Donovan – Season of the Witch

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Ellen is Sofia Vergara!

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Trans Depathologization: the spark of change.

From Dented Blue Mercedes:  http://dentedbluemercedes.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/trans-depathologization-the-spark-of-change/

By Mercedes Allen
October 30, 2012

Reposted with permission

I watch a lot of news stories unfold, reading left-wing, centrist and right-wing media alike.  In the course of a news story, issues ignite, blaze hotly and then smoulder into memory.  After awhile, one develops some sense of when a campaign will spread like a prairie fire or when it will extinguish itself.  The quest to depathologize transsexual and transgender people (or more likely just transsexed individuals) has smouldered for several years, but recently, something is happening.  It reminds me of looking at a match at the moment of ignition.  Flame shoots out in every direction, then chaos, and then it wraps itself up in whatever movement of air there is… or is blown out by it.  This effort, this time, I think will ignite into a blaze — with the only unknown being whether or not the World Health Organization will listen and respond.

There is a rejuvenated movement to have trans diagnoses removed from mental health classification, under the common belief that if transsexuality were no longer considered a mental illness (in the way that happened with homosexuality was in 1973), that it will lead to the level of acceptance that gay men and lesbians have attained.

This as something that has to happen.  But if not done with care and consideration, it could become more chaotic than it needed to be, and burn more people than necessary in the process.  Here’s why, and what can minimize this.

First, the Background.

Jenna Talackova, the beauty queen who fought for the right to compete in the Miss Universe Canada pageant regardless of her trans history, wants you to know that she’s not sick.  In a petition at change.org, she writes: “… the World Health Organization (WHO) insists that I, and millions of other trans people are sick. The WHO actually considers transsexualism to be a mental disorder.”

To that end, she is petitioning the World Health Organization to stop considering transsexual people to be mentally ill, as the WHO revises the International Classification of Diseases (ICD 11).  The ICD includes transsexuality as “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID).  The American Psychiatric Association does the same in their similar volume, the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual, although the petition is addressed to the WHO only.  The DSM is the volume used in the US, while the ICD is the reference used in most nations outside North America.  The APA has proposed to change the name to “Gender Dysphoria” for the upcoming DSM-V, which some have trumpeted as being a change from mental health classification… but it really isn’t.  In fact, the proposed revision to the DSM has gone backwards, by annexing intersexed conditions into the definition of GID.

Jenna’s petition is part of a larger project through Change.org, with a single petition split into six campaigns.  The U.S. version of the letter is written by blogger Maxwell Zachs, a cast member of  the UK reality TV show, “My Transsexual Summer.”  There are others for Spain (with Carla Antonelli), Italy (with Vladimir Luxuria), Germany (Kim Schicklang), and France (Rochelle Gregorie).  49,000 people have signed on since the petition launched in early October.

The genesis for this project appears to come from Stop Trans Pathologization 2012, even though petition links don’t appear on that group’s website, and it may be only loosely affiliated. STP2012 recently marked its International Day of Action on October 20th, for which this campaign was apparently conceived.

The Need.

There is no doubt that there is a need for change, and that sooner would be better than later.  Some of this is optics: as long as the public thinks of transsexuality as mental illness, it provides seeming justification for creating roadblocks, denying employment, denying housing, blocking access to services, blocking access to health care funding, and more.  Throw a rock in the air, and you’re sure to hit any of thousands of right-wing commentaries that use mental health classification as reason to oppose even basic human rights inclusion for trans people.

Depathologization is the benchmark “marriage” issue of trans people.  Medical classification actually affects more than just transsexed people, although nobody seems to be questioning the categorizations that affect non-transsexed trans people.  Which is why there is some temptation to see this as an effort that benefits mostly those in trans communities who are privileged and not affected by some of the more urgent forms of disenfranchisement.  Especially when over 40 years later, gay men and lesbians are still routinely accused of mental illness (although that argument has no value, other than to challenge peoples’ expectations), and even still off-and-on classified that way in some areas.

But it’s not just optics.  Pathologizing diagnoses are sometimes used to adversely affect custody of children, employment, access to support services, participation in the military (most notably in the U.S., where the end of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell didn’t help trans servicemembers) and more.  There are many tangible instances where this classification becomes a roadblock.

The current diagnosis also sets itself up to be a pre-existing condition, thus allowing it to be exempted from coverage.  In this case, any trans-specific diagnosis would be a problem, and the problem lies with the overall concept of “pre-existing condition” exemptions.

Diagnosis is not treamtent.

The current diagnosis also directs people to a horribly gatekeepered medical system, although it should be remembered that the standards of care are not directed by the DSM or ICD, and removing the classification may not necessarily change this aspect… other than perhaps changing who the individual gatekeepers are.  Gatekeeperism has always been a double-edged sword.  When the person in question is a genuine ally, this has proven to be a reliable route through transition.  But unfortunately, that has often not been the case.  And even when the gatekeeper is an ally, the waiting list to see them is itself an unusual barrier, and the pathway often comes with an expectation of a person fitting a narrow cookie-cutter template.

As it is, though, there are significant challenges to finding medical professionals who are: willing to take on trans patients; not doing so for an opportunity to dispense aversion or reparative therapies; willing to treat according to current WPATH or harm-reductive standards of care; and preferably also experienced in trans health issues.  What we have isn’t working.  But without something to point to the medical process and to demonstrate medical necessity (which a diagnosis does), the net result for trans people could be significantly worse.

But it needs to be remembered that diagnosis is not treatment.  While the two are connected, and affect each other, addressing a diagnosis does not necessarily change the existing treatment processes, other than to sometimes throw them into chaos or abandon them.

