Blocking Science: How Congress and the DEA Have Thwarted Official Research on Pot for 40 Years

From Alternet:

By April M. Short
June 15, 2014

Ever wonder why, despite millions of personal anecdotes about pot’s healing effects, there is a stark lack of government-approved, clinical studies to back up that human experience? The research gap is no accident. Cannabis is the only illicit substance with an extra set of governmental requirements specifically intended to prevent independent study.

While medical marijuana patients in nearly half of the states swear by the herb’s medicinal properties, prohibitionists can conveniently point their fingers at that lack of scientific evidence whenever cornered by a pro-legalization argument. Stacks of research have affirmed the extraordinary potentials of the cannabis plant, but none received the official approval of the U.S. government.

Hiding behind these outdated prerequisites, the US Drug Enforcement Administration has effectively blocked government approval of all independent scientific studies on pot for four decades. Created in the ’70s as part of Richard Nixon’s Comprehensive Drug Abuse and Prevention Act of 1970, the DEA, a policing agency tasked with enforcing national drug laws, has the authority to decide how each drug is restricted under the law and whether/where it is produced. This has allowed the DEA to restrict the production of cannabis allowed for federal research to the point of near non-existence.

In a new report titled “ The DEA: Four Decades of Impeding and Rejecting Science,” the nonprofit Drug Policy Alliance teamed up with the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to point out the many ways in which the law enforcement agency stifles science.

“This concerns me greatly as someone who has studied marijuana and given thousands of doses of the drug,” said psychiatry professor Carl Hart during a June 11 teleconference about the DEA report.

Hart pointed out the existence of government-funded studies showing “some potential for marijuana” to help people with serious illnesses, for example HIV and AIDS. “The notion that the DEA is has not acknowledged this and thought about reconsidering the scheduling of marijuana just seems to be against the scientific evidence,” he said. “It seems to be against what we’re trying to do in terms of having a society that relies on empirical evidence to base our decisions.”

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Blocking Science: How Congress and the DEA Have Thwarted Official Research on Pot for 40 Years

Progress on Transgender Rights and Health

From The New York Times:

June 9, 2014

Progress on civil rights typically comes in incremental steps that discard old policies for new approaches advancing fair treatment. The Obama administration recently took such a step by reversing a 1981 policy that excluded gender reassignment surgery from coverage under Medicare.

A Health and Human Services Department’s appeals board concluded in May that the exclusion was “no longer reasonable” because the surgery is safe and effective for individuals diagnosed with gender dysphoria — the medical term applied to those whose identities differ from their gender at birth — and can no longer be considered experimental. Since very few people choose to have the surgery, and even fewer after age 65, the budget consequences will be negligible. But the change will help relieve the anguish of individuals who need and want the procedure and otherwise could not afford it.

As The Times’s Roni Caryn Rabin has reported, a small but growing number of large companies and university health plans have started to cover gender transition services. The move by the health and human services board is expected to accelerate that trend because many health plans look to Medicare in setting coverage guidelines. The ruling is all the more gratifying because it coincides with other positive developments, including Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s stated willingness to review the military’s senseless ban on transgender service, the enactment of Maryland’s new law extending civil rights protections to transgender people, and the demise, for insufficient signatures, of a conservative drive to put repeal of Maryland’s new law on the ballot in November.

New York State provided further good news last week when it changed a state policy that required transgender people born in New York to provide proof of gender reassignment surgery in order to change the gender designation on their birth certificate. Going forward, a medical provider’s affidavit of “appropriate clinical treatment” will be sufficient. Birth certificates that do not conform with the holder’s gender identity and expression can result in harassment and humiliation and threaten eligibility for jobs. Regrettably, the change does not apply to New York City, which has its own system for issuing birth certificates, and which should quickly adopt the state’s enlightened reform.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Progress on Transgender Rights and Health

Fossil Fuels’ ‘Easy Money’ and the Need for a New Economic System

From Common Dreams:

by David Suzuki

Energy giant Kinder Morgan was recently called insensitive for pointing out that “Pipeline spills can have both positive and negative effects on local and regional economies, both in the short- and long-term.” The company wants to triple its shipping capacity from the Alberta tar sands to Burnaby, in part by twinning its current pipeline. Its National Energy Board submission states, “Spill response and cleanup creates business and employment opportunities for affected communities, regions, and cleanup service providers.”

It may seem insensitive, but it’s true. And that’s the problem. Destroying the environment is bad for the planet and all the life it supports, including us. But it’s often good for business. The 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico added billions to the U.S. gross domestic product! Even if a spill never occurred (a big “if”, considering the records of Kinder Morgan and other pipeline companies), increasing capacity from 300,000 to 890,000 barrels a day would go hand-in-hand with rapid tar sands expansion and more wasteful, destructive burning of fossil fuels—as would approval of Enbridge Northern Gateway and other pipeline projects, as well as increased oil shipments by rail.

The company will make money, the government will reap some tax and royalty benefits and a relatively small number of jobs will be created. But the massive costs of dealing with a pipeline or tanker spill and the resulting climate change consequences will far outweigh the benefits. Of course, under our current economic paradigm, even the costs of responding to global warming impacts show as positive growth in the GDP — the tool we use to measure what passes for progress in this strange worldview.

