Thursday 20 November 2014
I know a woman in her 30s: she’s married, she has a toddler, and she desperately wants a second child – but a dangerous medical condition means that having another baby would be life-threatening. Despite being careful, she got pregnant. She had an abortion because she wasn’t willing to risk her life and leave her child motherless, but she still feels a deep sadness.
I know another woman, in her 20s, who had a shitty boyfriend (but no kids) when her birth control failed and she found herself with a pregnancy she knew she didn’t want – a pregnancy she wasn’t ready for. She was upset about the situation, but had no doubts about what she wanted to do and, after the abortion, no regrets. She rarely thinks about the pregnancy or the abortion anymore.
If you’re like a lot of people, you probably have much more sympathy for the first woman than the second. Though the majority of people in America and Northern Ireland and so many other places believe abortion should be legal, too many of us still think about reproductive rights as if there’s a hierarchy of good and bad abortions – the kind that women “deserve”, and the kind women should be ashamed of.
But those two women? They’re both me.
On Thursday, the 1 in 3 Campaign (a hat tip to the fact that 1 in 3 American women will have an abortion) launched a live-streamed, national abortion speak-out featuring people like Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, comedian Lizz Winstead and artist Favianna Rodriguez – and me.
I’ve written about ending my wanted pregnancy and the turmoil I faced with the decision, but I’ve never before spoken publicly about my first abortion – not because I was ashamed, but because it truly didn’t have that tremendous of an impact on my life. If anything, being able to have that abortion made my life better: I was able to publish my first book, meet my now-husband, cultivate the life that I’m living and build the family that I love.
From Robert Reich: http://robertreich.org/post/103472733520
Monday, November 24, 2014
This is the time of year when high school seniors apply to college, and when I get lots of mail about whether college is worth the cost.
The answer is unequivocally yes, but with one big qualification. I’ll come to the qualification in a moment but first the financial case for why it’s worth going to college.
Put simply, people with college degrees continue to earn far more than people without them. And that college “premium” keeps rising.
Last year, Americans with four-year college degrees earned on average 98 percent more per hour than people without college degrees.
In the early 1980s, graduates earned 64 percent more.
So even though college costs are rising, the financial return to a college degree compared to not having one is rising even faster.
But here’s the qualification, and it’s a big one.
A college degree no longer guarantees a good job. The main reason it pays better than the job of someone without a degree is the latter’s wages are dropping.
In fact, it’s likely that new college graduates will spend some years in jobs for which they’re overqualified.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, 46 percent of recent college graduates are now working in jobs that don’t require college degrees. (The same is true for more than a third of college graduates overall.)
Their employers still choose college grads over non-college grads on the assumption that more education is better than less.
As a result, non-grads are being pushed into ever more menial work, if they can get work at all. Which is a major reason why their pay is dropping.
What’s going on? For years we’ve been told globalization and technological advances increase the demand for well-educated workers. (Confession: I was one of the ones making this argument.)
This was correct until around 2000. But since then two things have reversed the trend.
Continue reading at: http://robertreich.org/post/103472733520
BY Mitch Kellaway
November 20 2014
two weeks day, a person is killed somewhere in the world for expressing gender nonconformity. This sobering statistic does not include the numerous other deaths that never receive media attention or are not reported to police, making the full scope of lives lost to senseless antitrans prejudice truly innumerable.
As the annual Transgender Day of Remembrance approaches each November 20, the list of the dead who vigilgoers will memorialize steadily grows, filled especially with the names of trans women of color. This year marks the 15th anniversary of the first TDOR, held in Allston, Mass., to memorialize Rita Hester, a trans woman of color whose life was cut tragically short in 1999.
Over the years, the now-international project has catalogued the loss of hundreds of trans and gender-nonconforming people — individuals who, within their often short lifetimes, were beloved family members, friends, and members of their communities — who faced attackers wielding slurs, weapons, and fists. Some were killed by intimate partners, some by strangers, while still others were children slain by parents who were intolerant of their gender variance.
And while transgender people, along with friends, loved ones, family, and allies, somberly remember those killed because of antitrans violence today, we also remember that there are still countless instances of transphobic acts occurring each year that do not end in death — many of which are never reported to media or authorities. Likewise, murders not covered by the media tend to become more difficult to communally memorialize on this day.
While The Advocate‘s memorial coverage to mark this year’s TDOR focuses on women whose deaths were covered in the English-speaking press, we also honor countless other precious lives marred by violence and the multitude of others whose passing goes unspoken.
