential addresses. That constitutes nearly 25 percent of the city’s potential housing stock. New Orleans had 44,000, for 21 percent. Cleveland had 41,000, or 19 percent.

For the most part, those numbers have not been affected by the housing crisis. But they contribute in their own way; a 2006 paper found that the ripple effect from an average foreclosure in Chicago struck $159,000 in value from the neighborhood. According to a subsequent study from Cleveland, the effect of foreclosures could result in property values declining by as much as 9 percent within a 10-block radius.

What’s changed? The techniques cities are using to fight back. It’s an area where communities have traded tactics to great effect. While each happy block is happy in its own way, unhappy blocks are often alike, or at least share a litany of common problems: unclear ownership, mountains of delinquent property taxes, a reclamation process snarled in red tape.

The first question is how a city can move these vacancies into the hands of owners who are willing and able to repair, build and improve the sites. The second question is what to do when no such owners exist. On both counts, American cities are putting forth a variety of answers, from dollar homes to sprawling urban farms. At the end of the line, they hope, is a revitalized urban landscape. It may not look much like what came before.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2013/10/05/abandoned_homes_are_the_future_imaginative_ideas_turn_blight_into_beauty

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Bigger Than That: The Age of Inhuman Scale

From Tom Dispatch:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175756/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_the_age_of_inhuman_scale/

(The Difficulty of) Looking at Climate Change

by Rebecca Solnit
October 6, 2013

Late last week, in the lobby of a particularly unglamorous downtown San Francisco building, a group of passionate but polite activists met with a bureaucrat who stepped forward to hear what they had to say about the fate of the Earth. The activists wanted to save the world.  The particular part of it that might be under their control involved getting the San Francisco Retirement board to divest its half a billion dollars in fossil fuel holdings, one piece of the international divestment movement that arose a year ago.

Sometimes the fate of the Earth boils down to getting one person with modest powers to budge.

The bureaucrat had a hundred reasons why changing course was, well, too much of a change. This public official wanted to operate under ordinary-times rules and the idea that climate change has thrust us into extraordinary times (and that divesting didn’t necessarily entail financial loss or even financial risk) was apparently too much to accept.

The mass media aren’t exactly helping. Last Saturday, for instance, the New York Times gave its story on the International Panel on Climate Change’s six-years-in-the-making report on the catastrophic future that’s already here below-the-fold front-page placement, more or less equal to that given a story on the last episode of Breaking Bad. The end of the second paragraph did include this quote: “In short, it threatens our planet, our only home.” But the headline (“U.N. Climate Panel Endorses Ceiling on Global Emissions”) and the opening paragraph assured you this was dull stuff. Imagine a front page that reported your house was on fire right now, but that some television show was more exciting.

Sometimes I wish media stories were organized in proportion to their impact.  Unfortunately, when it comes to climate change, there is not paper enough on this planet to properly scale up a story to the right size.  If you gave it the complete front page to suggest its import, you would then have to print the rest of the news at some sort of nanoscale and include an electron microscope for reading ease.

Hold up your hand. It’s so big it can block out the sun, though you know that the sun is so much bigger. Now look at the news: in column inches and airtime, a minor controversy or celebrity may loom bigger than the planet. The problem is that, though websites and print media may give us the news, they seldom give us the scale of the news or a real sense of the proportional importance of one thing compared to another.  And proportion, scale, is the main news we need right now — maybe always.

Continue reading at:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175756/tomgram%3A_rebecca_solnit%2C_the_age_of_inhuman_scale/

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