democratic socialism

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In a short piece on Bernie Sanders' socialism, Joe Fletcher points out that "there is huge difference between Socialism and Democratic Socialism:"

A contemporary Democratic Socialist is very much still a Capitalist, though they favor strong social welfare programs that aim to reduce economic inequality and favor regulations that curb the worst behaviors of the private sector. A Democratic Socialist is essentially nothing more than a left of left-of-center Liberal. [...]

Now that being said, there is one truly Socialist agenda item in Sanders economic platform, that no one is talking about - building worker co-ops. Sanders introduced legislation with the aim of helping to build worker owned businesses in 2014.

Following up on the previous story of a Tor node in a public library, IT Librarian Chuck McAndrew writes that "DHS is not the boss of my library:"

When considering this project, our board of trustees had to decide whether or not hosting a relay like this was appropriate for a public library, especially in the face of the concerns of law enforcement. In the end, the decision was a resounding yes. Here was a chance to put into practice the values that we have always espoused. This project allowed us to take a concrete step to further the cause of intellectual freedom not just for our patrons, but for people all over the globe.

Addressing the scary talk of "terrorists and child pornographers," McAndrew points out that "The chilling effect that surveillance has on free inquiry is well documented:"

By advocating for the right to privacy online, librarians are, in fact, continuing the fight for intellectual freedom that they previously displayed when pressured to ban books. If you aren't free to examine and explore ideas, even unpopular or counter-cultural ones, without fear of repercussions, then you can't truly have well-informed opinions. As librarians we believe in the right of every person to educate themselves and to draw their own conclusions without fear of government meddling. Tor helps them do that.

Freedom, after all, depends on a well-informed citizenry who isn't afraid to express itself, whether online or off.

mindfulness BS

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Ronald Purser and Edwin Ng note that "Mindfulness has become a household word," but nonetheless conclude that corporate mindfulness is bullshit:

To consider only the corporate sector: with over $300 billion in losses due to stress-related absences, and nearly $550 billion in losses due to a lack of "employee engagement," it is unsurprising why it has jumped on the mindfulness bandwagon. Such losses in production and efficiency threaten the logic of profit-making. For capitalism to survive, as Nicole Ashoff points out in The New Prophets of Capital, "people must willingly participate in and reproduce its structures and norms," and in times of crisis, "capitalism must draw upon cultural ideas that exist outside of the circuits of profit-making." Mindfulness is one such new cultural idea serving this purpose.

However, those celebrating the mindfulness boom have avoided any serious consideration of why stress is so pervasive in corporations and society.

Critical psychologist David Smail referred to this philosophy as "magical voluntarism," because it blames individuals for their own stress, ignoring the social and economic conditions which may have contributed to it.

The article notes that "secular mindfulness advocates...have largely sidestepped, misrepresented, or summarily dismissed the issues raised in recent critiques, like the now viral article "Beyond McMindfulness:"

Even if corporate mindfulness programs expanded to investigate the causes and conditions of stress and social suffering, would such programs be compatible with the fundamental goals of profit maximization? Wouldn't such programs be viewed as a threat (especially if top talent were exiting the corporation as a result of mindfulness training) and a liability to corporate interests rather than as an asset? [...]

Regardless of whether one is a religiously or secularly oriented practitioner, mindfulness is nothing less than a practice of faith.

As pointed out in "Beyond McMindfulness," the corporatized version of mindfulness has spawned yet another "lucrative cottage industry:"

Uncoupling mindfulness from its ethical and religious Buddhist context is understandable as an expedient move to make such training a viable product on the open market. But the rush to secularize and commodify mindfulness into a marketable technique may be leading to an unfortunate denaturing of this ancient practice, which was intended for far more than relieving a headache, reducing blood pressure, or helping executives become better focused and more productive.

While a stripped-down, secularized technique -- what some critics are now calling "McMindfulness" -- may make it more palatable to the corporate world, decontextualizing mindfulness from its original liberative and transformative purpose, as well as its foundation in social ethics, amounts to a Faustian bargain. Rather than applying mindfulness as a means to awaken individuals and organizations from the unwholesome roots of greed, ill will and delusion, it is usually being refashioned into a banal, therapeutic, self-help technique that can actually reinforce those roots.

Salon notes that "Movement Conservatives [otherwise known as GOP extremists and authoritarians] just claimed the head of House Speaker John Boehner:"

His political death was the price of preventing a catastrophic government shutdown after Movement Conservatives in Congress tied the very survival of the United States government to their determination to defund Planned Parenthood. Movement Conservatives are gunning for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell next. We should be very afraid. Boehner and McConnell are not wild-eyed lefties. They are on the very far right of the American political spectrum: fervently pro-business, antiabortion, opposed to social welfare legislation. But they are old-school politicians who still have faith in the idea of American democracy.

Movement Conservatives do not. They want to blow up the government and remake America according to their own radical ideology.

The piece discusses William F. Buckley, Jr's God and Man at Yale and Eric Hoffer's The True Believer before pointing out that "By the time of the George W. Bush administration, Movement Conservatives controlled the Republican Party, and they abandoned reality in favor of their simple story line."

