Inequality without reason

From The Daily Pennsylvanian:

Penn is arbitrarily excluding essential treatment for some of its transgender faculty and staff

by Alec Webley
Thursday, March 3, 2011

Next year, Penn will exclude medically necessary treatment for some transsexuals from the staff and faculty healthcare plan. It will do so despite the heartfelt pleas of its employees, despite the recommendation of its benefits committee, despite the miniscule cost of the addition and despite the inclusion of exactly those benefits in the student healthcare plan this year. Why?

A small number of transgender people require “triadic treatment,” which involves counseling, hormone therapy and surgery. These reconstructive procedures are not optional — they are medically essential. And the complications for not completing the course of treatment can be deadly.

In a statement as warm and human as a thrown knife, the University asserts that triadic treatment is simply too costly to include for faculty and staff. After all, medical expenses have been going through the roof. Yet if we take Vice President for Human Resources Jack Heuer’s own figures for Penn’s estimated costs given to University Council on Wednesday and run them through the analysis used by the City of San Francisco (developed over ten years of experience with these treatments), the cost of covering triadic treatment for staff and faculty is about the same as it is with students — slightly more than $1 per person per year.

So, if it’s so cheap, what gives? Here’s my theory. The reason behind the denial is simple. It boils down to two things — perspiration and politics.

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Crybaby Boehner-Led Group Will Defend DOMA In Court

Oh let’s say something mean to him so we can watch him cry.  I just love watching bullies cry their eyes out when they don’t get their way.

From The Huffington Post:

Sam Stein

Mar 4, 2011

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced on Friday that he was spearheading a process that will, ultimately, witness the House of Representatives taking over the legal responsibilities of arguing for the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act.

The announcement comes less than two weeks after the Obama administration’s Department of Justice removed itself from the case, declaring that it had determined the law — which dictates that the federal government can only recognize a state-sanctioned marriage between a man and a woman — to be unconstitutional.

In a statement posted on his website, Boehner said he would be convening a meeting of the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group to vote on how to address the law in court. Since the group is weighted towards Republicans, the outcome seems fairly certain that the House will take on the role of the defense.

“It is regrettable that the Obama Administration has opened this divisive issue at a time when Americans want their leaders to focus on jobs and the challenges facing our economy,” Boehner said. “The constitutionality of this law should be determined by the courts — not by the president unilaterally — and this action by the House will ensure the matter is addressed in a manner consistent with our Constitution.”

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Friday Night Fun and Culture Poetry Edition

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Is OSHA Dropping Workplace Safety Rules to Stave Off GOP Budget Cuts?

From In These Times:

By Mike Elk
Mar 3, 2011

Last month, I wrote here about how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) seemed to be abandoning implementing key workplace safety rules. It appears that the abandonment of those rules might be an attempt to stall efforts by congressional Republicans to cut OSHA’s budget.

Republicans have been upset by tougher enforcement of OSHA standards under the Obama Administration. They claim such enforcement is “job killing,” while advocates claim tough OSHA enforcement prevents people that still actually have jobs from being killed.

Congressional Republicans have proposed cutting $99 million from OSHA’s budget this year, which would be drastic. “The Republicans have proposed a 20 percent cut and given [that] half a year’s over, that really means a 40 percent cut,” OSHA administrator David Michaels told NPR. “It would really have a devastating effect on all of our activities.”

Republicans have been upset in particular by a set of ergonomic rules, the implementation of which OSHA announced earlier this week it was delaying (or stopping, as many advocates claimed).

As I wrote last month, “the proposed regulation would have forced firms to count ergonomic injuries—also known as musculoskeletal disorder injuries (MSDs)—in statistics provided to OSHA. … Workplace advocates hoped that being able to point to companies where a high amount of workers were suffering from ergonomic injuries would allow them to hold companies accountable.”

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Where Are Our Brothers in the Fight For Trans-inclusive ENDAs?

I am well aware that there are probably as many TS/TG brothers out there as there are sisters.

I didn’t used to think that before I lived in East Hollywood/Silverlake/Los Feliz but I met a bunch of the guys while I was living there and volunteering at the LA Gay and Lesbian Community Center.

