We Were Here

Last night KERA, our local PBS station aired  the documentary We Were Here on its series, Frontline.

We Were Here is a powerful documentary about the worst years of the AIDS Crisis in San Francisco.

In early 1980, I left Los Angeles to move to the Santa Rosa area about 50 miles north of San Francisco.  I went there to go to Santa Rosa Junior College where I studied electronics and computer science.

San Francisco was a place I went to for recreation.

It was two years after both the murders of Harvey Milk and Mayor Moscone, two years after Jim Jones and the People’s Temple self-destructed.

I was friends with a gay man who lived up on Twin Peaks and a sister who  lived on Powell St up the hill from Union Square.

In the spring of 1981, I became involved with a woman, who lived on Delores St. across from the Mission and Delores Park.

She rode a Honda 450 and had a beautiful tattoo of a golden carp swimming up stream.  It was a very Japanese tattoo done by Lyle Tuttle.

She shared a flat upstairs over two gay men.

Life was very gay and lesbian although the radfems had made transsexual and transgender lesbians uncomfortable in the political context we still went to the bars and discos.

We were like a circle of friends and friends often slept with friends and lovers went around the circle.  My lover had been lovers with Kim, a sister who went through the Stanford Program about 9 months before I had, she had also gone to bed with the sister I knew on Powell St as well as my artist friend, Jamie, a sister who lived in Noe Valley.

The Pride Day Parade that year went on forever.

That summer one of the gay men who lived downstairs from my girlfriend became very sick and died… He was in his early thirties…

That summer Kim was very ill.  She had been an IV Drug user and I thought maybe that was why she was ill.

I broke up with my girl friend before Christmas.

By that time a number of gay men were dying of a disease that didn’t yet have a name and had a wide variety of lethal symptoms.

They called it the “Gay Cancer.”

Then it became GRID for Gay Related Immune Deficiency.

I was living in the Silicon Valley.

While lesbians weren’t getting sick the concern was that AIDS had been an invented disease and was being used to exterminate gay people.

Now there was talk of it being sexually transmitted and some people were concerned about being close to me, because I had loved very freely and had sex with transgender sisters, many of whom were also dying of AIDS.

I hated life in the Silicon Valley and moved up to the city in the summer of 83.  I had an apartment on Duboce  near Church.

I was working at a computer store on Montgomery near the Trans-America Pyramid.

I was servicing machines through out the Financial District.

I quickly became aware that I was surrounded by death.

When I went to Castro Street so many of the young men who had been so handsome and alive a few years prior now looked like photographs of the survivors of the Nazi Death camps.  They were skin and bones, with sunken cheeks and bulging eyes.

The same was true on Polk Street…

The husband of the woman who ran the computer store was a hemophiliac and had AIDS.

The city became like Oran from Camus’s book The Plague.

Going on among so much death became so hard and I started drinking more and more.

One day I saw a poster in the subway station. It said, “We all have AIDS Now!”

Although I shook my head and said, “No we don’t.”  In truth all our lives were touched.

So many deaths. Incredibly talented and wonderfully amusing people were dying.

Our friends and relatives.

And Ronald Reagan couldn’t bring himself to say the word AIDS.

Reading the Bay Area Reporter became painful.  People stopped asking the standard greeting of, “How are you?”  Afraid of the answer.

The man at the bookstore, the magazine stand.

Some of my friends were sick and dying.

I had given up sex and then I started preaching safer sex.

I became so depressed I lost the ability to function.

Finally at the end of 1986 I fled San Francisco.

I had seen too much death.

Perhaps it was seeing the men gathered around the body of one of their friends who collapsed and died on Castro Street a few doors down from the hardware store.

I went to Los Angeles where I discovered a number of my transgender friends, sisters I had photographed in the 1970s were dead or dying.

Surprisingly less so among sex workers than among the sisters who were performers and who had prided themselves on not getting paid for sex.

My preaching of condom use often fell upon deaf ears and yet I continued to preach it until my friends started using them and stopped having sex without them.

In the late 80s I learned that Kim had died of AIDS.  Then a cousin, only my relatives tried to say he died of a heart attack.

LA had more cases of AIDS but living there and dealing with it was more manageable because there were so many more people in LA and because drugs were starting to come available.

In 1994 I was very sick with something that wouldn’t go away. I was tested and came back HIV negative.  I had a drug resistant pneumonia that required some serious antibiotics to cure.

Occasionally someone I knew would become HIV Positive and a couple developed full blown AIDS and died but the worst was over.

People started talking about living with HIV and it became manageable.

As much as I hated that poster for the truth that it spoke…

I see the pictures shown on that documentary and remember the sunken face of the corpse like men who wandered the city of Oran by the Bay and I am haunted by the memories.

