Trans: Beyond the Journey, Beyond Transition

I know it’s heresy but then I went through the “Journey” part of my life long before most who are an active part of the “Trans-Community”.

I was an outlier even then. Being part of the Hippie Trip and being part of the Anti-war Movement was every bit as important to me as being transsexual.

I differed from many of my sisters in my attachment to Hippie.  For me Hippie wasn’t just a fashion trend of flowers and peace symbols.  It was a way of life.

Over the years the hippie ethos has caused me to take part in other movements including gay/lesbian liberation, feminism and the environmental movement.

It has fed my identity as an artist, made me fearless in trying new ways of expressing my thoughts from photography, to writing to painting.

I’ve picked up musical instruments and tried to learn them knowing the learning was more important than the expertise.

I’ve taken classes at a dozen or more colleges and universities including NYU, UCLA, and UC Berkeley.  Learning has been more important than a degree.

I try to avoid mindless consumption with some success except for books and music.

Pop stars, fashion and models bore me.  I would be hard pressed to name any of the popular TV Shows on network TV.

I know Trans-activists want people to stay part of the “Transgender Community” forever.  Identity is the glue that holds political blocs together when the political ideals are weak.

I can’t count the times I have been exhorted to “Care” when a sister is murdered in a distant land.  It is a platitude like “pray for”, meaningless in the absence of any ability to actually do something that would prevent such tragedies. I’m saddened by stories like the murder of  Jennifer Laude, but I can’t do any thing to change what happened.

If there is a typhoon, hurricane or earthquake I can send a few dollars to the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders, it may be a drop in the financial bucket but it has real meaning whereas sitting around saying how much I care doesn’t.

Recently some in the Trans-Community” have been up in arms about a satirical skit Sarah Silverman did about changing sex so she could earn what men earn.  The outrage machine hit overdrive.  Yet many in the trans-community are shocked when they are no longer employable in their former professions once they transition.  Shocked to find they will lose 20-30% of their earning power.

Except for jobs I had in my late teens I’ve always been employed as a woman and have seen the sexism in the work place.  Some of the worst has been in the tech field. As my late friend Ruth used to say, “I wonder where the penis goes?  why are men getting 30% more than we are for the same job?”

Life goes on. some of the neatest folks I know on Facebook realize that even during their “Journey”.  The truth is I think most of us realize that trans is only a part of who we are and only a part of our lives.

Our jobs, our relationships, our cause, our passions make us whole people.

Transition requires a tremendous amount of energy and focus, but after you are a person, only one who grew into your true self.  That still leaves a world in which (paraphrase of an old Zen saying) we chop wood and get water because wood needs to be chopped and water needs to be gotten.

Most of us will still get old, will still have some ideals, some passions, a desire for love and companionship, a need for security in our old age.

The Twelve Steps helped me to sort out things I could change and things I couldn’t change.  I first encountered the Serenity Prayer on the wall of the Gender Clinic at Stanford.  It took getting sober at the end of 2000 to bring it back into my life.

Amazon’s Monopsony Is Not O.K.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/opinion/paul-krugman-amazons-monopsony-is-not-ok.html

Amazon.com, the giant online retailer, has too much power, and it uses that power in ways that hurt America.

O.K., I know that was kind of abrupt. But I wanted to get the central point out there right away, because discussions of Amazon tend, all too often, to get lost in side issues.

For example, critics of the company sometimes portray it as a monster about to take over the whole economy. Such claims are over the top — Amazon doesn’t dominate overall online sales, let alone retailing as a whole, and probably never will. But so what? Amazon is still playing a troubling role.

Meanwhile, Amazon’s defenders often digress into paeans to online bookselling, which has indeed been a good thing for many Americans, or testimonials to Amazon customer service — and in case you’re wondering, yes, I have Amazon Prime and use it a lot. But again, so what? The desirability of new technology, or even Amazon’s effective use of that technology, is not the issue. After all, John D. Rockefeller and his associates were pretty good at the oil business, too — but Standard Oil nonetheless had too much power, and public action to curb that power was essential.

