The End of Abortion Insurance?

From Mother Jones Magazine:

By Nick Baumann

| Thu Dec. 9, 2010 3:37 AM PST

Remember the nasty fight over federal funding of abortion that nearly derailed the health care package? It’s not over.

The issue is sure to flare up again early in the next Congress in the form of a bill floated by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), the “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act.” The proposal—which has the support of 185 cosponsors and incoming House Speaker John Boehner—has a stated aim of making the Hyde Amendment (a rule that has to be renewed every year that prohibits federal funding of abortions through Medicaid) into permanent, government-wide law. But abortion-rights advocates fear Smith’s bill could have even broader consequences. They view it as a Trojan horse for the elimination of private insurance coverage for abortion. If they’re right, tens of millions of Americans could see their health insurers stop covering abortions.

Susan Cohen, the director of governmental affairs for the pro-abortion-rights Guttmacher Foundation, argued in a policy brief this fall that “the Smith bill would go…into uncharted territory” by preventing employers from taking a tax deduction for offering an insurance plan that covered abortion. (Like most other benefits, health insurance costs are generally tax-deductible for employers.) Analysts at NARAL Pro-Choice America and Planned Parenthood, the leading abortion rights advocacy groups, agree. According to abortion-rights advocates, Smith’s bill would create a huge incentive for employers to only offer health insurance that doesn’t cover abortion. Insurers would respond to what their customers wanted, and the percentage of health plans offering abortion coverage—currently 86 percent—would undoubtedly plummet.

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No More Royals

I consider royalty to be worthless scum and a waste of oxygen.  So I was happy to see that the students in Britain attacked a car with Charles and Camilla in it.

Great start. Remember 1789 and follow through.

Prince Charles, Camilla’s Car Attacked By Student Protesters In London

From Huffington Post:

12- 9-10 05:35 PM

LONDON — In Britain’s worst political violence in years, furious student protesters rained sticks and rocks on riot police, vandalized government buildings and attacked a car carrying Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, after lawmakers approved a controversial hike in university tuition fees.

Demonstrators set upon the heir to the throne’s limousine as it drove through London’s West End shopping and entertainment hub. Protesters who had been running amok and smashing shop windows kicked and threw paint at the car, which sped off.

Charles’ office, Clarence House, confirmed the attack but said “their royal highnesses are unharmed.”

Police said it was unclear whether the royals had been deliberately targeted, or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The couple arrived looking composed at the London Palladium theater, where they were attending a Royal Variety Performance. Their Rolls Royce limousine was left with a badly cracked rear window and was spattered with paint.

Protesters erupted in anger after legislators in the House of Commons approved a plan to triple university fees to 9,000 pounds ($14,000) a year.

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Making Unions Matter Again

From The Nation:

December 2, 2010

For the first time in recent memory, most voices in the social change movement, including progressively inclined unions, are having a hard time spinning victory out of massive electoral defeat. Could it also be that this time we will finally learn the right lessons?

Given the constraints of our two-party system and the differences between the parties on workers’ issues, it makes sense for unions to endorse Democrats and for union members to pull the Democratic lever on election day. But for too long, union leaders have tethered themselves to the Democratic Party on fundamental questions of strategy. Ironically, when the Democrats take control of the White House the problem is exacerbated, as unions often mistake access for power. The leaders of the Democratic Party don’t wake up in the morning thinking about how to expand social benefits to workers or the poor. And they certainly don’t wake up and think about how to make unions stronger.

As the consultant-industrial complex linked to the Democratic Party has taken over at most national unions, unions have substituted “messaging” for organizing while actual organizers have nearly become extinct. To beat the twenty-four-hour nonstop lies blasted into American homes by Fox News requires engaging workers face to face—not blasting them with poll-tested e-mails. It takes a two-way discussion to help workers move past fear and frustration and toward collective action to address the problems in their lives. Note to unions: Twitter and Facebook are not engagement.

