‘The Internet Is Fucked’

From Truth Dig:  http://www.truthdig.com/eartotheground/item/the_internet_is_fucked_20140225

by Peter Z. Scheer
Feb 25, 2014

Even if someone printed this out and mailed it to you, you get your information from the Internet, a magical place that is increasingly controlled and manipulated by greedy, lazy corporations. Free speech, as we know it, is gone.

The Federal Communications Commission has refused to classify the dumb pipes that bring the Internet to your front door as dumb pipes, what’s known as “common carrier.” Instead, the regulator treats broadband Internet providers as information services, like AOL or MSNBC.com, because they give you email and ugly home pages to look at. But really because powerful, anti-competitive companies like Comcast have spent tremendous amounts of money to keep it that way. A judge said the FCC can’t impose net neutrality rules on broadband until it correctly identifies ISPs as common carriers, and so right now it’s absolute mayhem.

Nilay Patel of The Verge is a lawyer and tech writer who has written a must-read document for anyone who cares about free speech on the Internet.

Here’s an excerpt:

In the meantime, the companies that control the internet have continued down a dark path, free of any oversight or meaningful competition to check their behavior. In January, AT&T announced a new “sponsored data” plan that would dramatically alter the fierce one-click-away competition that’s thus far characterized the internet. Earlier this month, Comcast announced plans to merge with Time Warner Cable, creating an internet service behemoth that will serve 40 percent of Americans in 19 of the 20 biggest markets with virtually no rivals.

And after months of declining Netflix performance on Comcast’s network, the two companies announced a new “paid peering” arrangement on Sunday, which will see Netflix pay Comcast for better access to its customers, a capitulation Netflix has been trying to avoid for years. Paid peering arrangements are common among the network companies that connect the backbones of the internet, but consumer companies like Netflix have traditionally remained out of the fray — and since there’s no oversight or transparency into the terms of the deal, it’s impossible to know what kind of precedent it sets. Broadband industry insiders insist loudly that the deal is just business as usual, while outside observers are full of concerns about the loss of competition and the increasing power of consolidated network companies. Either way, it’s clear that Netflix has decided to take matters — and costs — into its own hands, instead of relying on rational policy to create an effective and fair marketplace.

In a perfect storm of corporate greed and broken government, the internet has gone from vibrant center of the new economy to burgeoning tool of economic control. Where America once had Rockefeller and Carnegie, it now has Comcast’s Brian Roberts, AT&T’s Randall Stephenson, and Verizon’s Lowell McAdam, robber barons for a new age of infrastructure monopoly built on fiber optics and kitty GIFs.

There is so much more, and even some hope, but you’ll have to go to The Verge to read the whole story.

One point worth underlining: As Todd O’Boyle of Common Cause recently told us on Truthdig Radio, this is fundamentally a free speech issue. A handful of companies with nothing but dollar signs in their eyes have unprecedented control over all American communication. Think about these questions: Where do you get your news? Does that site pay to gain access to you? Comcast owns NBC and NBC News and it’s trying to buy Time Warner so it can be the only truly broadband Internet provider in 19 of the 20 biggest metro areas. In the absence of any regulation, does Comcast have any incentive to let you visit CBS News? Or Truthdig?

Facebook just spent $19 billion on a private text messaging service, because owning communication is incredibly valuable.

The United States is entering a strange new world, where Comcast is our politburo and Verizon is big brother. And the NSA? Well that’s a whole other horrifying blog post. You may have to read about it through the postal service, because the Internet is fucked.

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On Being More Than Your Medical Condition

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/landon-wilson/facebook-genders_b_4808976.html

Landon Wilson

If I were to tell you three foundational things about me, they would be this:

one. I was raised by a single mom who gave me the strength and conviction to know what hard work and perseverance can bring.

two. I experienced loss in the worst way when I watched my grandmother, who was my hero and best friend, take her last breaths.

three. I should be embarrassed by the amount of times I’ve been caught blaring Miley Cyrus in my car, alone… but I’m not.

When you get to know me a little bit better, after we’ve shared dinner, inside jokes, and something more than first and last names, I might let you in on a little bit more. You’ll learn I’m a brother, an uncle, a blogger, a veteran. I’m a really terrible 20-something, and I can’t walk past pet stores or animal shelters without going inside.

If we get really personal, eventually I will tell you how it felt to hear the words “You have cancer” spill out of my doctor’s mouth and how isolating the following treatments felt. I will tell you how my clothes are worn as armor, my shirts and pants carefully chosen to hide parts of me from wandering eyes.

