The Seeming Contradiction of Being Anti-War and Supporting the Rights of Trans-Folks to Serve in the Military

Over the week that has passed since Chelsea Manning officially came out as trans I have heard several different positions taken by people withing the trans-communities.

That there are differing opinions is to be expected, we are after all a very diverse coalition of people with different views on life and different personal politics.

I should know I am often labeled as ultra left by people I consider to be ultra right wing.

For the record I learned Chelsea Manning was trans many months ago when Zinnia Jones (Lauren McNamara) wrote of her on-line conversations with Chelsea.

I consider the actions of Chelsea Manning to be heroic.  I always consider the exposing of war crimes to be an act of heroism.  I consider her up there in the ranks of heroes like Daniel Ellsberg, Edward Snowden and Julian Assange.

I remember  going to school in the 1950s when I was indoctrinated in the ideology of patriotism.  My country right or wrong.  My country is always good, we value human life more than all those other countries.  We act only in self defense.

All the lies one has to believe to be an unthinking patriotic militarist.

Being a transkid meant dealing with a lot of contradictions cis-gender kids did not have to contemplate.

Alienation led to questioning. Being an avid reader of extra material in addition to our Social Studies texts raised more questions.  The first war I had doubts about was the Spanish-American war.  Mark Twain and others spoke out in loud opposition to that war.

By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis I had started learning the “People’s History”.  Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie taught it for years before Howard Zinn published his book.

By then I was questioning our support of right wing dictators every where.  My opposition to the war in Vietnam was early and complete.

I became involved in the Draft Resistance Movement and later aided and abetted deserters.

I supported the Winter Soldiers and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.

I’ve always thought that every veteran no matter the form of discharge should be eligible for health care and other benefits.

I question the actions of some in the military and believe they should be prosecuted when they commit atrocities and war crimes.

But more I question the legitimacy of those who send others out to fight and commit murder for dubious reasons that often have more to do with protecting corporate interests than defending our nation.

I have stood up for and signed petitions in support of the rights of LGBT people to serve in the military if that is where their hearts and minds lead them.

Those who choose to serve should be able to serve.  It is a matter of conscience.

Just as it is a matter of conscience for those of us who oppose these wars.

I disagree with those trans-folks who served and may still be serving, when they call Chelsea Manning a traitor.

Since when is it treason to expose war crimes?

I continue to support the right of trans-folks to serve, the rights of trans-veterans to have full access to all benefits.  Further I believe that anyone who has received a less than honorable discharge for being LGBT should immediately have that discharge upgraded to honorable.

I fully believe that Chelsea Manning should be able to receive the medical care she need as a trans-person including hormones and surgery.  America claims to have all sorts of high ideals.  Time for us to live up to those ideals.

One of those ideals is that we do not torture or abuse prisoners, nor do we deny them needed medical treatment.

Chelsea Manning is in prison for exposing the wanton murder of civilians by US Troops.  She isn’t in prison for murder or some other sort of violent crime.

When I wrote about the case of Michelle Kosilek, a year or so ago, I said the case wasn’t really about her but that it was good that the rights of TS/TG people to receive medical treatment in prison was argued using the least sympathetic of people.  The precedent has been established using Michelle Kosilek, some one so despicable and hard to support that many of us had a hard time supporting her.

But if we claim hormones and SRS are medically necessary then the principle of providing such treatment to prisoners has to be defended.

I understand the concerns of people in TAVA and other organizations that support the right of trans-folks in the military but no one TS/TG person actually represents all of us, they represent only themselves.  It is up to you to make that distinction.

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Open Letter: Kate Bornstein to Chelsea Manning

From Out:

By Kate Bornstein

The trans pioneer reaches out to the recently sentenced whistleblower

Editors’ Note: We are aware that Chelsea Manning will not have access to this open letter right away. According to the Leavenworth prisoners’ handbook, Manning will not have Internet access, so we will physically mail this to her (there’s a whole procedure to follow if we want it to get to her, and we have to use her “Bradley” name and prison number, once it’s assigned), so if anyone wants to also send the physical letter, please do.

Dear Chelsea,
Hello. My name is Kate Bornstein. I invite you to think of me as your whacky old aunt who loves you very much, and wants only the very best for you. I’m 65—a very old lady, indeed. I was born boy in 1948. I legally became girl in 1986 at the age of 38—I was 10 years older than you when I openly began my transition in 1983.

But enough about me. Let’s get right to you, missy. I know—well, the whole web-connected world has access to the information—that you’ve lived through the horror of “extreme solitary confinement” for months on end. You are the surrvivor of over-the-top cruel and unusual punishment, the kind of cruel and unusual punishment you’re likely to face over the next decade, honey, when you face active and potentially violent opposition to you simply being the girl you know you are.

