Staying in the Same Town as My Ex

From Kveler: A Jewish Twist on Parenting:

Dec 3 2012

Recently, one of my children was referred to a new doctor. Somewhat unusually, my ex came along to the appointment.

The doctor entered the room where we sat waiting, introduced herself, and greeted my child. I introduced myself as my child’s mother. “And who are you?” the doctor asked my ex. “I’m the other parent,” my ex replied stiffly. “The other parent,” the doctor echoed, laughing and nodding. I could see her assessing the situation, making the obvious assumption about our family composition: I had given birth to my child. Her “other parent” was my former lesbian partner. Half right. Sketching in our child’s medical profile the doctor asked some questions about her brother and sister, and we provided the necessary information.

“But do they have the same father?” the doctor inquired. What she meant but didn’t say was, “Do they have the same sperm donor?”

“Yes,” we said in unison. What we meant but didn’t say was, “Yes, and you are looking at him.”

A funny thing happened on the way to my becoming a single mom.

My husband and I got together in our teens. More than 20 years and three children later, he decided to live the rest of his life as a woman. Our marriage melted along with his masculinity. I went through the anguish any woman might over the unexpected demise of a long and happy marriage. I faced the usual potpourri of dread–of penury, isolation–when I contemplated raising three children alone, the youngest still in diapers. Worse, I felt crushed by a sense that the reason for my marriage’s demise said something so terrible about me it would be intolerable to remain in a place in which it was public knowledge. Exactly what it said, I wasn’t sure. Maybe that was part of what made it so awful.

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Trans people still “disordered” according to latest DSM

From Whipping Girl:

By Julia Serano
Monday, December 3, 2012

This morning, I woke up and found my Twitter feed full of article links celebrating that transgender people are no longer “disordered” according to the DSM (that is, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – often referred to as the “psychiatric Bible” because it contains all of the official psychiatric diagnoses). The DSM gets revised every 10-20 years or so, and diagnoses sometimes get modified, expanded, or completely removed. The change that people are now celebrating is the fact that the previous diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) has now been changed to Gender Dysphoria.

Admittedly, the new Gender Dysphoria diagnosis is an improvement over GID for a number of reasons – Kelly Winter of describes some of these improvements, as well as many of the lingering problems with the new diagnosis. Despite the remaining drawbacks (for instance, that gender variance is still formally pathologized in the DSM), many people seem excited that transgender people are no longer described as being “disordered” in the DSM. But the problem is that this is patently untrue.

When the new DSM committee was chosen back in 2008, all the focus was on what the new committee (chaired by the notorious Ken Zucker) would do with GID. This is understandable, given that this is the diagnosis that trans people are required to submit to if they with to access the means to legally and/or physically transition. It has also been used to justify horrible reparative therapies against gender-non-conforming children. But the greater trans community gave short shrift to the other existing DSM diagnosis that affected transgender people: Transvestic Fetishism.

I was especially horrified when Ray Blanchard was named to head the DSM “Paraphilia” section, which historically contains several sexual crimes (e.g., pedophilia, frotteurism and exhibitionism) and a handful of other generally consensual but unnecessarily stigmatized sexual acts (such as fetishism and BDSM) that are considered “atypical” by sex researchers – including Transvestic Fetishism.

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The Complicated Question Of Diagnosing Transgender Identities

From Think Progress:

By Zack Ford
on Dec 4, 2012

A number of ThinkProgress readers have expressed concern over Monday’s widely-shared post, “APA Revises Manual: Being Transgender Is No Longer A Mental Disorder,” about the American Psychiatric Association’s decision to revise the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) to reclassify “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID) as “Gender Dysphoria.” A prominent LGBT scholar called the headline “erroneous,” noting that as long as a designation exists in the DSM, trans identities are still treated as a disorder. One trans advocate pointed out that “Gender Dysphoria” still stigmatizes trans people because there’s no exit clause to the diagnosis. Another activist shared a letter (Ansara, et al) that she and others submitted to the APA criticizing much of its framing around trans identities and providing possible alternatives. One other trans health activist called the article “a bit of a pinkwash” — essentially an attempt to give the APA more credit than it deserves.

As a cisgender (not trans) gay male who edits ThinkProgress’s LGBT vertical, I assume a heightened responsibility to report on trans issues effectively and thoroughly. For all members of the LGBT community, there are many issues that impact us in very personal and unique ways, resulting in many seemingly-conflicting points of view that all have validity. Many of the points submitted by readers have such merit, and the continued discussion seems an apt opportunity to further explore the complexity of anti-trans stigma and the potential impact of the APA’s decision.

