Bradley Manning is a trans hero – I fear for him in prison

From The Guardian UK:

In my brief time in jail I found a way to express my femaleness, but Manning has a lifetime ahead of him locked in a cage, Saturday 17 August 2013

Bradley Manning faces 90 years in prison and will probably die behind bars – and that’s not the worst of it. He’s been successfully brainwashed judging by his recent apology and appeal for leniency. I don’t blame him. He must feel powerless, on so many levels. When published pictures of Manning “in drag” earlier this week, it revealed publicly what the transgender community has known for some time: Manning is one of us.

I personally regard him as a hero, but this isn’t an attempt to claim him, politically. There wouldn’t be much to gain by it. Even GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign have deserted him, sadly. Whether you see him as brave or treacherous, though, he faces unfair hardship as a gender non-conforming prisoner. I should know, I used to be one.

When I was 16, to my shame, I took part in a robbery. I was terrified of going to borstal, as anyone might be, but with the added fear of what happened to people like me there. Like Manning, I hadn’t yet transitioned, but I had always known who I was and that, eventually, I would have to do something about it. I also knew that, because I’d committed a crime, my transition would have to wait.

I was locked up for eight months. Inside, I grew my hair long and shaved my legs. I sneaked chalk out from my weekly art classes and ground it into dust so that when the doors were locked at night and I was alone in my cell, I could make my cheeks pink and lips red, and my eyes green. I must have looked like Grotbags, but there you go. It was torture not expressing my femaleness and I certainly wouldn’t have coped with 90 years of it.

Blogger Zinnia Jones, who spent hours chatting to Manning online before he was exposed as a Wikileaks collaborator, describes giving evidence at his trial: “I’ve talked about Manning as male, because there’s been nothing but silence and denial on this front from his family and his attorneys, and I simply don’t know how else to refer to him. But I do know what happens when you take one of us and lock us away for most of our early 20s, unable to access treatments like those he was seeking. It horrifies me.” She laments the fact that “he’s locked in a cage and I’m not, that I got to transition and he didn’t”.

Sadly this is what happens when trans people are arrested mid-transition. Take Senthooran Kanagasingham, who was Nina when she pushed someone under a train. I don’t excuse the crime, nor do I applaud those who advised Nina to suppress her identity ahead of the trial.

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What a Kindergartener Can Teach You About Gender Identity

From Huffington Post:


The Fox News/CNN dust-ups over California’s recently signed nondiscrimination law for transgender students have been on the edge of my radar all week. That being said, my rainbow issues outside work have been mostly limited to finding the seven different colors of folders that are on my two sons’ back-to-school supply lists. The other night, though, I finally had a chance to watch the two different segments that have generated so much buzz. I reacted to them as a parent.

During the CNN segment on the new law, the Transgender Law Center’s Masen Davis was interviewed along with another panelist. This derisive man signed off after speaking to Davis (a transgender man) and the female host by saying, “Hey, good to talk to you ladies,” plural. Really?! I immediately thought of my pre-tween son, because I spend a lot of my parenting efforts these days admonishing him for making even less obnoxious remarks. In that respect he is a typical 9-year-old boy, but I do not think any adult should feel particularly proud of engaging in the sort of behavior that’s typical of a 9-year-old.

The Fox News segment included a lot of speculation about what a kindergartener would do. Ironically, while the Fox commentators ended the segment by throwing their hands in the air and conceding that they just can’t wrap their heads around what being transgender is, my other son had it covered.

About six months ago my 6-year-old, Joshua, walked into our room while my husband Bob and I were watching a show in which the word “transgender” came up. He asked, “Mom, what is ‘transgender’?” For a moment I hesitated over how to respond. In my work persona, I still worry that I might use the wrong pronouns or just generally not get it right on trans issues and unintentionally hurt some great people. Should I quote the American Academy of Pediatrics research? Should I cite resources from PFLAG and Gender Spectrum?