Be Careful What You Ask For…

Unlike when homosexuality was declassified from mental health arenas, transsexed people do have very specific medical needs (such as genital reassignment surgery, mastectomies and hysterectomies for trans men, tracheal shave, facial hair removal and breast augmentation for trans women).  And if depathologization isn’t addressed with the greatest of care, the result on access to trans health care could be disastrous.

In April 2008, I wrote an article entitled Destigmatization versus Coverage and Access: The Medical Model of Transsexuality.  That article has been picked up by a number of sources and even a couple academic texts, and cited often — usually as a “No” vote on the issue of depathologization (which frustratingly mischaracterizes what I wrote).  In it, I wrote about the quandary presented by the current diagnosis, and argued that declassifying the diagnosis of GID is inevitable — but before it can be done, an alternate medical model that does not depend on a mental health diagnosis needs to be developed and established, so that existing medical access for people in transition would not be compromised or lost.  A bit of that article is out of date, other aspects reflect some misconceptions of my own when writing, which saw the diagnosis and treatment as more interwoven than they actually are.  The ICD and DSM classifications merely classify, they do not recommend treatment, and that does provide more optimism than reflected in that article.  A diagnosis justifies seeking medical care, though, so they’re not completely decoupled.

When I wrote that article, it was in hopes that someday soon, I’d need to follow it up with happy news of some new development, a brilliant new direction being explored, and a new diagnosis and medical model being imagined and refined.   Instead, nothing has really changed.

The Risk.

Here are some things that are risked in removing classification:

  1. Funding.  In most public and private health insurance structures, a medical code is required to justify the paying out of money for surgical and non-surgical health procedures and services.  So public and private health funding of sex reassignment surgery (GRS/SRS) are vulnerable.  Insurers see them as “cosmetic” procedures, and switching to an elective medical model will only reinforce that perception.  Mastectomies and hysterectomies for trans men might also be affected in this way (unless an alternate justification is given), and conceivably also counseling, or visits to a family doctor for HRT prescriptions and monitoring (depending on billing requirements and local regulations).  And then there’s the HRT itself.  Not all of these are funded in all areas, and in fact, some regions go to great lengths to deny funding for any or all of these things.  But some do, and they could be compromised if GID / GD is simply declassified, with no contingency plan.  Moreover, delisting would significantly hamper the potential to gain funding from insurers that don’t currently cover trans health.
  2. Access.  Simply put, if there’s no diagnosis, a doctor doesn’t have any obligation to care.  If there is a medical classification in some form, there is an obligation to provide care, or at least not stand in the way of it.  This doesn’t always work this way, but the existing situation provides us some recourse when access issues occur.  Further, many surgeons and doctors may not be willing to take on trans patients under a personal elective system, because of fears that we’d change our minds and sue.  The existing 1-to-indefinite year of therapy process has provided a comfortable barrier against legal liability.  How many medical professionals would simply walk away rather than accept that new risk to help trans people — especially with any obligation to treat removed from the equation?
  3. Identification correction and citizenship.  Given that many regions also require a change of physical sex in order to change major identity documents, financial and access barriers to trans-related procedures also extends the time before legal and social enfranchisement is attained.  It shouldn’t be that way (and has been fixed in a couple fortunate jurisdictions), but it is.
  4. Counseling.  While it’s a problem that transition is dependent on therapists, there’s also some need for caution about taking psychiatry entirely out of the equation, at least for those who want it.  Transition does bring with it some emotional upheavals, particularly related to associated stigmas (which won’t simply be gone when transsexuality is no longer considered mental illness) and challenges (unaccepting families, depression from things like job loss, etc).
  5. As twisted as it has been, the existence of a medical classification has provided a form of validation, even if the specific application also invalidates.  It has forced people to acknowledge that we exist.  The problem is that validation has focused on what’s in our heads rather than on what we’re actually bringing into alignment, which is our body.  But regardless of the mistaken focus, this validation has helped to push for legal support.  Just as easy as it is to find right-wingers pointing to the mental health classification as a reason to disparage, you can also throw a rock and randomly hit a reference used to justify and defend.  From a statement made by 20 local and regional NGOs operating in Malaysia, responding to a ruling upholding a law making the wearing of clothes which are considered incongruent with one’s birth sex punishable with a fine of up to RM1,000 and / or up to a year in jail:

In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) the American Psychiatric Association (APA) replaced the diagnostic term “Gender Identity Disorder” with the term “Gender Dysphoria”, “a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and assigned gender”.

The APA too, in a statement urged the repeal of laws and policies that discriminate against transgender and gender variant people.

This is probably a bad example, because the four women who challenged this law lost their case.  They were met with a court ruling that cited Islamic texts and ordered that “religious authorities give counseling to the four and that they act prudently during enforcement.”  Having a diagnosis to cite does not always help.  But sometimes it does.  And when it does, it can mean everything — even a person’s freedom, or their life.

Having the standards of care carry over into physical health treatment in a way that would avert these risks is a greater challenge than many believe.  In the case of the DSM, that volume only has province over mental health issues, so its editors can only declassify.  But the ICD, which is the subject of the petition, does govern both physical and mental health classifications.  Its editors at the WHO can bring about a reclassification, and in fact are best positioned to do so.  But…

Is it congenital?  The challenges to reclassification.

Before a reclassification outside mental health can occur though, a cause needs to be ascertained, and diagnosable criteria defined. Is transsexuality congenital?  Would classification as “Congenital malformations, deformations and chromosomal abnormalities” (Q50-Q56) be just as stigmatizing and warrant yet another future change?  Some intersex groups are fighting against just such a classification, or at least the language used.

