Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Alabama GOP Official Compares Obama to Hitler, Says He's Going to Gay-Indoctrinate the Nation's Children

During a speech at the Wetumpka Tea Party, Elois Zeanah of the Alabama Federation of Republican Women compared the adoption of Common Core to the indoctrination of children in Nazi Germany, with President Obama teaching children and imposing an “anti-Christian, anti-capitalism, anti-America…pro-homosexuality, illegal immigration, unions, environmentalism, gun control, feminism and social justice” curriculum.

“They are going to force us to pay to indoctrinate our own kids,” Zeanah warned, “this is not a novel like ‘1994’ [sic], it’s Common Core.”

Marijuana Legalization Measure Introduced in Oregon

Legislation has been introduced in Oregon by the House Committee on Revenue that would legalize and regulate the adult use of marijuana.

House Bill 3371 would establish a regulatory system, similar to the one in place in the state for alcohol, for the cultivation, production, and sale of cannabis to adults over 21. Adults would be allowed to possess up to 24 ounces of usable marijuana and grow up to six plants in their homes, in addition to purchasing it from regulated retail outlets. You can read the full text of the legislation here.

If you needed any further proof that elections have consequences, we now have a total of seven legalization bills pending in state legislatures, whereas we rarely had even one in previous years. The voters in Colorado and Washington set the ball of legalization rolling down hill and it seems unlikely to slow down anytime soon.

Poll: Republicans 'Out of Touch' and 'Extreme'

Some unwelcome confirmation for Republicans worried that their party needs an image overhaul: A majority of Americans views the Republican party as out of touch, too extreme and resistant to change, according to a Pew poll released Tuesday.

Sixty-two percent of adults said that Republicans were out of touch with the American people, and 52 percent that the party was too extreme. In comparison, 46 percent said that Democrats were out of touch, and 39 percent that they were too extreme.

Democrats were also viewed as slightly more likely to be looking out for the country's future -- and, by a 19-point margin, as the party more open to change.

In a lone bright spot for the GOP, while a majority viewed both parties as having strong principles, Republicans had a 6-point edge over Democrats on that measure.

Although Republicans and Democrats each got dismal marks from their opponents, the GOP owes its struggling ratings in part to discontent among its own members, about a third of whom said their party was out of touch and resistant to change. Republicans weren't, however, much more likely than
 Democrats to say their own party was too extreme.

Republican favorability is at a low ebb, but ratings for both parties have fallen considerably in the past decade, according to Pew.

HuffPost Pollster currently gives the Republican Party an average 31 percent favorability rating, and the Democratic party an average 46 percent rating.

Other recent polling has found that half of Republicans disapprove of their representatives in Congress, and that a slight majority of Americans say the party has moved out of the mainstream.
The Pew poll surveyed 1,504 adults, including 366 Republicans and 470 Democrats, by phone between Feb. 13 and Feb. 18.

Monday, February 25, 2013

After Ruining America, the Era of Giant Chain Stores Is Over

The coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies.

Global currency wars (competitive devaluations) are about to destroy trade relationships. Say goodbye to the 12,000 mile supply chain from Guangzhou to Hackensack. Say goodbye to the growth financing model in which it becomes necessary to open dozens of new stores every year to keep the credit revolving.

Then there is the matter of the American customers themselves. The WalMart shoppers are exactly the demographic that is getting squashed in the contraction of this phony-baloney corporate buccaneer parasite revolving credit crony capital economy. Unlike the Federal Reserve, WalMart shoppers can't print their own money, and they can't bundle their MasterCard and Visa debts into CDOs to be fobbed off on Scandinavian pension funds for quick profits.

They have only one real choice: buy less stuff, especially the stuff of leisure, comfort, and convenience.

The potential for all sorts of economic hardship is obvious in this burgeoning dynamic. But the coming implosion of big box retail implies tremendous opportunities for young people to make a livelihood in the imperative rebuilding of local economies.

Back in the day when big box retail started to explode upon the American landscape like a raging economic scrofula, I attended many a town planning board meeting where the pro and con factions faced off over the permitting hurdle.

The meetings were often raucous and wrathful and almost all the time the pro forces won — for the excellent reason that they were funded and organized by the chain stores themselves (in an early demonstration of the new axioms that money-is-speech and corporations are people, too!).
The chain stores won not only because they flung money around — sometimes directly into the wallets of public officials — but because a sizeable chunk of every local population longed for the dazzling new mode of commerce. "We Want Bargain Shopping" was their rallying cry.

The unintended consequence of their victories through the 1970s and beyond was the total destruction of local economic networks, that is, Main Streets and downtowns, in effect destroying many of their own livelihoods. Wasn't that a bargain, though?

Despite the obvious damage now visible in the entropic desolation of every American home town, WalMart managed to install itself in the pantheon of American Dream icons, along with apple pie, motherhood, and Coca Cola. In most of the country there is no other place to buy goods (and no other place to get a paycheck, scant and demeaning as it may be). America made itself hostage to bargain shopping and then committed suicide. Here we find another axiom of human affairs at work: People get what they deserve, not what they expect. Life is tragic.

The older generations responsible for all that may be done for, but the momentum has now turned in the opposite direction. Though the public hasn't groked it yet, WalMart and its kindred malignant organisms have entered their own yeast-overgrowth death spiral. In a now permanently contracting economy the big box model fails spectacularly. Every element of economic reality is now poised to squash them.

Diesel fuel prices are heading well north of $4 again. If they push toward $5 this year you can say goodbye to the "warehouse on wheels" distribution method. (The truckers, who are mostly independent contractors, can say hello to the re-po men come to take possession of their mortgaged rigs.)

At this stage it is probably discouraging for them, because all their life programming has conditioned them to be hostages of giant corporations and so to feel helpless. In a town like the old factory village I live in (population 2500) few of the few remaining young adults might venture to open a retail operation in one of the dozen-odd vacant storefronts on Main Street.

The presence of K-Mart, Tractor Supply, and Radio Shack a quarter mile west in the strip mall would seem to mock their dim inklings that something is in the wind. But K-Mart will close over 200 boxes this year, and Radio Shack is committed to shutter around 500 stores. They could be gone in this town well before Santa Claus starts checking his lists. If they go down, opportunities will blossom. There will be no new chain store brands to replace the dying ones. That phase of our history is over.
What we're on the brink of is scale implosion. Everything gigantic in American life is about to get smaller or die. Everything that we do to support economic activities at gigantic scale is going to hamper our journey into the new reality. The campaign to sustain the unsustainable, which is the official policy of US leadership, will only produce deeper whirls of entropy.

I hope young people recognize this and can marshal their enthusiasm to get to work. It's already happening in the local farming scene; now it needs to happen in a commercial economy that will support local agriculture.

