November 30

From the Howard Zinn Project

Nov. 30 is the birthday of Mark Twain (1835), Gordon Parks (1912), Shirley Chisholm (1924), and Abbie Hoffman (1936).

Who else should we add to the list?

It is also the day in 1930 when fearless labor leader Mary Harris “Mother” Jones died. (Thanks to Bread and Roses 1912-2012 for the reminder.) Opponents called Mother Jones “the most dangerous woman in America.” When she was denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate as “the grandmother of all agitators,” she said she hoped to live long enough to be the great-grandmother of all agitators.

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Bikini Kill

This week an article in The New Yorker reminded me of Bikini Kill, of the band that started the Riot Grrl Movement some twenty years ago.

From The New Yorker:

Hanna and Her Sisters

Bikini Kill sparked the riot-grrrl movement. It also made great music.

November 26, 2012

In May of 1989, a junior at Evergreen State College, in Olympia, Washington, named Kathleen Hanna traveled to Seattle to meet Kathy Acker, a forty-two-year-old author she admired. Acker, who had written about abuse, incest, and other forms of sexual extremity, was conducting workshops at the Center on Contemporary Art. Hanna, then nineteen, bluffed her way into an interview. As reported in Sara Marcus’s carefully documented history, “Girls to the Front,” when Hanna explained that she was interested in spoken-word performance and in writing, Acker told her that she should be in a band: “There’s more of a community for musicians than for writers.”

Hanna felt rebuffed at first, but she ultimately took the advice. In 1990, after touring with a band called Viva Knievel, she formed a new group, eventually called Bikini Kill, with a drummer named Tobi Vail, whom Hanna knew from Olympia. Vail had been publishing and writing a feminist zine called Jigsaw, which Hanna admired. Hanna and Vail found bandmates in the bassist Kathi Wilcox, who had never been in a band before, and the guitarist Billy Karren. This led to both a small catalogue of recordings and the birth of the very sort of community that Acker was referring to. People often use the phrase “riot grrrl” as shorthand for the feminist music activism of the nineties, but sometimes they use it simply to refer to Bikini Kill. The group’s first two vinyl recordings are being reissued, twenty years after their initial release, on a label set up by the members to preserve their output. Even though the riot-grrrl community has come to dwarf the songs in historical memory—that was the point, really—the music is still a pungent tonic.

Bands like Gossip, who became pop stars (in England, at least), cite the influence of Bikini Kill and the riot-grrrl movement. Members of the Russian political collective Pussy Riot, two of whom are currently in prison for hooliganism, also cite the band’s impact. (Pussy Riot is known for wearing balaclavas during public actions; is it coincidence that Hanna wore one in “No Alternative Girls,” a short film, from 1994, by Tamra Davis?)

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Having Someone Demonstrate Why I think HBS is Bullshit… Priceless

Yesterday I ran a post: “Mainstream” and “Traditional”: Meaningless Code words Used to Attack TS/TG People along with Women and Gay/Lesbian People

It was  predictable that some HBS Troll hiding behind an alias and gmail or yahoo account would pop up to whine about how she really isn’t a bigot but how I have to agree with her.

Funny isn’t it how the 99% of sisters who aren’t part of the HBS Klan have real names and are on Facebook.

HBS’er (actual alias):

At 25 I was close to 6ft tall, nearly bald, covered in thick body hair, 280lbs and built like a brick out-house, my family rejected and disowned me, I had only qualifications as a car mechanic. I nearly chose to kill myself (it would have been easier). Before I turned thirty, I was post SRS.

I spent nearly $100,000 on surgeries and doctors and treatments (in three years) before even considering keeping a roof over my head or food in my belly.

How did I do that?

I got a job driving a truck that delivered lubricating grease to coal mines for their bulldozers and excavators. I worked 12 hour days 6 and 7 days a week and came home covered in black grease and coal dust from head to toe with skin off my hands and arms, I shut my mouth and put up with the treatment I was afforded (which most of the time in spite of what the “community” would have you believe was respect ), and the men out there are the exact kind of “bigots” and transphobes” that “victims” in the TG community spruke (sic) about constantly.


Because it paid me $30 an hour and I NEEDED SRS to live, to be loved and connect with a partner the RIGHT way for me. I NEEDED to be PHYSICALLY female.

Gee isn’t that special…  I was built like  a girl and androgynous to the point of people being uncertain as to my sex prior to my coming out at 21. I too worked some pretty physically hard jobs including one at a paper mill where the homophobes/transphobes tried to murder me on a couple of occasions.

The possibility of getting SRS was pretty sketchy when I first came out to my parents when I was 15 but between 1962 and 1969 the world changed.

The reality is I would have been a queen if SRS were not available. I had friends for whom the struggle was too much, who settled into life as queens/transgender women because they lacked the wherewithal to pull it together for the final push.  If I didn’t get my surgery when I did I could have wound up feeling the same way.

Like most of the HBS Klan, HBSer struggles with the coherence thingie.  It is hard to tell who she is trying to impress:

I’m one of those “pure” ones you so hate Suzan, never used my penis, never fathered children, never married a woman, want desperately to be a mother, to be “normal”, genetic even, but I’m NOT under ANY illusions as to that ever happening the way I need it to or as to who or what I am, NOR do I think I’m “better” or more valid or deserving as a human being than anyone else. All that I hope for for ANYONE is happiness, safety and equality.

In other words , “Don’t hate me because I am beautiful.”  No wait that was pure, because having seen the pictures of a number of HBS folks beauty isn’t something most can claim.”

