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The Women’s March On Montpelier

An estimated 15-20 thousand people descended on Montpelier, VT to march on the Vermont State House on the 21st of January, 2017, to rally for women’s rights, gender equality, and LGBTQ rights in opposition to the vapid and vile rhetoric of Donald Trump, his supporters, and his presidency. I was there with one fist in the air and a camera in my other.

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A Response To ‘On Discovery’ by Maxine Hong Kingston

   On Discovery detailed a forceful and brutal transformation from man to woman in an older Chinese style. In this piece, an over-confident male explorer discovers the Land of Women. He is captured by the women, imprisoned, and subjected to physical modifications to become a woman. Over time, he accepts this change and it becomes his gender identity. Through this short tale, author Maxine Hong Kingston is relating how gender is developed over time into one’s identity, and representing a way in which oppression has been used to maintain a gender power dynamic.

[Read more @ PensiveWaters.com]

The 100 Day Decline: Trump’s Plans

In November, NPR published an article outlining Donald Trump’s initial plans for his first 100 days in office. A few things stuck out to me.

oompa

 

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Straight Pride, White Pride

I have long expounded the point that pride in something that is an accident of birth (nation, state, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, hair color, anatomical attributes, and so on) is ridiculous. I love that I am a straight white cis-male American from the northeast and I love my anatomy, my ethnic heritage, and myself, but I don’t take pride in any of those things. I take pride in my accomplishments, the struggles I’ve overcome, things I’ve created, skills I’ve developed, and knowledge I’ve acquired.

[Read More at PensiveWaters.com]

 

[PensiveWaters] I Am White, Hear Me Bore

I am white. My ancestry is Germanic, French Norman, Irish, and Italian (with a hint of Algonquin). Though the Irish were not considered white until fairly recently, there’s no question my pasty-hued kin are as white as it gets. It’s worth noting as well that Italians also were not considered white until recently[4]. The very infirm definition of the term ‘white’, in regards to race, alone proves its ineptitude at classification. Despite that, I am unquestionably a modern white male.

[Read more @ PensiveWaters.com]

[PensiveWaters] Right Is Another Word For Privilege

There is no such thing as a universal right, in any inherent sense. There is no right to anything in the workings of the universe. It is simply cause and effect. Every right we have is a mutually agreed upon (I use that loosely) privilege. We define rights. We define a right as a contrast against a wrong which we seek to prevent by establishing tenets. While Thomas Jefferson was well-intentioned in the Declaration of Independence when he wrote, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” he was inherently incorrect on one point: people are not endowed by any natural force (which I think is a rather good secular interpretation of a loaded religious term like “Creator” in a public document) with any unalienable rights. We, the people, bestow those privileges which we have decided are ethically affordable to each person.

[Read more @ PensiveWaters.com]

A Response To The Open Letter To Gov. Shumlin

Yesterday, I received a response to my Open Letter To Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin. It’s worded like a form response, which makes me think the impression I got of this program was not unique. So, what do you think? News failure or flip flop from response?

Governor Peter Shumlin <governorvt@state.vt.us>

Dear Scott,

Thank you for sharing your concerns and for your support. The new initiative is just one avenue we are pursuing for job growth, and it is targeted at both in state and out of state individuals. In fact, we are using our college and professional networks to advertise it, as well as our tourism and marketing campaign. The press release for this initiative made clear it was meant for both in state and out of staters who are job seeking, though I recognize news stories did not make that clear. The website promoted is our Department of Labor new job search tool. I will be aware of your concerns going forward and work to make this point clear.

When I became Governor, I made it my priority to grow our economy and create well-paying job opportunities for Vermonters. Please be assured, I have not given up on this effort. I have fought for a number of initiatives, such as including expanding broadband and cellular infrastructure, investing in renewable energy and green technology, focusing on education and training, and supporting small businesses.

