Support “Get-Equal”? That Really Depends on a Number of Factors…

Just who the hell is “Get Equal”? They seem to have appeared from nowhere sort of like Athena springing fully grown from the forehead of Zeus.

Wanting to know exactly who they are and who is financing them seem like valid questions, especially since they have recently suggested a campaign to deny support to some really important figures within the Democratic Party.

Get Equal claims its motivation in denying support to these people is due to these people wholly ignoring the needs of LGBTT folks as evidenced by their failure to pass one of the holy grail pieces of legislation, a transgender inclusive ENDA as well as failure to repeal DOMA and the rather graceless manner in which the repeal of DADT is being handled.

They have put up four people and asked people to vote on throwing one of those people under the bus. Yet every single one of the people they suggest we withdraw support from is a crucial player in undoing some of the damage done by years upon years of ultra right wing neo-con/neo-lib rule. Each one is involved in working on very important progressive issues or has as an opponent an ultra right winger who is either a Tea Bagger or will be a representative of the corporations that have lead us to this economic and environmental crisis.

The complaint of, “Oh our friends didn’t get a Trans-inclusive ENDA or for that matter any incarnation of ENDA to the floor much less passed” might sound valid if it took place in a world where the Democrats in congress or the senate were getting other things passed without kicking screaming fights that require them to practically water down every bill they try to pass to the point of meaninglessness.

Over on Bilrico two people I have a good deal of respect for are on opposite sides in this issue:  Bil Browning vs. Jillian T. Weiss. Of the two I think Bil is the one asking the important questions.

For me the biggest questions are: Why is “Get Equal” targeting only Democrats? Why are many of them the same people targeted by the Tea Bagger movement? Is this a coincidence? Let’s take a look at the people they are targeting for non-support.

Senator Harry Reid? I saw him speak here in Dallas during the bleakest part of the Bush Regime. He introduced my partner and me to a young senator named Barack Obama, even as early as 2005 we saw his promise and heard his message of hope.

We learned that Senator Reid was from Nevada. Now for those not in the know Nevada is a hard place for a Democrat to win. Harry Reid is in a campaign to keep his seat against an insane racist Tea Bagger who will never ever support ENDA or any other piece of progressive legislation. The idea of somehow punishing Harry Reid by not supporting him makes about as much sense as my punishing someone by cutting myself.

But let’s look at Harry Reid’s opponent.  Sharron Angle is a certifiable whack job. Does anyone really believe that we would be better off  having another Michelle Bachmann making the laws that govern our lives, only as a senator she would have far more power?  She is the candidate of the ultra right wing religious fanatics and the extreme wing of an already ultra right wing movement.

Every Senate seat the Democrats lose is a gain for the ultra right wing extremists who have destroyed the nation and plunged us into a crypto-fascist nightmare where we could lose every bit of progress made by not only LGBT/T people but every person of color and every woman.

It this a chance one wants to take, following an organization that smells like an Astro -Turf front group for something funded by the vast right wing conspiracy?

Count me out…

Targeting Barney Frank? Now here’s some one the Tea Baggers and their puppet masters would really like to take out. Forget ENDA… Forget DOMA… Representative Frank has been a very important progressive voice on a little matter called “Financial Reform”. Now I know there are a lot of short sighted folks who can’t see much beyond the particular interests of their particular set of identity politics but last I noticed we are teetering on the edge of a worldwide depression and are facing being put through the “austerity measures” outlined in Naomi Klein’s “Shock Doctrine”.

Now tell me again why we are supposed to withhold support from Barney Frank?

Get Equal asks:  Should it be Rep. George Miller, who heads the House Education and Labor Committee and has said via a spokesperson “he intends to get to it [ENDA] very shortly?”

Now I will admit that I wasn’t all that familiar with George Miller, I wondered what possible reason there might be for his selection.  Let’s see… Oh yes…  George Miller has sort of had his hands full lately with matters like mine safety and the Jobs Bill.

But let’s look a little more at his record.

