Saturday, 30 May 2009

The Scope of the Problem

Bigotry = Invincible Ignorance plus Strong Opinionation.

A "Perfect Storm" of Bigotry on shock-jock radio.

Curtsy to Karen Savage

They tried to cover up the evidence by removing the relevant sections from their audio archive. Just so they could say that they were taken out of context, or only joking, or only using exaggeration and hyperbole to make a point, or even just saying that other people think this, not them. They used all these excuses during their non-apology apology, while accusing their critics of attempting to suppress their freedom of expression.

But copies have been kept. The segment starts at 3:30.

They have a perfect right to freely express these opinions - but not on their sponsors' dime.

Sponsors are or rather were (with contact addresses for those who support the denigration of transgendered children):






Alicia Rockwell










Blogging may be light

My weird metabolism again. What was a toothbud wisdom tooth only a year ago had a growth spurt and erupted, and went into full impaction on the next tooth. Pubertal change again. The comparative X-rays were truly anomalous.

Both teeth had to be extracted, one had grown into the other, penetrating the nerve root. So I'm 2 teeth and $450 the lighter.

Since my scholarship is still ensnarled in red tape, my income is zero, so having a monetary hit like this is not the best news. Never mind, I still have some financial cushion left. Our lifestyle is frugal.

At least I don't have osteoporosis. The jawbone was so dense, some had to come out with one of the teeth.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Today's Battles

They're never ending.

Over at the Memphis Commercial Appeal, we have this prime example.
Commissioner Henri Brooks, before voting for the ordinance, told gay rights supporters to disentangle their cause from anything related to black people and their civil rights movement.

She would be disloyal to the shoulders upon which she stands if she didn't insist that the issues be decoupled, she said.
This after a number of Black Baptist ministers thundered against giving equal rights regarding employment to Gays and Trans people.

My reply:
In order for Black Americans of the Religious Right to admit the legitimacy of Gay Rights, they'd have to do some serious soul-searching.

They'd have to realise that their genuine, strongly-held amd fervent religious beliefs that homosexuality is an Abomination condemned by Biblical teaching, and all that is Good, Right, and Holy is *exactly* the same as the genuine, strongly-held and fervent religious belief of many who supported slavery, as also being in accordance with Biblical teaching, and all that is Good, Right and Holy.

They'd have to realise that the arguments against slavery, arguments that directly contradict many scriptural passages, and based upon common decency and humanity, the "Love Thy Neighbour" at the heart of Christianity, are the same arguments that their opponents use when calling for Gay rights.

Now that would be a pretty big ask for anyone who isn't still being subject to discrimination and oppression every day, in matters great and small.

To a group that still suffers it though, I think it's too big an ask of them. It's unreasonable and even inhuman to expect the descendants of slaves, who still suffer the aftershocks of that terrible injustice, to realise that they're behaving exactly and in all respects like those who supported the slaveowners. For many of them, it's only the belief that they are better people than that that enables them to endure their daily persecution. They will never, they *can* never, give up that belief
Or they'd be as saintly as Dr Martin Luther King. Some things are too much to expect from anyone, however much we might hope for them.

Another comment though shows a very special problem only trans people face.
Posted by ummechengr on May 28, 2009 at 10:07 a.m.

The only issue I have with this, is the provision that covers trans gender. If you're gay, that's fine...I don't agree with your lifestyle, but I'll still work with you, and hang out with you, and give you my honest opinion about your lifestyle. With just being gay, or lesbian, or haven't "changed" sex. If one day I decide that I want to go from being a man, to being a woman, and start walking straight into the women's would other women feel....even if it was "post-op"? Last week...I was Mr....and now, I'm Ms.? I tend to beleive that would make for an uncomfortable work environment...
I gave an appropriate reply to that one too, of course.

At Psyhology Today, there's something even more worrisome. An account by a Prison Psychologist :
Confused I'd turned to a nearby colleague for answers, "I didn't know we accepted female inmates," I half stated and half asked.

"We don't," she replied matter-of-factly and then paused to look up at me questioningly. Her furrowed brow showed bewilderment but her eyes gave away her amusement.

"What about her?" I countered, motioning to the inmate.

Her eyes followed my gaze. She spotted the inmate and chuckled to herself. "That's not a woman," she managed, shaking her head with disapproval, "that's a he-she. To be here, he must be a man from the waist down."

She scanned my face for understanding. Finding only confusion she continued, "They go to the men's prison if they have male genitalia and the women's prison if they have women's. It doesn't matter what's going on from the waist up or what gender they think they are."

I finally understood what she was telling me. I began to berate myself in my mind: He is transgendered! I can't believe you didn't immediately identify that - how ignorant. And embarrassed by my own lack of understanding, I silently vowed not to be so unperceptive in the future.
To date, I have had many inmate-patients who self-identify as transgendered. Their gender identity does not match their assigned sex. They self-identify as female, yet were born males and have been assigned a male sex-role by society. This group of incarcerated individuals work to preserve their gender identity through the manipulation of their physical appearance, body language, speech, interests and interpersonal relationships behind bars.

Many transgendered inmates wear long hair, makeup and groomed eyebrows. They pay close attention to the appearance of facial hair and may shave off much their body hair. Some have taken more permanent steps towards a feminine identity by taking estrogen or having breast augmentation. Many have a strong distaste for the state issued prison uniforms- boxers, tee shirts and scrubs, so they often attempt to alter them. This, of coarse, is not allowed.

The rules do not prevent transgendered inmates from taking on more feminine body language, mannerisims, speech and hobbies. Many portray a more characteristically feminine posture and walk, some choosing to exaggerate these mannerisms with a strong swinging of their hips as they move about the prison grounds. Others soften their speech or control the tone of their voice. Their hobbies, interests and interpersonal skills also lean towards those traditionally assigned to women. They are more likely than their peers who self-identify as male to show an interest in clothing, nurturing and mediating relationships.

Perhaps most challenging for me is that most transgendered inmates prefer to be addressed by their ‘female' names and referred to using the feminine pronouns, ‘she' and ‘her'.
"Challenging". I see. "he-she".... "He is transgendered..."


Part of my replies, quoting another article:
Regardless of where the trans population in California is placed, the outcome is not good. One study, completed in 2007 by the University of California Irvine's Dr. Valeria Jenness, concluded that 59% of California's transgender prisoners reported being sexually assaulted, compared with 4% of the general prison population. The California Department of Corrections, which funded the study, has not refuted its findings."
With ignorance like this amongst the professionals who should know better, no wonder. I'm sure she means well, just is clueless about her cluelessness. As are many, perhaps even most, in the mental health profession.

Now onto a completely unrelated issue... or is it? Unrelated I mean? A comment on a political blog - because I don't just comment on Trans issues, but politics in general. I have a life, basically.

On the CNS news report about General Collin Powell's remarks:
Gen. Colin Powell, who was appointed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by President George H.W. Bush and secretary of State by the President George W. Bush, said yesterday the Republican Party needs to stop being controlled by the “right wing” if it is going to expand and becoming a viable national party again.
Powell said he believes it is time for the Republican Party to stop listening to “diktats that come down from the right wing of the party.

“You can only do two things with a base. You can sit on it and watch the world go by, or you can build on the base,” said Powell. “And I believe we should build on the base because the nation needs two parties, two parties debating each other. But what we have to do is debate and define who we are and what we are and not just listen to diktats that come down from the right wing of the party."

Powell said the Republican Party has been losing people in all parts of the country, and that he is concerned the party is moving too far “to the right” and thus may be surrendering even the “right-of-center” to independents and Democrats.”
Well now that you mention it... yes.

The comments section were full of such gems as this:
NTCDMD at 03:03 PM - May 25, 2009
colin powell is a rino that should be run out of the republican party

PLAINMAN at 10:25 AM - May 25, 2009
Powells had too much kool-aid, were HE to leave the party, the base would probably triple!
Definition : RINO -
1) Republican In Name Only.
2) Anyone not well to the right of Genghis Khan.

My reply:
ZoeB at 04:52 AM - May 27, 2009
The comments on this thread prove Gen. Powell's point. It's quite clear that the GOP is becoming a place where there is room for all three "true" philosophies - the Far Right, the Extreme Right, and the Ultra Right.

They're fine with big government spending - as are the Dems. They're OK with earmarks and corruption- as are the Dems. Not much to choose there.

The GOP is becoming the exact opposite of what many conservative Americans want. They want a party that is fiscally conservative, but believes in Liberty and want neither nanny-state socialist nor theocratic control.

But instead of the GOP, they're becoming the POG - the Party of God. In Arabic, they call that Hezbolah.

A healthy Democracy requires a choice. What choice has the middle when one party is growing more shrill, extremist and irrelevant to the majority of the electorate?
The same thing happened to a lesser extent here in Australia, which is why John Howard got the boot. But at least we didn't have senior members of the Liberal party espousing Creationism, as many senior Republicans do. (Yes, I know, the Liberals are the Conservatives here, but that's because it's Australia, remember?)

