Name the Problem: Cathy Brennan

From Activist With Hat:

Phylicia Sampson

Name the problem.  Name the problem.  Name the problem.  Name the problem.  Name the problem.  Name the problem.  Name the problem.  Name the problem.  Name the problem.  Name the problem.

Debating online with terfs has turned into my own personal drinking game that allows me to drink whenever one of them comes up with a new catch phrase/gimmick (without any valid or reliable substance) for the week.  I get really drunk.  It’s sad.  My favorite has to be “name the problem” though.  So catchy, yet so ignorantly dismissive of the complexity of our society’s system of oppression.  Let’s downgrade our comprehension and critical thinking skills for a moment to use their framework of identifying societal concerns:

Name the problem:

My printer–it ran out of ink while printing my dissertation; My alarm clock–it didn’t wake me up in time to watch Melissa Harris Perry; the chipotle worker that forgot to put my guacamole in the bag.

I had to name the problem.

During the end of April, Cathy Brennan decided to harass me repeatedly through Twitter.  In addition to the screen shots posted below, there are many more where she decides to tweet at me.  Within an hour (most tweets within a matter of minutes after each other) notifications from Brennan flooded my inbox.

Looking back through my archive has shown that all of Brennan tweets are no longer available. So, if Twitter users aren’t able to delete their tweet replies from other users, it means for whatever reason Brennan removed them.

Brennan before deleted tweets

Brennan after deleted tweets

In the beginning of January, Cathy Brennan filed a Peace Order against me stating to unreliable news sources that she was “afraid of this person.”  Do you consistently tweet to individuals you are scared of?  Why engage in direct contact with me knowing I can’t reply back? Was she expecting me to reply back? Apparently so since this was the tweet she used as evidence to file a report that I was out of compliance with my Peace Order:

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Lawyer Expenses to Fight Cathy Brennan!

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It’s Time to Move the Olympics

From Allegiance Musical:

It’s been bubbling for some time, but the controversy over Russia’s draconian “gay propaganda” law has now boiled over.Last week, Russia’s Sports Minister confirmed that the country intends to enforce its laws against visiting LGBT athletes, trainers and fans, meaning anyone even so much as waving a rainbow flag (and I presume many men enthusiastically watching and dramatically commenting on figure skating) would be arrested, held for weeks and then deported.Given this position, the IOC must do the right thing, protect its athletes and the fans, and move the 2014 Winter Olympics out of Russia.

The International Olympic Committee’s fundamental principles include an unequivocal statement: “The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” In specific response to the Russian law, the IOC, in a recent interview, doubled down: “[We] would like to reiterate our long commitment to not discriminate against those taking part in the Olympic Games. The IOC is an open organization and athletes of all orientations will be welcome at the Games.” It appears Russia isn’t listening, and indeed now has raised the stakes by threatening arrests.

There have been urgent calls for boycotts of the Olympics and of Russian exports like vodka. These are understandable: It just doesn’t seem right to see any of our dollars flowing to that nation. But a boycott of the games would punish athletes who have trained for years to participate, and a boycott of Russian vodka isn’t going to effect the kind of change needed. Besides, with Russia’s confirmation that it will enforce its law, our LGBT athletes are in real danger, and their safety must be paramount.

Many believe that such a call to move the Olympics out of Russia goes too far. Would this be their opinion if the law instead called for the arrest of any Jews, Roman Catholics or Muslims should they display any sign of their religion, such as a wearing a yamaka or praying while facing Mecca? Discrimination in any form is a blight upon the Winter Games, and it must not be tolerated.

NBC and the corporate sponsors of the Olympics should be paying close attention, too, and should get behind the “Move the Olympics” movement now, while there is still time to do so. If the Winter Olympics proceed in Sochi, Russia, all of the goodwill they have spent millions to build will evaporate in noisy protests, boycotts, and terrible publicity. I personally will be beating this particular drum loudly, as will many other LGBT actors, activists and allies. Trust me, if you are a corporate brand, you do not want to be associated with the Sochi Olympics.