It’s easier to use the labels boy and girl than man and woman. Men and women—both cisgender and transgender—are very possessive about those labels, so I’ve found it easier to claim neither gender as my own. A lot of people are upset with you because you’re tampering with the notion of what it means to be a woman. I do that too—I break the laws of gender. So, I call myself a Gender Outlaw. My neither/nor gender status has been a choice. Your current in-between gender state has been forced on you, and it breaks my heart. I wish I could hug and comfort you.

Every trans* person in the world has had a hardship in transitioning from one gender to another. Every single one of us, Chelsea, has cried about our transitions and strove passionately against all odds to finally express ourselves as who we’ve always felt ourselves to be. But you have been dealt a particularly rough hand. And you’re still going to be better off than some trans people in the world. There are hundreds if not thousands of genders and sexualities being owned and expressed in the world today by some very brave people in some very scary places. You’ll soon find a way to express your gender as best you can in the mono-gendered world of Leavenworth Federal Prison.

Please look at it this way, Chelsea… you’re a soldier and a girl. What does that translate into? You’re a real-life kick-ass warrior princess… only most people think you’re a guy. That really, really sucks. I know. I had my own warrior princess days when I was a guy, and an officer in the Sea Org, the paramilitary clergy of the Church of Scientology. I lived a military-style two-only gender life for 12 years before I couldn’t take it any longer. With strength, luck, and your good behavior, you might even get out in eight years. You’ll still have a lot of girl life ahead of you.

But no matter how all this upheaval in your life shakes itself out, please know this: God (or Goddess, or whatever gender-free deity, angel or sprite might move your spirit) only gives us what we’re capable of handling. A whole lot of people, including and especially me, your auntie, have faith in you to handle what you’ve been given, because you’ve done such a good job of that so far. Keep that inside your heart, please.

The good news is: You are not alone. You have got a huge support network out here. There are already folks out here who proudly call themselves your sisters, and brothers. You’ve got uncles, and you’ve got aunties, like me. Given a decade in your circumstances, it’s possible you’ll find a daddy, if that’s what you’re looking for. And somewhere in your life, you’re going to find your trans* mom, and she will teach you many wise trans* things.

My own trans* mom—and by extension, your great trans* aunt—was Doris Fish, San Francisco’s premiere drag queen in the 1980’s. The plague took her, hon. Please, please, please take every precaution to keep yourself safe from HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. Use safer sex guidelines, whenever you can. I hope you find someone inside those walls who will comfort you. Until you find someone like that in your life, please remember that alone doesn’t equal lonely.

Now… a word about hormones, because EVERYONE is clamoring about your hormones. Yes, of course hormones are important. I LOVE what hormones have done for the enjoyment of my own freaking freaky body. You’re going to love what hormones are gonna do for you, too. I promise. But for now, you just have to be patient. I know, you want to slap me, right? Sorry, grasshopper—you’re just going to have to use this part of your life to learn the art of patience.

I’d suggest the Stephen Mitchell translation of Lao-Tse’s Tao Te Ching, an ancient Chinese text. The Tao (which means “the way” or “the center path”) has gone a long way into making sense of my own gender quandary. Plus, it’s only 5,000 words long! I’ll figure out some way to get you that, if you’d like me to. But, I digress.

Back to hormones. My girlfriend and I (yes, I’m a dyke) are going to look into the possibilities of a bunch of us out here paying for your hormones and then sending them to you in prison. Please ask your lawyer to ask if the US Military prison system will administer them for you. (Hello, Mister Lawyer—thank you for taking good care of my dear niece, Chelsea. Please call me if I can help.)

Wrapping up now. I’m going to give you some last bits of advice. Not everyone is going to give you the same advice as me—and it would do you well to get advice from a LOT of people who only want the best for you. But this is me, your Auntie Kate, telling you:

Job one: Stay alive. Do anything you need to do in order to make your life more worth living. You’ve been in the army, and in jail, so you know how to obey the rules. The rule that counts the most for you right now is this: don’t be mean. Anything else goes.

Job two: Make yourself as safe as possible. You’ve been a member of the US military. You know what it means to fight an enemy. You’ve got a different kind of enemy now—people who will hate you for the sole reason that you’re trans*. You’ll need to put into play every bit of military strategy you’ve ever learned, as you deal with people we call transphobes, or transphobic.

Please keep this in mind: Transphobes are expressing the same fears we had about ourselves right up until the day we admitted that we were in fact trans. You’ve taken a HUGE step forward in self-expression, and I’m very proud of you for that.

Job three: Experience as much ecstasy as you can, with the girl/boy body you’ve got right now. You are occupying an in-between stage of transition, and most cultures consider that place pretty darned magical and powerful. Underneath it all, we’re all caterpillars on our way to butterfly.

Job four: As best as you can, make your body look the way you’d really like it to look. Do something, every day—even if it’s as simple using your fingernails tweeze a single hair from your brows,—to make yourself a little more happy with your body.
In closing, baby girl, remember that you have brothers and sisters and aunties and uncles all around the world who are so proud of you. Thousands of us, in fact. Think of us, and breathe.