Let’s unpack the purity claim.  First thought:  I’m supposed to be impressed that you didn’t even try using your former parts to have sex, presumably with either men or women.  I’m not really impressed.  That was never really a hurdle in the screening process.  That was one of those purity queen generated gates.  A lot of the doctors in the early days thought it was a really good idea for people to explore their sexuality a bit prior to taking such major step.

Some people complain they felt pressured to try having sex with men. But there was a reason for doctors to do this.  The doctors were dealing with transphobes who claimed transsexual women were just gay men in denial.  So people were encouraged to try having sex with men to see if that was really what they were.

As for the wanting children. Some people with a firm grasp on reality choose to defer transition in order to do just that, have children and be a parent.

Having been guided by the wisdom of doctors who posted the Serenity Prayer in the clinic I always accepted the reality.  But the deeper reality is that I had a really sucky childhood and would have been a highly irresponsible parent.  I chose a different path.

What it seems you fail to recognise is that the “equal” rights sought by non-op TG’s are NOT being afforded on equal/equivalent life circumstance and as such, those with the (circumstantial) disadvantage are being FORCED to lose THEIR “rights”, THEY! are being made to suffer (further) for the “convenience” of these others.

Does it occur to you that “HBS’ers” (such as myself) are NOT the ones attempting to separate and berate “trans” people through the use of “mainstream”? does it occur to you that that is simply the only option left to refer to those that DON’T belong to the self-proclaimed/inflicted LGBT “community” how else do we refer to anyone outside of that?


Right wing asshat comes to mind.  Especially when you pour forth your homophobic bigotry and assorted right wing bullshit.

Rights are based on being born human.  That is why they are called rights and why the Constitution refers to them as inalienable.  Right wingers always want to make equality and basic rights into special privileges like denying gay and lesbian people the right to marry or people of color the right to vote.

The idea that others having the same rights as you have some how takes away from you is a mountainous pile of bullshit that treats rights, basic human rights as the exclusive property of the rich.

Most of those YOU would call “HBS’ers” do NOT think we are better or more deserving than anyone else, we do NOT wish poor treatment or oppression on ANYONE but we also believe we are NOT the same as everyone and need to be treated appropriately.

Am I the SAME as a forty year old “trans” person who fathered multiple children and now can’t “afford” SRS?
How about a 25 year old college student who happily uses their penis with women and can “deal” with having it without needing to shoot themselves?

If THEY are TS (IE the same as me to the “uninitiated”) what does that make ME in the eyes of those people in the world who aren’t “trans” and have no understanding of transsexuals (the “uninitiated”? what does that make ME to the men who might find out I how I was unfortunate enough to have been born?

If people don’t want “REAL” TS’s telling them they’re different to “us” then maybe they should quit shitting on OUR path by telling everyone we’re “the same” and using “us” and “OUR” story for their own gain, because (clearly) we’re NOT the same.

First of all you are a troll hiding behind an alias.

I have to weight that against the hundreds, perhaps even thousands of other transsexual and transgender people I’ve met over the years.People from every walk of life.  People who came out at a wide variety of points in life.

A dozen years ago I used to question how some one who came out in middle age or later could feel the same way I did.

I too was much more rigid in my thinking.

But the more I though about it the more I came to see that had a few details , crucial turning points in my life gone the other way I could have wound up transitioning in my 40s just as easily as I did in my early 20s.

There is an emotion, a soft squishy sentiment often attributed to women and liberals, called empathy.  The ability to put oneself in the shoes of others.  Secular humanists and many religious people consider empathy to be a treasure of great virtue.

One thing I have noticed is a common trait among HBSers, for that matter most right wing conservatives, is a total lack of empathy.

Instead I see nothing but jealousy, greed and tight lipped anger.  HBS assholes are cowardly bigots and bullies trolling blogs and spewing hatred to make up for something that is obviously missing in their lives.

Finding a Place to Go: The Transgender Bathroom Dilemma

From The Huffington Post:


Imagine that there are two bathrooms, one labeled “black people” and one labeled “white people.” For an Asian person or an Arab person (or any person who is not marked “Caucasian” or “African-American” by the U.S. Census Bureau), there are two layers of problems to be addressed in choosing a bathroom to use. The first issue is that there are only two identities represented, which, in a world with a vast array of racial diversity, is clearly an improvident method of social categorization. Secondly, the uncategorized individual needing to use the bathroom is forced to either not use a bathroom at all or find a way to identify themselves as either black or white enough to use one of the given options.

I recently used this anecdote to explain to an acquaintance the experience of being transgender in a binary-based society. Since starting my transition a year ago, and even before transitioning, I have woken up most mornings to the self-directed question, “Do I look masculine enough to pass today?” Regardless of the pressure from certain circles within the queer community to embrace a “genderqueer” identity and reject gender binaries for either personal or political motivations, my life just has not played out that way. I don’t identify with my female body; my gender expression follows the pattern of a pretty typical cisgender man. Unlike some of my genderqueer friends, I don’t thrive off my gender ambiguity or enjoy the experience of living outside the box, at least in terms of gender. The ambiguity of my appearance makes me uncomfortable, and my nonconforming gender expression gives me anxiety.

Delving deeper into bathroom segregation, genderqueer people and actively transitioning transsexuals can both identify with the “black and white” bathroom dilemma. To have “male”- and “female”-delegated bathrooms is to say that there are only men and women in this world. From a biological perspective, that just isn’t true. From a social perspective, sexual identity and gender expression blur the lines of “masculinity” and “femininity,” the two backbones that keep our delicate binary society in motion. Not unlike the growing understanding of racial “mixing” that has created literally hundreds of racial identities in the world, gender is also stepping outside the boundaries that traditional institutionalized societal structures feel so comfortable in. In the context of bathrooms, identifying outside traditional male or female expression will keep you from having a place at the table (or the toilet).

