Friday Night Fun and Culture: Grace Slick and The Great Society

Before Grace Slick joined the Jefferson Airplane, she was a member of another band, The Great Society.

Truth, Consequences and Gender Transition

From Huffington Post:


Let me introduce myself: I was a loving husband and father over a quarter-century of marriage to a woman I met in my first semester in college. I remained loving and faithful through an excruciating divorce, impoverishing myself to maintain my ex’s and our children’s standard of living, and commuting to a job 150 miles away so that I could live near my children and be involved in their lives. Now, five years after I moved out, I continue to support my ex and children, whom I see several times a week despite working out-of-state.

Like many divorced couples, my ex and I tell very different stories of our break-up. Unlike many divorced former couples, both of us have published accounts of our divorce. (Huffington Post published my version last year.) Neither of our versions accuses the other of lying, but as you can see from the comments after my account, many people insist that I lied throughout my relationship — because I’m transgender. Some say that I lied by living as a man, then broke my marital vows which, according to them, included the promise that I would live as a man for the rest of my life. Others say I lie by living as a woman when I was born and lived for 45 years as a man, and by portraying myself as loving and faithful to my family despite what they suffered as a result of my gender transition.

My ex and children did suffer as a result of my gender transition. My ex lost the man she had loved since college. My children suffered much more from the divorce than from my transition, but though I remain their loving parent, they mourned the loss of the father they had known. My ex has eloquently described her experience of my transition, which to her felt like watching her husband die.

Of course, as my children know, I didn’t die, but my ex’s account is true to her feelings. As she had warned me since I first came out to her as trans in college, she couldn’t love me once I stopped looking like a man, so for her my transition was pure loss. But my ex’s sense that she was watching me die is also true in another way: as I told her at the time, living as a man was literally killing me. My body and the male persona that I had created to go with it — the male persona she loved, and which I had endured for decades — had become living hells. I couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep, couldn’t feel anything but pain. My male persona was dying, and I, the invisible person who had always hid within that persona, was dying inside it, before her eyes.

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Coalition seeks trans rights

From The Washington Blade:

on January 9, 2013

Seventeen local, state and national organizations have joined with individual activists to form the Maryland Coalition for Trans Equality, in a broad effort to fight for trans rights.

MCTE’s mission is to advance equal rights for transgender, transsexual and gender non-conforming people in Maryland through leadership, collaborative decision-making processes and resources.

Over the spring and summer of 2012, MCTE held several listening sessions across the state. Through these sessions MCTE asked community members to share their vision of progress for trans people in the state. Attendees articulated a demand for a broader coalition to do this work. Acting on that directive, MCTE has brought together numerous organizations working for equality and justice in Maryland.

“Equality Maryland embraces doing this vital work in a coalition that has trans individuals at the center of decision-making,” said Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland in a statement. “We witnessed the power of a coalition winning and preserving marriage equality and we are confident this model will succeed for trans equality.”

Other organizations in the coalition include ACLU of Maryland, Baltimore Black Pride, FreeState Legal Project, Maryland NOW (National Organization for Women), National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and PFLAG. For more information, visit

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Rhode Island Governor Says He Won’t Put Marriage Up for Referendum

From The Advocate:

Legislators are elected to make such decisions, says Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

BY Lucas Grindley
January 10 2013

Hopes by some to put marriage equality up to a vote by Rhode Island’s citizens instead of its lawmakers got a big setback today.

Democratic state senator Frank Ciccone had suggested introducing a bill that would put marriage equality up to a statewide vote. But Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Thursday, according to the Providence Journal, that he would veto such a bill.

The Providence Journal reports, “Chafee, a same-sex marriage supporter, said he believes lawmakers are elected to make such decisions and should be allowed to decide the issue of same-sex marriage.”

All remaining signs point to Rhode Island being among the next states to legalize same-sex marriage. One the main obstacles to passage had been Senate president M. Teresa Paiva Weed, who now supports holding a vote on the bill. And House speaker Gordon Fox, who is gay, also plans to hold a vote.

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Rape in the Age of Social Media

From Salon:

From Steubenville to India, videos and tweets are being turned against perpetrators of sexual violence

By Thursday, Jan 10, 2013

A video of a gleeful teenage boy crowing, “She is so raped” and “They raped her quicker than Mike Tyson!” An Instagram image of the same girl of Steubenville, Ohio, limply borne by boys holding wrists and ankles. An 11-year-old girl whose gang rape in Texas last year was discovered by adults via cellphone video, a video she then had to watch when she took the stand. A teenage boy in Canada who posted photos on Facebook of a 16-year-old girl being gang-raped, sentenced last year to probation and ordered to write an essay on “the pros and cons of social media.”

