We’re Not Astroturf: Why Open Trans Military Service Is a Worthy Fight

Your Fight.  Not Mine.  I am anti-war and have other causes.

From Huffington Post:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/were-not-astroturf_b_3903502.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices


Last week Professor Dean Spade, a former teaching fellow at Harvard and transgender activist, attacked efforts to raise awareness of the exclusion of transgender people from U.S. military service. Spade claims that fighting for open transgender military service distracts us from other issues facing transgender persons, such as unemployment, imprisonment, and violence. He also argues that this is not a fight that the trans community has chosen.

While the scholar’s work on behalf of trans persons in poverty is to be commended, it seems that he has not done his research on this issue.

Professor Spade asks, supposedly rhetorically, “Is military service a job we want?” while pointing out many things about the military that he dislikes, including that it exists. The numbers speak for themselves, though. The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 20 percent of all transgender people are veterans. We also estimate that there are between 5,000 and 10,000 transgender people serving right now. It’s not just transgender people who see the military as a desirable job; being a military officer is seen as one of the most ethical and respected professions in America.

Beyond just being respected, military service is one of the most time-honored ways to better yourself in America. For many LGBT folks, the military is a pipeline out of poverty, violent homes, homelessness, and hostile communities. Service gives people access to a livable wage and education. Right now these are paths that privilege white, straight, cisgender males. Working on equality issues in the military does not harm civilian movements for equality; it provides greater options for trans persons. I would not have received the education I did if it weren’t for the service, and my transition would have been far more perilous.

Professor Spade also notes the issues the military has with sexual assault, and with the risks that transgender people face in military prison. What Spade fails to take into account is that the current policy on transgender military service facilitates rape.

Many of the transgender people in our organization have been assaulted. Sometimes it is “corrective rape” because the individual is seen as a lesbian. Sometimes the person was perceived as gay or insufficiently masculine. Either way, if they report the assault, the investigation will usually reveal that they are transgender, and they will be kicked out as a result. If they are relatively senior, they will lose out on retirement. If junior, they will lose their G.I. Bill college benefits. There is even heavier pressure on our transgender service members than on most others. Given the issue that the military has with unreported rapes, why would we want to add one more reason not to report them?

Continue reading at:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/brynn-tannehill/were-not-astroturf_b_3903502.html?utm_hp_ref=gay-voices

Occupiers reflect on 2-year-anniversary of OWS

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Nobel Laureate Stiglitz: ‘The only true and sustainable prosperity is shared prosperity’

From Raw Story:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/13/nobel-laureate-stiglitz-the-only-true-and-sustainable-prosperity-is-shared-prosperity/

By Scott Kaufman
Friday, September 13, 2013

Nobel Memorial Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz gave a powerful speech at the annual AFL-CIO convention in Los Angeles.

“It’s been clear to me that our economy has been sick for a long time,” he began, introducing a theme he would hammer home throughout the speech. “For too long, the hardworking and rule-abiding had seen their paychecks shrink or stay the same, while the rule-breakers raked in huge profits and wealth,” he said. “It made our economy sick, and our politics sick, too.”

He attacked those who oppose living wages in the name of the abstraction of “cutting spending,” saying that “[w]e won’t achieve [true and sustainable prosperity] through mindless cutbacks in public spending, whether in schools, hospitals, police, or firemen. These are ways to keep our economy sick. And an economy in which 95% of the growth goes to the top 1% can only be called that: sick.”

Complete article at:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/09/13/nobel-laureate-stiglitz-the-only-true-and-sustainable-prosperity-is-shared-prosperity/

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We’ve Got a Billionaire Bailout Society—And the 99% May Never Recover From It In Our Lifetimes

From Alternet:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/weve-got-billionaire-bailout-society-and-99-may-never-recover-it-our-lifetimes

Our financial system is sucking up the wealth of the nation and using it to cover its losses.

By Les Leopold
September 12, 2013

The odds are that we in the bottom 99 percent may never see a recovery in our lifetimes. That’s because our nation has evolved into something entirely new: a billionaire bailout society.

We are entering a disastrous new era in which all the economic gains go to the top 1 percent, according to data from economists Emmanuel Saez and Thomas Piketty. They report that, “Top 1% incomes grew by 31.4% while bottom 99% incomes grew only by 0.4% from 2009 to 2012. Hence, the top 1% captured 95% of the income gains in the first three years of the recovery….  In sum, top 1% incomes are close to full recovery while bottom 99% incomes have hardly started to recover.” (In 2012, $394,000 is the cutoff to make it into the top 1 percent.)

We see in vivid detail what the new American order looks like. The top 1 percent live in another economic universe of high finance that sucks the wealth from the rest of us. In their world, banks (owned by and for the top 1%) are able to grow larger and larger so there is no chance they will be allowed to fail, even after these same banks took down the economy. (In 1965 they had assets equal to 17% percent of the U.S. economy. Today it’s more than 65% percent.)

Free from any meaningful controls, financial gambling (called proprietary trading in polite circles) is now the dominant activity within our largest banks. In fact, in these too-big-to-fail banks, more money goes to financial gambling than to loans for businesses and consumers. These are not banks—they are rigged casinos for the rich. The upside from these corrupt pursuits are kept by the top fraction of the 1 percent, while the 99 percent hold the bag when those phony bets crash the economy.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/economy/weve-got-billionaire-bailout-society-and-99-may-never-recover-it-our-lifetimes

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Breaking Up With Occupy

From The Nation:  http://www.thenation.com/article/176142/breaking-occupy#

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Why Occupy Wall Street fizzled out

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USDA Seeks to Expand Pilot Program Which Leaves Meat Contaminated With Fecal Matter

From Truth Out:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18866-usda-seeks-to-expand-pilot-program-which-leaves-meat-contaminated-with-fecal-matter

By Candice Bernd
Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Half of the USDA inspectors in industrial meat plants will be replaced with inspectors employed by the very same companies whose meats they are inspecting if plans by the US Department of Agriculture are allowed to go forward.