As luck would have it, last week Facebook conveniently made it possible for me to broadcast my gender as I see fit, allowing more than 50 options instead of the traditional binary ‘male’ and ‘female.’ Gone are the days of me quietly disclosing this part of my history. Now you can have full disclosure before we ever even speak! Fall upon my profile and you have the opportunity to know that I’m a Trans Person. Or if you really want to get specific, I could be a Trans Man. Trans Male. Transgender Man. Or my favorite, Trans* Man, male, person.

Perfect, right?

So it would seem.

But being transgender is not a gender. It is a war that we have fought and won with ourselves, one we continue to fight on a daily basis just to be heard, to be seen simply as people. As human beings. As no-disclaimer-no-clarification needed people. Quite frankly, Facebook, “they” is the pronoun that would suffice just fine.

Perhaps I come bearing a cross that I shouldn’t, but I’m going to be honest. When I saw that Facebook opened its options to include a “they” pronoun, I was genuinely impressed. After I realized the flood gates had opened to include the aforementioned customization of genders, I was met with shock and awe when I voiced the opinion that this was a terrible move for the “progressive movement.”

Facebook boasts of its options but yet, the redundancy is blatant. What’s the difference between a transwoman and a trans female? Gendervariant and genderfluid? Why does “male” or “female” need to come with a disclaimer when for so long we, as transpeople, have worked so hard to sway the world to see us as the person we know we are?

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/landon-wilson/facebook-genders_b_4808976.html

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long haired freaky people

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Janet Mock on ‘Passing’ & Redefining Realness

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Cis-to-Sis: An Open Letter to Janet Mock

From Ebony: http://www.ebony.com/news-views/cis-to-sis-an-open-letter-to-janet-mock-004#axzz2t3iLPwmw

Preston Mitchum pens a few words of solidarity to the writer after her…uncomfortable brush-up with CNN’s Piers Morgan

By Preston Mitchum
February 11, 2014

I was scared” continues to reverberate in my mind. All too often the LGBT community is not allowed to feel safe in spaces that society claims are available to us. But this article is not about sexual orientation. Quite frankly, it isn’t even necessarily about Piers Morgan. What it is, though, is an apology to you, Janet Mock, and the entire transgender community for cis people who simply refuse to acknowledge our undeserved privilege.As I sit and write this article, Redefining Realnessis positioned on the left-side of my dining room table while my last scoop of chocolate ice cream is on the right. Blankly staring at the words on this laptop, I am constantly reminded that transgender women, particularly transgender women of color, will have their identity challenged, criticized, and policed, even from alleged supporters. And for that Janet, I am sorry. I am sorry that you and your transgender sisters (of color) live in a world that simply will not allow you to navigate in a secure, affirming, and loving space free from cissexism, misogyny, transphobia, and racism.

Like many people following your career, I was intrigued by your path to womanhood, identity, and so much more. But it is the so much more that made me rip apart the book-shaped package delivered to my desk last week, hoping it would be my embarrassment of riches: your memoir. Your book connected with me immediately and though I am cisgender, what resonated with me was your path to finding yourself. This path to identity and self-love, I have learned, is a metaphysical dilemma but it is one we can conquer.

Janet, your book will save lives. And I am sorry that self-proclaimed allies may not be able to experience that just yet. As I watched your initial segment with Morgan, I couldn’t help but to think how you must have felt in that setting: a transgender woman of color ready to discuss your first book, while all Morgan wanted to discuss was his infatuation with your assignment-at-birth. Surely you and your transgender sisters are no stranger to this invasive line-of-questioning though. Just last month, in fact, Laverne Cox and Carmen Carrera were berated with media’s fixation of genitalia as if it is synonymous with or related to gender, gender identity, and gender expression.

I couldn’t help but imagine the “here we go again” mindset you must have had when Morgan began the interview with “this is the amazing thing about you: had I not known anything about your story, I would have had absolutely not a clue that you had ever been a boy, a male.” What troubled me was that he expected you to take this as a compliment – an ode to your ability to pass and operate throughout life as a “real woman”.

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Speaking for Ourselves

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/speaking-for-ourselves_b_4767057.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

Dana Beyer

Last week we saw the continuation of the Janet Mock/Piers Morgan saga. What started off in the first interview a week earlier in a manner that seemed to please both the host and the interviewee degenerated into a situation where both protagonists ended up speaking past one another. Still, I believe that however difficult it has been for everyone involved, it is ultimately all for the good.

To review the facts as I know them, having watched both CNN programs and read about the explosion in social media, I have a few thoughts. The most important is that, finally, we are seeing trans persons speaking for themselves, and about themselves, in the mainstream media. This has been the case in social media for some time now. Still, it is significant when a major mainstream media outlet finally takes the time to bring the trans community to light.

