Trans MP Anna Grodzka says homophobia and transphobia means people are leaving Poland

From Pink News:

18 February 2013,

Anna Grodzka, Europe’s first transgender MP spoke out about poverty and social exclusion in the LGBT community on Sunday at the National Lesbian and Gay Federation Conference in Dublin.

The Polish MP explained to the conference that one reason so many people had emigrated from Poland was because of their gender or problems expressing their sexuality in their home country.

“We’re dealing with the second rate position of women across the world and we also deal with medicalised treatments of homosexuality and have experienced torture like treatments of homosexuality,” Ms Grodzka said.

In January, Poland’s lower parliamentary house voted to reject three separate draft laws that would have given legal rights to unmarried couples, effectively preventing same-sex couples from receiving any such rights.

“We talk about tolerance but the way we see tolerance now actually legitimises the treatment of LGBT community today. I don’t need anybody to tolerate me. I demand my rights as a tax paying citizen exactly the same as anyone else,” Ms Grodzka said.

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Being the Last One Picked in Gym Class Really Messes You Up

From Jezebel:

Katie J.M. Baker
Feb 19, 2013

I was deemed hopelessly unathletic by a jury of elementary schoolers when I was six years old — before I ever had a chance to learn how to kick or dribble or catch — because I was the tiniest girl in my class. I’ll never forget how it felt to be picked last by my peers during P.E., day after day, year after year, the heat rising off the asphalt and my cheeks as I waited in line until I was inevitably left standing alone, again, staring wistfully at my classroom and wishing I was inside reading a book.

As a result of such perennial rejection, I never tried out for any sports teams or learned to do anything but grimly endure most forms of exercise, and, nearly two decades later, I still make up excuses when my friends invite me to join in even the most low-key and “fun” athletic activities. There were deeper psychological repercussions, too: I grew into a rather bratty tween once it dawned on me that I could make people feel small with my words. (Just imagine if Napoleon grew up playing dodge ball.)

There are no statistics on how many P.E. teachers allow kids to pick their own teams, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a non-jock who doesn’t recall anxiously hoping he or she wouldn’t the last person standing. Emily Bazelon describes the dread of finding oneself partnerless in gym class on the very first page of her new book Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying. Lee Radziwill — yes, Jackie O’s sister — recently told the New York Times that she’d never forget how she “was always the last to be chosen for a team, which was so embarrassing, and made me feel pathetic.” Comedian Alan Carr has likened the experience to ethnic cleansing. Less notable folk often discuss the perils of picking teams on parenting blogs; “I’m trying to pin down what was so particularly horrible about it, besides the obvious – and I think I’ve got it,” one mother wrote on BabyCenter. “It’s the fact that everyone is witness to your shame.”

Is there a point to all this systemic misery, or will the practice of letting kids pick their own teams fade away as more educational experts champion ways to focus on character-building in schools instead of just academic achievement? (Check out This American Life’s “Back to School” episode for more on that theory). Perhaps it depends on what you think the goal of physical education should be in the first place; the National Association for Sports and Physical Education believes it is “to develop physically educated individuals who have the knowledge, skills and confidence to enjoy a lifetime of healthful physical activity.” Does allowing kids to perform their own form of natural selection fit that bill?

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The Associated Press’ Refusal to Treat Gay and Straight Marriages Equally

From Huffington Post


I’ve been with my partner for 18 years. As residents of the state of New York, we could be legally married if we chose, given that New York passed a marriage equality law in 2011. My partner would then legally be my husband, and we’d have all the same rights of marriage that New York grants heterosexual couples. We could file a joint New York tax return. My husband could sue an entity for wrongful death if something terrible happened to me. If he died, I’d inherit his assets over his family or anyone else, even if there were no will, as would be the case with any heterosexual married couple.

But according to the Associated Press, that would not necessarily be a marriage, and my partner would not necessarily be my husband. The AP has decreed that he could be called my husband if I insisted on describing him as such in a quotation (i.e., “This is my husband”), or if the reporter knew that I’d called him my husband for some time, regardless of the existence of a legal contract that binds us in the state of New York — a public record, which the reporter could obtain — called a marriage certificate.