And the same is true of Amazon today.

If you haven’t been following the recent Amazon news: Back in May a dispute between Amazon and Hachette, a major publishing house, broke out into open commercial warfare. Amazon had been demanding a larger cut of the price of Hachette books it sells; when Hachette balked, Amazon began disrupting the publisher’s sales. Hachette books weren’t banned outright from Amazon’s site, but Amazon began delaying their delivery, raising their prices, and/or steering customers to other publishers.

You might be tempted to say that this is just business — no different from Standard Oil, back in the days before it was broken up, refusing to ship oil via railroads that refused to grant it special discounts. But that is, of course, the point: The robber baron era ended when we as a nation decided that some business tactics were out of line. And the question is whether we want to go back on that decision.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/20/opinion/paul-krugman-amazons-monopsony-is-not-ok.html

Does Amazon really have robber-baron-type market power? When it comes to books, definitely. Amazon overwhelmingly dominates online book sales, with a market share comparable to Standard Oil’s share of the refined oil market when it was broken up in 1911. Even if you look at total book sales, Amazon is by far the largest player.

Pentagon: Global Warming Poses ‘Immediate Risk’ To National Security

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/10/14/3579338/pentagon-global-warming-national-security/

Posted on October 14, 2014

In terms of U.S. defense strategy, climate change is a “threat multiplier” that can worsen national security problems such as terrorism and infectious disease spread, according to a new Pentagon report released Monday.

 The 20-page “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” said the U.S. Department of Defense is “already beginning to see” some of the impacts of sea level rise, changing precipitation patterns, rising global temperatures, and increased extreme weather — four key symptoms of global warming. These symptoms have the potential to “intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict” and will likely lead to “food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe,” the report said.

Because of uncertainty surrounding just how bad these problems will be in the future, the report calls for a proactive defense strategy — one which will require “thinking ahead and planning for a wide range of contingencies.”

“Climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security,” the report reads. “Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained.”

The report in its entirety can be found here.

Monday’s report is far from the first time the U.S. Department of Defense has warned of the risks climate change poses to national security. The military has long shown that it understands the realities of climate change, releasing reports warning of altered natural disaster response and drought leading to conflicts over food and water. The Pentagon has also released an entire report solely on its strategy to address Arctic melting, which is allowing ships to access more of the Arctic Ocean.

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2014/10/14/3579338/pentagon-global-warming-national-security/

The Age of Vulnerability

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-e-stiglitz/the-age-of-vulnerability_b_5978122.html

10/13/2014

NEW YORK — Two new studies show, once again, the magnitude of the inequality problem plaguing the United States. The first, the U.S. Census Bureau’s annual income and poverty report, shows that, despite the economy’s supposed recovery from the Great Recession, ordinary Americans’ incomes continue to stagnate. Median household income, adjusted for inflation, remains below its level a quarter century ago.

It used to be thought that America’s greatest strength was not its military power, but an economic system that was the envy of the world. But why would others seek to emulate an economic model by which a large proportion — even a majority — of the population has seen their income stagnate while incomes at the top have soared?

A second study, the United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Report 2014, corroborates these findings. Every year, the UNDP publishes a ranking of countries by their Human Development Index HDI, which incorporates other dimensions of well-being besides income, including health and education.

America ranks fifth according to HDI, below Norway, Australia, Switzerland and the Netherlands. But when its score is adjusted for inequality, it drops 23 spots — among the largest such declines for any highly developed country. Indeed, the U.S. falls below Greece and Slovakia, countries that people do not typically regard as role models or as competitors with the U.S. at the top of the league tables.

The UNDP report emphasizes another aspect of societal performance: vulnerability. It points out that while many countries succeeded in moving people out of poverty, the lives of many are still precarious. A small event — say, an illness in the family — can push them back into destitution. Downward mobility is a real threat, while upward mobility is limited.

