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Meet the Twisted 'Pioneer' of the Right-Wing War on Women

April 13, 2014 in Blogs

By Whitney Strub, Salon.com

Charles Keating was best known for his shady financial dealings, but his politics were even more destructive.


The late Charles Keating, who died last week at the age of 90, is remembered primarily for his role in the savings-and-loan crisis of the 1980s, as a symbol of the frauds and excesses of an unregulated financial sector — a debacle from which we seem to have learned very little. Yet, ironically, those of us interested in American sexual politics remember a very different side of Keating: the smut-fighting moral entrepreneur who called for more regulation — as long as it pertained to matters of obscenity, rather than investment.

Keating’s pioneering activity in junk-bond innovation has all but eclipsed what may, in fact, be his most lasting legacy. As founder and longtime leader of Citizens for Decent Literature (CDL), Keating pioneered a new form of sexual conservatism, modernizing it to meet the changing mores of the mid-20th century. Through CDL, Keating developed a legalistic, pseudo-empirical anti-porn movement that worked hard to show itself as not anti-sex, but rather anti-perversion. As such, Keating brilliantly framed CDL for a post-Kinsey America, leaving a lasting imprint on conservative sexual politics.

A young Catholic lawyer in socially conservative Cincinnati in the 1950s, Keating watched with alarm as the newsstands and paperback racks of the nation filled with pulp novels and Playboy imitators, and he assessed the American moral landscape with a clarity few at the time possessed. Even as the Cold War witnessed a dramatic sexual retrenchment that ranged from aggressively domestic ideals for women to state-sponsored violence and suppression toward queer “deviants,” anti-smut activism seemed to be at low ebb. “Censorship” was unpopular, viewed through a Cold War prism as a tactic of the totalitarian Soviet Union, not freedom-loving Americans — none less than President Dwight D. Eisenhower castigated “the book burners” in 1953. Meanwhile, old forms of moral activism had fallen into disrepute. Anti-smut activist Anthony Comstock, in whose name the 1873 federal obscenity law had been passed, was now viewed through a post-Freudian lens as a repressed Victorian, and Catholic cultural influence was on the wane, with the traditional …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Paying for America's War Machine Is a Terrible Waste of Tax Money

April 13, 2014 in Blogs

By Lisa Savage, AlterNet

It’s time to redirect our resources to meet human needs. It’s time to bring the war dollars home.


On April 14, the eve of tax day and ironically (or appropriately) Global Day of Action Against Military Spending, the Pentagon plans to launch a brand new weapon system, one that uses electric pulses to project a 40-pound missile the distance from New York City to Philadelphia at a speed of 5,600 mph. The U.S. Navy spent more than $4 billion to develop and build its stealth destroyer, the USS Zumwalt, a key element in President Obama's announced “pivot to the Pacific.” It's expected that the Zumwalt will be patrolling the coast of China soon at further – as yet undetermined –  expense to U.S. taxpayers.

When we're told by our elected officials that we can't afford full funding for education, SNAP (food stamps), Head Start, or unemployment compensation, how is it that we can afford the endless “War on Terror” plus a pivot to East Asia? Expecting a peace divided as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan wind down is wishful thinking: President Obama still proposes to spend a whopping 55% of federal discretionary funds for Fiscal Year 2015 on the military.

In addition, we can expect still more spending on what normal people call “war funding” but Pentagon doublespeak calls “Overseas Contingency Operations” (OCO), a budget which is not subject to caps or cuts under sequestration. In 2014, Congress provided $85 billion for OCO, which has become a slush fund for the Pentagon to use on whatever.

President Obama’s FY15 budget also includes $28 billion for the “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative.” He explained that this budget line would enable the Pentagon to “accelerate the schedules for developing and buying new or upgraded systems.”

Wasteful “defense” spending has the appearance of becoming a permanent fact of life in the U.S., creating a toxic dependence on the military in the local economies of every state in the nation. In response to objections, Sen. Angus King (I-ME) told his constituents we have to fund projects like the Zumwalt because: jobs. Last month he wrote: “Cuts …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Why Is This Blog Post Different From All Other Blog Posts?

