Friday Night Fun and Culture 1980s edition

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The Deceit by the Omission of a very Relevant Element

“It’s discouraging to think how many people are shocked by honesty and how few by deceit.
Noel Coward

I like Jennifer Boylan’s writing, she is an artist, gifted at her craft.  I enjoy reading her work.  I do not automatically say that about either the writing or other artistic accomplishments of other of folks with whom I share a bond of having had our lives impacted with transsexualism.

Automatic praise simply because of shared common life elements reduces such praise to an automatic platitude.

Recently Jennifer Boylan has been privileged with having her essays appear on the Op-Ed page  of The Gray Lady, the highly respected New York Times.

Today the following appeared:

We Want Cake, Too

Published: August 11, 2011

I thought of this line after New York passed its marriage-equality law in June. Since then, gay men and lesbians have been lining up from Fire Island to Niagara Falls in order to tie the knot.

As this wave of progress ripples through the country, though, one group of people has been prominently left behind. In conversations with transgender people, again and again, I hear the refrain: Enjoy your cake, folks. Meanwhile, the rest of us remain at risk for discrimination and violence. 

More than a few transgender people feel they’ve been sold out by the gay-rights movement and lament the way the “T” in “L.G.B.T.” always comes last. It makes me think, “A bunch of straight people in a room? That’s a conversation. A bunch of L.G.B.T. people in a room? That’s an argument.”

When you look at the staggering statistics concerning the struggles of transgender people, it’s easy to understand resentment over the amount of resources put into the fight for marriage rights. Transgender people, according to a nationwide study released early this year by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and the National Center for Transgender Equality, are nearly four times more likely to live in poverty than the general population. Forty-one percent of respondents reported attempting suicide; of those who came out as students, 78 percent reported harassment, 35 percent physical assault and 12 percent sexual violence. Nineteen percent said they had been homeless. Among transgender people of color, the numbers are even worse.

The right to marry clearly isn’t the most urgent civil rights issue lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (L.G.B.T.) people face.

Still, it’s not surprising that marriage rights came first. The lives of gay men and lesbians have finally become part of the fabric of American life. It seems to be harder for people to get their minds around the transgender experience. It takes a much larger leap of imagination for straight people to understand the difference between who you want to go to bed “with,” and who you want to go to bed “as.” Frequently, gay and lesbian people struggle with this distinction just as much as straight people do.

But if transgender people are sometimes at odds with their gay and lesbian allies, they’re also at odds with themselves. The community is rife with disagreements about whether transsexuals (individuals who change, or wish to change, their gender via medical intervention, and whom some define as simply having a “birth challenge” like, say, a cleft palate) even ought to be grouped, politically, with “transgenders” (an umbrella term that includes cross-dressers and drag queens).

Where is the omission, the deceit?

The deceit arises from the reality that many who consider themselves part of the “transgender community” and a fair number of post-SRS transsexual people enjoy the heterosexual privilege of marriage, either from the continuation of what the state viewed and continues to view as a heterosexual marriage that was entered into prior to either coming out as transsexual/transgender or any sort of sex reassignment surgery.  Others have used their surgery to gain access heterosexual marriage.

Either way these marriages are not only pretty much universally recognized but enjoy many privileged benefits that are not enjoyed by by same sex couples, who are legally married in those handful of states that have passed marriage equality laws.  DOMA sees to that.

Support for supposedly shared political actions has tended to be a one-sided affair with the TG Community making demands that Gay and Lesbian people devote their energies to TG Rights without those people who have access to the heterosexual privileges of marriage offering much in the way of reciprocation.

I will not accuse Jennifer Boylan of deceit in this regard as she has written of her marriage in her memoir and in other venues.  The point remains there are more than a few people who are “Trans-Activists” who do omit this particularly pertinent piece of information regarding their own lives, even as they call upon lesbian and gay people to put marriage equality on the back burner.

