Report documents widening US health disparities and inequality

From World Socialist Web Site:

By Shane Feratu and Kristina Betinis
21 January 2011

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a new report on the health disparities in the United States that are the product of social inequalities. The agency’s “Health Disparities and Inequalities Report,” made available January 14, is the first report of its kind issued by the government.

The report documents the prevalence of a wide range of health problems affecting American society over a period of years, tracing the course of some phenomena—such as cigarette smoking—from as far back as 1965. Much of the analysis is concentrated on health trends in the last decade to 2009, a period which saw soaring health care costs and declining wages and living standards for the vast majority of Americans.

It is well known that a whole host of variables have an effect on the health of an individual. These include everything from maternal health, early childhood care, nutrition, education, and access to adequate medical care, to poor environmental and workplace conditions. These factors have to be taken as a whole to understand the underlying causes for the drastic health inequality occurring in America.

Class status is the bottom line for all of these variables. With low incomes and poverty—both increasingly the norm in the US—comes the inability to obtain proper health care, decent and safe housing, education, or nutrition. These problems contribute stress that further compounds health problems, and can feed into alcohol dependency or other unhealthy habits.

In the introduction to the report, CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden notes, “Lower-income residents report fewer average healthy days. Residents of states with larger inequalities in reported number of healthy days also report fewer healthy days on average. The correlation between poor health and health inequality at the state level holds at all levels of income.”

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Why Marriage equality has a higher level of priority in the Gay and Lesbian Communities than a Trans-Inclusive ENDA

In the the months leading up to and following Stonewall, San Francisco had a well organized and radical Gay Liberation Movement.

I was just coming out and the radical gay men treated me like a kid sister sharing information about public health services and rumors regarding what was then the fledgling Transsexual self help/support network.  There wasn’t much understanding but I was radically anti-war and so were many many of the guys in the Gay Liberation Front.  Being open and articulate on my part helped as well.

I went to a conference in late 1969.  Same-sex marriage was discussed at that conference.

A couple of years later there was a march on Sacramento.  Marriage equality was one of the main issues.

In writing this I did a Google search on the history of gay and lesbian peoples struggle for marriage equality.

The following is from:

It can be said that the “gay marriage movement” began in the forties and fifties. During this time, FBI investigations were done on anyone in the gay community who was suspected “of having been joined legally in matrimony.” During one of these investigations on a couple known as Mr. and Mrs. David Warren, FBI agents discovered that the Warrens were far from a typical pair. Mr. and Mrs. Warren were in fact Thelma Jane Warren and Marieta Cook. The two women had received a marriage license in 1947, and had been living under the Warren name. Once discovered, agents arrested the women and charged them with criminal perjury (Eskridge 1996: 52).

Before the time of these arrests, there was a period where “anti-homosexual hysteria” broke out in the country. It was shortly after the end of World War II, when people began coming out. Although there was a huge up rise in the homosexual community, their demands for marriage in that time were “not taken seriously” (Eskridge 1996:52). In 1951, Donald Webster Cory wrote a book that became “the first major book advocating homosexual rights by a homosexual” (Eskridge 1996:52). In the book, Cory addressed a concept that many heterosexual people of America refused to ponder. He concentrated on the philosophy that a man’s love for a man or a woman’s love for another woman was the same kind of love that is felt in heterosexual couples (Eskridge 1996: 52-53). Another justification of legalizing gay marriage was “the anti-homosexual attitudes” of loved ones and the law tore gay relationships apart, prompting the promiscuity and loneliness, a typical stereotype of the gay community. To prevent these things from taking place, it was “a good reason why homosexuals ought to be able to participate in state-sanctioned marriage” (Eskridge 1996: 53).


After the turning point of the gay rights movement, America saw more and more cries towards legalizing gay marriage. The case of Baker vs. Nelson turned some heads in 1970. Richard Baker and his partner James McConnell decided to have a ceremony solidifying their relationship in the eyes of God. They had their religious ceremony in Minneapolis, Minnesota (Eskridge 1996: 46). When the two men went to get their legal marriage license on May 18, 1970, they were met with an unwelcome response. The clerk at the time, Gerald Nelson, was given orders by the district attorney to not grant any homosexual couples a marriage license due to the fact that it was against Minnesota state law for same-sex couples to be legally wed (Eskridge 1996: 48). Following the denial of a license ,Baker took Nelson to court saying he had no legal right to deprive him and his partner of a marriage license. In the case Baker vs. Nelson, which commenced in 1971, Baker lost his battle, making the case the “first appellate decision in the U.S. on the issue of same-sex marriage” (Eskridge 1996:48).

