December 25, 2008

A Follow-Up to What's Wrong with America...

Rachel Maddow, who I've recently discovered (apparently, I'm a little behind the times), once again lays out how absurd this bailout has been.

In summary, have you ever filled out forms for a loan? Maybe filled out a FAFSA application? Dealt with, say, your insurance company? I'm sure when you did, all you had to do was fill out two pages, one of which was nothing more than contact information. Right? HA! FAFSA, for example, has been widely regarded as very difficult, if not impossible, to fill out.

Now let's say you're a bank that needs federal assistance from the $700 billion TARP program funded by taxpayers. How long is your form? Yep, two pages, one of which is simply contact information. And, as Rachel Maddow says, the other half is basically "How much money do you want? Is there anything else we should know?"

Don't believe me? Google "TARP Application" and visit the first hit.

Meanwhile, attempts by the Associated Press to figure out where all the money has gone have been rebuffed. Could you imagine getting a loan from a bank, then when they ask why you haven't paid it back yet, you simply say "I don't want to tell you what happened to the money?" Not going to work. Unless, once again, you're a bank getting taxpayer funds.

Seriously, $700 billion would be better spent on things like universal health care, job creation, and infrastructure improvements. Rather, we're giving it away to banks with no accountability. Less accountability than the banks use to loan it to us, because when they loan it to us, you're damn sure they're coming after you.

December 21, 2008

What's wrong with America...

Now for something a little different:

According to an Associated Press analysis, of the 116 banks that received $188 billion of taxpayer money last year, the average paid to each of the banks' top executives was $2.6 million in salary, bonuses, and benefits.

For someone who makes Federal minimum wage (which will soon be $7.25 an hour, so let's use that number) and works 40 hours a week, for fifty-two weeks a year, for every year between age 18-65, they will make a grand total of $708,760 IN THEIR LIFETIME.

That's 27% of what the executives made last year alone, and the executives couldn't even do their jobs right.


To quote Mr. Barney Frank: "Most of us sign on to do jobs and we do them best we can. We're told that some of the most highly paid people in executive positions are different. They need extra money to be motivated!"


America has a huge poverty problem, and either our priorities in this bailout are clearly misplaced, or the wealthy are bilking us taxpayers for all they can get their hands on. Or both.

December 19, 2008

Not hard at all


December 18, 2008

New Years in Boston?

December 16, 2008

How Harvard Works

December 14, 2008

Friends?

December 12, 2008

An "M-to-F Kind of Girl" - Awkard

Imagine someone tells you that she is an "M-to-F" kind of girl. And then you have a whole conversation about how that influences where she wants to hang out and who she hangs out with.

And you have this conversation that seems kind of strange, but you figure, whatever, I'm a socially awkward person who can make any conversation strange.

And then it turns out that "M-to-F" meant Monday-to-Friday, kind of like 9-to-5. Aside from the fact that I'm not sure what "I'm a 9-to-5 kind of girl" means, I left so confused. And I don't think she ever realized that we were on different pages at all.

Straight (non-trans) people sometimes make my head hurt.

Erase Hate

December 09, 2008

Notice to all Employers

Health care is not some unnecessary cost you can thoughtlessly put into your "cost-cutting measures." Especially when you start raising deductibles by the thousands of dollars!

Some people have chronic conditions and know they will reach the deductible every year. And just as bad, people without chronic conditions may not realize to budget this ridiculous raised amount.

The following arguments should never be made: (Note: Not all of these arguments were made by the same employer, as far as I know).

  • Such a small number of our employees would have even been impacted by this policy had it been in place last year.
  • One of the purposes of health insurance is cost-sharing (or risk spreading, or whatever you want to call it). You made my the point! So few of your employees would have each had to pay thousands of dollars. So why are you putting a large burden on a few people rather than paying a relatively modest amount overall.
  • When someone complains and say they will meet the deductible every year, you should not say, "Well, we gave you a raise equal to x% of the new deductible." And the great news is that despite the economy, we are not cutting your pay!
  • You are cutting my effective pay by approximately (100%-x%)*(new deductible-old deductible).
  • This will incentivize frugal use of health care resources.
  • You should try receiving less medical treatment (/fewer doctor visits/fewer specialist visits/whatever).
  • Health care is a benefit, not a right. We're already paying for a lot for you.
  • I'm not dignifying all of these with a response.
Stupid employer-dependent health insurance.

That is all.

Guilty Confession # 1

December 08, 2008

My Beloved

December 07, 2008

Reading comprehension problems at the Herald

So, ok, I know the Herald isn't known around these parts for its super-high journalistic standards, especially in matters of the queer. But honestly?

Lindsay Lohan still undecided
By Herald Wire Services

Lindsay Lohan isn’t sure what she is. The actress told Harper’s Bazaar magazine that she’s not a lesbian but she’s not bisexual either. “I think it’s pretty obvious who I’m seeing,” the actress said. But, when asked again if she’s bisexual her reply was “Maybe. Yeah” When asked if she’s a lesbian, Lohan replied “No.” Such confusion . . . .


In what world is "Yeah, I'm bisexual; no, I'm not a lesbian" all that confusing?

Let Us Love

December 05, 2008

Reader submission: Oxfords

Click to enlarge.

December 04, 2008

Announcement: More zine pages, coming soon to Quench blog!

Hi folks,

As the quench team has gotten more geographically spread out, we've had more and more trouble publishing paper issues like the ones you see in the sidebar to the right. While we are all for saving paper, in the past this has meant that the wonderful zine pages we've received from readers (and created ourselves) have not seen the light of day.

No more. Starting tonight, we'll be going through our backlog of paper page contents and posting the awesomeness for all to see.

Thanks for reading, and please remember that you can submit pages and posts to us for publication.

December 03, 2008

Harvard Has a Bigot!

For those of us that have been at Harvard sometime during the last four years, we are well aware of the bigoted ranting of one Ms. Lucy Caldwell. For the record, "Lucy M. Caldwell, '09, a Crimson editorial writer, lives in Adams House. Her column appears on alternate Wednesdays." Unfortunately, I believe that The Crimson has once again forgotten to include the word "bigoted" in front of "column."

Two weeks ago, Ms. Caldwell wrote a horrific article entitled "Misguided Activism", which chided "gay activists" for protesting the Proposition 8 electoral results. Her article, which can be read here, prompted me to send in the following Letter to the Editor. As of today, it has not been published.

I am disappointed to read Lucy M. Caldwell’s poorly-researched and poorly-reasoned column from Wednesday, November 19, 2008. Ms. Caldwell makes the allegation that “gay Americans are not being denied rights” and that “the push for same-sex marriage is a rally for additional rights.” Perhaps Ms. Caldwell should be reminded that the same argument was once used to justify state bans on interracial marriage. The reasoning was that African-Americans were not being denied rights because African-Americans could not marry Caucasians, just as Caucasians could not marry African-Americans. Thus, the argument claimed, there was no discrimination based upon race. The United States Supreme Court rejected this (clearly racist) logic in 1967 and ruled that state bans on interracial marriage violated the federal Constitution in Loving v. Virginia, even despite the fact that the general public overwhelmingly opposed interracial marriage, as evidenced by a Gallup poll in 1968 which found that 73% of respondents disapproved of marriage between “whites” and “non-whites.” I seriously doubt that Ms. Caldwell would suggest that such a foundational case in the civil rights movement was actually caused by “unchecked judicial activism.” When the general population or the legislature votes to eliminate the rights of a protected class, it is the responsibility of the courts to intervene and uphold the principle of Equal Protection under the law. The “popular democratic processes” Ms. Caldwell lauds should never be used to enshrine abject discrimination into a constitution, whether state or federal. Even the “much-beloved” Barack Obama, who publicly expressed his opposition to Proposition 8, agrees with that.

And yet, despite her inane rantings, once again Ms. Caldwell is back. This time, she writes about "Lessons from Mumbai."

In the article, she claims: "Islam has come to possess more extremist members than any other modern religion." Yes, you read it right, Islam has more extremists than any other modern religion. Wait until you read what she cites to prove it.

You ready?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

She begins her final paragraph with the following conclusion: "If there existed any doubts that radical Islam poses one of the biggest threats to our time, let the horrifying news from Mumbai erase those. This is a threat far greater than the damage wrought by a dissatisfactory Bush administration or by domestic disagreements."

