Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Citizen revolt forces vote on coed showers

'Gender identity' discrimination ban placed on ballot after petition drive

A recently passed Maryland county law that critics say allows men and women to mix in restrooms and locker rooms has been put on hold until it goes before voters this fall. Officials with Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government say the Montgomery County Board of Elections has certified their petition issue to appear on the November election ballot. The law aims to protect transgender people from discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations and various services.

"We are delighted that the board has validated our petition, containing the signatures of over 32,000 citizens," said Ruth Jacobs, president of MCRG. "We have gotten the sense from talking to thousands of voters across every political and demographic line that the council is really out of step on this one." The volunteer organization needed 25,001 signatures to succeed.

MCRG argues the law "loosely" defines gender identity as "an individual's actual or perceived gender, including a person's gender related appearance, expression, image, identity, or behavior, whether or not those gender related characteristics differ from the characteristics customarily associated with the person's assigned sex at birth."

"This means that a male appearing as or perceiving he is a female, regardless of his DNA, anatomy, and chromosomal makeup, could gain the legal right to call himself a woman, and use the woman's facility in any public accommodation," the group said. The law could violate the privacy rights of the county's 500,000 women and children, the MCRG asserted, since the county's public accommodations code would be revised to read:

"An . agent . of any place of public accommodation in the county must not, with respect to the accommodation: . make any distinction with respect to . race, color, sex, marital status, religious creed, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity in connection with . use of any facility.," the organization said.

The volunteers said accommodations already are defined in the code as "restaurants, hotels and motels, retail stores, hospitals, swimming pools," and "facilities" include "restrooms and locker rooms." The only place that would be excluded, MCRG said, would be areas that are "distinctly personal and private," such as private homes and private clubs.

County officials have told WND they have interpreted the law to mean that showers and restrooms would be excluded. But Theresa Rickman, a founding MCRG member, argues, "With all due respect, if one accepts the council's assertion that the 'gender identity' law does not cover bathrooms, one would also have to accept that the county's public accommodations code never intended to racially desegregate bathrooms. Race and gender identity are both listed in the same sentence."

The county's Human Rights Commission has authority to interpret and enforce the law, and it already has stated "if Bill 23-07 were silent on the issue of public facilities, [it] would interpret the bill as allowing a person to use facilities based on that person's gender identity."

The bill also contains no exemptions for religious organizations, daycare providers and teachers and small businesses, opponents said. The critics contend schools and business would be required to let employees cross-dress if they choose.

"Please be advised that the petition contained more than the requisite number of signatures necessary to place the question on the 2008 General Election ballot. . The petition has also been reviewed to determine whether it meets the requirements contained in [Maryland election law]. . Please be advised that the petition appears to meet the necessary requirements," said a letter from County Election Director Margaret Jurgensen to County Executive Isiah Leggett, who signed the bill into law after it was approved by the county council.

Just days earlier, WND reported allegations from petition collecters that they had been harassed while they were gathering signatures. Officials with MCRG reported Dana Beyer, a senior policy adviser to Councilwoman Duchy Trachtenberg, D-At Large, had approached volunteers while they were seeking petition signatures and provided disruptions, "telling volunteers to 'shut up' and getting petition collectors removed from shopping malls by complaining to the management."

John Garza, an attorney for the volunteers, indicated one possible result could be a civil rights lawsuit. "I am deeply troubled by these intimidation tactics. Such tactics are commonly used by totalitarian governments. There is no place for this in Montgomery County. This undemocratic conduct is especially reprehensible when it is coming from a senior-level employee of the council," he said at the time.

The organization released a statement accompanying a YouTube video officials explained shows Beyer falsely telling petition collectors and would-be signers they would be asked to leave a Giant food store's sidewalk. The video shows the person telling volunteers, "An e-mail went out; you're going to be asked to leave. Any petitions gathered today are illegal."


Another finding of genetic differences between the races

Differences in gene expression levels between people of European versus African ancestry can affect how each group responds to certain drugs or fights off specific infections, report researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center and the Expression Research Laboratory at Affymetrix Inc. of Santa Clara, CA.

In the March 7, 2008, print issue of American Journal of Human Genetics, and published early online, the researchers used Affymetrix exon arrays to show that expression levels for nearly five percent of the 9,156 human genes they studied varied significantly between individuals of European and African ancestry. The research team took an unbiased whole genome approach and found significant differences in several unrelated processes, especially among genes involved in producing antibodies to potential microbial invaders.

The researchers used lymphoblastoid cell lines derived from blood from 180 healthy individuals. They studied 60 nuclear families, including mother, father and child. Thirty of the families were Caucasians from Utah and 30 were Yorubans from Ibadan, Nigeria.

"Our primary interest is the genes that regulate how people respond to medicines, such as cancer chemotherapy," said cancer specialist Eileen Dolan, PhD, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and senior author of the study. "We want to understand why different populations experience different degrees of toxicity when taking certain drugs and learn how to predict who might be most at risk for drug side effects."

But in the process they saw several other differences. Some, including variation in the immune system's response to microbial invaders, were expected. Previous studies have found that African Americans may be more susceptible than Caucasians to infection by certain bacteria, such as Porphyromonas gingivalis that causes periodontitis.

Others were unanticipated, including significant differences in expression levels among genes involved in fundamental cellular processes such as ribosomal biogenesis, transfer RNA processing, and Notch-signaling--part of a complex system of communication that governs basic cellular activities and coordinates cell actions.

"Population differences in gene expression have only recently begun to be investigated," said Dolan, "We believe they play a significant role in susceptibility to disease and in regulating drug response. Our current research focuses on how these genetic and expression differences play a role in sensitivity to adverse effects associated with chemotherapy."

