Friday Night Fun and Culture: Dave Brubeck

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About that “GID is removed from the DSM” thing…

From Dented Blue Mercedes:  http://dentedbluemercedes.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/about-that-gid-is-removed-from-the-dsm-thing/

By Mercedes Allen
December 5, 2012

Reposted with permission.

Oh god, please make it stop.

Yesterday morning, I woke up to a rash of headlines proclaiming that transexuality was no longer considered “disordered” by the American Psychiatric Association. This morning, it grew worse, with a rash of panicked emails from people who were wondering if their medical access would be jeopardized, after some LGBT and even mainstream news sites and blogs reported this as meaning that “Gender Identity Disorder” (GID) will no longer be considered in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), or had been “removed” from the DSM altogether.  No, it hasn’t.  That’s not true at all.

I hate to be a wet blanket, but the change that’s being heralded is mostly just in name, and “Gender Dysphoria” remains in the DSM — and in the “Sexual and Gender Identity Disorders” category (although that name may change too), if I recall correctly, of a manual that governs mental health.  The parallel being drawn to when homosexuality was removed from the DSM wildly overstates this change.

And because it has not been completely removed (something I’ve previously cautioned about the risk of doing too hastily, regarding both the DSM and ICD volumes), peoples’ medical processes are not affected in any way.  The panic I’ve heard from some people wondering if their medical treatment will be hindered is unfounded.

There is something to see here, though:

There is a positive in this, though, in that people are finally paying attention to the problems associated with another DSM category: Transvestic Disorder (formerly Transvestic Fetish). When the alarm was raised about Drs. Ray Blanchard and Ken Zucker having administrative roles in the DSM revision, that protest lost some steam when the APA announced that Zucker would be in an oversight position rather than hands-on, and Blanchard would be working on a separate category not related to GID (Paraphilias). Some of our allies decided we were making much ado about nothing.  Now, people are perhaps realizing the problem with that arrangement, in that it gave Blanchard full license to develop Transvestic Disorder (TD / TF).

A few trans advocates (including Kelley Winters, Julia Serano, and myself) have cautioned about the problems with regard to TD / TF and what could happen if that diagnosis is expanded in scope while GID diminishes or is eliminated.  Well, indications thus far are that Transvestic Disorder has certainly been expanded, and evolved to encompass Ray Blanchard’s theory of “autogynephilia” as a subcategory (plus the addition of “autoandrophilia,” to make it an equal-opportunity pathology).  All that anyone really needs to do to technically qualify for this diagnosis, as Serano notes, is to be “sexually active while wearing clothing incongruent with their birth-assigned sex.”

This diagnosis sexualizes and invalidates, and frankly, it has become a wide, sweeping pathology encompassing a significant amount of non-harmful behaviour.

Backgrounder: The Little Case Study That Autogynephilia Forgot

(Crossposted to The Bilerico Project)

 

An Update on Gender Diagnoses, as the DSM-5 Goes to Press.

From GID Reform Weblog: http://gidreform.wordpress.com/2012/12/05/an-update-on-gender-diagnoses-as-the-dsm-5-goes-to-press/

By Kelley Winters
December 5, 2012

Reposted with permission.

On December 1, the Board of Trustees for the American Psychiatric Association approved the final draft of the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). The most controversial DSM revision in more than three decades, the DSM-5 has drawn strong concerns, ranging from overdiagnosis and overmedication of ordinary everyday behaviors to poor diagnostic reliability in field trials. The transgender-specific categories of Gender Identity Disorder (GID) and Transvestic Fetishism (TF) have been especially contentious, beginning with the 2008 appointment of Drs. Kenneth Zucker and Raymond Blanchard of the Toronto Centre for Addiction and Mental Illness (CAMH) to lead the workgroup for sexual and gender identity disorders. They were key authors of the prior DSM-IV gender diagnoses and leading proponents of punitive gender conversion/reparative psychotherapies (no longer considered ethical practice in the current WPATH Standards of Care).