For what it’s worth, ThinkProgress was not alone in its framing. Slate similarly reported “Being Transgender Is No Longer a Disorder.” The AP also compared this change to the 1973 removal of homosexuality as a disorder. Other LGBT outlets, like GLAAD, reported that “Gender Identity Disorder” had been removed from the DSM and that the idea trans people are disordered is now antiquated. Indeed, this was the intention behind yesterday’s post: to emphasize the value of the rhetorical change while acknowledging that complications remain.

It is true that trans identities are still contained within a manual of mental disorders, which alone can be stigmatizing regardless of how the classification is labeled. Still, for many trans patients, the availability of this diagnosis remains important in a way that it was not for homosexuality decades ago. For those who seek a physical transition to achieve a sense of personal congruity, some insurance providers will only cover the expenses if they are deemed “medically necessary” by a physician. The United States does not have the same luxury of government-guaranteed healthcare without discrimination as is available in other countries (like France, as the Ansara letter references).

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Associated Press Ban on ‘Homophobia’ Plays Into Anti-Gay Agenda

From Huffington Post:


Last week the Associated Press declared war on the word “homophobia,” deciding its new stylebook would ban it (and “Islamophobia”) because a “phobia” is an “illness” and connotes a “mental disability.” Therefore, says the AP, it is not accurate and should not be used in a “political or social” context.

Many journalists and commentators have taken issue with the AP’s decision, while others believe the AP’s reasoning is sound. In a discussion on my radio program, callers seemed evenly divided, and those who agreed with the AP made some compelling arguments for the why the word should be used sparingly or not at all. But I disagree and find that the AP’s actions, taken at this time, serve one side in a political battle.

The problem with the AP axing the word “homophobia” is not necessarily the logic of the argument as much as it is how long it took the AP to get to it. This word came into usage 40 years ago, coined by Dr. George Weinberg, and for 40 years the AP was fine with it it all cases in which animosity toward gays and opposition to LGBT rights was being described — or at least didn’t say anything about it. For years many of us have probably intuitively used the word in specific contexts while not using it in others. Looking back at my own usage, I seem to have saved it mostly for describing a known psychological motive (i.e., “internalized homophobia”) rather than a political crusade, for which I’ve mostly used “anti-gay,” which the AP now advises, or “bigoted” or some other term. But there have been many exceptions, and other people have used it in their own way. And I think there’s got to be a statute of limitations on the usage of new terms before AP can come in and say, “Sorry, we’re canning this one.”

At the outset of this post, I wrote that the AP had “declared war” on the word. Of course, the AP is not a sovereign nation and doesn’t have an army. It’s a metaphor, and the AP is fine with terms like that because we all know what they mean. I’d say it’s the same with the word “homophobia” now. We all know that those opposed to gay rights don’t necessarily have a “mental disability,” nor are we describing them that way. And whether or not they all have an actual “fear” of gays, the word “homophobe” has come to mean a person opposed to gay rights in a general sense. Furthermore, many such people do have a fear of gays, obsessed with homosexuality in ways that are certainly irrational.

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See also Huffington Post:  AP’s Discouraging ‘Homophobia’ Is Discouraging

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Religious Child Abuse a Huge Problem

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Right Wing Hate Group Spokesman, Bryan Fischer: “Our Second Amendment Is Rooted In The Teaching Of Jesus Christ”

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Catholic teen’s gay marriage stance unsettles Minnesota town

From The LA Times:,0,6040864.story

By Jenny Deam,
December 4, 2012

It’s a fight straight from the Vatican now landed on the wind-swept prairie of western Minnesota — all because of a Magic Marker, a yard sign and a 16-year-old boy with an iPhone.

Lennon Cihak, a high school junior in the Minnesota town of Barnesville — population about 2,500 — was raised Roman Catholic like his parents and grandparents. His mother and father, Shana and Doug Cihak, were baptized, confirmed and married in Barnesville’s century-old Assumption Church, the same one where Lennon had been attending confirmation classes since spring.

Then on Oct. 24 — 13 days before the vote on a proposed state constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman — everything changed.

That night, Lennon attended a run-through for the ceremony of his confirmation, the sacrament in which believers reaffirm their faith. Lennon, who was named after Beatles member John Lennon, says nothing special happened at church to set the fateful events in motion, but for weeks he had been thinking about the marriage amendment. A lot of his friends were opposed, saying it didn’t seem fair.

“In the Constitution it says all men are created equal. If they can’t get married, they aren’t equal,” he remembers thinking.

