Why I Love My Child-Free Existence

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 2:59pm
It’s a choice everyone should be able to make for themselves, without being seen as an irresponsible, immature or unfulfilled.

The following article first appeared on Role Reboot. 

I do not have children, nor do I ever want them.

That is an unremarkable statement, and yet I continue to get confused and skeptical responses from many people. Some people are even downright defiant, stating, “Oh, you’ll change your mind,” as if being nearly 34 years old, I haven’t fully matured enough to know myself.

That particular response is such a scripted and infuriating brush-off that, at this point, I don’t even like being asked if I have kids. To me, that simple question feels like the iron maiden of conversation devices, and each time I get asked it, it’s as if the cold, metal door begins to shut around me and I must escape quickly if I want to get out alive.

While I feel overwhelmed now to the point of histrionics, I suspect I’d get a lot more of that second-guessing if I were a woman. My partner—who is a woman—certainly does. Once, after saying that she did not have children, someone incredulously replied to her by saying, “Well, why not?”

This is how our culture regards the child-free—it’s as if the lack of being a parent has somehow stunted my maturity or growth, that I haven’t yet finished my climb to adulthood because I’ve sired no sons or daughters. It’s akin to how some people will regard unwed couples as less serious simply because they are not married (another circumstance that demands a shift in vocabulary).

I suspect this presumption is also why the term “childless” has been so prominent for so long, as if all adults are simply waiting and hoping to have a child similar to how the jobless are hoping to become employed. The “-less” denotes that something is lacking in my child-free adult life, that it’s a state of being that is happening to me rather than a choice I’m making for myself.

“Child-free” is a great alternative to the subtly pro-choice rhetoric of “childless,” and Chanel Dubofsky lays out a superb argument for preferring the former term.

Still, whatever term is used to describe adults without children, syntax doesn’t get to the heart of the fact that living as an adult without children somehow still designates you as living life incompletely.

If Condoleezza Rice—an incredibly accomplished person — is still reduced to a pre-pregnant woman by being asked if she’d consider her life fulfilled even if she doesn’t have kids, what hope could I have to be left alone on this whole child-having business? Not a lot, especially when New York magazine just ran a piece earlier this month featuring 25 famous women who do not have kids, yet used the term “childless” in their headline.

Let me be clear: There’s nothing wrong with asking people if they have kids. The problem is that so many people do not end their inquiry upon learning there will be no kids. My frustration is with the the cultural attitude toward my family as a DINK—Double Income, No Kids.

Truth be told, I’m completely fulfilled living my life with my partner. There are no ulterior motives for not having kids, and it’s not so I can obtain this “having it all” status. Really. I just don’t want to be a parent.

For most of humanity’s history, there were serious economic and sociological reasons why people needed to have children. One hundred and 50 years ago, I probably would have needed to have children just so I wouldn’t starve to death or die of exposure, and so I recognize that it’s an immense privilege to elect to be child-free these days.

It’s a choice everyone should be able to make for themselves, without the risk of being seen as irresponsible, immature or unfulfilled.

In my chattier moments, after having been asked why I don’t want children, I’ve offered reasons like how expensive it is to raise children, what a time commitment it is, how I’m too selfish at this point to have kids, how I’m hesitant to risk passing on my genetic disposition for mental illness, and so on. These are cop-outs I’ve nervously given to people that I use to deflect further scrutiny. I’ve never really meant any of them.

I simply don’t want to have children. The truth should be sufficient.


Categories: Netted News

Our Warped Idea of Terrorism: It Only Applies to People Who Oppose America and Its Allies

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 2:50pm
The government and mainstream media's definition of terrorism is very convenient.

The definition of terrorism seems simple enough. The Merriam-Webster dictionary states that it is “the use of violent acts to frighten the people in an area as a way of trying to achieve a political goal.”

But America’s leaders and corporate media have a radically different definition of terrorism.

“In the mainstream American media, the ‘terrorist’ label is usually reserved for those opposed to the policies of the U.S. and its allies,” Tomas Kapitan, professor emeritus at Northern Illinois University, recently wrote in a column for the New York Times. This terrorist label is usually slapped on Muslims, even when they use violence in the context of a war zone like the Gaza Strip over the summer.

Since the September 11 attacks, the U.S. has waged a war on terror. But as the writer Glenn Greenwald has repeatedly pointed out, the tactic the U.S. is waging battle against has lost its fundamental meaning. In the eyes of the U.S. elite, terrorism today means an act of political violence carried out by Muslims opposed to U.S. foreign policy. When political violence is carried out by non-Muslims, a different label is used. And when the U.S. and its allies launch wanton attacks on civilians to achieve a political goal, it is justified by invoking the specter of “terrorism.” The U.S., it seems, feels free to use terrorism—in the dictionary sense of the word—to wage a war on terrorism. Just look at the indiscriminate drone strikes the U.S. has carried out in Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, which have terrorized the civilian populations there in the name of fighting terrorism.

Recent acts of violence show this reality clearly.

On October 22, a Canadian man named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau shot and killed a soldier guarding a war memorial in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city. He moved into the Canadian Parliament and also fired shots. American news outlets quickly labeled the incident a terrorist act, though at the time they had no indication of what motivated the attacker. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper also invoked terrorism when they denounced the attack.

In the days after the attack, the picture became hazier. U.S. and Canadian officials said that Zehaf-Bibeau was connected to people who had a “radical Islamist” ideology. But he also had a criminal record and suffered from mental illness. In a New Yorkercolumn, the Canadian writer Heet Jeer noted that “Zehaf-Bibeau talked not just about an external battle but an internal struggle with demons, spiritual beings he felt had a real existence. That was a battle he was fighting in his own mind, which may have been the ultimate source of the violence that he inflicted on the world.”

