Tranny, Revisited by Auntie Kate

From Kate Bornstein:  http://katebornstein.typepad.com/kate_bornsteins_blog/2014/05/tranny-revisited-by-auntie-kate.html

May 25, 2014

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Tim Hardin

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About the ‘transgender umbrella’

From The San Diego LGBT Weekly:  http://lgbtweekly.com/2014/05/29/about-the-transgender-umbrella/

by Nicole Murray Ramirez

When I nominated six-year-old Ryland Whittington and his wonderful parents for this year’s Harvey Milk Inspirational Award, I knew the 1,000+ people attending the Sixth Annual Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast would react in the same way as I did when first meeting the Whittington family … I cried, getting emotional over this beautiful story of unconditional love these two parents share and have for their now transgender boy. Although I was not at the breakfast last Thursday, reports quickly spread that there was not a single dry eye in the hotels’ enormous ballroom.

When I was growing up in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, I lived as a pre-operative transsexual, first in Hollywood, then making the move to San Diego. Thank goodness I realized in time that I was not truly transgendered, but just a gay man who liked to do drag – a lot!

I was ridden with Catholic guilt as a teen and believed God would only love and accept me if I was a woman, not a homosexual. I even came close to having a full sex change operation before finally realizing that I was not actually a transsexual. At that pivotal moment in my life, I stopped living as a woman 24/7.

Transgender leaders of decades past unveiled what they called a ‘transgender umbrella’. Under it, they placed transsexuals, transvestites and even drag queens. The reality is that drag queens are gay men, while transvestites are straight. In my opinion, the inclusion of those communities should not be categorized under this so called transgender umbrella. We do not belong there.

The issues facing the transgender community are too important, serious and life changing. True transgender individuals need to be the primary focus. Drag queens and transvestites wind up confusing the masses. This does not help when it comes to acceptance and educating others about the transgender community and their specific issues.

I will always remain a strong advocate for the transgender community because of my own life experience. Six-year-old Ryland, and other youth like him, do not need to have drag queens and transvestites included in the same category, they only wind up clouding and confusing the struggling journey they are on. This is my humble opinion, one that comes from decades of being involved in this most serious issue.

“Yet another wake-up call”: Carbon pollution in Northern Hemisphere reaches record high

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/27/yet_another_wake_up_call_carbon_pollution_in_northern_hemisphere_reaches_record_high/

A new low (as in, high) for atmospheric CO2


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Carbon dioxide levels in the Northern Hemisphere reached a new milestone this April, the World Meteorological Organization announced Monday, with monthly atmospheric concentrations topping 400 parts per million for the first time in what’s believed to be millions of years.

The news itself will surprise few — without the significant mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions, we all understand this to be the path we’re heading down — but symbolically, it packs a punch. “This should serve as yet another wakeup call about the constantly rising levels of greenhouse gases which are driving climate change. If we are to preserve our planet for future generations, we need urgent action to curb new emissions of these heat trapping gases,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a statement. “Time is running out.”

The WMO reiterated that CO2 remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, and in the ocean for even longer. From 2002 to 2012, the agency said, it was responsible for a full 85 percent of the increase in “radiative forcing” — the warming effect on the climate.

CO2 levels tend to spike in April, before spring vegetation arrives to absorb some of it. Monitoring stations in the Arctic have been recording monthly averages this high since 2012, but as recently as April of last year, CO2 levels exceed 400 ppm on only several days; this year marked the first time that the monthly average for the Northern Hemisphere, where the majority of man-made emissions occur, was firmly set above that threshold. And things look like they’ll continue to head in that direction: The global annual average, the WMO warned, will likely surpass 400 ppm by 2015 or 2016.

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The Impossibility of Growth Demands a New Economic System

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/28-0

Why collapse and salvation are hard to distinguish from each other.

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham(1).

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems(2). It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues were miraculously to vanish, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible.

Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels. Before large amounts of coal were extracted, every upswing in industrial production would be met with a downswing in agricultural production, as the charcoal or horse power required by industry reduced the land available for growing food. Every prior industrial revolution collapsed, as growth could not be sustained(3). But coal broke this cycle and enabled – for a few hundred years – the phenomenon we now call sustained growth.

It was neither capitalism nor communism that made possible the progress and the pathologies (total war, the unprecedented concentration of global wealth, planetary destruction) of the modern age. It was coal, followed by oil and gas. The meta-trend, the mother narrative, is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots. Now, as the most accessible reserves have been exhausted, we must ransack the hidden corners of the planet to sustain our impossible proposition.

On Friday, a few days after scientists announced that the collapse of the West Antarctic ice sheet is now inevitable(4), the Ecuadorean government decided that oil drilling would go ahead in the heart of the Yasuni national park(5). It had made an offer to other governments: if they gave it half the value of the oil in that part of the park, it would leave the stuff in the ground. You could see this as blackmail or you could see it as fair trade. Ecuador is poor, its oil deposits are rich: why, the government argued, should it leave them untouched without compensation when everyone else is drilling down to the inner circle of hell? It asked for $3.6bn and received $13m. The result is that Petroamazonas, a company with a colourful record of destruction and spills(6), will now enter one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, in which a hectare of rainforest is said to contain more species than exist in the entire continent of North America(7).