They are a loop of retraumatization, these images replaying sexual violence and the culture around it, but they are something else, too: evidence. They are proof not just for a courtroom that formally recognizes the existence of rape and sexual assault, but for a culture prone to denying it or explaining it away. The evidence is made not by concerned bystanders seeking to document crimes but by the victimizers themselves, who chronicle their actions because they see nothing wrong with them or because they think nothing will happen to them. Often the images are made by people who see only spectacle, not reason for intervention. But in all of these cases, the recorders eventually lost control of their own productions — in Steubenville, for example, the kids’ careless tweets were screen-grabbed by an enterprising blogger. Their own creations were turned against them in the service of justice, if far too late and too often incomplete.

In the crudest journalistic terms, rape is having a moment, from India to Ohio. (Recall how much of last year’s widespread anger at Republican politicians had to do with rape at least as much as reproductive freedom. They’re intimately related, and both concern ownership over bodies that are considered collective property, but not everyone sees the connection.) It’s having a moment on the streets, in both of those places, though even that has had a virtual element, as people all over the world have watched and live-tweeted the livestream of the Steubenville rallies and passed around stories of the Indian protests. Sexual violence remains something that is rarely openly discussed in daily life, but has become something that is urgently talked about on the Internet — by introverts, the semi-anonymous, those with too much to lose, those who named what happened to them too late, all rendered angry activists and confessors.

Sometimes, the survivors of such reproduced assaults take matters into their own hands. “There you go, lock me up. I’m not protecting anyone that made my life a living Hell,” wrote 16-year-old Savannah Dietrich on Twitter after naming, in defiance of a court order, the boys who had sexually assaulted her — and photographed it — while she was passed out. “I just wanted to stand up for myself,” she told the Daily Beast recently. “I’ll never take those tweets down.” That same story quoted a legal advocate saying that the new technologies are increasingly used “as a weapon to harass and humiliate the victim,” adding up to  “an invasion of privacy beyond what we’ve seen before.” That’s undeniable, but Dietrich chose to use another virtual platform to turn the glare back on the perpetrators.

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Birds, Bees and Bad Information: The Deplorable State of Sex Education in the US

From Truth Out:

By Eleanor J Bader
Thursday, 10 January 2013

Although we know what works and what doesn’t in sexual education, the US fails its young adults and their families, providing inadequate, inconsistent, medically inaccurate and socially biased information.

Depending on where a child grows up, he or she might – or might not – attend a Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) class in school – a several-month-long discussion of anatomy and physiology, puberty, pregnancy, sexually transmitted infections, healthy relationships, personal safety and saying “no.”

According to a March 2012 report released by the National Conference of State Legislators, only 21 states and the District of Columbia require schools to teach sex education. And, in a finding that should jolt parents and teachers out of their chairs, only 18 states require that the information be medically accurate.

Birds, Bees and Bias,  a 2012 New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) study, evaluated 108 school districts in New York state – the City of New York was excluded because the Department of Education put a revised CSE protocol into effect in September 2012, making it too new to appraise – and came to some disturbing conclusions. Among the findings: “Lessons on reproductive anatomy and basic functioning were often incomplete and pervasive factual limitations reflected gender stereotypes and heterocentric bias.” The survey also found explicit moral overtones regarding sexuality, the value of abstinence, teen pregnancy and family life in many of the curricula.

Johanna Miller, assistant advocacy director of the NYCLU, told Truthout that since the early 1990s, all New York school districts have been mandated to offer lessons about HIV/AIDS – but not CSE. “Some use materials that are outdated,” she says. “Most simply tell students to use condoms if they are having sex, but only one in three offers instruction on the proper way to use them. What’s more, few teachers make mention of sexual orientation, emergency contraception or abortion. They also rarely explain what they mean by sex. Is it only intercourse? What about anal and oral sex?” Miller asks. “When you offer HIV education without Comprehensive Sex Education, the context is missing and the program does not meet the actual needs of students.”

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Is Barney too Frank to fill John Kerry’s Massachusetts Senate seat?

From The Guardian UK:

The former Democratic congressman has made no secret of his wish to take the role, but he may be too outspoken to find favour, Tuesday 8 January 2013

Democrat Barney Frank, former Massachusetts congressman, is itching to get back to Capitol Hill. Frank has emerged as a leading choice to take up a short-term US Senate appointment to replace Secretary of State-in-waiting John Kerry. The seat would be decided in a special election, but until that can be arranged, the governor of Massachusetts is obliged to appoint a senator as temporary replacement.

