“Battle of the Bathrooms!”—Where Should Trans Folks be Allowed to Pee?

“Battle of the Bathrooms!”—Where Should Trans Folks be Allowed to Pee?

—February 28, 2016

The “Battle of the Bathrooms” is heating up across the nation, what with two separate, at-odds local and state government measures making the news this week.

In South Dakota the governor is poised to sign a bill that would require public school students to use bathrooms and other facilities that correspond to their biological sex, which the bill defines as “a person’s chromosomes and anatomy as identified at birth.”

Meanwhile, the city of Charlotte, NC this week passed a law allowing transgender folks to choose public bathrooms that correspond to whatever gender they identify with. This measure has drawn the ire of the state’s governor and a majority of state legislators, who are threatening legislative intervention to undue the city ordinance.

These two actions fall on the heels of numerous other related measures making the rounds in states and municipalities across the country, all of which beg the question as to which public bathroom and/or locker room is appropriate for transgendered individuals of either sex…whether former, current or in transition?

Public bathrooms can be inherently awkward as is—adding transgendered usage into the equation ups the potential awkward ante, for both the normal-gendered folks, and the transgendered themselves. And the level of awkwardness is likely dependent upon the extent of transition.

Take Kaitlyn (the former “Bruce”) Jenner. He/she has done some serious work at trying to look like a woman, and now kind of does. But even though she’s lost the adam’s apple and now has breasts, he’s still sporting a Johnson and the twins between his legs. Kaitlyn can sing, “I am woman, hear me roar” until the cows come home, but it must be difficult to feel womanly when he’s in the bathroom.

I imagine that most people, male and female, would feel awkward sharing bathroom/locker room space with him/her. One would think that it’s also awkward for Jenner, and/or anyone else in that situation of being between the sexes.

Consider also the potential bathroom awkwardness of being forced to use the bathroom based on anatomy. A woman transitioning into a man would potentially freak people out when going into the woman’s room looking like a man, and vice versa for the trans woman forced to go into the men’s room.

The easy overall solution, and one which has been pushed by various school districts, municipalities, and stateunisex-bathroom governments is unisex or gender-neutral bathrooms. And while cost is one limiting factor, the greater barrier appears to be the LGBT community itself, which feels that forcing transgendered to use such bathrooms stigmatizes or otherwise marginalizes them. Their argument is that transgendered people should be able to utilize the bathroom/locker room that conforms to the gender they believe themselves to be.

And they’re pushing this argument in most situations in which the compromise solution has been adopted, filing suit in numerous states across the country alleging discrimination and segregation. The U.S. Department of Education has sided with the LGBT community on the issue, asserting that schools must allow students to use the bathroom corresponding to the gender of which they identify, or risk losing federal funding.

OK, so the rights of transgendered are important, but what of everyone else? Should the rights of the few supersede the rights of the many? Should transgendered folks be allowed to pee wherever they please, or should their bathroom usage conform to anatomy?

Hash-It-Out!

—Originally published February 26 in Hash It Out!

Flawed Report Pushes Affirmative Action on Hollywood

Flawed Report Pushes Affirmative Action on Hollywood

—February 23, 2016

Just in time for the 88th Academy Awards, the University of Southern California’s School for Communication and Journalism has released a “scathing” report that proves that Hollywood is a “straight, white, boy’s, club.” Following on the heels of the “Oscars so White” movement inspired by the lack of minority Academy Award nominees, this report strongly suggests that not only is Hollywood a bastion of racists, but also of misogynistic homophobes.

The report—Inclusion or Invisibility? Comprehensive Annenberg Report on Diversity in Entertainment—is designed to quantify the media representation of females, “people of color,” and members of the LGBT community both on screen and behind the camera. The study’s authors hope that the report will push Hollywood studios to make their productions more representative and inclusive of the American population at large, and to make the composition of the studios’ workforce more inclusive. In short, the authors would like to see movie and TV productions reflect or match the demographic composition of the U.S., and see the same for the studio workforce.

The report’s findings were based on 414 “stories,” consisting of 109 full-length motion pictures and a single episode from 305 different broadcast, cable and digital series, all of which were released in 2014. The researchers also examined the composition of gender, race and ethnicity of the directors and writers of each film or episode, as well as the employees and executives at 10 major studios.