Recategorization is not yet feasible, although there have been many intriguing research avenues found in biological sciences which call for more study.  Convincing the medical profession to move a diagnosis when they believe that the current model is workable in their eyes (even if not perfect) is difficult, especially if the alternatives are not yet conclusively proven or causes defined tangibly.

The Informed Consent Model of Care.

The only new development in adult trans health since 2008 is that more people are using what they prefer to call an “informed consent” model of care.  Campus Progress discussed this earlier this year:

Clients at many of these clinics [PDF] can acquire a prescription for hormones after basic laboratory tests, a consultation about hormonal effects, and signing a waiver stating that they know the risks of treatment.

“When we’re working with clients as therapists, the goal is to help people self-realize. We want to allow space for that when it comes to people realizing themselves in the context of their gender,” Talcott Broadhead, a licensed social worker in Olympia, Wash., told Campus Progress.

The informed consent pathway is not yet available in most areas — mostly just a few major population centres in the U.S. — and it’s accepted as a given that funding is entirely the individual’s responsibility.  It also doesn’t state here whether this process facilitates surgical access, and if that means the provision of doctors’ letters to surgeons (in which case, informed consent becomes not much different from a harm reduction model).

If you live in an area where funding isn’t available anyway and is heavily gatekeepered, the informed consent path is 100% better. But it’s also a model that favours the privileged and lucky.  Informed consent remains an elective process, without the use of a medical classification at all, and treats transition as entirely cosmetic, not as medically necessary, even if individual doctors involved realize otherwise.  And since billing is often tied to categorization, I’m not sure how that would work.  In any event, though, the voluntary nature has a tendency to undermine the necessity and validation needed for funding and widely-available access.

WPATH has revised its standards of care to be compatible with both informed consent and harm reduction models.

The harm reduction model.

What many in the medical field have been turning to is a harm reduction model, reducing the stigma as much as possible, while utilizing its strengths to make it available everywhere.  The results vary considerably by region.

The change made from “Gender Identity Disorder” to “Gender Dysphoria,” for example, is made to try to reduce the harm of the mental health stigma.

And then there’s “Transvestic Fetish”

If GID were listed tomorrow, there would still be people who seek counseling to deal with their sense of feeling out of place, and believing that changing their mind is easier than changing the body.  There would also still be people coerced or forced into treatment, especially youth, who are often not given any personal agency of their own.  And it would take time for medical professionals to become aware of this change, let alone warm to it.

One of the issues mentioned in Destigmatization… regarding the DSM volume, was that if GID is dropped from medical classification while Transvestic Fetish (TF) remains, this opens up the possibility that for anyone who crosses paths with the mental health system (and possibly the health system overall), TF could become a diagnosis of choice.  TF is also found in the ICD, as Fetishistic Transvestitism, F65.1.  This classification puts an emphasis on the clothes one wears, and implies a sexual motivation (which are besides the point and inaccurate, respectively), but it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see how those who are adverse to transitioning people would take advantage of the existence of a TF-style classification and its exclusive status… and weaponize it.

The intent of the latest petitions may be to depathologize, but the result could very easily be a far more damaging pathology.

The way we think about mental health.

The discussion actually says a lot about the way we think about mental health, and the idea that “mental illness” is anathema. The movement to depathologize is based on a shallow understanding of what a diagnosis means, let alone a mental health one.  The assumption, of course, is that a mental health condition either automatically means insanity or else is a figment of a person’s imagination.  The stigma trans people face is more rooted in the public belief about what constitutes “normal” than anything that’s actually in the diagnosis itself, and that societal obsession with normativity won’t change just by reclassifying or declassifying anything.

In a way, the underlying motive is an injustice to the many people who are diagnosed with depression, autism, bipolar or social anxiety conditions, addictions, ADD / ADHD and more, some of whom travel in trans communities as well.  And it can easily translate to horizontal violence, if people choose to ignore this fact.

The spark of change.

There’s probably a reason that this latest movement reminds me of a match catching fire.  There is incredible potential there, but without the certainty yet of whether that power will warm or consume.  It’s all in how we use it.

The problem is that change essentially never comes easy.  There appears to always be some turmoil, at which point, society has to adjust, and figure out how to deal with it.  The question, then, is this: is society at a place where it’s ready to do so?  Are we at a place yet where the benefits outweigh the price that will be paid?  And have we adequately thought about ways to minimize the harm between points A and B?

I’m not satisfied that this is the case, especially when one looks at the question globally.  In some parts of the world, even what we have now is a hard sell.

And yet, it’s igniting now.  Now is the time for change, for many of us — perhaps it’s even long overdue.  Given that cautions in 2008 have gone unheeded, blowing out the flame is not the right thing to do, either.  So instead, I ask that people be aware.  Handle that flame with care.

A Solution.

Problems are easy to point out.  Solutions, usually not so much.  There is a possible solution, here, albeit one that doesn’t neatly solve everything.

Most of the risks outlined above hinge upon the existence of a medical diagnosis.  There is an apparent need for one, but that diagnosis does not have to be a mental health diagnosis.

If the petition were to focus on asking the World Health Organization to actively and urgently investigate the development of an alternate diagnosis in a way that would make transition not dependent on a mental health diagnosis — and which would involve some level of community consultation (probably the harder-sell request of the two) — well, this would be absolutely worth doing.

This solution doesn’t address the point about the way we think about mental health.  That would take a changing of hearts and minds, starting with our own.  But I’m not optimistic that that will happen in any near future.  Even just getting people to think about the political, medical, financial and social realities outside of Theirtown, USA (or Canada) is a bit of a stretch, at times.