And so it’s full speed ahead and damn the consequences. Everything is measured in money. B.C.’s economy seems sluggish? Well, obviously, the solution is to get fracking and sell the gas to Asian markets. Never mind that a recent study, commissioned by the Canadian government, concludes we don’t know enough about the practice to say it’s safe, the federal government has virtually no regulations surrounding it and provincial rules “are not based on strong science and remain untested.” Never mind that the more infrastructure we build for polluting, climate-disrupting fossil fuels, the longer it will take us to move away from them. There’s easy money to be had—for someone.

We need to do more than just get off fossil fuels, although that’s a priority. We need to conserve, cut back and switch to cleaner energy sources. In Canada, we need a national energy strategy. And guess what? That will create lasting jobs! But we must also find better ways to run our societies than relying on rampant consumption, planned obsolescence, excessive and often-pointless work and an economic system that depends on damaging ways and an absurd measurement to convince us it somehow all amounts to progress.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Fossil Fuels’ ‘Easy Money’ and the Need for a New Economic System

Solution to ‘Tranny’ Debate: Stop Using the Word

From South Florida Gay News:

John Becker
June 5, 2014

These days, one of the easiest and quickest ways to anger a room full of queers is to bring up the subject of legendary drag queen and television star RuPaul Charles.

RuPaul first came under fire earlier this year for using the word “she-male” in a challenge on his Logo TV show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” called “Female or She-Male.” In it, contestants were shown photographs and had to guess whether the subject was born biologically female or previously appeared on the show. Many transgender advocates objected, pointing out that “she-male” is a term that is frequently used to degrade and demean trans people. They also took issue with a recurring segment titled “You’ve Got She-Mail” for the same reason.

In response, Logo apologized, pulled the episode that contained the challenge, and removed the “You’ve Got She-Mail” segment.

But RuPaul himself didn’t apologize. Instead he doubled down, vigorously defending his use of another problematic word, “tranny.” In an interview with Marc Maron, RuPaul said:

“Does the word ‘tranny’ bother me? No. I love the word ‘tranny.’ … It’s not the transsexual community who’s saying that. These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we are dealing with. It’s not the trans community. ‘Cause most people who are trans have been through hell and high water… But some people haven’t and they’ve used their victimhood to create a situation where, ‘No! You look at me! I want you to see me the way you’re supposed to see me!’ You know, if your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a fucking hard-ass road…

“I dance to the beat of a different drummer. I believe everybody — you can be whatever the hell you wanna be, I ain’t stopping you. But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or what I can’t — say or can’t do. It’s just words, like, ‘Yeah, you hurt me!’ Bitch, you need to get stronger. If you’re upset by something I said you have bigger problems than you think.”

In the controversy over RuPaul and language, especially as regards to the word “tranny,” the arguments essentially boil down to this: on one side you have many members of the trans community and their allies, who find the term highly offensive and abusive, especially because it’s frequently used in violent attacks on trans people.

On the other side is the drag community, which has a long history of satire and word reclamation, largely rejects the idea that the term “tranny” is inherently offensive, and bristles at what they perceive as language policing. Drag culture also has a long and important history within the gay community, which leads many gay men — and also many older trans women, who grew up in a world where drag culture was often one of their only safe spaces — to vociferously defend it.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Solution to ‘Tranny’ Debate: Stop Using the Word

Mansplaining, explained: ‘Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady’

From The Guardian UK:

Author Rebecca Solnit admits that even penning a book titled ‘Men Explain Things to Me’ doesn’t stop some men, Friday 6 June 2014

Rebecca Solnit is a prolific author (she’s working now on her sixteenth and seventeenth books), historian, activist and a contributing editor to Harper’s. Her most recent book, Men Explain Things to Me, is a collection of Solnit’s essays, including the title piece that launched a million memes. Solnit, on the road in Seattle, took some time to explain “mansplaining”, writing and how the post-Isla Vista misogyny conversation is a little like climate denialism.

JESSICA VALENTI: How do you feel about being considered the creator of the concept of “mansplaining”? Your now-famous essay – which really gave women language to talk about the condescending interactions they’ve had with men – certainly gave birth to the term, but you write in the book that you didn’t actually make up the word.

REBECCA SOLNIT: A really smart young woman changed my mind about it. I used to be ambivalent, worrying primarily about typecasting men with the term. (I have spent most of my life tiptoeing around the delicate sensibilities of men, though of course the book Men Explain Things to Me is what happens when I set that exhausting, doomed project aside.) Then in March a PhD candidate said to me, No, you need to look at how much we needed this word, how this word let us describe an experience every woman has but we didn’t have language for.

And that’s something I’m really interested in: naming experience and how what has no name cannot be acknowledged or shared. Words are power. So if this word allowed us to talk about something that goes on all the time, then I’m really glad it exists and slightly amazed that not only have I contributed about a million published words to the conversation but maybe, indirectly, one new word.

Do men still explain things to you?

Do they ever! Social media are to mansplainers what dogs are to fleas, and this recent feminist conversation has brought them out in droves. I mean, guys explain ridiculous things to me like that the Louisiana Purchase gave the United States a Pacific Coast. But more than anything since I wrote Men Explain Things to Me, they’ve explained women’s experience to me and other women. With this explosive new conversation since the Isla Vista murders, there’s been a dramatic uptick in guys mansplaining feminism and women’s experience or just denying that we need feminism and we actually had those experiences.

If there were awards to be handed out, one might go to the man who told me and a woman friend that 1) women actually like all those catcalls 2) as a man who’s spent time in men’s-only locker rooms, he knows men don’t actually speak to women that way. So we like street harassment, but that doesn’t actually exist, because we’re just crazy that way, us subjective, imaginative, unreliable ladies. Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Mansplaining, explained: ‘Just ask an expert. Who is not a lady’

Recipe for Ripoffs

From Other Words:

Deals that amount to NAFTA on steroids benefit corporations and hurt the rest of us.

