Friday Night Fun and Culture: Kat Edmonson

I guess it says something about me that I’ve never seen American Idol or any of those various shows but that I am frequently turned on to new artists when they appear on PBS Austin City Limits.

Last night they split the show with Norah Jones and an artist I was unfamiliar with, Kat Edmonson.

Instant love…  Very jazz singer and really neat.


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RI House of Representatives Pass Same-Sex Marriage Bill

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Obama’s Second Inaugural Address and My Personal Journey From the Stonewall to the National Mall

From Huffington Post:


One of the advantages of age is that you no longer need history texts to put history into context. For instance, after the assassination of President Kennedy, I delved into the earlier assassinations in American history. Having lived through that, then the Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy murders, I no longer needed textbooks to know how to feel about those atrocities. The lived experience was far more searing than any history or recreation would ever be.

Standing on the Capitol grounds listening to Obama’s second inaugural address, I heard the president say:

We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths, that all of us are created equal, is the star that guides us still, just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall, just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone, to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

The president, 150 years after Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and 50 years after Dr. King’s grand moment on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, named a Methodist church in upstate New York, a bridge in Alabama and a bar in Greenwich Village as way stations along America’s road toward fully upholding the ideal that all are created equal. Not only did he highlight the unalterable link between the LGBT civil rights movement and both the women’s and African-American civil rights movements, which has the potential to revise the way black and white Americans engage with the LGBT rights movement, but he alliteratively identified our quest for equal rights as gay and trans Americans as part of the fundamental quest for freedom that is America. I can’t imagine any rhetorical device more powerful than that.

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Misogyny, intimidation, silencing – the realities of online bullying

From The New Statesman UK:

The aggregated effect of floods of negative comments online can be enough to put opinionated women off appearing in public.

By Jane Fae
22 January 2013

Last night I was chatting online, offering support to a friend who had just been bullied off Twitter. Nobody famous. Just an ordinary, everyday sort of woman who has taken the nastiness that life has dealt her over the last few years and come through it. Smiling? Mostly. But also vulnerable.

As an active feminist, she deals with anonymous abuse – she gets a fair bit of that, from the EDL and their hangers-on – and though it’s not nice, she copes. What got to her this time, though, was the viciousness of “friends” when called out on their refusal to condemn violence against women and joke polls about “people you’d most like to kill”.

Hilarious. Only she is far from alone. My own friends list is full of people – mostly women – whose activism has led to them being targeted: whose failure to “get a joke” turns them instantly into the butt of one themselves. I’ve been on the receiving end, too, very recently. Of online abuse. Of intimidation. Though nowhere on the scale of that endured by better known columnists such as Julie Bindel, who has been threatened yet again this past weekend.

So forgive me if I don’t join with those suggesting Suzanne Moore “man up” in response to the latest batch of online abuse. Or dissing Mary Beard, who has come in for abuse following her appearance on Question Time last week, as an online wimp. It’s an issue – and the simplistic analysis I have seen of it so far doesn’t go a fraction of the way to address it.

First up, there is something disturbingly misogynistic about online bullying. Yes: blokes, male columnists, undoubtedly get it too. But it feels as though there is something far more vicious, gender-related with respect to what women have to endure.

Beard makes the point well, in a blog responding to her own online treatment. It is clear that she is no stranger to tired old jokes about her appearance – but even she has been shocked about the response she evoked, describing the level of misogyny as “truly gobsmacking”. The focus of much of the abuse is sexual, sadistic even and, she adds: “it would be quite enough to put many women off appearing in public, contributing to political debate”

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See also: Pharyngula:  “It’s about misogyny. It’s about intimidation. It’s about silencing.”

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Sadie, 11-Year-Old Transgender Girl, Writes Essay In Response To Obama’s Inauguration Speech

From Huffington Post:


Barack Obama made history on Monday when he became the first president to speak about the Stonewall uprising and the gay rights struggle during an inaugural speech.

While many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community were thrilled with the mentions, an 11-year-old transgender girl named Sadie wondered why the President didn’t directly address trans people, too.

“Sadie was so proud of President Obama for including the gay community in his inaugural address on Monday; however, she felt like the trans community wasn’t included,” Sage, Sadie’s mother, told The Huffington Post on Tuesday. “That inspired her to write her own ‘speech.'”

