Tea party activist says U.S. may be conquered for allowing atheists, Wiccans and abortion

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/02/tea-party-activist-says-u-s-may-be-conquered-for-allowing-atheists-wiccans-and-abortion/

By Travis Gettys
Monday, December 2, 2013

A tea party activist suggested the United States may be conquered by foreign armies because abortion and Islam were permitted.

Brooke McGowan, who was introduced as a representative of the Tea Party News Network, told the Reclaim America rally on Nov. 19 that the U.S. faced judgment for its religious tolerance.

“In this nation we have turned away from the God of the Bible and we’ve told him he’s simply not welcome here,” McGowan said. “We have welcomed pluralism, atheism, secular humanism, Wicca and even Islam.”

She said the nation’s downfall began 50 years ago, when public school-sponsored prayer was limited and continued 10 years later when abortion was legalized.

“We sacrificed 55 million children in 40 years to the god of convenience and self-importance,” McGowan said. “The tune of 55 million. That’s our children, that’s our people; that’s Americans. Fifth-five million Americans have been tossed into the fire, the Dumpster and the toilet.”

She grew nostalgic for the weeks immediately following the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001, when she noticed a lot of religious and patriotic messages in Pensacola, Florida, where she lived at the time.

“Everywhere you looked, every marquee, every sign in the yard, every flag, the signs would say, ‘God bless America’ or ‘God bless our land,’” McGowan said.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/12/02/tea-party-activist-says-u-s-may-be-conquered-for-allowing-atheists-wiccans-and-abortion/

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Free From Jail But Still Trapped in Russia, ‘Arctic 30’ Seek Exit Visas

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/04-7

Out on bail, activists say prison was “worth it” for the attention it brought to Arctic drilling

Lauren McCauley

Free for now but still trapped within the confines of Russia’s borders, the 26 non-Russian members of the Arctic 30 are seeking exit visas after being released on bail for a peaceful demonstration atop a drilling platform in September, Greenpeace lawyers said Wednesday.

According to Greenpeace, lawyers representing the international group have begun to lodge applications with Russia’s Investigative Committee seeking exit visas for the non-Russian nationals.

“They have already paid an absurd and excessive price for an entirely peaceful and justified protest against the dangers of Arctic oil drilling,” said Ben Ayliffe, Arctic campaigner at Greenpeace International.

Ayeliffe said that Greenpeace cannot guarantee when and even if the protesters will be granted the visas, but that they are doing their best to get them home as soon as possible.

“This is a unique situation where the Arctic 30 were charged and then bailed inside Russia after they were detained in international waters beyond Russia’s territorial waters,” said Jasper Teulings, General Counsel at Greenpeace International. “We are hopeful this issue can be resolved.”

On November 29 the last of the Arctic 30 was released on bail. Through a series of interviews following their discharge, the New York Times reports on the “legal limbo” that has shrouded the activists’ arrest and imprisonment.

The Times reports:

Working through translators, because most of the crew spoke little or no Russian, the investigators produced sheet after sheet of documents for the detainees to sign, chronicling the slow progression of the criminal case but not delving into the facts of the allegations themselves.

“They haven’t been asking me, ‘What did you do? Why did you do it?’ ” said Sini Saarela of Finland, an experienced rock climber who briefly scaled Russia’s first offshore oil platform in the Pechora Sea the day before armed border troops seized the crew and their ship, the Arctic Sunrise. “At some point in the process, we realized this is not actually about what happened.”

The piece details the “slavish and at times comic attention to bureaucratic protocol” paid by the Russian investigators and the activists’ confusion and surprise following their initial charge of piracy and, again, after the charges were reduced to hooliganism.

Though their time spent in Russian detention was described as “grim and uncertain,” the crew members believe their personal sacrifice succeeded in drawing attention to the dangers of Arctic drilling.

“We’ve achieved in two months what it took years for the Arctic campaign to do,” Alexandra Harris of Britain told the Times. “And that made our being in prison worth it.”

Since their release the Arctic 30 have had medical checks, have talked to or had visits from loved ones and “are getting plenty of food, care and rest,” Greenpeace reports.

All the protesters are staying at a hotel in St. Petersburg as they await the proper exit visas. The Investigative Committee is expected to respond to the request within three days.

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Off-grid, handcrafted life on Oregon farm & workshop

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The Great Sparrow Campaign was the start of the greatest mass starvation in history

From Mother Nature Network:  http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/animals/stories/the-great-sparrow-campaign-was-the-start-of-the-greatest-mass

In 1958, Mao Zedong ordered all sparrows to be killed. As a direct result, millions of people starved to death.