I guess I wasn’t as wild as I thought, I never shot drugs and I guess I was lucky to have lived through those times when so many around me were dying.

I am still angry with Reagan and the Republican indifference.

I am still angry with those who called this horrible disease a sign from some evil god.  Furious with those who abused the sick and dying.

So many of those sweet, talented loving gay men were so much better than any hate spewing religious fanatic or right wing scum bag politician.

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Exit, Don’t Enable the Roman Catholic Church

From Truth Wins Out:   http://www.truthwinsout.org/blog/2012/06/26340/

by Wayne Besen
Posted June 19th, 2012

Reposted with Permission

If there is one thing that irks me, it is having the Roman Catholic Church preach to me about sexual morality. It is a religious sect led by a virulently homophobic Pope that goes out of its way to trash my family. Yet, my family hasn’t spent a cent defending itself against nonexistent charges of child rape, while the Vatican has spent $2.5 billion on legal fees, prevention programs, and settlements relating to the sexual abuse of minors.

Exactly why should I listen to what these “holy” men have to say? I’ve been out of the closet for twenty-four years, during which time I worked in the center of the LGBT movement, but can’t think of a single friend or colleague arrested for child molestation. None of the people I associate with have shielded, shuffled, or offered severance packages to pedophiles to protect the institutions that they work for. But such obscene behavior is precisely what the Vatican did, all the while turning my loved ones into scapegoats to obscure their criminality.

The latest preoccupation of the Catholic Church, as well as their brethren in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish Community, is fiercely lobbying state legislatures not to lower the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse cases.

“Even when you have the institution admitting they knew about the abuse, the perpetrator admitting that he did it, and corroborating evidence, if the statute of limitations has expired, there won’t be any justice,” Marci Hamilton, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cordozo School of Law at Yeshiva University, explained to the New York Times.

It seems the hierarchy is only interested in saving its own skin, instead of paying a price for those whose skin it violated. For a church built on a human sacrifice, there is scant evidence of noble virtues as the church lies and litigates against its victims.

Which brings us to a burning question: Why do liberal Catholics continue to support an intolerant, homophobic, misogynistic institution capable of covering up heinous crimes against children?

I’m not the only one asking this pertinent question. On June 1, the Freedom From Religion Foundation placed a full-page ad in USA Today headlined, “It’s Time to Quit The Catholic Church.”

According to the ad: “If you think you can change the church from within – get it to lighten up on birth control, gay rights, marriage equality, embryonic stem-cell research – you’re deluding yourself. By remaining a ‘good Catholic,’ you are doing ‘bad’ to women’s rights. You are an enabler. And it’s got to stop.”

New York Times columnist Bill Keller also urged moderate Catholics to find a new church: “Much as I wish I could encourage the discontented, the Catholics of open minds and open hearts, to stay put and fight the good fight, this is a lost cause…Summon your fortitude, and just go. If you are not getting the spiritual sustenance you need, if you are uneasy being part of an institution out of step with your conscience — then go.”

It does seem as if diehard liberal and moderate Catholics are not fighting so much as being beaten to a pulp by ideologues. If this were a boxing match, it would have been stopped many rounds ago. Indeed, attacks from the right have become so extreme that the Church is even going after American nuns. If nuns aren’t Catholic enough for these fanatics, liberal Catholics sure aren’t going to be embraced any time soon.

This whole debate reminds me of when gay people from conservative backgrounds complain to me that they can’t come out because of the environment in which they were raised. One says, “I grew up in a traditional Chinese household, so I can’t tell my parents.” While another person says, “I grew up in a Pentecostal family, so I can’t tell anyone.” And yet another proclaims, “You wouldn’t understand, it’s not that easy coming out because my parents are from a rural area.”

Everybody has an excuse or explanation, and, no, it’s never easy to come out – but at the same time, it really is a simple process. Saying “I’m gay” works like a charm every time and frees a person to be their authentic self.

Similarly, it may be incredibly difficult to leave the Catholic Church. But, it is also as easy as going to a computer search engine and typing “church” or speaking into your iPhone, “Siri, find me a church.” Within moments dozens of alternatives will pop up – many of which are more concerned with spirituality than the statute of limitations.

Are you tired of being treated like an abused dog by the Catholic Church? Then drop the dogma and quit. After all, they quit you, your family, and your moderate belief system a long time ago. Exit, don’t enable.

