Van Jones Reacts to Keystone XL Report

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Yonder Mountain String Band

Sometimes I need to pay more attention to coming attractions at the Granada Theater.  Yonder Mountain is playing there tonight and we didn’t get tickets…

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Parents, students look to prayer in response to Miss. transgender student

What the hell is wrong with these sick evil fucking Christians?  The world would be a much better place without their hatred in the name of some imaginary invisible magic sky daddy.

From LGBTQ Nation:

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Update, 2/28/2013: The Facebook page, “Prayers for South Panola School District” was taken down earlier today.

BATESVILLE, Miss. — Hundreds of angry parents and citizens have joined a Facebook “prayer” page after a high school student in northern Mississippi came out as transgender.

The Facebook page, “Prayers for South Panola School District” had more than 500 “likes” as of Wednesday evening, and was launched Tuesday after a student, identified only as “Leah,” began her transition by dressing according to her gender identity.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi said Wednesday it is working with the South Panola High School student to ensure a smooth transition for Leah, who is in the early stages of gender transformation.

“The first step in that is really to start dressing according to your gender and today was about going to school and being able to be the person that she is,” Mississippi ACLU Legal Director, Bear Atwood told WMC-TV.

Atwood said gender transformation is a long process that begins with a person dressing in accordance with the gender in which he or she identifies. The process later includes medications and surgery.

Teachers and staff have been supportive, and while several classmates showed support for Leah by wearing green and pink, many still referred to Leah as “he.”

“He’s like any other student at South Panola, he minds his business, he’s not hurting anyone,” classmate Jabrea Joiner said. “He’s only wanting to be himself.”

Mike Foster, interim superintendent of South Panola School District, said officials will “follow what the law says” in protecting students’ constitutional rights to dress in accordance with the gender in which they identify.

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Parents of transgender first-grader sue after school blocked girls’ bathroom use

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Thursday, February 28, 2013

The family of a Colorado transgender girl has filed a discrimination suit after her school ordered her to stop using the girls’ bathroom. According to CNN, Jeremy and Kathryn Mathis, parents of first-grader Coy Mathis, have filed suit against the Fountain-Fort Carson School District under Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act.

“In the end we just want what is the best for Coy,” said Kathryn Mathis. ”We want her to be able to go back to school and be treated equally without discrimination and harassment.”

Coy was born with male sex organs, but has identified as female from the moment she could first express herself, her mother said. Throughout kindergarten and most of this year, she has been allowed to use the girls’ bathroom. Then, earlier this year, Kathryn Mathis said she received notice from the school that Coy would have to be separated from the other girls during bathroom breaks.

Transgender children experience what is known as “gender dysphoria,” a clash between their sex, which is biologically determined and their gender, which is a construct of ideas, societal norms and behaviors. Raw Story spoke with child psychologist Diane Ehrensaft, author of the book Gender Born, Gender Made, who said that some children express their feelings of gender dysphoria before they are even verbal.

“Often times what we see is that when transgender children announce their gender, it’s not a case of ‘I feel like a girl’ or ‘I feel like a boy,’” she said. “It’s more a case of ‘I am a boy and you guys have got it wrong about who I am.’”

Ehrensaft believes in trusting the child’s wisdom about themselves. In assessing a family, she asks first what the child is telling the parents about themselves, both verbally and non-verbally. Second, she assesses the family’s reaction, asking about their perceptions of the child’s behavior.

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How To Talk To Someone About Privilege Who Doesn’t Know What That Is

From Everyday Feminism:

by Jamie Utt
December 7, 2012

I once published a piece about white privilege, and my white friend’s dad lost it. He read it and immediately called his son at work and asked him, “What are you doing right now?”

My friend replied, “Working, why?” My friend worked as a carpet cleaner, backbreaking labor for sure.

“Well, Jamie says you’re privileged. Do you feel privileged right now as you bust your a*s to feed your family?”

“Are you kidding me?!? Screw him! I’ve never had anything handed to me!”

And so the story goes.

How many times have you tried to discuss privilege with someone who is well-meaning but who has no sense of their own privilege and gotten a similar result?

What is “identity privilege?”: Any unearned benefit or advantage one receives in society by nature of their identity. Examples of aspects of identity that can afford privilege: Race, Religion, Gender Identity, Sexual Orientation, Class/Wealth, Ability, or Citizenship Status

After a while, my friend brought up my blog post that pissed off him and his dad so much, and we discussed it.

It didn’t go well. He immediately got defensive, and the conversation ended in anger.

As I reflected upon our talk, I took stock of some of the tools I have been given over the years from my diversity work to make this conversation more accessible and less hostile.

I decided to try again, so I reached out to my friend. The second conversation was tense at times, as any conversation about privilege can be.

