Monday Reads

Good Morning!!!

Hopefully, you had a great weekend!  The weather’s been nice here but we’re mostly focused on all that water coming down the Mississippi towards us.  The Bonnet Carrre Spill Way opened today at 8 am to release some of the river water in to Lake Pontchartrain.  The Corps has requested that the Morganza Spillway be opened too.  The last time it was opened was in 1973 when Nixon was still president. That’s more controversial because it will flood farms and land but will help maintain the levees in Baton Rouge and New Orleans.  We’ll have to see who wins that one.

If granted, the Corps plans to open the Morganza Thursday.  This could create water up to 25-feet deep in spots.

In Terrebonne Parish, low-lying areas in the Western end are vulnerable to flooding, up to five feet.  Parish president Michel Claudet tells FOX 8 he’s worried people don’t realize what could happen.  Claudet says there’s a plan to sink a giant barge in Bayou Chene.  Essentially, it would serve as a temporary dam to reduce the backflow of water into St. Mary and Terrebonne Parishes.  Bayous and creeks are already filling up and public works crews were out, looking for low areas to reinforce.

Opening the Morganza Spillway would require the evacuation of people and livestock in the Atchafalaya River Basin.  About 30 miles Northwest of Baton Rouge, West Feliciana Parish is bracing for the worst.  If the Morganza opens, the Corps projects possibly 25-feet of water in some areas.

“We’re going to do what we can you know,” said Brad Smith of St. Francisville.  He was rushing to his Cat Island hunting camp to shore it up, hoping he can get it higher than the water.  “I mean you have money invested in a camp, you know your heart’s there, and you want to save it,” said Smith.

Friday, residents in the Stephensville-Belle River area North of Morgan City built walls of sandbags around their properties.  Saturday, they were being urged to self-evacuate.

Governor Jindal believes that the flooding is certain anyway.

Land and structures in the Morganza Spillway will flood, even if the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers does not open the gates, Commissioner of Agriculture Mike Strain and Gov. Bobby Jindal said today.

“It is inevitable that Morganza will flood and the system will top, regardless of whether they open the system,” Strain said at a press conference at the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security.

Jindal said he has asked the Corps of Engineers to provide maps of areas that are anticipated to flood, with and without opening the gates. He said he wants people who would be affected to be able to prepare before the water starts rising.

“Even without opening the spillway, folks can expect flooding comparable to 1973,” the governor said. “If they decide to open the spillway, it will be more water.”

This will be historical either way.  I remember when they had to open the Bonnet Carre Spillway last spring because the river was so high.  I live a few blocks from the Mississippi.  The river was so high the boats were riding on the river at about the same level as the street.  It look like the oil tankers were traveling on the next road over.  I usually only see the very tops of these ships.  It’s a strange  feeling to think you’re sharing the road with huge ships.

So, since we’re talking about the Nixon years, I might as well offer up the Daily Mail’s first glimpse at the biography of Vanessa Redgrave. In part 2 of a three-part excerpt from the book, the Mail covers Redgrave’s political career.

Vanessa Redgrave as a Workers Revolutionary Party parliamentary candidate in 1974

The article’s interesting title is Vanessa Redgrave and the red sex slaves: How her bid to start Marxist revolution plunged her into bizarre scandal.

Never a shrinking violet, Vanessa Redgrave knew exactly what to do when she found a listening device in an electrical socket at her home. She called a Press conference.

It was common knowledge, she told the world in thrilling theatrical tones, that the internal security service MI5 had been bugging her conversations since she’d been a member of a Trotskyist organisation called the Workers Revolutionary Party.

Well, she wasn’t going to stand for it. So she was making a formal complaint to the European Commission, claiming that MI5 had violated her human rights.

Unfortunately, her grand gesture fell flat. Not only did the EU maintain that bugging radicals such as Vanessa Redgrave was ‘necessary in a democratic society’ — but it turned out that the bug had nothing to do with MI5 in the first place. It had been planted by a rival Left-wing faction.

Anyone else might have been utterly humiliated at making a fool of themselves, but not Vanessa. As her daughter Natasha once said, it never bothered her that she wasn’t liked — because being disliked gives her enormous freedom.

This is one celebrity biography that I can’t wait to read.

I first got the OBL kill news via CNN breaking news.  The NYT is trying to claim the credit for the story.  The truth is that it broke on twitter and was leaked by an aide of Donald Rumsfeld.  Here’s the tick tock according to Felix Salmon.

