World

Gay Rights Are Women's Rights

As predicted, when the Democratic National Convention rolled out its platform today, we learned that one of the planks calls for marriage equality , along with a call for federal protection from being fired for being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. The marriage-equality plank signals a significant shift in the Democratic Party, a decision to work on behalf of me and my gal, for which I am deeply grateful. (Cue a gleeful Tigger, remembering how this would have sounded like science fiction to the Ohio 15-year-old with my name who was terrified when she realized that she was falling in love with another girl—terrified that she might be, you know, like the gym teacher .) Marriage equality won't exactly solve the problems of Darnell “ Dynasty ” Young, the Indianapolis teen who was kicked out of high school for carrying a stun gun after he discovered, painfully, that t he masculinity patrol is still alive and well. Dynasty’s mother bought him the stun gun when his high school did...

Don't Think of a Hurricane!

So it’s the last week of the summer, and you’re one of the few in the office who hasn’t escaped for vacation, and the Republicans are failing their God-given duty to offer you some entertainment while you wait for things to speed up again? Some nerve they have! Here are some things to read, and not to read, while we wait for the balloons to start dropping. First, do not go reading all those stories about how Isaac is tracking Katrina , the other famous Republican hurricane. (Five years ago, I gave a little talk about the moral values that were not on display during Katrina’s aftermath here .) And don’t start thinking, in your godless way, that if a potential hurricane were threatening the Democratic convention, certain evangelicals would say it was God’s punishment for believing that women and LGBT folks are fully human. We know that this is not the climate’s angry punishment of those who deny that it is changing. So don’t even let yourself start dancing with thoughts like that. The...

The GOP's Platform Heels

(Flickr/PBS Newshour)
(Flickr/Courtesy of PBS NewsHour) The 2008 Republican National convention Oh, what excitement we’re having for a slow August! (One of my editors, frustrated that no one would return his calls, once called these two weeks “the dead of summer.”) First we learned that Representative Todd Akin believes women have magical powers to repel a rapist's sperm from our uteruses—and the underlying ideas that, as Lindsay Beyerstein yesterday delineated so crisply, "forcible rape is the only real rape" and "women habitually lie about rape," which she notes are two sides of the same coin. Then we learned that the draft Republican Party platform will continue to insist that women should never be permitted—under any circumstances, even rape, even childhood sexual violation, or even if the pregnancy endangers their lives—to refuse to host the comma-sized embryo lodged inside them. What exactly might a world with such laws look like? Consider what happened to a pregnant teenager in the Dominican...

Playing Defense on the Sequestration Battle

As January 1 draws near, expect doomsday predictions about big national-security cuts to ramp up. 

(AP Photo/Steve Helber)
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) I f you’ve been following the news, chances are you have heard of “sequestration” by now. Everyone in national security—from the Pentagon to Congress to industry to the think tanks—seems to agree that the spending cuts would be a menace that deserves to be squelched. But is it? Sequestration is an automatic spending cut inserted into the Budget Control Act of 2011. The cuts were designed to light a fire under the Supercommittee to agree on specific cuts, because failure would mean a blanket slashing of many areas of the federal budget, gutting both parties’ spending priorities. The Supercommittee didn’t accomplish its given task and the cuts remain, so we might theoretically see the first chunks of the $1.2 trillion in cuts (over ten years)—including $55 billion per year in reduced defense spending—take effect in January. Unless the national security establishment stops it first, that is. At about $676 billion (in FY2012), U.S. defense spending accounts for...

Obama's European Socialist Empire

(AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)
It has been a long time since Europe has featured so prominently in an American presidential race. Republicans, in particular, have seen the crisis plaguing the Eurozone as an opportunity to attack president Obama, who—they claim—is leading America away from its core values and towards the sickly collectivism prevalent in the European Union. Mitt Romney, in one of those hilarious-but-horrifying Republican debates last September, spoke of a president “taking his inspiration […] from the socialist democrats in Europe," before pointing out that he, in contrast, believed in America. His vice-presidential pick, Paul Ryan, was complaining to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza about the lurch towards a European style of government in March 2009, before the crisis in Greece had begun, and has continued invoking the frightening specter of the Europeanization of American as the Eurozone’s woes have deepened. It is well known that political campaigns leave little room for facts and sober analysis. I...