As I’ve mentioned in previous weeks, I’ve lived through Psycho, Phil Donahue and Jerry Springer, Tales of the City and Silence of the Lambs. I’ve watched theLaw & Order franchise move from outright hostility to grudging admiration and acceptance. America is changing, and while it is not happening quickly enough, particularly compared with the recent acceleration in gay acceptance in the U.S., it is still moving very rapidly. Ms. Mock’s appearance on CNN is evidence of that progress.

I don’t know what the discussions pre-interview were like. Were the questions to be asked discussed? How important was the book’s content going to be for the interview? Were any questions out of bounds? Janet is not a novice, and she has a history of media appearances, beginning with the Marie Claire article. I presume Janet has a book agent and publicist, and that she has a media adviser as well. The way the first interview proceeded, and Janet’s apparent pleasure with it, led me to believe that things worked out as she expected.

I will say, speaking for myself, that while some of the questions asked were salacious and invasive, they are the questions I have come to expect when I teach and lecture. I answer them forthrightly, but I make sure to add that these questions are often considered rude by many trans persons and are not acceptable in polite conversation. For a lecturer trying to teach, to share, to engage, they’re acceptable as long as the boundaries are laid out in advance. I take it as my responsibility to have that discussion beforehand. I also realize that as a surgeon I am much more comfortable speaking about the human body, and I speak freely about genitalia and brain sex. One of my main goals over the past decade has been to educate others on the fact that human sexuality is primarily a brain function, not a genital one, and to try to move people away from obsession with their groin area. It is not easy, and I do not expect that large swath of Americans who, if they think about trans issues at all, think about genitals and “sex changes” will absorb it all anytime soon. Moving the general populace away from equating gay people with their sexual behavior did not happen overnight. It was a multi-decade effort, only recently coming to fruition.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dana-beyer/speaking-for-ourselves_b_4767057.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Trans Comic Avery Edison Flying Home to U.K. Thursday

I’ve been slow on fast breaking stories.  So here’s the back story Trans Comic( objectionable construction) Avery Edison was detained by Canadian immigration who thought it would be cute to abuse her by sending her to a male prison where she could be sexually assaulted.

Follow the collection of links for the details…

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/02/12/trans-comic-avery-edison-transferred-womens-correctional-facility

After thousands of tweets using the #FreeAvery hashtag, trans detainee Avery Edison was transferred out of an all-male correctional facility, to one with a female population. On Wednesday afternoon, her partner announced that Edison would be returned to the United Kingdom on Thursday.

BY Parker Marie Molloy
February 12 2014

Following online uproar, Avery Edison, the transgender comedian who was detained in Toronto over a visa issue on Monday, was transferred to a women’s facility. Edison spent one night at Maplehurst Correctional Facility, a location with an all-male population.

According to Romy Sugden, Edison’s girlfriend, Edison had been granted a transfer to Vanier Centre for Women Tuesday evening. Sugden has been providing updates on Edison’s condition as she’s able to obtain them, tweeting from both her account, as well as Edison’s.

On Wednesday afternoon, Sugden announced via Twitter that Edison will be flown home to the United Kingdom Thursday evening, and will not be forbidden from visiting Canada in the future. Sugden’s tweets said she was “thrilled” about the positive resolution, calling it “the best possible outcome… Apart from being able to take her home & let the visit proceed as planned.” Sugden was clear about her priorities once Edison gets home:

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/02/12/trans-comic-avery-edison-transferred-womens-correctional-facility

See Also:

National Post: Transgender woman Avery Edison finally moved to Ontario female jail after being locked in male-only facility

Torontoist: Trans Woman Sent to Men’s Prison

Toronto Sun: Transgender woman transferred from men’s prison

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Janet Mock Opens Up About Her Dad’s Gender Policing

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Are Men that like Transsexuals Gay??

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Women Born Transsexual

Tina and I coined the term WBT or Women Born Transsexual nearly 14 years ago.

Over the years this term has been colonized by bigots who wanted it to somehow elevate them over people who use the term transgender to describe themselves or even to beat up on other women with a transsexual history.

It wasn’t meant to be used that way.

It wasn’t meant to separate those who used it from anything except the endless discussions of etiology, endless discussions of post-modern gender theory.

We coined WBT (Women Born Transsexual) years before Lady Gaga’s anthem “Born This Way!”

We were saying enough with all the dehumanizing discussion regarding why we are trans…  I prefer transsexual over transgender for a number of reasons.  It was the term used during  era when I came out and feels braver because it uses sex instead of gender, a term that seems sex phobic.

But I’ve mellowed in my old age and have better things to do than fight with people who want to use WBT for Women Born Trans or even Women Born Transgender.

That’s because the important part is the word born and the implication that we are born this way.

We were born Trans, Transsexual or Transgender. (You pick the trans prefixed word you feel comfortable with.)

We weren’t born men (Or women in the case of our brothers). We weren’t born boys even though we might have been assigned male at birth.