Confused? Last week the AP decided in an internal memo on style that was issued to reporters and then leaked to media watchdog Jim Romenesko that reporters should not refer to individuals in legal same-sex marriages as “husbands” or “wives” as they’d refer to individuals in legal heterosexual marriages. After an uproar, the AP issued an update stating that the “husband” or “wife” label is appropriate for gays under two circumstances: 1) if it’s part of a quotation (which is pretty ridiculous, because anyone can dub any other person a “psychic,” a “dancing bear” or even the “resurrected Jesus” if it’s in a quotation, but that doesn’t make it true), or 2) if reporter knows that the couple has used this terminology to describe one another in the past.

Of course, that is not the standard that the AP uses when it comes to heterosexual marriages; the legal contract issued by a state is more than enough for them. Gay bloggers and journalists pointed out the unequal treatment, and the National Gay and Lesbian Journalists Association wrote an open letter criticizing the AP. One AP reporter, David Crary, even told gay journalist Rex Wockner in an email that he would not be following the guideline. But the AP has refused to back down on the seemingly hastily written memo and is instead trying to downplay the entire affair.

Though the AP has not offered any further information, it seems apparent that they initially determined gay marriages to be different because not every state grants them or recognizes the gay marriages performed in the District of Columbia or the nine states where they’re legal, and because the federal government doesn’t recognize those marriages, either, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

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Beware of Big Pharma Neocons

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Remembering a landmark book 50 years later

From The Progressive:

By Annie Laurie Gaylor
February 19, 2013

Tuesday, Feb. 19, marks the half-century anniversary of the publication of a book that changed women’s lives. The book was “The Feminine Mystique,” written by Smith College graduate Betty Friedan.

Herself a housewife drowning in domesticity, Friedan wrote the truth about the lives of American middle-class housewives buried under a pile of laundry.

“I came to realize that something is very wrong with the way American women are trying to live their lives today,” she wrote.

I was only 7 when the book came out, but I remember the shock of its bright pink cover, knowing from my mother’s reaction that the book was something momentous.

As one of the only mothers in our neighborhood who worked outside the home, my mother, now 86, remembers the collective sense of relief women felt in 1963 that someone was finally naming “the problem that had no name.”

A friend of mine, Phyllis, 81, recalls being hunkered down in a small house with two babies and crying with recognition as she read “The Feminine Mystique.” Phyllis, by the way, went on to have a full professional career, and my mother is still running a feminist charity.

It’s hard not to write personally about Friedan, because her book, although thoroughly documenting women’s societal straitjacket, was profoundly personal.

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“The GOP War On Americans” Hardball with Chris Matthews

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Equal Opportunity, Our National Myth

From The New York Times:

February 16, 2013

President Obama’s second Inaugural Address used soaring language to reaffirm America’s commitment to the dream of equality of opportunity: “We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.”

The gap between aspiration and reality could hardly be wider. Today, the United States has less equality of opportunity than almost any other advanced industrial country. Study after study has exposed the myth that America is a land of opportunity. This is especially tragic: While Americans may differ on the desirability of equality of outcomes, there is near-universal consensus that inequality of opportunity is indefensible. The Pew Research Center has found that some 90 percent of Americans believe that the government should do everything it can to ensure equality of opportunity.

Perhaps a hundred years ago, America might have rightly claimed to have been the land of opportunity, or at least a land where there was more opportunity than elsewhere. But not for at least a quarter of a century. Horatio Alger-style rags-to-riches stories were not a deliberate hoax, but given how they’ve lulled us into a sense of complacency, they might as well have been.

It’s not that social mobility is impossible, but that the upwardly mobile American is becoming a statistical oddity. According to research from the Brookings Institution, only 58 percent of Americans born into the bottom fifth of income earners move out of that category, and just 6 percent born into the bottom fifth move into the top. Economic mobility in the United States is lower than in most of Europe and lower than in all of Scandinavia.

Another way of looking at equality of opportunity is to ask to what extent the life chances of a child are dependent on the education and income of his parents. Is it just as likely that a child of poor or poorly educated parents gets a good education and rises to the middle class as someone born to middle-class parents with college degrees? Even in a more egalitarian society, the answer would be no. But the life prospects of an American are more dependent on the income and education of his parents than in almost any other advanced country for which there is data.

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Wall Street’s Misdeeds Cost Trillions, But It’s Main Street Who’s Getting Nickel-and-Dimed.