They are following the same pattern Eric Hoffer identified as the path to authoritarianism. Last week, 43 percent of Republicans polled said they could imagine a scenario in which they would back a military coup. This week, Movement Conservatives in Congress knocked off a conservative speaker because he refused to sacrifice the American government to their demands.

We should be very frightened indeed. If we are not careful, John Boehner's will not be the only head on the block.

H/t to Bisexual Books for linking to this interview with Shiri Eisner, author of Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution. One of her points is the normative effect of "the focus of bi dialogues on so-called myth-busting:"

If we're saying, 'No, we're not confused; no, we're not promiscuous; no, we're not greedy,' then we accept that it's wrong to be confused, it's wrong to be greedy, it's wrong to be promiscuous. And I want to ask, why do we have to work by their rules? Society calls us all of these things because these things are fears. When we're called confused, it's an attempt to create a clear separation between heterosexuality and homosexuality, so there is a clear-cut distinction that doesn't endanger straight people from going over to the "wrong" side of the equation. Or when we're called promiscuous, it's because society fears sexuality outside of heteronormativity, outside of monogamy, outside of marriage, outside of the norm.

This Q&A is especially interesting:

You talk a lot about bisexuals being accused of reinforcing the gender binary. Why are terms like 'pansexual' and 'omnisexual' more acceptable in some queer communities?

There's like an everlasting pariah status to bisexuality that I can't exactly explain. This is partially why I like bisexuality: because it's so difficult for so many people, and I think it says something about bisexuality because difficulty means challenge. For a long time, there has been this current in queer politics and theory ascribing subversive qualities to bisexual behavior, while depicting bisexual identity as problematic. So, words like 'queer' or 'pansexual' enable people to take bisexual behavior without bisexual identity, and suddenly the behavior becomes subversive and political and shiny, while the word remains in the shadows.


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EW mentions HBO's midnight showing tonight:

Although watching the campy, glam-rock-inflected movie in the privacy of one's own home might not pack the same transgressive punch as a participatory screening at the local repertory cinema, there's nothing stopping viewers from inviting their friends over to don some sequins, sing along, and throw toast in the air.

The Atlantic observes that RHPS has become mainstream:

Through its immersive, fan-driven screenings and unadulterated idolatry of weirdness, it's ended up so ingrained in the cultural fabric that networks like HBO and Fox are using the film's 40th anniversary to capitalize on its popularity. Rocky Horror, once an embodiment of all that's transgressive and outside the mainstream, has become the ultimate crowd-pleaser.

As the piece notes, "the appeal wasn't only in the film's content, but the sense of community and way of thinking that came along with its almost-ritualistic conventions."


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Amanda Marcotte looks at conservative hoaxes, lies, and urban legends, and calls them "a major part of modern-day conservatism." These are her examples:

1. Birtherism.

2. Planned Parenthood. ["selling fetal body parts for profit"]

3. Ahmed Mohamed. [slandering a 14-year-old as "Jihad Junior"]

4. Jade Helm.

5. Columbine myth. [that the shooters targeted Christians]

Taking a detailed look at #2 on that list, here are the 5 biggest lies about Planned Parenthood:

1) Abortion comprises most of Planned Parenthood's services

As the Washington Post's Michelle Ye Hee Le writes, "advocates and opponents of abortion rights have calculated somewhere between 15 percent and 37 percent of the organization's annual non-government health services revenue comes from abortion services."

2) The Planned Parenthood videos show a fetus being harvested for its brain

Carly Fiorina's claim that she saw "a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain" is a scene that "never happened in any of the videos Fiorina was mentioning."

3) Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue for profit

4) Defunding Planned Parenthood is a guaranteed way to save taxpayer money [one that "could in fact end up costing the taxpayers money--rather than saving it"]

ThinkProgress' Bryce Covert estimate that Medicaid spending would increase $650 million without the contraceptive services Planned Parenthood provides. And in Texas, where family planning services were cut by $73 million in 2011, it was determined that an additional cost of $273 million in federal Medicaid coverage would be required to make up for getting rid of these expenses in the first place.

5) Planned Parenthood doesn't really help advance women's health

The CBO estimated that 650,000 women across the country would lose partial access to healthcare if the organization were to be defunded, which would lead to more unplanned pregnancies due to less access to birth control.

The conclusion?

The facts show that abortion may be a controversial issue, but Planned Parenthood should not be. No matter your feelings on the issue, keeping Planned Parenthood open is important for women and important for America.

While bemoaning the recent decline of the French intellectual, Sudhir Hazareesingh observes that "One of the most characteristic inventions of modern French culture is the 'intellectual'." He also notes that Jean-Paul Sartre "took the role of the public intellectual to its highest prominence" and praises Sartre's "contrarian spirit" as being "central to the aura which surrounded modern French intellectuals:"

And even though he detested nationalism, Sartre unwittingly contributed to the French sense of greatness through his embodiment of cultural and intellectual eminence, and his effortless superiority. Indeed, Sartre was undoubtedly one of the most famous French figures of the 20th century, and his writings and polemics were ardently followed by cultural elites across the globe, from Buenos Aires to Beirut.

Today's Left Bank is but a pale shadow of this eminent past. Fashion outlets have replaced high theoretical endeavor in Saint-Germain-des-Près. In fact, with very rare exceptions, such as Thomas Piketty's book on capitalism, Paris has ceased to be a major center of innovation in the humanities and social sciences.

