Wednesday Reads: Farewell Goddess Chablis and Goddess Arquette

 

arquette_52007’s Alexis Arquette: She’s My Brother. In an outtake posted to YouTube, Arquette declared “No one in my life or on the streets can say or do anything that’s going to persuade me from becoming … who I am.”

 

 

In fact, the only label she ever truly embraced was the one she gave herself – The Lady Chablis. theladychablis1“I just try to be who I am without all the labels people try to put on you,” she told the reporter at Savannah Magazine.

 

“The legacy that she wanted to leave was one of ‘believe in who you are and never let the world change who you are,'” [her sister Cynthia]Ponder said. “Love yourself first and respect yourself first and others will love and respect you.”

The leaves are starting to change their colors here in the mountains. That normal process that creates a marvelous paint of brilliant transformation has begun. Same trees…same hills…same mountains. Whatever nature has planned, that innate process that happens when the leaves change from green to vivid hues of crimson and gold, radiant orange and fire…colors that you could describe with names that sound more like MAC lipstick color hues…than the shade of leaves hanging from the trees. Which seems appropriate, because this post is a tribute to two ladies who gave glam to transgender before hashtags and tweets.

chablis

 

alexis-arquette-dies-600x1024

 

 

I think the best way to start the ball rolling is with this article from The Guardian.

Alexis Arquette and The Lady Chablis: deaths a reminder of barriers they broke | Film | The Guardian

The two transgender women were activists and entertainers who dared to be themselves – and set the tone for future generations

105115183In the last week, America lost two pioneering transgender women entertainers:Alexis Arquette and The Lady Chablis. Both died relatively young, Arquette at 47 and Chablis at 59. Then again, perhaps that’s actually rather old, given the world they were born into: although there’s no good data on life expectancies for trans and gender non-conforming people in the United States, the statistics we do havesuggest that they face greater health concerns with fewer resources than their cisgender counterparts, and that they are therefore more likely to die younger as well. Yet both Arquette and Chablis lived outsized lives despite their short durations, and along the way, they managed to break barriers for transgender artists everywhere.

In the 1990s, if you wanted to see a trans actor on the big screen, you had remarkably few options. Despite a plethora of films with large transgender roles, ranging from the deplorable (Ace Ventura Pet Detective), to the complicated (The Crying Game), to the tragic (Boys Don’t Cry), trans actors were almost entirely sidelined from major productions. Today, a small handful are gaining traction in mainstream film and television projects, such as Laverne Cox, Tom Phelan, Mya Taylor, Jamie Clayton and Trace Lysette. And if a cisgender actor does play a transgender character, there’s bound to be some uproar, as there was when it was recently announced that Michelle Rodriguez would play a transgender assassin in the new Walter Hill film, (Re)Assignment.

But that wasn’t even a conversation in the 90s, when Arquette and Chablis became two of the first trans actors to play trans roles in major mainstream films – Arquette as the gender non-conforming George (based on Boy George) in Adam Sandlers’s The Wedding Singer (1998), and Chablis as herself in the 1997 docu-thriller, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

alexis_arquette_1200Both women had nuanced, complicated and shifting understandings of their own genders. Perhaps reflecting the time in which they grew up, over the course of their lives both used (or had applied to them) a wide variety of labels, from “drag queen” and “female impersonator”, to “transgendered” and “gender suspicious”. Yet no matter what words they used, both were always vocal advocates for trans people, rights and representation.

[…]

Arquette came to movie work early in her career, thanks in part to her famous family. mg-606The Lady Chablis, on the other hand, was a well-known performer in her hometown of Savannah, Georgia, but it wasn’t until the publication of the true-crime book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (in 1994), that she gained wider notoriety. After spending over 200 weeks on the New York Times’s bestseller list, the book was made into a film starring Kevin Spacey and a young Jude Law. Chablis was shocked when they asked her to audition for the role of herself. In an interview with NPR, Chad Darnell, the film’s casting director, recalls that she informed him “there’s nobody else who can play me but me”. When he suggested Whitney Houston, she slapped him so hard she drew blood – and got the role.

Like the leaves on the trees, both The Lady and Arquette lived life being who they truly are…as nature intended. Here are some quotes from articles over the past few days that will be good to read.

socialfeed-savannah-icon-lady-chablis-has-diedThe Lady Chablis, Sassy Eccentric in ‘Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,’ Dies at 59 – The New York Times

The Lady Chablis, the transgender performer featured in the 1994 best seller “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” and in the film version, died on Thursday in Savannah, Ga. She was 59 and had been working until about a month ago.

The cause was pneumonia, said Cale Hall, a longtime friend and an owner of Club One, where she had performed for three decades.

Ms. Chablis was a standout character in the book, in which the author, John Berendt, introduced the world to Savannah and the sometimes eccentric people who live there.

“She was The Lady Chablis from morning to night,” Mr. Berendt said in an interview on Thursday. “She had a great repartee,” he said, “and she had a way with words. She was creative.”

They first met when Ms. Chablis, who had just received her biweekly estrogen shots, insinuated herself into Mr. Berendt’s car for a ride home.

ladychablis-660x330

“She had both hands on her hips and a sassy half-smile on her face as if she had been waiting for me,” he wrote.

tumblr_od7bt1z8uv1v6m5vmo1_500

She would become the book’s most popular character, Mr. Berendt said. She was also his favorite.

“It’s not as if she died without knowing,” he added. “She knew. And she also knew she was everybody’s favorite.”

After the book came out, Ms. Chablis appeared on “Good Morning America” and “Oprah.” Readers from around the country went to see her at Club One. She published an autobiography, “Hiding My Candy,” in 1996 and the next year played herself in Clint Eastwood’s film adaptation of the Berendt book.

She was born Benjamin Edward Knox in Quincy, Fla., on March 11, 1957, and never finished high school. She took the name Chablis as a teenager. As she recalled in Mr. Berendt’s book, her mother, inspired by a wine bottle label, had intended the name for a younger sister but had had a miscarriage. Ms. Chablis immediately expressed interest in the name.

1“I said, ‘Ooooo, Chablis. That’s nice. I like that name,’ ” she was quoted as saying in the book. “And Mama said, ‘Then take it, baby. Just call yourself Chablis from now on.’ So ever since then, I’ve been Chablis.” She had her name legally changed to The Lady Chablis.

