Friday Night Fun and Culture: Ian and Sylvia

San Francisco Offers Transgender Health Care As Part Of City’s Universal Health Care Plan

Not good enough as this still discriminates against TS/TG people who need specific TS/TG related medical treatments.

From Huffington Post:

Posted: 11/08/2012

In 2007, San Francisco became the first city in the nation to offer universal health care to its citizens through the Healthy SF program, which provides government subsidized health services to uninsured residents. Now, with a unanimous vote of the San Francisco Health Commission, the Healthy SF program will extend to transgender patients.

“Until now, Healthy SF excluded care for transgender issues, even when the procedures are medically necessary,” said Kristina Wertz, director of policy and programs at the Transgender Law Center. “A transgender man may need a hysterectomy as part of his transgender operations and it wouldn’t be covered, but a non-transgender woman could need the exact same procedure and it would be covered.”

The Bay Area Reporter explained that Healthy SF previously offered some services to its transgender subscribers, such as hormone treatment and mental health services, but excluded for them many surgical procedures available to non-transgender individuals.

“That to me was just wrong,” said San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who initially proposed the rule change before the city’s Board of Supervisors earlier this year.

Wiener explained a transgender exemption wasn’t written into the initial law when Healthy SF was first proposed. The policy was instead inserted by the city’s Department of Public Heath during the early days of the program under the assumption that it would eventually be removed as Healthy SF moved forward.

Under the new system, Healthy SF will cover transgender procedures as long as they are both medically necessary and already covered for non-transgender patients.

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Focus On The Family Rejects Trans Identities As Disordered And Unhealthy

Focus on the Family is one of the Hate Groups pushing hard on the Colleen Francis kerfuffle.

From Think Progress:

By Zack Ford
on Nov 5, 2012

Jeff Johnston is Focus on the Family’s resident ex-gay, and he is increasingly being called upon to speak as an expert on various identity issues, though he bears no such expertise. Following up on the group’s promotion of ex-transgender ministries, Johnston is back to spread a series of remarkable falsehoods about what it means to be trans. His claims are built around the false understanding that being trans is a disorder, even though the American Psychiatric Association is declassifying it as such next year. From this false premise, Johnston encourages many mistruths and harmful ideas for supporting transgender youth.

First, Johnston claims that sexual orientation and gender identity are the same, which they aren’t:

[Gender Identity Disorder] is a label usually given to children with same-sex attractions, but it can be given to adults.

Gender dysphoria — GID is now obsolete language — refers to how people experience their gender, which has very little to do with who they are attracted to. Some trans people are heterosexual, some are gay, and some have sexual orientations that do not fit into such neat boxes. Sexual orientation and gender identity can intersect, but they operate independently.

Johnston then claims the best way to support young people who are questioning their gender is to try to force them to accept the body they have, rejecting their gender identity:

Gender Identity Disorder is treatable. There are therapists who work with kids to help them accept the body they were born into and to embrace it as a good thing. This kind of therapy helps children to stop hating their bodies and to embrace their gender.

This sort of “ex-trans” therapy directly contradicts what the majority of medical professionals have found. For example, the American Psychological Association tells parents that “it is not helpful to force the child to act in a more gender-conforming way.” Doing so reinforces the stress young people often feel when their sex does not match their gender identity.

Unsurprisingly, Johnston claims that trans identities are a disorder that only manifest because of sexual trauma:

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The Beginning of the End for the Anti-Marriage Equality Movement

From Mother Jones:

By Wed Nov. 7, 2012

Until Tuesday night, the anti-gay rights movement had been undefeated at the ballot box, winning every single time same-sex marriage rights had been put to a popular vote. Thirty-two states had voted to restrict same-sex marriage, including deep blue California.

Then last night, for the first time ever, as my colleague Kate Sheppard noted last night, Americans voted to legalize same-sex marriage through statewide referendums in three states: Maine, Washington and Maryland, while defeating a proposed amendment to the Minnesota state constitution to ban same-sex marriage. After losing at the ballot box thirty-two times, last night supporters of marriage equality swept all four contests where those rights were put to a vote.