Saddled with a reapportioned congressional district that removed one of his key urban strongholds, the waspish congressman announced his retirement in 2011. Frank came out more than 30 years ago, the first gay Washington lawmaker to be so bold – his move prompted then speaker of the House Tip O’Neill, another Massachusetts politician, to lament that Frank would never be “the first Jewish speaker”. In 2012, he also became the first congressman to marry to his same-sex partner.

Few would quibble that Frank would hit the ground running in the Senate. He was instrumental in crafting the 2008 bank bailout and the Dodd-Frank Act, the 2010 financial regulatory reform package that bears his name. He is popular in Massachusetts Democratic circles and is getting a healthy amount of support from Bay State newspaper editorial boards and opinion leaders. Even newly-minted Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren likes the idea.

With the 113th Congress under way, the interim senator will have to contend with the unfinished fiscal business of a new sequestration deadline and debt ceiling negotiations, along with a passel of cabinet vacancies. Beside the secretaryships of State and Defense, nominations for the top slots at the CIA, the treasury department, and the Environmental Protection Agency will also wind their way through the Senate in the coming months.

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Solving the Fiscal Impasse Starts and Ends at the Pentagon

From Reader Supported News:

By Rep. Barbara Lee, Reader Supported News
10 January 13

As Afghan President Hamid Karzai returns to the United States this week, he will meet President Barack Obama at a time when the overwhelming majority of the American people and a strong bipartisan coalition of Congress believe it is long past time to bring the war to a safe and expedited close. Most Americans realize that instead of spending billions of dollars extending our military presence in Afghanistan, we need to commit to a political settlement, bring all of our troops safely home and invest in jobs as well as nation-building here at home.

Yet for too long, we have given the Pentagon blank checks while neglecting our crumbling roads, our aging water systems and our struggling schools. From 2000 to 2010, overall spending on the base defense budget rose from nearly $300 billion to $700 billion. That massive increase in spending, combined with $1.4 trillion (and counting) spent on two wars, and the projected hundreds of billions in costs to care for our returning veterans, were all committed even as we passed tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. This is an unprecedented and disastrous policy course that led directly to the debt problem we have today.

After a decade of tax giveaways and extravagant defense spending, Congress has passed more than $1.7 trillion in spending cuts to critical domestic programs on which all American families rely. Most of this came in the summer of 2011 as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling without any revenue. Now, with the fiscal cliff deal behind us, the coming weeks will bring even more heated debate surrounding our budget, across-the-board cuts called sequestration and how to continue growing our economy by protecting the American dream for all. Here is what we should do:

Brings our troops home: Last month, almost 100 bipartisan members of the House of Representatives joined me and the overwhelming majority of the American people in reaffirming our strong conviction to bring the war in Afghanistan to a safe and expedited close. It is long past time to hand over security responsibility to the Afghans and ensure a seamless transition for our brave troops from active duty to civilian life. Doing so would save tens of billions of dollars this year alone.

Focus on job creation: The poor and middle class already bear a disproportionate share of the nation’s economic pain. Taking into account what was passed into law as part of the fiscal cliff deal, a fiscally responsible and balanced approach would secure an additional $1 trillion in new revenue to match the massive cuts to domestic programs we have already made in recent months. Doing so would allow us to make robust investments in smart and targeted economic growth, provide a 21st-century education for every child in America and create a renewable green energy technology future that will end our dependence on foreign oil, protect our environment and kick-start a new manufacturing base here in America. After all, the best way to reduce our deficit is to focus on job creation here at home.

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Russ Feingold: Democrats Sold Out in 2012 and Need to Quit Big Money

From Mother Jones:

By Thu Jan. 10, 2013

President Obama’s decision to let his 2013 inauguration committee accept corporate cash and million-dollar donations marks quite a reversal for the president: for his first inaugural in 2009, he capped individual donations at $50,000 and banned corporate money. The Associated Press calls the decision “part of a continuing erosion of Obama’s pledge to keep donors and special interests at arm’s length of his presidency.” But for former Sen. Russ Feingold, it’s yet another sell-out by his friends in the Democratic Party to the big-money forces so dominant in politics today.

