Thursday, May 31, 2012

Canada ‘Church vs. State’ showdown sparked by dispute over gay-straight alliances

May 29, 2012

TORONTO — A dispute over the use of the term “gay-straight alliance” in Ontario schools has prompted the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto on Monday to accuse Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s administration of making “religious freedom . . . a second-class right.”

The church-versus-state showdown was sparked by an amendment from Education Minister Laurel Broten to the anti-bullying bill, closing a loophole that gave schools veto power over club names.

Under the proposed change, all schools — including those in the Catholic system — won’t be able to stop students from calling anti-homophobia clubs “gay-straight alliances.”

Broten said that Ontario’s LGBTQ students received highlighted mention in the legislation, as statistically LGBTQ youth are at increased exposure and risk to being bullied and that schools, parents, and government needs to reinforce the message that this behavior will not be tolerated.

But in an interview with the Toronto Star, Marino Gazzola, chairperson of the Ontario Catholic School Trustees’ Association, said Tuesday that using the word “gay” in the name of supportive clubs is going too far.

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Casseroles across Canada: Tonight we resist and dream together

By Derrick O'Keefe
May 30, 2012
I don't care what the weather report says where you are today: it's a beautiful day across Canada.

Tonight, in over 60 communities big and small, people will be gathering to celebrate and defend the determined student and people's movement in Quebec. It's a night of cross-Canada Casseroles, inspired by the spirited pots and pans protests of the past week in Quebec.

The world's joining in too, with solidarity Casseroles happening tonight in London, Paris, Brussels, New York City - and even Little Rock, Arkansas, believe it or not.

This is a remarkable and nearly totally spontaneous coming together; the idea of a coordinated 'Casseroles Night in Canada' was hatched barely 72 hours ago in some late night twitter banter.

Tonight, in every corner of the country, from Halfmoon Bay to Halifax, Saltspring Island to Sudbury, Whitehorse to Winnipeg (and in 50-some other not-necessarily-alliterative towns and cities), neighbours, friends and perfect strangers will gather to bang some pots and pans in solidarity with the student strike and in defence of civil liberties in Quebec.

See Also:

Activist Communiqué: Could Wednesdays become 'Casserole Night in Canada' in support of the student strike?

Jacques Parizeau weighs in on Quebec protests, NDP remains neutral

Chris Hayes Is Right About Heroes

I am sick and tired of the meme that says that those in the military are heroes.

Just like I am sick and fucking tired of being told I owe them my freedom.  What the Fuck?

The only people who owe the military for their freedom are the rich and powerful.

As for them being heroes.  My heroes don't murder people.

My heroes say no to war.

By Erik Kain
Tue May. 29, 2012

On his show on MSNBC this Sunday, Chris Hayes dedicated an hour to the subject of Memorial Day. During the show, Hayes admitted that labeling all fallen American soldiers as "heroes" made him uncomfortable.

"It is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the word hero. Why do I feel so uncomfortable about the word hero?" Hayes said. "I feel uncomfortable with the word hero because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. And I obviously don't want to desecrate or disrespect the memory of anyone that has fallen. Obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is tremendous heroism. You know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that's problematic, but maybe I'm wrong about that."

The backlash was as swift and fierce as one would expect.'s Kurt Schlichter argues that "the real problem for Chris Hayes is that he actually said what he thinks. He thinks our soldiers are suckers and fools at best, brutal sociopaths at worst. At a minimum, he feels that honoring those who died for this country might encourage people to see that actually defending our country is a good thing. He's not quite ready to make that leap; after all, most progressives are ambivalent about this whole "America" concept, if not actively opposed to it."

This is obviously silly. American conservatives carry on endlessly about the value of individualism, but when it comes to praising soldiers on their individual merits, rather than en masse, it's suddenly downright anti-American. Chris Hayes is practically spitting on the troops, according to Schlichter, who does his very best to avoid context and nuance in favor of ad hominem and vitriol. It's par for the course with all-things-Breitbart, but does a good enough job illustrating the cultural divide animating this dispute.

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Bilderberg 2012: Secretive summit kicks-off in Virginia

The Coming Mega-Drought: Tightening the Screws of Want and Thirst in the American Southwest

By Evaggelos Vallianatos
Wednesday, 30 May 2012

I have traveled extensively in America's Southwest. I have visited cities like Austin and El Paso, Texas; Denver and Boulder, Colorado; Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico, and Tucson, Arizona. I have walked in the great deserts of Sonora in Arizona, Mojave in California and Chihuahua in Mexico. In fact, I live in Southern California, not very far from Los Angeles, a monster city built in the desert.

When I went to the Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, I thought I was on another planet. Massive boulders, one over the other like pancakes, of great diversity in size, shape and form, and spread all over the desert landscape, give the impression that this is a place the gods created only recently, or that it was made in the beginnings of time but forgotten for countless millennia. The cacti stand next to these giant stones like witnesses of an extraordinary story never told. Bushes and exquisite flowers add luster to this gem of the natural world.

