Obamacare Opens Doors for Trans People, But Hurdles Still Exist

From The Advocate: http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/08/26/watch-obamacare-opens-doors-trans-people-hurdles-still-exist

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, transgender people like Devin Payne are able to obtain the health coverage they need. But obstacles to treatment endure.

BY Anna Gorman Kaiser Health News
August 26 2014

Devin Payne had gone years without health insurance — having little need and not much money to pay for it.

Then Payne realized she’s transgender. In her early 40s, she changed her name, began wearing long skirts, grew out her sandy blond hair and started taking hormones.

Although not all trans women get gender reassignment surgery, Payne said it was the right next step for her. For that, Payne, who is now 44, said she needed health coverage. “It is not a simple, easy, magical surgery,” said Payne, a photographer who lives in Palm Springs. “Trying to do this without insurance is a big risk. Things can go wrong … not having the money to pay for it would be awful.”

Payne learned in the fall that she might qualify for subsidies through the state’s new insurance marketplace, Covered California, because her income fell under the limit of $46,000 a year. She eagerly signed up in March for a Blue Shield plan for about $230 a month and began making preparations for the surgery that would change her life.

A “Preexisting Condition”

Among the less-talked-about implications of the Affordable Care Act is the relief it is providing to transgender people, many of whom are low-income and who have struggled to obtain health coverage.

Getting jobs that offer insurance often has been difficult for transgender people, and the cost of purchasing plans on the private market can be prohibitive. Some have been denied policies altogether after being diagnosed with “gender identity disorder,” often considered a preexisting condition.

Without insurance, many people were unable to afford the hormones, surgeries, and counseling needed to complete their transition. Nor would they have been covered in the event of complications.

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/08/26/watch-obamacare-opens-doors-trans-people-hurdles-still-exist

Cornel West: “He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency”

From Salon: http://www.salon.com/2014/08/24/cornel_west_he_posed_as_a_progressive_and_turned_out_to_be_counterfeit_we_ended_up_with_a_wall_street_presidency_a_drone_presidency/

Exclusive: Cornel West talks Ferguson, Hillary, MSNBC — and unloads on the failed promise of Barack Obama


Sunday, Aug 24, 2014

Cornel West is a professor at Union Theological Seminary and one of my favorite public intellectuals, a man who deals in penetrating analyses of current events, expressed in a pithy and highly quotable way.

I first met him nearly six years ago, while the financial crisis and the presidential election were both under way, and I was much impressed by what he had to say. I got back in touch with him last week, to see how he assesses the nation’s progress since then.

The conversation ranged from Washington, D.C., to Ferguson, Missouri, and although the picture of the nation was sometimes bleak, our talk ended on a surprising note.

Last time we talked it was almost six years ago. It was a panel discussion The New Yorker magazine had set up, it was in the fall of 2008, so it was while the financial crisis was happening, while it was actually in progress. The economy was crumbling and everybody was panicking. I remember you  speaking about the financial crisis in a way that I thought made sense. There was a lot of confusion at the time. People didn’t know where to turn or what was going on. 

I also remember, and this is just me I’m talking about, being impressed by Barack Obama who was running for president at the time. I don’t know if you and I talked about him on that occasion. But at the time, I sometimes thought that he looked like he had what this country needed.

So that’s my first question, it’s a lot of ground to cover but how do you feel things have worked out since then, both with the economy and with this president? That was a huge turning point, that moment in 2008, and my own feeling is that we didn’t turn.

No, the thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2014/08/24/cornel_west_he_posed_as_a_progressive_and_turned_out_to_be_counterfeit_we_ended_up_with_a_wall_street_presidency_a_drone_presidency/

The Coming Race War Won’t Be About Race

From Time: http://time.com/3132635/ferguson-coming-race-war-class-warfare/

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
Aug. 17, 2014

Ferguson is not just about systemic racism — it’s about class warfare and how America’s poor are held back, says Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Will the recent rioting in Ferguson, Missouri, be a tipping point in the struggle against racial injustice, or will it be a minor footnote in some future grad student’s thesis on Civil Unrest in the Early Twenty-First Century?

The answer can be found in May of 1970.

You probably have heard of the Kent State shootings: on May 4, 1970, the Ohio National Guard opened fire on student protesters at Kent State University. During those 13 seconds of gunfire, four students were killed and nine were wounded, one of whom was permanently paralyzed. The shock and outcry resulted in a nationwide strike of 4 million students that closed more than 450 campuses. Five days after the shooting, 100,000 protestors gathered in Washington, D.C. And the nation’s youth was energetically mobilized to end the Vietnam War, racism, sexism, and mindless faith in the political establishment.

You probably haven’t heard of the Jackson State shootings.