Kiss Kiss,
Auntie Kate

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AP editor’s note on Manning



AP editor’s note on Manning

Update: The following advisory was sent to AP member editors and other subscribers on Aug. 26, 2013, at 6:03 p.m.:

The Associated Press will henceforth use Pvt. Chelsea E. Manning and female pronouns for the soldier formerly known as Bradley Manning, in accordance with her wishes to live as a woman.

Manning announced her wishes last Thursday after being sentenced to 35 years in Fort Leavenworth military prison and a dishonorable discharge from the U.S. Army for revealing U.S. secrets to WikiLeaks, the anti-establishment website.

Manning’s statement was reiterated, with additional detail, in a blog posting (( and an interview with The Associated Press on Monday by defense attorney David E. Coombs.

The use of the first name Chelsea and feminine pronouns in Manning’s case is in conformity with the transgender guidance in the AP Stylebook. The guidance calls for using the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth.


The following note was sent to AP member and subscriber editors on Aug. 22, 2013, at 7:46 p.m. ET:


The Associated Press policy as stated in the AP Stylebook is to comply with the gender identity preference of an individual.

At this time, the AP is seeking more details about the gender change statement attributed to Pfc. Bradley Manning that was read Thursday on the “Today” show in the presence of defense attorney David Coombs. The typewritten statement said “I am Chelsea Manning. I am a female,” and asked supporters to use “my new name and use the feminine pronoun” in gender references to the U.S. Army soldier. Manning’s lawyers had raised the issue of gender identity during the trial, but Thursday’s statement went further.

Manning was sentenced Wednesday to 35 years in Leavenworth military prison for providing secret U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks, the anti-establishment website.

With Manning in custody and unavailable to comment, the AP is seeking additional information about the statement from Coombs, who did not immediately respond to email and telephone messages.

For the time being, AP stories will use gender-neutral references to Manning and provide the pertinent background on the transgender issue. However, when reporting is completed, the AP Stylebook entry on “transgender” will be AP’s guide.

That stylebook entry states: “Use the pronoun preferred by the individuals who have acquired the physical characteristics of the opposite sex or present themselves in a way that does not correspond with their sex at birth. If that preference is not expressed, use the pronoun consistent with the way the individuals live publicly. “

The AP

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What’s in a name? Chelsea Manning and Muhammad Ali

From Salon:

Almost 50 years ago, another big-name newsmaker shocked America with a new identity that challenged our prejudices

Saturday, Aug 24, 2013

Consider a polarizing political and cultural figure who is seen by many people as a hero and by others as a traitor – and who has a powerful symbolic importance to members of a persecuted minority. This person adopts a new name and a new identity, which transforms his or her relationship to mainstream culture and confuses both the media and many members of the public. Many people refuse to accept the new name and identity, or treat it as a nickname or a passing fad. At age 25, this person is prosecuted for an act of conscience-driven defiance against America’s war machine, one that arguably serves as a political turning point but also strikes many people as an unpatriotic or treasonous betrayal.

Obviously I’m talking about Chelsea Manning, at least in part. The Army leaker and whistle-blower, who was recently convicted on 17 charges of espionage and theft, declared this week that she identifies as female and no longer wants to be known as Bradley. It’s an event that feels, at this early stage, like a cultural touchstone of our young century. Among other things, as my colleagues Katie McDonough and Mary Elizabeth Williams have addressed, Manning’s “Today” show statement opened up an epistemological and taxonomical can of worms in the mainstream media, which seemed startlingly unprepared to deal with the identity preference of a high-profile transgender person.

For members of the general public to feel confused about the identity issues raised by Manning’s case, and to struggle with the question of how we decide what gender someone is – is it a matter of self-definition, of a legal piece of paper, of genetics or of physical anatomy? – is not especially surprising. That kind of confusion might even be productive, were it dealt with honestly and without hateful or dismissive rhetoric. But this is by no means a new issue for LGBT activists or media professionals; the gender transition of “Matrix” co-director Lana Wachowski (formerly Larry) was handled with far more grace last year. On the Manning story, major news outlets have appeared unsure whether to lead or follow. Most have continued to refer to Manning as a man named Bradley, although the Guardian, the Daily Mail, MSNBC, Rolling Stone, Slate, the Huffington Post and Salon were among the prominent exceptions. The current Wikipedia page is temporarily locked as “Chelsea Manning,” but was apparently changed back and forth five times within a three-hour period on Thursday. Debate continues to rage on the associated Talk page while a seven-day survey in search of consensus progresses. (Seriously, someone needs to preserve that conversation as a key historical document of 2013.)

But everything I said in that first paragraph applies not just to Manning but also to Muhammad Ali, who shocked the nation by claiming a new name and a new identity almost 50 years ago and went on, like Manning, to become an important figure in the domestic resistance to American militarism. After knocking out Sonny Liston and winning the heavyweight championship in February of 1964, the boxer until then known as Cassius Clay announced that he was a Black Muslim who was rejecting his “slave name” for a true one issued by Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Nation of Islam. That’s certainly not the same thing as a person who has previously lived as a man proclaiming that she’s a woman, but in the context of that time, it may have been even more startling.

