Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: Chelsea Manning’s gender identity

article by Anne Russell, reprinted from Scoop.co.nz.

The Queer Avengers (Wellington) are holding a solidarity action with Chelsea Manning on 2pm Saturday the 7th of September, at the US Embassy [Facebook event]

For the most part, gender minorities operating in the public sphere are recognised by their gender first and the content of their work second. This is why Rolling Stone articles on“Women Who Rock” kettle together artists as musically and lyrically diverse as Taylor Swift, Missy Elliott and Sleater-Kinney, as though ‘woman’ is a subgenre of music. Even at comparatively progressive activist events, cisgender women and transgender people—particularly trans* women—rarely dominate the overall speaker line-up. Rather, they are given separate sessions to discuss sexism and/or transphobia, implying that these issues are only problems for the oppressed parties in question.

In contrast, issues like mass surveillance and military crimes are framed as issues that everyone should be concerned about, evidenced recently by the scale of controversy around the NSA leaks and the recently-passed GCSB Bill. This is not to say that they are not important or damaging problems, merely that they receive much more cultural attention than the routine struggles of oppressed gender minorities. While the soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning was hitherto widely considered a hero in radical movements, figures like radical activist and trans* woman Sylvia Rivera are not widely known outside the trans* rights movement itself. It is arguable that the activist world, like everywhere else, is still somewhat divided into gendered categories, at least on a surface level: the cis men examine military documents while the cis women and trans* folk talk about unequal access to healthcare, cultural invisibility and sexual harassment.

Private Manning’s recent announcement that she is a transgender woman—to be known as Chelsea Manning from here on—thus represents a stunning collision of different activist factions. Manning released a statement last week announcing that she identifies as female, and wishes to undergo hormone therapy as soon as possible. This is not entirely new or unexpected information, as Manning’s chatlogs with informant Adrian Lamo in May 2010 read: “I wouldn’t mind going to prison for the rest of my life, or being executed so much, if it wasn’t for the possibility of having pictures of me… plastered all over the world press… as a boy.” Moreover, her lawyers attempted to use gender identity disorder as a defence in her trial. However, many of Manning’s supporters felt uncomfortable referring to her as female without the explicit go-ahead from her.

That time has come, and yet many commentators remain confused orhostile(trigger warning: transphobia) to the announcement. Manning’s requests have been fairly straightforward—“I also request that, starting today, you refer to me by my new name and use the feminine pronoun”—but many media outlets, particularly Fox News and CNN, continue to use her historical name and masculine pronouns. Since swathes of information about transgenderism are merely a Google search away, this misgendering demonstrates how heavily entrenched transphobia and the gender binary remain in public discourse. [Read more…]

Cornel West: “President Obama is a global George Zimmerman”

Transcript of an interview on Democracy Now [video here]

AMY GOODMAN: In the aftermath of the Zimmerman verdict and the mass protests around the country, we turn right now to Dr. Cornel West, professor at Union Theological Seminary, author of numerous books, co-host of the radio show Smiley & West with Tavis Smiley. Together, they wrote the book The Rich and the Rest of Us: A Poverty Manifesto, among Cornel West’s other books.

Professor Cornel West—

CORNEL WEST: Yes, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama surprised not only the press room at the White House, but the nation, I think, on Friday, in his first public remarks following the George Zimmerman acquittal. What are your thoughts?

CORNEL WEST: Well, the first thing, I think we have to acknowledge that President Obama has very little moral authority at this point, because we know anybody who tries to rationalize the killing of innocent peoples, a criminal—George Zimmerman is a criminal—but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense, so that there’s actually parallels here. [Read more…]

France’s occupation in Mali: Past and present

mali france

Joel Cosgrove

Most mainstream reporting on events in Mali included various tropes, such as that Europe is under threat from Islamic fundamentalism, that the invasion of French troops was about freeing the local people, and the involvement of French troops was defended as being an undesirable but necessary outcome resulting from a bad situation. The defence for the invasion has been remarkably similar to that made for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq at the time.