John Platt
Mon, Sep 30 2013

History is littered with environmental disasters, but few compare to the one kicked off in 1958 in China. That was the year that Mao Zedong, the founding father of the People’s Republic of China, decided that his country could do without pests like sparrows. The impact of this ill-conceived decision — along with many other policies he put in place — caused a domino effect of destruction. Three years later, as many as 45 million people were dead.
How did this happen? It all started nine years after the Communist Party of China took power. That year Zedong initiated what he dubbed the Great Leap Forward, a massive social and economic campaign that, among many other things, turned farming into a collective, state-sponsored activity. Individual, private farming was banned as part of China’s transformation into a communist system.
One of Zedong’s first actions after collectivizing agriculture was probably intended to protect the farms. Sparrows, he was told, ate a lot of grain seeds, so Zedong ordered the people to go forth and kill all the sparrows. During the Great Sparrow Campaign, as it has been called, hundreds of millions of sparrows were killed, mostly because people chased them until the birds were so tired that they fell out of the sky. (The campaign was part of the broader Four Pests Campaign, which also targeted rats, flies and mosquitoes — all with the aim of improving human hygiene. )
The problem with the Great Sparrow Campaign became evident in 1960. The sparrows, it seemed, didn’t only eat grain seeds. They also ate insects. With no birds to control them, insect populations boomed. Locusts, in particular, swarmed over the country, eating everything they could find — including crops intended for human food. People, on the other hand, quickly ran out of things to eat, and millions starved. Numbers vary, of course, with the official number from the Chinese government placed at 15 million. Some scholars, however, estimate that the fatalities were as high as 45 or even 78 million. Chinese journalist Yang Jisheng, who chronicled the famine in his book “Tombstone,” estimates the deaths at 36 million people. (The book, published in the U.S. last year, is banned in China.)
But the people did not go down quickly or easily. “Documents report several thousand cases where people ate other people,” Yang told NPR last year. “Parents ate their own kids. Kids ate their own parents.” The behavior was so awful — with thousands of people murdered for food or for speaking out against the government — that the topic of what has become known as the Great Famine remains taboo in China more than 50 years later.
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Climate Change’s Biggest Threats Are Those We Aren’t Ready For: Report

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/03/abrupt-climate-change_n_4378864.html

12/03/2013

WASHINGTON — Climatic changes — and the results of those changes — could occur within decades or even sooner, and they are becoming a greater concern for scientists, according to a new paper from the National Academy of Sciences.

“The most challenging changes are the abrupt ones,” said James White, a professor of geological sciences at the University of Colorado in Boulder and chair of the report committee. White and several coauthors of the paper spoke at a press conference Tuesday morning.

The paper focuses on those impacts due to climate change that can happen most quickly. Among these are the rapid decline in Arctic sea ice that scientists have seen in the last decade and increased extinction pressure on plants and animals caused by the rapidly warming climate.

Many such changes, according to Tony Barnosky, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, are “things that people in this room will be around to see.” He emphasized that scientists are “really worried about what’s going to happen in the next several years or decades.”

“The planet is going to be warmer than most species living on Earth today have seen it, including humans,” said Barnosky. “The pace of change is orders of magnitude higher than what species have experienced in the last tens of millions of years.”

Other, more gradually occurring changes can still have abrupt impacts on the ecosystem and human systems, such as the loss of fisheries or shifts in where certain crops can be cultivated. Rapid loss of ice, for example, would mean that sea levels rise at a much faster rate than the current trend, which would have a significant effect on coastal regions. A 3-foot rise in the seas is easier to prepare for if it happens on a 100-year horizon than if it happens within 30 years.

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History’s Biggest Freeloader

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For Gay Community, Finding Acceptance Is Even More Difficult on the Streets

San Francisco sucked big time in 1967 when the Haight was the hippie haven.  It was only a good place for poor LGBT folks in the 1970s.  After Di fi became Mayor it went down hill.

You couldn’t pay me enough to get me to live there.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/us/for-gay-community-finding-acceptance-is-even-more-difficult-on-the-streets.html?_r=0

By
Published: December 2, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — There were times — after he told his parents he was gay, for example, and his mother wept and his father tried to hit him — when Fredy Bolvito curled up on a bench in Union Square here and cried because he had AIDS and no job and no place to stay and he felt, he said, that “my life was over.”

But there were also days when he sat on the bench in the square and sang “The Star-Spangled Banner,” looking up at the flags atop the Westin St. Francis hotel and thinking, “That’s breathtaking, that’s my American dream.” Or when he mingled with tourists, giving them directions to the cable cars, or gazed through the windows at the shoppers in Macy’s and was saddened by how rich and healthy they looked.

He scavenged for meals in garbage bins. He avoided the homeless shelters, where he had heard that gays were taunted, or worse. His “angel,” he said, was in the center of the square: the statue “Victory,” a trident in one hand, a wreath in the other.

“I would look at it at night and think, ‘Oh my God, that’s my hope,’ ” he said.