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MSNBC: Masen Davis and Mara Keisling on Chelsea Manning & Transgender Equality

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Pussy Riot’s Yekaterina Samutsevich: ‘I Support Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics Boycott’

From Huffington Post:


Freedom is only the first battle for Pussy Riot’s Yekaterina Samutsevich.

The Russian punk pioneer, radical artist and gay rights campaigner is the only member of Pussy Riot on Russian soil who has her freedom, since three of the band were jailed a year ago.

The oldest of the Pussy Riot three, aged 30, Samutsevich was released in October, her two year sentence suspended.

The reason was she had never made it to the altar of Moscow’s cathedral to perform a ‘punk prayer’ against President Vladimir Putin – she was kicked out the church before she could get there.

Her two bandmates, Nadia Tolokonnikova and Masha Alyokhina remain behind bars, staging hunger strikes and so-far unsuccessful appeals.

Her freedom, Samutsevich tells Huffington Post UK in a Skype interview, was nothing more than “a small victory”. In person, she is far from her characterisation as a ferocious, leaden-faced campaigner, speaking not in absolutisms, but softly, of moral dilemmas.

“I do try to be pleased about gaining that freedom, but Nadia and Masha are not free. Justice was not done, so the battle continues,” she says, from the offices of Amnesty International in Moscow.

Now, 12 months later, the images of Russia dominating TV news in Europe and the US are not of three young women caged inside a courtroom, or a rainbow of balaclavas outside Russian embassies.

Instead, the pictures are of bloodied gay rights demonstrators in St Petersburg and Swedish athletes with multi-coloured nail varnish to protest the new Russian laws against “gay propaganda to minors”.

The law, in practice, makes it near impossible to hold gay pride marches or demonstrations for equal rights.

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Fischer: Russia’s Anti-Gay Law Is Exactly The Sort Of ‘Public Policy That We’ve Been Advocating’

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New Jersey’s ban on gay conversion therapy is a victory over religious nuts

From The Guardian UK:

It’s unconscionable that parents can allow their children to die or force them to convert because of extreme religious beliefs, Wednesday 21 August 2013

As of this week, gay conversion therapy is outlawed in the state of New Jersey. Kids who are either gay or suspected of being gay cannot be forced by their parents to endure homophobic corrective therapy, which assemblyman and bill sponsor Tim Eustice correctly calls “an insidious form of child abuse”.

Not only does conversion therapy fail to actually “convert” gay kids into straight ones, but, according to the American Psychological Association (which disavows the practice), it often leaves lasting scars, leading to mental health issues and substance abuse. California is the only other state in the nation that has attempted to ban conversion therapy, but that ban is caught up in ongoing legal battles.

Conversion therapists argue that their practice helps young people who are struggling with their sexuality, and that choosing the therapy is a First Amendment issue. Outlawing conversion therapy, they say, is one step on the “slippery slope of government infringing upon the First Amendment rights of counselors to provide, and patients to receive, counseling consistent with their religious beliefs”.

Religious freedom is a constitutional right. But it’s not the only one. Too often, the religious “freedom” of a parent comes at the expense of their children‘s basic human rights and rights to equal protection under the law. Kids are not simply extensions of their parents. They are individual people, and while they should be guided and directed and for the most part under the legal authority of their parents, their own rights to personal safety, health care and freedom from abuse should not be subsumed in some bizarro-world version of religious liberty.

Parents in the United States have remarkable latitude when it comes to determining how they will raise their children. There’s often good reason behind that: The state doesn’t actually know what’s best for every family, and a diversity of individuals are going to have a diversity of needs. The overwhelming majority of parents want what’s best for their kids and are in the best position to assess their own child’s interests. And state interference with parenting practices has historically targeted minority groups and often violated the rights of children. Generations of Native American youth, for example, were taken from their families and placed in boarding schools, often run by churches, which were explicitly purposed to impart Christian European-American ideals onto the students and strip them of their heritage and traditions. The “education” of these children went on for centuries, and was part of a broader concerted effort to culturally annihilate Native Americans. Missionaries played a handy role, and the US government also got on board, opening schools of its own and funding the cultural genocide.

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Celebrate Women’s Equality Day – Support Equal Pay Today!

From The ACLU Blog:

By Lenora M. Lapidus

On this Women’s Equality Day – the anniversary of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote – I’m struck by all the ways in which women have yet to attain equality. Also, because this August 26 comes two days before the 50th Anniversary of the historic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I’m reflecting on all the ways in which Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of racial equality and social justice remains a dream unrealized. As we celebrate the major changes that have occurred in the United States since 1963, and recall the sense of community that permeated the Washington Mall that hot summer day, I am saddened by the fact that African American women still earn only 64 cents for every dollar earned by white men, women are still under-represented in the higher paid male-dominated occupations or pushed out when they become pregnant, and domestic workers – the vast majority of whom are women of color – are still excluded from basic labor law protections such as overtime.

