Erasing Gay and Transgender History

From The Huffington Post:


Lower Polk Neighbors (LPN) is a central San Francisco neighborhood association that meets monthly to talk “crime, cleanliness, beautification, and [the] strengthening of our community.” But that “community” part deserves closer examination, because for years the organization has been openly trying to erase the history of Polk Street as a sanctuary for lower-income gay and transgender people. Last month, it was at it again, censoring a queer activist group that criticized that erasure.

In January, the website of the queer direct action group Gay Shame was shut down as a result of a formal complaint by LPN Co-Chair Carolyn Abst. On the site, the group had mentioned Abst’s name, playfully but combatively, in a “wanted” poster describing Abst as “chairing the brutal gentrification squad commonly known as the ‘Lower Polk Neighbors.'”

Abst and Ron Case are the married couple who founded and have served as Lower Polk Neighbors’s Co-Chairs for years. Architects by day, neighborhood politicos by night, Abst and Case entered the scene in the pre-gentrification late ’90s, in seek of what was some pretty cheap real estate compared to Nob Hill, the posh neighborhood which borders Polk a few blocks to the east. Although the real estate was cheaper, it was still too expensive to translate to homeownership for most residents at the time. If the new residents could just push some of the old ones out, it could mean a spike in property values. Maybe they could create a Nob Hill of their very own.

Abst and Case convened their first Lower Polk Neighbors (LPN) meeting in late 2001. One of its first apparent missions: send local gay bars packing, and into the Tenderloin or out of business. (Gay Shame members regularly attended early meetings, and kept their own version of meeting minutes in a blog.) One of the first casualties was the hustler bar Club RendezVous at Polk and Bush Streets. As historian Joey Plaster wrote in the San Francisco Bay-Guardian in 2007, Club Rendezvous owner David Kapp told the Central City Extra that a “smear campaign” by LPN ended Kapp’s plans for staying in the neighborhood. Once RendezVous closed, the architecture firm owned by Abst and Case, Case+Abst Architects, received a contract to design the First Congressional Church, which now stands in its place.

Case went on to say that he didn’t want to gentrify the neighborhood, but only to “make it clean and safe.” That meant pushing queer and trans people, as well as closing a potentially life-saving needle exchange, out of the area. From the Bay-Guardian report:

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Equal marriage means gay relationships will stop being dismissed as inferior

From Pink News UK:

6 February 2013

Writing for, political commentator Charlotte Henry analyses the significance of this week’s historic Commons vote on equal marriage.

It’s fairly clear what the consequences for our community will be if, as expected, equal marriage comes to pass. More than being about a wedding, genuine same-sex marriage will mean gay relationships will stop being dismissed as inferior.

Ultimately though this change required politics to make it happen, and many of the consequences will be political too.

For Nick Clegg the situation is, for once, simple. He and Lynne Featherstone will rightly be seen as the driving forces behind this legislation, and receive credit from many for this.

Ed Miliband is also supportive of the legislation, and many of his party followed his lead yesterday. While the Lib Dems may have been the government driving force behind the legislation, it was Labour votes that helped it over the line.

Which brings us on to David Cameron. The prime minister deserves huge credit for taking on his grassroots and declaring his support at party conference, as well as determinedly making equal marriage part of the coalition’s agenda.

Cameron clearly saw equal marriage as a key part of his modernising agenda, and has the support of a Chancellor who by all accounts is quite liberal on social matters like this.

However, many Tory backbenchers and activists do not share their opinion, and are letting it be known in no uncertain terms.

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Superbowl Ads: Give Us 30 Seconds and We Will Give You Warped Messages About Sex, Gender, and Relationships

From RH Reality Check:

by Martha Kempner, RH Reality Check
February 5, 2013

I am not a football fan; I couldn’t even follow the game on TV until the advent of the computer-generated yellow line. (Oh, so that’s what they’re trying to do!) Still, I love the Super Bowl. I like the tradition of something that happens at the same time every year. I like the food (we always make chili and have recently added potato skins). Mostly, I like the thought that a significant number of people who I don’t know are doing the exact same thing that I’m doing at the same time–”event television” is rare in this age of DVRs.

Like many of those people, I pay more attention to the commercials than the game itself. In fact, I think it’s the only time I ever really watch commercials (as I mentioned, it is the age of the DVR). The problem is that as a sex educator and commentator, watching them kind of feels like work. I want to just enjoy them for the humor and the cleverness and marvel at how people came up with that idea, or alternatively complain about their lameness and failure to live up to the hype. But I spend so much of the rest of the year commenting on the warped messages society gives young people and adults about sex, gender, and relationships that each year, without fail, the Super Bowl ads serve up a microcosm of all these messages. For four million a pop, advertisers jam generations worth of bad messages into 30 seconds bits.