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The Queer Community Has to Stop Being Transphobic: Realizing My Cisgender Privilege

From Huffington Post:


I used to be a transphobic gay man. In the fall of 2011, I was sitting in my car with a friend, parked in front of my yellow San Diego house, talking about dating and gay bars and all the new things I’d learned about myself since coming out the year before. At some point, trans* people came up. “I know I’m supposed to get it because I’m gay,” I said, “but I just don’t understand the whole trans* thing at all. It makes me feel so weird.” I remember a co-worker telling me that her sibling had just come out as transgender and not knowing what to say to her. I remember making jokes. I remember feeling uncomfortable when trans* people would walk into the coffee shop. I am grateful to no longer be that person, yet I’m aware of the progress I still have to make. I must always be accountable to change.

Something seismic shifted inside me when I saw Matrix co-director Lana Wachowski’s acceptance speech for the HRC Visibility Award in October 2012. For the first time, I heard a transgender person speak with candor and vulnerability about her experience, and I realized — with painful clarity — that much of the LGBTQ movement, for which I care so deeply, and to which I am giving my energy and my paychecks, was getting it wrong. Trans* voices are conspicuously absent, and too many uninformed and insensitive lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer persons are doing harm to the trans* community while simultaneously purporting to speak for them. Just because I have experienced one kind of oppression does not mean that I understand all oppression.

Early in her speech, Lana reflects on a dinner she went to with a group of friends and strangers. “Throughout the dinner,” she says, “they repeatedly refer to me as ‘he’ or one of the ‘Wachowski brothers,’ sometimes using half my name, ‘Laaaaaa,’ as an awkward bridge between identities, unable or perhaps unwilling to see me as I am.” I have been that person, I thought.

It was at this moment that I understood, that I felt for the first time the privilege to which I am heir as a cisgender person — that is, as someone whose assigned sex at birth matches my self-perceived gender identity. Like some religious revival, Lana’s story converted me, opening my eyes to a world and a reality to which I had previously been completely ignorant. I couldn’t help but see the deeply embedded gender binary, the one that hems trans* persons in with anxiety and fear, everywhere, even in queer communities.

When I checked in at the airport later that month, I couldn’t get my boarding pass until I clicked either “male” or “female” on the screen. When I went to the bathroom in public, I realized how difficult it would be if the people around me questioned whether or not I was going into the right one. When I showed my ID to get into a bar, I didn’t have to worry about the bouncer accusing me of having a fake. When I went to the doctor, I didn’t have to wonder if my physician would know what to do with my body. Like some dense morning fog, the gender binary seemed to loom everywhere, and I felt burdened like I never had before to fight for the trans* community that I’d been including for years in the acronym with which I identified.

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The making of the Mystique

From Socialist Worker:

Elizabeth Schulte
February 28, 2013

FIFTY YEARS after its publication, The Feminine Mystique has been credited with everything from single-handedly sparking the women’s movement to perpetuating an outdated and long-gone stereotype of the American family.

Neither is true, but many of the issues that Betty Friedan’s book raised–such as the role of women and the nuclear family–make The Feminine Mystique worth looking back at today.

Published in 1963, Friedan’s book shone a spotlight on a hidden corner of American society–the dissatisfaction and depression of the suburban housewife. Friedan tore apart the image of the happy homemaker who lived for nothing more than satisfying her husband and children.

The book flew in the face of the advertising images of the day, depicting women with starched aprons and happy smiles, hovering over a grateful family in a kitchen filled with gleaming household gadgets. Friedan gave expression to the many women who had been told they should find satisfaction in the perfect suburban home, but who were asking, “Is this all?”

While its conclusions weren’t radical–for instance, her advice that women should pursue interests outside the home in order to be better wives and mothers–Friedan’s book was immediately the target of criticism from a right-wing political establishment that wanted women to see that their “place” was in the home.

And while it didn’t single-handedly spark the women’s movement, the book was one of the first popular expressions–its first paperback edition sold 1.4 million copies–of a wider radicalization and rejection of women’s second-class status in society at large.

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Lords of Disorder: Billions For Wall Street, Sacrifice For Everyone Else

From Campaign for America’s Future:

February 27, 2013

he President’s “sequester” offer slashes non-defense spending by $830 billion over the next ten years. That happens to be the precise amount we’re implicitly giving Wall Street’s biggest banks over the same time period.

We’re collecting nothing from the big banks in return for our generosity.  Instead we’re demanding sacrifice from the elderly, the disabled, the poor, the young, the middle class – pretty much everybody, in fact, who isn’t “too big to fail.”

That’s injustice on a medieval scale, served up with a medieval caste-privilege flavor. The only difference is that nowadays injustices are presented with spreadsheets and PowerPoints, rather than with scrolls and trumpets and kingly proclamations.

