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Bristol South’s Motion Condemning Keira Bell Decision

My local constituency Labour party, Bristol South, passed another motion at the monthly meeting last Thursday, to which I am very strongly opposed. This motion was brought by the LGBTQ+ officer and another, long-standing local party officer and activist condemning the judge’s decision on a case brought by a detransitioning transperson, Keira Bell. As I understand it, Bell had been a minor when she decided that she was in the wrong body. This was supported by the medical professionals who treated her, and she was given gender reassignment treatment, transitioning from a girl to a young man. However, she now believes that this was wrong, and that as a child she was unable to make a proper decision on this immensely serious, life-changing process, and therefore sued. The judge has concurred, ruling in her favour.

This has upset the trans rights lobby and very many LGBTQ+ activists. One of the complaints of a number of gays is that the mainstream, established gay rights organisations such as Stonewall have been captured, as they see it, by the trans lobby, and a proper concern for securing the equality and dignity of ordinary gay and bisexual men and women has been ditched in favour of an inflexible, doctrinaire demand for gay rights. It is an immensely controversial issue. Gender critical feminists, who believe in the reality and primacy of biological sex over gender and the idea that someone can be a member of the opposite sex simply by identifying with it mentally, have been abused as ‘Terfs’ (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and worse. They have received threats of death, rape and sexual mutilation by enraged transgender activists. J.K. Rowling, the author of the ‘Harry Potter’ novels, has been accused of hating transpeople and wanting to kill them simply because she posted a tweet stating that ‘transwomen are not women’. Nothing she said was remotely hateful. Far from it. She actually urged transpeople to have the best life they could, dress how they want and sleep with whoever would have them. She just didn’t regard them as real women. That’s it. But because of this she has been mercilessly pilloried and vilified.

The transition of children is of particular concern. The American lawyer and writer Abigail Shrier has argued in her book that the sudden rise in young girls feeling unhappy with their sex and wishing to transition into boys does not come from an authentic confusion or dissatisfaction with their sexual identity. Many of the young people affected have previously shown no unhappiness with it, or any desire to transition. Rather this sudden desire to change sex is a psychological illness created partly by the promotion of gender and trans ideology on the internet acting on deep-seated but common anxieties about sex and their bodies that many girls go through when entering puberty. She compares it to other, pernicious and destructive psychological diseases such as anorexia and bulimia. There have also been concerns that many of the young people, who were persuaded by organisations like the Tavistock institute, that they are transgender are in fact merely autistic, and that the psychological symptoms of that condition have been misinterpreted. Gender critical gays and lesbians have also claimed that many of the children, who are put forward for gender treatment, are in fact not transgender but simply gays, who don’t conform to gender-typical norms. Again, Linehan and his friends and conversationalists in the gay community have expressed concerns that many of the parents of children treated by the Tavistock institute and elsewhere, were homophobic. They were unable to come to terms with the possibility that their child might be gay, finding it easier to believe instead that they were in the wrong body. If this is true, then these gender critical gays are absolutely correct to condemn the transitioning of such children as a form of anti-gay conversion therapy, as nasty as the other forms which enlightened governments around the world are seeking to proscribe.

At the moment children confused about their gender identity are given puberty blockers to stave off the onset of physical adulthood. This is intended to give them time to consider properly whether they really want to go through with transition. The drugs are supposed to be safe and fully reversible.

The drugs’ opponents are convinced they are not. In interview on Newsnight, the writer, comedian and broadcaster Graham Linehan stated that the drug used, Lupron, was developed to treat men with terminal prostate cancer. Its effects on teenage girls is unknown.

See: Father Ted creator Graham Linehan on trans rights – BBC Newsnight – YouTube

He and others, who share his concerns, argue that the drugs are not reversible and may have serious physical side effects, such as lower bone density leading to a greater vulnerability to osteoporosis. It is also claimed that 80 to 90 per cent of children, who identify as members of the opposite sex, actually grow out of it once they become adults. They mature into either straight or gay members of their sex. On the other hand, according to one study, the overwhelming majority of children put on puberty blockers go on to cross-sex hormones and then gender reassignment surgery. If this is also true, then the use of puberty blockers as treatment is leading to the transition of children, who don’t need it. Especially as cross section hormones seem to have very serious effects.