We were born transkids.

We didn’t grow up boys. We grew up transkids, dealing with pesky issues described with trans prefixed words.

Some of us were so obvious, with our transness so written on our bodies, that adults and other kids saw it and labeled us long before we had the words to describe ourselves.

Applying the born this way structure is what make Piers Morgan’s insistence upon using the born male, born a man structure so highly offensive.

We weren’t born men or even males despite our initial birth assignment.  We aren’t broken.  We aren’t failures of the process of gender socialization. We aren’t delusional.  We aren’t mentally ill in spite of the APA, who tries to turn anything they can into a diagnosis that will generate income for its members.

We are people, ordinary people who happen to have been born with something some call transsexualism and others call transgender. We are all different sizes, shapes, colors, ethnicity, abilities, politics and levels of privilege with one commonality. We were born trans.

We are serving notice.

We are tired of smarmy cis-sex/gender talk show hosts disrespecting and insulting us.

We are tired of being the scapegoats of Taliban Christian Neo-Nazis.

Some of us are tired of cis-sex/gender actors being hailed for their brave performances in drag face because TS/TG folks are not suitable to portray TS/TG folks.  Especially since we don’t reflect the stereotypes the directors had in mind.  Don’t bother trotting out the canard of TS/TG actors/actresses not wanting to be type cast,  they are rarely if ever cast as in non-trans roles.

We are trans and we want to reclaim our own narratives.

I’m so proud of Janet Mock and her fighting back.  It was a long time coming and marks the start of a new era.

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Janet Mock’s advice to media: “See trans people as people”

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/02/06/janet_mocks_advice_to_media_see_trans_people_as_people/

Mock talks to Salon about coming of age as a trans woman in Hawaii, her new book and trans issues in the media

Janet Mock has written a memoir about growing up trans in America, but as she says, it’s also more than that. “Redefining Realness” is book about race, about identity, about sex work, about reading. It’s also a testament to the power of community. In a time when trans people of color are disproportionately likely to experience discrimination and violence, Mock found a community of trans women in Hawaii who helped her forge her own identity, and who showed her that this forging was possible. Now she’s building a community herself, with her book and Tumblr and Twitter presences that encourage others to share their stories.

It’s an effort that feels especially important when many in media seem unable to represent trans people’s stories without sensationalism — on Tuesday, CNN’s Piers Morgan asked Mock if any of her past partners had “run a mile” when they learned she was trans. Mock declined to comment specifically on the Morgan segment, but she spoke to Salon about beauty, the media, and her advice for families of trans youth

Caleb Hannan’s piece in Grantland, which outed a trans woman, has been heavily criticized, as has Katie Couric’s decision to ask Laverne Cox about her genitals. Do you have any advice for mainstream journalists covering trans issues?

The first would be to see trans people as people. I feel like there’s a layer of really deep-seated internalized dehumanization of trans people and their bodies. That creates a kind of separation between the journalist and the trans person they’re speaking to, this separation that would never happen if they didn’t know the person was trans. You wouldn’t ask a cisgender women about their genitals. Is that something Katie Couric would ever ask someone, beyond a medical issue? It’s our cultural idea that trans people are not really people, they’re objects that we objectify and gawk over. I feel the same way about stories about trans kids; we talk about children’s genitals on TV constantly. Because we’re trans, our bodies are open for inspection.

Especially in that Grantland piece it seemed like there were so many different layers of things that were conflated with each other, a need to suss out her background because it seemed like something was iffy or off — the need to suss out the con artist aspect as well as the “falsity” of her identity as a woman. When we tell trans women’s stories, we see it as, “She’s deceiving us, she’s not really who she is.”

For journalists, it’s a matter of allowing trans people to declare who they are. The big thing for me is self-determination, being able to define ourselves for ourselves and for journalists to take that. Because journalists themselves can’t see trans people as who they say they are, that bias is shown through their writing.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/02/06/janet_mocks_advice_to_media_see_trans_people_as_people/

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Reframing the Media Narrative: Trans Bodies Are Not Public Domain

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/savannah-garmon-/reframing-the-media-narra_b_4734282.html

Savannah Garmon

Earlier this week, Piers Morgan interviewed transgender advocate Janet Mock for his CNN show, focusing on her new book, Redefining Realness. The interview quickly set off a critical response on social media, as Morgan focused his questions on Mock’s transition history and the moment she came out to her partner as transgender. The captioning on the program (and Piers Morgan’s tweet to promote the interview) referred to as formerly being a “boy,” and Morgan himself used similar language throughout the interview. He also referred to Mock’s male-typical birth name several times.