There are two major issues in transgender diagnostic policy. The first is a false stereotype that stigmatizes gender identities or expressions that differ from birth sex assignment with mental disease and sexual deviance. The second is access to medically necessary hormonal and/or surgical transition care, for those trans and transsexual people who need them. This access requires some kind of diagnostic coding, but not the current “disordered gender identity” label, which actually contradicts rather than supports medical transition care. It is necessary to address both issues together, to avoid harming one part of the trans community to benefit another.

Some of the proposed gender-related revisions in the DSM-5 are positive, however they do not go nearly far enough. The Gender Identity Disorder category (intended by its authors to mean “disordered” gender identity) is renamed to Gender Dysphoria (from a Greek root for distress) Though widely misreported today as “removal” of GID from the classification of disorders, this name change is in itself a significant step forward. It represents a historic shift from gender identities that differ from birth assignment to distress with current sex characteristics or assigned gender role as the focus of the problem to be treated. This message is reinforced by the August 2012 Public Policy Statement from the American Psychiatric Association affirming the medical necessity of hormonal and/or surgical transition care. Moreover, the sexual/gender disorders workgroup has stated a desire to move gender diagnoses away from the sexual dysfunctions and paraphilias group. (At this time of writing, it is not yet clear where they will be classified in the DSM-5.)

On the negative side, the proposed diagnostic criteria for Gender Dysphoria still contradict social and medical transition and describe transition itself as symptomatic of mental illness. The criteria for children are particularly troubling, retaining much of the archaic sexist language of the DSM-IV that pathologizes gender nonconformity rather than distress of gender dsyphoria. Moreover, children who have socially transitioned continue to be disrespected by misgendering language in the diagnostic criteria and dimensional assessment questions. There is very plainly no exit from the diagnosis for those who have completed transition and are happy with their bodies and lives. In other words, the only way to exit the GD label, once diagnosed, is to follow the course of gender conversion/reparative therapies, designed to shame trans people into the closets of assigned birth roles. While supportive care providers will continue to make the diagnosis work for their clients, intolerant clinicians will exploit contradictory language in the diagnostic criteria to deny transition care access and promote unethical gender conversion treatments.

A worse problem in the DSM-5 is the Transvestic Disorder (formerly Transvestic Fetishism) category. It is punitive and scientifically capricious— designed to punish nonconformity to assigned birth roles. It has been expanded to stigmatize even more gender-diverse people and should be removed entirely from the DSM.

Despite retention of the unconscionable Transvestic Disorder category, I believe that the Gender Dysphoria category revisions in the DSM-5 will bring some long-awaited forward progress to trans and transsexual people facing barriers to social and medical transition. I hope that much more progress will follow. In the longer term, I would like to see a non-psychiatric classification in the International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems (ICD, published by the World Health Association) for access to medical transition treatments for those who need them.

Copyright © 2012 Kelley Winters, Ph.D., GID Reform Advocates

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Liberation Day

From Daily Kos:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/04/1167167/-Liberation-Day

By rserven
Tue Dec 04, 2012

On Saturday, December 1, 2012 the board of trustees of the American Psychiatric Association approved the changes in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which will now be known as the DSM-5 (as part of the dumbing down of America, it was apparently found necessary to stop using Roman numerals).

Among other changes, such as the revamping of the autism disorder spectrum, the new version of the manual no longer classifies people who are transgender or gender non-conforming as mentally disordered.  Additionally compulsive hoarding will now be in a category of its own and PTSD will be moved into its own chapter, with more sensitivity to children and adolescents.

Until now, the term “gender identity disorder” has been used to diagnose people who are transgender.  For conservatives, this has provided rhetorical carte blanche to describe the entire trans committee as disordered, delusional, and mentally ill.  In some cases, this diagnosis has even been used to discriminate against trans people, with claims that they are unfit parents or employees, as examples.  On the other hand, insurance companies have been more willing to cover the expenses associated with transition under this language, because treatment for a disorder is considered medically necessary, rather than cosmetic.

The final editing process will take place until December and the new manual will be released at the APA annual meeting in San Francisco in May and take effect then.

This does not mean that transgender people are totally excluded from the DSM-V.  We will henceforth be diagnosed as having gender dysphoria…which is what I recall from pre-DSM-IV days.  Gender dysphoria concerns the “emotional distress that can result ‘from a marked incongruence between one’s experienced or expressed gender and assigned gender.”  This new classification allows for affirmative treatment of the distress without the stigma of a disorder.