Brennan Answers Critics

From Baltimore Out Loud:

Written by  Rev. Mother Meredith Moise, SPSA
Friday, 12 August 2011

Veteran Lesbian Activist Answers Criticism Over United Nations Letter

Cathy Brennan is a seasoned lesbian activist who has lived through some controversy. She is currently embroiled in a debate involving a letter she penned to the United Nations (UN) with another lawyer regarding the use of gender identity inadvertently causing harm to females born female. She has been the target of death threats as trans activists pounced on the letter as trans-phobic and racist. In the following interview, Brennan offers her view on the letter and her outlook on transphobia and feminist idealism.

Rev. Meredith Moise: What is your position on anti discrimination legislation in general and gender identity legislation in particular?

Cathy Brennan: I support rational anti-discrimination protections for people of transgender and transsexual experience. As you know, I actively supported HB 235 in Maryland last spring, which would have banned discrimination in housing, employment and credit.

MM: Why did you and Elizabeth Hungerford write to the United Nations about gender identity legislation in the US?

CB: All anti-discrimination laws have an exception built in them to permit discrimination based on sex in certain public accommodations – this is why we have sex-segregated bathrooms, showers, locker rooms, and the like. The definition of gender identity that the LGBT organizations keep putting forth is overbroad, and allows males who are not transgender or transsexual access into female only space. This is bad for women.

MM: Some have titled your vocal opposition to the gender id legislation radical feminist and racist. What is driving your passion for this issue?

CB: In 2011 it is incredible to me that people who oppose what we are saying as “radical feminist” – as if that is a bad thing! As if, God forbid that someone dares to advocate for a female perspective. Yes, we are advocating a radical feminist position.

With regard to racism, we understand that advocating for a definition of gender identity that requires some proof of medical intervention is causing some concern among poor people; that include people of color. The way medical care and treatment is financed in our society – a patriarchical society that favors white males – disproportionately disfavors women and people of color. Racism in the way heath care is provided to people in this country, and in the priorities that are established and in the way health care is distributed, is real, and we abhor it.

Feminist legal arguments advocating for female reproductive safety in sex-segregated spaces do not CAUSE systemic racism. And please also remember that women of color are women. Women make up 50% of the world’s population. The LGBT movement’s insistence on eviscerating sex-based protections for women is also racist – and SEXIST!

MM: How can the law balance the need for sex-based protections along with gender-based protections for transgender people?

CB: We fully support anti-discrimination protections for transgender and transsexual people that do not run roughshod over laws that protect females. We support the following definition of “gender identity – a person’s identification with the sex opposite her or his physiology or assigned sex at birth, which can be shown by providing evidence including, but not limited to, medical history, care or treatment of a transsexual medical condition, or related condition, as deemed medically necessary by the American Medical Association.” Such a definition would protect the classification of sex, while simultaneously providing a cause of action for discriminatory practices on the basis of a persistent and documented “gender identity.” We welcome people who fit into this definition into space segregated by sex in recognition of their perceived need for access and in the fervent hope that we can achieve such protection for identifiably transgender or transsexual people without harming females.

MM: What particular concern does your letter raise?

CB: The LGBT organizations are pushing this definition of “gender identity,” with some variation:

“Gender identity”means an individual’s actual or perceived gender identity, or gender-related characteristics intrinsically related to an individual’s gender or gender-identity, regardless of the individual’s assigned sex at birth.

We are concerned with two basic things – that this overbroad definition of “gender identity” completely overrides rational sex-based protections and that it codifies sex stereotypes about men and women into law and elevates those stereotypes to the level of an actual identity.

We encourage people to actually read the letter. It is here:

MM: Are there any documented incidents of crimes against females born female committed by men dressed as women?

CB: Why yes! They are legion. There are many reported incidents of men videotaping women in restrooms. There are also numerous incidents of men dressing in drag to peep in women’s restrooms. This has very little to do with the trans* community. It really is a male vs. female issue.

MM: Ultimately, many folks view you as an adversary to the trans community. How do you answer these critics?

CB: I appreciate and respect that women of transgender and transsexual experience struggle to be accepted and recognized as women. I personally accept women of transgender and transsexual experience as women. Meanwhile, females in 2011 continue to struggle to be accepted as human. I would encourage women of transgender and transsexual experience to help us in our struggle as well.