Where are they when it comes to the fight for Trans-inclusive ENDA.

Oh I know there are the involved brothers but on the whole the number of brothers who are activists seems (possibly a matter of perception on my part) smaller than the number of sisters.

Inclusive ENDA bills are getting hammered with the blood libel regarding rest rooms.

They use the shibboleth of “men in dresses in the women’s room” again and again with great success in killing these bills.

We know it is a lie.  They know it is a lie.

But they use pictures of bearded men in drag (some even from our Pride Day Parades) to defeat these bills.

We need to change the frame to deny them that weapon.

When we were fighting Prop. 8 I suggested we should use pictures of hot sexy women in lingerie making out asking, “Would you deny these beautiful women the right to marry?”

That is fighting fire with fire.

What if we had several bearded, muscular balding brothers show up at all these legislative sessions and point out how denial of gender appropriate restroom access means they would be required to use the Women’s Room.

Take the frame away from the Taliban Christians and the ultra right wing Republicans.

Make people see how the present laws really would require men to use the women’s room.

I don’t know how many post-transsexual or trans-guys out there read my blog, I hope at least a few of you do.

Maybe this idea could get passed around.

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Rock Beyond Belief Canceled – US Army Being Sued In Federal Court


It is a travesty of epic proportions and a mockery of the Constitution.
Al Stefanelli

Rock Beyond Belief has been canceled.  This event would been a phenomenal opportunity for the organization of future events, and an awesome show of our strength, resilience and resolve.

To give you some background about what this event was all about, we have to go back to September of last year. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association held a concert on the Fort Bragg Main Parade Field that was billed as “Rock the Fort.”  The Graham event was specifically and unashamedly evangelical. It was actively promoted via letters sent to the community by the Senior Fort Bragg Chaplain and was billed as a “Family Fun Event,” clearly having been marketed toward children and youth. This was a serious breach in the authority of the Chaplaincy, which is supposed to exist as a support function only. Chaplains are not supposed to be promoting, in any way, government-sponsored marketing of a one particular faith message. The Billy Graham people hailed it as an event to add new members to the local churches and it was fully and completely supported and endorsed by the United States Army. The result was a government sponsored church service that the Department of Defense paid for.

When the event organizer, Sgt. Justin Griffith, brought the fact that US Army support, endorsement and financial backing of the Billy Graham event was blatantly in violation of the First Amendment and that he was organizing Rock Beyond Belief, the military leaders said they would support similar events by non-Christian groups. In fact, this promise was put in writing by the Office of the Staff Judge Advocate at Fort Bragg to the Freedom From Religion Foundation .

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Texas: Legislature Spotlights Bullying in Schools

From The New York Times:

Published: March 3, 2011

The scariest part of the school day for one student in the Austin Independent School District is before classes begin. For the female-to-male transgender 16-year-old, the “nerve-racking” minutes he spends trying to find his friends at school each morning is when bullies are most likely to strike.

“People don’t mess with groups of people,” he said. “But they see someone walking by themselves, and there’s no fear there.”

The student has been tripped, had gum thrown in his hair and been called names. But his mother — who asked that she and her son not be identified because he has been victimized — recognizes that it could be worse.

“We are not the tragic story of bullying,” she said.

In Texas, the most highly publicized of those stories is Asher Brown’s. Asher, an eighth grader at a Cypress-Fairbanks middle school, shot himself last fall after what his parents said was two years of harassment for his small size, religion and perceived sexuality.

Asher’s death has given momentum to antibullying bills filed in the Legislature this session — there are currently more than 15. But the prospect of legislation, supported by teacher organizations and advocacy groups like the Anti-Defamation League, has drawn opponents as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Liberty Institute, a conservative legal organization. They question how successful any new law will be in curbing aggression in schools and say that policing such conduct is best accomplished locally.

One challenge is how to define punishable behavior. State Representative Todd Smith, Republican of Bedford, said he was skeptical of any bill’s ability to provide “a clear, bright line definition of bullying.”