Perhaps, however, Ms. Caldwell should open a newspaper. If you calculated "biggest threat" based upon number of deaths, then I believe "heart disease" still ranks by far and away as the "biggest threat to our time." Perhaps Ms. Caldwell should follow the liberals in advocating for improved health care rather than retaliatory attacks against entire religions because of a few crazy people. And while I do not know whether Ms. Caldwell is religious, I am sure that there are a few crazy and dangerous people in whatever religion she might be. Perhaps she should be taking a stand to control them, but alas, I have been unable to locate said Crimson editorial to date. Nor do I think I need to respond to her Bush administration claim other than to say that the damage wrought by a "dissatisfactory Bush administration" is not limited to "domestic disagreements", but rather includes the tens or maybe even hundreds of thousands of innocent civilian lives lost in Iraq due to our misguided American invasion. Yes Ms. Caldwell, President Bush just may be the "biggest threat to our time." What do you have to say to that?

In short, Ms. Caldwell should probably abstain from writing her columns. When she is not insulting the LGBTQ community or Muslims, she often can be seen claiming that poor people are dumb.

Sadly, I wish I could say that The Crimson should have higher standards for publication. Instead, it appears they don't know how to use a dictionary! (See this article, in which they write: "There is no question that this will diminish our quality of life and dim students’ prospects in the near future. But that is what a recession does. We cannot expect others to pay the penultimate price without shouldering part of the weight ourselves." Someone should kindly inform the Crimson staff that "penultimate" means "second to last".)

For shame.

November 20, 2008

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2008

it’s just another day we find a way to comprehend,
and when we fall, we fall down hard and get back up again,
i understand that there is not much more to understand,
when there is nothing really there to begin with.

but the very first i saw your face i would believe in love,
now and forever more i will declare a god above,
and he is crying out for you with every pain and every sigh...


- Gregory Douglass, "Time"

Today is a day for remembering.

Transgender people continue to be victims of violence, hatred, humiliation and discrimination in employment, housing, medical care and public facilities. Transgender people continue to suffer disproportionately high rates of homelessness, poverty and unemployment.

On February 12th this year, Duanna Johnson was brutally beaten by a Memphis police officer after she refused to respond when the officer called her “he-she” and “faggot.” The beating was captured on video [warning: extreme violence].

She was murdered on November 10.

Take a moment to remember. Take a moment to hold those you love. Take care of each other.

More info about Day of Remembrance here and here.

November 16, 2008

On the topic of Outrage

Proposition 8 passed in California and people are outraged. I get it.

Jack at Angry Brown Butch says it better than I can in the post Can the LGBT Community Spare Some Outrage for Duanna Johnson?

Duanna Johnson was brutally beaten by police officers after refusing to be harassed. She went public over the issue.

Just over a week ago, she was murdered. She is one of many transgender people - mostly women of color - who have been killed as a result of transphobia, homophobia, and violence against poor people.

Transgender Day of Remembrance is this Thursday visit this site to find out where you can attend a ceremony locally. I pasted below the information for Boston:

Every year transgender people around the world gather in solidarity and community to memorialize those who have fallen victim to violence, and to reaffirm our solidarity and commitment to stand up for ourselves. This year’s Transgender Day of Remembrance will be observed in Boston on Thursday, November 20. This time we’re doing something a little different: we’re gathering for our traditional community speakout and candlelight vigil at St. Luke’s & St. Margaret’s (“SLAM”) in Allston. In recognition of 10 years passage since the Rita Hester tragedy, we’ll retrace the path taken then, by the vigil that inspired the International Transgender Day of Remembrance. So save the date: Thursday, Nov 20, 7pm, at SLAM in Allston. For more information, visit the TDOR pages at MassTPC.org/dor.

Boston: Gunner Scott speaks on Transgender Rights at yesterday's Anti Prop 8 Rally

Look at about minute 1. I know there are quench readers and writers all over the US and all over the world. Anyone go to one of these anti-prop 8 rallies that took place today? Please, share us a few words, a clip, or a link with us.

November 11, 2008

assimilation

I had a discussion today with a straight person who thought that "gay people are okay - the ones I've met just want to be like everybody else I know. They want to be a part of mainstream American culture." He explained that that's why "they" want marriage, tax rights, etc.

But as a queer person, I don't want to assimilate into mainstream American culture. Mainstream American Culture is full of things that I do not like about the world.

Reading all sorts of white LGBT bloggers writing about how black people or black churches "lost us the proposition 8" battle reminds me of what happens when we try to be just like the straight, white, racist, classist, sexist mainstream. I am ashamed of the many (mostly white) LGBT community bloggers blaming people of color for the passage of Proposition 8 in California. You can read a lot of other people's posts about this more eloquent than mine, but all I want to say is that I am ashamed, and I do not want to assimilate to a mainstream culture that blames people of color for everything negative. How the mainstream gay movement fail to connect with other groups whose families are targeted by prejudice, politics, and oppression like families headed by single-parent households (especially families headed by single mothers of color). I know that I personally contributed money to "no on 8," so I know that I am partly responsible for funding this movement, and I know that this is partly as a result of their being the most visible group working on this to me as a person on the other coast. (The visibility itself is likely problematic). by failing to cooperate with other groups on a multi-issue agenda (Obama got a huge number of California votes with his multi-issue progressive agenda and he opposed Proposition 8!) Partly as a result of this failure to cooperate, this became a very close race, withe enough money dedicated to it that all of the homeless queer young people in Califorina could have been sheltered, or perhaps even we could have created an ad hoc way to get queer people without healthcare some healthcare. That money could have been better spent if we had not allowed the race to be so tight.

I don't want to assimilate to a culture that fails to resist, or even at times condones, domestic violence. Or even a culture of a societal ideal where society is built up of families that consist of two adults, one of whom has significantly more societal privilege and power, who gets to make and break the rules, and who will be considered more of a "whole person" if he leaves.

I don't want to assimilate to a culture that limits the life chances of some people based on social, historical, and intensely pervasive systems of power.

I don't want to assimilate to a culture based on greed, a lust for power, failures of empathy, and social injustice (from local to global).

I love to join, share, love, take care of, be taken care of by, eat, play, sleep, laugh, cry, fuck, and participate in communities based on seeking justice, both within our communities and in the broader world.

Spiders!

I love spiders. I know I haven't posted in forever, and now I reappeared and posted 3 times in a couple of days, but hey, that's life. That's why we have so many quenchistas - I hope someone else can post 3 times in the next 3 days?

I just saw an awesome link to spider pictures posted on Alas! The spider pictures are on Dark Roasted Blend. Thanks, Alas! for pointing this out.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.





November 07, 2008

passing as straight, standing out as queer, or something else entirely

In my job, I supervise a few people from time to time. They are about my age, and the nature of the job involves a fair amount of waiting around, and sometimes traveling from place to place together, usually on the T. Therefore, I have a social as well as a professional relationship with most of the people who I supervise.

Because of how young I am, word got around the group very quickly that I was married (see, marriage and civil unions really do have different social meanings - somehow the fact that I am married is some juicy social gossip - who knew?) The other thing that people tend to know about me is that I often bring in homemade tasty treats, and that more often than not, these treats are made by my spouse.

Recently, I have been involved in conversations with two different people that I supervise that became awkward (more so for them than for me). In each case, my supervisee asked me about my "wife," either about what she did as a job or about what part of the country she was from. In one case, I responded by saying "my husband does ___." The person did not even notice and kept asking about my wife. In the other case, I started by saying "actually, I am married to a man."

When each of these two people ultimately realized that I was involved with a man, they seemed suddenly shocked, and extremely apologetic. They were suddenly confused, thinking they had now learned that I was a straight woman. I told them not to apologize* and I told them that people often think that I am a lesbian and that I am very involved in the queer community. One of them, I explicitly told that I was queer, but then that led into a series of questions that I did not think were particularly appropriate in a work environment, particularly with someone I supervise. I certainly would not want to make someone I supervise uncomfortable, and I'm not sure that's superbly easy to avoid once conversation moves toward sexual practices or private gender identities and expressions.

In reality, it does not make a ton of sense that people's partners, or their identities come into play at the workplace at all, but then again people are not just "workers," they are people too and when we spend a lot of time with our coworkers, we share ourselves with each other and want to get to know each other. And yet, there are things that we do not share with our coworkers, things that are private or personal.

Because our society categorizes sexuality and gender as binaries, and considers information about who we sleep with to be non-private information (and society assumes that we have one monogamous partner, or serial monogamy of some kind), this puts queers in an awkward situation where suddenly it seems like our fault that we brought up something taboo, when actually, we were not the ones who brought it up. I am not the one who asked for a description of a coworker's sexual or gender identity, or asked someone why they would allow others to believe "they were queer if they weren't." I'm not the one who brought it up. And yet, I am up against a taboo if I answer the question or respond to the statement. And I'm bad at tiptoeing around issues.