I can't help but feel that the issues aren't unrelated after all. As for the Democrats, Obama's said "God is in the Mix", and they have left every stone unturned as regards rights for GLBTs, a group I've been conscripted into. He has to keep his base, amongst which are many very conservative Southern Black Baptist preachers, happy, you see. And who are the Gays going to vote for if not him? A mob that wants to stone them to death?

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Grand Rounds

I could never be in the medical profession. I don't have the emotional strength needed.

If you want to see high drama and tragedy, as well as triumph and the exultation of the human spirit, just see the weekly medical blog compendium, Grand Rounds.

This week's is at See First.

One of the articles this week's roundup refers to is at Reality Rounds, discussing parental control over their child's care.
A 25 week infant is born. She is strong and stable on minimal ventilator settings. The mom is shy and defers all decisions to her husband. The husband wants all support stopped for his daughter. He has read outcome statistics, and does not want a handicapped child. Mom sits quietly with down cast eyes. Does not say a word.
For the cases I mentioned that I was personally involved in, make no mistake about it, they were heart wrenching for the staff to go through. Yes, I am not those babies mother. Yet they were brought to me to help, and heal, and respect and nurture. I was at the bedside day in and day out, caring for these babies. You get to know them. Imagine caring for an infant that is suffering, when you know a 3 hour blood transfusion would cure his suffering. Imagine caring for an infant that weighs 1000 grams, is skin and bones, is gasping for air on the ventilator, and has tubes sticking out of every spot in his tiny body; and you know what you are doing is painful and futile. Imagine caring for an infant that is critical, yet thriving, and you have a father breathing down your neck to disconnect the ventilator, and yelling at you that she is not your child.

Cases like these are traumatic. How do you cope?
How do they indeed? But they do. Thank goodness.

Oh yes, there's also this:
Zoe Brain, one of the most interesting health care bloggers from Down Under, shares some of the ongoing research into brain gender identity.
Health Care Blogger, Rocket Scientist, is there nothing this woman cannot do? Well, yes. Get her 7 year old son into bed at a reasonable hour for one thing...

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

What's Bugging You?

A Cyborg Beetle, perhaps?

Specifically, a Giant Flower Beetle. From Technology Review :
A giant flower beetle with implanted electrodes and a radio receiver on its back can be wirelessly controlled, according to research presented this week. Scientists at the University of California developed a tiny rig that receives control signals from a nearby computer. Electrical signals delivered via the electrodes command the insect to take off, turn left or right, or hover in midflight. The research, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), could one day be used for surveillance purposes or for search-and-rescue missions.
The beetle's payload consists of an off-the-shelf microprocessor, a radio receiver, and a battery attached to a custom-printed circuit board, along with six electrodes implanted into the animals' optic lobes and flight muscles. Flight commands are wirelessly sent to the beetle via a radio-frequency transmitter that's controlled by a nearby laptop. Oscillating electrical pulses delivered to the beetle's optic lobes trigger takeoff, while a single short pulse ceases flight. Signals sent to the left or right basilar flight muscles make the animal turn right or left, respectively.

Most previous research in controlling insect flight has focused on moths. But beetles have certain advantages. The giant flower beetle's size--it ranges in weight from four to ten grams and is four to eight centimeters long--means that it can carry relatively heavy payloads. To be used for search-and-rescue missions, for example, the insect would need to carry a small camera and heat sensor.
There's a video of the experiment available too.

I know it's only a beetle, no more intelligent than a microwave oven (seriously). the thing that makes it so suitable as the chassis for a cyborg is its robot-like, sterotyped behaviour. The simple external signals, left, right, stop, start, just activate "canned" sub-programs, with all the existing biological computational power in its limited neurology being used to do the low-level stuff, something that requires significant computation, but no actual thought processes.

I know all that. But it still makes me queasy. There are ethical issues that need looking at. We're fairly safe with beetles, and even rock lobsters. But should we try cyborging creatures more complex than toasters, it's not clear that we're acting ethically. Where do we draw the line?

That bugs me.

Employment Discrimination and the Transsexual


Everything you never wanted to know about the three levels of review used by the US courts to analyze equal protection claims: "strict scrutiny," "intermediate scrutiny," and "rational basis." And lots more besides.

There's a human element too.
This paper is dedicated to the three transsexuals the author has known who have taken their own lives in the past year. May they find the peace they could not find in life.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Brain Gender Identity - a presentation by Dr Sidney Ecker, MD FACS

A letter I recently received from Dr Ecker, to whom many thanks:
Hi Zoe,

Yes, we gave our presentation to 60 plus psychiatrists from the US, AU, FR, IT, EU, UK, Holland etc.

We spoke for 2 1/2 hours on why cross gender identity was a normal inherited variation of humans. We showed how Transgender Brains think, smell, and hear like the opposite sex. We presented internationally accepted guidelines for hormonal treatment of transsexuals to be published Summer 2009.

Here are my slides and with my participants' permission I shall send you theirs. We are now in print in the APA Syllabus and soon in the APA Journal this summer. I am checking if we were recorded.

My greatest personal compliment came from Frank Kruijver, from Holland, whose research of the human brain in TSs started it all. He thought we have taken his work very far in our understanding of the human brain. Hope you can do something with this. Sid Ecker, M.D.
I will indeed endeavour to "do something with this".

Starting with publishing it, broadcasting it as far and as wide as I can. This stuff needs to be known.

Dr Ecker is not a psychiatrist, he's a urologist, with very extensive clinical experience in observing the effects of hormonal treatment of a variety of patients, transsexual and otherwise. He has no particular axe to grind, but he has seen so much misinformation, he wants to set the record straight. To put some Science into the issue.

As the e-mail states, Dr Ecker was invited to give a presentation to the American Psychiatric Association as part of a seminar at their annual meeting. From their letter to him:
Symposium Title: The Neurobiological Evidence for Transgenderism

The participants shall learn the current definitions of Transgenderism, Gender Identity, Gender Expression, Gender Role Behavior, Gender Dysphoria and Transsexualism and understand the Standards of Care (WPATH) for treatment. The neurobiological evidence for gender differences in the human brain and genetic inheritability of Transsexualism will be presented. Current US medical practices in the Treatment of GID in children, adolescents and adults will be discussed.

The topic of Gender Identity Disorder is one of great controversy in the world because of the diametrically opposite approach of treatment advocated in different medical centers. The prevalence and incidence of Transgenderism, which reflects the thinking and behavior of the opposite genetic sex, cannot be known because the non-dysphoric patient does not present for medical care for a multiplicity of reasons. What we can estimate and understand is the mild to severely dysphoric patient who seeks medical attention and is given a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder under DSM-IV-TR. The panel shall present the current scientific literature pertinent to our understanding of the concept of a male, female or transgender brain. They shall discuss the current research undertaken with Transsexuals, which lends evidence to genetic inheritance and biological causation. Finally they shall discuss the appropriate medical care that can help bring the patient’s physical being into congruency with their Brain Gender Identity. While treatment in the form of surgery or cross-hormonal medication has been denied to these individuals at certain prominent medical centers, the number of patients seeking help has increased. As more patients see the psychiatric community as a welcoming entity listening to their concerns, instead of trying to reverse or repair their Transgender thinking, they will be encouraged to allow psychiatry to join in the multi-disciplinary treatment of their condition.

Title of Presentation: Brain Gender Identity

Gender Identity is that innate sense of who you are in this world with reference to your sexuality and behavior, not necessarily corresponding to your genitalia and reproductive organs. Transgenders are atypical and “think” as the opposite gender. Certain areas of the brain have been shown to be sexually dimorphic. They are different in structure and numbers of neurons in males versus females. Protein Receptors for the sex hormones in different areas of the brain (limbic and anterior hypothalamic) must be present in sufficient numbers to receive those powerful hormones. There are androgen receptors (AR), Estrogen Receptors (ER), and Progesterone receptors (PRs). ARs or ERs are predominant at different times in different parts of the human brain. Hormone receptor genes have been identified in humans, which are responsible for sexually dimorphic brain differentiation in the hypothalamus. The groundwork in brain gender identity is gene-directed and takes place by forming male and female hormone receptors in the brain before the gonads and hormones can influence them. Multiple genes acting in concert determine our sexual identity. The human brain continues to make neurons and synaptic neuronal connections throughout life. This contributes to Gender Role Behaviors making individuals in the continuum of gender identity. Gender behaviors must be differentiated from gender identity (Hines). Gender Identity cannot be predicted from anatomy (Reiner). Brain gender identity is determined very early in fetal development, but gender expression, expressed as behaviors requires hormonal, environmental, social and cultural interactions, which evolve with time. One cannot deny the profound effects of Testosterone, Estradiol and other steroids on genital differentiation in-utero or their effects on behavior from birth or the physical and mental cross gender changes caused by exogenous hormones, but gender identity is determined before and persists in spite of these effects.