The speech, which began making the rounds on the Internet soon after the President spoke and was published in full on the TransGriot site, reads:

“The world would be a better place if everyone had the right to be themselves, including people who have a creative gender identity and expression. Transgender people are not allowed the freedom to do things everyone else does, like go to the doctor, go to school, get a job, and even make friends.

Transgender kids like me are not allowed to go to most schools because the teachers think we are different from everyone else. The schools get afraid of how they will talk with the other kids’ parents, and transgender kids are kept secret or told not to come there anymore. Kids are told not to be friends with transgender kids, which makes us very lonely and sad.

When they grow up, transgender adults have a hard time getting a job because the boss thinks the customers will be scared away. Doctors are afraid of treating transgender patients because they don’t know how to take care of them, and some doctors don’t really want to help them. Transgender patients like me travel to other states to see a good doctor.

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See also TransGriot:  Sadie’s Dream For The World

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Scott Lively, ‘Kill The Gays’ Bill Supporter, Says ‘Right To Sodomy’ Is Destroying Human Rights

The main pillars of Christo-Fascist theology are misogyny, racism and homophobia.  They also most seem the antithesis of actual Christianity.  Their religion seems based on hating their neighbor and doing on to them in a way they would never want others to do unto them.

From Huffington Post:


A controversial evangelical currently on trial for crimes against humanity has written a new online column in which he claims that same-sex marriage and LGBT equality will signal the end of human rights.

Scott Lively, a U.S. evangelist and outspoken supporter of Uganda’s extreme political persecution of gays and lesbians, published his article entitled “The Death of Human Rights” on Jan. 21 for Defend the Family International, a site closely affiliated with Lively.

The essay begins with a shot at “left wing activists” using International Human Rights Day as a way to “attack Christianity and champion sexual perversion.” Religious freedoms and family values have been protected for 4,000 years, according to Lively, while “the ‘right’ of homosexuality is an invention of modern liberalism.”

Lively then goes to cite the Magna Carta, the early 13th century English document said to have influenced the Founding Fathers. The self-proclaimed “human rights attorney” blamed the rise of the gay movement and its “right to sodomy” for the collapse of the principles outlined in the British treaties:

This principle [or religious freedom], established in the bedrock of British jurisprudence in 1215, stood unshakable for nearly 800 years until the rise of the “gay” movement which has in just the past decade achieved the power to redefine religious liberty as “homophobia” and to crush it under the heels of its pink jackboots.

The only thing standing between human rights and the homosexual agenda, Lively writes, is the First Amendment, “the last bastion of freedom for Christians:”

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Scotland Catholic adoption agency told stop gay ban or close down

From Gay Star News:

A Catholic adoption agency has been told by Scotland’s Charity Regulator that if it doesn’t lift its ban on applications from gay couples it will lose its charitable status

By Dan Littauer
23 January 2013

The Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator has ruled that St Margaret’s Children and Family Care Society in Glasgow is directly discriminating against LGBT people by excluding them from becoming adopters.

The ruling follows a complaint from the National Secular Society.

The Scottish Charity Regulator’s head of registration, Martin Tyson, was quoted as saying on the BBC: ‘We acknowledge the valuable service provided by this charity, but the fact is that all charities must comply with the law, including the Equality Act 2010.

‘Where we find this is not the case, we have a duty to act.

‘We hope that the charity will respond positively and take the necessary action so that it remains in the Scottish Charity Register’.

The regulator has issued a direction to St Margaret’s, instructing it to amend its procedures and assessment criteria to meet the requirements of the Equality Act.

It has until 22 April 2013 to do so or risk losing its charitable status.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church said it had been informed of the regulator’s findings.

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Tree Climbers: New Documents Released – Catholic Church – Child Sexual Abuse – Coverup

From Daily Kos:

By RoxineFollow for TreeClimbers
Wed Jan 23, 2013

Documents released today reveal the extent to which catholic church leaders went to protect pedophile priests:

–  fought for years to keep the files secret
– desired to keep authorities from discovering children were being abused
– proposed strategies to prevent police from investigating (at least) three priests who
had admitted to church officials that they abused young boys
– prevented priests from seeing therapists for fear they might alert authorities
– reassigned priests to avoid criminal investigations

“[Bishop] Mahony and other top [Catholic] aides maneuvered behind the scenes to shield molester priests and provide damage control for the [Catholic] church.Some of the documents provide the strongest evidence to date that Mahony and another key official worked to protect a priest who revealed in therapy sessions that he had raped an 11-year-old boy and abused up to 17 boys.

