Friday Night Fun and Culture: Jake Shimabukuro

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Getting a Bit of a Grip on Reality with The Hysteria Some Regarding Jenna Talackova and the Use of “Transgender”

So what if Jenna Talackova having her right to enter a beauty contest protected opens the door for someone like fashion model, Andrej Pejic?

Does it really matter?

I don’t watch much network television.  I’ve never seen American Idol and for the longest time  I thought the  Kardashians were one of Star Trek’s unpleasant aliens, better looking than the Ferengi but just as evil.

Gradually I learned that like Paris Hilton they had some sort of Unreality Show” and were famous for being famous.

Way back in the Camelot days when JFK was running for President and before I discovered folk music and the counter culture I thought the Miss America Pageant was the height of glamor.  I really did. I wanted to be beautiful and glamorous and be up there on a stage being admired for my beauty.

Fast forward some dozen years, hanging with my sister best friends forever, the few I went through the program with and everyone of us wanted that validation.  I think it goes with the territory of being a pretty transkid.

In 1967 a pageant in New York brought drag pageants up from the underground.  It was turned into a movie that came out a year or so later.

That was about the time the Feminists demonstrated outside the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City.

Beauty pageants already seemed retro and an anachronism.

Pageant producers tried to market them as offering scholarships.  Feminists pointed out the bizarreness of claiming they were for scholarships while parading women around in bathing suits instead of administer SATs.

By that time I started noticing how white and homogenized these so called beauty contest were.  By that time fashion models were no longer cookie cutter mannequins and had developed individuality.

A couple of years later I was in the Stanford Program and had met an extremely beautiful sister, a Philappina -American who was a fashion model.  I noticed how a few of us were actually among the prettiest girls/women in most settings.

That was what encouraged some of us to come out really young.

I wasn’t into the artifice of beauty and over the years I’ve seen that pretty and beauty aren’t as easily defined as these pageants would have you believe.

The thing that gets me is that these contests are about who projects or meets an artificial standard of femininity.

When you start excluding transsexuals either post-op or pre-op,  for that matter even transgender sisters what does that project.

I’ve been rightly fascinated with this “cotton ceiling” concept. In part because it is about setting some sort of reason for rejecting people due to their being or having been labeled with a trans-prefixed word.

Exclusion seems like rigging the contest out of fear that a transsexual or perish the thought transgender woman might be prettier and better project this artificial ideal of sexuality and femininity than someone assigned female at birth or for that matter presently female.

Now watching this play out is sort of a side attraction to all the majorly serious shit that is going on.  I actually consider the “Cotton Ceiling” something far more important and as having much more impact on the lives of all TS/TG people.  BTW it also affects heterosexual sisters.

Jenna Talackova: Call for Miss Universe to Adopt a Fully Inclusive Policy

From Huffington Post:

Actress, producer and transgender advocate; co-creator and star, ‘TRANSform Me’
04/ 5/2012

I was very moved when I found out that the Miss Universe organization would allow Jenna Talackova to compete, reversing their earlier decision to disqualify her because she is transgender. The organization’s statement asserted that she will be allowed to compete only “provided she meets the legal gender recognition requirements of Canada, and the standards established by other international competitions.” It’s wonderful that the organization has stated that it will allow Jenna to compete, but it needs to go further. The Miss Universe organization needs to make a public statement saying that it is working to revise its policy once and for all so that the competition is open to all women, and it must set a deadline for the written revision of the policy.

As the media noise gets louder, I believe it’s essential that we remember that this is a case about equality, that no one should have a glass ceiling on their dreams. This is an opportunity for the Miss Universe organization to make a statement about inclusion. In a discussion about this case on my Facebook page, a number of transgender women remarked that “rules are rules.” Many stated that trans women have our own beauty pageants. Many countered my call for inclusion, asking, “Should we allow non-trans women to enter pageants that until now have been reserved for trans women?” Reading these comments, I couldn’t help but think about the Jim Crow laws, which mandated in Southern states after the Civil War that in all public facilities African Americans were to have “separate but equal” access. We now know that separate was never equal. African Americans were second-class citizens. Sometimes rules are discriminatory and need to be changed.

