Banned From the Barn

From The New York Times:

July 5, 2011

Iowa’s ag-gag law failed to pass before summer recess last week: a good thing. The ridiculous proposition, which died along with similar ones in Minnesota, Florida and New York, would have made it illegal to videotape or photograph in the agricultural facilities that house almost all of our chickens and pigs.

Sadly, a lack of idiocy is not the same thing as a presence of wisdom, and the demise of ag-gag won’t give us a clearer view of food production. We need more visibility, not less. But when I visited Iowa in May, I appealed to producers of eggs, chickens, pork and even cooking oil to let me visit their facilities. In general, I was ignored, politely refused or told something like “it’s a bad week.” (I made standing offers to return at any time; no one has taken me up on that.)

When a journalist can’t see how the food we eat is produced, you don’t need ag-gag laws. The system’s already gagged.

The videographers that have made it into closed barns have revealed that eggs are laid and chickens are born and raised in closed barns containing (literally) hundreds of thousands of birds; an outsider wouldn’t even know what those barns were. Pigs are housed cheek-to-jowl, by the many thousands, in what are called concentrated animal feeding operations, where feeding, watering and monitoring are largely mechanized. Pregnant sows are confined in small concrete cells. Iowa is industrial agriculture’s ground zero. But when it comes to producing animals, zero is pretty much what you’re going to see.

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This is What a Feminist Looks Like

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Some Transgender People Are Not Gay

I’m starting to feel the contradictions might be fracturing the Transgender Borg Cult into a number of different sects.  There is a lot of homophobia there as well as heterosexism.  There are all sorts of contradictions present due to the attempt to lump all sorts of different groups of people together  while demanding a shared identity instead of presenting the idea of coalescing behind a shared goal.

Further I have always had doubts about the “T” being stuck on the L/G because of all the straight people who were suddenly part of the “Transgender as umbrella” paradigm.  I also knew that as a post-transsexual lesbian I didn’t need a “T” to be part of the L/G community.  I am a lesbian and have been close to a number of gay male friend, many of whom died during the AIDS Crisis of the 1980s and early 1990s.

The following is from Joanne Herman.  When requesting permission to repost I already pointed out to her that many post-transsexual folks who are lesbian or gay do not feel they need a “T” to describe their relationship with L/G.

From  Huffington Post:

Posted: 06/29/11

Reposted with Permission

This should not be breaking news, and yet it will be for many. Why is this so?

Back in the 1990’s, lesbian and gay organizations started adding transgender people to their missions. It seemed to be a reasonable expansion — transgender people face many of the same prejudices that gay people do.

But much like the general population, most people in the gay and lesbian community did not understand that, while the prejudices were similar, the underlying issue is quite different. Many still don’t understand this.

So when the missions were expanded, many gays and lesbians innocently continued saying that their organizations “serve the needs of all gay Americans.” Many still do say this.

The result is that many Americans who have heard the word transgender think it means another kind of gay.

The problem is that some transgender people are not gay. Take Chaz Bono for example. Chaz came out as a lesbian in 1995 because, living as a female since birth and being attracted to other females, that made him a lesbian in society’s eyes. It took Chaz until 2008 to realize that he was truly a man. Now, living as a man who is in a relationship with a woman, Chaz is considered by society to be straight.

Many people don’t think this through when a friend or loved one undergoes a transsexual transition. In my case, I was living as a male since birth and was attracted to females, making me considered to be straight. After I concluded my true gender was female, some were truly speechless once it clicked for them that my continued attraction to women meant I was now considered a lesbian.

But some don’t continue to be attracted to women after transition. In her book When The Opposite Sex Isn’t: Sexual Orientation In Male-to-Female Transgender People, Dr. Sandra Samons postulates that these transitioners are surprised to find that they like the way men react to them as women, enough to seek a romantic relationship with one.

Confused? Don’t be. All you have to remember is that sexual orientation is completely different from gender identity. You can’t tell one from the other.