In addition to being the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, which President Kennedy signed to ensure that women would be paid the same as men for the same work. To celebrate that half-century mark, on June 10, 2013, fifteen national, regional and state-based women’s rights organizations from around the country came together and launched the Equal Pay Today! Campaign. The EPT! Platform identifies five areas of employer practices that contribute to the gender wage gap. To ensure that women earn 100 cents for every dollar earned by men, we must end the following employment practices: less pay for the same job, occupational segregation, pay secrecy, pregnancy discrimination and lack of paid sick/family leave, and wage theft/minimum wage violations.

The EPT! Campaign is working to end these discriminatory employment practices by pushing for policy change at both the federal and state level. For example, the federal Paycheck Fairness Act will close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act and prohibit retaliation against employees who discuss their wages. Similarly, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will require employers to make the same accommodations for pregnant workers that they make for other employees who are similarly temporarily unable to perform all aspects of their jobs. At the same time, we are working with advocates in states around the country to push for legislative and executive branch action to address the gender wage gap and bringing litigation under state laws that are more protective than their federal counterparts.

A growing number of states provide greater protections for pregnant and nursing women in the workplace. Under Connecticut’s pregnancy accommodation law, employers are required to, among other things, make a “reasonable effort to transfer a pregnant employee to any suitable temporary position.” Armed with this state law, Annie Balcastro was able to fight back against a police department policy that effectively pushed her out of the workplace when she was pregnant. An officer in Wallingford’s Police Department, Annie requested a light-duty accommodation during her pregnancy. Under the Wallingford Police Department policy, police officers could take paid leave for on-duty injuries, while pregnant officers had to work full duty or go onto unpaid leave. In 2012, with the help of the ACLU, the ACLU of Connecticut, and the law firm Outten and Golden LLP, Officer Balcastro filed a complaint against the Wallingford Police Department claiming that the Department refused to give her a light-duty assignment or transfer her to a suitable temporary position, forcing her to take unpaid leave during her pregnancy instead. On May 3, 2013, a settlement was reached on Annie’s behalf with the Department.

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Under Obama, Little Progress on High-Level Jobs for Women

From The New York Times:

Published: August 26, 2013

WASHINGTON — Behind the roiling conversation over whether President Obama might make Janet L. Yellen the first female leader of the Federal Reserve is an uncomfortable reality for the White House: the administration has named no more women to high-level executive branch posts than the Clinton administration did almost two decades ago.

The White House has taken steps to even its gender balance in recent months with high-profile nominations like Samantha Power as ambassador to the United Nations and Susan E. Rice as national security adviser. But by most measures of gender diversity, including the proportion of women at the cabinet level, the executive branch looks little different from 20 years ago, even as the House of Representatives, the Senate and corporate America have placed significantly more women in senior roles.

“There’s room for improvement, and we’ve seen some missed opportunities,” said Debbie Walsh, the director of the Center for American Women and Politics at Rutgers University. “We’re all watching the Fed to see what will happen there.”

Mr. Obama is choosing from a small pool of candidates for the Federal Reserve position — probably the most important economic appointment he will make in his second term. The finalists include Ms. Yellen, the Fed’s current vice chairwoman and a former Clinton administration official. The favored candidate among several top Obama aides is Lawrence H. Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Obama economic adviser.

Over all, Mr. Obama has named 13 women to cabinet-level posts, matching the historic high achieved by the Clinton administration. Mr. Obama has also put a record number of women in judicial slots, including two on the Supreme Court. Women make up about 42 percent of confirmed judges appointed by Mr. Obama, compared with 22 percent appointed by George W. Bush and 29 percent by Bill Clinton.

Yet the ratio of men to women in the administration is where it was two decades ago, if not a little more heavily male. The Obama administration has a smaller proportion of women in top positions than the Clinton administration did in its second term, for instance. Women hold about 35 percent of cabinet-level posts, compared with 41 percent for Mr. Clinton and 24 percent for Mr. Bush at similar points in their presidencies.

“The president’s commitment to diversity is second to none, and his track record speaks to it,” Alyssa Mastromonaco, the deputy chief of staff, said in an e-mail message. “This is a man who has appointed women as national security adviser, as White House counsel, as budget director and to lead the task of implementing our single most important domestic policy accomplishment,” namely Mr. Obama’s health care law. “This president has single-handedly increased the diversity of our courts, and he will continue to select from a field of highly qualified and diverse candidates for all federal posts.”

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Abracadabra: You’re a Part-Timer

From Tom Dispatch:

How Corporate America Used the Great Recession to Turn Good Jobs Into Bad Ones

By Barbara Garson
August 20, 2013

Watch closely: I’m about to demystify the sleight-of-hand by which good jobs were transformed into bad jobs, full-time workers with benefits into freelancers with nothing, during the dark days of the Great Recession.