The Jenna Talackova case reminds us that transgender people are often also treated as second-class citizens in our society, and that by changing the rules, we begin to undo the systemic discrimination that trans people experience. Coko Williams, a trans woman, was found dead in Detroit early in the morning on Tuesday, April 3. It was reported that her throat had been slashed and that she had been shot at least once. A Detroit FOX News affiliate’s story on the slaying focused on the crime-ridden neighborhood, not the loss of a human life. The story also misgendered Coko, using incorrect pronouns to refer to her, which happens all too often in news stories about trans people. The story also contained an interview with a witness who suggested that Coko had it coming because she was trans. Another site reporting on this story used a photo of trash to accompany the story, trash a resident of the neighborhood had collected, containing used syringes, bullet casings, and empty liquor bottles, in a story about the murder of a human being… a photo of trash! To be fair, this site was merely reproducing this image from the original FOX 2 story. But what a message this sends to the general population and to trans people specifically about the value of our lives, a photo of trash to accompany a story about the brutal murder of a trans woman.

Complete article at:

Two articles from The Vancouver Sun:

Transgender woman wants conditions taken off Miss Universe bid

For transgendered pageant hopeful Jenna Talackova, change began with a name

Calling Radicalism by Its Name

From The New York Times:

April 3, 2012

President Obama’s fruitless three-year search for compromise with the Republicans ended in a thunderclap of a speech on Tuesday, as he denounced the party and its presidential candidates for cruelty and extremism. He accused his opponents of imposing on the country a “radical vision” that “is antithetical to our entire history as a land of opportunity.”

Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential front-runner, has embraced a House budget plan that is little more than “thinly veiled social Darwinism,” the president said, a “Trojan horse” disguised as deficit reduction that would hurt middle- and lower-income Americans.

“By gutting the very things we need to grow an economy that’s built to last — education and training, research and development, our infrastructure — it is a prescription for decline,” he said, speaking to a group of Associated Press editors and reporters in Washington.

Mr. Obama has, in recent months, urged Republicans to put aside their destructive agenda. But, in this speech, he finally conceded that the party has demonstrated no interest in the values of compromise and realism. Even Ronald Reagan, who raised taxes in multiple budget deals, “could not get through a Republican primary today,” Mr. Obama said. While Democrats have repeatedly shown a willingness to cut entitlements and have agreed to trillions in domestic spending cuts, he said, Republicans won’t agree to any tax increases and, in fact, want to shower the rich with even more tax cuts.

The speech was the first time that Mr. Obama linked Mr. Romney, by name, to his party’s dishonest budget and discredited trickle-down policies. As Mr. Obama pointed out, Mr. Romney described as “marvelous” a budget that would drastically cut student financial aid, medical research, Head Start classrooms and environmental protections. Mr. Obama further ridiculed the budget’s deficit-cutting goal as “laughable” because it refuses to acknowledge the need for new revenues.

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Mike Bloomberg’s New York: Cops in Your Hallways

From Rolling Stone:

By Matt Taibbi
April 3, 2012

An amazing lawsuit was filed in New York last week. It seems Mike Bloomberg’s notorious “stop-and-frisk” policy – known colloquially in these parts by silently-cheering white voters as the “Let’s have cops feel up any nonwhite person caught walking in the wrong neighborhood” policy – isn’t even the most repressive search policy in the NYPD arsenal.

Bloomberg, that great crossover Republican, has long been celebrated by the Upper West Side bourgeoisie for his enlightened views on gay rights and the environment, but also targeted for criticism by civil rights activists because of stop-and-frisk, a program that led to a record 684,330 street searches just last year.

Now he’s under fire for a program he inherited, which goes by the darkly Bushian name of the “Clean Halls program.” In effect since 1991, it allows police to execute so-called “vertical patrols” by going up into private buildings and conducting stop-and-frisk searches in hallways – with the landlord’s permission.