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/28-0

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Justin Vivian Bond: A Missive to My Community:

From Fight Mag:  http://thefightmag.com/2014/05/performance-artist-justin-bond-fires-back-after-trannyshack-name-change/

I’m writing this because I want to be very clear on where I come down on the recent controversies around the language issues with regards to our trans-narratives. I’ve been an advocate for finding new, inclusive, thoughtful and evolved language for those of us in the trans and gender non-conforming communities for some time now. Therefore I feel personally compelled to weigh in on these latest dramas that are really annoying the shit out of me.

In my opinion there is ABSOLUTELY nothing wrong with Heklina changing the name of Trannyshack in an effort to “rebrand” her legendarily inclusive, irreverent celebration of Queer fabulousness. But keep in mind that the reason she has “evolved” is because she’s been forced to due to harassment from a group of people who have decided that instead of learning from our queer history of re-appropriating, owning, and disempowering words that ACCURATELY DESCRIBE WHO AND WHAT WE ARE -instead of taking those words that are sometimes used to hurt us by those who WILL HATE US NO MATTER WHAT and making them a part of what makes us wonderful, a small group of vocal “queers” has decided it’s better pursue a shame-based agenda. Therefore, it seems, Heklina has decided it’s easier to “rebrand” her party to avoid any more grief. That’s her decision and I applaud her for doing what she feels she needs to do. It still makes me sad.

I also think there was nothing wrong with the whimsical “Female or Shemale” game played on RuPaul’s Drag Race -especially because the contestants couldn’t even tell the difference. Hello! That’s revolutionary!!! Not to mention the amazing talent displayed later in the episode by the transgender artists on the show which has now been pulled from the air.

So. In lieu of standing up to the haters who seek to diminish us and our accomplishments and standing UNITED IN PRIDE IN OUR DIVERSITY these thoughtless “word police” instead go on the attack and achieve easy victories by harassing, silencing and shaming members of their own community and the allies who are thoughtful and sensitive enough to the reasons and feelings behind their anger that they are willing to listen and -as usual, blame themselves and make the changes because it’s just EASIER to “evolve” back into silent, bullied shame. What they fail to recognize is that by banishing the use of the word TRANNY they will not be getting rid of the transphobia of those who use it in a negative way. What it does do is steal a joyous and hard-won identity from those of us who are and have been perfectly comfortable, if not delighted to BE TRANNIES, but the fact is WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY. In case you didn’t know it WE’RE TOUGH! A reality check, if people think you are a tranny it’s because you are perceived as one. OWN IT! If they think that’s a bad thing then THEY ARE STUPID! If you don’t wish to own that word or any other word used to describe you other than “male” or “female” then I hope you are privileged enough to have been born with an appearance that will allow you to disappear into the passing world or that you or your generous, supportive family are able to afford the procedures which will make it possible for you to pass within the gender binary system you are catering your demands to. If you’re capable of doing that then GO ON AND DISAPPEAR INTO THE PASSING WORLD! Otherwise quit using your big, privileged -yet ignorant- mouths to make the words used to describe who we are a shameful thing. It is not shameful to be a tranny, a she-male, or any other word used to desctibe a gender variant individual. It’s shameful to harass people for being comfortable with who they are and the words they choose to use to describe themselves when you aren’t.

That is my opinion on this ridicuous subject. As you can tell I’m angered by this trifling bullshit. We should be working on unifying our community and getting ourselves basic protections under the law. If everyone who is expending so much time and energy harassing their sisters about this word would harass their elected officials with the same amount of verve and fervor we’d be on the way to a much more trans-inclusive society.

These words were written in love and anger.
Mx Bond

It’s not easy being green – especially if you’re a Republican and that’s your job

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/28/republican-climate-change-deniers-bob-inglis

Bob Inglis wants climate change deniers to be more realistic. But can his ‘free-market’ environmentalism win GOP converts?


theguardian.com, Wednesday 28 May 2014

Ask Americans about “global warming”, and a new study suggests that 13% more of them will think it’s a bad thing compared to “climate change”. That, it turns out, was Republicans’ point: way back in 2002, a Republican pollster warned candidates and then-President George W Bush to avoid using the term “global warming” because people found it “frightening”.

Since then, the debate about “climate change” has become a cultural battle and, out in the field, Republican midterm candidates are engaged in a contest to become its most strident deniers. Even on Twitter, Pat Sajak thinks you’re an “unpatriotic racist” if you think climate change is a real problem.

But one Republican is trying to hold back the tide of his colleagues who continue to fall at the feet of the (largely) oil and coal industry-sponsored climate denial movement. Former South Carolina Congressman Bob Inglis, a Republican, is the movement’s best advertisement – a real live conservative convert. His story has the arc of a religious experience, in part because it includes one.

Inglis says he was first asked to consider the possibility that climate change is real because of his son and the rest of his family – “and they’re the ones who could change the locks,” he told me last week – so he decided to listen. Then, as a member of the House Science committee, he went to Antarctica and saw the ice-core samples that tell the story of human’s impact on the environment.