Because I identify within our constructed binary, my experience with bathroom selection leans less toward demanding genderless bathrooms and more toward finding a way to fit into the binary bathrooms that have defined my 21 years of life. In a public setting, when I know I will be forced into using a gendered bathroom, or not going to the bathroom at all, I go through a series of self-checks:

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Clinton: LGBT-inclusion ‘the smart thing’ for U.S. foreign policy

From The Washington Blade:

By Chris Johnson
on November 28, 2012

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivered on Wednesday what might be her last public address before an LGBT audience as chief diplomat for the United States when she told group of LGBT Foreign Service officers their service is integral to the country.

“Creating an LGBT-welcoming workplace is not just the right thing to do, it’s also the smart thing,” Clinton said. “And part of that is because the nature of diplomacy has changed and we should and need to keep up. Today, we expect our diplomats to build relationships not just with their counterparts in foreign governments, but from people from every continent and every walk of life, and, in order to do that, we need a diplomatic core that is as diverse as the world we work in.”

Additionally, Clinton said having an LGBT-inclusive State Department makes the Foreign Service corps “better advocates” for American values.

“When anyone is persecuted anywhere and that includes when LGBT people are persecuted, we’re kept from fully participating in their societies,” Clinton said. “They suffer, but so do we. We are diminished because our commitment to the human rights of all people has to be a continuing obligation and mission of everyone who serves in the government of the United States.”

Clinton delivered the remarks in Benjamin Franklin room at the State Department to observe the 20th anniversary of the department’s LGBT affinity group, Gays & Lesbians in Foreign Affairs Agencies, or GLIFAA.

She reminded the estimated 200 people in attendance that world in which GLIFAA was created was much different than today and the organization has worked over the course of 20 years to create a fairer workplace for LGBT Foreign Service officers.

“As we heard, in 1992, you could be fired for being gay,” Clinton said. “Just think about all of the exceptional public servant — the brilliant strategists, the linguists, the experts — fired for no reason other than their sexual orientation. Think of what we lost because we were unable of their hard work, expertise and experience.”

Clinton also gave recognition to Tom Gallagher, whom she said joined the State Department in 1965 and in the early 1970′s became the first openly gay Foreign Service officer. He was in the audience during Clinton’s speech and rose when the secretary mentioned him.

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The Walls Are Closing in on the Ex-Gay Industry

From Huffington Post:


In 1998, 15 religious right organizations launched a huge advertising campaign to promote “pray away the gay” programs. Anti-gay activist Robert Knight called the “Truth in Love” campaign the “Normandy Landing in the larger cultural wars.”

Things didn’t quite work out as Knight had hoped. In 2000, I photographed their poster boy, John Paulk, in a Washington, DC gay bar. In 2003, I joined attorney Mike Hamar in reporting that the star of their television campaign, Michael Johnston, was hooking up with men he was meeting on the Internet.

The already shredded credibility of such groups markedly deteriorated this year after Exodus International’s leader, Alan Chambers, said that his “ex-gay” ministry did not work for 99.9 percent of clients. This followed a similar admission from Love In Action ministry leader John Smid. The icing on the cake occurred this spring when Dr. Robert Spitzer renounced his infamous 2001 “ex-gay” study claiming that some gay people could go straight.

The cherry on top of the icing came last month when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill prohibiting reparative therapy for minors in California, which greatly damaged an industry where more than half of the clients are youth.

This week, the rest of the chickens came home to roost and the roles from 1998 were reversed, with the LGBT community and its allies storming the beaches of the “ex-gay” shoreline.

On Monday, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) filed a lawsuit on behalf of the victims of reparative therapy. Representing four clients, and two of their mothers, SPLC slammed Jews Offering New Alternatives for Healing (JONAH), its director Arthur Abba Goldberg, and life coach Alan Downing, with an historic complaint alleging consumer fraud.

SPLC’s lawsuit is based on JONAH and Downing’s “misguided and erroneous belief that that being gay is a mental disorder — a position rejected by the American Psychiatric Association four decades ago.” The lawsuit says that some Plaintiffs were instructed to “remove all clothing during both individual and group therapy sessions including an instruction to Chaim Levin to hold his penis in front of Defendant Downing.

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Calif. Congresswoman to introduce resolution targeting reparative therapy

From LGBTQ Nation:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) has announced that she will introduce a House resolution on Wednesday, Nov. 28, asking the U.S. House of Representatives to encourage states to take steps to prevent minors from being harmed by controversial and discredited gay-to-straight conversion therapy.

Jenny Werwa, Speier’s Communications Director, told LGBTQ Nation on Tuesday that the Congresswoman’s efforts stem from the recent, “well publicized tragic examples of the harmful psychological abuse inflicted on young Americans by these dangerous sexual orientation conversion practices,” also known as reparative therapy, which aims to convert or “repair” an individual’s sexual orientation.

Werwa said that Speier’s office has been working closely in recent months with Christine Sun, Legal Director for the Southern Poverty Law Center, and Wayne Besen, Executive Director of Truth Wins Out, a Vermont-based watch group that has tracked “Ex-Gay” organizations and therapists who practice reparative therapy.

Speier’s legislative effort, a House resolution entitled “Stop Harming Our Kids” (SHOK), was inspired by California’s recent passage of legislation authored by State Sen. Ted Lieu, which prohibits reparative therapy for minors. The historic bill was signed into law on Sept. 29 by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Speier has also been investigating whether taxpayer funded programs such as Medicaid or TRICARE healthcare programs have been used to reimburse therapists who practice conversion therapy.