The Southwest is a beautiful country of blue skies, little water and plenty of land, most of which is semi-arid, arid or desert. Deserts are by definition inhospitable to human habitation. These are places reasonable people abandon quickly. The land is dry, sand-like, harsh and unforgiving. Even the vegetation and wildlife are sparse, accustomed to little moisture and nutrients, save for plenty of sunshine and heat.

The Southwest is not exclusively desert, but it contains an unusually large number of deserts. Only some of the surviving fragments of Native American populations live in the deserts. The rest - mostly white - live in the deserts because they have the illusion that the panoply of their civilization can defeat the aridity of the land and either mine the aquifers or bring water from elsewhere. As for the unbearable heat, the denizens of the deserts bring with them air-conditioned cars and homes, pretending nature - the hot nature of the deserts - can be domesticated, perhaps defeated.

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Romney pledges to expand military

Maine Governor Vetoes Teachers Bill, Cites Union’s ‘Endorsement Of Same-Sex Marriage’

What a vindictive little Nazi Prick.

By Igor Volsky
on May 30, 2012

Maine Governor Paul LePage (R) vetoed a bill on Tuesday that would have provided “additional pay to public school teachers who receive special national certification” and specifically pointed to the teachers’ union recent endorsement of a referendum to repeal the state’s ban against same-sex marriage as a reason for his opposition.

In his veto message, LePage claimed that improving the quality of teachers required “a larger more coordinated statewide solution,” before lashing out at the teacher’s union, which would partially fund the certification program. The governor said the union requires teachers to pay dues “which are squandered on a host of activities not even remotely related to professional development” and singled out its position on marriage equality:
“The MEA announced its endorsement recently of the same-sex marriage proposal on the November ballot,” LePage said in a press release Tuesday. “This announcement is an example of what the union is choosing to focus on rather than expanding and enhancing opportunities for teacher development.”
LePage had lashed out at the teacher’s union after members unanimously voted in favor of marriage equality on Sunday. “Too often, however, union bosses worry about a wide variety of efforts — political campaigns, lobbying, protecting bad teachers, insurances sales, and providing golf and skiing discounts — which are not related to furthering the education of our children,” he claimed, dismissing science which has shown that legal and social inequalities undermine LGBT families and their children. Research has also shown that schools that discuss gay and lesbian people are safer for LGBT youth than schools that don’t.

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Kansas pastor calls on U.S. government to kill LGBT people

Some of us have read our history and know what happens next when Nazi Pricks like this start screaming from pulpits about killing people.

Some make think they will stop with the queers but next come the people of color and the Jews.

The time to say no is now before it is too late.

Never Again!

By David Edwards
Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca, Kansas says President Barack Obama has gone too far in supporting same sex marriage and it’s time for the U.S. government to begin killing gay men and lesbians.

“Terrorists are dangerous, the economy is a real and present danger,” Pastor Curtis Knapp told his congregation on Sunday. “But there is simply nothing other than the holocaust of the unborn which imperils the safety of our country or places our people in jeopardy as does the leader of the Western world publicly raising his fist at the heavens and declaring that the bedrock institution of society, ordained of God and meant to be protected by the state, is little more than a convention of convenience with the children of Sodom to transform the meaning of something, which is precious to Jesus Christ, and a living picture of his love for the church into a legally protected justification for perversion and a vehicle of hatred aimed directly at that love.”

Knapp went on to read from Leviticus 20: “If there is a man who lies with a male as those who lie with a woman, both of them have committed a detestable act; they shall surely be put to death.”

“They should be put to death,” Knapp declared. “‘Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them, no?’ — I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.”

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BREAKING: ExxonMobil shareholders again reject LGBT employment protections

Posted on 30 May 2012

ExxonMobil shareholders have again voted down a proposal to add gay and transgender employees to the Irving-based corporation’s nondiscrimination policy.

Meeting at the Meyerson Symphony Center in the Dallas Arts District, the ExxonMobil shareholders voted 80 percent to 20 percent Wednesday morning against a resolution asking the corporation to amend “its written equal employment opportunity policy to explicitly prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity and to substantially implement the policy.”

The proposal has been introduced each year since Mobil and Exxon merged in 1999. The highest level of support came in 2008 at nearly 40 percent.

“It’s disappointing, but this isn’t the end of the issue for us,” said Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who has lobbied the company on the issue. “We’re going to continue to reach out and engage them. … I think the White House needs to go back and revisit this executive order.”

The proposed executive order would require contractors to include sexual orientation and gender identity in their nondiscrimination policies if they do business with the federal government, which Exxon does. However, President Barack Obama’s administration indicated earlier this year that he doesn’t plan to sign the proposed order anytime soon.