Nations are not judged merely on their might, but also by how they treat their most vulnerable. Russia’s cynical and deplorable actions against the LGBT community have given license to hate groups within its borders to act with violence and impunity against a group, based solely on whom they were born to love. It now seeks to spread that hate abroad through its tainted Olympics. If Russia hopes to stand with the International Community, it must accept and adopt international principles of equality and non-discrimination.

There is a petition gathering strength demanding the Olympics be relocated to Vancouver, which played host in 2010. All of the facilities are still in good condition, so this would likely be the easiest of possible alternatives. If you agree, and I hope you do, please take a few moments to sign the petition here. With enough support, maybe the IOC and the sponsors will realize that this is a disaster in the making, and the best course is to move immediately and decisively to relocate the Winter Games of 2014.

–George Takei


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The Dark Side of Being Transgender: Having Little Choice

From Huffington Post:


People outside the trans experience have a truly hard time understanding the magnitude of the task of changing gender expression. No one would ever do this unless they were forced to by their own psychology. I did choose to follow a number of specific steps to change my gender expression; it’s just that I was so compelled by inner need that I would say it’s not really a choice.

This is so hard that no one would do this if they had any other option. My only other option was to die. And yes, I was prepared to die. I had carefully detailed plans and all the necessary supplies. All I needed were 10 minutes before I went to bed and I wouldn’t wake up the next day. I saw it less as suicide and more like euthanasia: I had a medical condition that bordered on unbearable at times.

I don’t feel that I need that option anymore; for the most part, my life as a trans woman seems to be working. But I truly cannot go back to living as a man. This is a choice like breathing is a choice. I can choose to not breathe, but not for long. I have to do this to stay alive. Truly I do.

Gender is largely a societal construct. All this “feminine” stuff I’m practicing how to do is learned, a product of our culture. If I want to look feminine, I have to adopt these culturally derived standards of dress, behavior, and speech. I’ve come to realize that the real differences between men and women probably aren’t that great. After all, I had a female mind my whole life, and yet somehow I was able to successfully deny that for 53 years. Unfortunately, the cultural differences between genders are enormous.

Women have suffered greatly at the hands of men; there are many places where it’s still evident. The whole time I lived as a male, I really believed that women were the superior sex (their contribution to making children, for example, is vastly greater). I actually had to learn to accept that I really am good enough to be a woman. At first I didn’t believe it.

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Barney Frank’s atheist triumph

From Salon:

When will more politicians let go of God?

Monday, Aug 5, 2013

Barney Frank has always been a trailblazer. The outspoken 73-year-old former Democratic congressman first publicly came out of the closet back in 1987, back when being honest about your orientation was considered political suicide. And now, he’s done it again. Though he has in the past described himself as “a left-handed gay Jew,” over the weekend he refined that definition.

The updated status came via Bill Maher’s “Real Time,” after Maher asked Frank if he felt more liberated being out of Congress. “Absolutely,” Frank replied. “I don’t have to worry that when the phone rings it’s somebody who’s screwed something up and says it’s my responsibility to unscrew it.” Maher lobbed back that Frank had already enjoyed a degree of public immunity from criticism, noting, “You could come on this show and sit next to a pot-smoking atheist.” Frank then waved a finger between the two of them and asked, “Which pot-smoking atheist were you talking about here?” to the cheers of the crowd. Frank went on to express his disappointment that he wasn’t appointed to the open Senate seat in Massachusetts, because he “was looking forward to having my husband, Jim, hold the Constitution, not the Bible, and affirm, not swear, that I was going to be a wonderful senator.”

Frank’s admissions aren’t exactly bombshells. His tacit acknowledgment of some pot smoking, for example, should surprise no one familiar with his record of urging reform for the current drug laws. In the past, he and Ron Paul have teamed up to end the federal ban on marijuana and to respect Colorado’s possession policy “because of our belief in individual freedom.” And for a liberal politician who’s represented Massachusetts to cop to atheism isn’t quite the bombshell it would be if, say, Rick Santorum suddenly went all Christopher Hitchens.