As with Iraq and Afghanistan the reality is that the occupation of Mali has come about as part of an imperialist contest for political power and resources. Although the French government may be assuaged by the ease of its military’s entry into Mali, in operations such as these the invasionary period is one of the less difficult phases of an occupation.

During the first phase airpower was used effectively against fixed and clear rebel positions. Now the situation has developed. Already recent kidnap victims have reported of hideouts hacked into the side of caves, as well as petrol and ammunition dumps hidden in various parts of the north. There is now a transition to the type of irregular guerilla warfare that has proven so hard for the occupiers to deal with in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a recent article on the French adventure, long-term Middle East/North African correspondent Patrick Cockburn made a similar point:

This was one of the many lessons of the US takeover of Iraq and Afghanistan. Most Iraqis and Afghans were glad to see the departure of the previous regimes. Iraqis wanted an end to Saddam Hussein’s rule, but this did not mean that they welcomed foreign occupation. Similarly, in Afghanistan, foreign forces were initially popular and the Taliban discredited. But in both cases foreign forces soon behaved like colonial occupiers, and were resented as such. [Read more…]

Paperback books will be the death of us, or how “industry” always finds new technology threatening

If a book is any good, the cheaper the better

-George Bernard Shaw

E-books are a new thing, the idea of a “digital book” is something that has been scoffed at, but within the past few years, the e-book has steadily gained ground on the more traditional form. Barnes and Noble claim they sell three times as many e-books compared to all forms of physical books and Amazon claim that since the start of the year they are selling 114 e-books for every 100 physical books. It was George Santayana who said “Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it” and so for any discussion of the latest developments in technology and social relations, we need to start with an understanding of what has gone before.

George Orwell is quoted as saying “If other publishers had any sense, they would combine against them and suppress them” in relation to paperback books, specifically Penguin books. Orwell was writing in response to the potential lowering of royalties that writers could expect to receive in the paperback form as opposed to hardback.

It was Allen Lane who saw the huge gap in the market in which he could exploit and profit hugely from. Inexpensive paperbacks had existed from the 19th century onwards, whether as pamphlets, airport/train novels or the wider genre of pulp fiction. Lane didn’t invent the paperback, but he upped the quality in both production and design alongside the low cost, revolutionising the format (much like Apple with the iPhone and iPad) suddenly making literature available on a mass-scale, moving away from its earlier perception as a sophisticated and expensive commodity to a mass-based medium, available to all. Like the printing press before it and digitial technology after it, paperback publishing revolutionised the way the book was seen and consumed. [Read more…]

ANZAC Day: What are we celebrating?

This article by Alastair Reith was originally published here in 2008.

Every year we are told that the young men whose lives were snuffed out at Gallipoli died gloriously for our freedom. We are told that the “liberties” we supposedly enjoy in New Zealand today exist only because of the sacrifice of these soldiers. The message is that the soldiers’ deaths were worth it, and that the cause they died for was just.

There is no nice way to say this: it’s all lies.

War about territory, not freedom

In 1914, war broke out between the major imperialist powers of the world. They divided up into two blocs. On one side, the Allies, primarily made up of France, Russia and the British Empire, as well as the smaller countries allied to them and their countless colonies throughout the world. The ruling classes of New Zealand and Australia took this side. On the other side, the Central Powers, primarily made up of Germany, Austro-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, along with a number of smaller countries and the various colonies they controlled. [Read more…]

New research into ethics and class: the rich are more likely to cut you off while driving and take candy from children

Kelly Pope, Workers Party, Christchurch

With increasing industrial and social action against inequality taking place around the world, one outcome has been a shift in the focus of research towards the issues these movements and campaigns are highlighting. For example, in psychology and ethics there has been a recent emphasis on exploring the relationship between wealth distribution or class and a range of behaviours and dispositions that are considered pro-social and ethical, or anti-social and immoral.