Brisbane is the NYT’s ombudsman, and today he describes the way that the paper broke the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. Well, he can’t do that, because the NYT didn’t break the news of Osama Bin Laden’s death. But he ignores the people who did break the news, and just tells the story of how the official NYT machine worked. His story starts at 10:34 last Sunday night, when a source told NYT reporter Helene Cooper that Osama had been killed. By 10:40, an alert was up on nytimes.com. Then, by Brisbane’s account, Twitter got involved:

One minute after Ms. Cooper’s news alert was posted on the Web, Jeff Zeleny, The Times’s national political correspondent, posted on Twitter: “NYT’s Helene Cooper confirming that Osama Bin Laden has been killed. President to announce shortly from the White House.”

At virtually the same time, Jim Roberts, an assistant managing editor, sent a similar Twitter message. Next to come was an automated Twitter post generated by NYTimes.com, regurgitating the original news alert.

Those links are all Brisbane’s, by the way, including the rather hilarious link to the homepage of the very site his column is on. All of the links are internal; none are to the actual tweets in question. But here’s the first tweet that Brisbane mentions, from Zeleny. As Brisbane says, it was posted at 10:41pm.

For a very different look at how the Osama news broke check out SocialFlow’s exhaustive analysis of 14.8 million tweets on Sunday night. As far as Twitter is concerned, the news was broken by Keith Urbahn at 10:24pm. But it really got momentum from being retweeted at 10:25pm by NYT media reporter Brian Stelter, who added the crucial information that Urbahn is Donald Rumsfeld’s chief of staff. Urbahn, here, gets the goal, but Stelter absolutely gets the assist …

The first real interview of the president on the OBL operation was seen Sunday Night. If you want to see the 60 Minutes Interview with President Obama that covers the OBL kill operation you can see it here.

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Hate Crimes and Political Dynamics

We’ve run a lot of blog posts on GLBT bullying recently.  We’ve never focused directly on the incredible numbers of hate crimes that are aimed specifically at the transgender community.  An unfortunate incident in Baltimore provides an opportunity to specifically look at the bullying and assault that this community endures.  There’s a crime story playing out in the MSM that has brought some public attention to transgender victims of hate crimes.  We’re beginning to find out more of the details on the beating of Chrissy Lee Polis in a McDonald’s bathroom in Baltimore, Maryland.  It’s a touchstone story because there are issues of race involved also.  This story involves two groups of people that have historically been victims of hate crimes.

Chrissy is a white woman in trans.  Her two attackers were both black teenage girls.  One was 14 and the other was 18. Video of the crime was captured by an employee on a cell phones and has made its way to the internet.  (Warning: This is an extremely violent video.)  There is also a video interview at the Baltimore Sun–posted below–of Chrissy Lee speaking about her attack and the incredible bigotry encountered by the transgen community. The police are taking the crime quite seriously and McDonald’s has issued statements condemning the crime.  Chrissy is recovering from her physical injuries. That’s the good news.

By Sunday evening, a Facebook page titled “Chrissy Lee Polis” with a picture of the McDonald’s arches had more than 800 people who “liked” the page. Many of the posters on the page pledged their support and provided words of comfort, and several identified themselves as transgender.

One poster, Robyn Webb, has a teleconferencing company, TG Works, that is collecting funds to help pay for Polis’ medical bills and help her relocate. Polis, who has not had a job or a stable place to stay for the past two years, has said she has been living with friends in the area.

Webb thought the incident should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

The police report does not provide a motive, but it quotes one of the suspects saying that the fight was “over using a bathroom.” In the report, officers said the teens accused Polis of going into the wrong one.

Many transgender individuals face public accommodation issues, Webb said.

I don’t want to make this a crime story post.  I want this to be about what Chrissy and her community face daily.  What specifically got me interested in writing about this attack was a thoughtful blog piece by Melissa McEwan at Shakesville as well as a promise I made to a reader who asked that we blog about the bullying of transgens specifically.  It’s unfortunate that Chrissy’s attack is the reason for this discussion.  I was not aware that some right wing blogs had been using the story as a way of attacking the black community. This is awful and Melissa takes the opportunity to rightly changes the frame.