The additional tragedy of the big box saga is that it scuttled social roles and social relations in every American community. On top of the insult of destroying the geographic places we call home, the chain stores also destroyed people's place in the order of daily life, including the duties, responsibilities, obligations, and ceremonies that prompt citizens to care for each other.
We can get that all back, but it won't be a bargain.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


Alabama will hold its second annual sales tax holiday, beginning Friday, February 22, 2013 at 12:01 a.m. and ending Sunday, February 24, 2013 at 12 midnight, giving shoppers the opportunity to purchase certain severe weather preparedness items free of state sales tax. Local sales tax may apply. 

  • AAA-cell batteries
  • AA-cell batteries
  • C-cell batteries
  • D-cell batteries
  • 6-volt batteries
  • 9-volt batteries
  • Cellular phone battery
  • Cellular phone charger
  • Portable self-powered orbattery-powered radio, two-way radio, weatherband radioor NOAA weather radio
  • Portable self-powered light source, including battery-powered flashlights, lanterns,or emergency glow sticks
  • Tarpaulin
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Plastic drop cloths
  • Other flexible, waterproof sheeting
  • Ground anchor system, such as bungee cords or rope, or tie-down kit
  • Duct tape
  • Plywood, window film or other materials specifically designed to protect window coverings
  • Non-electric food storage cooler or water storage container
  • Non-electric can opener
  • Artificial ice
  • Blue ice
  • Ice packs
  • Reusable ice
  • Self-contained first aid kit
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Smoke detector, Carbon monoxide detector
  • Gas or Diesel fuel tank or container

  • Coin batteries
  • Automobile and boat batteries
ALSO EXEMPT: A single purchase with a sales price of $1000 or Less - Any portable generator and power cords– used to provide light or communications or preserve food in the event of a power outage. 

For more information,
contact us
8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., CST
Monday through Friday
334-242-1490 or 866-576-6531

Secretary of Defense warns civilian workers to prepare for furloughs in the event of sequestration.

Secretary Panetta warned defense workers to be prepared for some time off if an agreement is not reached on the budget by the March 1st deadline.

The DOD is the largest employer in the world, with more than 2.13 million active duty Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen, and also civilian workers, and over 1.1 million National Guardsmen and members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Reserves. The grand total is just over 3.2 million servicemen and servicewomen, plus the civilians who support them. It is allocated the most money among all Federal agencies, and this amounts to more than one-half of the annual Federal discretionary budget.

“To All Department of Defense Personnel:

“For more than a year and a half, the president, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I have repeatedly voiced our deep concerns over the half a trillion dollars in automatic across-the-board cuts that would be imposed under sequestration and the severe damage that would do both to this department and to our national defense.

“The administration continues to work with Congress to reach agreement on a balanced deficit reduction plan to avoid these cuts. Meanwhile, because another trigger for sequestration is approaching on March 1, the department’s leadership has begun extensive planning on how to implement the required spending reductions. Those cuts will be magnified because the department has been forced to operate under a six-month continuing resolution that has already compelled us to take steps to reduce spending.

“In the event of sequestration we will do everything we can to be able to continue to perform our core mission of providing for the security of the United States, but there is no mistaking that the rigid nature of the cuts forced upon this department, and their scale, will result in a serious erosion of readiness across the force.

“I have also been deeply concerned about the potential direct impact of sequestration on you and your families. We are doing everything possible to limit the worst effects on DoD personnel -- but I regret that our flexibility within the law is extremely limited. The president has used his legal authority to exempt military personnel funding from sequestration, but we have no legal authority to exempt civilian personnel funding from reductions. As a result, should sequestration occur and continue for a substantial period, DoD will be forced to place the vast majority of its civilian workforce on administrative furlough.

“Today, I notified Congress that furloughs could occur under sequestration. I can assure you that, if we have to implement furloughs, all affected employees will be provided at least 30 days’ notice prior to executing a furlough and your benefits will be protected to the maximum extent possible. We also will work to ensure that furloughs are executed in a consistent and appropriate manner, and we will also continue to engage in discussions with employee unions as appropriate.

“Working with your component heads and supervisors, the department’s leaders will continue to keep you informed. As we deal with these difficult issues, I want to thank you for your patience, your hard work, and your continued dedication to our mission of protecting the country.

“Our most important asset at the department is our world-class personnel. You are fighting every day to keep our country strong and secure, and rest assured that the leaders of this department will continue to fight with you and for you.”

Japanese Whaler Rams Sea Shepherd Ships in Australian Waters

(via Environment News Service)
SOUTHERN OCEAN, February 20, 2013 (ENS) – The Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru has collided with two whale conservation vessels and its own refueling tanker in Australia’s Antarctic waters, damaging the other ships. No injuries are reported. Images transmitted by the whale defense group…

Hybrid Air Car Debuts at Geneva Motor Show

Hybrid Air Car Debuts at Geneva Motor Show (via Environment News Service)
PARIS, France, February 19, 2013 (ENS) – PSA Peugeot-Citro├źn has developed a unique hybrid car powered by gasoline and compressed air called Hybrid Air that will debut in Geneva next month aboard a Citroen C3. The new hybrid uses compressed air for energy storage instead of a battery, making it…

Betty Friedan's "The Feminine Mystique": 50 Years Later

The Feminine Mystique - published on February 19, 1963 -"catalyzed the modern feminist movement, helped forever change Americans' attitudes about women's role in society and catapulted its author into becoming an influential and controversial public figure."

Betty Friedan's book, The Feminine Mystique, identified the "problem that has no name" - which feminists later labeled "sexism." Three years after its publication - 50 years ago this month - Friedan was instrumental in organizing the National Organization for Women (NOW) and other key groups that helped build the movement for women's equality.

The Feminine Mystique was not only a best-selling book, but also a manifesto for change.
Most Americans now accept as normal the once-radical ideas that Friedan and others espoused. Today, most Americans, including men, believe that women should earn the same pay as men if they do the same job. Corporations, law firms, the media, universities, advertising, the military, sports and other core institutions can no longer exercise blatant sex discrimination without facing scrutiny and the risk of protest and lawsuits. The Obama administration just lifted the ban on women in combat. Women are now running corporations, newspapers and TV stations, universities and major labor unions. In 1960, only about six percent of medical students were women. Today women comprise about half of all medical students and have a stronger foothold in other formerly all-male professions and occupations. More men in couples share housework and child rearing than was the case two or three decades ago. Giving girls an equal opportunity to play competitive sports is now taken for granted. Employers now recognize the reality of sexual harassment, which did not even have a name until the 1970s. The right to have an abortion, legalized in the US Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade ruling in 1973, is still under attack but remains the law. In 1963, there were few college courses or books on women's history, literature or politics, and no women's studies programs.