I took a deep breath, and my mommy persona took over; I always try to answer questions from my sons as honestly and age-appropriately as I can. I simply explained as best as I could what being transgender is, but I also said that it’s a very complicated topic that sometimes even grownups struggle with. Joshua thought about it for a moment and then issued his surprising response: “No, it isn’t, Mom. It is just like my Lego Ninjagos when I put the male heads on the female bodies. No biggie. Can I have a cookie?” The whole exchange took three minutes.

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Better Treatment of Trans Women by Philly Police Could Have Averted Brutal Murder, Says Activist

From In These Times:

By Melissa Gira Grant
Thursday Aug 15, 2013

“We always seemed to really click together, personality-wise,” Aamina Morrison says of Diamond Williams, whom she first met in a Philadelphia LGBT youth group 12 years ago. “Like the issues of oppression we shared or things that came up in her own transition. She didn’t realize those little things she did for me right there helped me see the possibility for who I am today.”

Williams was brutally murdered last month, her body dismembered and thrown in a field. A 43-year-old Philadelphia man named Charles Sargent, who has previously been charged with rape and aggravated assault, confessed to the crime and led the police to Williams’s remains. He will be tried for murder.

Morrison is now co-director of the peer-led Trans-Health Information Project, which, along with other LGBTQ and social justice groups in Philadelphia, is demanding justice for Williams. They believe Williams was targeted because she was transgender and working in the sex trade. Bringing Sargent to trial isn’t enough, they say; they want changes to how police and the media respond to violence against members of the transgender community.

Morrison has her own reason to believe that if Philadelphia police treated transgender victims of violence better, the friend she remembers from her youth group would still be alive. She says that when she saw Sargent’s photograph in the press after his confession, “it immediately took me back to an incident I had with him.”

She was approached by Sargent in the winter of 2003, she tells In These Times. “I was between jobs at the time, and I had to go back to different ends so I could be able to survive.” Sargent offered her a ride home, she says, “and I gave him a price for whatever it was that he was looking for, and he complied. But something seemed a little sketchy.” He insisted that they park in an isolated place. Morrison says that when Sargent asked her to reach across him to the overhead compartment to take her money, “he put a knife to my neck and a gun to my side,” and said he would kill her if she didn’t do “everything he asked.”

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American Bar Association calls for ban on ‘gay and trans panic’ defence

From Daily Xtra:

Judges, lawmakers and juries must demand end to these practices: LGBT Bar Association

Published Mon, Aug 12, 2013

The American Bar Association (ABA) has unanimously approved a resolution calling on state legislatures to ban “gay panic” and “trans panic” defences in trials, the National LGBT Bar Association says in a statement.

Such defences are invoked in bids to excuse crimes on the grounds that someone’s sexual orientation or gender identity is to blame for a defendant’s violent reaction.

D’Arcy Kemnitz, executive director of the LGBT Bar Association, says the ABA’s adoption of the measure sends the message that legal professionals find “no validity in the sham defenses mounted by those who seek to perpetuate discrimination and stereotypes as an excuse for violence.”

Kemnitz called on state legislatures to move expeditiously to enact the ABA’s recommendation.

“Judges, lawmakers and juries must demand that these practices come to an end and juries must be provided with instructions advising juries to make their decisions free of improper bias and prejudice,” Kemnitz says. “Today’s ABA resolution is an important first step towards realizing that goal.”

Complete article at:

See Also

The Edge Boston: ABA Unanimously Passes Resolution Curtailing “Gay Panic” Defense

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Compare and contrast radical feminism and liberal feminism?

From Wiki Answers:

Liberal Feminism holds that the oppression of women is the denial of their equal rights, representation, and access to opportunities. Liberal Feminism takes a gender-neutral/gender-blind approach and holds that all men and women are created equal and should be treated the same, and seeks to reform oppressive systems. Liberal Feminism focuses strongly on fixing women’s exclusion from political power.