Lastly, he had a conversation with a Australian climatologist at the Great Barrier Reef, and it became clear to Inglis that there was a spiritual component to environmentalism that aligned with his conservative Christian faith and not the fuzzy “earth mother” New Age environmental stereotype. “I could see he worshipped the God of creation, and not the creation itself,” he told me here, where we’re both fellows at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics – and where I’ve seen him coast in wearing khakis and a helmet, looking for all the world like tofu-eating Obama voter.

Whether you think it’s the Creator or the creation that matters, mere mortals are not doing a great job with protecting the environment – which translates not just into sad pictures of displaced animals, but into whole populations of humans displaced and dying. Unforunately, to Americans, that suffering seems distant and abstractly related to climate change, and the only aspect of Inglis’s own conversion he could possibly replicate for another non-believer is to show them those ice-core samples. And even that’s the same kind of physical evidence that keeps failing to convince people.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/may/28/republican-climate-change-deniers-bob-inglis

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Laverne Cox: “There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one trans experience”

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/29/laverne_cox_there%E2%80%99s_not_just_one_trans_story_there%E2%80%99s_not_just_one_trans_experience/

The activist and “Orange is the New Black” star tells Time magazine about shifting norms and setting the agenda


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Laverne Cox is on the cover of Time magazine, which is a very huge thing. My mother and aunts read Time magazine. Maybe yours do, too. People waiting to have their teeth checked at the dentist read Time magazine. Time magazine is kind of everywhere. Now all of these new people get to know (if they don’t already) Laverne Cox, a fierce trans woman of color who is working tirelessly (seriously, check out her schedule of public and media appearances) to bring deadly violence against trans people, the inhumanity of our criminal justice system and the legal and cultural shifts we need to put into place to protect the lives and rights of trans and all LGBTQ people into focus. Cox is centering these conversations in an unprecedented way, and it’s absolutely electric.

A few excerpts from the powerful interview:

On understanding and embracing what it means to be trans. 

There’s not just one trans story. There’s not just one trans experience. And I think what they need to understand is that not everybody who is born feels that their gender identity is in alignment with what they’re assigned at birth, based on their genitalia. If someone needs to express their gender in a way that is different, that is okay, and they should not be denied healthcare. They should not be bullied. They don’t deserve to be victims of violence. … That’s what people need to understand, that it’s okay and that if you are uncomfortable with it, then you need to look at yourself.

On what may be at the root of our culture’s transphobia. 

We live in an uncertain world and we want to believe that what a man is and what a woman is–I know that. And people don’t want to critically interrogate the world around them. Whenever I’m afraid of something or I’m threatened by something, it’s because it brings up some sort of insecurity in me. I think the reality is that most of us are insecure about our gender. They think, ‘Okay, if there’s this trans person over here, then what does that make me?’ We want to just coast along in a belief system that makes us feel secure, because we are a culture, as Brene Brown would say, that is intolerant to vulnerability. And if we are in a position where we have to begin to question this very basic idea of ‘A man has a penis and a woman has a vagina,’ then that’s a lot of vulnerability.

On the shifts that are occurring right now around trans rights and trans justice. 

We are in a place now where more and more trans people want to come forward and say ‘This is who I am.’ And more trans people are willing to tell their stories. More of us are living visibly and pursuing our dreams visibly, so people can say, ‘Oh yeah, I know someone who is trans.’ When people have points of reference that are humanizing, that demystifies difference. Social media has been a huge part of it and the Internet has been a huge part of it, where we’re able to have a voice in a way that we haven’t been able to before. We’re being able to write our stories and we’re being able to talk back to the media … We are the reason. And we are setting the agenda in a different way.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/29/laverne_cox_there%E2%80%99s_not_just_one_trans_story_there%E2%80%99s_not_just_one_trans_experience/

From The Guardian UK: Laverne Cox heralds ‘transgender tipping point’ on cover of Time

Time Magazine: Laverne Cox Talks to TIME About the Transgender Movement

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Abortion should be free, safe and legal – for everyone

From New Statesman:  http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2014/05/abortion-should-be-free-safe-and-legal-everyone

Nobody should have to play the frightened victim to make basic choices about her future.

by Laurie Penny
Published 19 May, 2014

What does a good abortion look like? A few months ago, Emily Letts, a 25-year-old American clinic worker, filmed her surgical abortion and posted the video on the internet. In the clip, Letts smiles and hums throughout the procedure, which she chose to have simply because she did not want to bear a child. “I feel good,” she remarks when it’s over, shattering generations of anxiety and fear-mongering around reproductive choice with three simple words.

The idea that abortion might be a positive choice is still taboo. For some, the only way it can be countenanced is if the pregnancy is  an immediate threat to life or the result of rape – meaning that the woman involved didn’t want to have sex and as such does not deserve to be punished for the crime of acting on desire as a female. Even then, the person having the abortion is expected to be sorry for ever, to weep and agonise over the decision. In Britain, the Abortion Act 1967 obliges anyone seeking a termination to justify why continuing with a pregnancy poses a threat to her health and well-being or that of her existing offspring. “Because I don’t want to be pregnant” simply isn’t enough.

