From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/books/review/unzipped.html?nl=books&emc=edit_bk_20131004&_r=2&

Published: October 3, 2013

Ever since the 40th anniversary of my first novel, ‘Fear of Flying,’ peeped over the horizon, I’ve been thinking a lot about storytelling — why certain stories stick with us and others don’t.

Let’s go back to when I was writing “Fear of Flying.” What an amazing time the late ’60s and early ’70s was; you could follow a plume of smoke down the streets of Manhattan and get a contact high. Primitivism was the rage. So was magic. So was feminism. So were sex, open marriage, ethnic equality. We kvelled over books like “Man’s Rise to Civilization as Shown by the Indians of North America From Primeval Times to the Coming of the Industrial State” and “The Autobiography of Malcolm X”; “The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge,” by Carlos Castaneda; “Sisterhood Is Powerful,” edited by Robin Morgan; “Couples,” by John Updike; and “Portnoy’s Complaint,” by Philip Roth. Add to that the poems of Allen Ginsberg — who was already publishing in the ’50s but was suddenly famous in the ’60s because of his public protests against the Vietnam War. And thanks to the Grove Press publisher Barney Rosset and other brave souls, literary censorship had been defeated, and we could now read “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” or “Tropic of Cancer” without going to the locked rare book room at a university library.

It was a time for awakenings — “clicks,” as Ms. magazine called them — that coalesced into movements, Black Power and the Redstockings, ­consciousness-raising groups, a revival of interest in Simone de Beauvoir, Emma Goldman and the suffragists of our grandmothers’ era. It was a thrilling time — and like all thrilling times, it produced both startling wisdom and banal blather.

In college we mostly read books by male authors — even at feminist Barnard, where I studied in the early ’60s. But when I crossed the street to embark on a Ph.D. in 18th-century English literature at Columbia, I knew for the first time the blatant sexism of academe. The old-boy network still held sway; Lionel Trilling and his cohort almost never hired women graduate students.

Those were the days of novels, like “Diary of a Mad Housewife,” by Sue Kaufman, and “Such Good Friends,” by Lois Gould, whose victimized heroines made me queasy. By that time, I was a published poet, and I wanted to write about a woman who loved men but craved independence, a woman who was both a mind and a body, who didn’t give up her goals for marriage and then bitterly resent her husband. I believed we could do both: love and be intellectually free. After all, so many great women writers — Colette; George Sand; George Eliot; Charlotte Brontë; Mary Shelley; her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft; Doris Lessing — were passionate lovers of men.

I wanted to write about everything that happened inside a woman’s mind: the fantasies, fears, daydreams and nightmares. “Fear of Flying” was a picaresque tale, a rant, a satire, a dirty joke, an act of rebellion, self-­discovery and a desperate cri de coeur. It terrified me and delighted me and made me laugh. I was sure no one would publish it. I dumped it on my editor Aaron Asher’s desk and ran. But he adored it. “It has everything,” he said. “Of course it needs to be edited, and ‘zipless’ is ungrammatical, and the title makes it sound like nonfiction, but this is the book everyone needs to read.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/06/books/review/unzipped.html?nl=books&emc=edit_bk_20131004&_r=2&

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Unzipped

If you’re a feminist you’ll be called a man-hater. You don’t need rebranding

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/feminism-rebranding-man-hater

Those anti-feminist stereotypes are there for a reason: activists challenge vested male interests and don’t need to be adored

The Guardian, Monday 7 October 2013

Nobody likes a feminist. At least not according to researchers at the University of Toronto, following a study where it emerged that people still defer to stereotypes about “typical” feminist activists, stereotypes including “man-hating” and “unhygienic”. These stereotypes are apparently seriously limiting the appeal of women’s liberation as a lifestyle choice. Feminism is a mess, and needs to sort itself out. In order to be “relevant to young women today” it needs to shave its legs and get a haircut.

Elle seems to think so too. The fashion and beauty magazine, not a historically notable manual for gender revolution has weighed in this month with a spread on “rebranding feminism”, asking three advertising agencies to give gender politics a nip, tuck and polish. The result is flowcharts and a lot of hot pink equivocation that airbrushes out the ugly, uncomfortable bits of women’s liberation. Like the word feminism, which some people seem to have a problem with. They’d prefer us to consider men’s feelings first when we speak about work, pay and sexual violence, to be less threatening, to dress it up; they’d prefer us to talk about “equalism” if we must speak at all. Those with a vested interest in the status quo would prefer young women to act more like they’re supposed to – to make everything, including our politics, as pretty and pleasing as possible.