According to the NYCLU, which filed the suit, “virtually every private apartment building [in the Bronx] is enrolled in the program,” and “in Manhattan alone, there are at least 3,895 Clean Halls Buildings.” Referring to the NYPD’s own data, the complaint says police conducted 240,000 “vertical patrols” in the year 2003 alone.

If you live in a Clean Halls building, you can’t even go out to take out the trash without carrying an ID – and even that might not be enough. If you go out for any reason, there may be police in the hallways, demanding that you explain yourself, and insisting, in brazenly illegal and unconstitutional fashion, on searches of your person.

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Why Dems should add gay marriage to the official platform for 2012

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Cleve Jones: Corporate Money Has Too Much Influence on LGBT Movement

From The Edge Boston:

by Peter Cassels
EDGE Contributor
Wednesday Apr 4, 2012

Longtime activist Cleve Jones told EDGE during a wide-ranging interview in Boston on Monday that he fears the LGBT movement may be losing its way and that corporate money has too strong an influence.

A close friend of Harvey Milk, the San Francisco supervisor assassinated in 1978, Jones was portrayed by Emile Hirsch is the Oscar-winning 2008 movie “Milk.”

He went on to found the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt in 1987. The project grew to become the world’s largest community arts project, memorializing the lives of more than 85,000 Americans who died from HIV/AIDS.

Jones has been on the staff of UNITE HERE, a union representing workers in the hospitality and related industries in the United States and Canada, for the last six years. He visited Boston to speak to Local 26 members and MassEquality and described his mission as strengthening the coalition between the LGBT and labor movements.

“One of the most important and central questions is whether or not we are a progressive movement and whether we care about other communities and other issues,” said Jones. “The big philosophical question is what kind of movement we want this to be now that we appear to winning. A movement that seeks to advance only its own members is going to accomplish little. I want to be in a movement that transforms the lives of millions of people.”

Jones said he worries about corporations that pour large amounts of money into the Human Rights Campaign, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and other national LGBT organizations. Citing HRC’s appointment of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein as a spokesperson for its national marriage equality campaign, he expressed fears that LGBT groups have become beholden to corporations.

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Antarctic ice shelf shrunk by 85 percent since 1995

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Thursday, April 5, 2012

A vast ice shelf in the Antarctic peninsula, a hotspot for global warming, has shrunk by 85 percent in 17 years, the European Space Agency (ESA) said on Thursday.

Images taken by its Envisat satellite show that the so-called Larsen B ice shelf decreased from 11,512 square kilometres (4,373 square miles) in 1995, an area about the size of the Gulf state of Qatar, to only 1,670 sq km (634 miles) today.

Larsen B is one of three ice shelves that run from north to south along the eastern side of the peninsula, the tongue of land that projects towards South America.

From 1995 to 2002, Larsen B experienced several calving events in which parts of the shelf broke away. It had a major breakup in 2002 when half of the remainder disintegrated.

Larsen A broke up in January 1995.

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The Spanish general strike and the political tasks before the working class

From World Socialist Web Site:

Julie Hyland
3 April 2012

Last Thursday’s general strike in Spain against the Popular Party government, the European Union and their austerity policies once again demonstrated the power of the working class and its readiness to fight.

In an outpouring of anger and militancy, millions struck and joined protests against the PP’s labour laws, which overturn collective bargaining and enable employers to cut pay and fire workers at will.

The general strike was powerful in its size, depth and composition. Factories, airports, ports and rail services were paralysed. Public services were reduced to a minimum, and shops and universities closed.

Demonstrations by workers and students in towns and cities across the country were joined by many thousands more people—including the unemployed and school children—who seized the opportunity to voice their hostility to the government’s measures.

This display of combativeness has caused consternation in the bourgeoisie in Spain, across Europe and internationally.

