Earth: Game Over?

From Common Dreams:

We’re in the middle of a sixth mass extinction, and this will be the first one—and possibly the last—we will witness as human beings.

by John Feffer

Video games usually provide you with multiple lives. If you step on a landmine or get hit by an assassin, you get another chance. Even if such virtual reincarnation is not built into the rules of the game, you can always reboot and start over again. You can try again hundreds of times until you get it right. This formula applies to first-person shooter games as well as simulation exercises like SimEarth.

The real Earth offers a similar kind of reboot. Catastrophe has hit our planet at least five times, as Elizabeth Kolbert explains in her new book, The Sixth Extinction. During each of these preceding wipeouts, the planet recovered, though many of the life forms residing in the seas or on land were not so fortunate (“many” is actually an understatement—more than 99 percent of all species died out in these cataclysms). As Kolbert points out, we are in the middle of a sixth such world-altering event, and this will be the first—and possibly the last—extinction that we will witness as human beings. The planet and its hardier denizens may soldier on, but for us it will be game over.

A subset of environmentalists is already preparing for the end game. In the latest New York Times Magazine, Paul Kingsnorth—the author of the manifesto Uncivilizationconfesses that he has given up trying to save the planet. He rejects false hopes. “You look at every trend that environmentalists like me have been trying to stop for 50 years,” he says, “and every single thing had gotten worse.” He’s heading to the wilderness of Ireland to grow his own food, homeschool his kids, and prepare for the difficult days ahead.

Survivalism: it’s not just for right-wing wackos any more.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are still trying to figure out how to avert disaster. The United Nations recently released another in its series of reports on climate change. This one tries to put a price tag on what we need to do over the next 15-20 years to stop the global mercury from rising.

To implement the recommendations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), governments must dramatically increase their investments in low-carbon energy sources. Each year, governments will have to spend an additional $147 billion on such renewable sources of energy as solar and wind power. On top of that, governments need to put $336 billion each year into greater energy efficiency in public and private infrastructure. If we follow all the IPCC recommendations, we can expect to save about $30 billion from eliminating subsidies to industries in the dirty energy sectors.

That still leaves an annual bill of more than $450 billion. This is probably a lowball figure, given the commitment that the industrialized world has made to help the developing world continue to grow economically without expanding its carbon footprint. This figure aclimatlso doesn’t cover current climate change costs associated with extreme weather events, droughts in food-growing areas, the preservation of coastal areas, and other catastrophes in the making. The bill for upgrading U.S. infrastructure alone will run into hundreds of billions of dollars each year.

If you’re planning to remodel your kitchen, you’re supposed to get a couple of different estimates. So, with a task as large as saving the world, it’s probably wise to check in with a couple other sources.

But those looking for salvation on the cheap are going to be disappointed. The International Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization connected to the OECD, estimates that the world needs to invest a trillion dollars into clean energy—every year between now and 2050. Then there was the Stern Commission report on the economics of climate change that came out in 2006. At the time, Nicholas Stern estimated that stabilizing the current level of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere would require an investment of 1 percent of global GDP, which at the time was a little more than $300 billion. He revised that up to about $600 billion a couple years later, though nowadays he’s talking more in the trillion-dollar range as well.

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How Piketty’s Bombshell Book Blows Up Libertarian Fantasies

From Alternet:

Sorry, Ayn Rand. Your fiction has been exposed as, well, fiction.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
April 27, 2014

Libertarians have always been flummoxed by inequality, tending either to deny that it’s a problem or pretend that the invisible hand of the market will wave a magic wand to cure it. Then everybody gets properly rewarded for what he or she does with brains and effort, and things are peachy keen.

Except that they aren’t, as exhaustively demonstrated by French economist Thomas Piketty, whose 700-page treatise on the long-term trends in inequality, Capital In the 21st Century, has blown up libertarian fantasies one by one.

To understand the libertarian view of inequality, let’s turn to Milton Friedman, one of America’s most famous and influential makers of free market mythology. Friedman decreed that economic policy should focus on freedom, and not equality.

If we could do that, he promised, we’d not only get freedom and efficiency, but more equality as a natural byproduct. Libertarians who took the lessons from his books, like Capitalism and Freedom (1962) and Free to Choose (1980), bought into the notion that capitalism naturally led to less inequality.

Basically, the lessons boiled down to this: Some degree of inequality is both unavoidable and desirable in a free market, and income inequality in the U.S. isn’t very pronounced, anyway. Libertarians starting with these ideas tend to reject any government intervention meant to decrease inequality, claiming that such plans make people lazy and that they don’t work, anyway. Things like progressive income taxes, minimum wage laws and social safety nets make most libertarians very unhappy.

Uncle Milty put it like this:

“A society that puts equality—in the sense of equality of outcome—ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.… On the other hand, a society that puts freedom first will, as a happy by-product, end up with both greater freedom and greater equality.”

Well, that turns out to be spectacularly, jaw-droppingly, head-scratchingly wrong. The U.S. is now a stunningly unequal society, with wealth piling up at the top so fast that an entire movement, Occupy Wall Street, sprung up to decry it with the catchphrase “We are the 99%.”

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Donald Sterling Banned for Life – NBA Commissioner Adam Silver bans clippers owner!

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The right’s Piketty nightmare: Coming of age in the era of Post-Exceptionalism

From Salon:

If conservatives want to ignore his warnings about inequality, we’re not the only ones who’ll suffer. They will too

Thursday, Apr 24, 2014

For most Americans, reports of our yawning, fast-expanding wealth gap only confirm what we’ve already seen and experienced in our own lives. If your job or industry has evaporated due to technological change or automation, if you’ve watched your factory position get shipped oversees (oftentimes offered, in one final bit of cruel irony, to train your foreign replacements first), if you’ve graduated from college or grad school in the past decade, only to find a nation with far too many applicants and far too few positions — reports on the existence of two Americas, one for the “haves” and one for the “have-nots” will not surprise you.