Nevertheless, Zehaf-Bibeau was called a terrorist before these relevant facts came out, exposing the hollowness of the word terrorism.

The immediate labeling of the event in Canada as a terrorist attack stands in stark contrast to a violent incident on American soil that took place last June. Jerad and Amander Miller killed two police officers in Las Vegas before going into a Walmart, where they shot another person before being slain by police officers. The Miller couple were right-wing extremists. After killing the officers, the Millers covered one of the officers with a flag of the Nazi swastika and a yellow flag with the words “Don’t Tread On Me.”

By the classic definition of the word, the Millers were terrorists. But as the Washington Post’s Paul Farhi pointed out at the time, “few media accounts have described the Millers as terrorists or their actions as terrorism.”

In 2010, Andrew Stack crashed his plane into a building with Internal Revenue Service employees, killing one. He left behind an anti-government suicide note. The Department of Homeland Security’s initial statement on the attack said there was “no reason to believe there is a nexus to terrorist activity.”

Since 9/11, mainstream U.S. discourse has become saturated with fears over (Muslim) terrorism. It’s easy to forget that the government’s focus on terrorism is fairly new. Remi Brulin, a scholar whose work focuses on the discourse around terrorism, documented this history in a recent talk delivered at New York University.

Brulin explained that American government focus on terrorism as a problem came to the fore in 1972, after Palestinian militants killed Israeli athletes at the Olympics in Munich, Germany. In a memo explaining the U.S. position on a UN resolution condemning terrorism at that time, the State Department offered a narrow definition of the word. The department said that terrorism was an act of political violence that occurs in territory outside of the state where the perpetrator is from and outside the state that the act was directed against.

America’s narrow definition didn’t last long. By the Reagan era, U.S. officials had adopted the Israeli discourse. As Brulin has explained, this discourse posits that what separates terrorists from the civilized world is the valuing of innocent life. Taken at face value, it bears a close resemblance to the common understanding of the word. But “the Israeli discourse...has been fundamentally ideological. It has been the discourse of de-legitimization, and of de-humanization,”Brulin argues. Israel and the U.S. use the word terrorism to describe the political violence carried out by its enemies. But when those states carry out acts of violence at civilians or allow their allies to do so, the word terrorism does not come up in mainstream discussion.

Tomas Kapitan’s New York Times essay points to the 1982 massacre of thousands of civilians in a Palestinian refugee camp in Beirut. The perpetrators were Lebanese Phalangists, key Israeli allies. An Israeli investigative committee would later determine that Ariel Sharon, the Israeli defense minister at the time, bore “personal responsibility” for the attack and that he decided the Phalangists should be sent in to the camp. This was not thought of as terrorism, though. Instead, Israel’s commission of inquiry on the massacre only referred to Palestinian terrorists--a clear example of how the rhetoric of terrorism is exploited “to direct attention away from [states’] own acts of terror,” as Kapitan writes.

Terrorism is a politicized and racialized term. The words terrorism and terrorist are principally used to delineate which political actors can use violence legitimately and which cannot. In the realm of international politics, only Western states and their allies can use violence aimed at civilians to achieve political goals. But when Muslims do it, they are called terrorists and delegitimized, regardless of whether they were, in fact, using the tactics of terrorism.

If terrorism is to mean anything, the word should be used to describe all acts of political violence that target civilians. But if it’s not, “the whole analytical category of ‘terrorism’ needs to be abandoned," as Heet Jeer suggested on Twitter. Given the word’s use as a rhetorical weapon to justify state violence, the day when the category of terrorism is abandoned is far off.

Categories: Netted News

PG&E May Have Secretly Altered Earthquake Standards for California's Last Nuclear Power Plant

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 2:50pm
The aging plant is located on an intricate network of earthquake fault lines.

Montaña de Oro State Park is a place where the rolling hills of the Central California coast drop from steep cliffs into crashing waves that are home to diverse sea life ranging from starfish and anemones to sea lions and migrating whales. Nestled among the wildflowers along the craggy bluffs of this majestic natural reserve is Pacific Gas and Electric Co.'s nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon.

I grew up in the small beach town that bumps heads with Montaña de Oro and the ominous plant, aptly named for the devil himself. I recall the piercing screech of testing sirens, sounding the potential for a nuclear disaster to render our homes toxic and dangerous. Since Los Osos is located directly along a large and intricate web of earthquake fault lines, it was no mystery how that disaster would likely come to be.

At least, we were assured, the nuclear plant was regularly checked and tested, and would withstand even a significant amount of tectonic action. We had better regulations in place than Japan, didn't we? Diablo could not be the next Fukushima Daiichi because everything here was up to California's strict codes that take the Big One into account, or so we thought.

Surprise! This week a group of environmental activists brought a lawsuit against PG&E and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission because, as it turns out, federal regulators secretly revised Diablo’s license “to mask the aging plant’s vulnerability to earthquakes,” as the San Francisco Chronicle put it.

“The suit claims that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and [PG&E] last year changed a key element of the plant’s license related to seismic safety without allowing public input as required by law — or even notifying the public at all. The changes concern the strength of earthquakes that the plant ... can withstand,” reports the Chronicle.

The public PG&E failed to notify consists of my parents, cousins, teachers, childhood friends, and their children. It’s heartbreaking to read about a nuclear disaster an ocean away, but it’s terrifying to realize that the same thing could happen here in California because of a greedy, negligent corporate coverup.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, which is specifically set up to review the decisions of federal agencies. The group behind the suit wants the court to shut down the plant until the necessary changes are in place. They want public hearings to take place to amend Diablo Canyon’s license. So far PG&E denies all of the allegations.

As the Chronicle points out, this isn’t the first time PG&E has been “accused of back-channel dealings with government regulators.” In 2010 it was accused of a similar hush-up effort when its natural gas pipeline in San Bruno exploded.