1.DF Swaab, WC Chung, FP Kruijver, MA Hofman, TA Ishunina
Structural and functional sex differences in the human hypothalamus
Horm Behav. Sep, 2001; 40(2): 93-8. Review

2. DF Swaab
Sexual differentiation of the human brain: relevance for gender identity, transsexualism and sexual orientation
Gynecol Endocrinol. Dec, 2004; 19(6): 301-12. Review.

3.IE Sommer, PT Cohen-Kettenis, T van Raalten, AJ Vd Veer, LE Ramsey, LJ Gooren, RS Kahn, NF Ramsey
Effects of cross-sex hormones on cerebral activation during language and mental rotation: An fMRI study in transsexuals
Eur Neuropsychopharmacol. Mar 2008; 18(3): 215-21.

4.H Berglund, P Lindstrom, C Dhejne-Helmy, I Savic
Male to female transsexuals show sex-atypical hypothalamus activation when smelling odorous steroids
Cereb Cortex. Aug 2008; 18(8): 1900-8.

A more complete list of his references is in this PDF file, at REF 3.pdf.

Now onto the powerpoint presentation itself: Brain Gender Identity, which I have mirrored at 3.3.2.ppt

I'll quote the first slide:
Most of our information on the Neurobiology of sex comes from animal studies (Becker et al., 2005), but nearly all of what we know about variations in human sexuality, including hetero- and homo-sexuality, and disorders of gender identity (transsexualism) comes from clinical material, anecdotes or even fiction (the three overlap).
Herbert, J., (Brain, 2008)
And one of his meticulously reasoned conclusions, led to inescapably by the biology of foetal and post-birth neural development:
Brain gender identity is determined very early in fetal development, but gender expression, expressed as behaviors requires hormonal, environmental, social and cultural interactions which evolve with time.
The Logic is immaculate, the conclusions obvious when presented so clearly.

While there are still pieces of the puzzle missing, and many details still to be determined, Dr Ecker has solved it - we now have the Big Picture, incomplete, but still recognisable. All the things I had observed and deduced had to be true on the basis of external observation, Dr Ecker now shows the chain of causality, what happens and when.

His exposition of the biology might even give me some clues as to my own anomalous situation, which genes and which proteins to look at - but this is of secondary interest to me. It's why I got into all this, but now I'm in, it's others I'm more concerned about.

Dr Ecker's first communication with me on the first of March was as follows:
Hi Zoe,

My name is Dr. Sidney W. Ecker, M.D., F.A.C.S. and it appears that I have made it to your informative blog. I would ask you to stay tuned for my Symposium at the American Psychiatric Association's 2009 Annual meeting in May as my abstracts and presentation is their property for publication at the moment.

S10. The Neurobiological Evidence for Transgenderism
1. Brain Gender Identity Sidney W. Ecker, M.D.
2. Transsexuality as an Intersex Condition Milton Diamond, Ph.D.
3. Novel Approaches to Endocrine Treatment of Transgender Adolescents and Adults Norman Spack, M.D.

What I am trying to do is to logically sequence the scientific evidence to date that you quote and put it into an understandable form for my peers and eventually the public. My current Reference list for Brain Gender Identity is attached. This is certainly not "dogma" as Dr. Zucker claims, but like you I possess the ability and education to understand (biological) science. As a Urologist with a specific interest and expertise in Prostate Cancer, I have administered DES, Estrogens, LHRH agonists and Androgen Blockers to thousands of men for PCa. I make the analogy that these men voluntarily took female hormones to improve the quality of their lives much the same way TransWomen do. Do you need to fear death or be suicidal to take cross-gender hormones? Emphatically, No! Will they prevent eventual death in either scenario? No!!

After the meeting I shall send you my PowerPoint Presentation, but I must keep my powder dry for the moment.

You may publish my reference list, but I can't imagine anyone could access all these articles as I have from the National Library of Medicine's Reading Room. So we'll just have to wait to hear from the opposition and peer review.
Thanks for your Web blog.
Sid Ecker
Thank you, Dr Ecker. I'll help as much as I can.

Thursday, 21 May 2009


From Susan's Place Trangender Resources (Registration and a record of contribution required, so you'll have to take my word for it):
To Hazumu And Zoe-Brain
« on: May 11, 2009, 10:54:00 am »

For conduct above and beyond the call of duty, I hereby nominate Karen (Hazumu) and Zoe_Brain for the highest award that can be given to one of our community, our undying support and love! And if I could find a medal to pin on your chests I certainly would!

Karen as one of the news moderators here provides a steady stream of news reports of interest to the trans community and LGB in general.

Zoe_Brain (ZoeB here), has a blogspot and has quite insightful posts about the trans experience.

Many of these news reports hardly qualify for the term and are just thinly veiled attacks on our community. For her efforts in simply in trolling through this muck in the first place and bringing it to our attention she would deserve an award.

However, time and again, she posts a response to these items, where it is allowed, to balance and not allow this terrible "news" reporting to go unopposed. Her voice sometimes is a lone voice countering and correcting misogynist, spiteful, and hateful statements.

On occasion I too would post a response, but the incessant rants, tired phrases, and hateful comments wearies me. Yet these two seem to always have a response that is concise, thoughtful and accurate.

Howindehell do you do it?

Thank you both for your constant efforts! I cannot express how deeply I appreciate what you have done for our community!

You make me humble and proud.


Howindehell do I do it? Persistence, and I take shortcuts, or rather cut-and-pastes.

Example : From the Times Daily :
Don't let it become law
Senate Bill 909, which is called "The Local law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act," is in reality the Pedophile Protection Act. This bill would not only criminalize free speech but provide elevated protection to pedophiles....

My reply:
I find it amazing, and appalling, at how many homophobic people think that pedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation.

Because that's what this law deals with - it adds "sexual orientation" to the list of characteristics of groups that we know are treated unequally. That's all.

I thought only NAMBLA and other openly pro-pedophile groups said this kind of thing - that pedophilia is a "sexual orientation" rather than a psychiatric condition.

I will give some the benefit of the doubt - for example, the Illinois Family Institute, who wrote:
In the article entitled "Hate Crimes Bill Moves to Senate" (5/5/09), we mistakenly stated that the American Psychiatric Association's actual definition of "sexual orientation" includes paraphilias. The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) classifies "sexual orientation" as heterosexual, homosexual, and bi-sexual. The 547 mental disorders called "paraphilias" specifically involve non-human objects, physical pain, or unwilling partners as in pedophilia. IFI apologizes for the error.
But assuming the author is sincerely mistaken, he has had 40 years to raise constitutional objections to such laws, and in 40 years, they have never been used to suppress free speech. Anti-semitic and racist groups continue to be able to espouse their noxious views. The author should have no fear that he too can continue to call for the deaths of Blacks, Jews or Gays with equal impunity under this law. He's just not allowed to actually kill them.

These people are very obviously lying, openly and blatantly, out of pure homophobia. They wish to continue to be able to commit violent acts against Gays and escape prosecution, because the local Sheriff or District Attorney is of like mind. Just as used to happen when Blacks were victims, 50 years ago.

On to the Democrat Herald:
Letter: Against hate-crimes bill (May 18)

I would like to comment on the recent editorials on the Hate Crimes Bill S.909 (HR 1913) that is being voted on in the Congress. I would urge everyone to write their representatives to vote against this bill.

Because this bill does not define “sexual orientation,” every form of deviant sexual behavior will be protected.....
And my reply there was almost word-for-word the same:
I find it amazing, and appalling, at how many homophobic people think that pedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation.

Because that's what this law deals with - it adds "sexual orientation" to the list of characteristics of groups that we know are treated unequally. That's all.

I thought only NAMBLA and other openly pro-pedophile groups said this kind of thing - that pedophilia is a "sexual orientation" rather than a psychiatric condition.

I will give some the benefit of the doubt - for example, the Illinois Family Institute, who wrote:

In the article entitled "Hate Crimes Bill Moves to Senate" (5/5/09), we mistakenly stated that the American Psychiatric Association's actual definition of "sexual orientation" includes paraphilias. The APA's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) classifies "sexual orientation" as heterosexual, homosexual, and bi-sexual. The 547 mental disorders called "paraphilias" specifically involve non-human objects, physical pain, or unwilling partners as in pedophilia. IFI apologizes for the error.

But assuming the author is sincerely mistaken, she has had 40 years to raise constitutional objections to such laws, and in 40 years, they have never been used to suppress free speech. Anti-semitic and racist groups continue to be able to espouse their noxious views. The author should have no fear that she too can continue to call for the deaths of Blacks, Jews or Gays with equal impunity under this law. She's just not allowed to actually kill them.