Radical Feminism, is, as its name implies, more radical than Liberal feminism. Radical Feminism carries the belief that “the personal is political” and sees that the oppression of women is caused by patriarchy, a system of male authority, strongly manifested in sexuality, personal relationships, and the family, and then carried over into the rest of the man-dominated world. As opposed to Liberal Feminism, Radical Feminism does not take a gender-blind/gender-neutral approach; Radical Feminism acknowledges that there are differences between men and women, and society should change to value those differences instead of devaluing the “feminine.”

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Of course all men don’t hate women. But all men must know they benefit from sexism

From New Statesman UK:

Anger is an entirely appropriate response to learning that you’re implicated in a system that oppresses women – but the solution isn’t to direct that anger back at women.

This is going to hurt. In the past few months, it has been almost impossible to open a newspaper or turn on a television without encountering a story about another underage girl being raped, another female politician harassed, another trans woman murdered. But as women, girls and a growing number of male allies start speaking out against sexism and injustice, a curious thing is happening: some people are complaining that speaking about prejudice is itself a form of prejudice.
These days, before we talk about misogyny, women are increasingly being asked to modify our language so we don’t hurt men’s feelings. Don’t say, “Men oppress women” – that’s sexism, as bad as any sexism women ever have to handle, possibly worse. Instead, say, “Some men oppress women.” Whatever you do, don’t generalise. That’s something men do. Not all men – just somemen.
This type of semantic squabbling is a very effective way of getting women to shut up. After all, most of us grew up learning that being a good girl was all about putting other people’s feelings ahead of our own. We aren’t supposed to say what we think if there’s a chance it might upset somebody else or, worse, make them angry. So we stifle our speech with apologies, caveats and soothing sounds. We reassure our friends and loved ones that “you’re not one of those men who hate women”.
What we don’t say is: of course not all men hate women. But culture hates women, so men who grow up in a sexist culture have a tendency to do and say sexist things, often without meaning to. We aren’t judging you for who you are but that doesn’t mean we’re not asking you to change your behaviour. What you feel about women in your heart is of less immediate importance than how you treat them on a daily basis.
You can be the gentlest, sweetest man in the world yet still benefit from sexism. That’s how oppression works. Thousands of otherwise decent people are persuaded to go along with an unfair system because it’s less hassle that way. The appropriate response when somebody demands a change in that unfair system is to listen, rather than turning away or yelling, as a child might, that it’s not your fault. And it isn’t your fault. I’m sure you’re lovely. That doesn’t mean you don’t have a responsibility to do something about it.
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Harvey Fierstein calls out Chris Hayes for dismissing LGBT boycott of Russian Olympics

From Raw Story:

By David Ferguson
Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tony award-winning actor and playwright Harvey Fierstein slammed MSNBC host Chris Hayes on Wednesday over the way “All In with Chris Hayes” dismissed proposed boycotts of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia over the country’s draconian anti-LGBT laws that ban “gay propaganda.” Fierstein said that to award Russia the prestige and profit of hosting the games is not appropriate and that “when evil shows its face, you have to answer.”

Fierstein was responding to a segment from Tuesday night’s “All In” called “Why boycotting the Olympics won’t help Russian gays” in which Olympic tennis gold medalist Gigi Fernandez and New Republic writer Julia Ioffe both said that to boycott the Olympics would be a waste of time and effort.

Fernandez said, “I’ve never been a proponent of mixing politics with sports. There are so many athletes that this is their one moment. Many athletes were really hurt in 1980 when we boycotted Russia. I think it sends the wrong message. It hurts the wrong people. I’m not a proponent of it.”

LGBT activist Richard Socarides said that the question on the table is one of people’s safety. He said that the games should be moved, that the IOC should stick to its charter of not having games in nations that discriminate openly, an idea that Hayes seemed to find ridiculous, laughingly calling that iteration “a cut-rate version” of the games.

