Monday, October 22, 2012
Sunday, August 12, 2012
The right wing has understood this for a long time. The left has but slowly and recently become aware of it. But this November the choice of values is sharp and clear.
Mitt Romney has chosen Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan for his running mate. Ryan is best know as the author of the Ryan Budget. This budget deprives the poor of medicaid and food stamps, the elderly of medicare and social security, and in general cuts funding to all forms of aid for poor and middle class Americans, apparently for the sole purpose of giving more tax cuts to the super wealthy.
As Robert Reich explains,
Ryan’s views are crystallized in the budget he produced for House Republicans last March as chairman of the House Budget committee. That budget would cut $3.3 trillion from low-income programs over the next decade. The biggest cuts would be in Medicaid, which provides healthcare for the nation’s poor – forcing states to drop coverage for an estimated 14 million to 28 million low-income people, according to the non-partisan Center for Budget and Policy Priorities.
Ryan’s budget would also reduce food stamps for poor families by 17 percent ($135 billion) over the decade, leading to a significant increase in hunger – particularly among children. It would also reduce housing assistance, job training, and Pell grants for college tuition.
In all, 62 percent of the budget cuts proposed by Ryan would come from low-income programs.
The Ryan plan would also turn Medicare into vouchers whose value won’t possibly keep up with rising health-care costs – thereby shifting those costs on to seniors.
At the same time, Ryan would provide a substantial tax cut to the very rich – who are already taking home an almost unprecedented share of the nation’s total income. Today’s 400 richest Americans have more wealth than the bottom 150 million of us put together.
We are , then, presented, first and foremost, with a choice of what we want government to be. Should government work to improve the lives of its citizens, to provide for our basic needs, to help build community, to educate, enlighten, and strengthen civil society, or should government be used as a tool to aid and abet the wealthy few as they hoard more and more of the economic pie?
If you appreciate government roads, public parks, libraries, and rules and regulations that protect you from shady business practices, if you think education is a right and that our schools should be well funded, if you think the elderly are entitled to basic health care, and the unemployed and starving help for their basic needs, then you must vote against Paul Ryan.
Ryan sees the government as a tool to be crafted for the good of rich men like himself. If we stand against that, if we really think government ought to be used to help all people and build a strong and healthy society, then we are morally obligated to cast a vote against Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney this election day.
Should someone be inclined to believe Ryan's claim that his goal is to reduce the deficit, the New Yorker Magazine quickly kills that myth:
Ryan was a reliable Republican vote for policies that were key in causing enormous federal budget deficits: sweeping tax cuts, a costly prescription-drug entitlement for Medicare, two wars, the multibillion-dollar bank-bailout legislation known as TARP. In all, five trillion dollars was added to the national debt
In other words, Ryan's budget has nothing to do with reducing the deficit. It would not do so in any case. The best way to reduce the deficit would be large cuts to military spending and big tax hikes on the super wealthy. Ryan directly opposes both. His real goal, therefore, is crystal clear: helping the filthy rick hoard even more wealth.
The role of government, however, is not the only value forced to the forefront by the Ryan pick.
If we believe that women have the right to determine their own reproductive choices, if we believe that they are fully equal with and entitled to the same dignity as men, then we cannot, in good conscience, vote for Paul Ryan. Mr. Ryan is steadfastly for that set of policies and positions that some call "the war on women." If Ryan had his way employers would be free to refuse women coverage for their birth control on the flimsy and bogus grounds of "religious freedom," and states could force women to have trans-vaginal ultrasounds.
Finally, Paul Ryan is a poster boy for those who refuse to see gays and lesbians as equal to those who are straight. Not only does Ryan oppose same-sex marriage, he opposes allowing gay people to adopt, voted to keep "Don't ask, Don't tell," and refused to support anti-hate crime legislation. Those of us who support our homosexual fellows and their full equal rights and dignity must oppose this man.
There are other issues that are just as morally disturbing: From his "A" NRA rating on guns - which in light of recent shootings in Colorado and in Ryan's home State of Wisconsin, is particularly perverse -, to his desire to arrest women who have abortions; from his desire to repeal "Obama-Care," to his strong support for Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's destruction of that State's unions, there is scarcely any position held by this Social Darwinist that does not demand that we respond by stating our moral convictions with our vote.