Speier will discuss the resolution and her efforts at a press conference on Wednesday, and is expected to be joined by advocacy leaders and survivors of sexual orientation change practices. Sheldon Bruck, a plaintiff in a new lawsuit against a New Jersey organization for offering fraudulent conversion therapy services, will share his story.

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See also:  Huffington Post:  Jackie Speier Introduces ‘Stop Harming Our Kids’ Resolution, Hits ‘Ex-Gay’ Conversion ‘Quackery

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Mark Ruffalo reads Eugene Debs

Today  I received a couple of books I ordered from Amazon:

Oliver Stone’s The Untold History of the United States

Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of American Empire

I had started reading from Howard’s book  Voices of a People’s History of the United States

Earlier this evening I read about Eugene V. Debs.

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Study: CA decriminalization caused youth pot arrests to plunge 61 percent in one year

From Raw Story:

By Stephen C. Webster
Thursday, November 29, 2012

Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) might have left his state’s fiscal house in utter disarray, but a study released Thursday finds that he also did California’s young people a huge favor by signing a bill decriminalizing marijuana.

In its October 2012 research brief (PDF), The Center on Juvenile & Criminal Justice (CJCJ) found that the governor’s agreement with the 2010 measure is directly linked to a 47 percent drop in adolescents ages 10-17 arrested on drug related offenses versus 2010′s statistics.

Overall, the study found that the decline in youth crime in California largely mirrors the overall decline in crime across the state since the 1950s. Even so, CJCJ research fellow Mike Males pointed specifically to marijuana decriminalization as leading to a 61 percent drop in small marijuana possession arrests from 2010 to 2011.

Interestingly, all other categories in the state’s Department of Finance crime reporting statistics saw significant declines from 2010-2011 as well. Arrests of young people for violent crime dropped 16 percent over 2010, and murder was down 26 percent. Property crimes were also down 16 percent, and rapes were down by 10 percent.

All together, California’s youth crime rate plunged an astonishing 20 percent in one year, the study concludes. Compared to the 1970s, as President Richard Nixon’s (R) drug war was getting underway in earnest, youth crime in California is down a whopping 68 percent — and Males even wrote that may be lowballing the estimate.

“Many youth offenses may have been hidden in the past, due to historic data collection limitations,” the study explains. “An average of 90,000 arrests per year in the 1950s, were reported as ‘delinquent tendencies,’ a broad category that included various violent, property, drug, and status offenses.”

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Savita’s Case Reveals Narrowness of “Catholic” Law in an Increasingly Borderless World

From RH Reality Check:

by Michelle Chen, Special to RH Reality Check
November 27, 2012

When the young woman lay in agony in the hospital late last month, there should have been nothing standing between her and an emergency medical intervention. But instead, what stood between Savita Halappanavar, a 31 year-old, Indian-born dentist, and the Irish doctor treating her, was a dangerously wide grey area that has long hovered over Ireland’s constitution. As she suffered through complications stemming from a miscarriage, she begged for an abortion. It was denied, reportedly because the fetal heartbeat was still present. Her husband later recalled that Savita was told by a medical consultant that an abortion would be impossible because Ireland “is a Catholic Country.”

That exchange, seared in her aggrieved family’s mind, lay bare the medieval nature of one of the Western hemisphere’s harshest abortion bans. Savita, a Hindu born in India, argued that she was “neither Irish nor Catholic.” None of that mattered, because Ireland’s anti-abortion law, as it was interpreted by her medical provider, trumped questions of both bodily sovereignty and cultural difference.

Savita’s case was one of countless pregnancies across Ireland in which a woman’s fate may come down to a subjective medical assessment colored by “conscience.” To qualify under Ireland’s near-total abortion ban, Savita’s life was apparently deemed not sufficiently endangered—until the two heartbeats ended after days of crippling pain, leaving both the fetus and the mother dead, the latter of sep­ticaemia.

Savita’s death has set off a wave of protests—not just among pro-choice activists in Ireland but also Ireland’s Indian immigrant community and in her home country. Two official investigations into the medical decisions leading up to Savita’s death are pending. Even the Indian government has gotten involved, with a meeting between the Indian ambassador to Ireland and the Irish foreign minister.

Yet Savita’s tragedy isn’t about her Indian identity per se; it points to the barriers facing all women in Ireland. The unwritten religious subtext of the policy—“cruelty disguised as piety,” in the words of one columnist—effectively places the bodies of both Catholic and non-Catholic women, citizens and migrants alike, under a sweeping, vague rule at odds with rights enshrined in international law.

The main legal guidance for the abortion ban is the case of X, involving a 14 year-old rape victim who was blocked from traveling to England for an abortion. The court set the medical threshold for abortion as “real and substantial risk to the life, as distinct from the health, of the mother.” The lack of concrete legislation on the standard has left the the one narrow avenue for legal abortion mostly in the hands of doctors. For a woman ineligible for a medically necessary abortion, virtually the only safe option is to travel to the United Kingdom or another country to terminate her pregnancy.

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This Goes Out to All the Ladies

From The American Prospect:

Having won re-election on the backs of women voters, Obama should thank them by reversing last year’s disastrous decision on Plan B.

Amanda Marcotte
November 29, 2012

This past election, President Barack Obama made blatant appeals to female voters to great success. Fifty-five percent of women and a jaw-dropping 68 percent of single women voted for the president this round. Feminist and reproductive-rights groups especially campaigned hard, not just to reward him for some significant wins for women in office but because they widely believed that he could do even more in a second term, especially with 18 congressional seats swapping from anti- or mixed-choice to pro-choice.

