GOP Amendment To Defense Bill Would Protect Homophobia In The Armed Forces

Is there an ounce of doubt in any one’s mind regrading the Nazi like nature of the Republicans?  Are people so dense that they would actually have to have death camps killing LGBT/T folks before people wake up?

From Think Progress:

By Igor Volsky
May 10th, 2011

Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-MS) is offering an amendment to the defense authoritarian bill that would require the armed forces to issue specific “conscience” protections for servicemembers who view gay people as immoral and would require Congressional review of the regulations. From the amendment:

The sincerely held religious or moral beliefs of a member of the Armed Forces that homosexual or bisexual conduct is immoral and/or an inappropriate expression of human sexuality according to the tenets of the member’s faith community shall be accommodated….


The Secretary of Defense shall issue regulations setting forth guidance to insure that the sincerely held religious or moral beliefs of members of the Armed Forces regarding homosexual or bisexual conduct are protected, accommodated

Palazzo is using the amendment to further the conservative argument that extending equal rights to gay and lesbian people — allowing them to serve openly in the armed forces or enter into recognized relationships — actually victimizes Christians and undermines their beliefs.

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Climate Change and the Flood This Time

From Common Dreams:

Midwest flooding is a taste of climate change in its early stages. We’ve got to fight back, and fast.

by Bill McKibben
Published on Tuesday, May 10, 2011 by The Los Angeles Times

Last week, at a place called Bird’s Point, just below the confluence of the Ohio and the Mississippi rivers, the Army Corps of Engineers was busy mining a huge levee with explosives. The work was made dangerous by outbreaks of lightning, but eventually the charges were in place and corps Maj. Gen. Michael Walsh gave the order: A 2-mile-wide hole was blasted in the earthen levee, and a wall of water greater than the flow over Niagara

The corps breached the levee to ease pressure on other floodwalls; if it hadn’t, the town of Cairo, Ill., might well have been inundated. But it’s not as if the problem has been solved. That water will reenter the Mississippi a little farther downstream as it surges toward the sea. “We’re just at the beginning of the beginning,” Walsh said. Col. Vernie Reichling Jr. of the Memphis District of the corps said: “We’ll have to fight this river all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico. I don’t see it letting up.”

Of course, what the corps is really fighting is a river swelled not just by the power of nature but by the power of man. As climatologists have warned for years, warmer air holds more water vapor than cold. That means record snowfalls like the ones we saw this winter across the upper Midwest, and record rainfalls like the ones that have washed across much of the region this spring. And it also means more evaporation — and record drought — in places like parched Texas.

In Pakistan, Australia and now the center of the North American continent, we’re getting a powerful taste of what global warming feels like in its early stages. (And if for some reason you’ve decided not to believe scientists, then ask the people we pay to analyze risk in our society: In September, one of the largest reinsurance companies in the world, Munich Re, said that “the only plausible explanation for the rise in weather-related catastrophes is climate change.”)

There are no grounds for optimism in this fight against the weather. So far we’ve only increased the temperature of the planet about a degree, and that’s been enough to set the Arctic to melting, turn the ocean 30% more acidic and make the atmosphere about 4% wetter, loading the dice for floods. Climatologists predict that unless we kick oil, gas and coal habits very, very fast, the increase in temperature will be 4 or 5 degrees before the century is out. If one degree does the damage we’re seeing at the moment, we’d be fools to find out what 4 degrees will look like.

But foolishness is carrying the day at the moment. Consider the fecklessness Washington has shown on climate. Just last month, the House voted by a 56-vote margin to deny that climate change was real. It’s like an entire chamber full of Neville Chamberlains, hopeful that they can wish trouble away.

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Using History to Mold Ideas on the Right

The problem of fictional history is not unique to the Transgender Borg Collective…

From The New York Times:

Published: May 4, 2011

ALEDO, Tex. — In an unmarked office building in this ranching town, among thousands of Revolution-era documents and two muskets with bayonets, David Barton might seem like a quirky history buff. But the true ambition of this slender man in cowboy boots is to use America’s past to remake its future, and he has the ear of several would-be presidents.