Why would this be so?

Arguably the most important reason for the French loss of intellectual dynamism is the growing sense that there has been a major retreat of French power on the global stage, both in its material, "hard" terms and in its cultural "soft" dimensions. In a world dominated politically by the United States, culturally by the dastardly 'Anglo-Saxons," and in Europe by the economic might of Germany, the French are struggling to reinvent themselves.

This tweet from Jeb! Bush is so stunningly obtuse that I struggle to formulate an articulate comment:


Dubya the Decider is literally standing on the graves of Americans who might not have died but for his astounding incompetence...and his dipshit brother has the gall to say "He kept us safe."

I thought Jeb was supposed to be the smart one.

Xenos comments that "what I can't tolerate is how, despite the horrific failure on 9/11, Bush 43, his seemingly equally idiotic brother, and their cretinous conservative comrades, consistently brag about how great the Republican Party is at protecting the country:"

In fact, bizarrely enough, terrorists successfully attacking us on a Republican president's watch somehow proves that terrorists wouldn't dare attack us on a Republican president's watch! It's absolutely maddening.

So far there hasn't been much of a backlash besides the usual lefty blogs and such. As far as I know, no major mainstream news outlet offered much criticism or grilled Jeb about it. In fact, as I was flipping through the channels the day after the debates, some program on CNN that doesn't have Anderson Cooper or Don Lemon as the host played that clip of Jeb, and commented on how the crowd seemed to like that answer and just moved on.

Once again, ladies and gentlemen. Your liberal media.

Demi Lovato dropped some not-so-veiled references to Sapphic leanings while discussing her hit song "Cool for the Summer" on Alan Carr's British talk show Chatty Man:

Alan: I put it to you Miss Lovato, that that song is about lesbianism.

Demi: What?

Alan: Lesbianism.

Demi: I'm not confirming and I'm definitely not denying. All of my songs are based off of personal experiences. I don't think there's anything wrong with experimentation at all.

Alan: No. The trouble is i experimented once and it stuck.

Demi: Hey, I didn't say that it didn't stick either. I didn't say that it didn't stick .

No one should be surprised given the lyrics (to say nothing of the video) for the song in question:

effective altruism

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The literalist in me wants to quibble with the name, but I appreciated Peter Singer's piece in Boston Review on what he calls the "exciting new movement" of effective altruism:

At universities from Oxford to Harvard and the University of Washington, from Bayreuth in Germany to Brisbane in Australia, effective altruism organizations are forming. Effective altruists are engaging in lively discussions on social media and websites, and their ideas are being examined in the New York Times, the Washington Post, and even the Wall Street Journal. Philosophy, and more specifically practical ethics, has played an important role in effective altruism's development, and effective altruism shows that philosophy is returning to its Socratic role of challenging our ideas about what it is to live an ethical life. In doing so, philosophy has demonstrated its ability to transform, sometimes quite dramatically, the lives of those who study it. Moreover, it is a transformation that, I believe, should be welcomed because it makes the world a better place.

"Effective altruism," he explains, "is based on a very simple idea: we should do the most good we can:"

Obeying the usual rules about not stealing, cheating, hurting, and killing is not enough, or at least not enough for those of us who have the good fortune to live in material comfort, who can feed, house, and clothe ourselves and our families and still have money or time to spare. Living a minimally acceptable ethical life involves using a substantial part of our spare resources to make the world a better place.

"Effective altruists, he continues, "do things like the following:" modestly and donating a large part of their income--often much more than the traditional tenth, or tithe--to the most effective charities; researching and discussing with others which charities are the most effective or drawing on research done by other independent evaluators; choosing a career in which they can earn most, not in order to be able to live affluently but so that they can do more good; talking to others, in person or online, about giving, so that the idea of effective altruism will spread; giving part of their body--blood, bone marrow, or even a kidney--to a stranger.

Singer's book The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism Is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically may be worth reading for further examination of this concept.

strength in numbers

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H/t to BoingBoing for linking to this story of a library that shut down its Tor node after a complaint from DHS and the local police:

In July, the Kilton Public Library in Lebanon, New Hampshire, was the first library in the country to become part of the anonymous Web surfing service Tor. The library allowed Tor users around the world to bounce their Internet traffic through the library, thus masking users' locations.

Soon after state authorities received an email about it from an agent at the Department of Homeland Security.

"The Department of Homeland Security got in touch with our Police Department," said Sean Fleming, the library director of the Lebanon Public Libraries.

After a meeting at which local police and city officials discussed how Tor could be exploited by criminals, the library pulled the plug on the project.

Fleming also stressed that "We need to find out what the community thinks:"

"The only groups that have been represented so far are the Police Department and City Hall." [...] "There are other libraries that I've heard that are interested in participating but nobody else wanted to be first," he said. "We're lonesome right now."

Imagine if every public library in the world ran a Tor looks like the good folks at Library Freedom Project are leading the way!

You're an idiot if you're a Republican in 2016, writes Hrafnkell Haraldsson. "Plainly put, [the GOP] base - and their candidate - are batsh*t crazy:"

They have not just one, but over a dozen candidates who think Americans are ready to throw immigrants to the sharks, by deporting them, by erecting a giant wall, or tracking them like FedEx packages. In fact, 65 percent of Americans favor doing something to make these people citizens.

