By Alex Kane
August 22, 2014
The militarized police force unleashed in Ferguson, Missouri over the past two weeks has crushed the civil liberties of black residents angry over the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown. That law enforcement has shown utter disregard for the rights of protesters and the press is no surprise to many, especially black people, who have had to contend with pervasive surveillance and harassment in varied forms for much of American history. Yet what makes the situation in Ferguson look especially scary and dystopic are the militarized weapons being used to crush constitutional rights.
The first civil liberty to be trampled on by cops was the right to protest, or as the Constitution puts it, “the right of the people peaceably to assemble.” Protests have occurred almost daily since August 9, the day Brown was killed by Ferguson officer Darren Wilson. When demonstrations broke out over the shooting, police fired tear gas and rubber bullets and used vehicles that produce piercing sounds to disperse the crowd.
In the wake of these scenes, groups like Human Rights Watch have charged that the methods law enforcement used have intimidated peaceful demonstrators. “Ferguson police are compounding problems with threats and the use of unnecessary force against people peacefully protesting the police killing of Michael Brown,” Human Rights Watch’s U.S. researcher Alba Morales said in a statement. “They should be upholding basic rights to peaceful assembly and free speech, not undermining them.”
Slate’s Dahlia Lithwick, and Daria Roithmayr, a law professor, argue that excessive tear gas and rubber bullets also violate the constitutional right to due process. “The due process clause bans the police from using excessive force even when they are within their rights to control a crowd or arrest a suspect,” they write.
Despite this criticism, the police in Ferguson have not changed their tactics.
When citizens with camera phones and journalists have tried to document police tactics, officers have sought to prevent them from doing so. The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of a journalist who was told by police to stop recording with his camera. On August 15, the police and the ACLU reached an agreement that would allow the videotaping of police officers as long as officers are able to do their jobs.
Heather Digby Parton
Tuesday, Aug 19, 2014
One of the most misunderstood elements of American politics has to be the fact that legislative coalitions are very different from voting coalitions. The most obvious case in point is the erroneous assumption that the coalition that often forms around civil liberties, featuring elements of the most ideologically committed members of the left and the right, means that these groups are in agreement as to the goals they wish to obtain. It’s not essential that everyone who signs on to a bill is doing so for the same reason, but it’s vitally important that people not misinterpret the joint action as a sign that we are entering a moment of bipartisan kumbaya that will heal the nation’s wounds and bring us together once and for all.
In the wake of Michael Brown’s death and all that’s followed, we are seeing this play out in what Jim Newell accurately described as a potential coalition of right and left on the demilitarization of the police. In this case it’s the hardcore wingnuts at the Gun Owners of America joining in with the ACLU to demand an end to the Pentagon program that encourages police departments to buy surplus military equipment at bargain basement prices, both of whom have endorsed a bill by Democratic congressman Hank Johnson of Georgia to do just that. But it’s important that we distinguish that the liberty concerns driving this particular joint endorsement are not coming from the same place or seeking the same end.
Gun Owners of America president Larry Pratt is not concerned about the police harassing and shooting young African-American men or using military tactics and equipment against peaceful protesters exercising their rights under the Constitution. He has never before expressed any concern for these issues in the past. What he is worried about is something else entirely. Just a few weeks ago he appeared on Alex Jones’ conspiracy show and articulated exactly what it is he fears the most. Right Wing Watch captured the moment:
Jones asked Pratt about a Washington Times report about a 2010 Pentagon directive — an update to a series of similar directives crafted under previous administrations — outlining how and when the military can use force to quell domestic unrest “in extraordinary emergency circumstances where prior authorization by the president is impossible.”
Jones, of course, read this to mean that it is “official and has been confirmed” that the military is “training with tanks, armored vehicles, drones” to “take on the American people, mainly the Tea Party.”
BY Anna Gorman Kaiser Health News
August 26 2014
Devin Payne had gone years without health insurance — having little need and not much money to pay for it.
Then Payne realized she’s transgender. In her early 40s, she changed her name, began wearing long skirts, grew out her sandy blond hair and started taking hormones.