The local community, as well as global environmentalists, has long voiced safety concerns about Diablo Canyon and an effort is building to shut it down completely. After the plant's original construction in the '60s, several previously unknown fault lines were discovered nearby, including the Shoreline Fault which is just 600 yards from Diablo's twin reactors. 

"Environmentalists have long argued that the plant wasn’t designed to survive the shaking that some of the newly discovered faults could produce," states the Chronicle. "And last year, Michael Peck, one of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s inspectors at Diablo, recommended shutting down the plant until the commission determined that its equipment could withstand a strong quake from those faults. The commission rejected the idea."

When my parents first bought their house in the mid-90s, the county provided them with a small supply of iodine tablets (which protect against radiation exposure) and instructions for what to do in the unlikely case of a nuclear emergency. They never thought they’d have to use them. Now the odds aren’t looking great. It’s time to shut down California’s last remaining nuclear plant before it’s too late.

Read the details of the lawsuit here, and sign a petition to shut down Diablo Canyon here.

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I’m a Muslim With a Beard—What’s So Scary About That?

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 2:48pm
Since growing some rather impressive facial hair I’ve noticed Muslims are more open to me, but others view me with suspicion.

People stare. Sometimes, on the tube, they cross the carriage to create a space between us. There is something about me some people don’t like, or it makes them uneasy. It’s my beard.

My beard is about three and a half to four inches long now. I started growing it nearly a year ago; the result of a number of things coming together. One – if I am honest – was laziness. It also began not long after an incident at my university,King’s College London. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was guest of honour at a reception. I went along in traditional dress, thinking: “This is Desmond Tutu. He fought against discrimination and oppression. I can be myself because everyone will be welcoming and open.” Then I was stopped by security and they demanded to know it I had actually been invited. From then I just thought: “Why not?”

Slowly, I became more and more fascinated with having a beard. I can only liken it to the experience of black women who relax their hair and then one day stop relaxing their hair and find it opens up a brand new world to them. There are all these beard products, oils, shampoos, combs. People even blog about them.

Once I grew my beard, there was an immediate effect. Muslims are more open to me; others with beards notice me because they understand what I’m experiencing.

Of course, there is also the other issue that beards are big in mainstream popular culture. People started coming up to me and saying “Great beard”. Within my own community, it gives me a sense of solidarity; outside, there is a feeling of specialness. Some people ask: “Are you growing that for religious reasons or because it is fashionable?” At first, I would feel I had to justify it. I would say it was fashionable and then religious. But then I stopped doing that. If I was a white guy with a ginger beard, no one would ask those questions of me.

My mum is keen that I get rid of it. My dad thinks I should shorten it. Mum worries in the current climate about how people will perceive it. But for me it is quite empowering. I love it when another Muslim sees me and comes and says “Salam” on the street. It is a subculture I am tapping into; a sense of pride in my identity as a Muslim. Beards play a massive role as a key identifier of whether you are a Muslim or not. It gives a sense of community.

As someone who has a bit of a public profile because of the role I play at university, a beard can also help to normalise the presence of a visible Muslim. It helps me to demonstrate to people “If I can do it, you can do it; you can be yourself.” They see a Muslim outwardly practising.

There is an assumption in our communities that if you are in the public sphere, you sell out a little and lose the things that make you who you are. By growing my beard, I debunk that a bit. My face has been everywhere because of freshers week and the fact that so many Muslims have been coming up to me and talking about issues they were facing was really a milestone for me.

I think the benefits of having my beard – not least that it covers up my eczema – outweigh the disadvantages. Some people grow them for religious reasons, others because it is comfortable, others because they are hipsters. Who cares?

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With the Christian Right Dying Off, Who Fuels Misogyny? Enter Secular Sexists of #Gamergate and MRA Movement

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 12:59pm
There are plenty of people agitating to keep women second-class citizens.

Ever since the second wave of feminism started in the 1960s, the opposition movement to feminism has been rooted in and organized around the church. Of course, there have always been secular anti-feminists, but they were never organized into any coherent movement. In contrast, evangelical and Catholic churches and Christian organizations have done all the yeoman’s work of fighting feminism. Christian organizer Phyllis Schlafly shut down the Equal Rights Amendment. Christian conservatives have been the main force fighting reproductive rights. The Supreme Court just dealt a major blow to contraception access at the behest of Christian lawyers arguing on behalf of Hobby Lobby. For five decades now, if you wanted to fight the feminists, you turned your eyes to the church.

But relying on religion to organize against feminism might be a strategy that’s hitting a hard limit: age. As in, younger people are simply not as interested in religion as they used to be. As Adam Lee, writing for the Guardian, details, young people are disengaging with religion generally and the religious right in particular at an amazing rate. Millennials, he writes, are “the least religious generation in American history – they’re even getting less religious as they get older, which is unprecedented.” And the most anti-feminist denominations, the Catholics and the Southern Baptists, are seeing some of the highest levels of drop-off.

It would be nice if this drop-off meant that American anti-feminism was coming to a close and we can look forward to a glorious new era of secularism where challenges to women’s equality are few and far between. And maybe that will still happen, as much of the loss of membership in religious right circles is due to young people’s disgust with the “conservative” part of Christian conservatism. But, unfortunately, there’s also a less prominent but increasingly aggressive anti-feminist movement that has no religious component—is often downright secular, in fact—and is poised to take over and continue the fight against women’s equality even as religious dominance declines.

To be clear, there have long been non-religious men who are coiled and ready at a moment’s notice to defend sexual harassment or wax on with half-baked theories about how evolution “programmed” women to be a submissive or servile class. Anyone who has ever read the comments section under a feminist blog post could tell you that. But secular anti-feminists have largely kept their activities to pompous lecturing of the sort epitomized by atheist Christopher Hitchens in his half-baked essay denying that women evolved to have a sense of humor. Organizing defies the self-image of a born playboy draped in woman-toys that tends to accompany this kind of narcissistic but secular sexism.

