What's New: The Canadian War on Science

Socialist Project - August 28, 2015 - 3:30pm
This is a brief chronology of the current Conservative Canadian government’s long campaign to undermine evidence-based scientific, environmental and technical decision-making. It is a government that is beholden to big business, particularly big oil, and that makes every attempt to shape public policy to that end. It is a government that fundamentally doesn’t believe in science. It is a government that is more interested in keeping its corporate masters happy than in protecting the environment.
Categories: Netted News

Jerry Seinfeld Hilariously Trolls Cops After they Shut Down his Son’s Lemonade Stand

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 1:13pm
Seinfeld’s son, Julian, and two friends set up the stand last week to raise money for charity.

East Hampton, NY — To raise funds for a local baby clothes charity, funnyman Jerry Seinfeld and family set up a lemonade stand. However, their charitable endeavor would be short lived thanks to East Hampton police officers protecting the public from the dangers of an unlicensed lemonade stand.

Seinfeld’s son, Julian, and two friends set up the stand last week to raise money for Baby Buggy. Baby Buggy is a charity started by Seinfeld’s wife Jessica to provide kids’ clothing and baby equipment to needy families.

According to police, a neighbor complained that cars were “illegally” parking as thirsty drivers lined up for the fresh-squeezed brew. Hero officers then swooped in to shut down the stand, citing local village law violations.

Luckily, the stand was able to operate long enough to raise a some money.

After being shut down, Jerry and family posed for an epic pic, trolling both the police and the neighbor who would call the cops to shut down a charitable lemonade stand.

Jessica then uploaded the photo to her Instagram, with the following statement.

Lemonade dreams crushed by local neighbor but not before raising lots of money for @loverecycled. Thanks to all of our customers and big tippers! thanks Xander and Jaden for crushing it today with Julian and Jerry.

The act of police officers shutting down lemonade stands and other “unlicensed” childhood entrepreneurial endeavors is all too common. Despite being publicly shamed and ridiculed for such police state tactics, departments continue to fail at using discretion and common sense.

In June, we reported on the most recent case of police action for this citrus fruit. Police in Texas heroically saved the town from likes of two young girls who attempted to open a black market lemonade stand.

The girls, one 7-year-old and one 8-year-old, dared to raise money to buy a Father’s day present for their dad by setting up a lemonade stand in their neighborhood. But their efforts were smited by local fuzz with nothing better to dothan harass two little girls.

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What's New: Palestinian liberation is key matter of our time

Socialist Project - August 28, 2015 - 1:00pm
More than 1,000 Black activists, artists, scholars, students and organizations have released this statement reaffirming their “solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and commitment to the liberation of Palestine’s land and people.” The list of signatories includes scholar-activists Angela Davis and Cornel West, political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Sundiata Acoli, rappers Talib Kweli, Boots Riley and Jasiri X and Black Lives Matter co-founder Patrisse Cullors.
Categories: Netted News

Black Communities Destroyed By Publicly Funded Stadium Swindles Are Fighting Back In A New Era Of Redevelopment

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 12:45pm
In Atlanta, four stadiums demonstrate that taxpayer-funded stadiums are a hoax.

Since the early twentieth century taxpayers have footed the bill for private development in the form of sports stadiums, arenas, and other mega-event facilities. 


According to Deadspin, 61 percent of the billions of dollars spent on stadium construction between 1909 and 2012 came from public coffers.


And yet the consensus among economists says that the public rarely profits from these massive investments, despite persistent claims by politicians and heads of chambers of commerce that stadiums and their ilk generate economic growth.


Just look at cases like Indianapolis, where public financing for the $720 million Lucas Oil Stadium has strapped the city with mounting debt in the hundreds of millions of dollars, instead of producing the $2.25 billion in economic growth and 4,200 jobs promised back in 2004. 


Or Chester, Pennsylvania, a city where 33 percent of the population is below the poverty level but public funds were used to finance 97 percent of a $122 million soccer stadium that has yet to transform Chester as a former Governor predicted it would.


Or Detroit, whose government can’t pay public employee pensions or keep the street lights on but can somehow throw $261.5 million at a new hockey arena.


The list goes on.


While piles of academic research and reporting confirm the failure of such projects to deliver positive economic gains, there is less attention on the far-reaching, negative impacts these boondoggles can bring.


Atlanta, Georgia, offers a case in point. Four, actually. 


In Atlanta, four stadiums––two for baseball and two for football––have not only spurred virtually no economic development for the surrounding neighborhoods, they’ve actually contributed significantly to the de-development of what were once thriving middle and working class Black communities.


Now one of those stadiums, Turner Field, is slated for redevelopment and residents are determined not to let history repeat itself.



Homes of Black families become “Home of the Braves”


Doristine Samuels remembers when Mechanicsville was a flourishing Black neighborhood in Atlanta, Georgia, long before it became a depopulated food desert trapped between an interstate system and a baseball stadium.


“We only had one house key and we would keep it under the living room rug. We would come home and nothing was changed, nobody would steal anything,” she says.


Neighbors looked out for each other in Mechanicsville, a community established by railroad workers just south of downtown Atlanta after the Civil War. Part of the reason they were so close knit was that they rarely had any reason to leave their immediate surroundings. 


Between Mechanicsville and five other adjacent neighborhoods, there were numerous corner grocery stores, big supermarkets, a fish market, drug stores, libraries, schools, a hospital, a movie theater, dry cleaners, and many other businesses that provided jobs and met nearly every conceivable need.


“When the Braves came, all that changed,” Samuels says.


In 1965, Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr. kept his campaign promise to bring a Major League baseball team to the city. That was the year construction was completed on the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, the new home of the Braves. It was an $18 million project, paid for with parks and recreation tax dollars and built on land taken from owners through a federal urban renewal program.


Construction of the Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium wiped out an entire neighborhood that was adjacent to Mechanicsville, plus part of the still-existing Summerhill neighborhood. The simultaneous construction of the interstate displaced thousands more families from these predominantly Black neighborhoods south of downtown.


All in all, these projects destroyed over 10,000 more homes than they replaced.


“With no housing the people went different places and the businesses began to fail and moved on out,” says Geoff Heard, a long-time resident of Summerhill, a neighborhood directly west of the Braves stadium.


In 1940 the area had a population of 32,248. By 2011 that number had shrunk to 5,409.


Not only did businesses shut down, schools lost their students and closed, churches moved and took social services with them, and transportation became an obstacle for families bound in by the stadium’s expansive parking lots on one side and the expressway on the other. All of these factors sent Mechanicsville and the other stadium-area neighborhoods into an economic tailspin.



The Falcons join in


The same thing happened in the Black neighborhoods west of downtown when the Georgia World Congress Center was constructed in 1976 and expanded to include a football stadium for the Atlanta Falcons in 1992. Known as the Georgia Dome, the $214 million stadium was 100 percent publicly funded.


One of the host neighborhoods, called Vine City, was home to Alonzo Herndon, the first Black millionaire in the United States. Martin Luther King Jr. lived in Vine City as an adult, and frequently held strategy meetings with other Civil Rights leaders at a local restaurant there. Like the neighborhoods south of downtown, those on the west side were economically stable and culturally vibrant.


But between 1970 and 2000, Vine City lost two thirds of its population. Now the only thriving business is the illegal drug trade; a corner of Vine City known as The Bluff is the heroin capital of the world.


Given these histories, it was a hard sell for working class Black folks when Atlanta won the bid for the 1996 Olympic Games and proposed to build yet another stadium, this time right next to the Brave’s stadium south of downtown.



An Olympic-sized mistake


The Centennial Olympic Stadium plan called for even more land to be cleared of homes and businesses. When the games were over, the original stadium would be demolished and turned into a parking lot, while the Braves would move to the new stadium, rechristened Turner Field.


“The government has been a part of the destruction of these neighborhoods, and there they were with the Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games, doing more of the same,” recalls Columbus Ward, who was instrumental in organizing Atlanta Neighborhoods United For Fairness (A’NUFF), which won concessions from the Olympic planners.


Like Samuels and Heard, Ward has lived most of his life in the neighborhoods surrounding the stadium. He was galvanized to political action at age 12, when police shot an unarmed Black man––his brother-in-law––and sparked a riot that Ward likens to the Ferguson uprisings.


A’NUFF saved a school and a hospice care facility from the stadium’s wrecking ball and forced the city into an agreement that included fixing the sewer systems and sourcing unionized labor from the surrounding neighborhoods, among other benefits.


While the $207 million stadium was paid for with private Olympics funding, $30 million in capital improvements necessary for the projects were covered by federal and city funds. And the City of Atlanta agreed to be liable for future construction and maintenance costs up to $50 million.



Stadium jobs don’t pay the bills


Despite some neighborhood wins during the run up to the Olympics, Turner Field’s legacy has been one of further economic devastation. Even after construction was completed, many people were displaced as landlords found it more profitable to evict families, tear down houses, and operate ad hoc parking lots where homes used to be.


