Transgender People: The Next Frontier in Civil Rights

From Time Magazine:

Being fired for “gender non-conformity” is a violation of the constitution, an important court recently found

By Adam Cohen
December 12, 2011

When Vandiver Elizabeth Glenn was fired from a state job in Georgia, she filed a lawsuit saying that she had been discriminated against for being transgender. Georgia civil rights laws do not cover transgender people, but a powerful federal court ruled last week that Glenn’s firing violated the U.S. Constitution. There was also a second major piece of transgender news last week: a new study shows that a growing number of major American companies are paying for their employees’ gender reassignment surgery. Taken together, the ruling and the study are strong indications that transgender rights are starting to enter the mainstream.

The backstory behind the court ruling: Glenn, an editor with the Georgia General Assembly, was born a biological male but long believed herself to be a woman. After being diagnosed with Gender Identity Disorder, an American Psychiatric Association-recognized condition, she began making the transition from male to female under medical supervision. Glenn was preparing for gender-reassignment surgery by living as a woman outside of work and presenting as a man at work. Eventually, she informed a colleague that she would soon begin coming to work as a woman, and when Glenn’s supervisor found out, he fired her.

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Chinese Authorities Lose Control as Village Revolts

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The 99%: What’s Funny About Being Poor? Roseanne and Working-Class Humor

From Bitch Magazine:

by GretchenSisson
December 14, 2011

Can being broke be funny, after all?

Monday’s post on 2 Broke Girls generated a lot of comments—from fans of the show who felt I was being too harsh, and from others who felt I was too forgiving of the show’s many flaws.  One commenter said, “You can’t expect a comedy to be so heavy and grounded in real life struggles.”

Well, yes. I can.

One of my favorite Friends episodes deals directly with socioeconomic difference within the friend group.  Yes, the friend group was all white people from middle to upper-middle class backgrounds who live in preposterously large apartments in Manhattan.  But back on season two, there was an episode that specifically explored the clash between the friends who had more disposable income—Monica, Ross, and Chandler—and the three who didn’t—Rachel, Phoebe, and Joey.  The friends with less money comically order side salads when they go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant, protesting the suggestion to split the bill evenly.  Later, the three who can afford more buy concert tickets for all six of them to celebrate Ross’s birthday, and the others are made to feel like charity cases.  A lot of the humor is derived from the awkwardness of having to talk about money.  The line, “OK…. we can… talk about that” is delivered with the hesitancy of friends that know they’re venturing into a sensitive discussion, but are willing to address the issue openly.  The zinger, of course, is that Monica loses her job at the end of the episode, showing how tenuous financial stability can be.

While Friends may have made a brief acknowledgement of difference within the group, economic disadvantage was certainly never a recurring theme in the show.  I use it only as example to show that entertainment that, superficially, has nothing to do with class doesn’t need to ignore these issues.  Roseanne, though, was about finding the humor in the hardship.  And there was no one better at it.

Roseanne never shied away from real issues families face: social class, of course, but also gay family members, working conditions and job insecurity, birth control and unplanned pregnancy, divorce, domestic violence, mental illness, abortion, and alcoholism.  In fact, not only did it not shy away from these issues, but it embraced them as critical to the show’s comedy and the “working-class domestic goddess” persona of the title character.

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How Now, Brown Cloud: What Smog Hath Wrought

From Common Dreams:

by Michael Winship
Published on Saturday, December 17, 2011 by

Have you heard about the great brown cloud? No, it’s not a new nickname for Donald Trump (his cloud is more an intergalactic nimbus of Aqua Velva and Tang), or the ominous menace in a new Stephen King novel. It’s almost as nasty, though.

The Atmospheric Brown Cloud, formerly known as the Asian Brown Cloud, is a mass of air pollution hovering over northern India along the southern Himalayas and down across Bangladesh and the Bay of Bengal. The cloud began growing shortly after World War II, a smoggy mass of soot and sulfates from diesel emissions, wood fires and other burning stuff that’s almost two miles thick.

A new study by scientists from a number of research organizations – including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography – finds that the cloud’s pollutants are making cyclones in the Arabian Sea more intense.

This is a very big deal, because, as Dean Kuipers writes in The Los Angeles Times, “After the apparent recent increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico, including the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, climate watchers everywhere have speculated whether these storms were made stronger by industrial or man-made emissions. This is reportedly the first study to indicate that human activity may, in fact, affect large storms.”