Ioffe opined that she has lived in Russia and that Russians believe that homosexuality comes from the West. Boycotts and protests, she said, will just be seen by Russians as Western histrionics. “If anything,” she said, “it might make it worse” on Russia’s LGBT population.

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Noam Chomsky: A Roadmap to a Just World

From Reader Supported News:

By Noam Chomsky, Reader Supported News
17 August 13

I’d like to comment on topics that I think should regularly be on the front pages but are not – and in many crucial cases are scarcely mentioned at all or are presented in ways that seem to me deceptive because they’re framed almost reflexively in terms of doctrines of the powerful.

In these comments I’ll focus primarily on the United States for several reasons: One, it’s the most important country in terms of its power and influence. Second, it’s the most advanced – not in its inherent character, but in the sense that because of its power, other societies tend to move in that direction. The third reason is just that I know it better. But I think what I say generalizes much more widely – at least to my knowledge, obviously there are some variations. So I’ll be concerned then with tendencies in American society and what they portend for the world, given American power.

American power is diminishing, as it has been in fact since its peak in 1945, but it’s still incomparable. And it’s dangerous. Obama’s remarkable global terror campaign and the limited, pathetic reaction to it in the West is one shocking example. And it is a campaign of international terrorism – by far the most extreme in the world. Those who harbor any doubts on that should read the report issued by Stanford University and New York University, and actually I’ll return to even more serious examples than international terrorism.

According to received doctrine, we live in capitalist democracies, which are the best possible system, despite some flaws. There’s been an interesting debate over the years about the relation between capitalism and democracy, for example, are they even compatible? I won’t be pursuing this because I’d like to discuss a different system – what we could call the “really existing capitalist democracy”, RECD for short, pronounced “wrecked” by accident. To begin with, how does RECD compare with democracy? Well that depends on what we mean by “democracy”. There are several versions of this. One, there is a kind of received version. It’s soaring rhetoric of the Obama variety, patriotic speeches, what children are taught in school, and so on. In the U.S. version, it’s government “of, by and for the people”. And it’s quite easy to compare that with RECD.

In the United States, one of the main topics of academic political science is the study of attitudes and policy and their correlation. The study of attitudes is reasonably easy in the United States: heavily-polled society, pretty serious and accurate polls, and policy you can see, and you can compare them. And the results are interesting. In the work that’s essentially the gold standard in the field, it’s concluded that for roughly 70% of the population – the lower 70% on the wealth/income scale – they have no influence on policy whatsoever. They’re effectively disenfranchised. As you move up the wealth/income ladder, you get a little bit more influence on policy. When you get to the top, which is maybe a tenth of one percent, people essentially get what they want, i.e. they determine the policy. So the proper term for that is not democracy; it’s plutocracy.

Inquiries of this kind turn out to be dangerous stuff because they can tell people too much about the nature of the society in which they live. So fortunately, Congress has banned funding for them, so we won’t have to worry about them in the future.

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Thom Hartmann: New Report Reveals Even “White Collar” Employees Cannot Afford Rent in Major Cities

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How False History Props Up the Right

From Consortium News:

By Robert Parry
August 17, 2013

There is a logical way to think about governance – one that was shared by the key Framers of the U.S. Constitution – that the federal government should have sufficient authority to do what is necessary to fulfill the goals that the document laid out about promoting the general welfare and protecting the nation.

Put differently, the actual “originalist” thinking behind the Constitution was what might be called “pragmatic nationalism,” not what today’s Right tries to pretend it was, an ideological commitment to a tightly constrained federal government hemmed in by a strong system of “states’ rights.”

Indeed, the “original” thinking behind the Constitution was almost the opposite of the right-wing canard. The key Framers – George Washington, James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Gouverneur Morris (who authored the famous Preamble) – all believed that a vibrant federal government was needed to control the squabbling states which had pushed the new country to the brink of disaster under the Articles of Confederation.