Lady Chablis, Star Of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”, Passes Away At 59

Over twenty years ago, Chablis was written in as a character in John Berendt’s non-fiction narrative, Midnight in The Garden of Good and Evil. The story centralizes around Jim Williams, a noted Savannah socialite and antiques dealer who was found guilty of murdering a local male prostitute named Danny Hansford. Berendt wrote Chablis into the book as one of the many eccentric true-life characters and he uses her to better paint the picture of queer nightlife in Savannah. In both the book and the film, Chablis acts as a light-hearted contrast to the more serious themes of the story, with memorable one-liners such as “two tears in a bucket, motherfuck it” and “yes, I am a bitch, and proud of it, honey”. Her performance both on the page and on screen established her as an icon within the drag world, however, Chablis has contributed more to the community than just her work with Kevin Spacey.

tumblr_llx6obsca51qafql9In 1996, a year before she graced Clint Eastwood’s rendition of Midnight, Chablis published an autobiography entitled Hiding My Candy: The Autobiography of the Grand Empress of Savannah. In her book, Chablis spills the T on her upbringings in drag, beginning with her introduction to Miss Tina Devore in a Tallahassee nightclub. Devore would go on to become Chablis’s drag mother and in Midnight, Chablis remarks that she got her drag name from Devore, saying “my mama got the name Chablis off a wine bottle. She didn’t think it up for me though. It was supposed to be for my sister”. While in Atlanta, Chablis began her transition towards becoming a transgender woman, taking hormones and legally changing her name to Brenda Dale Knox, all while still developing a budding drag career. In his book, Berendt remarks that he meet Chablis at a doctor’s office after a routine estrogen injection, writing that “her big eyes sparkled. Her skin glowed. A broken incisor tooth punctuated her smile and gave her a naughty look”. But it wasn’t just Berendt who was captivated by the queen because after the film’s release she went on to guest on Good Morning America and the Oprah Winfrey Show. Despite her growing fame, Chablis stuck true to her roots throughout the 2000s, headlining Savannah Pride and hosting the Miss Gay Pride Pageant. chablis-1In 2013, she made an appearance on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, reading the wives to filth before a live audience.

Many have commented on the drag icon’s passing, including the book’s author John Berendt. “She’ll be remembered for her outrageous profanity-laced spontaneity and for being one of the first up-front transsexual personalities to be accepted by a wide audience.” Today we see many transgender actors and actresses beloved by millions on the big screen, however, Chablis and her role in Midnight made her a legend and a role model for others who have followed in her footsteps. And while Chablis was loved by audiences for her role on screen as well as by those who had the chance to watch her perform, the road to stardom wasn’t easy for Chablis. In her autobiography, Chablis explains that performing in Atlanta taught her about the realities of prejudice and she was even arrested for falsification of identification. “They took my purse and my gowns and they took The Doll to jail, honey…”, Chablis writes and she shows readers that performing in drag and living as a pre-operative transgender female was not as accepted at the time as it is today.

9fb1bcb1f3a556415f013e7a835e5a42

Chablis continued to perform at Club One in Savannah up until she was hospitalized on August 6th 2016. On social media, Club One paid tribute to their resident queen, sharing that “just as The Book shined the spotlight on Savannah, so too did Chablis shine the spotlight on the gay scene, and especially on Club One. She was Club One’s very first entertainer, officiating our grand opening in 1988, and paving the way for female impersonation in Savannah. No one, however, could outshine the Grand Empress herself.” And while Chablis may no longer be performing on the main stage at Club One, her legacy as a drag performer and transgender pioneer will live on for many generations to come.

 

I’ve always been fascinated with The Doll…something about her way of expressing herself made me feel like she was an old friend.

As for Alexis….The Arquette family has issued this statement:

gettyimages-57578927Alexis Arquette, Transgender Actress, Dead at 47 – Rolling Stone

“Our brother Robert, who became our brother Alexis, who became our sister Alexis, who became our brother Alexis, passed this morning September 11, at 12:32 am,” Richmond wrote. “He was surrounded by all of his brothers and sisters, one of his nieces and several other loved ones. We were playing music for him and he passed during David Bowie’s Starman. As per his wishes, we cheered at the moment that he transitioned to another dimension.”

Alexis Arquette’s family release poignant statement: ‘She left before we were ready to let her go’ | The Independent

The Arquette family have paid tribute to their daughter Alexis Arquette and commended her fight for the “understanding and acceptance” of the transgender community.

[…]

The Arquette family have requested privacy and asked for donations be made to organisations which support the LGBTQ community in her honour.

alexis-arquette-sister

 

Her sibling’s statement in full:

“Our sister, Alexis Arquette, passed away this morning, September 11th, 2016.
“Alexis was a brilliant artist and painter, a singer, an entertainer and an actor. She starred in movies like ‘Last Exit to Brooklyn’, ‘Pulp Fiction’, ‘Jumpin’ at the Boneyard’, ‘Of Mice and Men’, ‘The Wedding Singer’, and ‘The Bride of Chucky’. Her career was cut short, not by her passing, but by her decision to live her truth and her life as a transgender woman. Despite the fact that there are few parts for trans actors, she refused to play roles that were demeaning or stereotypical. She was a vanguard in the fight for understanding and acceptance for all trans people.
34225pcn_arquette“She fiercely lived her reality in a world where it is dangerous to be a trans person — a world largely unready to accept differences among human beings, and where there is still the ugliness of violence and hostility towards people that we may not understand.
“Alexis was born as Robert, our brother. We loved him the moment he arrived. But he came in as more than a sibling — he came as our great teacher. As Alexis transitioned into being a woman, she taught us tolerance and acceptance. As she moved through her process, she became our sister, teaching us what real love is.
“We learned what real bravery is through watching her journey of living as a trans woman. We came to discover the one truth — that love is everything.
“In the days leading to her death, she told us she was already visiting the other side, and that where she was going, there was only one gender. That on the other side, we are free from all of the things that separate us in this life, and that we are all one.
“She passed away surrounded by love. We held her and sang her David Bowie’s ‘Starman’ as she punched through the veil to the other side. We washed her body in rose petals and surrounded her with flowers.
“Alexis always had to do everything first. She left before we were ready to let her go. We are all heartbroken that she is no longer with us, but we are grateful for the grace and kindness we were all shown during this difficult time. We are comforted by the fact that Alexis came into our family and was our brother and then our sister, and that she gave us so much love. We will love you always, Alexis. We know we were the lucky ones.
“The family asks that in lieu of flowers or gifts, donations please be sent to organizations that support the LGBTQ community in honour of Alexis Arquette.
“Please respect our privacy during this time of grieving.”