Anti-gay rights activists have worked for years to build up firewalls in the states against same-sex marriage, hoping to hold off the tide of historical inevitability. In several of theses contests, polls that showed support for marriage equality ahead would turn out to be painfully wrong when the votes were counted. Opponents of same-sex marriage read this as proof that in the privacy of the voting booth, their moral vision would prevail. The National Organization for Marriage saw their path to victory in peeling off socially conservative and religious minority voters who usually vote for Democrats and enlisting them in the fight against same-sex marriage rights. Internal documents showed that NOM believed that by putting forth black and Latino spokespeople, they could discredit the idea of same-sex marriage as a civil rights cause and drive a wedge between two typically Democratic constitutencies. In several states, legislatures passed laws legalizing same-sex marriage, but NOM’s frequent wins at the ballot box whenever same-sex marriage rights were put to a popular vote, they argued, proved that the arc of history did not necessarily bend towards marriage equality.

That changed Tuesday night, as voters went to the polls in three states and voted to grant same-sex couples the same rights as heterosexual ones. The results are harbingers of the future in several crucial ways: LGBT activists’ win in Maryland, which has a large population of black voters, suggests that NOM’s racist wedge strategy is crumbling. With the Supreme Court potentially taking cases challenging the constitutionality of bans on same-sex marriage in the near future, the Justices may see wins in Maryland, Washington (if the lead holds) and Maine as a sign that if they ruled in favor of same-sex marriage rights, they would not be seen as foisting a drastic cultural change on a country that is not prepared to recieve it. Instead, the Justices assumed to be on the fence, like Anthony Kennedy, could be more easily persuaded that this is a cause whose time has come.

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For the Radical Right, Obama Victory Brings Fury and Fear

From Southern Poverty Law Center:

by Mark Potok
on November 7, 2012

When the word came in last night that Barack Obama and the Democrats had won national elections in a decisive victory, millions of Americans went to bed, satisfied that even if their candidate didn’t win, democracy had survived. The results made it clear that this election had in no way been stolen.

But not so at Ole Miss, which last month marked the 50th anniversary of deadly segregationist riots. Shortly after midnight, several hundred mostly white students protested furiously, reportedly yelling anti-black racial slurs and throwing rocks at passing cars. An Obama/Biden campaign sign was burned before campus police broke up the crowd in Oxford. There were apparently no arrests or injuries.

The reaction to the re-election of our first black president from the radical right — and that seemed clearly to include some University of Mississippi students — ranged from sputtering rage and name-calling to calls for a new Southern secession, mass emigration to Europe, or even the break-up of the United States. There was one thing large numbers seemed clearly to agree on: The changing racial demographics of our country, expected to lose its white majority by 2050, was key to the result.

“Welcome to a truly white minority world,” wrote one commenter on Stormfront, the world’s largest white supremacist Web forum, which is run by a former Alabama Klan leader. “The future is now. There is no denying this. The sun has set on humanity’s greatest era: 1500-2000. … [T]he only way to survive this war of annihilation is separatism. … [W]e have to choose regions or states.”

“We have truly fallen under God’s judgment,” wrote another. “You will never see another white man occupy the White House again.” Responded a third: “If you can immigrate to Europe you start making plans. … America will become largely a non-white population that is poverty stricken and all those government programs will soon disappear. It will happen. No more Medicare and no more social security.”

The loss of a white majority in the United States has helped drive a truly explosive growth of the radical right in the last three years, and that now seems likely to accelerate. Hate groups in recent years have risen to more than 1,000, and the number of antigovernment “Patriot” groups has shot up from just 149 in 2008 to 1,274, according to research by the Southern Poverty Law Center. For months now, groups on the radical right have increasingly fretted about a possible Obama victory. Now that that has occurred, the radical right may grow more dangerous still.

On Stormfront, given this reality, it wasn’t surprising to find talk of violence in the wake of the election. “I live in a liberal area so many of my ‘friends’ are shouting for joy,” lamented one poster at the racist site. “I don’t actually have many real friends and the ones I do have are scared and talking about arming themselves.”

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President Obama: “I’m Really Proud of All of You.”

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Senate Races Expose Extent of Republicans’ Gender Gap

From The New York Times:

Published: November 7, 2012

Republicans, hoping to gain seats in the Senate, knew that their limited appeal among minorities would be a problem, as would party infighting. But they did not expect to be derailed by the definition of rape.

Elizabeth Warren greeted commuters in Boston on Wednesday.

Comments by two Republican Senate candidates concerning pregnancies that result from rape — which came after months of battles in Congress over abortion, financing for contraception and a once-innocuous piece of legislation to protect victims of domestic violence — turned contagious as one Senate candidate after another fell short of victory.

In Indiana and Missouri, where voters are reliably conservative, Republicans lost their Senate battles even as many of those voters rejected President Obama. In Wisconsin, the Republican candidate, a former governor, lost to a female lawmaker who is decidedly more liberal than much of the state. In Connecticut, women over all turned against a Republican candidate who frequently reminded voters that she was a grandmother.

