Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Blew past the goal

Yay! The Ali Forney Center in New York blew past its $200,000 fundraising goal in less than two weeks. I just checked and the total is $202,850. The money for this campaign is designated for buying the extremely anti-gay Atlah Church which will be put up for auction in about two weeks.

It is not a done deal yet. This is Manhattan and bidding will go much higher than the $1 million in unpaid bills the Atlah Church owes. Executive Director Carl Siciliano wrote:
AFC’s acquiring the beautiful and historic building that now stands as a symbol of hate would be extraordinary, but the bottom line is this: the Ali Forney Center has 200 youths per night on the waiting list for our beds. As an organization, we have no obligation more urgent than to increase our capacity to provide housing to these vulnerable youth. With the support of the Harlem community, those who have contributed and many others offering to help, we approach the February 24th auction with confidence and hope. Given the real estate market in Harlem we anticipate the bidding will go significantly higher than the $1.02M owed and we are in discussion with potential developers and investors to acquire the building and we anticipate having a partner by the time of the auction. We will continue fundraising through the #HarlemNoHate campaign and make every effort to be in as strong a position as possible to acquire the building.
Yes, you can still donate.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Pay raise

A couple things from Washington Spectator:

D.R. Tucker, in a Speaker's Corner article, writes about race. His last sentence sums it up well:
It’s simply not enough to declare that black lives matter; black votes must matter, too.

Sarah Anderson of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies has an editorial about who needs a raise. The rich like to say increasing inequality just happens. This is one way it "just happens."
At General Electric, CEO Jeff Immelt closed his company’s worker pension plan in 2011, substituting it with a riskier 401(k) plan. Immelt’s company-sponsored retirement assets have ballooned to more than $82 million.
Yeah, it is as simple as the CEO cutting the compensation of the workers and being rewarded with a big raise for doing so.

This discussion came up in WS because Social Security has said there will be no cost of living increase in 2016. Inflation on the economy as a whole may be close to zero, but seniors don't benefit from dropping gas prices and are hardest hit by increasing prices on medications.

Senator Elizabeth Warren has responded with a Seniors and Veterans Emergency Benefits Act (SAVE Benefits Act). It would give seniors a much needed boost. Retirees, not CEOs, need a raise. To pay for it the act would eliminate unlimited tax deductions for stock options and other "performance based" pay.

The chance of getting through Congress? Slim. Increased inequality "just happens"? No, there are specific policies that make it happen.

Pester Congress

Bernie Sanders has called for a revolution. He wants to break the hold the 1% has over American politics. He and his supporters know the system is rigged and corrupt. Good. It is a goal I am very much in favor. Bernie says he will do this by calling on his supporters to pester Congress until his goals are enacted.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville wants details. How are you and your millions of supporters going to get through or around a GOP Congress? Write letters? Call? Demonstrate and march? Sign petitions? McEwen has these concerns because:
Take, for example, Wendy Davis' filibuster in the Texas legislature. Despite the then state senator's 11-hour filibuster to block legislation that would severely undermine reproductive access in Texas, a packed floor of activists, a nationwide call to attention, and countless pro-choice people across the country taking action in support of her, the Republican-majority legislature, with a corrupt assist from then Governor Rick Perry, forced the measure through.

That moment is one of many examples of how an engaged citizenry is not always enough to overcome the steep power imbalance between an entrenched conservative legislature and We the People.

So I want and need to know what Sanders' plan is to effectively overcome this power imbalance.
Those other examples include Scott Walker in Wisconsin and the GOP in Indiana.

Granted, as president Bernie can veto such nastiness. But how will Bernie budge an obstructionist Congress that can simply do nothing? Ask Obama how well that works out.

Bernie talks a lot about breaking up banks. Good. But how will that happen without also addressing voter restrictions, gerrymandering, and electing fellow progressives to Congress and state legislatures? Bernie doesn't say much about these things. And his actions don't speak any louder.

One way Bernie can discourage his army of supporters is not be able to deliver on the promises he made. McEwen says Hillary isn't making promises she can't keep, though that means an incrementalist strategy.

Egberto Willies, writing for Daily Kos, has had enough of political incrementalism. That has been good because it brought us the Affordable Care Act, and has helped some with student debt. It was a way to make some progress when both parties don't want to upset wealthy benefactors.

But we've reached the end of incrementalism. The remains of the middle class can't take any more of it.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Democracy is a corporate stakeholder

Back in 1963 author Ayn Rand wrote the novel The Virtue of Selfishness. In 1971 economist Minton Friedman proclaimed "The Social Responsibility of Business is to increase its Profits." Corporate executives were told their job was to increase profits (and shareholder value) and nothing else.