So, once again, we ask that you draw your attention to those whose deaths we mourn, not simply to cause sadness, but to raise awareness of the need for a world in which such constant mourning is never requisite again.
17 Nov 2014
Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders warned on Monday that the United States may have reached a “tipping point” where the “billionaire class” could block any presidential candidates who were fighting for the working class.
Sanders explained during an interview on CNN that he had been traveling the country to determine if he would have the necessary support for a presidential run in 2016.
“I’m giving some thought to it,” he said. “Taking on the billionaire class, and Wall Street, and the Koch brothers is not an easy task.”
“How are you going to get elected president if you take on the billionaire class?” CNN host Chris Cuomo snarked. “Don’t you watch the elections?”
“I’m going to be very honest with you,” Sanders replied. “We may have reached the tipping point where candidates who are fighting for the working class and the middle class of this country may not be able do it anymore because of the power of the billionaire class.”
“That’s the simple reality,” he continued. “And I have got to ascertain — if I do it, I want to do it well. If I do it, I know that I will need millions of people engaged in a real grassroots campaign to take on big money, and to fight for an agenda, a jobs program, raising the minimum wage, pay equity for women, dealing with climate change, all of these things.”
“And I have to ascertain what kind of support there is out there.”
Sunday, Nov 16, 2014
“The Invisible Bridge” is the third installment in Rick Perlstein’s grand history of conservatism, and like its predecessors, the book is filled with startling insights. It is the story of a time much like our own—the 1970s, which took America from the faith-crushing experience of Watergate to economic hard times and, eventually, to a desperate enthusiasm for two related figures: the nostalgic presidential aspirant Ronald Reagan, and the “anti-politician” Jimmy Carter. (I discussed Perlstein’s views on Carter in this space a few weeks ago.)
Let’s talk Watergate. It’s a Republican scandal, obviously, but here’s the thing: It’s liberalism that has never really recovered. Think about it. Your book starts with Watergate and ends with…well, it doesn’t quite get to the triumph of Reagan, but it comes close.
That’s a profound question. That’s deep. I think that liberalism indeed has never really recovered from Watergate in the following sense: It gave a certain generation of Democrats — and we’ll talk about Gary Hart. . . .
Yeah. He’s going to come up.
It gave a certain generation of Democrats an argument to take on the Republicans at the exact same moment that a new political generation was coming up that had indifference, at best, and contempt, at worst, for the New Deal tradition. So you get this class of Congresspeople who hadn’t really run for any office at all. Very young. Swept into office in 1974, very much arguing on issues of corruption, to be sure, but also lifestyle issues. Often they were representing new suburban constituencies that had traditionally elected Republicans and their spokesman was, in fact, this guy Gary Hart…
You’re getting ahead of yourself here, Rick. There’s a more direct route — I probably should have hinted at it — which is cynicism. That Watergate kicked up this huge cultural contempt for government and all its works.
For government itself. Right, right. You know Ronald Reagan, his speech announcing his surprise challenge against Gerald Ford for the Republican nomination centered around this idea of the “buddy system” in Washington.
By Amanda Marcotte
November 12, 2014
While the burgeoning atheist movement loves throwing conferences and selling books, a huge chunk–possibly most–of its resources go toward the Internet. This isn’t borne out of laziness or a hostility to wearing pants so much as a belief that the Internet is uniquely positioned as the perfect tool for sharing arguments against religion with believers who are experiencing doubts. It’s searchable, it allows back-and-forth debate, and it makes proving your arguments through links much easier. Above all else, it’s private. An online search on atheism is much easier to hide than, say, a copy of The God Delusion on your nightstand.
In recent months, this sense that the Internet is the key for atheist outreach has started to move from “hunch” to actual, evidence-based theory. Earlier this year, Allen Downey of the Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts examined the spike in people declaring they had no religion that started in the ’90s and found that while there are many factors contributing to it–dropping familial pressure, increased levels of college education–increased Internet usage was likely a huge part of it, accounting for up to 25 percent of the decline in religious belief. While cautioning that correlation does not mean causation, Downey did go on to point out that since so many other factors were controlled for, it’s a safe bet to conclude that the access to varied thought and debate the Internet provides is persuading people to drop their religions.
But in the past few months, that hypothesis grew even stronger when a major American religion basically had to admit that Internet arguments against their faith is putting them on their heels. The Church of Latter Day Saints has quietly released a series of essays, put together by church historians, addressing some of the less savory aspects of their history, such as the practice of polygamy or the ban on black members. The church sent out a memo in September telling church leaders to direct believers who have questions about their religion’s history to these essays, which they presented as a counter to “detractors” who “spread misinformation and doubt.”