First, be aware of what a weird economic downturn and recovery this has been.  From the end of an “average” American recession, it ordinarily takes slightly less than a year to reach or surpass the previous employment peak.  But in June 2013 — four full years after the official end of the Great Recession — we had recovered only 6.6 million jobs, or just three-quarters of the 8.7 million jobs we lost.

Here’s the truly mysterious aspect of this “recovery”: 21% of the jobs lost during the Great Recession were low wage, meaning they paid $13.83 an hour or less.  But 58% of the jobs regained fall into that category. A common explanation for that startling statistic is that the bad jobs are coming back first and the good jobs will follow.

But let me suggest another explanation: the good jobs are here among us right now — it’s just their wages, their benefits, and the long-term security that have vanished.

Consider the experiences of two workers I initially interviewed for my book Down the Up Escalator: How the 99% Live in the Great Recession and you’ll see just how some companies used the recession to accomplish this magician’s disappearing trick.

Freelance Nation

Ina Bromberg genuinely likes to outfit people.  Trim and well dressed herself, Ina sells petites at the Madison Avenue flagship store of a designer brand boutique with several hundred outlets.  Even I had heard of the label.  I had to ask what its exact place in the fashion hierarchy was, though.  “We fall into a niche below Barney’s-Bergdorf-Chanel,” she explained.

In the course of a 20-year career, Ina, now in her sixties, had been the company’s top-earning national sales associate more than once.  Her loyal clients return each season saying, “You know what I like.  What have you got for me?”

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Crisis of Humanity: Global Capitalism Breeds 21st Century Fascism

From Truth Out:

By William I Robinson
Monday, 26 August 2013

In “Policing the Crisis,” the classic 1978 study conducted by noted socialist and cultural theorist Stuart Hall and several colleagues, the authors show how the restructuring of capitalism as a response to the crisis of the 1970s – which was the last major crisis of world capitalism until the current one hit in 2008 – led in the United Kingdom and elsewhere to an “exceptional state,” by which they meant a situation in which there was an ongoing breakdown of consensual mechanisms of social control and a growing authoritarianism. They wrote:

This is an extremely important moment: the point where, the repertoire of hegemony through consent having been exhausted, the drift towards the routine use of the more repressive features of the state comes more and more prominently into play. Here the pendulum within the exercise of hegemony tilts, decisively, from that where consent overrides coercion, to that condition in which coercion becomes, as it were, the natural and routine form in which consent is secured. This shift in the internal balance of hegemony – consent to coercion – is a response, within the state, to increasing polarization of class forces (real and imagined). It is exactly how a ‘crisis of hegemony’ expresses itself … the slow development of a state of legitimate coercion, the birth of a ‘law and order’ society … the whole tenor of social and political life has been transformed by [this moment]. A distinctively new ideological climate has been precipitated (Policing the Crisis, pp. 320-321).

This is an accurate description of the current state of affairs. We are witnessing transitions from social-welfare states to social-control states around the world. We are facing a global crisis that is unprecedented, given its magnitude, its global reach, the extent of ecological degradation and social deterioration, and the sheer scale of the means of violence. We truly face a crisis of humanity; we have entered a period of great upheavals, of momentous changes and uncertainties. This systemwide crisis is distinct from earlier such episodes of world crisis in the 1930s or the 1970s precisely because world capitalism is fundamentally different in the early 21st century.

Among the qualitative shifts that have taken place in the capitalist system in the face of globalization in recent decades, there are four I want to underscore. First is the rise of truly transnational capital and the integration of every country into a new globalized production and financial system. Second is the appearance of a new transnational capitalist class (TCC). This is a class group grounded in new global circuits of accumulation rather than the older national circuits. Third is the rise of what I term transnational state apparatuses. And fourth is the appearance of novel relations of inequality and domination in global society, including an increasing importance of transnational social and class inequalities relative to North-South inequalities.

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Climate Name Change

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Since 1954, the World Meteorological Organization has been naming extreme storms after people. But we propose a new naming system. One that names extreme storms caused by climate change, after the policy makers who deny climate change and obstruct climate policy. If you agree, sign the petition at…

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Fukushima’s legacy is just beginning

From Climate News Network:

By Paul Brown
August 25, 2013


The highly radioactive water leaking from the wrecked Fukushima plant is part of a problem that Japan will take decades to resolve and which will blight many thousands of lives.

LONDON, 25 August – The discovery at the plant of a leak of radioactive caesium eight times more dangerous than the levels immediately after the Fukushima accident in March 2011 has aroused international concern that Japan is incapable of containing the aftermath of the accident.

A Chinese statement expressed shock at the news and urged Japan to be more open about the problem. This prompted Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority to upgrade the leak from a level one incident, “an anomaly”, to a level three: “a serious incident.”

At the same time last week the Authority chairman, Shunichi Tanaka, said: “Mishaps keep happening one after the other.” His staff, he said, were trying to prevent the leak becoming “a fatal or serious accident”.

The latest leakage is so contaminating that a person standing close to a puddle of the water for an hour would receive five times the annual recommended radiation limit for nuclear workers.