And once construction jobs dried up what was left were low-paying service industry jobs.


Samuels, the lifelong resident of Mechanicsville, knows that all too well. She’s worked as a security guard at Turner Field for nearly twenty years. She doesn’t make a living wage, doesn’t receive benefits, but what she does have to look forward to when she hits her twenty year anniversary is...free parking.


That’s right. No retirement plan. No paid vacation. Just free parking at her own job.


Until then, the perks of the job are limited to getting a photo taken with a baseball player if a secret shopper gives her a good review. 


“It might be meaningful to others, but I would rather have a bonus so I could do what I want with it,” Samuels says.


A similar second coming of stadium development is playing out in Vine City. In 2013 the Atlanta City Council approved $200 million in construction bonds for a new, $1.2 billion football stadium with a retractable roof, situated directly next to the Falcons’ original football stadium, which is only twenty years old. Field of Schemes author Neil deMause estimated that the total public expense would amount to $554 million after calculating debt repayments and other costs.


Neighborhood organizations won a $30 million Community Benefits Agreement, but rather than designating the money for specific uses, the deal set up two $15 million funds––one controlled by the city’s economic development agency, the other by Home Depot founder and Falcons owner Arthur Blank. Neighborhood organizations can apply for a grant from the funds, but ultimately can’t control how the money is allocated.


An early casualty of the stadium was a 108-year-old church established by former slaves. An uncertain future faces other neighborhood hallmarks, like Morris Brown, a historically Black college where W.E.B. Dubois taught. Earlier this year the school escaped bankruptcy by selling most of its campus to the city, which has yet to announce plans for redevelopment. 



Small groups of men where a government should be


Larry Keating, an urban studies professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology, attributes Atlanta’s mind-boggling repetition of destructive development to generations of elected officials submitting to corporate control, with little to no consideration for the lives of working and middle class people.


“Almost all the important policy decisions that have guided the city over the past several decades have been made not by government itself but by small groups of men––sometimes just two men––in private meetings...What planning the governing elite has engaged in has been ad hoc and superficial. City leaders have generally been reluctant to give careful consideration to the broader effects of their projects,” he writes in his 2001 book Atlanta: Race, Class, and Urban Expansion.


“This stuff has been going on for fifty years and it’s meant the destruction of low-income, African American neighborhoods in this city. You’d think by now they would want to do it right, especially with all the Black mayors we’ve had,” Ward says.


But now Turner Field is in for a third phase of redevelopment marked, so far, by these same conditions.


In 2013, the Braves announced they would move to Cobb County, a northern suburb of Atlanta, by the 2017 season. County officials struck a backroom deal with the team to build a new stadium with $450 million in public funds. No matter that the county had just fired 182 teachers because of budgets cuts.


The Braves’ announcement threw the future of Turner Field and the surrounding neighborhoods into a limbo full of both possibility and uncertainty. Neighbors began to mobilize, and so did developers.


From the get-go, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed has been two-timing between them.



A chance to do better


Last year, the city applied for and received a grant from the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Livable Centers Initiative (LCI), which provides planning grants that come with a process for bringing community leaders, elected officials and developers together.


Shortly after, the Tuner Field Community Benefits Coalition (TFCBC) was born. The group is comprised of 36 organizations from six neighborhoods surrounding the stadium. TFCBC has championed the LCI process and will take part as the entity representing the communities’ interests.


But while the LCI process is underway, Reed has declined to halt backroom talks with developers who have no interest in collaborating with the communities.


First the mayor was entertaining a proposal put forth by Georgia State University, which already owns large swaths of downtown and wants to build another, yes another, stadium next to Turner Field.


More recently, Reed announced that he’s fielding proposals from several gaming companies that want to put a casino on the property. He insisted he wasn’t sold on the idea but said that not considering it would be “fiscal malpractice.” 


So far, the City Council hasn’t taken a stand for TFCBC and that’s unlikely to change. The council rarely opposes the mayor, or developers for that matter. 


“They’re treating us like a commodity, not a community,” Samuels says about the city government. 


She’s a member of TFCBC and was among sixty people who delivered a letter to the Reed’s office in July. The letter called on the mayor to meet with TFCBC, publicly commit to the LCI process, and discontinue backroom dealings.


The mayor has not responded to the letter, nor has he met with members of TFCBC.


But that’s not slowing them down. The coalition is growing, and already people are sharing ideas about what Turner Field could become. Grocery stores, clothing shops, movie theaters––all the things that the older generation remembers and a younger generation has missed out on are topics of conversation between neighbors.


Samuels, Ward and Heard note some of the things they personally would like to see replace the stadium, but they aren’t willing to own those ideas just yet, not until the whole community has agreed upon a shared vision. That’s what the LCI process can give us, they say, if our elected representatives just let it work.

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Categories: Netted News

Is Donald Trump Really a 'Fascist'?

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 11:55am
The Trump campaign doesn't seem so funny anymore.

Although he is still a clown, nobody laughs at Donald Trump anymore -- which may be the real purpose of his candidacy, at least as far as he is concerned. The casino mogul is pleased to instill fear among Republican elites, as he dominates their presidential nominating contest -- and forces them to face a hard question about the man who is exciting such belligerent enthusiasm among Republican voters.

Is Trump a real live fire-breathing fascist?      

From Newsweek to Salon to the Daily Caller, commentators of various colorations have found ample reason to apply that often-discredited label to him. While these observers hesitate to lump Trump in with totalitarian dictatorships and historic crimes against humanity, they are clearly concerned over his strongman appeal, his populist rhetoric, and his rejection of GOP free-market orthodoxy.

Genuine conservatives aren't wrong to fret, but they seem unwilling or unable to grasp the clearest evidence that Trump is channeling toxic currents from the past -- namely, his appeals to racial bigotry, his truculent attitude toward other nations, and his extremist "solution" to illegal immigration.

Obvious clues to the noxious nature of Trumpism keep cropping up across the political landscape like poison mushrooms. In Boston's "Southie" neighborhood, once headquarters of the openly racist anti-busing movement known as ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights), two white males severely beat an older Hispanic man. When arrested, one of the thugs told police, "Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported."

Rather than deplore this ugly assault, Trump's impulse was to praise the zeal of his supporters. "It would be a shame," he said when first told of the beating, then added: "I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate."

At a big rally in Mobile, Alabama, Trump welcomed Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, R-Ala., the only prominent politician singled out for praise. Sessions is a dubious figure whose federal judicial nomination was once rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee over his record of racially inflammatory behavior and remarks -- which included calling a white civil rights lawyer "a disgrace to his race" and opposing the Voting Rights Act. Today, he is the chief Senate opponent of legal immigration to the United States.

Opposition to legal as well as illegal immigration is a foundation of the white nationalist movement in the United States. So perhaps nobody should have been too surprised when a loud voice in the Mobile audience greeted Sessions' arrival by screaming "White Power!"

Again, the reaction of the Trump campaign was telling. Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski responded that he wasn't aware of the "white power" shouter. "I don't know about the individual you're talking about in Alabama," he insisted. "I know there were 30-plus thousand people in that stadium. They were very receptive to the message of 'making America great again' because they want to be proud to be Americans again."

Asked about the Boston beating, Lewandowski acknowledged that violence is "unacceptable," continuing: "However, we should not be ashamed to be Americans. We should be proud of our country, proud of our heritage, and continue to be the greatest country in the world." Like his boss, Lewandowski isn't subtle. His dog-whistle about "heritage" and being "proud" was heard loud and clear by the white supremacist underworld, which is rallying behind Trump.

The troubling tone in Trump's language can be detected when he talks about foreign policy, too. As David Cay Johnston recently reported, the draft-dodging billionaire boasts that he is the "most militaristic" candidate, and has blatantly advocated attacking other countries to "take" their oil. Imperial warmongering is a classic hallmark of fascism -- indeed, it was military aggression by Nazi Germany that led to World War II.

Finally there is Trump's "solution" to illegal immigration. He promises to deport an estimated 11-12 million people, a plan that would be ruinously expensive and grossly inhumane to even attempt. The only analogous projects on that scale were atrocities carried out by the Turks against Armenians and, later, by the Nazis against European Jews.    

Imagine a country that seeks to round up millions of brown-skinned people by force, transforming itself into a police state, while mobs of vigilantes in militias scourge frightened families out of hiding. It is not hard to predict scenes of bloodshed and horror.

No Donald, that isn't the way to "make America great again." For most of us -- the majority of citizens who have no use for Trump and Trumpism -- that isn't America at all.

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Carol Queen: Moralizers Are Sexually Aroused When They Rail Against Sex and Porn

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 11:31am
Radical feminist Carol Queen discusses the tectonic shifts taking place in American sexuality.