In other words, the Right’s modern interpretation of the Founding Principles was not shared by the key Framers of the Constitution. Instead, the Right’s position on the Constitution apes the opposition to the Constitution by the Anti-Federalists, who warned that the new federal structure would subordinate the states to the central government and endanger slavery.

Despite that real history, today’s Right has largely succeeded in distorting the Founding Narrative to convince vast numbers of lightly educated Americans that – by joining with the Tea Party – they are defending the Constitution as the Framers devised it when, in reality, they are channeling the views of those who fiercely opposed the Constitution.

This historical issue is important because as the empirical case for “small government” ideology collapses – amid failures of “supply-side economics,” austerity in the face of recession, “free-market” extremism that let the banks run wild, anti-scientific stances denying global warming, etc. – all the right-wingers have left is this claim they are upholding the Framers’ original vision, an emotional tug on many Americans who dress up in Revolutionary War costumes and unfurl yellow flags with a coiled snake saying: “Don’t Tread on Me.”

Yet, the reality is that key drafters of the Constitution were staunch advocates of a strong central government invested with all the necessary powers to build a young nation and to protect its hard-won independence. Article One, Section Eight authorized a series of powers, including to “provide for the common Defense and general Welfare of the United States” and “To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers.”

In Federalist Paper 44, Madison expounded on what has become known as the “elastic clause,” writing: “No axiom is more clearly established in law, or in reason, than that wherever the power to do a thing is given, every particular power necessary for doing it, is included.”

At the time of the Constitutional Convention, Madison favored even a greater concentration of power in the central government, wanting to give Congress the authority to veto state laws, a proposal that was watered-down into declaring federal statutes the supreme law of the land and giving federal courts the power to judge state laws unconstitutional.

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Remember when Obama said the NSA wasn’t “actually abusing” its powers?

He was wrong lying.

From The Washington Post:

By Andrea Peterson,
Published: August 15, 2013

At a news conference Friday, President Obama insisted that the threat of NSA abuses was mostly theoretical:

If you look at the reports, even the disclosures that Mr. Snowden’s put forward, all the stories that have been written, what you’re not reading about is the government actually abusing these programs and, you know, listening in on people’s phone calls or inappropriately reading people’s e-mails.

What you’re hearing about is the prospect that these could be abused. Now part of the reason they’re not abused is because they’re — these checks are in place, and those abuses would be against the law and would be against the orders of the FISC [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court].

Today our colleague Barton Gellman released new documents that contradicted Obama’s claims.

Gellman obtained an audit of the NSA’s compliance record from NSA leaker Snowden earlier this summer. The audit, dated May 2012, counted 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months where the agency engaged in “unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications.” The audit only covered issues at NSA facilities in the D.C. and Fort Meade areas.

Most of those incidents were unintended, involving either violations of standard operations or failures of due diligence. But others were more serious.

And on at least one occasion, the NSA did not need to report unintended surveillance of Americans:

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Making Psychedelic Trips Safe — Even at Burning Man

From Alternet:

People are thrown in hospitals and jails because drug use is seen as a mental illness and a crime. But what if drug use was seen just as something that people do?

By April M. Short
August 9, 2013

Being hospitalized or thrown into a jail cell while under the influence of a psychedelic drug is a recipe for nightmarish visions, paranoia and an all around “bad trip.” Unfortunately, the default reaction of most emergency personnel who deal with people experiencing  acute psychiatric crises—which can on rare occasion be induced by psychedelics—is to drug them or incarcerate them.

Linnae Ponté is working with the Multidiciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) to shift the way we deal with those psychedelic drug users to a more practical, public-health-oriented system that won’t land people with debt-inducing hospital bills or dark marks on their permanent records just because they were tripping.

Ponté earned her degree in biological psychology from New College in Florida, a progressive liberal arts college with a “thriving psychedelic culture” and 24-hour dance parties. Three times a year the school is home to student-sponsored late-nighters known as Palm Court Parties. Linnae says something that stuck with her about the parties was that they always included designated “chill out rooms” available to everyone from psychedelic trippers to the soberest of people in need of a mellower space.