In other words, feminist-leaning women helped usher in Obama’s victory, and now they’re wondering how he intends to show his gratitude.

Even though most of 2012 was a lovefest between feminists and the Obama administration, the administration came under plenty of fire from activists who felt he was often too quick to compromise. Some feminist organizations, like the National Organization for Women, denounced the president for signing an executive order barring insurance plans on health-care exchanges from covering abortion, even though a handful of anti-abortion Democrats were determined to destroy health-care reform if they didn’t get this concession.

More troubling was that, in late 2011, the administration took away a victory that feminists thought was in the bag. For years, anti-choicers from the Bush administration had killed applications to make Plan B, an emergency contraceptive, available to all customers over the counter, even though the makers had repeatedly demonstrated that their product met all the safety standards required. The debate centered around giving access to minors. Bush-appointed FDA officials voiced concerns that Plan B on shelves would encourage teenage girls to have sex, and even, in the words of one official, that the drug would “lead adolescents to form sex-based cults around the use of Plan B.”

In 2011, the scientific arguments in favor won out, and the Food and Drug Administration prepared to grant Plan B over-the-counter status. But in a historically unprecedented move, Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius overruled the FDA, requiring Plan B to stay behind pharmacy counters, where only those 17 and older can buy it without a prescription if they show identification.

Despite Obama’s comments defending the decision, in which he claimed “common sense” holds that Plan B shouldn’t be sold “alongside bubble gum or batteries,” the move was widely perceived as shameless political pandering. Prior to this, the president had defended the reproductive rights of minors, opposing parental-notification laws for abortion and arguing for comprehensive sex education. By stating that girls should not be “punished with a baby” for having sex, he showed he was not just pro-choice but understood the right-wing obsession with sin and punishment, which is what drives conservative opposition to expanded reproductive health-care access.

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180 Seconds of Coal Ash Problems

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Somewhere Under the Rainbow

From In These Times:

When will the Left move on from movement-building?

BY Carl Davidson
November 27, 2012

A rainbow coalition of Democratic voters gave Barack Obama a victory over big Wall Street money and the steady drumbeat of hard-right racism. Nearly 45 percent of the president’s voters were people of color, with their numbers augmented by white women, youth and trade unionists. It was enough to keep him in the White House, but not enough to decisively change the overall balance of forces.

Now the harder struggles begin—for Obama, for the Democratic Party and for the Left. Tough choices face all three.

Obama has to decide how he wants to govern in his second term. Does he want to be remembered as a center-right conciliator of neoliberal austerity and militarism who discounted key components of his rainbow? Or does he want to forge a deeper center-left majority coalition that can make wise use of government to create jobs, spur growth, promote equity and find solutions to global problems short of war? Since he has always been a liberal speaking mainly to the center, he can go either way.

The Democrats have a longer-term choice. Do they want to be the Blue Dog party of neoliberalism elite, best summed up by a Rahm Emanuel policy of “unite the center,” move to the Right and dismiss the Left? Or do they want to revisit their Keynesian roots with a Green New Deal that builds an educational and manufacturing infrastructure for the 21st century? The first course means the country continues its steady reactionary drift, rewarding a privileged few. The second means a progressive turn that can reward the rest of us.

The Left faces a choice, too. Do we continue trying to build mass movements, in the hope that they will be the engines of a new and transformative strategic politics? Or do we go further than our usual “movement building” mantra and put new emphasis on organization building? We’ve seen the Wisconsin and Ohio uprisings, Occupy Wall Street, and the pressing of the Robin Hood tax by the Congressional Progressive Caucus—all of which are the beginnings of an emerging popular front against finance capital, one pregnant with new potential. But without organization, movements simply ebb and flow—and often dissipate. Our task now is to combine fanning the flames with a new organizing thrust.

We have to evolve political groups with electoral capacities than can win elections locally. We must expand the ranks of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, turning it into our left- progressive pole inside the Beltway.

We have to encourage more social justice trade unions, like the Chicago Teachers Union. We have to grow our grassroots coalitions, like the Virginia New Majority, and to launch solidarity economy projects, like Cleveland’s Evergreen Cooperatives. We have to promote a new culture of educating with reason, promoting science over ideology, and defending the core democratic values of the Enlightenment. We must speak truth to power while we fashion the instruments to take power. In brief, we require a united, determined core of Left political organizers with a wider and deeper vision for economic democracy and a socialism worthy of the 21st century.

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It’s the New Economy, Stupid

From The Nation:

John Cavanagh and Robin Broad
November 28, 2012

Most progressives have long embraced a clear alternative to the conservative story that prosperity flows best from a “free market” unfettered by government regulation and taxes. The standard progressive response: government incentives and spending are essential to spur the creation of jobs, and unions and regulations can make them “good jobs.”

President Obama’s re-election by a surprisingly healthy margin (he won by 3.5 million in the popular vote and by 126 in the Electoral College) confirmed substantial support for this overall approach to the economy. Despite deep economic suffering throughout Obama’s first term, the public validated his advocacy for more progressive taxes, his ideas about the positive role that government must play in regulation, and his call for public investment in training, education and research. All of this adds up to a significant defeat for the free-market ideologues who lined up behind Mitt Romney.

But here’s the catch: while Obama’s policies have the short-term potential to improve the lives of many Americans beleaguered by the economic slump, the approach he champions is insufficient to tackle the long-term problems we face. To secure a safe and prosperous future for subsequent generations, efforts to reduce unemployment and curb inequality must be considered alongside urgent threats to the environment and democracy. These crises present a compelling argument for systemic change.