The essential conclusion of the report is that white, heterosexual males pretty much dominate every metric of Hollywood, while females, “people of color,” gays and transgendered folks are seriously underrepresented in every metric. And to some degree—especially with regard to gender disparity—the report is undoubtedly true. By other measures the report is seriously flawed.

For starters the report’s methodology provided an open door for cherry picking. While the researchers examined 109 full-length motion pictures, Hollywood generally releases more than 400 per year. Thus, a researcher could probably sort through the films of 2014 and come up with a hundred or so that conclusively proves that white, straight males are seriously underrepresented in Hollywood films.

I also noticed that of the 109 films, the researchers only included five counted by blackamericaweb.com as the “Top 10 Best Black Movies of 2014.” Little doubt that the inclusion of those five missing Black movies would have significantly changed the findings regarding race.

And speaking of race, the report’s findings lead me to believe that the researchers are a bit clueless about U.S. demographics. For example, the report’s narrative stresses how Hollywood vastly under represents racial and ethnic minorities, and bases this partly on a finding that of all 414 “stories,” Blacks only made up 12.2 percent of the speaking roles. I’m not quite sure what the problem is here, given that only 12.6 percent of the U.S. population identifies as black, according to the 2010 U.S. Census.

And gee, Asians only represent 5.1 percent of the speaking roles….

Hollywood will obviously need to fire some Asian actors, given that their proportional representation in the country as a whole is only 4.8 percent.

Hispanics only represent 5.8 percent of the speaking roles, according to the report, far below the 16.3 percent of Americans who identify as Hispanic. But the researchers based their counts solely on “visible cues” to ascertain race and ethnicity. And guess what? About 60 percent of the US. Hispanic population identifies as “White,” with most of them looking like any other cracker walking down Main Street USA. Thus, little doubt that the researchers vastly undercounted Hispanic speaking roles.

Overall, while the report’s narrative repeatedly says that Blacks, Asians and Hispanics are “underrepresented” in movies and TV shows, much of the report’s data indicate that Blacks and Asians are, in fact, fairly represented, while the counting of Hispanics is outright flawed.

Take for example the table showing the number of movies and shows without any Black or Asian speaking characters. Out of the 109 films, 18 percent have no Black speaking characters and 50 percent have no speaking Asian characters. But, let’s state that another way: Out of 109 films, 82 percent have Black speaking characters, and 50 percent have speaking Asian characters. Again, given that Blacks only represent about 12.6 percent of the population, and Asians, 4.8 percent, I’d say both groups are getting some pretty decent representation according to that metric. As for Hispanics, let’s just say that the data is so sparse and subjective that any conclusions the researchers (do they understand the difference between race and ethnicity?) draw from it is suspect.

According to the report’s narrative, LGBT characters with speaking roles were far more underrepresented than ethnic and racial minorities. The report concluded that only 2 percent of all speaking characters were LGBT, which is “below the 3.5% of the U.S. population that identifies [as such], as reported by the Williams Institute at UCLA.”

And again, the researchers relied on “visible cues” to determine their sexual orientation. Thus, if a specific movie or scene wasn’t addressing a gay theme or storyline, then a potential speaking gay character might be missed.

Or am I missing something? Do gays and lesbians all wear a specific item of clothing orGaydar jewelry that identifies them as such? Because if not, then we are relying on the researchers’ “Gaydar” to determine the current LGBT representation in Hollywood.

I could continue to thrash this report—expose additional weaknesses, numerous flaws and fallacies—on many levels, but of deeper concern is how the researchers want Hollywood, and its products, to be based upon proportional representation of gender, race, ethnicity and sexual persuasion.

Perhaps a noble idea, but can you just imagine how stilted the story lines would become? How inane some of the plots? Just imagine under this scenario what the eventual remakes of Saving Private Ryan, Selma, and The Revenant would look like.

I mean, do we really want our Hollywood entertainment to be dictated by affirmative action?

—M.J. Moye

Valentine’s Day Special!—Finding “The One”

Valentine’s Day Special!—Finding “The One”

—February 12, 2015

Valentine’s Day is upon us, and you are no doubt already planning how you will celebrate the venerated love saint’s day with your significant other….

