What makes a slut? The only rule, it seems, is being female

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/23/slut-female-word-women-being-female

It’s a warning more than a word: a reminder to women to adhere to sexual norms or be punished


theguardian.com, Monday 23 June 2014

Sandra Fluke heard it when she talked about insurance coverage for birth control. Sara Brown from Boston told me she was first called it at a pool party in the fifth grade because she was wearing a bikini. Courtney Caldwell in Dallas said she was tagged with it after being sexually assaulted as a freshman in high school.

Many women I asked even said that it was not having sex that inspired a young man to start rumors that they were one.

And this is what is so confounding about the word “slut”: it’s arguably the most ubiquitous slur used against women, and yet it’s nearly impossible to define.

The one thing we do know about “slut” is that it’s the last thing a woman should want to be. Society is so concerned over women and girls’ potential for promiscuity that we create dress codes, school curricula, even legislation around protecting women’s supposed purity. Conservative columnists opine that women having sex is tantamount to a “mental health crisis”, and magazine stories wonder if we’re raising a generation of “prosti-tots”.

Leora Tanenbaum, the author of SLUT! Growing Up Female with a Bad Reputation, told me that “a ‘slut’ is a girl or woman who deviates from norms of femininity. The ‘slut’ is not necessarily sexually active – she just doesn’t follow the gender script.”

This nebulous, unquantifiable quality of the slur is what makes it so distressing – there’s no way to disprove something that has no conclusive boundaries to begin with. And because it’s meant to be more of an identity than a label, it’s a term not easily shaken off. “Slut” sticks to a person in a way that “asshole” never will.

So what makes you a slut? It seems the the only hard and fast rule is that you have to be a woman.

Men, of course, are immune – absent, really – from the frenzy of concern. For instance, a new study out of the University of Michigan showed that teen girls who “sext” are called sluts while boys who do the same remain free-from judgement. In another example, the American Medical Association breathlessly released a study in 2006 with the headline “Sex and Intoxication More Common Among Women on Spring Break”, intended to warn women about their “risky” behavior while on break – but there was nothing about the men the majority of these young women would supposedly be having all this drunken sex with.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/23/slut-female-word-women-being-female

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Watching the World Destroy Itself

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/26-1

by Robert C. Koehler

The video opens with a few bars of adrenalin-pumping music. We see a topsy-turvy camera angle, sky, trees, darkness, then a staccato pop pop pop that blends rhythmically with the music, but of course it’s gunfire, lots of gunfire, followed by a few urgent words in Arabic, then English. “Down here! Down here!”

This chaotic excitement is Iraq, the evening’s International Hot Spot, brought to us by ABC. It’s the news, but it’s also reality TV and big league sports, rolled into an entertainment package of shocking cluelessness. OMG, ISIS is on the move. It’s winning. Stay tuned!

Iraq, Iraq. This is a disaster stamped “made in USA.” Worse than that. It’s a bleeding stump of a nation that we destroyed in our pursuit of empire, at the cost of multi-trillions of dollars, hundreds of thousands or perhaps a million Iraqi lives, and spiritual and physical damage to American troops so profound a new phrase had to be coined: moral injury. And now, our official, moneyed media serve up what’s left of Iraq to us as geopolitical entertainment: the moderates (our guys, sort of) vs. the insurgents. Go, U.S.-trained troops! Stand tough and die for American interests, OK?

Of course, as the Washington Post reported earlier this month: “Fighters with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an al-Qaeda offshoot, overran the western bank of the city (of Mosul) overnight after U.S.-trained Iraqi soldiers and police officers abandoned their posts, in some instances discarding their uniforms as they sought to escape the advance of the militants.”

This is our terrible baby, but hear the words of another Washington Post story:

“For both sides,” write Gregg Jaffe and Kevin Maurer, referring to sides within the U.S. military, “the debate over who lost Iraq remains raw and emotional. Many of today’s military officers still carry fresh memories of friends killed in battle.”

They add, however: “Iraq and the Iraqi people remain something of an abstraction. For much of the war, U.S. troops patrolled Iraq’s cities in lumbering armored vehicles and lived on heavily fortified bases surrounded by blast walls and barbed wire.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/26-1

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Candace Roberts — Not My City Anymore

San Francisco was never my city.  I always thought of it as being a rather nice place to visit but a lousy place to live.  I always thought Berkeley was much nicer than SF.

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The Feds Have Turned America Into a War Zone: 4 Disturbing Facts About Police Militarization

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/feds-have-turned-america-war-zone-4-disturbing-facts-about-police-militarization

Why do even small towns now deploy paramilitary forces?

By Aaron Cantú
June 25, 2014

For nearly half a century, America’s police forces have undergone a process of “militarization.” They’ve upped their cache of assault weapons and military defense gear, increasingly deployed SWAT teams to conduct ops-style missions on civilians, and inculcated a warrior attitude within their rank. While major metropolitan areas have maintained SWAT teams for decades, by the mid 2000s, 80 percent of small towns also had their own paramilitary forces.

