Created Equal? Founding Era Tensions on Economic Fairness

From New Deal 2.0: http://www.newdeal20.org/2011/04/11/created-equal-founding-era-tensions-on-economic-fairness-41338/

William Hogeland
Monday, 04/11/2011

In 1776, rowdy Democrats fought for equality. But their notions didn’t suit early elites.
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“All men are created equal,” the Continental Congress famously announced in the document that came to be known as the Declaration of Independence. These are powerful words — and reflecting on America’s founding struggles over money and finance can give the familiar phrase new resonance. For even as Thomas Jefferson was drafting the Declaration in a small, hot room in Philadelphia in the summer of 1776, the democratic popular finance movement was blooming in America. Throughout the country, ordinary people placed all hopes on America declaring independence from England. Equality was indeed their goal. And by this, they meant economic fairness: A newly level playing field where they could compete for prosperity.

Near the room where Jefferson wrote, the most successful of those democratic movements was coming to fruition in Philadelphia’s Carpenter’s Hall. To the artisans, laborers, mechanics, and militia privates gathered there, declaring independence from England offered an amazing chance for creating a new kind of government, fostering fairness for the less propertied, even the unpropertied; obstructing traditional high-finance privilege; and giving the ordinary people access to representation and economic opportunity. Right down the street from the Pennsylvania State House where the Congress met, supporters of this democratic movement were seizing the moment of crisis with England to bring about an economic revolution in America. And their 1776 Pennsylvania constitution made economic equality into law for the first meaningful time anywhere.

The Constitutional Convention: A Counterrevolution?

By the late 1780s, the economic advances of ordinary Americans were starting to look very successful. So successful, in fact, that in 1787, gentlemen from around the country gathered again in the Pennsylvania State House at what became the U.S. constitutional convention. Their primary goal? To push those advances back. Edmund Randolph of Virginia, who would soon serve as U.S. Attorney General and then as Secretary of State, kicked off the 1787 proceedings in the same room at the State House where the Congress had declared independence. He charged the convention with repairing America’s “insufficient checks against the democracy.”

Continue reading at:  http://www.newdeal20.org/2011/04/11/created-equal-founding-era-tensions-on-economic-fairness-41338/

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UK ‘disappointment’ as Iceland rejects repayment deal

From The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13022524

10 April 2011

Icelanders have rejected the latest plan to repay the UK and Netherlands some 4bn euros lost when the country’s banking system collapsed in 2008.

Partial referendum results show 58% voting no, and 42% supporting the plan.

Johanna Sigurdardottir, Iceland’s Prime Minister, said the rejection meant “the worst option was chosen”.

UK Treasury minister Danny Alexander said the decision was “disappointing” and the matter would go to an international court.

Dutch Finance minister Jan Kees de Jager said he would be consulting Britain about taking further steps against Iceland, but added that the matter would likely end up in court.

“I am very disappointed that the Icesave agreement did not get through. This is not good for Iceland, nor for the Netherlands.

“The time for negotiations is over. Iceland remains obliged to repay. The issue is now for the courts to decide,” Mr de Jager said in a statement.

It is the second time a referendum has rejected a repayment deal.

Iceland’s Landsbanki bank ran savings accounts in the UK and Netherlands under the name Icesave and investors there lost 4bn euros (£3.5bn; $5.8bn).

Analysis:

Joe Lynam BBC News

The Icelandic people were damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. It looks as if they still couldn’t stomach the idea of paying off the debts of privately owned banks – even if the revised deal was considerably more generous.

The consequences of this referendum vote is that Iceland’s years in the financial wilderness could be extended much further.

Moody’s and other ratings agencies look set to downgrade the country even further, making it prohibitively more expensive to borrow on the open markets.

Iceland’s bid to join the EU will be paused or even vetoed by Britain and the Netherlands. And the tiny Atlantic economy is facing legal action in the EFTA court which might force it to pay up sooner than planned and at a punitive interest rate.

