So this is not what vegetarians who aren’t vegans with a concern for animal welfare want to hear. I thought I was in the ethical clear insofar as I avoid those caged eggs in crap packaging – which also taste inferior – and always pay extra for free range. Turns out there is good reason to think “not caged”, “free range” and so on are far from guarantees that chickens are roaming freely and being treated well. The food industry appears to twist the meaning of these terms and ensure the bare minimum is done to meet the requirements. A little access to the outdoors and the absence of a cage is sufficient to merit the labels, even if overcrowding ensures the inhumanity persists. I need to look into this a little more. I’m sure there will be simple ways to get better eggs that are worth taking.
The New Yorker has a report this week which is sadly pay-walled and should be made public as a civic gesture. I’ve always thought that the taboo surrounding transgender people is the final frontier in the liberal search for sexual tolerance. It’s clear that transgender people lack the social status, equal recognition and warm embracement now fortunately so often extended to our gay brothers and sisters. Part of this must be about the critical mass necessary for any successful social movement, but maybe there’s more to it. Either way, jokes about this human phenomenon, and awkward gut reactions to it, are evidently still far too common.
Which is why this report is so inspiring, in several ways. First, the sheer fact that a family and community exists in which Skylar, the female-to-male transgender teen which the report focuses on, can live without victimisation and exclusion is a surprise but also a relief. Perhaps exposure to such people does suffice to alter wider attitudes. In fact, I guess I have anecdotal evidence to support this. A similar situation has arisen with regards to a student at my sister’s school. There are no signs of bullying. It seems fair to assume, though, that in more religious circles such problems will arise.
Second, Skylar himself seems awesome in his maturity and altruism. We’re told that he intentionally picked the type of mastectomy which leaves scars, so his identity will remain proudly visible. This fits his broader behaviour, which involves talking to journalists, doctors and fellow children and teens experiencing such identity issues so that he does his bit to soften the stigmas and make the cultural climate more hospitable. These are the motives of a sixteen year old. You should be starting to see why his story is worth hearing.
A couple of moral issues the report raises. Many doctors are apparently reluctant to perform surgery and begin hormonal treatment on teens before they are adults, given the fluidity of gender at a young age and the possibility that irreversible changes will later be regretted. That strikes me as a legitimate concern. It is apparently common for homosexual children in particular to handle their same sex attractions sometimes by viewing themselves in this way. The report tells us of children under ten reconfiguring their identities and announcing they no longer wish to be understood in terms of their biological sex as early as primary school. This is definitely a delicate area. The best option appears to be drugs which delay puberty. They buy time for such teens to contemplate how they wish their future physiological development to unfold.
Second, there’s the question of what the law should say about sex and marriage obtained through deception here. That is, what if a transgender person who has been operated upon engages sexually or romantically with another person, whose interest is conditional upon believing the man in front of them is biologically naturally a woman, or vice versa? If Skylar is typical insofar as he doesn’t wish to hide his situation and become ‘normalised’, this problem will be rare. But it will arise. And I’m really torn here. On the one hand, given current social attitudes and preferences, I understand the thought that the only way a transgender person’s pool of potential partners isn’t going to be vastly diminished is if they aren’t vocal about their situation. On the other, this looks like information one can legitimately expect to know about your significant other, for a whole host of possible reasons that should be easy to envision.
Most countries have provisions for consent through deception counting as an instance of rape. Would a transgender person who has been operated upon, does not disclose their identity and has sex with someone else break the law? Should they be counted as breaking the law? This seems like a messy moral area that could really do with some work.
“To me, life without veal stock, pork fat, sausage, organ meat, demi-glace, or even stinky cheese is a life not worth living.” -A. Bourdain
— HuffPost Taste (@HuffPostTaste) March 13, 2013
By the way – I think I discovered the ultimate vegetarian dish last night. The prep work is insanely lengthy, as is the cooking time, but letting vegetables stew and slowly bake to make soft and sweet ratatouille is really the way to go. This one was, of course, from Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The recipe and instructions are online here. It was just marvellous. Courgette, aubergine, butternut squash, peppers, parsnips, potatoes and much more create some wonderful mixtures of taste and colour. Just serve it with basmati rice and try it.
The Swan reports that legal proceedings have been halted between Shannon and St Hugh’s after an offer from the latter to negotiate an out of court agreement. Since the mainstream media seems to have either lost interest or missed this development, I thought it was worth flagging. Damien sent me The Swan’s piece, so I can confirm that it’s accurate.
I eagerly await news of whether these discussions reap rewards. For Damien’s sake, I hope they do. I also hope any offer he receives is explicitly precedent-setting and opens the door to policy review and reform. First, so that this injustice doesn’t befall any future applicants. Second, so that Damien doesn’t face any unnecessary personal dilemma of conscience.
Fortunately, an ad hoc, isolated offer in breach of requirements that will nevertheless continue seems quite unlikely. But I also would have thought that Oxford, inevitably suffering from an image problem when stories like these develop, would avoid paying a QC to make their case when Damien is presenting himself in court. The contrast was offensively stark. But we will see. I’ll post as soon as I hear anything else.
[There are] no cost-free, risk-free ways of finding such huge sums of money [for investment]. Not at a time when Labour left the cupboard bare and we still have the second highest deficit in Europe, behind only Greece.
That’s Conservative party rhetoric, but it’s straight from the mouth of Nick Clegg. He gives off the appearance of still being wholly under the austerity delusion. So the job of tugging government in the right direction is left to the lower Liberals like Cable. But insofar as Clegg and Danny Alexander speak and act as if they swapped seats in Parliament, what’s the point right now in seeing this as a fruitful coalition built on conflict? On fiscal policy, the unity is clear and complete.
It seems that in conceding that the national economic debate was lost and that the coalition’s philosophy was here for good, I may have joined many in being too pessimistic too soon. Cameron and Osborne are not for turning, but it may not be up to them much longer. It looks increasingly possible that a mood is developing which could finally facilitate the axing of austerity. A coup could be in the works.
First, the public seems to have finally shaken off the silly notion that this pain they are suffering is essential, courageous medicine. As of today, a poll indicates only one in five still back this futile self-flagellation. In contrast, three in five believe that austerity is causing harm. Even Conservative voters are split fifty-fifty. Many more polls like this and Westminster will start taking note.
Meanwhile, Cable is growing bolder in his blatant opposition to current fiscal policy. His fellow Cabinet ministers, even on the Conservative side, are losing discipline and opposing cuts contrary to their own departmental interests. The triple A downgrade still lingers in the memory. Theresa May, it seems, is already slowly sowing the seeds for a future leadership bid. And as The Guardian reported last Saturday, UKIP’s emergence in the Eastleigh by-election is creating anxious bums on the Tory backbenches. It would take only 15% of the Conservative parliamentary party to force a leadership contest and make this government self-implode.
When you add to that the embarrassment of the OBR publicly rebuking Cameron’s lie late last week, insisting that they do and always did grant that austerity harms growth, you can start to share my hunch that there are green shoots to be grabbed here.
Who knows what the fallout would look like if they were grabbed. The coalition has in principle locked itself in for a five year term, but if the PM is ousted it’s hard to imagine a new regime lasting two years. And yet both coalition parties will, clearly, have a strong interest in avoiding a return to the polls any time soon. Both could get ready for a beating.
But it’s not like the alternative is any better. Economic sense has finally infected the electorate. It seems inevitable now that it will have to seep up to Downing Street at some point.
(Graph via Krugman).
A friend sent me this. There’s not much to say, really. Just watch.