Understanding at the genetic level how individuals within and among populations vary in their response to drugs could improve treatment. The University of Chicago team worked closely with Affymetrix on new technology that enabled them to perform a very comprehensive study including evaluation of expression levels of every known gene


High-flown EU nonsense over terror

US has a right to airline information

When was the last time you let a bunch of potential terrorists into your house? Indeed, when was the last time you let any group of strangers walk around your house without asking them what they wanted or where they were from? You haven't done either of these, of course. You'd be mad not to want to know who they were before you let them in. And you'd have to be especially mad if you had recent experience of people blowing your house up.

Yet for some reason most of Europe seems to be up in arms that Michael Chertoff, the US Homeland Security Secretary, is demanding that some basic background information about air passengers - passport details, travel plans and details of the credit cards that paid for flights - be handed over by airlines before they land in or fly over the US. It is, we are told, an outrage; an offence against our civil liberties and another example of the encroachment of the State on individual rights.

Forgive me for stating the obvious, but isn't Mr Chertoff being perfectly sensible? Given the experience of 9/11, of the shoe-bomber Richard Reid and of other Islamist terrorists' attempts to use aircraft as flying bombs, the most basic security precautions surely involve cross-checking passengers' data against suspicious behaviour patterns. Or should the Americans have no rights to keep out people they consider to be a threat?

The latest issue of The Economist adopts the outraged tone of the objectors, arguing that "risking death alongside American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan makes you a valued ally - unless you want to visit the US. Then you are a security risk and have to pay a hefty fee for a visa . . ." Eh? As if the welcome behaviour of some EU governments in sending soldiers to support the War on Terror means that they are less likely to harbour terrorists. Unfortunately, terrorists are not renowned for deciding that they will not operate from America's allies.

The real issue, surely, is not the US; it is why we don't demand the same information about passengers flying over our own airspace.

As for the idea that this is an encroachment on civil liberties, akin to ID cards: nonsense. ID cards depend upon compulsion - whatever mendacious claims the Government makes about their being voluntary. No one is compelled to hand over any information to the US, because no one is compelled to fly there. The solution to this non-existent problem is straightforward. If you don't like America's terms of entry, don't go.


The British Labour Party deserts the British working class

Wibsey Working Men's Club in Bradford was the focus of the opening film in the BBC's new season of programmes about white working-class Britain. Pinch yourself, and the documentary could have been mistaken for a Play for Today from the late 1970s or the 1980s - one of those searing dramas, beautifully made, about being poor and left behind.

Time and tide have bypassed Wibsey, and with it the members of the club, all of them tough northerners who in their prime were the engine room of Britain. Their way of life is endangered. The heavy industry that gave them status has gone; their sons did not choose to join them in the club; and their city, one of Happy Eid and unhappy ethnic tension, is now an alien place to them.

The men, most of them unemployed or retired, held futile committee meetings to discuss their financial crisis, and faced the fact there was little that could be done to keep the club open. Not enough people came any more. It was as simple as that. "We're oop shit creek," muttered one. And it struck me, as they sat in the gloom, rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, that one of the ironies of Britain today is that if these white working-class men were an ethnic minority group - Asian elders, say, or Polish unmarried mothers - their club could have applied to Bradford council for a support grant and had ethnic minorities co-ordinators swarming around them immediately.

If we provide Muslim women-only swimming clubs, Asian football groups, or Ukrainian festivals, then surely we could also spare some local authority cash for a group of relics from our industrial past. Living history, isn't it? Social cohesion. Shoulders of giants, and all that. Give them a grant at once. It's only fair. Now the whole point of this poignant film, of course, was precisely that: to suggest unfairness. Remember the title of the BBC theme: White. To make it apparent that in the rush to multiculturalism, someone forgot to remember that white working-class males are disenfranchised and discriminated against too.

Thus the BBC season, which continues this week, makes a brave leap. It theorises that immigration is to blame for the plight of the working class; for its sense of alienation within its own heritage. Multiculturalism, that state-sponsored form of ethnic diversity, has created dangerous inequalities and segregation.

But is it true? I wonder. Much as I find the BBC's theme fascinating, I think perhaps it is chasing the wrong hare. Many things have made life difficult for the working classes, but most of them relate to global economics, snobbery and the death of heavy industry, rather than to skin colour. That is not to say that we do not discriminate. Of course we do. We are ruder, in public, to the white working class than we would dare be to ethnic minority groups. We call them chavs, or - in Scotland - neds, and we award TV comedy such as Little Britain that eviscerates them. We simultaneously neglect and romanticise them. But this is not new.

For the old white men of Bradford, with no jobs, no money, no future, disempowered in bleak surroundings, the parallels with the political landscape of the 1980s were obvious. In the ultimate act of discrimination to the working class, Britain's engine room was shut down. Steel, coal, textiles, shipbuilding, carmaking and almost every part of the heavy manufacturing sector disappeared; lives and jobs and communities folded. It happened in Ayrshire, Fife, Wales, the Midlands, Newcastle, Yorkshire, Lanarkshire.

And here's news for the BBC: there are sad, emasculated, iron-faced older men, just like those from Wibsey, sitting in rundown bars in every former industrial area in Britain, bemoaning that they're not selling enough beer, that Labour has deserted them, just like every other tosser, and no one wants to come to their karaoke nights any more....

I suspect the answer to the kind of divisions we face lies in lack of recognition. Immigrants have not denied the white working class jobs and houses - the ones they got were the ones the whites didn't want - but what they have denied them is political love and attention. The old working class, you might say, is simply fed up with being ignored.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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