That is unless you’re single.

In that case you are likely starting to reflect upon your abject loneliness or perhaps working the inverse with plans to celebrate your single status because you finally dumped that waste-of-bedspace-sorry-exuse-for-a-girlfriend/boyfriend after 18 months of brain fuckery.

Whatever the case, this blog is for you singletons. Because even if you’ve sworn off the opposite—or same, should that be your bent—sex forever, somewhere in your psyche there’s a quest to find “the one.” And if not “the” one, then at least “some”-one to mess up the sheets with.

For those of you who have already found “the one;” “maybe-the-one;” “there isn’t a ‘one,’ but I’m happy with ‘the one’ I’m with;” well, read on, because “life is funny,” “you never know what’s over the next hill,” and “shit happens.”

What we’re going to do here is figure out the best places to meet potential mates. Here goes….

Introduction from friends: Well, if it was all that effective you singletons wouldn’t be reading this, now would you? How many times has a friend said something along the lines of “you’ve got to meet my friend (insert name here)—you two would be great together?” Then you meet the potential mate and quickly figure out that your friend obviously doesn’t know you nearly as well as you thought. (OK, not technically a “place”—but close enough).

Bars and Nightclubs: Again if it was all that effective, you singletons wouldn’t need to read this. That said, it’s great for meeting short-term, recreational playdates, but this blog is more about celebrating the ideals of “Saint Valentine,” not “Saint Trojan,” so we’re not going to delve into that here.

Grocery Stores: I’m not sure about the success ratio of this one, but have heard numerous women describe it as an “ideal” place to potentially meet men. I say potentially, because to the best of my knowledge, none of these women actually met their significant other in a grocery store, and explanations about why grocery stores are ideal have come across more like fantasy than reality. Dunno, but guess sparks could fly while discussing whether there are more anti-oxidants in avocados than rutabagas.

Other Retail Establishments: Bookstores, in particular, offer great potential, as mutual interests can easily be ascertained by the reading material being browsed. And if there is mutual affinity for the reading material then the initial conversation can often flow with ease. Unfortunately, bookstores, like music stores (which served equally as well), are going the way of the dodo. Other retail establishments can also work, but require more creativity, and usually a really good sense of humor.

Weddings: If you’re single, I’d advise going to every wedding you’re invited to—hell, try wedding crashing. Seems to be an especially high success ratio, both with meeting “the one,” and with recreational opportunity (oops, not supposed to go there).

Family Reunions: Creepy! That is, unless second-cousin marriages run in the family….

No, still creepy.

Dating Sites: Yeah, I know—many folks are still skeptical about the concept and reluctant to try to meet “the one” through photos and text on an online portal, but it seems that more and more people are finding their mates via cyberspace. “Ashley Madison” excluded, as it was geared primarily to wannabe cheating husbands and more than 80 percent of the potential female dates were exposed as cyberfakes.

Among the most popular are Match, OkCupid, Zoosk and eHarmony (yeah, how’d eHarmony makeEHarmonyInside the list, what with that weird guy in the bad suit pitching love like an evangelical preacher?). And these sites have a membership base in the multi-multi-millions, so “the one” or an “approximation of the one” has got to be profiled somewhere within those cyberlove portals. The problem is finding him or her. But if you don’t seek, you will never find, so get on it.

Oh, and you don’t have to necessarily go with one of the big dogs in online dating, as there are hundreds of different sites out there, with many catering to a wide variety of distinct groups, whether by race, ethnicity, age, religion, or any number of other parameters. There are so many distinct dating sites that you could probably find one that caters strictly to Buddhist finance workers who follow UFC, if that happens to be what you’re into.

There are probably numerous other places where singletons can meet “the one,” so the above represents the short list. Where are some other prime places for finding a date, of finding that potential significant other?

Hash-It-Out! Where are the best places for single people to meet?

—Published Feb. 12 in Hash-It-Out!

Superbowl 50 Gives Reasons to Say “WTF!?”

Superbowl 50 Gives Reasons to Say “WTF!?”

—February 9, 2016

While Superbowl 50 may have been lacking in offensive excitement, the four-and-a-half-hour spectacle did offer a few “WTF!?” moments that some people may have found awkward, distasteful, or perhaps even downright offensive.