When I watched the interview, it felt like the questions towards the beginning of the interview, focusing on Mock’s gender expression through adolescence, were leading specifically towards one of the media’s favorite tropes regarding trans women: surgical status. When Morgan actually asked the question, it came out about as awkwardly as one could imagine:

You’re going through school, you’ve gone from Charles to Janet, from boy’s clothes to girl’s clothes, and you’ve coped with all the teasing and the bullying, and you’ve come through and it’s made you like as strong in your head enough to say, ‘I’m gonna go through properly with this and become a woman, and have a transgender operation…’ Tell me how you felt when you were actually approaching the operation.

Mock answered the question gracefully, stating, in part, “That was a big step in a long journey… for me it was a step for me to move closer to me. It was a reconciliation with myself.”

However, the question itself is extremely uncomfortable, pretty much regardless of the answer. For one thing, does the framing of the question imply that a trans woman who decides against surgery hasn’t “properly” become a woman?

Further, while personally I’m not totally opposed to discussing surgical status in the type of interview, and some trans people are fine being totally open about it, I would at the very least ask for the framing of the question to acknowledge something like, “Hi, I’m going to do something out of the ordinary in this interview, which is that I am going to ask you about your genitalia. I would appreciate your openness if you were comfortable discussing something so personal, but if not, that’s okay too.”

I strongly feel that without this type of framing, this question about surgical status necessarily buys into the idea that transgender bodies are somehow public domain, and therefore the question is completely irredeemable.

Morgan’s line of questioning, however, only went further into this mentality, as he lead into the commercial break with the sensationalistic comment

In 2009, you meet a man, and you fall in love with this man, but there’s something you have to tell him — there’s something pretty big you have to tell him that he doesn’t know, which is that you used to be, yourself, a man.

At this point, Morgan is not only touching on the idea that trans women’s bodies are public domain, but is dangerously closing in on “deception” tropes, which is the idea that if a trans person engages in romantic or sexual activity with a cis person who is unaware that they are attracted to a trans person, then the trans person has somehow committed deception. This social myth has, at times, even been employed in an attempt to justify sexual assault and other forms of violence, in particular against trans women.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/savannah-garmon-/reframing-the-media-narra_b_4734282.html

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Bill Nye Debates Ken Ham

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The Dangerous Charade of Billionaire Victims

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/02/02-0

by Robert Freeman

The Tom Perkins “billionaires-as-victims” charade couldn’t be more surreal. It goes without saying that his comparing the 1% to victims of Hitler’s genocide is tasteless. That it is oblivious is obvious. And that Perkins himself suffers from paranoid delusions must be suspected.

But there are deeper reasons for plumbing the pathology of Perkins’ rant. As background, let’s recall some basic facts.

Over the past 30-odd years, since Reagan, a vast share of the nation’s income and wealth has been transferred from the poor, working, and middle classes to the very wealthy. Twenty five years ago, the top 1% of income earners pulled in 12% of the nation’s income, today they get twice that, 25%. And the rate of transfer is accelerating.

In the ten years between 1996 and 2006 67% of all the growth in the entire U.S. economy went to the top 1% of income earners. Between 2009 and 2012, 95% of all the new income produced in the economy went to the top 1%. What about everybody else?

Since the late 1970s, labor productivity in the U.S. has risen 259%. If the fruits of that productivity had been distributed according to the capitalist ideal that a person gets what he produces, the average person’s income would be more than double what it is today. The reality?

Median male compensation, adjusted for inflation, is lower today than it was in 1975, a full generation ago. A staggering 40% of all Americans now make less than the 1968 minimum wage. It’s the exact opposite of the cultural myth of shared prosperity and opportunity for all.
The rich are getting richer, and everyone else is getting poorer. That is not an ideological statement. It is an empirical one. Perkins believes that simply discussing such facts cannot be allowed. The rich may only be addressed in terms that signal deification.

But underlying Perkins’ tirade is a conviction that the super-rich have earned everything they’ve gotten and so are beyond reproach. Have they?

An enormous amount of the gains by the super-rich have flowed to those in the finance industry. But much of that has been the result of naked fraud and outright criminality, for example in the mortgage, mortgage securities, and derivatives markets. The simple fact of banks being “too big to fail” (an immunity to failure underwritten by the government) is worth tens of billions of dollars a year. And do we even need mention the trillions of dollars of bailouts lavished on the banks, even as millions of mortgage holders were losing their homes?

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/02/02-0

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Trans Lives Matter. Islan Nettles’s Life Matters.

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/178202/trans-lives-matter-islan-nettless-life-matters#

Mychal Denzel Smith
on February 3, 2014

This past Thursday, I attended a rally for Islan Nettles in New York City. Well over 100 people were in attendance. If that doesn’t sound like a large gathering of protesters, consider first that it was a below-freezing twenty-eight degrees outside, and secondly that over 100 people showing up in the cold for a murdered black trans woman is far from meaningless.