No one will have been more disturbed by the scale of defiance than the trade union leaders. The two main union federations, the Socialist Party (PSOE)-aligned General Workers Union (Union General de Trabajadores—UGT), and the Communist Party (PCE)-led Workers Commissions (Comisiones Obreras—CC.OO) have sought to avoid any action against the government of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy since he took office in November.

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Capitalism’s Dirty Secret: Corporations Don’t Create Jobs, They Destroy Them

From Alternet:

If we want good jobs and long-term career opportunities, we have to tame the wild horses of big business.

By Lynn Parramore
April 3, 2012

Corporations are not working for the 99 percent. But this wasn’t always the case. In a special five-part series, William Lazonick, professor at UMass, president of the Academic-Industry Research Network, and a leading expert on the business corporation, along with journalist Ken Jacobson and AlterNet’s Lynn Parramore, will examine the foundations, history and purpose of the corporation to answer this vital question: How can the public take control of the business corporation and make it work for the real economy?

For the last four decades, U.S. corporations have been sinking our economy through the off-shoring of jobs, the squeezing of wages, and a magician’s hat full of bluffs and tricks designed to extort subsidies and sweetheart deals from local and state governments that often result in mass layoffs and empty treasuries.

We keep hearing that corporations would put Americans back to work if they could just get rid of all those pesky encumbrances – things like taxes, safety regulations, and unions. But what happens when we buy that line? The more we let the corporations run wild, the worse things get for the 99 percent, and the scarcer the solid jobs seem to be.

Yet the U.S. Chamber of Commerce wants us to think that corporations – preferably unregulated! – are the patriotic job creators in our economy. They want us to think it so much that in 2009, after the financial crash, they launched a $100 million campaign, which, among other things, draped their Washington, DC building with an enormous banner proclaiming “Jobs: Brought to you by the free market system.”

But the truth is that unfettered corporations are just about the worst thing for creating decent jobs. Here’s a look at why, and where the good jobs really come from.

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More Americans Went Without Medicine Last Year: Report

From Huffington Post:

04/ 5/2012

Americans took fewer prescription drugs, visited the doctor less often, and made more trips to the emergency room for treatment as unemployment and the struggling economy forced people to go without medical care last year, according to a new study.

The number of times Americans saw the doctor declined 4.7 percent in 2011, the second straight year people cut back on office visits by more than 4 percent, according to market research from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Economics. Non-emergency hospital admissions declined 0.1 percent in 2011 after rising 1.9 percent the previous year. But emergency room visits leaped 7.4 percent last year, which IMS suggests is the result of high unemployment and the rising numbers of uninsured people seeking medical care.

Rising health care costs are affecting a growing number of people as the ranks of the uninsured swell, health insurance premiums rise as benefits shrink, and the burden of out-of-pocket costs grows heavier. The typical American family will spend $20,000 on health care this year, another recent study says. Health insurance companies, hospitals, and physicians are striving to contain health care spending, which reached $2.6 trillion last year, a tenfold increase since 1980. President Barack Obama’s health care reform law aims to restrain this rapid increase in spending but faces threats of repeal from the Supreme Court and Republican politicians.

Senior citizens, in particular, cut back on their prescriptions. Compared to 2010, people aged 65 or older used 3.1 percent fewer prescription drugs last year. It’s the second year in a row that older Americans scaled back on their use of prescription medicines, a reverse from growth in prior years, IMS reports. Older Americans particularly reduced the use of drugs to treat high-blood pressure, the report says.

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Anti-Choice Medical Malpractice Shields Threaten to Permanently Alter Medical Care for Women

From RH Reality Check:

by Jessica Mason Pieklo, Hamline University
April 5, 2012

Among the new restrictions appearing in anti-choice bills nationwide, it is the medical malpractice liability shields that have the potential to alter, perhaps permanently, women’s relationship with the civil justice system.