In 2002 he was one of the few to oppose the rush into the war in Iraq. Miller voted against the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002 that started the Iraq War.[1]

On January 5, 2007, Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.), chair of the House Committee on Education and Labor, introduced [H.R. 2], a bill which would amend the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act to increase the federal minimum wage from $5.15 to $7.25 in three steps over a period of twenty-six months.

Then there is the little matter of the Employee Free Choice Act, a piece of legislation that would make it easier for workers to organize and form unions.  This is a bill hated by the ultra right wing Republicans and major corporations, alike as it would help restore to workers some of the power that has steadily eroded since the Reagan years.

On February 5, 2007, Miller introduced the Employee Free Choice Act, which would make it easier for workers to unionize. The bill passed the House but stalled in the Senate. All votes on the bill were divided almost entirely along party lines.[4]

Would someone explain to me again just why I am supposed help the Republicans by not supporting this Democrat who seems to be one of the best of the best?

Finally we get to Nancy Pelosi. I am a feminist and I have witnessed one misogynistic right wing attack after another on Nancy Pelosi.  She sends the misogynistic Republicans and their media minions from Rush Limpdick to Glen “Tears of Niobe” Beck in to apoplectic fits.  What’s not to love about her?  She is a solid supporter of women’s rights including abortion access.  Call her a liberal, call her a progressive she is not one to pander to the ultra right wing.  Indeed she is one of those Democrats who seem to have a permanent target stuck on their backs by the Republicans.

I’ve been involved in left wing movements since the 1960s. Racial equality, anti-war, pro-worker, feminist, and LGBT/TQ and whatever other initials you want to add.  I’ve seen movements come and movements go. One result of having years upon years of experience in various movements is that one gets to see a lot of dirty tricks played by “operatives”.

I’ve seen secret police operations destroy movements from within. I’ve seen red baiting, smears and inaccurate media coverage that minimized the level of participation in demonstrations in favor of progressive, left wing causes while maximizing beyond any reality based figures the number of people participating in demonstrations in favor of right wing causes.

The media claims objectivity.  I am dubious.

For the first time since the election of Ronald Reagan, perhaps for the first time since the election of Richard Nixon, progressive people in this nation have had a chance to reverse 40 years of conservative misrule and end an era of malevolent governing.

Isn’t it rather immature to collapse into the sort of temper tantrum of identity politics that prevented us from building a coalition of progressive people simply because we haven’t got our particular needs addressed as quickly as we might like?  Granted we haven’t gotten things that were high on the shopping list of desired measures.  I for one would have liked socialized medicine in the form of single payer.

I really would like to see a whole slew of progressive measures passed including that Employee Free Choice Act and Corporate Reform.  I want to see higher taxes on the rich.  I have a whole shopping list of measures that would help repair the damage done by right wing Republicans over the years.

I spoke earlier of years within the movement.

In the 1960s we were so caught up in the anti-war in Vietnam movement we lost sight of how important the War on Poverty was.  We demonized LBJ, who at great political cost signed the revolutionary Civil Rights Bill of 1964.

We rationalized our actions that contributed to the election of Nixon by mouthing such platitudes as, “Nixon’s election will heighten the contradictions and bring on the revolution,” In doing so we put someone in office who had played a leading role in the promotion of McCarthyism.  Someone who ended the War on Poverty and substituted the Welfare State.

In 1980 many people supported the candidacy of John Anderson.  As poor a president as Jimmy Carter was he was still better than Reagan. Reagan the man who couldn’t say the word AIDS, while thousands of gay men died, who was never quite able to wrap his mouth around the word, “gay.”

Then there has been the strange political career of Ralph Nader and the Green Party

Ralph Nader’s selfish and egotistical run in 2000 played a role in the defeat of Al Gore.  As a result we were stuck with Bush Jr. for 8 years.  This resulted in 9/11, two disastrous and un-necessary wars and a destroyed economy.

Since then it has seemed as though the Green Party is basically a Republican front group.

Since Obama’s election we have witness an explosion of ultra right wing highly funded front groups mimicking grass roots campaigns, all seemingly developed from below yet almost always the product of well funded campaigns financed by the vast right wing conspiracy.