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The Florida election fix is in for 2012

Women's Center In New Orleans Destroyed By Arson, Third Incident in the South

Written by Annie-Rose Strasser posted from ThinkProgress Health
Wednesday, 30 May 2012

A New Orleans women’s health organization was destroyed last week by an unknown arsonist, becoming the latest target of attacks on women’s health clinics in the south.

The organization, Women With A Vision, was likely singled out because it offers AIDS prevention help, HIV testing, and substance abuse assistance to sex workers, transgender women, poor women, and women of color. The clinic also does community outreach and education on those issues. Like two incidents in Georgia last week, no one was injured in the fire, but the clinic lost a good share of its resources.

The fire burned female and male condoms, HIV education posters, and suits donated for women to wear to job interviews. In a letter on their website, the group discusses the losses, and calls for donations from anyone who can help:

Thanks to the fast response of all of our supporters across the country, many of you have already heard that our office was broken into last night and set on fire. The worst damage was concentrated in our community organizing and outreach office where we store all of the resources we use to educate our community. We lost everything. We do not have an office to operate out of right now. Most of our office equipment and all of our educational resources were destroyed. Because of the targeted nature, we can only assume that this was intentional.

Complete article at:

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


SEIU Passes Resolution to Support Transgender Workers

Press Release

Labor union vows to advocate on behalf of transgender workers during contract negotiations


Washington – Today the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, applauds the member-delegates of the 2.1 million-member Service Employees International Union (SEIU) for passing a resolution at their 2012 national conference in Denver yesterday.  The resolution states that SEIU local groups and members will bargain for transgender-inclusive heath care coverage as part of their contract negotiations with businesses and employers.

“This is a tremendous step forward in the fight for workplace equality for LGBT people,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese.  “Our friends at SEIU recognize that all workers should be treated equitably, and that includes being free from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  We are incredibly grateful to Mary Kay Henry and the SEIU member-delegates for continuing to be champions of justice and equality.”
With the passage of this resolution, SEIU joins the HRC Foundation, who, for the last decade, has been working to make workplace policies and protections more inclusive for transgender employees and their families through its Corporate Equality Index (CEI). This year the CEI rating criteria was made more stringent, requiring employers to have transgender inclusive health insurance coverage.  A remarkable 206 companies met the criteria.  Furthermore, HRC's Healthcare Equality Index recommends that all U.S. healthcare facilities provide transgender-inclusive health coverage to their employees.

Historically, transgender people have been categorically denied health care coverage for medically necessary treatment, irrespective of whether treatment is related to sex reassignment/affirmation.  Until recently, nearly all U.S employer-based health insurance plans contained “transgender exclusions” that limited insurance coverage for this population. 

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

Torie Osborn Crashes the Party

The spirited California Assembly candidate battles the Democratic establishment.

BY Steve Early
May 24, 2012

In 2008, thousands of Obama campaign volunteers got fired up about electoral politics in a way they hadn’t been before. Four years later, some are now running for office themselves. But few have made a bigger splash in local Democratic circles than former In These Times staffer Torie Osborn, a nationally-known advocate for gay and lesbian rights and other progressive causes. Her insurgent campaign for a California Assembly seat has roiled the waters of Los Angeles-area liberalism and bucked the legislative leadership in Sacramento, which is circling the wagons around her main opponent.

If Santa Monica-based Osborn beats Assemblywoman Betsy Butler in the newly-created 50th Assembly district—either on June 5 or in a November general election run-off—her victory over the party establishment will be a Left Coast monument to what might have been possible, in more places, if Obama’s campaign organization (or the Democratic Party) had been serious about grassroots movement building. “There could have been 100, or even 1,000 Torie Osborns, who came out of the network of energized people trying to change American politics in 2008,” says California political consultant Paul Kumar, an admirer of Osborn’s “extraordinary campaign organization.”

Given her strong resume as a community organizer, non-profit organization leader, and influential advisor to several Los Angeles mayors, it’s been surprising to some that Osborn’s well-funded first-time bid for public office wasn’t welcomed by Assembly Speaker John Pérez and other Democratic legislators. After helping to launch this magazine as a founding staff member in the mid-1970s, she played leadership roles in the National Organization for Women, a pioneering Los Angeles clinic for HIV/AIDS sufferers, and the national Gay and Lesbian Task Force that mobilized hundreds of thousands of civil rights marchers in Washington in 1993. While serving as director of Liberty Hill Foundation, and later with United Way, she helped channel millions of dollars from well-heeled Hollywooders into Los Angeles neighborhood projects dealing with gang violence, low-income housing, and environmental issues. Osborn’s latest work, with California Calls, has focused on boosting voter registration in the state and building a coalition to end “loopholes for giant corporate property owners and the requirement of a two-thirds supermajority vote by legislators to increase taxes.”