In July the APA called for new guidelines to ensure the best course of treatment for transgender patients.  In August the APA took a stand on the necessity of transgender civil rights:

Continue reading at:  http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/04/1167167/-Liberation-Day

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Transgender Dinosaurs and the Rise of the Genderqueers

From The Advocate:    http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2012/12/06/transgender-dinosaurs-and-rise-genderqueers?page=0,0

BY Riki Wilchins
December 06 2012

She was a lovely 13-year-old girl, with long blond hair, bright hazel eyes and the budding bosom and hips of the woman she would soon be. Her smile betrayed none of the self-consciousness that I had when I was young and began—as a transsexual—dressing in feminine clothing. I assumed she was a friend of the young transsexual woman I was there to meet. While I searched for our assumed mutual friend, I ignored this young woman because it was simply impossible to see her as anything but a woman.

Never having passed as female as I’d grown older I’d finally given up trying. Besides, it seemed somehow counter-revolutionary, as the new transgender politics is increasingly built around exactly the kind prominent social visibility and defiant non-passing that my doctors at the Cleveland Clinic assured me would signal the failure of my gender transition surgery.

In fact, my political identity for 30 years has been built on the foundation of my being visibly transgender, from the day I donned a Transsexual Menace NYC t-shirt and flew to the Brandon Teena murder trial in Falls City, Nebraska.

Memorial vigils for slain transgender women, picketing HRC, books on gender theory and public fights with radical feminists, and being booted from the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival on multiple occasions for not being a “born womyn” have made me who I am—inextricably intertwined with being publicly and very much a visible transsexual.

But what if all that were wiped away? Who would I be? What would I have become? With all the activism and writing that identity forced on me during the birth of transgender liberation, would I even be writing this today?

Unlike society’s unwritten rule, “prove you’re really a woman,” nature’s rule is “female, unless proven otherwise.” In that sense we are all born females in utero. It is only through the action of testosterone in the womb that about half of us develop into those “other females,” or men.

Androgen blockers, which prevent all the painful and irrevocable effects of puberty that I spent several years of my life trying to reverse – chest hair, beard, Adam’s apple, etc. – had made this blond 13-year-old into an entirely non-transgender transsexual. One whose gender, and social identity, will be always and completely female to every adult she knows or meets. With the right surgeon, she might not ever tell her husband or wife. She didn’t cross gender lines or even rub up against them. She fulfilled them fully and completely in a way I could never know.

In my adolescence, it was unthinkable to even mention being transgender to my parents or doctors, let alone seek treatment. And treatment, if it were forthcoming at all, would have inevitably meant a psychiatrist (not to mention probably having my father try to beat me into manhood – a project which, come to think of it, he pretty much started anyway).

With adolescents increasingly taking androgen blockers with the support of a generation of more protective, nurturing parents, public transsexuality is fading out. And I don’t mean only that in a generation or two we may become invisible in the public space. I mean rather that in 10 years, the entire experience we understand today as constituting transgender—along with the political advocacy, support groups, literature, theory and books that have come to define it since transgender burst from its closet in the early 1990s to become part of the LGB-and-now-T movement—all that may be vanishing right in front of us. In 50 years it might be as if we never existed. Our memories, our accomplishments, our political movement, will all seem to only be historic. Feeling transgender will not so much become more acceptable, as gayness is now doing, but logically impossible.

In other words, I may be a gender dinosaur.

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2012/12/06/transgender-dinosaurs-and-rise-genderqueers?page=0,0

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Canada: MP’s transgender rights bill amendments include sports exemption, medical diagnosis

From iPolitics:  http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/12/05/mps-transgender-rights-bill-amendments-include-sports-exemption-medical-diagnosis/

By
Dec 5, 2012

A Conservative MP wants to amend an opposition private member’s bill on transgender rights to exempt sport organizations from discrimination if they ban athletes from competing.