When The Feminine Mystique was published, men's turnout at the polls exceeded that of women by five percent. Since 1980, women have consistently voted at higher rates than men, according to the Center on American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. The number of women elected to office at every level of government has spiraled. In 1963, there were two women in the US Senate and only 12 women in the House of Representatives. Today, 20 women serve in the Senate and 77 serve in the House. Similar shifts have occurred at the local and state levels. Although a rise in women's turnout has spurred these gains, men are now more willing to vote for women candidates than ever before.
Ironically, because many "feminist" ideas are now taken for granted, few women today think of themselves as "feminists." According to a 2009 poll conducted by CBS News, only 24 percent of American women identify themselves as feminists. But once the word was defined as someone who believes in social, political and economic equality of the sexes, the figure jumped to 65 percent.
Friedan - who died in 2006 at age 85 - would no doubt be proud of the progressive changes that her book and activism inspired, but she'd be the first to note that full women's equality has still not been achieved. For example, women represent only 3.6 percent of the CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations. Like 50 years ago, women today are more likely than men to be poor. The US is one of the few affluent countries that does not require paid maternity leave or provide universal child care.
The Feminine Mystique began as a simple questionnaire. In 1957 Friedan and two friends prepared a survey of their Smith College classmates prior to their 15th reunion. It included open-ended questions "that we had not asked ourselves out loud before," Friedan recalled. They asked about such topics as decision-making in the family, hours of housework, feelings about being a mother, number of books read in a year, interests outside the home and agreement, or not, with a husband's politics.
Two hundred women responded. Friedan found that the classmates who seemed most happy and fulfilled were those who did not conform to the "role of women" and that those who were most dispirited were traditional housewives. She drew on the survey to write an article for McCall's - "Are Women Wasting Their Time in College?" - but the magazine rejected it. When her agent sent it to another women's magazine, Redbook, a male editor sent it back saying that Friedan "must be going off her rocker. Only the most neurotic housewife will identify with this." No magazine would touch it.

Frustrated - but convinced she was on to something important - Friedan expanded the article into a book and worked for five years to complete The Feminine Mystique.

Friedan had struck a nerve and the book quickly became a best-seller. It became a manifesto for a movement - a new wave of women's rights activism that built on the women's suffrage activism of the early 1900s that won the right to vote. Friedan became a spokeswoman for this "second wave" feminism.

Friedan was born Bettye Naomi Goldstein in Peoria, Illinois in 1921, and was raised in a prosperous family with a nursemaid, cook and butler-chauffeur. Her father, Harry Goldstein, had emigrated from Russia to Peoria in his teens. He began selling buttons from a street-corner stand, which he gradually grew into a successful jewelry store. Her mother Miriam was the daughter of Jewish immigrants from Hungary. After graduating from Bradley College in Peoria, Bettye's mother starting working as a reporter for the local newspaper. After she married, her husband insisted that she quit working and focus on being a housewife and mother. Miriam hosted bridge luncheons in their spacious home and was active as a volunteer in a variety of community activities, but she always resented having to give up her writing career.

Despite their affluence, the Goldsteins were never fully accepted into Peoria society. A small industrial city in central Illinois, Peoria was conservative, provincial, racially segregated and rife with both subtle and overt forms of anti-Semitism. As part of its resurgence in the Midwest, the Ku Klux Klan was active in Peoria in the 1920s and the sting of racism and anti-Semitism was never far from the surface. Jews were banned from joining the prestigious Peoria Country Club. Bettye's father told her that Peoria's Christian business men and civic leaders refused to talk or socialize with him after business hours, a widespread phenomenon known as the "5 o'clock shadow." Although Bettye had both Jewish and non-Jewish friends growing up, she was turned down for membership in a high school sorority because she was a Jew.

Reflecting on these experiences, Friedan noted, "I hated being different, an outsider." She recalled that her "passion against injustice ... originated from my feelings of the injustice of anti-Semitism."
Bettye's later views about bigotry toward women were shaped at a young age. At dinner, Bettye's father peppered her with questions about current events and literature. But her parents also worried that Bettye's intense interest in reading - her friends called her "Bookworm" - would be a social handicap, making her seem too intellectual and unfeminine. When she came home from the library loaded down with books, her father told her, "Five books at a time are enough. It doesn't look nice for a girl to be so bookish." After reading about Marie Curie, the French researcher who won Nobel Prizes in both physics and chemistry, Bettye considered pursuing a career in science, but a teacher warned her to lower her ambitions and to consider being a lab technician, receptionist or nurse.
In high school, fueled by her brilliance, her ambition, her desire to fit in, as well as her sense of being a misfit, Bettye was both a rebel and a high achiever. She wrote for the school paper, composed poems and founded the literary magazine (which published articles on strikes and labor conflict occurring in the area), won a prize for an essay on the Constitution, recited the Gettysburg Address at a Memorial Day celebration, joined the debating society, acted in school plays, wrote articles about the growing threat of fascism in Europe, and graduated as one of the class valedictorians.
Her academic promise, leadership skills and rebellious spirit blossomed when she arrived at Smith College in 1938, in the midst of the political ferment catalyzed by the Depression and the growing turmoil in Europe. Bettye was one of the few Jewish students at Smith, a college that attracted many upper-class women from socially prominent families. But some Smith professors challenged the students to confront society's injustices, including their own economic and social advantages. Many radical and progressive speakers, including Labor Secretary Frances Perkins, pacifist A.J. Muste, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, upper-class leftist Corliss Lamont (head of Friends of the Soviet Union) and folklorist Alan Lomax visited Smith while Bettye was a student there.

Bettye majored in psychology, and as editor of the Smith College Weekly, she revitalized the paper from a bland publication filled with gossip and social news to a far more political outlet, the Smith College Associate News (SCAN). She embraced radical ideas and the labor movement as an instrument for progressive change. When maids at the college went on strike, Bettye sympathetically covered the struggle in SCAN. Her editorials challenged her privileged classmates to wake up to issues of social justice, workers' rights and fascism. The summer after her junior year, she spent eight weeks at the Highlander Folk School in Tennessee, a radical training center for activists, participating in a writing workshop and taking classes about unions and economics.

In 1942, she went to graduate school at University of California, Berkeley, and dropped the "e" at the end of her first name. She traveled in left-wing circles and joined a Marxist study group. But she later panicked at the implications of getting a PhD, imagining her future as a lonely spinster in academia. She gave up her scholarship.

Fleeing Berkeley, she moved to New York City's Greenwich Village in 1944. Her first job was as a reporter for the Federated Press, an agency that fed news stories to progressive publications and union newspapers. Her stories were popular and showed a talent for humanizing class, race and women's issues. Her next job was with the UE News, the weekly paper of the progressive United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, a left-wing union. In 1947 she married Carl Friedan, an actor and stage producer. The first of their three children was born the following year.

There was no significant feminist movement at the time, but the Communist Party and the unions in its orbit were among the few organizations concerned about what they called the "woman question." In 1946, they started the Congress of American Women to address issues facing working-class women. As a reporter for UE News, Friedan often wrote about women's issues, including a popular pamphlet, UE Fights for Women Workers, on corporate discrimination and on the special problems faced by black women workers. In 1952, when she became pregnant with her second son, Friedan left the UE News.