In both Kansas and Arizona measures are advancing that exempt doctors from medical malpractice suits should they withhold medical information in order to prevent a woman from having an abortion. These bills also shield doctors from malpractice claims if a woman suffers an injury from a pregnancy as a result of information withheld from her to prevent an abortion. Georgia just snuck a liability shield into their 20-week abortion ban. We can expect more to follow.

Proponents of these “wrongful birth” bills argue they are necessary to stem the tide of lawsuits like one in Oregon where parents sued for costs related to the care of their daughter who was born with Down’s Syndrome. In that case the parents argued that the medical professionals were negligent in conducting the genetic testing, and that had they known their daughter would be born with a disability, they would have had an abortion.

This is the kind of case that is destined to generate lots of headlines and some terrible legislation in its wake. In reality, less than half the states recognize a claim for wrongful birth and in those states that do, cases like this one are rare and these kinds of verdicts ever rarer. Nevertheless, anti-choice activists see an opening, and they are going to take it.

So far none of these malpractice shield has been signed into law in Kansas, Arizona, or Georgia. But assuming they do, the impact on medical malpractice law and on the ability of women to be justly compensated should they be the victim of sub-standard medical care cannot be overstated.

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Are America’s Nukes on the Brink of Death?

From Common Dreams:

by Harvey Wasserman
Published on Thursday, April 5, 2012 by Common Dreams

The only two US reactor projects now technically under construction are on the brink of death for financial reasons.

If they go under, there will almost certainly be no new reactors built here.

The much mythologized “nuclear renaissance” will be officially buried, and the US can take a definitive leap toward a green-powered future that will actually work and that won’t threaten the continent with radioactive contamination.

As this drama unfolds, the collapse of global nuclear power continues, as two reactors proposed for Bulgaria have been cancelled, and just one of Japan’s 54 licensed reactors is operating. That one may well close next month, leaving Japan without a single operating commercial nuke.

Georgia’s double-reactor Vogtle project has been sold on the basis of federal loan guarantees. Last year President Obama promised the Southern Company, parent to Georgia Power, $8.33 billion in financing from an $18.5 billion fund that had been established at the Department of Energy by George W. Bush.

Until last week most industry observers had assumed the guarantees were a done deal. But the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group, has publicly complained that the Office of Management and Budget may be requiring terms that are unacceptable to the builders.

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Greek suicide seen as an act of fortitude as much as one of despair

From The Guardian UK:

Pensioner Dimitris Christoulas wanted to ‘send a political message’ about the inequities of Greece’s crushing debt crisis

in Athens, Thursday 5 April 2012

A picture of the man who has come to embody the inequities of Greece‘s financial crisis has begun to emerge, with friends and neighbours shedding light on the life of the elderly pensioner who killed himself in Athens on Wednesday.

Named as Dimitris Christoulas by the Greek media, the retired pharmacist was described as decent, law-abiding, meticulous and dignified.

The 77-year-old had written in his one-page, three-paragraph suicide note that it would be better to have a “decent end” than be forced to scavenge in the “rubbish to feed myself”.

“With his suicide he wanted to send a political message,” Antonis Skarmoutsos, a friend and neighbour was quoted as saying in the mass-selling Ta Nea newspaper. “He was deeply politicised but also enraged.”

Until 1994 Christoulas was a local chemist in the central Athens neighbourhood of Ambelokipoi. A committed leftist, he was active in citizens’ groups such as “I won’t pay”, which started as a one-off protest against toll fees but quickly turned into an anti-austerity movement.

Neighbours say the pensioner had placed a protest banner on the balcony of the first-floor flat where he had lived alone.

Only days before his death, Christoulas had insisted on paying his share of the “communal expenses” contributed by residents in the building, although payment was not due for several weeks. This was part of the meticulousness that appears to have defined a man who for 35 years had contributed to his pension fund without, as he also made clear in his note, any “state support”.

But like so many of Greece’s older generation, the retired pharmacist had instead found himself paying for his debt-stricken country’s monumental crisis, saying in his note that his pension had been cut to the point where it had “nullified any chance of my survival”.

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