As San Francisco lawyer and Democratic Party activist Paul Hogarth noted in a February 2012 post on the Bay Area political blog Beyond Chron, California’s just-completed redistricting process has given “Democrats an historic opportunity to pick up seats in November— and win a two-thirds majority that would make Republicans irrelevant.” Instead, Hogarth charged, “[Speaker] Pérez has diverted resources from competitive ‘swing districts’ and is instead meddling into Democratic primary fights in deep-blue seats” so he can “consolidate control at the expense of everything else.” The chances of the Democrats gaining the necessary two additional seats in both houses of the legislature has decreased, as a result.

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Memo to Rio+20: 'green economy' doesn't mean monetising nature

Official support for marketising nature to stop its destruction means the practical action at Rio+20 will be at People's summit

Hannah Griffiths
Tuesday 29 May 2012

The 1992 Rio Earth summit established "sustainable development" firmly in the global political lexicon – even though the term meant, and continues to mean, different things to different people. For Stephan Schmidheiny, a CEO who was appointed chief adviser for business and industry at the summit and subsequently set up the World Business Council on Sustainable Development, it apparently means continuing with business as usual: in February, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison for the deaths of thousands of workers at his asbestos-cement factory.

As the Rio+20 anniversary conference approaches, a battle rages over the definition of another term: "green economy". "A green economy in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication" is a key conference theme. It sounds good, but what does it mean?

According to one of the official preparatory documents (pdf): "Several delegations proposed the valuing of ecosystem services and internalising of environmental externalities as key elements of a green economy, as well as green accounting (pdf); while some delegations cautioned against further marketisation of nature's services."

The jargon masks some diametrically opposing views. On one side, many northern governments are saying we trash the natural world because we don't value it properly. So far, so good. But they go on to confuse "value" with "price", which is where it all starts to break down. They argue that to conserve or protect the resources and functions we need from nature, we need to ascribe a financial value to them and bring them into the market. Then we will pay the proper price for nature and stop destroying it.

The UK government is a big advocate of this approach, having bought heavily into the recommendations of a report on the subject by a team led by the former Deutsche Bank employee Pavan Sukhdev. It has gone as far as publishing a white paper that commits to pushing the agenda, both in the UK and on the international stage.

A market-based approach to dealing with natural resources is not an entirely new concept. The idea behind the UN's Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation programme (Redd), for example, is that if the carbon stored in forests is valued and quantified, forests will be seen as more valuable standing than they would be cut down.

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The Oligarchy's Rule of Law: From Russia to Oklahoma

By Mark Ames
Sunday, 27 May 2012

At the end of the 1990s, after the total collapse of the mass-privatization experiment in Boris Yeltin's Russia, some of the more earnest free-market proselytizers tried making sense of it all. The unprecedented collapse of Russia's economy and its capital markets, the wholesale looting, the quiet extermination of millions of Russians from the shock and destitution (Russian male life expectancy plummeted from 68 years to 56 years)—the terrible consequences of imposing radical libertarian free-market ideas on an alien culture—turned out worse than any worst-case-scenario imagined by the free-market true-believers.

Of all the disastrous results of that experiment, what troubled many Western free-market true-believers most wasn't so much the mass poverty and population collapse, but rather, the way things turned out so badly in Russia's newly-privatized companies and industries. That was the one thing that was supposed to go right. According to the operative theory—developed by the founding fathers of libertarianism/neoliberalism, Friedrich von Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman and the rest—a privately-owned company will always outperform a state-run company because private ownership and the profit-motive incentivize the owners to make their companies stronger, more efficient, more competitive, and so on. The theory promises that everyone benefits except for the bad old state and the lazy.

That was the dominant libertarian theory framing the whole "shock doctrine" privatization experiment in Russia and elsewhere. In reality, as everyone was forced to admit by 1999, Russia's privatized companies were stripped and plundered as fast as their new private owners could loot them, leaving millions of workers without salaries, and most of Russia's industry in far worse shape than the Communists left it.

Most of the free-market proselytizers—ranging from Clinton neoliberal Michael McFaul (currently Obama's ambassador to Moscow) to libertarian Pinochet fanboy Andrei Illarionov (currently with the Cato Institute)– blamed everything but free-market experiments for Russia's collapse.

But some of the more earnest believers whose libertarian faith was shaken by what happened to Corporate Russia needed something more sophisticated than a crude historical whitewash.

Lucky for them, Milton Friedman provided the answer to a Cato Institute interviewer: Russia lacked "rule of law"—another neoliberal/libertarian catchphrase that went mainstream in the late 80s. Without "rule of law," Friedman and the rest of the free-market faithful argued, privatization was bound to fail. Here's Friedman's answer in the Cato Institute's 2002 Economic Freedom of the World Report:

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Conservative Media Try to Reverse Racial Reality

Ben Adler
on May 28, 2012

Conservatives must be feeling regretful. After nearly fifty years of using appeals to white racial resentment to take over the South, win presidential elections and control of Congress, conservatives are realizing this might come back to bite them in the ass. As the right wing has become xenophobic and anti-Latino, conservatives have watched young Latinos and young Asian Americans join young African-Americans in being overwhelmingly Democratic. The greater diversity of this younger generation has in turn meant that Democrats, especially Barack Obama, have won handily among young voters in recent elections. All of a sudden, conservatives see being the party of angry white males as a potential liability, and they want to change their image. 