As Vermont is quickly becoming home to one of the most dynamic work environments in the country, it has never been more important to provide quality and affordable higher education opportunities for Vermont students. This is why I worked with the legislature this spring and passed the Vermont Strong Scholars program during this past legislative session. Under this program, any Vermont student who attends one of our colleges or university and takes a job in Vermont in a designated, growing field, will be reimbursed for his or her final year of tuition if he or she receives a bachelor’s degree, or his or her final semester if he or she receives an associate’s degree. Not only will this program make it easier for Vermonters to go to college, but will make it advantageous to remain in the state they love and contribute to our economy where we need them the most. Both this initiative and the flexible pathways education initiative last year will benefit Vermonters and help career readiness.

The Great Jobs in Vermont website is a great resource that can connect people with the jobs that are being created here every day. This website is geared towards those interested in having and keeping the high quality of life that comes with living in Vermont, and I urge all Vermonters who wish to work in Vermont to utilize its services. As mentioned above, it is one of the avenues we are using to promote the Department of Labor’s job search engine, which we rely on statewide for employment outreach.

Thanks again for reaching out to me. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if my office can be of assistance in the future.

Sincerely,

Peter Shumlin
Governor
109 State Street, Pavilion
Montpelier, Vermont 05609
802-828-3333

A Child Needs A Mother And A Father

This piece originally appeared on now-defunct news and column website LezGetReal.

A child needs a mother and a father. Children with a mother and a father statistically do better in life. This is the Conservative mantra on social family issues and it is irrefutably backed up by the data. It’s completely correct, as well. However, Conservative political groups fail to point out one key piece of how they’re presenting this information: mother and father are roles, not genders…

The core of these roles are a push and a pull. They build confidence and a sense of being loved. The mother pulls the child in, nurtures, protects the child, and coddles the child. The mother says, “No, that’s dangerous.” The father pushes the child out, toughens the child up, throws it into the world. The father says, “Oh, s/he’ll be fine.” Through this constant push and pull, the child grows up feeling cared for and confident to jump into life. Two men, two women, and every pairing in the beautiful spectrum between can embody these roles, even dividing the various aspects however works for them. The roles are the key to this dynamic of parenting, not the genders of the parents.

This is not to say that a single parent (which I am) cannot successfully raise a child on their lonesome. This is not to disparage people who were raised by one parent. A model system is not an only choice. Myself, I try my best to mix both elements of push and pull and to provide an example of both types of social interaction that my child will absorb and process in his way. This is merely to point out how Social Conservatives, when they bother to actually use data, twist evidence to suit their ideology. So, the next time an ideologue tells you that a child needs a mother and father, you can simultaneously agree and disagree, pointing out that their use of the evidence is simply a shallow skimming of the truth behind the complex dynamics of effective parenting.

An Open Letter To VT Gov. Peter Shumlin

Dear Governor Peter Shumlin,

I’ve lived in this beautiful state my entire life. I was born at Rutland Hospital (before it was re-dubbed RRMC). I attended Rutland schools (Dana Elementary, Northeast Elementary, Rutland Junior High School, and my class was the first to attend all four years at the new RHS). Aside from two years in Burlington, I’ve been here my whole life. I remember when the hard drugs swept through. I watched this city slide, its shine dampening in a faltering economy. I am one of the people fighting to bring it back. I haven’t given up hope and I chide those who slight it. But it is so hard to do that when good paying jobs flutter away in this employer’s market. I am not a social parasite nor a career welfare recipient. I want to go to work, earn my keep, and support my son.

We live in a beautiful state. All I see on social media are people complaining about taxes, the cost of living, “librull dems”, and so on. Yeah, the cost of living is high. Rents feel much higher than elsewhere. Yes, we sometimes have trouble attracting business because we tax them and insist on not allowing them to screw up our land. I think that’s a worthy trade off, considering the state of the land in more industry-friendly places. I have no qualms going to bat for Vermont to defend those policies. People who do not like that can go somewhere less ecologically sound. Vermont has a character we can be proud of.