But beyond deep reporting of individual journalists and scholars, little is known about the extent of militarization across the country. The ACLU has attempted to bridge that knowledge gap with a new report called War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.

“Our investigation is the first to conduct an analysis using raw data received directly from police departments, by looking directly at incident reports themselves,” says Kara Dansky, Senior Counsel at the ACLU’s Center for Justice and the primary author of the report. The ACLU sent public records requests to 260 law enforcement agencies in 25 states plus Washington D.C., asking for records of all SWAT deployments between 2011 and 2012. Below are some of its most significant findings.

1. The federal government’s war on drugs is the single greatest catalyst for local police militarization.

Far from being used for emergencies such as hostage situations, the ACLU found that 62% of all SWAT deployments were for the purpose of drug searches, and 79% were to search a person’s home with a search warrant—usually for drugs.

These deployments are usually violent and feature bands of heavily armed officers ramming down doors or chucking flash bang grenades into homes. Innocent people are often caught up, and sometimes killed, in the ensuing chaos, including Eurie Stamp, a Massachusetts grandfather who was shot dead by an officer as police attempted to locate Stamp’s girlfriend’s son for a drug offense. Other SWAT-induced tragedies abound: The ACLU found that 46 people were injured as a result of paramilitary deployment.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/feds-have-turned-america-war-zone-4-disturbing-facts-about-police-militarization

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: The Yardbirds

Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page all played guitar with the Yardbirds at different periods during the 1960s, making the Yardbirds one of the most important rock and roll groups to come out of England in the 1960s.

‘Tranny,’ Paths of Pain, and the Ownership of Language

From Bilerico:  http://www.bilerico.com/2014/06/tranny_paths_of_pain_and_the_ownership_of_language.php

By Mercedes Allen
June 23, 2014

Reposted with permission

Marc Maron recently ran a follow-up interview with fellow comedian Todd Glass, who had come out as gay on Marc’s podcast, WTF. Marc’s podcast has often been strikingly introspective, and a moment came up that epitomized this. Glass started talking about language, the way that words can be weaponized, and the way he’s experienced this since coming out as gay:

Glass (at 20:12): “But for me, I want to keep evolving. I don’t want to be the type of person who drops one word out of my act and then the other word and then goes ‘oh my god, when’s it gonna stop? I’m done evolving!’ Don’t f***ing brag about that… ‘Cause… you know, the reason those words — I realize it with the word ‘gay’ — the reason people think it’s not bad is they don’t see the path of pain where it leads back to…”

That sticks out in my mind as important, as it speaks almost directly to the controversy that happened when Marc interviewed RuPaul Charles in the previous podcast, as part of RuPaul’s ongoing string of controversies over language.

Here’s how that went:

RuPaul (at 1:16:41): “No no no, it’s not the transsexual community who’s saying that. These are fringe people who are looking for storylines to strengthen their identity as victims. That is what we’re dealing with. It’s not the trans community, because most people who are trans have been through hell and high water and they know — they’ve looked behind the curtain at Oz and went, ‘Oh, this is all a f***ing joke. But, some people haven’t, and they’ve used their victimhood to create a situation…

“If your idea of happiness has to do with someone else changing what they say, what they do, you are in for a f***ing hard-ass road. Because the ego would have you think… that is a trap that the ego will have you… it gets you every time…

“My 32-year career speaks for itself. I dance to a different drummer. I believe that everybody, you can be whatever the hell you wanna be. I ain’t stopping you. But don’t you dare tell me what I can do or say. It’s just words. Yeah, words [mocking] ‘you… your words hurt me…’ You know what? Bitch, you need to get stronger. You really do, because you know what, if you’re upset by something I said, you have bigger problems than you think. I’m telling you this.”

The sad thing about that is, earlier in the interview, RuPaul had some interesting but challenging things to say about building social movements around identity and about deconstructing “the matrix” of social illusions that people have. While I don’t really agree with him on all points, it does provoke some thought and provide some insight about where he’s coming from. “Identity” is a vague enough concept that it deserves to be questioned and picked apart from time to time, and that’s what RuPaul does.

Of course, language is also the means that people use to become self-aware, communicate that self to the world, and build common cause… so your mileage on that will vary.

The Spirit of It

Now, I don’t like playing word police. I’ve done it a few times, and I recognize the importance of words and the evolution of language. The effect that has on both forming social movements and shoring up one’s sense of self-respect (if not pride) is admittedly significant. But the bigger issue is often the spirit with which something is said or intended, so my overall thoughts on language are mixed.

Sometimes we only have the language we’re given. We’ve only relatively recently coined “cisgender” and “cissexual” (words to mean “not transgender” and “not transsexual,” sort of like “heterosexual” is to “homosexual”) because using “normal” drips with judgment and condemnation, and “genetic” is not scientifically accurate or verifiable.