Being a woman did not offset being a Republican when it came to winning many Congressional seats among female voters. While one Republican woman, Deb Fischer of Nebraska, will join the Senate in January, Democrats will add four women as senators, including Heidi Heitkamp, who was declared the winner in the race for North Dakota’s open Senate seat, the last undecided contest. There are currently 17 women in the Senate; two of them, both Republicans, are retiring.

Republicans in the House entered the election with just 24 women. Now, unless another one prevails in late tallies, there will be 21. By contrast, there are 52 women among the Democrats in the House, and 61 are expected in the next Congress.

Some Republicans conceded that they had worked to marginalize Representative Todd Akin after he suggested during his failed bid for a Senate seat in Missouri that a woman’s body was able to prevent a pregnancy resulting from “legitimate rape.” They did so because they were worried that their party was increasingly seen among voters as preoccupied with issues like the one sponsored by Republicans in Virginia that would have required women to undergo vaginal sonograms before they could have an abortion.

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Greece is ripe for radical change

From The Guardian UK:

The latest draconian austerity measures imposed on the Greek people can be a catalyst to bring about the end of the old system, Thursday 8 November 2012

The passing of the third and most draconian tranche of austerity measures by the Greek parliament on Wednesday was a pyrrhic victory. It marks the beginning of the end of the coalition government and offers a textbook example of the terminal decay of a system of power. The signs are everywhere.

The procedure followed during the parliamentary debate violated both the rule of law and democracy. The one-clause bill incorporating a large number of unrelated measures amounted to several hundred pages but was given to MPs only the day before the debate, making detailed discussion impossible. New measures were added, one of which, removing parliament’s independent control of its business, created such a reaction that the government had to withdraw it immediately.

The bill introduces new spending cuts, tax rises, education and social security “reforms”, attacks on labour and trade unions rights, and miscellaneous unrelated provisions. A number of measures in the bill were declared unconstitutional by the areios pagos (the supreme court), the audit commission and parliament’s legal service. Their incorporation into a single clause meant to turn the occasion into a vote of confidence and stop government MPs from rejecting parts they found beyond the pale. Under guillotine procedures, the debate was limited to 10 hours and was dominated by party leaders and spokespeople, disenfranchising backbench MPs. This indicates the government’s contempt towards parliament and democratic debate. Still the Democratic Left, the minor partner in the coalition government, abstained from the vote and seven Pasok and New Democracy MPs voted against or abstained, cutting the government majority from to 29 to three.

The new cuts in salaries and pensions come on top of the 40% reductions already in place. Greece has experienced a 24% GDP contraction over five years, with unemployment at 25.5 % and youth unemployment at 55%, the highest in Europe. A humanitarian crisis has followed, with homelessness, mental illness and suicide at unprecedented levels. Hospitals cannot work for lack of basic medicines, schools have no textbooks or fuel for heating, people scour rubbish bins for food. The various lists of potential tax evaders, many of them supporters of the mainstream parties, disappear in the drawers of the elites. Politicians and rich tax evaders enjoy permanent immunity, while journalists who reveal them are prosecuted. Greek society is collapsing before our eyes and the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi rises on its ashes.

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Rachel Maddow on Obama’s Re-election

It’s the Interest, Stupid! Why Bankers Rule the World

From Truth Out:

By Ellen Brown
Thursday, 08 November 2012

Interest charges are a strongly regressive tax that the poor pay to the rich. A public banking system could realize savings up to 40 percent – allowing taxes to be cut, services increased and market stability created – with banks feeding the economy rather than feeding off it.

In the 2012 edition of Occupy Money released last week, Professor Margrit Kennedy writes that a stunning 35 percent to 40 percent of everything we buy goes to interest. This interest goes to bankers, financiers, and bondholders, who take a 35 percent to 40 percent cut of our GDP. That helps explain how wealth is systematically transferred from Main Street to Wall Street. The rich get progressively richer at the expense of the poor, not just because of “Wall Street greed,” but because of the inexorable mathematics of our private banking system.

This hidden tribute to the banks will come as a surprise to most people, who think that if they pay their credit card bills on time and don’t take out loans, they aren’t paying interest. This, says Dr. Kennedy, is not true.

Tradesmen, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers all along the chain of production rely on credit to pay their bills. They must pay for labor and materials before they have a product to sell, and before the end-buyer pays for the product 90 days later. Each supplier in the chain adds interest to its production costs, which are passed on to the ultimate consumer. Dr. Kennedy cites interest charges ranging from 12 percent for garbage collection, to 38 percent for drinking water, to 77 percent for rent in public housing in her native Germany.