These people are very obviously lying, openly and blatantly, out of pure homophobia. They wish to continue to be able to commit violent acts against Gays and escape prosecution, because the local Sheriff or District Attorney is of like mind. Just as used to happen when Blacks were victims, 50 years ago.
I substituted "she" for "he", that's all. I have no compunction about repeating myself verbatim when the writers are obviously parroting identical party lines they've been fed by others.

Finally, another area I care deeply about - Freedom of Speech. From the Valley Advocate :

Between the Lines: Intolerant of Dissent
The treatment of a conservative speaker at UMass should embarrass genuine liberals.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
By Cathy Young

Those who charge that modern-day liberalism has become fundamentally illiberal toward speech and ideas that challenge its own dogma could ask for no better illustration than recent events at UMass-Amherst.

On March 11, the Republican Club at UMass hosted Don Feder, a conservative journalist, addressing the subject of hate speech and hate crimes. Feder believes that legislation which singles out hate crimes with special penalties, rather than treating all violent crime equally, amounts to unconstitutional punishment of bad speech or bad thoughts. He also disputes the notion of a hate crime epidemic in America.

A group of left-wing students announced their intent to protest Feder's appearance. The campus police then demanded the organizers pay an added $444 for security, nearly tripling the costs to the club.

It's bad enough to place a burden on unpopular views by requiring student organizations to shoulder extra costs for hosting controversial speakers. It's doubly outrageous when, even with the extra costs, the controversial speech is still silenced.....
And my reply there may lead to a certain sense of deja-vu.
The speaker has had 40 years to raise constitutional objections to such laws, and in 40 years, they have never been used to suppress free speech. Anti-semitic and racist groups continue to be able to espouse their noxious views. The author should have no fear that he too could continue to call for the deaths of Blacks, Jews or Gays with equal impunity under this law. He's just not allowed to actually kill them.

These people are very obviously lying, openly and blatantly, out of pure homophobia. They wish to continue to be able to commit violent acts against Gays and escape prosecution, because the local Sheriff or District Attorney is of like mind. Just as used to happen when Blacks were victims, 50 years ago.


The antidote to bad speech and falsehood is not to suppress it: it's to answer it with better and more truthful speech, which in turn can be challenged and put to the test.

I have to agree completely with Cathy Young here. And Francois-Marie Arouet de Voltaire.
"Je ne suis pas d'accord avec un mot de ce que vous dites, mais je me battrai jusqu'à la mort pour votre droit de le dire."
Which if my schoolgirl French is accurate, is best translated as

"I don't agree with a word you say, but I'll fight to the death for your right to say it".

Melodramatic, but yes, we do have to make a stand for freedom of speech, *especially* when the speaker is so obviously, terminally and completely full of it.
I do feel a little ashamed here. Using the original Francais is pretentious, but I am, after all, dealing with Arts Students. It gives a wholly false impression of my intellectual credentials, and deliberately so. Not exactly lying but.... And not quite technically correct either. It's difficult to imagine, but it should really be schoolboy French. As taught to me by my first Mathematics teacher, who hailed from France. She taught me "Un deux trois" simultaneously with "One two three", that would have been around 1964. But maybe it's not that inaccurate, after all. Even in 1962 having external genitalia seemed weird and wrong. And I did know the original French after all, even if I had to Google it.

The Implications are too dire to let that happen

Over at Cumudgeon's Corner, an e-mail conversation that says it all about the US Space Programme.

First from John Goff:
Ares-I and Ares-V are already mixes of politics and engineering. Do you honestly think that if it weren't for political pressures out of Florida, Utah, Texas, and Alabama, that NASA would've come up with a vehicle like that as the best approach? No, the cat's been out of the bag for a long time, and you've publicly admitted it before....

And in reply, the Cumudgeon himself, Mark Whittington says:
I'm an agnostic about what kind of rocket we us to return to the Moon. But I offer this caveat. The first person on the Moon is going to be the employee of some government. There is no market for going to the Moon that has enough benefit that would attract a private player able to pay the cost.

There is, however, a national security reason for going back to the Moon. That's because that government employee might just be an officer of the Chinese Peoples' Liberation Army. The implications of that are just too dire to let that happen.
With respect, he better get used to the idea, because unless there's a course change, that's not a possibility, it's an ironclad certainty.

From the AP :
President Barack Obama met Tuesday with a leading candidate to head NASA.

White House spokesman Nick Shapiro said Obama met with Charles Bolden, a former shuttle commander and retired Marine major general. Shapiro says they spoke about ideas for making NASA stronger, their commitment to space exploration and Bolden's ideas for the agency's future.

The administration isn't expected to announce a new NASA chief immediately
Hmmmm.... Bolden was widely tipped to be the next administrator. But maybe not. Not now. As NASAWatch reports :
At least two sources suggest that when Obama suggested to Bolden during their meeting that cuts to the human spaceflight budget might be needed later, Bolden said he would strongly counsel him not to. Otherwise, it was characterized as a pleasant conversation.
Maybe I'm being cynical.

US Rocket Scientists are some of the best in the world. I know, I've had the honour of working with some of them. If the object was to see the US Space programme actually do space research and development, we'd have in-orbit assembly stations and regular scheduled lunar resupply missions by now, at a fraction of the cost of current plans. I too am agnostic about the actual mechanism, but that's because there are so many ways of doing things, rather than so few.

But it's just more political theatre, pork distribution, and any space development is a desirable but ultimately dispensable side-effect. And the implications of that are truly dire - but not so dire that it won't continue to happen. Not even when the only language spoken on the Moon is Mandarin.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Warm Fuzzies, Chocolate and Brains

From the BBC:
Warm, sentimental people tend to have more brain tissue in the outer strip of the brain just above the eyes and in a structure deep in the brain's centre.

These are the same zones that allow us to enjoy chocolate and sex, the Cambridge University experts report in the European Journal of Neuroscience.
The brain scan study was carried out on 41 healthy male volunteers.

The men who scored higher on questionnaire-based ratings of emotional warmth and sociability had more grey matter in two brain areas - the orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum.

The researchers say it is not clear whether the men were born with these brain differences or whether the brain regions in question grew in response to personal experiences.

Experts already know that the striatum becomes activated by receiving compliments and the orbitofrontal cortex is activated by attractive faces and smiling.

Lead researcher Dr Graham Murray said: "Sociability and emotional warmth are very complex features of our personality.

"This research helps us understand at a biological level why people differ in the degrees to which we express those traits.

"It's interesting that the degree to which we find social interaction rewarding relates to the structure of our brains in regions that are important for very simple biological drives such as food, sweet liquids and sex.

"Perhaps this gives us a clue to how complex features like sentimentality and affection evolved from structures that in lower animals originally were only important for basic biological survival processes."
Professor Simon Baron Cohen, of the Autism Research Centre in Cambridge, said: "This is an important study in showing that the degree to which we find socializing rewarding is correlated with differences in brain structure.

"It reminds us that for some people, socializing is an intrinsic reward, just like chocolate or cannabis. And that what you find rewarding depends on differences in the brain.
I venture to make two predictions. The first, which would astonish me if it was incorrect, is that woman have more grey matter in these areas too.

The second is that the amount of grey matter is responsive to increased oestrogen, and perhaps decreased testosterone. I only have a sample size of one there, but some of the first things I noticed about my natural transition was the remission of some of my Aspergic symptoms, an increased acuity in sense of smell, and that Chocolate was no longer merely chocolate, but CHOCOLATE!!!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Today's Battles

Where Zoe takes on the President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted right-wing journalist Jules Crittenden, and highly respected right-wing legal blogger Ann Althouse.

In all cases, just repeating the same old lines about gender and biology. As I wrote in the comments to Jules Crittenden,
It's not what we don't know that is the problem: it's what we know that isn't so, and that we don't bother to check.

Oh yes, and another round about the need for laws to ensure equal protection in practice, not just in theory, over at People who have had 40 years to protest against bias crimes legislation that protect on the basis of race, creed and colour suddenly find deep philosophical objections to the concept when it protects gays and trans people too.

But the ones that do...

It's still true. But the ones that do ask "is she clever? as well" are the ones worth your time.

Well, one out of two ain't bad.

Monday, 18 May 2009

It All Depends Where You Are

I'm not confused about little matters like my gender, or my sanity. But others are.

Translation from the French original by Suzan of Woman Born Transsexual :
Transsexuality will no longer be classified as a mental disorder in France
05/16/2009 — Suzan

France announced that transsexuality will no longer be classified as a mental disease.

Concerned associations announced the historic government decision regarding the declassification of transsexuality as a mental disease on Saturday, the day before the World Day to fight Homophobia and transphobia.

The Minister for Health, Roselyne Bachelot, chose yesterday to issue the decree removing transsexualism from the category of psychiatric afflictions, said a spokesman for the ministry.

The Ministry of Health’s action sent a powerful signal to the transsexual community that it recognised inclusion in ALD23 (their DSM) was stigmatizing.