The rebranding of feminism as an aspirational lifestyle choice, a desirable accessory, as easy to adjust to as a detox diet and just as unthreatening, is not a new idea. Nor is ELLE magazine even the first glossy to attempt the task in recent years. But unfortunately there’s only so much you can “rebrand” feminism without losing its essential energy, which is difficult, challenging, and full of righteous anger. You can smooth it out and sex it up, but ultimately the reason many people find the word feminism frightening is that it is a fearful thing for anyone invested in male privilege. Feminism asks men to embrace a world where they do not get extra special treats merely because they were born male. Any number of jazzy fonts won’t make that easy to swallow.

It is not “young women today” who need to be convinced that feminism remains necessary and “relevant”. Changing technology has shaken up a tsunami of activism around gender and politics, from initiatives like the Unslut project and Everyday Sexism to sea changes in culture like the backlash against sexual violence in India. In all of these movements, young women are leading the charge, along with a few fighters from older generations who have not been worn down by decades of mockery and marginalisation. While the fashion press and the beauty industry remain invested in the idea of young women as pliant, affable and terminally anxious about getting boys to like them, real women and girls are fighting back against a culture that persists in trying to present our desires and rebrand our politics as fluffy and marketable.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/oct/07/feminism-rebranding-man-hater

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on If you’re a feminist you’ll be called a man-hater. You don’t need rebranding

A revolution comes in stages — Occupy or otherwise

From Waging Non-Violence:  http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/revolution-comes-stages-occupy-otherwise/

October 8, 2013

All of us hold an idea about how progressive change might happen, whether or not we spell it out explicitly. For some it’s an elaboration of grassroots alternative-building, for others it starts with flooding legislators with advocacy. One way or another, we all have one. But, while reading Nathan Schneider’s important recent piece on the Occupy movement in The Nation, I was reminded of the power of a theory of change to shape our actions.

Nathan — who is also an editor at Waging Nonviolence — turns to the theory of change developed by my friend Bill Moyer, the late civil rights organizer who went on to influence a number of social justice campaigns. Bill identified a series of eight stages that successful movements tend to go through on their way to victory; he called his theory the Movement Action Plan. Nathan finds that Bill’s fifth stage helps us understand Occupy in the past year or so, when a lot of participants have felt discouraged. Bill found that successful movements usually go through a let-down after the adrenalin rush of sudden growth in stage four, only to recover in stage six and have a chance of winning.

Early on in a movement, participants often see victory just around the corner. In their euphoria they imagine walls crumbling and victory within reach. Their theory of change has been influenced by movies and brief historical references to past movements that turn a long and tortuous slog into, for example, Rosa Parks on a bus and Dr. King having a dream. Disappointed when their drama tapers off, as dramas do, they imagine that the euphoria is all there is and go into despair when they don’t see the dreamed-for results.

When social movements succeed, Bill found through study and experience, they survive the wilderness of stage five and advance to the effectual activities of stages six and seven — often with more drama along the way.

Reform or revolution?

Bill’s Movement Action Plan, or MAP, is an excellent guide for movements aiming at reform. I discovered on a training trip to Taiwan in the early 1990s that progressive community and labor organizers were already using MAP to guide their work. However, Occupy’s goals go well beyond reform. Occupy famously wanted to end the rule of the 1 percent, for one thing. To accomplish that goal, we need a model that shows how a movement goes beyond reform to facilitate a revolution.

Continue reading at:  http://wagingnonviolence.org/feature/revolution-comes-stages-occupy-otherwise/

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on A revolution comes in stages — Occupy or otherwise

Kings, Warlords & Theocrats are Back in Charge

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Kings, Warlords & Theocrats are Back in Charge

Is NSA spying more than its machines can handle?

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2013/10/08/is_nsa_spying_more_than_its_machines_cant_handle/

NSA’s new Utah data center has suffered 10 meltdowns in the past 13 months because of electrical surges


With a sliver of poetic justice, ripped from the canon of Marxist determinism: The new NSA data center is nearly destroying itself with its overload of spying.