I'm not someone who can hide my queerness - even the most clueless straight people seem to read me like a book. There is something about me that just doesn't fit into "straight," even just upon sight, seeing me walk, or hearing me talk. And yet when I'm not the kind of queer they expect me to be (a non-trans lesbian), confusion always ensues.

*It is a separate (but related) problem that people felt a need to apologize for thinking one is queer. I choose to believe (hope) that these folks were apologizing for making an assumption rather than apologizing for "insulting" me.

November 05, 2008

Change.

















This is a historic day for America. Yes we can.

October 31, 2008

i am not a nazi

hey quenchistas!

long time reader, first time post-er. just some ideas poorly capitalized. enjoy!
_____________

i usually don't think that crazy conservatives who think i don't deserve to exist merit my time--i kind of just block them out. but today i was bored at work, so i thought i'd give them a chance. and now i'm seriously pissed.

so today i watched a video filmed at a Yes on Prop 8 rally in which a speaker roiled a crowd of fervent supporters of taking away marriage rights from same-sex couples in california that i was, in fact, a jesus-hating nazi bully. what hitler did to germany and the rest of europe, so i am doing to america. in the parlance of the bush and co., i represent an "existential threat."



at first, i didn't know whether to be amused or afraid. something so clearly ignorant can't be taken seriously, and any rational person who hears it would clearly see it for the craziness it is.

well, apparently not.

watching the reaction of the people in the crowd at this rally, they not only saw logic in the parallel between hitler and gay people, they were incensed by it. they were mad--furious that those gays were coming to exterminate them just like hitler did to the jews. and the gays. and the gypsies. and anyone else who thought differently from the party line.

i was blown away by the cognitive dissonance required to say that gay people and the nazis who sent them to concentration camps were, in fact, one and the same.

and then my inner nerd kicked in, and i remembered a classic episode of The Twilight Zone starring a young Dennis Hopper as a naive neo-Nazi struggling to convince the masses to take his message of hate seriously. he struggles, that is, until a mysterious stranger arrives to coach him in the ways of rabble rousing. this dark, face-less stranger advises Hopper that in order to get people motivated, they must feel threatened and afraid. and so in his next speech, hopper says that instead of good americans respecting racial minorities and women and immigrants, good patriotic americans need to understand that they are under siege from these insidious groups and must respond before they, the good god-fearing white christians, are wiped out. at the climax of his speech, Hopper yells, "Respect the minorities? Patriotism, my friends, has become the minority. Love of country has become the minority. WE ARE THE MINORITY!"

the similarities to the yes on prop 8 people and the republican campaign nationwide are startlingly familiar. comparisons to john mccain's ubiquitous "my friends" aside, i see the same perverse logic of straight, white, christian men that says that somehow, in spite of every cultural privilege they enjoy, they are nonetheless in the minority and oppressed by people like african-americans and gays and women who want control over their own bodies.

and so i become the jesus-hating nazi bully. never mind i go to church. never mind that all of my grandmother's family were murdered in concentration camps, and that if i had been alive in nazi germany, i'd suffer the same fate. never mind that i was the one who got pushed and shoved and hit and teased mercilessly throughout middle and high school by the same kind of people who attend yes on prop 8 rallies. my access to equal rights, my very existence represents a threat to their hegemony, and because they locate that threat in me and the people i love, i become the oppressor.

i am so not the oppressor. as someone who feels the burden of legitimizing myself every day of my life to the public at large, whose very existence is an acceptable topic of national debate, it's not just crazy--it's scary. truly, deeply, scary. we can't ignore the yes on prop 8 people and their ilk anymore, dismissing them as ignorant and unworthy of recognition, because it's that very ignorance and irrational, perverse hatred that makes them so dangerous.

oh, and that mysterious guy that taught dennis hopper how market his hate mongering friends as the minority? guess who he turns out to be. i'll give you a hint: according to the yes on prop 8 people, he and i have a lot in common....

October 29, 2008

Time to Vote.

Transgender? College student? Racial or ethnic minority? Disabled?

If you have faced or may face voting obstacles, check out this nifty fact sheet from the National Center for Transgender Equality: "Overcoming Voting Obstacles."

Then get out there and VOTE!

October 27, 2008

Same sex marriage means religious intolerance, apparently

“This vote on whether we stop the gay-marriage juggernaut in California is Armageddon,” said Charles W. Colson, the founder of Prison Fellowship Ministries and an eminent evangelical voice, speaking to pastors in a video promoting Proposition 8. “We lose this, we are going to lose in a lot of other ways, including freedom of religion.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobby based in Washington, said in an interview, “It’s more important than the presidential election.”

We’ve picked bad presidents before, and we’ve survived as a nation,” said Mr. Perkins, who has made two trips to California in the last six weeks. “But we will not survive if we lose the institution of marriage.”

Wow. So giving people the freedom to marry the people they love means we'll lose freedom of religion? If it's against your religion, don't marry someone of the same sex. I can't even comprehend the rationale for this one.

And I find it hard to believe that same-sex marriage could have made America fuck up in Iraq, Afghanistan, and New Orleans, more so than Bush's administration.

October 17, 2008

Credit Cards!

So, in this time of financial turmoil...I'm trying to pick a credit card.

Does anyone have suggestions? What credit card do you have? What would you suggest looking for - or avoiding? What about credit cards that get you frequent-flyer miles or help save the universe?

I'd appreciate any advice! Thanks, Quench!

September 26, 2008

google is great

Today, Google announced that they were taking a position on the California Marriage Amendment. Explaining that they normally do not take positions on political issues, Sergey Brin went on to say:

It is the chilling and discriminatory effect of the proposition on many of our employees that brings Google to publicly oppose Proposition 8. While we respect the strongly-held beliefs that people have on both sides of this argument, we see this fundamentally as an issue of equality. We hope that California voters will vote no on Proposition 8 -- we should not eliminate anyone's fundamental rights, whatever their sexuality, to marry the person they love.


Official Google Blog

September 22, 2008

"next top tranny"

Oh, Fox News.

Apparently, there's a trans contestant on this season of America's Next Top Model. There really isn't anything special about this video clip. The two guys throw around a bunch of stereotypes and play the "she-he-she-I don't even know what to call it" game. But it's been a while since I've posted here, and watching this made me feel gross, so I thought I'd share it with y'all:



Has anyone been watching the show? How have they been treating her on air?

(Courtesy Bitch Magazine)

September 11, 2008

A vote for Palin =/= a vote for feminism

"Zombie Feminists in the RNC"

I spent about 2.5 hours at work one day trying to figure out how to put this. This post just about sums up how I feel, so I shan't waste any more words.

September 09, 2008

Harvard Dis-Orientation Guide 2008

A bunch of folks at Harvard have put together a "Dis-Orientation" guide to life on campus and in the Boston area, from a smart, progressive perspective. The queer section of the guide is really awesome, and has all the information I wish I'd had as a freshman. Plus, there's a shout-out to Quench. Yay!

September 07, 2008

An Addiction.

OK, I admit it. I'm following the Lindsay Lohan lesbian romance. And it's kind of growing on me. I think this is due mostly to the severe scarcity of queer celebrities my age.

Plus, I think it's kind of cool that a butch-femme couple are basically dominating tabloid headlines. And as Lindsay's MySpace blog posts about Samantha Ronson become increasingly mushy and obvious, it's really endearing.

And Sam is stepping up her style. Her new haircut is a major improvement over the dirty strung-out look, don't you think?

August 18, 2008

Weird Moments in Horror: the Glorious Girl Army of the Free Women's Republic of Somaliland

I've just been rereading the Monster series of zombie horror novels - Monster Island, Monster Nation, Monster Planet - and I re-encountered one of the most unusual things I've ever found in a horror piece: the Glorious Girl Army of the Free Women's Republic of Somaliland.

There are several things that make the Glorious Girl Army of the Free Women's Republic of Somaliland unique. First, the book notes that the places with the most per capita gun possession would best survive a zombie holocaust. This means Somalia, which hasn't had a government in 20 years, would essentially shake off zombies like they never rose from the dead while the First World nations just get eaten.

Second, the plot is put into motion because the leader of the Glorious Girl Army of the Free Women's Republic of Somaliland, "Mama Halima", needs HIV drugs. Third, Mama Halima's group is an Islamic group formed to protect women from rape, murder and mutilation. One woman comments that she'd wade into post-Apocalyptic New York City - home to 10 million cannibalistic corpses - just to help Mama Halima because the eminent shaikhah protected girls from suffering infibulation like she had.