“It’s a weird time for sex,” Carol Queen recently told me, and there are few intellectuals more suited to sort out the weirdness than Queen herself. Carol Queen is an author, educator, sociologist, and sexologist who currently serves on staff at Good Vibrations, a San Francisco sex toy retailer. She is also the founder and director of the Center for Sex and Culture in San Francisco. 

She is the author of erotica and essays, the latter of which is most available in all of Queen’s brilliance, wit, and erudition in the collection, Real Live Nude Girl: Chronicles of Sex Positive Culture

I recently conducted an interview with Queen; we discussed sex positive feminism, how gay marriage makes America more liberal and conservative, affirmative consent, and her theory of absexuality. It's the fascinating idea that people who routinely condemn sexual behavior they view as “immoral” are actually experiencing arousal as they do so. 

Her new book, The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone, will soon be available everywhere.

David Masciotra: How did you develop into a "sex positive feminist"?

Carol Queen: I knew the term feminist before I heard the phrase sex-positive, but at the different times I encountered them, both of these descriptors immediately felt like they fit. I come from a small town in the Pacific Northwest, and I’m pretty sure I was the only 13-year-old my tiny town had ever seen running around with a copy of Sisterhood Is Powerful under my arm. Sisterhood hasn’t always been problem-free, though, of course; as I grew into a decidedly queer sexuality, much of the mainstream feminism of that decade had real difficulties around sex, particularly that which was non-normative. It pissed me off to hear the things I was drawn to termed “male-identified,” and there was a period when I got way more support for my sexual identities from gay men than from feminism. All that time, though, there were feminists who were drawn to (or emerged from) sexuality-related issues and communities, and I finally began to learn about and later meet them: Betty Dodson, Carole Vance, Susie Bright, Nina Hartley, and many others. I learned about the sex-positive perspective at the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality when I enrolled in their graduate program; contrary to the way this phrase is often perceived today, it isn’t just an excitable “Hey! Sex is awesome!” kind of expression. If you think of its flip side––sex-negative––you get better insight into it. [BTW, I wrote up some reflections on this topic last year.

So those two appellations put together immediately changed the way I related to the larger world, helped me re-embrace feminism (about which I’d gotten a little cranky—those were the Andrea Dworkin years), and gave me a community of people who saw issues in the culture similarly. If you will, it gave me a peer group. 

DM: Do you believe that contemporary feminism in America could be more sex positive?

CQ: I do, but it’s quite a lot more sex-positive than it was in the 1980s. The right wing actually seems to think that all of feminism is sex-positive, which is a real switch! (And decidedly untrue, but they’re not the clearest-eyed analysts of either sex OR feminism.)

DM: Have you followed any of the debate regarding affirmative consent laws on college campuses? If so, what is your belief about them? Do you have any concerns, as many critics have expressed, that these laws are Puritanism in a new form - demonizing sex and infantilizing women? Or do you see those worries as overblown?

CQ: I go both ways on this question. There’s a lot of terrible and sometimes abusive sex that goes down on college campuses and other places. To have young people exploring sexuality having crappy experiences is really as much a win for the Puritans as anything else, I feel. My biggest issue is that for the most part, people who are powering these new regulations were never all that sex-positive to begin with. We could have had terrific, diverse, groundbreaking sex education in everybody’s first year at college that would have made a difference, and when students DO get those kinds of classes, they are very meaningful. But many academic administrators haven’t promoted this kind of education, and I frankly feel that many people are getting involved with this movement now (if that’s what it is) to avoid liability. So to the degree that I’m sympathetic to the concerns you express, it’s because I don’t think college administrators are carrying any sort of sex-positive banner. 

On the other hand—a culture in which many people seriously think that drinking a lot equals consent could USE a dose of affirmative consent advocacy! True affirmative consent isn’t puritanical—it’s a way of emphasizing desire, so really it’s the converse of Puritanism.

DM: Progressives in America universally celebrated the Supreme Court's recent decision on same sex marriage. It seems there is no logical or moral argument against gay marriage, and it indeed is a step forward for fairness and equality. However, there were a few gay writers who lamented the demise of more radical and socially subversive gay culture and identity. Do you believe that this victory will actually make America more conservative, as it sublimates more sexual identities and impulses into the domestic, traditional, family structure?

CQ: Yep. In fact, as I was flashing past headlines on web news this morning, I saw one stating that a couple of large corporations have said they’d withdraw partner benefits from any same-sex couples who don’t get married. Marriage equality is hugely important, of course, but marriage does not equal radical sexuality. Marriage seeks to build a container for sexuality, and the more pressure that’s put on us to contain our sexual behavior within marriage, the fewer obvious alternatives we’re likely to be offered. Not everyone is the marryin’ kind, and there needs to be as bedrock an acknowledgement of this fact as there is support for anyone who wants to marry.

DM: There are, of course, still moralists and Puritans who object to anything outside the narrow, heterosexual, monogamous mainstream of sexual life in America. In your work, you've developed the idea of absexuality. Could you describe absexuality for the readers? Do you believe many of the right wing finger wavers are absexualists?

CQ: Absexuality––an idea I developed with my partner Robert Morgan Lawrence––is the notion that some of the people who rail against porn or sodomy (or any of the other controversial items on the sexual smorgasbord) are actually turned on by the thing they decry. They may not know it consciously, but being anti-whatever actually gives one a grand excuse for being immersed in whatever. It’s not the simple “I’m afraid I’m really gay, so I’ll say homophobic shit all the time. That’ll throw ‘ em off the track!” That does happen, of course. Absexuality goes a little deeper—it’s associated with real turn-on, not just discomfort, and I believe many absexuals don’t truly understand what a strong erotic response they’re actually having.

I do think many of the finger-wavers are absexual, but I’ll say that not all of them are—some are garden-variety panderers, bigots, or even simple hypocrites (Josh Duggar/AshleyMadison, anyone?). Clue to an absexual: They just can’t seem to shut up about it. And they get really worked up—I believe they go into the sexual response cycle when they begin to pontificate about the things they hate so much.

DM: Surveys show that most Americans are dissatisfied with their sex lives, and a recent report in the NY Times described how more and more teens and twenty-somethings are settling for screen interaction rather than what they call IRL (in real life). I'm 30, and I teach college courses. I see a lot of this with my peers and students. What do you believe is preventing sexual health and vitality in America? Why are people so afraid of it? What work are you doing to try to help people open up, relax, and enjoy the mutual pleasure of sexuality?

CQ: It’s a weird time for sex, there’s no doubt about it. In certain ways, amazing and progressive changes have been made. There are, in many cities in the US, vibrant sexual subcultures, if you know where to look. I hear from young people all the time who want to be “sexperts” or sex ed teachers; there are many more of them than there are jobs doing this, so I talk to them about the need to be entrepreneurial, and many are, blogging and creating YouTube channels, writing books, developing workshops. (A few of them have worked up a good side business teaching PR and biz skills to the others!) 

At the same time, it sure isn’t the 90s any more. The conservatism of the Bush years, and the red/blue political split, increasingly seem to me to situate around sexual issues, which is hardly a surprise. But this IS a huge turn-off for many young people, I think. On the one hand, all the sex in the world is online. Porn serves an educational role because most of the country still won’t insist on real sex education for young people (and then the same people who block real education decry all the porn, not seeming to understand the connection). Porn is not supposed to be sex ed, but what the hell do people expect? And then on the other hand, sexual maturation can happen online instead of “IRL”—and real life is hard. It involves physical skills beyond eye-hand coordination and emotional skills that you can’t just log off from. On the surface, it looks like this generation’s split is, on the one hand, toward marriage and family, and on the other, toward sex apps.

But this is simplistic, I think. There will always be some people who really want to dig in to the many possibilities of sexuality: people who want to study it, learn from it, build lives that are about sexual exploration. I’m about to go to Catalyst West, a twice-a-year convention for sex activists, academics, and sex-positive folk in general [catalystcon.com]—the people there make up a community that put the lie to what we’ve just written. So really, both things are going on at once, and I think they mostly always have. Lots of people don’t seem to have skin in the game. Others are building this generation’s version of the sexuality communities that have sustained me for the past forty years.

I will say one thing about the Internet, though—it is extraordinarily broad, but not deep. If you want to look up things that happened before about 1999, it can be like digging in the desert for papyri. I am constantly shocked by how little history of sex (communities, activist projects, etc.) many young people know, including the ones who are the sex activists of today. I just invented a hashtag about it, in fact: "#RespectHistory (& the people who made it)". We’re in a pretty conservative moment right now, and I think it’s important for people to learn how this fluctuates, and the people and activist projects that help the pendulum swing.