But it is a solution.  And it could be do-able, in a way that maintains the spirit of the original petition, which says:

“This doesn’t mean that trans people should be excluded from the health system: pregnant women are not sick, but they have medical protocols and assistance. The same should happen with trans people.”

Pregnancy is covered at length in Chapter XV of the ICD, in classifications O00–O99: “Pregnancy, childbirth and the puerperium.”  Just in case anyone was wondering.

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APA DSM-5 Gender Dysphoria: A Kinder, Gentler Machine Gun Hand

From planetransgender:   http://planetransgender.blogspot.com/2012/10/apa-dsm-5-gender-dysphoria-kinder.html

By Kelli Anne Busey
Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reposted with permission

Most all of us who have come to a point in our lives where we feel our transition has been successful, all have one common problem.

Much of the world doesn’t recognize or respect our gender expression.

So we are happy, or like me still thrilled, to look in the mirror, to see the external changes. To sit quietly reflecting on our internal growth and the amazing interpersonal relationships which have since sprouted.

To know in my heart this is who my artistic first wife saw when she drew a picture of who she knew I would be in my mature years. No one including myself believed I could be such a wise intuitive soul, but she did.

Much of the world still doesn’t know. It’s been a battle extraordinaire fighting for my life at the first full time job since transitioning in 2007. Yes five years.

I am winning. I am being grudgingly granted respect by the last of the management holdouts, not because of any revelation on their part, but because I am a person of extraordinaire worth to the company.

A hybrid of sorts. Physically enabled like a athletic man, yet with accessibility of a woman and with the compassion and understanding of a mother. A hybrid gender.

So in a nutshell, I am happy even ecstatic. Then what was holding me back?

social role dysphoria

I can’t blame all the hardships I have endured getting to this point on the APA, the people largely responsible for creating a social toxic atmosphere, but I will say if they stopped adding gas to the haters fire, the air would start to clear.

Kelly Winters who authors GID Reform doesn’t advocate for a total reform arguing that retention would continue to aid many who’s insurance covers transitional needs. In all my life I have yet to shake one of those peoples hands, but hey, I know you are out there. But what about the vast majority of us?

Kelly Winters offers these brilliant observations:

“Transitioned individuals who are highly functional and happy with their lives are forever diagnosable as mentally disordered under flawed criteria that reference characteracterics and assigned roles of natal sex rather than current status. For example, a post-transition adult who is happy in her or his affirmed role, wants to be treated like others of her/his affirmed gender, has typical feelings of those in her/his affirmed gender, and is distressed or unemployed because of external societal prejudice will forever meet criteria A (subcriteria 4, 5 and 6) and B and remain subject to false-positive diagnosis, regardless of how successfully her or his distress of gender dysphoria has been relieved.”

Then she goes on to address the rigid gender stereotyping at the crux of the issue:

The criteria for children are slightly improved over the DSM-IV-TR, in that they can no longer be diagnosed on the basis of gender role nonconformity alone. However, the proposed criteria are unreasonably reliant on gender stereotype nonconformity. Five of eight proposed subcriteria for children are strictly based on gender role nonconformity, with no relevance to the definition of mental disorder. Behaviors and emotions considered ordinary or even exemplary for other (cisgender) children are mis-characterized as pathological for gender variant youth. This sends a harmful message that equates gender variance with sickness. As a consequence, children will continue to be punished, shamed and harmed for nonconformity to assigned birth roles.

So essentially the APA has recognized they are killing us and are seeing if they can get away with using a kinder more gentle machine gun hand.

Stop killing us! Please sign the petition demanding the APA remove Trans From The DSM-5, Yours is the voice they can’t deny. Yours is the kick in the pants that’s bringing the undeniable truth out of the shadows.

The APA has lone profited from our deaths. No More Machine Gun Hand.

Allyson Robinson, New OutServe-SLDN Executive Director, Shatters Glass Ceiling for Transgender Leadership of LGBT Organizations

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/allyson-robinson-outserve-sldn-transgender_b_2044260.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


10/30/2012

History was made last week with the appointment of Allyson Robinson to serve as the executive director of the newly united OutServe-SLDN (Servicemembers Legal Defense Network) organization. What was historic about it? That Allyson Robinson happens to be a trans woman, and this appointment makes her the first trans executive director of a national LGBT organization. I know this because I have been tasked by a network of gay donors from the eQualityGiving community to raise gay consciousness about the dearth of trans board members and staff of national LGBT organizations.

I want to make one point perfectly clear, and it is critical: Allyson was chosen because she is qualified to do the job. That she is trans is noteworthy, and that the appointment is historic is due to the fact that this military organization is the first national LGBT organization with the courage to hire a trans person to lead. But she is not an affirmative action hire. To reiterate, Allyson is qualified for this position, and she happens to be trans.

The stars aligned now because SLDN accomplished the major piece of its life work of the past two decades two years ago: the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell.” The job clearly is not complete, even for gay and lesbian servicemembers, but today the biggest political obstacle facing the LGBT community in the military is discrimination against trans servicemembers. There was disappointment within the trans community as the push to repeal DADT was in full bore, disappointment at being left out. But we were left out because our situation was radically different: We were banned because we were classified by the military as being mentally ill, suffering from “Corporal Klinger disease.” The repeal of DADT had no impact on that reality, just as its passage in 1993 was irrelevant to the trans community.

