Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Feminism is not a dirty word

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!

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Sunday, February 19, 2012

Sign the Petition to overturn Citizens United

Sign the Petition

Click on the image above to go to the petition and sign it. Watch the video of Sen Sanders below if you are not sure why you should

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Friday, February 10, 2012

The Truth about Unions and Their enemies

Please watch the following Episode of Fault Lines in order to understand. 1) What Unions are, 2) How they are being threatened, and 3) Why we have to fight for them:

Milwaukee is featured prominently in this episode. I lived in Milwaukee for 7 years and I've taught there for 8. It is, as the above video notes, the 4th poorest city in the country and the second most segregated city as well. Living and working in Milwaukee I can tell you first had, the policies that have been destroying this nation for over 30 years now are on full display in all their horror in Milwaukee Wisconsin.

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Bloodletting, Snake Oil, and Tax Cuts

A word about the long abandoned but even longer widely used medical treatment of Bloodletting.

According to the PBS documentary Red Gold
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.
You get the idea, a medical practice that no one had any reason to believe worked was frequently employed anyway. In fact, as everyone now knows, bleeding a sick person harms them.

It seems clear now that Republican elected officials, party leaders, and pundits are modern day Bloodletters. Even worse, given the financial meltdown of 2008, they are rather like some professional Bloodletter plying his trade after the discovery of vaccines and antibiotics!

Republican elected officials and pundits continue to argue that the economy can be fixed and jobs created only if we cut taxes further and deregulate markets and banks more. If we do so, they claim, the wealth will trickle down making us all well-off, employed, and living the good life.

This is nothing new. The "prosperity gospel" has been the official doctrine of the right wing since the mid 1970s. What I find perplexing about this dogma, however, is that such policies have been enacted - with barely a pause or a counter policy - for 35 years. Tax cuts have never created jobs (even in the Reagan era jobs were only created by Tax raises) and never boosted the economy.

The wealth has not trickled down. In fact, as all data shows only the super rich (the 1%) have benefited from these policies. The rest of us have lost our homes and our retirements, seen our health care costs soar, our policies cover less, our personal debt explode, and our incomes stagnate or even decrease. Don't believe me? Just look at the following chart:

If you still have doubts, read the information on income inequality gathered here and here. The data is absolutely clear and perfectly comprehensible: The rich gain, everyone else loses. The most dramatic deregulation and tax cuts in our history (the Bush Tax cuts, and the repeal - under Clinton - of Glass-Steagall) far from fixing, preventing, or even alleviating this trend have caused the greatest economic and job crisis since the great depression.

And, no surprise here, the last time the super wealthy had taxes this low was the roaring 20s. Take a look at one more chart and see it for yourself:

Low tax rates combined with minimal regulation right before the great depression. The exact same combination leading up to 2oo8. Mere correlation? Both in the 20s and the decades leading up to 2008? Not likely.

Ok. I can hear some right leaning readers refusing to believe me. So one last bit of evidence. Watch the Following episode of Fault Lines (Aljazerra News) on the top 1%:

And some people think - or at least claim to think - that more of these same policies will fix things!!!???

Either these folks are modern day Bloodletters or modern day snake-oil salesmen. Take your pick.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Climate Skeptics Peddle Fallacies as Science

Recently the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) came out with an article "No Need to Panic About Global Warming," claiming that "distinguished scientists" have concluded that Global Warming isn't really happening after all.

Filled with fallacy heaped upon fallacy, this op-ed piece has the intellectual horse-power of "My Little Pony". Take, for instance, the claim that:
The fact is that CO2 is not a pollutant. CO2 is a colorless and odorless gas, exhaled at high concentrations by each of us, and a key component of the biosphere's life cycle. Plants do so much better with more CO2 that greenhouse operators often increase the CO2 concentrations by factors of three or four to get better growth.
Since no climate scientist has ever claimed that CO2 is a pollutant or that the mere presence of CO2 causes Global Warming, this argument is what is called, in logic, a straw man.

The actual science of Global warming is pretty basic, but vastly different then this sad parody.

Just watch the following video, it makes pretty clear how Global Warming actually works:

Even worse, these "scientists" rest their main argument for denying that human-produced Climate Change is real on their (false) claim that the planet has not warmed over the last ten years at the rate that Global warming advocates had predicted.

This argument commits no obvious fallacy. Unfortunately for these skeptics, it contains more rubbish then your local dump. To begin with, that Climate Change is real, caused by human activity, and poses a serious threat does not require some specific set of exact temperature predictions for each decade. And it does not appear that many climate scientists make such exact predictions. But even more damning for the deniers is the following: In a rebuttle to the original op-ed, a group of top rate climate experts reply to this absurdity as follows:
Climate experts know that the long-term warming trend has not abated in the past decade. In fact, it was the warmest decade on record. Observations show unequivocally that our planet is getting hotter. And computer models have recently shown that during periods when there is a smaller increase of surface temperatures, warming is occurring elsewhere in the climate system, typically in the deep ocean. Such periods are a relatively common climate phenomenon, are consistent with our physical understanding of how the climate system works, and certainly do not invalidate our understanding of human-induced warming or the models used to simulate that warming.
Finally, when one claims that "experts" are arguing a position. One should probably use genuine experts. According to Media Matters of the 16 "experts" who pinned the original denier op-ed piece:

no more than 4 have published peer-reviewed research related to climate change, according to the Scopus database. While they may be prominent in their own fields, their credibility on the science of global warming is not comparable to that of researchers who specialize in this area. For instance, Jan Breslow is a physician, Burt Rutan is a retired airplane designer, Harrison Schmitt is a retired astronaut and former Republican politician, and Edward David is a retired electrical engineer, among others whose expertise lies elsewhere.

Even more disturbing, the lead name on this list, and ringleader of the pack of "concerned scientists," is one Claude Allegre a well-known fraud and hack who has published no peer reviewed papers refuting androgenic climate change.

"No need to Panic," also bristles with the kind of rhetoric and paranoia typical of pseudo-science: Allegations of conspiracy, attributing an almost superhuman power on part of the "Climate Change promoters" to silence dissent, a victim complex, and so forth.

To return to the Rebuttle of the original op-ed referred to above:
You published "No Need to Panic About Global Warming" (op-ed, Jan. 27) on climate change by the climate-science equivalent of dentists practicing cardiology. While accomplished in their own fields, most of these authors have no expertise in climate science. The few authors who have such expertise are known to have extreme views that are out of step with nearly every other climate expert. This happens in nearly every field of science. For example, there is a retrovirus expert who does not accept that HIV causes AIDS. And it is instructive to recall that a few scientists continued to state that smoking did not cause cancer, long after that was settled science. ...Research shows that more than 97% of scientists actively publishing in the field agree that climate change is real and human caused. It would be an act of recklessness for any political leader to disregard the weight of evidence and ignore the enormous risks that climate change clearly poses.
In Short, "No Need to Panic" appeals to the false authority of faux-experts regarding Climate Change, makes use of factually incorrect statements and fallacious arguments to claim that what the overwhelming majority of true experts in the field assert to be fact, and even explains their consensus as the product of a "conspiracy;" it fails on every level.

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