Her figures are drawn from the research of economist Helmut Creutz, writing in German and interpreting Bundesbank publications. They apply to the expenditures of German households for everyday goods and services in 2006; but similar figures are seen in financial sector profits in the United States, where they composed a whopping 40 percent of US business profits in 2006. That’s more than five times the 7 percent made by the banking sector in 1980. Bank assets, financial profits, interest and debt have all been growing exponentially.

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The You’re-on-Your-Own Society

From The Nation:

Katha Pollitt
November 7, 2012
Of all the divisions between the candidates in this election, perhaps the deepest was over whether, as President Obama put it, we are all in this together. Do we believe in solving our problems by sharing them—through the Affordable Care Act, grants for low-income college students, progressive income taxes that fund public services, help for the unemployed, infrastructure improvements, scientific research and other essential features of modern democracies that are taken for granted in just about every other Western industrialized country? Or do we believe, with Mitt Romney, that each of us is on his or her—maybe especially her—own? Do we believe in government, or in billionaires? A tax-funded safety net for everyone, or a patchwork of charities and churches with no obligation—or, let’s be realistic, capacity—to help all in need? Do we agree with Romney that the government should turn disaster recovery over to the states or, “even better,” private enterprise? Maybe Hurricane Sandy clarified that question for some of those famous undecided voters. It certainly seems to have done that for Governor Christie.
The logical corollary of “You’re on your own” is “You’re your own damn fault.” Americans in general are keen on seeing social problems in terms of individual weakness—look at how we demonize fat people, as if the reason so many are overweight is just a lack of willpower. But that mindset is particularly part of the right-wing DNA. After all, if you can hold people solely responsible for their problems, you can ignore them, deprive them, even hate them. Rape victims, women with unwanted pregnancies, poor people (get a job!), drug users, children who commit crimes, people who have been imprudent or out of line in any way, have only themselves to blame. Nicholas Kristof wrote a New York Times column a few weeks ago about his friend Scott, who had a midlife crisis, quit his job to read books and play poker, didn’t buy health insurance even after he went back to work because it was too expensive, and, partly to save money but also because he was busy and had no wife to nudge him, postponed seeing the doctor about disturbing symptoms that proved to be caused by advanced prostate cancer. Kristof’s point was that we all make mistakes, and that good public policy takes that into account. In a follow-up column that noted Scott’s death, Kristof wrote that he was “taken aback by how many readers were savagely unsympathetic. ‘Your friend made a foolish choice, and actions have consequences,’ one reader said in a Twitter message.” Yes, actions have consequences, and that’s why we need society to protect us from our folly, ignorance and bad judgment—our own and one another’s. Sooner or later, everybody takes risks that turn out poorly. Some people have unprotected sex, cross against the light, drive too fast, ride a motorcycle without a helmet in Connecticut (where for some crazy reason that is legal), don’t wear a seat belt, drink too much, send money in response to e-mails from Nigerian princes, don’t vaccinate their kids. Some people refused to evacuate during Sandy—should relief workers deny them a hot meal and a blanket?If you want an example of how approaching social issues from an individualist mindset harms everyone, consider lung cancer. This very serious disease kills 160,000 Americans each year—that’s more than one in four cancer deaths. It is the number-one fatal cancer in both women and men. Twice as many women die of lung cancer as breast cancer—and one in five of those women has never smoked a single cigarette (for men, it’s one in twelve). In fact, at least 55 percent of people with lung cancer either never smoked or no longer smoke; some quit decades ago. And yet, because lung cancer is generally associated with smoking, and smoking is an addiction and something only “morons” and “idiots” (to use Tea Party terminology) would ever, ever do, lung cancer does not get anything like the research funding from the National Institutes of Health that other cancers get, relative to the number of deaths it causes. There are no telethons or star-studded Hollywood galas, no race for the lung cancer cure, none of those weirdly cheerful “awareness” campaigns. Even the afflicted and their families tend to stay quiet—the stigma is too great. Never mind that many of them started smoking back in the Mad Mendays when it was a ubiquitous custom promoted by government, media and, of course, the powerful tobacco industry itself. For years after the surgeon general’s report, women’s magazines were crammed with cigarette ads and left lung cancer and other smoking-related diseases out of their editorial coverage of health issues.Continue reading at:

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Will President Obama Seize the Moment for Action on Climate Change?

