Gender Prison: Future Leaders

Two transgender children from British Columbia are suing for the right to be themselves. Family members of both Tracey Wilson and Harriette Cunningham have filed human rights complaints.

There is much video at the above link. Both families were featured in a segment of the Canadian television program 16 x 9 last Saturday.

If you go to view it all, please remember to come back and add to the discussion. :-)

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Sunday Train: Traveling to our deaths and the fatal Metro North derailment

Last Sunday Morning, the 5:45am from Poughkeepsie was running through the Bronx with 100-150 passengers aboard, when it sped through a 30mph speed limit curve at 82mph, derailed, over-turning four cars and killing four people.

This is a story with some differences in detail from the Spanish fatal derailment this summer, but one common feature: the lack of adequate Positive Train Control signaling on the corridor. In the Spanish case, project cost-shaving led to Positive Train Control signaling being installed on the new High Speed Rail corridor but not on connecting corridors that some hybrid services use to reach towns not directly on the HSR corridor. In the Spanish case, full PTC would not have been required to prevent the fatal accident: 'The Santiago Train Derailment Could Have Been Prevented with a Euro 6,000 beacon'. As later details emerged it became clear that if two analog "ATSFA' beacons had been replaced with three digital 'ATSFA' beacons, at a cost of €6,000 each, that would have prevented the fatal derailment.

The Metro-North connecting from Poughkeepsie through the Bronx into Manhattan is slated to receive Positive Train Control, as required by current Federal Railway Authority policy, but as recounted by Alan Levy:

Metro-North and the LIRR have been trying to wrangle their way out of the PTC mandate, saying it offers “marginal benefits”; a year and a half ago, the New York Post used the word “outrageous” to describe the PTC mandate, saying it would cost over a billion dollars and that the money could go to capacity improvements instead, such as station parking. Lobbying on behalf of Metro-North and the LIRR, Senator Charles Schumer emphasis mine made sure to amend a proposed Senate transportation bill to give the railroads waivers until 2018, so that they could devote resources to more rush hour capacity from the outer suburbs (such as Ronkonkoma) to Manhattan and fewer to safety. According to Siemens, the work will actually take until 2019, and Siemens says it “has developed PTC specifically for the North American market,” in other words built a bespoke system instead of ETCS. (ACSES was developed by Alstom.)

And that is the top-line point: if we had been more serious and committed about putting PTC on the busiest passenger rail corridors in the country, this fatal derailment would not have occurred.

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Diminished Value

It seems to be open season on transgender people in Ohio lately.

On Friday Brittany Stergis, 22, was found shot in the head in her car in a parking lot at a public housing facility. The parking lot was near some nightclubs. Police originally identified Brittany as a woman, but later went out of their way to change that to "a man dressed in women's clothing."

Jacob Nash of the Greater Cleveland transgender community said the death "looks particularly like a hate crime."

There would be no other reason for anyone to come up like that and shoot somebody the way they shot her.

--Nash

On Thursday morning Betty Skinner, 52, and a disabled resident of an apartment complex in the Cleveland neighborhood called Old Brooklyn, was found dead in her bed. The victim had suffered head injuries indicative of blunt force trauma. Records indicate that Ms. Skinner had transitioned before no later than 2002. Her body was found by a home health care worker. The worker had last seen Ms. Skinner alive on Wednesday at 10pm.

Cleveland police initially identified her by a name that was not legally hers since 2002.

Neither homicide has been classified as a hate crime at this point.

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Economic Populist: The Health Care Exchanges & Plan A Health Care Reform

Private health insurance is an entirely unnecessary economic institution, whether a health care system is organized around public, co-operative, sole proprietary, private partnership, corporate not-for-profit or corporate for-profit provision of the health care services themselves. Therefore, the profits associated with private health insurance are a legacy rent extracted by private health insurers, protected by the backward-looking nature of our economic institutions, and the least justifiable of the institutional overheads that we pile on top of the necessary costs of providing health insurance.

The purpose of an economic subsystem is to provide material support to the social system that contains it. We are social animals sharing a common humanity, and making the quality of access to medical care for different members of our society depend upon the size of income flows and wealth balances they can tap into betrays a fundamentally perverse set of priorities. Before our society allocates resources to production of luxuries for a wealthy few, or even the production of luxuries for an adequately well-off many, it should allocate resources to meet the Basic Needs of all.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) quite deliberately attempted to solve as few of the institutional problems as feasible among the many that we in the US face in ensuring access to, provision of, and quality of our basic need of medical care, while still hoping to possibly delay or stave off the collapse of our system for financing health care services that was already in progress by 2009.

Therefore, even if the ACA succeeds in staving off that collapse, we are left with a health care system that needs further reform. And if the ACA merely succeeds in delaying that collapse, then that simply increases the urgency and necessity of solving additional institutional problems.

Thus the fundamental issue that the ACA faces. The fundamental issue is not the functioning of the web site for signing up for coverage. It is not the deliberate monkey-wrenching of our already thoroughly corrupted political system as a side-show to try to game the new system for maximum short-term profits (even at the risk of returning system of finance of health to its path of ongoing collapse). It is that even if the ACA "succeeds", it succeeds in such in a reform with such limited ambitions that it inevitably requires much more to be done.

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Exhaust

This is not a rant because I haven't got enough energy for that. I'm working from a state of exhaustion, which is the genesis of the title.

 photo IMG_0040_zps84f07477.jpgOver Thanksgiving Debbie and I drove over 1000 miles to North Carolina and back to visit my daughter and her husband and their two children (Rachel (to  photo IMG_0036_zpsef6fedf4.jpgthe left), who is 2 and mighty large for her age, and Zack (to the right, with his father), who just turned two months old). I'll sprinkle some photos taken during the visit in during my screed...which was generated by commentary left in a recent diary posted at Voices on the Square and Tuesday evening's diary at Daily Kos.

Upon arriving back home, I was faced with the last week of classes before Finals Week. So on Wednesday I gave exams in all of my classes, which I spent all day Wednesday and Thursday grading so that I could return them today. It turned out that I was able to avoid the all-nighter that was a distinct possibility, but the stress generated still made for less than restful sleep.

That's a major reason why I do not have something different prepared for this evening.

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A point about test scores, human versatility, and climate change

This diary entry is for parents, teachers, students, and anyone involved with America's public school systems. When reading Diane Ravitch's short post of December 3rd in Huffington Post I saw this stunning short paragraph criticizing our national education system's obsession with test scores:

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Nelson Mandela: A Great Leader Dies


Nelson Mandela was the greatest leader of our age. He died today at 95 of a lung infection connected to the tuberculosis he contracted while serving 27 years as a political prisoner. All South Africans, and everyone around the world who admires his heroic adherence to his principles and his extraordinary decision to embrace and forgive his former oppressors, is in deep mourning over his loss.

~ Forbes: Nelson Mandela: A Great Leader Dies ~

There was, of course, a time when Forbes would not have been so effusive in their praise, and that was the time when Nelson Mandela forged his moral authority.

More reflections below the fold

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Brits Consider "Terrorism" Charges against Guardian Staff

British police are examining whether Guardian newspaper staff should be investigated for terrorism offences over their handling of data leaked by Edward Snowden, Britain's senior counter-terrorism officer said on Tuesday.The disclosure came after Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger, summoned to give evidence at a parliamentary inquiry, was accused by lawmakers of helping terrorists by making top secret information public and

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