Monsignor Peter Garcia

Monsignor Peter Garcia told ther­ap­ists that he had mo­les­ted boys “on and off” since his or­din­a­tion in 1966. He sexu­ally ab­used up to 20 boys, in­clud­ing one he al­legedly tied up and raped, ac­cord­ing to church re­cords. Many of his vic­tims were un­doc­u­mented im­mig­rants from Mex­ico, and Gar­cia as­sured church of­fi­cials they would not go to the au­thor­it­ies. Gar­cia left the priest­hood in 1989. He died in 2009 without be­ing pro­sec­uted.

Let’s read that again.  A priest admitted to raping an 11-year-old-boy and abused up to 17 boys and they wanted to protect……………the Priest????

the memos written in 1986 and 1987 by Mahony and Msgr. Thomas J. Curry, then the archdiocese’s chief advisor on sex abuse cases, offer the strongest evidence yet of a concerted effort by officials in the nation’s largest Catholic diocese to shield abusers from police. The newly released records, which the archdiocese fought for years to keep secret, reveal in church leaders’ own words a desire to keep authorities from discovering that children were being molested.

But now, they’re really, really sorry…

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How the Vatican built a secret property empire using Mussolini’s millions

From The Guardian UK

Papacy used offshore tax havens to create £500m international portfolio, featuring real estate in UK, France and Switzerland

, Jean François Tanda and Jessica Benhamou
The Guardian, Monday 21 January 2013

Few passing London tourists would ever guess that the premises of Bulgari, the upmarket jewellers in New Bond Street, had anything to do with the pope. Nor indeed the nearby headquarters of the wealthy investment bank Altium Capital, on the corner of St James’s Square and Pall Mall.

But these office blocks in one of London’s most expensive districts are part of a surprising secret commercial property empire owned by the Vatican.

Behind a disguised offshore company structure, the church’s international portfolio has been built up over the years, using cash originally handed over by Mussolini in return for papal recognition of the Italian fascist regime in 1929.

Since then the international value of Mussolini’s nest-egg has mounted until it now exceeds £500m. In 2006, at the height of the recent property bubble, the Vatican spent £15m of those funds to buy 30 St James’s Square. Other UK properties are at 168 New Bond Street and in the city of Coventry. It also owns blocks of flats in Paris and Switzerland.

The surprising aspect for some will be the lengths to which the Vatican has gone to preserve secrecy about the Mussolini millions. The St James’s Square office block was bought by a company called British Grolux Investments Ltd, which also holds the other UK properties. Published registers at Companies House do not disclose the company’s true ownership, nor make any mention of the Vatican.

Instead, they list two nominee shareholders, both prominent Catholic bankers: John Varley, recently chief executive of Barclays Bank, and Robin Herbert, formerly of the Leopold Joseph merchant bank. Letters were sent from the Guardian to each of them asking whom they act for. They went unanswered. British company law allows the true beneficial ownership of companies to be concealed behind nominees in this way.

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A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a Year: Hate Crimes in America (and Elsewhere)

From Tom Dispatch:

by Rebecca Solnit
January 24, 2013

Here in the United States, where there is a reported rape every 6.2 minutes, and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime, the rape and gruesome murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi on December 16th was treated as an exceptional incident. The story of the alleged rape of an unconscious teenager by members of the Steubenville High School football team was still unfolding, and gang rapes aren’t that unusual here either. Take your pick: some of the 20 men who gang-raped an 11-year-old in Cleveland, Texas, were sentenced in November, while the instigator of the gang rape of a 16-year-old in Richmond, California, was sentenced in October, and four men who gang-raped a 15-year-old near New Orleans were sentenced in April, though the six men who gang-raped a 14-year-old in Chicago last fall are still at large.  Not that I actually went out looking for incidents: they’re everywhere in the news, though no one adds them up and indicates that there might actually be a pattern.

There is, however, a pattern of violence against women that’s broad and deep and horrific and incessantly overlooked. Occasionally, a case involving a celebrity or lurid details in a particular case get a lot of attention in the media, but such cases are treated as anomalies, while the abundance of incidental news items about violence against women in this country, in other countries, on every continent including Antarctica, constitute a kind of background wallpaper for the news.