Mr. Barton is a self-taught historian who is described by several conservative presidential aspirants as a valued adviser and a source of historical and biblical justification for their policies. He is so popular that evangelical pastors travel across states to hear his rapid-fire presentations on how the United States was founded as a Christian nation and is on the road to ruin, thanks to secularists and the Supreme Court, or on the lost political power of the clergy.

Through two decades of prolific, if disputed, research and some 400 speeches a year on what he calls the forgotten Christian roots of America, Mr. Barton, 57, a former school principal and an ordained minister, has steadily built a reputation as a guiding spirit of the religious right. Keeping an exhaustive schedule, he is also immersed in the nuts and bolts of politics and maintains a network of 700 anti-abortion state legislators.

Many historians call his research flawed, but Mr. Barton’s influence appears to be greater than ever. Liberal organizations are raising the alarm over what they say are Mr. Barton’s dangerous distortions, including his claim that the nation’s founders never intended a high wall between church and state.

“I’ve met with several of the potential candidates this time, always at their call,” Mr. Barton said of the Republican presidential hopefuls. They usually seek specific advice, he said: whom to hire or contact in a particular state, how best to phrase a sensitive point.

And they are apt to get their policy recommendations with his special twist. “I keep being amazed at how much the founders wrote about issues that we’re dealing with today,” Mr. Barton said in his library the other day, in this small town west of Fort Worth. “Can you believe it, James Madison opposed a bailout and stimulus plan in 1792!” he said, pointing out a Congressional debate over subsidies for the codfish industry.

Among the possible Republican presidential candidates who seek his advice are Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Representative Michele Bachmann.

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Faulty Towers: The Crisis in Higher Education

From The Nation:

William Deresiewicz
May 4, 2011

A few years ago, when I was still teaching at Yale, I was approached by a student who was interested in going to graduate school. She had her eye on Columbia; did I know someone there she could talk with? I did, an old professor of mine. But when I wrote to arrange the introduction, he refused to even meet with her. “I won’t talk to students about graduate school anymore,” he explained. “Going to grad school’s a suicide mission.”

The policy may be extreme, but the feeling is universal. Most professors I know are willing to talk with students about pursuing a PhD, but their advice comes down to three words: don’t do it. (William Pannapacker, writing in the Chronicle of Higher Education as Thomas Benton, has been making this argument for years. See “The Big Lie About the ‘Life of the Mind,’” among other essays.) My own advice was never that categorical. Go if you feel that your happiness depends on it—it can be a great experience in many ways—but be aware of what you’re in for. You’re going to be in school for at least seven years, probably more like nine, and there’s a very good chance that you won’t get a job at the end of it.

At Yale, we were overjoyed if half our graduating students found positions. That’s right—half. Imagine running a medical school on that basis. As Christopher Newfield points out in Unmaking the Public University (2008), that’s the kind of unemployment rate you’d expect to find among inner-city high school dropouts. And this was before the financial collapse. In the past three years, the market has been a bloodbath: often only a handful of jobs in a given field, sometimes fewer, and as always, hundreds of people competing for each one.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. When I started graduate school in 1989, we were told that the disastrous job market of the previous two decades would be coming to an end because the large cohort of people who had started their careers in the 1960s, when the postwar boom and the baby boom combined to more than double college enrollments, was going to start retiring. Well, it did, but things kept getting worse. Instead of replacing retirees with new tenure-eligible hires, departments gradually shifted the teaching load to part-timers: adjuncts, postdocs, graduate students. From 1991 to 2003, the number of full-time faculty members increased by 18 percent. The number of part-timers increased by 87 percent—to almost half the entire faculty.

But as Jack Schuster and Martin Finkelstein point out in their comprehensive study The American Faculty (2006), the move to part-time labor is already an old story. Less visible but equally important has been the advent and rapid expansion of full-time positions that are not tenure-eligible. No one talks about this transformation—the creation of yet another academic underclass—and yet as far back as 1993, such positions already constituted the majority of new appointees. As of 2003, more than a third of full-time faculty were working off the tenure track. By the same year, tenure-track professors—the “normal” kind of academic appointment—represented no more than 35 percent of the American faculty.

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The DeVos Family: Meet the Super-Wealthy Right-Wingers Working With the Religious Right to Kill Public Education

From Alternet:

By now you’ve surely heard of the Kochs. Meanwhile, the powerful, wealthy DeVos family has remained largely under the radar, while leading a stealth assault on America’s schools.