Just a week before an election in which both candidates largely ignored the environment, Hurricane Sandy devastated the East Coast and put climate change at center stage. Who would have imagined Bloomberg Businessweek with a cover trumpeting “It’s Global Warming, Stupid,” as the magazine did just days after the storm? Climate chaos is at the core of our environmental crisis, but the problem also includes dwindling supplies of potable water, the destruction of forests and oceans, and the depletion of the planet’s biodiversity. Simply put, jobs that threaten the environment cannot be considered good jobs.

The assault on democracy by growing corporate control of our workplaces, our politics and our economy presents another deepening crisis. Roughly $6 billion was spent to influence and distort the political process in the 2012 elections, with a huge portion of this staggering sum coming from Wall Street and the wealthy. This dire situation demands that we put a premium on alternative forms of collective ownership and a shift from giant corporations and banks to smaller enterprises rooted in communities.

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Fast Food Workers Launch Strikes Across New York City

From Alternet:

On the heels of Black Friday WalMart walkouts, hundreds of fast food restaurant workers are planning to strike in high-traffic commercial centers.

By Laura Gottesdiener
November 29, 2012

From the Chicago teachers’ strike to WalMart walkouts to protests at fast food restaurants across New York City, 2012 is shaping up to be the year that labor fought back.

Thursday, coming less than one week after the Black Friday WalMart walkouts, hundreds of fast food restaurant workers are striking in high-traffic commercial centers in Manhattan and Brooklyn. The strikes, which began at 6 am this morning and will continue throughout the day, will hit some of the world’s biggest fast food chains, including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Dominos, Burger King, Kentucky Friend Chicken and Taco Bell, and carry an industry-shaking demand: the right to unionize and wage increases to $15 an hour.
Fast food workers in New York City earn  just below $9.00 an hour  on average, and rarely receive health care, paid sick days or other benefits that make it possible to live in an expensive urban center like New York City. These workers are also often given only 20 or 30 hours of work a week, which keeps their annual income far below the poverty line. According to organizers on the campaign, many workers have to resort to collecting public assistance, eating at their restaurants to save money and sometimes even living in homeless shelters–necessities that not only make their lives incredibly challenging but also put intense strain on the city’s social safety net.
The top companies, meanwhile, have been netting considerable profits; according to The Atlantic’s Sarah Jaffe , Taco Bell and KFC’s profits have risen nearly 50 percent over the last four years, and McDonald’s have jumped a staggering 130 percent. Most troubling, these types of low-wage, low-protection jobs are the majority of positions being created as the economy slowly recovers from the 2008 recession. According to a report by the National Employment Law Project, nearly 60 percent of the jobs added since the recession have been these types of low-wage jobs, particularly in retail sales and food preparation.
Given the intense economic inequality of this rapidly growing industry, the sector is ripe for worker organizing. However, the high turnover rate in the industry and the challenge of battling some of the world’s most massive corporations has thus far deterred any group from launching an ambitious and comprehensive campaign.
Beginning in January of this year, New York Communities for Change, in partnership with UnitedNY, the Black Institute the Service Employees International Union, and faith groups across the city, set out to change that legacy, deploying more than three dozen full-time organizers into the city’s fast food sector.
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Wikileaks founder has new book on internet freedom

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BP to Shareholders: We’re Already Working With EPA to Lift Federal Contract Ban

From Truth Out:

By Jason Leopold
Thursday, 29 November 2012

Despite a long history of  “egregious violations,” the behemoth oil company’s temporary suspension from obtaining lucrative government contracts may turn out to be much shorter than expected. 

 “BP is a serious serial corporate environmental criminal and a corporate serial killer…. [The company] always settles its cases with the government and promises to change its culture, but it continues to do the same thing over and over again.”
— Jeanne Pascal, former EPA debarment counsel  

On Wednesday, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a surprise announcement stating that, effective immediately, the oil behemoth and more than a dozen of its subsidiary companies will be “ineligible”  to “receive any federal contract or approved subcontract” as a result of BP’s agreement to plead guilty two weeks ago to a wide range of crimes directly related to the deadly April 2010 disaster in the Gulf.

“EPA is taking this action due to BP’s lack of business integrity as demonstrated by the company’s conduct with regard to the Deepwater Horizon blowout, explosion, oil spill and response as reflected by the filing [by the Justice Department] of a criminal information,” the EPA said in its statement.

The notice of suspension, sent to BP PLC chief executive Robert Dudley, states that on November 23 the EPA’s suspension and debarment division recommended that BP immediately be suspended from government contract work. The notice of suspension typically is preceded by a complaint document that lays out all of the reasons suspension and debarment is sought. The EPA did not provide Truthout with a copy of the complaint.

In a news release BP issued after it settled criminal charges related to the Gulf disaster, BP said the company “has not been advised of the intention of any federal agency to suspend or debar the company in connection with this plea agreement.”

The EPA’s announcement, which does not apply to BP’s existing federal contracts, was made the same day the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management opened up for sale to oil companies more than 20 million acres in the Western Gulf of Mexico for oil and natural gas exploration and development. Also, on Wednesday, two BP supervisors who were aboard the Deepwater Horizon when it exploded were arraigned on manslaughter charges, and a former BP vice president was arraigned on false statements and obstruction of Congress. All three pleaded not guilty.

A BP spokeswoman said the company already had decided before the decision by the EPA to sit out Wednesday’s lease sale. But the EPA’s suspension would also have covered new drilling leases and so the timing of the agency’s announcement does not appear to be coincidental. BP was the high bidder in June for 43 leases to drill in the Central Gulf of Mexico, not far from the site of where the Macondo well ruptured and spewed millions of barrels of oil into the waters. BP is the largest deepwater leaseholder in the Gulf.