In some respects, Friedan's experience was similar to that of millions of women who had worked during World War II and were then encouraged - by employers, the media, advertising and government propaganda - to return to "hearth and home" as mothers and housewives after men came home. Like many women in postwar America, Friedan volunteered for a variety of community activities, though some of hers were unconventional, like participating in rent strikes. But frustrated by the fact that she was not contributing financially to the family or using her considerable professional talents, Friedan began a freelance writing career, mostly for women's magazines like Cosmopolitan.

When Friedan was asked in 1957 to prepare an alumni questionnaire for her 15th college reunion, she jumped at the opportunity. She felt vaguely guilty as she worked on it, thinking of the academic star she had been and feeling she had not realized her potential.

In 1947, Ferdinand Lundberg and Marynia Farnham published Modern Women: The Lost Sex, which argued that American women were overeducated and that this excess of education caused discontent and prevented females from "adjusting to their role as women." The book triggered considerable controversy in the postwar era. Friedan hoped to use the Smith College alumni questionnaire as a starting point to write a magazine article refuting Modern Women's thesis. Confident that she was on to something important, she persevered despite the rejections from magazine editors, and eventually completed the book that would, to her surprise, make her famous.

As Friedan described in The Feminine Mystique, many women were not aware that other women shared similar frustrations. They experienced their unhappiness as a personal problem and blamed themselves for their misery, which Friedan called "the problem that has no name." Earlier books - including Elizabeth Hawes' Why Women Cry (1943), Simone de Beauvoir's The Second Sex (published in English in 1953), Mirra Komarovsky's Women in the Modern World (1953), and Alva Myrdal and Viola Klein's Women's Two Roles (1956) - had diagnosed women's oppression and second-class status, but none of them tapped the vein of dissatisfaction in a way that The Feminine Mystique did. The book touched millions of women, aided by Friedan's accessible writing style and the luck of good timing.

The publisher, W.W. Norton, initially printed only 2,000 copies, but the book's sales exploded. The Feminine Mystique spent six weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. The first paperback printing sold 1.4 million copies. McCall's and Ladies' Home Journal, magazines with a combined readership of 36 million, published excerpts.

Though the analogy was certainly overwrought, Friedan argued that women were trapped by their domestic lives, that their existence was akin to a "comfortable concentration camp." Women became helpless, almost childlike, with no privacy, cut off from the outside world, doing soul-killing work. Friedan also exposed the myriad ways that advertisers, psychiatrists, educators and newspapers patronized, exploited and manipulated women.

Friedan's agenda for change in The Feminine Mystique was quite modest, especially for someone with her radical background. She wrote about the problem of workplace discrimination, but she barely mentioned the issues of childcare and maternity leave. The book had little to say about the problems confronting poor and working-class women or women of color - issues she had written about for Federated News and the UE News. She mostly encouraged women to get an education and to prepare themselves for a career beyond housework. It was not until the late 1960s and early 1970s that Friedan and others embraced a wider and more progressive agenda: the right to an abortion, protection against sexual violence and domestic abuse, the criminalization of sexual harassment and rape, the demand for childcare centers, equality with men in terms of access to financial credit and other aspects of economic life.

The Feminine Mystique made Friedan a public figure and a person to be reckoned with. She was flooded with letters from women reporting that the book had opened their eyes about their own lives and had validated their dissatisfaction with the status quo. She was asked to speak at colleges, before women's groups, and elsewhere across the nation.

After the book came out, as Friedan was gaining a platform on TV and radio shows and on the lecture circuit, she described herself as an "educated housewife." As Daniel Horowitz noted in his 1998 biography, Betty Friedan and the Making of the Feminine Mystique, Friedan made no reference to her experience in the left-wing movements of the late 1930s through the early 1950s. Indeed, many other women with similar backgrounds (including Congresswoman Bella Abzug) - women who played a key role in building the women's liberation movement and later in creating the new academic field of women's studies - downplayed their past left-wing affiliations. Friedan believed that she and the book would have more credibility if she was seen as someone who shared the frustrations of other middle-class suburban women. Of course in 1963 the hysteria of McCarthyism and the Red Scare were still a lingering force in American politics and culture, and Friedan understood that her past associations with Communist and radical groups could undermine her reputation and destroy her growing influence.

Moreover, Friedan wanted to do more than write about women's roles. She wanted to instigate real change, and that meant renewing her activist credentials. She quickly connected with a small network of liberal, professional women who were involved with the Presidential Commission on the Status of Women, which had been created in 1961 by John F. Kennedy at the suggestion of Eleanor Roosevelt. They talked about creating a women's version of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and in 1966 they formed NOW to lobby and organize for the civil rights of women. Friedan was elected president, a position she held until 1970. She became the first media celebrity of the women's liberation movement and its de facto spokeswoman.

Friedan could be difficult and antagonizing, and she clashed with most radical feminists on the issue of overthrowing male-dominated power structures. Instead she believed in sharing power equally. "Some people think I'm saying, 'Women of the world unite - you have nothing to lose but your men,'" she told Life magazine in 1963. "It's not true. You have nothing to lose but your vacuum cleaners."
Two years before NOW's founding, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion and sex. Most members of Congress viewed the law primarily in terms of race and hardly noticed that "sex" was included. For half a century, NOW and other feminist groups have used the law - which established the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission - to fight for women's equality at work.

Some criticized NOW for being too focused on middle-class white women's concerns. At the same time, Friedan also was concerned that the women's movement would be identified as being dominated by so-called man-hating lesbians, a stereotype that was widespread at the time and that Friedan worried would undermine feminism's credibility. Although she later tempered her views on homosexuality, she never fully embraced gay rights as a key part of the feminist cause.

Friedan also cofounded the National Abortion Rights Action League (originally the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws) in 1969. The next year - the 50th anniversary of the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the vote - she helped organize the Women's Strike for Equality. In 1971, a year after the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, Friedan joined Abzug, Gloria Steinem, Shirley Chisholm and others to form the National Women's Political Caucus to encourage more women to participate in politics and run for office.

In 1972, Friedan ran unsuccessfully as a delegate to the Democratic Party convention, but showed up with a large contingent of feminists to support Chisholm's candidacy for President. Twelve years later she did get elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention, which picked Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro as its vice-presidential nominee.