Nevertheless, Frank’s candor is yet another much-needed step in normalizing atheism in a country that still frequently takes the Judeo-Christian model as the default. It reminds people, and not just the uppity Bill Maher demographic either, that we don’t all believe the same things. One-fifth of all Americans have no religious identity – and that number is even higher among young people. And in a nation that was founded on the ideal of separating church and state, on keeping God firmly out of government, why should a politician ever be asked to swear to anything on a Bible anyway?

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Julian Assange: a warning to whistleblowers

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Members of Congress denied access to basic information about NSA

From The Guardian UK:

Documents provided by two House members demonstrate how they are blocked from exercising any oversight over domestic surveillance

Morgan Griffith’s requests for NSA information
Alan Grayson’s requests for NSA information, Sunday 4 August 2013

Members of Congress have been repeatedly thwarted when attempting to learn basic information about the National Security Agency (NSA) and the secret FISA court which authorizes its activities, documents provided by two House members demonstrate.

From the beginning of the NSA controversy, the agency’s defenders have insisted that Congress is aware of the disclosed programs and exercises robust supervision over them. “These programs are subject to congressional oversight and congressional reauthorization and congressional debate,” President Obama said the day after the first story on NSA bulk collection of phone records was published in this space. “And if there are members of Congress who feel differently, then they should speak up.”

But members of Congress, including those in Obama’s party, have flatly denied knowing about them. On MSNBC on Wednesday night, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct) was asked by host Chris Hayes: “How much are you learning about what the government that you are charged with overseeing and holding accountable is doing from the newspaper and how much of this do you know?” The Senator’s reply:

The revelations about the magnitude, the scope and scale of these surveillances, the metadata and the invasive actions surveillance of social media Web sites were indeed revelations to me.”

But it is not merely that members of Congress are unaware of the very existence of these programs, let alone their capabilities. Beyond that, members who seek out basic information – including about NSA programs they are required to vote on and FISA court (FISC) rulings on the legality of those programs – find that they are unable to obtain it.

Two House members, GOP Rep. Morgan Griffith of Virginia and Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson of Florida, have provided the Guardian with numerous letters and emails documenting their persistent, and unsuccessful, efforts to learn about NSA programs and relevant FISA court rulings.

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DEA Special Operations Division Covers Up Surveillance Used To Investigate Americans: Report

From Huffington Post:

By John Shiffman and Kristina Cooke
Posted: 08/05/2013

WASHINGTON, Aug 5 (Reuters) – A secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

Although these cases rarely involve national security issues, documents reviewed by Reuters show that law enforcement agents have been directed to conceal how such investigations truly begin – not only from defense lawyers but also sometimes from prosecutors and judges.

The undated documents show that federal agents are trained to “recreate” the investigative trail to effectively cover up where the information originated, a practice that some experts say violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial. If defendants don’t know how an investigation began, they cannot know to ask to review potential sources of exculpatory evidence – information that could reveal entrapment, mistakes or biased witnesses.

“I have never heard of anything like this at all,” said Nancy Gertner, a Harvard Law School professor who served as a federal judge from 1994 to 2011. Gertner and other legal experts said the program sounds more troubling than recent disclosures that the National Security Agency has been collecting domestic phone records. The NSA effort is geared toward stopping terrorists; the DEA program targets common criminals, primarily drug dealers.

“It is one thing to create special rules for national security,” Gertner said. “Ordinary crime is entirely different. It sounds like they are phonying up investigations.”

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Bernie Sanders: Walmart family’s ‘obscene’ wealth subsidized by taxpayers

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Saturday, August 3, 2013

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) appeared on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” on Saturday and scoffed at the idea that major corporations like Walmart can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage and that to raise the U.S. minimum wage would be bad for the economy.

Sanders said that the overwhelming majority of the U.S. population believes that the current minimum wage of $7.25 per hour is “obscene” and a “starvation wage.” He said that he hopes to mount a strong push in the Senate to raise the minimum wage and that if enough grass roots support builds around the country, “we can force the House to do the right thing.”

“We have to create millions of new jobs” to help the economy, he said, “but we also have to make the minimum wage a living wage.”