It's not earthshaking, but I thought that it was unusual for people of colour to surface in horror, never mind non-English-speakers. The main character is a white American male former UN employee whose (half-Kenyan) daughter was taken and protected by Mama Halima and in return has to fetch her HIV meds.

August 14, 2008

Olympic Gymnasts and Age

"It's a bike race. A completely arbitrary set of rules that everyone complies with, for no other reason than that some committee says that they should."

- House, Season 2, Episode 6

I've been thinking a lot about the recent controversy over the ages of the Chinese women's gymnastics team. Gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi has alleged that up to half the team is underage and the New York Times published an article at the end of July alleging that previous Chinese state records showed the ages of several gymnasts to be as young as 13 or 14, under the required minimum age of 16. The NBC commentators have brought up the age controversy during coverage of almost every women's gymnasts event.

I think it's interesting to see the way that people are reacting to the accusations, both online and in NBC's coverage. Here's an example of the a blog discussion on the subject. There are also interesting ethical questions, since the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has refused to investigate the situation further, even after the publication of the Times article, and questions raised by journalists, because the Chinese government supplied passports where the girls' ages were all above 16.

Personally, I agree with Cameron from House. That's the point of a sport. It's a set of rules that everyone agrees to follow. The real question is, what can be done about it? Bela Karolyi has said that the only solution is to remove the minimum age requirement, allowing all countries to use younger gymnasts, who many think have an advantage due to their small size and lack of fear. But if the goal of the minimum age rule is to protect young gymnasts from injury or exploitation, then do the IOC and others have a responsibility to look into whether these young women are being exploited?

Thoughts?

Also, on a lighter note, what is Michael Phelps listening to on his iPod, and where can I get some of it?

July 30, 2008

CNN Tries to Deal with Gender and Olympics... Ends up Being Awkward.

Let's look at "things that are awkward..." again.


"Olympians tested for gender." Including great lines discussing how some men might have been used in women's games because the countries "really, really, really, really wanted to win." Or just the general sense of awkwardness. Or the suggestion that they should just "look under the hood."

The best part is that the first half is about gender, and they are MAD awkward. Then the second half is about a guy who shot a lawnmower, and they are so comfortable talking about that. Wtf?

July 26, 2008

The National Erection

There can be no doubt that this is one of the most amusing protest actions I've seen in my entire life. It beats even my favourite Code:Pink one where they painted an entire tank bright pink.

Seriously.

This was originally posted on Cambridge Common in May, but I reckon I didn't see it.

Rep. Sally Kern Caught with Gun at State Capitol

Oh my god, seriously, this post almost writes itself.


OKLAHOMA CITY
-- An Oklahoma lawmaker who made headlines in March for her comments regarding homosexuals was stopped from bringing a gun into the state Capitol on Wednesday, troopers said.


But Rep. "Homosexuals are a bigger threat than terrorists" Kern wants to reassure you that her inappropriate gun-toting "has nothing to do with the homosexual situation." (Good to know that, for once, The Gays aren't to blame!)

Apparently, she was just in such a rush to get inside the Capitol building that she just plumb forgot to take the handgun out of her purse. Whoopsie!

I mean, it could happen to anyone, right?

The incident Wednesday is the second time in two months that Kern has been stopped with a weapon at the Capitol. In early June, troopers said, Kern breached security and entered the Capitol with a weapon. [...]

She stressed that in both cases it was merely a matter of forgetting that she had the weapon.


Oh. Okay, then. As RAGING HOMO Oscar Wilde once said, "To lose one parent bring a gun into a government building once may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both do it twice looks like carelessness a Thing That Is Awkward."


OMG. I hereby pronounce Rep. Kern an official, Hollywood-league, train wreck. All that's left are the nude photos and the rehab.

QWOC Week (Queer Women of Color)

An update from Queer Women of Color! August 4-10 is QWOC Week: details below.

---
QWOC Week - a once very distant dream - is finally happening in Boston! Mark your calendars and put in those day-off requests because we're putting together an incredible lineup of events.

Visit www.qwocboston.org/Events.html to view the entire schedule, but most importantly, spread the word. We're calling LGBTQ people of color from far and wide to come on down to Beantown and celebrate with us. Going Boston link.

If you're interested in volunteering, email to volunteerqwocboston.org stating
your interest (in any specific event, if you choose).

We have a wonderful group of volunteers working on the events but could use more planning, promoting and admin help.

You ready, people? It's time to paint the city in purple! Don't you think it would be cool to see it everywhere that week? Yeah, it can't be found as easily as other colors, and not everyone has it in their closet cause it doesn't "go" with everything. But, that's what's been said about LGBTQ people of color, too... Seems fitting.

Happy Purple Pride everyone!

July 16, 2008

... and now some GOOD news!

I know it's been an inordinately long time since I've posted here, but this is exciting enough that I'll forget about being bashful.

Today, during its debate about the President's Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Senate effectively approved a measure to end the Federal ban on HIV-positive people entering the country. The ban has been in place since 1987, when the late Jesse Helms got it passed during a peak of homophobic AIDS-related hysteria. The ban has always had a disproportionate effect on queer people, since straight foreign nationals married to US citizens can get an HIV-ban waiver based on their marital status.

There's still a few more votes before the whole PEPFAR bill gets approved by both houses, and the Federal government will still be able to restrict entry into the country based on HIV status, but discretion as to whether or not HIV is "of public health significance" will be transferred to the Dept. of Health and Human Services. Right now, HIV is the only medical condition in the Immigration and Nationality Act that makes a foreign national inadmissible to the US. The public health experts at HHS, who have pushed for loosening these restrictions in the past, are far less likely than Jesse Helms to single out HIV (for which transmission is easily preventable) as a reason for inadmissibility.

In other words, a bad and regressive law is being repealed, with practical consequences for foreign nationals with HIV, as well as more general symbolic significance, since a major codification of homophobic discrimination is being thrown away.

Immigration Equality is following this on their blog. Andrew Sullivan surely will be, too.

July 11, 2008

Herald outdoes itself with transphobic article

This latest article has to be something record-setting even for the awfulness of the Herald. Warning: it's horrific. Undercover ‘john’ takes on trannies, pimps.

I'm not smart enough to dissect this article right now, so please... hack the Herald article into tiny pieces, then we'll all mail them to the paper.

EDIT

Here's the contact information for the Herald.

Please contact the Boston Herald and call on them to issue an apology. Tell them that they are failing to meet basic standards of journalistic integrity and that they must remove the defamatory terminology and references from the article.

Boston Herald Contacts:
Jessica Van Sack
City Reporter
jvansack@bostonherald.com
(617) 619-6437

Joe Dwinell
City Executive Co-Editor
jdwinell@bostonherald.com
(617) 619-6177

Kevin Convey
Editor in Chief
kconvey@bostonherald.com
(617) 619-6403

The Internets Has the Future

Mildly NSFW (language) "Macdonald's brunch hack". Let the lulz flow forth.

Thanks, bOING-bOING!

July 07, 2008

Famous author Thomas Disch suicides

It is with horror that I read this morning that Thomas Disch - poet and author of brilliant works - committed suicide on the Fourth of July.

Disch was openly gay since 1968 and his partner for 20 years was the poet Charles Naylor.

This obit isn't just about the loss of Disch, however. It's about something else: it's motivated. See, Disch lost his partner in 2004 and it was a travesty in its own way; insufficient health care, which Disch had been already bitching about for decades, was a significant factor. He suffered badly from a kind of PTSD due to 9/11, and he himself was unable to get appropriate treatment. And finally, after his partner's death, he lost their home in Philadelphia and was being evicted from their apartment in NYC.

Disch became cruel and erratic after 9/11, ranting about Muslims and immigrants. He was no saint, although some may love him like one for The Brave Little Toaster. He was, however, clearly mentally disturbed and - like the characters in his infamous 334 - in the end, died for the NuMerican sin of Not Being Able to Get Health Care because Our Country is Fucked in the Head. Michael Swanwick's comment on the subject was, "Even if he had to commit suicide, he shouldn't have had to worry about being evicted."

I want to close this obit with a description of him posted on the Amazon website, because it says in brief so much:

Thomas M. Disch is the author of such diverse publications as The Prisoner, The Dreams Our Stuff are Made Of, Camp Concentration, and The Brave Little Toaster. A renowned poet and book critic, Disch's review, criticism, and essays have been published in The Nation, Harper's, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and Entertainment Weekly. He has received the John W. Campbell and O'Henry awards and the Pushcart Prize. Disch has a forthcoming original novel, The Word of God, Or the Holy Writ Rewritten, coming out from Tachyon in July 2008. He divides his time between New York City and rural Pennsylvania.

