Some Realities About Public Restrooms

From Tranifesto:

Matt Kailey
April 1, 2013

It’s 2013 and we are still arguing over the right to eliminate.

Colorado has some of the best laws in the country around the protection of trans rights, and our public accommodations law covers transgender and transsexual people, but we are still doing battle over bathrooms. Most recently, a six-year-old girl has been the target of discrimination when, despite our laws of protection, her school is not allowing her to use the girls’ restroom.

And now the state of Arizona, which brought us the most discriminatory racial-profiling bill in recent history, is back at it with SB 1045, which originally mandated discrimination against trans people and would pretty much force everyone, trans or not, to haul their birth certificates around with them in order to use public facilities.

Rep. John Kavanagh, a sponsor of the bill in the state legislature, has now “softened” it to allow, but not force, businesses and organizations to discriminate. He claims he did this in the face of public outcry. (Did he think there wouldn’t be any? He doesn’t know our Arizona trans community very well.)

So just as Colorado proves that a public accommodations law is not going to stop discrimination against trans people, Arizona is letting us know that it really doesn’t care.

And in the trans community, we know that laws such as the one making its way through the Arizona state legislature will negatively impact trans women the most. We also know that these laws are almost always based on an underlying premise of sexual predation.

In the face of all this, I would like to reiterate some of the points I make in Five Points for Non-Trans People About Public Restroom Use and add some additional points here:

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Malta: Government hours away from agreement on transsexual marriage rights

From Malta Today:

An agreement between government and Joanne Cassar is understood to be “imminent” following several meetings between the two sides.

Raphael Vassallo
Tuesday 2 April 2013

An agreement between government and Joanne Cassar – the aggrieved party in a European court case against Malta over the rights of transsexual persons to marry according to their reassigned gender – is understood to be “imminent” following several meetings between the two sides.

Cassar filed a case against Malta in the European Court of Human Rights, after unsuccessfully suing the Registrar of Marriages for refusing to issue the banns necessary for her to marry her long-term (male) partner.

Dr David Camilleri, who represents Cassar alongside Dr Jose Herrera (now parliament secretary for culture), confirmed that meetings have been held with government respresentatives to this effect: the most recent one yesterday.

The issue was also discussed at Cabinet level this morning, paving the way to a legal amendment that would allow Cassar to marry, after this right had been denied to her by the Court of Appeal, after the Attorney General challenged an earlier favourable ruling by the lower courts.

The legal amendment will reflect the principle that, by recognising a person’s reassigned gender identity through documentation (eg, ID card or driver’s licence), the State also de facto commits itself to acknowledging and protecting all the rights and privileges associated with that particular gender identity.

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Same-Sex Marriage Makes David Brooks Crazy

From Rolling Stone:

Matt Taibbi
Tuesday April 2, 2013

This morning’s David Brooks column on same-sex marriage was one of the weirdest, most mean-spirited things I’ve ever seen in The New York Times.

Entitled “Freedom Loses One,” the article is a sarcastic broadside against . . . well, against something, though it’s not clear exactly which of the many post-Sixties permissive-society hobgoblins Brooks hates is the real target here.

Ostensibly, the column purports to make a single ironic point, which is that by petitioning the Supreme Court for the right to marry, gays and lesbians were not expanding their freedoms – and thus continuing, as Brooks implies, a long and perhaps-regrettable winning streak for people’s right to “follow their desires” that dates back to those hated Sixties – but rather constraining them. Brooks puts it this way:

But last week saw a setback for the forces of maximum freedom. A representative of millions of gays and lesbians went to the Supreme Court and asked the court to help put limits on their own freedom of choice. They asked for marriage.

Brooks here apparently expects his gay and lesbian readers to scratch their heads here and think, “Gosh, what does he mean by that? I thought we were seeking new freedoms with this campaign?”

What does he mean? Well, the self-appointed hetero-in-chief is here to enlighten us as to what marriage is – and he’s here to tell you, it’s no bowl of freedom-cherries!

