Transgender People: A new election day boogeyman for social conservatives?

From The LA Times:,0,2387747.story

By Jon Healey
November 1, 2012

At the risk of sounding like a troll, have social conservatives replaced “homosexual teachers” with “transgendered teachers” as their scare tactic of choice?

I have to concede right up front that I haven’t been paying close attention to the news releases that the Traditional Values Coalition sends out. Nevertheless, the one the group released Wednesday struck me as a new wrinkle on a familiar theme.

Traditional Values Coalition is running awareness campaigns in 7 states to inform voters which candidates for U.S. Senate support putting transgender teachers in the classroom,” the release declares (emphasis in the original).  “The Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) is radical legislation that hurts kids and forces schools to hire or retain transgendered teachers in every school district in America.”

Actually, it doesn’t. It bars schools from refusing to hire someone based on their “sexual orientation or gender identity,” or from firing people on that basis. But it doesn’t tell schools that they have to recruit transgendered teachers, shield them from layoffs or firings based on other factors, or even waive dress codes or grooming standards for them. Nor does it apply to religious schools.

But my point here isn’t to debate the merits of ENDA. It’s simply to note that in raising the issue against seven Democratic Senate candidates who’ve supposedly “committed to ENDA’s passage” (only three of whom are actual co-sponsors), the Traditional Values Coalition focuses exclusively on the threat of children being taught by “cross-dressers” and “those who have surgically operated on their bodies to alter their gender.”

ENDA applies to plain ol’ gays and lesbians too. Is the coalition saying they’re just not scary anymore?

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IRS asked to investigate Catholic bishops’ political meddling

From Gay Star News:

A group that says the US Catholic Conference of Bishops has crossed the line in telling people how they should vote has filed a complaint with the IRS saying the church has violated its tax exempt status
04 November 2012

The US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been asked to investigate the country’s Conference of Catholic Bishops over their involvement in political campaigning.

The Conference of Catholic Bishops has a IRC 501(c)(3) tax exempt status. However groups with that tax exempt status are banned from participating in political campaigns or endorsing or opposing political candidates.

Bishops from the Conference have repeatedly weighed in on issues such as same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception, resulting in the group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) lodging a complaint with the IRS.

The group cites the actions of numerous bishops from the Conference in the lead up to the US Presidential Election which they believe breach the organization’s tax exempt status.

These include Illinos bishop Daniel Jenky who instructed every priest in his diocese to read a letter out at every Weekend Mass this weekend attacking US President Barack Obama and the Democratic majority in the US Senate.

Jenky, who has previously likened Obama to Stalin and Hitler, instructed priests to tell Catholics that their religious freedoms were under threat, comparing Catholics who supported pro-choice candidates to Pontius Pilate.

‘This assault upon our religious freedom is simply without precedent in the American political and legal system,’ Jenky wrote.

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See also:  Raw Story:  U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops faces IRS complaint over partisan advocacy

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Where’s the Outrage? National Organization for Marriage Out to Destroy Lives

From Huffington Post:


The LGBT community and everyone who cares about fairness and equality face four crucial votes next Tuesday in Maryland, Maine, Minnesota and Washington State. All four elections are the doing of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM).

NOM has an unlimited amount of money at its disposal and is hell-bent on hurting millions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans every conceivable way possible, especially at the ballot box.

In 2009 the Maine State Legislature passed and the Governor signed a historic bill allowing marriage equality in the Pine Tree State. On the first day possible NOM hired professional signature gatherers to qualify a referendum to repeal it. NOM was successful.

This year as soon as Washington and Maryland passed marriage equality, NOM hired professional signature gatherers in both states to place referenda on their November ballots to repeal those newly passed laws.

In Minnesota NOM lobbied heavily and got the State Legislature to place a Constitutional Amendment on its November 6th ballot to enshrine discrimination into that state’s Constitution banning gay marriage there.

The fourth state voting next week on the freedom to marry is Maine once again. This time the LGBT community placed Question 1 on the ballot to overturn NOM’s last vote and finally allow gay marriage to be the law just as it should have been three years ago.
NOM Costs Us Dearly

So NOM has cost the LGBT community and our friends at least $30 million and counting in these four states this year alone. NOM heads Maggie Gallagher and Brian Brown are determined to fight equality every step of the way no matter what the cost or the consequences. Once again they appear to be getting off scot free in their never ending attempt to demonize and harm the LGBT community whose only desire is to have the same marriage rights as their brothers and sisters, friends and relatives and to be able to marry the person they love.

