Sunday, November 19, 2017

I don’t see wages going up

Some bits of news…

A little bit of the hideous GOP tax “cut” bill: Graduate students are frequently given free tuition and a living stipend, which is never generous. In exchange, these students teach undergrad courses and conduct (or assist in) research. The stipend has been counted as taxable income. The tax bill wants the tuition to be taxable income as well. That could quadruple the tax bill and leave a lot less money for things such as … food.

That means a lot fewer students could afford to get graduate degrees. Only the rich kids could afford them. Which is another way of saying this is another way to prevent us lowly people from challenging the rich in their position of top dog.

At a Senate Finance Committee meeting Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio talked about the tax “cut” bill.
I just think it would be nice, just tonight, before we go home, to just acknowledge, well, this tax cut really is not for the middle class; it's for the rich. And that whole thing about higher wages, well, it's a good selling point, but we know companies don't just give away higher wages. They don't just give away higher wages, just 'cause they have more money. Corporations are sitting on a lot of money now; they're sitting on a lot of profits now. I don't see wages going up. So, just spare us, spare us the bank shots, spare us the sarcasm and the satire—
Which brought hot sputtering denials from Senator Orrin Hatch.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville thinks Brown struck a nerve – and Hatch hates the truth.

Catherine Rampell is an opinion writer for The Washington Post. She asks an important question of the GOP tax bill:
Nearly every claim Republicans are using to market their tax plan is at best a distortion, at worst a deliberate falsehood.

Which raises the question: If their plan is really so great, why not sell it on the merits?
Presumably because Trump and Republican lawmakers know they’re offering a plan the public doesn’t want. Ergo, they need to promise things the tax plan doesn’t do.
Rampell debunks the GOP talking points (see her article for details):
* The bill is so pro-growth it will reduce the federal debt.
* The plan primarily helps the middle class. Nope, it primarily helps the rich. And hurts the poor.
* The plan will hurt the nasty guy.
* This will be the biggest tax cut in history. Not even the biggest in the last five years.
* The economy desperately needs a tax cut.

Rupert Neate, writing for The Guardian reports that the dollar millionaires (0.7% of all adults, about 36 million) now own half the world’s wealth, or about $140 trillion dollars. 3.5 billion (more than half) of the world’s poorest adults individually have assets less than $10,000 and together have just 2.7% of the global wealth.

Talking Points Memo has a longform piece discussing how Millennials are leaving religion. I didn’t read it because most of it is behind a subscriber button. However, what caught my attention is a couple of the comments showing on that intro page. This is from marty110:
Several months back, Christians were frantic over the thought that their wives and daughters would be groped in a bathroom by a trans or gay person - now they overwhelmingly voted for a man who brags about groping women? I fear we are in the minority in the church who saw what was in front of our faces on TV during the campaign and were repulsed. A sweet, kind, and sensitive woman in my church (almost in tears) said to me after election - "Didn't they see? Didn't they hear what he said"?

Commenter drtv noted they supported Trump for one reason: the seat on the Supremes.

The purpose of her art

I was off to an orchestra concert last night – two works by Richard Strauss and a symphony by Johannes Brahms. That’s music by two German composers played by a French pianist led by a French conductor. A fine evening.

Friday night I went to a performance by a very good community theater group in Detroit, the Park Players from the North Rosedale Park neighborhood. A friend and colleague from my days in the auto industry got involved with this group a few years ago and is now serving as the board president. This show was presented in the neighborhood community house. Their website shows their new home in a nearby restored theater (complete with pipe organ!). The Detroit News wrote about the move.

The play was To Be Young, Gifted, and Black; A Portrait of Lorraine Hansberry in Her Own Words. I wouldn’t have been able to tell you who she was, though many years ago I saw her one famous play, A Raisin in the Sun.

The show I saw on Saturday told a bit about Hansberry’s life. In the first act we see scenes of that life between selected scenes from Raisin. That famous play is about a black family moving to a white suburb. This is a story that Hansberry lived. It was her father who challenged racial residency laws in a case that went to the Supremes. The play went to Broadway, making Hansberry the first black woman playwright on Broadway.

The second act was about the rest of Hansberry’s life, some of it about struggling how to follow such a success and to what purpose her art should serve. That story is interspersed with scenes from her much less famous play, The Sign in Sidney Brustein’s Window. One major scene is about a Park Avenue woman annoyed that her sister married a Jew and trying to prevent her second sister from marrying even worse.

My friend said the play was written (assembled?) by Hansberry’s husband after she died much too young from cancer. The original play specified eight actors playing all the characters. This troupe divided the characters amongst 28 actors, including several playing Hansberry at different times in her life. Friday usually isn’t a slow night for this theater, but the night I went the audience barely outnumbered the cast.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Ten candles

Happy Birthday dear blog!

Amazingly, I’ve now been writing this blog for 10 years!