On May 14th, 10 days after Kent State ignited the nation, at the predominantly black Jackson State University in Mississippi, police killed two black students (one a high school senior, the other the father of an 18-month-old baby) with shotguns and wounded twelve others.

There was no national outcry. The nation was not mobilized to do anything. That heartless leviathan we call History swallowed that event whole, erasing it from the national memory.

And, unless we want the Ferguson atrocity to also be swallowed and become nothing more than an intestinal irritant to history, we have to address the situation not just as another act of systemic racism, but as what else it is: class warfare.

By focusing on just the racial aspect, the discussion becomes about whether Michael Brown’s death—or that of the other three unarmed black men who were killed by police in the U.S. within that month—is about discrimination or about police justification. Then we’ll argue about whether there isn’t just as much black-against-white racism in the U.S. as there is white-against-black. (Yes, there is. But, in general, white-against-black economically impacts the future of the black community. Black-against-white has almost no measurable social impact.)

Continue reading at:  http://time.com/3132635/ferguson-coming-race-war-class-warfare/

Shocking Picture of What Life Will Look Like When You Can’t Afford to Retire

From Alternet: http://www.alternet.org/economy/shocking-picture-what-life-will-look-when-you-cant-afford-retire

Will you be ready for the life of a nomad, permanently in search of temporary work?

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
August 25, 2014

In a must-read article in the current issue of Harper’s magazine, journalist Jessica Bruder, adjunct professor at Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, adds a new phrase to America’s vocabulary: “Elderly migrant worker.” She documents a growing trend of older Americans for whom the reality of unaffordable housing and scarcity of work has driven them from their homes and onto the road in search of seasonal and temporary employment across the country. Packed into RVs, detached from their communities, these “Okies” of the Great Recession put in time at Amazon warehouses, farms and amusement parks, popping free over-the-counter pain reliever to mask the agony of strained muscles and sore backs. And when they can’t hold up any longer? The RV sometimes becomes a coffin.

Since the financial crisis ripped the security out from under millions of people, the bulk of our politicians, including President Obama, actually tried to reduce, rather than increase, Social Security. The absence of pensions, along with the inadequacy of 401(k)s, skyrocketing healthcare and job insecurity and unemployment, are sending more and more people scrambling to figure out a way to keep body and soul together. Even grandparents are joining the ranks of those for whom life has become a game of Survivor. In an email interview, I asked Bruder about this alarming trend and what it means for the country, now and in the future.

Lynn Parramore: In your recent article in Harper’s, you describe a trend of downwardly mobile elderly folks traveling the country in RVs in search of temporary and seasonal work. How many people are we talking about? How fast has this trend been emerging?

Jessica Bruder: Though no one keeps an official tally of how many older Americans are doing this kind of work, their ranks appear to be growing rapidly in the wake of the housing bust and market crashes.

Amazon first hired a handful of migrant full-time RVers in 2008 through a program the company later named “CamperForce.” As of 2014, it had expanded to employ some 2,000 workers, according to a recruiter I met in Quartzsite, Arizona. The American Crystal Sugar Company taps the same labor pool each fall to staff its annual sugar beet harvest, and their recruitment numbers are up, too. This year, they’re hoping to recruit 600 ” workampers,” up from 450 the year before.

LP: What’s the gender breakdown among these traveling workers? What kinds of work are men and women doing?

JB: I was impressed by how many older, single women I met among the working nomads, from a tarot reader living in a former convict labor van she’d transformed into a roving gypsy boudoir, to an ex-medical technician who managed to fit her whole life—along with a Shih-Tzu, a lovebird and a loquacious African Grey parrot—into a 10.5-foot Carson Kalispell sport trailer.

The gender breakdown was roughly even. Employers don’t discriminate when doling out hard or dirty work, whether it’s scrubbing campsite toilets or walking 15 miles a day on a concrete warehouse floor to pack Amazon’s holiday orders.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/shocking-picture-what-life-will-look-when-you-cant-afford-retire

Michfest Has a Few Demands Of Its Own

From The Advocate: http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/08/19/michfest-has-few-demands-its-own

With another festival come and gone, Michfest founder and organizer Lisa Vogel laid out a list of ‘demands’ she’d like her critics to meet.

BY Parker Marie Molloy
August 19 2014

Yesterday, Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival organizer Lisa Vogel issued a statement about the festival — which just wrapped up its 39th year — and the ongoing controversy around its “intention” that the festival cater solely to “Womyn Born Womyn.”

In the weeks before this year’s festival, a number of high-profile LGBT advocacy groups — including Equality Michigan, GLAAD, the Human Rights Campaign, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, and National Center for Lesbian Rights — called on the festival to put an end to the “Womyn Born Womyn” intention.