Democracy doesn’t pay if you’re an Icelander.

Complete Article at:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-13022524

A Lawsuit’s Unusual Question: Who Is a Man?

From The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/nyregion/11sexchange.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=transgender&st=cse

By RICHARD PÉREZ-PEÑA
Published: April 10, 2011

What is a man? For El’Jai Devoureau, this is not a rhetorical question.

Mr. Devoureau, who was born physically female, is a man at the Motor Vehicle Commission, at the Social Security office, at home, at job interviews. But what about at the urinal?

In a case with a truly unusual set of factors, Mr. Devoureau filed a discrimination lawsuit on Friday that could break new ground in New Jersey and across the country, turning on the question of who is or is not a man. An employer fired Mr. Devoureau because it said only a man was allowed to do his job: watching men urinate into plastic cups at a drug treatment center.

Mr. Devoureau, 39, says he has identified himself as a man all his life. In 2006, after he began taking male hormones and had sex-change surgery, he adopted the name El’Jai (pronounced like L. J.). A new birth certificate issued by the State of Georgia identifies him as male, as does his New Jersey driver’s license, and the Social Security Administration made the change in its records.

“As long as I’ve been a person, I’ve lived as a man,” he said in an interview. “At age 5, I did everything a boy did: I climbed trees, I played football, I played with trucks. Most of the people in my life, all they know is I’m male.”

Last June, Urban Treatment Associates in Camden hired Mr. Devoureau as a part-time urine monitor; his job was to make sure that people recovering from addiction did not substitute someone else’s urine for their own during regular drug testing. On his second day, he said, his boss said she had heard he was transgender.

“I said I was male, and she asked if I had any surgeries,” he said. “I said that was private and I didn’t have to answer, and I was fired.”

Calls to Urban Treatment were not returned. But after Mr. Devoureau made a complaint to the state’s Division on Civil Rights, the treatment center filed a response in January saying that Mr. Devoureau’s dismissal “was not motivated by, nor related in any way to, any discriminatory intention.”

Civil rights laws and court decisions allow limited cases of favoring one group over another, like giving preference to women for jobs as nurses in maternity wards. In its January filing, Urban Treatment said that firing Mr. Devoureau was legitimate, “since the sex of the employee engaged in that particular job position is a bona fide occupational qualification” — implying that Mr. Devoureau was not really a man.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/11/nyregion/11sexchange.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=transgender&st=cse

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How nuclear apologists mislead the world over radiation

From The Guardian UK: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/11/nuclear-apologists-radiation

George Monbiot and others at best misinform and at worst distort evidence of the dangers of atomic energy

Helen Caldicott
guardian.co.uk, Monday 11 April 2011

Soon after the Fukushima accident last month, I stated publicly that a nuclear event of this size and catastrophic potential could present a medical problem of very large dimensions. Events have proven this observation to be true despite the nuclear industry’s campaign about the “minimal” health effects of so-called low-level radiation. That billions of its dollars are at stake if the Fukushima event causes the “nuclear renaissance” to slow down appears to be evident from the industry’s attacks on its critics, even in the face of an unresolved and escalating disaster at the reactor complex at Fukushima.

Proponents of nuclear power – including George Monbiot, who has had a mysterious road-to-Damascus conversion to its supposedly benign effects – accuse me and others who call attention to the potential serious medical consequences of the accident of “cherry-picking” data and overstating the health effects of radiation from the radioactive fuel in the destroyed reactors and their cooling pools. Yet by reassuring the public that things aren’t too bad, Monbiot and others at best misinform, and at worst misrepresent or distort, the scientific evidence of the harmful effects of radiation exposure – and they play a predictable shoot-the-messenger game in the process.

To wit:

1) Mr Monbiot, who is a journalist not a scientist, appears unaware of the difference between external and internal radiation

Let me educate him.