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That’s What She Said

From Pretty Queer: http://www.prettyqueer.com/2012/02/27/that-what-she-said/

By Jack Radish
February 27, 2012

Reposted with Permission

Sometimes I wonder whether trans men writing about transmisogyny and trans-man-douchebaggery and how much is sucks is the new spoken word poetry.  Every time I’ve written anything about how trans dude culture can get pretty gross in the way it appropriates the experiences and oppression of trans women, I have gotten tons of great feedback and had so many people tell me I was so smart and sensitive.  I don’t know, I’d love to think that is all true because being smart and sensitive are both things that are important to me in life but at the same time, I have to acknowledge that every time I’ve written something like that, someone has pointed out that I hadn’t written anything that any trans woman had not been saying (and having quickly ignored or dismissed by queer and so-called-trans communities) over and over again for years.  But that suddenly, when it comes from a trans man, someone gives him (me) a fucking medal and he gets hella laid for it.  (For the record, I live in Detroit where no one gets laid for anything, but I’m sure it’s contributed to my getting laid a fair amount of times over the years nevertheless.)

So I want to set the record straight a little.  My contempt for trans-man-douchebaggery and the whole culture that supports it is a sincere and driving force and among the most precious values in my life.  It’s something I think about a lot and it’s something that influences my judgement of character when it comes to friends, lovers and heroes more than most factors.  But it’s definitely not something I just came up with on my own!  It’s something I’ve learned from the badass trans women who have been my mentors, peers, lovers, role models, crushes and best friends throughout my entire adult life and I’m actually pretty sure that without them, I would have ended up just another *aydyn doing bad spoken word poetry at the Trans Day of Remembrance and aspiring to be on the cover of Original Plumbing.

I started transitioning 8 years ago, back when trans dude culture was still feeling pretty antsy about an overall sense of invisibility within larger culture.  That was way before Chaz Bono and before Daniela Sea played a trans man on The L Word (ugh)—back when people would have thought that the idea of having a trans man on The L Word was this totally radical thing and just eat it up.  Trans dudes felt invisible, but also felt oppressed in this way that was kinda hard to define because the people who oppressed us didn’t really even know what a trans man was and usually lumped us in with fags or dykes when choosing insults.  Trans guys wanted to be visible, so they started writing embarrassingly personal essays and presenting them as scholarly articles and publicly presenting trans women’s (usually trans women of color sex workers’) stories as trans people’s stories in kind of exploitative performances they called spoken word poetry.  I think it came from this need to feel visible as a distinct oppressed group by the larger queer community, and to that end, it totally worked.  Every time a trans man opened his mouth or picked up his pen, he was praised as being brave and revolutionary and it became this thing that everyone wanted to fuck a trans guy (any trans guy!)  Within a few years, trans guys were not invisible and as far as the currency of getting laid in queer communities goes, we had a ton of privilege.  But we basically didn’t stop doing those obnoxious things we did a few years earlier in a desperate need to be noticed and for the most part, queer communities have never really stopped eating it up.

When I first came out as trans, I realized pretty early on the danger of becoming a misogynistic douchebag, but I also longed for the company of any other trans person.  Shortly after beginning transition, I went to Camp Trans and was excited to be around a lot of other trans people irl for one of the first times in my life.  I quickly found my awkward early stage in transition and being fat made the trans bro elite reluctant to accept me, but my resolve to learn to resist being a douchebag (even when I wasn’t that great at recognizing what that meant) put me completely on the outside of being part of the cliquey group of trans men that dominated Camp Trans at that point.  Instead, I found what we used to call Camp Awkward—back before awkward was the new sexy—and a few smart badass trans women and other CAMAB trans people and that was the first time I really found somewhere I wanted to belong.

Over the years, that small group of friends who initially saw something in me that they liked and wanted around when no one else would grew into a much larger group of mostly trans women who challenged me and were patient with me and would go to trans events with me and sit in a corner complaining about all the douchey trans men everywhere.  Back when I still thought it was okay to “reclaim” the word “tranny” as a trans man, it was one of these women who was patient enough to have it out with me about it until I figured out that I probably shouldn’t say it anymore and should probably join her in lovingly but firmly challenging other trans guys’ use of the term.  It was a few of these women who called bullshit and lovingly supported me when a group of trans guys at Camp Trans totally humiliated a close friend and I when they told us we “weren’t on the list” for this trans guy only make-out party they had just invited us to (not sure why we wanted to go to that party in the first place, but live and learn).  I’m not sure why they decided I was the trans guy they kinda liked, but these badass women were (and still are) the people I loved and respected and wanted to be and wanted to know and they were the friends and lovers and biggest crushes and heroes who made me into the person I am.

I have never had trouble taking a stand against transmisogyny and other trans-man-douchebaggery, but maybe that’s because my general trans misandry runs pretty deep and it’s been a long time since I had any stake in what most trans bros thought of me.  At this point, I’ve found that if I ever venture into trans man only space (something I generally avoid), I can yell as loudly as I’d like against transmisogyny and no one will listen because I am quickly labelled as an outsider, but the second anyone is watching, the trans bros will start eating up whatever I say in a way that they would not if it were coming from anyone other than another trans man.  There is some sort of social pressure to oppose transmisogyny that kicks in as soon as the larger queer community is watching and suddenly my voice is seen as really important in those spaces, even though I’m not saying anything differently than what my trans women friends and heroes have been saying for years and what I’ve tried to say privately in trans man only space for years.