Life in an Age of Looting: “Some Will Rob You with a Sixgun and Some with a Fountain Pen”

From Common Dreams:

by Phil Rockstroh
Published on Friday, August 12, 2011 by

As the poor of Britain rise in a fury of inchoate rage and stock exchanges worldwide experience manic upswings and panicked swoons, the financial elite (and their political operatives) are arrayed in a defensive posture, even as they continue their global-wide, full-spectrum offensive vis-à-vie The Shock Doctrine. Concurrently, corporate mass media types fret over the reversal of fortune and trumpet the triumphs of the self-serving agendas of Wall Street and corporate swindlers…even as they term a feller, in ill-gotten possession of a flat screen television, fleeing through the streets of North London, a mindless thug.

According to the through-the-looking-glass cosmology of mass media elitists, when a poor person commits a crime of opportunity, his actions are a threat to all we hold dear and sacred, but, when the hyper-wealthy of the entrenched looter class abscond with billions, those criminals are referred to as our financial leaders.

Regardless of the propaganda of “free market” fantasists, the great unspeakable in regard to capitalism is its wealth, by and large, is generated for a ruthless, privileged few by the creation of bubbles, and, when those bubbles burst, the resultant economic catastrophe inflicts a vastly disproportionate amount of harm upon those — the laboring and middle classes — who generate grossly inequitable amounts of capital for the elitist of the fraudster class…by having the life force drained from them by the vampiric set-up of the gamed system.

Woody Guthrie summed up the situation in these two (unfortunately) ageless stanzas:

“Yes, as through this world I’ve wandered
I’ve seen lots of funny men;
Some will rob you with a sixgun,
And some with a fountain pen.

“And as through your life you travel,
Yes, as through your life you roam,
You won’t never see an outlaw
Drive a family from their home.”
–excerpt from Pretty Boy Floyd.

Although, at present, U.S. bank vaults contain little tangible loot for a Pretty Boy Floyd-type outlaw to boost. How would it be possible for an old school bank robber such as Floyd to make-off with a haul of funneling electrons?

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Criminally charging videographer who captured alleged police beating of Melvin Jones lll during traffic stop would set dangerous precedent, activists say

From Mass Live:

By George Graham, The Republican
August 11, 2011

SPRINGFIELD – Charging the amateur videographer who captured the alleged police beating of Melvin Jones lll during a 2009 traffic stop with illegal wiretapping sets a dangerous precedent, local activists say.

“I think it would be dangerous if this person were to be charged with a crime,” said the Rev. Talbert W. Swan, Springfield branch president of the NAACP. “It would say to the public that we don’t have the right to hold law enforcement accountable for their actions.”

“When you start charging people who have videotaped police wrongfulness, it borders on, in my opinion, an attempt to silence people,” Rep. Benjamin Swan, D-Springfield, said.

From so-called voluntaryists recently celebrating a court victory in Greenfield, to prominent cases in Boston and elsewhere across the nation, the question of whether citizens hold a First Amendment right to video law enforcement personnel doing their jobs has been increasingly in the spotlight.

It comes to a head here in Springfield with the filing of an application for a criminal complaint, made by one of the four police officers disciplined for the incident. Michael Sedergren, claims it was illegal for Tyrisha Greene, who captured the incident on her camera, to videotape him without his consent.

Greene recorded a 20-minute video that included Jones, who is black, being struck repeatedly by a white officer with a flashlight while a group of other white officers stood by without intervening. Sedergren was suspended for 45 days in connection with the incident. Patrolman Jeffrey M. Asher was eventually fired for his role in the alleged beating.

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Hot Town Summer in the City

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England riots: Government mulls social media controls

From BBC:

The government is exploring whether to turn off social networks or stop people texting during times of social unrest.

David Cameron said the intelligence services and the police were exploring whether it was “right and possible” to cut off those plotting violence.

Texting and Blackberry Messenger are said to have been used by some during this week’s riots.

Rights groups said such a measure would be abused and hit the civil liberties of people who have done nothing wrong.

The prime minister told MPs the government was exploring the turn-off in a statement made to the House of Commons during an emergency recall of Parliament.

Mr Cameron said anyone watching the riots would be “struck by how they were organised via social media”.

He said the government, using input from the police, intelligence services and industry, was looking at whether there should, or could, be limits on social media if it was being used to spread disorder.