From Huffington Post:


Superstorm Sandy changed the U.S. political zeitgeist on climate change virtually overnight. When BusinessWeek runs a cover blazoned with “It’s Global Warming Stupid” and politicians start breaking their “climate silence,” you know the jig is up. President Obama acknowledged as much in his acceptance speech, when he said he wanted to “pass on a country that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

The question is, where we go from here. Are Americans now prepared to accelerate action to slow climate change? Or will a new fortress mentality take hold? And I mean that quite literally. One commentator recently suggested surrounding lower Manhattan with retractable walls, begging the question of where all that displaced water would go.

As the dust settles from the election, the president will come under increasing pressure to make good on his promise, through both domestic action as well as taking a more cooperative stance at the UN climate negotiations. Much will be written about this in the weeks to come.

In the meantime, he might take some inspiration from some of the many transformative solutions being put into practice elsewhere. The good news is that there are many such examples, so many that the United Nations climate agency launched an initiative to celebrate some of the most exciting, inspiring stories they could find. “Momentum for Change” is a platform for encouraging and celebrating innovative action — designated as “lighthouse” activities — either to reduce climate change, or to reduce its impacts.

In 2012, the initiative focused on the urban poor. To qualify as lighthouse activities, projects needed to not only address climate change, but also to improve the lives – both socially and environmentally – of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the community. They also had to demonstrate their catalytic potential for long-term transformational change, which meant that they had to be capable of being repeated elsewhere, and could be scaled up over time.

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Sen. Majority Leader Reid: ‘Climate Change Is An Extremely Important Issue For Me, And I Hope We Can Address It’

From Think Progress:

By Joe Romm
on Nov 8, 2012

We are seeing a unique confluence of events put a carbon tax squarely back into the national debate: the debt crisis and fiscal cliff, Hurricane Sandy, and the results of the 2012 election.

Sen. Majority Leader Reid said Wednesday:

Climate change is an extremely important issue for me and I hope we can address it reasonably. It’s something, as we’ve seen with these storms that are overwhelming our country and the world, we need to do something about it.

Back in August Reid spoke to Greenwire following one of the most powerful public speeches on climate that any national policymaker has made in years:

Reid said he hopes the Senate will take up a bill to put a price on carbon emissions if Democrats maintain control of the chamber….

Reid now has a much stronger hand. Democrats picked up 2 seats in the Senate. A few months ago Republicans were thought to have a good chance of seizing control of the Senate — now they have undercut their chances of taking back the Senate even in 2014. And newly elected Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) both explicitly campaigned on climate change.

No, Reid can’t do this single-handedly. But President Obama, reelected with the help of a decisive youth vote that rightly puts climate change near the top of the list of their concerns, himself said on election night:

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Climate change, not the national debt, is the legacy we should care about

From The Guardian UK:

Worry about the grandchildren? Then stop global warming, but don’t pretend deficit reduction by slashing pensions is for them, Thursday 8 November 2012

Imagine if in response to Japan attacking Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, our political leaders had debated the best way to deal with the deficits from war spending projected for 1960. This is pretty much the way in which Washington works these days.

The political leadership, including the Washington press corps and punditry, were already intently ignoring the economic downturn that is still wreaking havoc on the lives of tens of millions of people across the country. Now, in the wake of the destruction from Hurricane Sandy, they will intensify their efforts to ignore global warming. After all, they want the country to focus on the debt – an issue that no one other than the elites views as a problem.

The reality, of course, is straightforward. The large deficits of recent years are due to the economic downturn caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. If the economy were back near its pre-recession level of unemployment, then the deficits would be close to 1% of GDP, a level that could be sustained indefinitely.

But the deficit scare-mongers are not interested in numbers and economics; they want to gut key government programs – most importantly, social security and Medicare. That is why they are pushing the fear stories about the debt and deficit. This is the rationale for the Campaign to “Fix” the Debt, a collection of 80 CEOs ostensibly focused on getting the budget in order.

What is perhaps most infuriating about this crew is the claim that their efforts are somehow designed to benefit our children and grandchildren. This is bizarre for a number of reasons. First, while they do want to cut social security and Medicare for current retirees and those expecting to benefit from these programs in the near future, the biggest cuts in their plans will hit today’s young.

In effect, they are promising to “save” these programs for young workers by destroying them. Under most of the proposals designed to “fix” these programs, social security will provide a sharply-reduced benefit for retirees in 40 to 50 years’ time, compared to the currently scheduled level. And Medicare will by no means ensure most seniors’ access to decent healthcare.

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