Chelsea Manning was transgender ‘in secret’ while serving in US army

From The Guardian UK:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/08/chelsea-manning-transgender-secret-us-army

in New York
Monday 8 December 2014

Chelsea Manning, the soldier jailed for her part in the Wikileaks affair, has revealed that she was transgender “in secret” while serving in the US army.

At the time of her May 2010 arrest over the leaking military and diplomatic documents, Manning was known as Bradley. Until now, very little has been known about Manning’s history of gender identity, despite her very public legal battle with the US military over her civil rights – the army private won the right to change her name, and her push for medical treatment while in prison has become something of a cause célèbre for transgender rights in the military and even worldwide.

Writing for the Guardian from military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in a passionate essay about “largely invisible” discrimination against transgender people, Manning declares: “We’re banned from serving our country in the armed services unless we serve as trans people in secret, as I did.”

In August 2013, Manning was jailed for 35 years, for passing files to Wikileaks. The following day, Manning said she would from then on be known as Chelsea. In April 2014, a Kansas judge formally granted her request to change her name.

Manning’s request for clemency was denied, before proceeding to appeal. She has formally applied to President Barack Obama for a pardon or reduced sentence.

Separately, she is suing the US military over its denial to her of gender dysphoria treatment, despite defense secretary Chuck Hagel having approved the process in July.

In Manning’s case, gender dysphoria refers to an innate sense of being female though her sex at birth was male. Treatment includes psychotherapy, hormone therapy and surgery to change her primary and/or secondary sex characteristics.

A hearing in the case, in which Manning is also seeking to be allowed to grow her hair long and use cosmetics, is scheduled for January.

Last week, in a case heralded by the American Civil Liberties Union, the US army “fully recognised” the new names of two transgender veterans from New Jersey. The decision cleared a path for the two, who were named only as Jennifer and Nicolas, to receive veterans’ benefits.

Beginning her piece for the Guardian, Manning quotes Martin Luther King – “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” – and writes: “I am a young trans woman. And I can attest to the ‘long’ part, but I hope the bend toward justice will soon become more pronounced.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2014/dec/08/chelsea-manning-transgender-secret-us-army

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Propaganda Has Triumphed over Journalism, and the Consequences Are Enormous

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/propaganda-has-triumphed-over-journalism-and-consequences-are-enormous

We need a press that teaches the young to be agents of people, not power.

By John Pilger
December 5, 2014

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and theWashington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity?  And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.

This power to create a new “reality” has been building for a long time. Forty-five years ago, a book entitled The Greening of America caused a sensation. On the cover were these words: “There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual.”

I was a correspondent in the United States at the time and recall the overnight elevation to guru status of the author, a young Yale academic, Charles Reich. His message was that truth-telling and political action had failed and only “culture” and introspection could change the world.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/propaganda-has-triumphed-over-journalism-and-consequences-are-enormous

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“Slow-motion disaster”: Paul Krugman sounds the alarm about Europe’s economic mess

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/01/slow_motion_disaster_paul_krugman_sounds_the_alarm_about_europes_economic_mess/

The economist explains why the continent’s woes keep him up at night


Monday, Dec 1, 2014

A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of a lost decade.

So warns Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman in his New York Times column today, which examines the continent’s “slow-motion disaster.” As Krugman notes, the United States and Europe are diverging in their economic paths: while the U.S. seems to be slowly but surely recovering from the financial crisis, Europe is in the midst of another, with high unemployment and a looming risk of deflation. Why is the continent staring down the economic abyss? “The conventional wisdom among European policy makers is that we’re looking at the price of irresponsibility,” Krugman observes, with countries like Greece, Spain, France, and Italy blamed for alleged profligacy and uncompetitive economic policies. But the conventional wisdom is dead wrong, Krugman argues.

If you want to know how Europe reached its current state of affairs, don’t look to the continent’s traditional scapegoats. “[T]he bad behavior at the core of Europe’s slow-motion disaster isn’t coming from Greece, or Italy, or France,” Krugman contends. “It’s coming from Germany.”