The former is what populations were exposed to when the atomic bombs were detonated over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945; their profound and on-going medical effects are well documented. [1]

Internal radiation, on the other hand, emanates from radioactive elements which enter the body by inhalation, ingestion, or skin absorption. Hazardous radionuclides such as iodine-131, caesium 137, and other isotopes currently being released in the sea and air around Fukushima bio-concentrate at each step of various food chains (for example into algae, crustaceans, small fish, bigger fish, then humans; or soil, grass, cow’s meat and milk, then humans). [2] After they enter the body, these elements – called internal emitters – migrate to specific organs such as the thyroid, liver, bone, and brain, where they continuously irradiate small volumes of cells with high doses of alpha, beta and/or gamma radiation, and over many years, can induce uncontrolled cell replication – that is, cancer. Further, many of the nuclides remain radioactive in the environment for generations, and ultimately will cause increased incidences of cancer and genetic diseases over time.

The grave effects of internal emitters are of the most profound concern at Fukushima. It is inaccurate and misleading to use the term “acceptable levels of external radiation” in assessing internal radiation exposures. To do so, as Monbiot has done, is to propagate inaccuracies and to mislead the public worldwide (not to mention other journalists) who are seeking the truth about radiation’s hazards.

Continue reading at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2011/apr/11/nuclear-apologists-radiation

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Another Equal Pay Day? Really?

From The Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlo-thomas/equal-pay-day_b_847021.html

Marlo Thomas
Posted: 04/12/11

If one more person points to Meg Whitman or Arianna Huffington as proof of women’s earning power, I’m going to scream. That’s like saying Tiger Woods and Will Smith are slam-dunk proof that black Americans have broken into the ranks of the über-rich.

Which brings us to National Equal Pay Day. I can’t believe we’re having another one. I still have my little green button from 1970 — with “59¢” emblazoned on it — tacked to my bulletin board. I remember how we all wore that button on our t-shirts as we marched to protest the gender pay disparity of that time. Now we’re at 77 cents.

Forty years and 18 cents. A dozen eggs has gone up 10 times that amount.

There are people who undermine the pay gap by citing the women who make 98 cents on every dollar a man makes. But this is an elite group. According to the National Women’s Law Center, the vast majority of American women — working “full-time, year-round” — are still stuck in that shameful 77-cent zone. The gap, says the National Women’s Law Center, translates into “$10,622 less per year in female median earnings.” Those are real dollars that could cover real expenses — like food and school and clothes and health care and childcare.

Many companies try to disguise the inequity. Take the infamous Wal-Mart sex discrimination case, in which it was revealed that female workers at Wal-Mart earned about 5 percent less than men doing similar jobs between 1996 and 2001. Defenders of Wal-Mart might tell you that the discrepancy is practically negligible — that, in fact, hourly-waged men make only 37 cents an hour more than the women.

But climb a little further up that corporate ladder — to the career jobs — and it’s impossible to disguise the inequity. At the senior vice president level at Wal-Mart, says the report, the average pay for a man is $419,435 a year. And for women? Just $279,772. That’s $150,000 a gap — too many numerals for my little green button.

There are those who will dismiss this disparity and ask us women to congratulate ourselves for moving up the corporate food chain. That’s the ol’ you’ve-come-a-long-way-baby kind of thinking. It’s too late for that. Today, as we mark another Equal Pay Day (or as some of us call it, Unequal Pay Day), we can’t celebrate a mere 17-cent gain made over four decades.

So what do we do? We’ve worn the buttons, we’ve done the marches, we’ve lobbied. Now what?

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/marlo-thomas/equal-pay-day_b_847021.html

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Esther Cepeda: I long for ordinary

What happens if people no longer want to see themselves as an “identity” but rather as just ordinary people?  Women with a transsexual history face this one with all the pressure from Transgender Inc.  Wanting to be just ordinary rather than part of the Transgender Borg Collective causes great wailing an gnashing of teeth on the part of the TGBC along with a memorized litany of accusations, recriminations and guilt tripping.