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Three US states poised to legalise cannabis and defy ‘war on drugs’

From The Guardian UK:

Washington, Oregon and Colorado set to allow recreational use

The Observer, Saturday 3 November 2012

Three US states are set to legalise recreational cannabis use this week in votes that could have major implications for the country’s war on drugs.

Alongside their choice for president, residents of Washington, Oregon and Colorado – a swing state – will be asked on Tuesday whether they want to decriminalise cannabis.

If the measures are passed, adults over 21 would be able to possess, distribute and use small amounts. Cannabis for authorised medical use is already permitted and regulated by each state, even though it is against federal law.

Support is particularly strong in Washington and Colorado, but a “yes” vote in any of the states would be interpreted by the Department of Justice as an act of defiance against the federal government’s war on drugs – the national law enforcement programme that spends $44bn a year struggling to stem the tide of illegal drugs in the US.

In June 2011, however, the Global Commission on Drug Policy declared that the war on drugs had failed.

In a swing state such as Colorado, putting the liberal measure on the ballot could even help to keep the battleground state – narrowly won for Barack Obama in 2008 – on the president’s side. Obama has taken a soft line on medical cannabis use.

If recreational use is approved, a new drug industry would inevitably boom and the states expect a tax bonanza from the income generated. Colorado plans to spend the first $40m a year on schools, although the state’s largest teachers’ union is firmly against legalisation. A yes vote would allow the possession and private use of up to an ounce of cannabis, but it would not be legal to smoke a joint in the street. “But that’s already what people do here anyway, so it won’t make any difference. Anyone who’s been to a concert in this state will know no one’s arrested for pot,” said Laura Chapin, who runs the “no” campaign in Colorado. Denver and the ski town of Breckenridge decriminalised cannabis for private recreational use in 2005 and 2009 respectively. Chapin, who is a Democrat, admitted she had not heard of any dramatic ill effects as a result, but said legalising it statewide was a different matter: “It effectively establishes Colorado as the cannabis capital of the United States. And it will increase access to the drug for our kids.”

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Maddow on Republicans burying tax report: ‘Don’t like the data? Get rid of the data’

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Saturday, November 3, 2012

On Friday night’s edition of “The Rachel Maddow Show,” host Rachel Maddow discussed the Republicans on Capitol Hill’s attempt to bury a report by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) that thoroughly debunked one of the Republican Party’s most sacred tenets, that tax cuts for the wealthy create jobs and are good for the economy.

That belief, known as “trickle down economics” could be called the central pillar of Republican economic policy, and yet, the non-partisan CRS study’s results have been pulled from the organization’s website at Republicans’ behest.

Maddow began the clip by discussing former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)’s last campaign rally of the week, outside Cincinnati, Ohio, a “mega-rally” featuring “nearly 100 governors, senators, congressmen, mayors…and other GOP luminaries.”

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What the Bible Says About Rape

From Alternet:

Christians of many stripes are scrambling to distance themselves and their religion from Republican comments about rape. But a literal interpretation of the Bible is quite disturbing.

By Valerie Tarico
November 1, 2012

Christians of many stripes are scrambling to distance themselves, their religion, or their God from Republican  comments about rape . The latest furor is about Washington State congressional candidate John Koster, who opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest and  added for good measure  that “incest is so rare, I mean it’s so rare.”  Before that, it was Indiana candidate Richard Mourdock, who  said, “I think even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen” backed up by Texas senator John Cornyn insisting that “life is a gift from God.” These men share the  January sentiment  of Rick Santorum:  “the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.”

Those Christians who see the Bible as a human, historical document have the right to distance themselves. Those who see the Bible as the unique and perfect revelation of the Divine, essentially dictated by God to the writers, do not. The fact is, the perspective that God intends rape babies and that such pregnancies should be allowed to run their course is perfectly biblical.

I am not going to argue here that the Bible teaches that life begins at conception. It doesn’t. The Bible writers had no concept of conception, and no Bible writer values the life of a fetus on par with the life of an infant or an older child. One does say that God knows us while we are developing in the womb, but another says he knows us  even before . Levitical law prescribes a fine for a man who  accidentally triggers a miscarriage . It is not the same as the penalty for manslaughter. Therapeutic abortion is never mentioned, nor is the status of the fetus that spontaneously aborts. Under Jewish law, a newborn isn’t circumcised and blessed until he is eight days old, having clearly survived the high mortality peri-natal period. For centuries the Catholic Church believed that “ensoulment” occurred and a fetus became a person at the time of quickening or first movement, sometime during the second trimester.

However, if we take the viewpoint of biblical literalists and treat the Good Book as if it were authored by a single perfect, unchanging Deity, then a man is on solid ground thinking that rape babies are part of God’s intentions. Consider the following Bible teachings:

The Bible never teaches that women should have a choice about sex. 