We still fight over terms like transgender, transsexual, trans* (with or without the asterisk), etc. Depending on where you are, sometimes you need to be keeping a bloody scorecard. In one group, people prefer “transgender” because it doesn’t imply that being trans is about sex; another group will prefer “transsexual” because it’s always been the term they knew, or because for them, it is about changing the physical sex; yet another group will totally reject “transsexual” because it was coined by the medical community and they want to reject the mental health stigma or the clinical abuses that people have faced in the years prior.

The words changed over time, too. It wasn’t that long ago that people embraced “tranny,” and sometimes even accepted the word “transvestite,” however inappropriate that might have been — either because they didn’t realize the implications of the word, or because it was the only label available in a drop-down menu, in one of those rare spaces we were welcome, at the time. Although there’s a relatively consistent aversion to “tranny” and “shemale” now — aside from a few people who still use them to describe themselves — it hasn’t always been that way, and the labels each come with a plethora of nuances and occasional people who embrace the terms for themselves.

I tend to prefer trans (or trans*), because it’s open-ended. It’s supposed to be an adjective, not a straitjacket. Personally, I’d hate to ever find myself parsing a descriptor so narrowly and precisely that it starts to define me, rather than the other way around. But I really don’t blame people for getting a little peeved about there being a minefield of language.

If you’re thinking that this kind of fight over language is just particular to trans* people, then keep in mind that decades later, LGBT people still have divisions over whether they want to retake or banish the word “queer.” Divides exist in other communities as well, such as the split over the terms “First Nations,” “native,” “indigenous,” “aboriginal,” “Native American,” etc.:

“But lately, I question if we are empowered or disempowered by this term and this assigned title –and if it permeates and weakens our identity.

“Not the term in itself, but by all matters, machinery, and meaning (explicitly and implicitly) implied by the assignment of the title onto us by Canada, the acceptance of it on our part, and all that comes with such uncritical acceptance and internalization…”

The above passage almost looks as though it were plucked right out of an article on trans*-related language, doesn’t it?

Words are important to us. They’re inevitably used to define us, so it’s natural for us to want to be the ones who determine what those words say… ecept that we can’t. Abolishing a word isn’t going to erase the pain that went with it, nor will it change the attitudes of the people who wield the word as a weapon.

There can indeed be a path of pain associated with “tranny.” Because it’s often the word used whenever a person is attacked, disrespected, disowned, denied services, threatened, refused entry, humiliated, or more, it becomes a foci of microaggression, where any one incident can seem surmountable or even trivial, but when multiplied by thousands, it becomes monumental.

Perhaps RuPaul had the luck or privilege to escape a lot of that — he is, after all, able to take off the wig, makeup, and sequins when it gets to be too much — or perhaps he found the rare strength to power through it all without it eroding his spirit, but trans* people at large aren’t always able to do the same. Words have power.

What we can do in the discussion about language is assert our right to be respected, and to be dignified as the people we say we are. We are only ever entitled to speak for ourselves. We never were empowered to label everyone who’s trans*.

RuPaul, of course, is speaking for himself, and that’s cool. But the whole word debate arises because he is speaking for himself, and trans* people — and just about everyone else, for that matter — also assume that he’s labeling trans* people. If there were a way to achieve clarity on this, it wouldn’t matter what terminology he embraces and throws around.

But where RuPaul Charles derails is not from pointing out the inevitable failure of communal self-identification (because we are not some homogenous collective Borg hive — I get that), but by invalidating those who are targeted by said language, and validating the ways the words are used to target them. “Grow up, get a spine” is not helpful, and it minimizes another’s pain.

While we’re busy trying to turn that “victimhood” into empowerment, RuPaul is there to act like there wouldn’t be any pain at all, if we only had more spine. That’s not helpful, and it’s quite inelegant at that.

The language debate became an argument over the willingness to respect. Does one surrender the use of the word out of a willingness to listen to what someone has to say about who they are, what they need, and what their life experiences mean… or do they instead extend a big middle finger to them and declare that they know better, and that — whether anyone likes it or not — they’re appointing themself the arbiter of another person’s reality?

Not One-Sided

But that respect goes both ways.

Something that always bothered me about this discussion was that often it became an angry shouting match about who trans* people are not. Most often, this has to do with people distancing themselves from drag queens. Now I’ll admit, it’s difficult to change the impression that the public has, when society routinely conflates trans* with drag. Virtually every newspaper story you see on trans* issues is illustrated with a photo of drag queens in a Pride parade (okay to be fair, some are finally starting to know the difference).

Drag isn’t the same thing as trans*, although some trans* people find drag a safe space to explore and/or come out, so there can be some overlap. Trans*, though, is different — not better, but different.

Clarity would be nice. But what happens is that instead of calling for clarity, people slip into the same bigoted stereotypes and assumptions about others that they don’t want applied to themselves. Denigrating someone else in order to elevate oneself is very low.

