February 22, 2014 archive

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“Black Trans Bodies Are Under Attack”

“Black Trans Bodies Are Under Attack”: Freed Activist CeCe McDonald, Actress Laverne Cox Speak Out

Transcript can be read here

After serving 19 months in prison, the African-American transgender activist CeCe McDonald is free. She was arrested after using deadly force to protect herself from a group of people who attacked her on the streets of Minneapolis. Her case helped turn a national spotlight on the violence and discrimination faced by transgender women of color. In 2011, McDonald and two friends were walking past a Minneapolis bar when they were reportedly accosted with homophobic, transphobic and racist slurs. McDonald was hit with a bar glass that cut open her face, requiring 11 stitches. A brawl ensued, and one of the people who had confronted McDonald and her friends, 47-year-old Dean Schmitz, was killed. Facing up to 80 years in prison for his death, McDonald took a plea deal that sentenced her to 41 months. In the eyes of her supporters, CeCe McDonald was jailed for defending herself against the bigotry and violence that transgender people so often face and that is so rarely punished. At the time of the attack, the murder rate for gay and transgender people in this country was at an all-time high. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs documented 30 hate-related murders of LGBT people in 2011; 40 percent of the victims were transgender women of color. Transgender teens have higher rates of homelessness, and nearly half of all African-American transgender people – 47 percent – have been incarcerated at some point.

On This Day In History February 22

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

February 22 is the 53rd day of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 312 days remaining until the end of the year (313 in leap years).

On this day in 1980, the U.S. Olympic hockey team makes “miracle on ice”.

In one of the most dramatic upsets in Olympic history, the underdog U.S. hockey team, made up of college players, defeats the four-time defending gold-medal winning Soviet team at the XIII Olympic Winter Games in Lake Placid, New York. The Soviet squad, previously regarded as the finest in the world, fell to the youthful American team 4-3 before a frenzied crowd of 10,000 spectators.

The United States did not win the gold medal upon defeating the USSR. In 1980 the medal round was a round-robin, not a single elimination format as it is today. Under Olympic rules at the time, the group game with Sweden was counted along with the medal round games versus the Soviet Union and Finland so it was mathematically possible for the United States to finish anywhere from first to fourth.

Needing to win to secure the gold medal, Team USA came back from a 2-1 third period deficit to defeat Finland 4-2. According to Mike Eruzione, coming into the dressing room in the second intermission, Brooks turned to his players, looked at them and said, “If you lose this game, you’ll take it to your graves.” He then paused, took a few steps, turned again, said, “Your fucking graves,” and walked out.

At the time, the players ascended a podium to receive their medals and then lined up on the ice for the playing of the national anthem, as the podium was only meant to accommodate one person. Only the team captains remained on the podium for the duration. After the completion of the anthem, Eruzione motioned for his teammates to join him on the podium. Today, the podiums are large enough to accommodate all of the players.

The victory bolstered many American citizens’ feelings of national pride, which had been severely strained during the turbulent 1970s. The match against the Soviets popularized the “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chant, which has been used by American supporters at many international sports competitions since 1980.

Saturday Night Movie

The Ring of Gyges and the Bodhi Tree

The fact of the matter is I’m a stone cold atheist.  Though I was raised Methodist I rejected Christianity and indeed all forms of religion by the time I was 12 (though I continued to sing in choir and participate in other social activities for a while after that).

My purpose is not to sneer at your particular beliefs or convert you to mine but to demonstrate that it’s possible to consider ethical and moral behavior independent of religion or appeal to divine judgment which I will do in the form of two parables, The Ring of Gyges and The Bodhi Tree.

The Ring of Gyges

The Ring of Gyges is a historical myth.  Historical in the sense that it was written of in Plato’s Republic which no reality based scholar of Western Literature or Philosophy  denies was written and that it contains this story (though some debate the date of it’s composition which is generally accepted as approximately 360 B.C.E.).

Mythological in the sense that it’s a deliberate fiction that contradicts historical facts not only as we know them today through Archeology and several independent written Histories of the period, but also the facts as the Greeks knew them as close contemporaries of the time the events supposedly took place.  It is a metaphor told to illustrate the points being argued, in this case the nature of Justice (indeed some translate the Greek to mean On Justice instead of The Republic, but that was frequently confused with a non-canonical piece also titled On Justice so we’ll go with the common name).