They have sprung up in opposition to almost every effort to rein in the power of the corporations.  They opposed health care reform.  They oppose Financial Industry reform.  They oppose the employee Free Choice Act.  They oppose Nancy Pelosi’s support of abortion rights.

The proper description of these organizations is not “grass root” but rather “Astro-Turf”

They are behind the tea Party in all of its various ultra right-wing, homophobic and racist disguises.

Now I won’t go so far as to opine that Get Equal is an Astro-Turf front group that has targeted various seriously progressive Democrats who are also among our strongest allies in congress but it does seem like a strange choice of targets when not a single Republican has offered one iota of support for any LGBT/T bill that has been before congress in the last decade.

Direct action growing out of the grass roots is one thing and I’ll be right there on a picket line or providing photo/reporting of demos. But being asked to throw Democrats on the sacrificial altar as a way of punishing them for not getting something passed at a time when every single measure they try to pass is an exercise rolling a rock up a mountain, seems questionable.

Further I’ve looked at Get Equal’s web site and in comparison to other well known and often respected LGBT/TQ organizations it seems both a bit thin and a tad opaque.

Until I see more transparency and better explanations as to why I should support Get Equal on throwing one of these candidates under the bus I will continue to be a good Yellow Dog Democrat and show party loyalty.

For References I suggest:

Blackstock, Nelson     Cointelpro: The FBI’s Secret War on Political Freedom

Brock, David               Blinded by the Right:  The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative

Churchill, Ward          The Cointelpro Papers:  Documents from the FBI’s Secret Wars Against Dissent in the United States

Donnor, Frank            Protectors of Privilege:  Red Squads and Police Repression in Urban Areas

Bilrico has numerous articles that seriously discuss Get Equal

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Out with pink and blue: Don’t foster the gender divide

New Scientist, UK


Out with pink and blue: Don’t foster the gender divide

19 July 2010 by Lise Eliot

IN 2010 we need to ask afresh just how deep the rabbit hole goes when it comes to gender politics – and how far we are from digging ourselves out. Our beliefs about differences between the sexes have an impact on society vastly out of proportion to the magnitude of those differences, from female scientists defending their mathematical and technical expertise to boys accused of lacking the communication and emotional skills to succeed at school.

In truth, women are doing well in science: since 1970, the number of doctorates awarded to women in the US has increased five-fold in physics, nine-fold in computer science and 24-fold in engineering, according to the US Department of Education <> . And yet just last month we heard John Tierney of The New York Times appearing to echo <> former Harvard University president Larry Summers’s claim that women may be intrinsically incapable of performing at the highest level in such fields.

At the same time, boys are stepping away from pursuits like creative writing, foreign languages, art and singing in choirs as they hear they are not “hard-wired” for words or feelings. While young women get the message they can do anything, young men are put off careers in journalism, design, teaching, veterinary practice and psychotherapy, where they were once quite successful.

When I set out to write my book Pink Brain, Blue Brain, I had little sense of the controversy surrounding gender differences. I was just a neuroscientist with a daughter and two sons, curious about how their brains might differ and how best to raise them. Now I see how little the science of gender differences has penetrated popular culture and am hoping to set the record straight on behalf of both sexes.

Yes, boys and girls, men and women, are different. But most of those differences are far smaller than the Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus stereotypes suggest. Nor are the reasoning, speaking, computing,
empathising, navigating and other cognitive differences fixed in the genetic architecture of our brains. All such skills are learned, and neuro-plasticity – the modification of neurons and their connections in response to experience – trumps hard-wiring every time. If men and women tend towards different strengths and interests, it is due to a complex developmental dance between nature and nurture that leaves ample room to promote non-traditional skills in both sexes.

The obvious place to start looking for behavioural differences between the sexes is infancy. Yet even here they are often in the eye of the beholder. In a classic experiment, researchers cross-dress babies to fool people that they are interacting with a child of the opposite sex. Volunteers tend to comment more on the physical strength and negative emotions of babies they believe to be boys, and on the beauty and positive emotions of babies they believe to be girls.