Although not all trans women get gender reassignment surgery, Payne said it was the right next step for her. For that, Payne, who is now 44, said she needed health coverage. “It is not a simple, easy, magical surgery,” said Payne, a photographer who lives in Palm Springs. “Trying to do this without insurance is a big risk. Things can go wrong … not having the money to pay for it would be awful.”
Payne learned in the fall that she might qualify for subsidies through the state’s new insurance marketplace, Covered California, because her income fell under the limit of $46,000 a year. She eagerly signed up in March for a Blue Shield plan for about $230 a month and began making preparations for the surgery that would change her life.
A “Preexisting Condition”
Among the less-talked-about implications of the Affordable Care Act is the relief it is providing to transgender people, many of whom are low-income and who have struggled to obtain health coverage.
Getting jobs that offer insurance often has been difficult for transgender people, and the cost of purchasing plans on the private market can be prohibitive. Some have been denied policies altogether after being diagnosed with “gender identity disorder,” often considered a preexisting condition.
Without insurance, many people were unable to afford the hormones, surgeries, and counseling needed to complete their transition. Nor would they have been covered in the event of complications.
Aug. 17, 2014
Ferguson is not just about systemic racism — it’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back, says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Will the recent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, be a tipping point in the struggle against racial injustice, or will it be a minor footnote in some future grad student’s thesis on Civil Unrest in the Early Twenty-First Century?
The answer can be found in May of 1970.
You probably have heard of the Kent State shootings: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University. During those 13 seconds of gunfire, four students were killed and nine were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The shock and outcry resulted in a nationwide strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses. Five days after the shooting, 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. And the nation’s youth was energetically mobilized to end the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and mindless faith in the political establishment.
You probably haven’t heard of the Jackson State shootings.
On May 14th, 10 days after Kent State ignited the nation, at the predominantly black Jackson State University in Mississippi, police killed two black students (one a high school senior, the other the father of an 18-month-old baby) with shotguns and wounded twelve others.
There was no national outcry. The nation was not mobilized to do anything. That heartless leviathan we call History swallowed that event whole, erasing it from the national memory.
And, unless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare.
By focusing on just the racial aspect, the discussion becomes about whether Michael Brown’s death—or that of the other three unarmed black men who were killed by police in the U.S. within that month—is about discrimination or about police justification. Then we’ll argue about whether there isn’t just as much black-against-white racism in the U.S. as there is white-against-black. (Yes, there is. But, in general, white-against-black economically impacts the future of the black community. Black-against-white has almost no measurable social impact.)
Continue reading at: http://time.com/3132635/ferguson-coming-race-war-class-warfare/
By Lynn Stuart Parramore
August 25, 2014
In a must-read article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine, journalist Jessica Bruder, adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, adds a new phrase to America’s vocabulary: “Elderly migrant worker.” She documents a growing trend of older Americans for whom the reality of unaffordable housing and scarcity of work has driven them from their homes and onto the road in search of seasonal and temporary employment across the country. Packed into RVs, detached from their communities, these “Okies” of the Great Recession put in time at Amazon warehouses, farms and amusement parks, popping free over-the-counter pain reliever to mask the agony of strained muscles and sore backs. And when they can’t hold up any longer? The RV sometimes becomes a coffin.
Since the financial crisis ripped the security out from under millions of people, the bulk of our politicians, including President Obama, actually tried to reduce, rather than increase, Social Security. The absence of pensions, along with the inadequacy of 401(k)s, skyrocketing healthcare and job insecurity and unemployment, are sending more and more people scrambling to figure out a way to keep body and soul together. Even grandparents are joining the ranks of those for whom life has become a game of Survivor. In an email interview, I asked Bruder about this alarming trend and what it means for the country, now and in the future.
Lynn Parramore: In your recent article in Harper’s, you describe a trend of downwardly mobile elderly folks traveling the country in RVs in search of temporary and seasonal work. How many people are we talking about? How fast has this trend been emerging?
Jessica Bruder: Though no one keeps an official tally of how many older Americans are doing this kind of work, their ranks appear to be growing rapidly in the wake of the housing bust and market crashes.
Amazon first hired a handful of migrant full-time RVers in 2008 through a program the company later named “CamperForce.” As of 2014, it had expanded to employ some 2,000 workers, according to a recruiter I met in Quartzsite, Arizona. The American Crystal Sugar Company taps the same labor pool each fall to staff its annual sugar beet harvest, and their recruitment numbers are up, too. This year, they’re hoping to recruit 600 ” workampers,” up from 450 the year before.