The Bible makes a clear distinction between forcible stranger rape and other forms of non-consensual sex, condemning the former while  sanctioning the latter  in many, many circumstances. The fact that conservative Christians – or politicians who are pandering to a Conservative Christian base–keep fumbling with these distinctions is no accident. According to the commands of Yahweh, a man can give his daughters in marriage, keep concubines, have sex with his wife’s servants, or claim a desirable war captive as his own sexual property after a series of rituals to purify her. In no case, including in the New Testament, is the woman’s consent required for sexual contact.

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How Romney Would Treat Women

From The New York Times

Published: November 3, 2012

IN this year’s campaign furor over a supposed “war on women,” involving birth control and abortion, the assumption is that the audience worrying about these issues is just women.

Give us a little credit. We men aren’t mercenaries caring only for Y chromosomes. We have wives and daughters, mothers and sisters, and we have a pretty intimate stake in contraception as well.

This isn’t like a tampon commercial on television, leaving men awkwardly examining their fingernails. When it comes to women’s health, men as well as women need to pay attention. Just as civil rights wasn’t just a “black issue,” women’s rights and reproductive health shouldn’t be reduced to a “women’s issue.”

To me, actually, talk about a “war on women” in the United States seems a bit hyperbolic: in Congo or Darfur or Afghanistan, I’ve seen brutal wars on women, involving policies of rape or denial of girls’ education. But whatever we call it, something real is going on here at home that would mark a major setback for American women — and the men who love them.

On these issues, Mitt Romney is no moderate. On the contrary, he is considerably more extreme than President George W. Bush was. He insists, for example, on cutting off money for cancer screenings conducted by Planned Parenthood.

The most toxic issue is abortion, and what matters most for that is Supreme Court appointments. The oldest justice is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a 79-year-old liberal, and if she were replaced by a younger Antonin Scalia, the balance might shift on many issues, including abortion.

One result might be the overturning of Roe v. Wade, which for nearly four decades has guaranteed abortion rights. If it is overturned, abortion will be left to the states — and in Mississippi or Kansas, women might end up being arrested for obtaining abortions.

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Romney Pushed Boundaries of ‘Acceptable Racism’ to Extremes

From Alternet:

The Republican Party is treading back into the racism of Reconstruction.

By Adele M. Stan
November 2, 2012

A decade from now, if I’m asked to name the most memorable thing about the 2012 presidential campaign, it will probably be the sheer mendacity of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s rhetoric, lie piled upon lie.

But if asked what one thing about the 2012 campaign most impacted everyday American life, one answer stands out above all others: racism. The wink-wink racial coding Romney uses, combined with the unabashed racism of such surrogates as former Bush administration chief of staff John Sununu , adds up to quite a wash of race-baited waters over the campaign. Then add to that the steady stream of racist rhetoric that characterized the Republican presidential primary campaign, and the wash looks more like a stew set on simmer for the better part of a year.

Since the early months of 2011, our politics have been marinating in the language of racial hatred, whether in former U.S. senator Rick Santorum’s “ blah people ” moment, or former House speaker Newt Gingrich’s tarring of Barack Obama as “the food stamp president .”

Whether Obama wins or loses, new territory has been broken for the 21st century with the rhetoric of the Republican presidential campaign. Sure, it may seem like we’ve been here before, but the difference is that this time, it’s happening after we thought we had gotten past this level of racial hatred. But if Romney claims victory, having run on such a strategy, a new level of legitimacy will be conferred on the politics of race-baiting.

As Mark Thompson, host of the SiriusXM radio program, Make it Plain , said to me, “If they’re allowed to win this way, I shudder to think what happens next.”

The numbers don’t lie

A poll released last week by the Associated Press reveals an uptick since 2008 in the percentage of Americans who express negative attitudes towards blacks and Latinos. The poll measured both explicit expressions of racial prejudice and implicit attitudes.

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Four Years Ago Today: It Happened Because of You—Let’s Do It Again

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AMAZING: Occupy Wall Street Leading Massive, Volunteer-Powered Recovery Efforts in New York

From Daily Kos:

David Harris Gershon
Fri Nov 02, 2012

They are thousands-strong and growing: entering devastated neighborhoods yet to see outside help from established aid organizations.

They are staffing donation drop off sites, running mobile food kitchens and delivering hot meals. They are distributing food and supplies to the stranded, locating trapped seniors, and aiding clean-up efforts.

In short, they are helping some of New York’s most vulnerable right now, and the work being done is simply breathtaking. And that work is growing by the hour.

