From Think Progress: http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2013/12/31/3108901/wealthy-popes-criticism-hurdle/
By Jeff Spross
December 31, 2013
Ken Langone, the billionaire founder of Home Depot, is worried Pope Francis’ recent criticism of the wealthy and capitalism will be a “hurdle” for rich donors.
Langone is heading up an effort to raise $180 million for the restoration of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and told CNBC that at at least one potential seven-figure donor was “concerned” about the Pope’s remarks. He’s apparently brought the issue up more than once with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York: “I’ve told the cardinal, ‘Your Eminence, this is one more hurdle I hope we don’t have to deal with. You want to be careful about generalities. Rich people in one country don’t act the same as rich people in another country,’” Langone said, adding that “you get more with honey than with vinegar.”
Neither Langone nor Dolan, who appeared on the network separately, revealed the identity of the donor in question.The statements that have them worried came from Evangelii Gaudium, the first major written statement of Francis’ papacy:
Some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. To sustain a lifestyle which excludes others, or to sustain enthusiasm for that selfish ideal, a globalization of indifference has developed. Almost without being aware of it, we end up being incapable of feeling compassion at the outcry of the poor…
Dolan said he assured Langone that “the pope loves poor people” and “also loves rich people,” and that the donor had misunderstood Francis’ message. Langone himself suggested the pope’s view of capitalism has been skewed by his experiences in Argentina, arguing there’s a “vast difference” between that experience “and how we are in America.”
But this misses the point. As Elizabeth Stoker points out, the Pope’s point is fundamentally theological, not political, and thus policy differences between capitalism in Argentina and in American are irrelevant. Blind defense of free market capitalism “compromises fellowship between people by perpetuating the wedge of inequality” — and as of 2011, the United States was even more economically unequal than Egypt.
The idea that possessing significant wealth inherently makes it harder to behave morally is a bedrock part of Christian ethical thought. In a well-known passage from the New Testament, a rich man asks Christ what he must do to fully follow God’s law. When Christ responds “sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor,” the man walks away dejected, prompting Christ to observe that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
By Amy Goodman
December 30, 2013
It is almost 2014…
Sometime around two A.M. on the morning of December 31 1968 I came out to some of the best friends I ever had. I didn’t exactly articulate every thing that rather hysterical night, but I set foot on the path that lead to my coming out and starting the process of changing sex. The actual coming out as transsexual took a couple of months, initially everyone assumed I was coming out a gay.
That was a long time ago.
That was before Stonewall.
At that point coming out meant something.
It was daring. We didn’t have same sex marriage in over a third of the states. We didn’t have all these corporations with non-discrimination policies.
Now we have a national coming out day, which is something meaningful to newbies… I guess but pretty damn ho-hum to me.
Coming out is meaningful to the person doing it, a statement of self.
But for most of us, the folks who made coming out a common thing…
It has been a long time since coming out was something courageous or daring. After all being LGBT isn’t strange or alien, it’s just something some people are.
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A new law that spells out the rights of transgender students in kindergarten through 12th grade is set to take effect in California on Jan. 1. To get ready, school districts are reviewing locker room layouts, scheduling sensitivity training for staff and reconsidering senior portrait dress codes.
But educators also are watching and waiting. The first-of-its-kind statute could end up suspended within days of its launch if a referendum to repeal it qualifies for the November ballot.
To obtain a public vote on the law, a coalition of conservative groups has collected hundreds of thousands of signatures. Counties have until Jan. 8 to verify them through spot-checking.
The secretary of state can approve the referendum, determine that it failed or order a review of every signature.
Sunday, Dec 29, 2013
September 15 marked five years since the beginning of the economic slump that defines the world we live in. Disaster was in the air already by that day in 2008: real-estate values had been falling for some time, Bear Stearns and several big commercial banks had failed, and the government had taken over the mortgage insurers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the previous week. But that Monday morning in September was when the larger economy went over a cliff — after Lehman Brothers, the nation’s fourth largest investment bank, finally succumbed to the effects of the noxious securities on which it had gorged itself for years.