The new argument is that “drag is trans* blackface.” But drag was never meant to lampoon trans* people — it lampoons gender itself, both masculinity and femininity simultaneously. It’s quite likely that drag is becoming an art that’s past its time, because of the effect it has on intersecting groups and issues — i.e. that regardless of the original intent, trans* people are lampooned in the current context — and the buttons that it now pushes.

But I’m not going to start that discussion here, nor will I malign the integrity and motives of the people who engage in drag, some of whom set out to challenge gender as much as anyone who is genderqueer, but simply took a different avenue and during a different time. It’s a conversation that’s looming, but not one that trans* people can have arbitrarily and unilaterally — at least not if you believe in decolonizing activism.

There’s also another group of people that are often taken issue with, in the discussion about the word “tranny.”

While composing this article, I ended up getting into a heated exchange in probably the worst venue to have an intelligent conversation: Facebook. One follower had been pushing me to write on the subject and decided to elaborate on why she felt words like “tranny” are offensive: she associated the word with the porn industry and prostitution, and didn’t like the implication of being associated with such “sleazy,” “freakish,” and “deluded” people. (Because apparently, doing sex work means that one must not be really trans*.)

People like me.

I don’t do sex work now, mind you. I did at two points in my life, though: once when I first left home at 18, and again later when I transitioned and was more or less dropped off the payroll by my employer. I was outed on this point a couple years ago and haven’t written about it much here — but I’ve been having to discuss it a lot more recently because of legislative issues in Canada. I’m not proud of it, but I’m not ashamed of it either.

I didn’t use words like “tranny” or “shemale” then, mind you, unless it was part of a date’s fantasy (at which point one inevitably has to put up with it). And currently, things are fading far enough into the rear-view mirror that it would make as much sense to call me a tranny as it would to call me a soup can. So I have no vested interest in defending the words themselves.

But the words used are no longer relevant, because the question of intent goes both ways. What I was really being told on Facebook was that my conversant’s pain stemmed from having to be associated with what they felt was a lesser form of person.

Your path of pain does not entitle you to create more pain by bulldozing through me.

And from this point forward, I am no longer interested in this argument about language — or at least not until we have a good, solid discussion about intent. Because while I recognize that there is genuinely a path of pain that some people have regarding the word “tranny,” sometimes it’s really about disdain.

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About the Word “Tranny”

Further proof there is no “Transgender Umbrella”.  Mostly the “Transgender Community” gloms onto post-op transsexuals for legitimacy and disowns sex workers and drag queens for their outlaw status.

But heaven forbid post-ops claim they aren’t transgender because that makes them separatists.

And people wonder why I just report the stories rather than engage in “trans-activism”.

From The Stranger:  http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/about-the-word-tranny/Content?oid=19946137

Banning Words Is Censorship, and Censorship Is a Conservative Tactic

by 
June 25, 2014

Last night, I was talking with someone who is in their early 20s about the troubles developing around the use of the word “tranny,” and they got very passionate, saying, “I HATE GENDER! Fuck gender!”

I asked, “How could gender change so that you wouldn’t be so upset by it?” They said, “I don’t know, I just wish I could set it on fire and get rid of it and make it go away! IT’S SO STUPID! I HATE IT!”

All I could say was: “I totally understand how you feel. So try to imagine feeling the way you feel right now for every day of your life until you’re 50. Then see how that weighs on ya!”

Gender, as we know it, sucks? Okay! Let’s try to come up with something else!

Why don’t we start by addressing the recent controversy over the use of the word “tranny”?

Tranny was invented as a term of affection between those of us who wished to live outside the gender binary system, but now a new generation of trans activists finds that word to be deeply offensive and have sought to banish it entirely. For the record, I’m sorry the word we made up was overheard by mean people and has been used to cause so much pain to those who are experiencing transphobia in their young lives. It breaks my heart that transphobes from within and outside of our “community” have used that word to inflict pain on people. I am delighted that the word “queer,” a word that continues to be loathed by a huge number of conservative, mostly bourgeois members of the LGBT community—a controversial and reclaimed umbrella term we fought hard for—has become a word that many conservative, state- and university-educated young “activists” seem to be able to cope with. For now.

You never know, though—next week, “queer” may once again become a forbidden word. But ultimately, we live in the present, and if it’s not important to them how their level of comfort with the word “queer” came about, it really, truly doesn’t matter.

Some of these young activists have been attacking self-identified trannies on the internet for using that word. I have felt the rage and anger they’ve directed at those of us who have different understandings of the words “queer” and “tranny.” It hurts to a degree, but it’s not a new pain. My greatest wish, and I mean this with my whole heart, is that the strategies they are using to combat transphobia now will lead to the better world they are hoping for. And it seems to me that there is room for both strategies (reappropriation and word-policing), because progress will most likely come about through trans visibility and dialogue around these issues, which will educate and illuminate, with the desired goal of ultimately making room in the world for an infinite variety of gender expressions.