We get Kim Davis, who, for not being allowed to act like a Nazi, says she is being treated like a Jew in Nazi Germany. Nor is hers the craziest utterance on the subject. If your jaw drops, it's okay. You can't make this stuff up.

Well, they've been making up a lot of things:

It isn't facts that inform their thinking. Facts don't enter into it. It is ideology, an ideology which tells them that anything of the political LEFT is not legitimate. Conversely, everything of the right, no matter how illogical, contradictory, or unsupported by facts, must be legitimate.

"Shakespeare could not have written a better tragedy than the one Republicans have created for themselves," he concludes.

Also tragic--although not in a literary sense--is mass ignorance of the radical origins of Labor Day. "Labor Day," writes TPM, "has become almost entirely divorced from its origins and associated instead with one last burst of summer fun before the fall and new school year commence in earnest." After mentioning the 1894 Pullman Strike and the Haymarket riots (May 1886), the piece notes that "the fears of international radicalism that followed, led to President Grover Cleveland's 1887 recognition of a September Labor Day celebration:"

As with every victory achieved by the labor movement (including eight-hour workdays, the weekend, health protections, child labor laws, and numerous other successes), Labor Day would not exist without the movement's more radical and activist elements and efforts. Remembering the holiday's origins can thus help us not only celebrate all that the labor movement has achieved, but also recognize the continued need for radical activism.

One suspects that this very history of accomplishment is the unacknowledged reason for the intense hatred from the crazies in the GOP base (led by ideologues such as Glenn Beck) for Progressives and others on the Left--although their stated reasons are an nonsensical as, well, pretty much everything else that they're so often ranting about.

Chris Hedges pegs militarism as the real enemy in America today, saying, "If you are not dedicated to the destruction of empire and the dismantling of American militarism, then you cannot count yourself as a member of the left:"

There will be no genuine democratic, social, economic or political reform until we destroy our permanent war machine.

Militarists and war profiteers are our greatest enemy.

"The U.S. military and its array of civilian contractors operate as enforcers and hired killers across the globe for corporations," he writes, as "global corporations to expand markets and plunder oil, minerals and other natural resources while keeping subjugated populations impoverished by corrupt and brutal puppet regimes. The masters of war are the scum of the earth." The cost of this is both blood and treasure:

Military expenditures bleed the federal budget--officially--of $598.49 billion a year, or 53.71 percent of all spending. This does not, however, include veterans' benefits at $65.32 billion a year or hidden costs in other budgets that see the military and the war profiteers take as much as $1.6 trillion a year out of the pockets of taxpayers.

Hedges fulminates against the "mythical narrative [that] appeals to our fantasies about ourselves:"

...that we are a virtuous people, that God has blessed us above others, that we have the highest form of civilization, that we have been anointed to police the world and make it safe, that we are the most powerful and righteous nation on earth, that we are always assured of victory, that we have a right to kill in the name of nationalist values--values determined by our naked self-interest and that we conveniently define as universal.

In a twist on the quote often mistakenly attributed to Sinclair Lewis, Hedges concludes:

Here lies the virus of fascism, wrapped in the American flag, held aloft by the Christian cross and buttressed by white supremacy. It is a potent and dangerous force within the body politic. And it is growing. The real enemy is within.

easing back in

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I'm getting a slow start in my return to blogging with this QOTD from The Baffler #28, part of my vacation reading this week:

Fox plays ISIS propaganda with the same intention that ISIS brings to its production: to make Americans feel frightened of and threatened by an organization that actually poses no threat to American freedom or security. Exaggerating the power and reach of ISIS is in the immediate best interests of both the savage terrorist organization and the cynical, right-wing media outlet. The fiction that ISIS--a band of fanatics currently engaged in protracted battles and occupations half a world away from the United States--poses an existential threat to the best-armed nation in the history of the world both burnishes the group's credentials with would-be jihadis and gives weight to Fox's critique of a Democratic president as soft on terror. (In an earlier era, with a Republican in the White House, Fox's on-air news personalities routinely blasted the Arab-language cable outlet Al Jazeera for playing Al Qaeda propaganda videos.)

(Alex Pareene, "Cable News Charnel")

American Prospect argues that there is no slippery slope from same-sex marriage to polygamy:

According to conservatives, those who want to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples cannot explain why it should stop there. At the Supreme Court's oral argument Justice Samuel Alito invoked not only polygamous marriage but also the caring relationship of a brother and sister who reside together. Assuming consent and mutual commitment, why not let them all wed?

Despite recognizing some supportive relationships for legal or medial circumstances, the piece notes:

Such relationships, however, are not marital. The spousal bond includes a sexual dimension that would be deeply destructive if introduced into other familial relations. The distinctive forms of love and care that characterize healthy family relations among parents and children depend on the exclusion of sexual relations.

I still haven't seen a good argument against recognizing poly marriages.

gun control

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Salon isn't making any friends at the NRA with this piece observing that "requiring people to apply for a permit before buying a handgun helped Connecticut quietly reduce its firearm-related homicide rate by 40 percent:"

Connecticut's "permit to purchase" law, in effect for two decades, requires residents to undergo background checks, complete a safety course and apply in-person for a permit before they can buy a handgun. The law applies to both private sellers and licensed gun dealers. [...]