By and
June 11,2014

Creative Commons  Permission to repost citing original source and linking to original source

President Barack Obama is a surprisingly devout disciple of so-called “free trade.”

During his first presidential bid he promised to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), indicating some concern over the U.S.-Canada-Mexico pact. A month after his 2009 inauguration, Obama declared that he would “be very careful” and take his time meeting that goal.

Instead, he crossed fixing that accord off his to-do list and became a cheerleader for new deals that amount to NAFTA on steroids.

What’s the big deal?

The United States has inked free-trade deals with 20 countries over the past three decades. This country plunged headfirst into the World Trade Organization before it formally launched in 1995. It’s now clear that this zeal benefits corporations while hurting the rest of us.

These accords stoke inequality by driving down wages. The United States exported nearly 700,000 jobs between NAFTA’s 1994 debut and 2010, despite promises that it would expand employment. Following 25 years of stagnation, typical household income remains about $51,000 a year.

Free trade deals hand corporations a shield to fend off national regulations. Hitching its fortune to rules rigged by the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR), a Canadian-based mining company called Pacific Rim claims to have a right to dig for gold in El Salvador — even though that country has banned the practice to protect its meager supply of drinkable water.

Pacific Rim is suing El Salvador’s government for $300 million.

The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal could render this kind of corporate power grab routine. The pact would skew global economic rules for a dozen countries, including our own and Japan, which account for 40 percent of world trade. Among other things, this deal would make it easier for corporations to use “investor-to-state” lawsuits like the El Salvador debacle to get their way over the objections of foreign governments.

This recipe for ripoffs isn’t really about trade. And that’s the point. These arrangements are a gimmick intended to trump local and national laws to suit the whims of corporations.

That’s why merely five of the looming Trans-Pacific deal’s 29 “chapters” have much to do with trade. The rest hand big companies privileges and protections.

With people taking a backseat to profits, it’s no wonder our leaders are negotiating pacts like this behind closed doors. When WikiLeaks spilled the beans on the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s environmental chapter, it turned out that this deal included weaker safeguards than its predecessors, outraging people who spend their lives fighting for cleaner air and water.

The Obama administration is also pursuing a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with European nations. Those talks are just as secret, and that pact would also make it easier for corporations to override environmental safeguards by suing foreign governments to get their way.

Why is WikiLeaks rooting around for these documents and releasing them to the public? The pacts will require Senate approval, yet lawmakers have had to beg for any details about them. Based on leaks, other big concerns center around health issues. For example, some provisions would block government policies that discourage smoking. There are also many concerns about labor rights.

Meanwhile, hundreds of corporate insiders get a seat at the table without making a fuss. A list of 605 big-business insiders leaked in 2012 offers a glimpse of the scope of this influence. It includes industry-wide lobbyists like the American Farm Bureau and the Nuclear Energy Institute, along with a who’s-who of corporate America.

Abbott Laboratories, Caterpillar Inc., Walmart and Yum! Restaurants International, the fast-food powerhouse that includes KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, all made the list while environmentalists and labor leaders remain locked out.

Thankfully, the Senate is denying Obama his request for “fast-track” negotiating authority. Given the kind of gridlock prevailing in Congress, perhaps these deals won’t ever be sealed.

Emily Schwartz Greco is the managing editor of OtherWords, a non-profit national editorial service run by the Institute for Policy Studies @ESGrecoOtherWords columnist William A. Collins is a former state representative and a former mayor of Norwalk, Connecticut.

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Recipe for Ripoffs

How Inequality Shapes the American Family

From Alternet:

Inequality changes who we are, individually and collectively.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
June 4, 2014

How do you decide who to marry, or whether to marry at all? How many children to have? Whether to engage in short-term hookups or long-term partnerships?

We don’t like to think that economic forces outside our individual control can shape the most intimate aspects of our lives, like whether or not we wed, when to have kids, and what kinds of families we create. But a growing body of evidence suggests that inequality is changing not only American family structures, but the roles men and women play and the calculations they make in pairing and establishing households. Inequality changes who we are, individually and collectively.

Inequality is changing the stakes for forming partnerships. It means, for example that there are fewer men with stable economic cicrumstances for women to choose from as appropriate long-term partners at both the lower and middle rungs of the economic ladder. A shortage of men in the less financially stable groups means that the guys who do look like good prospects realize don’t feel any particular pressure to commit. So they don’t. On the other hand, working-class and poor women who consider marrying men who may get laid off or become financial burdens are less ready to commit themselves.

At the top of the economic ladder, conditions are quite different. There people have resources to cope with childcare, good schools, therapy, and other things that can help families succeed. More lasting commitments and greater family stability go hand-in-hand with greater resources.

Law professors June Carbone and Naomi Cahn have been investigating how inequality influences family life. In their new book, Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family, they find we are creating profound social changes through America’s tolerance of wealth and income disparities. In the New Gilded Age, class once again becomes a dominant force in human life, just as it was aboard the Titanic. In an email interview, I caught up with the authors to delve further into the new class-based American family.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on How Inequality Shapes the American Family

“Iraq” Is Still Arabic for “Vietnam”

From Common Dreams:

by Ira Chernus

When George W. Bush and the neocons launched their war in Iraq, critics coined the slogan, “‘Iraq’ is Arabic for ‘Vietnam.'” The point was obvious: Another long quagmire of a war in an inhospitable foreign land would lead once again to nothing but death, suffering, and defeat for America.