Rather than focusing on the immediate economic security of the working class (and in this highly unequal country, that means the middle class too), unions have been preoccupied with their own organizational security. Encouraged by pollsters and Democratic Party consultants, union leaders decided to bet the farm on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). With the economic crisis ravaging the nation, this was the number-one “ask” of the new administration labor had fought so hard (and paid so dearly) to elect. Keep in mind that unions have been trying unsuccessfully to win meaningful labor law reform since the 1940s—when they were much stronger. The Chamber of Commerce and its unionbusting allies were undoubtedly unhappy that Democrats were even discussing labor law reform, but the big business lobby must have been delighted with a strategy hatched by unions that the Chamber could boil down to “unions want to take away a worker’s right to vote by secret ballot on whether to form a union.” Labor leaders spent the first year of the Obama administration working “behind the scenes” to enact this priority. Not surprisingly, they failed.

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Bold Crossings of the Gender Line

From The New York Times:

Lea T

Published: December 8, 2010

IT’S certainly a statement on our times that, in the same month, James Franco graces the covers of GQ and Candy. In GQ, he appears in a moody head shot. In Candy, a style magazine dedicated to what it calls the “transversal” — that is, transsexuality, transvestism, cross-dressing, androgyny and any combination thereof — Mr. Franco, shot by Terry Richardson, vamps in trowel-applied makeup, heavy jewelry and a woman’s dominatrix-style power suit.

Candy, it turns out, is but one of the more visible bits of evidence that 2010 will be remembered as the year of the transsexual. Yes, Mr. Franco is just dressing up and doesn’t feel he was born the wrong sex. But it is a grand gesture of solidarity with gender nonconformists and certainly hasn’t affected attendance at “127 Hours.”

Other celebrities have flirted with “the other side,” cross-dressing for fashion publications. On the cover of the current Industrie, Marc Jacobs is decked out in one of his signature women’s designs (albeit with a beard). Japanese Vogue Hommes revealed its new male model, Jo Calderone, who was, in actuality, Lady Gaga.

Not since the glam era of the 1970s has gender-bending so saturated the news media. The difference now is that mystery has been replaced with empowerment, even pride. Consider a few happenings that have blipped recently on our radar. The blog of a young mother whose 5-year-old son had dressed like Daphne on “Scooby-Doo” for Halloween went viral, initiating a nationwide discussion on the fluidity of gender. (The mother ended up on “Today.”) The performance artist Kalup Linzy became a downtown phenomenon in Manhattan for his gender-bending portrayals of soap-opera divas. Oprah Winfrey welcomed transsexual men to her program.

In November, a transgender student pledged a sorority at Trinity University in Texas. Original Plumbing, a zine for trans-guys, came out with a fashion issue.


For Givenchy’s fall advertising campaign, Ms. T. was photographed by Mert and Marcus in a feathery blouson. When the ad was released in May, it set off a press frenzy, with Ms. T.’s modeling agency, Women, receiving more than 400 interview requests.

Ms. T., 28, has been a friend of the Givenchy creative director Riccardo Tisci, since she was 17. (The “T” stands for Tisci; he unofficially adopted her into his family.) She worked for the fashion house in various positions and as a fit model. It was Mr. Tisci’s idea to have her in the campaign.

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Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal bill is dead

From 365 Gay:

By Lisa Keen, Keen News Service
12.09.2010 4:39pm EST

Thu-Dec. 9- 4:10 p.m. -The Senate has just rejected an attempt to bring the defense authorization bill to the floor, effectively killing the prospects for repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell this year, and likely for years to come.

The vote was 57 to 40.

It could not be determined immediately which three senators did not vote. Most moderate Republicans, including Massachusetts’ Scott Brown, Illinois’ Mark Kirk, and Maine Senator Olympia Snowe, voted against allowing the bill to the floor. Republican Senator Susan Collins, who was a chief negotiator for trying to get the bill to the floor, voted for cloture.

It was a dramatic finish and, undoubtedly, viewers saw on the Senate floor just the tip of the iceberg in negotiations that sought to bring about repeal of the military’s ban on openly gay servicemembers.