We are living in the Age of Post-Exceptional America.

An unavoidable fact of life in modern America, our growing inequality of income and wealth has eroded this nation’s middle class and its economy, like a cavity or a tumor. Crucially, this disruptive inequality continues to expand, as confirmed by an increasingly large body of research from sources as varied as an obscure French economist (turned bestselling author) to the front page of the New York Times.

In the Times, David Leonhardt and Kevin Quealy report on new data from the “Luxembourg Income Study Database,” which shows that America’s middle class — long the wealthiest in the world — has been surpassed by the middle classes of much of Western Europe and Canada. Basically, they explain, while Wall Street booms and corporate profits soar, the wealth of average Americans is stagnant or fading. As Leonhardt and Quealy put it,

The findings are striking because the most commonly cited economic statistics — such as per capita gross domestic product — continue to show that the United States has maintained its lead as the world’s richest large country. But those numbers are averages, which do not capture the distribution of income. With a big share of recent income gains in this country flowing to a relatively small slice of high-earning households, most Americans are not keeping pace with their counterparts around the world.

The authors are careful to note that their research only goes to 2010, but there’s no reason to think that these trends haven’t continued in the years since — or that they won’t continue in the future.

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If There’s a Transgender Culture, I’m Not Part of It

From Jezebel:

Kat Callahan
April 27, 2014

Recently the term “transgender culture” has became more and more common a term in discourse about LGBT topics. Perhaps alongside “gay culture” or “queer culture,” this new term is seen as recognising the unique lived experiences of transgender individuals. Yet, is this a term with actual substance?

There most certainly are transgender cultures, such as the Hijra in India, the Kathoey in Thailand, the Waria in Indonesia, etc. There are transgender communities within indigenous cultures. This is not what seems to be discussed here. What is a transgender culture in a Western, and especially Americentric, context? This Western, even Americentric, idea of a “transgender culture” seems to have really come up in wider pop culture headlines, in articles, in blog posts, and in comments over the past year.

There’s just one big issue with this concept of a “transgender culture.” I have no idea what it means. And I can’t seem to figure it out in the references to it.

Even Huffington Post’s transgender page references a “culture.” Of course, as Mitch Kellaway says, HuffPo probably isn’t exactly the best source when it comes to learning about trans issues, let alone what might constitute a transgender culture. Kellaway was one of HuffPoGay’s writers until the website’s decision to run Alaska Thunderfuck’s controversial video which many (including myself) felt targeted trans women writers (and perhaps one in particular). That incident was what finally pushed him to end the relationship, but he’d been uncomfortable with the website for some time.

My growing qualms had everything to do with your position as a non-trans-run platform that has real effects, via your editorial choices, on how trans people can expect to be publicly related to…

It’s really important to note that when I have seen “transgender culture” written, it has almost always invariably been in works by cisgender individuals. The works seem more like those of amateur anthropologists discussing some foreign group, rather than descriptions of an actual culture, while others just don’t even describe what it is. Vogue ran a piece on Barney’s use of transgender models which included a title that referenced “transgender culture,” yet then did not go on to explain of what this supposed “transgender culture” actually consisted. Huffington Post, as mentioned earlier, didn’t either. The closest I could find to anyone actually discussing “transgender culture” as an actually identifiable culture was extremist religious groups denouncing “transgender culture” as part of the “gay agenda.” Not exactly reliable.

Honestly, if there is a “transgender culture” of which I am a part, I sure don’t know it. How do I identify this “transgender culture,” anyway? Before answering this question, I think we have to ask ourselves what marks out identifiable transgender communities in these non-Western cultures (India, Thailand, and Indonesia), and perhaps what marks out identifiable “gay” or “queer” subcultures within our own. Is there any real way to compare? And just what is culture anyhow?

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Blah, Blah, Blah: Sylvia Rivera and community identity

I was a contemporary of Sylvia Rivera.  We never met.  I was west coast, she was east coast.

I never thought of her as some sort of great saint.  I never considered myself to be part of the street queen hustler culture.

But then I never really saw being transsexual as the basis for forming “a community.”

All the identity politics jive came much later.

There has been this hagiography developed around Sylvia.  STAR may have been important in NYC but its impact was bordered by the Hudson and East Rivers.

Tapestry did more to create the modern “trans-community” than anyone else.

But everyone is looking for saints, everyone wants a trans* Rosa Parks when many of the actual pioneers were sex workers and scam artists out of economic necessity.

Most of the pioneers died unrecognized.  Way too many from drug abuse and too many others from AIDS.  Yet others died from lack of health insurance to cover things like heart disease.

Those who stayed in the ghetto had harder lives than those who broke free.  SRS led to better lives for those who had it and got out than did staying non-op and remaining “in the community.”

Oddly enough the latest skirmish in the perpetual trans-wars, which had died down over the last couple of years involves the “Trans-Community” attempting to distance itself from the very scene Sylvia came from, the scene that was documented in “Paris is Burning.”

For what it is worth: Sylvia had zero impact on my life or the lives of my friends who went through SRS in the early 1970s.  To us Sylvia was a queen who drank to much and made scenes that created hassles for us in the women’s movement.

From The San Diego LGBT Weekly:

Sylvia Rivera and community identity

by Autumn Sandeen

A friend recently pointed me to a video of trans advocate Sylvia Rivera’s Y’all Better Quiet Down speech at New York City’s 1973 Liberation Day Rally. In the speech she stated, “I believe in the gay power. I believe in us getting our rights or else I would not be out their fighting for our rights.” She saw gender variant people as herself belonging to the gay community.