But if by erasing the word “tranny,” they hope to get rid of embarrassing associations with trans sex workers, drag performers, trashy gender fuckers, and other self- identified “freaks” who choose to live outside the binary gender system, they are in for a big disappointment, and in my opinion, they should be ashamed of themselves. Long before and even since Stonewall, the gay bourgeoisie has tried to hide the drag, leather, and trans subcultures away from the mainstream media to present a “positive” face in order to gain mainstream acceptance for the heteronormative LGBT people of their own class. This was also a strategy adopted by many feminists when they tried to purge lesbians from their ranks when feminism started to get a lot of mainstream attention. It didn’t work for them, and it won’t work for the (hopefully) well-intentioned trans “activists” who are getting a lot of mainstream media play and who have been have attacking other people who have more liberal and fluid notions of what gender can be.

This argument around word-policing has mistakenly been described as “a generational thing.” It’s not. It’s about conservative tactics versus more progressive ones, and traditionally conservative media outlets like the Advocate as well as private and state-run academic institutions are more than happy to give them a platform. Before “Queer Studies” programs became institutionalized, there were loudmouthed, rebellious queers who were a threat to the status quo, and they were hated. Banning words is censorship, and censorship is a conservative tactic. Maybe you’ve heard this one? “I don’t mind that you’re gay, but do you have to talk about it all the time?”

Complete article at:  http://www.thestranger.com/seattle/about-the-word-tranny/Content?oid=19946137

Christo-Nazi Moron Richard Land Says “The Ultimate Rebellion Against God’s Creation Is Transgenderism”

Snake oil peddler and professional bigot for Jazzus makes yet another  statement aimed at conning money from the sheeple who hang on his every stupid word.

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Jane Doe, Trans Women, and the Myth of the Perfect Victim

From RH Reality Check:  http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/06/23/jane-doe-trans-women-myth-perfect-victim/

by Katherine Cross
June 23, 2014

To write about trans women is to come to grips with a painful fact: Very few of us are “perfect victims.”

I was reminded of this in the midst of the activism surrounding Jane Doe—a 16-year-old trans girl who was transferred from child protective services to solitary confinement in a Connecticut state prison. Those most detached from her situation piously observe that she is in solitary confinement because she allegedly brutalized Department of Children and Families (DCF) staff when she was under their care.

On the Feministing Facebook page, one woman lengthily excerpted the litany of accusations against Doe from a New Haven Register article—breaking a woman’s jaw and temporarily blinding her in one eye—as if this were an adequate response to an article I wrote defending Doe’s right to human dignity.

This, of course, left out the parts of the Register report that detailed Doe’s abuse at length, including accusations that she had been raped and otherwise sexually exploited while under DCF care, but we’ll return to that later.

Jane Doe’s situation reminds me of the circumstances surrounding Essay Anne Vanderbilt, better known as Dr. V, who committed suicide after a Grantland writer dug relentlessly into her past and sought to prove that she had lied about having a PhD—outing her publicly as a trans woman in the process, against her clearly expressed wishes to the journalist in question.

Always, there would be a tide of commenters to break against any article that I or others had written in defense of these women’s right to draw breath.

This familiar pattern traces its well-worn grooves during most public mentions of trans women’s distress.

There are women I could mention here who have been so pilloried, but who I must refrain from naming because, ironically, they survived. I would not wish to reopen old wounds for that sisterhood of silent survivors trying to get on with the very lives nearly stolen from them.

There are those who are not so silent, however, like CeCe McDonald; recently released from prison after serving a sentence for killing a would-be hate criminal in self-defense, she is now an advocate for transgender justice. But to this day she is still pilloried as an imperfect victim for the fact that she took a life. For failing to meekly accept the oblivion her swastika-tattooed assailant was thrusting upon her, many seem to suggest that she deserved either death, or a considerably longer prison term among men.

Now, as if in an echo chamber of those commenters, on Feministing’s own page I find myself reading missives from cisgender women who call Jane Doe’s solitary confinement without charge or trial “justice” for unproven and context-less crimes against DCF staff.

The unspoken implication was always that the real or perceived imperfections of these trans women meant that they should be left like so much carrion on the field, to be picked apart by whosoever should chance by—unto death, if need be. And it seems death is just what the doctor ordered; time and again one encounters a startling lack of consideration for the consequences these women suffered. CeCe McDonald nearly died, Dr. V did die, and Jane Doe’s solitary confinement is a waking death for any sentient being.

But this is just fine, so far as some are concerned. A woman’s life is the pound of flesh demanded by her perceived sins.

As feminists, we should notice a pattern here.

Women are so often expected to be perfect victims. If we are raped, we must be upper middle class, or honors students, or devoutly religious, preferably white, caught unawarein the midst of innocent activities by a perfectly rapacious and evil attacker. All other circumstances are unforgivably complicated, and we throw our hands up as if to say that the rape is an acceptable consequence of the victim’s imperfection. She drank, she was out late, she went somewhere strange, she was partying, she was a sex worker, she did not out herself as trans, she liked revealing clothes—whatever excuse or perceived imperfection we can grab a fistful of, all in the hopes of confirming our shared just-world hypothesis, that collective pseudo-ideological disease of uncounted millions.