Recently, I’ve started to notice a few other trans guys getting attention for writing or speaking about transmisogyny amongst trans guys and general trans-man-douchebaggery and being treated like we are saying something completely new and revolutionary when we say it.  I just think it’s important to talk about the fact that we are not.  I think it’s amazing that this stuff has seemed like it’s getting more attention lately because it’s so important to talk about.  I’m also really happy that, if I’m going to use my privilege as a trans man for something, getting people to talk about transmisogyny and trans-man-douchebaggery is the thing that I can use it for.  But it’s still indicative of a huge problem in our community when folx will listen to this stuff coming from a white, college educated, twenty-something trans man ally to trans women, but it is still largely dismissed when it comes from the trans women who experience transmisogyny every day in a way that I never will, and when the community does stop for a second to pay attention to trans women saying this stuff, it is generally those trans women who share similar race, class, age and other privileges as me.

This is why I sometimes wonder whether writing about trans misogyny and trans-man-douchebaggery is the new spoken word poetry amongst trans guys and whether those of us who do it are the new *aydyns.  That’s never been the reason I’ve written stuff like this, but I feel like I often get a similar reception as early 2000’s trans guys doing spoken word.  I don’t think I could ever stop talking about this stuff because it will never stop being important to me and feeling like the right thing to do as long as queer communities are ripe with transmisogyny that they will only think this stuff is important if it comes from a trans man.  But I still think that’s messed up and important to point out.

So I want to use my privilege as a trans man right now to encourage people reading this to listen to trans women when they say all this important stuff that you all eat right up when it comes from a trans guy.  I want to encourage queer folx to search ourselves and examine why we do this.  I want to encourage our queer communities to create space for dialogue about whose voices we privilege or exclude and how we can change this.  And if you don’t think you do this, humour me and search yourself a little anyway because you have probably done this at some point—if not to trans women, then to someone else in your community.  And to my fellow trans man proponents of “the new spoken word”,  my fellow “new *aydyns,” don’t forget to give credit to the badass trans women you learned it all from—cause I know you didn’t just think all this up on your own!

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Everybody’s Trans: Gender Oppression Hurts All of Us

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laverne-cox/everybodys-trans-gender-o_b_1605314.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


When I was bullied as a child, called names, chased home from school, and sometimes physically attacked, it was because of my gender expression. The way I acted was way more feminine than how most of the people around me thought a boy “should” act. Though I was often told I acted like a girl as a child, I was also usually called anti-gay slurs, like “sissy” or “faggot.” I was bullied because of my gender expression, but everyone called it “gay” years before I knew I liked boys, years before I understood I was trans.

I can’t even count how many times I have been interviewed and had to explain that “gay” and “trans” aren’t the same thing, that being gay is about whom you’re attracted to whereas being trans, transgender, or transsexual is about how you see yourself and how you identify your gender and is separate from whom you’re attracted to. They aren’t the same thing. But even though “gay” and “trans” are distinctly different and separate concepts and identities, we can’t fully eradicate homophobia without eradicating transphobia, as well. I was reminded of this last Wednesday, when I sat on a panel, organized by the Stonewall Democrats and the Manhattan Young Democrats, called “Now What: An Activist Life After Gay Marriage.” It’s a fact that trans folks’ issues are often subjugated to those of gays and lesbians. This is evidenced by how trans and gender-nonconforming folks were basically axed from the gay and lesbian civil rights movement in the 1970s, despite the fact that it was mostly trans and gender-nonconforming folks who started the movement with the Stonewall riots in 1969. This tradition was continued when trans folks were dropped from inclusion in the New York bill that would become SONDA (the Sexual-Orientation Nondiscrimination Act), which added sexual orientation to the protected classes in the state’s human rights laws. This bill was passed in 2001 without trans inclusion. The leadership at the time said that they would get back to trans folks. Eleven years later we’re still waiting for gender expression to be added to protected classes in New York. The bill that would do that is called GENDA (the Gender-Expression Nondiscrimination Act).

Speaking at last week’s “Now What” panel, I was reminded that we do ourselves a disservice when we think of fighting for our civil rights piecemeal. In a patriarchal culture, we can’t really fully talk about eradicating sexism without talking about eradicating homophobia, as well. So much systemic male domination has occurred because the patriarch doesn’t want to appear “soft,” which in the homophobic, sexist imagination means “gay,” which, within that oppressive logic, also means “like a woman.” Historically, many patriarchal men have oppressed women so as to not seem “gay,” which, for the patriarch, means, in part, having his masculinity called into question. The patriarch has also oppressed gay folks for the same reason. Based on this oppressive logic, the patriarch has to not only embrace but enforce very rigid gender constructs regarding what it means to be a man or a woman. We can see the links between sexism, homophobia, and transphobia, and at the heart of it all gender oppression.