Throughout her life, Friedan continued to write books, among them The Second Stage (1981), The Fountain of Age (1993), Beyond Gender (1997), and Life So Far (2000). In Beyond Gender, she worried that progressives had splintered into separate identity movements. She outlined an agenda for change that, ironically, was similar to the radical politics she had embraced in her younger years. In a 1995 column in Newsweek, she wrote:
The problems in our fast-changing world require a new paradigm of social policy, transcending all 'identity politics' - women, blacks, gays, the disabled. Pursuing the separate interests of women isn't adequate and is even diversionary. Instead, there has to be some new vision of community. We need to reframe the concept of success. We need to campaign - men and women, whites and blacks - for a shorter work week, a higher minimum wage, an end to the war against social-welfare programs. 'Women's issues' are symptoms of problems that affect everyone.
Friedan - who died on February 4, 2006, her 85th birthday - may no longer be a household name, but thanks to The Feminist Mystique and the movement it spawned, her influence is evident in every American household, regardless if any members call themselves feminists.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The GOP Plan to Flush Your State’s Economy Down the Toilet

The new “red-state model” seeks to turn your state into Mississippi.

The GOP has plans for a comeback. But it may cost you a lot. The idea is to capitalize on recent Republican state takeovers to conduct an austerity experiment known as the new “red-state model” and prove that faulty policies can be turned into gold.

There will be smoke. There will be mirrors. And there will be a lot of ordinary people suffering needlessly in the wake of this ideological train wreck.

We already have a red-state model, and it’s called Mississippi. Or Texas. Or any number of states characterized by low public investment, worker abuse, environmental degradation, educational backwardness, high rates of unwanted pregnancy, poor health, and so on.

Now the GOP is determined to bring that horrible model to the rest of America.

In Kansas, the Wall Street Journal reports that Governor Sam Brownback is aiming to up his profile “by turning Kansas into what he calls Exhibit A for how sharp cuts in taxes and government spending can generate jobs, wean residents off public aid and spur economic growth.” In remarks quoted in the same article, Brownback announced that "My focus is to create a red-state model that allows the Republican ticket to say, 'See, we've got a different way, and it works.’ "

Brownback’s economic inspiration is Reagan-era supply-side economist Arthur Laffer and the folks at Americans for Prosperity, the conservative outfit backed by the deep coffers of the Koch brothers.

This new austerity talk focused on “fiscal innovations” is emboldening Republicans in other states that have been gerrymandered into submission to the GOP, including Indiana, Louisiana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, and alas, my home state of North Carolina.

Republications have been eyeing the Tar Heel state with interest due to its recent swing status in presidential elections. The state was also the target of a gerrymandering strategy that worked out wonderfully for the Republicans, but not so well for democracy. Sam Wang, the founder of the Princeton Election Consortium, wrote recently in the New York Times about how Republican redistricting thwarted Democratic voters:

"Although gerrymandering is usually thought of as a bipartisan offense, the rather asymmetrical results may surprise you....I have developed approaches to detect such shenanigans by looking only at election returns. To see how the sleuthing works, start with the naïve standard that the party that wins more than half the votes should get at least half the seats. In November, five states failed to clear even this low bar: Arizona, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. ... In North Carolina, where the two-party House vote was 51 percent Democratic, 49 percent Republican, the average simulated delegation was seven Democrats and six Republicans. The actual outcome? Four Democrats, nine Republicans — a split that occurred in less than 1 percent of simulations. If districts were drawn fairly, this lopsided discrepancy would hardly ever occur."

The lesson of North Carolina tells you that the GOP red-state model is based, first and foremost, on efforts to flagrantly disregard the will of the people. NC’s discount-store mogul Art Pope, a longtime GOP donor and champion of free-market fundamentalism, has been appointed state budget director by the new Republican governor, Pat McCrory. In an incredible display of money buying political influence, Pope has gone well beyond his donor-counterparts in other states. Instead of just funding the politicians he wants, he has gone for direct rule by occupying government himself. Tax repeal is the centerpiece of his announced plans, but his hatred of public investment means he has much more than that in store for one of the most progressive states in the South. Pope is said to be more powerful than the governor, giving rise to the term “Pope administration” to describe the new political reality.

GOP pols are vying to out-do each other in extreme red-state programming. NC state senator Bob Rucho is pushing a plan to eliminate the state's income taxes altogether. Such plans go hand-in-hand with calls for increasing the sales tax. Because low-income people pay a higher proportion of their income in sales taxes, abolishing income taxes and raising sales taxes shoves tax burdens onto them. Obviously, the Republicans will not give up on their passionate desire to cut taxes on the wealthy and stick it to the poor and the middle class.

Pope’s ideological opposition to public investment is ringing alarm bells. North Carolina, a state where progressives have fought conservative forces tooth and nail to achieve an enviable university system and a reputation for high-tech and research, is now in danger of being thrown into a period of regressive darkness. University of North Carolina sociologist Andrew Perrin put it this way: “Public investment is part of what has set North Carolina apart from our neighbors in the South.”

But Pope is hell-bent on turning North Carolina into Mississippi.

The GOP economic plans not only subvert common sense and the lessons of history (being played out right now in places like the U.K., where austerity has failed dramatically), they also flip a giant middle finger at the American voter. Unable to win support at the national level for their foolhardy economic programs, Republicans have turned their attention to state-level action because that’s where gerrymandering really works wonders.

Red-state model proponents claim that their maneuvers will spark economic growth. But that was basically what George W. Bush had in mind when he supported a similar program for cutting taxes on the rich. That didn’t work out so well, and increased the very deficits Republicans decry.

But here’s the really scary part. Slashing taxes, squeezing workers and throwing out environmental protections can indeed lure businesses to states where they won’t have to pay their fair share and can get away with all sorts of abuse. If a state like North Carolina promotes such policies, businesses from nearby states like Virginia may indeed move their operations down the road. Unless you believe in the “Confidence Fairy,” as Paul Krugman calls the naïve GOP faith that making everybody poorer is the way to become rich, then you know that what results is simply trade diversion, not genuine growth. In other words, one state’s gain is another state’s loss. The result is a headlong race-to-the-bottom whereby the states losing business will be pressured to slash their taxes and burden their workers and ordinary citizens, too. Nobody wins in that game -- except the 1 percent.

The blue-state model, evident in high-income states like Massachusetts, has long been associated with high levels of state investments in education, transportation and other public goods. And guess what? It's also associated with economic strength. The red-state model, on the other hand, is linked to backwardness, second-rate educational systems and economic weakness.

What the GOP wants to do is create an image-problem for blue states where taxes have been raised to balance budgets and continue vital services and jobs by crying “Look, Ma! No taxes!” in the states where they’ve taken control.

They’ll soon be able to say, “Look, Ma! No economy.”