We do this with other maladies suffered by women, of course, including suicide or incarceration. We want to believe that they somehow deserve it, even as we are too cowardly to openly say, “She deserves to die for what she did.” That uncouth bluntness is instead masked by equivocal dissembling about her faults and failings: Dr. V lied about her degree to help sell a golf putter that actually did what it claimed, therefore she deserves to die; Jane Doe was accused of hitting DCF staff and being violent, therefore we can eschew a trial and send her to solitary even while she’s still a minor (and she probably deserves to die too).

Continue reading at:  http://rhrealitycheck.org/article/2014/06/23/jane-doe-trans-women-myth-perfect-victim/

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US police departments are increasingly militarised, finds report

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/jun/24/military-us-police-swat-teams-raids-aclu

• ACLU cites soaring use of war zone equipment and tactics
• Swat teams increasingly deployed in local police raids
• Seven civilians killed and 46 injured in incidents since 2010

in New York
theguardian.com, Tuesday 24 June 2014

At 3am on 28 May, Alecia Phonesavanh was asleep in the room she was temporarily occupying together with her husband and four children in the small town of Cornelia, Georgia. Her baby, 18-month-old Bou Bou, was sleeping peacefully in his cot.

Suddenly there was a loud bang and several strangers dressed in black burst into the room. A blinding flash burst out with a deafening roar from the direction of the cot. Amid the confusion, Phonesavanh could see her husband pinned down and handcuffed under one of the men in black, and while her son was being held by another. Everyone was yelling, screaming, crying. “I kept asking the officers to let me have my baby, but they said shut up and sit down,” she said.

As the pandemonium died down, it became clear that the strangers in black were a Swat team of police officers from the local Habersham County force – they had raided the house on the incorrect assumption that occupants were involved in drugs. It also became clear to Phonesavanh that something had happened to Bou Bou and that the officers had taken him away.

“They told me that they had taken my baby to the hospital. They said he was fine he had only lost a tooth, but they wanted him in for observation,” Phonesavanh said.

When she got to the hospital she was horrified by what she saw. Bou Bou was in a medically-induced coma in the intensive care unit of Brady Memorial hospital. “His face was blown open. He had a hole in his chest that left his rib-cage visible.”

The Swat team that burst into the Phonesavanh’s room looking for a drug dealer had deployed a tactic commonly used by the US military in warzones, and increasingly by domestic police forces across the US. They threw an explosive device called a flashbang that is designed to distract and temporarily blind suspects to allow officers to overpower and detain them. The device had landed in Bou Bou’s cot and detonated in the baby’s face.

“My son is clinging to life. He’s hurting and there’s nothing I can do to help him,” Phonesavanh said. “It breaks you, it breaks your spirit.”

Bou Bou is not alone. A growing number of innocent people, many of them children and a high proportion African American, are becoming caught up in violent law enforcement raids that are part of an ongoing trend in America towards paramilitary policing.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/jun/24/military-us-police-swat-teams-raids-aclu

Piketty mania: how an economics lecture became the hottest gig in town

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/17/thomas-piketty-lse-capitalism-talk

The ‘rock star’ economist sold out his London talk at the LSE – but his doomy prognosis isn’t music to everyone’s ears

Thomas Piketty’s Capital: everything you need to know about the surprise bestseller


The Guardian, Tuesday 17 June 2014

With all due respect to the “dismal science”, this doesn’t happen often: hundreds of people are queueing round the block for an economics lecture on a lovely summer’s evening in London. And those are the people who have successfully booked seats. There’s another queue of shifty-looking people hoping for return tickets and steeling themselves for disappointment. This, one might well think, is a microcosm of the dysfunctionally inegalitarian society under late capitalism that the speaker indicts in his book: a society cruelly divided between the haves and the have-nots.

And there are other divisions: black and white, young and old, City suits and flip-flop-sporting slackers, women and men, venerable baldies and twentysomething asymmetric fringes, post-endogenous growth theorists and their bitter foes, pre-post-endogenous growth theorists (sometimes known as endogenous growth theorists). But the most emblematic social division for our purposes is that between those in the queues who moan loudly about being gouged by the merchandising (“£30 for a book? They’ve got to be kidding. Who can afford that?”) and those who’ve come clutching one, sometimes two copies of Capital in the Twenty-First Century, in the dewy-eyed hope that its author, Professor Thomas Piketty, will deign to sign it. Piketty later apologises for not putting the book online, saying it was because his publisher wouldn’t like it: if he was really serious about reducing inequality, though, you’d think he’d ignore his publisher’s compunctions.

Outside the Peacock Theatre, round the corner from the London School for Economics, the mood resembles an oversubscribed first night: it’s ostensibly genteel and polite, but hides simmering resentments that could switch rapidly from sarcastic exchanges to elbow-shovings to full-on riot followed by zombie apocalypse if we don’t all get in.