As a lesbian, I’m comfortable being involved with LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) organizations. And while gays and lesbians have generally welcomed me, they usually don’t get why more of my trans friends are not involved.

So, let’s imagine that you were born male and that you’ve undergone a transsexual transition to live as a woman. You have done everything you can to blend in as a woman and it rarely comes up that you are trans.

You are attracted to men. You’d like to meet a man and have been very careful to be sure people know this. You never go to lesbian or gay social situations to avoid giving the wrong impression about your sexual orientation. (And, of course, because your chances of meeting a straight man there are pretty slim.)

But in spite of your best efforts, people keep referring to LGBT people as if they are all gay. As a result, straight men who know your history avoid dating you to avoid appearing to be gay. Dates with other straight men abruptly end when your history comes out, again because of your date’s fear of appearing gay.

Don’t get me wrong – as a gay woman, I don’t think there is anything wrong with being gay. Society is very slowly moving toward the same conclusion, too. But fear of being mislabeled as gay is not going away fast enough to allow many of my straight trans women friends to experience the love and validation that comes from being in an enduring, committed relationship.

What can be done to help? Lots of education is needed, for sure. But for starters, try saying that LGBT organizations “serve gay and trans Americans.” It’s not perfect, I know, but it’s a simple change that will make folks ask what the difference is. And when they do, that’s when the education can begin.

Missing: 163 Million Women

Everything gets turned into a male supremacist argument against women having any control over their own bodies or reproductive rights.  After all it is part of women’s gender that they be mothers, housewives and whores not full human beings with the same rights as men.

From Mother Jones:

Ever wonder what happens when societies favor boys over girls?

By Mara Hvistendahl
July 5, 2011

Editors’ note: Science magazine correspondent Mara Hvistendahl was a college student in China when she first saw an elementary school classroom where boys seriously outnumbered girls. Returning to China as a journalist several years later, she set out to investigate how, exactly, an estimated 163 million females came to be missing from the Asia’s population—in South Korea, Vietnam, and Georgia, as well as India and China. The compelling result is Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men, a new book that both shows how Western organizations and scientists played a role in introducing sex selection to Asia and paints a bleak picture of societies where a dearth of women puts everyone at risk.

In the weeks since the book came out, Hvistendahl has been making the rounds, addressing the World Affairs Council, the World Policy Institute, and officials from the US State Department. New York Times columnist Ross Douthat (read our profile of him) cited the book’s revelations about sex selection to argue against abortion. Evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins weighed in, too, claiming Hvistendahl was attacking science over advances in prenatal technologies—to which the author responded with a post suggesting that Dawkins hadn’t actually read the book. But many who have agree that it’s a thought-provoking look at a mounting demographic problem. The following excerpt is adapted from the book’s opening chapter.


Midway through his career, Christophe Guilmoto stopped counting babies and started counting boys. A French demographer with a mathematician’s love of numbers and an anthropologist’s obsession with detail, he had attended graduate school in Paris in the 1980s, when babies had been the thing. By the time he started his Ph.D., birth rates were falling around the world, but the populations of many developing nations were still growing, and it was hard to shake the idea lingering in demography that overpopulation was a grave threat. Like many demography students at the time, he concentrated on studying the drop in fertility, searching for clues of what factors proved decisive in lowering a country’s birth rate.

He did his dissertation research in Tamil Nadu, a state in southwestern India where the fertility rate had fallen to European levels even as personal income remained low. But over the course of working in India, he realized that there, at least, demography’s big story had changed. People were not simply having fewer children. They were having fewer girls. Population growth had been slowed, in part, by reducing the number of daughters.

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How Atheism Can Make the World Better By Tearing Down Religious Irrationality

From Alternet:

Atheism is not just about disproving religious belief; it’s also a burgeoning social justice movement intent on tearing down the social structures that perpetuate injustice.