From Campaign for America’s Future:

By February 19, 2013

Take a look at these two sentences:

“(I)f losses from the 2007- 2009 crisis were to reach similar levels (as they did in previous recessions) … losses could exceed $13 trillion.” Government Accountability Office

“You would think that any regulation that could affect a major part of the economy and cost industry and/or consumers millions of dollars to comply with would be based on rigorous and consistent economic analysis.” David C. Johns, Heritage Foundation

In the face of trillion-dollar losses, Wall Street’s conservative spokespeople sound like Dr. Evil presenting his demands to world leaders: I will destroy the planet unless you give me … one million dollars.

The Price of Greed

The other day the GAO released a report on the costs of the 2008 financial crisis and the recession which followed – which is still going on for millions of Americans.  The report confirmed and even increased previous estimates of the crisis’ cost, concluding that losses in American output could reach $13 trillion.

The report did something else that was important and admirable, too: It considered the human cost of the recession, noting that “real GDP” – the most commonly used economic measure in situations like these – “is an imperfect proxy of overall social welfare.”

That’s especially true today: While overall statistics show that our country is in a recovery, the top 1 percent in US income captured 121 percent of the gains, while everyone else has actually lost ground since then.  Once that’s considered, even the GAO’s new figures may have understated the costs for the vast majority of Americans.

But, admirably, the GAO report summarizes the painful but now well-known loss of jobs in the present – and, especially for younger people, the earnings potential that they will suffer for the rest of their lives.

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When Wars Come Home

From Truth Out:

By Charles Derber and Yale Magrass
Tuesday, 19 February 2013

In the flood of commentary about the Newtown massacre and broader US gun violence, liberals tend to blame failures of gun control while conservatives blame the mentally ill and Hollywood. But they are both missing one important and overlooked explanation: the domestic consequences of a militarized superpower engaged in chronic wars around the world.

The US spends more money on the military than the next ten countries together. It also has the highest level of domestic gun violence in the developed world. Highly militarized societies cannot compartmentalize foreign from domestic violence. They cannot prevent wars – and guns – from coming home.

Christopher Dorner certainly brought the war home. On February 3, 2013, he began a killing rampage, shooting his lawyer’s daughter and her fiancé, firing at three police officers, killing one and issuing a manifesto threatening to kill at least 12 more. Dorner is a former Navy lieutenant, a specialist in undersea warfare, a rifle marksman and a pistol expert who lost his job in the Los Angeles police department. The LAPD announced that the weapons training Dorner received in the Navy makes him a very serious threat.

Europe provides a clear contrast to the United States. Since World War II, as the United States became the sole superpower, Europe largely renounced militarism and war. Demilitarization is one of the reasons why many European countries, such as Sweden, have high levels of gun ownership for hunting and sports, but have one-tenth the US level of gun violence. Demilitarization weakens the cultural foundation of violence in civil society – If violence is not acceptable abroad, it can hardly be seen as honorable at home.

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U.S. Drug Czar: Federal Prosecutors Will Go After Washington And Colorado Marijuana Distributors

From Think Progress:

By Nicole Flatow
on Feb 12, 2013

Federal prosecutors will crack down on recreational marijuana dispensaries and growers even in states where they are legal, U.S. drug czar Gil Kerlikowske told a Canadian news magazine this week. The statement appears to be the first from a federal official to state explicitly that the federal government will prosecute dispensaries and producers once they are licensed in Washington and Colorado. During an interview on 20/20, President Obama told Barbara Walters only that the federal government has “bigger fish to fry” than going after recreational users, but did not address those who produce or distribute marijuana. MacLean’s reports:

Q: In the November elections, two states—Washington and Colorado—voted to legalize marijuana for recreational use. President Obama has said that the U.S. government has “bigger fish to fry” than to go after recreational users in states where it is legal. Where do things stand with regard to producers and distributors of marijuana, which is still illegal under federal law?

A: You’ll continue to see enforcement against distributors and large-scale growers as the Justice Department has outlined. They will use their limited resources on those groups and not on going after individual users.

While the questioner rightly points out that distribution and production of marijuana are illegal under federal law (as is possession), Washington and Colorado’s laws do explicitly make both production and distribution of marijuana legal under state law if the entities are licensed and follow regulations.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, federal prosecutors and Drug Enforcement Administration agents have ratcheted up crackdowns of those distributing medical marijuana in seeming compliance with state laws. And Kerlikowske’s statement suggests the federal government will take the same approach to the recreational marijuana laws, in spite of growing public support for state marijuana legalization in the wake of the November election.