That situation has now changed. The American medical community now has depathologized the state of being trans; “gender identity disorder” no longer exists. The American Psychiatric Association, in the DSM-5, the soon-to-be-released revision of its diagnostic “bible,” has removed the stigma of mental illness from transgender persons. It has taken too long, given that the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association and the World Professional Association for Transgender Health had long ago learned to respect the inherent humanity of trans people, realizing that being trans was an innate variation of human sexuality and not a disease. Today, finally, the American Psychiatric Association, the official arbiter of mental illness on this continent, with influence around the world, has gotten on board. And that removes the foundation from the military’s archaic anti-trans policy.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/allyson-robinson-outserve-sldn-transgender_b_2044260.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Biden says transgender discrimination ‘civil rights issue of our time’

From Politico:  http://www.politico.com/politico44/2012/10/biden-says-transgender-discrimination-civil-rights-147761.html

By DONOVAN SLACK
10/30/12

Vice President Joe Biden, leaving an Obama campaign office in Sarasota, singled one woman out because she had beautiful eyes, the pool reporter noted:

 She said something …at first inaudible to pool, to which VP responded was the “civil rights issue of our time”

Pool later asked the woman, Linda Carragher Bourne of Sarasota about the exchange. She said her daughter was Miss Trans New England and asked if he would help them.

“A lot of my friends are being killed, and they don’t have the civil rights yet. These guys are gonna make it happen,” she told the pool.

Biden has long been a vocal advocate for LGBT rights — most memorably getting out “a little bit over his skies,” as President Obama put it — when Biden endorsed same sex marriage before the president did earlier this year.

The vice president met with LGBT leaders at his Washington, D.C., home last month, including transgender advocates, according to the Easton Patch. The Obama-Biden administration was the first to send a representative to a trans-gender conference.

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Dallas County approves benefits for domestic partners

From WFAA:  http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/dallas/Dallas-Commissioners-approve-partner-benefits-176495731.html

by BRETT SHIPP
WFAA
Posted on October 30, 2012

DALLAS – The Dallas County Commissioners Court voted 3-2 along party lines Tuesday to approve medical benefits for domestic partnerships.

The approval provides the money for couples who aren’t married, be they gay or straight. It’s an issue guaranteed to divide.

“There is simply no place for pernicious partisanship when it comes to equality,” argued Rafael McDonnell of the Resource Center Dallas, speaking in favor of the proposed stipend for domestic partners.

Others took the podium to argue against it.

“This is utterly ridiculous and totally irresponsible position on your part,” said Dallas resident Debbie Morozzo. “This is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The issue is whether Dallas County should provide a stipend of up to $295 per year for county employees’ domestic partners who otherwise would not qualify for medical benefits. The three Democrats on the commission favored the move while the two Republicans were opposed.

Continue reading at:  http://www.wfaa.com/news/local/dallas/Dallas-Commissioners-approve-partner-benefits-176495731.html

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Mitt Romney: I’ve ALWAYS Been Against Gay Marriage

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Yes, Global Warming Systemically Caused Hurricane Sandy

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/30-8

by George Lakoff
Published on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 by Common Dreams

Yes, global warming systemically caused Hurricane Sandy — and the Midwest droughts and the fires in Colorado and Texas, as well as other extreme weather disasters around the world.  Let’s say it out loud, it was causation, systemic causation.

Systemic causation is familiar. Smoking is a systemic cause of lung cancer.  HIV is a systemic cause of AIDS.  Working in coal mines is a systemic cause of black lung disease. Driving while drunk is a systemic cause of auto accidents.  Sex without contraception is a systemic cause of unwanted pregnancies.

There is a difference between systemic and direct causation.  Punching someone in the nose is direct causation. Throwing a rock through a window is direct causation. Picking up a glass of water and taking a drink is direct causation. Slicing bread is direct causation. Stealing your wallet is direct causation. Any application of force to something or someone that always produces an immediate change to that thing or person is direct causation.  When causation is direct, the word cause is unproblematic.

Systemic causation, because it is less obvious, is more important to understand. A systemic cause may be one of a number of multiple causes. It may require some special conditions. It may be indirect, working through a network of more direct causes. It may be probabilistic, occurring with a significantly high probability. It may require a feedback mechanism.  In general, causation in ecosystems, biological systems, economic systems, and social systems tends not to be direct, but is no less causal.  And because it is not direct causation, it requires all the greater attention if it is to be understood and its negative effects controlled.

Above all, it requires a name: systemic causation.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/30-8

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Statement on Hurricane Sandy

From Vice President Al Gore:  http://blog.algore.com/2012/10/statement_on_hurricane_sandy.html

October 30, 2012

This week, our nation has anxiously watched as Hurricane Sandy lashed the East Coast and caused widespread damage–affecting millions. Now more than ever, our neighbors need our help. Please consider donating or volunteering for your local aid organizations.

The images of Sandy’s flooding brought back memories of a similar–albeit smaller scale– event in Nashville just two years ago. There, unprecedented rainfall caused widespread flooding, wreaking havoc and submerging sections of my hometown. For me, the Nashville flood was a milestone. For many, Hurricane Sandy may prove to be a similar event: a time when the climate crisis—which is often sequestered to the far reaches of our everyday awareness became a reality.

While the storm that drenched Nashville was not a tropical cyclone like Hurricane Sandy, both storms were strengthened by the climate crisis. Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of global warming pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. Hurricane Sandy, and the Nashville flood, were reminders of just that. Other climate-related catastrophes around the world have carried the same message to hundreds of millions.