I remember a time before Reagan when people were freer than they are now.

From The Austin Statesman: http://www.statesman.com/opinion/cepeda-see-others-in-all-of-the-places-1390483.html

Esther J. Cepeda, Washington Post
4/10/2011

CHICAGO — In a world where everyone is considered special and believes themselves to be, like the residents of Garrison Keillor’s fictitious Lake Wobegon strong, good-looking and above average I’m striving for ordinary, general and mainstream.

Weird, I know. But like an overstimulated child, I’m worn and cranky from too much Latino-mania. We’re the largest minority! We have $1 trillion in buying power! Google, L’Oreal, and State Farm are culturally marketing to us!

Whoop-dee-doo. I’d rather be seen as a normal part of everyday American life instead of perceived as belonging to an alien population that requires special outreach.

When I was little, my Latino cultural touchstones were the rock band Santana, Freddy Prinze of TV’s “Chico and the Man,” and Jose Feliciano, who sang that show’s theme song as well as the ever-popular “Feliz Navidad.” They appealed to people of all types, not just Hispanics. I liked that.

But that was before the decline of mass media and the reign of the segmented target audience. Today it’s all about “reaching” Hispanics through segregated “culturally relevant” Hispanic TV programming, radio, social media and websites. Worse, many of these efforts are in Spanish even though, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, 84 percent of Latinos under 17 and 56 percent of Latinos over 18 speak English fluently or exclusively.

I yearn for the Latino community to become un-niched. If by 2050 Hispanics do comprise one-third of the U.S. population, I’d like them to be an equal part of an American community that embraces its diversity as a strength, not a group maneuvering against disparate Asian, black, mixed-race and white blocs for whatever’s left of the American dream.

I long to see people with hair, skin and eye color like mine in all types of magazines, and on news anchor desks and big screens everywhere — not just in the ones that have been assigned to my minority group.

Continue reading at:  http://www.statesman.com/opinion/cepeda-see-others-in-all-of-the-places-1390483.html

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Fired transgendered teacher rejects deal that would muzzle him

From The Star Canada: http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/972444–fired-transgendered-teacher-rejects-deal-that-would-muzzle-him?bn=1

John Cotter
The Canadian Press
4/11/2011

EDMONTON—A transgendered teacher fired by a Catholic school district is rejecting a settlement offer because it would require him to keep quiet and drop a human rights complaint.

Jan Buterman says he will proceed with his complaint against Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools, which wrote him a letter in 2008 praising his abilities but dismissing him for not being aligned with the values of the Catholic Church.

Buterman, who was a substitute teacher in St. Albert, just north of Edmonton, says the publicly funded school district can’t buy his silence with an offer of $78,000 cash or a one-year teaching job.

“I don’t want to be muzzled,” says Buterman, who has worked as a teacher elsewhere since he was fired. “They don’t want me to talk about the fact that they, as an employer, claiming authority from the Catholic Church, have discriminated against me because of my medical status as a transsexual person.”

Buterman says he expects the Catholic school board will ask the Alberta Human Rights Commission to dismiss his complaint. The commission has the right by law not to send a case to a hearing if a “fair and reasonable settlement” is offered.

David Keohane, superintendent of the Catholic school district, says the board has been working with the human rights commission to try to ensure the offer is seen as fair and reasonable.

“It is about how the commission is being satisfied with how we are dealing with the issue and the appearance of being reasonable,” he says.

“Everything is completely reasonable … given the absolute nature of how the issue represented itself, and we believe that we have been abundantly fair.”

The Alberta Teachers’ Association also appears to think so. The union has decided it will no longer pay for Buterman’s lawyers, who have called the cash offer “substantial” and advised him that it’s more than most employers would offer a short-term employee. They have also suggested that rejecting the settlement because of its confidentiality clause could make Buterman look bad.

Continue reading at:  http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/article/972444–fired-transgendered-teacher-rejects-deal-that-would-muzzle-him?bn=1