The [Johns Hopkins] study found a 40 percent reduction in gun-related homicides. Bolstering what researchers say is the correlation between the permit law and the drop in gun homicides, there wasn't a similar drop in non-firearm homicides.

Many gun-control measures have broad public support: "72 percent of Americans and 59 percent of gun owners support laws requiring people to get licenses before they can buy a handgun." The study on the "Association Between Connecticut's Permit-to-Purchase Handgun Law and Homicides" concludes the following:

We estimated that the law was associated with a 40% reduction in Connecticut's firearm homicide rates during the first 10 years that the law was in place. By contrast, there was no evidence for a reduction in nonfirearm homicides.

FirstLook's take on future harm from identity theft identifies four-year-old Benjamin Nuss as "one of the nearly 80 million people whose social security number and personal information were compromised in this year's Anthem data breach:"

While it may seem trivial to think about the harm a preschooler will suffer from a data breach, the question is not what happens to him now, but what will happen years from now. Data theft poses an indefinite threat of future harm, as birthdate, full name and social security number remain a skeleton key of identity in many systems.

Benjamin's mother commented that, "With Benjamin, well, we're going to have to watch his information forever." As I've written previously, the financial industry has done a masterful job in passing the buck by turning fraud (the theft of their money) into "identity theft" and thereby making us clean up their messes.


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H/t to Slate's Will Oremus for linking to Bloomberg Businessweek's 38,000-word essay by writer/programmer Paul Ford on "What Is Code?" As Oremus notes, "His prose is a pleasure to read, and sharp little insights abound."

Read the piece on the Web, and you'll encounter even more goodies: clever interactive elements, embedded videos, a little Easter Egg at the end. (Just don't skim too lightly, or an annoying little animated character will harass you about it.) As a work of experimental journalism, it's a wonderful achievement.

With help from Codecademy or Khan Academy, coding could become nearly universal:

I am convinced that anyone who wants to better understand the nature of software should start by simply experiencing it firsthand. To program professionally is hard and requires a lot of experience, but to program recreationally is easy and requires none.

union yes!

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In explaining how unions increase wages, TNR observes that "non-unionized workers earn much less over their lifetimes:"

Teachers who do not belong to unions lose $475,000 of potential income over their careers; transportation workers, $687,000; construction workers, $1,082,000. Those in life, physical, and social sciences come out as the biggest losers, missing out on $1.5 million dollars.

In the words of the Century Foundation's paper "Virtual Labor Organizing" (PDF), "joining a labor union is one of the best financial decisions a worker can make to boost individual and family wealth:"

According to published reports from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), median earnings for a two-income, nonunion family are $400 a week less than that of a union family. Over a lifetime, that adds up to more than a half million dollars in foregone wealth.

Additionally, "a 2007 study found that nearly 60 percent of workers would join a union if they could; yet, that same year, only 12 percent of workers were members of a union." To aid in organizing efforts, the paper recommends the use of "technology [that] would allow workers an easy and efficient means to communicate effectively and safely outside the view of the employer:"

Conducting an organizing campaign quickly and discreetly--until a majority of workers have signed authorization cards-- allows workers to have meaningful conversations about the workplace and the benefits of organizing, without employer threats or anti-union campaigns.

Employers want to maintain the existing power imbalance, and have a financial interest in keeping workers isolated and impoverished; we need thumbs on the scale to even things out.


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Time discusses the new Miley Cyrus project #InstaPride, "a collaboration between Cyrus and Instagram that launches June 15:"

In an effort to boost awareness and acceptance of people across the gender spectrum, Cyrus is using her platform to focus public attention on about a dozen subjects whose portraits will live on Instagram branded with the #InstaPride hashtag.[...]

"Anyone should be able to express how they feel, without question, and be able to live," Cyrus says. "And use the f--ing public restrooms."

AlterNet's Tim Wise points out in mimicry is not solidarity that, rather than acting as an ally, "she opted to simply become black, to speak for and as those others:"

Perhaps it was her way of obtaining the authenticity to which she felt entitled because of her sensibilities, and which she felt had been denied her by those whose approval she sought. [...]

She wasn't willing to pay her dues, to follow the lead of people of color. She didn't want to do the hard and messy work, struggling with other white people and challenging them, which is what SNCC told us white folks to do in 1967, and what Malcolm had already said shortly before his death. She wanted to be done with white people altogether, to immerse herself in blackness, yet, as a white person, she knew she could never do that fully. And so, instead, this.

"We need not pretend to the burdens of others in order to get busy making our whiteness, though still visible, no longer relevant to our place in the world;" he says. Would that she had realized that--or even heeded her parents' injunction to simply tell the truth:

"We taught our children, as we raised all 6 of them, 'Tell the truth. Always be honest.' So we weren't going to lie, we told the truth," Ruthanne said. "Rachel is our birth daughter." [...] The Spokane, Washington chapter of the NAACP was scheduled to meet with Rachel Dolezal on Monday, but that meeting has been postponed.

BuzzFeed talks to her adopted brother, who recounts her plea to him three years ago: "don't blow my cover."

"She just told me, 'Over here, I'm going to be considered black, and I have a black father. Don't blow my cover,'" Ezra Dolezal, 22, told BuzzFeed News in an interview.