While there are plenty of detractors who will share their opinions offline, there’s little doubt that the bulk of the detractors plaguing the church are explaining their views online, which is why this has become a problem now for a church that used to act like it could exert total control over believers’ access to information. One of the church historians, Steven Snow, openly cited the internet as the source of the criticisms. “There is so much out there on the Internet ,” he told the New York Times, “that we felt we owed our members a safe place where they could go to get reliable, faith-promoting information that was true about some of these more difficult aspects of our history.”
Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-its-harder-ever-religions-con-their-followers
By Michael Moore
November 9, 2014
Bill Maher is a friend of mine. He stood up for me when I was attacked after my Oscar speech (given on the fourth night of the Iraq War, a war Bill publicly opposed while 70% of the country, including the majority of Democrats in the U.S. Senate, supported it), and I stood up for him when ABC fired him and cancelled his show when he attempted to stop the hysteria and fear-mongering after 9-11 — resulting in the Bush White House publicly ordering him to watch what he says — or else. When Bill got his HBO show, he went on a 7-year tear against the Bush administration and became one of our most unapologetic and unrelenting voices against the insanity being shoved down our throats.
I, for one, am glad there’s at least one top comedian who isn’t afraid to say the word “capitalism” or give credence to the good of socialism.
You may not agree with Bill on everything. Yet I’m guessing you love it when he goes after the Uterun Police/Protectors of Child Rapists (also known as The Vatican), or when he brilliantly satirizes the crazy Christian Right which has controlled much of our politics for the past 33 years. I certainly do.
But when Bill goes after Islam, or crazy people professing to be Muslim, we grow uncomfortable. Why is that? Because when he bravely ridicules and attacks Christian assassins of abortion doctors who cite the Bible as justification for their evil acts, we heartily applaud him. But when he mercilessly stomps on Islamic assassins who cite the Koran, we grow uneasy. Why the switch on our part? Is it because Bill doesn’t just stop with the Islamic assassins — he thinks anyone who follows the Koran is a bit nuts? Or the Bible or the Talmud or the… you name it. He thinks it’s all coo coo for cocoa puffs.
I have, when I’m on Bill’s show, told him there are far more examples historically of the death and destruction that Christians have brought to the planet, from the Crusades to the Inquisition to the wiping out of Native Americans to the Holocaust. But he points out that, in truth, the Jesus followers seem to have taken a break lately in their genocidial lust — and that the debate should be about the present; i.e., which religion is now doing most of the terrorizing?
Though I would maintain that it is still the Judeo-Christian West whose armies and banks and institutions keep much of the third world under a heavy economic boot, resulting in a lot of hunger, suffering and death, Bill asks, “If I draw a cartoon of Jesus in a dress, will Christian leaders issue a call to assassinate me?”
Thursday, Nov 13, 2014
Free market fundamentalism poses a grave threat to both economic security and the health of the planet, Pope Francis warns in a letter to Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, the host of this weekend’s Group of 20 leaders’ summit in Brisbane.
Francis outlines a turbulent state of global affairs, warning that economic insecurity and social exclusion risk violence and decrying the destructive consequences of “unbridled consumerism.”
“Throughout the world, the G20 countries included, there are far too many women and men suffering from severe malnutrition, a rise in the number of the unemployed, an extremely high percentage of young people without work and an increase in social exclusion which can lead to criminal activity and even the recruitment of terrorists,” he writes. “In addition, there are constant assaults on the natural environment, the result of unbridled consumerism, and this will have serious consequences for the world economy.”
Drawing attention to human rights challenges like the dire situation confronting religious and ethnic minorities in the Middle East, the pope writes that leaders must also acknowledge “forms of aggression that are less evident but equally real and serious.”“I am referring specifically to abuses in the financial system such as those transactions that led to the 2008 crisis, and more generally, to speculation lacking political or juridical constraints and the mentality that maximization of profits is the final criterion of all economic activity,” he continues.
Rather than allowing the free market to go unchecked, the pope calls on leaders to place the poor and vulnerable at the heart of their agenda.
“A mindset in which individuals are ultimately discarded will never achieve peace or justice,” he writes. “Responsibility for the poor and the marginalized must therefore be an essential element of any political decision, whether on the national or the international level.”
I am not going to contribute to the creating of a hagiography of Leslie Feinberg.