Edmonton MP Brent Rathgeber wants NDP Randall Garrison’s Bill C-279 — which would make it illegal to discriminate against transgendered Canadians and to disseminate hate on the basis of someone’s gender identity or expression — to exclude all Canadian sport organizations from the gender identity “claim” if the organizations determine through eligibility criteria that a transgendered athlete cannot compete.

“I’m not saying that they couldn’t allow an individual to compete, I’m just saying that it wouldn’t be automatically discriminatory if they decided that it would be inappropriate,” Rathgeber said.

In an interview, Rathgeber explained why sports groups should be exempt from the bill.

“What I’m envisioning, a male for example, my size or possibly bigger, who actually goes through gender reassignment surgery, and then wants to compete in, let’s say women’s wrestling or women’s shot put,” said the MP, who is well above 6 feet tall.

“That would be wrong and I think a person my size would be at an advantage competing in women’s sport if the sport deals with strength or stamina, (and) I think it is generally accepted that men have more strength and stamina,” he said.

“Conversely, a sport that requires flexibility and agility, I think generally speaking women are at an advantage, and I think it would be equally inappropriate for a person who’s gone through that to be able to compete against people who are formally of the opposite sex.”

Rathgeber also wants the bill to include a medical diagnosis of “gender dysphoria” because the terms identity and expression are too broad.

Continue reading at:  http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/12/05/mps-transgender-rights-bill-amendments-include-sports-exemption-medical-diagnosis/

Human Rights Commissioner Muižnieks urges Ireland to adopt Legal Gender Recognition

From TGEU:  http://www.tgeu.org/Human_Rights_Commissioner_Muiznieks_urges_Ireland_to_adopt_Legal_Gender_Recognition

Richard
Thu, 12/06/2012

“It is my position that legal recognition of the preferred gender should not require infertility or compulsory medical treatment which may seriously impair the autonomy, health or well-being of the individuals concerned. Any requirement of a medical diagnosis should be reviewed with a view to eliminating obstacles to the effective enjoyment by transgender persons of their human rights, including the right to self-determination. Moreover, divorce should not be a necessary condition for gender recognition as it can have a disproportionate effect on the right to family life.” says Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks in a letter to Irish Minister for Social Protection Juan Burton.

 In her response, Minister Burton calls the enactment of Gender Recognition a priority for the Government and herself, however fails to establish a concrete timeline for the introduction of the Heads of Bills. In September 2012 she had promised the Irish and international audience of the 4th European Transgender Council in Dublin an introduction of the Heads of Bills in the coming weeks. In her response to the Commissioner she reiterates ”complexities” around marital and civil partnership status as main reasons for the delay.
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Christian Hate Group calls for boycott over Ellen DeGeneres ad with elves

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/12/06/christian-group-calls-for-boycott-over-ellen-degeneres-ad-with-elves/

By David Edwards
Thursday, December 6, 2012

The anti-LGBT activist group One Million Moms is calling on Christians to boycott JCPenney department stores because talk show host Ellen DeGeneres appears in a routine Christmas ad.

As NBC noted on Thursday, JCPenny’s commercial, in which DeGeneres wears holiday clothes and insults elves with short jokes, will not strike most viewer as controversials in any way.

But for One Million Moms, seeing the lesbian comedienne on their television screens was an instant cause for action.

“Since April, JC Penney’s has not aired Ellen DeGeneres in one of their commercials until now,” the group wrote on its website. “A new JCP ad features Ellen and three elves. JCP has made their choice to offend a huge majority of their customers again. Christians must now vote with their wallets.”

Viewers on YouTube were puzzled by the group’s reaction.

“One Million Moms or as I call them a seething hot ball of bigotry, hate, intolerance and inequality,” one commenter wrote. “There is nothing wrong with that ad.”

Complete article at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2012/12/06/christian-group-calls-for-boycott-over-ellen-degeneres-ad-with-elves/

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Christian Hate Group Leader Lauds Uganda Dictator as ‘Kill the Gays’ Bill Is Revived

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/christian-right-leader-lauds-uganda-dictator-kill-gays-bill-revived

Tony Perkins goes out of his way to ensure that the Family Research Council deserves its hate-group designation.