You can see this concern in Mitt Romney’s recent campaign events touting his substantively thin but rhetorically compassionate education reform agenda. As the Washington Post reported on Romney’s visit to a school in West Philadelphia on Thursday, his first campaign event in a majority black neighborhood: “Mitt Romney’s campaign team has been quietly laying plans for an outreach effort to President Obama’s most loyal supporters—black voters—not just to chip away at the huge Democratic margins but also as a way to reassure independent swing voters that Romney can be inclusive and tolerant in his thinking and approach.” Romney’s campaign insists they are sincere, but they never made any such outreach during the primaries, when they were competing against Newt Gingrich’s successful efforts to appeal to racism in his campaign in South Carolina.  

The conservative media are happy to help burnish both white racial anxieties and the official story line that Republicans are the friends of minorities by trying to tell an oddly inverted story of race relations in America. According to National Review’s current cover story by Kevin Williamson, it is the Republican Party which has consistently supported civil rights and Democrats who have opposed it. Meanwhile, conservative blogs, talk radio and Fox News hype random stories of anti-white violence, creating the false impression that whites are more often the victims of hate crimes by blacks than the reverse.

The National Review argument has been thoroughly debunked in many outlets. Over at Democracy Journal, Clay Risen demonstrates “Williamson’s embarrassingly basic misunderstanding of American history.” There used to be liberal pro–civil rights wings and conservative anti–civil rights wings in both parties, hence the misleading factoid commonly cited by conservative pundits that a higher proportion of Republicans than Democrats in Congress voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. But it was the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, especially Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, who pushed the issue and got the law passed. 
Republicans nominated anti–civil rights conservative extremist Barry Goldwater in 1964 and thus began their conversion of the South. Goldwater carried five Southern states despite losing in a landslide. “For a variety of reasons—including, but not only, racial politics—both parties went through ideological realignments in the postwar decades, so that today we speak of Republicans as almost uniformly conservative and Democrats as almost uniformly liberal,” notes Risen. “The GOP of today is simply not the GOP of 1963.” That’s why anti–civil rights Southern conservatives such as Trent Lott, Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms became Republicans. Williamson is simply lying when he writes, “those southerners who defected from the Democratic Party in the 1960s and thereafter did so to join a Republican party that was far more enlightened on racial issues than were the Democrats of the era.”

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Doc Watson 1923-2012

Conversations w/Great Minds - Paul Krugman - End This Depression

Christian ‘gay cure’ therapist loses appeal

28 May 2012

A Christian psychotherapist lost her appeal last week against a ruling by the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy that her behaviour in offering to therapeutically change a patient’s sexuality was negligent.
A decision given last week confirmed that Lesley Pilkington had been described by the BACP as “negligent”, “dogmatic” and “unprofessional” in her behaviour after she was approached by undercover journalist Patrick Strudwick.

In 2009, Mr Strudwick had pretended to be a gay Christian struggling with his orientation who wanted to become straight and received two counselling sessions from Ms Pilkington. Ms Pilkington was found guilty of professional malpractice in 2011 and filed an appeal against the decision, which was rejected last week.

Although it did not address gay conversion therapy directly, the appeals panel said the counsellor’s behaviour amounted to “professional malpractice in that Mrs Pilkington had failed to provide the complainant with adequate professional services that could reasonably be expected of a practitioner exercising reasonable skill and care.”

The BACP appeals panel said it was “of the opinion that, given that the complainant presented with depression and unhappiness, it is incumbent upon a practitioner to explore why he was depressed/unhappy and not to take at face value his assertion that it is because of an unwanted same sex attraction. Not to do this and to rush in and assume that the complainant’s depression and unhappiness must follow from his unwanted same sex attraction was below the standard expected of a reasonably competent practitioner.”

Stephen Evans, Campaigns Manager at the National Secular Society said Ms Pilkington was “guilty of religiously inspired bigotry parading as psychotherapy.”

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The World Tomorrow : Occupy

Plantations, Prisons and Profits

Published: May 25, 2012

“Louisiana is the world’s prison capital. The state imprisons more of its people, per head, than any of its U.S. counterparts. First among Americans means first in the world. Louisiana’s incarceration rate is nearly triple Iran’s, seven times China’s and 10 times Germany’s.”

That paragraph opens a devastating eight-part series published this month by The Times-Picayune of New Orleans about how the state’s largely private prison system profits from high incarceration rates and tough sentencing, and how many with the power to curtail the system actually have a financial incentive to perpetuate it.