Anyway, the story goes something like this-

A shepherd discovers a ring that makes him invisible, indeed immune to the very concept of Justice as enforced by any outside force be it a god or society’s disapproval.  Using the ring he seduces the wife of the King, assassinates him, marries the wife, and installs himself as the new King.

Nobody knows or suspects his actions (except the wife who conveniently disappears, and by that I don’t mean that he kills her to ensure her silence necessarily, just that she’s no longer relevant to the metaphor and is ignored).

He goes on to live his life a King and as we all know- it’s good to be the King.

Now imagine, continues Glaucon (Plato’s brother with whom he clearly sympathizes in this argument), that there are two such rings, one given to an unjust man (like the shepherd obviously) and one to a just man-

(N)o man can be imagined to be of such an iron nature that he would stand fast in justice. No man would keep his hands off what was not his own when he could safely take what he liked out of the market, or go into houses and lie with any one at his pleasure, or kill or release from prison whom he would, and in all respects be like a god among men.

Then the actions of the just would be as the actions of the unjust; they would both come at last to the same point. And this we may truly affirm to be a great proof that a man is just, not willingly or because he thinks that justice is any good to him individually, but of necessity, for wherever any one thinks that he can safely be unjust, there he is unjust.

For all men believe in their hearts that injustice is far more profitable to the individual than justice, and he who argues as I have been supposing, will say that they are right. If you could imagine any one obtaining this power of becoming invisible, and never doing any wrong or touching what was another’s, he would be thought by the lookers-on to be a most wretched idiot, although they would praise him to one another’s faces, and keep up appearances with one another from a fear that they too might suffer injustice.

There is much debate, but what Socrates says is- “(J)ustice does not derive from this social construct: the man who abused the power of the Ring of Gyges has in fact enslaved himself to his appetites, while the man who chose not to use it remains rationally in control of himself and is therefore happy.”  I’ll note that’s a paraphrase provided by Wikipedia but I find it felicitous and it makes my point- a wise person understands the problem of absolute power is not what others do to you though they be god or society, it is what happens to you through abuse of that power by nature of the power itself.

Masters of the Universe take note!

The Bodhi Tree

While I don’t believe in god, any of them, I do have a teacher named Siddhartha Gautama the life and teaching of whom I have found instructive.

He’s at least as historical as Jesus, though like Jesus his teachings were not codified in writing until centuries after his death.  Most modern (reality based) historians date his birth sometime between 500 to 400 B.C.E.

He was a Prince in India and lived a life of absolute privilege.  As Arlo Guthrie said of the pharaoh, his joints came pre-rolled and lit.  His mother died in childbirth and his father, the King, sought to spare him any knowledge of suffering.

At the age of 29 (traditionally) Siddhartha left the palace to meet his subjects, among them an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a monk.  Being a sensitive and empathetic kind of guy he recognized the suffering of the human condition and renounced his life of luxury, his wife and child, and went off to become a mendicant monk.

After nearly starving himself to death he had an enlightenment that maybe severe aestheticism wasn’t the best way to live your life either and started thinking- “So what is the nature of suffering?”

  • Life is suffering
  • The cause of suffering is desire
  • There is an end of suffering
  • The eightfold way

In other words, we can’t always get what we want, the problem is that we want what we can’t always get, the solution to that is to focus on what we can control, and that is our actions and attitudes.

What can we control?

  • Right Understanding, being reality based and knowing you can’t always get what you want.
  • Right Aspiration, trying to live in a way that focuses on what you can control, your actions and attitudes.
  • Right Effort, making a real attempt to live a just and balanced life, no excuses or self pitying rationalizations.
  • Right Speech, speaking the truth in a helpful and compassionate way (though that truth thing is more important, just saying).
  • Right Living, acting in a way consistent with your values.
  • Right Livelihood, earning your money in a way consistent with your values.
  • Right Mindfulness, focusing on what you can do now instead of living with the regrets of the past or worrying about the future.
  • Right Concentration, thinking about your values, preconceptions, and prejudices and considering their implications on your actions and attitudes.