As to what work I’m doing: As I’m sure you know, I work at Good Vibrations, where I’m Staff Sexologist, helping train our staff and representing the company to the public and the press. Our new book, The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone (which I co-wrote with my old friend Shar Rednour), seeks to set out broadly relevant and diversity-inclusive sex information about all sort of things: identity, communication, sex toys and solo pleasure, partner sex and positions, porn and fantasy, sex tech and sex through the lifespan, health and disability issues, finding partners, and more. Hopefully it helps fill in the gaps of knowledge that plague so many people, and gives lots of supportive options so that people can find their own sexual truths. 

AND I continue to direct the Center for Sex & Culture [sexandculture,org], which I co-founded with my partner Robert; it is a nonprofit that focuses on collecting our sexual history and cultural materials (library, archive, gallery) and which serves as a classroom, theatre, and meeting space. The changes San Francisco is undergoing are putting it at a degree of risk, but we’re trying to keep our heads above water to make sure that we can continue to help people understand where we came from, sexually speaking, as we continue to grapple with the question of where we’re going. 

Categories: Netted News

Why Jeb Bush is Losing

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 11:27am
Elites are indicting Jeb Bush for Donald Trump's success. But if they want culprits, they should look in a mirror.

With polls showing Donald Trump in a better position than ever, and with the next presidential debate still nearly a month away, now appears to be the summer of the Republican Party donor class’ discontent.


Their favored candidate, Jeb Bush, has been (obsessively) tagged by Trump as a “low-energy person.” And Bush’s attempts to nab some of “The Donald’s” presumably invigorating xenophobia have been embarrassing, to say the least. For the CNBC-watching plutocrats who comprise “the establishment” of the Republican Party, the summer has been, if not quite a disaster, certainly a mess.

For the Very Serious People in U.S. punditry, however, the situation may be even worse. If you’re the kind of elite hot-taker who tries to understand Republicans by watching “Morning Joe” and reading George Will, Trump’s ascendancy undermines your entire political worldview. It seems to validate the liberal claim that GOP voters care more about whiteness than free-markets. And it suggests that the Wall Street Republicans you rely on for insight into the GOP don’t have a clue.

All of which is to say that it’s no surprise to find Yahoo!’s Matt Bai, the unofficial high priest of conventional wisdom, reprimanding Bush in his latest column for his (incompetent) attempts to sound more like Trump. But, as is often the case with Bai, he’s got his cause-and-effect all wrong. He warns that Bush is “losing” the primary, but the truth is that Bush’s struggles — like Trump’s triumphs — are the product of conservative ideology itself.

Specifically, it’s the fault of Citizens United, and the tidal wave of outsider spending that it’s unleashed on American politics. If it wasn’t for that essentially limitless outsider spending, there would likely be considerably fewer candidates in the GOP race. And if there were fewer candidates in the race, Bush would have an easier time joining together those Republicans who do not want to nominate Trump.

Remember, Bai is correct to note that Trump’s “zenith” in the polls is around 30 percent. He goes too far when he argues that “more than a dozen serious competitors” are splitting the anti-Trump vote; it’s difficult to imagine a Ben Carson, Mike Huckabee or Ted Cruz supporter picking Bush. But he’s still right to think that if Trump-haters added Marco Rubio’s 7.3 percent, Carly Fiorina’s 6 percent, John Kasich’s 4.5 percent and Chris Christie’s 3.5 percent to Jeb’s 9.8 percent, they’d have a real challenger.

If the race suddenly became a duel between Bush and Trump, I’m honestly not sure that Bush would win. Trump could reasonably expect all or most of Ben Carson’s 10.3 percent, Ted Cruz’s 7.3 percent, Scott Walker’s 7.3 percent, Mike Huckabee’s 4 percentand Rand Paul’s 3.8 percent to come his way. But at the very least, Bush’s de facto position as the anti-Trump would make him seem bigger and more formidable than he does right now, stumbling as he is between dullness and inadequacy.

Either way, it’s something of a moot point. As things stand, Bush cannot distinguish himself from the rest of his “establishment”-friendly competitors, so he ends up looking like just one of the dozen-plus candidates who are not Donald Trump. Worse still, because Bush has already raised such an unfathomable amount of money for his super PAC, his inability to stand toe-to-toe with Trump makes him look in comparison not only drab but also weak. And there’s no one Republican voters hate more than the weak.

Of course, that massive war chest is also a consequence of unlimited spending. The great irony, however, is that these new rules are, for Bush, something of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, they helped him make waves with eye-popping fundraisers. But on the other hand, the objective of those much-publicized big numbers, intimidating other candidates from entering the race, failed for the exact same reason. After all, you can run a campaign now with just a single mega-donor“sugar daddy.”

This doesn’t mean that Bai is entirely wrong about Bush. As my colleague Joan Walsh has been rightly noting for a while, “Jeb!” has been a straight-up bad candidate. He’s repeatedly done exactly what he shouldn’t. It has been 13 years since Bush last won an election, and one gets the sense that, when he wasn’t cashing checks from Lehman Brothers or hanging out with Michael Bloomberg, he spent the time forgetting everything he’d learned.

But it’s possible for two things to be true. Bush can be both a bad candidate and be wounded less by his own hand than by the results of conservatism itself. The men and women (but mostly men) in the Republican Party can rail against Bush to the Matt Bais of the world all they want. It won’t change the fact that when the Citizens United ruling was handed down and forever changed the rules of American politics, they were cheering as loud as anyone else.


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Business Owners Try to Remove All Voters From Business District, But They Forgot One College Student

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 11:16am
Their gerrymandering didn't go exactly as planned.

Normally gerrymandering in a medium-sized town that doesn't even pertain to city council elections would be too down-in-the-weeds, but this story from the Columbia Tribune is too funny to ignore. Self-interested business owners successfully petitioned the Columbia, Missouri, city council to create a local Community Improvement District, which would have the authority to impose a half-cent sales tax increase with voter approval. However, the district lines were drawn in a manner that attempted to avoid containing any eligible voters, meaning that property-owners themselves would get to decide on the sales tax increase as a way to avoid further property taxes to pay for improvements.

Unfortunately for them, things didn't exactly go according to plan. It soon became known that a single voter, University of Missouri student Jen Henderson, was registered to vote in the new CID. That means that she alone will get to decide whether or not to approve the sales tax increase. The CID has already gone into debt to finance planned improvements and was counting on the increased revenue from the sales tax increase.

Predictably, Henderson is not pleased with how manipulative this process has been. She was even asked to de-register so that the vote would revert to property owners. While Henderson hasn't publicly stated which way she plans to vote, she sounded skeptical of the proposed sales tax increase and rightfully pointed out how it is regressive in nature while the benefits accrue mainly to incumbent businesses.

In a delicious twist of irony, if Henderson votes against the sales tax increase or the vote is called off entirely, the only way for the CID to pay off its debts will be to levy further taxes on property, which is exactly what these businesses were trying to avoid. Most of the time gerrymandering is successful and unfair, but instances like this show it can sometimes backfire spectacularly.

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Topless Woman Confronts GOP Official With Mastectomy Scar to Protest Defunding of Planned Parenthood

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 11:06am
"They save lives," she said.

Breast cancer survivor and all around bad-ass Leigh Anne Woods let Roanoke County Supervisor Al Bedrosian have it at an "anti-abortion" event in front of the county administration building on Monday. 

"You have a problem because they perform abortions," a topless Ms. Woods said, revealing her mastectomy scars. "Look at everything else they do, they save lives!"

Mr. Bedrosian demurred, later telling WDBJ that he opposed the county supporting "any non-profit."

The county doesn't support Planned Parenthood, but does help raise funds for United Way, which supports non-abortive procedures for the group -- making Mr. Bedrosian's posturing that much weirder since the county already wasn't supporting abortions. 

"Planned Parenthood... we shouldn't facilitate it," a confused Bedrosian told WDBJ. "I think it's a little heightened now because of what they do with abortions, which I'm totally against. Again, I always vote zero on all of them."

But, as Ms. Woods points out, Planned Parenthood doesn't just perform abortions, they also perform life-saving medical procedures like the one that saved her own life. 

"When my lump was felt it was like 'boom let's go,'" Woods, a former Planned Parenthood employee told WDBJ. "I knew something was there that needed to be checked out." 

Watch the video of the encounter here

h/t Raw Story

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Pittsburgh Company Looks for Scabs to Work 84 Hours a Week During Steelworker Lockout

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 9:48am
The company is very clear about what it's doing.

In Pittsburgh, the firm Allegheny Technologies has been involved in a labor dispute with United Steelworkers that has let to 2,000 members being locked outover the course of this month.

As Sean Kitchen discovered, the company Storm Engineering, which finds scab workers to break strikes, has placed an ad on Craigslist looking for workers to work 84-hour-week during the lockout:


The company is very upfront about what it is doing. It clearly writes, “THIS IS A LABOR DISPUTE SITUATION – EMPLOYEES WILL BE TRANSPORTED ACROSS A PICKET LINE.” 