Limbaugh Is Losing! with Each Hateful Word, More Sponsors Leave. (300 Left Last Month) Total: 2,500+

“We wanted to know who her owner was, and we wanted to know how much he got for her.... She might have outlived her usefulness on the plantation,” Limbaugh declared. “I mean, [you] never know, child-rearing years are over so maybe her value had plummeted.” ~Limbaugh, February 14, 2013 in reference to Black US Congresswoman, Shelia Jackson Lee
He thinks he's getting away with comments like these. He's not. Last month I published a diary about his sponsors leaving, and it received over 18k facebook likes/shares. People are hungry - starving to see him go, and thousands of consumers are contacting his sponsors via and signing petitions like the one below. Organizations like Daily Kos,, Planned Parenthood, Media Matters and other groups, are exposing Limbaugh for who and what he is: a racist, sexist, gay-hating, lying bigot. This is not me, 'name-calling'. This is truth in media, and backed up by Limbaugh's very own words in audio/video.
The good news? In one month, over 300 more sponsors have pulled ads, now totaling over 2,500. (This does not count the 800 or so who have 'left quietly') Limbaugh now averages a loss of 10 sponsors per day. To make up for these sponsorship losses, it is known he has been subsidized by outside sources including FreedomWorks (backed by the Tea Party). And I'm betting he is having to subsidize himself, to stay on the air.
What's it going to take? We need more sponsor contact, we need a public outcry, and we need help from the FCC for regulations broken. Some rebuff,"Freedom of Speech!" And to that I say,"Amen!" However, many of us don't believe The First Amendment was created to guarantee a hate monger like Limbaugh, his own radio show on our public airways, to stage and promote racism and misogyny while making millions.
No, I don't think that is what We The People had in mind.
So we continue to work on this, one brick at a time. Here are 11 sponsoring universities. Take a moment to tweet, fb message, or email a couple of sentences to them. Or you can sign this petition that goes out to 40 sponsors at a time. It feels pretty good, because it's something we can actually do. Regardless of how long it takes for Limbaugh, with each contact, we are telling companies, universities, media and people around the world, we will no longer sit back. Enough.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Dana Summers, Copyright 2013 Tribune Media Services

The Surprising Brain Differences Between Democrats and Republicans

Two new studies further support the theory that our political decision making could have a neurological basis.

It is still considered highly uncool to ascribe a person's political beliefs, even in part, to that person's biology: hormones, physiological responses, even brain structures and genes. And no wonder: Doing so raises all kinds of thorny, non-PC issues involving free will, determinism, toleration, and much else.

There's just one problem: Published scientific research keeps going there, with ever increasing audacity (not to mention growing stacks of data).

The past two weeks have seen not one but two studies published in scientific journals on the biological underpinnings of political ideology. And these studies go straight at the role of genes and the brain in shaping our views, and even our votes.

First, in the American Journal of Political Science, a team of researchers including Peter Hatemi of Penn State University and Rose McDermott of Brown University studied the relationship between our deep-seated tendencies to experience fear—tendencies that vary from person to person, partly for reasons that seem rooted in our genes—and our political beliefs. What they found is that people who have more fearful disposition also tend to be more politically conservative, and less tolerant of immigrants and people of races different from their own. As McDermott carefully emphasizes, that does not mean that every conservative has a high fear disposition. "It's not that conservative people are more fearful, it's that fearful people are more conservative," as she puts it.

I interviewed the paper's lead author, Peter Hatemi, about his research for my 2012 book The Republican Brain. Hatemi is both a political scientist and also a microbiologist, and as he stressed to me, "nothing is all genes, or all environment." These forces combine to make us who we are, in incredibly intricate ways.

And if Hatemi's and McDermott's research blows your mind, get this: Darren Schreiber, a political neuroscientist at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, first performed brain scans on 82 people participating in a risky gambling task, one in which holding out for more money increases your possible rewards, but also your possible losses. Later, cross-referencing the findings with the participants' publicly available political party registration information, Schreiber noticed something astonishing: Republicans, when they took the same gambling risk, were activating a different part of the brain than Democrats.

Republicans were using the right amygdala, the center of the brain's threat response system. Democrats, in contrast, were using the insula, involved in internal monitoring of one's feelings. Amazingly, Schreiber and his colleagues write that this test predicted 82.9 percent of the study subjects' political party choices—considerably better, they note, than a simple model that predicts your political party affiliation based on the affiliation of your parents.

I also interviewed Schreiber for The Republican Brain. He's a scientist who was once quite cautious about the relevance of brain studies to people's politics. As he put it to me: "If you had called me four years ago and said, 'What is your view on whether Republicans and Democrats have different brains?' I would have said no." Now, his own published research suggests otherwise.

The current research suggests not only that having a particular brain influences your political views, but also that having a particular political view influences your brain.

One again, though, there's a critical nuance here. Schreiber thinks the current research suggests not only that having a particular brain influences your political views, but also that having a particular political view influences and changes your brain. The causal arrow seems likely to run in both directions—which would make sense in light of what we know about the plasticity of the brain. Simply by living our lives, we change our brains. Our political affiliations, and the lifestyles that go along with them, probably condition many such changes.

The two new studies described here are likely connected: It is hard not to infer that fear of outsiders or those different from you—along with greater fear dispositions in general—may be related to the role of amygdala, a brain structure that has been dubbed the "heart and soul of the fear system." The amygdala has been repeatedly implicated in politics. Indeed, Schreiber's research builds on prior brain studies: In a group of University College of London students, for instance, conservatives showed more gray matter in the right amygdala.

So what's the upshot? How about this: We need a much broader and more thoughtful discussion about what it means if political ideology turns out to be nothing like what we actually thought it was. Scientists working in this new field tend towards the conclusion that the new research should make us more tolerant, not less, of political difference—not to mention a whole lot more humble about our own deeply held beliefs.

Study Shows Black Men Receive 20% Longer Prison Terms than White Men for Committing the Same Crime

Prison sentences of black men were nearly 20% longer than those of white men for similar crimes in recent years, an analysis by the U.S. Sentencing Commission found.

That racial gap has widened since the Supreme Court restored judicial discretion in sentencing in 2005, according to the Sentencing Commission's findings, which were submitted to Congress last month and released publicly this week.

In its report, the commission recommended that federal judges give sentencing guidelines more weight, and that appeals courts more closely scrutinize sentences that fall beyond them.

The commission, which is part of the judicial branch, was careful to avoid the implication of racism among federal judges, acknowledging that they "make sentencing decisions based on many legitimate considerations that are not or cannot be measured."

Still, the findings drew criticism from advocacy groups and researchers, who said the commission's focus on the very end of the criminal-justice process ignored possible bias at earlier stages, such as when a person is arrested and charged, or enters into a plea deal with prosecutors.

"They've only got data on this final slice of the process, but they are still missing crucial parts of the criminal-justice process," said Sonja Starr, a law professor at the University of Michigan, who has analyzed sentencing and arrest data and found no marked increase in racial disparity since 2005.

Douglas A. Berman, a law professor at the Ohio State University who studies sentencing, said, "It's not surprising that the commission that's in charge of both monitoring and amending the guidelines has a general affinity for the guidelines."

The Sentencing Commission didn't return requests for comment.

The Supreme Court, in the 2005 case U.S. v. Booker, struck down a 1984 law that required federal district judges to impose a sentence within the range of the federal sentencing guidelines, which are set by the commission.