Go in peace, Mr Disch. You are much loved and hated.

July 06, 2008

Lyme Disease originated in Europe

This may seem an unusual post for quench, but as some of you already know, I am disabled because of two severe bouts of Lyme Disease, which is currently ravaging the northeast. The epicentre of the outbreak is Lyme CT, about 30 miles from my parents' home, and nearly every one I know from home and nearly every friend, acquaintance and coworker of my parents have suffered this potentially debilitating disease. My mother told me today of three more people she knows who have Bell's Palsy, a temporary total paralysis of one side of the face that is accompanied by bodily weakness and is often cause for temporary disability of a month caused by Lyme. Long-term (non-reparable) nerve damage is also common: it leads to depression, severe anxiety disorders (such as I have), bodily weakness and paralysis and bone and joint degeneration. Severely increased suicide rates are directly attributable to Lyme infection.

So it was with great interest that I read about Lyme in ScienceDaily...

The bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, originated in America, or so researchers thought. Now, however, a team from the University of Bath has shown that this bug in fact came from Europe, originating from before the Ice Age.

[snip]There is no vaccine for the infection, which can cause arthritis and problems with the nervous system and heart if left untreated.

Wellcome Trust. "Lyme Disease Bacterium Came From Europe Before Ice Age." ScienceDaily 30 June 2008. Retrieved 6 July 2008 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080629142805.htm

The article is very short, but also notes that it has been present in the New World for "a long time"... I'll be following this for sure.

July 04, 2008

Live Long and Marry

What do you get when you combine marriage equality, a charity auction, and a Dalek Christmas Ornament?

...I'm not really sure, but it seems pretty cool.

A bunch of folks over on LiveJournal have started an auction for marriage equality. Everyone is welcome to offer up their goods and services, everyone is welcome to bid, and bids are made as donations to "Equality For All, Marriage Equality USA, Equality California, or your preferred organization or coalition fighting for marriage equality."

Y'all should check it out: http://community.livejournal.com/livelongnmarry/

Bidding is open until July 15th, and over $3,300 has been raised already!

Thanks go to esteemed young adult novelist Tamora Pierce for bringing the auction to this Quenchista's attention. (Tammy has a couple items up for auction here and here.)

July 01, 2008

awwww

June 26, 2008

Liveblogging the first-ever congressional hearing on trans issues.

Whee! We're excited! You can watch the live webcast here (or just read my brilliant commentary below - keep refreshing the page). More about the hearing and witnesses here. This is historic, exciting, and we are here to keep you in the loop, even if you're secretly reading us at work. ;-)

1:45: This concludes your liveblog of the first-ever congressional hearing on trans rights in the workplace. I think it was generally awesome, and the witnesses did an amazing job. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below! Now, I should really go eat some lunch. And maybe do some work.

1:42: As the hearing wraps up, Sabrina Taraboletti goes over to Mr. Lavy. He says that he hopes she finds a job soon. She says, "I do too. And on a personal note, I am a practicing Catholic -" And then the feed cuts out. I sure would like to have heard the end of that conversation.

1:39: Rep. Andrews is wrapping things up. He stresses "job ability and work ethic." He promises a vigorous debate about these issues, and how to "accommodate reasonable concern of employers in the workplace" and religion issues. But he doesn't think it's that complicated - if the person is the best for the job, they should get the job. He notes that "progress in this country is glacial" but encourages optimism, given progress made in terms of rights for women and people of color. He notes that when Rep. Payne was born, that he might serve in the House was unthinkable. He said that he had gay classmates who killed themselves. Things will change over time. Hearing is adjourned.

1:37: Ms. Miller is angry because someone suggested she didn't understand the link between discrimination against trans people and the discrimination against women! She knows about sexual harassment! But she also had mentors who were men! She went to a women's college!

1:30: Rep. Hare takes issue with Mr. Lavy. Excellent. He reminds Mr. Lavy about this guy from a long time ago who hung around with those people who no one wanted to associate themselves with. I think you know who that is. He also believes we can legislate "what is right, what is just and what is fair."

1:28: Diego says that part of it is to "consider us a partner" and work together across the country. Help "make it safe for us to be with you in communities." Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti mentions that the National Center for Transgender Rights, the Task Force and others are available to help out.

1:25: Rep. Payne wants to reassure everyone that there was no "conspiracy" to start the hearing late. There was voting that didn't get finished yesterday. Now he forgot what he wanted to ask. Laughter. Oh - how can we educate Americans?

1:23: Shannon Minter is annoyed by all these restroom questions. C'mon, let's listen to "medical protocol and common sense." Transgender men and women are men and women, and coworkers will quickly come to recognize that. This is a straightfoward issue. Ms. Miller says that maybe it would be a good idea to look at policies about bathrooms that already work. What a novel idea!

1:20: Rep. Payne is here! He is "opposed to all forms of discrimination."

1:18: Colonel Schroer says that this is a similar situation to gays in the military, where a very qualified pool of people are passed over. She notes that such discrimination is common, both in blatant and more "obtuse" forms. We need to send a message that being transgender is "not abnormal or abhorrent."

1:13: Rep. Linda Sanchez is NOT scared of litigation! She thinks people should be protected from on-the-job abuse and harassment. She asks Shannon Minter to elaborate. He notes that laws "make it perfectly clear to everyone...that we as a society condemn discrimination on these basis because they are completely unrelated to someone's abilities..." In the absence of such laws, we have "blatant, shocking" discrimination, like the type described on the panel today. Rep. Sanchez thanks Colonel Schroer for her service to the country and asks her what the country misses out on by denying her job opportunities.

1:07: Time for Rep. Kline. He notes that Mr. Andrews has really enjoyed trying to determine which is the best law school. He wants Ms. Miller to tell him about the distinction between "regarded as" and "perceived as." "Perceived" is "vague language" that can cause "a great deal of confusion" among "managers and human resources people" and of course, litigation. Litigation! How scary! We can't legislate people being nice to each other or their internal thoughts and processes. Um. What? I thought we were talking about not being fired for being trans.

1:03:
What about white supremacists? Should they have the right to refuse to hire a person of color, if they held deeply held religious beliefs about white supremacy? Lavy says no. Hypocrisy! The Chairman wants to know why, if we do not allow religious beliefs to excuse racial discrimination, we should allow religious beliefs to excuse discrimination on the basis of gender identity or expression. Mr. Lavy says the issue isn't that simple. It's about "deeply held religious beliefs." The "race issue" is something that has been determined already, apparently.

1:02:
What about pacificists? Could they refuse to hire a Marine Corps veteran? The Chairman is getting a little out there with the hypotheticals. Levy says the pacifists should be able to refuse to hire the Marine Corps guy.

1:00: Apparently Mr. Lavy thinks that accommodating a transgender person is like "making an Orthodox Jew eat pork." The Chairman wants to know if an Orthodox Jew could refuse to employ a Catholic. Mr. Lavy says no. One point for Rep. Andrews.

12:59: The Chairman thanks all the witnesses. He also introduces a letter about fair business practices and notes attendees from Garden State Equality. Now, he's going to take on Mr. Lavy. Exciting!

12:54: Shannon Minter, Legal Director for National Center for Lesbian Rights, is the last witness. He is testifying about the "urgent need for a federal law to protect transgender persons." He talks about workplace discrimination, citing the case of Susan Stanton. He says that we "need more than a patchwork of state and local laws and policies." In most parts of the country, transgender people who are fired or harassed at work for being transgender have no legal protection. This leads to transgender people being forced into "persistent, chronic poverty and homelessness." We need Congress to "take action to protect us."

12:48: Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti, Former Space Shuttle Engineer, is the next witness. She was fired in 2003 after announcing she was transitioning from male to female. She was told the investigation and subsequent firing was the result of an "anonymous" phone call. She was the fourth transwoman she knew of who was either fired or forced out before leaving. One of those women took her own life. There are no standard policies or procedures on these issues at the Space Center, because there are no federal laws on them, so things were left up to the whims of supervisors. She felt humiliated, and was fired with no severance pay after 20 years of employment. She still has not been able to find a new position in the space program, the field that she loves. Sabrina says that "being transgender is something you are born with." She notes that being fired also made it difficult for her to provide for her family, and her loss of self-esteem affected them too. "It needs to stop," she says.