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WATCH: Kentucky County Clerk Denies Gay Couple Marriage License -- For 3rd Time

AlterNet.org - August 28, 2015 - 6:41am
Rogue county clerk says it's a violation of her "religious freedom."

It seems the last vestiges of anti-marriage equality bigotry are not going out without a fight.

Infamous Rowan County clerk Kim Davis once again refused a marriage licence to couple James Yates and William Smith Jr. Thursday even after a court ruling the previous day requiring her to do so

"We should be celebrating right now, enjoying our lives together," Smith told Kentucky.com. "Instead, we're on nerves, waiting for someone to say we can get a marriage license."

Kim Davis' attorney said she is appealing the 6th District court's ruling, all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary. Ms. Davis has previously said she refuses to issue the licences because she is "worried about her own soul.”

Watch the clip below and try to remind yourself this is 2015: 

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What's New: The case for a $15 minimum wage the NDP should make

Socialist Project - August 28, 2015 - 2:00am
Of all of the NDP's campaign promises so far, one of the simplest has gotten the most press: the $15 minimum wage for workers in federally regulated sectors. This campaign plank should be an easy sell for the NDP, yet Conservative and Liberal attacks have managed to undermine it. The way it's been presented has left it open to attack, but this needn't be so.
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Six Nations Fall Fair 2015 Ambassadors Selected

Two Row Times - August 27, 2015 - 4:39pm

The 148th Six Nations Pageant of Ambassadors was held on Friday August 21, crowning ambassadors for divisions from Tiny Tot Girl to Miss Six Nations. The Pageant was emceed by former Miss Indian World Tia Smith and former Miss Six Nations 2014-2015 Chezney Martin. Each contestant made an appearance on stage in front of friends […]

The post Six Nations Fall Fair 2015 Ambassadors Selected appeared first on Two Row Times.

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The GOP's Shocking Attack on America's National Forests

AlterNet.org - August 27, 2015 - 3:00pm
Two Republican bills in Congress seek to pillage U.S. National Forests in the name of corporate profit.

Two Republican bills currently making their way through Congress should anger any American who cares about the nation's forests. Introduced this summer, both bills are pro-industry and anti-environment, and seek to eliminate public participation in federal decisions about forest management that could negatively impact local communities, ecological health and wildlife.

The first bill, HR 2647, the so-called Resilient Federal Forests Act of 2015, was introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR-4). It passed the House and is now under consideration in the Senate. The other bill, S 1691, called the National Forest Ecosystem Improvement Act of 2015, was introduced Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). Hearings held last month by the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, chaired by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who has consistently supported corporate interests over the environment and wildlife.

Both bills would suspend or weaken several federal environmental laws and clear the way for the timber industry to dramatically increase commercial logging across U.S. national forests.

Empowering corporations, disenfranchising citizens

Introduced on June 4, HR 2647 is a pro-industry bill that seeks to streamline the process by which commercial logging projects are managed by the federal government. One of the ways it wants to accomplish this is by limiting public debate on timber projects, effectively excluding the American public from their legal right to generate and review agency actions regarding forest management. HR 2647 appears to favor the rubber-stamping of industrial logging projects in national forests by establishing several worrisome environmental review requirement exclusions from such projects. These exclusions would effectively remove critical opportunities for American voters to participate in governmental decisions regarding how forests are managed by federal executive departments such as the Department of Agriculture and the Interior Department.

Specifically, HR 2647 would:

  • Create new categorial exclusions from review under the National Environmental Policy Act of 1969
  • Introduce provisions to limit opportunities for judicial review by creating attorneys' fee recovery provisions and bonding requirements that would effectively impede access to the courts
  • Lower the membership of resource advisory committees that advise the Forest Service on land use decisions, from 15 to six, which would significantly reduce the diversity of stakeholders.

Outdoor Alliance, a non-profit coalition that represents the interests of millions of Americans, said that the bill "elevates a single interest — timber — over the diverse activities that take place on national forests, including recreation."

A track loader operates in the log yard at a conifer log mill near Roseburg, Oregon. Pro-industry logging bills in Congress seek to increase logging in America's national forests and exclude citizens from decision-making about forest management. (image: TFoxFoto/Shutterstock.com)

In a letter sent last month to House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and Minority House Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Adam Cramer, executive director of Outdoor Alliance — which includes the Access Fund, American Canoe Association, American Whitewater, International Mountain Biking Association, Winter Wildlands Alliance, the Mountaineers and the American Alpine Club — sharply criticized the bill:

This measure shortcuts critical public participation requirements for management decisions on National Forests and BLM lands that have the potential for severe negative impacts on outdoor recreation, the outdoor recreation economy, and conservation values. Public lands management requires a balanced approach to sometimes-competing uses and values; this bill upsets this balance and inappropriately limits the ability of a full array of stakeholders to participate in the management process and, where necessary, initiate judicial review of agency actions.

In the letter, Cramer recognized the importance of the timber industry, but also pointed out that the outdoor recreation economy — which depends on the health of and access to the nation's forests — is "responsible for $646 billion in consumer spending annually and directly employs 6.1 million Americans." He called on Congress to set aside legislation that "unfairly and unnecessarily harms opportunities for public participation in forest management decision-making."

Cramer also expressed his disappointment that HR 2647 fails to fully address the problem of the persistent lack of funding for wildfire suppression, an issue that has been fastidiously contemplated in S 235, the Wildfire Disaster Funding Act of 2015, a Senate biil introduced in January that currently enjoys strong bipartisan support and which has been praised by a broad coalition of conservation, timber, tribal and recreation groups, including the Outdoor Alliance, Wilderness Society and Nature Conservancy.

HR 2647 was co-sponsored by 13 representatives, all Republicans but one: Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ-1), who has been called out by the League of Conservation Voters for over a dozen anti-environment votes since 2009.

Senate launches its own forest attack

Just weeks after the House bill was introduced, a similar bill was introduced in the Senate, on June 25. S 1691 seeks to "establish a reliable and predictable timber supply from the National Forest System that can be harvested, processed, and sold as wood products." Like HR 2647, the Senate bill hands power to corporate timber interests while excluding the voices of American voters and reducing environmental safeguards.

Last month, Mike Matz, the director of U.S. Public Lands at the Pew Charitable Trusts, gave testimony on the bill to the Senate Public Lands, Forests and Mining Subcommittee, chaired by the bill's sponsor, Sen. Barrasso. Matz said that Pew is unable to support the bill in its current form, saying that the legislation "would undermine key provisions of the National Forest Management Act of 1976 (NMFA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) … [and] inappropriately limit citizen access to the federal courts."

Similar to HR 2647, the bill would require anyone who files a lawsuit challenging forest projects still subject to judicial review to post a bond equal to the anticipated costs, expenses and legal fees of the U.S. Forest Service as a defendant. As litigation costs can be exorbitant, this provision effectively prevents the majority of individuals and organizations from access to the courts on matters of forest management.

Additionally, a provision in S 1691 allows for the clear-cutting of up to 5,000 acres of national forests with limited environmental review on the impacts these operations would have on water and land quality. LIke its House counterpart, the Senate bill seeks to give a freer hand to corporate timber interests in pillaging America's forests for profit while ignoring science, conservation and public input. In concluding his testimony, Matz called on Sen. Barrasso to "craft a forestry bill that more adequately balances the needs of national forests and the communities and wildlife that depend upon them."

An assault on forests, threatened species — and taxpayers

Earth Island Institute's John Muir Project, a non-profit forest advocacy group named after the famed naturalist and founder of the Sierra Club, sharply criticized both bills. JMP highlighted how the architects of these bills have capitalized on the public's fear of wildfires and have used the ongoing myth that wildfires are not part of a natural and ecological process.

In fact, wildfires are necessary not only for forest health, but for the survival of many species, several of them threatened.

"Anti-environmental Republicans, joined by some Democrats from logging regions, are attempting to use the public’s fear and misunderstanding of wildland fire to mount one of the most extreme attacks ever on our National Forests," JMP says. "Their views are outdated and scientifically inaccurate. The evidence that has been gathered over the past decade shows that (a) large mixed-intensity fires are ecologically beneficial; (b) we now have far less mixed-intensity fire in forests than we had historically; and (c) patches of high-intensity fire create 'snag forest habitat,' which supports levels of native species richness and wildlife abundance that rival or exceed those of old-growth forest."

One native species that has been harmed by the scientifically unsound practices of post-fire logging and fire suppression is the California/Oregon and Black Hills subspecies of the Black-backed woodpecker. These birds require snags (dead standing trees) to survive. In 2012, JMP and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a petition to list this rare bird as threatened or endangered under the ESA to protect it from further habitat loss.