But after the EPA announced BP’s suspension, BP quickly issued a statement, downplaying the EPA’s action and attempting to reassure its shareholders,  saying that the corporation “has been in regular dialogue with the EPA” and is already negotiating with federal regulators to lift the ban.

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Climate change is happening now – a carbon price must follow

From The Guardian UK:

The extreme weather events of 2012 are what we have been warning of for 25 years, but the answer is plain to see, Thursday 29 November 2012

Will our short attention span be the end of us? Just a month after the second “storm of a century” in two years, the media moves on to the latest scandal with barely a retrospective glance at the implications of the extreme climate anomalies we have seen.

Hurricane Sandy was not just a storm. It was a stark illustration of the power that climate change can deliver – today – to our doorsteps.

Ask the homeowners along the New Jersey and New York shores still homeless. Ask the local governments struggling weeks later to turn on power to their cold, darkened towns and cities. Ask the entire north-east coast, reeling from a catastrophe whose cost is estimated at $50bn and rising. (I am not brave enough to ask those who’ve lost husbands or wives, children or grandparents).

I bring up these facts sadly, as one who has urged us to heed the scientific evidence on climate change for the past 25 years. The science is clear: climate change is here, now.

Superstorm Sandy is not the first storm, and certainly won’t be the last. Still, it is hard for us as individual human beings to connect the dots. That’s where observation, data and scientific analysis help us see.

No credible scientist disputes that we have warmed our climate by almost 1.5C over land areas in the past century, most of that in the past 30 years.

As my colleagues and I demonstrated in a peer-reviewed study published this summer, climate extremes are already occurring much more frequently in the world we have warmed through our reliance on fossil fuels.

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“Mainstream” and “Traditional”: Meaningless Code words Used to Attack TS/TG People along with Women and Gay/Lesbian People

What the fuck is “Mainstream Society”?


HBS assholes throw this one around and use it as a club to beat on other TS/TG people, but just what is “mainstream society”?

I’m Polish-American, second generation.  On my father’s side, my grandmother barely spoke English and was illiterate.

In the small Towns of upstate New York the children and grand children of Eastern and Southern European ancestry were consider not quite white. Just as the Irish immigrants and their children a century before them.

Antisemitism was still a factor.

What does this have to do with the concept of “mainstream”?

At a time when WASPs were the standard for “mainstream” all those groups were defined as “outside the mainstream”.

Who was “Mainstream” in those post-World War II days?

Well there was an emerging middle class and there were families on TV like Father Know Best and Leave It To Beaver.  The only problem with those families is they were fictional.

Disney became one of the worst generators of this garbage.

“Mainstream” was sort of an advertising slogan, a propaganda buzz word that demanded a sort of Orwellian level of conformity and obedience to artificial standards most blue collar people could never meet.

The censuring of non-conformity or worse yet holding that level of conformity in disdain was persecution. The persecution could range from teasing and ridiculing to black listing and subjecting certain minority groups to  random police abuse and capricious arrests.

While the 1950s were generally prosperous and did have pockets of freedom like Greenwich Village, Berkeley and North Beach it pretty much sucked to be obviously different.

It especially sucked for transsexual and transgender people.

Medical assistance in the US was virtually non-existent outside of those aforementioned places.

But it also sucked to be a woman who dreamed of having a career or enjoying any sort of self fulfillment.Those wonderful days of yore with supposedly traditional mainstream families excluded well over half the people in this country.

See Stephanie Coontz:  The Way We Never Were: American Families And The Nostalgia Trap

The idea that straight, upper class White Anglo Saxon Protestants are the “mainstream” is the wet dream of right wing conservative thinking as it manages to exclude all those people of color, working class whites, immigrants and let’s not forget the Jews.

America has never been a melting pot, where all immigrants become part of a white bread homogenized  Pat Boone version of culture.  It has always been more of a stew where every immigrant and minority group that is part of America has added their own unique element.

While cultural purists decry the ripping off of other people’s culture most Americans including creative people just keep on trucking stealing an influence here, putting it together with something from some where else. Culture gets intermarried the same way people do and along the line there has been a synthesis that has formed American culture.

When people expound on tradition, I am forced to ask: Whose tradition?

You see the majority of American people do not belong to that minority culture that touts itself as “mainstream.”

“Mainstream” is a fiction an advertising wet dream, a psy-op aimed at the soft underbelly of our collective insecurities, our fear of not belonging unless we buy this particular product.

More over it is one of those words that is used as a weapon of choice by all sorts of bigots.

Recently one of my readers pointed me to a blog titled “Purple Speaks.”  This reader was justifiably horrified at the hatred and bigotry poured forth by the HBS “True Transsexual” who runs it.

Like so many transphobic trans-blogs this one reeks of contempt and hatred for any transsexual who doesn’t share this person’s hatred and bigotry of transsexual and transgender people.

Since only one person out of 100 to 200 people who had SRS is considered a real transsexual and since one has to be a right wing bigot and Taliban Christian fembot to be a true transsexual, I guess I’m one of the 99% who “aren’t real transsexuals.”

Funny thing is Dr. Benjamin told me I was one of the purest cases of transsexualism he had met.

I whizzed right through all the screening in spite of being a hippie, bisexual feminist.

It was like fitting in with my peers, the young hippie activists of Berkeley impressed them  a whole lot.  I was also working as a counselor, helping my sisters find their way through the various programs that helped people transition.

What I’ve found odd about many of the HBS assholes is how many live really marginal lives while I live in suburbia, where I’m a member of the local community center/health and fitness center. My partner and I are a pair of slightly bohemian Democratic Party stalwarts who voted for Obama.