12:46: We're back to restrooms. People have "genuine privacy concerns." He says there are "men who are are allowed to use women's restrooms before having gender reassignment surgery." No, those are actually WOMEN. Restrooms pose a risk to employers. He doesn't want the committee to make a "moral judgment" on "transgendered people," but he doesn't want them to make the moral decision for other people. Or something. OK, he's done. Thank you.

12:44: Some employers might not be able to accommodate people in restrooms. Now he's talking about "actual or perceived" discrimination. How problematic! Employers could be sued at any moment! Gender identity is a "subjective category." Unlike race, which the employer can "simply tell by observation." More about religious beliefs.

12:43: Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defense Fund, is gently hassled for not having gone to Cornell Law before proceeding to tell us why trans people shouldn't have protections under non-discrimination laws. He's already used the word "immoral." Right on schedule. Some employers have "deeply held religious beliefs about these issues."

12:41: DOW's policies emphasize good communication between transitioning employees and their supervisor, as well as training for coworkers and updating company documents. He says "on the whole, our program has gone remarkably well."

12:38: Dr. Hendrix is up! DOW has 4,300 employees. Diversity "underpins our workplace." He knows that "creating a respectful, inclusive working environment" actually "gives us an advantage." He says that his LGBT employees often have more protection under DOW's policy than under state laws, and that his policies improve retention and commitment of LGBT employees and allies. They first added "sexual orientation" in 2000 and "gender identity" in 2005, and this has been implemented globally for the company.

12:36: Men might be looking through holes in the women's bathroom! I was wondering when that would come up. We need to "have some sensitivity to the employer." OK, she's done. But still concerned.

12:33: Unclear statutes can cause lawsuits! You better be careful. Gender identity and transgender are unclear terms. "Mannerism" is a disturbing term! She's "concerned" about "perpetuating stereotypes." Haha! Like, what if someone gives a firm handshake. Mannerisms can be changed but "intrinsic characteristics" can't. Um.

12:31: After some banter with the Chairman about whose law school is the best, JC Miller, Partner at Thompson Hine, is here to tell us about "unintended legal obstacles" that "cause a disruption in the workplace." You know what that means.

12:29: He talks about a friend, Ethan St. Pierre (who runs the Remembering Our Dead web site), who lost his job for being transgender, about friends who have to show IDs that do not match their gender. He talks about growing up in the South where he was not allowed to swim in public pools because he was not white. This, he said, "feels like a flashback." He asks people to treat others as they would want to be treated and concludes his testimony. Yay Diego!

12:26: He talks about living as a transgender Latino man, about growing up in a military family in Georgia, and about his family supporting his gender identity. He worked in many corporate companies, including Coca Cola, Holiday Inn and others worldwide. He waited to transition because he was afraid of being who he was: "Diego Sanchez, an honorable man." He said that he "struggled to have self-respect in a world that would seemingly never allow someone like me...I could be honest about everything except myself."

12:25: Diego!! AHH! An amazing guy.

12:24: The Library made many claims why she could not be hired, all of them clearly false. Colonel Schroer says that she hopes every day that the Library will call and tell her they made a mistake, and she can continue serving her country as she has so well.

12:22: Colonel Schroer applied for a position at the Library of Congress working on CRS reports, while in the position of transitioning from male to female. She was hired almost immediately. She had lunch with her future supervisor, and told her of plans to transition from male to female. Her supervisor called her the next day and said that she was "not a good fit" for the library.

12:19: Diane Schroer, Retired Colonel, US Army, is the first witness. She is talking about her vast military experience, including humanitarian de-mining operations in Southern Africa, Special Operations work and programs all over the world. She has done basically every homeland security, counter-terrorism, classified, top-secret military thing ever.

12:17: The Chairman is reading the list of witnesses. He also notes that Cornell Law School is the best in the country, although he may be biased. The speakers will have a green, yellow and red lights to signal their time to speak.

12:15: We're back!

11:48: Still recessed. Hang in there. How is everyone's Thursday going? Leave me some comments.

11:32: The Chairman thanks Rep. Frank and says that he tries to determine the content of hearings by the "depth of the grievance suffered." The committee is adjourning briefly for some people to go make votes on the Floor. Stay tuned.

11:29: Barney notes that if you are uncomfortable, how do you think trans people feel?! He's not asking for you to take anyone to the movies. Just "let em work!"

11:26: Barney says some stuff about how sometimes stuff need to happen incrementally. I think this is about that ENDA thing. The burden of proof is on the person charging discrimination and the disruption argument "just doesn't work." When he first realized he was gay, he made himself uncomfortable. But he got used to it! And so did other people!

11:24: He notes that he doesn't buy the "redundancy" argument (that trans people are already covered under other legislation). He notes that his colleagues are rarely reluctant to use a few extra words. And he also doesn't buy the "it could be disruptive" argument.

11:23: He notes that his colleagues often feel "trapped in the wrong body" when their legislation goes to the Senate. Laughter.

11:22: Barney Frank. He thanks the Chairman for making this hearing a priority.

11:21: She says that it is "high time" that American "declared discrimination based on gender identity and expression to be unlawful." Did I mention we love her?

11:18: She notes that hate crimes against trans Americans are "tragically common" and that trans people also face discrimination in the "mundane and everyday." She talks about having to choose in her own life to live "with truth and integrity" as an out lesbian, and the way that Wisconsin's non-discrimination law made a difference for her. She says, "the importance of non-discrimination laws cannot be overstated." They tell people to "judge your fellow citizen by their integrity, talents...rather than their sexual orientation or gender identity...that irrational fear, irrational hate, have no place in our workplaces."

11:15: Tammy Baldwin is speaking. We love her. She wants to clarify why people want workplace protections that do not "leave behind the smallest and most vulnerable part of our community." She defines gender identity, and explains how it differs from sexual orientation. She notes that there are thousands of trans Americans who lead "incredibly successful" lives, as parents, community organizers, defense contractors and much more.

11:14: Barney Frank is on the first panel. The Chairman notes that he has a great sense of humor. Tammy Baldwin (!!!) is also on the first panel. The Chairman says she is a great listener in "divisive" situations. I believe that was an ENDA reference.

11:13: Rep. Kline says he's looking forward to the hearing. He wants his statement recorded.

11:11: He also notes that ENDA was passed without protection for transgender people, and that he believes it should, and then says some nice things about minority leader Rep. Kline.

11:10: Chairman Rep. Andrews notes that someone's "presentation" is an "irrelevant prejudicial criteria" and that it has nothing to do with how someone "writes code...or fixes someone's car" and that people should be judged on their performance at work. Rock on!

11:09: Chairman Rep. Andrews thanks everyone for coming. He says, in all likelihood, someone today will apply for a job and be denied because an employer does not like the way they look. He says that someone will be denied a promotion because an employer is uncomfortable. He notes that this is legal under federal law.

11:08: The hearing is starting!

11:01: The video feed says:"Will begin shortly." And the most recent liveblog updates will now appear at the top of the post.

11:00: OK! Exciting news. The video feed now says: "Committee on Education and Labor, Health Employment and Labor Subcommittee Hearing on "An Examination of Discrimination Against Transgender Americans in the Workplace."' We're getting started!

10:56
: The amendment does not pass. A substitute is agreed to. Now there's another roll-call vote. Stay tuned.

10:51: The clerk is calling the roll on the price amendment. He tells Chairman Miller to settle down. Laughter.

10:48: Now they're voting on a fox amendment. Or something. But we're still excited! The people sitting behind the clerk look sleepy.

10:46
: Ah, they are voting on a price amendment. Exciting stuff.

10:45: Rep. Bishop wanders in late and is gently chastised for his tardiness and told not to push his luck. He votes.

10:35: Dennis Kucinich is involved! We love him! They are voting on something. Everyone is voting no. Now they are voting "ay" and "no." I'm not sure what this is about. Hopefully things will get more exciting.

10:30 am: The video player says we are recessed.

First Congressional Hearing on transgender issues today!

The first Congressional Hearing on transgender issues is happening at 10:30 a.m. EST today and is titled: "An Examination of Discrimination Against Trangender Americans in the Workplace."

There is a live webcast here (you may have to click on the link and then refresh the page to launch the player).