The picture that emerges is one of convicts as chattel and a legal system essentially based on human commodification.

First, some facts from the series:

• One in 86 Louisiana adults is in the prison system, which is nearly double the national average.

• More than 50 percent of Louisiana’s inmates are in local prisons, which is more than any other state. The next highest state is Kentucky at 33 percent. The national average is 5 percent.

• Louisiana leads the nation in the percentage of its prisoners serving life without parole.

• Louisiana spends less on local inmates than any other state.

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Austin - Harvey Milk Day 2012 March The Wedding Party #HMD2012

LGBT Rights Are Universal Rights, Not Open To A “Healthy” Debate

From Southern Poverty Law Center:

By Christine Sun, Deputy Legal Director

It’s a common sight across the country: A family packs up its belongings and moves to a new state it will call home.

Sometimes it’s a job opportunity that calls. Other times it’s family. These moves are life-changing events for any family, but for LGBT people, the simple act of crossing a state line has even more significance.

It can mean your marriage no longer exists in the eyes of that state.

It can mean the law won’t protect you from discrimination.

It can mean you have fewer parental rights.

This is the reality the LGBT community faces every day thanks to the patchwork of state laws regarding LGBT rights in this country. It’s a reality that exists even after President Obama announced his support for same-sex marriage – a position he said “evolved” from his earlier support of civil unions.

While Obama’s recent announcement is certainly a historic milestone for LGBT rights, he made some troubling remarks that show he must continue to “evolve” on this issue. Otherwise, the LGBT community will continue to see its fundamental rights ebb and flow from state to state.

Sadly, the president says he believes each state should decide the issue of same-sex marriage, saying this approach is a “healthy process” that spurs “healthy debate.” Even more troubling, he framed his support for same-sex marriage as a personal position rather than a civil rights issue.

His position denies the fact that LGBT rights are civil rights. They should not be subject for debate – even a “healthy debate.” And they should not be subject to the whim of the majority by placing them on the ballot.
It’s ludicrous to believe the gains of the civil rights movement would have been achieved by putting the civil rights of black people on the ballot across the Deep South. And today, at the Southern Poverty Law Center, we see how this wrongheaded approach is denying the LGBT community its rights.

Our client Chelsea Hughes watched her parental rights evaporate after the father of her children moved to Alabama. He used the state’s ban on same-sex marriage to deny her right to overnight visitation with her children, solely because she lives with her partner Jaymi. Even though Chelsea and Jaymi are registered domestic partners in Washington state, under Alabama law, Jaymi is considered a “paramour," as if their committed relationship were no more than a casual fling. The result is that Chelsea has been unable to tuck her four young children into bed for over a year now, while the SPLC continues to fight for her parenting rights.

Chelsea, and countless others like her across the South and elsewhere, cannot wait for their home states to "evolve." That six states and the District of Columbia have affirmed the right of gay and lesbian couples to marry provides little consolation. For every state that has made advances for the LGBT community, there’s a state where lawmakers exploit the backlash to these gains to pass laws restricting LGBT rights. Just last month, we saw North Carolina inscribe discrimination into their constitution by banning same-sex marriages and civil unions.

Here in Alabama, there is little likelihood that state legislators or the courts will advance laws protecting the LGBT community, much less pass legislation supporting same-sex marriage. This is where Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore in 2002 wrote an opinion in a child custody case that said homosexuality was “abhorrent, immoral, detestable, a crime against nature and a violation of the laws of nature and of nature's God.” He also wrote that gay parents were “presumptively unfit to have custody of minor children under the established laws of this state.”

In Alabama classrooms, teachers leading sex education classes where the instruction extends beyond abstinence education are required by law to teach “in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of the state.”

It’s clear. The tide is not going to turn anytime soon in Alabama or its neighbor states. This means LGBT families will continue to suffer undue hardship because they are not seen as equal in the eyes of the state. Yet, in the same nation, a completely different experience may be found in another state that recognizes LGBT rights.

This patchwork approach is not sustainable. Allowing each individual state to maybe someday come around to recognizing fundamental rights just won’t work, and will only harm our country. These are universal rights. We cannot be a nation that espouses equality for all when so many in the LGBT community, like Chelsea and Jaymi, are forced to check their rights at the door.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Stuff it: Test your mettle by giving up shopping

By Elisabeth Kwak-Hefferan
17 May 2012

Nothing like deprivation to muddy up your understanding of “want” vs. “need.”

For instance, here’s a sampling of items I’ve considered “needs” over the past two weeks: new sports bras, shower curtain, new couch pillows, lime-squeezer kitchen gadget, iPad case, duchess satin bridesmaid dress, cat scratching post, and a handmade silver ring shaped like a poppy. This is doubly remarkable, as I’m not really the shopping type. But I’m also in the middle of a self-imposed No New Stuff May, and we all know what happens when you start branding the fruit forbidden.