Later that day, in a climate of almost complete panic, Merrill Lynch — the nation’s third-largest investment bank, which had fed at the same trough — managed to find shelter in the arms of Bank of America. By the next day, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury Department announced that they were saving AIG, the mammoth insurance company that had transformed itself into a stealth hedge fund. As for actual hedge funds, more than 700 of them collapsed in the subsequent four months. And Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, the last two investment-banking leviathans, desperately registered themselves as “bank holding companies” and threw themselves upon the mercy of the all-forgiving Fed.
It was the unavoidable explosion after decades of deregulation and willful blindness. A kind of waste product had been deliberately moved through the bowels of a hundred shady mortgage outfits. It was then gilded by delusional ratings agencies and sold to the world by the most respected names in finance. Bribery and deceit and crazy incentives had been the laxatives that pushed this product down the pipe; money and bonhomie and reassuring economic theory had been the sedatives that put the regulators to sleep.
The industry would supervise itself, we were told — and we believed it. Instead our economic order turned out to be wobbly, even rotten. The great banks looked insolvent. The great capitalists looked like criminals.
Then came a second outrage to rival the first. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, who had been effectively promoted to king by a frantic George W. Bush, demanded and received $700 billion from Congress to resuscitate the banks run by his former colleagues on Wall Street. There was a class of businesses, we learned, that could not be allowed to fail, no matter what kinds of suicide missions they undertook; and there was a class of people who could not be held responsible for their deeds, no matter how they beggared the world or deceived their marks. That this class’s chosen public persona was one of churlish, sniggering contempt for the non-crooks who were now required to rescue them only compounded the shock.
By RJ Eskow
December 25, 2013
These four libertarian/conservative dystopias are offered, as Rod Serling used to say in “The Twilight Zone,” “for your consideration.”
I’ve qualified my previous writings on libertarianism with disclaimers explaining that I’m addressing a specific, popular subset of libertarian thought. But I’ve still run afoul of dozens of people who say, “I’m a libertarian and I don’t think those things.” I’ve still received comments like those from David Brin, who correctly notes that I’m not addressing libertarians like Friedrich Hayek in my criticism.
True. But Hayek ain’t in the saddle these days. Ayn Rand is leading the posse, to the extent any intellectual figure is. But I’ll put my disclaimer upfront this time: I acknowledge that, as libertarian-friendly writer John Danaher puts it, “’libertarianism’ has come to denote a broad, often fractious, group of political theories.”
I suppose it’s only fitting that a philosophy celebrating competing markets would, to a certain extent, be a set of competing markets itself.
But it seems even clearer that a “libertarian” in today’s political environment is almost always someone who ascribes to certain core philosophies: He abhors government, hates taxation, and is hostile to collective action on behalf of the less fortunate. Name any prominent modern libertarian—Ayn Rand, Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, Peter Thiel, Rand Paul—and they are likely to fit this description.
These figures represent a singular and increasingly dominant libertarian vision. To avoid future confusion, I’ll give their brand of thought an admittedly imperfect name: “libertarian/conservative.” It is that vision, and their future, which I address here—and it’s a frightening future.
1. What if you cut all benefits?
You’ve heard it from Sen. Rand Paul and other conservatives this winter: unemployment benefits increase unemployment. It’s an enormously destructive idea, though absurd on its face. It’s like the argument that hospitals create sick people; after all, there are so many of them there.
We usually consider such thinking “primitive” in modern societies.
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/what-america-would-look-if-libertarians-got-their-way
By Chris Williams
Sunday, 29 December 2013
When it comes to the world economy, what you “see” is not usually what you get – especially when it comes to gender. Capitalism has fueled a world in which women are rendered invisible and saddled with the majority of labor. They are responsible for two-thirds of all working hours, produce 50 percent to 90 percent of the world’s food and 100 percent of the world’s children. Yet, for all this, they receive only 10 percent of the world’s income and own less than 1 percent of the world’s property. As a result, women make up 70 percent of the world’s poor.
Moreover, gender violence is more of a threat to women’s health than the sum of traffic accidents and malaria. Often, when women are “seen,” they are seen as simply bodies, to be manipulated in ways that lead to profit. In a very real sense, as people, women are invisible.