But that may be changing. For years now, a crowd of angry men who are steeped in rage at women has been gathering online, often going by names like “men’s rights activists” or even “pick-up artists." “Maybe some men’s anger stems from good old-fashioned misogyny, which is then stoked by political, social and cultural forces that say there’s nothing lower in this world than a woman so how dare she ... well, anything,” writes Jessica Valenti of this crowd

Despite calling themselves “activists,” most of these men haven’t really organized in any meaningful way, but instead spend of their time complaining online about women. Unlike religious right activists, who tend to focus primarily on restricting women’s employment and reproductive rights, the angry men of the Internet are most upset with feminist work fighting sexual harassment, sexual abuse and domestic violence. To simplify things: Religious anti-feminists focus their hatred on Roe v Wade, but “men’s rights” activists are most angry about the Violence Against Women Act.

Until recently, their activities to fight against feminism have mostly been constrained to whining online. But this past year has given feminists real reason to worry that secular misogynists have started to get a little more organized. Back in June, the website A Voice For Men threw its first “men’s rights” conference, dedicated largely to minimizing the realities of sexual violence and pushing the claim that domestic violence is not a gendered issue. (A claim that is easy enough to disprove.)

In October, A Voice For Men took its attacks on the work of anti-domestic violence feminists a step further. The leader, Paul Elam, created a website with a similar look and URL to the White Ribbon Campaign, a Canadian organization dedicated to fighting domestic violence. His copycat website is full of misleading and distorted information that minimizes domestic violence and tries to paint it as primarily the fault of women. In an interview with Cosmopolitan, Elam said he objects to “presenting information on domestic violence as something men can control only, that men need to stop, that we need to approach this as something that's protecting women.”

All this is awful and annoying, but what is really concerning is that this secular, if loathsome, view of gender relations might reach an audience of young men who have no interest in religious arguments against feminism. The creation of a movement called #GamerGate in the past few months has demonstrated how serious a threat this is. A grassroots online movement of mostly men who are angry about feminists working in video game development and criticism has exploded across the Internet and garnered major attention from mainstream media sources. The movement has focused on using harassment campaigns to scare women and gaming publications into falling silent on the issue of sexism in gaming.

While #GamerGate will likely be unsuccessful in its mission to terrify women into never speaking out about sexism in gaming, it has caught the attention of anti-feminists who are looking for new recruits amongst the younger set. Right-wing leaders, most prominently anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers, with the backing of the American Enterprise Institute, have swarmed #GamerGate circles, seeing the participants as easy marks whose anger at feminists in gaming can be turned into anger at feminists, and at women generally.

Unfortunately, #GamerGate has already shown more organization acumen than simply bitching on Twitter about how mean women are when they stand up for their rights, as evidenced by successful campaigns to get advertisers to pull out of websites to punish them for giving #GamerGate negative coverage. As they merge with the “men’s rights” movement that’s already starting to do more besides run anti-woman forums online, they could start to be something that’s largely new in American politics: An organized but completely secular anti-feminist movement. So even as religion’s influence is waning in the United States, there will still be plenty of people agitating to keep women second-class citizens.

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Hagersville Hawks working hard to improve record

Two Row Times - October 29, 2014 - 11:45am

HAGERSVILLE – Backed up by shutout goaltending by Curtis Dortenzio, the Hagersville Hawks improved their record to 5-5-1, Saturday night with a 7-0 crushing of the Port Dover Sailors, at the Hagersville Arena. The Hawks took a 3-0 first period lead with goals scored by Derek Friesen, Cole Martin and Dan Mederios. Assists were gathered […]

The post Hagersville Hawks working hard to improve record appeared first on Two Row Times.

Categories: Netted News

Facebook Has Totally Reinvented Human Identity—For the Worse

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 11:42am
Mark Zuckerberg's ideas about what constitutes identity aren't just laughable, they're downright destructive.

Let’s face it: Feminism is hot right now. Like, actually fashionable. Chalk it up to a boom in online journalism critiquing tired media tropes and holding politicians accountable with acerbic wit. But there’s one related trend that doesn’t seem to be getting fashionable again: “Cyberfeminism.” Remember that?

Cyberfeminism envisioned the Internet as a new frontier beyond the oppressive bodily boundaries of race and gender where new understandings of identity could take root. Cyberspace was going to be the stage of cultural transformation! We were all going to be super-cool cybernetic avatars, existing in multiple dimensions with boundless potential. Sadly, all we ended up getting was a bunch of porn and misogynistic cybermobs. (Perhaps feminism has emerged with renewed relevance, because the Internet has actually worked to regressively reinvigorate damaging conceptions of gender and promote hateful divisions.)

But then again, it’s undeniable that the Internet really has been nothing short of culturally transformative. Communication technologies have become woven into the very fabric of personhood. With companies increasingly making employees sign “social media contracts” holding them professionally accountable for their online presence, digital identities are gaining recognition for their representative authority.

Our Facebook profile pictures have symbolic weight, strengthened through the repetitive labor of association. Have you ever changed your Facebook profile picture and not really liked it, but then, after a while, decided it was awesome? Like our face in the mirror after a weird new haircut, we need time to readjust our self-image through repeated association.

It may not be as cool as we imagined it in sleek ’90s sci-fi, but we really are creatures existing in multiple dimensions, transcending space and time with our cybernetic reach. And who controls where your body ends and begins as this unholy fusion of man and machine? Those technologies through which you interface, of course, offering you the shape of your digital self, such as the Facebook profile. Sometimes the reduction of your person to Facebook’s arbitrary determinations can be uncomfortable and insulting.