Hence the furore over the glamour model Josie Cunningham’s recent announcement, through the eyebrow-raising medium of the British tabloid press, that she is planning to terminate her pregnancy in order to have a shot at appearing on reality television. The national and international gossip media scrambled to excoriate Cunningham: this was the epitome of selfishness, a woman who would boast of having an abortion to further her career. We live in a society that fetishises “choice” while denying half the population the most fundamental choice of all – the choice over the autonomy of one’s body.

Women in Northern Ireland, where the Abortion Act 1967 does not apply, have just learned that – despite paying towards the NHS through their taxes – they will continue to be denied an abortion unless they can travel to England and fund it themselves. As a result of a high court ruling, hundreds of women each year will still find themselves having to take cheap red-eye flights to Heathrow and Manchester, scared and alone, to have procedures they may have gone into debt to afford.

In Northern Ireland, as in the rest of the world, the prospect of women having full control over their reproductive potential – the notion that we might be able to decide, without shame or censure, whether and when and if we have children or not – provokes fear among the powerful. When abortion is discussed in public, it is almost always in terms of individual morality or, more usually, of moral lapses on the part of whatever selfish, slutty women are demanding basic human rights this week. It is rarely discussed in terms of structural and economic inequality. Yet reproductive inequality remains the material basis for women’s second-class status in society. It affects every aspect of our future.

Continue reading at:  http://www.newstatesman.com/society/2014/05/abortion-should-be-free-safe-and-legal-everyone

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Cut-Throat Capitalism: Welcome To the Gig Economy

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/cut-throat-capitalism-welcome-gig-economy

Economist Gerald Friedman warns that the much-hyped gig economy is a road to ruin for workers.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
May 27, 2014

The media are all abuzz with the changing nature of work. Exciting words like “creativity” and “adaptability” get thrown around, specifically in connection to the shift away from steady, full-time employment to a gig economy of freelancers and short-term contracts. Proponents of the gig economy, from the New York Times‘ Thomas Friedman to bright-eyed TED pundits, tout it as a welcome escape from the prison of the standard workweek and the strictures of corporate America. Working on a project-to-project basis will set you free, they tell us. Wired magazine has called it “the force that could save the American worker.”

But when you’re actually stuck in it, the gig economy looks quite different.

Consider the New York Freelancer’s Union: According to a report in the New York Times, 29 percent of the union’s New York City members earn less than $25,000 a year, and in 2010, 12 percent of members nationally received some type of public assistance. Turns out that life with no health benefits, vacation pay or retirement plan is not a rosy picture.

Writing for Fast Company, Sarah Kessler, who went undercover to hustle for work in the gig economy, put it this way:

“For one month, I became the ‘micro-entrepreneur’ touted by companies like TaskRabbit, Postmates, and Airbnb. Instead of the labor revolution I had been promised, all I found was hard work, low pay, and a system that puts workers at a disadvantage.”

What’s really going on is the desire of businesses to chop wages and benefit costs while also limiting their vulnerability to lawsuits, which can happen when salaried employees are mistreated. The burden of economic risk is shifted even further onto workers, who lose the security and protections of the New-Deal-era social insurance programs that were created when long-term employment was the norm.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/cut-throat-capitalism-welcome-gig-economy

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Pregnant Pakistani woman stoned to death by family

Sam Harris: The Problem with Islamic Fundamentalism are the Fundamentals of Islam.

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/27/pregnant-pakistani-woman-stoned-to-death

‘Honour killing’ in broad daylight outside Lahore high court involved father and brothers, police say

Associated Press in Lahore
theguardian.com, Wednesday 28 May 2014

A pregnant woman was stoned to death by her own family in front of a Pakistani high court on Tuesday for marrying the man she loved.

Nearly 20 members of the woman’s family, including her father and brothers, attacked her and her husband with batons and bricks in broad daylight before a crowd of onlookers in front of the high court of Lahore, the police investigator Rana Mujahid said.

Hundreds of women are murdered every year in Muslim-majority Pakistan in so-called ” honour killings” – carried out by husbands or relatives as a punishment for alleged adultery or other illicit sexual behaviour – but public stoning is extremely rare.

Mujahid said the woman’s father has been arrested for murder and that police were working to apprehend all those who participated in the “heinous crime”.

Another police officer, Naseem Butt, identified the slain woman as Farzana Parveen, 25, and said she had married Mohammad Iqbal against her family’s wishes after being engaged to him for years.

Her father, Mohammad Azeem, had filed an abduction case against Iqbal, which the couple was contesting, her lawyer Mustafa Kharal said. He confirmed that she was three months pregnant.

Arranged marriages are the norm among conservative Pakistanis, who view marriage for love as a transgression.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, a private group, said in a report last month that some 869 women were murdered in “honour killings” in 2013.

But even Pakistanis who have tracked violence against women expressed shock at the brutal and public nature of Tuesday’s killing.

“I have not heard of any such case in which a woman was stoned to death, and the most shameful and worrying thing is that this woman was killed in front of a court,” said Zia Awan, a prominent lawyer and human rights activist.