Case in point being Peyton Manning playing the shill for Budweiser at the end of the game, not once, but twice. No sooner had the clock expired, giving the Denver Broncos a 24 to 10 victory over the Carolina Panthers, than the Denver QB told CBS Sportscaster Tracy Wolfson that he planned to celebrate the victory by kissing the wife and kids and “drink[ing] a lot of Budweiser tonight.”

As soon as the comment slipped out of Peyton’s mouth, everyone in my living room looked around at each other and said in unison, “What the f—k!!??”

“Did he really just say that?”

“Budweiser?”

“Yeah, I mean, come on…. If I’d just won the Superbowl I wouldn’t celebrate with that swill.”

“He must’ve been paid for that.”

“I’d be reaching for the 100-year-old single malt.”

“I’ll bet that just earned him a million dollars or so.”

“As if he doesn’t earn enough.”

And as this point Peyton is on the podium holding the Lombardi Trophy and again listing off his planned celebration of kissing the wife and kids, and drinking “a lot of beer tonight—uh, Budweiser,” he corrects himself.

This elicits another WTF in unison from the small crowd, and subsequent commentary regarding how much he might be getting paid for the promotion and how lame it was.

For the record a spokesperson for Budweiser later insisted that the company did not pay Peyton to mention their brand, but that “we were surprised and delighted that he did.” No doubt, as sponsorship analytics group Apex MG determined that the combined comments from Peyton were worth about $3.2 million to Budweiser. According to ESPN, Budweiser sent 50 cases of their beer to the team’s after-game party.

And this is not the first time that Peyton has shilled for Budweiser. After his team beat the San Diego Chargers in the AFC Championship game in 2014, Peyton’s first comments about the win to an interviewer were, “What’s weighing on my mind is how soon I can get a Bud Light in my mouth after this win.”

While Budweiser disavows any paid arrangement with Peyton for his branding efforts, according to Beer Business Daily, Peyton owns a portion of two Louisiana Anheuser-Busch distributors. Thus, Peyton has a stake in the business and obviously wouldn’t be adverse to helping in its promotion.

Nor, apparently, was he averse to promoting another of his business interests. While Peyton listed kissing the wife and kids as a priority in his after game celebrations, he in fact first kissed John Schnatter, who is founder and chief executive officer of Papa John’s International.

Awkward….

And, what do ya know, Peyton just happens to own 21 Denver-area Papa John’s franchises, and serves as a Papa John’s spokesperson.

But, WTF? I mean, we can understand wanting to promote one’s business interests, but what of the game? He’s just won the biggest game in the sport, should be on an incredible emotional high, but instead just seems intent on plugging pizza and beer? Dunno, but it feels a bit demeaning towards to spirit of the game.

Anyhow, perhaps the other, and more confounding, WTF!? of the night was the Mountain Dew commercial that aired during the first quarter: Three dudes are chilling out on a couch when this hybrid “Puppymonekybaby” creature—puppy face with monkey torso in a diaper sprouting baby legs— bursts through a hidden door in the wall, gives the dudes a new “Mountain Dew” drink, while dancing around and repeating “Puppy-Monkey-Baby.”

When that creature slid into that room on the TV, everyone in my living room said the equivalent of WTF!?, and from what I can tell, pretty much everyone around the country had a similar reaction. The ad quickly became the top-trending topic on Twitter, and has since been downloaded on YouTube more than seven million times and counting.

Reaction has tended to be on the negative side with many commenters wondering what kind of psychedelic drugs the advertising copywriters and Mountain Dew executives have been experimenting with, while other commenters worried about the commercial’s potential for inducing nightmares.

In our nightmare, the puppy monkey baby had the face of Peyton Manning on a monkey torso in apeyton-Monkey-Baby3 diaper sprouting baby legs, who danced about while repeating “Budweiser—Papa John’s—Budweiser—Papa John’s—Budweiser….”

Hash-It-Out! Which Superbowl 50 moment invoked the biggest “WTF!?” with your crowd?

—Published February 9, in Hash-It-Out.