Facebook has redefined the standard of what information should be immediately known about you as a person. It was a slow process, where it gradually increased the “About” fields, but now when I meet someone, it is somehow appropriate for me to see their exact age, residential history and entire résumé of work experience and education. (No, Facebook, I don’t want to display where I went to high school. Stop trying to guess at it!) Facebook can even reduce your personal journey on this earth to a chronological list of “Life Events.” It knows the true measure of what’s important in this crazy world and can tell you everything noteworthy that’s happened to you in this one helpful list. Facebook has turned our lives inside out to the point where all of this very specific information now seems to be what constitutes a social identity.

(The Facebook generation has gotten so bad that I’ve had to tell friends to inform me when they are making a recording of our conversation, and not to post my complete address online when they tag a photo of themselves at my house.)

What was once nebulous and unknown about a life is now defined and categorized in this culture of hyper-transparency. It is little wonder why the journalistic coverage of Facebook’s recent “real name policy” scandal was as uncritical as it was in accepting of Facebook’s legitimate right to the verification of users’ legal names.

In case you didn’t hear, Facebook was demanding that everyone use their “real" names on their profiles, which they defined as their legal names. Users were shut out of their accounts if they were suspected of being untruthful, and only allowed back in once they uploaded a copy of legal ID. Journalistic outrage over the event largely took a defensive position reporting on why certain people who do not use their legal names on Facebook are not being duplicitous, but have legitimate reasons for their actions. Articles documented cases, such as individuals who are transgendered, or victims of abusive relationships.

Mark Zuckerberg has repeatedly affirmed that we only have one identity, and that the idea of having multiple constitutes a “lack of integrity.” Thus, Facebook has promoted a policy of authenticity, where everyone uses their “real" name under the banner of keeping everyone safe. Sounds familiar? If you are an American, you should know by now that invasions of your privacy are only for your own good!

Thus Facebook’s policy is viewed as legitimate, rather than hilarious, when it includes bullet points such as: “Pretending to be anything or anyone isn’t allowed.” That’s right, you must know the truth of your nature before you post anything on Facebook, and all posts must reflect this authentic self. Facebook’s technology is causing an existential shift in what we consider to be our personal identities, and how we interact in the world. This shift is caused by not only the material form of their technology, such as the “About” fields, but also by the discourse surrounding it.

There are great ideological stakes when asking, “What is your real name?” We are essentially asking: “What definitively constitutes a person?”

Historically, identification technologies have served to consolidate people as objects of knowledge into discrete political units. Their regulation is then easily rationalized and demonstrably justified. The question of what should be done with you is much easier to answer when we can definitively say what you are.

The crux of the issue boils down to this: Is Facebook’s normalization of hyper-transparency and information-oriented mode of self-definition conditioning young people to be submissive toward institutionalized forms of subject formation? Does it quell unrest in response to those power structures invested in telling you who and what you are? Will the young people of the future question social values if they are trained from a young age by technological demands to express their person in a corporately constructed template?

The outlook appears grim when the current conversation surrounding identity on the Web has been reduced to an impoverished debate weighing the importance between “safety” (real names + accountability) and “anonymity” (freedom of speech in theory, but trolls in practice).

However, there is still something interesting occurring in the wake of Facebook’s “real name policy” scandal. Facebook apologized for conflating legal names with “real names” and conceded that a legitimate identity may not be constituted by the name you were given at birth. Although Facebook failed to directly apologize to the members of the LGBTQ community disproportionately affected by the incident, Facebook’s concession is, in a sense, a deployment of Trans politics. The conceptual implications of their policy change are: somewhere, somehow, over the course of life, you go through a process of becoming, and your true identity may be something more elusive than what can be verified by a government document.

A rift has opened in Facebook’s discourse of “authenticity” and “safety.” And what do you know … It’s starting to look like something out of cyberfeminism! The revelation of this chink in their ideological armor is actually strangely reminiscent of cyber-feminist prophesies, such as Donna Haraway’s iconic “Cyborg Manifesto.” Haraway famously argues that essentialist ideologies would be revealed as inadequate in a complex world where nature fuses with the artificial; thus overflowing the boundaries of the conceptual regimes used to justify their regulation.

We’ve just witnessed exactly this occurring in the politics of Facebook. The company relied on a certain understanding of authenticity, which was revealed by complex subjectivities interwoven with technology to be a gross oversimplification. Facebook then lost the justification for their power to regulate and was forced to open their concepts to an amorphous process of reconfiguration. As Facebook scrambles to “update” how they verify “real names,” how will this technological giant redefine its reality.


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I'd Been Married Less Than a Year When My Husband Was Diagnosed With Cancer

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 11:24am
I'd promised “in sickness and in health.” I just didn't expect the sickness part to be quite so soon.

The wedding was beautiful. It was winter in Oregon, but we'd miraculously discovered a reception site where you could see green out the windows. We'd had an unexpected snowstorm the weekend before, but the weather had finally turned, and the sun even came out for the photos. My family, his family, our friends; so much laughter. And him. Perfect.

Six months later, I was crying in a parking lot in Pasadena, sweating in the 100-degree weather and blubbering into my cell phone, while my dad tried to make sense of my choked-up sentences. They'd found a tumor, six inches across, pressing on my husband's lung. They didn't know what it was. They didn't want to tell us anything until we came in person.

It wasn’t anything concerning at first. A nagging cough that wouldn’t go away. He eventually went to the doctor, who gave him a prescription. Sometimes these things happen after a bad cold, it should clear up in a week or so. 

It didn’t, so he went back. New prescription. Same problem. This went on for a while, along with a handful of cough drops each day. It grew familiar, nothing to worry about, a refrain that accompanied waking and sleeping.