He said Pakistanis who commit violence against women are often acquitted or handed light sentences because of poor police work and faulty prosecutions.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/may/27/pregnant-pakistani-woman-stoned-to-death

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Krugman: How American Capitalism Fails—and Northern European ‘Socialism’ Succeeds—at Job Creation

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/krugman-how-american-capitalism-fails-and-northern-european-socialism-succeeds-job-creation

And why that’s not a story the mainstream media likes to tell.

By Janet Allon
May 26, 2014

Paul Krugman wrote his column this morning in the New York Times from Europe, a place which—conservatives like Paul Ryan would like you to believe—demonstrates the complete failure of the welfare state. That’s because, as Krugman points out, “Our political discourse is dominated by reverse Robin-Hoodism — the belief that economic success depends on being nice to the rich, who won’t create jobs if they are heavily taxed, and nasty to ordinary workers, who won’t accept jobs unless they have no alternative.”

France, a country that the American media and conservatives particularly love to bash, is having particular success in employment rates. Krugman reports this “startling, little-known fact: French adults in their prime working years (25 to 54) are substantially more likely to have jobs than their U.S. counterparts.”

Hmmm. There’s a story you won’t hear told in the mainstream media.

He continues:

It wasn’t always that way. Back in the 1990s Europe really did have big problems with job creation; the phenomenon even received a catchy name, “Eurosclerosis.” And it seemed obvious what the problem was: Europe’s social safety net had, as Representative Paul Ryan likes to warn, become a “ hammock” that undermined initiative and encouraged dependency.

But then a funny thing happened: Europe started doing much better, while America started doing much worse. France’s prime-age employment rate overtook America’s early in the Bush administration; at this point the gap in employment rates is bigger than it was in the late 1990s, this time in France’s favor. Other European nations with big welfare states, like Sweden and the Netherlands, do even better.

What about young people? Doesn’t America, with all of its problems, still kick France’s ass when it comes to the employment rate of those younger than 25. Yes, Krugman concedes. Then he wonders if that is something we should be bragging about, since it is certainly due in part to the fact that French students receive a lot more financial aid for their education than American students do, so they are not immediately saddled with huge debt to work off, much less work their way through school.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/krugman-how-american-capitalism-fails-and-northern-european-socialism-succeeds-job-creation

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“Bloodiest thing the world has seen”: David Cay Johnston on inequality’s looming disaster

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2014/05/22/bloodiest_thing_the_world_has_seen_david_cay_johnston_on_inequalitys_looming_disaster/

Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston tells Salon how America’s economic story could end — and it isn’t pretty


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Long before anyone knew the name Thomas Piketty, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston was plumbing the hidden depths of the American tax code, revealing the myriad ways it privileges the interests of corporations and the wealthy ahead of those of the 99 percent. Indeed, while it may sometimes feel as if economic inequality is the new trend, Johnston’s career reminds us that the great gulf that separates the rich from the rest in the contemporary United States didn’t happen overnight, but over a course of decades.

Despite coming out during the same year as “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” and “The Divide,” Johnston’s newest release, “Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality,” is a different kind of inequality book. Rather than a sweeping overview of centuries of economic history, or an on-the-ground examination of how our justice system ignores the powerful while brutalizing the rest, Johnston’s book is a collection of essays, speeches and excerpts — a kind of inequality reader. Featuring insights from philosophers, economists, journalists, researchers and even politicians, “Divided” reminds us how inequality is one of those rare problems that truly matters to all of us, no matter what our interests or chosen field.

Earlier this week, Salon reached Johnston via telephone to discuss “Divided,” whether American democracy can survive such great economic disparities, and how returning to a more equal society is literally a matter of life and death. Our conversation follows, and has been slightly edited for clarity and length. In addition, Johnston followed up with further thoughts via email.

What inspired you to create this book?

I had done a trilogy on hidden aspects of the American economy, “Perfectly Legal,” which was about how the rich benefit from taxes, “Free Lunch,” about all the subsidies people didn’t know about that go to rich people and corporations, and “The Fine Print,” which was about restraint of trade and monopolies. And in speaking for the last 10 years around the country, one of the things I learned is that people didn’t understand that this isn’t just a function of numbers and whatnot; they didn’t understand there’s a whole structure that affects families, health, healthcare — which are different things — incarceration, opportunity, exposure to environmental hazards, wage theft and so, there was really a need here to give people a broad understanding of, well, “How did this come about, this incredible inequality that we didn’t have in this country until recent years?”

[After the interview, Johnston emailed to add: “My trilogy on the American economy explained many of the little-known, and often deceptive, laws, regulations and official practices. But inequality involves much more than what I had written about in the trilogy. I wanted to provide people with a broad understanding of the issues, ranging from limited opportunity and obstacles to achieving a modicum of prosperity, to the remarkably cruel and thoughtless policies of the Reagan era.”]

In your introductory essay, you make a point of arguing that inequality is not natural, that it’s something we created and, by extensions, we can undo. But what would you say to those who, say, have read their Piketty and are thinking this kind of inequality is endemic to capitalism?