The law was meant to alleviate the disparity in federal sentences, but critics say placing restrictions on judges can exacerbate the problem by rendering them powerless to deviate from guidelines and laws that are inherently biased. An often-cited example is a federal law that created steeper penalties for crack-cocaine offenses, which are committed by blacks more frequently than whites, than for powder-cocaine offenses.

Congress reduced the disparity in 2010.

In the two years after the Booker ruling, sentences of blacks were on average 15.2% longer than the sentences of similarly situated whites, according to the Sentencing Commission report. Between December 2007 and September 2011, the most recent period covered in the report, sentences of black males were 19.5% longer than those for whites. The analysis also found that black males were 25% less likely than whites in the same period to receive a sentence below the guidelines' range.

The Sentencing Commission released a similar report in 2010. Researchers criticized its analysis for including sentences of probation, which they argued amplified the demographic differences.

In the new study, the Sentencing Commission conducted a separate analysis that excluded sentences of probation. It yielded the same pattern, but the racial disparity was less pronounced. Sentences of black males were 14.5% longer than whites, rather than nearly 20%.

Jeff Ulmer, a sociology professor at Pennsylvania State University, described the commission's latest report as an improvement but said it was "a long way from proving that [judicial discretion] has caused greater black-white federal sentencing disparity."

Friday, February 15, 2013

Russian Meteor Footage

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Illinois Senate to Vote on Same-Sex Marriage Bill on Valentine's Day

The Illinois Senate will vote Thursday -- Valentine's Day -- on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

Because Democrats have supermajority control of the General Assembly, the measure is expected to be approved. After the Senate vote, the measure would be considered by the House.

Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat, has indicated he would sign the bill.

If it is approved, Illinois would be the 10th state, plus the District of Columbia, to legalize same-sex marriage, according to Lambda Legal, a gay rights organization.

Three other states are considering similar legalization, said Camilla Taylor, marriage project director for Lambda Legal. A bill has passed the Rhode Island House and has been sent to the Senate. A proposal has been introduced in the Hawaii legislature and another is expected in Delaware, Taylor said.

"All eyes are on us," said Taylor, who is based in Illinois. "It's looking great. We're very excited about Illinois."

On February 6, Quinn said that "marriage equality is a matter of fairness and equal rights under law."

"We took the first step towards marriage equality two years ago when I signed civil unions into law. Since that day, thousands of committed couples in 92 counties across our state have entered into civil unions," he said. "Now is the time for the next step in providing equal rights to all people in Illinois."

Five states, including Illinois, have civil union laws, according to Lambda Legal and the National Conference of State Legislatures. The others are Hawaii, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island.

The groups list four states as having some type of domestic-partnership recognition: California, Oregon, Nevada and Wisconsin. Lambda Legal lists Colorado as recognizing designated beneficiary agreements.

Twenty-nine states have constitutional provisions banning same-sex marriage, the NCSL says.

Polls show that legalizing same-sex marriage is gaining support across the country, although it remains less popular in some Midwestern and Southern states than in the rest of the country.

Even Illinois Republican Party Chairman Pat Brady said last month that he supported same-sex marriage and urged legislators to vote for it. The move prompted criticism from conservative Republicans, including state Sen. Jim Oberweis.

But Oberweis seemed resigned to Republicans lacking the votes to stop the bill.

"I hope that we resolve this issue sooner rather than later because the state of Illinois has some tremendous financial problems to deal with, which in my view is where we should be concentrating our focus and our time," he said.

Politician Moves to make Vulgar Photoshopping Illegal

Sometimes people don't appreciate flattery.

They are so engrossed in their own grossly skewed view of the world that their sense of humor flies into the night like a married lover late home for dinner.

How else can one explain the quite bizarre intentions of Georgia state Rep. Earnest Smith?

He clearly sees a vast importance in being Earnest.

He clearly believes that his constituents are so drawn to his Earnestness that anything that deviates it from absolute Earnestness deserves the full metal force of the law.

Which is why he wants to make lewd, coarse, filthy Photoshopping illegal and punishable with a fine of $1,000.

You see, some devious, twisted human being placed His Earnestness's head on the body of a porn star. He did this for public consumption on the blog Georgia Politics Unfiltered. The porn star has a very nice body. He is a porn star, after all. And he is not Ron Jeremy.

The human being behind this affrontery has come forward. His name is Andre Walker. It is unknown if he was moved by the boast on His Earnestness's own Web site that says he is both "accessible" and "audacious."

However, Walker told Fox News: "The first Amendment to the Constitution of the United States protects all forms of speech, not just spoken word."

His Earnestness is undeterred by this almost pornographic argument.

He fulminated to Fox News: "No one has a right to make fun of anyone. It's not a First Amendment right."

If this turns out to be true, Technically Incorrect is operating under some very strange illusions.

Smith insists that he has legislation in his mind that will put a stop to all the appallingly imaginative filthmongers who are destroying society with this awful technology.

He isn't, to the naked eye, keen to disrobe the details of this legislation, explaining to Fox News: "I don't have to tell you anything."

It seems that Smith first had the idea last year in order to protect a girl who had been subject to some form of online bullying.

The idea then was to make it a misdemeanor to cause "an unknowing person wrongfully to be identified as the person in an obscene depiction."

Might Smith be now in doubt that there exists anyone who, on seeing this Photoshopped image of him as porn legend, would consider it to be, well, real?

His, he insists, is a higher cause.

"This is about being vulgar," he told Fox News. "We're becoming a nation of vulgar people."

Some might be concerned about his use of the word "becoming." Especially to Fox News.

Study Confirms Tea Party was Created by Big Tobacco and Billionaire Koch Brothers

A new academic study confirms that front groups with longstanding ties to the tobacco industry and the billionaire Koch brothers planned the formation of the Tea Party movement more than a decade before it exploded onto the U.S. political scene.

Far from a genuine grassroots uprising, this astroturf effort was curated by wealthy industrialists years in advance. Many of the anti-science operatives who defended cigarettes are currently deploying their tobacco-inspired playbook internationally to evade accountability for the fossil fuel industry's role in driving climate disruption.

The study, funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health, traces the roots of the Tea Party's anti-tax movement back to the early 1980s when tobacco companies began to invest in third party groups to fight excise taxes on cigarettes, as well as health studies finding a link between cancer and secondhand cigarette smoke.

Published in the peer-reviewed academic journal, Tobacco Control, the study titled, 'To quarterback behind the scenes, third party efforts': the tobacco industry and the Tea Party, is not just an historical account of activities in a bygone era. As senior author, Stanton Glantz, a University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) professor of medicine, writes:

"Nonprofit organizations associated with the Tea Party have longstanding ties to tobacco companies, and continue to advocate on behalf of the tobacco industry's anti-tax, anti-regulation agenda."