There were other things too. We’d go on hikes together—small ones, no big elevation climbs—that would leave him panting and breathless. We’d joke about his being out of shape. It’s amazing how easy it is to miss things. So many dots on a page you never think about connecting. Who’s to know which details end up being the important ones?

It was an accident, the way we found out. He’d gone in to see another doctor about recent troubles with acid reflux. They took a chest X-ray. Afterward, the technician came in to the room.

“Tell me,” he said. “How’s your general health been?”

“Fine,” my husband said. “I’ve had a cough, but otherwise fine.”

“How long have you had the cough?”

“I don’t remember; a couple months, at least. Why?”

The technician shrugged, looked away. “Just curious. We’ll be in touch.”

And then the phone call from my husband, one day after class in Pasadena. They’d found a tumor. They wanted us to come in as soon as possible.

We went, the two of us, holding hands, silent in the waiting room. The doctor was a cardiothoracic surgeon. You could tell behind the somberness he might have been a little pleased to have caught this. It was probably not something he found regularly.

“No way you have acid reflux,” he said. “What you have is a tumor, pressing on your lung.”

“What is it?”

“Could be one of three things.”

Medical terms. The doctor outlined them briefly, but they remained floating above our heads, without meaning. We tried to ask questions.

“Look, what you really need to do is see an oncologist for more testing. I have a colleague I can recommend, great guy. In the meantime, I’d recommend you go home, and don’t do a lot of research. It will make you crazy. Just wait and see.”

Just wait and see.

We went home and ate dinner at the kitchen table. I tried my hardest not to think about it, to think about anything else. But the thoughts kept creeping in anyway. We’d only been married six months. How much longer? What if...? Too many what ifs.

Later that evening, while he was getting ready for bed, I snuck into the living room and opened the laptop. Only five minutes, I promised myself. I had written down the three possibilities on a notepad, and I looked them up now. Three possibilities, ranging from not-so-bad to oh-God-please-no. I still didn’t know anything for sure, but I’d read enough to know that this could be bad. My husband called from the bedroom, and I slammed the lid of the computer, guiltily.

Two weeks of waiting, accompanied by a series of blood tests and two biopsies on the tumor. I tagged along for all of them, working early or staying late to make up for lost time. The first biopsy was especially challenging. He would have to stay awake, while they pierced his chest with a large, hollow needle and pulled out a sample.

My husband lay in a mobile hospital bed in the operating room, while the surgeon explained the procedure to both of us. Somewhere after the "large, hollow needle" part, my face flushed, I broke out in a sweat, and I realized, with a sharp and unmistakable clarity, that if I didn’t leave that room immediately, I was either going to faint or throw up all over the operating room.

“Ok, well, hope it goes well, bye!” I gasped, interrupting the doctor mid-sentence. He turned to stare at me as I hot-tailed it out of there. I made it out the door before my knees gave out, and I sunk to the floor against the hallway wall, head spinning. Several minutes later the surgeon followed me out, squatting down next to me.

“How are you doing?” he asked.

“Fine. Sorry,” I said, embarrassed.

“No worries,” he said. “Let me help you up. Can you make it to that waiting room down the hallway?”

I nodded, and he escorted me down the hall, explaining as we went the medical rationale behind why I had almost fainted. I spent the next hour watching daytime TV and flipping through year-old magazines—anything to keep from thinking about hollow needles.

Several days later the hospital called. The sample they had pulled wasn't quite big enough for a sure diagnosis, and he’d need to come in for another round. We both agreed I’d stay in the waiting room.

After the second biopsy, they called again, this time to let us know they had the results. No, they couldn’t tell us anything over the phone. More waiting. More pretending to live life normally, and trying not to imagine what might come next.

We sat again in a chilly hospital room, neither of us speaking. My palms were sweating, my breathing rapid. A large lump in my throat threatened to lead to tears, but I was determined. No crying. Not yet, anyway. 

I stared at the scuffs on my shoes, bounced a knee up and down, trying to keep warm. Finally the door opened, and a middle-aged man in a white coat entered. He had a slight paunch and dark circles under his eyes. He shook our hands, and I wondered if in the future I would remember his face with sadness or relief. He spoke quickly in a clipped voice, serious, sympathetic, straight to the point.

“Hodgkin’s lymphoma,” he said.

We stared at him. I couldn’t remember which one of the three things that was. Was it even one of the three things?

“So is that...” my husband trailed off.

“It is cancer,” he said. “But you’ll be fine. This is very treatable. You’re lucky.”

It was a refrain we heard often at the hospital, while in line for blood work, or sitting for eight hour days while drugs dripped slowly from IV bags into my husband’s veins. If we got there early enough, we could get our own little room. There was a row of them, separated from the rest of the floor with sliding glass doors. Otherwise, a big chair. He’d sleep, or watch movies. I’d do homework, read, look for nurses when he ran out of saline solution or needed another blanket.

“You’re lucky.”

And in the hospital, we were. Chemo until Christmas, radiation until Valentine’s Day. There were others in the hospital whose treatments had no end date.

“We’re lucky,” we kept saying, while his hair and eyebrows fell out, and his face thinned, eyes growing large in their sockets. His white blood cell count plummeted, leaving him with a weakened immune system. He worked for an afterschool program: lots of kids, lots of germs. He had to stop. Nothing to distract him from the nausea, while I went to work and he stayed at home, waiting. But, we joked, at least the cough was gone.

The last day of chemotherapy was two days before Christmas. He was exhausted, and giddy to be finished. We traveled home to visit family, relishing the break from our new reality. After the holidays, it was time for radiation. Which seemed to be better than chemo, hardly any side effects at all, until after several weeks it hurt to swallow, and he was reduced to drinking smoothies and speaking softly. But that too, ended, after eight weeks, just days before his 26th birthday, two months after our first anniversary.