By Rachel Tabachnick
May 6, 2011

Since the 2010 elections, voucher bills have popped up in legislatures around the nation. From Pennsylvania to Indiana to Florida, state governments across the country have introduced bills that would take money from public schools and use it to send students to private and religious institutions.

Vouchers have always been a staple of the right-wing agenda. Like previous efforts, this most recent push for vouchers is led by a network of conservative think tanks, PACs, Religious Right groups and wealthy conservative donors. But “school choice,” as they euphemistically paint vouchers, is merely a means to an end. Their ultimate goal is the total elimination of our public education system.

The decades-long campaign to end public education is propelled by the super-wealthy, right-wing DeVos family. Betsy Prince DeVos is the sister of Erik Prince, founder of the notorious private military contractor Blackwater USA (now Xe), and wife of Dick DeVos, son of the co-founder of Amway, the multi-tiered home products business.

By now, you’ve surely heard of the Koch brothers, whose behind-the-scenes financing of right-wing causes has been widely documented in the past year. The DeVoses have remained largely under the radar, despite the fact that their stealth assault on America’s schools has the potential to do away with public education as we know it.

Right-Wing Privatization Forces

The conservative policy institutes founded beginning in the 1970s get hundreds of millions of dollars from wealthy families and foundations to develop and promote free market fundamentalism. More specifically, their goals include privatizing social security, reducing government regulations, thwarting environmental policy, dismantling unions — and eliminating public schools.

Whatever they may say about giving poor students a leg up, their real priority is nothing short of the total dismantling of our public educational institutions, and they’ve admitted as much. Cato Institute founder Ed Crane and other conservative think tank leaders have signed the Public Proclamation to Separate School and State, which reads in part that signing on, “Announces to the world your commitment to end involvement by local, state, and federal government from education.”

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Single-Payer Plan/ Medicare for All

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‘The Worst I’ve Seen by Far’: Budget Cuts Meet Poverty in the Heartland

From The Nation:

May 9, 2011

For Jack Frech, director of the Athens County Department of Job and Family Services in Appalachian Ohio, the fact that Congress and statehouses across the country are pushing budgets that would further cut assistance for poor people is downright frightening.

“I’ve been doing this work for thirty years, and this is the worst I’ve seen it by far,” says Frech. “And when I say the worst, I mean the absolute worst.”

Frech says his clients are now “double and tripling up on housing” and “only surviving because they wait in long lines at food pantries.” They are forgoing medical treatment and trying to maintain “some old junk car” so they can “put in their fifteen or thirty hours—whatever they’re lucky enough to find—to meet their work requirement so they can continue to receive assistance.”

But they’re still not even close to achieving minimal security.

“People on our programs get all the cash and food stamps they’re going to get, meet their work requirements and still run out of food,” says Frech. “So we have to give food boxes out of our welfare department. That’s a first, and it’s absurd.”

Frech says when he began as a caseworker in 1973 it was far easier for Ohioans and citizens everywhere to get the help they needed.

“The presumption was if you were totally out of help everywhere else, you go on down to the welfare department, you sign up and you get help,” he says. “We’d give people a welfare check, food stamps, and they could find a place to live. It would certainly be humble—but people could have food on the table every day; they could survive.”

But the Clinton-Gingrich welfare reform deal shredded that safety net. It created the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant to replace Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), which since 1935 had guaranteed cash welfare to poor families with kids. The reform deal also severely limited the funds available.

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Things like this are part of the reason “the Bad Old Days” were better than the present…

The Sneaky Ways the Christian Right Has Re-Entrenched Itself In Our Politics

From Alternet:

The rapid rise of the Tea Party and its burgeoning alliance with the Religious Right are further proof of the staying power of theocratic movements in American politics.

May 2, 2011

In late February, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John Boehner (R-Ohio) flew to Nashville to address a gathering of the National Religious Broadcasters, a group of mostly far-right television and radio personalities. While there, he took some time to chat with a reporter for TV preacher Pat Robertson’s “700 Club.”