Wind shear turbulence can help break up cyclones and keep them from becoming bigger storm systems. But shade created by the great brown cloud lowers water temperature, which in turn cuts down wind shear, allowing more powerful storms to form. Since 1998, according to NOAA, there have been five storms in the region with winds greater than 120 miles per hour – killing more than 3500 people and generating $6.5 billion worth of damage.

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Trans Canadians fight for recognition on legal documents

Lately they’ve started requiring a passport to cross the boarder between the US and Canada. An extra expense for working people who live along the border.

But for pre-op TS folks or TG folks this becomes an oppressive burden due to their being denied passports that reflect the gender they live full time. I know this tread the line between sex/gender but when people commit to living full time as a member of a particular sex even if they don’t actually have SRS to become a member of that sex it seems a matter of human rights to permit them necessary identification documents that do not place an extra burden upon them by automatically revealing their being TS/TG to petty bureaucratic border enforcement officers.

I’m tired of the government spending so much energy on snooping in the lives of individual citizens while they totally ignore the crimes of the corporations and rich.

From Xtra Canada:

Andrea Houston
Sunday, December 18, 2011

Talia Johnson is nervous to travel. One look at her passport tells a border guard everything they need to know about her gender status.

Johnson, who has had her name legally changed, now wants to change the sex designation on her passport – a simple correction from “m” to “f” – to ensure all her documents accurately reflect her gender.

The federal government says trans people must undergo sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), or provide a letter guaranteeing the procedure will take place within a year.

The Ottawa resident has not yet had SRS, mainly due to the financial cost of the surgery. She would also have to take time off work and travel to Toronto. “The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto is the only organization in Ontario that offers SRS. There is a long wait and it’s not easy to get.

“The status now is I don’t have a passport. Without the sex designation change, trans people are put in constant danger while traveling under the assumed sex. At this point in my life, I will have trouble if I travel.”

Susan Gapka, chair of the Trans Health Lobby Group, has been working on this issue for years. Her group is pushing to make transitioning easier by opening up access to SRS and removing the red tape around changing legal documents.

“If your legal documents don’t match at the border there could be problems,” Gapka says. “I have had bad experiences at the airport. You can be singled out for looking different. A police officer could ask questions. It opens the door to harassment and discrimination.”

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Vaclav Havel, former Czech president, dies aged 75

From The Guardian UK:

Dissident playwright who led velvet revolution and became first post-communist Czechoslovakian president dies
, Sunday 18 December 2011

Václav Havel, the dissident playwright who led the Czechoslovakian “velvet revolution” and was one of the fathers of the east European pro-democracy movement that led to the fall of the Berlin wall, has died aged 75.

Reports quoted his assistant, Sabina Tančevová, as saying Havel died at his weekend house on Sunday morning, and the news was announced on Czech television during an interview with the current prime minister, Petr Necas.

Necas called Havel “the symbol of 1989” and said he did “a tremendous job for this country”.

Havel’s state funeral is likely to draw a crowd of leaders, artists and intellectuals from around the world. Havel was a renowned playwright and essayist who, after the crushing of the Prague spring in 1968, was drawn increasingly into the political struggle against the Czechoslovakian communist dictatorship, which he called Absurdistan. His involvement in the Charter 77 movement for freedom of speech won him admiration around the world.

His commitment to non-violent resistance helped ensure the velvet revolution was bloodless. It also help ensured that the “velvet divorce” three years later, when the country split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, was equally peaceful.

Havel opposed the split and stepped down from his position as president in 1992, rather than oversee the process. However, he stood for the presidency of the Czech Republic early the following year and won. It was a non-executive position but Havel brought to it both moral authority and prestige on the world stage. He stayed in the position, despite bouts of ill health including lung cancer, until 2003.

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After Durban: We must pull the emergency brake before the 1 per cent drive us off the cliff

From Rabble.Ca:

By Derrick O’Keefe
December 16, 2011

On behalf of Canada, Environment Minister Peter Kent recently spent several days in Durban at the UN climate talks treating the global community like, well, shit — disrespecting her, ignoring her wishes and just generally displaying rude and selfish behaviour.

But Minister Kent did not have the guts to break up with the global community face to face in Durban. So he waited until he landed back home in Ottawa before officially announcing that Canada was dumping the Kyoto Protocol, making us the first country to ratify the agreement to abandon what is — for all its flaws and shortcomings — the only legally binding international climate treaty in existence.