 

gettyimages-106980631-0bf719a5-d47c-4f32-8ec6-1835cbe459ccAlexis Arquette Male Gender Pronouns: Why Did Brother And Ex-Boyfriend Use Him/He?

Actress and transgender activist Alexis Arquette transitioned to a woman in her late thirties, so why did her brother, Richard, and ex-boyfriend, Ryan Black, refer to her with male pronouns? It’s especially confusing for some, considering sister Patricia referred to Alexis with all female pronouns in the family’s press release about Alexis’ death Sunday.

GLAAD, formerly the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, encourages the media to becautious of “pronoun confusion”: “Ideally a story will not use pronouns associated with a person’s birth sex when referring to the person’s life prior to transition. Try to write transgender people’s stories from the present day, instead of narrating them from some point in the past, thus avoiding confusion and potentially disrespectful use of incorrect pronouns.”

alexis-arquette-inline-f6b3d43d-9b24-43ce-a841-a6f691a45347The Associated Press Stylebook writes reporters should: “use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly.”

So if Alexis transitioned to a female more than a decade ago, why is there confusion about her gender? Lesser known to the public, Alexis became more fluid about her gender later in life. In fact, she said she was “not transgender anymore” when Caitlyn Jenner came out last year.

“She was like, ‘Yeah, sometimes I’ll be a man, sometimes I’ll be a woman. I like to refer to myself as gender suspicious,’” her brother, David Arquette, said on “Kocktails with Khloé” in February.

David was confused. “I said, ‘You’re my sister and brother?’” he recalled asking. “[Alexis] said, ‘It depends on how I’m dressed.’”

Alexis believed there was only one gender after death. “In the days leading to her death, she told us she was already visiting the other side, and that where she was going, there was only one gender,” Patricia wrote in the family’s press release. “That on the other side, we are free from all of the things that separate us in this life, and that we are all one.”

23Final Days of Alexis Arquette: “A Tear in the Ocean” | Hollywood Reporter

Arquette remained fiercely private about her health struggles and obstinate about seeking treatments, ignoring her friends’ and family’s entreaties to take the life-saving AIDS drugs that were emerging every year. In recent weeks, the battle became a losing one: Arquette, 47, had developed an infection in her liver that spread throughout her body.

She was pronounced dead at 12:32 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 11. The news was first shared in a Facebook post from her eldest brother, Richmond Arquette, 53, perhaps the least-known member of a powerhouse acting family that includes Rosanna, 57, Patricia, 48, and David, 45. “Our brother Robert, who became our brother Alexis, who became our sister Alexis, who became our brother Alexis [has] passed,” began his announcement.

comedycentralroastflavorflavarrivalspn3qb424otsxAlexis had left specific instructions for her death: David Bowie’s “Starman” was to play as her final moments approached. (Glam rock had always been her favorite genre of music, followed by new wave and punk.) And when the final breath passed her lips, she asked that everyone cheer “the moment that [s]he transitioned to another dimension.”

A few other links:

Alexis Arquette’s Death: How Do People Die from AIDS?

Alexis Arquette’s Vibrant Life and Transition, on Screen and off : People.com

Alexis Arquette’s Life as a Trans Star, LGBT Activist – Us Weekly

Alexis Arquette, transgender activist and actress, dies at 47 – LA Times

Alexis Arquette Has Died At 47

b309cd89fdd254d8d5e1158d2f071490Two Tears In A Bucket: Lady Chablis Dies At Age 59 – Joe.My.God.

RIP Lady Chablis: Performer, Author, and LGBTQIA Legend | The Mary Sue

Lady Chablis, transgender ‘Midnight’ star, dies in Savannah | The Charlotte Observer

Alexis Arquette, Lady Chablis, Trans Health, and the Tabloid Response to HIV | HIVPlusMag.com

Whether or not AIDS complications played a role in either woman’s death, they can still teach us a lot about the health inequality of transgender life.

[…]

This week has seen the death of two famous transgender women. First was Lady Chablis, the 59-year-old African-American performer made famous by the best-selling book and later Clint Eastwood film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Chablis spent much of her life as an elegant and attractive cabaret performer at nightclubs in Savannah, Ga., and Columbia, S.C. Her death from pneumonia did little to diminish her star power which had grown from her role in Midnight (she played herself) to appearances on The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Bizarre Foods America: Savannah. According to The Advocate’s Neal Broverman, she continued her club performances, wrote an autobiography, and “used her fame for good, raising money for diabetes and LGBT causes. She remained beloved in Savannah, even though she lived in South Carolina.”

Lady Chamblis (above) made Savannah a destination

In her obituary, pneumonia was listed as the cause of Chablis’s death. Pneumonia, literally an infection in one or both lungs, affects 1 million people a year in the U.S. and kills about 50,000. There’s a vaccine, but it’s usually only recommended for people over 65 or those with immune system issues like HIV.

Pneumonia, just like what Hilary Clinton has, is common and can be caused by bacteria or viruses from things like the flu, whooping cough, and chicken pox. People who have HIV are more susceptible, as are those who smoke, or have diabetes, asthma, or heart disease. When people in the HIV world hear someone died of pneumonia, and they are otherwise in decent health, we can’t help but wonder if it that pneumonia was a complication of their HIV.

Chablis died, at 59, just days before actress-turned-artist Alexis Arquette did so as well.

50732335Arquette, 47 at her death, was the second youngest of a Hollywood dynasty that began with her grandfather Cliff Arquette, a man who dressed as both Mrs. Butterworth (replete with falsetto and mustache) and a character, Charlie Weaver, that became so famous and ubiquitous he occupied the Hollywood Squares in character longer than most other stars of the time. (Cliff, in fact, was rarely seen in public without playing the Charlie Weaver character.)