The choice is clear. If you believe government should ensure a fair playing field and a basic standard of living for all, if you believe gay and lesbian people and the love they have for each other should be respected, if you believe that women are human beings with full dignity who have every right to control their reproductive faculties, then you are morally obligated to vote against the Romney/Ryan ticket, and, therefore, to vote for Obama,
If, on the other, hand you are going to vote for Romney and Ryan, then admit to your moral positions. When you vote for them, you vote for a government that exists to make the richer richer at the expense of every one else. A vote for this GOP ticket is a vote that says that women are not really equal to men, that gays and lesbians are sinful and bad, and that people do not have a right to health care, social security, or basic aid when they fall upon hard times.
That is the choice. It is a moral decision.
Monday, July 16, 2012
Anyone who has actually read the Bible knows this is simply not true. The Bible contains every manner of human error. We know that not all of its stories are historical, that knowledge of science does not inform its pages, and that it frequently assumes a tribal and primitive morality that we cannot even begin to find inspiring.
This knowledge, unfortunately, leads some to reject the Bible as a horrid product. Such readers love to debunk and ridicule the Scriptures, pointing with glee to troubling or historically mistaken passages. They are correct that these passages exist, but they too beg the question on what the Bible is and how we should read it.
The problem is that both sets of readers assume that the Bible is either a divinely authored and error free text, or it is pure rubbish. This dilemma is, I suggest, a false one.
The way out of this false dilemma is to understand what the Bible actually is. The Bible is a fully human collection of texts. These texts were written, edited, collected, and canonized, copied and re-copied over centuries. They contain every human error one would expect from so broad and wide a collection of ancient literature. It might help if we ceased to speak of "the Bible" and instead spoke of "the scriptures." This is, after all, a collection of widely different texts from very different authors, in different times.
Far from undermining the Bible however, such an understanding of what it is should enrich our appreciation of it. Were we to believe that God truly authored the texts, we would have to face troubling events, slaying the first born of Egypt, commanding genocide against the Amalekites, stoning twig gathers on the Sabbath, striking Onan dead for the withdrawal method, and so forth. Unless you are willing to look into the face of your firstborn son - and I know I'm not - and think that such a being could deserve God's wrath because of the decision of your nation's leaders, or that God could command that your child be killed just so his "chosen people" could have their promise land, then you simply cannot be a Biblical literalist.
Seen as an ancient human product, on the other hand, we can appreciate the gradual transformation of Yahweh, a tribal war god, into the one universal God of mercy, justice and Compassion. For make no mistake, taken as a literary work, we can follow the Biblical Character of God from his origins as a fiery, vengeful deity who plays favorites (just read the book Judges or 1 and 2 Samuel) to the loving Father in Heaven who teaches Jonah the value of mercy. That transformation is a splendid and inspiring one. There were lot's of little war lord tribal gods, I can think of no other that transformed in to a loving God of universal justice.
Casting our gaze downward from Heaven to the Earth, we find that the Bible is a story of conflict. On the one hand stand the Kings of Israel and Judah. Again and again these Kings, and the elites who serve them, attempt to lord it over the "regular folks," to take their lands, their spouses, even their very lives; to become little dictators in the promised land. But again and again the prophets speak out to condemn them. Pleading for justice, making the case for the widow, the orphan, the resident alien, the poor, and the downtrodden, the prophets consistently equate God with justice and fair play, and religion with treating others, particularly the weak and marginalized, with respect, compassion, and concern.Whether it is the prophet Nathan damning King David for the murder of Uriah the Hittite (not to mention adultery with Uriah's wife!), Elijah defending the commoner Naboath against King Ahab's seizure of the former's vineyard, or Amos crying out to let "justice flow like water," there is simply nothing like the passion of the prophets for justice, equality, and fair play in all of ancient religious literature.
So read the Bible as a flawed, sometimes horrible, human creation. That is, after all, what it is. But in that realization the very power of "the good book" can hit home. A ethic of "the chosen people" turned into a universal ethic of compassion and justice for all people; a petty and jealous tribal god transformed into a loving creator wishing for all to receive justice, mercy, and blessings.