Leslie wasn’t really a hero to me. Leslie was an ordinary person who wrote for the Communist Party USA newspaper Worker’s World.
I have always been far too anarchistic and frankly pro-American to embrace the ideals of the CP-USA and its apologists for Stalin and the Soviet Union.
Leslie and I are both Baby Boomers from upstate New York. Leslie was from Buffalo and I am from the small towns of the Adirondacks.
We shared a working class background along with growing up obviously different from the sort of people we were expected to grow up to be.
The years before Stonewall were a hard time to be an obvious trans-kid.
Leslie turned 18 in 1967 during the height of the Vietnam War and the Year of the Hippies.
The energy was incredible and sides were chosen.
I was down with SDS and the anti-war movement but I was also part of the hippie culture while Leslie was part of the dyke bar scene.
I came out in 1969.
Leslie’s roman–à–clef, “Stone Butch Blues” is set in the 1970s, an era that was far less bleak for many TS/TG people than milieu painted by Leslie.
Leslie had an agenda. One that showed in her non-fiction works as well.
Leslie was many different things to different people, a chameleon reflecting what people wanted to see in hir.
To some Leslie was a stone butch dyke, to others a Communist, to yet others a transgender warrior.
People have a tendency to reduce complex people, especially people they admire into paragons representing an ideal of the quality they admire that person for.
It was damned hard to do that with Leslie, just as it is hard to do that with many people who grew up in that era. Even those whose lives were not impacted with trans-prefixed words, or other labels from the queer glossary.
People who have complex lives challenge us, at times they infuriate us. Their contradictions make us think rather than simply admire.
I used to come across Worker’s World and the Weekly Worker on occasion. I would find them in freebee news racks and in piles near the door of various used book stores.
I thought that Leslie was a good writer who made me think even when I disagreed with her, which I often did.
I also think that “Stone Butch Blues” is an incredible book and that if Leslie is remembered for nothing else then she should be remembered for that book.
(According to Minnie Bruce Pratt Leslie preferred female pronouns .)
BY Diane Anderson-Minshall
November 17 2014
Leslie Feinberg, who identified as an anti-racist white, working-class, secular Jewish, transgender, lesbian, female, revolutionary communist, died on November 15. She succumbed to complications from multiple tick-borne co-infections, including Lyme disease, babeisiosis, and protomyxzoa rheumatica, after decades of illness.
She died at home in Syracuse, NY, with her partner and spouse of 22 years, Minnie Bruce Pratt, at her side. Her last words were: “Remember me as a revolutionary communist.”
Feinberg was the first theorist to advance a Marxist concept of “transgender liberation,” and her work impacted popular culture, academic research, and political organizing.
Her historical and theoretical writing has been widely anthologized and taught in the U.S. and international academic circles. Her impact on mass culture was primarily through her 1993 first novel, Stone Butch Blues, widely considered in and outside the U.S. as a groundbreaking work about the complexities of gender. Sold by the hundreds of thousands of copies and also passed from hand-to-hand inside prisons, the novel has been translated into Chinese, Dutch, German, Italian, Slovenian, Turkish, and Hebrew (with her earnings from that edition going to ASWAT Palestinian Gay Women).
In a statement at the end of her life, she said she had “never been in search of a common umbrella identity, or even an umbrella term, that brings together people of oppressed sexes, gender expressions, and sexualities” and added that she believed in the right of self-determination of oppressed individuals, communities, groups, and nations.
She preferred to use the pronouns she/zie and her/hir for herself, but also said: “I care which pronoun is used, but people have been disrespectful to me with the wrong pronoun and respectful with the right one. It matters whether someone is using the pronoun as a bigot, or if they are trying to demonstrate respect.”
Feinberg was born September 1, 1949, in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised in Buffalo, NY, in a working-class Jewish family. At age 14, she began supporting herself by working in the display sign shop of a local department store, and eventually stopped going to her high school classes, though officially she received her diploma. It was during this time that she entered the social life of the Buffalo gay bars. She moved out of a biological family hostile to her sexuality and gender expression, and to the end of her life carried legal documents that made clear they were not her family.
I get tired of the whole gender, gender, gender business. I especially get tired of the idea that since I am a woman I always wear high heels, make-up and love pink.
For the record I prefer purple and running shoes. I don’t remember the last time I wore make-up. Maybe on a job interview but even then I feel like it is false advertising since since chances of my wearing make-up to work ever day hover some where in the range of slim to zero.