Continue reading at: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laverne-cox/everybodys-trans-gender-o_b_1605314.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Transgender woman sentenced to men’s prison in Minnesota killing

From The LA Times:  http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-transgender-woman-sentenced-to-mens-prison-20120618,0,7339203.story

By Matt Pearce
June 18, 2012

Chrishaun “CeCe” McDonald, 24, and some friends, all of whom were black, were walking outside a Minneapolis bar last June when four white people began calling to them using racial and other types of epithets.

McDonald, who was born a man and is transitioning to a woman, later testified that she and her friends tried to walk away. But, authorities say, one of the bar patrons, Molly Flaherty, smashed a glass of alcohol against McDonald’s face, cutting her.

A fight broke out. At one point, Flaherty’s ex-boyfriend, Dean Schmitz, said: “Look at that boy dressed like a girl,” according to McDonald’s testimony.

He subsequently pulled McDonald out of the melee. Then he put a hand to his shirt and said, “You stabbed me,” according to a witness. To which McDonald replied, according to the witness, “Yes I did.”

With a pair of scissors, in the chest.

Schmitz, a father of three, died on the scene.

The aftermath of the June 5, 2011, killing has been a controversial one in Minnesota, with the transgender community rallying to support McDonald.

Continue reading at:  http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-transgender-woman-sentenced-to-mens-prison-20120618,0,7339203.story

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9 U.S. senators to Harkin: Time to move on ENDA

From The Washington Blade:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/06/19/9-u-s-senators-to-harkin-time-to-move-on-enda/

By Chris Johnson
June 19, 2012

A bipartisan group of nine senators is backing the idea of having the Senate panel with jurisdiction over the Employment Non-Discrimination Act advance the legislation to the floor by a committee vote.

The group is asking for Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, to hold a markup on ENDA in the wake of the panel’s hearing on the legislation last week and the senator’s remarks to the Washington Blade immediately afterward that he wanted “to poll the committee” about moving the bill forward.

In the week after the hearing, the Blade solicited statements from the offices of all 22 members of the Senate panel on whether they want to see the committee move the legislation to the Senate floor. Those who responded affirmatively were spokespersons for Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), ENDA’s lead sponsor, as well as Sens. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), the only Republican on the panel who responded to the Blade’s inquiry.

All 12 Democrats on the panel — as well as Kirk, an original co-sponsor of the bill — are among the 41 total co-sponsors of ENDA, so the bill should have no trouble moving out of committee. The legislation would bar employers in most situations in the public and private workforce from discriminating against workers because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sanders’ office accompanied his call for a committee vote on ENDA with a statement saying the time is now to pass ENDA to end workforce discrimination against LGBT people.

“As I’ve said many times before, discrimination of any kind is not what America is supposed to be about,” Sanders said. “Yet only 16 states, including my own state of Vermont, and D.C. currently prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. I will fully support Sen. Merkley and Chairman Harkin in their efforts to move the Employment Non-Discrimination Act out of committee, because no Americans should have to live with the fear of losing their jobs simply because of who they are.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.washingtonblade.com/2012/06/19/9-u-s-senators-to-harkin-time-to-move-on-enda/

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“Bible Believing” Response to Gay Documentary Promotes Anti-Transgender Violence

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The Bishops’ Politics: Why Are Women’s Health and Lives Subject to The Catholic Lobby?

From RH Reality Check:  http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/06/18/politics-catholicism-womens-health-and-hospital-mergers-3

by Imani Gandy
June 18, 2012

Many of the religions practiced in the United States support a woman’s right to access reproductive health care, including abortion and contraception, as a matter of free exercise of conscience.  The Catholic Church is the one of the few, if not the only religion that is fundamentally antithetical to any notion of women’s reproductive health, freedom, and justice.  Unfortunately, the Catholic Church as represented by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, more than any other, directly influences American politics.

Take, for example, the controversy that has been raging for the past four months about President Obama’s contraception mandate.  After Republicans lost their collective mind about access to contraception, whinging that President Obama was destroying the Constitution and the very fabric of society as we know it by daring to include women’s reproductive health under the rubric of the Affordability Care Act, President Obama offered an accommodation to religiously-affiliated employers that protested being required to offer birth control coverage as part of their insurance plans. The accommodation will allow such religiously-affiliated employers not to offer birth control; instead, insurance companies for those employers will have to reach out directly to employees and offer contraception coverage for free, without going through the employer.  Writing about the accommodation, Amanda Marcotte noted that Obama had punked the GOP: “Obama just pulled a fast one on Republicans. He drew this out for two weeks, letting Republicans work themselves into a frenzy of anti-contraception rhetoric, all thinly disguised as concern for religious liberty, and then created a compromise that addressed their purported concerns but without actually reducing women’s access to contraception.”