Bracing for a Hit from Europe

(Flickr/Juan Carlos García Lorenzo)
It may be the peak of vacation season in Europe, but the continent’s fiscal crisis has not taken a break. Last week, Wolfgang Schäuble, the powerful German finance minister, took time out from his holiday to have a sit-down with his American counterpart, Tim Geithner, in the North Sea island of Sylt. The last-minute meeting was organized at Geithner’s request. Less than a hundred days from the U.S. presidential election, it highlighted—as if more evidence were necessary—the Obama administration’s concern about how developments in the Eurozone could affect the vote come November 6. The crisis calendar between now and then is certainly packed; if a week is a long time in politics, three months is an eternity in economics. Below, the Prospect sketches out a road-map of the pitfalls ahead. Greece We start, unsurprisingly, in Greece. The recently elected coalition government there is putting the final touches on a new austerity program—a condition for its second bailout. The program calls...

Olympic Girls Go Bad-Boy

Women at the world's top sporting event are shaking off pressure to be feminine in the public eye.

U.S. Women's National Soccer Team striker Abby Wambach (Twitter/@AbbyWambach)
Athleticism in women has generated social unease going back at least as far as the Greek myth of Atalanta, the princess who refused to marry a man who couldn’t beat her in a footrace and was finally conquered by a “hero” who beats her by cheating. Women in sports flout the feminine not only by being competitive, but by using their bodies for an end other than sex and child-bearing. Since they first started competing in 1900, female Olympians have faced pressure to relieve sexist anxieties by turning up the girliness, even if doing so hurts their performance. In the past, the need to distinguish female from male athletes—and thus preserve their femininity—has led the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to enforce silly uniform requirements like bikinis for beach volleyball and skirts for tennis. Social ideals about femininity have also guided which female sports get the most attention: It tends to be those that highlight beauty and grace, such as gymnastics or figure skating. Note...

Mitt the Likudlican

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak) Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney meets with Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem. Four summers ago, when Barack Obama landed in Israel, one of the country's most popular papers headlined the event, "Obamania" and reported that he was greeted "like a rock star." This past weekend, Mitt Romney was not received in Israel as a rock star. The Hebrew headlines on his arrival noted his close friendship with Benjamin Netanyahu—and that he bombed in London. By the time he left, Romney managed to shift attention to his hawkish positions on Iran, but also to his breaches of American and Israeli political manners. His partnership with the Israeli prime minister was even more conspicuous than when he came. What Israelis learned about Mitt may seem tangential to the U.S. election. But a close read of Romney's visit matters—not just to that small number of Jewish voters whom Romney hoped to sway, but to...

The Incongruous Olympics

Will the Olympics be a break from Europe and England's problems, or make them more vivid?

(Photo courtesy of www.london2012.com)
Try as I might—which is, OK, not very hard—I'm having a tough time getting jazzed for the Olympics this year. I get the feeling I'm not the only one. The locals are reportedly grumpy already about the mobs of untrained tourists futzing up London commuters' very own Olympic event, which is predictable enough. But then Mitt Romney got into the act. Giving us a preview of his smooth idea of international diplomacy—I guess he has been talking to John Bolton—he wondered on his arrival in town whether the Brits really had it in them to properly "celebrate" the games. Being accused of not knowing how to party by Mitt Romney has to sting. A man who now has a brand-new reason to root for Obama, David Cameron frostily guaranteed that Britain would "deliver," not exactly the most rambunctious of verbs. Even so, I wondered whether, for once in his life, Mitt had a point. Starting with the games' Bizarro World mascots—Wenlock and Mandeville, a pair of one-eyed Pixar rejects destined to give...

Romney Has Nothing to Win by Talking Foreign Policy

Besides pledging his unconditional support to the government of Israel and reiterating his willingness to use force against Iran, Mitt Romney didn’t actually offer foreign policy ideas in his speech this afternoon to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. What he did do, however, was denounce President Obama’s foreign policy in the strongest terms possible. In particular, he attacked the administration’s opposition to missile defense, its willingness to accommodate and work with Russia—which he has deemed our “number one geopolitical foe”—its unwillingness to take a belligerent stance towards Venezuela, and its refusal to intervene in uprisings across the Middle East, from the 2009 Green protests in Iran to the recent events in Egypt and Syria. He promised to take a hard stance against China, and presented Obama as an avatar for American decline and weakness: I will not surrender America’s leadership in the world. We must have confidence in our cause, clarity in our...

It's the Occupation, Stupid

Why did the most recent coalition in the Israeli government only last ten weeks?