Rivera referred to her “gay brothers and gay sisters” in jail who were “beaten up and raped,” and they hadn’t “spent much of their money in jail to get themselves pumped and to try to get their sex change[s]. The women have tried to fight for their sex changes and become women of the women’s liberation.”

In a pamphlet entitled Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries written about the STAR project of the early 1970s, Rivera talked about being a “half sister.”

“Transvestites are homosexual men and women who dress in clothes of the opposite sex,” Rivera wrote. “Male transvestites dress and live as women. Half sisters like myself are women with the minds of women trapped in male bodies. Female transvestites dress and live as men. My half brothers are men with male minds trapped in female bodies. Transvestites are the most oppressed people in the homosexual community. My half sisters and brothers are being raped and murdered by pigs, straights and even sometimes by other uptight homosexuals who consider us the scum of the gay community. They do this because they are not liberated.”

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Considering the current skirmish in the Transgender Community regarding the word “tranny” and the attacks on Jayne County, Andrea James and Calpernia Addams I some how have a hard time imagining that today’s “Trans-Community” would embrace the Sylvia of the late 1960s- early 1970s any more than the transsexual women of my era embrace her or the crazy west coast person who went by the name of Angela Douglas for a while.

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Don’t Include Me in this Imaginary Trans-Community: “We’re not duped: Palestine is an important issue for transgender communities”

Fuck you, with your antisemitic hate Israel and the Jews campaigns.  Anti-Zionism is coded language for Jew Hating.

The BDS Movement is Jew hating in action.

The attacking people who work for Isaraeli companies and universities is the same sort of behavior the ultra right wing uses for attacking people who support the rights of LGBT people.

Why am I supposed to support the Palestinians?  Seriously.  It seems as though they have had nearly 70 years to make peace with the Israelis.  Over those years Israel has had to defend itself from numerous Arab Nations attempting to wipe it out.

They were forced to wage a war on terror for nearly 50 years, prior to the 9/11 attack upon the USA in 2001.  If the people of the US had lost a proportionate number of people to suicide bombing that Israel has lost, the numbers would be in the tens of thousands and we too would be in a constant state of war.

Count me out of this campaign of ill disguised antisemitism.

From DePaulia:

By Aiden Bettine
Sunday, April 27, 2014

Editor’s note: This is in response to the recent op-ed “Israel Divestment campaign poses threat to peace, cooperation,” and concerns the overarching debate over student proposals for divestment from Israel.

The Israeli military occupation of Palestine is an important issue for trans* communities (editor’s note: the asterisk stands for inclusivity and refers to all identities in the gender spectrum that do not adhere to the gender binary). We as members of Trans*(formation) DePaul are proud to be a part of DePaul Divest, a student coalition calling for our university to divest from companies that profit from human rights violations committed by the Israeli government.

We see our struggles as transgender people as connected to the struggles of Palestinians. When we compare the experiences of Palestinians living under military occupation and the experiences of transgender communities in the United States, we see striking similarities: policing and mass incarceration, denial of access to healthcare, harmful stereotypes, media images that depict us as violent and unstable, and legacies of colonialism. Our communities are suffering at the hands of the same systems — and even the same companies.

Some of the companies that DePaul Divest is targeting also profit off of the oppression of transgender people. For example, DePaul is invested in Hewlett Packard. In Palestine, HP provides technology for checkpoints and surveillance systems and computer technology used by the Israeli military. HP products are also used in prisons and detention centers where Israel detains African migrants. Here in the United States, HP provides database technology used in prisons. Trans people — especially trans women of color — are disproportionately incarcerated. Therefore, HP profits from our oppression too.

We resent attempts to enlist our community in supporting the Israeli government. Since the early 2000s, the Israeli government has spent thousands of dollars targeting U.S. LGBTQ communities. Activists call this PR strategy “pinkwashing.” Through pride floats, film festivals, tours and advertising campaigns, the Israeli government has tried to persuade us that Israel is a gay- friendly country. But it’s obvious why the Israeli government wants to sell us its gay rights record. As Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) writes, “It’s not about gay rights … Pinkwashing aims to disparage Israel’s neighbors in order to justify the country’s existence as necessary by any means, relying on the image of a lone democracy barely surviving surrounded by violent, intolerant, women- hating and backward societies.”

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Sad, Sad, Sad: Transgender women reflect on a lifetime of change

I never lived in the Tenderloin of San Francisco although I spent some 18 months or so working as a cashier at a porno theater there and co-running the NTCU.

I lived in Berkeley in a hippie/radical commune when I came out and started hormones, lived in Berkeley until I was over and done with SRS, electrolysis, dental work etc.

Then I moved to Los Angeles to start over.  Most of my friends from the Stanford Program did something similar.

No one told us to do so.  Most of us didn’t much care for the Bay Area.  When I visited LA in 1973 I fell in love with the place.  When I was “California Dreamin'” as a kid I imagined warm and sunny not perpetually damp with icy wind.

Further I didn’t get SRS to spend my life in the trans-ghetto.

Hippie/leftie had more impact on making me who I was than being transsexual.

My circle of friends always included non-trans-folk as well as trans-folk.  My fondness for suburbia is a product of my old age, however I never much cared for living in the same apartment building as a bunch of other trans-folks.

Too much drama, too much spiteful bullshit.  Better to have friends scattered around the city.

This is why I think it is sad when trans-folks who were my contemoraries are still stuck in San Francisco, never mind the Tenderloin, that fast disappearing collection of near tenement apartments and scary sleazy bars, and whore strolls.

Even before I came out sisters looked at getting out of the ghetto as a major step in getting their lives together.

From The Bay Area Reporter:

by Matthew S. Bajko
April 24, 2014

In June longtime transgender activist Felicia Elizondo will celebrate turning 68. Yet she still finds it hard to believe she has reached her senior years.

She also marvels at having lived long enough to see the enormous strides made by the transgender community since she and other trans people stood up against police harassment late one night in 1966 at the now defunct Compton’s Cafeteria in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district.