By Cynthia Burack
December 5, 2012

In the past week the Family Research Council has been busy praising Uganda’s commitment to Christian faith and “national repentance” — even as the Ugandan Parliament once again takes up a bill that would legally mandate the persecution of LGBT people. The bill appears to be part and parcel of dictator Yoweri Museveni’s “repentance” program, and its reappearance before the legislature has drawn no criticism from FRC or the other Christian right groups allied with the dictator. If anything, it seems to be drawing tacit, artfully-phrased praise.

Many who have followed the human rights crisis for LGBT people in Uganda know that, in 2009, the Anti-Homosexuality Bill was introduced into the Ugandan Parliament to supplement laws that already banned homosexuality. The bill, quickly dubbed the “Kill the Gays” bill because of its provision of a death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality,” also includes severe penalties for other actions and non-actions, including the “failure to disclose the offense” by anyone who might be aware of another person’s same-sex sexuality. Although the bill has not been yet passed, it has attracted harsh international condemnation, and many attacks on LGBT people and activists have been attributed to the public debates surrounding it.

It is in this context that last month Uganda’s pious President Museveni delivered a speech in which he dedicated his country to God and renounced “the Satanic influence” of “the last 50 years of [its] history.” (It is not clear whether Museveni considers it inconvenient that he has governed Uganda for over half of the country’s 50 years of said sinfulness.) While he did not mention homosexuality specifically in the long list of sins for which Museveni called upon the deity to forgive the nation, he did name “sexual immorality.” In any case, Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has taken up the challenge of national repentance by promising passage of the “Kill the Gays” legislation as a “Christmas gift” to the people of Uganda.

Naturally, Christian conservative leaders in the U.S. are thrilled with what FRC has called an “inspirational moment for the [Ugandan] nation.” As Alvin McEwen pointed out , FRC President Tony Perkins tweeted a big, warm hug to President Museveni for “leading his nation in repentance” and thus helping to create a “nation prospered by God.” But Perkins’ tweet was an hors d’oeuvre for the main course, a November 26 email alert sent out to FRC subscribers entitled, “During Revival, Media Still Atone Deaf.” As the title suggests, one target of the longer commendation of Museveni is the mainstream media in the U.S. which, having drawn attention to violations of LGBT peoples’ human rights in Uganda, is accused of being “so threatened by religion that it refuses to leave another country alone to pursue its own views on sexuality and faith.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/christian-right-leader-lauds-uganda-dictator-kill-gays-bill-revived

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Mexican Supreme Court rules for marriage equality

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/06/mexican_supreme_court_rules_for_marriage_equality/

The country is on track to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide before its neighbor to the north

By
Thursday, Dec 6, 2012

In a unanimous ruling Wednesday, the Supreme Court of Mexico has paved the way for same-sex couples to marry in every one of the country’s 31 states before the U.S. has federal marriage equality.

Gay marriage has been legal in the Federal District, Mexico City, since 2010, and the Supreme Court had previously ruled that those marriages must be recognized nationwide. Wednesday’s ruling struck down a law in the southern state of Oaxaca that denied same-sex couples the right to marry there.

The ruling could have repercussions beyond Mexico’s borders. The couples seeking to marry in the Oaxaca case based their claims partly on protections in the American Convention on Human Rights, which has legal force in many Latin American countries. In saying that bans on same-sex marriage are discriminatory, the court may establish a precedent that could be used by LGBT activists throughout the region.

This comes before the U.S. Supreme Court has even decided whether it will hear a gay marriage case.

This Oaxaca case, which has broad implications, had an unlikely beginning. It was initiated by a Oaxacan law student, Alex Alí Méndez Díaz, who brought suits on behalf of a handful of couples even though other LGBT activists in his state warned that they were doomed to fail.