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The suburbs are dead — and that’s not a good thing

From Salon:

The resurgence of cities has been awful on the ‘burbs: More crime, poverty, burned-out malls and foreclosed homes

Saturday, Aug 3, 2013

One could argue that the resurgence of our cities does not necessarily portend the fall of the suburbs. But while many cities have been benefiting  from an influx of wealth, the suburbs have been suffering a rise in poverty. From 2000 to 2010, the number of poor in the suburbs or the nation’s largest metro areas grew by 53 percent to a record 15.3 million. And while poverty has increased in cities as well, the growth rate in the number of poor living in the suburbs was more than twice that in cities during the decade—and the suburbs are now home to the largest and fastest-growing poor population in the country.  This  isn’t just the Great Recession at work; as early as 2005, the suburban poor outnumbered  their city counterparts by almost a million. “We think of poverty as a really urban phenomenon or an ultra-rural phenomenon. It’s increasingly a suburban issue,” says Elizabeth Kneebone, Brookings fellow and coauthor of a recent Brookings book on the topic, “Confronting Suburban Poverty in America.”

The reasons for this shift are many. During the growth years of the 1990s and 2000s, low-skill construction and service jobs boomed in the suburbs. Soon immigrants began bypassing cities and immigrating directly to the suburbs and exurbs. But these low-skill jobs were the first to vaporize in the housing bust and ensuing recession. At the same time, the longer-term collapse of the manufacturing industry outside midwestern cities pushed many people into poverty. Some of this is also due to the squeeze on the middle class in general. Indeed, the rapid rise in the poor population in the suburbs in the 2000s can’t be explained simply by more low-income residents moving there; a wide swath of the new suburban poor are longtime suburban residents who weren’t poor in the beginning of the decade but fell below the poverty line as incomes stagnated and home prices increased.

According to one study, nearly three-quarters  of suburban non-profits are seeing new visitors with no previous connection to safety net programs of any kind. In Grand Rapids, Michigan, Steve Gibson, executive director of Byron Community Ministries, says many people he sees seeking help were until very recently members of the middle class. “I hear it over and over again,” he told a reporter for Next City magazine. “ ‘We used to donate to you.’ ” In Long Island’s Suffolk County, the number of food stamp cases jumped 55 percent from 2010 to 2012, and the emergency-housing caseload hit a ten-year peak with nearly five hundred families and three hundred individuals living in shelters and motels.

Suburban poverty poses different kinds of challenges than urban poverty. There are fewer social services in the suburbs, so the safety net is “patchier and spread thinner” than in large cities, says Brookings’ Kneebone. And even when services do exist, it’s difficult for the poor to get to them if they lack access to a car. Suburban poverty also tends to be hidden behind closed doors as its residents fear the stigma of having their neighbors learn they’re getting government assistance.

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Crazy Alert…Maggots for Dinner? Yum!

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Diamonds Are Bullshit

From Huffington Post:


American males enter adulthood through a peculiar rite of passage — they spend most of their savings on a shiny piece of rock. They could invest the money in assets that will compound over time and someday provide a nest egg. Instead, they trade that money for a diamond ring, which isn’t much of an asset at all. As soon as you leave the jeweler with a diamond, it loses over 50 percent of its value.

Americans exchange diamond rings as part of the engagement process, because in 1938 De Beers decided that they would like us to. Prior to a stunningly successful marketing campaign 1938, Americans occasionally exchanged engagement rings, but wasn’t a pervasive occurrence. Not only is the demand for diamonds a marketing invention, but diamonds aren’t actually that rare. Only by carefully restricting the supply has De Beers kept the price of a diamond high.

Countless American dudes will attest that the societal obligation to furnish a diamond engagement ring is both stressful and expensive. But here’s the thing — this obligation only exists because the company that stands to profit from it willed it into existence.

So here is a modest proposal: Let’s agree that diamonds are bullshit and reject their role in the marriage process. Let’s admit that as a society we got tricked for about a century into coveting sparkling pieces of carbon, but it’s time to end the nonsense.

The Concept of Intrinsic Value

In finance, there is concept called intrinsic value. An asset’s value is essentially driven by the (discounted) value of the future cash that asset will generate. For example, when Hertz buys a car, its value is the profit they get from renting it out and selling the car at the end of its life (the “terminal value”). For Hertz, a car is an investment. When you buy a car, unless you make money from it somehow, its value corresponds to its resale value. Since a car is a depreciating asset, the amount of value that the car loses over its lifetime is a very real expense you pay.