That was back in 2003 and 2004, when the parallel was to the Vietnam war of 1965 – 1973.

To see why “Iraq” is still Arabic for “Vietnam” we have to turn the historical memory dial back just a few more years, to 1962 and 1963. That was when John F. Kennedy struggled with the same dilemma now facing Barack Obama: How much, if it all, should we get involved militarily to help a corrupt leader who stays in power by terrorizing his political enemies?

Here’s what JFK told interviewers in September, 1963, about South Vietnam under President Ngo Dinh Diem: “I don’t think … unless a greater effort is made by the  Government to win popular support that the war can be won out there.”

Here’s what Barack Obama told reporters on June 13, 2014: “Iraq’s leaders have to demonstrate a willingness to make hard decisions and compromises on behalf of the Iraqi people in order to bring the country together. … and account for the legitimate interests of all of Iraq’s communities, and to continue to build the capacity of an effective security force.”

JFK: “In the final analysis it is their war. They are the ones who have to win it or lose it. We can help them, we can give them equipment, we can send our men out there as advisers, but they have to win it.”

Obama: “We can’t do it for them. …  The United States is not simply going to involve itself in a military action in the absence of a political plan by the Iraqis that gives us some assurance that they’re prepared to work together.”

JFK balanced his calls for Diem to reform with what sounded like a promise that the South Vietnamese government would get U.S. aid no matter what it did or failed to do: “I don’t agree with those who say we should withdraw…. This is a very important struggle even though it is far away. … We also have to participate — we may not like it — in the defense of Asia.”

Obama sounded a similar note: “Given the nature of these terrorists, it could pose a threat eventually to American interests as well. Iraq needs additional support to break the momentum of extremist groups and bolster the capabilities of Iraqi security forces. …  They will have the support of the United States. …  We have enormous interests there.”

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on “Iraq” Is Still Arabic for “Vietnam”

How to Dehumanize a Trans Person in Three Simple Steps

From Slate:

June 3 2014

Humans are hardwired for empathy, which means we are prone to treat other people’s struggles with compassion and sympathy. This rule, however, doesn’t apply when the other people in question can be made to seem disordered, disgusting, and inhuman. The trick for those who oppose granting basic human dignity to any given minority group, then, is to deny their humanity. A human being probably deserves our empathy and respect. A debased freak clearly does not.

The effort to smear gay people as less-than-human was always destined to fail: There are a fair number of us, and once you know a gay person, it’s hard to see them all as disturbed weirdoes. But there are really very few trans people in the world, and, as the National Review’s Kevin D. Williamson recently illustrated in a strangely angry hatchet job on Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox, the drive to deprive them of their dignity remains alive and well. In fact, Williamson’s article is such a marvelously thorough polemic against treating trans people as people that it deserves to be studied in detail. For the convenience of all those who hope to follow in Williamson’s footsteps, here’s a handy guide for dehumanizing trans people—in three simple steps.

1. Compare a trans person to an object or caricature.

Williamson titles his essay “Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman,” and he repeatedly drives home his point by referring to Cox as “he” throughout. But Williamson’s real aim is to prove that Laverne Cox is not human. If we see her as a human being, we might start to empathize with her plight and thus agree to respect her identity and personhood. Williamson is obviously horrified by this possibility (though he never actually explains why), so he mounts a clever rhetorical effort to reduce Cox from a person to a mere object. First, Williamson describes Cox as “an effigy”—that is, one of those dummies you burn to show how much you hate someone. Then Williamson brings Cox down yet another notch, comparing her to a “voodoo doll”—that is, those things you stick needles into to cause someone pain, at least in the popular imagination.

I ran Williamson’s comments by David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy at the University of New England and author of Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave and Exterminate Others.

“What he means here is something like—this person isn’t a person,” he told me. “This isn’t someone with her own identity and her point of view—a human being just like he is. She’s something alien, something that we want to put at arms length.”

The net effect of these insulting comparisons is, of course, to make Cox sound like something you should either light on fire or poke with needles, not a human whose innate dignity deserves your respect. Rather than portraying Cox as a person (or, God forbid, a woman), Williamson has turned her into a caricatured object designed to be destroyed. With that groundwork laid, Williamson moves in for the second, even more degrading blow.

2. Make the trans person sound grotesquely disordered.

Williamson refuses to use the scientific term for a physical sex change, “sex-reassignment surgery,” which sounds far too clinical to meet his purposes. Sex-reassignment surgery sounds like something your neighbor or uncle might get; “genital amputation and mutilation,” as Williamson describes the procedure, does not. This graphic rebranding places in the reader’s mind images of disgusting disfigurement, even barbarism—certainly not the kind of thing a healthy, well-adjusted human being would voluntarily undergo.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on How to Dehumanize a Trans Person in Three Simple Steps

The Challenge of Sustaining Our Oceans

From Common Dreams:

by David Suzuki

June 8 is World Oceans Day. It’s a fitting time to contemplate humanity’s evolving relationship with the source of all life. For much of human history, we’ve affected marine ecosystems primarily by what we’ve taken out of the seas. The challenge as we encounter warming temperatures and increasing industrial activity will be to manage what we put into them.

As a top predator, humans from the tropics to the poles have harvested all forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to the largest whales, from the ocean’s surface to its floor. The staggering volume of fish removed from our waters has had a ripple effect through all ocean ecosystems. Yet the ocean continues to provide food for billions of people, and improved fishing practices in many places, including Canada, are leading to healthier marine-life populations. We’re slowly getting better at managing what we catch to keep it within the ocean’s capacity to replenish. But while we may be advancing in this battle, we’re losing the war with climate change and pollution.

