The Ugly Fantasy at the Heart of Anti–Trans Bathroom Bills

From The Nation:

Do supporters of so-called “bathroom bills” want trans people to cease to exist altogether?

By Tobias Barrington Wolff
March 25, 2016

North Carolina has now jumped to the front of the line of states pushing “bathroom bills”—laws that prohibit transgender people from using the facilities that are right for them. Here is my question for the lawmakers who enact these laws: Which facilities do you want trans people to use? Because I don’t think you have thought this through. Or let’s start with a more basic question: Are you trying to eradicate transgender people altogether? Trans people exist. They are human beings. They have just as much right to exist as you do. They are not going to disappear, and if what you really want is to make them disappear, then you are hoping for genocide. Good people don’t hope for genocide.

Let’s break this down. Some bathrooms are segregated by gender—they are limited either to men and boys or to women and girls. Some bathrooms are not, by the way. There is usually no good reason to designate single-occupancy bathrooms for “men” or “women” only, and even multiple-occupancy bathrooms do not always draw these lines. But some do, and that means sometimes we need to categorize people based on gender when they go to the bathroom. What is the best way to do that?

One answer is to respect a person’s own identity—the identity a person presents to the world through personal appearance, dress, and how the person describes himself or herself. Generally, this means that people who look like men will use men’s rooms and people who look like women will use women’s rooms. Do trans people sometimes attract attention because of their appearance? Sure, sometimes. So do people who are not trans. Imagine that a woman who is not transgender goes to use the bathroom, and someone—another woman, or a man who sees her entering the facility—gives her a hard time because she does not look feminine enough. Or imagine that a guy enters a men’s room and other people give him a hard time for having a slight frame or a soft voice. Anyone who did those things would be a jerk, right? And good people don’t act like jerks. So that’s one answer: Respect people’s identities, and recognize that the problems—if there are any—may be coming from people who are acting like jerks.

Then there is the answer that proponents of these “bathroom bills” want: Check people’s genitals. Let’s start with the obvious. That’s creepy. I don’t know the first thing about the genitals of the overwhelming majority of people I encounter, and it is not information I generally need or want. If I somehow became aware that a person’s genitals did not look like what I might vaguely have assumed, that fact would be none of my business. I cannot imagine how such information would affect any of my dealings with a friend or associate, and it creeps me out that some people think that it should.

Proponents of these “bathroom bills” often talk about protecting children. The lieutenant governor of North Carolina released a video to justify that state’s terrible new law in which he repeated the hysterical claim that policies that treat trans people respectfully would help “sex offenders and pedophiles” prey on “women and children.” This is absurd on its face. No one is allowed to lurk in a bathroom for improper reasons, regardless of gender; no policy about respecting trans people would ever change that; and protecting trans people does not put anyone else at risk. But you know who I do want to keep away from the children in my life? Anyone who spends his time trying to figure out how to pass a law that would make other people’s genitals his business.

Continue reading at:

Bill Maher: “Maybe now Europe will have more sympathy for Israel”

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Bill Maher: “Maybe now Europe will have more sympathy for Israel”

Natural’s not in it: just because a product calls itself ‘natural’ doesn’t make it good

From The Guardian UK:

Not only are hurricanes, disease and mosquitoes natural, the way the word is defined by regulators can render it practically meaningless

Tuesday 8 March 2016

I’ve repeatedly come across the idea that natural means good among eco-friendly folks like myself. It has emerged in online forums, conversations with friends, and discussions at health food stores. It has also popped up regularly in the comments section of this column, where astute readers can often be found cautioning against making this assumption.

I happen to agree with them: the assumption that natural equals good is wrong. But it’s understandable that people would feel that way, isn’t it? Natural just sounds good; easy. Natural sounds like puppies and sunshine and fresh air. Natural! The way nature intended! Before meddlesome mankind stuck our big noses in and ruined everything, that is.

The problem is twofold. First: “natural” doesn’t mean good – not entirely and not always. Second: “natural” sometimes doesn’t mean anything at all, at least not in the way it’s most commonly used – to imbue a product with a vaguely positive attribute in the hopes that consumers will buy it.

Beginning with the first point, as we learned from vaginal detox pearls, natural does not necessarily equate to beneficial, effective or even safe. In fact, here are some natural things which are also actually quite terrible: death, disease, beets, cute little zebra babies being eaten by lions, poisonous plants, mosquitoes, hurricanes.