The whole gender queer thing leaves me feeling as though people are putting me on because it give credence to the stereotypes sold by corporations are real instead of advertising. I sometimes wonder if the realization that advertising is the projection of a fantasy world and bears no connection to reality makes some of us gifted with the ability to see beyond the spectacle to reality.
by Deborah Copaken
Thursday, November 13th 2014
A couple of years ago, just before Facebook went public, I was sitting with its COO Sheryl Sandberg in a green room off the Museum of Natural History, just prior to an important presentation she was giving to the New York advertising industry. (I’d written an article about how Facebook had saved my then four-year-old’s life, and Sandberg had reached out and invited me as an example of the actual good social networks can do.) The excitement in that green room, pre-IPO, was palpable. Sandberg looked radiant in her blue dress, raring to go. This despite the fact that her face—the face of Facebook—was completely devoid of makeup.
I wanted to hug her for this. To stand up and jump up and down and shout, “Yes yes yes! You go, girl!”
I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about when the assistant with the clipboard walked in—it was either Sandberg’s upcoming book, Lean In, or the release of my latest novel, which I promised to send her—but I do remember we were deep in our conversation and enjoying ourselves and our beverages when the assistant said, “Okay, Sheryl, you’re needed in hair and makeup.”
Sandberg’s face—her beautifully unpainted face—fell. “It’s crazy, isn’t it?” she said, seeming to read my mind. “And so unfair.” Many of the other speakers that day, all of them heads of various departments at Facebook, were male. They weren’t needed in hair and makeup and never would be. I didn’t have a tape recorder with me that day, so I can’t quote the rest of what Sandberg said directly, but suffice it to say we shared some choice words on the topic of the wasted hours we women lose to primping, just so that we can be taken as seriously as men. A man without makeup is a man. A woman without makeup is making a statement that can grossly interfere with how she is viewed, paid, and heard.
A man without makeup is a man. A woman without makeup is making a statement that can grossly interfere with how she is viewed, paid, and heard.
Neither of us, however, had any quick solutions to this conundrum. It would require the type of feminist awakening, we decided, that no women’s magazine would ever touch. In fact, I told her, I’d tried pitching some version of this story to various women’s magazines over the years, even though I knew they’d never buy it, as they are financially dependent on ad sales from L’Oreal and Maybelline, and you don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
Thanksgiving is fast approaching and there are certain things I am really thankful for.
One is having good friends including some people I have never met in 3D and only know through this blog and Facebook.
I am especially thankful for those of you who made a donation a few weeks ago and helped us deal with an emergency that threatened to overwhelm us during a year that has literally been one of economic hell coupled with dealing with a house damaged by an internal flood.
I’m thankful that marriage equality is rapidly becoming a reality all across the US.
But more than that I am really, really thankful that being a person of the lavender alphabet has become so ordinary and banal as to become a hoo-hum aspect of people, something akin to being left handed or something like that. Something shocking only to those bigots who are sustained by hatred.
It has been 50 years since the Berkeley Free Speech Movement. Fifty years since the Beatles first toured America.
So much has changed, not all to the better as we are still a nation divided.
Now we are divided by our identities, which make us special. We cling to those identities be they Queer Activist or Tea Party Christer, we live for the thrill of the fight and along the line we forget to live for the simple joys of life.
We forget the love of family and friends. In some cases our families are chosen and not by birth yet the ties are as strong or stronger than blood.
Among some of my Face Book friends I am seeing many who have moved to post-trans, post-activist lives. Folks taking time to plant a garden, take up long neglected loves such as music or art.
Today the Polar Vortex brought a first taste of winter to North Texas, the days are short and soon will bring the turning of the year.
Old age brings aches and pains along with the cold.
Old age also brings the knowledge that often times the most important change you can make is the change you make to yourself. When I was an acid taking hippie we talked about letting go of ego and finding oneness with the universe. Sometimes lately it seems that the Twitteratti Activists seem to think they are the center of the universe and that all revolves around them and their thoughts/wishes.
I wish them well, they are part of a brave new world order with constant connectedness, selfies and status updates. They live for their snarky quips and think they are oh so cool and wise as they navigate their dystopian world, where value is measured not by what you actually do but the labels you wear and things you consume.
So the wheel turns and I count another year of sobriety. Another year and I discard that which has grown meaningless, only to embrace those things that once seemed important, but were lost along the path of life.
I am thankful for the clarity of age and loss of vanity. I can embrace my somberness and silliness with equal joy.
I mourn the loss of friends who died way too long ago and treasure those who remain. I value new friendships knowing full well that time will never permit them to last as long as some of the friendships of many years.