Stephen Lewis, the former UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, wrote in his 2006 book, Race Against Time, that the World Bank, the UN and other international organizations repeatedly emphasize the need for greater and more effective action to counter gender inequality to achieve sustainability and other economic goals – but continue to work contrary to that type of action. Lewis wrote, “There is no greater emblem of international hypocrisy than the promise of women’s rights.”
More recently, Elizabeth Arend, programs coordinator at Gender Action, has documented the “alarming gap” between the World Bank’s “rhetoric and reality.” Apart from ignoring issues of unequal access to land, credit, technical inputs, education, decision-making power and the extra demands of child care and other domestic commitments, “the bank’s declining support for rural agriculture disproportionately harms poor women, who constitute the majority of small-scale farmers and play a critical role in growing, processing and preparing food.”
By David Ferguson
Friday, December 27, 2013
A group of Jesuits held a funeral in the home church of Pope Francis on Friday for a homeless trans woman who was murdered in July. According to the National Catholic Reporter, Rome’s Church of the Gesù, mother church to the Jesuit order, held the funeral for 28-year-old Andrea Quintero, a Colombian native and homeless drug addict who called herself “the Trans of Termini,” the city’s main train station.
A week before her death, Qintero gave an interview to the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, explaining that beatings had paralyzed her arm and left her walking with a limp. She told the reporter that she longed to “meet a guy with money who’ll get me out of this ugly life” on the street.
One week later, on July 29, she was found beaten to death alongside Track 10 at Termini station.
For months, officials attempted to find any family members to claim Quintero’s body or provide any instructions as to how she wished her remains to be handled. Finally, the Jesuit-run Centro Astalli — a group dedicated to refugee aid — stepped forward to organize a funeral in conjunction with civic officials and the Catholic charity organization Caritas.
Centro Astalli’s Jesuit director Fr. Giovanni La Manna said that the service is intended to remember and memorialize Quintero, but also to send “a signal for the entire Roman community that’s distracted in the face so many people who face discrimination, and who live their difficulties to the indifference of our city.”
Italian Minister of Integration Cecile Kyenge — the Congo-born ophthalmologist and first person of color to serve in the Italian Parliament — is slated to attend the funeral, as well as Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino.
By Travis Gettys
Thursday, December 26, 2013
Catholic Republican lawmakers are rattled by Pope Francis, whose recent comments have shaken up assumptions about their church and its relationship to their political party.
While church leaders have for years challenged the Republican Party on some social issues, including the death penalty and immigration, conservatives have generally marginalized their concerns as insignificant or irrelevant.
But the new pontiff has attracted too much attention with his call to focus less on divisive social issues and more on helping the poor and vulnerable.
Pope Francis has drawn sharp criticism from the hugely influential Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives for his remarks on the unrestrained free market and “trickle-down” economics, which he dismissed naïve and unsupported by the facts. Limbaugh branded those statements as “pure Marxism,” but Sarah Palin was less harsh, admitting only that the pope’s statements sounded liberal to her, and her former 2008 running mate offered mixed reviews.
“His economic perspective I’m not particularly enamored with, but his advocacy for the poor, his lifestyle example, his more modern outlook on social issues — I’ve been very impressed,” said Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) attended Catholic school as a youngster and graduated from Notre Dame’s law school, said he found the pope’s reference to “trickle-down economic” demeaning and off-putting, but he said the pontiff’s message should be considered in context.
By Steven Rosenfeld
December 23, 2013
(Editor’s note: This AlterNet interview is part of our expanded focus on modernizing Social Security, which, to us means increasing benefits where needed and ensuring its long-term funding. Dr. Maya Rockeymoore is a longtime advocate for racial justice. She is chair of the National Committee to Protect Social Security and Medicare and president and CEO of Global Policy Solutions. She spoke to AlterNet’s Steven Rosenfeld about how America’s retirement crisis affects communties of color and women.)
AlterNet: There’s a lot about America’s growing retirement security crisis that’s not fully appreciated by the public, especially when it comes to the harmful impacts on communities of color and women. Tell us how unless we as a country have an honest discussion about this, and expand Social Security, that tens of millions of people will literally slide into poverty as they age.