April 13, 2014 in Blogs

By Marty Kaplan, AlterNet

Ma Nishtana — Let's not fool ourselves again about the true situation humanity is in.


There are two ma nishtanas – one adorable, and one ironic.

They both mean the same thing in Hebrew: “What is different?” “What has changed?”

The adorable one gets its charm from being sung by the youngest child at the Passover seder. Ma nishtana starts the sentence setting up the Four Questions: “Why is this night different from all other nights?” They are the questions of an innocent puzzled by the changes at the evening meal, and even if the 8-year-old asking now also asked last year, and will ask again next year, and knows what the four answers are, everyone around the table is glad to play their roles in Pesach theater.

If you've been to a seder, you know that the Four Questions are about things like why do we eat matzah instead of bread, and what's up with this biting into a horseradish; they also prompt the telling of the Exodus story, which is the purpose of the holiday: to pass the once-we-were-slaves-in-Egypt legacy to the next generation.

The ironic ma nishtana is not part of Passover, though it could well be said while passing the seder brisket, in response to the report that Cousin Harold's new girlfriend is 15 years younger than him, or that Aunt Yetta blew her Social Security check at the slots. This one means, “So what else is new?” “Tell me something I don't know.” “What a surprise.”

This is the been-there-done-that ma nishtana, the wry, weary voice of experience about the way of the world. A non-Hebrew version of it is a rhetorical question and answer that goes something like this: Q: “What do you call it when a Wall Street banker who sells worthless junk to pension funds gets a bailout and a bonus instead of jail time?” A: “Tuesday.” Another day, another garden-variety outrage. Welcome to normal. If you're surprised by sin, you haven't been paying attention.

Usually, when I encounter some appalling evidence of immorality or injustice, when I see some deception or ignorance flushed out by facts, my first instinct is …read more

Source: ALTERNET

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Gujarat Is India's Top State in Economic Freedom

April 13, 2014 in Economics

By Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Swaminathan S. Anklesaria Aiyar

Does Narendra Modi actually have a great Gujarat model, or just well packaged hype? Critics say that Gujarat has grown fast, but some others have grown faster.

The Raghuram Rajan Committee on development indicators says Gujarat’s social indicators are just middling. Looking at children of class 3-5 who can do subtraction, Gujarat has declined from 22nd among 28 states in 2006 to 23rd in 2012. However, economist Arvind Panagariya argues that Gujarat has made substantial social progress under Modi, starting from a low base.

EFSI and other studies show that Gujarat has good governance.”

Forget this debate. Neither growth nor social indicators are accurate measures of Modi’s main election plank — good governance. Measuring governance is difficult, and hence neglected by statisticians. Yet it’s all-important. One annual report has long provided indicators of governance. This is Economic Freedom of the States of India (EFSI), written by Bibek Debroy, Laveesh Bhandari and me. The 2013 EFSI report shows Gujarat has been No. 1 in economic freedom for the last three years, widening its lead over others. On a scale from 0 to 1, its overall freedom score has improved from 0.46 to 0.65. Tamil Nadu comes a distant second with 0.54. Economic freedom is not identical to good governance. But lack of economic freedom typically means poor governance — a jungle of rules and obfuscating bureaucrats that promote corruption, delay and harassment. This hits everybody from farmers and consumers to industrialists and transporters.

What exactly is economic freedom? EFSI uses a methodology adapted from Economic Freedom of the World, an annual publication of the Fraser Institute. Data for Indian states is not available on many issues. So, EFSI limits itself to 20 indicators of the size and efficiency of state governments, their legal structure and property rights, and regulation of labour and business.

Many of these indicators directly measure governance — the proportion of stolen property recovered; proportion of judicial vacancies; proportion of violent crimes; proportion of investigations completed by police and of cases completed by the courts; and the pendency rate of corruption cases. The list is by no means comprehensive, but provides strong clues.

Gujarat is the best state in pendency of corruption cases, and in the proportion of non-violent crime. It is close to the top in completion of police investigations. It scores poorly in judicial vacancies and recovery of stolen property.

Its quality of government spending is …read more

Source: OP-EDS