Purveyors of the standard narrative about the European economy depict countries like Greece, Italy, and France as racked with high labor costs and reckless fiscal policies. But this narrative is bunk; just glance at some of the data:

Since the euro came into existence in 1999, France’s G.D.P. deflator (the average price of French-produced goods and services) has risen 1.7 percent per year, while its unit labor costs have risen 1.9 percent annually. Both numbers are right in line with the European Central Bank’s target of slightly under 2 percent inflation, and similar to what has happened in the United States. Germany, on the other hand, is way out of line, with price and labor-cost growth of 1 and 0.5 percent, respectively.

Moreover, Krugman writes, costs are coming under control in Spain and Italy. And as for the argument that fiscal irresponsibility is wrecking economies, Krugman points out that France’s borrowing costs are barely higher than Germany’s; there’s no fiscal crisis on the horizon.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/12/01/slow_motion_disaster_paul_krugman_sounds_the_alarm_about_europes_economic_mess/

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Bela Fleck / Abigail Washburn

Myths About Transition Regrets

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/myths-about-transition-regrets_b_6160626.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


11/18/2014

Every few months I find myself reading something written by a person with no actual psychological, psychiatric, or medical training expounding on why they believe transgender people aren’t real, shouldn’t be allowed to transition, or just need some old-school “reparative therapy” complete with screaming, pillow whacking and cuddling with a “therapist.”

Recently there has been a spate of blog posts raising the specter of transgender people regretting transitioning. They cite their two favorite studies, without actually looking at what the actual studies said, and drag out some old anecdotes. In short, they try to muddy the waters the way climate-change deniers or creationists do by throwing up a cloud of chaff and hoping no one will look any closer. And then there’s the fact that the authors of these blog posts also think that same-sex marriage will abolish all marriage.

Let’s deconstruct the arguments being trotted out one by one.

1. A Swedish study shows post-operative people are more much more likely to commit suicide.

This statement grossly misrepresents the findings of the study and suggests that the study argues against transition-related care. Quite the opposite. The study outright states that medical transition is supported by the other research, and the study is not intended as an argument against the availability of such treatment:

For the purpose of evaluating whether sex reassignment is an effective treatment for gender dysphoria, it is reasonable to compare reported gender dysphoria pre and post treatment. Such studies have been conducted either prospectively or retrospectively, and suggest that sex reassignment of transsexual persons improves quality of life and gender dysphoria.

Indeed, another Swedish study in 2009 found that 95 percent of individuals who transitioned report positive life outcomes as a result.

Additionally, the higher mortality rates are in comparison with the general populace (and not other transgender people who have not received treatment) and only apply to people who transitioned before 1989:

In accordance, the overall mortality rate was only significantly increased for the group operated on before 1989. However, the latter might also be explained by improved health care for transsexual persons during 1990s, along with altered societal attitudes towards persons with different gender expressions.

It should come as no shock that as society accepts transgender people, they suffer fewer side effects of minority stress. This conclusion is supported by other recent studies (Murad 2010 and Ainsworth 2011) that found that individuals who receive treatment not only are better-off than those who didn’t but are not significantly different in daily functioning than the general population:

Male-to-female and FM individuals had the same psychological functioning level as measured by the Symptom Checklist inventory (SCL-90), which was also similar to the psychological functioning level of the normal population and better than that of untreated individuals with GID….

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/myths-about-transition-regrets_b_6160626.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

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Technology is making us blind: The dangerous complacency of the iPhone era

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/29/technology_is_making_us_blind_the_dangerous_complacency_of_the_iphone_era/

The rise of smartphones and social media has ushered in a new age of techno-optimism. And that’s a big problem


Saturday, Nov 29, 2014

The technology pages of news media can make for scary reading these days. From new evidence of government surveillance to the personal data collection capabilities of new devices, to the latest leaks of personal information, we hear almost daily of new threats to personal privacy. It’s difficult to overstate the implications of this: The separation of the private and public that’s the cornerstone of liberal thought, not to mention the American Constitution, is being rapidly eroded, with potentially profound consequences for our freedom.