Well, Piketty — whose work I relied on for years and who substantiates a lot of things that I’ve written with his research — argues that the concentration of wealth will just continue and continue and continue. As Herbert Stein, Richard Nixon’s chief economic adviser, famously said, a trend will only continue as long as it can. We will either, through peaceful, rational means, go back to a system that does not take from the many to give to the few in all these subtle ways, or we will end up like 18th century France. And if we end up in that awful condition, it will be the bloodiest thing the world has even seen. So I think it’s really important to get a handle on this inequality. After all, since the end of the Great Recession, one-third of all income increases in this country went to just 16,000 households, 95 percent of it went to the top 1 percent, and the bottom 90 percent’s incomes fell, and they fell by 15 percent. So we need to recognize that there is a very, very serious problem here that has to get addressed. But it won’t just go on forever because if you follow that to its logical absurdity, one person ends up with 90 percent of the wealth in the world. And that’s not going to happen.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/22/bloodiest_thing_the_world_has_seen_david_cay_johnston_on_inequalitys_looming_disaster/

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Pregnant Woman Faces Death For Leaving Islam

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“The Normal Heart” vs. Transgender Revisionist History

Last night I watched HBO’s film “The Normal Heart”.

I was in the Bay Area when the AIDS crisis erupted.

I had a girlfriend who lived upstairs from one of the first gay men in San Francisco to die from this horrible disease.

I watched as a handful of cases turned into thousands. Handsome, talented, funny, wonderful young men wasting away.

I saw a man collapse and die on Castro Street near 18th, his friends were frantically calling emergency and grew angry when an ambulance was very slow in coming.

EMTs wore what were similar to HazMat suits in those days, cops wore rubber gloves and face masks for even simple interactions with gay men.

Watch the 1990s film “And the Band Played On.”

I had slept with a transgender sister just prior to the outbreak of AIDS, remember it wasn’t even called AIDS for the first couple of years.

I had a strange acquaintance with a huge honking cold sore tell me she didn’t want to hug me or kiss me because I had a history of loving very freely.  I was fine with that because people with open oozing sores scared me.

Kim, a sister I had been friends with was an IV drug user had AIDS and died in the late 1980s.

I found myself taking on the role of of scold, lecturing sisters on safer sex and the necessity of using condoms every time they had sex, whether for money or pleasure.

But so many “trannies” (the word we used up until about three years ago) choose to live kamikaze lives of engaging in high risk dangerous acts like street sex work, IV drug abuse, sharing needles, silicone pumping, that my pleading with them to use condoms was ineffectual.

Even though they too were getting AIDS and dying of it so many insisted they weren’t “faggots” and didn’t want anything to do with those “faggots.”

I never really felt I was part of the trans-community so I wallowed in my own grief and spent my time with lesbians who picked up the slack.

In “The Normal Heart” there is scene taken from the early days when the Gay Men’s Health Crisis Center was being founded. A lesbian volunteers, prompting one of the founders of GMHC to proclaim, “Thank god for the lesbians.”

After a decade of squabbling between gay men and lesbians, arguments over gay male priorities and lesbian feminist priorities, the gay men who had led the Gay Liberation Movement, that grew out of Stonewall, were dying and that was creating an organizational vacuum.

When you watch films about the 1970s gay and lesbian movement you never see transsexual or transgender folks.

There is a reason for that.

We weren’t part of the Gay and Lesbian Movement back then. Transsexuals weren’t really part of what became the Transgender Movement.  The Transgender Movement grew out of Tri-Ess, IFGE, Tapestry, The Casa Susanna.

In the 1980s the queens and transsexual sex workers in San Francisco, the people getting HIV and dying from AIDS frequented the Tenderloin and a place called the Black Rose, the married folks who would later come out as transgender held monthly meetings in a restaurant near the San Francisco end of the Bay Bridge and far from the drag queens and “trannies” who lived the kamikaze lives.

There was a bookstore on Market in the Castro.  I think it later became the SF branch of Different Light.  It was run by a wonderful gay man, a man who was dying of AIDS.  He turned me on to Tapestry Magazine.  This was about 1984 or so.  I started reading it and was able to watch the development of the “Transgender Movement”.

I don’t believe I ever saw mention of the word AIDS in Tapestry Magazine prior to the early 1990s.  It was as though the writers were operating under the influence of heterosexual privilege and were continuing their disassociation from those nasty drag queens.

Which was okay.  I know privilege when I smell it and I know heterosexism when I smell that too and the early Transgender Movement reeked of both.

I was there in the period immediately after Stonewall, during the time when queens and transsexuals were a separate entity from the gay and lesbian movements.  Our bars might have been raided the same as gay or lesbian bars but our bars were just that, our bars.  I was an outlier, the hippie woman who happened to be transsexual.  The one who went to the conferences in the early days and tried but failed at making a case for unity between TS/TG folks and the L/G community.  But it wasn’t due to complete rejection by the gay community but rather to having too many sisters think that partnering with LG people would make them queer.

You see they wanted to be seen as heterosexuals, just as the heterosexual transvestites did.

After SRS I went my own way.  Some my gay male friends were far more sophisticated and educated in the arts than I ever dreamed of being.  They suggested art shows I should see, books I should read, they helped me to gain confidence and learn about art. Some were fabulous furry freak brother bears, who smoked dope with me and went to Dead concerts.