Sandy was also affected by other symptoms of the climate crisis. As the hurricane approached the East Coast, it gathered strength from abnormally warm coastal waters. At the same time, Sandy’s storm surge was worsened by a century of sea level rise. Scientists tell us that if we do not reduce our emissions, these problems will only grow worse.

Hurricane Sandy is a disturbing sign of things to come. We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis. Dirty energy makes dirty weather.

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Working class voters: why America’s poor are willing to vote Republican

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/29/working-class-voters-america-republican

Liberals question why poor voters who use public assistance still vote for Republicans who want to cut those very services. The real story, Gary Younge finds, is much more complicated

in Sarasota, Florida
guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 October 2012

Tracey Owings is fighting hard to keep the home that has been in his family for 34 years. In 2000 his mother refinanced. In 2006 she died. In 2009 he lost his job and had no paid work for nine months. He fell behind with the mortgage. The bank moved to foreclose on the house. Gradually the work came back. Less than before. Much less. But just enough. The house is not in negative equity and now he can make the payments. But he can’t get the bank to take his money. Attempts to modify the loan and take advantage of a settlement, brokered by the White House, between mortgage companies and the justice department have come to nought. “I don’t qualify,” he says with exasperation detailing both his efforts to meet each bureaucratic challenge and his frustration at each bureaucratic obstacle.

He stands in the waiting room of Gulfcoast Legal Services offices in Sarasota with an armful of documents and a belly full of bile. “They have failed me,” he says. “Obama came in offering hope and change but he’s failed. I just want to save my mother’s house.”

Owings is voting for Mitt Romney. Does he think Romney will improve his lot? “I’m willing to try anything at this point,” he says.

There is nothing more vexing to liberals than poor Republicans. Their very existence rankles. It turns their world on its head and their assumptions inside out. The effort to explain them is understood not just as a political paradox but a psychological disorder. They have been duped. They must have been. How else would one explain putting your cross next to the man who derided them as “victims” among the 47% “I don’t worry about”. To many liberals these are turkeys voting for Christmas or lemmings off for a leap; the condemned tying the noose for their own execution.

At times the contradictions are striking. In August 2009, when opponents of Obamacare were disrupting town hall meetings with claims of death panels, Kenneth Gladney and other members of St Louis tea party got into a fight with Democrats at a public meeting. He had to go to the emergency room with injuries to his knee, back, elbow, shoulder and face and ended up in a wheelchair. It turned out Gladney, who had recently been laid off, had no health insurance. He appealed for donations.

Trace a map highlighting government dependency and those most reliant on benefits live in Republican states and often Republican counties. In Floyd county in Eastern Kentucky, 40% of the income comes from the government. In 2008 Floyd, where almost 20% live below the poverty line and the median income is almost 20% lower than the country, voted for McCain – a 27 point swing against the Democrats and the first victory for Republicans in living memory.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/oct/29/working-class-voters-america-republican

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What’s Still the Matter With Kansas – and the Democrats?

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/12385-whats-still-the-matter-with-kansas-and-the-democrats

By Ira Chernus
Monday, 29 October 2012

Democrats lose a key demographic, and maybe an election, because they’re unwilling to support values issues that they could very plausibly endorse.

A presidential election focused on income and wealth inequality? The Republicans clearly identified as the party of the rich, and the Democrats, just as clearly, the party of the rest of us? That’s pretty amazing. We haven’t had a contest like this in three-quarters of a century.

But if the voters really care so much about economic issues, as the pundits keep insisting, and inequality really is such a prominent issue, then the Democrats should be breezing to victory. So why are they clearly losing the House and facing a very real possibility of losing the White House?

My answer unfolds in two connected parts: First, the economy is not the most basic issue. Second, this year as always, the foolish Democrats are acting as if it is.

Part One: It’s Not About “The Economy, Stupid.”

Voters are not basing their decision primarily on the unemployment rate and the performance of the economy. When you look at the polls, as The New York Times reported, “disaffection with the economy didn’t translate into support for Mr. Romney.” In fact, those who suffer most when jobs disappear – the poor, single women, people of color – are most likely to support Obama. Those who suffer least – the white, the married, the rich and solidly middle-class – are the only groups giving Romney a majority of their votes.

The states with the highest unemployment rates (California, Rhode Island) are solidly blue; the states with the least unemployment (North Dakota, Nebraska) are solidly red. If this were simply a referendum on Obama’s economic stewardship, the polling data should be exactly the other way around.

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/12385-whats-still-the-matter-with-kansas-and-the-democrats

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Bush II Administration Fuckup, the Incompetent Michael Brown, Says Obama Reacted Too Fast To Hurricane Sandy

Michael Brown need to learn to shut the fuck up so people won’t notice what a moron he is.  With out rich white boy affirmative action this idiot would be working in the rapid food deployment industry or as a janitor in a pig farm.

From Huffington Posthttp://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/30/michael-brown-obama-hurricane-sandy_n_2044971.html

By
10/30/2012

Michael Brown, the former FEMA director infamously praised by President George W. Bush for doing a “heckuva job” during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, told a local paper that President Barack Obama acted too quickly in mobilizing relief for Superstorm Sandy.

“Here’s my concern,” Brown told Denver’s Westword on Monday, suggesting that the official response was actually making people complacent. “It’s premature [when] the brunt of the storm won’t happen until later this afternoon.”

Obama declared states of emergency all along East Coast states in the path of Sandy on Sunday, well before the storm hit, allowing federal resources to start flowing where governors thought they would be needed. FEMA and local responders were able to pre-position a lot of the material being drawn upon now.

Obama also held a press conference warning people to pay careful attention to the storm.