Washington, DC to Fight Crime with Stipend for Criminals

Washington, DC to Fight Crime with Stipend for Criminals

—February 5, 2016

The brilliant minds of the Washington, DC Council have reportedly come up with an innovative crime fighting measure that is sure to stop crime in its tracks before it even happens….

Or not!

As written and unanimously approved on first reading earlier this week by the Council, The Neighborhood Engagement Achieves Results Amendment Act (NEAR) will pay a stipend to District of Columbia residents who are considered at risk of engaging in criminal behaviour or at risk of becoming a victim of violent crime if they participate in behavioural therapy and remain crime free.

That’s right, Washington, DC residents will have the privilege of seeing their hard-earned tax money being used to pay potential criminals not to commit crime. Instead of handing their hard-earned money over to a mugger on the street taxpayers will just give it to the DC government, which will then make sure that it gets into the hands of the most deserving potential criminals who promise to curtail their criminal activities.

What do ya think: Win-Win? 

The NEAR bill was introduced by Council Member Kenyan R. McDuffie as a “public healthth-2 approach to crime prevention” and, along with that oh-so-tough-on-crime stipend, would also insert social workers and psychologists into police units and expand the city’s monitoring of both patterns of violence and of police abuse. The bill would also narrow the definition of “assault on a police officer.”

According to McDuffie paying a potential criminal $9,000 in stipends “pales in comparison” to the cost of someone being victimized by a crime, and subsequent costs of incarcerating the offender.

The McDuffie bill was offered as a “compromise” to Mayor Muriel E. Bowser’s anit-crime bill, which had been opposed by community activists, McDuffie and other council members, and subsequently shot down last year by the Council. For her part, the Mayor rejected the NEAR bill as a “compromise,” noting that it “fails to include any provisions to combat crime.”

For the record, Washington DC has seen its violent crime and murder rate spike by more than 50 percent over the past year, and while the criminal violence levels aren’t yet approaching the levels seen in the late 1980s and early 1990s when DC was known as the “murder capital of America,” the upward trend has been quite noticeable.

Other than negative comments from the mayor and the police, opposition to the NEAR bill has been muted; however, community groups, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Black Lives Matter have been effusive with their praise. Such groups have urged passage of the NEAR bill, and agree with McDuffie that crime prevention is better served by treating it as a “public health problem” rather than treating it with stricter enforcement and penalties.

The District Chapter of the NAACP supports the city’s efforts to “bring a public health, community based approach to criminal justice reform.” The NAACP further urged the council to reject efforts by the mayor to add some “tough on crime” provisions to the NEAR bill, arguing that her “failed crime bill would expand police powers and contribute to mass incarceration.” Meanwhile Black Lives Matter supports the bill because it “treats and responds to violence in our community as a public health issue, integrates new approaches to prevent crime and improves law enforcement training and data collection.”

The NEAR bill is modified on a program in Richmond, California, which pays male residents aged 13 to 25 considered to be most at risk of killing or being killed a monthly stipend of between $300 to $1,000 in exchange for following a “life map” of positive behavior. The program is funded through a mix of municipal taxpayer funding and private donors. According to a report presented to the DC Council, 79 percent of participants in the Richmond program have not been suspects in any “gun” crimes since joining the program, and 84 percent have not been injured by gunfire.

If, as expected, the NEAR bill is approved, funding would have to come from other programs, according to the DC chief financial officer, and it is unclear whether the DC Council will be able to determine how exactly to fund the program for the next fiscal year. As currently drafted, the program is expected to provide the stipend—along with mental health counselling and job training—for up to 200 “at-risk” potential criminals and/or victims each year.

Along with the possibility that the program may be entirely underfunded as currently envisioned, we wonder if the program will reach the right potential criminals. Free money will certainly be enticing for some; however, when your average street-level drug dealer can make that kind of money in a month, he (or she) will likely stay on the street—despite the potential for violence— rather than take the government’s relative measly handout.

So, Hash-It-Out—

Is this a bold, innovative solution to address violent crime, or…

…the most ludicrous crime-fighting strategy you’ve ever heard of?

—Published in hashitout.com February 5.