The family bloodline traces back to Meriwether Lewis (half of for the the 1800s era Lewis and Clark Expedition) for whom Alexis’s own father was named. (He was on The Waltons.)

Arquette’s siblings — Rosanna, Richmond, Patricia, and David Arquette — were reportedly by her side at the end, and supportive throughout her tabloid-ridden life. But if People magazine, ex-boyfriend Robert DuPont, and “anonymous sources” are to be believed, Arquette died of complications from AIDS — an inoperable cancerous tumor and some sort of infection — at Cedars Sinai hospital, as her family played David Bowie’s “Starman.” These same “sources” reported that Arquette had been living in a West Hollywood, Calif. Actors Fund home for people with HIV, rather than with her wealthy siblings, out of a need for independence.

Here the thing about all this, and about the attendant reports debating over whether Arquette’s transition a decade ago was still relevant, whether she was misgendered by family members in death or whether she now identified as “gender suspicious” and thus open to pronouns of any sort — the thing here is that nothing about Arquette’s health or death has been confirmed by those closest to her, by her family or by her doctors, and until then we can’t say she had HIV at all. That won’t stop the tabloids though, which requires us, too, to comment.

The same can be said for Lady Chablis.

What we do know is that when we hear about transgender women dying in their 40s and 50s, and the cause isn’t violence, we know that complications from AIDS is a very real possibility. That’s because HIV disproportionately impacts transgender women, especially those, like Chablis, who are women of color. We know that the life expectancy for a a black trans woman it’s extremely low and often unlikely to be from old-age natural causes and far more likely to be violence or AIDS complications.

And, those of us in the world of HIV healthcare and activism know that for years, pneumonia and cancer have been code words for AIDS complications.

Go to the link to read the rest of that post…which also touches on the Hillary conspiracy.

This is an open thread. Please post links to whatever you like in the comments below. I just would like to end with this last bit from the very first article I discussed in this post. It phrases my thoughts and feelings:

Today, we are a little further down that road to equality thanks to pioneers like The Lady Chablis and Alexis Arquette, but our world is also a little dimmer without their light. The roles they won might seem small or stereotypical by today’s standards, but they were exceptional 20 years ago. Rest in power, Goddess Chablis and Goddess Arquette.

 

Rest in power is right…and may the glam be with you!


Thursday Reads

Matisse-Marguerite-Reading1

Good Morning!!

I’m getting  slow start this morning after rereading some of yesterday’s morning thread and seeing Fannie’s and Beata’s comments. Life is such a mystery . . . it often seems sad and even meaningless. And yet life is wonderful and beautiful too.

I don’t even know how to express what I’m feeling right now. I just want to thank all of you for being here. When I get discouraged and disgusted with our politics and the behavior of some of my fellow humans, it helps me to share my feelings with you and to get your reactions.

Now let’s see what’s in the news this morning.

Bradley Manning was sentenced to 35 years in prison yesterday. But with good behavior he could be released in as little as 7 years. Charlie Savage and Emmarie Huetteman at The New York Times:

In a two-minute hearing on Wednesday morning, the judge, Col. Denise R. Lind of the Army, also said that Private Manning would be dishonorably discharged and reduced in rank from private first class to private, the lowest rank in the military. She said he would forfeit his pay, but she did not impose a fine.

Before the sentencing, Private Manning sat leaning forward with his hands folded, whispering to his lawyer, David Coombs. His aunt and two cousins sat quietly behind him. As Colonel Lind read the sentence, Private Manning stood, showing no expression. He did not make a statement.

The materials that Private Manning gave to WikiLeaks included a video taken during an American helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 in which civilians were killed, including two journalists. He also gave WikiLeaks some 250,000 diplomatic cables, dossiers of detainees being imprisoned without trial at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and hundreds of thousands of incident reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan….

Mr. Coombs later told reporters that he would apply for a presidential pardon next week and read a statement from Private Manning that he said would be included in his request.

“I only wanted to help people,” Private Manning’s statement said, adding, “If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society.”

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pfc. Bradley Manning posing in a wig and lipstick.

This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Pfc. Bradley Manning posing in a wig and lipstick.

Manning has expressed the desire to live as a woman, and although he may not be able to get hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery while he is in military prison, he has announced that he is now Chelsea Manning. From Joe Coscarelli at New York Magazine: Bradley Manning’s Long, Painful Road to Coming Out As Transgender.

Less than a day after being sentenced to 35 years in prison for passing classified U.S. documents to WikiLeaks, Army private Bradley Manning has a huge, if not exactly surprisingly, announcement: “I am Chelsea Manning. I am female,” the 25-year-old wrote in a statement to Today. “Given the way that I feel, and have felt since childhood, I want to begin hormone therapy as soon as possible. I hope that you will support me in this transition. I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun.”

But the transition has colored much of Manning’s life for many years and factors heavily into how she became one of the most notable leakers in American history. Even if much of the world is only now paying attention to Manning’s gender-questioning, it’s always been a part of her story.

Manning’s full letter is titled “The Next Stage of My Life” and has notes of relief, her trial and sentencing finally complete after three years. “As I transition into this next phase of my life,” Manning wrote, “I want everyone to know the real me.”

Manning was wrestling with her sexual orientation while serving in Iraq and when she got involved with WikiLeaks. As reported by Steve Fishman in a July 2011 issue of New York, “Among fellow soldiers, Manning had to conceal the basic facts of his sexual orientation. On the web, he was proudly out and joined a ‘Repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’ group. He’d even begun to explore switching his gender, chatting with a counselor about the steps a person takes to transition from male to female.”

Manning will probably be in her early 30s when she is released from prison; so she’ll still have a long and probably interesting life ahead of her when that time comes.

Chris Lane

Chris Lane

Australians are calling for a boycott of U.S. travel after the senseless shooting of young Australian college student Chris Lane in Oklahoma. CNN:

The indiscriminate shooting of Christopher Lane, a 23-year-old Australian who was living his dream of studying in the United States on a baseball scholarship, has repulsed many in his home country and led to calls for Australian tourists to boycott the United States.

“It is another example of murder mayhem on Main Street,” former Australian deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer told CNN’s Piers Morgan.

“People thinking of going to the USA for business or tourist trips should think carefully about it given the statistical fact you are 15 times more likely to be shot dead in the USA than in Australia per capita per million people.”