Ironically Peter Kent, years ago when he was a respected CBC TV journalist, had narrated and helped produce a groundbreaking documentary on global warming way back in 1984.

From 1984 to 2011 — that’s 27 lost years. Twenty-seven years of failure to do what must be done. In 1984, Kent’s documentary inquired about a potential ban on fossil fuels, or a 300 per cent tax on carbon dioxide emissions.

But nothing like this type of serious, drastic action ever happened. And that’s because the past three decades of the climate crisis have coincided with three decades of neo-liberal politics and economics. The market came before society; money came before science, the environment, reason and even morality.

The result of the 2011 Durban climate talks is that the big polluters have given themselves a few more years to fiddle while the world burns. They spin this by telling us that at Durban they agreed to a “roadmap” to a future agreement.

But the map of the road agreed to at Durban leads only one place for humanity — off the cliff.

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Lowe’s: Reinstate commercials on All-American Muslim

I am not a religionist.  I am an avowed atheist, who doesn’t like the anti-Muslim bigotry on display by the ultra right wing Christo-Fascists.  They act like a new version of the KKK.

Therefore I am urging people to sign the petition at:

Change.Org— Sign Petition

Why This Is Important

I have written about this at my blog,  Lowe’s Caves to Anti-Muslim Extremists

It includes a list of the other 64 companies who have reportedly pulled their ads as well.

Here is the original background via

The TLC reality TV show All-American Muslim chronicles the lives of a group of Muslims in Dearborn, Michigan. The show has been well-received for its fair and realistic portrayal of the Muslim American experience in the United States. Watch a trailer for the show here.

But a reality TV show that lets Americans relate to the lives of Muslims in the United States is an offensive idea to those who want to demonize Islam. The Florida Family Association (FFA) launched a campaign earlier this year to get companies to pull their advertising from the program. FFA claims that 65 of the 67 companies targeted have done this, including home improvement giant Lowe’s and megabank Bank of America:

“The Florida Family Association, a Tampa Bay group, has led a campaign urging companies to pull ads on ‘All-American Muslim.’ The FFA contends that 65 of 67 companies it has targeted have pulled their ads, including Bank of America, the Campbell Soup Co., Dell, Estee Lauder, General Motors, Goodyear, Green Mountain Coffee, McDonalds, Sears, and Wal-Mart.”

One of the companies that FFA claims pulled commercials, Amway, told the Washington Post that such reports were “misleading” and that it has done no such thing. Lowe’s told the paper that it did indeed pull advertising. “We understand the program raised concerns, complaints, or issues from multiple sides of the viewer spectrum, which we found after doing research of news articles and blogs covering the show,” said Katie Cody, a spokeswoman for Lowe’s.

The Islamic Circle of North America is urging concerned citizens to call Lowe’s and protest their withdrawal of advertising: “We urge the American Muslim community and our friends, family, neighbors and all people of conscience to call Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock at (704) 758-2084 or Executive Support Mr. Andrew Kilby at (866) 900-4650 and respectfully complain about this decision.”

Lowe’s issued this statement on Facebook confirming that it pulled the ads: “Lowe’s has received a significant amount of communication on this program, from every perspective possible. Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lighting rod for many of those views. As a result we did pull our advertising on this program.”

Saturday Might Protest Music

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SPECIAL EDITION: Indefinite Detention Bill Passes Both Senate and House

Big Corn, Big Sugar in bitter fight over ‘corn sugar’ aka High Fructose Corn Syrup

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Saturday, December 17, 2011

Big Corn and Big Sugar are locked in a legal and public relations fight in the US over a plan to change the name of a corn-based sweetener that has gotten a bad name.

The fight began last year when Corn Refiners Association, a trade association, proposed changing the name of high-fructose corn syrup to merely “corn sugar.”

The group said the new name “more accurately describes this sweetener and helps clarify food products labeling for manufacturers and consumers alike.”

 But the sugar industry argued this change would be a bitter pill for US consumers and would only add to the confusion about a sweetener that has drawn criticism by some health advocates.

Sugar producers have filed suit alleging the corn industry has spent $50 million in “a mass media rebranding campaign that misleads the consuming public by asserting falsely that HFCS is natural and is indistinguishable from the sugar extracted from sugar cane and sugar beets.”