So that night he took a pro-amendment yard sign, changed “Vote Yes” to “Vote No” with a black marker and scrawled the words “Equal Marriage Rights.” He then posed with the sign, snapped a photo with his phone, and posted the picture on his Facebook page.

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O’Reilly: Cardinal Dolan ‘should have done an exorcism’ on Caroline Kennedy over women’s rights

From Raw Story:

By David Edwards
Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Fox News host Bill O’Reilly suspects that demonic possession may be responsible for Caroline Kennedy’s support of reproductive rights for women and that conservative Catholic Cardinal Timothy Dolan “should have performed an exorcism” on her when he had the chance at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) earlier this year.

During his Monday night show, O’Reilly invited Father Jonathan Morris to explain why he told the hosts of Fox & Friends that it was “silly” to be “so angry about this war on Christmas.”

“What I was trying to say was it’s important for us to speak out but not to get upset to the point in which our Christmas, my Christmas become all about being angry at people who are not living in Christianity,” Morris explained to O’Reilly.

“I believe that Christianity in this country is under assault,” O’Reilly argued. “I believe that the forces of secularism want to destroy as much of the Christian tradition in this country as they can… So, we have someone like Caroline Kennedy at the Democratic Convention go up there on the stage — Caroline Kennedy — identify herself as a Catholic woman and then launch into launch into a pro-abortion spiel. Not one Catholic bishop — not one — spoke out against Ms. Kennedy in public. Not one.”

Morris pointed out that Cardinal Dolan had gone to the Democratic National Convention and prayed for abortion to be outlawed.

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It Takes a Cabal of Willing Governments to Maintain Global Tax Havens

From Common Dreams:

When corporations say what they do to shield profit from taxation is “legal” they’re often right. And this is wrong.

Published on Tuesday, December 4, 2012 by Common Dreams
Everyone loves to hate a thief. And quite right, too. Google, Amazon and Starbucks – and many more like them – are certainly stealing from the UK and other countries by playing tax systems so aggressively.But there’s a more important story here that the British MPs and world media are largely missing. In fact, the only ones who haven’t missed it are Google themselves. Matt Brittin, Google’s UK Chief, hit a very important nail on the head when he said, to Channel 4 News this week, “ [Google] plays by the rules set by politicians.”Leaving aside his motivation to shift the blame, the man is not wrong. The rules of the international tax system do not just let this happen, they actively encourage it.Tax theft is endemic all over the world. It is organised through an intricate system of tax havens; the PR around it is astonishingly good, as evidenced by the fact that most people have no idea of its scale and can get distracted by the misdeeds of a few bad apples rather than seeing the barrel they came in; and one of the most vibrant and important hubs – the City of London – is sitting right under the noses of the British politicians who are today decrying the corporations who use it.

Tax havens exist solely to help the rich avoid national taxes. They give them a way to opt out of the social contract. Multinationals happily extract profits from countries and then team up with tax havens to avoid paying their share of taxes that make the countries profitable for them in the first place. Without things like the rule of law, and economic and political stability, the market for most products would flounder. All these things cost, and when people steal taxes they are essentially saying, everyone but us should pay.

The scale of the theft is staggering. Somewhere between $21 and $32 trillion is hidden behind the vast walls of tax haven secrecy. That’s the equivalent of one third of all global annual income. Somewhere between 60 and 70% of all international trade flows through them so that profits can be siphoned off untaxed.

The scale alone means tax havens have a material impact on levels of global inequality and poverty. But more insidious is what they actively facilitate. Tax havens are in the background of practically every instance of large-scale corruption and economic crime of the last thirty years. Every corrupt leader, every major arms dealer and drug cartel, as well as most multinational corporations rely on their ‘discretion’ to do business. It’s a morality-blind service industry for the ultra-rich. Forget the 1% – this industry exists largely for the pleasure and benefit of the 0.02%; the 10 million people who ‘own’ the bulk of the $21trillion hidden.

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Tax the Traders! It Would Solve Economic Crisis and Stop Reckless Trading.

From Slate:

By Posted Monday, Dec. 3, 2012

Both the White House and House Republicans, publicly at least, are digging in their heels deeper and deeper in the so-called negotiations over what we call, alternately, the fiscal cliff, the fiscal slope, the austerity bomb, or the cable-talk-show topic of last resort.

Whatever logic either side pretends to have is irrelevant to the other side, because each is speaking a different political language and indeed a different economic language.