Police said Lane was on one of his regular runs through what has been described as the affluent town of Duncan on Friday about 3 p.m. when a car carrying three teenagers drove up behind him.

“They pulled up behind him and shot him in the back, then sped away,” said Capt. Jay Evans of the Duncan Police Department. “It could have been anybody — it was such a random act.”

Here’s a long article about the shooting from new.com.au: Chilling 911 call details final moments of Melbourne baseballer Chris Lane’s life.

What a heartbreaking story.

Scalia-marks-25-years-on-court-F8EK737-x-large

The states of Arizona and Kansas have followed a suggestion from Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, according to TPM: Accepting Scalia’s Offer, Arizona Sues Obama Administration On Voting Rights.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, was announced by Arizona’s Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett, and joined by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, a high-profile architect of restrictionist laws, including Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070.

The issue involves the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, also known as the “motor voter” law, which requires states to let people register to vote simply by attesting they are citizens, when renewing their driver’s license or applying for social services. A 2004 law adopted by the voters in Arizona added the requirement that people registering to vote also provide proof of citizenship. The Supreme Court struck down that law earlier this year, concluding that it is trumped by the motor voter law. Arizona, the court ruled, could not add new requirements to the form prescribed by the federal law.

But during oral arguments in March, Scalia expressed his bafflement that Arizona did not launch a broader assault on the constitutionality of the NVRA form, written by the Election Assistance Commission. The state simply contended in that case that its proof of citizenship law did not violate the federal law. Even Scalia disagreed with that, voting against Arizona in the ruling, but also giving them a valuable tip in his 7-2 majority opinion.

“We hold that [the NVRA] precludes Arizona from requiring a Federal Form applicant to submit information beyond that required by the form itself,” Scalia wrote in the June decision. “Arizona may, however, request anew that the EAC include such a requirement among the Federal Form’s state-specific instructions, and may seek judicial review of the EAC’s decision under the Administrative Procedure Act.”

Sigh . . . read more at the link.

Bobby Jindal

According to a new PPP poll, only 28 percent of Louisiana voters still think Governor Bobby Jindal is doing a good job.

Three years ago in August PPP declared Bobby Jindal to be the most popular Governor in the country. 58% of voters approved of him to only 34% who disapproved. Jindal’s fortunes have seen an amazing shift since that time though, and our newest poll finds him to be the most unpopular Republican Governor of any state- and the second most unpopular Governor in the country overall.

Just 28% of voters now approve of Jindal to 59% who disapprove.  That’s an 11 point decline in his net approval just since February when he was already at a poor 37/57 standing. Even Republicans are pretty divided on Jindal (43/42) while independents (35/45) and Democrats (14/78) generally give him poor marks.

Jindal’s White House prospects are dismal if his home state voters have anything to say about it. Just 17% of Louisianans think he should run for President in 2016 to 72% who believe he should sit it out. He ties for 4th among Republican primary voters as their top choice for their 2016 candidate- Rand Paul leads with 18% to 17% for Jeb Bush, 11% for Paul Ryan, 10% for Jindal and Chris Christie, 8% for Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, 5% for Rick Santorum, and less than 1% for Susana Martinez. (That’s also an embarrassingly poor showing for Santorum given that he easily won the state’s primary last year.)

Jindal wouldn’t be likely to get to a general election but the news for him there is bad too- he trails Hillary Clinton 47/40 in a hypothetical match up. Every other Republican we looked at is more competitive with Clinton in the state- Ryan leads her 46/44, Paul does 45/44, Bush ties her at 44 each, and she leads Christie just 42/41. It looks like Clinton would have a chance to make Louisiana unusually competitive in any instance, but particularly so against Jindal.

It’s difficult to believe that Jindal is polling that well against Hillary.

A few more short takes:

A new article in LA Weekly offers some startling revelations about Michael Hastings’ state of mind before he was killed in a one-car crash: Michael Hastings’ Dangerous Mind: Journalistic Star Was Loved, Feared and Haunted. Based on a friend’s descriptions of Hastings’ behavior, it sounds like he was so severely depressed that he was delusional.

From The A Register, speculations based on The Guardian’s bizarre claims that British intelligence agents forced them to destroy computers that contained U.S. secrets stolen by Edward Snowden: MYSTERY of Guardian mobos and graphics cards which ‘held Snowden files’

A funny Buzzfeed list (with gifs) contributed by Marc Ambinder: 12 Ways To Easily Identify An East Coast Transplant In LA.

A very weird story that demonstrates the institutional stupidity of the Federal Bureau of Investigation: FBI suspected William Vollmann was the Unabomber.

A fascinating story at Defense One: Area 51 Has Been Hiding U-2 Spy Planes, Not UFOs

Finally, our old friend David Sirota really outdid himself yesterday with this story at Salon: This cowardly silence is an act of war, in which he claims that President Obama’s failure to object to the UK detaining Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda at Heathrow Airport is a crime against humanity . . . or something.

Now it’s your turn. What stories are you focusing on today? Please share your links in the comment thread.


Evening News Reads: Tied to a fence and Tied to a bad decision…

Good Evening

Today we have seen a lot of back and forth with Komen For the Cure and Planned Parenthood. It is good to see that PP is getting some big donations in response to the ridiculous actions of the Komen foundation. So I am just going to highlight a few new articles on the whole “Pink You!” debacle…

I must say, when I saw the title of this MoJo link, I laughed and laughed.

Komen’s $7.5 Million Grant to Penn State Appears to Violate New Policy | Mother Jones

Susan G. Komen for the Cure, which recently announced that it is ending grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening because of a controversial investigation launched by an anti-abortion Republican congressman, currently funds cancer research at the Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center to the tune of $7.5 million. Like Planned Parenthood, Penn State is currently the subject of a federal government investigation, and like the Planned Parenthood grant, the Penn State grant appears to violate a new internal rule at Komen that bans grants to organizations that are under investigation by federal, state, or local governments. But so far, only the Planned Parenthood grants appear to have been cancelled.