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Another Zinnia Jones Fix

Why the Right-Wing’s Insane Attacks on Women’s Health May be Backfiring

From Alternet:

This grisly ad, and the war on Planned Parenthood, is just another example of conservative overreach. And it may just backfire.

By Sarah Seltzer

March 4, 2011 |

The grisly advertisement from the virulently anti-choice American Life League is an odd one: a bunny rabbit is placed in a blender, the blender is turned on–fade to black. What is the advertisement–using that poor bunny’s imagined demise as a metaphor for abortion–specifically advocating? Gutting Title X funding, as we’ve reported here at AlterNet, would decimate family planning programs in the U.S., and most likely increase the abortion rate. So there would actually be more bunnies in blenders, if they’re really hell-bent on using that metaphor.

Here’s the transcript (courtesy of Maya at Feministing):

Imagine the government giving hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars every year to a company that does this. [Rabbit placed in blender. Sound of blender being turned on.]

It does. Only they’re not bunnies.

Receiving over $300 million of your tax dollars every year, Planned Parenthood does this nearly a thousand times a day.

Tell Congress: It’s time to stop Planned Parenthood’s tax funding.

There’s just one problem with the ad (beyond the obvious fact that there’s no clear symbolic correlation between safe, legal abortions and a bunny smoothie): there’s currently no funding for PPFA for abortions, thanks to the Hyde Amendment. And again, getting rid of PPFA’s funding would probably make abortions more common.

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The Real News on Jobs

By Robert Reich:

By Robert Reich

Friday, March 4, 2011

Are we making progress on the jobs front? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 192,000 new jobs in February (220,000 new jobs in the private sector and a drop in government employment), and a drop in the overall unemployment rate from 9 to 8.9 percent.

We’re heading in the right direction but far too slowly to make a real dent in unemployment. To get the unemployment rate down to 6 percent by 2014 we’d need over 300,000 new jobs a month, every month, between now and then.

Overall, the number of unemployed Americans – 13.7 million – is about the same as it was last month. The number working part time who’d rather be working full time – 8.3 million – is also about the same.

But to get to the most important trend you have to dig under the job numbers and look at what kind of new jobs are being created. That’s where the big problem lies.

The National Employment Law Project did just that. Its new data brief shows that most of the new jobs created since February 2010 (about 1.26 million) pay significantly lower wages than the jobs lost (8.4 million) between January 2008 and February 2010.

While the biggest losses were higher-wage jobs paying an average of $19.05 to $31.40 an hour, the biggest gains have been lower-wage jobs paying an average of $9.03 to $12.91 an hour.

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House Republicans to pregnant women: Fetal life is more important than your health

From Raw Story:

By Sahil Kapur
Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

WASHINGTON – The House Judiciary committee on Thursday approved a broad measure that limits access to abortion for women whose health may be harmed by carrying a pregnancy to term.

The panel passed HR 3 “No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act” in a mostly party-line vote of 23-14, sending it to the House floor. One Democrat, Pedro Pierluisi of Puerto Rico, crossed the aisle to vote for it.

The Judiciary markup (pdf) stripped some of the legislation’s most controversial provisions, including language that would have restricted abortion access under Medicaid to victims of “forcible rape” or underage incest. But it leaves intact a significant change to current abortion funding laws, which allows women to obtain abortions if their health is in danger even if the risk of death is not imminent.

Clause (2) of Section (309) carves out an exemption “in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.”

“This bill jeopardizes the ability of insurance companies to cover abortion care, even for women with wanted pregnancies who experience unanticipated health-related complications, such as breast cancer,” said Nancy Keenan, president of the pro-abortion-rights group NARAL. “Abortion may be the best option to protect their health and ensure they can have children in the future, yet this bill tells insurance companies they can’t cover this care.”

A top Republican priority sponsored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the bill seeks to curtail abortions largely by eliminating tax incentives and subsidies for private insurance plans that cover abortion. It would effectively discourage insurance providers from providing abortion care, and raise costs for businesses and consumers that purchase plans that cover abortion.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) called it “an unprecedented attack on women, families, and their rights under the Constitution. Let’s not pretend this is about government funding.”

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