This classification, rising from that of the World Health Organization (WHO), was also related to the fact that transsexuality was included in the pathologies listed in the medical handbook DSM (Diagnosis and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) which the medical community uses as a reference, just like homosexuality used to be until a few years ago.

In a political statement published in Le Monde last Sunday-Monday, many noted individuals including first secretary of the PS Martine Aubry, Marie-George Buffet of the Communist Party, Daniel Cohn-Bendit of the Greens, the Nobel Prize winners Francois Barred-Sinoussi (medicine) and Elfriede Jelinek (literature), all asked WHO to no longer regard transsexuals as having a mental disorder.

So I'm not bonkers in France, though I am elsewhere. Yet it seems crazy to me that this was a political decision, rather than one arrived at by medical authorities.

Never mind. Remember I'm legally female in Australia, and legally male in the UK. Except when it comes to my UK passport. This seems equally Pythonesque in its absurdity.

We - and the psychiatric establishment - have been treading on thin ice for decades now. The patient has to be diagnosed with the "mental illness" GID (Gender Identity Disorder) in order to qualify for surgery, but anyone with a severe "mental illness" cannot possibly give informed consent. There is a basic contradiction here, one that everyone has ignored because "the system works". Well, it's only a matter of time before someone notices, and legislation is passed to prevent surgery.

Hopefully the French move is not just a cost-cutting exercise to stop the French health system from having to pay for treatment. Hopefully this spurious "mental disorder" that isn't actually mental will be replaced by the congenital (we think) physiological neurological cross-gendering condition that masses of evidence suggest it is.

We need *a* diagnosis - just not a fictitious one. Just the way people born with cleft palates need one too. They're not considered "mentally ill" because of the distress their somatic condition causes.

I'll quote from the situation here in Australia, and the Re Kevin case.
At paragraph [270]: 'But I am satisfied that the evidence now is inconsistent with the distinction formerly drawn between biological factors, meaning genitals, chromosomes and gonads, and merely "psychological factors", and on this basis distinguishing between cases of inter-sex (incongruities among biological factors) and transsexualism (incongruities between biology and psychology)'.

At paragraph [272]: 'In my view the evidence demonstrates (at least on the balance of probabilities) that the characteristics of transsexuals are as much "biological" as those of people thought of as inter-sex'.

At paragraph [136]: 'I agree with Ms Wallbank that in the present context the word "man" should be given its ordinary contemporary meaning. In determining that meaning, it is relevant to have regard to many things that were the subject of evidence and submissions. They include the context of the legislation, the body of case law on the meaning of "man" and similar words, the purpose of the legislation, and the current legal, social and medical environment. These matters are considered in the course of the judgment. I believe that this approach is in accordance with common sense, principles of statutory interpretation, and with all or virtually all of the authorities in which the issue of sexual identity has arisen. As Professor Gooren and a colleague put it:-

"There should be no escape for medical and legal authorities that these definitions ought to be corrected and updated when new information becomes available, particularly when our outdated definitions bring suffering to some of our fellow human beings"
In short, unshackle the science from the politics. Let those who are transgendered (rather than transsexual) not be pathologised for "mental health thought crime", for the heinous sin of being diverse. Much as being gay was de-pathologised, because there's no sign of them being "mentally ill".

And let those whose congenitally cross-gendered neurology is such that they need a body to match be able to obtain that treatment on the basis of a physiological, rather than a psychological, condition, the same way other cases of congenital physiological anomalies can.

And most of all - let those people who were surgically mutilated as infants to conform to societal expectations not be considered "mentally ill" if they object as adults to their past (mis)treatment.

In summary - to act on the basis of our current best guess as to the facts. This also happens to be in accordance with basic humanity, but I confess that that to me is a secondary consideration. I prefer unpleasant truths to pleasant lies. Right now, we have unpleasant lies.

There is a significant danger: that "transgender" will be seen as a "normal human variation" requiring no treatment, and that transsexuality will be "morally mandated out of existence", with surgery and hormonal treatment being seen as purely voluntary cosmesis, or worse, denied altogether.

Transsexuality as we know it should be pathologised - at least until it's treated - as not having the right shaped body - even if social role is corrected - causes significant distress. Much as having a hare lip - even in a society where such things are not mocked - should be pathologised. One causes difficulty with eating, the other with being eaten, so to speak.

Once that's sorted, we can deal with the other legal problems. Such as the one faced by Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan in the New York Times (and incidentally, myself too).
Gender involves a lot of gray area. And efforts to legislate a binary truth upon the wide spectrum of gender have proven only how elusive sexual identity can be. The case of J’noel Gardiner, in Kansas, provides a telling example. Ms. Gardiner, a postoperative transsexual woman, married her husband, Marshall Gardiner, in 1998. When he died in 1999, she was denied her half of his $2.5 million estate by the Kansas Supreme Court on the ground that her marriage was invalid. Thus in Kansas, any transgendered person who is anatomically female is now allowed to marry only another woman.

Similar rulings have left couples in similar situations in Florida, Ohio and Texas. A 1999 ruling in San Antonio, in Littleton v. Prange, determined that marriage could be only between people with different chromosomes. The result, of course, was that lesbian couples in that jurisdiction were then allowed to wed as long as one member of the couple had a Y chromosome, which is the case with both transgendered male-to-females and people born with conditions like androgen insensitivity syndrome. This ruling made Texas, paradoxically, one of the first states in which gay marriage was legal.

A lawyer for the transgendered plaintiff in the Littleton case noted the absurdity of the country’s gender laws as they pertain to marriage: “Taking this situation to its logical conclusion, Mrs. Littleton, while in San Antonio, Tex., is a male and has a void marriage; as she travels to Houston, Tex., and enters federal property, she is female and a widow; upon traveling to Kentucky she is female and a widow; but, upon entering Ohio, she is once again male and prohibited from marriage; entering Connecticut, she is again female and may marry; if her travel takes her north to Vermont, she is male and may marry a female; if instead she travels south to New Jersey, she may marry a male.”

Legal scholars can (and have) devoted themselves to the ultimately frustrating task of defining “male” and “female” as entities fixed and unmoving. A better use of their time, however, might be to focus on accepting the elusiveness of gender — and to celebrate it. Whether a marriage like mine is a same-sex marriage or some other kind is hardly the point. What matters is that my spouse and I love each other, and that our legal union has been a good thing — for us, for our children and for our community.
Does anyone else think that the way people like myself are treated is best described as Stark Staring Bonkers? Because my sex, my gender, my marriage, and my sanity all depend on where I happen to be at the time.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

The Boston T

T for Transphobia

From the Boston Herald
T operator: Drop probe and I’ll talk

Aiden Quinn, the texting T trolley jockey, is willing to help Green Line crash investigators figure out what happened - but only if prosecutors drop their criminal probe, his lawyer told the Herald.

The gambit to avoid criminal prosecution came shortly after the MBTA fired Quinn, 24, and blamed him for causing the accident last Friday that injured 50 and caused $10 million in damage.

General Manager Dan Grabauskas, in a letter obtained by the Herald, said Quinn admitted to text-messaging while on duty and violating T rules, and his “poor judgment” led to the crash.

Grabauskas said the T probe was concluded, and Quinn was ordered to turn in his “badge, pass, rule book, keys and any other” T property.
“If he were not the target of a criminal investigation, he’d be happy to speak with investigators,” said Michelle Meneken, adding that without the protection, Quinn would risk incriminating himself.

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel Conley declined to comment on Quinn’s offer. The DA’s office said no charges have been brought against Quinn yet.

As for whether Quinn would speak publicly about the accident, Meneken said he is recovering from surgery to repair his wrist, which was shattered in the accident. Moreover, with Quinn’s personal life as a transgendered male making headlines, she said, “The atmosphere is too charged.”