So as much as I want to sit back, acknowledge that advertisers have a product to sell (and that sex educators—with our insistence on appropriate messaging—would make lousy ad execs), I can’t. Like so many of my colleagues, I feel compelled to comment. The ads that set the sex education world all-a-twitter this year are pretty obvious and I am not the first to call them out.

There’s the Doritos ad where the daughter convinces her father to play “princess” with her instead of football with his friends by offering him a bag of the flavored chips. The gender messages in this one are pretty straight forward; girls like to play princesses while men prefer football (oh, and mom is out grocery shopping). Moreover, the humor in the commercial is based on the idea that men who wear dresses and make-up are inherently funny. To add to the effect, they cast stereotypically “manly” men—with beards and all. Jill McDevitt of thesexologist.orgcalls the ad “trans-phobic” because it suggests that men who put on dresses should “expect to be mocked.”

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Report: Catholic laundries enslaved women and girls in Ireland as recently as 1996

From Raw Story:

By Henry McDonald, The Guardian
Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Taoiseach Enda Kenny fails to formally apologise for involvement over female enslavement causing more outrage

After more than seven decades of exploitation and a 10-year struggle for justice, Ireland on Tuesday admitted its role in the enslavement of thousands of women and girls in the notorious Magdalene Laundry system, but stopped short of issuing a formal apology from the government.

A long-awaited report headed by Senator Martin McAleese said there was “significant state involvement” in how the laundries were run – a reversal of the official state line for years, which insisted the institutions were privately controlled and run by nuns.

But the Irish Premier Enda Kenny’s failure to give the women and their supporters a full, formal, public apology in the Dail on Tuesday afternoon has infuriated the victims and their supporters, who said such an approach risked undermining Ireland’s attempt to right a historic wrong. Instead Kenny stated his “regret” about the stigma hanging over the women.

“The stigma that the branding together of all the residents, all 10,000, in the Magdalene Laundries, needs to be removed, and should have been removed long before this,” Kenny said. “And I really am sorry that that never happened, and I regret that it never happened.”

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See also The Guardian UK:  Magdalene laundries survivors threaten hunger strike

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Physicist Lawrence Krauss on teaching creationism: It’s a form of child abuse

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Solve the Real Problems – Poverty Retirement and Health Insecurity – and the Economy Will Recover

From Truth Out:

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers
Wednesday, 06 February 2013

The bipartisans in Washington are currently focused on Social Security and Medicare – not to improve health care and retirement, but to cut them. There is constant, exaggerated “sky is falling” deficit commentary about purported out-of-control spending caused by these programs, while the real twin crises of poverty retirement and health insecurity are ignored. Popular solutions to these crises exist that would strengthen Social Security and Medicare and spur economic recovery.

Facts You Are Not Being Told About Retirement and Health Care

We are in the midst of retirement and health care crises that are projected to worsen in the coming years, but we do not hear any discussion of real solutions to these problems. We do not hear the truth about retirement and health care in the corporate media or from either party. Here are some facts that paint the picture:

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Corporate Rule Has ‘Infected’ AFL-CIO Leadership, Labor Activist Contends

From Truth Dig:

By Thomas Hedges, Center for Study of Responsive Law
Feb 5, 2013

Longtime labor activist Harry Kelber will oppose incumbent Richard Trumka for the presidency of the AFL-CIO at the group’s convention in Los Angeles in September. Kelber feels an obligation to challenge a president who, he says, is pursuing wealth and prestige rather than the true ideals of labor activism.

Kelber contends that under Trumka’s leadership, the AFL-CIO has failed to address the mounting threat against labor in the United States from the loss of bargaining rights to the refusal to adjust minimum wage standards to the push against implementing the “card check” union organizing system.

The federation of labor unions is afraid of backlash, Kelber says. It supported Barack Obama in the 2008 and 2012 elections without pressing him on issues that, according to Kelber, should have been at the top of its list such as the Employee Free Choice Act to make union formation easier and single-payer health care.

Members “think there’s no chance of any improvement and so they’re not fighting,” Kelber explains. “In the ’30s they fought. They got Social Security, labor laws, the CIO. Now they’re getting nothing.”

Kelber was at the forefront of the 1930s labor movement, editing two worker weeklies, organizing with the CIO and supporting the Newspaper Guild strike against management in New York City, which caused a 114-day shutdown of papers there.

Now 98, Kelber is frustrated with a movement that, he says, cannot accomplish a fraction of what it did 80 years ago.

“Today,” he laments, “union members are passive.”

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Why Don’t White-Collar Criminals Get Equal Time?