LP: What’s the gender breakdown among these traveling workers? What kinds of work are men and women doing?
JB: I was impressed by how many older, single women I met among the working nomads, from a tarot reader living in a former convict labor van she’d transformed into a roving gypsy boudoir, to an ex-medical technician who managed to fit her whole life—along with a Shih-Tzu, a lovebird and a loquacious African Grey parrot—into a 10.5-foot Carson Kalispell sport trailer.
The gender breakdown was roughly even. Employers don’t discriminate when doling out hard or dirty work, whether it’s scrubbing campsite toilets or walking 15 miles a day on a concrete warehouse floor to pack Amazon’s holiday orders.
BY Parker Marie Molloy
August 19 2014
Yesterday, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival organizer Lisa Vogel issued a statement about the festival — which just wrapped up its 39th year — and the ongoing controversy around its “intention” that the festival cater solely to “Womyn Born Womyn.”
In the weeks before this year’s festival, a number of high-profile LGBT advocacy groups — including Equality Michigan, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and National Center for Lesbian Rights — called on the festival to put an end to the “Womyn Born Womyn” intention.
Vogel’s statement, emailed to supporters Monday with the subject line, “We Have a Few Demands of Our Own,” lays out five requests organizers would like to see the festival’s critics follow. Asking critics to “Get your facts straight,” Vogel delves into the semantics of the word “transphobic.”
“We do not fear their presence among us, a false claim repeatedly made,” Vogel writes. “What we resist — and what we will never stop fighting — is the continued erasure and disrespect for the specific experience of being born and living as female in a patriarchal, misogynist world.” Later, she adds, “It is not the inclusion of trans womyn at Festival that we resist; it is the erasure of the specificity of female experience in the discussion of about the space itself that stifles progress in this conversation.”
Her second bulletpoint is an ask that critics “acknowledge the validity of autonomous, female-defined space.” Here Vogel clarifies that straight and bisexual women are welcome at the festival, so long as they understand the the festival is centered around “a community defined by lesbian culture.” Later, she refers to the event’s focus as being “on the experience of those born female, who’ve lived their lives subjected to oppression based on the sole fact of their being female.” Although it doesn’t explicitly mention trans women, this statement rests on the premise that trans women have not always been female, and therefore cannot share an understanding and experience of womanhood with cisgender (nontrans) women.
Later in that section, Vogel laments efforts of organizations like the New York Abortion Access Fund to employ language inclusive of trans men and non-binary individuals assigned female at birth who may carry and bear children, arguing that this type of push is “pressure for erasure of a specifically female reality,” highlighting discomfort with “unofficial Michfest anthem,” “Pussy Manifesto.”
Vogel’s third request asks critics to “acknowledge that Michfest creates spaces that do not exist elsewhere.” In this section, Vogel highlights the welcoming, familial experiences offered by the festival to those for whom it is intended. Perhaps unintentionally, highlighting the uniqueness of the festival’s existence also highlights how it is also one of the only remaining women’s music festivals at which trans women are told they are not particularly welcome.
From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/23/world/middleeast/israel-gaza.html?_r=0
By Anneli Rufus
August 13, 2014
Adapted from “Unworthy: How to Stop Hating Yourself” by Anneli Rufus
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.” —Bertrand Russell
Is low self-esteem all that bad? Self-loathing is. But between self-loathing and narcissism is a vast spectrum comprising infinitely various degrees of self-regard. Neither extreme is good. If only we could just reach medium.
In 1986, California state assembly member John Vasconcellos proposed the State Task Force to Promote Self-Esteem. This ignited a new movement: Based on the notion that low self-esteem caused every kind of social woe from teenage pregnancy to low test scores and high dropout rates, school curricula and parenting techniques were radically transformed, their main objective now being to cultivate high self-esteem among the young, which activists proclaimed would cure those social woes and make America a safer, happier, and better place. A multibillion-dollar industry surged around self-esteem. Kids were taught to make “me” flags of their putative “me” nations, to view history and fiction through the filter of their feelings, and to start schooldays with affirmations such as I always make good choices and Everyone is happy to see me.
