Donna Summer 1948-2012

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Lorena Escalera: A Life That Mattered

From Huffington Post:


Several years into my transition about a decade ago, I thought seriously about killing myself. Life was really hard. I wasn’t passing as my true female self very well. I often was called a man as I walked down the street. I didn’t think I would ever be accepted as the woman I always knew I was, and I wanted to end it. In the note I was going to write to accompany my death, I was going to have explicit instructions about the pronouns that should be used to refer to me in death. I was going to write that I shouldn’t be referred to by the name on my birth certificate but by the name that reflects my female identity — that is, my legal name, the name I took after I dropped my old first name. (“Laverne” was my middle name, and “Cox” was my last name at birth.) I basically didn’t want to be disrespected and misgendered in my death, as all too often happens to transgender folks in news reports on our deaths.

I was reminded of that this weekend when I read the unfortunate New York Times article about the death of Lorena Escalera, a woman who died in a Brooklyn fire. The reporters were careful to use the correct pronouns when referring to Escalera but were sure to quote someone who did not use the correct pronoun to refer to her: “”For a man, he was gorgeous,’ Mr. Hernandez said, noting Ms. Escalera’s flowing hair and ‘hourglass figure.'” This is just one of many passages in the article that sexualize and objectify her. Autumn Sandeen calls attention to this in her piece on Pam’s House Blend.

In a speech I made in Albany last week, I talked about violence against transgender women of color and how our lives are not valued. This Times article is a great example of that. I didn’t personally know Lorena, but we were Facebook friends. After reading about her death, I went to her Facebook page and saw all the messages from friends of Lorena’s, friends who were devastated by the news of her death, friends who talked about her beautiful spirit and how many lives she touched. Lorena’s life mattered. Transgender lives matter.

In a HuffPost blog I wrote last month, I noted how a news outlet reporting on the brutal murder of trans woman Coko Williams showed a photo of trash to accompany the story. The Times article follows this sad paradigm: It reads, “A debris pile outside the apartment, which is above a funeral home, contained many colorful items. Among them were wigs, women’s shoes, coins from around the world, makeup, hair spray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking.”

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From The Women’s Media Center:

The New York Times Sexualizes and Sensationalizes Death of Transgender Woman

By Madeleine Gyory
May 15, 2012

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article detailing the “suspicious” death of a transgender woman in a Brooklyn fire. Alternating between sexualized descriptions of Lorena Escalera’s physical body and alleged sexual conduct with details about the fire that claimed her life, writers Al Baker and Nate Schweber sensationalize Escalera’s death and transform her into a caricatured spectacle.

Here are some of the details they chose to publish:

She was 25 and curvaceous, and she often drew admiring glances in the gritty Brooklyn neighborhood where she was known to invite men for visits to her apartment, her neighbors and the authorities said.

Oscar Hernandez, 30, a mechanic, said she had had some of her ribs removed in an effort to slim her waist.

“For a man, he was gorgeous…” “hourglass figure.”

A debris pile outside the apartment, which is above a funeral home, contained many colorful items. Among them were wigs, women’s shoes, coins from around the world, makeup, hair spray, handbags, a shopping bag from Spandex House, a red feather boa and a pamphlet on how to quit smoking.

The article uses Escalera’s private life as fodder for a sensationalized news bit, relying primarily on the rubbernecking shock value of her gender identification, but refusing to identify her as a trans woman. Baker and Schweber use the term “transgender” only once in the article, to describe the performance group Escalera worked for. When referring to Escalera herself, Baker and Schweber write that she was “called Lorena” and “according to neighbors, she was born male.”

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Fukushima nuclear disaster: who profits and who pays?

From Green Peace:

by Jan Haverkamp
May 16, 2012

Last week, the inevitable finally happened. The company responsible for the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has been nationalised. Japan’s trade and industry minister Yukio Edano announced a de facto state take-over of the company with a further injection of $12.5bn, bringing the total of state capital in TEPCO to $33.2bn. Edano has said that: “Without the state funds, (TEPCO) cannot provide a stable supply of electricity and pay for compensation and decommissioning costs”.

The Fukushima Daiichi catastrophe has cost TEPCO over $100bn in estimated costs, which includes compensation and clean-up costs. However, the actual costs are much bigger. Many Japanese are bearing the brunt of the damages in their daily lives with most of their claims and losses going uncompensated and most of their suffering unrecognised.

The nationalisation of TEPCO, together with a legal practice called “channelling of liability” in which all liability related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster has to be channelled to TEPCO, means Japanese taxpayers and ratepayers will foot most of the bill.

An infuriating aspect of this story is that in a recent presentation by General Electric (GE) about its “success” over the past 50 years, there was not a word about the Fukushima disaster and nothing approaching an apology. Yet the Fukushima disaster was affected by well-known problems related to GE’s Mark 1 design, which was used at all four troubled reactors. Furthermore, GE was involved in maintenance throughout the four decades of the plant’s operation and had 44 on site at the time of the accident.

