San Francisco Approves Genderless ID Cards

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The Skinny is Keach Hagey's take on the top news of the day and the best of the Internet.


Whose business is it anyway what you've got under that skirt? Not the city of San Francisco's, municipal leaders agreed this week.

USA Today reports that the city's Board of Supervisors agreed yesterday to issue municipal ID cards next year showing name, birth date and photo - but not gender.

San Francisco took up the matter just as many cities around the nation are considering issuing ID cards without regard to legal status, as part of the debate about illegal immigration. Then the city's transgender advocates added gender to a discussion.

They argued that legally changing a name and gender designation can be time-consuming and expensive, and that IDs that don't match appearance could out people and make them vulnerable to discrimination or abuse.

"The card really makes gender a non-issue," says Kristina Wertz, legal director of the Transgender Law Center in San Francisco.

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign the measure into law in the next 10 days, his spokesman said.

Not everyone is thrilled. Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council, a conservative advocacy group, says he's concerned that use of the cards will encourage the idea that gender identity is flexible.

"It gives support to the philosophy that says gender is a social construct," Sprigg says. "I think that philosophy is harmful to society at large."

The Odd Couple

Maybe it was just me, but I always thought there was something of a teeth-gritting grimace in John Edwards' megasmile during his stint as the 2004 vice presidential candidate.

The New York Times reports this morning that the grimace wasn't the half of it: Edwards and running mate John Kerry had a tense and awkward partnership at best. And Kerry's people were more than a little disgusted by the way Edwards seemed to keep his eyes on the 2008 prize the whole way through the ordeal.

In one particularly telling example, a Democratic party official recalls seeing Edwards' staffers wearing "Edwards for President" pins at a fundraiser when they were working for the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

Kerry loyalists complain of his unwillingness to play the traditional role of the vice presidential candidate: mud-slinging attack dog. Edwards refused to go negative in his stumping, even after the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth began battering the Kerry-Edwards campaign with damaging questions about Kerry's war record. The campaign was widely criticized for not fighting back harder.

Now that Edwards seems to have gotten a taste for blood, campaigning as one of the current race's most combative contenders, Kerry loyalists wonder why he didn't have that fighting spirit the first time around. Edwards says it's just part of his maturation as a person.

"I believe that presidential candidates actually have a responsibility to point out substantive differences, to point out perspectives that are different," Edwards said in an interview. "I'm totally comfortable doing it."

One thing's for sure: Edwards seemed to have a superior instinct for campaign strategy than his 2004 running mate. He warned Kerry not to go windsurfing, and Kerry ignored him. The images of the wetsuited senator then popped up in embarrassing "whichever way the wind blows" advertisements mocking Kerry's statements on the war.

Sweet Potatoes Want To Be More Than Just Marshmallow Holders

As you scoop up your annual serving of gooey, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes tomorrow, the sweet potato industry wants you to consider this: where were you the rest of the year?

The Wall Street Journal reports that sweet potato growers have been struggling for years with the fact that "while the sweet potato is treated like culinary royalty this time of year, once the holidays are over, it might as well be a turnip."

About 75 percent of canned sweet-potato sales come between Thanksgiving and New Year's, and 40 percent of the fresh crop is shipped during the last quarter of the year. Since 1970, annual per capital consumption of turkey has more than doubled, and cranberries are up tenfold, but the sweet potato has bumbled through the same four pounds a year. That's trailing celery and nowhere near its 1920 levels, when per capita sweet potato consumption peaked at 29.5 pounds.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. Lloyd Price, a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame known for his "Lawdy Miss Clawdy" hit which topped the rhythm and blues charts for seven weeks in 1952, uses the name of his fictional temptress as the brand name for his personal effort to boost sweet potato consumption.

His company, Lloyd Price Icon Food Brands Inc., boast 16 sweet-potato products in its Miss Clawdy line, including pies, pretzels, muffins and a frozen sweet potato cheesecake on a stick. Wal-Mart stores in the South are now selling his sweet potato cookies.

"It's going to do things," said Price, 74. "It's going to bring attention back to the sweet potato."

What brought attention to it in the first place is a little bit embarrassing, it turns out. Researches say the root vegetable cemented its standing in the traditional Thanksgiving feast early in the 20th century, when recipes started pairing sweet potatoes with a sweet, packaged product that's still a favorite of late-November cuisine.

According to Rick Rodgers, author of a book on Thanksgiving, "It was definitely the marshmallows."

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  • Keach Hagey

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