The two main organizations identified in the UCSF Quarterback study are Americans for Prosperity and Freedomworks. Both groups are now "supporting the tobacco companies' political agenda by mobilizing local Tea Party opposition to tobacco taxes and smoke-free laws." Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity were once a single organization called Citizens for a Sound Economy (CSE). CSE was founded in 1984 by the infamous Koch Brothers, David and Charles Koch, and received over $5.3 million from tobacco companies, mainly Philip Morris, between 1991 and 2004.

In 1990, Tim Hyde, RJR Tobacco's head of national field operations, in an eerily similar description of the Tea Party today, explained why groups like CSE were important to the tobacco industry's fight against government regulation. Hyde wrote:

"... coalition building should proceed along two tracks: a) a grassroots organizational and largely local track,; b) and a national, intellectual track within the DC-New York corridor. Ultimately, we are talking about a "movement," a national effort to change the way people think about government's (and big business) role in our lives. Any such effort requires an intellectual foundation - a set of theoretical and ideological arguments on its behalf." 

The common public understanding of the origins of the Tea Party is that it is a popular grassroots uprising that began with anti-tax protests in 2009.

However, the Quarterback study reveals that in 2002, the Kochs and tobacco-backed CSE designed and made public the first Tea Party Movement website under the web address Here's a screenshot of the archived U.S. Tea Party site, as it appeared online on Sept. 13, 2002:

CSE describes the U.S. Tea Party site, "In 2002, our U.S. Tea Party is a national event, hosted continuously online, and open to all Americans who feel our taxes are too high and the tax code is too complicated." The site features a "Patriot Guest book" where supporters can write a message of support for CSE and the U.S. Tea Party movement.

Sometime around September 2011, the U.S. Tea Party site was taken offline. According to the DNS registry, the web address is currently owned by Freedomworks. 

The implications of the UCSF Quarterback report are widespread. The main concern expressed by the authors lies in what they see happening overseas as the Tea Party movement expands internationally, training activists in 30 countries including Israel, Georgia, Japan and Serbia.

As the authors explain:

"This international expansion makes it likely that Tea Party organizations will be mounting opposition to tobacco control (and other health) policies as they have done in the USA."

Freedomworks and Americans for Prosperity are both multi-issue organizations that have expanded their battles to include other policies they see as threats to the free market principles they claim to defend, namely fighting health care reform and regulations on global warming pollution. The report's warning about overseas expansion efforts by Freedomworks should therefore also be heeded by groups in the health and environment arenas.

Finally, this report might serve as a wake-up call to some people in the Tea Party itself, who would find it a little disturbing that the "grassroots" movement they are so emotionally attached to, is in fact a pawn created by billionaires and large corporations with little interest in fighting for the rights of the common person, but instead using the common person to fight for their own unfettered profits.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The One Percent Gobbled Up the Recovery, Too

President Obama's State of the Union speech will reportedly address the problems of the middle class, which has not fared well in this economy. Practically the only people who have fared well are the notorious one percent. To paraphrase the late New York City Mayor Ed Koch: How are they doin'?

Astoundingly well. Emmanuel Saez, the Berkeley economist who (with Thomas Piketty, an economist at the École d'economie de Paris) first mapped the enormous 34-year run-up in income share for America's top 1 percent, came up last year with a statistic that was widely quoted by people who care about rising income inequality. In 2010, the first year of economic recovery after the 2009-2010 recession, 93 percent of all pre-tax income gains went to the top 1 percent, which in that year meant any household making more than about $358,000. This was, I quipped at the time, a members-only recovery. No 99-percenters need apply.

Saez has now updated this statistic to include 2011. When you look at the economic recovery's first two years, the top one percent (which by 2011 meant any household making more than about $367,000) captured 121 percent of all pre-tax income gains.

How is it even possible for the one percent to capture more than 100 percent of all income gains since the last recession? Looked at from one point of view, it's not. It is enough to say that in 2010 and 2011 all of the recovery went to the one percent. If you were in the bottom 99 percent, as by definition nearly all of us are, you didn’t see a dime of that recovery.

What did the bottom 99 percent see? Over 2010 and 2011, it saw, on average, a slight net decline in pre-tax income of 0.4 percent. This "negative growth" is what, at least theoretically, boosts the one percent's share of income gains from 100 percent to 121 percent. If you think of income distribution as a Pac-Man game, with the one percent as Pac-Man, imagine your Pac-Man consuming all the pac-dots in one game and then somehow, after you’ve left the arcade, gobbling up some of the pac-dots in the next player’s game too. Another way to put it is that the one percent didn’t just gobble up all of the recovery during 2010 and 2011; it put the 99 percent back into recession.

It’s worth noting that 2011 wasn't an especially great year even for the mighty one percent. The one percent's pre-tax income stagnated that year. But the 99 percent's pre-tax income stagnated more. In 2010, the 99 percent's pre-tax income also stagnated (but didn’t decline), while the one percent's income rose sharply—sharply enough that, over both 2010 and 2011, the one percent saw a net increase in income, on average, of 11.2 percent. (All these numbers are corrected for inflation, of which there's been very little.) When the numbers come in for 2012, Saez predicts the one percent's income, on average, will once again have risen sharply "due to booming stock prices as well as re-timing of income to avoid the higher 2013 rates." The bottom 99 percent will have seen some income growth too, Saez predicts--though nothing remotely like the increase for the one percent.

In the meantime, we're left with an economic "recovery" in which the bottom 99 percent saw its pre-tax income decline over two years, and, during the second year, even the top one percent experienced negligible pre-tax income growth. If not to the one percent, where, in 2011, did the (admittedly anemic) economic recovery go? We have progressed from a members-only recovery to a Where's Waldo? recovery.

So where is Waldo? Initially I figured he had to be hiding in the nosebleed sections--the top 0.1 percent or the top 0.01 percent. But that turns out to be wrong.* The biggest gainers in 2011 were the bottom half of the top one percent, i.e., those making between $358,000 and $545,000. They saw their incomes increase, on average, by 1.70 percent (not much to write home about, but you've got to put a weak recovery somewhere). Interestingly, the group situated above the 99.99th percentile (2011 threshold: about $8 million) lost income in 2011. Remember, Saez urged me via e-mail, that not all the expansion in Gross Domestic Product for 2011 would be measurable as somebody's income. Undistributed corporate profits and non-taxable health insurance benefits both grew in 2011, Saez noted, but these wouldn't turn up in the IRS data on which he based these calculations.

If I were Obama, I'd be of two minds about flagging these statistics. On the one hand, they certainly make his case for the middle class more compelling. On the other hand … this happened on his watch! Since 1948, economic growth has most benefited those at the bottom of the income distribution whenever a Democrat was in the White House, and it's most benefited those at the top of the income distribution whenever a Republican was in the White House. Obama's first term, it seems increasingly clear, constitutes a dramatic break from this historic pattern. The U.S. economy’s current ability to expand—no matter who is president—without benefiting the 99 percent is something new. Perhaps we should do something to change that.