It’s been five years now, and the cancer is still in remission. Life moves on, other things happen, and it’s tempting to block out those early memories, to forget that that was the first year of our marriage—the smell of hospitals, the quiet hours of waiting, the thinning hair and eyebrows. 

Sometimes when going through old photos, I’ll come across one from that year, and pause. I’ll remember the refrain of the doctors, the nurses: “Hodgkin’s? You’re lucky.” And I’ll look across to where my husband is typing on the laptop, or watching the game, or just being goofy, and think, yes. We were. 

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Canada 150 - Moments Frozen In Time Spoof

Operation Maple YouTube - October 29, 2014 - 10:39am
Canada 150 - Moments Frozen In Time Spoof
SUBSCRIBE and check out our other videos! http://www.operationmaple.com http://www.facebook.com/operationmaple http://twitter.com/#!/operationmaple. From: OperationMaple Views: 331 9 ratings Time: 01:01 More in People & Blogs
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The Ollivanders nominated for best rock recording award

Two Row Times - October 29, 2014 - 10:33am

HAMILTON, CANADA — Popular southern Ontario band The Ollivanders, whose members hail from both Six Nations and Caledonia, have been nominated for Best Rock Recording for their song “Amazed and Amused” in the prestigious Native American Music Awards, to be held Friday, Nov. 14 at the Seneca Allegany Events Center in the Seneca Nation. The […]

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Good minds stand up

Two Row Times - October 29, 2014 - 10:28am

Where were the good minds when they did me wrong? So what if we wore tight pants, so what if we had long hair and straightened it, we probably stole your girlfriend, but still… So. Much. Hate. Looking back on my old days, there is still no regret – from the eyeliner to the beat […]

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Good minds stand up by choosing good thoughts

Two Row Times - October 29, 2014 - 10:26am

What does it mean to use a good mind, and how would our struggles surrounding bullying and lateral violence be affected if we governed ourselves by this simple concept in our day-to-day interactions? This is one of the many questions we asked ourselves at the beginning of the “Good Minds Stand Up” campaign, and we […]

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10 Most Insane Fear-Mongering GOP Lies in Time for Halloween

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 10:20am
The GOP is pulling out its worst scaremongering tactics to get voters to the polls.

As Halloween approaches, the Republican Party is offering up its own scares, pulling out its worst scaremongering tactics to try to use fear to get voters to the polls for their candidates. AlterNet has rounded up 10 of the worst fear-mongering lies.

1. Michelle Nunn Is Pro-Terrorist Because She Worked With A Muslim Charity: In Georgia's remarkably close Senate race, GOP nominee David Perdue ran a smear commercial claiming her charity was linked to terrorists because of its work with the Islamic Relief USA. Poltifact found the claim so outlandish it gave it one of its coveted “Pants on Fire” ratings.

2. Obama Cut A Secret Deal To Bring Ebola To The United States: Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) had this revelation on Sean Hannity's radio show: “I can’t help but believe, just based on the way we’ve got all these nebulous excuses why not to have a travel ban, this president, I guarantee you, we’re going to find out, he has cut a deal with African leaders. They’re going to bring people in.”

3. ISIS Is Coming Over The Border Due To Discovered Prayer Rugs That Are Actually Adidas Jerseys: Texas Lt. Governor David Dewhurst claimed that ISIS prayer rugs were recently found at the border, signaling a possible invasion. The prayer rugs turned out to be Adidas jerseys.

4. Sexual Assault Is A Result Of Taking The Bible Out Of Schools: Jody Hice, the GOP nominee for Georgia's 10th congressional district, which is currently represented by extremist Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), warned that if we don't stop taking prayer out of public school, we'll see more of the kind of sexual assault that took place at Penn State.

5. ISIS Will Send Ebola-Infected Fighters To The U.S.: Topping Gohmert and Dewhurst, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-PA) went as far as to say that ISIS will weaponize Ebola suicide bombs. "Think about the job they could do, the harm they could inflict on the American people by bringing this deadly disease into our cities, into schools, into our towns, and into our homes. Horrible, horrible,” he said.

6. Arm Yourself, Just In case The Government Tries To Take Away Your Guns: Iowa Senate GOP candidate Joni Ernst warned that she carries her pistol just in case the government tries to confiscate it: “I have a beautiful little Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter, and it goes with me virtually everywhere. But I do believe in the right to carry, and I believe in the right to defend myself and my family — whether it’s from an intruder, or whether it’s from the government, should they decide that my rights are no longer important."

7. If You Vote For Democrats, They'll Let Loose Violent African-American Inmates: In Nebraska's second congressional district, Republicans are running a Willie Horton-esque ad that implies Democrats were responsible for a mentally ill violent inmate being released and then going on a murder spree. The ad juxtaposes the Democratic candidate with the African American inmate.

8. Obama Is Going To Import Terrorists Into Our Neighborhoods: The RNC cut an ad warning of Obama's “plans to bring terrorists from Guantanamo to our country,” implying that under any successful executive action somehow terrorist suspects will be walking American neighborhoods rather than be sitting in maximum-security prisons.

9. Equal Pay Laws Would Scare Employers And Put Women Out Of Work:Monica Wehby, running for Oregon's Senate seat, said that she opposed equal pay laws for women because it would “make it more difficult to hire women, because of the fear of lawsuits. They would tend to steer away.”

10. Social Programs Are Leading To Suicide: Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said that government social programs are leading to a rise in suicides due to corresponding decline in support from family and friends. He eventually apologized.

What's scarier, these lies or the fact the GOP thinks Americans will fall for them?

Categories: Netted News

Woman Spends Day Walking Around NYC, Is Catcalled Over 100 Times

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 9:53am
Hidden camera footage reveals what it's like for women to walk down the street.