Vogel’s statement, emailed to supporters Monday with the subject line, “We Have a Few Demands of Our Own,” lays out five requests organizers would like to see the festival’s critics follow. Asking critics to “Get your facts straight,” Vogel delves into the semantics of the word “transphobic.”

“We do not fear their presence among us, a false claim repeatedly made,” Vogel writes. “What we resist — and what we will never stop fighting — is the continued erasure and disrespect for the specific experience of being born and living as female in a patriarchal, misogynist world.” Later, she adds, “It is not the inclusion of trans womyn at Festival that we resist; it is the erasure of the specificity of female experience in the discussion of about the space itself that stifles progress in this conversation.”

Her second bulletpoint is an ask that critics “acknowledge the validity of autonomous, female-defined space.” Here Vogel clarifies that straight and bisexual women are welcome at the festival, so long as they understand the the festival is centered around “a community defined by lesbian culture.” Later, she refers to the event’s focus as being “on the experience of those born female, who’ve lived their lives subjected to oppression based on the sole fact of their being female.” Although it doesn’t explicitly mention trans women, this statement rests on the premise that trans women have not always been female, and therefore cannot share an understanding and experience of womanhood with cisgender (nontrans) women.

Later in that section, Vogel laments efforts of organizations like the New York Abortion Access Fund to employ language inclusive of trans men and non-binary individuals assigned female at birth who may carry and bear children, arguing that this type of push is “pressure for erasure of a specifically female reality,” highlighting discomfort with “unofficial Michfest anthem,” “Pussy Manifesto.”

Vogel’s third request asks critics to “acknowledge that Michfest creates spaces that do not exist elsewhere.” In this section, Vogel highlights the welcoming, familial experiences offered by the festival to those for whom it is intended. Perhaps unintentionally, highlighting the uniqueness of the festival’s existence also highlights how it is also one of the only remaining women’s music festivals at which trans women are told they are not particularly welcome.

Continue reading at:  http://www.advocate.com/politics/transgender/2014/08/19/michfest-has-few-demands-its-own

The Ties That Bind Us

From Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kelsie-brynn-jones/the-ties-that-bind-us_1_b_5692983.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

Sick of this market-driven world? You should be

From The Guardian UK: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/neoliberalism-mental-health-rich-poverty-economy

The self-serving con of neoliberalism is that it has eroded the human values the market was supposed to emancipate

• Leo Panitch: Responsible capitalism is nonsense


The Guardian, Tuesday 5 August 2014

To be at peace with a troubled world: this is not a reasonable aim. It can be achieved only through a disavowal of what surrounds you. To be at peace with yourself within a troubled world: that, by contrast, is an honourable aspiration. This column is for those who feel at odds with life. It calls on you not to be ashamed.

I was prompted to write it by a remarkable book, just published in English, by a Belgian professor of psychoanalysis, Paul Verhaeghe. What About Me? The Struggle for Identity in a Market-Based Society is one of those books that, by making connections between apparently distinct phenomena, permits sudden new insights into what is happening to us and why.

We are social animals, Verhaeghe argues, and our identities are shaped by the norms and values we absorb from other people. Every society defines and shapes its own normality – and its own abnormality – according to dominant narratives, and seeks either to make people comply or to exclude them if they don’t.

Today the dominant narrative is that of market fundamentalism, widely known in Europe as neoliberalism. The story it tells is that the market can resolve almost all social, economic and political problems. The less the state regulates and taxes us, the better off we will be. Public services should be privatised, public spending should be cut, and business should be freed from social control. In countries such as the UK and the US, this story has shaped our norms and values for around 35 years: since Thatcher and Reagan came to power. It is rapidly colonising the rest of the world.

Verhaeghe points out that neoliberalism draws on the ancient Greek idea that our ethics are innate (and governed by a state of nature it calls the market) and on the Christian idea that humankind is inherently selfish and acquisitive. Rather than seeking to suppress these characteristics, neoliberalism celebrates them: it claims that unrestricted competition, driven by self-interest, leads to innovation and economic growth, enhancing the welfare of all.

At the heart of this story is the notion of merit. Untrammelled competition rewards people who have talent, work hard, and innovate. It breaks down hierarchies and creates a world of opportunity and mobility.

The reality is rather different. Even at the beginning of the process, when markets are first deregulated, we do not start with equal opportunities. Some people are a long way down the track before the starting gun is fired. This is how the Russian oligarchs managed to acquire such wealth when the Soviet Union broke up. They weren’t, on the whole, the most talented, hardworking or innovative people, but those with the fewest scruples, the most thugs, and the best contacts – often in the KGB.

Continue reading at:  http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/05/neoliberalism-mental-health-rich-poverty-economy

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