Maya Rockeymoore: There is no way we cannot have this discussion given the nation’s changing demographics. The rising majority will be primarily Asian-American, African-American and Latino-American. The fact of the matter is those people are already here. Of all the babies born today, a majority are children of color. By 2019, a majority of all children under the age of 18 will be from these racial and ethnic, quote-unquote, minority groups. And by the by 2043, the nation will be majority minority.
The benefit cuts that austerity proponents are talking about today will be fully shouldered, if they ever were to pass, by a nation that looks very different than it does today. And so when you’re talking about cutting Social Security now, most proposals are not talking about cutting it for current retirees. They’re talking about implementing changes that would affect today’s youth. You should understand that you are primarily cutting benefits for a generation of young people who the odds are stacked against them having any type of retirement security.
AlterNet: And that’s on top of what’s shaping up as a retirement crisis for baby boomers.
Maya Rockeymoore: We’re already a nation experiencing a retirement crisis. The private sector mostly does not have defined benefit pensions anymore. And 401Ks have been a failure. What many people fail to appreciate is that communities of color have less access to retirement savings vehicles on the job than do white Americans. And unfortunately, even when they do have access, they are either more likely not to take advantage of it, or more likely to take loans out of it. So what we have is a population, that by virtue of their inconsistent relationship with the labor market, which is rooted in historical inequities, are already disadvantaged when it comes to retirement security.
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/maya-rockeymoore-racism-and-sexism-retirement-fiscal-policy
Michael B. Katz
Saturday, Dec 21, 2013
After the mid-1970s progress against poverty stalled. The 1973 oil crisis ushered in an era of growing inequality interrupted only briefly by the years of prosperity during the 1990s. Productivity increased, but, for the first time in American history, its gains were not shared by ordinary workers, whose real incomes declined even as the wealth of the rich soared. Poverty concentrated as never before in inner city districts scarred by chronic joblessness and racial segregation. America led western democracies in the proportion of its children living in poverty. It led the world in rates of incarceration. Trade union membership plummeted under an assault by big business abetted by the federal government. Policy responded by allowing the real value of the minimum wage, welfare benefits, and other social protections to erode. The dominant interpretation of America’s troubles blamed the War on Poverty and Great Society and constructed a rationale for responding to misery by retrenching on social spending. A bipartisan consensus emerged for solving the nation’s social and economic problems through a war on dependence, the devolution of authority, and the redesign of public policy along market models.
The years after the mid-1970s witnessed a confrontation between massive urban structural transformation and rightward moving social policy that registered in a reconfigured and intensified American poverty in the nation’s cities. It is no easy task to define an American city in the early twenty-first century. Fast-growing cities in the post-war Sun Belt differ dramatically from the old cities of the Northeast and Midwest as any drive through, for example, Los Angeles and Philadelphia makes clear. Nonetheless, all the nation’s central cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas experienced transformations of economy, demography, and space that resulted in urban forms without precedent in history. These transformations hold profound implications for poverty as both fact and idea, and they underscore the need to understand poverty as a problem of place as well as persons. A long tradition of social criticism—from nineteenth-century advocates of slum clearance through the “Chicago school” of the 1920s to the most cutting-edge urban theory of the twenty-first century—presents poverty as a problem of place. In one version, which has dominated discussions, conditions in places—most notably, substandard housing—produce, reinforce, or augment poverty. In an alternate version, poverty is a product of place itself, reproduced independent of the individuals who pass through it. Both versions help explain the link between poverty and the multisided transformation of metropolitan America.