I tried to raise these issues with the LGBTQ+ officer in the time allowed for us to ask questions regarding the motion she had proposed. I am not a medical person, and admit that in this matter I am merely an ordinary member of the British public who is influenced by what he sees and reads on the Net. The LGTBQ+ officer’s motion was impressive. She clearly laid out her case and it was supported by footnotes. It was also clear that she was acting from a position of genuine concern with the potential harm done by the judicial decision.

She replied that the drugs are fully reversible, that the loss of bone density was not a danger and that children were not being wrongly transitioned. One of the objections to transgender therapy is that it demands that the patient’s trans identity should also be reinforced and supported. Hence medical professionals may be wrongly convincing confused people that they are transgender. The young woman responded instead that this was not the case, but it had been found that patients responded better if their trans identity was supported. But if the patients decided transitioning was not for them, that would be supported too. She was also worried that the judge’s decision would undermine Gillick, which provides for children to receive contraceptive or abortion advice and assistance without the knowledge or consent of their parents. She dismissed the objections to the use of puberty blockers as misinformation. It was bad science, like climate change denial, especially as much of it came from the religious right.

I strongly disagree. I believe instead that the bad science is that embraced by those supporting the use of puberty blocker and trans ideology. For example, according to the website, Transgender Trend, Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour on June 30th 2020, reported that NHS England was no longer saying that puberty blockers were fully reversible. The NHS’ website states that GIDS, an organisation closely associated with the Tavistock Institute, advises that puberty blockers are fully reversible if stopped. But it also says that their long-term psychological effects are not known. It also states that the possible side effects of puberty blockers are hot flushes, fatigue and mood changes. The website also removes the previous claim that without such treatment, trans children are vulnerable to self-harm and suicide. I believe this was a claim made by the LGBTQ+ officer, but my memory may well be playing tricks. Instead the NHS simply states that they may suffer from depression, anxiety and distress.

The World.wng.org website also cites a report by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust of December 2nd, 2020, that all but one of a group of children put on puberty blockers then went on to cross sex hormones. This also noted changes in children’s bone density and that their normal growth flatlined. There was also no improvement in their psychological wellbeing. The website also cited Michael Laidlaw, and endocrinologist of Rocklin, California, that there was also a loss of bone density which put such children at risk of stunted height and osteoporosis.

See: Are puberty blockers reversible? The NHS no longer says so (transgendertrend.com)

Study: Effects of puberty-blockers can last a lifetime – Sexuality – WORLD (wng.org)

It may well be that these sites are aligned with the right. The WORLD site seems to be. But their articles are properly referenced with links to their sources, which includes NHS England and the Beeb’s Woman’s Hour. I therefore believe that objections to this information because of the overall political bias of the sites are false, and trust the information they provide. Which supports what Linehan and others have been saying, as well as the American endocrinology Dr. William Malone in his interview with YouTuber Benjamin Boyce.

As for the objection that the Keira Bell judgement undermines Gillick, I do not believe that the two are entirely comparable. Transgender treatment leads to profound, permanent physical changes that affect a person for the rest of their life. It also has to be said that the children coming for such treatment are too young that in law they are barred from seeing certain types of film, buying alcohol and tobacco and so on. The fact the law deems them incapable of purchasing those items in the views of the gender critical movement supports the idea that children are not capable of deciding whether or not they wish to change gender.

I say here that I certainly do not hate transpeople. I have every sympathy with those who are confused about their gender. I do not wish them, nor anyone else, to be harmed or victimised in any way. But I think the current transgender ideology, and particularly as it is applied to children, is doing immense unintended harm.

I therefore believe that while Bristol South’s motion was proposed and passed in entirely good faith and from the very best motives, it is utterly and profoundly wrong and mistaken. I therefore fully support the Keira Bell judgement.