And here's some of the comments.
Cuff it & stuff it. If it doesn't talk, bring charges against it and go to jury. Does it really think it'll win? There was only one tranny loving judge - Maria Lopez - and she's off the bench. They'll love a cutie like it in Walpole.
#645036 - May 15, 2009 8:56 AM EDT

This creature is simply pathetic,its butt is now fired and it could find itself in prison due to sheer stupidity..But where do you put it? Walpole or Framingham? Confusing for the defendant and the judge i bet.
#645230 - May 15, 2009 10:09 AM EDT

What an F'ing freak! Who the hell does IT think IT is? Send this loley scum-bag freak to Framingham for a couple of years, that oughtta set IT's little red wagon straight! Oh sorry, no pun intended! ;p
#645341 - May 15, 2009 11:09 AM EDT

Where's the "...Oh, you guys are just being homophobes.." comment? Anyone? Anyone? Ok, nevermind. At least Deval is outraged! That should count for something. This freak might as well lose weight and grow a mustache because she'll be recognized wherever IT GOES!
#645426 - May 15, 2009 11:53 AM EDT

Are you kidding me?! IT is out of IT\\\'s mind. IT causes 10 Million in damage that we have to pay for and IT injures 50 people which will be millions more in lawsuits that we have to pay for. How does IT think that IT has any right not to cooperate with investigators? How does IT feel about how the public should expect that the taxpayer-subsidized T provide safe rides? Maybe I\\\'ll text IT and find out! I should just throw up my hands, remember my quote from a couple days ago and say \\\"IT is what IT is!\\\"
#645542 - May 15, 2009 12:48 PM EDT

I am so sick of this tranny - why isn't IT in handcuffs?
#646164 - May 15, 2009 9:42 PM EDT

And then there's this:
edwards629: the hiring issue in this case has to do with quinn's driving record, which should have been better reviewed, not his or anyone's gender or sexual orientation. this is what happens when you give a young person with a spotty driving record a job as a transit operator, and aiden's transgender status has no bearing on why this accident happened. it's comments like yours that make me especially grateful for the antidiscrimination laws in place today, which prevent individuals with prejudices from stomping all over the rights of people they don't like. besides, if all the transgendered, gay, and lesbian folks in this country were prevented from holding jobs, they'd all be left with welfare or SSDI as the only option in order to survive, and i can only imagine how you'd feel about your tax dollars paying for their [insert epithet of choice here] lives.
#646276 - May 16, 2009 1:27 AM EDT

violetlorien - MA has no laws protecting trans people, only GLBs. Trans people have been waiting for 20 years now to have the same protections as gays do.// Most people don't realise that, and don't realise that the issue comes up every year in the legislature, but never makes it out of committee.
#646455 - May 16, 2009 7:31 AM EDT
Another view in a Letter to the Editor:
Respect lacking
By John H. Bickford Jr.
Friday, May 15, 2009

By Howie Carr’s twisted logic, it would have been fine to write “Catholic conductor crashes trolley” or “Irishman was texting girlfriend while driving train,” and no one would have taken offense (“He or she, T driver is a dolt,” May 13). It’s funny how it would never even occur to a reporter to characterize Aiden Quinn that way, yet Carr argues that his transgenderism - while equally irrelevant to the story as his religion or ethnicity - was somehow newsworthy. Such a double standard can only be attributed to transphobia.
And from the comments I quoted above, it had the desired effect.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Employment Discrimination in the USA

From the Williams Institute:

Bias in the Workplace: Consistent Evidence of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Discrimination

By M.V. Lee Badgett, Holning Lau, Brad Sears, and Deborah Ho
June 2007
This report reviews more than 50 studies over the last decade and demonstrates a disturbing and consistent pattern: sexual orientation-based and gender identity discrimination is a common occurrence in many workplaces across the country. Surveys of GLBT individuals, studies of the sexual orientation earnings gap, and controlled experiments all provide evidence of discriminatory treatment.


The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy recently published a report on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bias In Workplace, which brought to light some of the difficulties and challenges transgender employees endure in the US workplace.

According to the UCLA Center for Women & Men, “transgender refers to individuals who feel that they have been born as the wrong gender and are truly a member of the opposite sex. These individuals may dress and act as the opposite sex and sometimes change their names and pronouns to reflect their true gender.”As such, these transgender individuals experience workplace harassment, employment discrimination, unjust dismissal, and even physical abuse from coworkers.

In the Williams Institute’s report on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Bias In Workplace, LGBT employees reported employment discrimination rates as high as 68 percent. As alarming as that level of discrimination is, when transgender individuals were surveyed separately, they reported similar or higher levels of employment discrimination:

* Fifteen to 57% of transgender employees reported that they experienced employment discrimination on the job.

* In six separate studies conducted between 1996 and 2006, 20% to 57% of transgender respondents reported having experienced employment discrimination at some point in their life.

* Between 13 and 56 percent of the transgender respondents to those six studies were fired from their jobs, and between 13 and 47 percent of transgender respondents were denied employment.

* Based on their gender identity alone, between 22 and 31 percent of transgender respondents were harassed at work and 19 percent were denied promotions.

Transgender individuals also report high rates of unemployment and very low earnings:

* Between 6 and 60 percent of transgender respondents reported being unemployed.

* Between 22 and 64 percent of the employed transgender population earns less than $25,000 per year.

I’m sure that it comes as no surprise to any of us that this type of discrimination against transgender employees exists and is far too prevalent in the workplace today. But what really surprised me is the high rates of unemployment among transgender individuals, because I had always assumed that the LGBT community in America was a more affluent, highly educated community with low rates of unemployment and underemployment.
It comes as a surprise to GLBs, but not T's. Highly educated? Check. 25% with graduate or post-graduate degrees, in fact. Low rates of unemployment and underemployment? It is to laugh.
But the findings of this report clearly indicate just the opposite. Think about it. One segment of the LGBT community has unemployment rates as high as 60 percent—twelve times the national average unemployment rate, which usually hovers around just 5 percent.
One segment. The one that was removed from the Employment NonDiscrimination Act so it only covered GLBs.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Today's Battles

A (US) Hate Crime edition:

From Christian Post:
Hate Crimes Law Threatens Religious Speech
Passing this Hate Crimes legislation is a top priority for the gay lobby which has been trying for nearly 20 years to designate homosexuals as a special category of citizens deserving of special protections under the law. Specifically, H.R. 1913 would provide for enhanced penalties for people committing crimes against gay, lesbian and transgendered people because of their perceived bias or "hatred" against these people. Violent crime is already illegal. Current federal hate crimes legislation covers race, ethnicity, and national origin...immutable characteristics. H.R.1913 adds sexual orientation and gender identity to the list. Under this law, a victim who practices gay sex or who doesn't accept the gender he or she was born with, is deemed more worthy of protection than your grandmother or your little girl....
My replies:
"Nothing in this Act, or the amendments made by this Act, shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution."

You omitted to mention those words from HR1913
"Current federal hate crimes legislation covers race, ethnicity, and national origin...immutable characteristics."
And Religion too of course. But as that gives the lie to your claim about it only covering "immutable characteristics" it was essential that you elided it.

In the days of the Internet, when anybody can look this kind of thing up, hysterical nonsense and the 'Big Lie' doesn't work as well as it used to. You just make true Christians look bad.
ukelelemike - please read the bill. It only overs acts of violence causing harm to person or property.

I notice no-one saying that the existing laws prohibit "hate speech" vs Blacks for example. Or Christians for that matter. It's only when Gays are to be given the exact same protections from violence, not mere speech, that some object. And that implies that physical violence against gays is part of their religion. Well, not in my view of Christianity it isn't.

I'm not gay, or lesbian. But I am Intersexed, one of the minority described in Matthew 19:12, first line. People like me have a rate of being murdered 17 times the national average, and a murder clean-up rate of 30%, vs the 70% that is normal. Local Law enforcement personnel have been implicated in many of the attacks. This law will allow the FBI to start counting our deaths, and to step in when local authorities are reticent to take action. Much like the existing laws prevented Redneck Sheriffs in the Deep South from ignoring the murders of n*ggers.

On to the Metro West News:
Hentoff: 'Thought crimes' bill advances
As Denver criminal defense lawyer Robert J Corry Jr. asked (Denver Post April 28): "Isn't every criminal act that harms another person a 'hate crime'? Then, regarding a Colorado "hate crime" law, one of 45 such state laws, Corry wrote: "When a Colorado gang engaged in an initiation ritual of specifically seeking out a "white woman" to rape, the Boulder prosecutor declined to pursue 'hate crime' charges." She was not enough of one of its protected classes.

Corey adds that the state "hate crime" law - like the newly expanded House of Representatives federal bill - "does not apply equally" (as the 14th Amendment requires), essentially instead "criminalizing only politically incorrect thoughts directed against politically incorrect victim categories."
They should also remember that the Fifth Amendment makes clear: "nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy." But the House "hate crime" bill allows defendants found innocent of that offense in a state court to be tried again in federal court because of insufficiently diligent prosecutors; or, as Attorney General Eric Holder says, when state prosecutors claim lack of evidence. It must be tried again in federal court!

And my replies:
There's so many misunderstandings or downright falsehoods in this article, it's difficult to know where to begin.

First, such laws have been on the books for decades. They deal with 'hate crimes' based on race, creedor color, basically. So killing a WASP is not a hate crime - unless he's killed *because* he's a WASP and no other reason. That's a threefer - race (white), ethnic background (anglo-sexon) and religion (protestant), all three existing 'protected classes'.
So what does this bill do? It adds gays and trans people to the list. That's pretty much it.

The existing laws were needed, as too many Redneck Sheriffs and DAs would never, under any circumstances, prosecute a white man for murdering a black one, or a Baptist for killing a Jew.
These days, the ones most likely to be victimised and their assaults left unprosecuted are gays or trans people. Trans people have a murder rate 17 times the national average, and a homicide clearup rate of 30% vs 70% for other groups.