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Prop. 8 Repeal Initiative OKed for Signature-Gathering

From Frontiers LA:

By Karen Ocamb
December 16, 2011

Love Honor Cherish’s ballot initiative proposed by gay attorney Thomas B. Watson to repeal Prop. 8 was cleared on Thursday by the California Secretary of State to start gathering signatures. The Los Angeles-based grassroots group has until May 14, 2012, to collect 807,615 valid signatures in order to qualify for the November 2012 ballot.

The title and summary prepared for the petition reads:

Reinstates Right of Same-Sex Couples to Marry. Initiative Constitutional Amendment.

Repeals the current provision in California’s Constitution that states only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. Provides that marriage is between only two persons and shall not be restricted on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, gender, sexual orientation, or religion. Clarifies that the initiative shall not be interpreted to require any priest, minister, pastor, rabbi, or other person to perform a marriage in violation of his or her religious beliefs. Summary of estimate by Legislative Analyst and Director of Finance of fiscal impact on state and local government: Over the long run, this measure would likely have little fiscal impact on state and local governments. (11-0058) (Full Text)

A decision to move forward to at least be prepared to launch a repeal campaign was made by the grassroots group last October after Equality California decided not to lead a repeal effort because of the progress of the federal Prop. 8 case and because they were concerned about community apathy and raising enough money to be successful.

LHC acknowledged that an effort failed in 2010 because it was basically an all-volunteer effort. This time, however, the group has hired former EQCA Development Director Eric Harrison as an interim executive director to help the group raise money and help build and lead the repeal campaign.

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A Girl Asks Frank Turek If She’s Going to Hell and Zinnia Jones Tears Frank a New One

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Republican mayor admits he’s gay, used taxpayer money for alcohol and gay porn

From The Orlando Liberal Examiner:

Orlando Liberal Examiner
December 17, 2011

If you consider yourself a Republican or even just conservative one of the mottos you are proud of is the label of “family values conservative.” Conservatives love to be the party of morals while labeling “liberals” and Democrats as the ones who are immoral and degenerates. It’s always interesting when you see someone who is so strong in their convictions turn out to be nothing more than a hypocrite and for the Republican party it seems to happen more often than they would like.

His name is Greg Davis, the town is Southaven, Mississippi and the job is mayor, a Republican mayor. Davis was elected as major of the small southern town in 1997 and is in his third term. Holding the job for nearly 15 years, Davis has catered to the residents of the conservative town and has been able to keep his job without much of a challenge. There is an old saying though, all good things come to an end. A recent audit of Davis has shown that the mayor billed over $170,000 to the city, wasting taxpayer money on fancy meals, alcohol and wait for it, gay porn. Davis spent money at Priape, one of the top gay lifestyle stores in Canada while he was on recruiting trips. To his credit and unlike many other conservatives who get caught red-handed, Davis actually came out of the closet and admitted that he is gay.
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Male cheerleader gets team disqualified … because he’s a boy

Before any macho troll starts carrying on and calling this kid names I want to remind y’all that Governor Goodhair Perry and President George W. were both cheerleaders.

From Yahoo News:

By Cameron Smith
Fri Dec 16, 2011

A male cheerleader in Michigan accidentally disqualified his squad from a recent cheerleading competition for the most basic of all reasons: He’s a boy.

Brandon Urbas is like many other American teens: He spent much of his youth dreaming of being a high school varsity athlete. The only difference was the sport he hoped to compete in: Urbas wanted to be a cheerleader.

In 2011, Urbas achieved that dream, joining the St. Clair Shores (Mich.) Lakeview High varsity cheerleading team. Despite being the only male cheerleader on the squad, Urbas said everything was going swimmingly throughout the football season. Urbas fit in with the rest of the squad, and he even said that the Lakeview football team had stepped forward to support him, offering “to get his back” if anyone taunted him or gave him trouble.

Instead, where Urbas has suddenly found himself being discriminated against is precisely where he should have been most protected: In competitive cheerleading. According to Michigan ABC affiliate WXYZ, Urbas unintentionally got the Lakeview cheerleading squad disqualified from its first winter cheerleading competition … because he is a boy. Judges ruled that Lakeview couldn’t compete in the event because they were fielding a boy.

“I cried,” Urbas told WXYZ. “I felt like they were taking away my dream of being able to do it in college and getting scholarships.”

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Bertrand Russell – Why I’m Not a Christian

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In the future, urban bikers go faster than cars

From Salon:

Cities around the world are considering radical new speed limits on cars — slowing down in the name of progress

By Will Doig
Saturday, Dec 17, 2011

In Hollywood movies, the cities of the future have speeding monorails and flying cars, everyone careening toward their destination at a zillion miles per hour. (The future always looks surprisingly like “The Jetsons,” which turns 50 next year.)