An internal Komen memo written by President Elizabeth Thompson and obtained by Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic states that if “an applicant or its affiliates” is under investigation “for financial or administrative improprieties by local, state or federal authorities,” then “the applicant will be ineligible to receive a grant.” Penn State, the Pennsylvania university that the Hershey center is affiliated with, is currently under investigation by the federal government over the sexual assault scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, who has been indicted on multiple counts of sexual abuse of children. In 2008, the Komen foundation awarded a five-year, $7.5 million grant to the Hershey center to study treatments that could reduce the risk of breast cancer.

This is why we know that the decision to withdraw support from Planned Parenthood was a targeted attack by someone, cough Handel cough, who had a personal agenda to defund Planned Parenthood from the get go.

Under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act, university officials are required to “issue a timely warning if a reported crime represents a threat to the campus community.” The Department of Education announced that it was investigating Penn State over possible Clery Act violations last November, and a Penn State spokesperson told Mother Jones that the investigation is ongoing. The Komen foundation has not yet responded to a request for comment.

Of course they won’t comment! For those of you getting talked down to by people who believe Planned Parenhood protects sex offenders/predators, then I think you may want to share the news regarding this grant of 7.5 million to a university that clearly had a sexual predator and child rapist on their payroll…and still do. (I believe Sandusky is still getting a pension, right?) If I am wrong about that let me know.

More on this bad PR move: Komen struggles to defuse Planned Parenthood crisis | Reuters

The world’s leading breast cancer charity, Susan G. Komen for the Cure, struggled on Thursday to defuse a growing crisis over its decision to cut funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion and birth control services.

The sudden rift between the two top U.S. women’s health advocacy groups triggered a furious debate on social media sites between supporters and opponents of abortion rights.

Democratic lawmakers called on Komen to reconsider its move as the organization was thrust into the center of an intractable dispute that some say will hamper its work for years to come [ID:nL2E8D2HHA]. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pledged his own money to help Planned Parenthood recoup the lost funds.

I spent most of the day on other sites, commenting on many of the articles that we have linked to on the blog in the last 48 hours. It is unbelievable the amount of smartass remarks from idiots who see no problem with the decision to cut funding for cancer screening programs that are mostly used by lower-income women.

However, the comments from folks who are disturbed by the politicizing of something as important as saving lives…are something to see. I am happy about that.

For one thing, the right’s war on women has been going on with little or no response or fight from women who seem to be detached from the attacks on their given rights over their own bodies. There has been a dull hum from people who have talked and talked about the Christian Jihad against women…we here on Sky Dancing have been a part of that hum…but this decision from Komen to cut ties to Planned Parenthood has really slapped some sense into people! And that is one thing I am glad to see.

One more link on this: Susan G. Komen Top Officials Resign As Backlash Gains Steam

Dr. Kathy Plesser, a Manhattan radiologist on the medical advisory board of Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s New York chapter, said she plans to resign from her position unless Komen reverses its decision to pull grant money from Planned Parenthood.

“I’m a physician and my interest is women’s health, and I am disturbed by Komen’s decision because I am a very strong advocate for serving under-served women,” Plesser told The Huffington Post. “Eliminating this funding will mean there’s no place for these women to go. Where are these women to go to have a mammography? Do they not deserve to have mammography?”

With her decision, Plesser joins Komen’s top public health official, Mollie Williams, and the executive director of Komen’s Los Angeles County chapter, Deb Anthony, both of whom also resigned in protest.

Moving on to something else…and I may get some flak from this, when I complain about the injection of religion into politics and government, it goes both ways.  Obama: Jesus would tax the rich – Jennifer Epstein – POLITICO.com

President Barack Obama on Thursday tied his proposal to raise taxes on wealthy Americans to his faith, telling leaders gathered for the National Prayer Breakfast that Jesus’s teachings have shaped that conclusion.

The rich should pay more not only because “I actually think that is going to make economic sense, but for me as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required,’” Obama said at the Washington Hilton, delivering remarks at an annual event that every president has attended since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

You know, I get what he is saying, but I just wish all this Jesus and Christian and God and religious manipulation would stop…from everyone!

It has no place in government…period.

There is this op/ed from David Ignatius. Is Israel preparing to attack Iran? – The Washington Post

You can go and read it at the link, I’ve been so focused on the Komen Krap  and the violence in Egypt, that I really haven’t kept up with the latest out of Iran.

Now, this last article is disturbing…In NYPD Custody, Trans People Get Chained to Fences and Poles

A trans woman says that when she was arrested for a minor subway violation, NYPD officers belittled her, called her names, asked about her genitals — and kept her chained to a fence for 28 hours. Now she’s suing. And it turns out she’s far from alone.

In her lawsuit, Temmie Breslauer says she was arrested on January 12 in a subway station for illegally using her dad’s discount fare card (only seniors and people with disabilities can get these). She says the arresting officers — the suit names one, Officer Shah — laughed at her. When they took her to the station, a desk sergeant asked her “whether she had a penis or a vagina.” Breslauer explained that she was in transition. Then, instead of putting her with female inmates or in her own room, the department allegedly chose this course of action:

[S]he was fingerprinted, seated on a bench, then painfully chained to a fence wherein, for no apparent reason, her arm was lifted over her head and attached to the fence to make it appear that she was raising her hand in the classroom. She sat there in that position for 28 hours.

She also says officers not only refused to call her “she,” they instead referred to her as “He-She”, “Faggot,” and “Lady GaGa,” and asked her “So you like to suck dick? Or what?” Meanwhile, people arrested for the same minor crime (misdemeanor “theft of services”) she was were calmly processed and allowed to leave. Finally, she was able to go before a judge, who gave her two days of community service. She says the whole ordeal aggravated her existing PTSD and left her sleepless and suicidal.

There seems to be a pattern of police brutality when it comes to crimes allegedly committed by Transgender persons.

And this isn’t the first time the NYPD has been accused of mocking and abusing a trans person. In October, Justin Adkins, director of the Multicultural Center at Williams College, was arrested for protesting on the Brooklyn Bridge as part of Occupy Wall Street. At The Bilerico Project, he reports almost exactly the same treatment that Breslauer got. When a male officer found out Adkins was trans, he asked Adkins what he “had down there.” Then, at the the station, this happened:

They had me sit down in a chair next to the filthy toilet, and handcuffed my right wrist to a metal handrail.