Islan Nettles was attacked on August 17 of last year in Harlem. Her attacker is alleged to be 20-year-old Paris Wilson, who is believed to have catcalled Islan, then upon finding out she was trans, struck her in the face and continued beating her after she had fallen to the ground. She was found “unconscious…with a swollen shut eye and blood on her face.” Islan was hospitalized and died later the next week.

Wilson was initially charged with misdemeanor assault. When another man came forward to say he was responsible for the attack, but was too drunk to remember what exactly he did, prosecutors declined to bring Wilson before a grand jury. He remains free and the case is still open.

That isn’t enough for those who gathered at One Police Plaza on Thursday, and understandably so. As we stood there and listened to speaker after speaker—some who knew Islan personally and others who are leaders from organizations that work on trans rights—and heard the sobering statistics about suicide, homelessness and violence inflicted upon trans people, it is unconscionable that nearly six months after this horrific murder, the police and district attorney are no closer to a resolution than they were after it initially happened. As many who took the megaphone reminded us, had Islan looked more like Pamela Anderson, there would have been a much different societal and institutional response to her death.

But Islan was black. She was trans. She was a woman. (One of the speakers, perhaps inadvertently, misgendered Islan during their speech. I thought about that moment the next day while watching actress Laverne Cox’s keynote address at Creating Change 2014 and hearing her say, “When a trans woman is called a man, that is an act of violence.”) She had been homeless at one point in her life, though she had her own apartment at the time of her death. She was everything our culture has made clear it despises. Her existence threatened our ideas about the worth of lives outside of the “norm.” Her presence made someone so uncomfortable that they killed her. Whether that person was Wilson, the drunken man who can’t remember or someone else, the fact is, someone killed Islan. Her family deserves answers as to who.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thenation.com/blog/178202/trans-lives-matter-islan-nettless-life-matters#

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Why Power Elites Are So Afraid of Telling the Truth

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/activism/they-cant-tell-us-truth-if-they-did-people-would-demand-structural-change

It would be a concession to the deep structural changes we all know that our society needs.

By Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers
February 3, 2014

In the last week there were two high profile events that highlighted the inability of those in power to reflect reality and put forward solutions to the urgent problems faced by the United States and the world: the State of the Union and the World Economic Forum at Davos.

The reality is that the current economic and political systems are in crisis. The economy will not recover and the government cannot function to meet people’s needs or to protect the planet. Structural change is needed but the power elites are addicted to the current system. They happily funnel more wealth to the top with confidence that their own pockets will be filled. There is no room in their lives for attention to anyone else.

Although they are skilled at distracting the public and themselves from the truth, the façade is crumbling. There are signs that more people see through it, e.g. there was an avalanche of critical analysis of Obama’s State of the Union not seen in prior years.

And as it falls apart, those at the top are more fearful. They lie to protect themselves. The investor and political classes have not forgotten the national awakening shown in hundreds of Occupy encampments. They see, as we report daily on Popular Resistance, the escalating movements for worker and immigrant rights, to protect education and the environment and more.

Obama’s false reality and inadequate solutions

In Black Agenda Report, Glen Ford called the State of the Union “a festival of lies.”  Margaret Kimberly described the speech as “theatrics, worthless punditry and outright lies.” She wrote, the annual event “is used to masquerade drivel as accomplishment and reinforce the notion that a collapsing society is a thriving democracy.” Americans seem tired with this annual show as it had the lowest number of viewers since 2000.

Political comedian Lee Camp described President Obama as “Out Orwelling Orwell” from his false rosy picture of the economy to saying that fracked gas is good for the environment to his glorification of war; Obama’s State of the Union presented a false reality.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/activism/they-cant-tell-us-truth-if-they-did-people-would-demand-structural-change

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Why you’re wrong about communism: 7 huge misconceptions about it (and capitalism)

From Salon:   http://www.salon.com/2014/02/02/why_youre_wrong_about_communism_7_huge_misconceptions_about_it_and_capitalism/

Most of what Americans think they know about capitalism and communism is total nonsense. Here’s a clearer picture

Sunday, Feb 2, 2014

As the commentary around the recent deaths of Nelson Mandela, Amiri Baraka and Pete Seeger made abundantly clear, most of what Americans think they know about capitalism and communism is arrant nonsense. This is not surprising, given our country’s history of Red Scares designed to impress that anti-capitalism is tantamount to treason. In 2014, though, we are too far removed from the Cold War-era threat of thermonuclear annihilation to continue without taking stock of the hype we’ve been made, despite Harry Allen’s famous injunction, to believe. So, here are seven bogus claims people make about communism and capitalism.