“This is a serious and big storm,” Obama said after meeting with FEMA officials and talking to governors Sunday. “And my first message is to all the people across the Eastern seaboard, Mid-Atlantic, going north, that you need to take this very seriously.”

Brown suggested Obama was just trying to look good.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/30/michael-brown-obama-hurricane-sandy_n_2044971.html

See also Alternet: Bush’s FEMA Director, Michael Brown, Criticizes Obama for Responding to Sandy Too Quickly

Irony is dead, cremated, stuck in a capsule and shot into outer space.

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Romney Has a Christie Problem and a FEMA Problem

From The New Yorker:  http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2012/10/romney-has-a-christie-problem-and-a-fema-problem.html

by
October 30, 2012

Like many others—though not the weather forecasters or the political authorities—I underestimated the scope of the storm. Now that at least thirty-eight people are dead, thousands have been driven from their homes, and millions are without power, the election campaign looks like something of a side show. But the fact remains that voting will go ahead next Tuesday, and the politicking continues, albeit in a different manner.

On the Democratic side, the devastation that Sandy has wreaked more than justifies President Obama’s decision to return to Washington on Sunday and to declare a pre-disaster state of emergency in a number of states. On Tuesday morning, he followed up these edicts by signing major disaster declarations for New York and New Jersey, which will make it easier for them to access federal assistance. First thing this morning, the White House let it be known that the President had been monitoring the storm’s progress throughout the night, and that he had spoken to a number of local officials, including Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, and Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey.

Appearing on the networks this morning, Christie, for the third day in a row, heaped praise on Obama’s handling of the storm. “The President has been outstanding in this,” he told the “Today” show. On “Morning Joe,” he said, “It’s been very good working with the President. He and his Administration have been coördinating with us. It’s been wonderful.” Speaking on CNN, Christie said that he had been mightily impressed by Obama’s accessibility throughout the crisis. “He gave me his number at the White House, told me to call him if I needed anything, and he absolutely means it.” Christie also pointed out that Obama didn’t once bring up politics in their conversations, and added, “If he’s not bringing it up, you can be sure that people in New Jersey are not worried about that, primarily if one of the guys running isn’t.”

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/johncassidy/2012/10/romney-has-a-christie-problem-and-a-fema-problem.html

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Get Rid of FEMA? Right-Wingers Push Insane Privatization Scheme in the Wake of Hurricane Sandy

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/get-rid-fema-right-wingers-push-insane-privatization-scheme-wake-hurricane-sandy

Republicans continue to hammer away at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which coordinated disaster relief as Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast.

By Alex Kane
October 30, 2012

Hurricane Sandy is still making its impact felt around the United States. But that’s not stopping right-wingers and foes of government from hammering away at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

They have a tough case to make, though–even GOP favorite Chris Christie, the governor of New Jersey, praised FEMA’s performance. “I have to say, the administration, the president,  himself and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate have been outstanding with us so far,” Christie told ABC News.

As Hurricane Sandy was ripping its way through the U.S., Republican strategist Ron Bonjean took to CNN to knock FEMA, as Raw Story pointed out . “Most people don’t have a positive impression of FEMA,” said Bonjean. “I think Mitt Romney was right on the button.” Bonjean was referring to remarks made by Romney at a GOP primary debate that have sparked criticism.

“Every time you have an occasion to take something from the federal government and send it back to the states, that’s the right direction,” said Romney in answering a question about the role of the federal government in disaster relief. He added, “if you can go even further, and send it back to the private sector, that’s even better.” In practice, this would mean that FEMA’s role would be greatly diminished, or taken out altogether if Romney succeeded in privatizing disaster relief. Vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan’s budget would also hit FEMA hard.

Romney’s remarks at the debate last year have become a lightning rod for critics of the Republican ticket–so much so that the Romney campaign stressed that their candidate would not abolish FEMA. Still, the Romney camp did stick to its guns on the issue of giving states more responsibility for disaster relief.

“Gov. Romney believes that states should be in charge of emergency management in responding to storms and other natural disasters in their jurisdictions,” said Romney campaign spokesperson Ryan Williams, according to Politico. “As the first responders, states are in the best position to aid affected individuals and communities, and to direct resources and assistance to where they are needed most. This includes help from the federal government and FEMA.” A “campaign official added that Romney would not abolish FEMA,” Politico reports.

Romney’s call to diminish the role of FEMA was supported by J.D. Tuccille , a writer for the libertarian Reason.com site. Tuccille called for “tak[ing] the job” of “disaster coordination” by the federal government away to “let people who know what they’re doing handle the heavy lifting.”

Continue reading at: http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/get-rid-fema-right-wingers-push-insane-privatization-scheme-wake-hurricane-sandy

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“Mister Romney’s Neighborhood”

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Romnopoly

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Worse Than Katrina, Worse than 9/11: Can We Please Start Dealing With Climate Change Now!

Ten years ago Global Warming was the subject of a slide show by Al Gore, the man the Supreme Court stole the Presidency from.

Tina and I saw the lecture when it became a documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.

I had been interested in nature and the environment from the time I was a young child growing up among the mountains and lakes, hills and streams of the Adirondacks.  Along with the forts and the history was the beauty of the mountains and the pollution produced by the mines and paper mills.

Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring came out the same fall as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

That was fifty years ago.

It was the height of the Civil rights Movement.  I had just admitted I was transsexual to my parents.

The left wing peace movement, became my cause.  Folkies and hippies, poets and bohemians became my family.

A few years later the Ecology Movement was born, I saw Yosemite and read, the books of Edward Abbey.

But over the years I’ve met too many cult mind fuckers, too many people who peddle homeopathy, crystals, Rekei and astrology to not be skeptical.