If you’d rather talk about bus rapes than gang rapes, there’s the rape of a developmentally disabled woman on a Los Angeles bus in November and the kidnapping of an autistic 16-year-old on the regional transit train system in Oakland, California — she was raped repeatedly by her abductor over two days this winter — and there was a gang rape of multiple women on a bus in Mexico City recently, too.  While I was writing this, I read that another female bus-rider was kidnapped in India and gang-raped all night by the bus driver and five of his friends who must have thought what happened in New Delhi was awesome.

We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.

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About Time Women and Men Got Charged the Same Rates for Hair Cuts

From Alternet:

From Denmark to New York City, governments are cracking down on the practice of overcharging women for haircuts.

By Laura Gottesdiener
January 23, 2013

Denmark, the feminist paradise of subsidized childcare and socialized healthcare, upped the ante this year with a new gender equality ruling to  outlaw expensive women’s haircuts.

The Board of Equal Treatment (great title for the board, by the way), fined a salon that charged more for women’s haircuts than for men’s haircuts, effectively calling the price differential illegal.

The industry has all but threatened to bear their scissors in protest, denouncing the ruling because women’s hair generally takes longer to cut than men’s, while men often have to get more frequent cuts to keep their short styles.

The ruling does not bar salons from charging different prices for different cuts, but merely the practice of denoting the price differences by gender. Hairdressers warn that sorting out these differences without naming gender, however, could cause “price chaos,” which–given the actual economic chaos in Europe right now–feels like something of an exaggeration.

While this ruling might strike women in the U.S. as yet another reason to buy a warm coat and catch a flight across the Atlantic immediately, New York City has actually long had a similar (although little-enforced) provision to protect against haircutting discrimination.

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Anti-abortion activists just picked up punishing women where the law left off

From Raw Story:

By Megan Carpentier
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Forty years ago, the Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that women — under limited circumstances based loosely on fetal viability — had the legal right to access the abortions the state had theretofore prohibited and limited them from accessing.

Notably, the illegality of abortion had never completely kept women from accessing abortion. It kept them from accessing it safely, it kept them from accessing it without fear of jail, it kept them from asking it with minimal risk to their lives and reproductive chances and it kept it, in some cases, from accessing it privately or without fear. But, as Kate Manning pointed out in today’s New York Times, all the lack of modern medical knowledge and techniques and/or the lack of the legal right to do so never kept women from accessing it.

The modern anti-abortion movement doesn’t seek to change women’s minds about abortion. It doesn’t seek to covert the unbelievers, nor win the battle for the hearts and minds of the masses — or the one in three American women who will have a legal abortion in their lifetimes. Occasionally, anti-abortion activists limit their activities to praying to their God for a wholesale change in worldwide human desire and thousands of years of behavior. But, by and large, the official movement’s goal now “is of course to shut it down” — and by “it,” the governor of Mississippi means the state’s only clinic that provides abortions to his constituents who want it.

Protestors outside of clinics claim they’re there to changes minds, but walk past a gauntlet of screaming people shoving pictures of bloody (and medically inaccurate) fetuses in one’s face and one is forced to question whether they really care if they change those minds through love and righteousness or fear and intimidation. Anti-abortion activists work to prevent medication — a.k.a., pill — abortions because it limits women’s need to pass through the protestor gauntlet. They push laws to force women to return to the clinic two and three times to make it more likely they won’t be able to afford, time- or money-wise, to return at all. They hide their full intentions — like the elimination of non-barrier birth control, the elimination any medical or situational exemptions to abortion bans and who exactly would face legal consequences if abortions did occur in their perfect world — behind the language of “life” and “legitimate rape” and supposed sympathy for the legions of women whose rights they want to curtail and actions they want to criminalize.

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50 Years of The Feminine Mystique:

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Why transformation of the U.S. electricity system is critical

From Green Biz:

Published January 18, 2013

By most accounts, the U.S. is not on track to achieve the greenhouse gas reductions scientists and other experts say are needed to mitigate climate change, abate the frequency and severity of super-storms like Sandy, and protect our populated, shrinking coastlines.

In fact, the Energy Information Administration’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook early release forecasts U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2040 well above 1990 levels — rather than approaching the 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 called for by climate experts.