Don’t these people know that they’re queueing to hear about the historic shifts in the capital-income ratio, modifications to the Kuznets curve and the elasticity of substitution of labour? The counterintuitive answer is that quite a lot of them do. For those who have lived through austerity years that have made the rich richer and the poor more desperate, for those who read Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better and wondered how we could become more Nordically egalitarian, Piketty has a message they want to hear: economics should be used for good rather than evil, to effectively redistribute wealth. Pikettians don’t chant, but if they did it would go: “What do we want? An egalitarian shift in the ratio between g and r, where r is growth and g the return on capital. When do we want it? As soon as feasible, thanks.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/jun/17/thomas-piketty-lse-capitalism-talk

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Water is a Human Right: Detroit Residents Seek U.N. Intervention as City Shuts Off Taps to Thousands

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Born a Man? No, Born a Baby

From The Advocate:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/06/18/op-ed-born-man-no-born-baby

When people say transgender women were ‘born as men,’ it creates an inaccurate image.

BY Fallon Fox and Parker Marie Molloy
June 18 2014

Why is it that when transgender women are interviewed, the media so frequently says we were “born a man?” No other people are ever treated as though they were born fully grown adults.

Can someone point to a single example in the media when a cisgender person is referred to as being “born a man” or “born a woman?” If someone discusses their birth, does anyone say, “When I was born a man?” Or, do they simply say, “I was born?”

Go ahead and Google the phrase “born a man.” You’ll notice article upon article, page upon page of typically unflattering stories about trans women. And you’ll be hard-pressed to find any articles about cisgender individuals in the mix, as typically, it’s given that cisgender women and cisgender men are not born men or women, but rather, they’re born babies.

Trans women are not born babies — according to the media, at least. We’re born “men.”

This framing only sensationalizes the identities and experiences of trans individuals as nothing more than a hook to reel the audience into a world closely resembling that of a carnival freak show. This framing in itself highlights the physical changes undergone by trans people and ignores the fact that the people they’re referring to are genuine, lovable, normal individuals.

Referring to trans women as “men” from birth plays into themes of disgust and discomfort our culture foists upon trans bodies. We’re denied the innocence of youth so that we are more easily categorized as deviants. The mental image created is of a hairy, sweaty, hulking man — it makes us easier to hate, and it serves as a quick pivot point to the idea of our existence as cartoonishly masculine “men in dresses.” We need to push back on this blatant lie about our existence, this obvious smear on our humanity.

The “adult from birth” framing muddies genuine, well-meaning attempts to explain who and what transgender people really are. It makes some forget their own development and ignores the fact that as human beings we’re constantly evolving and changing, coming into our own physically, emotionally, and socially. People are not static, though this framing portrays trans people as just that.

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/commentary/2014/06/18/op-ed-born-man-no-born-baby

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The Time Is Now for Transgender Equality

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/eoghann-renfroe/the-time-is-now-for-transgender-equality_b_5497702.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Measure Climate-Related Destruction in the Many Trillions of Dollars: UN

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2014/06/06-0

A look at only one subset of negative impacts of global warming – the loss of vital coral reefs – would cost an estimated $11.9 trillion in the coming years

Jon Queally

Measure the cost of destructive climate change-related impacts in the trillions of dollars, says a United Nations report published Thursday.

The report, which focuses on the world’s 52 Small Island Developing States (or SIDS) found predominantly in the Caribbean and the South Pacific, highlights how the nations and people least responsible for the climate crisis face the most severe damage. However, the report notes, the costs associated with the destruction of low-lying nations, coral reefs, and vulnerable coasts will be felt globally.

According to the UN’s Environment Program (UNEP), the coral reefs in all SIDS regions are already severely impacted by rising ocean surface temperatures. And the report says that the global net loss of the coral reef cover – around 34 million hectares over the coming two decades – will cost the international economy nearly $12 trillion, with the economies and very existence of those small nations especially impacted.

“For example,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, “these 52 nations, home to over 62 million people, emit less than one per cent of global greenhouse gases, yet they suffer disproportionately from the climate change that global emissions cause.”

The threats to low-lowing nations and those highly-dependent on their proximity to ocean resources, according to the report, are increased flooding, shoreline erosion, ocean acidification, warmer sea and land temperature, and damage to infrastructure from extreme weather events.

The UNEP reports says that though the challenges are enormous, there do existence mitigation efforts that could lessen or forestall the worst impacts, but only if governments quickly create new policies and change course.

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What Piketty Forgot: The Crisis of Capitalism Isn’t Just about Inequality

From Common Dreams:  http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/18-13

It’s not just about the distance between rich and poor, but about the gap between what’s demanded by our planet and what’s demanded by our economy.

by Noel Ortega

By now, it’s no secret that French economist Thomas Piketty is one of the world’s leading experts on inequality. His exhaustive, improbably popular opus of economic history—the 700-page Capital in the Twenty-First Century—sat atop the New York Times bestseller list for weeks. Some have called it the most important study of inequality in over 50 years.