Hashing Out the Nobel Peace Prize Nominees

Hashing Out the Nobel Peace Prize Nominees

—February 2, 2016

Well, the deadline for nominations for the 2016 Nobel Peace Price closed last night, and we believe it’s safe to assume that our names weren’t proffered for consideration. Of course, with over 1,000 potential members of the nominating committee, perhaps one of them has become familiar with our strenuous efforts to bring peace to the world—among other things—through civilized and intellectual debate.

For those of you unfamiliar with the intricacies of the Nobel Peace Prize, it was established by the Swedish industrialist, inventor of dynamite, and armaments manufacturer (yeah, go figure) Alfred Nobel to annually recognize those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” The prize—along with similar ones established by Alf for Chemistry, Physics, Physiology/Medicine and Literature—has been awarded since 1901.

Under the dictates of Nobel’s will, the Nobel Committee accepts nominations for the award from “qualified” people, such as members of governments, international courts, university professors, and former winners, among others. Information about the nominees, including the selection process, is withheld from the public, and, under the terms of the will, supposed to be withheld for 50 years. Of course, with so many potential nominators a tongue or ten inevitably wags, and rumours of each years’ nominees are rife. Of course, the Nobel Committee will never confirm or deny the name of any nominee, so the public still has to wait 50 years for the official release of nominee names. This year’s Nobel Peace Prize nominee rumour mill is predicting a record year for number of nominations.

Anyhow, the nominees are whittled by the Nobel Committee to a short list, which is vetted by advisory boards and by Nobel Committee staff, with their opinions about the short-listed nominees further hashed out by the committee until it finally comes up with a winner by early October. And, for the record, nominees are not always just individuals, as the annual award has been given to co-winners as well as to organizations. Oh, and the winners, as well as purported nominees, are often considered controversial, with Barack Obama’s win in 2009 prior to his first full year in office as U.S. President, being among the most recent controversial wins.

With the deadline coming to a close, lips have already started to loosen and those reportedly in the know are passing on the apparent nominees to the press. Among the more controversial names we’ve heard is “The Donald.” Yep, a U.S. nominator has reportedly proposed the U.S. Republican front-runner Donald Trump for his “vigorous peace through strength ideology.” However, the source of this leaked nomination did not give The Donald any chance of winning.

The negotiators—U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Iranian Atomic Energy Organization Chief Ali Akbar Salehi—who came up with the Iran Nuclear deal are also reportedly on the nominee list. While many people around the world might agree that they are deserving, there are certainly those on the right-end of the political spectrum in the U.S. who would disagree.

But perhaps the most controversial nominee would be Edward Snowden, the former U.S. National Security Agency contractor who spilled the beans on the U.S. government’s massive global surveillance program. Controversial because the public at-large cannot agree on whether he’s a hero, a whistleblower, a dissident, a patriot or a traitor. While some people consider him a hero and would applaud his Nobel Peace Prize win, others, including former CIA director James Woolsey, think he should be hanged for treason. The nominators of Snowden for the Peace Prize, said his whistleblowing has “contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order.”

Whatever one might believe about Snowden, currently living under political asylum in Russia, there is little doubt that his actions mark the biggest leak of U.S. government top-secret documents since the 1971 leak of the Pentagon Papers, and that information in those documents has given the government a black eye. Among the revelations from the leak is that the U.S. conducts extensive spying on its own allies, that it engages in non-national security-related industrial espionage, and spies on its own citizens with impunity and contrary to federal law.

The leaks also suggest that high-ranking CIA and NSA officials consistently lie to Congress when queried about their activities. Meanwhile, these same officials claim that Snowden’s leaks have significantly harmed America’s international intelligence gathering efforts and allowed terrorists to circumvent detection.

Thus, Snowden is a polarizing figure. He’s either a patriot for exposing government transgressions, or a traitor for harming national security. If you’re of the “my government right-or-wrong” ilk then you undoubtedly believe Snowden is the latter. If you’re more circumspect in your views then it’s more complicated, and almost like he could be both traitor and hero. And, if you believe the NSA and CIA are akin to “Spectre,” then Snowden would obviously be a hero and deserving the Nobel due to his efforts in curtailing their insidious cyber-belligerence.

What to believe? What to believe?

Hash-It-Out! Does Snowden deserve the Nobel Peace Prize?

—Published in hashitout.com on Feb. 2.