The hot mustachioed man, who taught me how to mark up my photos to get the prints I wanted from a photo lab died of AIDS.  He was thirty something when he died.

Last week the war over the word “trannie” that is being waged by wannabee leaders of the Transgender Movement deteriorated  to the point where one of those leaders hurled the slur, “Faggot.”

If you are Larry Kramer, you get to use that word as the title of an important book you wrote. If you are a “trannie” trying to convince people to not use the word “trannie” then you don’t.

But then “trannies” love to police language while also coming up with creative slurs for non-trans folks.  One of those is the use of “fish” for assigned female at birth women, another is cis-gender for non TS/TG people.

I think the adage about glass houses applies here.

Then this morning I read a complaint about The Normal Heart” getting all the attention and how all the horrible sufferings of the transgender community were ignored.

That one sounds pretty damned narcissistic to me.  Maybe, just maybe the world doesn’t revolve around transgender people and their issues.  Maybe it is time to wipe your own ass and learn to stand on your own two feet.

I realize that for most people living in and as a part of the “transgender community” is a temporary matter, or perhaps it should be.  Transition, get SRS and then move on and grow.

Get over being special and learn to accept your own basic normality.

Acting up and hurling the F-Bomb isn’t acting like an adult.  It is acting like a spoiled child who wants to be the center of attention.

 

 

Egyptian doctor to stand trial for female genital mutilation in landmark case

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/may/21/egyptian-doctor-fadl-trial-female-genital-mutilation-landmark-case

Raslan Fadl, a doctor in a Nile delta village, is accused of killing 13-year-old schoolgirl Sohair al-Bata’a in a botched operation

in Diyarb Bektaris
theguardian.com, Wednesday 21 May 2014

A doctor is to stand trial in Egypt on charges of female genital mutilation on Thursday, the first case of its kind in a country where FGM is illegal but widely accepted.

Activists warned this week that the landmark case was just one small step towards eradicating the practice, as villagers openly promised to uphold the tradition and a local police chief said it was near-impossible to stamp out.

Raslan Fadl, a doctor in a Nile delta village, is accused of killing 13-year-old schoolgirl Sohair al-Bata’a in a botched FGM operation last June. Sohair’s father, Mohamed al-Bata’a, will also be charged with complicity in her death.

Fadl denies the charges, and claims Sohair died due to an allergic reaction to penicillin she took during a procedure to remove genital warts.

“What circumcision? There was no circumcision,” Fadl shouted on Tuesday evening, sitting outside his home where Sohair died last summer. “It’s all made up by these dogs’ rights people [human rights activists].”

In the next village along, Sohair’s parents had gone into hiding, according to their family. Her grandmother – after whom Sohair was named – admitted an FGM operation had taken place, but disapproved of the court case.

“This is her destiny,” said the elder Sohair. “What can we do? It’s what God ordered. Nothing will help now.”

According to Unicef, 91% of married Egyptian women aged between 15 and 49 have been subjected to FGM, 72% of them by doctors, even though the practice was made illegal in 2008. Unicef’s research suggests that support for the practice is gradually falling: 63% of women in the same age bracket supported it in 2008, compared with 82% in 1995.

But in rural areas where there is a low standard of education – like Sohair’s village of Diyarb Bektaris – FGM still attracts instinctive support from the local population, who believe it decreases women’s appetite for adultery.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/may/21/egyptian-doctor-fadl-trial-female-genital-mutilation-landmark-case

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The right’s most ridiculous Elizabeth Warren smear to date

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/21/the_rights_most_ridiculous_elizabeth_warren_smear_to_date_partner/

Conservatives can label her a leftist all they want. She’s a threat because she stands in the way of U.S. oligarchy

, The Globalist
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Have you heard the one about Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) being a leftist? Branding the junior senator from the U.S. state of Massachusetts with that term suggests to the rest of the world that she must be close to the camp of the Fidel Castros or some other anti-capitalist revolutionaries.

Just what is Mrs. Warren’s crime that warrants such castigation? Speaking up for the concerns of everyday Americans — consumers, debtors, working people, that’s what.

As the founding spirit behind the long-overdue establishment of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau , Senator Warren saw to it that today’s Americans are finally able to avail themselves of the same consumer rights that have been considered as givens by their counterparts in Europe since the 1970s.

What makes the charge of labeling Warren a leftist almost comical is that, when Europeans started to pursue the issue of consumer rights, they were eager to emulate the world leader of the consumer movement at the time — the United States.

Since that time, the United States has pretty much abandoned one of its smartest inventions — and left it to the Europeans to carry the flag of consumer rights forward . (Note that a key reason why the European Commission is so reflexively maligned in the U.S. media is precisely that it has established itself as the key body to provide a check on expanding corporate powers in Europe and beyond.)

Are consumer rights “leftist”?

In modern mass societies, working on these issues is a truly vital matter.

It ensures that a nation’s citizens do not become powerless automatons who are haplessly pushed around by big corporations, pretty much at the latters’ free will.

Sadly, that is precisely what has happened in the United States ever since the days of the (mislabeled) “Reagan revolution.” The goal of Reagan’s backers was really the polar opposite of a revolution — moving the social progress achieved until then back as much as possible.