David Akadjian, writing for Daily Kos says that is one fundamental idea we should get rid of. He says that corporations that follow this idea suffer from these impacts:
1. Emphasis on quarterly profit numbers.
2. Bad employee morale.
3. Problems with profits in the long run.
4. Pursuit of extraction of value rather than creation of value.
5. Pressure to shift the gains in productivity from the worker to the shareholder.
6. Reduced innovation.
7. Pursuit of easy gains through financial engineering (sometimes illegally).

The long-term health of the company and the society suffers. Yes, a focus on increasing shareholder value destroys shareholder value.

Akadjian expands on that 7th point.

Companies barter with state and local gov'ts for tax breaks and threaten to move elsewhere to get them. Companies buy political influence to bend regulations in their direction, such as FedEx and UPS lobbying to cripple or privatize the US Postal Service. Companies fight union strength. Banks gut regulations that led to the collapse of the world economy. In summary, companies are now at war with citizens and our democratic gov't.

What should replace Friedman's bad idea? A corporation should increase value for all stakeholders. This includes customers, employees, long-term corporate health, the society at large, and democracy. Ideas to make it happen include: ethics scorecards, employee oversight of lobbyists, customers and employees on boards of directors, an independent corporate news source, and minimum standards for vendors.

Nothing more than fat hatred

For several years my health insurance has demanded I see my doctor for a checkup, including recording my weight. From the scale and height my Body Max Index is computed. If my BMI is in the "obese" range my health insurer demands I go on a diet. If my BMI says I'm merely "overweight" then no diet is necessary. Most of the time I'm just above that division. Last year was the first time I was under it. That means I don't have to see my doctor for a checkup this winter – which is good because my BMI is high again.

One year I was offered the alternative of wearing a pedometer and uploading my number of steps per day. I called them and said I frequently ride my bicycle and I'm sure I get a much more strenuous workout on that than I would by walking. Could I do that instead? The answer: no, we're unable to verify it. So to satisfy their bean counters I would have had to reduce my level of exercise. I chose the diet. Which didn't work.

The form the insurance company requires my doctor to fill out also includes such things as smoking (never), alcohol consumption (I don't), cholesterol (safe range), blood pressure (within limits). The only thing the insurance company objects to is the BMI.

Researchers in Calif. have looked at BMI, blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and several other cardiometabolic assessments. All those tests (except BMI) can give an accurate measure of heart and overall health. The research found that BMI doesn't correlate with them. That means BMI had nothing to do with heart health.

So 54 million people are labeled as unhealthy and pushed into treatment they don't need and sometimes charged higher health insurance premiums. And another huge number of people (don't have exact numbers) who have a great BMI yet are actually not healthy.

This matters because the EEOC has proposed a rule which "could penalise people with BMIs higher than 25...by making them pay higher premiums."

I've reported that my nutritionist has clipped a monitor to my finger and reported that my heart is significantly younger than the rest of me.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville summarizes it this way:
I've noted that these sorts of policies are, truly, nothing more than fat hatred that penalize fat people for the way we look—and this study confirms it. Despite the alleged concern about "health," it's really just a tax we're required to pay, irrespective of our actual health, because we don't conform to a kyriarchetypical Beauty Standard.

BMI is garbage. And using it as a metric to assess health is actively incompatible with meaningful healthcare.

Fighting (um, enforcing) tyranny

I had understood the Second Amendment to be about the right of the citizens to take up arms if their government became tyrannical. Actor Danny Glover says my understanding is wrong.
The Second Amendment comes from the right to protect themselves from slave revolts, and from uprisings by Native Americans. So, a revolt from people who were stolen from their land, or revolt from people whose land was stolen from, that’s what the genesis of the Second Amendment is.
Glover has backup:
Mother Jones also posited the theory in a 2008 article. "[Some] scholars believe the founders enshrined the right to bear arms in the Constitution in part to enforce tyranny, not fight it," Mother Jones reporter Stephanie Mencimer wrote. Explaining, "the 'well-regulated militias' cited in the Constitution almost certainly referred to state militias that were used to suppress slave insurrections."
Glover made his remarks at an MLK event apparently in response to a question. The event was at Texas A&M. Conservative students have started a petition that accuses the school of hosting "radical leftist speakers" and using school funding to do so. Yeah, a big university in Texas is accused of being too far left.

So this is how the Supremes are able to say laws that limit gun sales and ownership are unconstitutional. Europen-Americans are still afraid of revolts by descendants of slaves.


Marriage equality comes in Greenland on April 1st. Greenland and Denmark Parliaments approved the gender neutral marriage and adoption bills, which were give their Royal Assent on Wednesday. The blog Perchy Bird adds:
Greenland’s Bishop had been looking forward to couples being allowed to marry in the local Church since the bill was first proposed in 2014.
I wish I knew the denomination of this bishop!

A graph of annual global temperatures, including the record-setting 2015 can be found here:

The Ali Forney Center is above 95% of their goal in hopes of buying the hateful Atlah Church.