My No New Stuff month is a challenge not to buy anything brand-new for the 31 days of May (food and certain toiletries obviously excepted, you sickos). Why? I already have everything I need to stay hale and hearty, and my small apartment wouldn’t fit much more stuff, anyway. But really, it’s a small stand against a “Bigger, Better, More!” culture that tosses perfectly good items into landfills and gobbles up new resources to build still more stuff — much of which we don’t even need.

That’s not to say I’m going native, eschewing capitalism, and weaving a new wardrobe out of grass clippings. Under my challenge, buying used stuff from resale shops or Craigslist is street legal, as is repairing broken items and just plain doing without. I began without any pressing needs on the shopping front, curious to discover what desires might pop up as the month went on and how well I’d be able to satisfy them. And just as I used to hide forbidden copies of Sweet Valley High books under my bed as a kid, now that new purchases are taboo I’ve been deluged with strange wants masquerading as needs.

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Greek Misery: Looted, suicidal, desperate

Illegal kidney trade booms as new organ is 'sold every hour'

World Health Organisation estimates 10,000 black market operations involving human organs take place each year

and in Shanghai, Sunday 27 May 2012

The illegal trade in kidneys has risen to such a level that an estimated 10,000 black market operations involving purchased human organs now take place annually, or more than one an hour, World Health Organisation experts have revealed.

Evidence collected by a worldwide network of doctors shows that traffickers are defying laws intended to curtail their activities and are cashing in on rising international demand for replacement kidneys driven by the increase in diabetes and other diseases.

Patients, many of whom will go to China, India or Pakistan for surgery, can pay up to $200,000 (nearly £128,000) for a kidney to gangs who harvest organs from vulnerable, desperate people, sometimes for as little as $5,000.

The vast sums to be made by both traffickers and surgeons have been underlined by the arrest by Israeli police last week of 10 people, including a doctor, suspected of belonging to an international organ trafficking ring and of committing extortion, tax fraud and grievous bodily harm. Other illicit organ trafficking rings have been uncovered in India and Pakistan.

The Guardian contacted an organ broker in China who advertised his services under the slogan, "Donate a kidney, buy the new iPad!" He offered £2,500 for a kidney and said the operation could be performed within 10 days.

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Memorial Day Thoughts on National Defense

Robert Reich
Saturday, May 26, 2012

We can best honor those who have given their lives for this nation in combat by making sure our military might is proportional to what America needs.

The United States spends more on our military than do China, Russia, Britain, France, Japan, and Germany put together.

With the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the cost of fighting wars is projected to drop – but the “base” defense budget (the annual cost of paying troops and buying planes, ships, and tanks – not including the costs of actually fighting wars) is scheduled to rise. The base budget is already about 25 percent higher than it was a decade ago, adjusted for inflation.

One big reason: It’s almost impossible to terminate large defense contracts. Defense contractors have cultivated sponsors on Capitol Hill and located their plants and facilities in politically important congressional districts. Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and others have made spending on national defense into America’s biggest jobs program.

So we keep spending billions on Cold War weapons systems like nuclear attack submarines, aircraft carriers, and manned combat fighters that pump up the bottom lines of defense contractors but have nothing to do with 21st-century combat.

For example, the Pentagon says it wants to buy fewer F-35 joint strike fighter planes than had been planned – the single-engine fighter has been plagued by cost overruns and technical glitches – but the contractors and their friends on Capitol Hill promise a fight. 

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Fischer: Eric Holder Will Never 'Prosecute Someone if the Victim is White'

I just love it when neo-Nazi bigots/racists like Bryan Fischer make out like white Christian heterosexuals are the ones being persecuted because they aren't allowed to persecute minority groups.

Kyle Mantyla
on Fri, 05/25/2012

Over the last few weeks, Bryan Fischer has been growing increasingly vocal about his views that President Obama hates both the Constitution and the United States of America because he thinks it is "one big, giant Ku Klux Klan meeting" and is therefore intentionally trying to destroy the country.

And he made the case again on his radio program yesterday, this time adding in Attorney General Eric Holder, claiming that Holder will never "prosecute someone if the victim is white":

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Nasty Like Us

Published: May 26, 2012

Plainsboro, N.J.

EDITORS and pundits seem to agree that the 2012 presidential election will be one of the hardest fought in memory. Even the international press has jumped in; an Economist cover predicts “Hardball,” and in April The Guardian called the campaign “ruthless in its backstabbing,” warning, “you have seen nothing yet.”
What should be explained instead is how civil our recent contests have been, for as a society America has always been attracted to ruthlessness. It might be defined not just as hard competition but as the deployment of unfair, unethical and distasteful (if often technically legal) methods. American culture blended a Protestant sense of mission and virtue with a pragmatism that could countenance slavery and Indian removal.