That is something truly inspiration, truly spiritual, and truly astounding, and - just perhaps - truly divine.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
The 17th century rationalist philosopher Baruch Spinoza is not usually regarded as a spiritual or religious thinker. On the surface this fact is odd. Spinoza writes of "God" so frequently that the romantic poet Novalis dubbed him "that God intoxicated man." But Spinoza's God is not the divine lawgiver and potentate of traditional western theism.
For Spinoza God is the infinite and eternal substance of which all finite things are but temporary expressions. His God is not person-like, not a law-giver nor a judge of human actions. Furthermore, his God did not create a world out of free will. For Spinoza the world is nothing more than the totality of all of God's necessary self-expressions. In fact, Spinoza goes so far as to identify God with nature itself - at least with nature understood as the active and creative power that is "reality as a whole", though not simply with the total collection of things in the world. Because of this, many have claimed that Spinoza's non-personal and absolutely non-supernatural God is really no God at all. This deity surely could never inspire us to dance, pray, love, or die for it.
And yet, there is much in Spinoza's writing to suggest that he is filled with a profound personal piety and deep spirituality toward his God. In part five his masterpiece the Ethics Spinoza argues that the ultimate fulfillment of human life is the love of God. This love fills the mind with peace, calm, and serenity. The greatest joy we can know comes from knowing God and loving God.
Commentators as diverse as the Catholic Father Copplestone and the atheist Steven Nadler have claimed that we can't take Spinoza's words too seriously here. All he really means, they argue, is that we should have an awe and appreciation of the rationality and order of nature. Spinoza, so they say, means by love "nothing more" than the joy that comes from understanding the natural world; he is not speaking about a personal relationship with a heavenly Father.
They are right of course. Spinoza does think of loving God solely in terms of understanding and appreciating the workings of the natural world. He says as much, "He who clearly ... understands himself an his emotions loves God, and so much more in proportion as he more understands himself and his emotions." (E5P15) I must confess, however, that I fail to see why this disqualifies Spinoza's thought as spiritual.
It is certainly true that Spinoza's God is not the God of popular level Judaism and Christianity. It is also true, therefore, that Spinoza's understanding of "spirituality" cannot mean love for a person-like supernatural being who can love me back in the same fashion (indeed, Spinoza specifically says that God cannot love me in any human fashion (EVP18-P19)). But are we really going to insist that spirituality and even religion must be restricted to a relationship with a supernatural and person-like being? If so, then I fear we will have to qualify a great many Buddhists, Taoists, and even many Western mystics from our definition.
Spinoza is spiritual in the sense that Carl Sagan understood that term. In Sagan's words:
When we recognize our place in an immensity of light‐years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual.Albert Einstein expressed much the same sentiment when he claimed that:
"The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation. His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection."This captures Spinoza's attitude perfectly. Awe, humility, reverence and deep appreciation. These are the only conceivable feelings in one who has grasped the order, unity, and sheer rationality of reality itself. Furthermore, when we understand that we are are one with reality, a finite and temporary expression of that infinite and eternal power and process, we cannot help but rejoice in that. If such emotions are not spiritual, if such attitudes are not religious, then I have no idea whatsoever what they are.
Appreciation of reality as a whole, joy in understanding our place in and unity with it, humble love for the power and awesome order of it: this is the heart of Spinozoan Spirituality. But it is not the whole of it.
In his Theological-Political Treatise Spinoza carefully argues that the truths of traditional religions are not ontological or historical, but moral. Religion is true to the extent, and only to the extent, that it teaches justice and charity. A religion that encourages a society where all are treated fairly, where everyone has a decent standard of living, and every person shows compassion to those in need is a true religion. A religion that teaches and preaches the opposite of these is a false one.
For traditional Judaism and Christianity this moral imperative derives from being children of God. We love each other as God loves us. Spinoza would not put it that way. For him justice and charity arises out of recognition of the deep unity and interconnection of all things as expressions of one and the same underlying infinite and eternal power. Furthermore, it is our powerful connection to one another, our being "like each other" that compels us to be good to one another.