Washington state may require insurers to cover abortion

From Salon:

With Arkansas and North Dakota on a race to the bottom with draconian abortion laws, Washington stands up for women

Tuesday, Apr 2, 2013

Washington lawmakers are currently debating a measure that would require almost all health insurers to cover abortion.

A state Legislature actually wants to strengthen women’s access to abortion — and it’s not even April Fools’ Day!

The Reproductive Parity Act passed the Democrat-controlled statehouse in February, with a religious conscience exemption for employers and insurance carriers that oppose abortion. Supporters are optimistic that they will have the votes to pass the measure if it reaches the floor, but Democrats have a very narrow majority in the state Senate and a yes vote could prove tricky.

Democrats have 26 seats to the Republicans’ 23, but as the New York Times notes:

The Republican minority was joined in December by two Democrats, creating a bipartisan ruling group. The coalition’s majority leader, Senator Rodney Tom, a Democrat, supports abortion rights, but many of the members of the coalition he leads go the other way. That means that if the bill reaches the floor, passage would require a flip side of the leadership coalition — Democrats leading the yes votes, presumably with Senator Tom back among his old caucus.

But Washington has a history of supporting abortion rights. The state legalized abortion through a popular vote in 1970, three years before the Supreme Court ruled on Roe v. Wade, and reproductive rights advocates view the Reproductive Parity Act as keeping with Washington’s pro-choice track record.

“Today every carrier and nearly every plan in Washington already covers abortion,” Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest CEO Elaine Rose told the Senate Health Care Committee on Monday. “The Reproductive Parity Act will keep it that way.”

While lawmakers in North Dakota and Arkansas prepare for legal challenges to state bans on abortion at six and 12 weeks, respectively; Washington’s decision to buck the national trend of restricting women’s access to abortion has come as a relief to many advocates for women’s reproductive rights. (This one included.)

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The bigots not happy about being called bigots

From Daily Kos:

By kos
Tue Apr 02, 2013

This is a common refrain in right-wing circles these days:

Scanning national media over the last several days, one sees words such as homophobia, bigotry and xenophobia thrown like confetti by liberals at anyone who dare say that under the federal constitution, states have the right to define marriage. These scare tactics are actually working—Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, felt compelled to appear on national TV and explain that Catholic religious belief that marriage is between a man and a woman forever, to create life is not bigotry but a religious teaching. The left’s response—not enough. Nothing is enough short of changing religious doctrine to fit the beliefs of the liberal masses.

This is driving the wingers to distraction. Theirs is an entire movement built on the politics of resentment, from the racist Southern Strategy to anti-gay ballot initiatives. Now those roosters are coming home to roost, and the damage inflicted is innumerable.

We liberals always knew modern conservatism was (literally) built on racial resentment, from the day the Republican Party accepted the Dixiecrats with open arms. But that brand is seeping into the broader mainstream. I keep going back to this GOP focus group in Ohio after the 2012 election, where young working-class white voters expressed dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama and the Democrats, but were just vicious in their assessment of the GOP:

None of them expressed great enthusiasm for Obama. But their depiction of Republicans was even more lacerating than the women’s had been. “Racist,” “out of touch” and “hateful” made the list — “and put ‘1950s’ on there too!” one called out.

Remember, those aren’t liberals, but the kind of white working-class swing-state voters Republicans need to attract to offset their growing disadvantages with non-Anglo voters. But few want to vote for a racist, hateful, out-of-touch party straight out of the 1950s.

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Austerity Can Kill You – Literally

From Truth Out:

By Julien Mercille
Tuesday, 02 April 2013

Europe has championed austerity economics for several years now in reaction to the crisis in which it is engulfed, but growth has still not recovered and forecasts remain gloomy.

The problem is that cutting government spending in a downturn does not boost growth – rather, it shrinks the economy: the opposite of what is needed. Even the IMF, a traditional proponent of austerity, knows that fiscal consolidation has contractionary effects on the economy, and Europe’s recent experience has confirmed this many times over.