By Amanda Marcotte 
July 3, 2011

Few groups are as vilified as atheists. They tend to be viewed as party poopers bent on dismantling the cherished beliefs of “people of faith.” While that element of the atheist community does exist–as is verified by the endless websites and books dedicated solely to tackling the logical flaws in religious claims–the reality is that the growing movement of outspoken atheists have far more on offer than winning arguments with people who believe in a god. Atheism is also a burgeoning social justice movement that looks to tear down the social structures that have perpetuated injustice for millennia.

Just as feminists take on the patriarchy, peace activists fight the ideology of war, civil rights activists and abolitionists dismantle the traditions of racism, and humanists erode authoritarian hierarchies, atheists are standing up and saying that the human race needs to evolve beyond religion. And it’s this social justice model that’s invigorating a new generation of atheists to move beyond just quietly disbelieving into openly challenging religious irrationality.

Blame the religious right for pushing atheists in this new, more political direction. The past couple of decades have seen an explosion in fundamentalist energy and power. The immediacy of the fundamentalist threat to science, education and human rights starkly demonstrates that the problem of religion extends beyond its inherent irrationality. Many atheists who find endless proofs against god tiring find themselves drawn to organized atheism as a weapon against this religious threat to liberty and free inquiry.

Even though many liberal religious people exist, at its base, the argument between god believers and atheists is roughly the same argument as that between conservatives and progressives. Liberalism is rooted in the humanist tradition, which demands that society and government prioritize human needs and desires, using the tools of rationality and evidence toward those goals. Conservativism values hierarchy and tradition and rejects evidence-based reasoning in favor of arguments from authority. The imaginary god provides the perfect conservative authority; a completely evidence-free, ultimate authority that can make pronouncements believers are expected to simply submit to. Submission and faith are built into even the most liberal Christian traditions, in direct contrast to the humanist philosophy of questioning and demanding evidence.

Humanism has given birth to progressivism by opening up space to question some of the oldest prejudices: the belief that men are better than women, that gays are “unnatural,” that different skin colors or ethnicities automatically means different roles and mental abilities, that people are wealthier because they’re more deserving, that kings rule by divine right. When you start asking hard questions of these other beliefs, you often discover that the rationale for all of them tends to circle back toward “God said so.” By questioning this most fundamental of beliefs, that there is a god and he’s making the rules, we can call into question the illogic of all these other beliefs.

Despite the atheist movement’s emphasis on proofs against supernatural claims, many, if not most people who join the atheist movement came to atheism because they were questioning other beliefs and traditions. Certainly this was my path. I never really “believed” in god growing up, but I didn’t identify as an atheist either. I just didn’t think about the issue much. Feminism compelled me to start looking harder at religious arguments against women’s equality, and in doing so, I realized that without a forceful response to religious irrationality, feminist progress would be stymied. And so I started engaging logical arguments supporting what seemed self-evident to me, that there couldn’t be any gods, and therefore no supernatural beings whose authority can be invoked when anti-feminists lack real-world evidence for their claims.

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The Corrupt Corporate Incarceration Complex

From Truth Out:

by: William Fisher, Truthout
Friday 1 July 2011

Seventeen-year-old Hillary Transue did what lots of 17-year-olds do: Got into mischief. Hillary’s mischief was composing a MySpace page poking fun at the assistant principal of the high school she attended in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Hillary was an honor student who’d never had any trouble with the law before. And her MySpace page stated clearly that the page was a joke. But despite all that, Hilary found herself charged with harassment. She stood before a judge and heard him sentence her to three months in a juvenile detention facility.

What she expected was perhaps a stern lecture. What she got was a perp walk – being led away in handcuffs as her stunned parents stood by helplessly. Hillary told The New York Times, “I felt like I had been thrown into some surreal sort of nightmare. All I wanted to know was how this could be fair and why the judge would do such a thing.”