To be more precise: the spy agency’s new data center in Utah has suffered 10 meltdowns in the last 13 months due to electrical surges. The center, scheduled for opening in the coming months, is intended to help the agency in its hoarding efforts, collecting billions of bytes of communications data

The Wall Street Journal reported that the electrical surges “create fiery explosions, melt metal and cause circuits to fail” — each incident costs $100,000 in repairs. This gives some sense of the sheer amount of electricity (which is cheap in Utah) needed for the NSA’s sprawling surveillance dragnets and brute force decryption efforts.

Via the WSJ:

Backup generators have failed numerous tests, according to project documents, and officials disagree about whether the cause is understood. There are also disagreements among government officials and contractors over the adequacy of the electrical control systems, a project official said, and the cooling systems also remain untested.

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Is NSA spying more than its machines can handle?

Their Real Goal: To Make Us All So Cynical About Government, We Give Up

From Robert Reich:  http://robertreich.org/post/63417612450

By Robert Reich
Monday, October 7, 2013

An old friend who has been active in politics for more than thirty years tells me he’s giving up. “I can’t stomach what’s going on in Washington anymore,” he says. “The hell with all of them. I have better things to do with my life.”

My friend is falling exactly into the trap that the extreme right wants all of us to fall into — such disgust and cynicism that we all give up on politics. Then they’re free to take over everything.

Republicans blame the shutdown of Washington and possible default on the nation’s debt on the President’s “unwillingness to negotiate” over the Affordable Care Act. But that law has already been negotiated. It passed both houses of Congress and was signed into law by the President. It withstood a Supreme Court challenge.

The Act is hardly perfect, but neither was Social Security or Medicare when first enacted. The Constitution allows Congress to amend or delay laws that don’t work as well as they were intended, or even to repeal them. But to do any of this requires new legislation – including a majority of both houses of Congress and a president’s signature (or else a vote to override a president’s veto).  

Our system does not allow one party to delay, amend, or repeal a law of the land by shutting down the rest of the government until its demands are met. If that were the way our democracy worked, no law would ever be safe or settled. A disciplined majority in one house could always use the threat of a shutdown or default to gut any law it didn’t like.

So the President cannot re-negotiate the Affordable Care Act. And I don’t believe Tea Bag Republicans expect him to.

Their real goal is far more insidious. They want to sow even greater cynicism about the capacity of government to do much of anything. The shutdown and possible default are only the most recent and most dramatic instances of terminal gridlock, designed to get people like my friend to give up.

Continue reading at:  http://robertreich.org/post/63417612450

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Their Real Goal: To Make Us All So Cynical About Government, We Give Up

Racism and Cruelty Drive GOP Health Care Agenda

From Truth Dig:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/racism_and_cruelty_drive_gop_health_care_agenda_20131008

By Robert Scheer
Oct 8, 2013

Before he was disgraced into resigning his presidency over the Watergate burglary scandal, Richard Nixon had successfully engineered an even more odious plot known as his Southern Strategy. The trick was devilishly simple: Appeal to the persistent racist inclination of Southern whites by abandoning the Republican Party’s historic association with civil rights and demonizing the black victims of the South’s history of segregation.

That same divisive strategy is at work in the Republican rejection of the Affordable Care Act. GOP governors are largely in control of the 26 states, including all but Arkansas in the South, that have refused to implement the act’s provision for an expansion of Medicaid to cover the millions of American working poor who earn too much to qualify for the program now. A New York Times analysis of census data concludes that as a result of the Republican governors’ resistance, “A sweeping national effort to extend health coverage to millions of Americans will leave out two-thirds of the poor blacks and single mothers and more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance, the very kinds of people that the program was intended to help. …”

Why anyone who claims to be pro-life would want to deny health care to single mothers is an enduring mystery in the morally mischievous ethos of the Republican Party. But the exclusion of a working poor population that skews disproportionately black in the South is simply a continuation of the divide-and-conquer politics that have informed Republican strategy since Nixon.

The game plan of gutting the Affordable Care Act despite its passage into law and before its positive outcomes are demonstrated can be traced to a “blueprint to defunding Obamacare” initialed by the GOP conservative leadership under the aegis of Heritage Action for America. Ironically that is the political front of the Heritage Foundation, the leading GOP think tank that is credited by some architects of Obamacare as the initial inspiration of their health care program. The difference is that whereas the Heritage Foundation was pushing a mild health care reform based on increased profit for private insurers, as in the plan Mitt Romney introduced in Massachusetts, the Republicans object to the provisions in this president’s program that broaden access for the needy.