I am not typically one to join in the mindless “omg shummy ruining vermont omg derp librulls derp” comment bandwagon often seen on social media. I’ve even gone so far as to mock them using the ‘ThanksObama’ meme as #thanksshummy. In fact, despite a couple differences of opinion (really? The GMO labeling bill? Way to make Vermont look like science-ignorant bandwagon jumpers-on… but whatever), I’ve consistently voted for and defended you. But seriously, this call for out of state workers is completely the wrong thing to do. How about spending some focus on getting local workers up to the needed skill levels? We aren’t short on people looking for work! We aren’t short on skilled workers. We aren’t short on people who could become those needed workers. I’ve been in web and IT for 15 years, but right now I’m a minimum wage employee delivering meals to seniors, barely scraping by as a single parent of a special needs child on 3squaresVT, Medicaid, and subsidized housing. I understand we have a population loss problem, but perhaps it would be better to address why young people leave rather than cull from the outside. When I think about people from out of state having a direct line advantage over me to jobs I may be qualified for, not only does it boil my blood but it breaks my spirit. It truly breaks my spirit and my heart to fight for this state and have it discard me for someone elsewhere.

I ask you, I implore you, Gov. Shumlin, do not give up on Vermonters. We deserve better than that. We deserve a chance.

A Rational Argument for Legalizing Prostitution

This piece originally appeared on the now-defunct news and opinion website LezGetReal.

The answer to eliminating the negative activities we commonly link to Prostitution is legalization and regulation. When transformed into a legal industry, problems such as sex slavery, human trafficking, related assaults, and pimp abuse will decline sharply. These harmful occurrences associated with Prostitution are products of the industry being entirely within the realm of organized crime and black market influences, not inherent to the work itself. To solve the problems associated with Prostitution, we must legalize Prostitution.

Human trafficking, sex slavery, and abuse are horrific things. Because of this reality, the question keeps being posed: “How do we stop Prostitution?” The question is invalid. Even asking this falsely assumes prostitution is immutably linked to human trafficking and sex slavery. The question misses the point entirely. What we really should be asking is how do we stop human trafficking and sex slavery? The answer is blindingly simple: legalize prostitution.

When you create legitimate, above board business in a market rife with underground drawbacks, the risk-benefit ratio of the consumer puts the less-than-above board businesses out of business. All purchasing decisions are made on a function of: “I want this thing, but it will cost this much of my resources and present these risks. Is it worth it?” The options are weighed and a buying decision is made. With no legal options, the person looking to pay for sex has only black market choices. The black market conducts its business the way it does because it can. As a legal industry, prostitution will benefit from health care, legal protections, worker unions, and a change in the control dynamic. An entire new sector of tax revenue will emerge in an estimated 14.6 billion dollar1 industry. Suddenly, sex workers will benefit from more than adequate health care, protection from abusive bosses and customers, and gain the ability to be selective of clientele. The flood of money away from the black market and into a regulated environment will defund operations that cater to human trafficking, forced, and underage business. If a safe and legal alternative is provided, the appeal of the black market drops away and its business withers.

Workers in a black market industry, like prostitution, benefit from no health care or legal protections. One can imagine that health care is something crucial to workers in the sex industry. Legalizing and regulating prostitution will, as with any other industry, bring it into the light of modern health & safety regulations including: regular check ups, regular disease screening, and vaccination. Making this a legit industry would benefit the workers immeasurably.

Prohibition always fails. Look at marijuana prohibition, alcohol prohibition, and even internet piracy. Sandvine recently released an extensive study2 showing how bit torrent traffic plummets in an area when Netflix makes their streaming service available in that area. How many people die from running moonshine now? The vast majority of people will almost always patronize a venue which provides safe and legal products and services for which there is a demand when that safe and legal option exists. This is why prohibition will always fail. Alcohol prohibition had no success in curbing alcohol consumption. Marijuana use is at its highest. Internet piracy thrives where content is not available to purchase legally.When you have demand, attempting to make a market illegal will not curb that market, but simply drive it underground. Provide a legal means of obtaining a service or good and the consumer will take that less risky route. Make prostitution legal and sex slavery will quickly evaporate.