San Francisco is often viewed as a Mecca for gay people. But the warmth of the city’s welcome can quickly vanish for those who are poor.

City leaders were startled this year when a survey revealed that 29 percent of the homeless population —about 2,100 of the 7,350 people counted — identified themselves as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

Bevan Dufty, the director of the city’s homelessness initiatives, said he was surprised the percentage held true for all age groups, even adults and the elderly. “What was really staggering was to see that it didn’t change as you got older,” he said.

The survey found that gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender people who are homeless had higher rates of disability than homeless heterosexuals and were more likely to be homeless when they arrived in the city. Some of them were older gay men with AIDS who had been evicted from their apartments or people who had been cast out by their families in other states. Others, like Mr. Bolvito, a native of Guatemala who graduated from college in Hayward, Calif., with a degree in political science and once worked as a real estate agent, had good jobs that disappeared during the recession.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/03/us/for-gay-community-finding-acceptance-is-even-more-difficult-on-the-streets.html?_r=0

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Janice Raymond, and Healing Old Wounds

From Dented Blue Mercedes:  http://dentedbluemercedes.wordpress.com/2013/12/02/janice-raymond-and-healing-old-wounds/

By Mercedes AllenDecember 2, 2013

Reposted with permission

This post is a personal reflection on Janice Raymond’s visit to Vancouver during a memorial for the victims of the massacre of women at L’École Polytechnique, which took place in Montreal 24 years ago.  For an overview of the controversy, why Janice Raymond’s presence (as well as some other aspects of that day’s program) drew anger from trans and sex work communities, and the different facets to that situation, please refer to my article at Rabble.  What follows is my personal reflection, recorded separately.

This blog post was originally going to be something very different, a personal recollection of how Janice Raymond’s writings had personally impacted me, how to heal from that, and the larger question of how to heal the old wounds that exist between trans and womens’ movements (a question that has been heavy on my mind over the past while).  After the publication of my article about her appearance at a memorial in Vancouver, the response to that article showed me that the former is something I don’t have the luxury of time to dwell on just yet, and the latter question is clearly more urgent.

A few of the responses accused me of having an agenda when I wrote the piece, Memorial draws controversy over invitation of speaker Janice Raymond, probably because I (as acknowledged in my bio at the end) have a trans history, myself.  In all honesty, my aim in writing it was to dig into a rather complex situation, be as objective as possible, and present several different points of view in a way that was true to the speakers and independent of myself.  Along the way, it meant examining a number of things, including the histories of Janice Raymond and the event sponsor that invited her, Vancouver Rape Relief (VRR); the use of the tragic memorial to promote a sex work abolition agenda that some felt was unrelated to the tragedy being commemorated; the trans and sex work communities’ response, and the complexities of responding while also not intruding on the larger context of a memorial.  If there was any take-away that I wanted readers to have, it would be to ask questions that might lead to the aforementioned healing.  A good journalist leaves the end response up to the reader, though, and the response I heard was unexpected.

What I didn’t expect was the visceral reaction that readers would have both to quotations of Raymond’s writing, and to the event sponsor’s policy on trans women.  To me, those things had been long-known issues.  Raymond’s book was first published in 1979, and the way it and her paper “Technology on the Social and Ethical Aspects of Transsexual Surgery“ were used to cut health care funding and close gender clinics are a matter of public record (although while looking for a link, I discovered that those events of the 1980s are better remembered by trans bloggers than by anyone else.  There are few, if any, people who are considered more controversial to the trans community than Janice Raymond.

Regarding the exemption of trans women from VRR’s primary services, I’d heard about this sporadically for years, and Vancouverites were still periodically tweeting upset about it before it was announced that VRR would be inviting Raymond to speak there.  So to me, this also seemed a long-known and ongoing concern: that while VRR will ensure that anyone facing an urgent emergency will be helped by referring them elsewhere, VRR will not provide the core of their services (shelter, counseling) to trans women. This exclusion can be traced all the way back to the 12-year Nixon v RR legal dispute, in which the Vancouver Rape Relief collective won the right to choose who could be a member and participant in the collective, even if that selection was made out of the belief that trans women aren’t women.

What I gleaned from interviewing VRR’s Hilla Kerner was the encouraging information that the views of the collective vary quite a bit on trans issues.  When I asked her about the exclusion, she sounded possibly regretful, perhaps uncomfortably embarrassed, and trying to rationalize the exclusion in a way that sounds reasonable if you don’t think about it too much:

“I’ll say it the other way.  There will not be a situation that someone is not safe in calling us, in which we would not help them to get safe.  It has nothing to do with who we are or what we do. It’s a basic human compassion.  To all people.  On the other hand, our core service is based on peer counseling and consciousness-raising and we’re only going to work with people, in this case, with women-born-women, who share the same experience.  And I think that transgender people who this model is appealing to them and want to have what we have, I think that the rationale from that will be that if you want to operate a consciousness raising / peer counseling -based service, probably a service that is designed by a transgender and operated by transgender and support and offer the peer counseling to other transgender who have a similar journey in life… because it’s a concept of consciousness-raising in a peer counseling context.”

