Right-Wing


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Oh, Bari Weiss. You’re being so glib and flippant, writing in shorthand as if we already agree with you, that I can’t tell if you’re being serious or if your Wall Street Journal piece from last week, “How to Survive—and Maybe Enjoy—PC University,” is just click bait. I have to suspect the latter since it’s not difficult to knock down your sloppy logic about the supposed problem of politically correct universities.

You complain about course catalogs that include classes on transgender health disparities. God forbid. You really think it’s not worth anyone’s time to study the health and wellness of trans people? Is it not worth anyone’s time to take a class from a leading expert on transgender health who’s gotten awards from National Institutes of Health? Should we just ignore the fact that trans people have high rates of mental health issues and suicide and are less likely to have health insurance than heterosexual or LGB individuals? And even if trans people didn’t have poor health outcomes, do trans issues warrant no attention from academics and students?

And, in fact, I think it’s great that someone is a specialist in transgender health in the same way it’s great that someone is a specialist in Fermentation Science, Russian adultery novels, and the Science of Facial Reconstruction. You don’t seem outraged by those highly-specialized fields (perhaps because your outrage was just a cover for your transphobia). Shouldn’t we support broad-ranging intellectual curiosity?

You caution students from taking courses with titles they can’t understand, including a literature course on “Romantic Extremities.” A quick search clarified that the course is about the “romantic fascination with psychological, political, aesthetic, and geographical extremes.” Should no one bother reading Lord Byron, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Jane Austen, or William Blake, all authors listed in the syllabus?

Sure, your list of recommended courses (“Econ. Latin. Great Books. Con Law. Plato. Austen. Milton. Dante. Nietzsche.”) is a great start for someone entering college. But why not supplement the study of canonical literature and social thought with courses that broaden your horizons? If you’re not careful, the above list might mean only reading words and works by white people. Do you really think white people are the only ones with valuable contributions to intellectual, social, and political history?

Hopefully you were just kidding and I’ve wasted my breath.

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While I have visited Occupy Wall Street twice over the past few weeks and have supported the movement in various ways, I refer to the movement and its participants as “they,” only because I haven’t invested enough time in it to truly consider myself a part. Here is my take on the infuriating dismissals of the seriousness of the protests and my call to action. Photos throughout this post were taken by me. Please give credit and link back to this post if you use them.

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I’m tired of people dismissing the legitimate concerns of the Occupy Wall Street and Occupy Together movements. It’s especially hurtful when it comes from people on the left. For example, New York Magazine ran this silly piece in last week’s magazine that insulted the intelligence of partipants using silly pop quizzes. On the next page of the magazine, they took free yoga classes waaay too seriously and explained them using terms like “democratization.” Way to give due seriousness to serious matters, guys. Or even this column in the progressive magazine Mother Jones, where a former Obama staffer, despite supporting the movement’s larger goals, still insists on calling the initiators of Occupy Wall Street “all crazy ones.”

Stop Corporate Greed

But this is old news. Ever since the beginning of the movement, media outlets, politicians, left-wingers, right-wingers, and members of the public have tried to discount the Occupy Wall Street protest activity by accusing participants of not having concrete plans, of being vague and decentralized, and of not streamlining their messaging. The coverage always insists on reiterating the same question: What exactly are you people asking for?

But the burden of proof should not always have to fall on the public. Occupy Wall Street and associated protest movements have identified the circumstances of the crisis and have pointed to the context that drove them to action: no jobs, no affordable healthcare, impunity for the real crooks of the financial crisis, staggering corporate profits and executive bonuses, a widening wage gap, too much corporate influence in our government, and much, much more.

Concrete Ideas

These are the collective concerns, many of which were outlined in the Declaration on September 29, and yet people keep accusing the movement of not having any tangible complaints or proposals for change. Well, I have a two-pronged response.