In February – when Obama announced the accommodation – two entities on opposite sides of the birth control issue  (Planned Parenthood and the Catholic Health Association) were satisfied.  Sister Carol Keehan, the president and CEO of the Catholic Health Association (“CHA”), noted, “The Catholic Health Association is very pleased with the White House announcement that a resolution has been reached that protects the religious liberty and conscience rights of Catholic institutions.”  She further noted that the accommodation adequately responded to the concerns of the CHA: “The framework developed has responded to the issues we identified that needed to be fixed. We are pleased and grateful that the religious liberty and conscience protection needs of so many ministries that serve our country were appreciated enough that an early resolution of this issue was accomplished. The unity of Catholic organizations in addressing this concern was a sign of its importance. This difference has at times been uncomfortable but it has helped our country sort through an issue that has been important throughout the history of our great democracy.”

Four months later, however, the CHA has reversed its position in what can only be described as a flip-flop of epic proportions.  On Friday, the CHA sent a five-page letter to the Department of Health and Human Services stating that the accommodation no longer “adequately meet[] the religious liberty concerns.”  Odd — that wasn’t CHA’s position four months ago.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/06/18/politics-catholicism-womens-health-and-hospital-mergers-3

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Abstinence Only: Government Spends Millions on Controversial Program

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Nessie a Plesiosaur? Louisiana To Fund Schools Using Odd, Bigoted Fundamentalist Textbooks

From Talk2Action:  http://www.talk2action.org/story/2012/6/17/9311/48633

Bruce Wilson
Sun Jun 17, 2012

“the [Ku Klux] Klan in some areas of the country tried to be a means of reform, fighting the decline in morality and using the symbol of the cross… In some communities it achieved a certain respectability as it worked with politicians.” – from Bob Jones University Press American history textbook

This 2012-2013 school year, thanks to a bill pushed through by governor Bobby Jindal, thousands of students in Louisiana will receive state voucher money, transferred from public school funding, to attend private religious schools, some of which teach from a Christian curriculum that suggests the Loch Ness Monster disproves evolution and states that the alleged creature, which has never been demonstrated to even exist, has been tracked by submarine and is probably a plesiosaur.The curriculum also claims that a Japanese fishing boat caught a dinosaur.

On the list of schools approved to receive funding through the new voucher funding, that critics warncould eventually cut public school funding in half, are schools that teach from the Christian fundamentalist A Beka Book, Bob Jones University Press, and Accelerated Christian Education curriculum.

What’s in that curriculum? Last year, researcher Rachel Tabachnick and I co-produced a 35-minute documentary on the spread of a similar voucher program in Pennsylvania and other US states, titled “School Choice: Taxpayer-Funded Creationism, Bigotry, and Bias”. Embedded at the end of this post is an eight-minute video segment from that documentary with scans from material in currently used A Beka Book and Bob Jones University Press texts (in this May 25, 2011 story Tabachnick provides quotes from those textbooks.)

One of the schools cleared to receive substantial new funding through LA governor Bobby Jindal’s voucher program is Eternity Christian Academy, in Westlake, LA, which according to Independent Weekly writer Walter Pierce,

“…has been approved to accept 135 new students. That’s a considerable uptick in enrollment, which at the end of this school year stood at 38 — a more than 300 percent increase. Talk about buttressing the budget; $1 million in tax dollars will be diverted from the public school system to Eternity Christian, a school that, according to its mission statement, offers “a quality faith-based curriculum that is soley [sic] based on principles from the Bible …”

Continue reading at:  http://www.talk2action.org/story/2012/6/17/9311/48633

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Right Wing Racist Arizona radio host voted for ‘the white guy’ because Obama is a ‘monkey’

The Racist Republi-Nazis aren’t even trying to hide their bigotry anymore.

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/19/arizona-radio-host-voted-for-the-white-guy-because-obama-is-a-monkey/

By David Edwards
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Conservative Arizona radio personality Barbara Espinosa is standing her statement that President Barack Obama is a “monkey” and that she voted for “the white guy.”

“I call him a monkey,” Espinosa recently told a guest on her KNFX radio show. “I don’t call him a guy with rabbit ears, I call him a monkey.”

“And I don’t believe in calling him the first black president,” she added. “I voted for the white guy myself!”