America hardly invented ruthlessness — think of that all-American hero, Napoleon Bonaparte — but it extended it to the common people. Moralists from Benjamin Franklin to Horatio Alger and beyond might celebrate character as the path to success, but the man in the street knew differently. Adventurers like the notorious filibusterer William Walker became folk heroes. After a New Orleans jury acquitted Walker of violating the Neutrality Act of 1818, he began a fund-raising tour for a new adventure. The early 20th century rags-to-riches baseball star Ty Cobb “came in hard and with spikes high,” as his biographer Charles C. Alexander put it, and kept alive the false rumor that he sharpened them.

Secession sought to protect not just the plantation owners’ way of life but also the aspirations of Southern yeomen to slaveowning wealth, following the career of the populist military hero and president Andrew Jackson. And after the war, the robber barons were as much admired as condemned for their tactics. As the muckraking historian Matthew Josephson wrote during the Depression in his book “The Robber Barons,” objections to the ethics of post-Civil War entrepreneurs like Jim Fisk and Jay Gould were countered by the observation that they were “smart men.”

Americans had mixed feelings about their 20th-century technological and financial heroes, too. Thomas A. Edison’s Motion Picture Patents Company hired thugs to enforce his patent claims; independent filmmakers moved to Hollywood partly to avoid them. Steve Jobs paid little attention to conditions in his Chinese contractors’ factories. After his death protests grew too large for Apple to ignore; but even then, not only was “bad Steve” praised, but many of the demonstrators in the early Occupy Wall Street movement still revered him.

Attacks on the ruthless may actually increase their allure. In the 1930s, The New Yorker reported that a young man applying for a brokerage job declared that he had read “The Robber Barons” and wanted to become one of them. Fifty years later, the Oliver Stone film “Wall Street,” intended as an exposé of greed, inspired a generation of fans of the fictional Gordon Gekko, as portrayed by Michael Douglas. Perhaps it was this dark glamour that helped persuade President Bill Clinton, supported by his deputy attorney general (and current attorney general), Eric H. Holder Jr., to pardon a refugee from justice, Marc Rich.

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FAQ # 6 - If There is an Equal Rights Amendment Will Women Be Drafted?

Victory, unprecedented

How the gay movement's successes surpassed feminism and civil rights -- and became a model for a new era

Sunday, May 27, 2012

This article is an excerpt from "Victory: The Triumphant Gay Revolution," available June 5 from Harper.
At the height of the real estate boom in the 2000s, Robert M. “Robby” Browne, 2007 Corcoran Real Estate National Sales Person of the Year, put on his woman’s bathing suit and silver heels and walked out onto the Club Exit stage. A thousand screaming, cheering, photo-snapping real estate brokers roared their approval. The openly gay Browne, six feet tall and nearly two hundred pounds, danced a sweetly amateurish version of the Village People’s gay anthem, “YMCA,” as ten half naked male Broadway dancers backed him up.
“Is there any question of who the star is?” Browne asks proudly, watching the video today. For most real estate brokers, a third year as Corcoran’s top producer would have been stardom enough, but when Corcoran CEO Pam Liebman began planning the 2007 event, Browne thought he wouldn’t bother to attend. He’d had enough top-earner, $100-million-club years. He was turning sixty, and he was thinking about his life as a whole. Finally he said he would show up, but only if he could accept the award in drag. Browne’s beloved gay older brother, Roscoe Willett Browne, died of AIDS in 1985. He’d never forget the day when President George H. W. Bush said that dying of AIDS wasn’t as important as losing your job. “George H. W. Bush did not acknowledge the sacrifice of my brother and our love. My brother. He’s in his eighties and he still has his brothers and I don’t have any brothers,” says Browne. “And my brother was a Yalie and he was in Vietnam; Bush, how could he be more your person?” We exist, says Browne, looking at the video of his awards ceremony. “This show says we exist.”

Exist? You can’t pick up a paper without seeing evidence that gay people exist and are compelling American society to acknowledge them. The federal government protects them from homophobic violence and twenty-one states have laws against discrimination; 141 cities across the country constitute enclaves of equal treatment. A federal nondiscrimination bill gains more support in Congress with each passing year. Poll numbers show Americans overwhelmingly support protection for gays and lesbians against hate crimes and equality in health benefits, housing, and jobs. In July 2010, a federal judge struck down the federal law, the Defense of Marriage Act, that excluded gays from the federal benefits for which married people were eligible and that allowed the states to refuse to recognize the marriages if they pleased. In August, another federal judge invalidated the amendment to the California constitution, added by Proposition 8, that limited marriage to a man and a woman. September had hardly dawned when a third federal judge found the policy requiring gay soldiers to hide their sexual orientation, don’t ask/don’t tell, unconstitutional as well. The United States Congress repealed the law prohibiting out gays and lesbians from serving in the armed forces. Right after the Fourth of July in 2011, the federal courts in California ordered the United States military to stop screwing around getting ready and just cease enforcing it at once.

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