Rachel also told him to tell people that he and her other adopted brother were her "blood brothers," he said.

His sister did not offer "any logical explanation" for why she was changing her identity, and Ezra never confronted her about it. But it was the next stage after growing apart from her parents, Ruthanne and Larry Dolezal, and leaving their home in Montana. [...] "She puts dark makeup on her face and says she black," he said. "It's basically blackface," he said.

Why did she do it?

Ezra believes the only reason his sister would change her identity was due to the racism she claimed to have encountered at Howard University, where she graduated with her master's degree in fine art in 2002.

Here's part of her statement of resignation from the NAACP:

I am delighted that so many organizations and individuals have supported and collaborated with the Spokane NAACP under my leadership to grow this branch into one of the healthiest in the nation in 5 short months. In the eye of this current storm, I can see that a separation of family and organizational outcomes is in the best interest of the NAACP.

It is with complete allegiance to the cause of racial and social justice and the NAACP that I step aside from the Presidency and pass the baton to my Vice President, Naima Quarles-Burnley.[...]

Please know I will never stop fighting for human rights and will do everything in my power to help and assist, whether it means stepping up or stepping down, because this is not about me. It's about justice. This is not me quitting; this is a continuum. It's about moving the cause of human rights and the Black Liberation Movement along the continuum from Resistance to Chattel Slavery to Abolition to Defiance of Jim Crow to the building of Black Wall Street to the Civil Rights and Black Power Movement to the #‎BlackLivesMatter movement and into a future of self-determination and empowerment.

Smoking Gun tells the tale of how she h"once sued Howard University for denying her teaching posts and a scholarship because she was a white woman:"

According to a Court of Appeals opinion, Dolezal's lawsuit "claimed discrimination based on race, pregnancy, family responsibilities and gender." She alleged that Smith and other school officials improperly blocked her appointment to a teaching assistant post, rejected her application for a post-graduate instructorship, and denied her scholarship aid while she was a student.

The court opinion also noted that Dolezal claimed that the university's decision to remove some of her artworks from a February 2001 student exhibition was "motivated by a discriminatory purpose to favor African-American students over" her.

Curioser and curioser...

Scott Timberg pessimistically suggests that the US middle class will die with the Baby Boomers:

It's no secret that the American middle class has been on the ropes for a while now. The problem isn't just a crippling recession and an economic "recovery" that has mostly gone to the richest one percent, but the larger shifting of wealth from the middle to the very top that's taken place since the late '70s. [...]

It turns out that those concerned about a tattered middle class are right about most of it, but overlooking one thing: Boomers - or rather, a particular strain of Boomer and near-Boomer - are doing great. That is, if you were born in the '40s, you are going to be the last American generation to enjoy a robust safety net, and your gray years will be far more comfortable than those a decade older or younger.

We don't begrudge these people - our teachers and professors, our older friends, our parents and other relatives - comfort in their gray years.

"But you know what else the original Boomers brought us?" he snarks:

Despite their dabbling with progressivism and hippie utopianism, this group served as the shock troops for market-worshipping neoliberalism and the Reagan-Thatcher shift in the '70s and '80s. They gave us junk bonds and the privatization push and Gordon Gekko. Some of them went into the corporate world and started dismantling.

Let's hope they enjoy their retirements. But these gray Boomers and grayer Silents - not all of them, but enough to do substantial damage - put forces in motion that mean for the rest of us, the twilight years will be significantly less cozy.

In precarity rising, however, Aaron Benanav discusses socialists "insisting that there is nothing fundamentally new in the contemporary condition of the working class:"

If anything, they claim, we are returning to the sort of capitalism that prevailed during the laissez-faire era. Thus, in their view, the old strategies should apply more, not less. [...]

If it can be shown, on the contrary, that the conditions of the working class have radically changed, then we simply cannot re-apply the same inherited political strategies. Instead of justifying a return to old solutions, we will have to find new ones.

He notes that "job insecurity has always been a feature of working life in capitalist societies:"

The news media makes it seem as if new forms of insecurity are about to become the norm in the US, as if the majority of workers were about to end up employed at arm's length in the so-called sharing economy (driving cars for Uber or working as Taskrabbits). The fact is that ostensibly novel forms of precarity - such as working for temp agencies and sub-contracting firms or as dubiously "independent" contractors - affect, as yet, only a small minority of workers.

This so-called 'independence' should be read as "unpredictability," as it gradually leads to "the widespread collapse of workers' bargaining power:"

To what extent do conditions of work and struggle, today, actually mirror those of the Gilded Age? Then, as now, rates of unionization were low and limited to skilled workers. With notable exceptions like the IWW, unions generally ignored the semi-skilled and unskilled. Meanwhile, there was no safety net for workers thrown out of work.

Will history repeat itself, or merely rhyme?

In discussing how left-wing Democrats are finally winning against Wall Street, William Greider sees the trade-deal rebellion as "the start of something far bigger--the revival of the Democratic party as a born-again advocate for working people and economic justice:"

After 25 years of losing out to Wall Street and corporate interests, the party's faithful constituency base managed to take down their Democratic president and his sweetheart deal with the big money. The left-liberal policy groups and grassroots activists agitating for change stood their ground against the power elites and, for once, they triumphed. [...]