The people testifying are:

  • Shannon Price Minter, Legal Director for National Center for Lesbian Rights (founding member of NCTE)
  • Diane Schroer, Retired Colonel, US Army (member of NCTE)
  • Diego Sanchez, Director of Public Relations and External Affairs for AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts (Founding Board of Directors for NCTE) - and MTPC member!
  • Sabrina Marcus Taraboletti, Former Space Shuttle Engineer (founding member of NCTE)
  • Bill Hendrix, Chair of Gays, Lesbians, and Allies at Dow (GLAD) for Dow Chemical Company
The minority party has called the following witnesses:
  • JC Miller, Partner at Thompson Hine
  • Glen Lavy, Senior Counsel for Alliance Defense Fund
More information is available here.

Glenn Beck defines "Conservative"

On CNN today, Glenn Beck has defined what he thinks a "Conservative" is.

Some of his definitions I expected; others floored me with their pure ignorance. Here's the list and my responses. I considered trying to put together a definition for "Liberal", but decided to forgo that because: a) It's hard and time consuming; and b) I doubt everyone could agree on one unifying definition. So in the meantime, share your own insights on this list:

A conservative believes that our inalienable rights do not include housing, healthcare or Hummers.
Yes my friends, that is Glenn Beck equating Hummers with "housing" and "healthcare." Apparently all you people who are homeless and suffering from treatable diseases due to lack of money should suck it up; not all of us can own Hummers.

A conservative believes that our inalienable rights DO include the pursuit of happiness. That means it is guaranteed to no one.
I don't think this is an "inalienable" right so much as a simple fact of human existence. People generally try to do things that make them happy. The fact that happiness it is not "guaranteed" though suggests that he is really just saying: "Nobody has a right to be happy. You can all just exist though."

A conservative believes that those who pursue happiness and find it have a right to not be penalized for that success.
Who exactly is "penalizing" people who are happy? Who is going around telling happy people to be sad? Maybe pundits; but I'm not sure who else. Thoughts?

A conservative believes that there are no protections against the hardship and heartache of failure. We believe that the right to fail is just as important as the chance to succeed and that those who do fail learn essential lessons that will help them the next time around.
Apparently we should do nothing to help people who are threatened by "hardship" or "failure" and should instead use that as a learning experience for next time. So the next time that somebody loses their job, cannot afford their rent, is kicked out on the street, and cannot get a new job or home due to their lack of housing/eviction on the record, they should be happy because that was an "essential lesson" that will help them the next time around. I'm not sure when the "next time around" is, but Glenn Beck says you've learned something. Congratulations.

A conservative believes in personal responsibility and accepts the consequences for his or her words and actions.
I believe in personal responsibility too. Except not everything is about "personal responsibility." When teenagers are getting pregnant because they aren't getting adequate sex ed programs, and because condoms are not available to them, etc., that isn't just about "personal responsibility" but rather about how society raises and takes care of their youth. It is a systematic failure, and poor Glenn Beck would rather just blame everybody else rather than himself.

A conservative believes that real compassion can't be found in any government program.
I'm not sure what this means. Government programs cannot be "compassionate"? Firstly, I'll agree that government programs don't have feelings. But if a group of Catholics can get together and start a charity to help poor people, so can a group of average people form a government program to help poor people. Either way, it's fairly compassionate. I'm just not buying this other than: "I hate government."

A conservative believes that each of us has a duty to take care of our neighbors. It was private individuals, companies and congregations that sent water, blankets and supplies to New Orleans far before the government ever set foot there.
Wow. Yes, we should all be kind enough to take care of our neighbors. But sometimes that also comes in the form of helping them through our government. More importantly, this is putting the carriage before the horse. The reason private individuals, companies, and congregations sent supplies to New Orleans before the government ever set foot there was because of our Conservative President! If you hadn't noticed, by shrinking the government and failing to make it accountable, it failed. So he criticizes the government for being big, then here he criticizes it for being small. Hello?

A conservative believes that family is the cornerstone of our society and that people have a right to manage their family any way they see fit, so long as it's not criminal. We are far more attuned to our family's needs than some faceless, soulless government program.
Did anybody else just read this and say: "You're right; I want to manage my family the way I see fit. With two male parents/two female parents/two transgender parents/etc."? I think Glenn Beck favors gay marriage!

A conservative believes that people have a right to worship the God of their understanding. We also believe that people do not have the right to jam their version of God (or no God) down anybody else's throat.
YES! Wow, something I agree with him about. Too bad Conservatives are doing much more shoving God down our throats than vice versa. And, for the record, I'm a flaming liberal who believes in God; but I would never force anyone to see the world my way. Sorry hon; conservatives don't own this one.

A conservative believes that people go to the movies to be entertained and to church to be preached to, not the other way around.
Translation: The First Amendment is wrong. I know how speech should be: Movies should be comedies and Churches should be boring and critical. Any other way is a violation of Glenn Beck's "Order of the Universe."

A conservative believes that debt creates unhealthy relationships. Everyone, from the government on down, should live within their means and strive for financial independence.
Therefore, Conservatives believe that people should not have mortgages, borrow money to attend college, etc. Rather, everyone should be homeless or rent; people should not go to college (or college should be free); etc. Too bad he also believes that the government should not provide housing or education. Ooops; hypocrisy again?

A conservative believes that a child's education is the responsibility of the parents, not the government.
Another one of those odd moments for a conservative. The next one says every human being has a right to life, as if all humans should have equal opportunity to live. Unfortunately, he is saying here that all humans should suffer from socioeconomic position of their parents. Research has PROVEN that people who start in poverty often stay there; those that start in luxury stay there too. Social mobility is more fiction than fact. So if your parents can afford education and already value it; good for you! You'll get your education. If not; too bad you lost the "birth lottery" and ended up with poor parents.

A conservative believes that every human being has a right to life, from conception to death.
A conservative also believes that the government should do nothing for you during that life; should force you into unwanted homes; and has the right to kill you if they see fit (see Capital Punishment). Also, Glenn Beck should consider reading Freakonomics, which has shown that one of the biggest things to reduce crime in the 90's was ABORTION. Yep; fascinating stuff, and highlights a lot about the unfortunate reality of unwanted pregnancy.

A conservative believes in the smallest government you can get without anarchy. We know our history: The larger a government gets, the harder it will fall.
I'm sorry; I must be reading different history books than you. The fact of the matter, and this is hard for conservatives to hear, is that no government lasts forever. And no government sits on top of the world forever. But shrinking a government to near nothingness doesn't save it from falling; it stops it from existing altogether!


Unsurprisingly, the tag line at the end of the article reads:
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the writer.

True. So true.

Myths about consulting; or, why consultants aren't automatically greedy mindless soulless corporate minions

This was going to be a comment, but it got way too long ... so a response post it is.

First, a little clarification, since there seems to be some confusion here. I'm not a consultant. I did actually go straight from college into the stereotype of genteel penury, which is to say graduate school in the humanities. I make $18,000 a year, share a one-bedroom apartment in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the United States, and have a health insurance plan with a prescription-benefit cap that only covers me for about half the year. Most of the people in my program are married and live primarily on their spouses' income; those who aren't, generally receive supplemental money from their families. I'm lucky in that I'll start receiving domestic partner benefits next year ... from a consulting company.

So, yes, despite the fact that I had the luxury of choosing grad school over immediate cash - or rather because of that fact - I'm pretty darn familiar with what actually goes into consulting, and the decision to become a consultant. So I wanted to take this time to dispel a few persistent myths.

Myth #1: People who go into consulting do so mindlessly/by default/because they lack the ambition or imagination to do anything else/because it's what everyone expects of them.

Reality: First of all, consulting companies don't hire people who lack ambition or imagination. It's actually a rather intellectually challenging and creative job, and the people who tend to get hired (out of all those who get interviewed) are precisely those bright, motivated, ambitious people who are likely to leave the company in a few years in order to use the skills they've acquired to do something else (like, um, run a non-profit).

In fact, let me introduce you to the four people from my current university who are joining the major consulting firms next year. "Shane" has coached an inner-city debate team since arriving at college - in her free time, which is to say, when not coordinating efforts to distribute anti-retroviral drugs, clean needles, and condoms, both in our city and in the sub-Saharan African country where the university sent her to study for a semester. "Max" has been volunteering for (and later working for) queer organizations since puberty, organizing more conferences and successful awareness campaigns than can be counted, and (at age 18) producing original legal research that has since been cited by, among other folks, Dean Spade. "Charlotte" spent her summers in a war-torn Eastern European country helping draft their new constitution. And "Stanford" (whom, admittedly, I don't know as well as the others) has been an active member of the ACLU practically since birth.