“I didn’t think I would live this long to see the changes that have happened over the last 50 years,” said Elizondo, who is also known as Felicia Flames.

In March, Elizondo joined two other transgender women in their 60s on a panel hosted by the GLBT Historical Society to reflect on their lives and the changes they have witnessed.

At 14, Elizondo moved from Stockton to San Jose with a gay man she had met. By 16 she was spending weekends in the Tenderloin, considered back then the “gay mecca” of San Francisco, she said.

“Growing up we were called trash and gutter girls,” she said. “We didn’t matter to the community.”

Elizondo joined the Navy and volunteered to go to Vietnam, because “I didn’t want to be gay,” she recalled. “I thought maybe I would be killed and all this will be over. If the military doesn’t make me a man, nothing will. And it didn’t.”

In 1974 she transitioned while working as a long distance operator for Pacific Telephone.

“Transgender women could not be in the closet. We had to be out and proud,” said Elizondo. “Gay men and lesbians could be in the closet, go to work and make their money.”

Five decades ago “was a bad era. We couldn’t get jobs. We couldn’t get housing,” recalled San Francisco native Tamara Ching, 64, a transgender woman who also took part in the panel. “In the 1960s we could not walk around in anything other than our birth gender. The police were mean and would disperse you.”

Many of the transwomen Ching knew back then in the Tenderloin turned to prostitution to make a living. They rode the “merry-go-round,” she said, a circular path along O’Farrell and Ellis between Leavenworth and Jones they continuously walked in an attempt to avoid being stopped by the police.

“We whored, whored, whored,” said Ching. “Sex work empowered me.”

While she suffers from diabetes and hepatitis C, Ching remains HIV-negative despite having never used a condom with the “3,500 tricks” she estimates she was paid to sleep with.

“I expected to have HIV and AIDS like all my sisters,” she said.

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Vancouver transgender inclusion report excludes transsexuals, activists say

From Vancouver Straight:

Trans and gender-variant inclusion working group criticized for recommendations

by Stephen Hui
on Apr 24, 2014

A long-time transsexual activist doesn’t want to see the words “Trans people welcome” put on washroom signs at Vancouver parks and recreation facilities.

“Would we put ‘First Nations welcome?” Jamie Lee Hamilton asked during a phone interview. “Would we put ‘Asian people welcome’? Would we put ‘Blacks welcome’?”

Hamilton plans to seek a nomination from the Coalition of Progressive Electors to run for park board in the November civic election. She spoke to the Georgia Straight in response to a City of Vancouver task force’s 64-page report aimed at making parks, community centres, and swimming pools more welcoming to trans and gender-variant people.

On Monday (April 28), Hamilton plans to attend a park board meeting in order to tell commissioners that the trans and gender-variant inclusion working group’s report should be considered a “starting point” and not a finished product. According to her, the report seemingly reflects the needs of everyone under the trans umbrella except for transsexual people.

“We were the ones that led the battles, that did the heavy lifting in the old days to create spaces for future generations of transsexual and transgender people,” Hamilton said. “We were the ones that fought to have gender reassignment surgery as a medically insured procedure. But yet that’s just all erased and wiped out for this new ‘trans’ moniker that’s supposed to include everyone and the kitchen sink.”

The working group’s report contains around 75 recommendations dealing with public spaces, signs, programs, financial accessibility, literature, training, and partnerships. One recommendation seeks the removal of “gendered symbols of bodies” from washroom and change room signs. Another recommendation calls for signs relating to men’s and women’s spaces to “indicate inclusion of trans* and gender variant patrons”.

“What we’re talking about is—10, 20, 30 years from now—trans kids of the future won’t confined by the gender limitations and constraints of today,” Drew Dennis, cochair of the working group, told the Straight on April 22. “That’s particularly exciting for me.”

However, Velvet Steele told the Straight that she was “offended” by the report. The transsexual dominatrix and sex work activist asserted that the term “transgender” has become “so bastardized and so appropriated”. She feels the working group ignored the transsexual community while focusing on “those who choose to not use any sort of definable gender marker for themselves”.

“I happen to be a woman,” Steele said by phone. “I’ve gone to great lengths to become a woman—to be the person I’ve known I was from birth….To sit there and lump us under gender-variant, transgender, trans-this—all this shit is really pissing me off. And the fact that I’ve been yet again excluded from any conversation regarding all this.”

According to Hamilton, the composition of the working group also does not reflect the trans community. For one thing, she noted that at least half of its eight members, including both of its cochairs, work at or sit on the board of the same queer arts organization—Out on Screen.

Hamilton questioned why the working group only held two community meetings during several months of public engagement. (It also conducted focus groups and online surveys.) She’s calling for “broadly based” consultations that “hear from everyone”.

“We have many members of our community—I’d say the majority—who live very stealth lives, meaning they pass in society,” Hamilton said. “They’re not out about their transsexual status. So they often don’t want to out themselves if it’s going to create a problem for them.”

Although Hamilton is critical of the working group, she supports some of its recommendations, particularly those pertaining to awareness and sensitivity training for park staff.

“What they really should be focusing on is education and educational programs,” Steele said. “Running around and changing the names on bathrooms and all these other different things so that it’s ambiguous, I don’t really necessarily think it’s the right approach. But if you want to talk about washrooms that everyone can walk into, I think it’s great. When we go visit our friends, we all use the same washroom, whether you’re a man or woman.”

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How have these corporations colonised our public life?

From The Guardian UK:

Our politicians have delegated power to global giants engineering a world of conformity and consumerism

The Guardian, Monday 7 April 2014

How do you engineer a bland, depoliticised world, a consensus built around consumption and endless growth, a dream world of materialism and debt and atomisation, in which all relations can be prefixed with a dollar sign, in which we cease to fight for change? You delegate your powers to companies whose profits depend on this model.