This connection with each other, this connection with reality, this moral imperative to care for one another and treat each other with justice, charity, and compassion is the expression of true religion in actions, just as awe, humility, reverence, and joy are the expressions of true religion regarding that infinite and eternal ground of being. In both these senses, Spinoza is a deeply spiritual and truly religious man.
In our time when the conventional forms of our religions no longer satisfy many, perhaps the spirituality of Spinoza can speak to us. The alternative to traditional Western spirituality and religion need not be the secular atheism of Camus and Sartre. Unlike such emotionally unfulfilling existentialism, Spinoza's brand of naturalism has a great deal to offer us.
Samuel Beckett would have us believe that we are waiting for a Godot who will never arrive, searching for a meaning that simply is not there. Baruch Spinoza claims, on the other hand, that Godot is not what we thought, and meaning is not where we thought it was. We don't need to accept the tedium and meaninglessness of godless and horrid existence. On the contrary, we need to reconsider what God, meaning, and existence are.
Monday, April 2, 2012
Then they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, "Is it not written, 'My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations'? But you have made it a den of robbers. (11: 15-17)
Tuesday, March 27, 2012
The assumption that these mother's make is that whether or not they choose to vaccinate their children is their decision alone. The possible health risks to unvaccinated, at risk groups are irrelevant - in their minds - to that decision. They either refuse to believe that there are such risks, or refuse to believe that they have a responsibility to take these risks into account. Thinking in terms of the individual apart from the community, these mothers insist that their responsibility is to themselves and their children alone; others are, presumably, responsible solely for themselves in the same manner.
The Public health official protests that when we affect the community, we cannot help but affect ourselves. If we introduce illness into our society, our own risk of illness increases as well. If we don't help take care of each other, we cannot even take care of ourselves.
The second discussion I heard today on NPR. The Supreme court is currently discussing the Constitutionality of "Obamacare." Specifically, the court is hearing arguments to rule on whether the individual mandate - which requires Americans to buy insurance or pay a fee - is permissible according to the Constitution. Whatever the fate of that particular position, some of the arguments against it put forward by the conservative Justices have a particular flavor. Listen to the following:
NPR: Health Care Mandate before Supreme Court
NPR: For and Against the Health Care Mandate
Just as the mothers did in the first clip, the Justices appeal to the individual first and foremost. The claim is that we cannot require this or that individual to "bear the costs" of other individuals, and that to do so eliminates (or at least greatly diminishes) their freedom of choice.
The opposition to these Justices argues in much the same vein as the Public Health Official in the Vaccine discussion did. Health care decisions never affect me solely as an individual, what happens to me directly affects what happens to others. If I don't get health insurance, and I am rushed to the ER for a heart attack, the hospital must treat me. When I can't pay, they must raise prices, insurance responds by raising premiums, and State Governments by raising taxes. To think of health insurance as nothing but an individual choice without any communal impact is not only naive, but entirely fails to consider the facts.
Behind the reaction of both the Justices and the mothers is the myth of the self-made individual. The myth holds, in spite of common sense, that whatever happens to me in life is the result primarily (perhaps even solely) of my own effort and achievement. If I get sick, that's my fault. If I'm not rich, I did not work hard enough. If I lose my home, can't afford chemotherapy, or find myself buried in debt, then I have no one to blame but me. Even worse, this myth seems clearly to advocate the position that the responsibility I have to others is negative; that is, I must not steal from them, murder them, or physically assault them, but I owe them nothing more than that.
The myth of the self-made individual is sheer nonsense.
We all owe a great debt to others for who we are and what we have achieved. We were taught to walk, talk, and even use the toilet by parents (or some caretaker). We were taught to read, write, and do arithmetic by teachers. Our character, personality, loves, likes, hates, preferences, values, and even our talents, are shaped to large degree by coaches, employers, coworkers, teammates, friends, lovers, and even casual acquaintanceships.
We are who we are because we are related to and interconnected with other people, other members of our communities.