There are the whistles, the stares, the exhortations to smile. Any woman who has ever walked down a busy city street knows the routine. Street harassment—euphemistically known as catcalling—is a daily reality for hundreds of thousands of women, who receive unwanted, unprompted male attention every time they leave the house.

In a new video, Hollaback, an organization dedicated to ending street harassment, provides an undercover look at how these interactions play out. Actress Shoshana Roberts spent 10 hours walking around Manhattan, dressed in jeans and a crewneck T-shirt. Her stroll was discreetly captured by the video’s creative director, who walked ahead of her wearing a GoPro camera strapped to his backpack. Over the course of the day, Roberts received over 100 comments from men, ranging from the relatively benign (“How you doing?”) to the downright creepy (a man who walks next to her wordlessly for five full minutes).

Whenever people speak out against street harassment, they’re met with a standard set of responses:

a) It’s meant as a compliment!
b) As long as they're dressed appropriately, women won’t receive sleazy comments.
c) What’s the big deal anyway?

This video tears down those responses in less than two minutes. Checking out a stranger’s ass is not a compliment. Reprimanding a woman for not smiling isn’t flattering. And a man forcibly inserting himself into a woman’s personal space simply isn’t okay. Catcalls are about power and control; they’re a way of saying to women, “This is our territory and you’re just passing through.” 

Watch the full PSA below. 

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Starvation: deepening the Ebola crisis

New Internationalist - October 29, 2014 - 8:58am
Ebola-struck communities in Sierra Leone are being forced to face unbearable choices, reports Jeanne Kamara.

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Hightower: Toxic, Mud-Slinging Campaign Ads Make Voters Stay at Home

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 8:31am
A tsunami of corporate cash is drowning our people’s democratic rights.

When five Supreme Court justices decreed that corporations are entitled to full free speech rights in our elections and that corporate money is a form of speech that can’t be restricted, they produced a nightmare tsunami of corporate cash that is now drowning our people’s democratic rights.

After all, if money is speech, then speech is no longer free — it’s for sale.

This year, we’re seeing what the Court’s absurd edicts are costing us.

First, the corporate purchase of political speech has reached tsunamic force in the 2014 midterm elections. Spending may cost a record total of $4 billion, with somewhere between $1 billion and $2 billion dished out on TV commercials intended to influence voters.

Second, the bulk of this speech isn’t being bought by candidates or parties, but by secretive outside front groups that hide the corporate interests funding the ads. In Senate races alone, these shadow groups have already run some 150,000 TV spots. The Koch brothers’ main front group, Americans for Prosperity, is by far the biggest buyer of speech.

Third, and most pernicious, the court-created “right” of moneyed front groups to flood the airwaves has handed them the power to dictate any campaign’s message. Advertising created and bankrolled by those secret fronts now define the issues and even the candidates themselves before races really get going.

Because the outside groups are anonymous, their “speech” consists almost entirely of the nastiest, most vituperative attacks on candidates they oppose, turning our election-year discourse into toxic slime-fests that turn off voters and shrivel turnout.

To help stop the corporate purchase of the People’s political speech rights, connect with MoveToAmend.org.

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Jon Stewart Scolds Democrats for Losing Ground to Pathetic GOP Candidates

AlterNet.org - October 29, 2014 - 7:36am
Republican Candidate Scott Brown: “Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. ‘Cause you know, whatever."

This is the home stretch. With only five days left before Election Day, Democrats are praying for some favorable last-minute press to improve their flagging prospects.

The Daily Show isn’t where they’re going to get it. Jon Stewart used his extended opening monologue to scold Democratic candidates for their campaign-trail gaffes and inability to overtake weak Republican rivals. In Kentucky, Alison Lundergan-Grimes lost precious ground to Mitch McConnell for refusing to say whether she voted for President Obama in 2008. In New Hampshire, popular incumbent Jeanne Shaheen is in a dead tie with Republican Scott Brown—who only moved to the state a year ago.

When asked about being a carpetbagger, Brown responded, “Do I have the best credentials? Probably not. ‘Cause you know, whatever. But I have long and strong ties to this state.”

This is what we’re up against. A friendly reminder from AlterNet: please vote on Tuesday the 4th! 

Check out the rest of the clip, and Stewart’s spot-on impression of Mitch McConnell, below. 

The Daily Show
Get More: Daily Show Full Episodes,The Daily Show on Facebook,Daily Show Video Archive


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The Bullet: Can We Defend Our Pensions Without Challenging Financialized Capitalism?

Socialist Project - October 29, 2014 - 2:00am
Unrelenting employer attacks on workplace based pension plans are intensifying, and the struggle to defend them is becoming more challenging right across the country. One recent development appears to be an important partial victory. Some 900 workers at Bombardier's Thunder Bay production facility, represented by Unifor, launched an eight-week strike on July 14, and the dispute centred on an employer demand to eliminate the secure, 'defined benefit' type pension plan with an individualized 'defined contribution' savings scheme for all new hires.
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Porter thrilled to play with Sam Moore

Two Row Times - October 28, 2014 - 11:03pm

HAMILTON – Last Thursday night Six Nations bluesman Murray Porter got a chance to perform with the great Sam Moore of the legendary Sam and Dave. It was all part of the 10th annual Dreamcatcher Awards Presentation and Gala, which was hosted at the Hamilton Convention Centre. It was a star-studded affair with world-acclaimed Aboriginal […]

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Dreamcatcher Gala brings out the stars

Two Row Times - October 28, 2014 - 10:19pm

HAMILTON – Some of the best and brightest Onkwehon:we celebrities were honoured in Hamilton at Thursday night’s Dreamcatcher Charitable Foundation’s 10th annual Gala.

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