Méndez met a couple named Alejandro and Guillermo while working with the Oaxacan Front for the Respect and Recognition of Sexual Diversity [Frente Oaxaqueño por el Respeto y el Reconocimiento de la Diversidad Sexual] to plan a 2011 gay rights march. (Méndez has not released the last names of his clients to protect their privacy.) They said they wanted to get married but couldn’t afford the trip to Mexico City.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2012/12/06/mexican_supreme_court_rules_for_marriage_equality/

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Claire McCaskill’s Sweeping Overhaul Of Wartime Contracting Passes Senate

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/05/claire-mccaskill-wartime-contracting-senate_n_2245135.html?1354748496&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

12/05/2012

WASHINGTON — The Senate passed a sweeping overhaul on Tuesday of the U.S. government’s wartime contracting procedures, the largest such reform in decades. Sen. Claire McCaskill’s (D-Mo.) amendment, included in the national defense bill, is aimed at improving oversight and cracking down on the rampant waste, fraud and abuse of taxpayer dollars in contracting practices.

“While these wars wind down, we can’t lose the urgency to correct these mistakes and prevent them from being repeated in the future,” said McCaskill in a statement. “Protecting taxpayer dollars isn’t the flashiest issue. But it’s a promise I made to Missourians, and it’s something I pledge to continue fighting for, with dogged determination, until this legislation is signed into law.”

Wartime contracting was not the headline issue in McCaskill’s recent Senate race, where she spoke out on the reproductive rights of women after her opponent, Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), made his infamous remark about “legitimate rape.” But the topic is near and dear to the heart of McCaskill, who was previously Missouri state auditor.

McCaskill has been leading a six-year effort to crack down on wartime contracting abuses. For example, there was the $345 million spent on health centers in Iraq that went largely unused. There was also the $300 million the United States spent on building the Tarakhil Power Plant in Afghanistan, without considering whether the country would be able to afford the expensive fuel to run the plant.

Last year, the Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan — which was created by McCaskill and Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in 2007 — concluded that up to $60 billion in U.S. taxpayer money has been squandered in contract waste and fraud in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The committee cited “ill-conceived” projects, “poor planning and oversight” by the government, “poor performance” by contractors, as well as “criminal behavior and blatant corruption.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/05/claire-mccaskill-wartime-contracting-senate_n_2245135.html?1354748496&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

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Entitlements Are Fundamental Human Rights, Not Political Poker Chips to Be Bargained Away

From Truth Out:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/13130-entitlements-are-fundamental-human-rights-not-political-poker-chips-to-be-bargained-away

By Salvatore Babones
Wednesday, 05 December 2012

The basic necessities of life are not for government to give or withhold based on its current budget situation. They are things we are entitled to have, no matter how inconvenient it may be for our neighbors to pay for them.

In September 1974, Gerald Ford’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) introduced a new term into the English language: “entitlement program.”

Journalist Edwin L. Dale Jr. (who later joined Ronald Reagan’s OMB as budget spokesperson) explained in the September 22, 1974 New York Times that the term “covers all those cases where the law creates a formula of some kind that entitles individuals or, in a few cases, state and local governments, to qualify for federal payments.”

Since Richard Nixon had just resigned on August 9, the nation may not have been paying much attention to technical briefings from the OMB.

To read more articles by Salvatore Babones and other authors in the Public Intellectual Project, click here.

Ford’s OMB divided the federal budget into four categories, a basic division that is still used today. First came contractual obligations like interest on the debt. Interestingly, the OMB placed corporate welfare programs like federal mortgage insurance and farm price supports in this sacrosanct category.

Second came “entitlement programs” like Social Security, Food Stamps, Medicare and Medicaid. The OMB assumed that these could not realistically be cut because the people receiving them would raise hell if they were.

These were the programs that Nixon wanted to get rid of, but felt he couldn’t. He left Ford in no position to pursue an ideological crusade against them. Ford needed every vote he could get.

Third came defense spending, ring-fenced as always.

Last on the list, and first on the chopping block, came domestic discretionary spending – in other words, “government.” According to OMB data, domestic discretionary spending has fallen from 21.3 percent of all federal spending in 1974, to just 16.1 percent today. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011 domestic discretionary spending will suffer disproportionate cuts due to sequestration in 2012.

Of the four categories, Nixon prioritized interest payments to investors first, subsidy payments to individuals second, the military third and government last. The only major change to this formula came with election of Ronald Reagan, who moved the military up from third place to second. Subsequent presidents have followed Reagan’s lead.