1. Only communist economies rely on state violence.

Obviously, no private equity baron worth his weight in leveraged buyouts will ever part willingly with his fortune, and any attempt to achieve economic justice (like taxation) will encounter stiff opposition from the ownership class. But state violence (like taxation) is inherent in every set of property rights a government can conceivably adopt – including those that allowed the aforementioned hypothetical baron to amass said fortune.

In capitalism, competing ownership claims are settled by the state’s willingness to use violence to exclude all but one claimant. If I lay claim to one of David Koch’s mansions, libertarian that he is, he’s going to rely on big government and its guns to set me right. He owns that mansion because the state says he does and threatens to imprison anyone who disagrees. Where there isn’t a state, whoever has the most violent power determines who gets the stuff, be that a warlord, a knight, the mafia or a gang of cowboys in the Wild West. Either by vigilantes or the state, property rights rely on violence.

This is true both of personal possessions and private property, but it is important not to confuse the two. Property implies not a good, but a title – deeds, contracts, stocks, bonds, mortgages, &c. When Marxists talk of collectivizing ownership claims on land or “the means of production,” we are in the realm of property; when Fox Business Channel hosts move to confiscate my tie, we are in the realm of personal possessions. Communism necessarily distributes property universally, but, at least as far as this communist is concerned, can still allow you to keep your smartphone. Deal?

2. Capitalist economies are based on free exchange.

The mirror-image of the “oppressive communism” myth is the “liberatory capitalism” one. The idea that we’re all going around making free choices all the time in an abundant market where everyone’s needs get met is patently belied by the lived experience of hundreds of millions of people. Most find ourselves constantly stuck between competing pressures and therefore stressed out, exhausted, lonely, and in search of meaning. — as though we’re not in control of our lives.

We aren’t; the market is. If you don’t think so, try and exit “the market.” The origin of capitalism was depriving British peasants of their access to land (seizure of property, you might call it), and therefore their means of subsistence, making them dependent on the market for their survival. Once propertyless, they were forced to flock to the dreck, drink and disease of slum-ridden cities to sell the only thing they had – their capacity to use their brains and muscles to work – or die. Just like them, the vast majority of people today are deprived of access to the resources we need to flourish, though they exist in abundant quantities, so as to force us to work for a boss who is trying to get rich by paying us less and working us harder.

Even that boss (the apparent victor in the “free exchange”) isn’t free: the market places imperatives on the ownership class to relentlessly accumulate wealth and develop the forces of production or else fail. Capitalists are compelled to support oppressive regimes and wreck the planet, as a matter of business, even as they protest good personal intentions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/02/02/why_youre_wrong_about_communism_7_huge_misconceptions_about_it_and_capitalism/

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Conservative Bullies: 7 Ways the Christian Right Picks on People

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/conservative-bullies-6-ways-christian-right-picks-people

As with many things, bullying is becoming a partisan issue.

By Amanda Marcotte
January 30, 2014

The anti-bullying campaign was supposed to be one of those causes that everyone, regardless of ideology or political party, was able to get behind. As Emily Bazelon discovered in her seminal book on bullying in schools, Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy, even in schools where it seems fairly obvious that authorities were being negligent toward victims of bullying, the schools insisted that they were opposed to bullying. No one is for bullying, right?

Well, that’s what we’d like to believe. But it seems that, as with many things, bullying is becoming a partisan issue. Anti-bullying efforts seem liberal in tone and emphasis, which means that they will inevitably attract negative attention from the knee-jerk “anything to piss off the liberals” crowd. But let’s be honest: Part of the reason conservatives frequently support bullying—or at least resist efforts to end it—is because bullying works. Bullies are good at exerting exactly the kind of social control that the right, especially the Christian right, wants to exert. So here’s a list of incidences where conservatives just straight-up supported bullying in the face of efforts to curb it.

1) Louisiana teacher encourages students to bully Buddhist student. The ACLU is suing the Sabine Parish School Board because of one teacher’s inexplicable alleged campaign to harass and abuse one of her students for his Buddhist beliefs. It isn’t just that the teacher thought a public school classroom was an ideal place to promote her interpretation of Christianity, though that would be reason enough to sue. The teacher reportedly agreed with a classmate who called the Buddhist student “stupid” for not believing in God and encouraged the students to laugh at him. She also reportedly called Buddhism stupid, and gave students tests where the “right” answer was to affirm Christian dogma.

When Scott Lane, the student’s stepfather, went to the superintendent to complain, she defended the teacher by saying that this is the “Bible Belt.” Apparently, to the administration being in the Bible Belt means not only is the First Amendment suspended, but singling kids out and taunting them because they’re different is acceptable behavior.