No Democrat has so publicly ripped his own party for embracing super-PACs and dark-money nonprofits than Feingold. In a new article for the journal Democracy, Feingold, who co-wrote the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act, the last major campaign finance restriction in the US, takes Democrats to the mat. He calls 2012 “a big step” back for Democratic-led efforts to get big money out of politics, and singles out Obama’s reversal on super-PACs. In February 2012, the president encouraged his donors to give to Priorities USA Action, the super-PAC backing him, while allowing his top deputies to appear at Priorities events. On the PBS NewsHour, top Obama strategist David Axelrod defended Obama by saying that the president hadn’t warned at all toward super-PACs but had to play by the rules of the game. You heard that a lot from Democrats in 2012. Yet with statements like that, Feingold says, Democrats were posing as a pro-reform party while tripping over themselves to “exploit any avenue to accept unlimited, corporate dollars to fund elections.”

Beltway Democrats, Feingold argues, aren’t going to reform big-money politics from the inside; they’re addicted and they just can’t quit. The task of fighting for real reforms to money in politics, of building what Feingold—who now runs his own pro-reform nonprofit, Progressives United—calls a “permanent majority” for reform, falls instead to liberal donors and activists outside of Washington.

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Germany Gears Up for Big Pay Hikes

From Der Spiegel:

By Sven Böll and Janko Tietz
January 08, 2013

German trade unions plan to demand big pay increases this year and look set to get their way. Economists say that after years of wage moderation, it is high time that German firms agreed to bigger hikes — not least because this would help the entire European economy.

Frank Bsirske, the head of the Ver.di service workers’ union, gets annoyed when he hears people say that Germany is doing pretty well. “That only applies to the well-off,” he says angrily. “The gap between rich and poor has never been this wide, and never has the middle class felt this threatened.” The union leader is even worried that social conflict could escalate.

His recipe against the erosion of society is hardly surprising: Wages have to go up, and by a significant amount, at that. In the current collective bargaining round, Ver.di is calling for a 6.5-percent pay increase — the highest in years — for German public sector employees.

Bsirske has the support of other unions with his demand for a substantial pay hike. After metalworkers’ union IG Metall fought for improvements in the treatment of temporary workers and more assistance for trainees in the last bargaining round, the union’s main focus in the new round beginning in May will be on money. “Our demand will focus on a decent pay increase,” says IG Metall regional director Meinhard Geiken. Michael Sommer, head of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB), is convinced that “the people who keep the country running and generate its wealth deserve to get their fair share.”

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During The Worst Flu Season In A Decade, Workers Across The Country Can’t Stay Home Sick

From Think Progress:

By Pat Garofalo
on Jan 10, 2013

The 2013 flu season is in full swing, and according to the Centers for Disease Control, it will be the worst in ten years. The New York Times reported that “the country is in the grip of three emerging flu or flulike epidemics: an early start to the annual flu season with an unusually aggressive virus, a surge in a new type of norovirus, and the worst whooping cough outbreak in 60 years.”

The CDC recommends that those who experience flu-like symptoms “should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care.” However, for a huge number of American workers, that option doesn’t exist due to a lack of paid sick days. 40 percent of private sector workers and a whopping 80 percent of low-income workers do not have a single paid sick day. One in five workers reports losing their job or being threatened with dismissal for wanting to take time off while sick.

This problem is especially acute in the food industry, with its high potential for spreading disease. 79 percent of food workers say they have no paid sick time.

Lack of paid sick time led to an estimated 5 million additional cases of H1N1 flu in 2009, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. And as the National Partnership for Women and Families noted, paid sick days don’t just benefit workers, but businesses and the economy as well:

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Americans ‘are sicker and die younger’ than people in other wealthy nations

From The Guardian UK:

Damning official report on US health finds death and disease taking huge toll on population, particularly among young

, health editor, Thursday 10 January 2013

America may be one of the richest countries in the world, but its people are less healthy and more likely to die early from disease or accidents than those in any other affluent country, a damning official US report has found.

Even the best-off Americans – those who have health insurance, a college education, a high income and healthy behaviour – are sicker than their peers in comparable countries, says the report by the US National Research Council and the Institute of Medicine.

“We were struck by the gravity of these findings,” said Steven H Woolf, professor of family medicine at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond and chair of the panel that wrote the report. “Americans are dying and suffering at rates that we know are unnecessary because people in other high-income countries are living longer lives and enjoying better health. What really concerns our panel is why, for decades, we have been slipping behind.” The report, US Health in International Perspective: Shorter Lives, Poorer Health, was commissioned by the National Institutes of Health. It compares the US with 16 affluent democracies, including Australia, Canada and Japan and many in Europe including Britain. There have been similar findings from the Commonwealth Fund over some years, but they have compared the US with only a handful of nations.

The new report looked in detail at data from the late 1990s to 2008. “Over this time period, we uncovered a strikingly consistent and pervasive pattern of higher mortality and inferior health in the United States, beginning at birth,” it said.