In the coming years, our ties to the oceans will be defined by what we put into them: carbon dioxide, nutrients washed from the land, diseases from aquaculture and land-based animals, invasive species, plastics, contaminants, noise and ever-increasing marine traffic. We once incorrectly viewed oceans as limitless storehouses of marine bounty and places to dump our garbage; now it’s clear they can only handle so much.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report described how ingredients in the ocean’s broth are changing dramatically. Life in the seas is closely linked to factors in the immediate surroundings, such as temperature, acidity or pH, salinity, oxygen and nutrient availability. These combine at microscopic levels to create conditions that favour one form of life over another and emerge into complex ecosystems.

The oceans now absorb one-quarter of the atmosphere’s CO2. That’s bad news for organisms with calcium carbonate shells that dissolve in acidic conditions. We’re witnessing the effects of ocean acidification on shellfish along the West Coast of North America. Earlier this year, a Vancouver Island scallop farm closed after losing 10 million scallops, likely because of climate change and increasing acidity. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has also linked oyster die-offs along the Pacific coast to climate change.

While we may be getting better at figuring out how to sustainably harvest crabs, lobsters and sea urchins, we’re just starting to investigate whether they can even survive in oceans altered by climate change.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on The Challenge of Sustaining Our Oceans

Doing for the Poor and Doing to the Poor

From Huffington Post:

Washington is full of well-meaning types who want to help the poor. The list of prospective helpers includes not only the standard liberal do-gooder types talking about programs like pre-K education, but also conservatives like Paul Ryan who argue that taking away food stamps and other benefits will give low-income people the motivation they need to go out and get a job.

While sincere efforts to help the poor should be encouraged, we should also realize that our current economic policies are doing much to harm the poor. First and foremost we should realize that the decision to maintain high rates of unemployment is having a devastating impact on the well-being of millions of low- and moderate-income workers and their children.

The reasons are straightforward. When the overall unemployment rate goes up, the rate for the less-educated and minorities rises even more. This has been a regular pattern in the data for many decades that has been very visible in the current downturn.

Before the recession the overall unemployment rate was at 4.5 percent. It peaked at 10.0 percent in the fall of 2009 before gradually falling back to its current 6.3 percent. By contrast, the unemployment rate for workers without high school degrees rose from just over 7.0 percent in the months before the recession to a peak of more than 15.0 percent in peak months in 2009 and 2010. This is an increase of 8.0 percentage points. The unemployment rate for blacks rose from just over 8.0 percent before the recession to a peak of more than 16.0 percent, also a rise of 8.0 percentage points.

High unemployment doesn’t just hurt those at the bottom by denying them jobs, they also work fewer hours than they would like. The analysis in my book with Jared Bernstein, Getting Back to Full Employment, found that hours worked for families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution increased by 17 percent in the boom at the end of the 1990s. By contrast, hours worked barely increased at all for those in the top fifth.

And a lower unemployment rate means higher wages for those at the bottom. We found that a sustained one percentage point decline in the unemployment rate is associated with a 9.4 percent rise in real wages. To summarize, for the poor, lower unemployment translates into more jobs, more hours, and higher pay.

While the data on these points may be clear, many people will question that having high unemployment is a policy choice. That requires a little bit of thought.

At this point we have solid evidence that we can reduce the unemployment rate with increased government spending or tax cuts targeted to those who would spend the money. We have opted not to do so in order to reduce the deficit.

Continue reading at:


Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Doing for the Poor and Doing to the Poor

The Fog Machine of War

From The New York Times:

Chelsea Manning on the U.S. Military and Media Freedom

By Chelsea Manning
June 14, 2014

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — WHEN I chose to disclose classified information in 2010, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others. I’m now serving a sentence of 35 years in prison for these unauthorized disclosures. I understand that my actions violated the law.

However, the concerns that motivated me have not been resolved. As Iraq erupts in civil war and America again contemplates intervention, that unfinished business should give new urgency to the question of how the United States military controlled the media coverage of its long involvement there and in Afghanistan. I believe that the current limits on press freedom and excessive government secrecy make it impossible for Americans to grasp fully what is happening in the wars we finance.

If you were following the news during the March 2010 elections in Iraq, you might remember that the American press was flooded with stories declaring the elections a success, complete with upbeat anecdotes and photographs of Iraqi women proudly displaying their ink-stained fingers. The subtext was that United States military operations had succeeded in creating a stable and democratic Iraq.

Those of us stationed there were acutely aware of a more complicated reality.

Military and diplomatic reports coming across my desk detailed a brutal crackdown against political dissidents by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and federal police, on behalf of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki. Detainees were often tortured, or even killed.

Early that year, I received orders to investigate 15 individuals whom the federal police had arrested on suspicion of printing “anti-Iraqi literature.” I learned that these individuals had absolutely no ties to terrorism; they were publishing a scholarly critique of Mr. Maliki’s administration. I forwarded this finding to the officer in command in eastern Baghdad. He responded that he didn’t need this information; instead, I should assist the federal police in locating more “anti-Iraqi” print shops.

I was shocked by our military’s complicity in the corruption of that election. Yet these deeply troubling details flew under the American media’s radar.

It was not the first (or the last) time I felt compelled to question the way we conducted our mission in Iraq. We intelligence analysts, and the officers to whom we reported, had access to a comprehensive overview of the war that few others had. How could top-level decision makers say that the American public, or even Congress, supported the conflict when they didn’t have half the story?