But to Rabble readers, apparently, the exclusion of trans women from VRR services was a mostly new and shocking piece of information.

And that’s the first problem with wanting to heal a division of this sort, when that old division is still being allowed to persist in the form of policy.  Healing starts with talking about an issue, but if that issue is entrenched in current policy, doing so sometimes threatens to reopen old wounds.  Yet talk we must… and ask questions.

Part of what led me to believe that the exclusionary policy would not be shocking was that VRR’s website still documents some of its members’, supporters’ and like-minded activists’ past views toward trans people, such as Sheila Jeffreys’ assertions that “from a feminist perspective… transsexualism should be seen as a violation of human rights,” and compared the availability of genital reassignment surgery to lobotomy, which trans people should be saved from, for their own sake: “The mutilation of healthy bodies and the subjection of such bodies to dangerous and life-threatening continuing treatment violates such people’s rights to live with dignity in the body into which they were born.”  There is one essay on the website which talks about building bridges (while retaining the systemic exclusion, of course), but relies on one trans woman’s assertion that: “Well, let’s be clear on one thing from the start. As to M to F transsexuals, we can never be real women,” and “demanding equal treatment is not acceptable or productive…”

Most of those documents date from around 2000 to 2002, after the B.C. Supreme Court’s ruling in Nixon v. RR, but before the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case (thus making the last ruling stand).  With websites, things often get posted and forgotten, only to need questioning years later.

Times have changed, and so has our collective understanding of trans people and trans issues.  It’s time to question these old attitudes, but that requires unearthing them again.  That’s not an easy thing to do, apparently, without having the reaction turn to anger, instead of resolution and healing… which take much more mutual effort.  But I believe that the focus needs to be kept on the latter as much as possible.

Perhaps before we can heal the rifts between collective movements, we need to try to heal the way we talk about them.  And each other.  As one interested party, I’m still trying to find what that way is.

The question comes at a time when something being called “trans-exclusionary radical feminism” (TERF), a fringe offshoot of feminism largely inspired by Janice Raymond and Sheila Jeffreys, is attempting to make a comeback.  While adherents have reopened some of those old wounds elsewhere, the philosophy doesn’t really resonate with mainstream feminism, which understands that division and demonization have rarely been good ways to build movements; that oppression has always been a poor way to fight oppression.

More important to remember, of course, is that there are many areas where the forms of oppression we face overlap.  Misogyny is a significant portion of what makes up transphobia, for example, because it is the perceptively non-masculine aspect of trans people that the cis (non-trans) public most reacts to in hatred.  Although much of the TERF critique of trans politics centers upon the possibility that trans people may reinforce an oppressive gender binary, the truth is that trans people are demonized in the rest of society exactly because they call that binary into question, are uncertainly in-or-out of that binary, blur its edges and raise challenging questions about sex, gender and human existence.  These kinds of overlap are completely missed when a policy of exclusion assumes that poverty, inequity, vulnerability and rape are somehow irrevocably different experiences simply because one had been born or socialized as male.

But we need to strive for that healing, especially if social movements want to transcend their own self-imposed boundaries and bring about true lasting change.  Healing and building critical mass go hand in hand.  As long as activism requires thinking in terms of colonies (even if umbrella-like), rather than in terms of alliances and intersections — ownership, rather than solidarity — it will be forever fractured and expending its valuable energy on policing its boundaries and propagating oppression — not on dismantling it.

And when I say all of this, I’ve not forgotten the other aspect of VRR’s controversy, surrounding sex work.  If anything, the discussion about feminism, transfeminism and the old wounds from that conflict serves as a cautionary tale, to question one’s activism, lest it do damage to sex workers, and this entire situation be revisited again in another form, in another ten years.

Healing should be preferable by far, over anger and exclusion.

For a case in point, this entire discussion began within the context of a memorial for the victims of the massacre at L’École Polytechnique in Montreal 24 years ago.  It has to be one of the most vivid examples of sheer hatred on historic record, and was undertaken by a man who does not deserve to be named, and who specifically targeted women, claiming he was fighting feminism.  That action is a deep scar in the psyche of Canadian women (and women worldwide).

The most disturbing thing that could come out of the controversy of the past weekend is if the tragedy of the École Polytechnique massacre becomes forgotten, turned into an opportunity for three communities that should be natural allies — the womens’ movement, the sex workers’ rights movement, and the trans rights movement — to instead do violence to each other.

(Crossposted to Rabble.ca)

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