Power is shifting: to places in which we have no voice or vote. Domestic policies are forged by special advisers and spin doctors, by panels and advisory committees stuffed with lobbyists. The self-hating state withdraws its own authority to regulate and direct. Simultaneously, the democratic vacuum at the heart of global governance is being filled, without anything resembling consent, by international bureaucrats and corporate executives. The NGOs permitted – often as an afterthought – to join them intelligibly represent neither civil society nor electorates. (And please spare me that guff about consumer democracy or shareholder democracy: in both cases some people have more votes than others, and those with the most votes are the least inclined to press for change.)

To me, the giant consumer goods company Unilever, with which I clashed over the issue of palm oil a few days ago, symbolises these shifting relationships. I can think of no entity that has done more to blur the lines between the role of the private sector and the role of the public sector. If you blotted out its name while reading its web pages, you could mistake it for an agency of the United Nations.

It seems to have representation almost everywhere. Its people inhabit (to name a few) the British government’s Ecosystem Markets Task Force and Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the World Food Programme, the Global Green Growth Forum, the UN’s Scaling Up Nutrition programme, its Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Global Compact and the UN High Level Panel on global development.

Sometimes Unilever uses this power well. Its efforts to reduce its own use of energy and water and its production of waste, and to project these changes beyond its own walls, look credible and impressive. Sometimes its initiatives look to me like self-serving bullshit.

Its “Dove self-esteem project”, for instance, claims to be “helping millions of young people to improve their self-esteem through educational programmes”. One of its educational videos maintains that beauty “couldn’t be more critical to your happiness“, which is surely the belief that trashes young people’s self-esteem in the first place. But of course you can recover it by plastering yourself with Dove-branded gloop: Unilever reports that 82% of women in Canada who are aware of its project “would be more likely to purchase Dove“.

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Florida City About To Make It Illegal For Homeless People To Have Possessions In Public

From Think Progress:

By Scott Keyes
April 21, 2014

A backpack. Spare clothes. A notebook. Some keepsake photos. Crackers.

Though they may not have a home in which to secure their stuff, homeless people still have possessions like everyone else.

Yet the city of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida is on the cusp of passing a new regulation that would make it illegal for anyone to store their personal things on public property. Specifically, it would empower police to confiscate any personal possessions stored on public property, provided they have given the homeless person 24-hours notice. If the homeless people wish to retrieve their items, they must pay the city “reasonable charges for storage and removal of the items,” though that fee is waived if the person is able to demonstrate he or she cannot afford to pay. The city may dispose of any possessions not retrieved within 30 days. One of the driving factors behind the measure, according to the legislation, is the city’s “interest in aesthetics.”

Last week, the City Commission gave unanimous preliminary approval to the measure, despite overwhelming opposition from local residents who testified.

One woman, Gazol Tajalli, told Commissioners that is “insanity that we are even here discussing whether an individual can put on the ground the few objects that they own.” Another citizen, Rev. Gail Tapscott of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ft. Lauderdale, criticized some of the Commissioners for “demoniz[ing]” the homeless.

Maria Foscarinis, Executive Director of the National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, chastised Ft. Lauderdale’s approach. “Maintaining city streets is a legitimate concern, but simply punishing homeless people for leaving their possessions in public places is not an effective or humane way to address it,” she told ThinkProgress. “Instead, city and business leaders should work with advocates and homeless people to develop alternative short and long term solutions, such as public storage options for homeless people and affordable housing.”

According to the Sun Sentinel, “The commission’s actions were backed by business leaders who said they were looking for some controls on a situation that scares away customers and makes visitors uncomfortable.” The commission is also considering other initiatives targeting the homeless, including stiffer penalties for urinating or defecating in public, prohibitions on panhandling at intersections or sleeping in public, and restrictions on charity groups that hand out food to the homeless.

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I Just love the David Barton Like Approach to Transgender History That Operates on Virginia Prince Myth Rather Than the Lives of Actual Transsexual Women and Men

Recently Calpernia Addams and Andrea James have discovered what it feels like when the myth lovers of the Transgender Borg declare you obsolete.

It is sort of like a right of passage into post-transsexual status.

The Community of all knowing Newbies have pronounced, “That was then, this is Now.”

Then they proceed to whip out Virginia Prince generated stereotypes of what transsexuals were supposed to be like if they were actually women.

Thing is from Christine Jorgensen and Roberta Cowell forward damned few transsexual women and men fit the stereotypes that Virginia Prince and followers tried to foist upon us.

Further if you look in the early medical books regarding transsexualism you will find how big a role the Prince of many names played in the creation of this mythology.

When I read something like the piece in Huffington Post: Parker Molloy Does Not Hate RuPaul I am forced to speak out against the perpetuation of mythology worthy of the David Barton medal of historical lies and distortion.

Recently a public dispute erupted between the transgender old guard and the new wave of trans* advocates and journalists. This kind of thing is not new. When I was a young transgender woman coming to terms with my own gender identity, I recall vividly how many transsexuals found it offensive to be lumped in with crossdressers and gender queer individuals. I don’t think I quite understood the concept yet of “transsexual separatists,” but I often heard women speak about the differences between transsexuals and transgender people. Most of the transsexual women I knew had gone to Trinidad, Colo., in the 1970s and had received what was then called a “sex change operation.” These women were students of Dr. Harry Benjamin and had been convinced that once they had physically transitioned they must join “straight” society and then marry and live obscure lives in the suburbs.

I must be clear here when I tell you that Benjamin was a pioneer in recognizing that trans* people deserved the best medical care known to him at that time. From all accounts he was a doctor who understood that people presenting as gender-variant required a doctor to oversee their transition. On the other hand, Dr. Benjamin still did not understand that gender is not binary and in many instances, he pushed patients to learn to be attracted to members of the opposite sex. These were the very early days of gender confirmation in the United States.