California’s Farm Worker Dwellings Get an Upgrade

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 17/02/2021 - 7:00pm in

Room to grow

After Don Horsley was elected county supervisor of San Mateo, California (where he’d previously been sheriff), he toured the county’s farmworker housing — and was appalled at the conditions. There were only 250 housing units for 1,400 farm workers, leading to dangerous overcrowding. “We couldn’t put people in jail with these standards,” he told Black Voice News. 

Part of the problem was that the housing was old and built for seasonal migrant laborers, whereas these days most of San Mateo’s farm workers live and work there year round. So Horsley’s office came up with an idea: forgivable loans that farmers could use to upgrade their workers’ housing. The concept was modeled after the federal government’s Housing and Urban Development grants. Under the program, the county lends farm owners $100,000 for each old unit they replace. As long as they don’t charge the tenants more than $3 per day to live there, the loans are forgiven.

farmA worker on an olive farm in Northern California. Credit: Susie Wyshak / Flickr

One local farm used the loan program to replace nine aging farm worker units — and then built three new ones with the money it saved on making repairs to the old ones. “We knew that the farmers and ranchers… couldn’t afford to replace their farm laborer housing,” said Horsley. “Doing this kept our farm laborer community housed and kept them in the area.”

Read more at Black Voice News

Policy prescription

“Housing is health care” has become a catchphrase to highlight the link between stable housing and public health, which is why some hospitals are using their budgets to build affordable places to live. Now, some health care organizations are realizing their dollars can go even further if they spend it on building better housing policies, not just brick and mortar homes.

portlandPortland, Oregon. Credit: Alan / Flickr

One of the most ambitious of these efforts took place in Oregon, where one health funder backed a campaign to prevent landlords from evicting long-term tenants without cause. Before the campaign, Oregon landlords could evict tenants for no legal reason whatsoever, leaving tenants afraid to make even reasonable requests for upgrades or repairs. In 2017, a state committee found that such evictions had a number of negative consequences, including increases in food insecurity, teenage pregnancies and medical treatment delays. 

This convinced the Northwest Health Foundation (NWHF) to fund a campaign for a “just cause evictions” law, which would require landlords to justify any eviction of tenants after 12 months of occupancy. The campaign succeeded, and a bill was signed into law in 2019. “Having some predictability and not having to worry about getting kicked out, that supports the health, mental health, and emotional health of families,” said the director of programs at NWHF. 

Read more at Shelterforce

Natural values

London is making a push for more “urban greening practices,” which would weave more green space into the city’s built environment to supplement its parks. The plan was inspired by Malmö, the Swedish city that has become a model for urban greening with its roadside fruit trees, frog-filled ponds and sidewalk birdhouses. 

rooftopA “rewilding” spot in London. Credit: Wild West End

To facilitate its green transformation, Malmö adopted a system called the “green space factor” (GSF), which applies values to different types of green space depending on its context. For instance, a neighborhood with flooding problems might get extra points for green space that facilitates stormwater runoff. The formula guides developers on exactly how to best integrate green space into their projects. “It is intended to encourage dialogue and collaboration between different stakeholders to come up with the best solution for the space,” said one person involved in London’s greening initiative. “It was designed deliberately to be a little bit loose.”

The GSF isn’t flawless. One challenge in Malmö has been keeping its standards stringent, as developers find ways around it over time. But its advocates believe it could provide a good baseline for London’s green ambitions. “For all the benefits of these tools — and they are tools — they are not necessarily the final answer,” said a director at the London Wildlife Trust. “Having informed ecological expertise is still critical.”

Read more at the Guardian

The post California’s Farm Worker Dwellings Get an Upgrade appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

Shortfall

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/01/2021 - 10:18pm in

Two years of context helps to understand the state Democrats' plan for UC, expressed in the Governor's budget proposal this month.

 In November 2019, UCOP sought to end UC's worst modern budget decade with a some meaningful funding growth. The 2010s had brought many negative net revenue effects:

  • state funding cuts and subpar annual general fund increments
  • tuition freeze (welding shut UC's revenue safety value)
  • restart of pension contributions with no permanent state support for employer share
  • end of state funding for new construction
  • no state funding for deferred maintenance (backlog estimates ranging from $6.2B to $14B)
  • Campuses had diligently followed instructions to seek multiple revenue streams.  The two most familiar are non-resident tuition and for-profit degree programs (SSDPs).  