Espinosa later confirmed her statement in a blog posting on her website, “American Freedom By Barbara.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/19/arizona-radio-host-voted-for-the-white-guy-because-obama-is-a-monkey/

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What Part of ‘Austerity Isn’t Working’ Don’t People Get?

From Rolling Stone:   http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/blogs/national-affairs/what-part-of-austerity-isnt-working-dont-people-get-20120617

By Jared Bernstein
June 18, 2012

As I prepared for a talk on austerity last week, I found myself a bit stuck.  What can you say other than that it’s very clearly not working, nor should we expect it to, nor has it ever? And then I hit upon what I think is the key question: Why do governments stick with the austerity approach when all the evidence suggests it’s a total failure?

First, some facts. By austerity I mean attacking recession by cutting spending and raising taxes – the opposite of Keynesianism, which dictates that if the private sector isn’t spending enough money to get the economy moving, the government needs to temporarily step in and supply the juice (aka “stimulus”).  Europe and the UK are committed to austerity, and – not coincidentally – they’ve seen growth deteriorate and unemployment jump (to over 20 percent in Greece and Spain).  The figure below, from this excellent – and pretty readable – paper by economist Jay Shambaugh reveals the expected positive correlation between governments that cut spending and slower GDP growth.

Too bad for Europe, right? But, wait – we’re doing the austerity thing too, cutting spending as stimulus fades and failing to enact jobs measures, such as fiscal relief to cash-strapped state and local governments or public infrastructure investment – measures that appear more necessary with each new, disappointing economic report.

In a way, our austerity policies are actually less defensible than those in some European countries.  With the price of borrowing so extremely low here, capital markets are basically pleading for our government to borrow and get busy with temporary growth measures.  That’s not happening in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Greece, and for good reason: government debt in those countries is highly risky, and priced accordingly.

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Euronews right on : The lack of women at the top

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The History of Supersizing: How We’ve Become a Nation Hooked on Bigger Is Better

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/food/155932/the_history_of_supersizing%3A_how_we%27ve_become_a_nation_hooked_on_bigger_is_better/

NYC’s recent ruling limiting the size of sugary drinks has spurred a lot of controversy. Is it stupid? Not if you know the history of supersizing.

By Jill Richardson
June 18, 2012

New York Mayor Bloomberg’s new rules limiting sodas and other sugary drinks sold in restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, food carts and delis to 16 ounces has spurred a national debate. Should government limit our serving sizes? Bloomberg’s rules do not prevent a person from buying two, five or 10 16-ounce sodas and drinking them all in one sitting. They just prevent a restaurant from selling that much soda in one cup. Stupid rule? Not if you know the history of supersizing.

The idea can be traced back to a man named David Wallerstein, who ran movie theaters in the 1960s. He tried method after method to get his customers to buy more than one order of popcorn. Nothing worked. Then he realized why: people thought they would look like pigs if they bought two popcorns. So he tried increasing sales a different way, by offering a jumbo size popcorn. The trick worked. Popcorn sales went up.

Nowadays, this profit-boosting trick is the standard at any movie theater. Some theater chains require cashiers to inform every customer that they can have the next size up for an extra quarter or two. It’s a tiny amount of money to pay for a larger size of soda or popcorn, but for the theater, those extra few cents are nearly all profit. The labor costs them the same to sell you a small popcorn or a large one. The added cost of a box or a cup plus some syrup and water, or some popcorn, salt and seasoning is minimal. And you as the customer perceive this as a great value.

Wallerstein’s brilliant idea might have stayed in his theater chain, but in 1968, he became a director of McDonald’s. In the 1970s, the economy was not on McDonald’s’ side, and customers were visiting the restaurants less and less and then only buying very little. Wallerstein convinced the chain to offer larger sizes of fries to boost sales — and, of course, it worked. Incredibly, the large size of fries from the late 1970s is the small size of fries today! The same is true of other menu items. The largest soda in 1955 was a mere seven ounces, smaller than the 12-ounce child size offered today.

The economic crunch of the 1970s brought the chain another innovation as well: the value meal. Fries and sodas both have higher profit margins than burgers. Yet, while a penny-pinching diner might order a burger with no sides or drinks, nobody is going to come in for a meal and order a soda or fries without a burger. A McDonald’s franchisee named Max Cooper pushed the company to sell value meals and the rest is history.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/food/155932/the_history_of_supersizing%3A_how_we%27ve_become_a_nation_hooked_on_bigger_is_better/

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Rio 2012: it’s a make-or-break summit. Just like they told us at Rio 1992

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/18/rio-2012-earth-summit-protect-elites

World leaders at Earth summits seem more interested in protecting the interests of plutocratic elites than our environment

guardian.co.uk, Monday 18 June 2012

Worn down by hope. That’s the predicament of those who have sought to defend the earth’s living systems. Every time governments meet to discuss the environmental crisis, we are told that this is the “make or break summit”, on which the future of the world depends. The talks might have failed before, but this time the light of reason will descend upon the world.