So I read and examined what was happening in the world.  I read James Hansen and Bill McKibben and dozens of others.

You want to know something.  Those of us who have been hippie punched and called names for the last fifty years were right.

Now we have a storm that is like something out of a dystopian disaster film destroying New York, one of my favorite cities in this country, a city of incredible creativity and yes commerce too.

It was a city I first escaped to when I was trying my wings, I eventually chose San Francisco but the lessons I learned on Bleeker and Macdougal, Washington Square and the East Village were the lessons I needed to fly.

When I lived out on the Island ten years ago I was almost afraid to go to the city by myself, but when I went it was like visiting home.  The streets and subways embraced me, the hotdog venders smiled at me the Strand book store near Union Square welcomed me.

I know New York will come back, it’s a tough city and the people are strong people with big hearts but it saddens me to watch this disaster happening.

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Hurricane Sandy has drowned the New York I love

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/30/hurricane-sandy-drowned-new-york-city

The subway is more than mass transit – it’s the city’s very roots. The idea of the metro swamped by cold, salt water is unbearable


guardian.co.uk, Monday 29 October 2012

New York is the city I love best, and I’m trying to imagine it from a distance tonight. The lurid, flash-lit instagram images of floating cars in Alphabet City or water pouring out of the East River into Dumbo, the reports of bridges to the Howard Beach submerging and facades falling off apartment houses – it all stings. It’s as horrible in its very different way as watching 9/11.

But it’s the subways I keep coming back to, trying to see in my mind’s eye what must be a dark, scary struggle to keep them from filling with water. The tide at the Battery has surged feet beyond the old record; water must be pouring into every entrance and vent – I hope some brave reporter is chronicling this fight, and will someday name its heroes.

For me, the subways are New York, or at least they’re the most crucial element of that magnificent ecosystem. When I was a young Talk of the Town reporter at the New Yorker, I spent five years exploring the city, always by subway. This was in the 1980s, at the city’s nadir – the graffiti-covered trains would pause for half an hour in mid-flight; the tinny speakers would reduce the explanation of the trouble to gibberish.

It was how I traveled, though – I didn’t even know how to hail a cab. For a dollar, you could go anywhere. And my boast was that I’d gotten out at every station in the system for some story or another. It may not have been quite true: the Bronx is a big and forgotten place, and Queens stretches out forever – but it was my aspiration.

Complete article at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/30/hurricane-sandy-drowned-new-york-city

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Experts Concur Climate Change Responsible For Frankenstorm

From Addicting Info:  http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/10/29/experts-concur-climate-change-responsible-for-frankenstorm/

By
October 29, 2012

If you’re like me and reside in the Metropolitan area, you’re not really accustomed to dealing with behemoth hurricanes, especially not at the end of October. One can only conclude that climate change and the Republican party’s reluctance to accept the worldwide scientific consensus of its existence, whoring themselves to the coal and big oil and thus refusing to effectuate any of the necessary recommendations to lessening its impact, is responsible for Hurricane Sandy.

“Freak” formation, “unprecedented and bizarre,” and a “frankenstorm” that could cause historic storm surges, last for multiple days, and cause over a billion dollars in damage is the foreboding and dire language being used by meteorologists. And Bryan Norcross, a chief hurricane analyst, described the storm this way on his facebook page:

“This is a beyond-strange situation. It’s unprecedented and bizarre. (Think Progress)

Since bat-shit crazy is today’s new moderately intelligent in the GOP and they think that “global warming’ is simply god’s morning breath or a Hollywood invention, they downright refuse to acknowledge our climate system is breaking innumerable records at an unnatural pace, including thermal expansion creating greater and stronger Hurricanes like Sandy and stronger snowstorms like Snowpocalyspe in New York City and NJ in the winter of 2011.

Kevin Trenberth, former head of the Climate Analysis Section at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research, concludes that all superstorms “are affected by climate change.

The air is on average warmer and moister than it was prior to about 1970 and in turn has likely led to a 5–10 % effect on precipitation and storms that is greatly amplified in extremes. The warm moist air is readily advected onto land and caught up in weather systems as part of the hydrological cycle, where it contributes to more intense precipitation events that are widely observed to be occurring,” according to Trenberth. (Think Progress)

But the modern-day Republican party and their radical austerity policies (big government for the wealthy, Somalia sized government for the rest), including Mitt Romney stating he wants to make major cuts to FEMA–the very organization that helps states like his political buddy Chris Christie’s handle the destruction from major storms– and Captain Capitalist playing to the knuckle-dragging (maybe not since they don’t believe in evolution), mouth-foaming crazies in the tea party by cynically mocking President Obama’s pledge to deal with climate change and “slow the rise of the oceans” at the Republican National Convention in Tampa , apparently think that their car elevators will protect them from the inevitable damage of climate change. Worse yet, the very crucial debate on climate change and the candidates solutions to dealing with it was conspicuously absent from all three of the presidential debates, which evidently is the first time since 1988. In the mean time, the rest of us may not exactly have the luxury to stay at our chalets in Aspen until the hurricane blows over, or escape to our $12 million homes in La Jolla when the power goes out indefinitely. Rest assure that so long as the corporations are buying the best politicians money can buy, we will never have a meaningful debate or sound solutions to the destructive factors of climate change. Alas, we’ll just hear more about the need for such hilarious oxymorons as clean coal, which is like soft-core porn in that it’s still dirty but not that as many people are getting screwed. Stay safe.

Continue reading at:  http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/10/29/experts-concur-climate-change-responsible-for-frankenstorm/

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