All of these things fit the dictionary definition of the word natural (“existing in or caused by nature; not made or caused by humankind”) yet none of them are really all that appealing as they relate to humankind. Beets stain everything and taste like dirt; sunburns ruin vacations; the seeds of the castor oil plant have the distinction of being the Guinness Book of World Records holder for world’s most poisonous plant, yet its charming purple flowers litter gardens around the world.

It is therefore not enough to see “natural” and read “good for me” in its place. It’s no secret that I’m a fan of natural treatments and beauty remedies and homemade cleaning products, but in order for them to be useful, they have to do more than simply have “natural” as their main attribute. There’s no sense in having a natural cleaner that doesn’t clean, or a natural remedy that only makes you sicker. In these cases, natural isn’t doing you any favours.

The reverse isn’t necessarily true either. I’m reminded of this daily: without the dose of 11 decidedly unnatural pills I take twice a day, my chronic kidney condition would make it impossible for me to write this column. My daughter was born when surgeons strapped me to a table, cut an incision into my lower abdomen and then reached in and pulled her out – it really doesn’t get much more unnatural than that. But if it had been left up to nature, my full placenta previa would have meant that one of us would have died during labour.

So, on to point two. In the US, at the time of this writing, the US Department of Agriculture does not restrict the use of the word “natural” to describe food or beverage products unless there are added colours, synthetic substances, or flavours.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Natural’s not in it: just because a product calls itself ‘natural’ doesn’t make it good

Another Reason to Hate Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Her War on Medical Marijuana

From The Observer:

DNC Chair dopes Florida with opiates despite heroin epidemic, but doesn’t endorse drug to soothe suffering cancer victims


Medical marijuana has been a bipartisan issue in Florida for the past several years. In 2014, 58 percent of Floridians voted in favor it—just shy of the 60 percent needed to pass. The same year, Republican Governor Rick Scott signed into law the Compassionate Medical Cannabis Act, allowing very limited uses to alleviate pain for cancer patients, Lou Gehrig’s disease, or epilepsy. The bill was co-sponsored by Democrats and Republicans, and many cities and counties across the state have taken measures to decriminalize the drug.

In November 2016, medical marijuana will appear on Florida voters’ ballots once again, and a new medical marijuana bill is headed to Florida’s State Senate this week after being approved in the rules committee. Despite bipartisan support across the state, Florida may not join the 23 other states and Washington, D.C. that have already legalized medical marijuana, due in large part to the efforts of DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

In 2015, Politico reporter Marc Caputo wrote an article revealing Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s correspondence with an Orlando lawyer and medical marijuana proponent named John Morgan. Mr. Morgan alleged Ms. Wasserman Schultz offered to change her stance on medical marijuana if Mr. Morgan retracted negative statements he made to the media about Ms. Wasserman Schultz. “No,” Mr. Morgan told Politico, “she is a bully. I beat bullies up for a living.”

Mr. Morgan, who once donated to Ms. Wasserman Schultz, helped bankroll the failed 2014 medical marijuana initiative, which Ms. Wasserman Schultz criticized—making her an enemy of the bill’s proponents, who are joining the many voices campaigning against her re-election to Congress.

“Almost 58 percent of Florida voters supported medical marijuana and I’d be surprised if that many support her,” Bill Piper, national affairs director with the Washington-based Drug Policy Alliance, told Politico in 2015. “That should be a lesson for Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Florida voters like this policy more than her. And we’ll make sure people know her position.”

Ms. Wasserman Schultz’s criticisms of the bill are linked to the significant campaign contributions she receives from the alcohol industry. In the past year she has received $15,000 from Southern Wine & Spirits and $10,000 from the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Throughout her political career she has receives thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from these organizations, including Wine & Spirits wholesalers of America.

Continue reading at:

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Another Reason to Hate Debbie Wasserman Schultz: Her War on Medical Marijuana

Ayaan Hirsi Ali with Maajid Nawaz – Alan Howard Foundation / JW3 Speaker Series

Posted in Uncategorized. Comments Off on Ayaan Hirsi Ali with Maajid Nawaz – Alan Howard Foundation / JW3 Speaker Series