From The Nation:

William Greider
on February 5, 2013

The Obama administration collected some crowd-pleasing headlines with its announcement that the Justice Department is suing Standard & Poor’s, the rating agency that notoriously fueled the financial crisis and crash by duping investors into buying billions in rotten securities. The government is said to be seeking a cash penalty of more than $1 billion.

That sounds good, but President Obama and his administration are stalked by a question of scandal that will not go away: Why isn’t anyone going to jail? The lawsuit’s accusation against S&P sounds like a crime. The firm, it charges, “knowingly and with intent to defraud, devised, participated in, and executed a scheme to defraud investors.” Yet federal investigators seem unable to identify any Wall Street executives to prosecute as criminals.

Why not? The popular explanation, widely shared among citizens, is that leaders of the largest banks and financial firms are given a pass because they are “too big to jail.” The public’s cynicism sounds right. It has become a momentous black mark on the Obama presidency, like a blood stain that cannot be washed away. Does the government operate two systems of justice—one for mom-and-pop criminals and another for influential titans who run the “too big to fail” banks?

These are hard cases to make, as Justice lawyers argue. But when the feds go after the mafia, they usually start at the bottom of the criminal syndicate, put the squeeze on the little thugs and turn them to testify against the big guys who called the shots. That is what financial crimes may require, too.

I have a hunch this scandal is not going away and it will gnaw at Obama during his second term. The outrage will expand as more bits of evidence keep surfacing in various lawsuits. It reminds me a little of the Watergate scandal in the 1970s that unfolded gradually, drip by drip, long after Richard Nixon had won his reelection landslide. As evidence accumulated of criminality in the White House, Nixon was stalked by a single question: What did the president know and when did he know it?

Obama is haunted by a roughly similar question: Who decided that Wall Street mega-banks and their executives must not be prosecuted as criminals for fear this might bring down the entire economy?

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The Ugly Truth About America’s Housing “Recovery” — It’s Wall St. Buying Homes to Rent Back to Their Former Owners

From Alternet:

There’s a new profit game being played on the people.

By Shabnam Bashiri
February 4, 2013

Every day, it seems a new report comes out praising the ongoing housing recovery. In Georgia, home prices are up 5 percent over last year, a year in which we also had one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Seems a little odd, doesn’t it? Don’t foreclosures usually drive down the market?

That’s because the housing “recovery,” as they’re calling it, is fueled almost entirely by Wall Street private equity firms, hedge funds and the Fed’s unwavering support. After creating a massive bubble in home prices that eventually burst and caused our economy to go into a tailspin, these guys have decided to come back for more, and figured out a way to profit off their destruction — by turning foreclosed homes into rentals and securitizing the rental income.

Many are claiming this is the “private-sector solution” for the recovery we need to get the economy going again. The argument goes that investors snapping up these homes and fixing them up does more for the community than letting the houses just sit there, blighting the neighborhoods and lowering values.

That argument might have made sense for the pilot program Fannie Mae launched last year. In that bulk auction deal, investors had to agree not to sell properties facing foreclosure for a designated period of time. Many of the homes were occupied with tenants, and vacant homes had been on the market and not sold for at least six months. Of course, that deal proved too restrictive for most Wall Street types, leading the sale in Atlanta to eventually fall through.

The Blackstone group, the biggest player in the new REO to rental market, has spent $2.5 billion in the last year purchasing 16,000 homes, a number that amounts to over $100 million per week. Property records show that many of the homes Blackstone has acquired in Fulton County over the last few months were purchased on the courthouse steps at the monthly foreclosure auction, or through short sales—when a lender agrees to accept less than the amount owed on a loan. The vast majority of these homes are not empty, but occupied by homeowners who fell behind during the great recession.

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Protest From Arab Spring to global revolution

From The Guardian UK:

In an excerpt from his book Why It’s Still Kicking Off Everywhere, Paul Mason argues that a global protest movement, based on social networks, is here to stay

The Guardian, Tuesday 5 February 2013

Two years on from the fall of Hosni Mubarak, the new Egyptian president is from the Muslim Brotherhood; on the streets of Cairo, the same kind of people who died in droves in 2011 are still getting killed. On the streets of Athens, the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn is staging anti-migrant pogroms. In Russia, Pussy Riot are in jail and the leaders of the democracy movement facing criminal indictments. The war in Syria is killing 200 people a day. It’s an easy step from all this to the conclusion that 2011, the year it all kicked off, was a flash in the pan. But wrong. Something real and important was unleashed in 2011, and it has not yet gone away. I am confident enough now to call it a revolution. Some of its processes conform to the templates laid down in the revolutionary wave that swept Europe in 1848, but many do not: above all, the relationship between the physical and the mental, the political and the cultural, seem inverted.