Although Baker lost his case, many gay Americans still believed it was their right to have a ceremony honoring their relationship with their partner. In the late 1960’s, there came to be a group known as the Universal Fellowship of Metropolitan Community Churches (MCC) (Eskridge 1996:46). Led by Reverend Troy Perry, the MCC was a religious group catering to the homosexual population of America. Included in the groups “bylaws” was the right to perform union ceremonies for same-sex couples (Sherman 1992: 5). Like many other same-sex marriages, the couples would dress in drag, which was quite common in the 1970’s. During this period, the butch-femme roles taken on by the couples were more popular then than they are today (Sherman 1992:6).


During the 1970’s, there were a few attempts at making gay marriages legal. In 1972, The National Coalition of Gay Organizations made a “list of demands for law reform.” Within these reforms, they wanted the boundaries of marriage to opposite sex couples eliminated. Their wish was not granted (Eskridge 1996: 54). In 1975, Councilman Arrington Dixon attempted to pass a bill that reconstructed Washington D.C.’s marriage laws. In this bill, he included that same-sex marriages should be authorized (Eskridge 1996: 49). This time, the law is not what fought against Dixon. It was the Archdiocese of Washington D.C. that tried to battle his bill. The Archdiocese put up such a great fight that Dixon decided the best thing to do was to withdraw the bill from Congress. During his time as councilman, he attempted to put the same bill through Congress a few more times, but would always recede it once the Archdiocese became involved (Eskridge 1996: 49). Within the same year, Colorado became a center for gay marriage. A clerk by the name of Cela Rorex gave out a minimum of six same-sex couple marriage licenses. These actions were heralded after she was told “Colorado’s gender-neutral marriage law did not clearly forbid same-sex marriages” (Eskridge 1996:55).

So Marriage Equality isn’t some new idea concocted by Gay men and Lesbians to distract attention away from the causes most favored by transgender and transsexual folks.

It is a movement, an aspiration that  existed  a full generation before Stonewall.  It was a goal when the earliest groups such as the Mattachine Society, ONE and Daughters of Bilitis first formed as circles of friends in the dark era of McCarthyism.  Back when it was illegal to have relationships with a member of the same sex, small groups of brave souls dared dream of a day when two people of the same sex could marry.

For many elderly gays and lesbians marriage equality has been a dream of over fifty years.

After living together in a marriage of the souls for over fifty years Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were finally able to marry during the brief sliver of time that same sex marriage was legal in California. Unfortunately Del died a short time after they were finally able to marry.

Many in the transgender and transsexual communities are heterosexual after SRS or as transgender people. ( I’m not going to fight about the “same sex marriage between an assigned female at birth person and a transgender woman who has male sex parts.  It may be same gender but the state views it as between a man and a woman.)

There are others who play document games to achieve the same end.  The term for such is heterosexual privilege.

Lesbians and gay men have every right to prioritize their own political agenda even if it does not coincide with the priorities of the transgender community.

Often times the priorities of Transgender Inc are not the same priorities as those of post-transsexual women and men.

In the case of straight sisters and brothers their priorities are to simply be accepted as straight men and women with all the rights and privileges commonly accorded to straight men and women.

In the case of post-transsexual lesbians and gay men our priorities are very often those of the lesbian or gay community and as such may or may not coincide with those who consider themselves part of the transgender umbrella.

I can understand this.  After all, “The personal is the political.”  While I am not hostile to the passage of a transgender inclusive ENDA and will write the letters, sign the petitions, make calls it really isn’t my issue.

On the other hand, my partner and I are old lesbians.  Because we are both post-transsexual we couldn’t even pull the paper trick even if wanted to.  Not that either of us would do that because that would be utilizing both heterosexual and male privilege.

I think it is pretty safe to say you won’t find me lending my voice to the growing outcry on the part of the transgender community regarding gay and lesbian folks continuing their 60 year struggle towards marriage equality instead of dropping everything to work on ENDA, which doesn’t have a chance as long as Republicans control any house of Congress or the Presidency.

The war to silence WikiLeaks

From Socialist Worker:

We can’t allow the powers that be to crush Julian Assange or Bradley Manning.