Why was I segregated from all of the other protestors? Perhaps the answer lay in the fact that police officers were coming by to ogle me, and were laughing and giggling at me through a window. It was obvious that prisoners were rarely handcuffed to a railing in this manner, because a number of officers asked a female officer why I was handcuffed to the railing. She told them something, I couldn’t hear what, but then, on each of these occasions, they would laugh and giggle while looking at me pointedly.

Adkins was chained up for eight hours, sometimes with his arm twisted painfully behind him, before he was finally released.

Adkins is waiting to hear back about his formal complaint filed with Internal Affairs. He has requested a standard procedure for arrest of Transgender detainees, however, his is not the first request.

A list of demands issued to the NYPD in 2009 by a group of transgender advocates and lawyers includes this:

NYPD officers place detained transgender women in cells with men in dangerous situations against their will no matter the circumstances. Transgender men have been cuffed to rails outside of cells for hours on end.

The list also says that, “In 2004, a transgender woman filed a law suit against the NYPD alleging a pattern and practice of engaging in unconstitutional and overly invasive searches of transgender people. Since then, at least four other transgender women have sued the NYPD about violations of their civil rights.”

The reporter ends this article with this:

So far I haven’t been able to get anyone from the NYPD to comment on this issue in any way. Emails to the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information have gone unanswered. When I contacted Timothy Duffy, the NYPD’s LGBT liaison, he declined to comment and referred me right back to the DCPI. All the advocates I talked to expressed some hope that the NYPD would change. But I bet lots of people in the trans community would feel a lot more hopeful if the department would make a public commitment to treating them like people. Until then, all they have to go on are some vague assurances of reform — and a lot of lawsuits that show the exact opposite.

Reform, that favorite of all stall tactics…

What are you all doing this evening? With all that has happened on the women front, I will be making brownies…lots of brownies!


SDB Early Evening News Reads for 100311: Koch, Votes, Christie and Special Skills

Good afternoon, the evening reads are a bit early today, so lets dig in…

I cannot believe the Main Stream Media silence on the investigative article from Bloomberg that alleges Koch Industries are involved in corporate bribery in six different countries and made money off of chemical sales to Iran.

Dakinikat covered it in her morning post, but I thought this from David Dayen was a great post about the:  Noted Liberal Rag Bloomberg Levels Serious Charges at Koch Industries | FDL News Desk

Bloomberg, the news organization for patchouli-burning, Birkenstock-wearing hippies everywhere, has a long story alleging that Koch Industries traded with Iran, paid bribes to win contracts, stole oil, and engaged in “violations of criminal law,” according to the company’s own internal documents.

You’d need only add some story about Charles or David Koch personally tying down a damsel in distress to train tracks to come up with a more damning portrait of what amounts to a super-villain.

Because this story appears in such a commie broadsheet like Bloomberg, it will surely be dismissed. OK, tongue out of cheek. This is an extremely serious piece of journalism, detailing numerous crimes from a corporate actor that has gotten wildly rich in spite of – because of – the crimes. There are details in here of Koch Industries negligence in a pipeline gas explosion that killed two teenagers. There are details of Koch employees told by superiors to falsify data on cancer-causing benzene. There are details of trading with Iran and illicit payments to get contracts and all sorts of violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. There are details of a number of different indictments and settlements and court orders and plea agreements. The portrait painted is frankly of a criminal enterprise.

It is ridiculous…there are only a handful of news outlets mentioning the Koch Brothers criminal activities this Bloomberg article investigated. I noticed MSNBC has a story on it, but all I see on CNN, Reuters, Google News are things about Perry and the N*ggerhead Camp, Amanda Knox, Michael Jackson’s Doctor and speculation on Chris Christie.

Like this possible announcement from Christie scheduled for Thursday:  Christie-Watch: Big Announcement Coming Thursday (Maybe) | Election 2012

In a piece titled, “Top Christie Donors Told To Head To Trenton,” The Daily Caller’s Matt Lewis has this:

“Big potential donors to Christie have been told to prepare to go to Trenton this Thursday to stand on stage with him for the announcement if he decides to run. He has not decided yet.”

Lewis concludes, “Regardless of his decision, this announcement will be big news…”

So, what is one to read into that? Presumably it would be a bit strange for Christie call donors to “stand on stage” while announcing that he’s not going to run.

In other election news, check out the latest findings from a new report by the Brennan Center for Justice:  Restrictions Could Keep Five Million Traditionally Democratic Voters From The Polls In 2012 | TPMMuckraker

Restrictive voting laws in states across the country could affect up to five million voters from traditionally Democratic demographics in 2012, according to a new report by the Brennan Center. That’s a number larger than the margin of victory in two of the last three presidential elections.

The new restrictions, the study found, “fall most heavily on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This wave of changes may sharply tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election.”

Over at Maddow, they have a map that illustrates the states with new voter laws: The Maddow Blog – Map: Making voting harder

Click for the Brennan Center for Justice report.

Since Republicans gained control of so many state legislatures in 2010, they’ve been working to pass laws that make voting harder. We’ve been asking on the show whether they’ve made voting hard enough, in enough places, to change the landscape in 2012.

Now, from the Brennan Center for Justice, comes the beginning of an answer:

The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.

In those states, minority, student and poor voters are most likely to feel the pinch from the new rules. As many as one in four African-Americans don’t have the kind of photo ID needed to vote. In Maine, after finding almost no evidence of voter fraud, the Secretary of State sent college students a letter saying they might be in violation of the law. And in Wisconsin, you can get a free photo ID from the Department of Motor Vehicles — if you know to ask for it.

Back to the TPM link for a minute:

The study found that:

  • These new laws could make it significantly harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the 12 likely battleground states, as assessed by an August Los Angeles Times analysis of Gallup polling, five have already cut back on voting rights (and may pass additional restrictive legislation), and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

The total number, according to the Brennan Center, is the sum of the 3.2 million voters they estimate will be affected by new photo ID laws, “the 240,000 citizens and potential voters who could be affected by new proof of citizenship laws, 202,000 voters registered in 2008 through voter registration drives that have now been made extremely difficult or impossible under new laws, 60,000 voters registered in 2008 through Election Day voter registration where it has now been repealed, one to two million voters who voted in 2008 on days eliminated under new laws rolling back early voting and at least 100,000 disenfranchised citizens who might have regained voting rights by 2012.”