Over the course of the following 50 to 60 years, much has been learned about the spectrum in which gender lies. The purpose of mentioning the early days of the transgender moment is that it directly connects to what our community is presently experiencing.

First bit of mythology and total bullshit (These women were students of Dr. Harry Benjamin)

I first came out to my parents in 1962, they had discovered a bunch of clippings from a tabloid featuring April Ashley’s life story including transition and sex change operation.  They asked me if that was what I wanted to be.  I said, “That’s what I am.”

When I came out in 1969 I was in the Bay Area and a number of sisters had laid the ground work, there were doctors at a public health clinic they had educated as to our needs.

There were a number of places we could get our sex change operations.

I was a left wing hippie radical in Berkeley at the time, aiding deserters and draft evaders.  I was afraid of the Tenderloin and never went there.  My friends were other left wing hippies.

Later I became involved with the National Transsexual Counseling Unit.  I taught doctors and others about transsexualism.  Oh Dr. Benjamin wrote my surgery recommendation.

I went through the Stanford Program, including the group sessions which were as diverse if not more so than similar sessions I visited in the 1990s.

It was 1972 and I met damn few sisters with stereotypical white picket fence dreams.  Indeed feminism was as popular with us as it was with non-trans women.  Maybe more so as most states wouldn’t change birth certificates and marriage legality was sketchy at best.  After all we knew what April Ashley had gone through.

Those of us who got our SRS in those early days included folks like Lynn Conway and others who helped make the tech industry a career of choice for so many of us.

A lot of us were dykes.  I came out after SRS and after breaking up with a boyfriend of three years.  Became a photographer, worked for the Lesbian Tide.

A few, a minority got married.

Then in 1980 Jon Meyers and Paul McHugh of Johns Hopkins came out with a study that pronounced Sex Reassignment Surgery a failure because so few of us conformed to the white picket fence stereotypes.

You see those stereotypes were more in the 1950s era imagination of Dr. Benjamin.  Contrary to popular thought his book wasn’t written in 1966 but was a compilation of articles written between 1950 and 1966.  It reflects the Feminine Mystique and little more.

I never called myself a Benjamin girl or Stanford girl, I was my own woman.  Most of us were.

Wrong statement. 2.:  (required a doctor to oversee their transition) Doctors were prescription writers, nothing more.  I saw more psychiatrists as a model client in an attempt to get the government to pay for SRS than I saw at Stanford as part of their pre-surgery screening process.  On doctor I went to when evaluating surgeons required only Dr. B’s letter and a letter from my prescribing physician.

All the requirements for psych professionals and doctors overseeing ones transition is a post 1980s era invention.

Fuck you and the “Transsexual Separatist” slur.  It is a tired piece of shit used to beat people up and keep them part of something long after they should have gotten on with their lives.

I had SRS over 40 years ago there are far more important things in my life than a bunch of whiny oh so sensitive trannie newbees demanding long time sisters and brothers hang around and wipe their noses.

Many of us lived lives on the edge and  face old age in poverty.  We aren’t all professional transgender care givers, paid to wipe noses.

Besides which there is more to life than just being trans*.

Most of us have lives and interests other than something we had an operation for many years ago.

Besides which the new generation knows everything there is to know and have rewritten history just like David Barton did to bolster their unwavering belief in a way of thinking that is pretty damned alien to those of us who went before.

I have my friends who are trans* but I am not part of “the Teans-Community.”  If I am a part of any communities they are defined by things like hippie or old, or swap meet folks.


Let This Earth Day Be The Last

It’s Game Over Time.  We are now in The End of the World As We Know It mode.  Think those weird winters and extra hot summers, the drought in California are an aberration…  Think again.  People should have listened to Paul Ehrlich when “The Population Bomb” was published in the late 1960s.  Or read “The Limits of Growth” when it was published in 1972.

It is officially too late now.  We are over the 400ppm and will soon hit unthinkable levels.  We will see ocean rise and the deaths of millions of people.

As well as the end of capitalism as we know it.

We will live far simpler lives with out the plenty of the past.

Earth Day was so nice and so feel good.  The marketing people loved it

OTOH the media labeled people actually trying to do something, people like Earth First, Sea Shepherd, and ELF as eco-terrorists.  All the while ignoring the real eco-terrorists, the people who rape mother earth for the profit of the already obscenely rich.

From The Nation:

Wen Stephenson
on April 22, 2014

“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle.”
—Frederick Douglass, 1857

Fuck Earth Day.

No, really. Fuck Earth Day. Not the first one, forty-four years ago, the one of sepia-hued nostalgia, but everything the day has since come to be: the darkest, cruelest, most brutally self-satirizing spectacle of the year.

Fuck it. Let it end here.

End the dishonesty, the deception. Stop lying to yourselves, and to your children. Stop pretending that the crisis can be “solved,” that the planet can be “saved,” that business more-or-less as usual—what progressives and environmentalists have been doing for forty-odd years and more—is morally or intellectually tenable. Let go of the pretense that “environmentalism” as we know it—virtuous green consumerism, affluent low-carbon localism, head-in-the-sand conservationism, feel-good greenwashed capitalism—comes anywhere near the radical response our situation requires.

So, yeah, I’ve had it with Earth Day—and the culture of progressive green denial it represents.

* * *

But why Frederick Douglass? Why bring him into this? And who am I to invoke him—a man who was born a slave and who freed himself from slavery, who knew something about struggle, whose words were among the most radical ever spoken on American soil? Who the hell am I? I’ve never suffered racial or any other kind of oppression. I’ve never had to fight for any fundamental rights. I’m not even a radical, really. (Nor am I an “environmentalist”—and never have been.) All I want is a livable world, and the possibility of social justice. So who am I to quote Frederick Douglass?