Let me tell you - none of these people were expected to become consultants. In fact, most if not all of them agonized over the decision and received precisely the same kind of shit from their peers as people are now dishing out here. And at least two of them do intend to make their careers in the non-profit sector; one, I believe, plans to serve the public by working in the government; one, again, I don't know well enough to predict. Each of them chose consulting for different reasons (though there was some overlap), and each of them weighed their options carefully, including the potential they would ultimately have to do good if they accepted one job or another (or if they went straight to school).

It's also not easy to become a consultant. Sure, perhaps it's easy to post your resume on the recruiting website; but by the time you're even halfway through the interview process, anyone who thinks consulting is the easy way out has had to put some serious thought into why they're still hanging in there. And anyone who gets a job offer has been chosen out of a pool of thousands of graduating seniors from the nation's top colleges - for less than 100 jobs a year. Seriously - it's harder to get a consulting job than to get into Harvard.

Myth #2: Consulting drops you straight into the lap of luxury.

Reference Kaya's comment that "the issue we're discussing is ... extreme wealth vs moderation."

Reality: I would love to live in a world where a mid-five-figure salary (for a job where you're working up to 80 hours a week and must live in some of the most expensive neighborhoods/cities in the world*) is "extreme wealth." Now, obviously, it's nothing to sniff at ... but streets paved with gold, it is not.

*hint: if you're working that late and need to commute to cheaper lodgings, you quickly discover that most cities' public transit systems - especially the lines that run to poorer neighborhoods - often stop running before you'll be ready to leave. options? get a car - and spend in gas and workday parking approximately what you're saving on rent - or live close to work, which is to say in the financial district. this is one reason you're getting more money.

Myth #3: The "non-profit world" and the "corporate world" are actually two different worlds.

Reality, point 1: most non-profits are, in fact, corporations. Learning how corporations work is thus actually a useful skill for someone who wants to work for a corporation for the rest of their life, whether it be of the for-profit or non-profit variety. Knowing how to skillfully and efficiently manage an organization with limited resources is not a sin; it's an asset.

Reality, point 2: non-profit money is corporate money. If you take a $22,000 administrative-assistant job at the Task Force, your salary is probably coming out of Wells Fargo's pocket. If you want to work for Planned Parenthood, get used to taking money from the dirty capitalist swine at Bank of America, Prudential, Wachovia, and Disney. If the ACLU can afford to give you a paycheck, it has less to do with the revenue from Anthony Romero's book sales and more to do with Ford, Hewlett-Packard, Merck, Verizon, and Progressive Insurance. (And, um, RJ Reynolds and Playboy. Just sayin'.)

Ah, but what about individual donors? Well, there are folks like me who give small amounts regularly to a few non-profits which are important to us; but honestly, we barely cover the cost of the mailings we get asking for our next donation. The rest of the donors are the big-ticket donors, the folks who simultaneously make enough money to give very large sums of it away and care enough about progressive causes to give it away to us. In other words, if you have a non-profit job, you can thank someone who doesn't. Your money isn't any purer or nobler or more infused with the perfume of justice than theirs; it's the same money.

A corollary - if you're benefitting from a loan forgiveness or loan repayment assistance program (other than those administered by the federal government), your ability to go into a non-profit job without worrying about student debt is directly funded by major corporate donors and wealthy alumni (who are by and large employed by major corporations). Fabulous for you - but don't pretend you're morally superior to the people who are giving you that opportunity.

Reality, point 3: many non-profits want things from corporations. Take, for example, all the people who want SRS to be covered by health insurance. Awesome. Now how, exactly, do you propose to convince a health-insurance company to fund SRS without an intimate knowledge of how the insurance industry works? Working in a consulting company for a few years gives you - dare I say it - real-world experience in the critical area of "talking to corporations and getting them to do things." You can only go so far on the strength of your convictions and the knowledge that your proposal comes from the moral high ground; sooner or later you have to give up on the idea that willful ignorance of corporate structures is a virtue, or give up on the hope of ever changing those structures.

Myth #4: Things that cost money are frivolous; or, anyone can live on a non-profit wage if they live "moderately."

Ok. Let's break this down. Here is a listing of 127 typical jobs within non-profit organizations, complete with their average salaries. Let's assume for the sake of argument that you enter as an "Outreach Worker" - certainly not the lowest-paid entry-level job, but you don't even want to try this exercise with the office-assistant or direct-service-provider salaries, trust me. So you're making $29,752 a year, or about $2,479 a month. (Not bad. More than I make.)

Let's also say your living situation is that of a friend of mine, who's starting work at a Manhattan non-profit in September. She's sharing a sublet apartment in Brooklyn for about $800 a month. (By "sharing," by the way, I mean "more people than rooms.") This leaves you with $1679 a month. You will also need a Metrocard to get to work; at $81 a month, you are left with $1598.

According to the State of New York, you should be able to feed yourself on $200 a month (more or less the maximum amount of food stamps they'll give to a single person). The idea that food stamps realistically cover food expenses is bullshit, but ok. You're spending $200 a month on food. Maybe you're small. Now you have $1398.

You also have student loans. Financial experts estimate that a minimum of 10% of gross monthly income should be spent paying off student loans (if you have an average amount of loans and decent enough credit to get an average amount of interest). They recommend that you pay 15% if you can, to prevent the interest from accruing too fast. But let's not even go there. Your gross monthly income is $2479; 10% of that is $248. You now have $1150 a month.

We forgot your taxes, though! Approximately 28% of your gross pay will never even make it to your bank account; 28% of $2479 is $694. $1150-694=456, which is how many dollars you now have a month.

Let's also say you have my insurance and take one of my prescription medications (the less expensive one). When your insurance covers the prescription, it costs $25 a month; when the benefits run out, it costs $120. This month, I don't have benefits any more - so neither do you. You have $336 after paying for your meds (and trust me, Bad Things Happen when you don't take them). But you also have a $10 co-pay for the doctor who prescribes your meds. So make that $326.

At this point, your apartment is still empty. By combing Craig's List, you find a futon for $60, a small table for $20, a microwave for $40, silverware and dishes for two for $20, and basic pots and pans for $20. You don't know anyone with a car, so add on a $15 cab ride each for the futon and table. Total damage: $190. In the real world, you have to pay for these when you buy them. For now, let's spread out the cost over three months, for approx. $63 a month. This means you have $263 for the next few months. You still haven't bought clothes, but we'll assume your college clothes are all workplace-appropriate and still fit you. Also, you're a monk/nun and never indulge in any form of entertainment that costs money. So you should be in the clear - $263 a month straight to savings!

Except, oh shit. You trip on a broken piece of sidewalk and break your wrist. You can't type, so you lose a couple of sick days. And when the hospital bill arrives, it's over $700 - after your insurance. If you're less than three months into your "save $263 a month" plan, you're in debt or default. If you had three months of savings, they're gone.

You want to have kids someday? Sorry, that might not be in the cards. If you're fertile (and in a relationship that will lead to childbearing without additional medical intervention), expect to pay around $30,000 to deliver your baby in a hospital, with no complications, and stay there for three days. If, like most of the people reading this, your child is going to be born via some or all of artificial insemination, surrogacy, or fertility treatments, triple that. If you want to adopt, you should know that the average cost to adopt domestically is $15,000; from Russia, $25,000-$35,000; from China, $22,000.

You want to transition medically? Hormones and surgery cost money, too. Which category are you planning on cutting back on in order to save up the tens of thousands of dollars some transwomen find their transitions costing?

Oh, and by the way? If you were paying for both my prescriptions, it would cost you an extra $350 a month. If you were a type-I diabetic trying a treatment your endocrinologist recommended but your insurance company didn't yet cover (i.e. tons of treatments), it could cost you - to take the example of the continuous glucose sensor - $1000 at the outset, and about $350 a month thereafter. If you've got a mystery condition that's looking more and more like MS, and your doctor recommends interferon, one month's prescription will cost more than my entire prescription-benefit cap (a month at standard dosage is about $1800).

These aren't random examples, by the way; these are consultants I know who took the job, among other reasons, because they are chronically ill and can't afford not to make more than $30,000 a year.

So, tell me ... where was the frivolous spending, here? What little luxuries should our hypothetical person be eliminating? Why is it so hard to believe that an entry-level wage at a non-profit is not actually sufficient for everyone's legitimate needs?

Myth #5: I want you - yes, you - to be a consultant

Reality: I don't give a flying rat's left testicle what job you take or what schooling you pursue out of college. I would, however, love it if you stopped acting as if making money was beneath your level of enlightenment; and I'd be thrilled if you didn't act as though people who choose consulting were selling out not only their own souls but the Entire Progressive Movement as well.