1.) Coming up with policy solutions and proposals should not be the job of Occupy Wall Street. Protestors should not have to have centralized messaging, single-issue demands, or charts and graphs to demonstrate their rationality and seriousness. Occupy Wall Street and its partner protests around the country have pointed a finger at a crisis. They cannot reverse it or make steps to prevent it from happening again without the collaboration of larger social institutions. It is the work of economists, elected officials, the President’s cabinet, members of government agencies, and nonprofit advocacy organizations to put into motion reforms, laws and regulations based on the people’s demands. The people have cried out for help to ensure that corporations don’t have undue influence over our government, that there are no more predatory lenders or rapid stock trading. Now it’s your turn to act, America.

2.) Of course, Occupy Wall Street protestors aren’t just sitting back and waiting for the world to change. Protest is not just about getting the attention of those in power and hoping that they’ll respond to make lasting change. Occupy Wall Street participants are spending their time actively responding to and shaping an alternative to the moral crisis in this country. Through the consensus-based model known as the General Assembly, people in New York City’s Zucotti Park are creating the world they wish to see. The micro-communities camping out all over the country are modeling themselves after a world that doesn’t exist in the U.S., a world where grassroots democracy is a reality.

Watch this incredible short video to get a taste of the consensus model if you haven’t already seen it in action, or just to be re-inspired if you already know about it:

And that should be enough.

Indeed, many unlikely allies have begun latching onto the messaging of Occupy Wall Street to show that the protest’s concerns are real.

First, there are charts from Business Insider that show how “inequality in this country has hit a level that has been seen only once in the nation’s history, and unemployment has reached a level that has been seen only once since the Great Depression. And, at the same time, corporate profits are at a record high.”

David Weidner, Wall Street columnist for MarketWatchpenned an op-ed arguing that “the bankers who brought us this mess not only walk free, they drive free in Bentleys paid for by money looted through toxic mortgages, trading debacles and derivative madness…The ones outraged by greed run amok, reckless behavior and fraud are getting wrestled to the pavement and arrested.”

So why not stop trying to malign the movement? They are here to stay. Take them seriously.

The Economy Could Be More FairThanks for listening.

Moscow Pride 2011 Logo: Features a cupola like the one on Moscow's famous St. Basil's Cathedral, except in rainbow colorsThe Russian Government has marked the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO) by once again banning Moscow Gay Pride. Moscow’s Deputy Mayor Ludmila Shvetsova cites the city’s inability to provide adequate protection and security from the anti-gay forces who will inevitably attend the event.

This is bullshit. One of the main threats of violence for the Pride organizers and marchers comes from Moscow’s Police and Riot guard themselves, who have interrupted the marches and violently arrested participants year after year.

While organizers of 6th annual Moscow Pride on May 28th of this year plan to hold their event regardless of the City Hall decision, this certainly comes as a blow to their organizing and once again reflects the stubborn bigotry of Moscow’s leadership. Their next step is to move their plea directly to the federal government and apply for a permit to march in front of the Kremlin, the federal seat of power, an area which is under the direct jurisdiction of President Dmitri Medvedev.

Organizers are quite used to this kind of treatment by their own government and have always circumvented it by planning events in secret and being prepared for arrests, intimidation and interruption. After all, they managed to hold Pride events even under former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who famously called the “faggots” “satanic.”

I met Moscow Pride’s main organizer, Nikolai Alekseev, at an event earlier this year. Alekseev’s persona moves easily from high-profile professional as he travels the world speaking about human rights to on-the-ground rabble-rouser. He told those of us in attendance at a Columbia University-sponsored event that his organization’s tactic keep getting more and more James Bond-esque because they have to do so much of the planning in secret to avoid getting shut down before they even hit the streets. Alekseev says that organizers are followed and have their phones tapped in the weeks leading up to Pride every year.