Boehner assured Robertson’s viewers that their concerns are his concerns — and he urged them to be patient. Reflecting on a recent House vote to cut off tax funding of family planning and health programs for women, Boehner asserted, “I met with a lot of religious leaders earlier today to talk about the strategy, and I think it’s important that we understand that what we want to do here is win the war, not just win a battle. And there will be an opportunity some time in order to win the big war, and we’re looking for that opportunity.”

What exactly does winning the “big war” mean? For many in the Religious Right, several “culture war” issues are at stake, including banning abortion, denying civil rights to gay Americans, injecting religion into public education and obtaining governmental support for religious schools and other ministries.

Under Boehner’s leadership, a new flock of legislators who poured into Congress in January in the wake of November’s elections is intent on winning this war. You might say they’re busy unleashing a new crusade — although sometimes under the radar. Social issues, which very few voters identified as a chief concern during the elections, are suddenly all the rage again.

And the Religious Right is back in the driver’s seat.

It’s not exactly what Americans thought they were getting. In November, polls showed great uneasiness over a high unemployment rate and a shaky economic outlook. Bolstered by legions of Tea Party activists who exploited fears over these issues, conservatives swept to victory in November, capturing not only the House of Representatives but many governorships and state legislatures as well.

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The Mythical “Bad Old Days”

I’m always at a loss when people tell me about the “Bad Old Days”.

I wonder when they are talking about.

It is unlikely they could be talking about the 1950s because the incidence of people getting sex change operations in the 1950s was incredibly rare.

Things improved by the early 1960s with Dr Burou in Casablanca and Dr Barbosa in Tijuana both of whom were refining techniques that gave birth to the techniques used today.

Why by the late 1950s early 1960s major University Medical Centers were starting to look at doing SRS along with some Drs. in the US actually doing surgery.

Not only that… The fact that tabloid newspapers were starting to regularly carry stories about April Ashley and the sisters who had worked at the Carousel made what had been a fantasy for kids like me start to seem like something one could really do.

The whole climate of the 1960s with the youth fashion revolution, the sexual freedom of the pill, the music, the psychedelic drugs.  Political liberation struggles, personal liberation struggles, feminism, gay and lesbian liberation all created a climate that some of us found so easy to come out in.

I was 20 in 1967.  Books like “On the Road” and “City of Night” along with the whole hippie movement were all I needed for the final push.

In the late spring of 1967 I met a transkid in the Village on Sixth Avenue and hung out with her for a little while.  At that point she was a feminine hippie boy pre-hormones but she had heard SF was the place to go because transsexuals out there really had it together and you could wear women’s clothes without being sent to jail.

No one talked about Johns Hopkins because they did crappy surgeries and because they got thousands of applications and did only a couple of dozen surgeries.

I wound up in the Haight in late 1967.  I was political and honestly I was still working on the courage to actually come out.  I was part of a red/black cadre.  A really tight family that tripped together and watched each other’s back.

The times called for serious honesty.  we were outlaws and the line from the Dylan song applied, “If you live outside the law you must be honest.”

I took a lot of acid.  Deep introspective trips of the sort people like Leary and Ram Das wrote about.  Broke through the inhibitions, found the courage and came out.

Got hormones from a Free Clinic.  Women friends gave me clothes, the hippie clothes I wore were so androgynous as to be girl clothes when a girl was wearing them, bell bottom jeans and loose paisley tops.

The hardest things were earning money because they only paid women about half of what they paid men and most “women’s jobs” paid minimum wages.  But rent was cheap.  Berkeley Welfare gave me General Assistance and Food Stamps.  They used me as a test case to try to get the government to pay for my surgery.

In San Francisco the Transsexual Counseling Service was being funded by the War on Poverty.

It cost me less than 20 dollars to see Dr. Benjamin.  Electrolysis was 10 dollars an hour which was a small fortune.

Rent was cheap.  Chic “vintage” Clothing Stores weren’t raiding the Goodwill, Purple Heart and Salvation Army Stores yet, so clothes were cheap.

Mostly though if you passed even half way and lived some place outside the ghetto no one ever read you and you could start the process of assimilation.

We weren’t on the radar screen.  I had a deserter boyfriend because it was safer for women to have a boyfriend than to live alone, but also because I loved him.

There was a much looser form of SOC.  Basically you had to live full time and show you could hold down a job or go to school full time.