I agree with the White House on the substance of the debate, and I think the administration’s hand gets stronger over time. But as anyone who has been through negotiations will tell you, sometimes you just need a new idea to change the dynamic.

This one is not so new; it has been around for a long time, supported by a wide range of economists, including Nobel laureate James Tobin, as well as advocates, including Ralph Nader in the Washington Post this weekend, and elected officials: a tax on financial transactions. It will give us gobs of revenue. It will fall on a sector that has generated enormous and unwarranted profits for a very few, who at the same time have benefited from huge bailouts and regulatory help and largely escaped any responsibility for their central role in creating the financial cataclysm that we are still struggling with.

Here is the idea: A tax of less than half a percent on every $100 of stock sales or sales of other financial instruments including bonds, derivatives, and options. The tax could raise anywhere from $170 billion to $350 billion per year depending how it was applied. Extend that over 10 years, and we are raising almost what the White House and Republicans agree needs to be raised in order to accomplish the objectives of a grand bargain.

But there is an added benefit here: Trading in the equity and debt markets has gone wild over the past few years. High-speed trading and speculation have overtaken the economically legitimate reasons for our desire to have highly liquid markets: the capacity to raise capital and then allocate it efficiently among sectors and companies. The trading that has emerged over the past few years is not serving that purpose—it is a casino enterprise driven by hidden pools and computer algorithms that do not seek to hold capital for longer than an instant.

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When a Tax on the Rich Is Actually a Tax on the Rich

From Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting:

Dec. 03, 2012

Meet the Press hosted what David Gregory dubbed a “special economic roundtable”  on December 2 that included “CNBC‘s dynamic duo,”  Maria Bartiromo and Jim Cramer. But Bartiromo’s comments about tax increases for the wealthy needed a factcheck.

She started by making a familiar conservative point about the so-called “fiscal cliff”– that the White House talks about ending tax cuts for the wealthy, but will not talk about spending cuts:

And the fact is that I find it extraordinary that we are zeroing in on this discussion only about taxes, and we do not have this kind of elaborate discussion when it comes to spending cuts. Two points here. Number one, Americans realized that the three biggest drivers of our debt are Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. We need structural change. We haven’t heard that.

Let’s step in here for a second: When did Americans “realize” any of this? When they’re asked, thev tend to oppose cuts to these programs by substantial margins. There was an election last month; surely voters could have sent a message about their desire to cut these programs.

She went on:

Number two, on taxes, you really can’t put all of the taxes into one category. Dividend taxes, for one, is probably the biggest threat to the markets and the economy right now, when you’re just looking at taxes. And dividend taxes are not a rich tax, nor are capital gains. You’re talking about pension funds, 401(k) plans, investments in companies that pay dividends. If you’re expecting a dividend tax to go from 15 percent to 44 percent, that completely removes the opportunity or the incentive to buy dividend-paying companies. And that’s going to hurt not just the rich. That’s going to hurt everybody if, in fact, we were to see that. That’s very dangerous, and it is going to create a massive selloff.

For starters, income from 401(k) retirement accounts is taxed as normal income when funds are withdrawn from those accounts, so it is hard to see how that would be relevant.  It has been, however, a popular media talking point in discussions like this–like when then-CNBC host Erin Burnett declared that a capital gains rate cut meant that “the half of Americans that own stocks get a benefit there as well.”)

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If this is what fracking is doing to animals – what is it doing to people?

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Tim DeChristopher banned from dangerous acts of ‘social justice’

From Grist:

By Susie Cagle
4 Dec 2012

Climate activist Tim DeChristopher, who was locked up for 15 months for disrupting an auction of oil and gas leases on public land, is now out of prison and trying to put his life back together. As part of that effort, DeChristopher secured a job at a First Unitarian Church — that is, until the Federal Bureau of Prisons stepped in.

DeChristopher wasn’t seeking a job in oil leasing or even environmental activism — fields related to his “crime.” But the feds, in their infinite wisdom, put their feet down. “You know what, we’ve been too easy on these hippies and their subversive jobs at churches.”

From the Deseret News:

DeChristopher had been offered a job with the church’s social justice ministry, which would include working with cases of race discrimination, sex discrimination or other injustices that fall contrary to Unitarian beliefs.

“The Bureau of Prisons official who interviewed Tim indicated he would not be allowed to work at the Unitarian church because it involved social justice and that was what part of what his crime was,” [DeChristopher’s attorney Patrick] Shea said.