Research that has recently featured in the media found that employers are four times as likely as the general population to have anti-social personality disorder, the condition experienced by people often referred to as psychopaths, which is characterised by impulsivity, manipulative behaviour and the inability to empathise with others. Looking more deeply into the relationship between socio-economic class and anti-social behaviour, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley have carried out a series of studies, all of which have shown unethical behaviour to be more prevalent in the upper classes. [Read more…]

Drugs in Organised Sport

 “Blood doping is a logical outcome of a sport where people push themselves to death for the enjoyment of fans and benefit of sponsors. Of the seventy top ten finishers in Armstrong’s seven Tour De France victories, forty-one have tested positive for PEDS. [Preformance Enhancing Drugs]”[1]

Joel Cosgrove

David Boon was reputed to have drunk 52 beers on the flight from Sydney to London in 1989

Within any discussion of modern day sport, the question of drugs comes up repeatedly. It is difficult to really get beyond the initial discussion: for, against, or on-the-fence, in regards to either the problem or the solution.

The reality is that since ancient times, strategies and theories have been developed in order to get an edge. While using magic mushrooms or whisky as performance enhancing aids might seem comical to the modern reader, they form part of a process that has led to academic Tony Schirato to describe as “…replacing this [pre-modern sport with] a level of professionalism, specialization, bureaucratization, and secularism never before seen in sport”.[2]Like every other part of human existence, capitalism has fundamentally changed the way we see organised sport.

[Read more…]

Mega Conspiracy: Kim Dotcom, SOPA and capitalism


Byron Clark

A large section of the world wide web went dark earlier this year. Websites including Wikipedia (4th most visted site in the world) removed access to content for 24 hours in protest of two bills on their way though the US congress- the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). The laws would have given the old entertainment industries, represented by organisations like the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) greater control over the internet. Foreign websites accused of copyright infringement could be made inaccessible to American internet users.

The online protest, which prompted a massive amount of lobbying from American citizens (and overseas), was a success, SOPA and PIPA are dead in the water- at least for the time being. Within 24 hours however it seemed as if those two laws had passed and were being enforced- New Zealand Police, colaborating with the American FBI arrested Kim Dotcom, the founder of the website MegaUpload in his mansion north of Auckland. Several other men involved with the site were also arrested. [Read more…]

The Treaty, The Foreshore & Seabed and Tino Rangatiratanga

The emergence of the Mana Movement has given an urgency to our drive to renew our perspective on Māori liberation. Furthermore, the departure of the Redline group has given us cause to re-examine our past positions on a number of matters, including indigenous issues. In order for us to begin that work, I have tried to reconstruct those former positions. This was far from easy, since most of the early WP material is no longer available on line, and my personal involvement with the Party was fairly marginal when the Foreshore & Seabed controversy broke. The latter, along with the WP position on the Treaty of Waitangi and Tino Rangatiritanga (TR) form the three topics of this discussion document, since those were the major issues of contention between ourselves, the rest of the left, and the Māori Sovereignty movement.

I want to begin by acknowledging the specificity of Aotearoa, in that it is unique amongst imperialist countries in having a sizeable indigenous population possessing a significant social weight. This fact is important to Cultural Nationalists as well as Marxists: “Unlike any other indigenous colonized people, the Maori live within white culture. Not on reserves. Not in rural areas. […] This is the Maori radicalizing potential.”[Awatere] [Read more…]

43rd anniversary of the PFLP’s founding

 

Tens of thousands of members and  supporters of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine gathered on December 11, 2010, in Gaza City’s Palestine Stadium, marking the forty-third anniversary of the PFLP’s founding in a mass rally.

Palestinians from all sectors – men and women, elderly and children, workers and farmers, attended the rally from all sectors of Gaza City, and traveling in groups from throughout the Gaza Strip, waving red flags that filled the stadium.

[Read more…]