In France's Fourth Republic, it was said that tourists in Paris made sure to take in the daily changing of the government. According to myth, a deputy who dozed in the National Assembly might wake up to be told that he'd been premier twice during his nap. The coalitions that rule countries with multiparty systems can be flimsy things. But outside the realm of myth, Israel's most recent coalition was particularly short-lived: It ruled for ten weeks, just seventy days, before collapsing this week. By bringing Shaul Mofaz's centrist Kadima Party into his government in May, Netanyahu sought to avoid early elections. Among the big things that new friends Shaul and Bibi promised to do were ending the widely resented draft exemption for ultra-Orthodox men and jump-starting the peace process with the Palestinians. In other words, Netanyahu would show that he was really a moderate, and that he had been waiting for Kadima's support to rule as one. The explicit reason that Kadima left the...

The Cult of MEK

The Mujahedin-e Khalq is trying to steer its supporters in the United States toward war, which shows that the enemy of our enemy is not our friend.

(AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) is in the news again . Images of Newt Gingrich bowing to the Iranian dissident group’s leader, Maryam Rajavi, after speaking to MEK members at a Paris rally, and Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page’s unauthorized, paid speech at the same event have brought renewed attention to the MEK’s expensive (and possibly illegal ) lobbying operation in Washington. Gingrich and Page aren’t the only high-profile figures the MEK has enlisted in its bid to get off the State Department’s foreign terrorist organization list. The group has persuaded a number of onetime officials, including former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security Adviser Francis Fragos Townsend, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, to argue its case. These public figures have taken money , in some cases more than $30,000 per speech, to speak on the group’s behalf. As a result, the U.S...

Turkey Takes Off

The EU's perennial reject has seen impressive growth—but there are warning signs for the future.

Flickr/ognjenodobasic
What a difference ten years makes. In 2001, Greece adopted the euro as its national currency. Its borrowing costs, which plummeted in expectation of this momentous event, were almost as low as Germany’s. Its growth rate for the year climbed to 4.1 percent and inflation hovered around 4 percent—a sharp decline from the double digits of the ’80s and ’90s. It was a country on the way up. On the other hand, Turkey, its neighbor and geopolitical arch-rival, was mired in a major financial crisis. Its currency was collapsing, its banking system was broken and unemployment was skyrocketing. These days, it is the Greeks who are in an economic freefall, while Turkey is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world: In 2011, Turkish GDP jumped by 8.5 percent, almost besting its 9 percent expansion in 2010. In a country with a young workforce (the average age is 28), a large rural underclass, and poor infrastructure aching to be upgraded, the prospects for more banner years look good...

Vive la France!

Flickr/gpaumier
Yes, folks, it's another Tigger day. Last week, while I was talking about how straight people changed marriage so that same-sex couples now belong in it, the new French government announced that it will gender-neutralize the entrance requirements for marriage early next year, which will also grant same-sex couples full adoption rights. That would mean that twelve nations marry same-sex pairs, plus some states and provinces scattered hither and yon. In historical order, that would include The Netherlands (2001), Belgium (2003), Spain (2005), Canada (2003, in some provinces; 2005, nationally), South Africa (2006), Norway (2009), Sweden (2009), Portugal (2010), Iceland (2010), Argentina (2010), and Denmark (2012). After France, I'm looking at Australia, where the debate is in full swing; the majority of Australians ( 62 percent ) say they favor marriage equality; the relevant Senate committee has recommended that Parliament pass an equal-marriage law; and a highly active national...

What’s the European Central Bank?

The Prospect takes a look at one of the key players in Europe's financial crisis.

(Flickr / Davide "Dodo" Oliva)
Weird terms like “yield spreads,” “troika,” and “Merkel” have been popping up in the news, often surrounded by acronyms like IMF, ESM, EFSF, and FROB. Our politicians aren't talking about it much, but you can bet your retirement they will once Wall Street underwriters start freaking out about it. Today, the Prospect fills you in on one of the most important acronym in the euro crisis: the ECB, or the European Central Bank. The European whatsit? In a nutshell, the ECB is the central bank of the Eurozone—the countries of the European Union that use the euro. Though it only technically became a crucial apparatus of the European Union in 2009, it has a large role in the history of European integration. For now, we'll just leave it at this: The ECB controls the monetary policy of Eurozone countries. It's also one of the newer venues in which France and Germany play chicken over who's the boss of Europe. More on that later. Monetary policy? So it’s like the Fed? Sort of. There are definite...

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