As with previous leaks, the Tokyo Electric Power Co, Tepco, responsible for the plant, is pumping the contaminated water into storage tanks. This is acknowledged to be only a temporary solution, since there are already hundreds of full storage tanks on the site. These contain contaminated water used to cool the cores of the melted-down reactors. Some have already leaked and need stronger replacements.

The cause of the latest leak is still not clear and there are concerns about the continuing contamination of the Pacific Ocean, where local fishing is suspended because of radioactivity in the water.

Criticism from abroad

The hope expressed in the aftermath of the disaster in 2011 that the plant would be safe and all problems under control within a year was clearly wildly over-optimistic. The knock-on effects are becoming clear – the number of thyroid cancers in children in the area is increasing, for example – and the chances of people returning to the contaminated area are vanishingly small.

After the latest news South Korea’s Asiana Airlines was reported to have cancelled four charter flights between Seoul and Fukushima in October because of public concerns over the radioactive water leaks.

The city, around 60 kms (37 miles) from the nuclear facility and with a population of some 284,000, is a popular destination for golfers and tourists visiting nearby local hot springs and lakes.

On 24 August an editorial in the South Korean newspaper JoongAn Daily, headed “Tokyo lacks any sense of urgency”, said: “Leakage from the Fukushima nuclear complex…  is ballooning into a catastrophic disaster.”

If anything, the future consequences of Fukushima for Japan are more serious than for the countries still suffering from the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in Ukraine in 1986.

There the 30 km exclusion zone round the plant is still in force, and the ruined reactor has still not been made safe. The current international effort is aimed at placing a giant concrete shield over the reactor at a cost of around $1.5 billion. That work is not expected to be complete for another two years – until 30 years after the disaster.

The International Atomic Energy Agency team that looked at Fukushima and the problems of making the plant safe said in April that Japan may need longer than the projected 40 years to decommission the wrecked plants.

Britain’s long wait

Tepco, which offered the 40-year timetable, has admitted it does not yet have the technology to achieve it. Radiation levels are so high that for any human to try to tackle the melted-down reactors would be lethal. Robots to carry out the work need to be developed, and meanwhile the reactors must be kept cool and plants kept safe and stable.

One almost forgotten reactor core meltdown that happened in 1957 gives a clue to how long the Japanese problem may persist. This was a fire in a reactor at Windscale in Cumbria in the UK – small by comparison with both Chernobyl and Fukushima.

It was one of the two reactors producing plutonium for the British nuclear weapons programme. It caught fire and part of the core melted. Fifty-six years later, the reactor still has to be constantly monitored and guarded.

Several plans have been developed to dismantle the core and decommission it. But all have been abandoned, because it is considered too dangerous to tamper with. Although the UK’s nuclear expertise is arguably as good as Japan’s, the problem remains unresolved.

The reactor building is among the abandoned relics of Britain’s 1950s nuclear arms race, sitting behind barbed wire at the now renamed Sellafield site.

The Fukushima accident left Japan with three much larger reactor meltdowns. There is a long way to go. – Climate News Network

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Environmentalists warn plan to link Red Sea with Dead Sea could have dire consequences

From Raw Story:

By Agence France-Presse
Monday, August 26, 2013

A plan to link the Red Sea with the shrinking Dead Sea could save it from total evaporation and bring desalinated water to thirsty neighbours Israel, Jordan and the Palestinians.

But environmentalists warn that the “Red-Dead” project could have dire consequences, altering the unique chemistry of the landmark inland lake at the lowest point on earth.

Jordanian Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur said on Monday that his government had decided to press ahead with the 980-million dollar project which would give the parched Hashemite kingdom 100 million cubic metres (3.5 billion cubic feet) of water a year.

“The government has approved the project after years of technical, political, economic and geological studies,” Nsur told a news conference.

Under the plan, Jordan will draw water from the Gulf of Aqaba at the northern end of the Red Sea to the nearby Risheh Height, where a desalination plant is to be built to treat water.

“The desalinated water will go south to (the Jordanian town of) Aqaba, while salt water will be pumped to the Dead Sea,” Nsur said.

The Dead Sea, the world’s saltiest body of water, is on course to dry out by 2050.

It started shrinking in the 1960s when Israel, Jordan and Syria began to divert water from the Jordan River, the Dead Sea’s main tributary.

Israel and Jordan’s use of evaporation ponds for extracting valuable minerals from its briny waters has only exacerbated the problem.

With a coastline shared by Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan, the Dead Sea’s surface level has been dropping at a rate of around a metre a year. According to the latest available data form Israel’s hydrological service, on July 1, it stood at 427.13 metres (about 1,400 feet) below sea level, nearly 27 metres lower than in 1977.

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How ocean acidification harms sealife and worsens climate change

From Salon:

A spate of new research looks at the impact of the ocean’s lowered pH both above and below the surface

Monday, Aug 26, 2013

It’s been a busy weekend for the study of ocean acidification, bringing mostly bad news from an area we normally don’t hear too much about at all.