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Nuclear Power Whistleblowers Charge Federal Regulators With Favoring Secrecy Over Safety

From Huffington Post:

Richard H. Perkins and Larry Criscione are precise and formal men with more than 20 years of combined government and military service. Perkins held posts at the Department of Energy and the National Nuclear Security Administration before joining the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Division of Risk Analysis in 2008. Criscione landed at the agency a year later, after five years aboard the USS Georgia as a submarine warfare officer.

Now both men are also reluctant whistleblowers, stepping out publicly to accuse the NRC of being both disconcertingly sluggish and inappropriately secretive about severe — and in one case, potentially catastrophic — flood risks at nuclear plants that sit downstream from large dams.

A number of nuclear safety advocates who have looked into the matter in recent weeks have echoed their complaints, and a collection of documents obtained by The Huffington Post — including a 4-year old internal communication plan for NRC officials seeking to head-off criticism of its handling of the dam threat, as well as detailed correspondence between Criscione and NRC leadership on the issue — appears to lend credence to the engineers’ concerns.

Taken together, the documents and charges shed new light on an agency that has been repeatedly criticized for allowing plant owners to delay crucial safety improvements for years, and for diligently withholding information not as a way of protecting the public interest, but as a way of protecting itself.

“When you’re working with sensitive information, you just don’t talk about it, so what I’m doing I find to be both perverse and uncomfortable,” Perkins said. “But I had to do it.”

The NRC argues that it has worked swiftly and diligently to address the safety issue that prompted the engineers to speak out, which concerns the risk that certain nuclear power plants would experience severe and potentially catastrophic flooding should nearby dams succumb to mechanical or engineering failures — or even to the increasingly unpredictable whims of Mother Nature.

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Big Pharma Company Mocked Patients Who Got “Jawbone Death” from Drug: “Ma Toot Hurts So Bad”

From Alternet:

Newly available emails reveal Merck was far from concerned when a disease linked to Fosamax surfaced.

By Martha Rosenberg
December 3, 2012

As early as 2004, Merck knew its blockbuster osteoporosis drug Fosamax was causing osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ) after in-office dental procedures and ridiculed afflicted patients. The condition, also called jawbone death, occurs when traumatized tissue doesn’t heal but becomes “necrotic” and dies. “Ma toot hurts so bad” mimicked Merck bone scientist Don Kimmel in a 2004 email to Merck health science consultant Sharon Scurato about the type of patient who was developing ONJ. Such a patient “could be an oral hog,” wrote Kimmel, then a bone scientist in Merck’s department of Molecular Endocrinology/Bone Biology and trained as a dentist–someone with pre-existing infections and periodontal disease who omits preventative care.

Newly available emails and internal Merck documents reveal the company was far from concerned or surprised when ONJ-links to Fosamax surfaced in the early 2000’s and launched elaborate spin campaigns to keep the $3 billion a year pill afloat. In fact, animal studies revealed ONJ in rats given bisphosphonates (the class of drugs Fosamax belongs to) as early as 1977 Kimmel admitted under oath in 2008.

Thousands of lawsuits have been filed on behalf of patients who say they developed ONJ after dental procedures like tooth extraction because they took Fosamax. Treating ONJ is almost impossible said dentists and oral surgeons quoted the Review-Journal in 2005, because “further surgery in an effort to correct the problem only exacerbates it, leaving the patient with even more exposed bone and even more disfigured,” Jaw removal, bone grafts, and even tracheostomies were reported by the News-Press in 2006. “Even short-term oral use of alendronate [Fosamax] led to ONJ in a subset of patients after certain dental procedures were performed,” read a study in the Journal of the American Dental Association in 2009.

Besides attributing ONJ to patients’ bad oral hygiene and, tautologically, their advanced years, Merck withheld crucial safety data from the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) when the group sought to develop a position paper on bisphosphonate-related ONJ. Of 428 suspected ONJ cases related to Fosamax, 378 of which were highly likely to be ONJ, only 50 cases were shared with ASBMR, according to court documents. “I see the 50 with regard to the postmarketing,” admitted Thomas Bold, Merck’s director of clinical risk management and safety surveillance in 2009, upon viewing the slides Merck provided to ASBMR. “I don’t see 378 mentioned and I don’t know why that is the case,” he conceded.

Though he was prepared for questioning by Merck lawyers, he said, for “approximately 60 hours,” Don Kimmel (of the “ma toot” joke) was similarly confused under oath.  He did not remember collaborating with researcher Jack Gotcher until he was shown their co-written paper. “Yes. This looks to be an experiment that Jack did,” he allowed, but, when asked “Why is your name on it?” replied, “I think assisted in it, and we talked about it.”

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