As Cambridge University economist Ha-Joon Chang writes, the real goal behind austerity is to roll back the welfare state by cutting government expenditures on services on which the poor rely to a greater extent, such as welfare and poverty alleviation programs. One particularly obvious example of this strategy is the policy of ongoing reductions in public health care spending and services in many European countries.

For example, a major new study published in the British medical journal The Lancet examines the impacts of austerity on health care in Europe. The must-read report focuses on Greece, Spain and Portugal, which have adopted rigid fiscal austerity policies, and its findings are worrying. Expenditure cuts in those countries have led to increased “strain on their health-care systems” while “suicides and outbreaks of infectious diseases are becoming more common in these countries, and budget cuts have restricted access to health care.”

Such attacks on health care systems have been imposed by the so-called troika (the IMF, European Commission, and European Central Bank) as conditions for countries in financial distress receiving bailouts. For example, in Greece, “the troika has demanded that public spending on health should not exceed 6 percent of GDP.” As such, 370 specialist units have been eliminated or merged, 2,000 public hospital beds removed and a freeze on hiring new physicians implemented. Meanwhile, there have been reports of 40 percent cuts to hospital budgets and shortages of staff and medical supplies, amid “widespread drug shortages” in pharmacies, The Lancet reports.

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Communism, welfare state – what’s the next big idea?

From The Guardian UK:

Any attempt to challenge the elite needs courage, inspiration and a truly groundbreaking proposal. Here are two to set us off

The Guardian, Monday 1 April 2013

Most of the world’s people are decent, honest and kind. Most of those who dominate us are inveterate bastards. This is the conclusion I’ve reached after many years of journalism. Writing on Black Monday, as the British government’s full-spectrum attack on the lives of the poor commences, the thought keeps returning to me.

“With a most inhuman cruelty, they who have put out the people’s eyes reproach them of their blindness.” This government, whose mismanagement of the economy has forced so many into the arms of the state, blames the sick, the unemployed, the underpaid for a crisis caused by the feral elite – and punishes them accordingly. Most of those affected by the bedroom tax, introduced today, are disabled. Thousands will be driven from their homes, and many more pushed towards destitution. Relief for the poor from council tax will be clipped; legal aid for civil cases cut off. Yet at the end of this week those making more than £150,000 a year will have their income tax cut.

Two days later, benefit payments for the poorest will be cut in real terms. A week after that, thousands of families who live in towns and boroughs where property prices are high will be forced out of their homes by the total benefits cap. What we are witnessing is raw economic warfare by the rich against the poor.

So the age-old question comes knocking: why does the decent majority allow itself to be governed by a brutal, antisocial minority? Part of the reason is that the minority controls the story. As John Harris explained in the Guardian, large numbers (including many who depend on it) have been persuaded that most recipients of social security are feckless, profligate fraudsters. Despite everything that has happened over the last two years, Rupert Murdoch, Lord Rothermere and the other media barons still seem to be running the country. Their relentless propaganda, using exceptional and shocking cases to characterise an entire social class, remains highly effective. Divide and rule is as potent as it has ever been.

But I’ve come to believe that there’s also something deeper at work: that most of the world’s people live with the legacy of slavery. Even in a nominal democracy like the United Kingdom, most people were more or less in bondage until little more than a century ago: on near-starvation wages, fired at will, threatened with extreme punishment if they dissented, forbidden to vote. They lived in great and justified fear of authority, and the fear has persisted, passed down across the five or six generations that separate us and reinforced now by renewed insecurity, snowballing inequality, partisan policing.

Any movement that seeks to challenge the power of the elite needs to ask itself what it takes to shake people out of this state. And the answer seems inescapable – hope. Those who govern on behalf of billionaires are threatened only when confronted by the power of a transformative idea.

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Capitalism as Psychosis (or No One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest)

From Common Dreams:

by John Atcheson
Published on Tuesday, April 2, 2013 by Common Dreams

Can a society become psychotic? Certainly a quick look at our national political dialogue would suggest that’s precisely what’s happening.