Alekseev is not all gloom and doom, though. In that talk (watch a complete video here), he confidently insisted that within a few years, the debate in Russia will change from whether or not to ban marches to the more serious considerations of marriage equality, sex ed and homophobia. Not only that, but Russian LGBTQ activists had a victory late last year with the city government of St. Petersburg authorized its first ever gay rally.

I encourage you to check out the complete video of Alekseev’s talk to learn about the history of the Moscow Pride movement, their victories at the European Court of Human Rights and their dreams for the future.

Tennessee couple, Laura and Carol Ann Stutte, whose home was burned to the ground and whose garage was spray-painted with the word "QUEERS."

Photo: Bob Fowler / News Sentinel

I usually write my own original content in this blog and don’t simply repost other people’s words. I try to add my perspective to what’s being said about LGBT issues. But this email I just received from GetEqual was so shocking and upsetting and really said it all, so I am just going to repost it here:

Dear friends,

Sadly, even with each step we make towards progress, we can’t forget the discrimination LGBT folks face across the country…

We’re working with an extraordinarily brave Tennessee couple, Laura and Carol Ann Stutte, whose home was burned to the ground and whose garage was spray-painted with the word “QUEERS.” Returning from an anniversary celebration weekend six months ago to the ashes of their former life, they have been fighting with their insurance company (American National Property and Casualty) simply to honor their homeowners policy and allow their family to move forward.

The Stuttes’ neighbor had threatened them before, pledging to kill their dog (found poisoned shortly thereafter) and to burn down their home (done). They’re now living in another part of Tennessee, fearful that their neighbor will find them and kill them, since she announced to them that, “The only thing better than one dead queer is two dead queers.”

We’re committed to doing everything we can to make sure that this family sees justice, and have partnered with Change.org to mobilize as many justice-minded folks as possible to petition the insurance company, ANPAC, to make good on the Stuttes’ policy.

Sign the petition here!

Please help the Stuttes family in this small way to at least let them recuperate from the damages done to their home. This will in no way make up for the trauma and violence enacted upon them, but will allow them some stability to move forward and rebuild.

My wishes go out to them and to all survivors of vicious hate crimes.

Update: The bill passed 249-175 (18 Republicans for, 17 Democrats against) !!!

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Watch the live CSPAN feed here.  You can also follow what people are saying on twitter by searching for the #FightHateNow hashtag.

Many of the Republican opponents are using the argument that this bill would constitute an infringement on the freedom of speech of religious organizations.  See an article from the Christian Post that makes this argumentRep. Gohmert (R-TX) just said that the radical gay movement will use this bill to force churches to accept their lifestyle.

The National Center for Transgender Equality has a one-pager that explains why this is not true.

They will vote within the hour!

My friend and bandmate Jesse from Campus Progress got some great videos from the Westboro Baptist Church’s protest over at the White House on Tuesday.

Some highlights:

The protest was also used to raise money for Gays and Lesbians Opposed to Violence, a DC-area group I wrote about here.

Watch it!

(Ooh, and Towleroad linked to it!)

From the dudes who brought you the Project for a New American Century:

The Foreign Policy Initiative!

(basically PNAC 2.0 but neither better nor improved)

Hurrah! These are the guys who:

  • support an increased use of the U.S. military force in pretty much any situation
  • an increasingly bipolar world with the U.S. (“democracy”) on one side and Russia+China (“autocracy”) on the other
  • comprised the key lobby for the Iraq invasion of 2003
  • and made their way to high positions within the Bush adminisration

From an article on the recent launch of FPI (this link provides a good summary of both PNAC and FPI):

“This reminds me of the Project for the New American Century,” said Steven Clemons, director of the American Strategy Programme at the New America Foundation. “Like PNAC, it will become a watering hole for those who want to see an ever-larger U.S. military machine and who divide the world between those who side with right and might and those who are evil or who would appease evil.”

Yikes.  Keep a look out.   They are hosting their first event as we speak, a series of panel discussions in support of a surge in Afghanistan.

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