First, a refresher from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

Fundamental changes in seawater chemistry are occurring throughout the world’s oceans. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution, the release of carbon dioxide (CO2) from humankind’s industrial and agricultural activities has increased the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere. The ocean absorbs about a quarter of the CO2 we release into the atmosphere every year, so as atmospheric CO2 levels increase, so do the levels in the ocean. Initially, many scientists focused on the benefits of the ocean removing this greenhouse gas from the atmosphere. However, decades of ocean observations now show that there is also a downside — the CO2 absorbed by the ocean is changing the chemistry of the seawater…

That change is what’s now called ocean acidification. Bryan Walsh at Time summarizes two new studies on the topic published in the journal Nature Climate Change. The first looks at the effects of rising acidity on different types of marine life, from coral to fish, and finds that they’re all going to have a tough time adapting. Some species, like oysters and squids, are more likely to be directly affected, while the main problem for some fish will come if the coral reefs, which are most at risk, disappear. Down the line, it could mean big changes for seafood.

A second group of studies, published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, found mixed results for acidification’s impact on marine ecosystems. At The New York Times’ Dot Earth Blog, Andy Revkin finds the main takeaway to be only that there will be large changes. While some species will be worse off for acidification, the studies together show, others will thrive in the new oceanic environment.

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Tar Sands Drones Are On Their Way

From In These Times:

The energy industry wants to use unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor pipelines.

BY Cole Stangler
August 22, 2013

North American energy companies are planning to use drones to monitor their pipelines—in part to check for potential gas or oil leaks, but also to limit “third-party intrusions,” a broad range of activity that includes anything from unwanted vehicles entering restricted areas around pipelines to environmental activists.

The Pipeline Research Council International (PRCI), a multi-national organization funded by some of the world’s largest pipeline operators like BP, Shell, TransCanada and Enbridge, is leading efforts to research and develop unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) technology for pipeline monitoring. The PRCI has been working with the American Petroleum Institute and the Interstate Natural Gas Association on drone research for the last two years, according to PRCI President Cliff Johnson. He says researchers are currently running test flights.

“It could be a more efficient and more cost-effective tool … than a manned system,” Johnson says.

Today, companies often rely on piloted aircraft for pipeline monitoring. That involves surveillance of the pipeline’s “right of way,” a strip of land surrounding the pipeline whose rights are typically shared by pipeline operators and landowners. In the right of way, which can range from about 25 to 125 feet, companies check for unauthorized vehicles, people and anything else that’s not supposed to be there. Meanwhile, companies engage in additional environmental monitoring to check for potential threats to the integrity of the pipeline, such as leakage.

Drones may ultimately be able to accomplish both of these monitoring tasks more effectively than humans, says Peter Lidiak, pipeline director at the American Petroleum Institute (API). Lidiak believes that pipeline operators will start adopting drones in the next five to 10 years.

These drones will probably be deployed in the United States before taking off in Canada. In 2015, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) will release its regulations for commercial drones, paving the way for thousands of UAVs to enter domestic airspace. Canada, on the other hand, does not yet have any such plans. The country’s FAA equivalent, Transport Canada, does issue licenses for commercial drones, but the existing regulations are stringent.

But this doesn’t mean Canada will miss out on all the action—especially once multi-nationals like TransCanada, which operate on both sides of the border, start using drones on the American segments of their network.

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Ocean Acidification Happening at 10X Rate Than Ever Before – Study

From Alternet:

A pressing environmental problem for the billion-plus people worldwide who rely the ocean for protein.

By Alex Kane
August 26, 2013

The increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to increasing rates of ocean acidification, a process that could have catastrophic effects. A new study published by Nature Climate Change shows that ocean acidification is happening at a rate ten times faster than ever before, according to the study’s author, German scientist Hans Poertner.

Ocean acidification occurs when pH levels–a measure of acidity–fall in the ocean. The lower the pH is, the higher the acid is. So falling pH levels in the ocean mean that acid is increasing, which has major effects for species that live in the sea, particularly for species that build calcium-based shells.

“Studies have shown that a more acidic environment has a dramatic effect on some calcifying species, including oysters, clams, sea urchins, shallow water corals, deep sea corals, and calcareous plankton,” the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states.“When shelled organisms are at risk, the entire food web may also be at risk. Today, more than a billion people worldwide rely on food from the ocean as their primary source of protein. Many jobs and economies in the U.S. and around the world depend on the fish and shellfish in our oceans.”

Poertner told The Guardian newspaper that the ocean is already suffering because of global warming, but that acidification is going to exacerbate problems.

The new study in Nature Climate Change was based on a close look at five components of the ocean’s eco-system: fish, crustaceans, orals, echinoderms and molluscs. Acidification in the sea impacted all of those species. This comes on the heels of a previous study from Columbia University that suggested that the pace of acidification has no parallel for the past 300 milion years.

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