2) Routinely denouncing attempts to prevent anti-gay bullying in schools. If anyone hoped that Christian conservatives who disapprove of gay rights could find it in their hearts to, at bare minimum, allow LGBT-identified kids to get an education without being harangued under the guise of religion, sorry to dash your hopes. Christian right organization Focus on the Family is happy to help fight back against bullies, unless, of course, the target is gay. Then all of a sudden, Focus on the Family sees the bully as the victim, and attempts to stop him from gay-bashing are nothing but an attempt to “censor or marginalize students and parents with differing viewpoints.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/belief/conservative-bullies-6-ways-christian-right-picks-people

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Loving a Transgender Person IS a Revolutionary Act

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/loving-a-transgender-pers_b_4718307.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


Last week the Williams Institute at UCLA released a study which analyzed data on suicide attempts by transgender people. It found that bullying, homelessness, familial rejection and even rejection by healthcare providers significantly increased the odds of a suicide attempt. Even those who didn’t experience these still had a 20 to 30 percent suicide attempt rate.

Part of me believes that many casual observers, even within the LGB community, will shrug these numbers off as just indicative of transgender people being mentally ill. That assumption is part of the problem itself. It isn’t being transgender that’s killing us.

It is the culture we live in, instilling in us a deeply rooted self hatred.

How can we value our own lives, when we are constantly bombarded with messages that we have less than zero worth as a person because we are transgender? How can we love ourselves enough to live, when our environment tells us that nothing in creation could love a transgender person?

We are told repeatedly that at best, our bodies are the subject of prurient interest, from the tawdry Maury Povich to the respectable Katie Couric. At worst, our bodies are objects worthy of only disgust and revulsion. When we fail to accede to demands that we make our bodies public knowledge, we are told that the violence against which follows is justified. We are called liars, deceivers, and traps for failing to announce our transgender status to the world. We are then beaten and murdered when we give the information demanded of us.

Being transgender is seen as so vile that our partners, parents and children often reject us. We learn that love isn’t unconditional, that in fact we cannot be loved by the people who mean the most to us. We are sent the message over and over again, that no one could love us as romantic partners. Life holds only a promise of loneliness and abandonment, and that we deserve solitude for refusing to remain in the closet.

This extends even to the supposedly unconditional love of God. The dominant message from Christianity towards transgender people is return to living in your birth gender, or burn in hell. We are not welcome. God only loves us so far as we comply with not being transgender.

We are told our core identities are a delusion that needs fixing. The ignorant believe we should be put in camps, or thrown in mental hospitals. Pockets of supposed professionals whom we not allowed to gainsay push their theories that gender identity doesn’t exist: That all transgender individuals are either self hating homosexuals or heterosexuals with a fetish. Either way, we are told our identities are wrong, and that in being wrong, we are worthy only pity and disgust.

We are told that when we are mistreated, bullied, fired, denied housing or refused service, it is exactly what we deserve for being freaks.

In a post-Lawrence v. Texas America, where lesbians and gays have had the right to be with whom they love for over a decade, transgender people are on the verge of having their need to conduct bodily functions in safety criminalized. We are told that we are rapists and violators of women and children. We are told the only difference between a transgender person and a convicted pedophile is the conviction. We are ordered to accept the fact that other people’s irrational fears supersede our actual need for physical safety, because we are too alien and loathsome to ever hope for empathy.

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/loving-a-transgender-pers_b_4718307.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Freedom Hating Sen. Ted (The Canadian) Cruz: Not enforcing federal marijuana laws in Colorado is ‘dangerous to liberty’

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/04/sen-ted-cruz-not-enforcing-federal-marijuana-laws-in-colorado-is-dangerous-to-liberty/

By Eric W. Dolan
Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas has again criticized President Barack Obama for not overriding state marijuana laws.

In an interview with the libertarian magazine Reason published Monday, Cruz said he supported an “intelligent conversation” about drug policy.

“I will say one thing that’s been dismaying about the Obama administration,” he continued. “The Obama administration’s approach to drug policy is to simply announce that across the country, it is going to stop enforcing certain drug laws. Now, that may or may not be a good policy, but I would suggest that should concern anyone — it should even concern libertarians who support that policy outcome — because the idea that the president simply says criminal laws that are on the books, we’re going to ignore [them]. That is a very dangerous precedent.”

Voters in Colorado and Washington state approved ballot measures to legalize marijuana in 2012, but federal law still prohibits the possession and sale of the drug. The U.S. Justice Department, however, announced it would not seek to overturn the new state laws and would only intervene in a narrow set of circumstances, such as when drugs were being sold to minors.

Cruz said Obama overstepped his authority by refusing to prosecute marijuana users and sellers in Colorado and Washington state. Only Congress could enact such a policy, he argued.

Continue reading at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/02/04/sen-ted-cruz-not-enforcing-federal-marijuana-laws-in-colorado-is-dangerous-to-liberty/

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