For many years, Americans have had a shorter life expectancy than people in almost all the comparator countries and for the past three decades the gap has been widening, particularly for women.

The US does badly in nine specific areas. It has the highest infant mortality rate of any wealthy country and also does poorly on other birth outcomes, such as low weight babies.

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See also:  The New York Times:  For Americans Under 50, Stark Findings on Health

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Food System Fail: Up to Half of World’s Food Wasted

From Common Dreams:

‘Staggering’ amount of food waste squanders ‘precious resources, including land, water and energy’

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer
Published on Thursday, January 10, 2013 by Common Dreams

Up to half of all food produced in the world is wasted, according to a new report, which also implicates wasteful practices in the global food system that squander the planet’s water.

The report released Thursday, Global Food: Waste Not, Want Not (.pdf), from the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers notes that the “staggering” amount of food waste also means waste of “precious resources, including land, water and energy.”

Dr. Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers stated:

The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today. It is also an unnecessary waste of the land, water and energy resources that were used in the production, processing and distribution of this food.

The Guardian‘s Michael White writes Thursday:

The wider implications are scary. The planet faces the prospect of having to feed 9 to 10 billion people by 2050 – it’s currently supporting 7 billion – and as agricultural experts have been reporting quite separately this week, the rise in extreme weather has damaged both the quantity of food harvested last year and (through lack of sunlight) its quality in some places, including Britain.

Yet, rich and poor alike, we are quite careless about looking after what we have. In developing countries with poor transport infrastructure and packaging (that wicked plastic packaging stuff does prevent waste) up to one third of food rots before it gets to market by some estimates. In the developed world, so today’s report from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers confirms, up to one-third of vegetables are rejected as ugly or ploughed back in consequence of over-production.

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Mass Extinction Forecast With 6C Temperature Rise

From Truth Dig:

By Paul Brown, Climate News Network
Jan 10, 2013

This article originally appeared at Climate News Network.

LONDON—Animals, including humans, will shrink in size to survive in a warming world, according to scientists studying the last time the planet’s temperature rose rapidly by 6°C. What scientists call dwarfism was the successful strategy to avoid starvation for a large range of species including horses, many insects and even earthworms. The widespread response was partly to do with the heat but mostly because many plants became less nutritious, forcing mammals and insects to eat far more to survive.

In the next 100 years the combination of more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and increased temperature could be “catastrophic” for an overpopulated world, according to one of the scientists involved. With food supply drastically reduced, evolutionary forces suggest hobbit-sized humans who needed to eat less would have the greatest chance of survival. These findings are the work of an international group of 30 scientists looking at the vast fossil deposits in rock strata in Wyoming in the US, charting the period 55 million years ago when the Earth’s temperature rose suddenly – as it is expected to do this century.

On that occasion it took 10,000 years for the temperature to rise by 6°C. There were mass extinctions, but the timescale gave some plants and animals time to adapt and move north and south to survive. Many species evolved quickly – dwarfism being one of the most widespread and successful strategies.

The project, entitled the Bighorn Basin Coring Project, involves scientists from the US, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands. It is a United States National Science Foundation-funded project, aimed at understanding what happened the last time the Earth warmed and the consequences for the planet this century. The scientists leading the project are Will Clyde (University of New Hampshire), Philip Gingerich (University of Michigan) and Scott Wing (Smithsonian Institution).

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Hands Off, Oil Industry Warns Government

From The New York Times:

January 8, 2013

Jack Gerard, the often-combative chief executive of the American Petroleum Institute, said Tuesday that the United States was “at the crossroads of a great turning point” in the nation’s energy history.

As long as Congress and the Obama administration don’t mess it up, he warned.

In a broad-gauge speech in Washington on the state of the American oil and gas industry, Mr. Gerard said that because of new petroleum finds and new drilling techniques – chiefly directional drilling and hydraulic fracturing in shale formations – the United States could become the world’s leading energy producer.

“North America could become self-sufficient in liquid fuels in roughly 12 years,” Mr. Gerard said, citing figures from the International Energy Agency. “And as a potential energy exporter, we can help bring greater stability to the geopolitics of energy, to say nothing of the positive impacts increased U.S. supply would have for U.S. businesses, workers and consumers.”

But he cautioned that this rosy future was dependent on the federal government’s not interfering with his industry, by, say, raising taxes on oil companies, or imposing new environmental regulations on fracking operations, or limiting greenhouse gas emissions from refineries.

“The most important thing is to do no harm,” Mr. Gerard said in a question-and-answer period after his speech. “Don’t overreact and do anything that would impede or discourage what we see going forward state by state today.”

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