Disregard for the party faithful began with Bill Clinton back in 1992. Labor was edged aside. Wall Street replaced it as the senior managing partner of the Democratic coalition. Clinton ran on "Putting People First" but he governed according to the needs of big business and finance. His permissive policies on so-called "free trade" globalization were especially damaging to American workers and middle-class prosperity.

"On the Democratic left, the spirit of reform is resurgent," he says--is hope far behind?

Jeffrey Tayler declares that Scalia is unfit to serve on the Supreme Court:

Sufferers of faith-derangement syndrome (FDS) exhibit the following symptoms: unshakable belief in the veracity of manifest absurdities detailed in ancient texts regarding the origins of the cosmos and life on earth; a determination to disseminate said absurdities in educational institutions and via the media; a propensity to enjoin and even enforce (at times using violence) obedience to regulations stipulated in said ancient texts, regardless of their suitability for contemporary circumstances; the conviction that an invisible, omnipresent, omniscient authority (commonly referred to as "God") directs the course of human and natural events, is vulnerable to propitiation and blandishments, and monitors individual human behavior, including thought processes, with an especially prurient interest in sexual activity.

Secondary symptoms exhibited by sufferers of FDS comprise feelings of righteousness and sensations of displeasure, even outrage, when collocutors question, reject or refute the espousal of said absurdities. Tertiary symptoms, often present among individuals self-classifying as "evangelicals": Duggar-esque hairdos and Tammy Bakker-ian makeup, preternaturally sunny dispositions and pedophiliac tendencies, sartorial ineptitude and obesity.

One incident he examines happened last week during "a commencement speech at an all-girls Catholic High School in Bethesda, Maryland" where he made the declaration that 'Humanity has been around for at least some 5,000 years or so,'" seeming to support a literalist-friendly young-Earth cosmology:

Scalia rejects the fact of evolution - the foundation of modern biology - in favor of the opening chapter of a compendium of cockamamie fables concocted by obscure humans in a particularly dark age, evidence that his faculty of reason has suffered the debilitating impairment associated with acute FDS. He therefore cannot be relied upon to adjudicate without prejudice and should be removed from the bench henceforth.

An interview with Jennifer Senior yielded another incident:

He leaned toward her and whispered, surely with eyes ablaze, "I even believe in the Devil ... he's a real person. Hey, c'mon, that's standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that."

Tayler's assessment is brutal:

You had just committed an outrage against reason, voicing belief in Beelzebub, a comic-book bugaboo the pedophile pulpiteers of your creed have deployed to warp the minds of their credulous "flocks" for two millennia. You had just declared yourself a biblical literalist, and therefore an enemy of historical fact.


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In the rise of the ripped, British journalist Clarissa Sebag-Montefiore reminds us how "past generations [of] men were not expected to be extremely well-muscled:"

A slight stomach or skinny arms were okay. While many men played sports, few went to the gym merely to beef up. Today, however, shifting gender roles and the rise of social media - where everything is recorded and broadcast on smartphones - has led to increasing pressure on men, as well as on women, to look 'perfect'. [...]

Images of this hyper-sexualised, commodified male are everywhere, from Hollywood films to glossy magazines and billboard advertising. British journalist Mark Simpson calls them 'spornosexuals,' men who want to look like sportsmen or porn stars, chiselling their physiques through a cocktail of gym sessions, diets and drugs."

"This is a visual culture for men, by men," she writes, in an unspoken parallel to Cosmo's airbrushed and Photoshopped female figures for an audience of women. The parallel to anorexia is that "Use of anabolic steroids and aggressive fat-strippers can morph into muscle dysmorphia, a disorder in which putting on muscle mass becomes all-consuming:"

One study in the United States, published in the journal Depression and Anxiety in 2010, found that 50 per cent of sufferers surveyed had attempted suicide at least once.

Media outlets such as the Daily Mail and now hold men to the same impossible standards as women. Muscular bodies are praised, and the rich and famous mocked for their 'man boobs'. Celebrities are not the only targets.

"It's hardly surprising then that men's body dissatisfaction tripled from 1972 to 1997," she observes:

"While the Barbie doll's body has been getting thinner and thinner over the years, action figures such as GI Joe have been getting more muscular."

Raphaël Vinot discusses ethics in IT, beginning with the observation that "The network is in terrible shape:"

Stolen identities float around by millions. The private information on your phone and computer is all over the internet in thousands of badly insecure servers -- we call this the cloud. The Internet of Things and infrastructure are often accessible on the public network. Very few people care about fixing it. All that stuff is as boring as the state of the infrastructure in the USA: nobody wants to invest money in it.

Meanwhile, ho notes, "real security...continues to languish:"

All the data leaks and all the computers keep breaking. Instead of working on fixing the infrastructure (also known as the internet in general), our leaders increase the offensive capabilities, because we believe that the best defense is attack.

He issues two complementary calls to action: "Now is the time we in IT need to think about some kind of code of conduct," and "What we need now is to see IT security become a profession:"

Even if we love to think we are the only ones in such a situation, with a lot of very crucial knowledge on a very specific topic, we aren't. Lawyers, doctors, priests, and journalists, for example, have similar requirements. But as those activities are way older than ours, those professionals have had more time to think about this problem. They found solutions, not perfect, but livable for society. Those solutions are in the form of some kind of code of conduct. None of them are perfect but, at least they have ethical codes which can be referenced when everything goes bad.