Loosely organized under Occupy Sandy, Occupy activists have, in conjunction with and, created in very short order a massive, malleable volunteer network that is reaching untold numbers of New Yorkers still in the dark and cold.

They have established donation drop off sites in Rockaway, Coney Island, Staten Island, Chinatown, the Upper East Side, the Lower East Side, Harlem and all across Brooklyn.

And the volunteer opportunities, which you can find here and here, are just as intense as they are varied.

Lisa Sikorski, one of many activists coordinating supply distribution efforts, described their efforts:

“We’ve been getting tons of donations. This is all donations in here,” Sikorski said, pointing at tables. “We also gave away a ton yesterday. Stuff has gone out to the Rockaways, Sunset Park, Coney Island. There are people coming in with rolling carts, school communities have come up with truckloads of stuff and unloaded it. This is all community-driven donation right now, all of it.”

People beyond those being directly helped are beginning to notice Occupy’s incredible work. While snarky and backhanded, Bob Hardt of NY1 had this to say:

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American Determination and Climate Change

From Huffington Post:


I’m so struck with America’s human spirit as Hurricane Sandy has left a trail of destruction in its wake, destroying homes and businesses and turning the lives of so many upside down. And yet people remain unbowed — New Yorkers and New Jerseyans, first responders, hospital workers, National Guard and countless others — are pulling together, as they always do, in the face of tragedy. And this would be the case whether or not a Presidential election were running in the background.

But elections are, indeed, running in the background of this human consequence and the inspiration we are seeing from countless citizens is exactly the kind of determination and collective responsibility we’re going to need to fight climate change — the force that super-charged this “superstorm.” It will take resourcefulness and grit to reduce the carbon pollution that’s fueling these storms, but Hurricane Sandy proves once again we have it.

The question is: Will we use it?

Many lawmakers and fossil fuel companies don’t want us to unleash America’s ingenuity on the problem of climate change. Oil, gas, and coal companies have spent more than $150 million on campaign ads in this election, and their talking points are echoed on the campaign trail.

Nearly every contender for the GOP’s presidential nomination denied climate change and called for more dirty fuels. Mitt Romney — who supported climate action when he was governor of Massachusetts — has joined the crowd. At the Republican National Convention, he mocked President Obama’s promise to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet.

Romney’s comment drew laughs in the conventional hall. But there was nothing funny about being in New York or New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy’s storm surge breached seawalls and swamped entire neighborhoods. This is what I find so troubling about climate deniers. By ignoring the scientific facts, they dishonor the human suffering brought on by climate change.

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Stop calling Sandy a bitch: it was a storm, not a woman to hate

From The Guardian UK:

Anthropomorphising hurricanes helps us master our fear, but must that involve fantasies of violent retribution against women?, Friday 2 November 2012

Sandy was a real bitch.

She was a whore who screwed cities across the eastern seaboard. She can blow real good, but we’re glad she’s gone. She’s sorting the men from the boys. She’s the most important woman in the swing states.

Hurricane Sandy was awful. It has left dozens of people dead and many more homeless. But it was an it – a hurricane. Not an unpleasant woman, and not a “she”. Anthropomorphizing the storm can be a fun rhetorical trick, and I’m hesitant to be the crabby feminist who lectures everyone on word choice. But talking about storms like they’re angry or promiscuous women is not benign. It’s a symptom of a misogynist culture.

Roundups of tasteless and sexist Sandy commentary have been curated elsewhere, so I won’t belabor the point that discussions of the hurricane, especially on social media, rely heavily on calling the storm a bitch or a whore. The inevitable “Hurricane Sandy is a bitch” Facebook groups have popped up. #SandyBitch was a popular storm hashtag. Bad jokes abounded about Sandy blowing the East Coast. And a whole lot of the tweets and Facebook posts were weirdly violent – Sandy is a slut, and so users “will cut the shit out of a bitch”, “beat that bitch”, “stab a bitch” and “hope you fuckin die you dirty bitch fuck u twice.”

Putting aside what I assume is our collective moment of terror upon realizing that these missives were typed by grown adults who, in just a few days, will be choosing the next president of the United States, what does it say about our culture when we image a natural disaster as a woman and then fantasize about beating her?

Some of the most common crimes in the United States are also the most vilified, and the most intimate. Women and girls are often beaten and raped by people who know us or claim to love us. We’re much more likely to be raped by an acquaintance than by a stranger jumping out of the bushes. We’re much more likely to be physically assaulted in our homes or in the home of someone we know than in a public place. Homicide is a leading cause of death among pregnant women – almost always at the hand of a partner.

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