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Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka On Korea Trade Deal

From AFL-CIO Media Center:

December 09, 2010

For more than a decade, the labor movement, environmental groups, development advocates and others have advocated for a new trade policy that is part of a more coordinated and coherent national economic strategy. The proposed U.S.-Korea trade deal does not live up to that model and does not contribute to a sustainable global future.  We believe we must move towards a more democratic, sustainable and fair global economy with broadly shared prosperity for working people around the world.  Reaching that goal will require deep-seated reforms in current trade policy, as well as in our own domestic labor laws and other policies.

We welcome the tremendous efforts by the Obama administration and particularly Ambassador Ron Kirk and his team to address the urgent concerns of autoworkers and auto companies with respect to market access, safeguard provisions and some non-tariff barriers.  Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin and Ranking Member Dave Camp also pressed hard for key improvements in the auto provisions, and we appreciate their strong efforts. These newly negotiated provisions will give some much needed breathing room to the auto industry, and we appreciate the hard bargaining that was necessary to win these important changes.

However, the labor movement’s concerns about the Korea trade deal go beyond the auto assembly sector to a more fundamental question about what a fairer and more balanced trade policy should look like. In particular, the labor movement has consistently and for many years argued that the investment and government procurement provisions in the Korea deal will encourage offshoring.  And despite the progress made in improving the labor chapter in 2007, it is clear that in both the United States and South Korea, workers continue to face repeated challenges to their exercise of fundamental human rights on the job – especially freedom of association and the right to organize and bargain collectively. This deal does nothing to improve or strengthen the provisions negotiated by former President George W. Bush in these crucial areas.  It is essential that both countries bring their labor laws and practice fully into compliance with international standards prior to implementation of the agreement.  And for American workers to benefit from trade deals, we must strengthen U.S. labor law to harmonize social activity.   Going forward, we hope to work closely with the Obama administration to address all of these concerns in any future deals, particularly the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.

The Korea deal also fails to address the potential problem of currency manipulation and contains lax provisions on  rule of origin (allowing up to 65% foreign content in autos eligible for the lower tariff treatment, in contrast to the EU-Korea agreement, which allows only 45% foreign content) and duty drawback (which disadvantages domestic parts production).  These provisions will undermine both S. Korean and American workers.  There is significant opposition by many S. Korean unions to the trade agreement, as the agreement fails to address key offshoring and outsourcing issues facing S. Korea.  In fact, the weak offshoring protections and rule of origin make the agreement a backdoor for increasing offshoring to China and other countries from South Korea, as well as from the United States.

We are also concerned that the trade agreement leaves open the possibility that goods produced in the North Korean free trade zone, the Kaesong Industrial Complex (KIC), could in the future gain access to the United States.  We shouldn’t leave open the possibility of including these goods for two reasons: 1) grave concerns over the atrocious labor rights record in the KIC and 2) the impact on jobs and wages of the exports of these goods — produced at perhaps the lowest wage levels in the world.

In addition to much needed reforms in trade policy, the United States must implement a well coordinated industrial strategy that includes tax policy, infrastructure, skills development and technology investments to support a vibrant, growing and modern manufacturing sector.

The experiences of union members and working people with too many flawed trade deals like the North American Free Trade Agreement and China’s accession to the World Trade Organization do not justify optimism that this deal will generate the promised new jobs.  We’ve seen U.S. multinational companies take advantage of the investment and other corporate protections in past trade deals to shift production offshore, while maintaining access to the U.S. consumer market and undermining the jobs, wages and bargaining power of American workers. And the results have been catastrophic, with chronic and unsustainable trade deficits that sap economic growth and domestic job creation.

So long as these agreements fall short of protecting the broad interests of American workers and their counterparts around the world in these uncertain economic times, we will oppose them.

Contact: Eddie Vale (202) 637-5018

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Reason #723 Why I Love Bernie Sanders Senator from Vermont