Let’s start with what passes for rational discussion on the economy.

For going on 30 years now, the Washington Asylum has focused on the debate between a collection of insanely passionate shrink-the-government-until-you-can-drown-it-in-the-bath tub supply-siders on the one hand, and … well … a collection of folks who embrace a more progressive economic agenda every four years, but seem to feel strongly about both sides of the issue in between.

Meanwhile, empirical evidence shows that the shrink the government side of the argument is counter-factual, destructive, and leads to Great Recessions, record-breaking income disparity, human want and deprivation.

So what do the Shrinkers advocate? More shrinking, of course, in the form of austerity budgets.

But as Paul Krugman pointed out, once again reality caught up with the Shrinkers. The high interest rates and economic catastrophe that debt and deficits were supposed to cause, failed to happen. In fact, the deficit is shrinking, interest rates are near all time lows, and the economy is growing – slowly, but certainly much faster than in countries that tried the austerity route.

Did this evidence cause the Shrinkers to change their position? Nope. Like a lunatic insisting he’s Napoleon despite all evidence to the contrary, the free marketeers simply came up with a new reason for austerity – deficits are a moral issue.

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Lack of paid sick leave is unhealthy for America

From The Washington Post:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Ian Rizzio was a 24-year-old mechanical engineering student in Portland, Oregon, managing a sandwich shop to pay his tuition. One day, he woke up sick, but went to work anyway, as he later testified to the Portland City Council. After vomiting in the bathroom, Rizzio spent two hours trying — unsuccessfully — to reach his boss before going home to rest.

When Rizzio came into work the next day, he was fired immediately. With $35,000 in student loans, he feared he’d have to withdraw from school.

Unfortunately, Rizzio is not alone.

More than 40 million Americans — disproportionately low-income, black and Latino workers — cook, clean, fold, and ring us up without any paid time off when they or their children are ill. On any given day, these workers must choose between caring for a sick child and their job. They handle our food and our purchases, coughing and sniffling through Kleenex, to avoid being handed a pink slip.

The absence of paid sick leave is a glaring injustice that puts American workers in the distinguished company of workers in Syria, Somalia and North Korea. It’s an affront to our values and the dignity of a hard day’s work. And it’s a drag on our families, our businesses, and our society.

For all the vibrant national debate on work/life balance and encouraging women to “lean in” at their workplace, sometimes we need to make it easier for women and men—for all working adults—to stay home.

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Shocking – Tar Sands Means Game Over for the Planet

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Actual Methane Emissions Measured in Manhattan Show No Advantage to Natural Gas: Two Reports

From PR Leap:

Damascus Citizens for Sustainability
April 01, 2013

We now have empirical evidence that current steps of continuing and increasing natural gas use would only accelerate climate change. Two reports, co-authored by Dr. Bryce F. Payne Jr and Robert Ackley of Gas Safety, Inc. in Southborough, MA, resulted from a study commissioned by Damascus Citizens for Sustainability (DCS) of Damascus, PA in the Delaware River Basin, in order to better understand leakage from natural gas distribution systems in the context of global climate concerns.

The level of leakage measured shows that natural gas should not be considered a “bridge fuel”. In November and December of 2012, Gas Safety, Inc. recorded natural gas fugitive emission data during a 160-mile survey on Manhattan streets, and then did extensive analysis of the data collected and previous leakage estimating schemes.

There is an increasing awareness of methane as a potent greenhouse gas and in its role in climate change.  Natural gas is 93% methane, and methane is more than 20 times more potent a GreenHouse Gas (GHG) than CO2. Because natural gas generates less carbon dioxide when burned, it has been considered a cleaner energy source than other fossil fuels.  However, to look at the emission levels from burning alone is to hide natural gas’ total greenhouse impact.  Even if only some methane leaks into the atmosphere during extraction, transport and delivery to the consumer, then what had been assumed was a small gas carbon footprint is in reality a highly significant gas carbon footprint.

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