Now that domestic discretionary spending has been eviscerated, anti-government forces have turned their attention to entitlement programs.

Continue reading at:  http://truth-out.org/news/item/13130-entitlements-are-fundamental-human-rights-not-political-poker-chips-to-be-bargained-away

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If We Did Not Share in the Prosperity, Why Should We Have to Share in the Sacrifice?

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-al-sharpton/fiscal-cliff-minorities_b_2247565.html


12/05/2012

When the great recession of 2008 struck, it hit some of us harder than others. Middle class families, the poor, people of color and the workers of America suffered the most, while those that caused the crisis were largely unscathed — many even increased their wealth. Today, when we are in danger of going over the notorious fiscal cliff, some repeatedly speak of ‘shared sacrifice.’ But when the top 2 percent were enjoying their tax breaks and stockpiling their prosperity, there was no sharing with the masses. And instead, these individuals and groups now have the audacity to ask seniors, minorities, folks whose children fought in our wars, the disenfranchised and the most vulnerable among us to sacrifice some more. Does that seem fair to you?

On Monday, I was in the nation’s capital with Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, Ben Jealous, President and CEO of the NAACP, and Melanie Campbell, the Executive Director of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation as we convened a meeting on the ‘Agenda for Black America.’ We gathered a group of African American and civil rights leaders representing 62 organizations as we collaborated on national priorities for the coming Presidential term. We will be laying out the specifics of this agenda (addressing everything from economic disparity to the criminal justice system) to Congress and the White House in the next several weeks. But the very first thing that all of us who care about the future of our nation must agree on is that middle class tax cuts must be reissued and tax breaks for the top 2 percent must expire.

About two weeks before our ‘Agenda for Black America’ coalition, progressive leaders (including myself), met with President Obama to advocate on behalf of our respective communities. Representing a diverse group of organizations — White, Black, Latino, gay/lesbian and female — we highlighted ways in which we can collectively continue moving forward. As we expressed to the President in that meeting, it’s abundantly clear that Republicans simply do not understand the new electorate.

Back in 1988, George H.W. Bush won approximately 61 percent of the White vote and was swept into office. In 2012, Mitt Romney won about the same percentage of White voters and lost. The demographics of the country have undeniably changed. There’s a new America and a new electorate. And those who do not comprehend this notion will continue losing support and continue losing elections. Any further negotiations regarding the looming fiscal cliff must also keep this new America in mind.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rev-al-sharpton/fiscal-cliff-minorities_b_2247565.html

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Tax the Rich: An animated fairy tale

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Scientists to reveal full extent of Arctic ice loss amid climate change fears

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/05/climate-change-scientists-arctic-ice-loss

US science agency Noaa to deliver annual report on polar region after year of record-breaking and extreme weather events

US environment correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 5 December 2012

The full extent of the extreme loss of Arctic ice cover is due to be revealed on Wednesday when a premier US science agency delivers its annual report on the polar region.

The report, overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (Noaa), provides the most comprehensive review so far of a year of record-breaking and extreme weather events in the Arctic.

Some scientists have warned the changes in the Arctic recorded this year – particularly signs of thawing permafrost – could bring the planet much closer to a climate tipping point than previously anticipated.

Climate change is taking place before our eyes, and will continue to do so as a result of the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which have risen constantly and again reached new records,” the World Meteorological Organisation’s secretary general, Michael Jarraud, said.

Nowhere has that been more apparent this year than the Arctic, according to scientists.

Noaa’s administrator, Jane Lubchenco, and other scientists were due to deliver their own assessment at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco on Wednesday afternoon.

The scientists will outline the record loss of summer sea ice – which reached its lowest value on the satellite records of 26 August 2012, the decline in spring snow extent, rising temperatures in the permafrost in northern Alaska, and the dramatic melting of the surface of the Greenland ice sheet, according to the AGU website.