A critical lever for addressing the United States’ contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is transformation of the electricity sector. The U.S. electricity system is responsible for about 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions. And while climate is a major driver of change facing the electricity system, it is by no means the only one. Grid security, grid resilience (especially in the wake of multiple natural disasters that have left millions without power for extended periods), economic development and the increasing empowerment of customers enabled by rapidly developing technology are all equally relevant drivers of change.

But in the face of what many see as an imperative for change, that change is happening slowly. Progress on national climate legislation is stagnant. Regulations enabling renewables, efficiency and other distributed energy resources are being re-evaluated; friction between renewable companies, utilities and customers is growing; and regulators and grid operators are seeking solutions to reliably and cost-effectively integrate ever-higher levels of distributed energy resources into the system. The electricity industry must find new approaches to cut through current gridlock, minimize conflict and develop real, practical solutions.

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When Trees Die, People Die

From The Atlantic:

Jan 22 2013

The blight was first detected in June 2002, when the trees in Canton, Michigan, got sick. The culprit, the emerald ash borer, had arrived from overseas, and it rapidly spread — a literal bug — across state and national lines to Ohio, Minnesota, Ontario. It popped up in more distant, seemingly random locations as infested trees were unwittingly shipped beyond the Midwest.

Within four years of first becoming infested, the ash trees die — over 100 million since the plague began. In some cases, their death has an immediate impact, as they fall on cars, houses, and people. In the long term, their disappearance means parks and neighborhoods, once tree-lined, are now bare.

Something else, less readily apparent, may have happened as well. When the U.S. Forest Service looked at mortality rates in counties affected by the emerald ash borer, they found increased mortality rates. Specifically, more people were dying of cardiovascular and lower respiratory tract illness — the first and third most common causes of death in the U.S. As the infestation took over in each of these places, the connection to poor health strengthened.

The “relationship between trees and human health,” as they put it, is convincingly strong. They controlled for as many other demographic factors as possible. And yet, they are unable to satisfactorily explain why this might be so.

In a literal sense, of course, the absence of trees would mean the near absence of oxygen — on the most basic level, we cannot survive without them. We know, too, that trees act as a natural filter, cleaning the air from pollutants, with measurable effects in urban areas. The Forest Service put a 3.8 billion dollar value on the air pollution annually removed by urban trees. In Washington D.C., trees remove nitrogen dioxide to an extent equivalent to taking 274,000 cars off the traffic-packed beltway, saving an estimated $51 million in annual pollution-related health care costs.

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A Prescription for Injuries of the Soul: Healing the Earth Healing Us

From Common Dreams:

by Carolyn Raffensperger
Published on Thursday, January 24, 2013 by Common Dreams

Most people suffer from a sense of moral failure over environmental matters. The mismatch between being told to change our light bulbs when the planet seems in free fall—melting ice caps, polluted water supplies, drought—creates a needling angst and anxiety.  We know that we are in deep trouble, but feel that there is little we—or anyone—can do individually. Anne Karpf writing about climate change in the Guardian last year said “I now recycle everything possible, drive a hybrid car, and turn down the heating. Yet somewhere in my marrow I know that this is just a vain attempt to exculpate myself – it wasn’t me, guv.”

To fully acknowledge our complicity in the problem, but to be unable to act at the scale of the problem creates cognitive dissonance. And this “environmental melancholia,” results in hopelessness. It is not apathy we are feeling, but sadness that can be eased only with taking actions, mostly collective, scaled to the problems we face.

The moral failure and the inability to act leads to what some now identify as a moral injury, which is at the root of some post-traumatic stress disorders, or PTSD. The U.S. military has been investigating the causes of PTSD because the early interpretations of it being fear-based didn’t match what psychologists were hearing from the soldiers themselves. What psychologists heard wasn’t fear, but sorrow and loss. Soldiers suffering from PTSD expressed enormous grief over things like killing children and civilians or over not being able to save a fellow soldier. They discovered that at the core of much of PTSD was a moral injury, or a soul wound resulting from the dissonance between their actions and their moral code.

The moral injury stemming from our participation in destruction of the planet has two dimensions: knowledge of our role and an inability to act. Our culture lacks the mechanisms for taking account of collective moral injuries and then finding the vision and creativity to address them.  The difference between a soldier’s moral injury and our environmental moral injuries is that environmental wounds aren’t a shattering of moral expectations, but a steady, grinding erosion—a slow-motion relentless sorrow.

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