There is a change in consciousness, the intuition that something big is possible; that a great change in the world’s priorities is within people’s grasp. The impervious nature of official politics – its inability to swerve even slightly towards the critique of capitalism intuitively felt by millions of people – has deepened the sense of alienation and mistrust.

But the changes in ideas, behaviour and expectations are running far ahead of changes in the physical world. There is greater space for democratic movements in the Arab world, but they are constantly menaced. “The Protester” may have made it on to the cover of Time – but not a single protest has yet achieved its aim.

If we take 1848–51 as a template, the crucial moments of reaction lie ahead: coups, crackdowns, intelligence-led disruption of the activists and hackers. But there is still one powerful factor militating against a return to stability of the kind achieved after 1848: the economy. Even if the Eurozone remains stabilised, and America avoids a political crisis over its budget, the developed world faces years of Japan-style stagnation.

In February 2011, in a blog titled Twenty Reasons Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere, I argued that there was a “new sociological type” at the heart of the global protests: “the graduate with no future”. Since then indignados have flooded into Madrid’s Puerta del Sol; Occupy camps have sprung up in hundreds of cities across the globe; and student protests in Chile and Quebec have completely changed the political atmosphere there. The anger is undimmed. But the limits of what young protesters are prepared to do have become more obvious.

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Are you happy w/30 yrs of Reaganomics?

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PETA’s Actual Death Toll

From The Huffington Post:


This is a follow-up to yesterday’s article, “How Many Pets Did PETA Kill in 2012?”

I was generous yesterday when I suggested that PETA’s monstrous kill rate in 2012 was in fact, for them, an improvement. The official documents, yes, demonstrate that PETA killed only 89.2 per cent of pets taken in — as opposed to the 95 to 97 per cent in prior years — but these documents do not tell the whole truth.

Since we don’t have precise data, I chose to ignore an important category in the report that PETA submitted to the Virginia Department of Agriculture: animals that were “Transferred to Another Virginia Releasing Agency.”

The term “releasing” here should make you shudder. We know just who PETA “releases” pets to: that looming presence many cultures refuse to name, for fear that he’ll visit at midnight. And we know that this is also true of the operations that they approve of: PETA refuses to transfer animals to No Kill facilities, for ideological reasons that I’ve analyzed here: “Why is PETA Opposing No-Kill Animal Shelters?”

This means that many if not most of the 108 dogs and 22 cats transferred to other “releasing agencies” are no longer with us.

Nathan Winograd, who heads up the No Kill Advocacy Center, has performed the calculations:

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The Global Farmland Rush

From The New York Times:

Published: February 5, 2013


OVER the last decade, as populations have grown, capital has flowed across borders and crop yields have leveled off, food-importing nations and private investors have been securing land abroad to use for agriculture. Poor governments have embraced these deals, but their people are in danger of losing their patrimony, not to mention their sources of food.

According to Oxfam, land equivalent to eight times the size of Britain was sold or leased worldwide in the last 10 years. In northern Mozambique, a Brazilian-Japanese venture plans to farm more than 54,000 square miles — an area comparable to Pennsylvania and New Jersey combined — for food exports. In 2009, a Libyan firm leased 386 square miles of land from Mali without consulting local communities that had long used it. In the Philippines, the government is so enthusiastic to promote agribusiness that it lets foreigners register partnerships with local investors as domestic corporations.

The commoditization of global agriculture has aggravated the destabilizing effects of these large-scale land grabs. Investors typically promise to create local jobs and say that better farming technologies will produce higher crop yields and improve food security.

However, few of these benefits materialize. For example, as The Economist reported, a Swiss company promised local farmers 2,000 new jobs when it acquired a 50-year lease to grow biofuel crops on 154 square miles in Makeni, Sierra Leone; in the first three years, it produced only 50.

Many investors, in fact, use their own labor force, not local workers, and few share their technology and expertise. Moreover, about two-thirds of foreign investors in developing countries expect to sell their harvests elsewhere. These exports may not even be for human consumption. In 2008 in Sudan, the United Arab Emirates was growing sorghum, a staple of the Sudanese diet, to feed camels back home.

Much of the land being acquired is in conflict-prone countries. One of the largest deals — the acquisition by investors led by the Saudi Binladin Group of some 4,600 square miles in Indonesia — was put on hold because the area, in Papua, was torn by strife.

The prospects for conflict are heightened by legal uncertainties. Often, an absence of authoritative land registration and titles makes it easy for foreign investors, with the connivance of host governments, to secure land that local communities have long depended upon, even if they cannot demonstrate formal ownership. About 500 million sub-Saharan Africans rely on such communally held land, and land sales can be devastating, as in Mali. Access to food is often cut off, livelihoods are shattered and communities are uprooted.

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