GE, together with its corporate mates from Hitachi, which is responsible for the construction of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 4, and Toshiba, which delivered Reactor No. 3, as well as Ebasco, Kajima, Areva and many others, have mostly kept mum about their involvement.

The Prime Minister orders venting

Prime Minister Naoto Kan had to order venting the day after the disaster. Without venting the containment might have given way to the rising pressure, which is a problem identified 30 years ago by several GE whistleblowers. It was not easy to give the order. Workers would risk potentially lethal doses of radiation and the evacuation around Fukushima had not even started. Venting would expose thousands of people to radiation, but the alternative of an exploding reactor would create even more havoc. TEPCO, GE, Hitachi, and Toshiba knew that this could happen. Not one of them ever demanded the closure of the reactors. By closing their eyes to their obviously faulty product they have spread the impression that people are safe.

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As NATO Meets in Chicago, Activists Condemn “Militarized Arm of the 1 Percent”

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Back to the Land for the Occupy Movement

From On The Commons:

Commons at the heart of the issue in occupation of agricultural land in the Bay Area

by Jeff Conant
May 15, 2012

When hundreds of people took up the banner of “Occupy the Farm” on April 22nd and laid claim to a patch of urban farmland owned by UC Berkeley, it was not the first time this 5-acre parcel had become the flashpoint of a struggle between the University and local communities. But it was the first time anyone had done something as brash as simply taking the land without asking.

Three weeks later, on May 14, a force of 100 police from at least 8 UC campus police forces converged on the site, blocked traffic, carted off about ten organizers, and barricaded the 5 acre farm plot, as well as the perimeter of the 14 acre parcel of which it forms a part. Dozens of supporters arrived to watch the 7 a.m. action and to express outrage at the police. Of course, the police, in their riot shields and armed with teargas and pepper spray, are merely doing the job they were asked to do by the Chancellor of University of California – to uphold the rule of law.

In the scant three weeks that Occupy the Farm persisted as a physical occupation, it expanded the tactics, objectives, and vision of the Occupy Movement; it restored the frontlines of a local struggle to get the University of California to respond to community needs rather than corporate interests; it took an issue that is generally only spoken of in the so-called ‘Third World’ – that of food sovereignty and territorial rights – and dropped it into the heart of the urban San Francisco Bay Area; and, it asserted, in the flesh, a demand that many progressives have spoken of in recent years, but few have had sufficient vision, understanding or bravery to manifest: Occupy the Farm was, and is, a bold, largely unprecedented act of reclaiming the Commons in the most immediate sense – taking land out of private speculation and putting it into community use.

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Why do conservatives hate freedom?

From Salon:

The movement’s opposition to gay rights is just the latest move in its history of opposing personal liberties

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why do conservatives hate freedom? The question may be startling. After all, don’t conservatives claim they are protecting liberty in America against liberal statism, which they compare to communism or fascism? But the conservative idea of “freedom” is a very peculiar one, which excludes virtually every kind of liberty that ordinary Americans take for granted.

I distinguish conservatives from libertarians, who, on issues of personal liberty, tend to side with liberals. Since World War II, mainstream conservatives have opposed every expansion of personal liberty in the United States.

During the civil rights era, the leading conservative politician, Barry Goldwater, and the leading conservative intellectual, William F. Buckley Jr., along with most of their followers opposed federal laws banning racial discrimination. To their credit, they later admitted they had been mistaken; indeed, both Buckley and Goldwater supported gay rights late in their careers. But at the time that conservative support for a color-blind society might have made a difference, the leaders of American conservatism sided with the Southern segregationists. They claimed they did so, not because of racial prejudice, but because they feared federal tyranny — a weaselly stance that, in practice, made them side with white supremacist tyranny at the state level. If they had truly believed in their own propaganda about federalism, conservatives could have opposed federal civil rights legislation while campaigning for civil rights laws at the state level. They didn’t.

The civil rights revolution was followed by the sexual revolution. Here again, conservatives, as distinct from libertarians, were on the side of government repression. The mainstream conservative movement opposed the legalization of contraceptives and abortion. In this case, unlike in the case of civil rights, the American right did not even pretend to have constitutional reasons for opposing Supreme Court decisions like Griswold v. Connecticut in 1965 (which struck down state bans on the use of contraception, including by married couples) or Roe v. Wade  in 1973 (which struck down state bans on most abortion). The mainstream right simply argued that conservative Christian beliefs about sexual morality should be incorporated into law. In other words, the very conservatives warning us about the dangers of “mobocracy” when it came to the welfare state had no objection to using the power of government to force their fellow citizens to live their private lives according to the teachings of Thomas Aquinas or the Book of Leviticus, as interpreted by semi-literate Southern Protestant preachers.

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Anti-Gay Paul Cameron Admits Attraction to Men

The old closet case finally outed himself.

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