    A third revenue stream has been institutional debt. It stands at $26.7 B (page 16), up 85 percent from $14.4 B in 2011 (page 15). (UC debt is also up year-on-year by around $2B from 2019, mostly in the form of new Medical Center Pooled Revenue Bonds. This does not include an additional $2.8 B in Covid-related borrowing in summer 2020, with more to come.)

    Even before Covid-19 appeared, three UC flagship campuses were projecting deficits in the first half of hte 2020s. See "Destined for Deficits" for flagship details; see "The Essential Charts" for the twenty-year system pattern. Funding crises have long been visible on the campuses: UC Berkeley's VP for Finance and Administration called the funding model unsustainable in 2013.

    Such news doesn't usually make it into presentations to the regents, so in this context UCOP's November 2019 budget document was unusually graphic.  It identified many areas of functional deterioration at UC. These included sharp increases in the number of students per ladder-faculty member, the same for student:staff ratios, and faculty salaries that had spent at least 20 years at around 10 percent below comparators. 

    The document identified a chronic problem with state funding that usually escapes notice: net new funding is generally a fraction of the headline state increase, because it must cover terminated previous one-time funding or new mandated activities. 2018-19's headline increase of 7.1 percent yielded 0.7 percent as a "net available for sustaining core operations"--a fraction of that year's 3.5 percent inflation rate (Display 7). 

    UCOP established this 2019 narrative of UC damage to justify that year's proposal for a modest "cohort-based" tuition plan, which would allow tuition increases at about inflation, fully in place after 4 years. It was a toddler-sized foot in the door, but it was a foot. The overall plan would have brought UC's state general fund allocation to just about $4 billion.

    The result: Newsom cut the Regents' request for $447M for 2020-21 down to an increase of $217M. Then there was Covid, and the state cut UC $300.8 M instead.  The Department of Finance puts UC's general fund allocation for the current year at $3.465 B.

    In November 2020, the regents adopted a UCOP request for an additional $518.2 M for 2021-22.  Once again, UC would be inching towards the magical $4 B level.  $300.8M of this was trying to fill in the 2020-21 cut--to keep that reduction from forming a permanently reduced baseline. There was $157.6 M for mandatory cost increases--salaries, benefits, and debt service--and about $60 M for improving student outcomes in ways mandated by the legislature.  

    This month, Newsom came back with a proposal for $136.0 M. He will not backfill the permanent cut of  $300.8 M, even on a one-time Covid-19 emergency basis.  UC keeps that hole and is to receive 86 percent of what it had defined as mandatory cost increases (negotiated wage increases and benefits, among other things).  That was one of five General Fund items the regents voted in November to request. They got none of the other four, though Newsom did recommend $225M in one-time funds for deferred maintenance and some other items.  The governor's proposal would put UC's general fund at $3.6 B. That's about the level of 2017-18. It's also about the level of 2007-08, unadjusted for inflation.

     In a regents' committee meeting on January 20th, UCOP officials summarized the governor's budget in a few slides. 


     The 3 percent base increase is on the new, permanently-reduced amount. The rest are line-items that normally a public university would fund out of general operating money. UC PRIME is an example-- a diversity-oriented medical education program for underserved areas that UC Health should just pay for out of operations. Same for legal services for undocumented students, which should be funded as one among many permanent student services.  

    Next slide: DM gets $175 M in one-time funds, and more earmarks are added. The DM figure is about 1.25 percent of a reasonable estimate of system-wide deferred maintenance, so at this rate UC will fix this year's back log about 80 years from now.   Except it's not annual money . . .


     The final slide notes the continuation of the tuition freeze and an accelerated deadline for closing equity gaps in student attainment.
    These are all long-established goals, particularly turning UC into a workforce training system, which hails from the 1980s and 1990s, and which was re-emphasized by Newsom in his first budget. Such goals are also priced in to allocations, so new efforts at pursuit will never receive a reward. 
    In short, Newsom restores Jerry Brown austerity in the form of frozen tuition and sub-inflation net state funding. We all hate the phrase, but this is classic "do more with less"--with no state interest in its effect on UC viability.