A diamond is a depreciating asset masquerading as an investment. There is a common misconception that jewelry and precious metals are assets that can store value, appreciate and hedge against inflation. That’s not wholly untrue.

Gold and silver are commodities that can be purchased on financial markets. They can appreciate and hold value in times of inflation. You can even hoard gold under your bed and buy gold coins and bullion (albeit at a ~10 percent premium to market rates). If you want to hoard gold jewelry however, there is typically a retail markup so that’s probably not a wise investment.

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Not Too Little Wind Energy, But Too Much

From Common Dreams:

Despite claims by critics, wind energy proves that only poor infrastructure, lack of political will inhibits industry’s growth

Jon Queally

The windswept prairies of the central United States are said to be capable of generating enough energy to supply the nation’s energy needs several times over.

According to the Earth Policy Institute’s Lester Brown, just “three wind-rich states—North Dakota, Kansas, and Texas—have enough harnessable wind energy to easily satisfy national electricity needs.”

In fact, the development of wind energy in the great plains is coming under threat not because the resource can’t produce enough energy (as naysayers often exclaim), but because it’s producing too much.

From McClatchy on Monday:

The windswept prairies of the Midwest are undergoing an energy transformation the electric grid can’t handle.

Wind turbines tower over rural vistas in the heartland, where the clean energy source is becoming increasingly popular with utility companies that face state-mandated renewable energy standards. Unfortunately, the nation’s aging power grid is hampering those efforts.

Quoting industry representatives and energy experts, McClatchy found that though energy creation has risen sharply in recent years, the necessary infrastructure to actually bring that energy to market is still being delayed by an energy system built for the burning of fossil fuels.

As McClatchy reports:

At the end of last year, installed wind-generation capacity totaled 60 gigawatts nationwide – 5 percent of the nation’s production capacity – according to data from the U.S. Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Another 135 gigawatts of potential wind production awaits development and connection to the grid, according to industry data.

“There hasn’t been a lot of investment in the grid for the last two decades,” said Michael Goggin, a senior analyst at the American Wind Energy Association, the industry’s main trade group. “We just don’t have a strong grid that’s built out in the parts of the country where there are a lot of wind resources.”

The transmission grid was built a generation ago for coal, nuclear and hydropower plants without renewable energy in mind. It makes transmission from wind farms in rural areas difficult and costly.

Estimates for the amount of US government subsidies for the fossil fuel industry range from $12 billion to upwards of $50 annually. Experts say that a similar investment in clean energy would both catapult the fight against climate change and be a boon to the economy.

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Offshore fracking in California: What could go wrong?

From The Grist:

By Claire Thompson
5 Aug 2013

Exciting new update in the chronicles of America’s domestic oil-and-gas boom: Not only is offshore fracking a thing, but it’s been happening off the coast of California for a good 15 years now, in the same sensitive marine environments where new oil leases have been banned since a disastrous 1969 spill.

If that’s news to you, you’re not alone — the California Coastal Commission was unaware, until recently, that the seafloor was being fracked. Because these drilling operations happen more than three miles off the coast, they’re under federal jurisdiction, but the state has the power to reject federal permits if water quality is endangered.

The Associated Press has the story:

Federal regulators thus far have exempted the chemical fluids used in offshore fracking from the nation’s clean water laws, allowing companies to release fracking fluid into the sea without filing a separate environmental impact report or statement looking at the possible effects. That exemption was affirmed this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to the internal emails reviewed by the AP. …

The EPA and the federal agency that oversees offshore drilling, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement or BSEE, conduct some routine inspections during fracking projects, but any spills or leaks are largely left to the oil companies to report.

Although new drilling leases in the Santa Barbara Channel’s undersea oil fields are banned, drilling rights at 23 existing platforms were grandfathered in. Offshore fracking — pumping hundreds of thousands of gallons of water, sand, and chemicals into the sea floor — can stimulate these old wells into production again.

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