We know it’s rubbish, but we allow our hopes to be raised, only to witness 190 nations arguing through the night over the use of the subjunctive in paragraph 286. We know that at the end of this process the UN secretary general, whose job obliges him to talk nonsense in an impressive number of languages, will explain that the unresolved issues (namely all of them) will be settled at next year’s summit. Yet still we hope for something better.

This week’s earth summit in Rio de Janeiro is a ghost of the glad, confident meeting 20 years ago. By now, the leaders who gathered in the same city in 1992 told us, the world’s environmental problems were to have been solved. But all they have generated is more meetings, which will continue until the delegates, surrounded by rising waters, have eaten the last rare dove, exquisitely presented with an olive leaf roulade. The biosphere that world leaders promised to protect is in a far worse state than it was 20 years ago. Is it not time to recognise that they have failed?

These summits have failed for the same reason that the banks have failed. Political systems that were supposed to represent everyone now return governments of millionaires, financed by and acting on behalf of billionaires. The past 20 years have been a billionaires’ banquet. At the behest of corporations and the ultra-rich, governments have removed the constraining decencies – the laws and regulations – which prevent one person from destroying another. To expect governments funded and appointed by this class to protect the biosphere and defend the poor is like expecting a lion to live on gazpacho.

You have only to see the way the United States has savaged the Earth summit’s draft declaration to grasp the scale of this problem. The word “equitable”, the US insists, must be cleansed from the text. So must any mention of the right to food, water, health, the rule of law, gender equality and women’s empowerment. So must a clear target of preventing two degrees of global warming. So must a commitment to change “unsustainable consumption and production patterns”, and to decouple economic growth from the use of natural resources.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/18/rio-2012-earth-summit-protect-elites

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The Elephant in Rio

From Other Words:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/the_elephant_in_rio

Don’t bank on a new “green economy” to solve our climate challenges.

By Janet Redman
June 18, 2012

A close friend of mine in Fairfax, Virginia, is expecting her first child. By the time this baby girl turns 60, she’ll live in a world that’s warmer than it’s ever been since humans began walking the Earth 2.5 million years ago, according to a new study.

The world already looks much different than it did just a generation ago. The alarming rate at which plants and animals are disappearing has scientists asking if we’re entering a sixth mass extinction. The oceans’ fish stocks — the main source of protein for more than a billion people — are declining, and mysterious coral reef die-offs in recent years will likely make a bad situation worse. More than half of the planet’s surface now has “an obvious human footprint.”

This is exactly where world leaders hoped we would not be when they gathered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, for the historic 1992 Earth Summit.

Twenty years ago, decision-makers knew human activity could hurt the environment. But they were also grappling with the fact that about half of the world’s population was living in poverty, and needed access to land, water, food, dignified work, and other essential ingredients for a better life.

To bring these two realities together, the Rio summit embraced “sustainable development” — an economic model that meets present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Governments adopted a roadmap for sustainable development heading into the 21st century called Agenda 21 and launched global environmental agreements on biodiversity, climate change, and desertification.

Continue reading at:  http://www.otherwords.org/articles/the_elephant_in_rio

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Senate Republican’s proposals cut over $4 billion from food stamps

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/19/senate-republicans-proposal-cuts-over-4-billion-from-food-stamps/

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, June 19, 2012

In amendments that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) agreed last night to add to the Agriculture Reform, Food and Jobs Act of 2012, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) proposed reforms that Democrats say would end up cutting more than $4 billion from food stamps over the next decade.

Despite agreeing on Monday night to add Sessions’ amendments to what’s otherwise become known as the “farm bill,” Reid also added an amendment by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) that looks to restore some of that lost funding. She’s led the charge against Sessions, citing a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report that claims the proposals would result in average benefits being slashed by up to $90 a month. The average monthly benefit was $133.84 in 2011, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics, which means Sessions proposals could leave America’s poor only $43.84 on average to spend on food in a month.

The CBO estimated earlier this year that one in seven Americans receive federal food assistance. The agency said that taxpayers spent $78 billion on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in 2011, making it the second largest social safety net program after Medicare. The government claims that every month, federal food aid keeps more than 5 million Americans from slipping into poverty.

“According to estimates by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, this deep cut in monthly benefits would affect 190,000 low-income New York City families and children who rely on these benefits for their nutrition, and would affect nearly 300,00 households statewide,” she said in an advisory. Gillibrand’s amendment would restore most of the funding by slashing subsidies that big agriculture companies use to buy crop insurance.

Continue reading at: http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/06/19/senate-republicans-proposal-cuts-over-4-billion-from-food-stamps/

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