Fire suppression and post-fire logging have destroyed much of the natural habitat of the Black-backed woodpecker, a threatened species that needs fire-killed trees to survive. (image: Rachel Fazio/John Muir Project)

"One pair of Black-backed woodpeckers generally needs at least 200 acres, typically with at least 100 standing fire-killed trees per acre, on average, in order to have enough of their prey — native wood-boring beetle larvae which live under the bark of fire-killed trees — to survive," according to JMP. "Once relatively common, before fire suppression and post-fire logging, this species is now extremely rare, and there are no meaningful protections for its habitat on either public or private lands. It is estimated that as few as 1000 pairs remain in California (600 pairs)/Oregon (400 pairs) with less than 500 pairs remaining in Black Hills of South Dakota."

Rachel Fazio, JMP's associate director, told AlterNet that the California spotted owl also is "adversely affected by both green-tree thinning (which destroys or degrades both nesting and foraging habitat) and post-fire logging (which destroys its preferred foraging habitat) — both of which tend to result in territory abandonment."

In December, JMP and WildNature Institute filed a petition to list the California spotted owl under the ESA. Fazio said that they anticipate a positive finding next month. Last week, Sierra Forest Legacy and Defenders of Wildlife filed a separate similar petition.

JMP argues that these two bills, by "dispensing with environmental review, oversight by the courts, and doubling or tripling logging levels, will only mean further threats to these species and an overall reduction in native biodiversity in both green and burned forests."

"Let's face it," Fazio said, "Any way you cut it, these bills would be devastating for imperiled wildlife species."

Once common throughout the Sierra Nevada and Southern California ranges, the California spotted owl has declined in part because its forest habitat has been destroyed by logging. (image: Rachel Fazio/John Muir Project)

The group asserts that these bills will not only "cost taxpayers many millions, if not billions of dollars," but also "perpetuates the myth that fire is not a natural process." The end result of the bills, they warn, "will be harm to native biodiversity and increased costs to taxpayers while a few towns and mills in the west enjoy a couple of subsidized boom years."

John Muir, an early advocate of wilderness preservation in the United States known as the father of the national park system, wrote in his journal that "the clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness." If GOP lawmakers get what they want, that path may soon become a thing of the past.

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Has Lessig Lost It? The Marriage of Larry and the Donald

AlterNet.org - August 27, 2015 - 1:18pm
Larry Lessig is a case study in the dangers of single-issue politics.

Some single-issue activists see the light. Others are blinded by it.

Somewhere in between these poles is Larry Lessig, the Harvard Law School professor who became a celebrity in Silicon Valley intellectual property circles but then discovered how America’s system of privately financed political campaigns and the follow-up toxic culture of insider-driven lobbying has corrupted our democracy.

In recent years, Lessig has moved from a pro-democracy critic on the Ted Talk circuit, to a protester marching across wintery New Hampshire calling for structural fundraising reforms, to the irony-embracing creator of a super PAC funded by 50,000 Internet-inspired small donors and a handful of tech millionaires. His super PAC backed congressional candidates (Democrats and Republicans) in 2014 who pledged they’d put campaign finance reform at the top of their agenda if elected (most lost).

Today Lessig is a potential 2016 Democratic presidential candidate who said that if elected, he would resign after Congress adopts three sweeping democracy reforms: guaranteed voting rights, ending gerrymandered districts, and most important, ending private fundraising.

Lessig’s critique that the root of American political corruption primarily lies with the way the candidates for public office have to raise private money and then service donors is true. His prescription— adopting nationwide publicly financed campaigns—has been the agreed-upon solution among progressive reformers for decades. However, as the takeover of American elections by the wealthiest Americans keeps spiraling out of control—as witnessed by the rash of million-dollar-plus donations underwriting many of 2016’s presidential contenders—Lessig is becoming the embodiment of the old cliché: desperate times require desperate measures.

In his case, the latest example is not launching a 2016 presidential exploratory committee where he pledged to resign as soon as reforms are enacted. Rather, it’s his recent endorsement of Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy, including offering to join his ticket, because he believes Trump has been speaking the truth about how money corrupts politics and politicians.

“Donald Trump is the biggest gift to the movement for reform since the Supreme Court gave us Citizens United,” Lessig told Politico.com, referring to Trump’s boasts that he’s given big sums to candidates in both parties and then called in favors as needed. “What he’s saying is absolutely correct, the absolute truth. He has pulled back the curtain.”

“I’ll make a promise,” Lessig said in Politico’s report, after stating he would not “rule out a third-party run with Trump” should that offer be made. “If Trump said he was going to do one thing and fix this corrupted system, then go back to life as an entertainment figure, I absolutely would link up with Donald Trump.”

In many respects, Lessig is the Trump of the campaign finance reform universe, grabbing the spotlight and agenda from less attention-getting activists who have been promoting structural democracy reforms for years. His creation of the MayDay PAC in 2014 that rapidly raised more than $10 million from 50,000 donors was unprecedented in this fold, where there has been long-simmering demand for constitutional amendments, public financing and revived congressional authority to regulate money in politics.

Lessing said he would run for president as a Democrat if he raised $1 million by Labor Day. The LessigForPresident website reports he’s raised $639,000 from 5,200 donors.

Given the arc of Lessig’s activism, it’s not surprising that an individual who is driven to address one of the fundamental flaws in American politics is willing to embrace one of America’s most divisive politicans because he’s saying the right things about his issue. While that may be predictable or inevitable, it also a bit desperate and naïve—which has always been the danger of single-issue politics.

Let’s imagine that Lessig somehow links up with Trump. Are people who want to see a fundamental restructuring of interplay between private money and political candidates suppose to ignore Trump’s racism, sexism, elitism, and war-mongering, just because Trump has been bombastically telling Americans that he’s invested and gotten results from politicians, and “that’s a broken system”? 

This is the danger of single-issue politics: seeing the light and being blinded by it. The problem is not that Lessig’s analysis of the problem is wrong. His remedies, including a national system of publically financed elections, are also correct—that, too, has been proven over the years in states and cities to be a generally better approach than the endless dialing-for-campaign-dollars status quo.

The problem is the most public leader of the democracy reform movement in 2015 is not showing political skill or judgment by jumping on the coattails of the ever-unpredictable Trump. It looks like a desperate measure in a desperate time, and cheapens the issue—and his compelling analysis—by flirting with today’s biggest political bomb-thrower.

The problem with political bombs is they may feel good to throw, but they often go nowhere. There is a reason for that. The political world does not have the same DNA as Silicon Valley, where one of the favorite myths is that creative destruction and rapid change are welcome. The political world, at least what’s evolved over the decades in America, is not built for speed. At it’s best, it’s a system of checks and balances, and at its worst it’s a system where arcane laws and rules favor special interests over public interests. Either way, it resists rapid change, especially when power is at stake. That’s partly why democracy reform is so difficult. Another part is politicians don’t want to dismantle the system they’ve mastered; they want to stay in power and use it.

All of that suggest that the business of democracy reform needs leadership with a firm moral compass, not someone who creates a super PAC to end all super PACs in 2014; then jumps into the 2016 Democratic presidential race in early August; then several weeks later flirts with the unpredictable Republican frontrunner.

Lessig’s commitment to reform and willingness to take public risks is worthy of respect. Most people would not put themselves on that line. But there also comes a time when others who care about the same issue need to ask, What are you doing? Where is this going? Lessig’s endorsement of Trump is such a moment.   

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What Do Your Dreams Mean?

AlterNet.org - August 27, 2015 - 1:16pm
Neuroscience might support some previously outmoded ideas.

Originally published by Van Winkle's, a new website dedicated to smarter sleep & wakefulness, published by Casper.

For better or worse, we owe a lot to Sigmund Freud. For decades after his death in 1939, the good doctor loomed large in the offices of tweedy analysts who employed his methods to tease out and fix deep-seated psychological issues. Among other exercises in psyche-excavation, Freudian disciples treated dreams as manifestations of suppressed wants and woes. Dreams were symbols begging for interpretation.  

The popularity of Freudian psychoanalysis began to wane in the 1970s and ’80s. Academics, in particular, took issue with the German thinker’s tightest-held ideas and therapeutic methods as empirically anemic and grounded in sexism. As reverence for Freud and his legacy slipped, more goal-oriented methods, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), gained traction.

And yet, while many have gleefully exiled Freud from their offices, those trained in psychodynamic therapy insist his central ideas still form the bedrock of contemporary therapy. In fact, they claim Freud and his musings on the mind are more relevant than ever.

“There was a time when there was a lot of Freud-bashing and people didn’t appreciate him,”  said Carol Donnelly, a psychologist who teaches about schools of psychotherapy at Northwestern University. “But because of neuroscience especially, people can now see which ideas of his are valid — and that’s exciting… He’s been invited back into the family.”

The Ghost on the Couch

In The Interpretation of Dreams, first published in 1899, Freud explained dreams as a form of wish fulfillment — attempts by the psyche to express and resolve desires and conflicts that the waking mind exiles. Freudians picked apart patients’ nighttime narratives, looking for themes, characters and ideas that he considered meaningful. These deep-dives also enabled free association, in which patients prattled on about their dreams with little guidance or interruption in order to dredge up repressed formative experiences.