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New Fracking Rules Reflect Industry’s Needs, Not Nature’s or Consumers’

From Common Dreams:

by Wenonah Hauter
Published on Thursday, August 11, 2011 by

Today, the Shale Gas Subcommittee of the Secretary of Energy Advisory Board released its recommendations regarding the regulation of U.S. shale gas production. With six out of seven of the subcommittee’s members having direct financial ties to the natural gas industry, their recommendations will not go nearly far enough in protecting consumers and the environment from the risks associated with shale gas obtained through the process of hydraulic fracturing. The report does outline the major environmental and public health issues associated with shale gas drilling.

While the natural gas industry has advocated for, and has been granted exemptions from key environmental regulations, it has racked up countless violations of the rules that do apply to them, and has been questioned about the validity of their gas production forecasts. Yet the subcommittee nonetheless suggests that natural gas producers should play a large role in ensuring that hydraulic fracturing operations do not endanger consumers or natural resources by providing the public information about shale gas production and adopting industry-wide ‘best practices.’

Just last week The New York Times reported that players within the natural gas industry helped bury evidence produced by the Environmental Protection Agency that hydraulic fracturing had, contrary to industry claims, contaminated drinking water supplies. How can we trust the industry to show ‘leadership in improving environmental impact’ when it has actually gone to great lengths to cover up its detrimental impacts to public health and natural resources?

Much like the hearings it convened in the months leading up to the study, which mainly reflected the views of the natural gas industry and policymakers, this study downplays the concerns of those affected by fracking—communities that have been turned into sacrifice zones at the expense of the natural gas industry’s desire to turn a profit.

While the report recommends allowing the natural gas industry to create a new national organization to police its own practices, it proposes leaving protection of public health and the environment to ‘each relevant jurisdiction.’ We know that industry has gone to great lengths to influence local governments, and even greater lengths to avoid culpability at a national level. Why should we let the industry police itself while leaving localities to fight for themselves?

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The Anti-Choice Class War

From RH Reality Check:

by Amanda Marcotte, RH Reality Check
August 7, 2011

Whilst whiling away my time in a manner greatly pleasing to myself—reading the Tumblr STFU Conservatives—I was genuinely startled to see that the blogger had curated this amazing bit of anti-choice propaganda from Live Action.

I couldn’t have created a better distillation of how anti-choicers actually view women who are facing unintended pregnancies.  I can just imagine how this particular ad came to be.  One of the folks working at Live Action was flipping through stock photos of pregnant women—concentrating on very pregnant women in order to mislead people about the flat-tummied realities of abortion—and they were drawn to this one because it’s such a vicious stereotype.  The woman pictured is clearly supposed to be young, adolescent even, and poor.  You can tell she’s likely a teenager because she’s wearing trendy clothes like you get at Forever 21.  And the clothes don’t fit well and are clearly supposed to be clothes from before she got pregnant, the implication being that she’s too poor to afford maternity clothes. This image characterizes young, poor women as stupid sluts who can’t manage basic responsibilities. And our youthful right wing propagandist saw this picture and thought, “Perfect! This is exactly how I imagine life is like for the kind of women who get pregnant on accident.”

The text indicates that whoever wrote this ad thinks that the intended audience—presumably young and likely poor women—is really stupid, and that the only reason a person might conclude that aborting a pregnancy isn’t the same thing as killing a baby is that they’ve been brainwashed by the condom-pushers at Planned Parenthood.  In reality, people draw the conclusion that embryos aren’t babies so much as potential babies because they look at the obvious evidence on hand.  They notice that people don’t have funerals for miscarriages, that we start counting someone’s age from their birth date and not their conception date, and that unlike babies, embryos can’t experience emotions or sensations, due to the lack of a functioning brain.

This particular ad further reinforces my sense that the anti-choice movement is increasingly moving away from the strategy they embraced for the past decade of feigning concern for pregnant women, and instead they’re moving back to old school hysterics about women’s sexual freedoms mixed in with overt classism and racism.  The most obvious example of this turn has been the right wing reaction to the HHS ruling that will require insurers to cover contraception without a co-pay.  All feigned concern for women flew out the window the second the possibility of free contraception was even raised, and so far the theme of the criticisms of the HHS has been, “Dirty, stupid, irresponsible sluts don’t deserve squat.”