In Buddhist thought these are considered the core beliefs and as you’ll note they’re not particularly religious or spiritual at all.  After he stopped trying to kill himself living up to other’s expectations, my teacher sat in the shade under a fig tree and ate the fruit it provided and taught those who would stop and listen until, at a ripe old age, he died.

And got off the wheel.

And now at last it comes.  You will give me the Ring freely!  In place of the Dark Lord you will set up a Queen.  And I shall not be dark, but beautiful and terrible as the Morning and the Night!  Fair as the Sea and the Sun and the Snow upon the Mountain!  Dreadful as the Storm and the Lightning!  Stronger than the foundations of the earth.  All shall love me and despair!

I pass the test.  I will diminish, and go into the West, and remain Galadriel.


I have, in case you haven’t noticed, a certain minor problem with insomnia that becomes particularly acute at this time of year when the light is short and changing fast, the weather sucks, and my schedule is stressful.

My body rebels which manifests itself in various physical symptoms of which this is one the I wish to address now.

Because it’s not usually an inability to sleep at all, but rather a vampiric cycle that expresses as surprising energy and stamina when it’s dark and ennui, lassitude, and fatigue during the day.  However much sleep I actually get it’s never enough nor does it leave me refreshed.

This results in missed deadlines and inattention to details, and increases my overall level of anxiety and depression because I have unrealistic expectations.

Or at least that’s what my therapists say.

Now eventually the seasons and I reach an accomodation where I have enough time in the morning to make my marks, nap, and continue with my work.  We are not yet at that point.  Yesterday was dismal and foggy with intermittent rain.  The days that were sunny were cold and the snow glare was worse than the summer solstice (you know, you have leaves and stuff, not a 250 Watt light bulb flooding through your windows all day long).

And then there are the unusual distractions (O Canada).

This will get worse before it gets better but like most things it will pass.

And I’m not really complaining, I could have far worse problems and I’m sure many of you do.

So What Is Your Problem?

Random Japan

AFP explores Japan’s love hotels, teaches you all you need to know

   Philip Kendall

In a recent video shared via YouTube, the AFP News Agency takes a look at the weird and wonderful world of Japan’s love hotels. Around for more than 100 years now, these curious and undeniably Japanese locations are used by everyone from sex-starved couples who live with their families to cheeky travellers looking for a cheap place to crash.

Check out the video for info on everything from how to check in to what you can find inside your room.

One of the best things about love hotels, particularly for the notoriously shy Japanese, is their respect for guests’ privacy. Sure, you may be spotted leaving the hotel in the morning or after a couple of hours of mid-afternoon grown-up fun, but more often than not you’ll never see another soul during your visit. There are even hotels outside of the city that have curtains to draw across the front of your car in the parking lot in order to hide your registration plate from view.

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Health and Fitness News, a weekly diary which is cross-posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette. It is open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here and on the right hand side of the Front Page.

One Pot of Beans, Four Dinners

One Pot of Beans 4 dinners photo 10recipehealth-master675_zps802e6330.jpg

This year I found a bag of pintos that I had bought on a whim more than a year ago. I simmered them with onion and garlic, and they softened beautifully. Not only did I enjoy the beans with their broth on their own but I used them for several other filling and satisfying main dishes. With pinto beans you can go Mexican or Mediterranean. They resemble borlottis, so in addition to the vegetarian chili and the tostadas I made, I used them in a few Italian dishes that normally call for borlottis or cannellini, all comforting, sustaining dishes for cold winter nights.

~Martha Rose Shulman~

A Big Pot of Simmered Pintos

A simple pot of savory beans can be a meal or the first step in another dish.

Pasta e Fagiole

A classic Italian bean and pasta soup makes a delicious meal.

Vegetarian Chili With Winter Vegetables

A thick satisfying dish with sweet flavors and a comforting texture.

Bruschetta With Smashed Beans, Sage and Kale

Seasoned greens and a bit of cheese turns bruschetta into a meal.

Tostadas With Beans, Cabbage and Avocado

A great buffet dish that skips frying the beans in lard.