It wasn’t until two years later that she found out why. In Scranton, Pennsylvania, two judges pleaded guilty to operating a kickback scheme involving juvenile offenders. The judges, Mark Ciavarella Jr. and Michael Conahan, took more than $2.6 million in kickbacks from a private prison company to send teenagers to two privately run youth detention centers. Since 2003, Ciaverella had sentenced an estimated 5,000 juveniles. Conahan was accused of setting up the contracts. Many of the youngsters shipped off to the detention centers were first-time offenders.

PA Child Care is a juvenile detention center in Pittston Township, Pennsylvania. It was opened in February 2003. It has a sister company, Western PA Child Care, in Butler County, Pennsylvania. Treatment at both facilities is provided by Mid Atlantic Youth Services. Gregory Zappala took sole ownership of the company when he purchased co-owner Robert Powell’s share in June 2008.

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Yellowstone Oil Spill Prompts Evacuations

From The Huffington Post:

Matthew Brown, Associated Press
First Posted: 07/ 2/11

LAUREL, Mont. — Hundreds of barrels of crude oil spilled into Montana’s Yellowstone River after an ExxonMobil pipeline beneath the riverbed ruptured, sending a plume 25 miles downstream and forcing temporary evacuations, officials said.

The break near Billings in south-central Montana fouled the riverbank and forced municipalities and irrigation districts Saturday to close intakes.

The river has no dams on its way to its confluence with the Missouri River just across the Montana border in North Dakota. It was unclear how far the plume might travel.

Cleanup crews deployed booms and absorbent material as the plume moved downstream at an estimated 5 to 7 mph.

“The parties responsible will restore the Yellowstone River,” Mont. Gov. Brian Schweitzer said.

A 600-foot-long black smear of oil coated Jim Swanson’s riverfront property just downstream from where the pipe broke.

 “Whosever pipeline it is better be knocking on my door soon and explaining how they’re going to clean it up,” Swanson said as globules of oil bubbled to the surface. “They say they’ve got it capped off. I’m not so sure.”
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Like a grenade in a glasshouse

From ABC (Australian Broadcasting Co.):

By Paul Gilding
ABC Environment | 30 Jun 2011

We have maxed out our planetary credit card and borrowed off our kids to repay our debts. Soon, we will have to stop living the high-life. The question is when.

It’s going to hit hard and it’s going to hurt – made worse because most aren’t expecting it. They think the world is slowly returning to our modern ‘normal’ – steadily increasing growth, with occasional annoying but manageable interruptions. After all, the global recession wasn’t so bad was it? Sure there was pain and things got shaky but Governments responded, bailed out companies, stimulated economies, got things back on track. While it’s still a bit bumpy, Greek wobbles, US debt, extreme weather, high oil and food prices etc, it’ll work out. It always does….

If only it were so. In fact we are blindly walking towards the next in a series of inevitable system shaking and confidence sapping crises, deluded in the belief that the worst is behind us.

Each crisis will be a little worse than the last. Each one will shake our denial a little more. This is what happens when systems hit their limits. They don’t do so smoothly, but bump up against the wall, hitting hard, then bouncing off equally hard. It is the behaviour of a system trying to break through. But if the limits are solid, as is the case with our economic system hitting the limits of the planet – defined by unchangeable physical capacity and the laws of physics, chemistry and biology – then it can’t find its way through. So eventually, when the pain of hitting the wall gets too much, it stops.

Then it will hit. Like a grenade in a glasshouse, shattering denial and delusion and leaving it like a pile of broken glass on the floor of the old economic model. Then we’ll be ready for change.

I’ve been arguing the inevitability of this moment since 2005, mostly inside the business community. Before the 2008 financial crisis hit, the idea was almost universally rejected, with a belief in the indomitable power of globalised markets to overcome all challenges and keep growth on track. Most audiences believed that while markets always wobbled, they also always recovered. My suggestion, that this level of arrogance was the hallmark of empires before they fell, landed on deaf ears. They were the masters of the universe and markets and growth would always reign supreme.

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