In that time I’ve written 3,571 posts (this one is 3,572) on a wide variety of subjects – I’ve used 674 different topic tags, of which 241, the most relevant for now, are displayed on the left side of the main blog page. The most used tags are: On the enjoyable side are Gay Marriage-Marriage Equality (678 posts) and personal stories (361 posts). On the resistance side are the GOP (559 posts) and fundamentalism (278 posts).

Those personal stories in the last 3 years included the death of my father, brother, sister-in-law, mother, and aunt.

In the last couple years readership hit a low of about 40 views per post in June 2016. There has been a definite trend upward since then. In February views per post spiked to a high of 185. Last month there were 124 views per post. In the last month the countries with the most pageviews have been Italy with twice as many reads as second place United States. Third place is France.

I think I’ve told this origin story every years. Back in November of 2003 I started writing and sending emails to family and friends about LGBT news stories. The big event that prompted me was the ruling that the Massachusetts Supreme Court required marriage equality in the state within six months. A few years later my niece suggested I write a blog and be a bit more public in what I have to say. And here we are 10 years later.

It is this blog that helped me develop my understanding of ranking, in which some people declare they are better than others. I have come to see how pervasive ranking is to American and world politics and culture. The current moment of women speaking up to identify men who harassed and assaulted them resulted from men thinking they ranked above women, which entitled them to act as they pleased. The actions of the nasty guy are also because he constantly must prove that he ranks above everyone else.

I still find interesting and important things to write about. Sometimes it is to celebrate community, sometimes it is to resist those who try to enforce ranking and tear community apart. Lately I’ve moved away from LGBT issues, because the broader culture is accepting us. I’ve been focusing on politics because those threats are, at the moment, so much more dire.

I’ll keep writing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

3% own half

I’ve heard the statistic that there are enough guns in America for everyone to have one. Lois Beckett, writing for The Guardian delves into that a bit more. Here’s a bit of what she reported.

American civilians own at least 265 million guns. Ownership is so private that estimates have gone as high as 400 million – more than 100 million between estimates. For a population of about 315 million, 265 million is indeed close to one each (and might be one each for every adult), in other terms this is at least 85 guns per 100 people. This is the highest rate of gun ownership in the world. Second is Yemen at 55 guns per 100 people.

I don’t have a gun and most people I know don’t pack heat. That leads to the second observation: The number of adults who actually own a gun is somewhere between 22% and 31% (see above on difficulty of estimating). Ownership is concentrated.

Out of the gun owners, nearly half own just one or two guns. And most of the rest average 3 guns (yeah, that stat seems especially vague – how did they decide what gets included in the average?).
But America’s gun super-owners have amassed huge collections. Just 3% of American adults own a collective 133m firearms – half of America’s total gun stock. These owners have collections that range from eight to 140 guns, the 2015 study found. Their average collection: 17 guns each.
That’s about 7.7 million super-owners. Wow!

Which leads to a quandary for law enforcement. The Last Vegas shooter had 42 guns in the hotel and at home. But personal arsenals of 40 guns are rather common. How to tell the difference between a potential terrorist and an enthusiastic collector?

Super-owners tend to be less diverse – more likely to be male and white – than gun owners overall.

Some gun violence statistics:

* 36,000 Americans were killed with guns in 2015. That is broken down to:
22,000 suicides
13,000 homicides (about 750 were related to domestic violence, the vast majority of victims are women)
1,000 shot to death by police

* More than 60,000 are shot each year and survive.

* A quarter of gun homicides are in neighborhoods with only 1.5% of the population. Homicide rates here are 400 times higher than in other high-income countries. Even in those neighborhoods the violence is concentrated. In Oakland, CA about 0.3% of the population was involved in 60% of the city’s murders.

As many have noted before 36,000 deaths in a year and the resulting public outcry would get Congress scurrying for a solution. Even automobile deaths prompt investigation and safety features. Yeah, there are exceptions, such as the AIDS epidemic.

I wonder why these white guys feel the need for so many guns? That question is important because to me guns are for violence and violence is for enforcing ranking. Which means these white guys have guns to protect their privilege and your life is a whole lot less important to them than maintaining that privilege.

So what might be the reason why these guys switch from admiring their arsenals to using them? What might make them feel their white male privilege is threatened?

We now have a guy in the White House and one prominent campaign theme that got him there is an assertion of white male privilege. His words and actions loudly proclaimed that it is good to be bigoted. So might all these white dude super-owners feel threatened if their champion is ousted?


Members of Parliament in Australia tried weaseling their way out of approving same-sex marriage by throwing the question to the public in a mail-in survey. The results are now in: With almost 80% participation, 62% yes, 38% no! This 24 point spread is being called a landslide.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has vowed to get a marriage bill through Parliament by Christmas. He is also denouncing conservative plans to load up the bill with “religious liberty” amendments. Such amendments, he says, are “non-starters.”