 As much as we may register a certain level of dismay at this, in practice, our reaction is often indifference. How many of us have taken to the streets in protest, started a petition, canvassed a politician, or even changed our relationship with our smartphone, tablet or smartwatch? The question is why are we so unconcerned?

We could say that it’s simply a matter of habit, that we have become so used to using devices in such a way that we cannot imagine using them any differently. Or we could, for example, invoke a tragic fate in which we simply have no option but to accept the erosion of our privacy because of our powerlessness against corporations and governments.

These are, however, retrospective justifications that miss the kernel of the truth. To reach this kernel, we have to excavate the substratum of culture to uncover the ideas that shape our relationship with technology. Only here can we see that the cause is a profound ideological shift in this relationship.

Over the last few hundred years, it has been one characterized by deep ambivalence. On the one hand, we have viewed technology as emancipatory, and even, as David Nye, James Carey and other scholars have argued, as divine. On the other hand, we have seen it as dehumanizing, alienating and potentially manipulative — a viewpoint shaped by historical figures as diverse as William Blake, Mark Twain, Mary Shelley, Charlie Chaplin, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ned Lud, Samuel Beckett and Karl Marx. However, over the last 20 years or so, this latter perspective has largely been thrown out of the window.

There are many areas of culture that witness this shift, but none does so as lucidly as science fiction film. Even when set in the future, science fiction explodes onto the silver screen the ideas held about technology in the present. Indeed, the success of many of the best science fiction films is undoubtedly because they illustrate their time’s hopes and fears about technology so clearly.

Those of the late 20th century clearly suggest the prevalence in American culture of the old fearful view of technology. The 1980s, for example, saw the advent of personal computing, innovation in areas like genetic engineering and robotics, job losses brought about by industrial mechanization, and the creation of futuristic military technologies such as the Strategic Defense Initiative (aka Star Wars).

Lo and behold, the science fiction films of the time betray cultural fears of keeping up with the pace of change. Many explore the dehumanizing effects of technology, depicting worlds where humans have lost control. “Terminator,” for example, conjoins fears of mechanization and computing. The human protagonists are powerless to kill Schwarzenegger’s cyborg directly; it ultimately meets its end via another piece of industrial technology (a hydraulic press). Another classic of the era, “Blade Runner,” is a complex thought experiment on the joining of technology and humans as hybrids. The antagonist, Roy, whom Harrison Ford’s Deckard must kill, represents the horrific synthesis of unfettered human ambition and technological potency.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/29/technology_is_making_us_blind_the_dangerous_complacency_of_the_iphone_era/

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Krugman’s doom and gloom: Why our Very Serious elites still don’t get it

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/24/krugmans_doom_and_gloom_why_our_very_serious_elites_still_dont_get_it/

Six years after the global financial crisis hit, we still aren’t out of the woods


Monday, Nov 24, 2014

Six years after the global economy reached the edge of the precipice, what have economic elites learned about policymaking?

Not much, Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman laments in his New York Times column today.

Mainstream economic scholarship tells us that the normal rules don’t apply in a “rock-bottom economy,” Krugman writes:

Government spending doesn’t compete with private investment — it actually promotes business spending. Central bankers, who normally cultivate an image as stern inflation-fighters, need to do the exact opposite, convincing markets and investors that they will push inflation up. “Structural reform,” which usually means making it easier to cut wages, is more likely to destroy jobs than create them.

Still, Very Serious People insisted otherwise, claiming that the most urgent threat confronting the country was the federal budget deficit, demanding sharp cuts in interest rates lest hyperinflation begin at any moment, and championing a belt-tightening austerity regime. As Krugman points out, some policymakers — including at the European Central Bank — heeded this disastrous advice, and the continent hasn’t recovered since.

And don’t be fooled by indicators that suggest the global economy is — if not out of the woods — slowly emerging, Krugman cautions:

It’s true that with the U.S. unemployment rate dropping, most analysts expect the Fed to raise interest rates sometime next year. But inflation is low, wages are weak, and the Fed seems to realize that raising rates too soon would be disastrous. Meanwhile, Europe looks further than ever from economic liftoff, while Japan is still struggling to escape from deflation. Oh, and China, which is starting to remind some of us of Japan in the late 1980s, could join the rock-bottom club sooner than you think.