As regards 'Double Jeopardy' - if the suspect is found 'innocent in a court of law', no they can't be prosecuted. But if the DA says that there's 'not enough evidence', even with a confession, a videotape of the crime, the victim's blood and the suspects prints on the murder weapon ... as has happened... then the Feds can step in.

In the Colorado gang case, that's a typical example of what this law would prosecute. Race is one of the protected classes: if a woman was raped *because* she was white, and a local prosecutor declined to prosecute, then the Feds could step in.

They can't at the moment, because the current law only deals with hate crimes committed during voting, crossing a state line, delivering mail, etc.

The 1969 federal hate-crime law (18 U.S.C. 245(b)(2)) extends only to crimes motivated by actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin, and only while the victim is engaging in a federally-protected activity, like voting or going to school.

Constitutional lawyers differ on whether the proposed law is constitutional, as it extends the existing protections to other activities which the Federal Government may not have the constitutional authority to deal with. (For the record, and I am not a constitutional lawyer, I think the proposed law *is* unconstitutional because of this. I just don't like falsehoods and misinformation being propagated, mainly by people who see violence against gays as being a desirable, rather than an undesirable, thing in our society).

As for First Amendment issues, the proposed law contains the following words: 'Nothing in this Act... shall be construed to prohibit any expressive conduct protected from legal prohibition by, or any activities protected by the free speech or free exercise clauses of, the First Amendment to the Constitution.'

That's pretty darned clear. The people who say that this muzzles free speech don't mention this bit, as it totally undermines their case. Worse, it shows them not just to be in favour of spoken bigotry, because that's still allowed, no, they want to have the continuing right to commit violent acts against minorities they disapprove of, and not be prosecuted because the local DAs agree with them. Or, as is often the case, lack the funds to prosecute. This bill is called the 'Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act' for a reason, it provides resources in such cases so small towns don;t bankrupt themselves with capital cases.

Onto a blog by a Right Wing Death Beast Software Engineer, who reminds me far too much of myself. I rather like the guy, actually, and certainly respect him, even if we may have a teeny weeny disagreement on this issue. Here's what was said on the Big Flush Toilet blog:
The Deviant Protection Bill H.R. 1913 - Abomination of Evil.
This article is about the so called “Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.” - otherwise known as the H.R. 1913, and sometimes called the “Pedophile Protection Act”. This bit of filth, from the openly gay congressman Barney Frank and 42 other liberal congress-persons attempts to make it a “crime” and would enact new federal penalties against those whose “victims” were chosen based on an “actual or perceived… sexual orientation, gender identity.”

A bit of a challenge.
One thing - you *do* know that similar laws have been on the books for decades?

But the 1969 federal hate-crime law (18 U.S.C. 245(b)(2)) extends only to crimes motivated by actual or perceived race, color, religion, or national origin, and only while the victim is engaging in a federally-protected activity, like voting or going to school.

If you really were against such laws on principle, rather than laws that would stop you from assaulting minorities you don’t like and not getting prosecuted because the DA thinks like you, you’ve had 40 years to raise your objections.

Oh yes, and only NAMBLA thinks pedophilia is a legitimate sexual orientation. People who aren’t pedophiles don’t. The proposed bill protects on the grounds of “sexual orientation” - you know, like heterosexuality.

You don’t have to be a genius to draw the obvious conclusions. Anyone who says the bill protects pedophiles either a) hasn’t read it or b) is a supporter of NAMBLA or c) is lying through their teeth.

I really, really doubt that you’re a pedophile, OK? And although I disagree with you strongly on this one, you’re no hypocrite, no liar.

You just care for your kids. As I do for mine. And moderation there is no virtue, and extremism no vice. I think we’re both with Goldwater there.
The author, while expressing his opinion forthrightly, is courteous, respectful, and entirely reasonable in his replies to comments.

Here's one of mine, gently chiding another commenter (ALSO a software engineer...) for her condemnation of him as just another Fundie Faux-Christian and not the real deal he is:
Sara - we’re in the presence of that rare beast, the Christian rather than the ‘Christian’. They do exist, you know.

Also, he’s the variety of Right-Winger that is impressed by logical argument and especially facts. Rare on the right, but almost unknown on the left.

If you want to convince them that he needs to re-visit his opinions, then show him the figures for bias crimes collected by the FBI (which under the Hate Crime Statistics Act 1990 exclude trans people), and the comparable National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs statistics, which *do* include anti-Trans violence.


FBI figures 2007 - 5 murders of gays for being gay, 1,460 total.

NCAVP figures 2007 - 5 murders of gays for being gay, 16 murders of trans for being trans, 2,430 total (an increase of 24%over 2006 vs a decrease for all other categories)

FBI 2007 figures for crimes based on the victim’s religion, a protected class: 1,477, of which 1,010 were against Jews. (and no murders in this category).

Show him that according to the NCAVP, there were 215 recorded incidents of police misconduct.

That Law enforcement and police accounted for 8% of the 2550 total offenders against GLBT victims for 2007, the 4th largest offender category.

Bring to his attention the Duanna Johnson case - the video of her being held down and beaten using brass knuckles in an unprovoked attack in a Memphis police station - and her murder weeks later, so she was unable to testify.

Show him that there’s a need for this legislation - so hate crimes against trans people are no longer ignored in the FBI statistics, if no other effect.

Give him the proof - the URLs such as and so he can verify for himself that you’re not purveying the usual Leftist snake-oil, that the problem is genuine, and not the usual faux-problem beloved of the Moonbats.

Just don’t get into a religious argument - such as the relative merits of C++ and Java, OK?

(Besides which, I’m an Ada programmer from way back, satellites and naval combat systems)

Finally, a correction (at my behest, and after some e-mail correspondence) by another author, this time Robert Morley, at The Trumpet. His column now reads:
Should sexual perverts have more legal protection than you? According to our elected officials, the answer is yes. The House just passed a Senate bill, expanding the definition of federal “hate crime,” last Wednesday. Special rights and benefits for sexual deviants: homosexuals, lesbians, and transsexuals, have now been codified into federal law. But will the new laws actually reduce hate in America?
It used to read:
Should pedophiles have more legal protection than you? According to our elected officials, the answer is yes. The House just passed a Senate bill, expanding the definition of federal “hate crime,” last Wednesday. Special rights and benefits for homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, pedophiles and other sexual deviants have now been codified into federal law. But will the new laws actually reduce hate in America?
We had too many problems with Human Rights bills for Trans people being subject to a very successful smear campaign by some very unprincipled 'Christian' groups, labelling them "Bathroom Bills" that would enable child molesters to have free rein to molest children in restrooms. They were already geared up to use the same tactic on HR1913 - the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, labelling it the "Pedophile Protection Bill". And some of them even believed that that's what it was, if they didn't actually read it.

I merely pointed out the, shall we say, negative consequences to them if the Religious Right insisted that Pedophila was a legitimate "sexual orientation" - since the bill only covers "sexual orientation".

It seems to work. I hope others use the same tactic, pointing out that only a member of NAMBLA - the North American Man Boy Love Association - encourages that particular viewpoint. People might start asking questions - and there are far too many cases on record of Baptist Ministers being convicted of the sexual abuse of children. I won't mention the Catholic priests. Oops, just did.

I still remain somewhat homophobic, despite my best efforts. But this isn't a "Gay Rights" issue, it's a "Human Rights" issue. And even if I was against the bill, deliberate falsehood and hypocrisy offends me. "Offends" being too mild a term by about a million orders of magnitude.

Matthew 23:27:
Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness.

While I'm no "Madame Lash", it makes me want to reach not just for a riding-crop, but a cat'o'nine-tails. Not just whips, but scorpions.

I've really got to work on that "forgiveness of one's enemies" bit. Not that I'm Christian, but... that teaching is correct, and I fall so far short of the person I should be.


As an aside, my religious philosophy can be summed up as follows: I'm an agnostic, with only a tendency to commit Buddhism. I try to follow the example of Guan Yin, and the four Zen vows of the Bodhisattva.

In my own words:

There's too many sins not to commit some - but I'll try not to anyway.

There's too many people to help them all - but I'll try to help them anyway.

There's too many virtues to attain them all - but I'll try to attain them anyway.

Perfection is impossible - But I'll try to perfect everything anyway.

The core of Christian teaching is "Love God: Be Kind". In my philosophy, by doing the second, the first becomes either irrelevant, or an inescapable consequence.

And while a single person is drowning, how can one leave the pool?

I'm also as spiritual as a brick.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

US Manned Space Program under review

There's an awful lot of guessing and reading of auguries at NASA at the moment.

The first word on the upcoming review appeared in The Flame Trench ("Latest news and analysis from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral") about a week ago:
President Obama will order a comprehensive review of NASA's plans to return astronauts to the moon when the agency's proposed 2010 budget is released Thursday.