In the U.S., upward mobility is more myth than reality, whereas downward mobility and vulnerability is a widely shared experience. This is partly because of America’s healthcare system, which still leaves poor Americans in a precarious position, despite President Barack Obama’s reforms.

Those at the bottom are only a short step away from bankruptcy with all that that entails. Illness, divorce, or the loss of a job often is enough to push them over the brink.

The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (or “Obamacare”) was intended to ameliorate these threats — and there are strong indications that it is on its way to significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans. But, partly owing to a Supreme Court decision and the obduracy of Republican governors and legislators, who in two dozen U.S. states have refused to expand Medicaid (insurance for the poor) — even though the federal government pays almost the entire tab — 41 million Americans remain uninsured. When economic inequality translates into political inequality — as it has in large parts of the U.S. — governments pay little attention to the needs of those at the bottom.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-e-stiglitz/the-age-of-vulnerability_b_5978122.html

In Defense of Obama

From Rolling Stone:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/in-defense-of-obama-20141008

The Nobel Prize-winning economist, once one of the president’s most notable critics, on why Obama is a historic success

By
October 8, 2014

When it comes to Barack Obama, I’ve always been out of sync. Back in 2008, when many liberals were wildly enthusiastic about his candidacy and his press was strongly favorable, I was skeptical. I worried that he was naive, that his talk about transcending the political divide was a dangerous illusion given the unyielding extremism of the modern American right. Furthermore, it seemed clear to me that, far from being the transformational figure his supporters imagined, he was rather conventional-minded: Even before taking office, he showed signs of paying far too much attention to what some of us would later take to calling Very Serious People, people who regarded cutting budget deficits and a willingness to slash Social Security as the very essence of political virtue.

And I wasn’t wrong. Obama was indeed naive: He faced scorched-earth Republican opposition from Day One, and it took him years to start dealing with that opposition realistically. Furthermore, he came perilously close to doing terrible things to the U.S. safety net in pursuit of a budget Grand Bargain; we were saved from significant cuts to Social Security and a rise in the Medicare age only by Republican greed, the GOP’s unwillingness to make even token concessions.

But now the shoe is on the other foot: Obama faces trash talk left, right and center – literally – and doesn’t deserve it. Despite bitter opposition, despite having come close to self-inflicted disaster, Obama has emerged as one of the most consequential and, yes, successful presidents in American history. His health reform is imperfect but still a huge step forward – and it’s working better than anyone expected. Financial reform fell far short of what should have happened, but it’s much more effective than you’d think. Economic management has been half-crippled by Republican obstruction, but has nonetheless been much better than in other advanced countries. And environmental policy is starting to look like it could be a major legacy.

I’ll go through those achievements shortly. First, however, let’s take a moment to talk about the current wave of Obama-bashing. All Obama-bashing can be divided into three types. One, a constant of his time in office, is the onslaught from the right, which has never stopped portraying him as an Islamic atheist Marxist Kenyan. Nothing has changed on that front, and nothing will.

There’s a different story on the left, where you now find a significant number of critics decrying Obama as, to quote Cornel West, someone who ”posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit.” They’re outraged that Wall Street hasn’t been punished, that income inequality remains so high, that ”neoliberal” economic policies are still in place. All of this seems to rest on the belief that if only Obama had put his eloquence behind a radical economic agenda, he could somehow have gotten that agenda past all the political barriers that have con- strained even his much more modest efforts. It’s hard to take such claims seriously.

Finally, there’s the constant belittling of Obama from mainstream pundits and talking heads. Turn on cable news (although I wouldn’t advise it) and you’ll hear endless talk about a rudderless, stalled administration, maybe even about a failed presidency. Such talk is often buttressed by polls showing that Obama does, indeed, have an approval rating that is very low by historical standards.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/in-defense-of-obama-20141008

Millions of Gen Xers Will Be Homeless Before You Know It

From Ted Rall:  http://rall.com/2014/10/13/syndicated-column-millions-of-gen-xers-will-be-homeless-before-you-know-it

Ted Rall
Oct 13, 2014

Forget terrorism, Ebola or even climate change — the most dangerous threat to this country is an epic retirement crisis.