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on The Fog Machine of War

The right’s despicable class war: Why they paint the poor as anti-American

From Salon:

For wingnuts like David Brat, bashing poor people as unethical is just one more arrow in their bullying quiver

Friday, Jun 13, 2014

The old adage about sticks and stones may finally apply more soundly to the rich than the poor. According to a new paper released by Ann Cammett of the CUNY School of Law, the way metaphor is deployed in public policy discourse regarding poor parents can powerfully shape public perception of both assistance programs and the people they serve.

In her essay, Cammett argues that the metaphorical context for major cuts to public assistance programs almost always precedes the actual cuts: that is, before pragmatic political reasoning is applied to weigh out the usefulness or efficacy of welfare programs, particular metaphors, many of them racialized, soak discourse regarding them. The most infamous examples Cammett provides are the notorious “Welfare Queen” metaphor popularized during the Reaganite 1980s, and the “Deadbeat Dad” trope pushed almost in tandem. The net effect of the insistence of the right wing on the usage of these metaphors was to make punitive cuts to assistance programs appear urgent and necessary by cementing an image of their beneficiaries as morally corrupt, perverse and malevolent.

Unfortunately, examples of this brand of toxic discourse are not difficult to locate in our society. And because the right is constantly pushing new angles to snip away at social insurance, they’re also constantly busy shaping new metaphorical categories that undermine policy aimed at solidifying a social safety net. For David Brat, the upstart who recently displaced Eric Cantor in Virginia’s 7th District congressional race, that category is about non-Christian bullies. In his essay “God and Advanced Mammon – Can Theological Types Handle Usury and Capitalism?” he writes:

We now have rights to health care, welfare programs, retirement benefits, thirteen years of education, and unemployment benefits. And there is not an item you can think of that is not regulated by the Federal Government. These positive rights bring benefits to many, but the new wrinkle is that someone else must pay for the benefits that are received. We have continually voted to force some to pay for the benefits of others. That is likely the key issue and the key line in this essay, and the one line that animates our current conversation on capitalism. A key line in ethics has been crossed… First, let me ask you as an individual a question. Are you willing to force someone you know to pay for the benefits for one of your neighbors? Will you force them? Very few Christians I know are willing to say “yes” to this question.

There are a number of subtle moves at work in Brat’s analysis, and all of them work toward consolidating an image of a welfare recipient whose moral character is simultaneously un-Christian and anti-American. In his vision, the poor are at the very least complicit in programs of force that he claims violate basic (one presumes Christian) ethical principles; in his hypothetical question posed to readers, he intends to set readers as opposed to the poor who receive welfare. The reader is intended to participate in Brat’s narrative: yes, I am a virtuous Christian, and therefore I would never force someone to pay taxes toward the support of the poor. In doing so, the poor are the non-virtuous, non-Christian, unethical persons participating in such systems of force.

If Cammett’s view of the effect of metaphors like “Welfare Queens” and “Deadbeat Dads” is even remotely accurate, then it’s not difficult to imagine what the destructive impact of Brat’s brand of metaphor could be. The ambiently amoral characteristics of the Welfare Queen and Deadbeat Dad draw their power to maliciously smear welfare recipients from the otherness of their implicit racial markers, but Brat’s notion of the poor takes this process one step further. Along with dog-whistlish racial suggestion and strong charges of unethical participation in brutal systems of force, he calls upon Christians – who comprise 70 percent of the nation – to view the poor as separate from Christian virtue as well.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on The right’s despicable class war: Why they paint the poor as anti-American

How All of Us Are Helping Build a Participatory Totalitarianism

From Alternet:

We are not passive objects of the surveillance state. We are active subjects of our own YouTube channels.

By John Feffer
June 5, 2014

According to the Chinese zodiac, the heavens circle around every 12 years. The Year of the Snake, the creature that sheds its skin to emerge anew, marks a time of great transformation. Indeed, for the last quarter century, the world has experienced three profound shifts at 12-year intervals, beginning with the Year of the Snake in 1989.

On June 4, 1989, on one side of the globe, Poles were participating in their first semi-free elections in more than 40 years, which—though few suspected at the time—sounded the death knell for Communism in East-Central Europe. Meanwhile, on the same day on the other side of the globe, the Chinese government was cracking down on the Tiananmen Square protests and ensuring that Communism would continue there as an official ideology for at least another 25 years.

Twelve years later, the Year of the Snake returned, and the ground shifted radically beneath our feet once again. This time, the 9/11 attacks brought the two sides of the world together as both China and Poland threw their weight behind the U.S.-led war on terror. Poland, presided over by a former Communist who’d embraced market reforms, even went so far as to host one of the “black sites” that the Bush administration set up to interrogate suspects gathered up through extraordinary rendition. China, presided over by a current Communist who’d also embraced market reforms, used the opportunity of 9/11 to ramp up operations against  separatists in Xinjiang and secure  “unprecedented” counter-terrorism information sharing with the United States.

And then last year, the Year of the Snake came around again, and this time it was Edward Snowden who caused a seismic shift in our understanding of everyday reality. We thought that we’d seen through the efforts of the Communist state to control our minds and the efforts of the corporate state to control our desires. But it turned out that we really didn’t know the full extent to which intelligence services and corporate entities had invaded our private spaces. Nor had we understood our own complicity in this brave new world. It wasn’t just states like Warsaw and Beijing that had joined forces with Washington against non-state actors. We had all become informers under this new regime, whether we liked it or not.