The aftermath has not worked out as planned. Since 1986, self-esteem among young people has increased. Studies show that students hold themselves in higher regard than students in decades past. But to the shock and horror of the self-esteem movement’s boosters, soaring self-esteem has done nothing to stem crime, addiction and those other ills the boosters claimed high self-esteem would stem. In fact, ambient sky-high self-esteem might present new problems of its own: One long-term study found that college students are now twice as narcissistic as college students were in 1982; other studies link high self-esteem with high rates of aggression, territorialism, elitism, racism, and other negative qualities.
And other studies show that the so-called Millennial Generation – young adults born after the self-esteem movement began — are demonstrably less likely than Baby Boomers and Generation Xers to care about social problems, current events or energy conservation. Millennials are also less likely to have jobs whose main purpose is to help other people. In one study, three times as many Millennials as Boomers said they made no personal effort to help the environment.
“Certain forms of high self-esteem seem to increase one’s proneness to violence,” reads one report published in the journal of the American Psychological Association. “An uncritical endorsement of the cultural value of high self-esteem may therefore be counterproductive and even dangerous. The societal pursuit of high self-esteem for everyone may literally end up doing considerable harm.”
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/books/omnipresent-push-self-esteem-destructive
From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/guess-whos-coming-to-dinn_6_b_5659525.html
BY Riki Wilchins
August 12 2014
Radical feminists cling to notions of biological essentialism: that there is a common core of experience that all cisgender women share, and that male-to-female transsexuals can never participate in this and thus always are and will be males. It’s not exactly clear when kicking the political crap out of trans women became either “radical” or “feminist,” but it probably originated 40 or so years ago with Janice Raymond’s book The Transsexual Empire.
That initiated a period in my life in the 1980s and ’90s when it was virtually impossible for me to attend any lesbian or women’s event without someone bringing up that book and its noxious arguments. A long, impassioned debate about me and the meaning of my body and my attendance would ensue, often by very well intentioned women, and as often as not ending in my being publicly asked, or told, to leave.
This kind of debate is pretty much the same trick Michelle Goldberg pulls off in the controversial New Yorker piece, “What Is a Woman?” The article details the trials and tribulations of self-described RadFems against trans activists and their allies — apparently it’s becoming very difficult to participate in polite society. She quotes both sides at length (well, sort of), being very well intentioned in moderating the “debate,” as if the arguments put forth are equally valid and neither she nor The New Yorker need take sides. Her tone is one of utter moral passivity.
In effect, it’s precisely the kind of article that would have been run 20 years ago about gays and lesbians. It would have quoted homophobic bigots saying that homosexuality was a disease and/or a lifestyle choice, and gay rights activists saying otherwise, and both sides would have been given equal treatment.
In other words, this article is — in its quiet, quasi-liberal intelligentsia way — nearly as transphobic and bigoted as the RadFems whose trials it covers.
But interestingly, these RadFems are finding themselves on the wrong end of history. An ever-dwindling segment of polite society is willing to continue refusing to acknowledge transgender people. We’re not exactly taking the courts by storm, as is the case with gay marriage, but we’re definitely on an upswing here. Who knows, “normal” might be just around the next few corners.
I really never gave a fuck about a bunch of elitist dyke c*nts hate fest in the forest.
Indeed it always struck me as being sort of like a Storm Front Music Festival for people who would cheerfully have others put me and my kind in the gas chambers.
While I am a lesbian I actually don’t much like the “Lesbian Community.”
When it comes to music my likes are way too eclectic to be contained within “Woxxmyn’z Muzack.
So Fuck the Michigan Woxxmyon’z Muzack Festival and all who give their hard earned money to perpetuating the Rad Fem version of Storm Front.
Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is currently wrapped up, and I guess it’s that time of the year where we all wring our hands over MichFest’s womyn-born-womyn (read: trans exclusionary) policy. Again. Like we have been doing every summer, apparently, since I was 10 years old. And once again, I just can’t seem to summon the requisite amount of outrage.
Weren’t we just here three months ago? Oh, right, we were. With major queer organisations like Michigan Equality, Human Rights Campaign and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force jumping on the bandwagon calling for Fest to change its tune (yes, that was a music pun, deal with it), there has been a flurry of written commentary on how Fest needs to change, could change, and would be a major positive force if only it would change.