It makes for great CGI. But does it make for a great city? For generations, velocity has defined the urban experience: screeching subways, maniacal taxis, hustling crowds. Life in the fast lane. A New York minute is no minute at all. Even as our roads become clogged with traffic, we think of cities as most city-like when they move at a blur.

But look around (if you have a second) and you might notice that a lot of the new ideas seeping into cities are aimed not at making them faster, but slowing them down. The buzziest mode of transport now is a bicycle. Streetcars, a pokey throwback, are returning. Walkable neighborhoods, traffic-calming measures and “slow zones” are catching on, and freeways are being torn down and replaced with lower-speed boulevards. Even things like sit-down pedestrian plazas and pop-up cafes seem to indicate a desire to slacken the pace.

Slower cities have a lot to recommend them. “It’s not just a road safety issue,” says Rod King, the creator of “20′s Plenty for Us,” a movement to reduce London’s speed limit to 20 miles per hour. “There are a lot of peripheral advantages to slowing down traffic.” The advantages include increased biking because roads aren’t so scary, the need for less infrastructure like speed bumps, and better air quality (racing from one traffic light to the next burns more fuel). Add in the public-safety benefits of slower cars (which are hard to overstate — a few extra miles per hour can literally kill) and putting on the brakes starts to look like a no-brainer.

For this reason, speed may be the next battleground for urban streets. Advocates for safer, more walkable and bikable cities have spent the last decade agitating largely for infrastructure: bike lanes, pedestrian plazas, curb bulb-outs and other concrete improvements. Now, they say, the fight is turning to “enforcement” — a demand for cities to crack down on dangerous driving.

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Anonymous Declares Cyber War On US Congress Over Indefinite Detention Act

From Eurasia Review:

Written by:
December 17, 2011

Hacktivists are continuing their mission to take on politicians causing the collapse of constitutional rights in America, with operatives from the online collective Anonymous keeping up a campaign against the signers of controversial legislation.

As RT reported on Thursday, members of Anonymous began a campaign this week to expose information on the lawmakers who voted in favor of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, a bill that will allow for the indefinite detention of American citizens, the reinstating of torture methods and the creation of the United States as a battlefield. Despite the implications of the act, the Senate allowed for the bill to leave Capitol Hill on Thursday, leaving only the inking of President Barack Obama’s name as the final step for ratification.

President Obama had earlier insisted on vetoing the bill, but the White House retracted that statement in the days before it cleared Congress. Before the final draft left the Senate yesterday, Sen. Carl Levin asked that a statement from the administration be added to the record in which the president’s press secretary, Jay Carney, said that the president will not be advised to strike down the bill.

On Thursday, Anonymous hacktivists launched a campaign against Senator Robert Portman, a Republican from Ohio. Not only did Portland vote in favor of NDAA FY2012, he received $272,853 from special interest groups that also backed the bill.

“Robert J. Portman, we plan to make an example of you,” an Anonymous operative posted to the Internet on Thursday. Along with the warning was personal information pertaining to the senator, including his home address and phone number.

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Clergy Members Arrested with Occupy Wall Street Protesters After Briefly Liberating Duarte Square

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Bradley Manning’s Gender Identity Subject of Court Testimony

From The Advocate:

By Andrew Harmon
December 17, 2011

Bradley Manning kept a folder of articles on gender identity disorder and used a female alias in online chats, according to Saturday testimony in a pretrial court hearing for the Army private accused of leaking thousands of classified documents.

Manning, 24, had used the name Breanna Manning online, an Army special agent testified by phone from Germany under questioning by one of Manning’s defense attorneys. Two special agents with the Army Criminal Investigation Command testified Saturday during Manning’s Article 32 hearing at Fort Meade in Maryland, CNN reports.

Manning’s gender identity has been the subject of media attention in the past, including a New York magazine profile in July. CNN writes that Manning’s attorneys are seeking to “establish his state of mind at the time of the alleged crimes.”

Charged with 22 counts of violating military code, Manning, the alleged Wikileaks source, wasn’t the only person who had leaked classified material, according to informant and convicted hacker Adrian Lamo: In testimony from a government witness, Lamo had also implicated a Department of Energy employee who allegedly aided in decrypting a classified video for Wikileaks (read more at Wired).

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