We will soon see tens of millions of Americans reduced to poverty, bringing an end to the United States as an economic superpower.

Unlike attacks and pandemics, this crisis is an absolute certainty, one with a clear, near start date. But the media is hardly mentioning the imminent retirement crisis. So politicians haven’t even begun to think about it, much less take it seriously.

Actually, “retirement crisis” is a misnomer. The problem isn’t that people won’t be able to retire or will be living on a shoestring, though those things are true. We’re staring down the barrel of an epic old age crisis. For the average American, to be elderly will mean not mere belt-tightening, but real, grinding poverty: homelessness and hunger.

Throughout the last few decades, vulnerable people living from payday to payday have gotten battered by the shredding of the government safety net, a lack of accumulated savings caused by the boom-and-bust cycle of capitalism, and a lackluster real estate market.

Now members of the poor and lower middle class in their 50s and 60s are heading into a retirement crisis created by a perfect superstorm.

Traditional defined-benefit pension plans have been replaced by stingy 401(k)s and similar programs which employers no longer pay into, cap how much you can contribute (assuming you can afford it), take a beating during downturns in the stock market, and allow workers to tap when they’re laid off or run into financial trouble. After years of sketchy raids and outright theft, workers with old-fashioned corporate and government pensions can’t be sure their money will be there when they need it. The first Generation Xers — many of whom never had the opportunity to accumulate wealth due to several long recessions that impacted them particularly hard — will reach the traditional retirement age of 65 in the year 2024.

The facts are brutal:

Continue reading at:  http://rall.com/2014/10/13/syndicated-column-millions-of-gen-xers-will-be-homeless-before-you-know-it

Women don’t owe you anything

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/women-dont-owe-you-anything/

Amanda Marcotte
Oct. 10, 2014

There’s been a lot of great writing in recent weeks about the concept of affirmative consent. Sadly, there’s also been a lot of gross, distasteful writing defending the status quo, where women are expected to be available to men—sexually, emotionally, etc.—unless we say otherwise. I want to recommend this excellent piece by Amanda Taub at Vox explaining why she believes we really do need a shift from consent being an “opt-out” culture to an “opt-in” one. (As I’ve said before, putting women’s bodies on the same level we put houses and wallets, where you are assumed not welcome unless explicitly invited.) Part of the problem is that by telling women we are assumed to be consenting unless we say otherwise, the “say otherwise” is always up for debate by a man who believe our “no” is not good enough.

That burden isn’t just annoying for women. It’s dangerous. By exempting sexual aggressors from the responsibility of figuring out whether their partners are “eager and ready to sleep with them,” we’re asking their targets to either give in to sexual activity they don’t want, or to run the risk that a firm, assertive, continued rejection will end in violence.

This week, a Detroit man murdered a 27-year-old mother of three named Mary Spears after she rejected him in a bar. Right now, a woman is in critical condition in a New York City hospital because a man slashed her throat on the street after she declined to go on a date with him. In April, a Connecticut teenager was murdered by her 16-year-old classmate after she turned down his invitation to prom. Stories like these (and there are others) should remind us that women have a lot of reasons to fear the consequences of saying “no.” That’s all the more reason why silence shouldn’t be presumed to be consent.

The violence that erupts when a man decides that a woman hasn’t worked hard enough to opt out of her supposed obligation to please him seems shocking, but it’s entirely predictable in a society such as ours. Take, for instance, my post yesterday where I made fun of a man who wanted me to get off my bike, take off my headphones and engage me in a lengthy conversation about my body and his opinions on it. Many people in comments were upset, arguing that I did, in fact, have an obligation, merely by being a woman in the world, to drop what I was doing and give this man what he wanted because he wanted it. That my “no” was not good enough. That in order to opt out of the presumption of consent, I had to come up with more reasons that fuck-you-I’m-not-a-toy.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/women-dont-owe-you-anything/

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