Since the early 1980s, the large corporations of America have seen to it, in a close collaboration with an ever-pliable U.S. Congress, that any further spreading of that consumer rights movement got stopped in its tracks.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/21/the_rights_most_ridiculous_elizabeth_warren_smear_to_date_partner/

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“Busy Boys, Little Ladies” – Wait, What Decade Are We In Again?

Yet another reason why all the emphasis on gender oppresses women.

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/18-2

by Galen Sherwin

Rick Scott, the Governor of Florida, signed legislation earlier this week that would provide professional development for teachers in “single-gender” classrooms.

This may sound innocuous — Who doesn’t want better-trained teachers?

But the truth is that this is actually code for training teachers in the discredited philosophy that boys and girls are so fundamentally different that they need to be taught using radically different methods — methods that sound an awful lot like good old-fashioned sex stereotypes.

Here are a few examples of the type of “training” we’re talking about, plucked from a complaint filed on Tuesday by the ACLU and the ACLU of Florida against the state’s second-largest school district:

  • A professional development program run by the district that was required for all new teachers in single-sex classes included a session called “Busy Boys, Little Ladies” — geared toward kindergarten teachers. Another required session is simply called “Gender Differentiation: Boys and Girls Learn Differently.”
  • Teachers were trained that girls are not good at abstract thinking and learn best through building relationships, while boys excel in concrete thinking and learn best through competition.
  • Teachers of boys were invited to a program entitled “Engaging Students with Debate and Discussion,” where teachers were instructed on how to “engage students in higher level discourse.” Teachers of girls, on the other hand, were invited to a program called “Creating Connections with Girls” and instructed that “Girls will learn better if they believe a teacher cares about them.”

The Hillsborough School District has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds to implement a hidden curriculum, permeating practically every aspect of the classroom, promoting — and reinforcing — the theory that boys and girls are fundamentally different.

Of course, the truth is that every student learns differently — in ways that are not determined by sex — and there is no evidence that any sex-based differences translate into the need to teach boys and girls differently. In fact, it is precisely this kind of sex-based over-generalization that our civil rights laws like Title IX were designed to prevent.

The problem extends far beyond this one school district: We know of at least three other school districts in Florida alone that are operating similar programs relying on sex-stereotypes, and we have documented numerous similar programs across the country through our Teach Kids, Not Stereotypes campaign.

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/05/18-2

Friday Night Fun and Culture: Sandy Denny

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“Bloodiest thing the world has seen”: David Cay Johnston on inequality’s looming disaster

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/22/bloodiest_thing_the_world_has_seen_david_cay_johnston_on_inequalitys_looming_disaster/

Pulitzer Prize winner David Cay Johnston tells Salon how America’s economic story could end — and it isn’t pretty


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Long before anyone knew the name Thomas Piketty, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston was plumbing the hidden depths of the American tax code, revealing the myriad ways it privileges the interests of corporations and the wealthy ahead of those of the 99 percent. Indeed, while it may sometimes feel as if economic inequality is the new trend, Johnston’s career reminds us that the great gulf that separates the rich from the rest in the contemporary United States didn’t happen overnight, but over a course of decades.

Despite coming out during the same year as “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” and “The Divide,” Johnston’s newest release, “Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality,” is a different kind of inequality book. Rather than a sweeping overview of centuries of economic history, or an on-the-ground examination of how our justice system ignores the powerful while brutalizing the rest, Johnston’s book is a collection of essays, speeches and excerpts — a kind of inequality reader. Featuring insights from philosophers, economists, journalists, researchers and even politicians, “Divided” reminds us how inequality is one of those rare problems that truly matters to all of us, no matter what our interests or chosen field.

Earlier this week, Salon reached Johnston via telephone to discuss “Divided,” whether American democracy can survive such great economic disparities, and how returning to a more equal society is literally a matter of life and death. Our conversation follows, and has been slightly edited for clarity and length. In addition, Johnston followed up with further thoughts via email.

What inspired you to create this book?

I had done a trilogy on hidden aspects of the American economy, “Perfectly Legal,” which was about how the rich benefit from taxes, “Free Lunch,” about all the subsidies people didn’t know about that go to rich people and corporations, and “The Fine Print,” which was about restraint of trade and monopolies. And in speaking for the last 10 years around the country, one of the things I learned is that people didn’t understand that this isn’t just a function of numbers and whatnot; they didn’t understand there’s a whole structure that affects families, health, healthcare — which are different things — incarceration, opportunity, exposure to environmental hazards, wage theft and so, there was really a need here to give people a broad understanding of, well, “How did this come about, this incredible inequality that we didn’t have in this country until recent years?”

[After the interview, Johnston emailed to add: “My trilogy on the American economy explained many of the little-known, and often deceptive, laws, regulations and official practices. But inequality involves much more than what I had written about in the trilogy. I wanted to provide people with a broad understanding of the issues, ranging from limited opportunity and obstacles to achieving a modicum of prosperity, to the remarkably cruel and thoughtless policies of the Reagan era.”]

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/05/22/bloodiest_thing_the_world_has_seen_david_cay_johnston_on_inequalitys_looming_disaster/

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