But it's more than that. We are not little islands roving about an vast expanse of sea. What we do affects our society, and that society affects us. If we support policies that cut funding to education, cut aid to those living in poverty, dump people into prison for non-violent crimes, and fail to acknowledge the divisions of race and class that rip our society asunder, then we will be hurt by living in a less content, more violent, and less cooperative society. What we do or fail to do for our society, we do or fail to do for ourselves.
In economics the myth of the self-made individual is all too well known. Many of the super rich and their supporters argue that they must not be taxed at higher rates than the rest of us. They claim that to do so is nothing short of stealing what they rightly own.
Behind this idea is the assumption that wealthy people are solely responsible for their wealth. The help and assistance that they have received from others is marginal and negligible. They see themselves as "self-made" heroes whose hard work and intelligence has earned them their success.
The fact that many of these so-called "self-made" individuals were born wealthy, received government loans, grants, and other funding, use public roads, rely on employees who are publicly educated, depend on consumer protection laws, police, fire fighters, and other public services is not taken into account.
Furthermore, that how much money one earns depends on arbitrary factors - like being born with certain natural talents rather than others, being born in a time period in which one's talents pay off, and having one's talents, somewhat randomly favored by society - is never recognized by these self-professed heroes and their allies.
That a professional athlete, or a hedge fund manager, is paid so much more than an elementary school teacher, or a nurse, is simply a matter of the way society structures its economy; not a result of how hard these individuals work, or the result of some moral worth or inherent greatness that they posses.
We have to start thinking of ourselves as related to others, not merely encountering them like passing ships in the night. We are a community, not a collection of atomistic egos. What we do or fail to do for the broader society, we do or fail to do for ourselves.
Friday, March 23, 2012
On the evening of February 26, Trayvon Martin—an unarmed 17-year-old African American student—was confronted, shot, and killed near his home by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman has not been charged with a crime. Since Martin's death and the revelation of more details, the case has drawn national outcry and sparked hot debate over racial tensions, vigilantism, police practices, and gun laws.
What happened to Trayvon?
Martin, a Miami native, was visiting his father in Sanford and watching the NBA All-Star game at a house in a gated Sanford community, the Retreat at Twin Lakes. At halftime, Martin walked out to the nearby 7-Eleven  to get some Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea. On his return trip, he drew the attention of Zimmerman, who was patrolling the neighborhood in a sport-utility vehicle and called 911 to report "a real suspicious guy."
After discussing his location with the dispatcher, Zimmerman exclaimed, "Shit he's running," and the following sounds suggest he left his vehicle to run after Martin."This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something," Zimmerman told the dispatcher. "It's raining, and he's just walking around looking about." The man tried to explain where he was. "Now he's coming towards me. He's got his hand in his waistband. And he's a black male...Something's wrong with him. Yup, he's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is...These assholes, they always get away."
"Are you following him?" the dispatcher asked. Zimmerman replied: "Yep."
"Okay, we don't need you to do that," the dispatcher warned.
Several minutes later, according to other callers to 911 in the neighborhood, Zimmerman and Martin got into a wrestling match on the ground. One of the pair could be heard screaming for help. Then a single shot rang out, and Martin lay dead.
Are the 911 recordings available to the public?
Yes. After public pressure, the city of Sanford played the tapes for Martin's family, then released the audio recordings. Here are some excerpts. You can also read a full transcript of George Zimmerman's initial police call here, along with an examination of whether he used a racial epithet, as some listeners have suggested.
What happened to the shooter?
So far, not much. Zimmerman told police he'd acted in self-defense. ABC News reports  that he had wanted to be a police officer, and Sanford police didn't test him for drugs or alcohol after the shooting (such tests are standard practice in homicide investigations). He was licensed to carry his gun, and police initially told Martin's father  that they hadn't pressed charges because Zimmerman was a criminal justice student with a "squeaky clean" record.
That wasn't entirely true, however; in 2005, Zimmerman was arrested for "resisting arrest with violence and battery on a law enforcement officer"; those charges were dropped. Media investigations and Martin family attorneys suggest  that Zimmerman was a vigilante with "a false sense of authority" in search of young black men in his neighborhood. Police records show Zimmerman had called 911 a total of 46 times  between Jan. 1 and the day he shot Martin. (Florida guidelines for licensed gun owners  state: "A license to carry a concealed weapon does not make you a free-lance policeman.")