By John Pilger

January 20, 2011

The ATTACKS on WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, are a response to an information revolution that threatens old power orders, in politics and journalism. The incitement to murder trumpeted by public figures in the United States, together with attempts by the Obama administration to corrupt the law and send Assange to a hellhole prison for the rest of his life, are the reactions of a rapacious system exposed as never before.

In recent weeks, the U.S. Justice Department has established a secret grand jury just across the river from Washington, in the eastern district of the state of Virginia. The object is to indict Julian Assange under a discredited Espionage Act used to arrest peace activists during the First World War, or one of the “war on terror” conspiracy statutes that have degraded American justice. Judicial experts describe the jury as a “deliberate set-up,” pointing out that this corner of Virginia is home to the employees and families of the Pentagon, CIA, Department of Homeland Security and other pillars of American power.

“This is not good news,” Assange told me when we spoke this past week, his voice dark and concerned. He says he can have “bad days–but I recover.”

When we met in London last year, I said, “You are making some very serious enemies, not least of all the most powerful government engaged in two wars. How do you deal with that sense of danger?” His reply was characteristically analytical: “It’s not that fear is absent. But courage is really the intellectual mastery over fear–by an understanding of what the risks are, and how to navigate a path through them.”

Regardless of the threats to his freedom and safety, he says the U.S. is not WikiLeaks’ main “technological enemy.” He says, “China is the worst offender. China has aggressive, sophisticated interception technology that places itself between every reader inside China and every information source outside China. We’ve been fighting a running battle to make sure we can get information through, and there are now all sorts of ways Chinese readers can get on to our site.”

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Ex-cop faces 30 years over torture of suspects


Dozens of people — mostly black men — claimed for decades that officers tortured them into confessing armed robbery, murder, other crimes

The Associated Press


CHICAGO — As a decorated Chicago police lieutenant, Jon Burge prided himself on sending bad guys to prison by getting them to confess to terrible crimes — and by committing terrible crimes himself in the process, prosecutors say.

Now, having been convicted of lying about the violent means he and his men used to get confessions, it is Burge’s turn to face prison time.

With the sentencing hearing for Burge scheduled to start Thursday, prosecutors say his perjury and obstruction of justice convictions add up to 30-plus years in federal prison.


Dozens of suspects — almost all of them black men — claimed for decades that Burge and his officers tortured them into confessing to crimes ranging from armed robbery to murder.

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Sorry Tea Partiers — The GOP Only Cares About Their Corporate Paymasters and Wealthy Elites Like the Kochs

From Alternet:–_the_gop_only_cares_about_their_corporate_paymasters_and_wealthy_elites_like_the_kochs/

While tea party regulars are giddy with the thought that their movement took over the U. S. House, they were actually a Trojan horse for powerful corporate interests.

By Jim Hightower

January 20, 2011

Early this month, when John Boehner was sworn in as the new speaker of the House of Representatives, he tipped his hat to the teabag activists across the country who had fueled the Republican takeover of the chamber last fall. He almost choked up as he promised to “give the government back to the American people.”

Boehner was not choking back tears, however, he literally was choking on the flagrant hypocrisy of his words. You see, the people he’s giving the government back to are not tea partiers, but the rapacious corporate lobbyists who ran the Congress during the years when former Majority Leader Tom DeLay ran the show. Apparently, the name “Boehner” is derived from an ancient Teutonic word meaning: business as usual.

Throughout his two decades in Congress, the new speaker has been a reliable ally of corporate interests. In recent years, he has formed unusually tight legislative, political and even social ties with a group of lobbyists for such giants as Citigroup, Coors, Goldman Sachs, Google and R.J. Reynolds.

Of course, most congressional leaders work with lobbyists, so that’s not odd, but to have them also be his closest friends and social chums — well, you just want to say, “For heaven’s sake, Johnnie, get a life!”

These influence peddlers are now the speaker’s inner circle, guiding his legislative decisions. Even before last November’s election, Boehner had a private meeting with a flock of top corporate lobbyists to help shape “a new GOP agenda.” Forget the tea party. No tea party operative is a Boehner insider. It’s the corporate agenda that Republican leaders will be pushing, and to make sure that it stays on track, Boehner has hired a top corporate lobbyist to be his policy director.