    This budget presentation to the regents was more negative than UCOP's previous messaging about the governor's proposal. After Newsom's release, the UC president immediately thanked him for, in effect, providing one quarter of his request. This signaled to the media that the governor was being very supportive of higher education and that his proposal was good news. Poor Teresa Watanabe, the LA Times's UC & higher reporter, with her colleague Nina Agrawal, had to try to write a coherent story. They cited all three system heads calling the budget a "welcome reinvestment," to quote CSU's chancellor Joseph Castro, while noting that Newsom did not use the unexceptedly good state revenue picture to undo the current year cuts or to come close to matching the requests. The only figure in the story who suggested damage to educational quality was a (former) chancellor,  George Blumenthal, with direct experience of a campus.  

    Taking the LAT coverage and the UCOP budget presentation together, we have these budget stories.

    • It's under control. Wait until next year (UCOP budget officials)
    • Funding is very complex. UC is the greatest public university (UC president)
    • The governor is reinvesting in higher education (heads of UC, CSU, & CCC)
    • California Democrats are degrading the quality of UC (and CSU & CCC) through underfunding (the occasional chancellor plus random bloggers)

    One of these tales is not like the others. It is far less pleasant to consider. It is also true. But in the absence of budget context, budget history, and budget needs--absences actively generated by the first three stories--the fourth can't establish a claim on reality.  The situation keeps the quality narrative obscure. If it does, the gap between means and funds will continue to grow.

    Figure 1: State General Fund Allocations to the University of California Compared to State Per-Capita Income Growth, 2001-2022, with Regents Budget Request 2020-22.


    The gap is learning and research (and eating and rent-paying) that doesn't happen.
    ***

    Data from California Department of Finance (UC general fund allocations) and from the Legislative Analyst's Office data and forecasts for state personal income growth.  Charts with tuition revenue and other details are presented and discussed here.   Photo Credit

    Unsanitized: The Battle of Los Angeles

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 21/01/2021 - 4:46am in

    The nation’s biggest county has the biggest COVID outbreak. Plus, a memorial to the dead. Continue reading

    The post Unsanitized: The Battle of Los Angeles appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

    California Is Cultivating Forests That Stand Up to Wildfires

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/11/2020 - 12:05am in

    Fire stoppers

    As California’s wildfires have burned more than four million acres of forest, they’ve also revealed how better forest management could help prevent such fires in the future.

    Bloomberg CityLab drills down on the Dinkey Landscape Restoration Project, a 154,000-acre swathe of conifers and hardwoods in the Sierra National Forest that have so far avoided devastation. Its resilience can be traced to a rare, 20-year joint effort in which environmentalists, loggers, scientists and the U.S. Forest Service collaborated to safeguard the forest. They did it by managing the area in a way that more closely resembled how nature would do it, thinning and planting trees for heterogeneity and healthier growth patterns. While the loggers wanted to clear-cut and the conservationists wanted the forest untouched, the compromise between the two created a relatively fireproof forest.

    sierraSierra National Forest. Credit: David Prasad / Flickr

    The results are self-evident. The Creek Fire, California’s largest wildfire, ripped through the region earlier this year. But in the project area, the flames remained low, creeping along the forest floor and leaving the trees intact and alive. “The regret I feel is that we didn’t gather the social wherewithal to do the conversations we’ve been having in the Dinkey collaborative about ten years earlier,” said one conservationist involved in the effort. “We chose a very oppositional framework: We’re good and they’re bad. We had ‘no’ down to a fine art. How do we define what ‘yes’ looks like?”