Let me tell you who I am: I’m a human being. I’m the father of two young children, a 14-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter, who face a deeply uncertain future on this planet. I’m a husband, a son, a brother—and a citizen. And, yes, I’m a journalist, and I’m an activist. And like more and more of us who are fighting for climate justice, I am engaged in a struggle—a struggle—for the fate of humanity and of life on Earth. Not a polite debate around the dinner table, or in a classroom, or an editorial meeting—or an Earth Day picnic. I’m talking about a struggle. A struggle for justice on a global scale. A struggle for human dignity and human rights for my fellow human beings, beginning with the poorest and most vulnerable, far and near. A struggle for my own children’s future—but not only my children, all of our children, everywhere. A life-and-death struggle for the survival of all that I love. Because that is what the climate fight and the fight for climate justice is. That’s what it is.

Because, I’m sorry, this is not a test. This is really happening. The Arctic and the glaciers are melting. The great forests are dying and burning. The oceans are rising and acidifying. The storms, the floods—the droughts and heat waves—are intensifying. The breadbaskets are parched and drying. And all of it faster and sooner than scientists predicted. The window in which to act is closing before our eyes.

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Chelsea Manning: A Statement on My Legal Name Change

From Huffington Post:

Chelsea Manning

Today is an exciting day. A judge in the state of Kansas has officially ordered my name to be changed from “Bradley Edward Manning” to “Chelsea Elizabeth Manning.” I’ve been working for months for this change, and waiting for years.

It’s worth noting that both in mail and in person, I’ve often been asked, “Why are you changing your name?” The answer couldn’t be simpler: because it’s a far better, richer, and more honest reflection of who I am and always have been: a woman named Chelsea.

But there is another question I’ve been asked nearly as much: “Why are you making this request of the Leavenworth district court?” This is a more complicated question, but the short answer is simple: because I have to.

Unfortunately, the trans* community faces three major obstacles to living a normal life in America: identity documentation, gender-segregated institutions, and access to health care. And I’ve only just jumped through the first one of these hurdles.

In our current society it’s the most banal things, such as showing an ID card, going to the bathroom, and receiving trans-related health care, that keep us from having the means to live better, more productive, and safer lives. Unfortunately, there are many laws and procedures that often don’t consider trans* people, or even outright prevent them from doing the sort of simple, day-to-day things that others take for granted.

Now I am waiting on the military to assist me in accessing health care. In August I requested that the military provide me with a treatment plan consistent with the recognized professional standards of care for trans health. They quickly evaluated me and informed me that they had come up with a proposed treatment plan. However, I have not yet seen their treatment plan, and in over eight months I have not received any response as to whether the plan will be approved or disapproved, or whether it follows the guidelines of qualified health professionals.

I’m optimistic that things can — and certainly will — change for the better. There are so many people in America today who are open and willing to discuss trans-related issues. Hopefully today’s name change, while so meaningful to me personally, can also raise awareness of the fact that we trans* people exist everywhere in America today, and that we must jump through hurdles every day just for being who we are. If I’m successful in obtaining access to trans health care, not only will it be something I have wanted for a long time myself, but it will open the door for many people, both inside and outside the military, to request the right to live more open, fulfilled lives.

Thank you,
Chelsea Manning

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Rand Paul criticizing Ronald Reagan

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The Change Within: The Obstacles We Face Are Not Just External

From The Nation:

The climate crisis has such bad timing, confronting it not only requires a new economy but a new way of thinking.

Naomi Klein
April 21, 2014

This is a story about bad timing.

One of the most disturbing ways that climate change is already playing out is through what ecologists call “mismatch” or “mistiming.” This is the process whereby warming causes animals to fall out of step with a critical food source, particularly at breeding times, when a failure to find enough food can lead to rapid population losses.

The migration patterns of many songbird species, for instance, have evolved over millennia so that eggs hatch precisely when food sources such as caterpillars are at their most abundant, providing parents with ample nourishment for their hungry young. But because spring now often arrives early, the caterpillars are hatching earlier too, which means that in some areas they are less plentiful when the chicks hatch, threatening a number of health and fertility impacts. Similarly, in West Greenland, caribou are arriving at their calving grounds only to find themselves out of sync with the forage plants they have relied on for thousands of years, now growing earlier thanks to rising temperatures. That is leaving female caribou with less energy for lactation, reproduction and feeding their young, a mismatch that has been linked to sharp decreases in calf births and survival rates.

Scientists are studying cases of climate-related mistiming among dozens of species, from Arctic terns to pied flycatchers. But there is one important species they are missing—us. Homo sapiens. We too are suffering from a terrible case of climate-related mistiming, albeit in a cultural-historical, rather than a biological, sense. Our problem is that the climate crisis hatched in our laps at a moment in history when political and social conditions were uniquely hostile to a problem of this nature and magnitude—that moment being the tail end of the go-go ’80s, the blastoff point for the crusade to spread deregulated capitalism around the world. Climate change is a collective problem demanding collective action the likes of which humanity has never actually accomplished. Yet it entered mainstream consciousness in the midst of an ideological war being waged on the very idea of the collective sphere.

This deeply unfortunate mistiming has created all sorts of barriers to our ability to respond effectively to this crisis. It has meant that corporate power was ascendant at the very moment when we needed to exert unprecedented controls over corporate behavior in order to protect life on earth. It has meant that regulation was a dirty word just when we needed those powers most. It has meant that we are ruled by a class of politicians who know only how to dismantle and starve public institutions, just when they most need to be fortified and reimagined. And it has meant that we are saddled with an apparatus of “free trade” deals that tie the hands of policy-makers just when they need maximum flexibility to achieve a massive energy transition.