How are Florida's self-defense and "stand your ground" laws key to this case?
Zimmerman may have benefited from some of the broadest firearms and self-defense regulations in the nation. In 1987, then-Gov. Bob Martinez (R) signed Florida's concealed-carry provision into law, which "liberalized the restrictions that previously hindered the citizens of Florida from obtaining concealed weapons permits," according to one legal analyst. This trendsetting "shall-issue " statute triggered a wave  of gun-carry laws in other states. (Critics said at the time  that Florida would become "Dodge City.") Permit holders are also exempted from the mandatory state waiting period  on handgun purchases.
Even though felons and other violent offenders are barred from getting a weapons permit, a 2007 investigation by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel found that licenses had been mistakenly issued to 1,400 felons and hundreds more applicants with warrants, domestic abuse injunctions, or gun violations. (More than 410,000 Floridians have been issued concealed weapons permits.) Since then, Florida also passed a law  permitting residents to keep guns in their cars at work, against employers' wishes. The state also nearly allowed guns on college campuses last year, until an influential Republican lawmaker fought the bill  after his close friend's daughter was killed by an AK-47 brandished at a Florida State University fraternity party.
Florida also makes it easy to plead self-defense in a killing. Under then-Gov. Jeb Bush, the state in 2005 passed a broad "stand your ground " law, which allows Florida residents to use deadly force against a threat without attempting to back down from the situation. (More stringent self-defense laws state that gun owners have "a duty to retreat" before resorting to killing.) In championing the law, former NRA president and longtime Florida gun lobbyist Marion Hammer said : "Through time, in this country, what I like to call bleeding-heart criminal coddlers want you to give a criminal an even break, so that when you're attacked, you're supposed to turn around and run, rather than standing your ground and protecting yourself and your family and your property."
As Melissa Harris-Perry has noted this kind of tragic killing of young black men is all too common. And sadly, it is almost equally as common that their killers go unpunished. This is simply intolerable. We have to take a stand and stop this. Let's make the world a more just place, let's fight to end tragedies like that of Trayvon Martion
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Since 1980, average tuition for a 4-year college education has increased an astounding 827%. Since 1999, average student loan debt has increased by a shameful 511%.
In 2010, total outstanding student loan debt exceeded total outstanding credit card debt in America for the first time ever. In 2012, total outstanding student loan debt is expected to exceed $1 Trillion.
In short, student loan debt has become the latest financial crisis in America and, if we do absolutely nothing, the entire economy will eventually come crashing down again, just as it did when the housing bubble popped. Reasonable minds can disagree as to the solutions, they cannot, however, disagree on the existence of this ever-growing crisis, as well as the unsustainable course we're on towards financial oblivion.
As a result of more than 30 years of treating higher education as an individual commodity, rather than a public good and an investment in our collective future, those burie d under the weight of their student loan debt are not buying homes or cars, not starting businesses or families, and they're not investing, inventing, innovating or otherwise engaged in any of the economically stimulative activities that we need all Americans to be engaged in if we're ever to dig ourselves out of the giant hole created by the greed of those at the very top.
Now for the good news: there's finally hope on the horizon! Representative Hansen Clarke of Michigan has just introduced H.R. 4170, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, in the House of Representatives - legislation designed to lend a helping hand to those struggling under massive amounts of student loan debt.
For a brief summary of H.R. 4170's main provisions, please copy & paste this URL into your browser: http://tinyurl.com/7akydbk
To read the full version of the actual bill itself, please go here: http://tinyurl.com/6txure8
To read answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, please go here: http://tinyurl.com/8xh4csd
Student loan debt has an undeniable and significant suppressive effect on economic growth. The Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 directly addresses this enormous boot on the neck of the middle class and represents a glimmer of hope for millions of Americans who, with each passing day, find that the American Dream is more and more out of reach.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, respectfully request that Congress bring H.R. 4170, the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012, up for consideration and commit to holding a straight, up-or-down vote on it this year. Thereafter, we, the undersigned, respectfully request that President Obama sign this legislation into law.