Continue reading at:

US may blacklist Thailand after prawn trade slavery revelations

From The Guardian UK:

Threat of sanctions unless Bangkok can sort its human trafficking trade, as Guardian investigation shows migrants enslaved on boats working in shrimp supply chain

in Washington, in Bangkok and
The Guardian, Wednesday 11 June 2014

The US is considering downgrading Thailand on a human trafficking blacklist, following revelations in the Guardian that slaves are being used in the production of prawns sold in leading American, British and European supermarkets.

Washington will directly address allegations of human trafficking in Thailand’s trade in prawns – known in the US as shrimp – in an imminent report that could result in economic sanctions against Bangkok. The state department has confirmed it intends to review the country’s response to abuses such as migrants being bought by shipowners and forced to work as slaves for years at sea without pay.

The review, expected in the middle of this month, could result in Thailand being downgraded to the lowest level in a US system that ranks 188 nations according to their willingness and efforts to combat slavery and human trafficking. A relegation to tier three could trigger economic sanctions and loss of development aid, although such punishments can be waived under certain national security considerations.

“We are aware of the Guardian investigation,” said Luis CdeBaca, Washington’s Ambassador-at-Large for monitoring and combatting trafficking in persons, in a statement.

“We are currently finalising the 2014 Trafficking in Persons report, which will be released later this month, and will include an overview of human trafficking in Thailand and the Thai government’s efforts to address human trafficking.”

The annual Trafficking in Persons (TiP) report is considered to be the gold standard in global anti-trafficking efforts. Last year Thailand narrowly escaped relegation for the third year running and was told it would face an automatic downgrade this year if significant progress was not made to address issues of slavery and trafficking within its borders by the end of the year.

Last year, for the third year running, Thailand narrowly escaped relegation and was told it would face an automatic downgrade this year if significant progress was not made to address issues of slavery and trafficking within its borders by the end of the year.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on US may blacklist Thailand after prawn trade slavery revelations

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Dave Van Ronk

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Friday Night Fun and Culture: Dave Van Ronk

Enforcing school dress codes teaches girls to be ashamed, not ‘modest’

From The Guardian UK:

Dress codes assume that male students’ education needs to be protected. What girls need doesn’t rate, Wednesday 21 May 2014

Now that the warm weather is here, everyone is happily boxing away sweaters and breaking out their summer clothes. But as students across the country are bringing out their t-shirts and dresses, school administrators are ramping up their efforts to quash cleavage and “risqué” outfits.

According to educators and even some parents, young women’s outfits – their bodies, really – are too distracting for men to be expected to comport themselves with dignity and respect. It’s the season of the dress code – so instead of teaching girls math or literature, schools are enforcing arbitrary and sexist rules that teach them to be ashamed of their bodies.

Take the example of a young woman in Virginia who was kicked out of her prom this month because fathers attending the event though her dress was giving rise to “impure thoughts”. Clare, 17, says her dress was well within guidelines for the event’s dress code – it was “fingertip length”. She wrote on her sister’s blog, “I even tried it on with my shoes, just to be sure.”

Still, she was asked to leave – thanks to a group of ogling dads perched on a balcony above the dance floor. “I am so tired of people who abuse their power to make women feel violated and ashamed because she has an ass, or has breasts, or has long legs,” she wrote

It’s not just proms that make for problematic interactions for young women. Everyday school dress codes disproportionately target, shame, and punish girls – especially girls who are more developed than their peers. In 2012, students at Stuyvesant High School in New York (my old school) protested the biased implementation of the school’s dress code. One student noted that the “curvier” girls were singled out – a v-neck t-shirt considered acceptable on one student was seen as absolutely scandalous on another.

Like the fathers at Clare’s prom, Stuyvesant administrators defended the sexist dress code by saying girls shorts and spaghetti strap tank tops are “distracting” to male students and teachers. This is a common theme when policing the way women dress – just last month a junior high school in Illinois banned girls wearing leggings because they’re “distracting to boys”.

To assuage the supposed distraction, girls caught wearing leggings are forced to put on blue school shorts over them. At Stuyvesant, dress code violators are pulled out of class and made to change into a large baggy shirt. (There are dress codes for boys, but they’re not as frequently enforced and all a male student generally has to do is keep his pants up and t-shirts referencing drugs inside-out.)

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Enforcing school dress codes teaches girls to be ashamed, not ‘modest’

Obama Administration Pushing Local Cops To Stay Mum On Surveillance

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 06/12/2014

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has been quietly advising local police not to disclose details about surveillance technology they are using to sweep up basic cellphone data from entire neighborhoods, The Associated Press has learned.

Citing security reasons, the U.S. has intervened in routine state public records cases and criminal trials regarding use of the technology. This has resulted in police departments withholding materials or heavily censoring documents in rare instances when they disclose any about the purchase and use of such powerful surveillance equipment.

Federal involvement in local open records proceedings is unusual. It comes at a time when President Barack Obama has said he welcomes a debate on government surveillance and called for more transparency about spying in the wake of disclosures about classified federal surveillance programs.

One well-known type of this surveillance equipment is known as a Stingray, an innovative way for law enforcement to track cellphones used by suspects and gather evidence. The equipment tricks cellphones into identifying some of their owners’ account information, like a unique subscriber number, and transmitting data to police as if it were a phone company’s tower. That allows police to obtain cellphone information without having to ask for help from service providers, such as Verizon or AT&T, and can locate a phone without the user even making a call or sending a text message.