“People could go and lay down, close their eyes and get away from all the sounds and life and people,” Ponté says. Ponté would volunteer in the chill out rooms and saw how effective they were in helping people cope with otherwise overwhelming situations.

Today, Ponté works for the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS) as the volunteer coordinator for a program similar to chill out rooms, called  “psychedelic harm reduction” in policy speak. Her focus is on making information on psychedelics available to the public, and offering emotional support services at events like festivals, to reduce the potential negative results of psychedelic use.

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My Danish teen sex epiphany

From Salon:

I was lucky to come of age in a country so evolved about intercourse. And it’s how I raised my daughter, too

Thursday, Aug 15, 2013

The first time I slept over at Peter’s house, we arrived so late his mom and dad were already asleep. We had a fun evening in his attic bedroom, but I was anxious when I woke up the next morning. Raised in America, I had never slept at a boyfriend’s place before. What would his parents think of me?  What would I say to them? I walked down the stairs with great trepidation, wondering if I should gather up my things and bolt. Even without articulating it to myself, my real fear was: Would they think I was a slut?

But Peter’s mother, Eva, greeted me at the bottom of the stairs with a huge smile. “Good morning!” she said. “Breakfast is almost ready. Do you prefer coffee or tea?” She was so sweet and warm and matter-of-fact that I wanted to cry with joy. In fact, I think I may have hugged her, right then and there. We became fast friends.

The recent New York Times article “Sex in a Teenager’s Room?” has generated a lot of conversation, including interesting articles in Slate and the Huffington Post. But for me, the most spirited debate has been taking place in private Facebook groups consisting of Danish women living in America. I’m not Danish, but I had the good fortune to come of age sexually while living in Denmark as a teenager. I wish everyone could be so lucky.

Back in the 1970s, long before it was popular to take a “gap year” between high school and college, I did so by embarking on a high school exchange student experience after I graduated, at the age of 17. The American Field Service program randomly sent me to Denmark.

In Denmark, it is common for teenage couples to spend the night together in each other’s homes. (As in the Netherlands, as detailed in a book by Amy Schalet, “Not Under My Roof: Parents, Teens and the Culture of Sex”). This was certainly not how I’d grown up. Though my parents were self-styled liberals, I lost my virginity in a typically American way: in the back seat of my high school crush’s car, parked in the high school parking lot during a school dance.  I remember asking my parents, when I was about 10, where babies came from, and my parents fumbled through a faux-jokey response.

Mom: Larry, do you want to take this one?

Dad: [laughing nervously] No, no, Jan, please be my guest.

During that discussion, they awkwardly informed my younger brother and me about the basics, and dispelled some misconceptions (but I thought babies came out of the woman’s butt!). And it was the only conversation we ever had about sex — until the night before I left for Denmark.

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Snowden’s suspected encrypted email service forced to close – Truthloader

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Best Way to Prevent Terrorist Attack on Nuclear Facilities? Close Them

From Common Dreams:

A new Pentagon-sponsored report shows vulnerability of US atomic infrastructure, but expert says best way forward is a nuclear-free power system

Jon Queally

Preventing nuclear terrorism is vital, but the real safety solution would be to shutter all US nuclear facilities.

This week, a new report commissioned by the Pentagon looking at the vulnerability of US nuclear facilities across the country found that—more than a decade after 9/11 and repeated warnings regarding safety—little has been done to secure the sites from sabotage or attack.

According to nuclear expert and professor of journalism Karl Grossman, however, the report’s findings—though troubling—largely fail to address the fact these nuclear facilities are inherently dangerous. Though more could, and should, be done to protect them from the possibility of attack, the reality is that most US nuclear facilities are simply “sitting ducks” when it comes to an intentional assault and breed danger by their very existence.