Piketty is hardly the first scholar to tackle the linkage of capitalism with inequality. What sets him apart is his relentlessly empirical approach to the subject and his access to never before used data—tax and estate records—that elegantly demonstrates the growing trends of income and wealth inequality. The database he has compiled spans 300 years in 20 different countries.

Exactingly empirical and deeply multidisciplinary, Capital is an extremely important contribution to the study of economics and inequality over the last few centuries. But because it fails to address the real limits on growth—namely our ecological crisis—it can’t be a roadmap for the next.

Inequality and Growth

One of the main culprits of inequality, according to Piketty (and Marx before him), is that investing large amounts of capital is more lucrative than investing large amounts of labor. Returns on capital can be thought of as the payments that go to a small fraction of the population—the investor class—simply for having capital.

In essence, the investor class makes money from money, without contributing to the “real economy.” Piketty demonstrates that after adjusting for inflation, the average global rate of return on capital has been steady, at about 5 percent for the last 300 years (with a few exceptions, such as the World War II years).

The rate of economic growth, on the other hand, has shown a different trend. Before the Industrial Revolution, and for most of our human history, economic growth was about 0.1 percent per year. But during and after the rapid industrialization of the global north, growth increased to a then-staggering 1.5 percent in Western Europe and the United States. By the 1950s and 1970s, growth rates began to accelerate in the rest of the world. While the United States hovered just below 2 percent, Africa’s growth rates caught up with America’s, while rates in Europe and Asia reached upwards of 4 percent.

Continue reading at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2014/06/18-13

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Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Dr. Oz and Nutritional Supplements

Transgender people want to exist without having to prove they are ‘real’

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/20/transgender-janet-mock-passing-realness

Janet Mock explains why ‘passing’ isn’t a compliment: it’s accepting the narrative that trans people are trying to deceive


theguardian.com, Friday 20 June 2014

Janet Mock is the author of the best-selling book, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More. The New York-based, Hawaii-born Mock came out as a trans woman in a 2011 Marie Claire article and since has dedicated her time to raising awareness around the issues facing trans women and girls, launching the #GirlsLikeUs movement on Twitter. In 2012 alone, she was nominated for a Glaad Media Award, named to OUT magazine’s Out 100 List and listed as one of The Grio’s 100 most influential African-Americans. She also keeps a pretty fantastic Instagram account.

Mock talked to me the other day about what it feels like to be made into a spokesperson for an entire community, her interview with Piers Morgan in which he focused almost entirely on her genitals, and the problem with the notion of “passing”.

JESSICA VALENTI: You’ve had a New York Times best-selling book, you’ve been raising awareness online and off of transgender issues, and you now have this incredible platform. What do you think you’ll use it for?

JANET MOCK: I’ll continue to tell stories. I am a writer and storyteller who believes wholeheartedly in the power of stories to transform and connect us to ourselves and one another. There are more books in me and more stories I’d like to write, but I’m also excited about using other mediums – like television – as a space to connect with people and have thought-provoking and transformative conversations about politics, pop culture, aesthetics and social justice issues.

Your book is memoir, and obviously very personal – did you expect it to resonate so broadly?

Redefining Realness is very much my story, a story about a young trans girl of color on her quest for wholeness. I guess I’m most surprised that my very specific story and my various interactions with identity, with my parents, with poverty, with media and pop culture and literature has resonated with all kinds of readers. I definitely set out to write a book that would allow trans girls to see themselves but am moved that women, men and readers from all walks of life have seen themselves as well. For me writing is about communicating truth, and its empowering that my truth can be universal.

What’s been your least favorite question from a reporter?

“Do you have any advice on how we should speak to trans people?” My answer is always, “As human beings.” I think the question is well-meaning but also deeply dehumanizing.

How do you feel about being seen a spokesperson for transgender people, especially trans women? Obviously, there’s such a diversity of experience there – but the media loves a figurehead or a “representative” and it feels like you’re it. Are you ever concerned about that?

Of course, I’m concerned. It is why I open my book in both the Author’s Note and Introduction discussing my own experience with media representation and critiquing its limitations as well. None of us can represent anyone but ourselves, and when I write about my experiences I point out my own privilege, contextualize those experiences to offer a broader sociopolitical lens, and pay homage to the work of those who came before me and whom I work alongside as well. Yes the media loves a lone figurehead – but I resist that by speaking the names of my community members, showing I do none of this work alone.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/20/transgender-janet-mock-passing-realness

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Marianne Faithful

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Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/12/pentagon-mass-civil-breakdown

Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements

Posted by
Thursday 12 June 2014

A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”

Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagians by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”

Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”

Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.” The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.

Last year, the DoD’s Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine ‘Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?’ which, however, conflates peaceful activists with “supporters of political violence” who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on “armed militancy” themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists:

“In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence.”

The project’s 14 case studies each “involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/jun/12/pentagon-mass-civil-breakdown

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