Given Fest’s decreasing profile, it might be important here to refresh just exactly what Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival is. There is, of course, the obvious—it’s a music festival in Michigan focused on women (or womyn, for those who have historically opposed the use of the “e” because of the visual connection to “men,” and it is the event’s “intention” that anyone not assigned female at birth and who has not always been perceived as a girl and a woman, including in the present, and conceivably in the future should not attend), but how does Fest see itself?
In those woods you will find diverse and dynamic performances, interactive workshops, healthy foods, clean air and the most amazing sense of community, friendship and fun. Part music festival, part community happening – the experience of Michigan is based upon an essential participatory ethic that enriches the experience of cooperative living. Community. Celebration. Common Ground.
Which is all true. I don’t know this from personal experience, of course, but I have heard it and read it from others. Those who have gone, cisgender and transgender, and those who continue to go. I’ve had commenters show up to speak about the value of their personal experiences with Fest, and I really have no reason to disbelieve them. The fact that there are trans women who have attended and felt that Fest was an amazing experience certainly seems to be strong evidence that characterisations of The Land as run by the last vestiges of the the trans exclusionary radical feminist movement are complete malarky.
The commentary to sprout up around the controversy this summer includes the heartfelt plea for “saving The Land” from transgender attendee Kayley Whalen. And over at Autostraddle, Marie Lyn Bernard has written a wonderful piece on how Fest could change its policy rather easily, if only it were willing to do so. Beautifully written, wonderfully argued… but for me, ultimately not compelling. Even Whalen’s, whose love for Fest is obvious.
By Agence France-Presse
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
Non-Jewish spouses of Israeli homosexuals can now obtain citizenship under an interior ministry decision applicable since Tuesday.
“The same-sex partner of a person eligible for the law of return, and who does not live in Israel, may also become Israeli,” a ministry statement said, adding that the ruling applies only to married same-sex couples.
Under the law of return, any Jew has the right to ask for, and to be granted, Israeli citizenship.
That right also extends to the partner of the applicant, but had previously been granted only to heterosexual couples.
“Israel’s doors are now open to any Jew and his family, without discrimination based on lifestyle,” Interior Minister Gideon Saar said in a statement.
The Jewish state is considered a trailblazer in the promotion of and respect for gay rights, especially in terms of adoption for same-sex couples.
However, civil marriage does not exist in Israel, where the solemnisation of marriage is entirely controlled by the state rabbinate, and homosexual unions are not in themselves recognised.
Tell me again how wonderful Islam is.
By Bassem Mroue
BEIRUT (AP) — A cleric read the verdict before the truck came and dumped a large pile of stones near the municipal garden. Jihadi fighters then brought in the woman, clad head to toe in black, and put her in a small hole in the ground. When residents gathered, the fighters told them to carry out the sentence: Stoning to death for the alleged adulteress.
None in the crowd stepped forward, said a witness to the event in a northern Syrian city. So the jihadi fighters, mostly foreign extremists, did it themselves, pelting Faddah Ahmad with stones until her body was dragged away.
“Even when she was hit with stones she did not scream or move,” said an opposition activist who said he witnessed the stoning near the football stadium and the Bajaa garden in the city of Raqqa, the main Syrian stronghold of the Islamic State group.
The July 18 stoning was the second in a span of 24 hours. A day earlier, 26-year-old Shamseh Abdullah was killed in a similar way in the nearby town of Tabqa by Islamic State fighters. Both were accused of having sex outside marriage.
The killings were the first of their kind in rebel-held northern Syria, where jihadis from the Islamic State group have seized large swaths of territory, terrorizing residents with their strict interpretation of Islamic law, including beheadings and cutting off the hands of thieves. The jihadis recently tied a 14-year-old boy to a cross-like structure and left him for several hours in the scorching summer sun before bringing him down — punishment for not fasting during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The group has also brutalized Shiite Muslims and others whom it views as apostates. In neighboring Iraq, Islamic State militants have driven members of the Yazidi religious minority out of a string of towns and villages. Thousands of the fleeing Yazidis have been stranded on a mountaintop for days, a humanitarian crisis that prompted the U.S. to airlift aid to them this week.