They were abetted in this decision by a Supreme Court ruling last year granting the states the option of not expanding Medicaid to cover the uninsured under the new act. As a consequence, 8 million of our fellow Americans with annual incomes of less than $19,530 for a family of three have been prevented from obtaining the health care coverage that we as a nation decided to grant them.

Continue reading at:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/racism_and_cruelty_drive_gop_health_care_agenda_20131008

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Racism and Cruelty Drive GOP Health Care Agenda

Jimmy Carter Slams Growing Inequality, Crumbling Middle Class

From Common Dreams  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/10/08-3

“The middle class has become more like poor people than they were 30 years ago,” said the former president

Andrea Germanos

Former President Jimmy Carter slammed the nation’s growing inequality and lack of affordable housing on Monday, and said that greater equality “would pay rich dividends for Americans” of all income levels, statements one analyst says offer a stark contrast to policies during his administration.

The 89-year-old former president made the statements to the Associated Press in an interview in Oakland, California, the first of five cities in the country where the Carter Work Project, a project Carter and his wife have lead for Habitat for Humanity International for the past 30 years, will be constructing and repairing homes this week.

“The disparity between rich people and poor people in America has increased dramatically since when we started,” Carter told the news agency, and decried the downward mobilization of the middle class.

“The middle class has become more like poor people than they were 30 years ago. So I don’t think it’s getting any better,” he said.

Carter also condemned the federal government’s lack of investment in affordable housing, and told AP that what the nation needs is a more equitable tax system, which would ultimately benefit everyone.

The richest people in America would be better off if everybody lived in a decent home and had a chance to pay for it, and if everyone had enough income even if they had a daily job to be good buyers for the products that are produced,” Carter said.

“Equity of taxation and treating the middle class with a great deal of attention, providing funding for people in true need, like for affordable housing, those are the sort of things that would pay rich dividends for Americans no matter what kind of income they have,” he added.

While Carter denounced tax breaks for the wealthy in the interview, Sam Pizzigati, an associate fellow with the Institute for Policy Studies and editor of Too Much, a weekly newsletter on excess and inequality, said, “You can’t read what Jimmy Carter is saying now about inequality without wondering how things might be different if he understood then—back when he sat in the White House—what he so clearly understands now.”

“The Carter White House years saw a major crumbling of our defenses against plutocracy,” Pizzigati told Common Dreams in an email.  “In 1978, Congress slashed the capital gains tax rate and refused to pass badly needed labor law reforms that would have protected working Americans’ right to organize and bargain collectively.”

“President Carter never went the extra mile politically to block that tax giveaway and guarantee Americans basic labor rights. That failure still haunts us today,” stated Pizzigati.



Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Jimmy Carter Slams Growing Inequality, Crumbling Middle Class

From Caspian Sea to Arctic to MidEast, How Oil Pipelines Threaten Democracy & Planet’s Survival

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on From Caspian Sea to Arctic to MidEast, How Oil Pipelines Threaten Democracy & Planet’s Survival

Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/19311-last-hours-of-humanity-warming-the-world-to-extinction

By The Daily Take
Tuesday, 08 October 2013

If you were standing outdoors looking at the distant and reddening sky 250 million years ago as the Permian Mass Extinction was beginning, unless you were in the region that is known as Siberia you would have no idea that a tipping point had just been passed and soon 95% of all life on earth would be dead.

It’s almost impossible to identify tipping points, except in retrospect.

For example, we have almost certainly already past the tipping point to an ice-free Arctic. And we are just now realizing it, even though that tipping point was probably passed a decade or more ago.

This is critically important because in the history of our planet there have been five times when more than half of all life on Earth died. They’re referred to as “mass extinctions.”

One – the one that killed the dinosaurs – was initiated by a meteorite striking the Earth. The rest all appear to have been initiated by tectonic and volcanic activity.

In each case, however, what happened was that massive amounts of carbon-containing greenhouse gases – principally carbon dioxide, were released from beneath the Earth’s crust and up into the atmosphere.

This provoked global warming intense enough to melt billions of tons of frozen methane on the oceans floors. That pulse of methane – an intense greenhouse gas – then brought the extinction to its full of intensity.