“Beyond everything else,” said Grossman in an email exchange with Common Dreams, their vulnerability to terrorist attack make nuclear power plants “a collosal threat to life.”

According to McClatchy’s coverage of the report, which was prepared by the Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Project at the University of Texas at Austin, researchers found “that the current security required of civilian-operated reactors fails to safeguard against airplane attacks, rocket-propelled grenades and more than a small handful of attackers.”

Prof. Alan J. Kuperman, who co-authored the study, told reporters on a press call this week that of the “104 nuclear power reactors and three research reactors [in the US], none are protected against a 9/11-style terrorist attack,” a fact featured prominently in the report.

This led Grossman to call such nuclear facilities “pre-positioned weapons of mass destruction.” He continued:

American Airlines Flight 11 flew over the Indian Point nuclear plant on its way to the World Trade Center on 9/11. If the terrorists in control of that airplane had decided instead to hit the plants and their spent fuel pools, it wouldn’t have been 3,000 people who died but 300,000 or a million or more.

Some 20 million people live within 50 miles of the Indian Point plant, just north of New York City.

Terrorists, and I am not telling any tale out of school, need only take a trip in a boat up the Hudson River to hit Indian Point from the water, or a boat out on the Long Island Sound to strike the Millstone nuclear power plants on the shore just west of New London, Connecticut, from the water.

However, what’s important to note beyond these dangers, according to Grossman, is how wholly unnecessary the risks are. Given the nuclear disasters triggered by unintentional causes at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima, the dangers of atomic energy exists with or without the threat from terrorists or sabotage.

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The choice to be child-free is admirable, not selfish

I think it extremely admirable when TS/TG people voluntarily opt for sterilization as part of sex/gender transition and reassignment.  This is not meant as a slur on those who choose to reproduce but merely to say I believe this a highly ethical decision.

From The Guardian UK:

Most of us grow up feeling that we should have children and that our lives will be unfulfilled without. We need new social norms, Friday 16 August 2013

To the child-free women out there: thank you.

Contrary to popular media narratives and the critiques of those concerned about the continued supremacy of the white race, women who don’t have children are not selfish, emotionally stunted or inadequately grown-up. In fact, they’re the opposite: they’re women with the self-knowledge and maturity to buck enormous social pressure and choose a life that’s right for them.

The increased visibility and acceptance of women who choose not to have children is just one part of a social evolution away from the limited “traditional family” model, and into a world where human beings with a diversity of needs can create family arrangements that work for them. That’s not just good for the child-free; it’s great for feminism – and even better for society and families.

Bring up the possibility of educated white women choosing not to have children and you’ll be met with intense hostility. The desire to forgo childrearing is a “banal fantasy“; having kids is the only way for adults to avoid “destructive self-absorption”. The photo of the child-free couple on the cover of Time Magazine this month showcases “lazy yuppies” whose “matching swimsuits reek of self-satisfied, in-your-face Dinks [double income no kids].” The cover model’s smile “is supposed to communicate her disdain for her uterus and her utter satisfaction with her size-4, cellulite-free, vacation-filled life”.

As for the actual words of child-free women, “the reasons couples give for avoiding parenthood are deeply, deeply lame”; remaining child-free by choice “is most definitely selfish”, not to mention “anti-religion, anti-family, [and] counter-cultural”. Few people make a child-free lifestyle sound more appealing than people (presumably parents) who are bitter and resentful at all the alleged freewheeling, responsibility-free fun that child-free people are having.

Of course, that same level of vitriol isn’t leveled at single women who decide to remain child-free, or poor women, or women of color. Those women aren’t selfish; they’re rational, even commendable. Single women who have kids, and women who are poor or of color see their choice to have children criticized as irresponsible or indulgent.

Yet, a married white woman saying “no thanks” to mommy-hood? She’s a selfish narcissist, putting her life of fancy vacations and spotless white carpets ahead of her social and biological duty to reproduce.

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