Is there poop in your pork and poultry? It’s a serious question.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has plans to expand a privatized meat inspection model that has been in place for 14 years at five hog plants in the United States and which has been found to fail time and time again at preventing contamination of meat – with fecal matter.

The program, known as the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point-Based Inspection Models Project – or HIMP – has been in place since the late 1990s and its expansion would replace almost half the USDA Food Safety Service inspectors in industrial meat plants with inspectors employed by those very same companies. It would reportedly speed up production lines by as much as 20 percent.

But a recent article in The Washington Post, reports that three out of the five pilot HIMP plants were among the 10 worst health and safety violators in the country, according to a spring report by the USDA inspector general.

“The USDA all along has been saying that these pilots will prove that removing government inspectors and turning over [their] the responsibilities to the company employees will enhance food safety when, in essence, the exact opposite has occurred,” said Tony Corbo, who directs the food program at nonprofit Food & Water Watch.

Although the HIMP pilot program is still in a preliminary stage, the Agriculture Department has given a green light to Australia, Canada and New Zealand to use this experimental, privatized model of food inspection in meat plants whose products are for export to the United States, even though the foreign plants operating under processes considered equivalent to the HIMP program have experienced an epidemic of contamination-related problems within the past two years, including a Canadian plant which had to recall more than 8.8 million pounds of beef product fouled with E. coli.

Continue reading at:  http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/18866-usda-seeks-to-expand-pilot-program-which-leaves-meat-contaminated-with-fecal-matter

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Fracking study downgrades methane worries, escalates enviro infighting

From Grist:  http://grist.org/news/fracking-study-downgrades-methane-worries-escalates-enviro-infighting/

By 17 Sep 2013

The latest research on methane emissions at fracking sites is dividing environmentalists.

A study of 190 natural gas fracking sites, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that methane leaks at the sites were notably lower than fracking critics have warned.

The New York Times reports that the study is “the most comprehensive look to date” at the issue of methane leakage during natural gas drilling and production:

The study, conducted by the University of Texas and sponsored by the Environmental Defense Fund and nine petroleum companies, … concluded that while the total amount of escaped methane from shale-gas operations was substantial — more than one million tons annually — it was probably less than the Environmental Protection Agency estimated in 2011.

From the AP:

The findings bolster a big selling point for natural gas, that it’s not as bad for global warming as coal. And they undercut a major environmental argument against fracking, a process that breaks apart deep rock to recover more gas. The study … doesn’t address other fracking concerns about potential air and water pollution.

There’s controversy not only about the study’s findings but about its backers. Alongside oil companies, the Environmental Defense Fund, a New York-based environmental group, was a funder. The group was already being treated as a pariah by some greens for striking an agreement with frackers in March, agreeing on voluntary environmental standards for fracking (instead of pushing for a ban) and jointly establishing the Center for Sustainable Shale Development. With the release of Monday’s paper, howls of anger only grew louder.

Continue reading at: http://grist.org/news/fracking-study-downgrades-methane-worries-escalates-enviro-infighting/

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USDA’s Reckless Plan to Privatize Food Safety

From Center For Media and Democracyhttp://prwatch.org/news/2013/09/12245/usdas-reckless-plan-privatize-food-safety

My friend Jim, a farmer, jokes about bringing a bowl of manure and a spoon to the farmers’ markets where he sells his beef. “My beef has no manure in it, but you can add some,” he’d like to tell his customers.

I’m sure you’d pass on manure as a condiment. But unless you’re a vegetarian or you slaughter your own meat, you may have eaten it. And if the USDA moves forward with its plan to make a pilot program for meat inspection more widespread, this problem can only get worse.

Manure isn’t supposed to wind up on your dinner table. It’s a major risk factor for E. coli and other foodborne pathogens. And, when the animals are alive, meat and poop don’t come in contact. It’s only in the processing plant where the contamination can take place.

Since the days of Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle — a 1906 novel that brought the abysmal conditions in slaughterhouses to light — some things haven’t changed in the meatpacking industry. Companies increase profits by speeding up their operations. Once the animals enter, each worker performs one step in the process of turning the creatures into various cuts of meat, packaging them, and shipping them out. The faster this happens, the more animals the workers process, the more money the company makes.

Unfortunately, the faster the workers go, the more mistakes they make. They work quickly, often with sharp knives or next to dangerous machines. One terrible mistake can result in a lost finger or limb. More often, workers suffer from injuries related to repeating the same motions, over and over. Severe tendinitis is common.

Breakneck line speeds can result in inadvertent animal cruelty as well. A dozen years ago, The Washington Post described the problems in an article tellingly titled, “They Die Piece by Piece.”

As slaughterhouse workers do their best to fly through their work, one animal after another, their mistakes sometimes result in “fecal contamination.” In simple language, that means poop gets in the meat. This can happen when manure on an animal’s hide gets into the meat, or when the animal is gutted and the contents of its intestines make a mess.

USDA regulations and inspectors are supposed to prevent this problem. The government limits line speeds so that plants can’t push for more profits at the expense of worker and food safety. And it stations inspectors in slaughterhouses to make sure sick animals don’t become part of the food supply.

That might change. Under the pilot program used in five hog processing plants for over a decade, the government reduced the number of USDA inspectors. The companies hired some of its own inspectors to replace the USDA ones. And line speeds increased by 20 percent.

Continue reading at:  http://prwatch.org/news/2013/09/12245/usdas-reckless-plan-privatize-food-safety

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