Confronting these various structural barriers to the next economy is the critical work of any serious climate movement. But it’s not the only task at hand. We also have to confront how the mismatch between climate change and market domination has created barriers within our very selves, making it harder to look at this most pressing of humanitarian crises with anything more than furtive, terrified glances. Because of the way our daily lives have been altered by both market and technological triumphalism, we lack many of the observational tools necessary to convince ourselves that climate change is real—let alone the confidence to believe that a different way of living is possible.

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It’s the End of the World as We Know It . . . and He Feels Fine

From The New York Times:

Late one night last August, on the chalk downlands of southern England, Paul Kingsnorth stood in a field beside an old-growth forest, two yurts and a composting toilet. Kingsnorth is 41, tall, slim and energetic, with sweeping brown hair and a sparse beard. He wears rimless glasses and a silver stud in his ear, and he talks with great ardor, often apologizing for having said too much or for having said it too strongly.

On this occasion, Kingsnorth was silent. It was the final night of Uncivilization, an outdoor festival run by the Dark Mountain Project, a loose network of ecologically minded artists and writers, and he was standing with several dozen others waiting for the festival’s midnight ritual to begin. Kingsnorth, a founder of the group, had already taken part in several sessions that day, including one on contemporary nature writing; a panel about the iniquities of mainstream psychiatric care; and a reading from his most recent book, “The Wake,” a novel set in the 11th century and written in a “shadow language” — a mash-up of Old and modern English. He had also helped his two young children assemble a train set while trying to encapsulate his views on climate change and environmental degradation in what Kingsnorth describes as an era of global disruption. The “human machine,” as he sometimes puts it, has grown to such a size that breakdown is inevitable. What, then, do we do?

In the clearing, above a pyre, someone had erected a tall wicker sculpture in the shape of a tree, with dense gnarls and hanging hoops. Four men in masks knelt at the sculpture’s base, at cardinal compass points. When midnight struck, a fifth man, his head shaved smooth and wearing a kimono, began to walk slowly around them. As he passed the masked figures, each ignited a yellow flare, until finally, his circuit complete, the bald man set the sculpture on fire. For a couple of minutes, it was quiet. Then as the wicker blazed, a soft chant passed through the crowd, the words only gradually becoming clear: “We are gathered. We are gathered. We are gathered.”

After that came disorder. A man wearing a stag mask bounded into the clearing and shouted: “Come! Let’s play!” The crowd broke up. Some headed for bed. A majority headed for the woods, to a makeshift stage that had been blocked off with hay bales and covered by an enormous nylon parachute. There they danced, sang, laughed, barked, growled, hooted, mooed, bleated and meowed, forming a kind of atavistic, improvisatory choir. Deep into the night, you could hear them from your tent, shifting every few minutes from sound to sound, animal to animal and mood to mood.

The next morning over breakfast, Dougie Strang, a Scottish artist and performer who is on Dark Mountain’s steering committee, asked if I’d been there. When he left, at 3 a.m., he said, people were writhing in the mud and singing, in harmony, the children’s song “Teddy Bears’ Picnic.” (“If you go down in the woods today, you’re sure of a big surprise.”) “Wasn’t it amazing?” he said, grinning. “It really went mental. I think we actually achieved uncivilization.”

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No More Petitions, They are a Waste of Time

There are things we are conditioned to do that give us the illusion of actually having done something.

Signing petitions is one of those things.

Has signing an on line petition from Care2 or ever actually changed anything? Ever?

Signing petitions is an act of masturbation.  It feels good but accomplishes nothing else.

Last week a bunch of people who should know better formed a mob to attack Andrea James and Calpernia Addams.

What the fuck was that all about?

Who cares other than the marketing firms that buy copies of these petitions to send begging letters or sell products?

We face an extremely grim near future between the rise of the oligarchs, end stage capitalism and eco collapse.

The time for meaningless gestures is long past.  The time for thinking those meaningless gestures create change is over, dead, no longer relevant.

Now is the time of existential moral crisis. To be or not to be? To slip into total nihilism or to take up arms and continue to struggle in the face of hopelessness.

I’m glad I am old.  Age is the great leveler.  Knowing I have lived many more years than the number I have yet to live is liberating.



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Happy Earth Day. We Just Reached Another Scary Climate Change Milestone

From Huffington Post:

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Princeton Study: U.S. No Longer An Actual Democracy

Tell me again why we should let assholes like Bloomberg convince us to confiscate people’s guns.  I love the totalitarian state the oligarchs have created.  One where they dangle puppets and divisive issues to distract us from our ever increasing enslavement.

All the talking heads, who are paid shills out to convince us to be at each others throats over bullshit “issues” while they transfer all the wealth and property to their control.

From Talking Points Memo:

Brendan James
April 18, 2014

Asking “[w]ho really rules?” researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page argue that over the past few decades America’s political system has slowly transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where wealthy elites wield most power.

Using data drawn from over 1,800 different policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, the two conclude that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of or even against the will of the majority of voters.

TPM Interview: Scholar Behind Viral ‘Oligarchy’ Study Tells You What It Means “The central point that emerges from our research is that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy,” they write, “while mass-based interest groups and average citizens have little or no independent influence.”

As one illustration, Gilens and Page compare the political preferences of Americans at the 50th income percentile to preferences of Americans at the 90th percentile as well as major lobbying or business groups. They find that the government—whether Republican or Democratic—more often follows the preferences of the latter group rather than the first.

The researches note that this is not a new development caused by, say, recent Supreme Court decisions allowing more money in politics, such as Citizens United or this month’s ruling on McCutcheon v. FEC. As the data stretching back to the 1980s suggests, this has been a long term trend, and is therefore harder for most people to perceive, let alone reverse.

“Ordinary citizens,” they write, “might often be observed to ‘win’ (that is, to get their preferred policy outcomes) even if they had no independent effect whatsoever on policy making, if elites (with whom they often agree) actually prevail.”

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