As psychoanalysis entered the modern age, science got involved. And Freud’s approach didn’t hold up to scientific rigor. They lacked evidentiary basis and were, in fact, incredibly hard to test. In the 1980s, greater use of psychiatric drugs, combined with the decline of talk therapy, helped shift the therapeutic spotlight onto cognitive therapy — CBT and other types of shorter-term, goal-oriented approaches that didn’t require thrice-weekly emotional purges.

By the 21st century, Freud was on his way to becoming a rest-stop on the highway of intellectual history. In 2007, the New York Times reported on new findings from the American Psychoanalytic Association that “while psychoanalysis — or what purports to be psychoanalysis — is alive and well in literature, film, history and just about every other subject in the humanities, psychology departments and textbooks treat it as ‘desiccated and dead,’ a historical artifact instead of ‘an ongoing movement and a living, evolving process.’”

Drifting Further Afield from Freud

But Freud wasn’t dead to everyone. There remain seasoned Freudians unwilling to relinquish the psychiatric principles by which they’ve lived and breathed for decades.

In fact, true Freudians are still out there, earnestly explaining to their patients that the coworkers in their sex dreams are really their mothers. According to Scott Lilienfeld, a psychology professor at Emory University whose “eclectic” therapy skews away from Freud, northeast cities are bastions for these old-school analysts.

Margaret Walsh is a Freud-friendly therapist who works at the University of Michigan medical school and psychoanalytic institute. Like most therapists waving the Freudian flag in 2015, she practices psychodynamic analysis, an updated version of Freudian theory that jettisons certain outdated concepts (e.g., penis envy, Oedipal complex). They conduct dream exercises akin to free association, but dreams are no longer considered the “royal road” to examining the unconscious mind.

Dreams are of even less concern to cognitive therapists, who concentrate on addressing the issue at hand — often anxiety or depression — through behavioral modification. CBT patients learn to substitute bad tendencies and mindsets for healthy ones, eventually building coping mechanisms. Cognitive behavior therapists come equipped with an extensive toolbox, but meandering dream-chats aren’t in there.

Some psychodynamic adherents take issue with the cognitive camp’s preoccupation with evidence-grounded psychology. They claim that Freud naysayers point out evidentiary lapses simply to poke holes in time-tested methods, not because psychodynamic theory deserves the derision. Jonathan Shedler, a vocal psychodynamic believer, argued in an influential 2010 paper that research actually supports psychoanalysis as an effective long-term treatment for some mental disorders. CBT simply benefits from being newer, more results-oriented and quicker. But it’s not better, overall.

Others in the same camp see neuroscience as providing the formerly missing evidence needed to bolster Freudian theory.

“Today, some of what’s really interesting about psychology — consciousness, emotions and dreams,” said Northwestern’s Carol Donnelly, “is finally the stuff of neuroscience. Neurobiological explanations can impose boundaries on what we should dismiss and embrace [from Freud.]”

Lighting Up the Mind

How exactly does neuroscience give credence to Freud’s model of the mind?

Let’s say that, in a neuroimaging study, scientists ask subjects to smell something — a noxiously sweet cherry lip gloss. Then, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), they see if their brain activity changes in response to the odor. If there’s more activity in regions associated with emotional processing and episodic memory, researchers might conclude that there is nostalgia associated with that smell (even if they aren’t consciously aware).

Freud couldn’t look at brain activity on fMRIs, but he did take note of patients’ visceral reaction to stimuli. He talked with them at painstaking length — and asked probing questions — to uncover emotional resonance to triggers.

It’s by no means a given that uncovering the neurobiological underpinnings of emotion will help Freud stage a comeback. Both diehard cognitive therapists and those with more eclectic or integrative training — a little of this, a little of that — are skeptical.

Emory’s Scott Lilienfeld, for one, suggests that neuro-psychodynamic therapists are merely using neuroscience to retrofit broader-strokes ideas — ideas that, while most often attributed to Freud, aren’t unique to him. For instance, Freud spoke often (and loudly) about defense mechanisms and repressed desires, but so did other thinkers. The outdated convictions that truly distinguished Freud will never find vindication in neural firing patterns.

And that’s the problem, said Lilienfeld. “Neuroscience dovetails with broad notions Freud put forth, but whether that vindicates Freud per se more than any other model of human nature — well, I’m not convinced.”

Lilienfeld further pointed out something missing from the argument that neuroscience will save Freud: heuristic value, or the extent to which a theory predicts something new.

“What did Freud predict,” Lilienfeld asked, “that we wouldn’t otherwise have foreseen, if not for neuroscience?’”

Finding Room for the Good Doctor

Bringing Freud back requires new support for outdated ideas, such as his thoroughly debunked belief in infantile stages of psychosexual development and, again, his unwavering dedication to correlative dream interpretation.

Right now, this doesn’t jibe with current science. Lilienfeld explained, “Neuroscience data poses some real problems there, because most suggests that dreams are triggered by automatic perceptions and memories originating way back far in the brainstem, and that our higher brain tries to make sense of them after the fact… I don’t think any of that provides support for the idea that dreams are disguising content with a symbol.”

Lilienfeld isn’t so staunchly pro-cognitive therapy that he can’t recognize Freud’s contributions to the field. He concedes that Freud certainly got a few things right, and that discussing dreams can have some value.

“When people go through depression, dreams tend to be depressive. And when I’m doing therapy, I occasionally will discuss dreams — having dreams about certain key themes in life, may reflect something about psychological state as it is.”

Still, in the end, Lilienfeld doesn’t think acknowledging Freud’s psychological contributions proves that Freudian theory, as a school of thought, was right. In his view, it’s time to accept that we’ve scattered Freud’s theoretical ashes — and move on.

Others are more kind to the good doctor’s influence and legacy.

Robert Galatzer-Levy, a psychiatrist at the University of Chicago, makes the point that the past’s perfectly fine practices may become outdated but not necessarily invalidated.

“It’s true that almost no one practices analysis exactly as Freud did a hundred years ago, but then no one does physics the same way that Einstein did a hundred years ago or Newton did 300 years ago,” he said via email. “Yet their ideas and theories remain a central part of physics, and Freud’s ideas a central part of psychoanalysis.”

And anyway, not every Freudian needs neuroscience. Margaret Walsh believes Freudian theory is a necessary component of emotional introspection that’s missing from cognitive approaches. She laments the exclusion of Freud from training programs.

“You go through [academic] programs, and hear Freud’s dead,” she said. “Then, students start seeing patients and self-gravitating toward old Freudian ideas. There has to be some integration, because you can’t approach people in a clinical setting cognitively only.”

One selling point of cognitive therapy is its efficiency — programs may finish in as little as six or eight weeks. But cognitive behaviorists who see patients on an ongoing basis, Walsh contends, draw on Freud. Some of today’s buzziest mental health topics, such as attachment theory and post-traumatic stress, are, in many ways, refurbished versions of what lay at the core of Freudian theory.

“Same concepts, new language,” Walsh said.

It’s hard to imagine Freud would disagree. As Carol Donnelly noted, Freud treated the past as fundamentally stitched into the present. Patients undergoing psychotherapy cannot uncouple their former and current selves — and neither should today’s psychoanalysts.


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Bernie Sanders: ‘Family Values’ Is Republican Code for ‘Let’s Control Women’s Bodies’

AlterNet.org - August 27, 2015 - 12:59pm
He spoke at a rally in Littleton, New Hampshire.

At a rally in Littleton, New Hampshire on Wednesday, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) took aim at a longstanding Republican talking point, “family values.”

“Many of my Republican colleagues who come through New Hampshire and Iowa and so forth,” said the 2016 Democratic nomination hopeful in video shot by Holly Owsianik, “they often talk about family values.”

“They just loooove families,” he quipped. “But all of you know what they mean by family values. And what they mean by family values is that the women of this country should not have the right to control their own bodies. I disagree.”

“What they mean by family values is that women are not smart enough to be able to purchase the contraceptives they need,” he continued. “I disagree.”

“And furthermore, what they mean by family values is that our gay brothers and sisters should not be able to get married or enjoy the other benefits of the American legal system. I disagree,” said Sanders as the crowd at the Littleton Opera House cheered uproariously.

He said of his family and campaign, “We believe in strong families, but our view’s just a little bit different than our Republican friends.”

“When we talk about family values,” he said, “what we mean is the United States should end the international embarrassment of being the only major country on Earth that does not guarantee family and medical leave to all of our families.”