He wonders whether IT needs its own Hippocratic Oath, which is an idea worth considering.

Bill Curry (White House counselor to President Clinton) opens this piece with Bono's observation about African politics that corruption was "the problem that kept all other problems from ever being solved:"

It was long hoped that the sale of Africa's vast trove of natural resources would generate the investment capital necessary to move its people out of poverty and into the modern age. Instead, the money is siphoned off by corrupt elites who blow it on lavish lifestyles, park it in Swiss banks or invest it in high-end Paris or London real estate. It's the world's most common form of treason and goes largely unpunished.

"We live amidst a global pandemic of corruption," he continues, but "America has not had a full-throated debate of political corruption since Watergate." This explains how Bernie Sanders could win:

Republicans are by nature better at ginning up anger, but lately it's as if they had the patent on it. Progressives were first to oppose the 2008 Wall Street bailout. The first protest was hosted by TrueMajority, a liberal advocacy group founded by Ben Cohen of Ben & Jerry's ice cream fame. But by 2009 Obama owned the bailout and word went out that to attack it would only undercut him. Enter the Tea Party, amidst cries of "crony capitalism," to tap the rich vein of public anger. For the first time, economic populism was the property of conservatives. It was some gift.

Of course, Republicans don't really want to fix the government; they want to kill it. The only corruption they really oppose is when some business that gave to Obama gets a federal contract. But they do have a nose for the issue. And since the decline of the religious right they've been looking hard for other hornets' nests to poke.

"The only way to put ethics where it belongs, at the center of the political debate," Curry concludes, "is for progressives to mount a full-bore, grass-roots anti-corruption campaign." Sanders might just be the person to do it.

Salon discusses the end of civilization via the work of Peruvian Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa. His book Notes on the Death of Culture: Essays on Spectacle and Society is due out in August, and consists of "a melange of recent writings, transcripts of speeches and short critical pieces published as long ago as the mid-1990s:"

Vargas Llosa lands several palpable hits, and who can deny that our culture -- from appalling reality TV shows to those ubiquitous "From Around the Web" links -- seems to be getting worse and worse? Of course we have the vague impression that people have always complained about their times, but that doesn't mean culture hasn't be rotting for ages. Maybe it's all been one long downward slide since time immemorial?

This sentiment has a name: declinism. And it has a history, a scholarly one that amounts to much more than the perennial grousing of adults about kids these days. The notion of studying how things go to hell is almost exactly as old as the modern practice of historiography, and begins (let's say) with Edward Gibbon's seminal masterpiece, "The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

Salon goes on to mention the early twentieth-century's pessimistic perspective, as epitomized by Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West. "If by 'culture,' we mean a shared method for deciding and appreciating humanity's best creations," the piece continues, "then Vargas Llosa may be right to declare its death:"

Unlike Vargas Llosa, I think the unstable combination of audience and artwork can spark transcendence in the unlikeliest places -- one man's trifling entertainment is another man's revelation. But if culture is something we can all believe in together, then, yup, that's gone.

This fracturing of culture into shards of audiences was prefigured in Spengler's era, as explained in Dada, capitalism, and rebellion:

With art now in the public eye for the colossal sums fetched at auctions, maybe it's time to recall the subversive force of Dada, for which the price is never right. [...] forget the quixotic dream of a renegade gunman duking it out with The Man against all odds. In the belly of the beast, the survivors are those who escape notice, or figure out how to make the notice they get leave them time to slip off into the dark unseen. Now that's something we can learn from the admen, the madmen, of Cabaret Voltaire.

Rachel Dolezal "sent a message to NAACP members saying she would address the situation at a Monday night meeting of the group:"

"As you probably know by now, there are questions and assumptions swirling in national and global news about my family, my race, my credibility, and the NAACP," Dolezal's message said. "I have discussed the situation, including personal matters, with the Executive Committee.

"I support their decision to wait until Monday to make a statement. The Executive team asked that I also release my response statement at the same time, which will be during the 7-9 p.m. monthly membership meeting." [...]

On Thursday, she avoided answering questions directly about her race and ethnicity in an interview with The Spokesman-Review newspaper. "That question is not as easy as it seems," she said. "There's a lot of complexities ... and I don't know that everyone would understand that."

Her truism that "We're all from the African continent," falls quite flat in this instance.

In speculating about Dolezal's psychology and invented persecution, Patrick Blanchfield asks, "Why would a person co-opt a position of marginalization and victimization in such a highly visible, risky, and outrageous way? What type of brokenness, misguidedness, illness, or malice inside a person would lead them them to do such a thing?"

Her case suggests more than just a deep-seated problem, something more than just a highly narcissistic form of histrionic personal disorder, or an unhealthy need for obsession and approval.

Dolezal gives us stories replete with images of grotesque violence: beatings and whippings. Like slavery. Like torture. These are highly choreographed, ritualized sadomasochistic scenes, and to psychotherapists, they're nothing new.

The key point is this:

Dolezal may get to wear her blackness like an outfit she can take on and off--even if she never actually does discard it, even if she truly does believe that she is black. But actual black Americans will never get that option.

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