That's why I signed a petition to Rep. John Kline (MN-2), The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which says:
"Total outstanding student loan debt in America is expected to exceed $1 TRILLION this year. Millions of hardworking, taxpaying, educated Americans are being crushed under the weight of their educational debts, while the economy continues to sputter. Support a REAL economic stimulus and jobs plan. Support the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012 (H.R. 4170)."
Will you sign the petition too? Click here to add your name:
Sunday, March 11, 2012
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
The victories of the women's movement have caused many to question whether it is still needed. So great is the skepticism for its continued role that "feminism" has become a dirty word. Feminist are generally portrayed and ridiculed as "man haters," "feminazis," and "ideologues." This is an unfortunate and inaccurate caricature.
A feminist is committed to the following three claims: 1) women and men ought to be moral, political, social, and economic equals, 2) societal perspectives, institutions, and power structures have and continue to prevent full equality of men and women, at the expense of women (patriarchy), and, 3) justice requires that we work to change the patriarchal systems that place women in a position below men. Other than a broad commitment to justice for all people and activism to ensure it, one need believe nothing in addition to these three claims to be a feminist. When that is understood, can anyone not say that feminism is correct? Bell Hooks is right "feminism is for everybody."
Recent events make it all the more necessary for those of us who truly believe in working for a world in which men and women are really equal. The time has come to proudly reclaim the feminist label.
Some extremists on the right wing of the political divide are waging a kind of war on the rights and dignity of women. Angry Catholic Bishops shout out that they will not pay for birth control. All male panels testify to congress about their "religious freedom" - the freedom to refuse to cover women's family planning!. Republicans in a number of states attempt to force pregnant women to undergo a transvaginal ultra-sound if they want an abortion; even if the woman was raped!
If all this were not bad enough, when women and those of us who love them protest these draconian measures as disregarding women's rights, we have people respond that women should just put aspirin between their knees like the good old days! Meaning, sadly, that if women don't want to get pregnant they should just never have sex. Even worse, some clueless pundits, with more contempt for women than brains, claim that transvaginal ultra-sounds cannot be invasive since "they had no problem having similar to a trans-vaginal procedure when they engaged in the act that resulted in their pregnancy."
This is all familiar right wing moral fanaticism. It's nothing more than a way of attempting to control women by implying that they are "sluts" and "deserve it" if they have an unwanted pregnancy. It's nonsense. But the fact that so many still think and speak this way is proof that feminism is very much still needed.
But what of those who reject the puritanical moralism of the right? What of those who fancy themselves free, open, and non-censorious about sexual mores? Unfortunately many of these types are no better. Not only is there a massive market for Internet porn that overwhelming portrays women as violently dominated by men but "shock jocks" like Howard Stern, whose entire career is almost nothing but demeaning and insulting women, are more popular than ever.
To take a very recent example, Stern spent a large segment of an interview with Adam Levine, trying to figure out why Christina Aguilera has gained weight. He lamented the fact that she was no longer "hot" and called her "plus sized," clearly repulsed by the Cuvier-than-before pop star. Aguilera is a beautiful and talented woman, and it serves Stern's misogynistic purposes to try and put her down so crudely ... not to mention the ongoing image problems and eating disorders among women that he and his brood revel in.
The moral of the story is simple. We do not live in a world where women are fully equal with men. We should, but we don't. Patriarchy is working, much more overtly recently, not only to keep women down, but to push them back.
The women's movement must fight on!
Sunday, February 19, 2012
Friday, February 10, 2012
Phlebotomy, or bloodletting, is the longest-running tradition in medicine. It originated in the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Greece, persisted through the Medieval, Renaissance, and Enlightenment periods, flourished in Arabic and Indian medicine, and lasted through the second Industrial Revolution. The practice continued for 2,500 years until it was replaced by the techniques of modern medicine. Doctors bled patients for every ailment imaginable. They bled for pneumonia and fevers, back pain and rheumatism, headaches and melancholia; even to treat bone fractures and other wounds. Yet there never was any evidence that phlebotomy did any good.