In reality, baby boys and girls begin to smile, crawl and walk at the same time. Their vision and hearing are more or less the same, and they make equal eye contact with adults, at least when they are newborns. This changes when they hit 4 months, however: girls lock eyes with adults significantly more than boys. Also, by 4 or 5 months, boys outperform girls at the ability to rotate objects mentally – a spatial ability that differs dramatically between men and women but which only recently was found to differ in infancy.

Between 9 and 12 months, boys and girls start diverging in their preference for toys. While younger boys and girls prefer dolls over other playthings (they have faces, which all babies are drawn to from birth), older boys prefer trucks and balls over dolls and pink beauty sets – one of the largest sex differences that has been identified. Wheeled toys, in particular, are highly attractive to boys, probably because of their higher activity level.

And yes, boys really are more active than girls, a difference that grows as they get older. By around 8 or 9, the average boy is more active than about two-thirds of girls, meaning that a third of girls are more active than the average boy. Such early differences appear innate, though evidence linking them to the prime suspect – the surge of testosterone in boys before birth – remains shaky. Whatever the initial cause, most behavioural differences between the sexes are amplified with age, as children’s initial biases hit our gendered culture and they learn what it means to be a boy or girl. Toy preferences, say, grow more disparate: a male toddler shows only a slight preference for trucks, but by 5 years of age he won’t be caught dead near anything pink.

Generally, boys avoid girls’ toys, clothes and activities much more than girls avoid boys’ things, mostly because of social taboos, but also because parents have seen the benefit of girls playing sports, building things and taking part in traditionally male pastimes. So while prenatal testosterone exposure may fuel boys’ initial preference for more active toys, social influences considerably magnify this difference throughout childhood, a period when levels of oestrogen and testosterone do not actually differ between boys and girls.

In spite of their passion for guns or Barbie dolls, boys and girls differ much less in their cognitive and emotional skills than toy preferences suggest. Girls talk earlier, but the difference is small – about a month, on average – and sex has been found to account for a mere 3 per cent of the variation in young children’s verbal development.

Girls read and write better than boys, a difference that grows more marked as they go through school. In fact, this gap is larger and more universal than the gap in mathematics, which girls have largely closed in recent years. Yet there is no evidence that boys’ brains are any less prepared to learn how to read than girls’ brains. Rather, it seems the small advantage girls have from talking earlier encourages more conversation and wordplay with parents and peers, more time with books and earlier development of the skills crucial for reading.

Once they have learned to read and write, girls simply use these skills for pleasure more than boys. Since fMRI studies have found little difference in the way male and female brains process the written word, it is likely that this amount of experience rather than any hard-wiring accounts for the literacy gap. Similarly, boys’ spatial abilities grow as they spend more time building, playing fast-paced video games and actively exploring the world around them.   Such skills are important in geometry, calculus and physics, where boys tend to pull ahead of girls towards the end of secondary education.

So should we abandon our search for the “real” differences between the sexes? Yes. There is almost nothing we do with our brains that is hard-wired: every skill, attribute, and personality trait is moulded by experience. At no time are children’s brains more malleable than in early life – the time when parents are so eager to learn the baby’s sex, project it to others and unconsciously express stereotyped impressions of their child.

Increasingly, biologists appreciate the role of epigenetics in shaping body, brain, mental traits and propensity to disease. Why should sex differences be any different? We know that baby rats that are licked and groomed more by their mothers show a host of neurochemical changes, beginning with DNA modification, that permanently alter their stress response and memory. No one has yet investigated what this means for behavioural sex differences, even though mothers of most species interact differently with male and female offspring.

Gender roles will continue to evolve as our brains adapt to the new opportunities and expectations each generation faces. A fuller understanding of the real magnitude and multiple causes of gender differences can help us avoid stereotyping and better cultivate the unique talents of every child. Considering our fast-changing world, with its need for nimble, sophisticated thinking skills, surely our children deserve no less.

Lise Eliot is associate professor of neuroscience at the Chicago
Medical School, part of Rosalind Franklin University. This essay draws
on her book Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How small differences grow into
troublesome gaps – and what we can do about it (OneWorld, 2009)

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