And remember: The White House represents the liberal side of these negotiations.

The Grandees

The $83 billion ‘subsidy’ for America’s ten biggest banks first appeared in an editorial from Bloomberg News – which, as the creation of New York’s billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg, is hardly a lefty outfit.  That editorial drew upon sound economic analyses to estimate the value of the US government’s implicit promise to bail these banks out.

Then it showed that, without that advantage, these banks would not be making a profit at all.

That means that all of those banks’ CEOs, men (they’re all men) who preen and strut before the cameras and lecture Washington on its profligacy, would not only have lost their jobs and fortunes in 2008 because of their incompetence – they would probably lose their jobs again today.

Tell that to Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, or Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs, both of whom have told us it’s imperative that we cut social programs for the elderly and disabled to “save our economy.” The elderly and disabled have paid for those programs – just as they paid to rescue Jamie Dimon and Lloyd Blankfein, and just as they implicitly continue to pay for that rescue today.

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Senator Warren: Why Isn’t Wall Street Paying Back Taxpayers For Being ‘Too Big To Fail’?

From Think Progress:

By Pat Garofalo
on Feb 26, 2013

During a Senate Banking committee hearing on Tuesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) grilled Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on whether Wall Street banks should have to pay back U.S. taxpayers for the implicit funding advantage those banks receive by virtue of being viewed as “too big to fail.” According to a Bloomberg News study, big banks are essentially subsidized by about $83 billion per year because investors anticipate that those banks will be saved by the government if they get in trouble.

“These big financial institutions are getting cheaper borrowing to the tune of $83 billion in a single year simply because people believe the government would step up and bail them out. If they are getting it, why shouldn’t they pay for it?” asked Warren:

WARREN: So I understand that we’re all trying to get to the end of “too big to fail.” But my question, Mr. chairman, is until we do, should those biggest financial institutions be repaying the American taxpayer that $83 billion subsidy that they are getting?…It is working like an insurance policy. Ordinary folks pay for homeowners insurance. Ordinary folks pay for car insurance. And these big financial institutions are getting cheaper borrowing to the tune of $83 billion in a single year simply because people believe that the government would step in and bail them out. And I’m just saying, if they are getting it, why shouldn’t they pay for it?

BERNANKE: I think we should get rid of it.

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Student Debt Nearly Tripled In 8 Years, New York Federal Reserve Reports

From Huffington Post:


Total student debt has nearly tripled over the past eight years, a new report from the New York Federal Reserve has found.

Total student debt stands at $966 billion as of the fourth quarter of 2012, the N.Y. Fed said in press materials, with a 70 percent increase in both the number of borrowers and the average balance per person. The overall number of borrowers past due on their student loan payments has also grown, from under 10 percent in 2004 to 17 percent in 2012.

Fewer people with student loans are buying homes, according to data in the report. Of borrowers ages 25 to 30 who are taking out new mortgages, the percentage of those with student debt has fallen by half, from nearly 9 percent in 2005 to just above 4 percent in 2012.

The fed report sees a connection, stating, “The higher burden of student loans and higher delinquencies may affect borrowers’ access to other types of credit and the performance of other debt.”

This is what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau cited last week when it announced a new inquiry into ways to allow graduates with private student loans to refinance.

CFPB Student Loan Ombudsman Rohit Chopra told reporters, “Many of us have raised questions about the student debt domino effect on the economy.”

“I don’t like to use the word ‘crisis,’ because it’s a ‘crisis’ that really can’t melt down the same way that the mortgage market did,” Chopra said on HuffPost Live. “In fact, a lot of the student loan issues are just going to be a drag on the economy, because young people aren’t going to be able to participate like a generation ago when they’re making very large payments out of their salaries every single month instead of putting it to better use.”

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Winning Medicare for All? “I Like Our Chances”

From Common Dreams:

Despite insights, Time magazine’s cover story falls short on remedy

by James Kahn
Published on Thursday, February 28, 2013 by Common Dreams

In his recent Time magazine article, Steven Brill paints a vivid and rather depressing picture of the perverse malfunctioning of our health care system – overpriced and technology-addicted – and he acknowledges some of the advantages of Medicare.

Sadly, however, he shies away from an endorsement of the obvious solution: an improved Medicare for all, i.e. single-payer national health insurance.

I’ll come back to that a little later. However, let me first say that Brill masterfully illuminates much of what’s wrong with U.S. health care.

Take, for example, the “chargemaster” list: an archival, bizarrely hyper-inflated price list in each hospital based on some long-lost secret formulas and automatically inflated over time.