So the counterintuitive realities of economic policy at the zero lower bound are likely to remain relevant for a long time to come, which makes it crucial that influential people understand those realities. Unfortunately, too many still don’t; one of the most striking aspects of economic debate in recent years has been the extent to which those whose economic doctrines have failed the reality test refuse to admit error, let alone learn from it. The intellectual leaders of the new majority in Congress still insist that we’re living in an Ayn Rand novel; German officials still insist that the problem is that debtors haven’t suffered enough.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/11/24/krugmans_doom_and_gloom_why_our_very_serious_elites_still_dont_get_it/


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Naomi Klein Lays Bare the Conflict Between Capitalism and the Climate

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/naomi-klein-lays-bare-conflict-between-capitalism-and-climate

Tom Athanasiou’s review of Klein’s latest book, ‘This Changes Everything.’

By Tom Athanasiou
November 24, 2014

The first thing to say about Naomi’s Klein’s latest book is that its title makes a grand promise,  This Changes Everything – and that’s before you even get to the subtitle, which sets up a face-off between capitalism on one side and the climate on the other. The second thing to say is that no single book could ever meet such a promise. Klein, with careful aplomb, does not attempt to do so. Rather, she offers a tour of the horizon upon which we will meet our fates. Or, rather, the horizon upon which we will attempt to change them.

In the face of such huge topics, Klein’s strategy is a practical one. She defers the problem of capitalism-in-itself (as German philosophers used to call it) and focuses instead on our era’s particular type of capitalism – the neoliberal capitalism of boundless privatization and deregulation, of markets-über-alles ideology and oligarchic billionaires. Her central argument is not (as some have insisted) that capitalism has to go before we can begin to save ourselves, but rather that we’re going to have to get past neoliberalism if we want to face the greater challenges. Klein writes:

Some say there is no time for this transformation; the crisis is too pressing and the clock is ticking. I agree that it would be reckless to claim that the only solution to this crisis is to revolutionize our economy and revamp our worldview from the bottom up – and anything short of that is not worth doing. There are all kinds of measures that would lower emissions substantively that could and should be done right now. But we aren’t taking those measures, are we?

At the outset Klein asks the obvious question: Why haven’t we, in the face of existential danger, mobilized to lower emissions? There are lots of reasons, but one stands above all others. We have not mobilized because “market fundamentalism has, from the very first moments, systematically sabotaged our collective response to climate change, a threat that came knocking just as this ideology was reaching its zenith.” In other words the climate crisis came with spectacularly “bad timing.” The severity of the danger became clear at the very time when “there-is-no-alternative” capitalism was rising to ideological triumph, foreclosing the exact remedies (long-term planning, stricter government regulation, collective action) that could address the crisis. It’s a crucial insight, and it alone justifies the price of admission.

Klein reports that her “environmentalist friends” constantly ask her, “Do you have to say ‘capitalism’?” It’s a great laugh line, but it’s important to acknowledge that the question is a fair one. Because if capitalism – the hard core of our woe-begotten economy – is the problem, then our near-impossible task becomes even more difficult. Given her animus against neoliberalism (see her previous bestsellers,  No Logo and The Shock Doctrine), you might expect her to agree that vocal anti-capitalism is unnecessary; neoliberalism is quite enough to fear all by itself. But Klein is playing another game, and it requires her to call things by their proper names. In this sense she may not even be an environmentalist, at least not in the old sense of the word. The modern American green movement has so long strained to avoid charges of anti-capitalism that you could write its history in terms of this avoidance. Such a history would recount endless screeds against “industrialism,” “technology,” “reductionism,” “patriarchy,” “overpopulation,” and, lately, even agriculture. All of these, no doubt, have something to teach us, but absent a coherent understanding of political economy, they shade together into noise and confusion.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/naomi-klein-lays-bare-conflict-between-capitalism-and-climate

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