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Attacks on Science Education Intensify: “There Seems To Be a Lynch-Mob Hate Against Any Teacher Trying to Teach Climate Change”

From Think Progress:

Chris Mooney, in a DeSmogBlog
Aug 11, 2011

A few months back, those who care about accurate climate science and energy education in high school classes registered a minor victory. Under fire from outlets like The New York Times, the education publishing behemoth Scholastic (of Clifford the Big Red Dog and Harry Potter fame) pulled an energy curriculum sponsored by the American Coal Foundation, which gave a nice PR sheen to coal without bothering to cover, uh, the whole environmental angle. The curriculum had reportedly already been mailed to 66,000 classrooms by the time it got yanked.

When it comes to undermining accurate and responsible climate and energy education at the high school level, Scholastic may have been the most prominent transgressor. But precisely because it is a massive and respected educational publisher, and actually cares what The New York Times thinks, it was also the most moderate and easy to reason with.

Although it’s hard to find online now, I’ve reviewed the offending coal curriculum, entitled “The United States of Energy.” In my view, it didn’t even contain any obvious falsehoods—except for errors of omission. It was more a case of subtle greenwashing.

What’s currently seeping into classrooms across the country is far, far worse—more ideological, and more difficult to stop. We’re talking about outright climate denial being fed to students—and accurate climate science teaching being attacked by aggressive Tea Party-style ideologues.

Science magazine just released a report on the state of affairs out there in this place called America, and it’s ugly. From the piece:

“It’s very difficult when we, as science teachers, are just trying to present scientific facts,” says Kathryn Currie, head of the [Los Alamitos High School’s] science department. And science educators around the country say such attacks are becoming all too familiar. They see climate science now joining evolution as an inviting target for those who accuse “liberal” teachers of forcing their “beliefs” upon a captive audience of impressionable children.

“Evolution is still the big one, but climate change is catching up,” says Roberta Johnson, executive director of the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) in Boulder, Colorado. An informal survey this spring of 800 NESTA members found that climate change was second only to evolution in triggering protests from parents and school administrators. One teacher reported being told by school administrators not to teach climate change after a parent threatened to come to class and make a scene. Online message boards for science teachers tell similar tales…

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Police and Thieves: Making Sense of the English Riots

From In These Times:

By Michelle Chen
August 10, 2011

After witnessing several nights of turmoil, the people of the United Kingdom are still trying to comprehend what just happened. There’s no simple explanation for this apparently leaderless and rudderless uprising in London and several other cities. But amid the grim ashes and street clashes, the message of rage has seared itself into the public consciousness, rekindling an age-old tinderbox of class warfare.

Observers dismiss them as roaming bands of delinquents. Or they describe them as well-organized, tech-savvy flash mobs. They’re portrayed alternately as greedy opportunists or as disaffected youth whose day-to-day misery goes ignored until a crisis breaks out. Reflecting the diversity of urban Britain, they are everyone and no one. And they’re just kids.

Though the unrest initially grew out of a protest against police brutality in the poor, racially mixed enclave of Tottenham (where another famous riot took place in the 1980s), it’s escalated to a level that many people couldn’t imagine: So much breaking and burning happening in one of the most prosperous nations in the world.

Yet the riots bleakly mirror the state of working-class Britain. The initial demonstrations, over the death of a local young man, Mark Duggan, stoked long-simmering hatred for the police, who are notorious for mistreating black and Asian youth (paralleling the situation in U.S. cities).

At the same time, youth struggle with massive unemployment, especially in poor neighborhoods like Tottenham, and their government coddles big business while slashing basic welfare services. Though it’s not inevitable that these trends will provoke disorder, it’s clear that youth have little incentive to conform to a social order that makes them feel utterly powerless. Daily Telegraph columnist Mary Riddell warns that “In uneasy societies, people power—whether offered or stolen—can be toxic.”

Yet there’s a palpable absence of a coherent left or labor movement to harness this aggression and channel dissent into positive action. A London-based branch of the union UNISON wrote on its blog on Tuesday:

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