But without more details about how the technology works and under what circumstances it’s used, it’s unclear whether the technology might violate a person’s constitutional rights or whether it’s a good investment of taxpayer dollars.

Interviews, court records and public-records requests show the Obama administration is asking agencies to withhold common information about the equipment, such as how the technology is used and how to turn it on. That pushback has come in the form of FBI affidavits and consultation in local criminal cases.

“These extreme secrecy efforts are in relation to very controversial, local government surveillance practices using highly invasive technology,” said Nathan Freed Wessler, a staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, which has fought for the release of these types of records. “If public participation means anything, people should have the facts about what the government is doing to them.”

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Obama Administration Pushing Local Cops To Stay Mum On Surveillance

The Catholic Irish babies scandal: It gets much worse

From Salon:

New revelations about unauthorized vaccine trials

Monday, Jun 9, 2014

It gets worse. One week after revelations of how over the span of 35 years, a County Galway home for unwed mothers cavalierly disposed of the bodies of nearly 800 babies and toddlers on a site that held a septic tank, new reports are leveling a whole different set of charges about what happened to the children of those Irish homes.

In harrowing new information revealed this weekend, the Daily Mail has uncovered medical records that suggest 2,051 children across several Irish care homes were given a diphtheria vaccine from pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome in a suspected illegal drug trial that ran from 1930 to 1936. As the Mail reports, “Michael Dwyer, of Cork University’s School of History, found the child vaccination data by trawling through tens of thousands of medical journal articles and archive files. He discovered that the trials were carried out before the vaccine was made available for commercial use in the UK.”  There is no evidence yet – and there may never be – that any family consent was ever offered, or about how many children had adverse effects or died as a result of the vaccinations. Dwyer told the Mail, “The fact that no record of these trials can be found in the files relating to the Department of Local Government and Public Health, the Municipal Health Reports relating to Cork and Dublin, or the Wellcome Archives in London, suggests that vaccine trials would not have been acceptable to government, municipal authorities, or the general public. However, the fact that reports of these trials were published in the most prestigious medical journals suggests that this type of human experimentation was largely accepted by medical practitioners and facilitated by authorities in charge of children’s residential institutions.” In a related story, GSK — formerly Wellcome — revealed Monday on Newstalk Radio that 298 children in 10 different care homes were involved in medical trials in the ’60s and ’70s that left “80 children ill after they were accidentally administered a vaccine intended for cattle.”

Irish Minister of State for Training and Skills Ciaran Cannon has called for a public inquiry into the treatment of the children and their deaths.  The archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin, has also called for an investigation, adding that it should be free of Catholic Church interference. “We have to look at the whole culture of mother and baby homes; they’re talking about medical experiments there,” he told RTE Radio this weekend. “They’re very complicated and very sensitive issues, but the only way we will come out of this particular period of our history is when the truth comes out.” And a spokesman for GSK said the latest revelations, “if true, are clearly very distressing.” 

This is not even the first time information on these kinds of vaccine trials has come to light. In 2010, the Irish Independent uncovered how children born in the homes were subjected to a single “four-in-one” vaccine trial without their mothers’ permission. The children often didn’t even know what they’d been subjected to until well into adulthood. Appallingly,  Ireland had no laws regarding medical testing on humans until 1987. Mari Steed, who was born at the Bessborough home in the ’60s, told the Sunday Independent, “We were used as human guinea pigs.”

Continue reading at:

See Also:

The pathetic scramble to rationalize the Irish babies scandal

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on The Catholic Irish babies scandal: It gets much worse

Pope Francis Is Wrong About My Child-Free Life

From The Daily Beast:


The pope may pooh-pooh the decision to remain childless, but the world needs more people who choose pets over kids.

Pope Francis came into office on a wave of hope that finally the world would have a progressive pope instead of the string of throwbacks with retrograde ideas who had come before. He’s since then been busy dashing those hopes, one speech at a time, demonstrating that he has zero intention of actually bothering to learn about people’s real lives and needs before telling them how to live their lives. Now he’s moved on to picking on childless couples, with a little extra shade thrown at pet ownership. Oh goody, just in time for Adopt-A-Cat Month.

Speaking from his home in the Vatican on Monday, Pope Francis warmed up by shaming people for enjoying their lives. “This culture of well-being from 10 years ago convinced us: It’s better not to have children! It’s better! You can go explore the world, go on holiday, you can have a villa in the countryside, you can be care-free.” Then he dragged Fido into, griping, “Maybe it is better, more convenient, to have a little dog, two cats; and the love goes to the two cats and the little dog.”

Then came the warning of the miseries that await you foolish vacation-having cat owners if you don’t get with the “fruitful” marriage: “Then, in the end this marriage comes to old age in solitude, with the bitterness of loneliness.” Ah yes, the threat wielded against the deliberately childless since time immemorial: Conform or you will regret it!

My first instinct, as a deliberately childless person myself, upon reading Pope Francis’s remarks was to think, “If you think having children is so important, then why don’t you go first?” But while sarcasm is a satisfying hobby, it’s perhaps better to look to empirical science to answer the question of whether or not it’s actually true that childless people will be punished with loveless marriages and age into loneliness.

Luckily, there’s been a lot of research into both those questions. In fact, the question of whether or not having kids makes marriages happier or not is one that has been looked at again and again, to the point where you start to wonder if they’re trying to get a different result this time. The answer keeps coming back the same: Childless couples have happier marriages, on average.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Pope Francis Is Wrong About My Child-Free Life