You also couldn’t be actively and obviously insane.  You had to convince the Dr. you knew the ramifications of what you were doing and were sure it was the right thing.

Now I’ve heard some folks claim there was “mandatory heterosexuality” in your target sex, but even Dr. B’s book mentions people who had been married and fathered children.  There were definitely sisters who had married women and fathered children in the program at Stanford.

But let’s go back to the boyfriend part…  That was a whole lot better before we were colonized by the Transgender Borg Collective and grafted on to the Gay and Lesbian Movement because our boyfriends were straight for the most part.  They were reacting to our being cute girls and there wasn’t this whole huge trip hanging over our relationships.

I can so totally understand heterosexual sisters not wanting to have the whole “Transgender as Umbrella” load of baggage contaminating their relationship with their boyfriend/husband.

If you wanted to be out being transsexual was sort of a gateway to a minor form of celebrity.  Writers would buy you lunch and dinner as well as pay for long interviews.

We were really pretty empowered in those days before the reactionary ascendency of the Religious Reich that accompanied Reagan.

When I hear stories about how impossible it was I tend to think fear was the main block.

People tell of going to one place, being told they weren’t transsexual and being so devastated that they put the whole idea on the shelf for 20-30 years.  Early on I encountered a Dr. who played a mind game on me.  He hypnotized me and asked me my”real name” so I gave him my legal name.  He claimed that was how I sub-consciously thought of myself.  I though, “fuck you… If I get arrested… that’s the name they book me under until I get SRS and can legally change my name and official ID. I went to other doctors and spread the word about what a shithead this one particular doctor was.

Oh I know you are thinking pre-ops couldn’t change their ID in those days.  But ID requirements were so much easier.  A Student ID card, even the treatment card from the Center for Special Problems where they gave out hormones for free meant you could open a bank account, rent an apartment, get a job.

I had a rocking good time in the 1960s and 70s.  I went on to be part of the Women’s building in LA, model, do extra work in movies and be a photographer/layout artist for The Lesbian Tide.

Yes a couple of people got trashed, but there were a whole lot more of us who were in the lesbian movement who didn’t, and people knew our histories.

Now there is this myth about mandatory stealth…

That was more a matter of collective wisdom.  As too was getting out of the trans-ghetto.  The ghetto was focused on drugs and sex work.

My generation was more likely to have High School diplomas and both grants and loans were easy to get as well as feminist encouragements, government provided career guidance etc.

Things like the “hard-on” test were a sort of an in-joke among us. But common wisdom was that you wanted to impress the doctor who had the power to okay your surgery and looking good along with coming off sane was to one’s advantage. Looking sexy was a message we absorbed from Helen Gurley Brown and Cosmopolitan Magazine.  I got my dress for success idea from Mademoiselle Magazine and dressed like the Berkeley hippie/college girl that I was.

Actually being TOO feminine could work against you and I had to intercede on the behalf of a friend who was very Candy Darlingish, but she was from the south and I had known a couple of other women with similar traits.  when Dr Laub asked me what I thought about her and did I think she was more drag queen than transsexual, I answered, “She’s southern, it’s cultural.”  That was all it took.

She got her surgery.  She passed away last year and I still miss her.

At the same time I learned that even before I had come out some of the folks at Stanford thought I was probably lesbian because of my feminism.

When I moved to LA I found folks like Carol Katz, Joanna Clark and Jude Patton were running a similar organization in the Los Angeles area.

Sometime I think when people talk about the “Bad Old Days” they must be speaking about the early 1980s when we were subjected to the reactionary Reagan/Thatcher era.

AIDS was pretty fucking devastating and those neo-Nazi shits did so little in the way of research, treatment or much of anything else.

The 1980s were truly the bad old days as far as I am concerned.

McHugh and the NARTH/Opus Dei gang as well as the APA were run amok.

Programs were being closed.

But even then private surgeons were stepping in and filling the gap left by the closing of the University programs.

And you know people were still getting surgery and sisters were making a niche in the computer industry.

Maybe the Transgender Borg ideology has to paint the past as darker than it actually was in order to convince sisters with transsexualism of how much they need the TG Borg Collective.

Maybe folks need to look at the biographies of people from that era as well as books like Joanne Meyerowitz’s book.