As a physician and health policy researcher, I’ve long known about the massive charges offered to non-contract payers (read: individuals not covered by a public or private insurer), charges that are completely meaningless for costing studies because they’re almost never paid in full and don’t represent the real resources used to provide care. However, what Brill lays out brilliantly (pun intended) is the following:

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Get the Coal Energy Facts: Help Us Stop Coal Exports

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Keystone scolds should let activists be activists

From Grist:

By David Roberts
26 Feb 2013

What should the climate movement do next, after Keystone? Last week I approached the question through the lens of supply-side vs. demand-side fights: Should activists protest against mines, pipelines, ports, and other means through which fossil fuels reach consumers, or should they focus on reducing demand for those fuels?

Now I want to approach the same question through another lens, which is related but not quite the same: Should activists focus on fighting the negative or promoting the positive? Or put another way, on dismantling our dirty stautus-quo systems or building up sustainable new ones?

Climate change is not like the problems that have occupied the environmental movement since its heyday in the ’60s and ’70s. Those typically involved local pollutants; the solution was to modify some class of industrial widget, e.g., stick a scrubber on a coal plant.

Carbon pollution is different. It’s not a marginal byproduct of industrialization; it is an intrinsic feature of economies based on fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are made of carbon. There aren’t enough scrubbers in the world to solve climate change at the widget level. Climate change calls for new systems.

Addressing climate change is at least as much about designing and building a new world as it is about battling and dismantling the status quo. It is creation and destruction, yin and yang.

One critique of the climate movement (and the Keystone campaign) has been that yin and yang are out of balance, that there is too much focus on the negative. What are we to make of this critique?

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Farmer-Philosopher Fred Kirschenmann on Food and the Warming Future

From Yes Magazine:

In this wide-ranging interview, Kirschenmann gives YES! the dirt on the future of farming.

by Peter Pearsall
Feb 22, 2013

Farmer and philosopher Fred Kirschenmann has made it his life’s work to weave sustainability and resilience into the ever-changing agricultural landscape.

A world-renowned leader in sustainable agriculture and professor of religion and philosophy at Iowa State University, Kirschenmann is no stranger to practicing what he preaches. His 2,600-acre farmstead in North Dakota serves as a model for what’s possible on a mid-sized organic farm, showcasing the results of diverse crop rotation paired with soil remediation, and all of it done without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

Kirschenmann decided to convert his farm to a wholly organic operation in 1976, after being introduced to the concept in the 1960s by one of his students. Crop yields sank initially, but five years of trial and error restored productivity and eventually boosted it. Today, he grows seven different grain crops—including winter rye, millet, and hard red spring wheat—on two-thirds of the land, while on the rest cattle graze on native prairie. The farm has been featured in such publications as National Geographic, BusinessWeek, Audubon, the LA Times, and Gourmet magazine.

As the Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University, Kirschenmann travels across the country and the world to spread new ideas about land ethics, soil health, and biodiversity in agriculture. He is also an author, and the president of Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Pocantico Hills, New York.

YES! Magazine caught up with Dr. Kirschenmann on Bainbridge Island and asked him about some of modern agriculture’s most vexing problems and the solutions he’s developed over his many years in the field (no pun intended).

Peter Pearsall: You’ve been called an “agri-intellectual” by Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott. What does that phrase mean to you?

Fred Kirschenmann: I think what Tom means by that is that I have put together a kind of vision for the food and agriculture system based on my own experience as a farmer, and my own efforts to anticipate the kinds of challenges we’re going to see in the future.

Peter: How has sustainable agriculture changed over the last 20 years?

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Environmentalists still waiting for Obama to act on climate change

From The Guardian UK:

Energy adviser Heather Zichal – like others before her – fails to deliver any concrete details of the president’s plans for action

, US environment correspondent, Thursday 28 February 2013

It’s been 114 days since Barack Obama promised on the night of his re-election to protect future generations from – in his words – “the destructive power of a warming planet”. It’s been 38 days since he renewed and expanded on that promise on inauguration day, 16 days since he told Congress straight up in his State of the Union address: act on climate change or I will.

But when it comes to spelling out the actions Obama intends to take on climate change, exactly how he intends to use his executive power, it’s been a very slow reveal.

The White House energy and climate change adviser, Heather Zichal, failed during a talk at a Washington thinktank this week to provide specifics on the kinds of actions – or the time frame – Obama has in mind for dealing with what he has repeatedly described as an urgent problem.

If anything, Zichal, like other White House officials pressed for details of the president’s climate strategy, moved to squash expectations raised by those very same speeches that Obama would indeed take ambitious action to reduce the carbon pollution that causes climate change.

Zichal, when pressed on the time line of Obama’s State of the Union ultimatum, seemed to suggest the president might be willing to sit out the two years of this newly elected Congress before making good on his threat to use his executive powers.

Environmental groups have been urging Obama to draft new rules limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. Electric power plants produce about 40% of America’s carbon dioxide emissions; they are the leading driver of climate change in the country.

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