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Hospital Visitation Rights for Gay, Lesbian Partners Take Effect

From ABC News:

Jan. 19, 2011

Patients at nearly every hospital in the country will now be allowed to decide who has visitation rights and who can make medical decisions on their behalf — regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity or family makeup — under new federal regulations that took effect Tuesday.

The rules, which apply to hospitals participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, were first proposed by President Obama in an April memorandum and later implemented by the Department of Health and Human Services after a period of public review.

They represent a landmark advance in the rights of same-sex couples and domestic partners who heretofore had no legal authority to be with a hospitalized partner because they were either not a blood relative or spouse.

Hospitals must now inform patients, or an attending friend or family member, of their rights to visitors of their choosing. The policy also prohibits discrimination against visitors based on race, ethnicity, religion, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation or disability.

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Unilever chief warns over global crisis in food output

From The Telegraph UK:

The chief executive of one of the world’s largest food producers is to warn that the global crisis in food production is reaching “dangerous territory” with prices soaring and demand outstripping supply.

By Kamal Ahmed

January 15, 2011

n a speech on Tuesday, Paul Polman, the chief executive of Unilever, will say that market distortions created by European Union subsidies work against the needs of the developing world.

He will also demand fewer subsidies for harmful first-generation bio-fuels and say that climate change must be tackled by companies changing to sustainable models of agriculture.

In an interview with The Sunday Telegraph Mr Polman said that short-term speculators were also driving up prices. “One of the main things in food inflation is that it has attracted speculators for short-term profit at the expense of people living a dignified life,” Mr Polman said. “It is difficult to understand if you want to work for the long-term interests of society.” He revealed he had spoken to the European Commission’s commissioner for internal markets, Michel Barnier, about the issue. Mr Polman says speculators should be forced to disclose their positions.

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Berkeley taxpayers may pay for sex-change surgery

From SF Gate:

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Berkeley City Council has postponed a vote on a proposal to use taxpayer money to pay for sex-change operations for city employees.

Council members on Tuesday decided to delay a final decision on the issue until Feb. 15.

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Advocacy Group Says Justices May Have Conflict in Campaign Finance Cases

From The New York Times:

Published: January 19, 2011

WASHINGTON — When the conservative financier Charles Koch sent out invitations for a political retreat in Palm Springs later this month, he highlighted past appearances at the gathering of “notable leaders” like Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas of the Supreme Court.

A leading liberal group is now trying to use that connection to argue that Mr. Scalia and Mr. Thomas should disqualify themselves from hearing campaign finance cases because they may be biased toward Mr. Koch, a billionaire who has been a major player in financing conservative causes.

The group, Common Cause, filed a petition with the Justice Department on Wednesday asking it to investigate potential conflicts by Justices Scalia and Thomas and move for their disqualification from the landmark Citizens United case, in which the court last year lifted a ban on corporate spending on political campaigns. Common Cause also cited the role of Mr. Thomas’s wife, Virginia Thomas, in forming a conservative political group opposed to the Obama administration as grounds for his disqualification.

The petition is a new tack for opponents of the court’s decision in the Citizens United case. Common Cause, by its own acknowledgment, faces a difficult task in getting the justices’ to remove themselves from the case and seeking to have the Citizens United decision itself vacated.

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Group: Supreme Court justices ‘participated in political strategy sessions’ before Citizens United

From Raw Story:

By Daniel Tencer
Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

On the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s ruling in Citizens United, which overturned nearly a century of restrictions on campaign spending, a progressive group has asked the Department of Justice to look into “conflicts of interest” two justices may have had when issuing the ruling.

In a petition to be sent to the department this week, Common Cause will argue that Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas should have recused themselves from the campaign finance decision because of their involvement with Koch Industries, a corporation run by two conservative activists who many say directly benefited from Citizens United.

“It appears both justices have participated in political strategy sessions, perhaps while the case was pending, with corporate leaders whose political aims were advanced by the decision,” the letter alleges, as quoted at Politico.

The group will urge the department to disqualify Scalia and Thomas from the ruling. If that were to happen, the Supreme Court could vacate the ruling, effectively returning the campaign finance restrictions that existed until 2010. But, as Common Cause itself admits, the odds are against it.

At the center of the group’s claims is a document from Koch Industries unearthed last fall by ThinkProgress and the New York Times. In an invitation to a Palm Springs retreat to be held this month, Charles Koch boasted that previous events were attended by Scalia and Thomas.

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