    Read more at Bloomberg CityLab

    Educating above its weight

    Like students around the world, many Estonian kids are getting their education under lockdown, participating in school remotely from home. They’re better prepared than most for the experience. As the Guardian reports, Estonia has spent years building a digital public education system that has left it well positioned to conduct classes during the pandemic.

    tallinnTallinn, Estonia. Credit: Wilson Hui / Flickr

    In 2001, Estonia became one of the world’s first countries to declare internet access a human right. In the time since, it has worked to bring digital skills and high-speed internet to the public. A program called Tiigrihupe (Tiger Leap) was launched to train educators in how to teach kids via the internet, and computers were installed in schools nationwide. By the time the pandemic hit, Estonian schools were already using digital learning routinely. “All these systems have been set up for years now,” one official told the paper. When Covid-19 closed school buildings, “it was just moving from classrooms to a virtual environment.”

    The emphasis on modernizing education appears to be working. Even before the pandemic, Estonia was one of Europe’s highest scorers on the OECD’s international Pisa tests, which measure student performance in mathematics, science and reading, outperforming richer countries like the U.K. and Finland.

    Read more at the Guardian

    Contact theory

    In the U.S., Covid-19 contact tracing efforts (those that exist, anyway) have been hampered by distrust of the U.S. government among some immigrant communities. Arabic-speaking communities in particular can be wary. So cities across the country are hiring Arabic-speaking tracers to cold-call people that local health departments have identified as having been put at risk for the virus.

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    Ethar Kakoz, an immigrant from Iraq, has been working with San Diego County to reach out to Arabic speakers there who may have been exposed to the virus. “For many of these families [the pandemic] is really bringing them back to the past and the unsafety they felt during the war, the lack of food, not being able to go to stores,” she said. One Iraqi man she contacted thought the virus had been manufactured by the U.S. military. (Kakoz assured him it hadn’t.) Another didn’t know that opening his windows could help prevent the virus’ spread until Kakoz told him.

    “I feel empathy,” Kakoz told the Associated Press for an article funded by the Solutions Journalism Network. “My responsibility is to just educate them and tell them about what is the right thing to do.”

    Read more at the Associated Press

    The post California Is Cultivating Forests That Stand Up to Wildfires appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

    Not Making the Climate Connection to California’s Fires is Media Malpractice

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 19/09/2020 - 1:48am in

    The effect of such climate silence is to imply that the wildfires are random—a stroke of bad luck, perhaps, in an already woefully unlucky year. But we know better than this. We know that we humans are causing disasters like this. And we know that we can solve the climate crisis, should we muster the political will to do so.  Continue reading

    The post Not Making the Climate Connection to California’s Fires is Media Malpractice appeared first on BillMoyers.com.

    ScoMo Calls Trump To Offer Assistance Like A Holiday To Port Douglas To Help Fight California Bushfires

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 15/09/2020 - 8:17am in

    Australian Prime Minister Scotty from marketing has called US President Donald Trump to offer the country assistance like a holiday to Port Douglas to help fight the raging California bushfires.

    ”I know myself that last summer whilst Australia burned my week long holiday in Hawaii with Jen and the kids was just the shot in the arm that I needed,” said Prime Minister Scotty. ”So, why shouldn’t President Trump get a chance to unwind in Port Douglas, after all it’s not like he or I holds a hose.”

    ”Hopefully, he can get the California wildfires under control as I’d love to take the kids to a smoke free Disneyland later this year.”

    When reached for comment on the Australian Prime Minister’s offer, President Trump said: ”What an offer, from what’s his name Scotty? Or is it Bobby?”

    ”Anyway, his name’s not important, I’d love to come down to Australia maybe after the election, assuming I’m released on bail.”

    ”Do we have an extradition treaty with Australia? If so let’s tear it up.”

    Mark Williamson

    @MWChatShow

    You can follow The (un)Australian on twitter @TheUnOz or like us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/theunoz.

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    Please Stay Behind the Yellow Line

    Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 13/09/2020 - 2:16am in

    Today is the nineteenth anniversary of the terrorist attack that killed almost 3000 of us on this date in 2001. It feels wrong to write about daily news today and yet, as we approach 200,000 dead from a mismanaged pandemic and face unprecedented assaults on our national government, it also feels wrong not to. Continue reading

    The post Please Stay Behind the Yellow Line appeared first on BillMoyers.com.