What can you say, Dak is getting ready to defend her dissertation and take those necessary steps towards moving on to better and greener pastures…possibly outside of the US.  I wish her the best, because this country is really going down the toilet.

On the LGBT  front, this news out of Bentonville, Arkansas should make a big statement to the GOP candidates against LGBT rights…A Trans-Walmart Moment | Pam’s House Blend

A Trans-Walmart Moment has come without much notice, but the moment should be considered significant: Walmart has recently changed their corporate nondiscrimination policy to add gender identity.

From The Advocate‘s article Wal-Mart Adds Trans Protections for Employees:

Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart has added gender identity to their list of protected categories for employees.

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest retailer, already has protections for LGB employees. The additional transgender protections were praised by the Human Rights Campaign…

Thumbnail link to HRC press release: Human Rights Campaign Applauds Walmart for Adding Gender Identity Non-Discrimination ProtectionsFrom the HRC’s press release entitled Human Rights Campaign Applauds Walmart for Adding Gender Identity Non-Discrimination Protections; Nation’s largest private employer sets standard with protections for transgender workers:

The Human Rights Campaign – the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization – today praised Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest private employer, for adding gender identity and expression to its employment non-discrimination policy. The company’s nondiscrimination policy already included sexual orientation.

“What matters in the workplace is how you do your job, not your gender identity or sexual orientation,” said HRC President Joe Solmonese. “As the nation’s largest private employer, Walmart shows that doing the right thing is also good for business. We urge them to continue to move forward by ensuring all of their LGBT employees receive equal benefits.”

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation tracks corporate workplace policies and rates companies on their treatment of LGBT employees through the Corporate Equality Index (CEI). The CEI has helped lead a sea-change in the workplaces practices of corporate America by assessing more than 30 specific policies and practices covering nearly every aspect of employment for LGBT workers from non-discrimination protections and the training surrounding those policies to domestic partnership and legal dependent benefits to gender transition guidelines and LGBT employee resource groups. Visit our website at www.hrc.org/resources/entry/corporate-equality-index-2011 for a complete look at the survey. Last year a record 844 American companies and law firms were rated in the CEI.

“Congress needs to follow their lead and make the Employment Non-Discrimination Act the law of the land,” added Solmonese.

My Forever and ever, Amen comment on nondiscrimination protections based on gender identity and gender expression is now going to be “If it’s good enough for Walmart, it should be good enough for you.”

Yup, and I would add one thing to Pam’s Forever and ever, Amen comment… “So get over it!”

On August 31st of this year we lost a woman who made history in Aviation.  Betty Skelton: Aviatrix and test driver who broke records on land and in the air.

Betty Skelton was an air-and-land daredevil in an era of male-dominated sports.

Breaking the gender barriers and setting records, she notched up three women’s international aerobatics titles and 17 aviation and race-car world records during the 1940s and 1950s. According to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Skelton held more combined aircraft and automotive records than anyone in history. In his 1994 biography, Betty Skelton: The First Lady of Firsts, Henry Holden wrote, “In an era when heroes were race pilots, jet jocks and movie stars, Betty Skelton was an aviation sweetheart, an international celebrity and a flying sensation.”

Skelton was an audacious aviatrix; her signature trick, in her Pitts Special biplane S-1C, Little Stinker, was the “inverted ribbon cut,” a breathtaking manoeuvre in which a pilot flies upside down at about 150mph and about 12 feet from the ground to slice a ribbon strung between two poles with the propeller. She also set two world light-plane altitude records, reaching 26,000ft in 1949 and 29,050ft (just higher than Everest) in a Piper Cub in 1951. Used to flying barefoot and with an outside temperature of -53, she recalled, “My feet darn near froze to death.”

In 1954, the diminutive Skelton became the automobile industry’s first female test driver, setting a world land-speed record, in 1956, of 145mph in a souped-up Corvette at Daytona Beach – the men’s record at the time was 3mph faster. In 1965 she set the women’s world land-speed record, hitting 315.72mph at Bonneville Salt Flats.

Skelton was the first woman to be inducted into the International Aerobatic Hall of Fame and the Nascar International Motorsports Hall of Fame.

I love the cover of that Look Magazine, isn’t it great? Skelton was a role model for girls, at a time when a woman’s place was in the home…and not at an altitude of 29,050 feet! She passed away from cancer at her home in Florida. She was 85.

And lets end with a bit of Appalachian History » You’d have that feeling then of being way far back

From 1935-1943, President Franklin Roosevelt looked to the U.S. Farm Security Administration, under the direction of Roy Stryker, to photograph people in need across the country in order to help sell his New Deal programs to the public.

Ben Shahn was one of the first photographers Styker hired. Shahn worked for a part of the project called Special Skills, and also helped create posters and other graphic arts.

“It was a really tough time,” remembered Shahn years later, “and when this thing came along and this idea that I must wander around the country a bit for three months. . . I just nearly jumped out of my skin with joy. And not only that, they were going to give me a salary too! I just couldn’t believe it.”

In October 1935 Shahn and his wife Bernarda started out on the first trip in a Model A Ford. Heading for West Virginia, he took photographs in Monongalia County before arriving in Logan County. The couple spent a Sunday and Monday in Omar and also visited Freeze Fork before moving on through Williamson to Kentucky and Tennessee, and then into the deep South.

“I did a series of photographs on a Saturday afternoon in a small town in Tennessee, I believe, of a medicine man. He had a little dummy, ventriloquist dummy, and he had a Negro to help him and so on. It was Saturday. I don’t think there were ten cars in the square, they were all mule drawn carts that had come there. This was 1935; it was incredible you see. The same was true of a lot of areas we covered. You’d have that feeling then of being way far back; but tragically enough, just about a month ago we took a train from Washington to Cincinnati. As I went throughout West Virginia, it hadn’t changed. It just made me sick to see the same darn thing.

A transcript from this 1965–68 interview can be found here: Oral history interview with Ben Shahn, 1964 Apr. 14 – Oral Histories | Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution

A few photos from this trip can be seen here: Omar Project:Photos

This is one that particularly touched me, maybe because the kid looks like a little hoodlum in the making…

Now, that is one tough looking little dirty bastard…(wink and a smile) 😉

That is it for me today, I’ll catch up with y’all later in the comments!


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.

Read the rest of this entry »