Some of those findings have already been made public, reinforcing the already extensive evidence – in real time – of climate change.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/dec/05/climate-change-scientists-arctic-ice-loss

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A Letter To Chevron’s CEO: Your Business Is Creating A Climate ‘Incompatible With An Organized Global Community’

From Think Progress:  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/12/05/1286791/a-letter-to-chevrons-ceo-your-business-is-creating-a-climate-incompatible-with-an-organized-global-community/?mobile=nc

David Fenton
Dec 5, 2012

From: David Fenton

To: John Watson, CEO of Chevron

Dear Mr. Watson,

I’m the one who asked you about global warming at the Council on Foreign Relations last week. I accused you of being in denial. I’m afraid your answer proved it.

I pointed out that three recent reports warned we are headed for 4 to 6 degree centigrade warming over the next century — from those radicals at PricewaterhouseCoopers, The International Energy Agency and the World Bank. This is what your industry business model is threatening us with, a future that UK climate scientist Kevin Anderson has called “incompatible with an organized global community.” It will make coastlines unstable for generations as seas rise, bring the price of food beyond the reach of the world’s poor, create even stronger storms, droughts, wildfires and floods — all while wrecking the global economy. And it is happening now.

If you need a reminder, you can watch our exchange here.

Your answer? We have no choice but to keep burning all the fossil fuels to avoid returning to the Stone Age. China and India are doing it so we will too (sounds like what a five-year-old would say). There is no alternative technology, so we have no choice but to advance towards collective suicide. Such foresight and leadership!

But none of it is true.

What will return us to the Stone Age is burning all your reserves, and those of the other fossil fuel companies. That isn’t politics — its physics, as burning them will warm the earth beyond anything civilization has known.

Meanwhile, as the experts at McKinsey, the Rocky Mountain Institute and many others have shown, we can move towards an almost carbon-free energy system over the next 30 to 40 years at either zero net cost (McKinsey) or a $5 trillion dollar net present value savings to the economy (rmi.org). We have almost all the technologies needed, and as they scale they are coming down in price rapidly. Wind and solar are competitive in many places now, and soon won’t need subsidies (when will you give up yours?). With a smart grid, solar and wind can scale to at least 50% of our energy needs even before storage becomes more affordable, which it will. The new Tesla electric sedan gets 300 miles on a charge, and those prices will fall as volume rises too. Why isn’t Chevron leading us into this survivable and profitable world?

Continue reading at:  http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/12/05/1286791/a-letter-to-chevrons-ceo-your-business-is-creating-a-climate-incompatible-with-an-organized-global-community/?mobile=nc

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World’s nations face ‘climate cliff’ at Doha’s COP 18 summit

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/06/world-nations-climate-cliff-doha-cop18

With the Kyoto protocol about to lapse, activists are struggling to persuade politicians to re-commit to action on climate change

in Doha, Qatar
guardian.co.uk, Thursday 6 December 2012

The 18th UN climate change summit is taking place in the small, but immensely wealthy Gulf emirate of Qatar, the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world. Delegates, press, dignitaries and the legions of low-paid, foreign guest workers at the opulent Qatar National Convention Center all pass under an enormous spider, a 30ft-high cast bronze statue called “Maman“, by the French-American sculptor Louise Bourgeois.

It was chosen by the emir’s wife, and snapped up for a reported $10m. The Obama administration has been accused, rightly, of derailing the UN climate negotiations in recent years, which makes the spider an appropriate symbol, as famously described by the lines from an 1808 poem by Sir Walter Scott:

“Oh! what a tangled web we weave
When first we practice to deceive!”

Here at the summit, referred to as the COP 18 (18th Conference of Parties), I met up with climate scientist Bill Hare, one of the lead authors of a new World Bank report, “Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4ºC Warmer World Must Be Avoided”. With the US media focused on the so-called fiscal cliff, I asked Hare how the world’s historically largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States, could be expected to contribute to a global fund to combat climate change:

“We have a climate cliff … We’re facing a carbon tsunami, actually, where huge amounts of carbon are now being emitted at a faster rate than ever. And it’s that carbon tsunami that’s likely to overwhelm the planet with warming, sea-level rise and acidifying the oceans.”

Just a day after I interviewed Hare, a powerful typhoon hit the Philippines. I spoke with the lead climate negotiator from the Philippines, Naderev Sano, just minutes after the news of the typhoon broke.

Continue reading at:  http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/06/world-nations-climate-cliff-doha-cop18

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