In spite of the attempts of HBSers to paint us as “radical leftists” our politics are pretty “mainstream” after all our candidate won the election by a landslide.

Turns out some 20-25% of people in this country are atheists or agnostics like us.  That’s about the same as the number of born again Xians.

We are among the 65 or so percent of people who want the Republicans to keep their filthy hands off Social Security and Medicare.

We don’t believe in ghosts, angels or UFOs.  We do believe in evolution, which puts among the Brights.

My partner and I are post-transsexual, many years past all the struggles of transition.  But we aren’t self hating heartless assholes who want to make life harder for those who are still in or even facing transition in the future.  For that matter we support equality and protections for all transsexual and transgender people just as we support those rights for all sorts of other minority groups.

We may think a lot of transgender ideology is stupid but we also think a lot of transsexual ideology is equally stupid.

That’s what being a secular humanist is all about, respect for the rights of others, the same respect one expects for oneself.

I’m not going to concern troll and say I feel sorry for HBS assholes, because I don’t.

The hatred they project towards others is reflective of a self hatred they feel.

How can one believe one is the only pure one out of one or two hundred other people who got the same operation you got? Doesn’t it seem odd that all but one percent of people getting this surgery deceived their doctors or aren’t really transsexual?

But the HBS assholes are blessed with an utter lack of self examination.  They are so consumed with hatred that it never ever dawns on them that maybe they are the ones who aren’t really transsexual but rather deceived themselves into believing they were.

I mean the 99% of the post-transsexual communities are made up of some really amazing people who have overcome so much and who have accomplished far more along the way than most of the HBS assholes seem to have accomplished. Most of us tend to support equality for all the people of the the queer alphabet soup.  And even for straight post-transsexuals too.

And they have often had to overcome a great deal of adversity to do so.

That by itself should demonstrate their having a better grasp on reality than the bigots and haters.

In the meantime I think I’d rather be part of the 99% of transsexuals who have more productive things to do with their lives than stew in a kettle of hatred and bigotry.

Dashad ‘Sage’ Smith Missing: Virginia Police Searching For Transgender Teen

From Huffington Post:


Police in Virginia are searching for a transgender teen who has been missing for more than a week.

Dashad Smith, 19, also known as Sage, Sagey and Unique, was last seen Nov. 20, in the 500 block of West Main Street in Charlottesville. Smith was last seen wearing a black jacket, dark-gray sweatpants, a black scarf and gray boots, police said.

Smith was supposed to meeting a man for a date on the evening she disappeared, her father, Dean Smith, told The Huffington Post.

“I had talked to my son on Nov. 20. I talked to him about 5:00 or 5:30 p.m.,” Dean Smith said. “After that he did not answer his phone. His roommate said he was going to meet a guy … I guess they were going on date or whatever. That’s all they have right now. It looks like it’s an abduction.”

Dashad Smith, who dresses as both a man and a woman, has not contacted her family since she disappeared. She also missed a planned Thanksgiving dinner with her mother, Latasha Grooms.

“He was supposed to come with me, and when I called him the day before Thanksgiving, there was no answer,” Grooms told HuffPost. “I kept calling and texting and found out from his roommate that he had not been seen since the previous day.”

Grooms added, “He had been excited to come to my new house. He had bragged to his grandmother, father and friends. He could not wait to spend time with me because I have some health issues. He had also not seen his sister for a little while, so he could not wait to come spend Thanksgiving with us.”

Charlottesville Police Lt. Ronnie Roberts said his agency has been investigating Dashad Smith’s disappearance since Nov. 22, the day she was reported missing.

“Our detectives have been working daily on the case trying to locate Mr. Smith and assist the family,” Roberts told HuffPost.

Roberts declined to discuss whether police have questioned the man whom Smith was supposed to meet the day she went missing.

“The detectives have done some interviews, but as to the content of those interviews, it would not be appropriate” to discuss them, he said.

Roberts also said detectives have found no evidence of foul play, which limits the tools at their disposal.

“It’s not a criminal case. We have nothing at this point in time that indicates it being a criminal case, which makes it difficult to get warrants and things of that sort, because you have to have a criminal case to go in that direction. There’s no evidence that points us in that direction right now,” he said.

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Dean Smith claims that police are keeping him in the dark about the investigation.

“When the case first started, me and the detective got off on the wrong foot,” Smith explained. “I had said some things but that was out of fear, fear of the unknown. So he does not reach out to me like he does the mother.”

According to Grooms, it is out of character for Dashad Smith to be out of contact with her family. She has been struggling to find her place, she said.

“He was in the process of deciding what he wanted to do. He was in the stage where he was still trying to find himself,” Grooms said. “How he chooses to dress — a lot of people don’t care to hire people that dress like he did, so he struggled with getting and keeping jobs.”

Grooms said her family refers to Dashad Smith as a “he” but said her child identifies with both genders.

“His gay community says ‘she’ but his family still says ‘he.’ It does not bother him,” she said.

Roberts said detectives are hoping to hear from members of the public who have seen or had any recent communication with Smith.

“Hopefully we can locate him and reunite him with his family. That’s what we’d like to do,” he said.

Grooms is also trying to stay positive.

“It’s really hard, but I’m trying my best,” she said. “It’s the only way I get up every morning.”

Smith is 5 feet 8 inches tall, 130 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes. She has a piercing in her left eyebrow.

The Black And Missing But Not Forgotten organization has been helping raise awareness about Smith’s disappearance. A Facebook page has also been created to help raise awareness.

Anyone who has seen or heard from Smith is asked to call the Charlottesville Police Department at 434-977-9041 or Crimestoppers at 434-977-4000.

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