While in the past it took continental movement or an asteroid to break up the crust of the earth enough to release ancient stores of carbon into the atmosphere, we humans have been doing this very aggressively for the past 150 years by drilling and mining fossil fuels.

So the question:

Will several centuries of burning fossil fuels release enough carbon into the atmosphere to mimic the effects of past volcanic and asteroid activity and provoke a mass extinction?

Geologists who study mass extinctions are becoming concerned. As more and more research is coming out about the massive stores of methane in the Arctic and around continental shelves, climate scientists are beginning to take notice, too.

The fossil fuel companies are sitting on roughly 2 trillion tons of underground carbon. That, in and of itself, is enough to warm the earth by 5 or 6°C, and is an amount of carbon consistent with tipping points during past mass extinctions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/19311-last-hours-of-humanity-warming-the-world-to-extinction

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Last Hours of Humanity: Warming the World to Extinction

Splitsville for Obama and his chief climate adviser

From Grist:  http://grist.org/news/splitsville-for-obama-and-his-chief-climate-adviser/

By 8 Oct 2013

What two things do you say to Barack Obama’s climate and energy czar?

“Who are you?” and “Catch ya later.”

You might never have heard the name Heather Zichal (then again, being a Grist reader, you might very well have).

Zichal is the White House official who has done much of the president’s heavy lifting on climate policy. Which, despite promises made by Obama during the 2008 election campaign, had not been a particularly admirable amount. But then June 2013 rolled around, and Obama unveiled a far-reaching climate plan that had been crafted by Zichal — who by then had risen to become his senior climate and energy adviser. Zichal was also instrumental in developing new federal standards for the fuel efficiency of cars.

Sounds like preeminent, high-profile work, right? Wrong. Despite the headiness of the role, Zichal was never given the authority, profile, or resources that such important work deserves. Al Gore made a veiled reference to her post in June, complaining that Obama had just “one person” working on climate change “who hasn’t been given that much authority.”


And now, after five years, it’s splitsville for Zichal and the president. It’s not quite clear just yet what gig Zichal has lined up — but Reuters is reporting that it will be “non-government” work.

The Washington Post reports that the White House wanted Zichal to stay, but that it didn’t do enough to convince her to stick around:

Continue reading at:  http://grist.org/news/splitsville-for-obama-and-his-chief-climate-adviser/

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Splitsville for Obama and his chief climate adviser

‘Coal Is Dead in New England’: Region’s Biggest Polluter Announces Plant Closure

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/10/08-5

Though celebrated as “victory” by some, the details behind shuttering of Brayton Point Station should not been viewed simplistically, warn climate campaigners

Jon Queally

Brayton Point Station, the largest coal plant in the northeast, is closing.

It won’t be soon enough for some of the campaigners who have made the Massachusetts coal plant the focus of repeated climate protests in recent months and years, but Monday’s announcement by the plant’s owner, a New Jersey-based private equity firm, still arrived as both a welcome development and chance to celebrate what activists and residents hope to claim as a victory for the ascendent climate movement.

“It is no coincidence that the announcement of this plant closing is coming so shortly after our actions to defeat it,” said the  climate action group 350 Massachusetts in a statement. “The people making decisions to close this plant were painfully aware of our efforts to shut it down. Our promise to continue fighting it until it closed absolutely weighed in on their decision not to keep fighting to keep the plant going.”

According local newspaper The Standard-Times:

Just five weeks after closing on the purchase of the Brayton Point Power Station, new owners Equipower, a subsidiary of investment partners Energy Capital Markets of Short Hills, N.J., disclosed Monday that they intend to shutter the plant as of June 2017.

The Conservation Law Foundation immediately declared this the “death knell” for coal-fired power plants in New England.

The decision was spurred by failure to agree with the region’s power grid managing company, ISO New England, which cut one-third from Brayton Point’s proposed pricing arrangement for future years.

Brayton Point Station is the largest of six coal-fired plants in New England, according to the Associated Press, and it was repeatedly target as the region’s single largest producer of carbon pollution by area residents and activists across New England.

350Mass also congratulated local activists who have been fighting to close the Brayton Point Coal Plant for over a decade. Without the “leadership, courage, and vision” of those local citizens, the group said, “this victory would not be possible” and they vowed to continue working with them to “ensure a just transition for the local workers” who might be impacted by the plant’s closure.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/10/08-5

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on ‘Coal Is Dead in New England’: Region’s Biggest Polluter Announces Plant Closure