Watch the video, embedded below:

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What's New: Pittsburghers for Public Transit

Socialist Project - August 27, 2015 - 12:00pm
Pittsburghers for Public Transit is a grassroots organization of transit riders, workers, and residents working together to defend and expand public transit in our region. Founded in 2010, we have raised consciousness about the importance and value of public mass transit -- providing education about the nature of the funding crisis, organizing rallies and demonstrations, and mobilizing thousands of people to exert the pressure required to pass the state transportation bill.
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WATCH: Nearly Naked Miley Cyrus Makes Some Great Points About Our Nipple Hang-ups

AlterNet.org - August 27, 2015 - 11:11am
"If you have your tits out, you can't really be an a*&hole."

Miley Cyrus discussed her love of nudity with Jimmy Kimmel in Wednesday night, while wearing heart-shaped pasties and a glitter cape ensemble. Jimmy Kimmel admitted he was having a hard time concentrating on their conversation, a problem he apparently shared with Sir Paul McCartney.

But aside from her garish attire, Cyrus made some excellent points about people's hang-ups about breasts, body-shaming and nudity. 

"I see a lot of people with their clothes on and they're assholes," she pointed out. "I don't know if it's the clothes or what. If you have your tits out, you can't really be an asshole."

She also pointed out that the issue is not breasts. "America's actually fine with tits," she said. "It's the nipple they can't handle."

Cyrus divulged where she shops for pasties, and mentioned how little she spends on clothes. "I'm very eco-friendly," she said. "I'm a vegan-nudist."

Cyrus did reveal some hang-ups about the human body at the end. But, hey...


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One Disturbing 'Headline' Speaks Volumes About Our Economy—and Helps Explain Sanders' Rise

AlterNet.org - August 27, 2015 - 11:03am
Bernie Sanders' rise in popularity is due in large part to his willingness to speak the truth about the real economic struggles.

You have all seen those click bait titles at the end of some article you've read, trying to grab your attention.  The one's that begin "One weird trick ..." have become both a joke and a cliche, and yet people still click through to the link.  Why?  Well, I finished reading an article on a sports site this morning, that was definite click bait material, but in a way that I found profoundly disturbing.  What was the title you ask?  Well here it is:

An Extremely Brilliant Way To Avoid Paying Interest
On Your Credit Card Balance

I'm not going to give you the link.  That isn't the point.  What that click bait ad title implies, and not so subtlety, is that there are large numbers of people desperately struggling with a large amount of personal debt, whether debt incurred to pay for basic necessities such as food, shelter, and clothing, or debt incurred to pay off past debt back when they had a better job, or any job at all. Or people with large medical debts to pay off, because many do, despite the improvement in the cost of health insurance the ACA has helped bring about for many families, but sadly, not all. Or so many younger (and not so younger people know) with large amounts of student loan debt.

Not to mention the far more worrisome massive increase in personal credit card debt over the last year.

Credit card debt is ballooning, leaving American households with a net increase of $57.1 billion in new credit card debt in 2014, according to a new survey from CardHub. The credit card comparison site said it's forecasting new credit card debt will rise 5 percent in 2015, reaching $60 billion this year.

While the increased spending could signal that Americans are feeling more sanguine about their prospects and the economy, it's also a cause for concern given that most workers aren't seeing the type of wage growth that would support that higher spending. The surge has left the average household credit card balance at almost $7,200, or not far from the $8,300 level that CardHub considers unsustainable. [...]

While Americans are carrying more debt, their earnings are barely ahead of where they were a decade ago. Household earnings have increased only 2 percent during the past 10 years, The Pew Charitable Trusts said in a study issued last month.

How can this be happening, if the economy is showing a fall in the unemployment rate, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Well, that number comes from a survey, and the survey on the overall unemployment rate doesn't account for the types of jobs being created in our stagnant economy, where since 2008, part-time jobs, compared to full time jobs, has grown at a faster rate that pre-recession figures.

Back in 2008, before the Wall Street collapse triggered by the bursting of the housing bubble and the over-reliance by the Banksters on selling derivatives to institutional investors based on securitized residential mortgages, jobs designated as full time positions for all employees 16 years old and older represented 83.1% of the economy before the crash.  Now they represent under 82%, with part time jobs rising from 16.9% of the economy to roughly 17.7%.  That may not seem like much, until you look at the cohort of people 28-54, the group in their prime earning years where the contrast is far starker:

full-time vs. part-time employment.

As you can see from that chart, the rate of part-time jobs since 2008 has grown and despite recent improvements, still exceeds the rate at which full time positions are being created.  Now this isn't a result of implementation of the ACA, as some on the right would like to claim.  It's a clearly a hangover from the economic policies that led to the great Depression.

"With regard to Obamacare and part-time employment, the surge in part-time employment was triggered by the recession, not by the Affordable Care Act..." The statistics show that part time employment is not correlated to any increase in part-time jobs.  In fact part time positions are trending downward since the ACA was enacted and implemented.  Still, growth in low wage jobs, which are more often than not part-time positions, has accounted for roughly 2/5ths of all the new jobs created since "the labor market bottomed out in February, 2010."

Every month the government heralds the falling unemployment rate as a sign of an improving economy.  However, besides the growth in part time work versus full time positions, what else do the BLS unemployment statistics tell us?  Or more importantly, what are our political leaders and mainstream media not telling you?

The most important thing they fail to say, or speak about in a sotto voce voice, is that a large number of the people who are jobless are not employed, and not counted as unemployed under the official statistics, because they have stopped looking for work. As of July 2015, the BLS estimates that 9.743 million people are not counted in the labor market, because they are not actively seeking work. These are people not counted in the unemployment statistics because, for whatever reason, they have been discouraged from seeking employment or have otherwise dropped out of the labor market.  Percentage wise, that is the lowest rate of participation in the labor force since 1977.

“We are definitely seeing recovery but the extent of it is not as much as you would think from the unemployment rate,” says Nick Bunker, policy analyst at the Washington Center for Equitable Growth. “There is this long decline of labor force participation due to a variety of factors, mostly demographics. Obviously the unemployment rate has dropped quite a bit the last two years, but that’s hard to look at as a pure indicator of labor market health like people did prior to the recession.”

There are a couple of factors at work that undermine the reliability of the unemployment rate. As the huge Baby Boomer generation ages, the labor force participation rate declines as they either retire or, in cases more extreme than Klein’s, cannot find work at all – even part-time work. This jobs report revealed a labor force participation rate of 62.6 percent, unchanged from last month, the lowest level since 1977.

So who has been talking about this issue consistently both before and after he joined the race for the Democratic Party's Presidential nomination for 2016?  Bernie Sanders, that's who.

The truth is that real unemployment is not the 5.4 percent you read in newspapers. It is close to 11 percent if you include those workers who have given up looking for jobs or who are working part time when they want to work full time. Youth unemployment is over 17 percent and African-American youth unemployment is much higher than that. Today, shamefully, we have 45 million people living in poverty, many of whom are working at low-wage jobs. These are the people who struggle every day to find the money to feed their kids, to pay their electric bills and to put gas in the car to get to work. This campaign is about those people and our struggling middle class. It is about creating an economy that works for all, and not just the one percent.

Sanders' rise in popularity is due in large part to his willingness to speak the truth to the American people about the real economic struggles they face, rather than present us with happy talk about how great the unemployment numbers are.  And that truth is that wages are stagnant for most people, there are far more people unemployed or marginally employed than the mainstream media wants to talk about, and as a result, personal household debt is once again on the rise.

You want to know what the one brilliant trick to not having to pay interest on your credit card balance?  Not having such high credit card balances in the first place. And that will require more jobs, and better, higher paying jobs.  

And among all the major candidates, Sanders has been the one person most consistent in his focus on improving wage growth (such as his strong support for a $15 an hour minimum wage) and unions, and by creating real employment gains at home by reeling in the large multinational corporations who are sending jobs overseas as well as evading taxes by hiding their profits offshore, as well.

Is there any reason to doubt why Sanders' popularity is surging despite lack of media coverage he receives compared to other candidates, especially the unparalleled attention given to the odious Donald Trump?  

One man is selling himself as the savior of America.  The other is telling the truth about our so-called "economic recovery" that has left millions falling ever further behind, while also offering policies and detailed plans to solve the most pressing problems those people face, policies that offer real hope and change.

Is Sanders a great orator like President Obama?  No.  But maybe we don't need great speeches right now.  Maybe we just need someone telling the truth about the oligarchic corporate takeover of our government and the real life misery that has created for the 99% of us who aren't benefiting from corporate control of our government institutions, federal, state and local.  A person committed to effecting change that will benefit the lives of African Americans, White Americans, LGBT Americans, Latino Americans, Disabled Americans, working class and poor Americans, and every other American you can think of other than those few at the top who have been soaking up all the gains from our "recovering economy" while leaving the crumbs for the rest of us.  

That's my opinion, in any case, for what it is worth.

Ps.  I am not affiliated in any way with the Sanders' campaign.  I'm neither a volunteer nor have I made a financial donation to him.  But I'm thinking I should, and soon.

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