I almost don’t know where to begin discussion of this incident. It’s so terrible—and yet to be shocked by a crime of this nature against a trans woman is a privilege. I am horrified and I am profoundly sad and I am angry—because this shit doesn’t happen in a void. I am relieved that Polis is physically okay, but my heart hurts for the lingering psychological effects she may experience. And I ache for members of the trans* community, and their loved ones, who have yet another pointed reminder of the hatred and fear felt by so many cis people, socialized in a trans*-hostile culture that rigidly forces people into a gender binary and lazily relies on gender essentialism and arbitrarily privileges cisgenderedness.

And I am depressed that, because Polis is white and her attackers are black, white racists are using this incident to engage in despicable racism—which is, whether effectively or intentionally, just a way of silencing discussion of cis privilege.

What is unusual about this crime is that it has made its way to the public arena, because hate crimes against transgender individuals tend to go unreported.  Additionally, transgen violence is overrepresented in crime statistics given the number of transgen individuals.  Crimes against this community occur frequently because there are several dynamics at play.  Here are some statistics to think about.

Transgender people are often targeted for hate violence based on their non-conformity with gender norms and/or their perceived sexual orientation. Hate crimes against transgender people tend to be particularly violent. Our best estimates indicate that one out of every 1,000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate crime.  This estimation is based on data collected by the national organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Organizers of the Transgender Day of Remembrance track the number of transgender people killed each year in hate-based attacks using media articles, community reports and other publically available data.  By this count, they estimate that at least 15 transgender people are killed each year in hate-based attacks, although we believe the number to be higher based on transgender people’s common fear of going to the police and widespread misreporting.  The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates approximately 14,000 homicides in the country each year.  Based on these figures, we can estimate that approximately one out of every 1000 homicides in the U.S. is an anti-transgender hate-based crime.

Many victims of Transgender hate-based crime are blacks.  The Southern Poverty Law Center has placed special emphasis on these hate crimes since 2003.  This is one of the reasons that this is so important to take this dynamic back from right wing blogs that are perversely making this a racial issue.  It is not.  I want to quote from one of their articles written by Bob Moser called ‘Disposable People’ to make this point.  This article starts with a narrative about one young victim named Stephanie Thomas who began life as Stephen Thomas.

In some cases, the details remain too murky to say for certain whether these murders were hate-motivated. But all 27 have at least one of the telltale signs of a hate crime — especially the sort of extreme brutality, or “overkill,” that was all too evident in the bullet-torn bodies of Stephanie Thomas and Ukea Davis.

“The overkill is certainly an indicator that hate was present,” says Jack Levin, a criminologist at Northeastern University who has written several books about hate crimes and murder.

“When you see excessively brutal crimes, and you know the victim is gay or black or Latino or transgender, you have to suspect that hate was a motive. There’s a sense of outrage in these crimes that someone different is breathing or existing.”

One reason it’s so tough to prove that anti-transgender murders are hate crimes is that so few are ever solved. Of the 27 murders in 2002 and the first nine months of 2003, arrests had been made in only 7 — fewer than one-third — at press time. The general “clearance rate” for murders is almost twice as high, around 60%.

“The police are very slow in solving murders committed against marginalized Americans, whether they’re black, Latino, gay, prostitutes or transgender,” Levin says.

“When more than one of those characteristics is present in a victim” — usually the case in anti-transgender murders — “they really don’t act quickly. They’re much more likely to form a task force and offer a reward when the victim is a straight, middle-class college student.”

When it comes to hate crimes that stop short of murder — assaults, harassment — it’s virtually impossible to gauge the extent of the problem. The reason is simple: the victims of anti-transgender hate crimes almost never report them.

Here is a link to a 2007 study that compares hate crime rates against groups that are protected by hate crime legislation and those that are not. Violence against the transgen community is clearly a problem.

A close analysis of hate crime rates demonstrates that groups that are already covered by hate crime laws, such as African Americans, Muslims, and Jews, report similar rates of hate crime victimization as lesbians, gay men, and bisexuals, who are not currently federally protected. On average:

• 8 in 100,000 African Americans report being the victim of hate crime
• 12 in 100,000 Muslims report being the victim of hate crime
• 15 in 100,000 Jews report the victim of hate crime
• 13 in 100,000 gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals report being the victim of hate crime

Currently hate crimes based on gender expression are not covered in federal hate crime legislation. This omission persists despite evidence that transgender individuals experience a similar number of hate crimes as some other protected groups, with an average of 213 hate crimes per year.

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