Expected to last 60 to 90 days, the independent review will examine designs for the launch and exploration vehicles proposed for use by the Constellation program and the timeframe for flying lunar missions, according to sources familiar with the budget planning but not authorized to speak publicly about it.
Rob Coppinger's Hyperbola ("Orbitting the Blogosphere") gave more details a day later:
...Hyperbola has learned that the review is likely to take on the characteristics of a truth and reconciliation committee

Truth in terms of what has actually happened over the last five years, what things actually cost to develop and what budget NASA will actually get in the years to come. The full steam ahead "rosy picture" painted by some in NASA over the last few years is apparently light years from the harsh reality we have yet to learn about.

And by reconciliation Hyperbola does not necessarily mean the bringing together of previously warring parties but reconciling the need to extend ISS operations with the goal of "returning" to the Moon by around 2020.

If you are extending ISS operations, as Hyperbola is expecting NASA to do, you are going to have to review the Moon plan because you simply can not afford to go as far and as fast with one if you are doing the other at the same time
The problem is that Ares 1 is a great steaming pile of poo, but put it bluntly. A good idea, but it turned out that it was under-engineered, with insufficient allowance and over-performance for dealing with the inevitable problems with the weight of the vehicle. As I wrote about in a previous post on the subject. Now we may find out just how bad things are, and what it will cost to fix.

A day after Hyperbola's report, there came a Press Release:
The Obama Administration today announced the launch of an independent review of planned U.S. human space flight activities with the goal of ensuring that the nation is on a vigorous and sustainable path to achieving its boldest aspirations in space. The review will be conducted by a blue-ribbon panel of experts led by Norman Augustine, the former CEO of Lockheed Martin, who served on the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology under Democratic and Republican presidents and led the 1990 Advisory Committee on the Future of the U.S. Space Program and the 2007 National Academies commission that produced the landmark report, Rising Above the Gathering Storm: Energizing and Employing America for a Brighter Economic Future, as well as a number of other high-profile national commissions.

The "Review of United States Human Space Flight Plans" is to examine ongoing and planned National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) development activities, as well as potential alternatives, and present options for advancing a safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable human space flight program in the years following Space Shuttle retirement. The panel will work closely with NASA and will seek input from Congress, the White House, the public, industry, and international partners as it develops its options. It is to present its results in time to support an Administration decision on the way forward by August 2009.
And the crowds went wild... well, not exactly. As was reported by the same day:
President Barack Obama's NASA budget does not match his campaign promises about the future of the U.S. space program, the Democratic chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees NASA policy said Thursday.

Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla) said he expects the budget figures to change after a three-month review ordered by the White House to take stock of NASA's post-space shuttle human spaceflight plans.

Obama's 2010 budget proposal orders a review of NASA's plans to replace the space shuttle with new vehicles designed to serve the International Space Station and eventually carry astronauts to the moon.

Nelson said the budget, which supports completing nine space shuttle missions before the end of 2010, is a step in the right direction.

"But down the road the administration's budget does not match what candidate Obama said about the future of our space program. Still, he's assured me these numbers are subject to change, pending a review he has ordered of NASA," Nelson, chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation science and space subcommittee said in a written statement. "This review, which should be finished in 90 days, is an opportunity to nail down support for human spaceflight."
Whether the money gets turned off, or the spigot turned all the way on, depends on the report.
The budget proposal endorses flying eight remaining missions before retiring the space shuttle in 2010. An additional mission to deliver the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer to the space station will be flown "after these flights if it can be safely and affordably completed in calendar year 2010," according to budget documents released May 7.

But Nelson said he had been assured by Obama that NASA will be allowed to finish "all nine space shuttle missions, regardless of how long it takes."

All told, Obama is requesting roughly $18.7 billion for NASA for 2010, a 5 percent increase that includes a roughly $150 million budget hike for the Exploration Mission Directorate - the part of NASA in charge of building the Ares I rocket and Orion Crew Exploration Vehicle that comprise the early elements of the moon-bound Constellation program.

Of the nearly $4 billion Obama is requesting for Exploration Systems, $3.5 billion would go to Constellation. While that is nearly $200 million more than Constellation stood to receive next year under former President George W. Bush's final NASA budget, subsequent budget years are not as generously funded. Obama's plan calls for spending a total of $16.4 billion on Constellation between 2011 and 2013, or about $3.5 billion less than Bush had planned to spend during the same three-year period.
Nine space shuttle missions is the maximum we can have, because the production line for the fuel tanks has been shut down. There are 9 in stock, and one gets expended in each launch. I don't expect that all the launches will be completed before late 2011 - unless they are scrapped. Which just might happen.

So what has Mr Augustine recommended in previous reports? Well, the one he did many years ago put manned spaceflight in last place on the list of priorities NASA should be concentrating on, and on a "do it only if you have the money to spare" basis. From the Space Review:
The Augustine Commission put science as the highest priority of NASA, with guaranteed funding. Aeronautics, human spaceflight, and engineering were a distant second:

1. That the civil space science program should have first priority for NASA resources, and continue to be funded at approximately the same percentage of the NASA budget as at present (about 20 percent).
2. That, with respect to program content, the existing strategic plan for science and applications research proposed by NASA with input from the science community be funded and executed.
3. That the multi-decade set of projects known as Mission to Planet Earth be conducted as a continually evolving program rather than as a mission whose design is frozen in time.
4. That the Mission from Planet Earth be established with the long-term goal of human exploration of Mars, underpinned by an effort to produce significant advances in space transportation and space life sciences.
5. That the Mission from Planet Earth be configured to an open-ended schedule, tailored to match the availability of funds.

According to Quayle’s memoirs, the Augustine Commission initially put human spaceflight as the lowest priority. But Quayle and others objected and the section was removed. (See “Aiming for Mars, grounded on Earth: part two”, The Space Review, February 23, 2004) Even truly independent reviews are inevitably influenced by the government that created them.
On the other hand, he also said this :
It would be a grave mistake to try to pursue a space program “on the cheap”. To do so is in my opinion an invitation to disaster. There is a tendency in any “can-do” organization to believe that it can operate with almost any budget that is made available. The fact is that trying to do so is a mistake—particularly when safety is a major consideration. I am not arguing for profligacy; rather, I am simply pointing out that space activity is expensive and that it is difficult. One might even say that it is rocket science!
The results of the first Augustine review (nearly 20 years ago) is also open to interpretation. Here's Mark Whittington's take:
Back in 1990, with George H. W. Bush's Space Exploration Initiative going nowhere in the Congress, Norm Augustine headed a panel that issued recommendations to get the exploration initiative jump started.

The principle recommendations for SEI were as follows:

"a science program, which enjoys highest priority within the civil space program, and is maintained at or above the current fraction of the NASA budget;

"a Mission to Planet Earth (MTPE) focusing on environmental measurements;

"a Mission from Planet Earth (MFPE), with the long-term goal of human exploration of Mars, preceded by a modified Space Station which emphasizes life-sciences, an exploration base on the moon, and robotic precursors to Mars;

"a significantly expanded technology development activity, closely coupled to space mission objectives, with particular attention devoted to engines + a robust space transportation system."

The recommendations of the first Augustine Commission were considered sound, sensible, and even visionary. They were not enough to save the first George W. Bush's SEI which was never really funded and was cancelled by President Bill Clinton in 1993.
See why the tea-leaves and goat-entrails are being examined so carefully? Not that the first Augustine report was ever acted upon, the funding was cut, and the SEI program axed.

I'll let Rand Simberg give one final, if forlorn, piece of advice:
Ignore the politics

Yes, of course Senator Shelby (R-AL) is going to want to see a new vehicle developed in Huntsville, Alabama, and Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL) is going to want to ensure the maintenance of jobs at the Cape, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and various Houston-area congressmen are going to want to maintain jobs at Johnson Space Center That will take priority in their minds over actual accomplishments in space.

But your job is to tell the policymakers how to give the taxpayers the best value for their money — and how to maximize our space faring capabilities as soon as possible, so that if we do see something coming at us or find riches off the planet, we can take advantage of it.

Think of yourself like a Base Closing and Realignment Commission that provides recommendations for the nation as a whole, not local interests. Let the politicians argue about how to preserve jobs (while ignoring all of the jobs and wealth not being created due to the opportunity costs of their parochial decisions).
Yes, that's what should be done. It's the only way that the US is every going to get to the Moon alongside the Chinese (forget about being significantly before them). I do think though that the Augustine report will result in one of two chances that this will happen. If they report one way, there's a fat chance of this happening. If the report goes the other way, then the chance is slim instead.

Either way, the funding, and therefore the very existence of the US manned space program, won't depend on the technical issues: it will depend on the US deficit, and the hard decisions Obama's successor will have to make to remedy the catastrophically growing deficit that is planned to occur after he leaves office. That's if nothing untoward happens that makes it even worse.