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Largest climate rally in U.S. history

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The virtues of being unreasonable on Keystone

From Grist:

By David Roberts
19 Feb 2013

I know Andy Revkin of The New York Times writes posts like this in part to bait people like me. But like Popeye, I yam what I yam. So consider me baited. Self-proclaimed moderates like to lecture anti-Keystone XL activists that they are “distracting” and “counterproductive,” without spelling out what the hell that means, yet they seem bewildered when that makes the activists in question angry.

Let’s review. This weekend, close to 50,000 people gathered for the biggest rally ever against climate change, a threat Revkin acknowledges is enormous, difficult, and urgent. Revkin and his council of wonks took to Twitter to argue that the rally and the campaign behind it are misdirected, absolutist, confused, and bereft of long-term strategy. They had this familiar conversation as the rally was unfolding.

As a result, Revkin suffered the grievous injury of a frustrated tweet from Wen Stephenson, a journalist who has crossed over to activism. This gave the wounded Revkin the opportunity to write yet another lament on the slings and arrows that face the Reasonable Man. He faced down the scourge of single-minded “my way or the highway environmentalism,” y’all, but don’t worry, he’s got a thick skin. He lived to tell the tale.

This is all for the benefit of an elite audience, mind you, for whom getting yelled at by activists is the sine qua non of seriousness. The only thing that boosts VSP cred more is getting yelled at by activists on Both Sides.

So let’s not yell. Instead let’s take a calm look at the Reasonable Revkin take on Keystone activism, representative as it is of a certain VSP consensus. In his post, he says it could be “counterproductive” to focus an activist campaign on the pipeline. I want to dwell on that word for a second, because it’s crucial to his case.

If you want to argue that activists shouldn’t focus on Keystone, you can’t just establish that rallying around and/or blocking Keystone won’t reduce carbon emissions much. So what? Why not try it? Something’s better than nothing, after all. Even if it’s a total waste of time, that may be unproductive, but it’s not counterproductive.

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Monsanto, the court and the seeds of dissent

From The LA Times:,0,1947225.story

Should Monsanto, or any corporation, have rights to a self-replicating natural product?

By George Kimbrell and Debbie Barker
February 19, 2013

On Tuesday, attorneys for the largest agrochemical corporation in the world, Monsanto, will present arguments before the Supreme Court asserting the company’s rights to the generations of seeds that naturally reproduce from its genetically modified strains. Bowman vs. Monsanto Co. will be decided based on the court’s interpretation of a complex web of seed and plant patent law, but the case also reflects something much more basic: Should anyone, or any corporation, control a product of life?

The journey of a 75-year-old Indiana farmer to the highest court in the country began rather uneventfully. Vernon Hugh Bowman purchased an undifferentiated mix of soybean seeds from a grain elevator, planted the seeds and then saved seed from the resulting harvest to replant another crop. Finding that Bowman’s crops were largely the progeny of its genetically engineered proprietary soybean seed, Monsanto sued the farmer for patent infringement.

The case is a remarkable reflection on recent fundamental changes in farming. In the 200-plus years since the founding of this country, and for millenniums before that, seeds have been part of the public domain — available for farmers to exchange, save, modify through plant breeding and replant. Through this process, farmers developed a diverse array of plants that could thrive in various geographies, soils, climates and ecosystems. But today this history of seeds is seemingly forgotten in light of a patent system that, since the mid-1980s, has allowed corporations to own products of life.

One of Monsanto’s arguments is that when farmers save seed from a crop grown from patented seed and then use that seed for another crop, they are illegally replicating, or “making,” Monsanto’s proprietary seeds instead of legally “using” the seeds by planting them only one time and purchasing more seeds for each subsequent planting.

This logic is troubling to many who point out that it is the nature of seeds and all living things, whether patented or not, to replicate. Monsanto’s claim that it has rights over a self-replicating natural product should raise concern. Seeds, unlike computer chips, for example, are essential to life. If people are denied a computer chip, they don’t go hungry. If people are denied seeds, the potential consequences are much more threatening.

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