The first transformation was economic: the death of the great industrial city that flourished from the late nineteenth century until the end of World War II. The decimation of manufacturing evident in Rust Belt cities resulted from both the growth of foreign industries, notably electronics and automobiles, and the corporate search for cheaper labor. Cities with economic sectors other than manufacturing (such as banking, commerce, medicine, government, and education) withstood deindustrialization most successfully. Those with no alternatives collapsed, while others struggled with mixed success. Some cities such as Las Vegas built economies on entertainment, hospitality, and retirement. With manufacturing withered, anchor institutions, “eds and meds,” increasingly sustained the economies of cities lucky enough to house them; they became, in fact, the principal employers. In the late twentieth century, in the nation’s twenty largest cities, “eds and meds” provided almost 35 percent of jobs. As services replaced manufacturing everywhere, office towers emerged as the late twentieth century’s urban factories. Services include a huge array of activities and jobs, from the production of financial services to restaurants, from high paid professional work to unskilled jobs delivering pizza or cleaning offices. Reflecting this division, economic inequality within cities increased, accentuating both wealth and poverty.
Continue reading at: http://www.salon.com/2013/12/21/how_america_abandoned_its_undeserving_poor/
By Eric Zuesse
December 21, 2013
On Friday, December 20, Democratic U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren finally separated herself clearly from former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, regarding the issue of climate change and global warming.
TransCanada Corporation wants to build the Keystone XL Pipeline to carry oil from Alberta Canada’s tar sands to two refineries owned by Koch Industries near the Texas Gulf Coast, for export to Europe. Hillary Clinton has helped to make that happen, while Elizabeth Warren has now taken the opposite side.
Secretary of State Clinton, whose friend and former staffer Paul Elliot is a lobbyist for TransCanada, had worked behind the scenes to ease the way for commercial exploitation of this, the world’s highest-carbon-emitting oil, 53% of which is owned by America’s Koch brothers. (Koch Industries owns 63% of the tar sands, and the Koch brothers own 86% of Koch Industries; Elaine Marshall, who is the widow of the son of the deceased Koch partner J. Howard Marshall, owns the remaining 14% of Koch Industries.)
David Goldwyn, who was former Secretary Clinton’s Special Envoy and Coordinator for International Energy Affairs, is yet another lobbyist for TransCanada. So, TransCanada has two of Hillary Clinton’s friends working for it. Elliot and Goldwyn worked with Clinton’s people to guide them on selecting a petroleum industry contractor (not an environmental firm or governmental agency) to prepare the required environmental impact statement for the proposed pipeline.
Secretary Clinton’s State Department allowed the environmental impact statement on the proposed Keystone XL Pipeline to be performed by a petroleum industry contractor that was chosen by the company that was proposing to build and own the pipeline, TransCanada. That contractor had no climatologist, and the resulting report failed even at its basic job of estimating the number of degrees by which the Earth’s climate would be additionally heated if the pipeline is built and operated. Its report ignored that question and instead evaluated the impact that climate change would have on the pipeline, which was estimated to be none.
Apple is like a nasty cancer. A blot upon humanity.
From Common Dreams: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/24-4
Published on Tuesday, December 24, 2013
It’s Christmas Eve in the Digital Age, but for those concerned about the growing amount of screen time that teenagers and young children—even infants—are now experiencing, the holiday gift-giving season may become an increasingly “horrifying” affair.
As the rise of technology dovetails with the multi-billion dollar toy and media industries, children are now growing up in a digital environment that may seem harmless to some but could be dramatically harming key components of their physical, mental and emotional growth at one of the most precious and fragile stages of human development.
The New York Times reports on Tuesday:
A recent survey of 1,000 parents with children between 2 and 10 found that more than half planned to buy a tech item for their children this holiday season. About two-thirds of those planned to give a tablet or smartphone, according to the survey, which was taken for PBS Kids, the brand of the public broadcasting network aimed at young children.
“Smarter Giving With Apps!” shouted the December cover of Manhattan Family, a monthly publication geared to families with young children. The article, written by a kindergarten teacher, noted that “traditional gifts, like clothes and toys” can be costly “and not always what children are wishing for.” Apps, on the other hand, she wrote, are cost-effective, educational and fun — the perfect gift.
But are they the perfect gift? Hardly, say experts.
In fact, child development researchers and doctors are increasingly alarmed by the growing amount of screen time that children—especially those under the age of two—are receiving or being allowed.
In October, as Common Dreams reported, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued an updated version of their media usage guidelines for young children and warned parents that adolescents should have no more than 1 to 2 hours of screen time per day and that children under the age of two should have none whatsoever.
Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/24-4