Sunday, October 27, 2013

"Wealthy Christian" is an oxymoron

Last week Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (GOP) was asked whether it is acceptable that someone in his state can be fired for being gay. He worked real hard to provide a non-answer. He's the guy who approved all the anti-gay bills the Mich. legislature has come up with over the last three years. So, are we surprised? At least he didn't say being fired for being gay was cool with him.

A waiter in Overland Park, Kansas got a nasty surprise on the back of the meal check of one table of his customers. It essentially said great service, but we won't tip you because we're Christian and you're gay and going to hell. Yeah, giving the rest of us Christians a bad name. Fortunately, the rest of the community is specifically asking for his section and tipping generously.

John Shore lists seven ways in which Christians get it wrong. At the top of the list: "Wealthy Christian" is supposed to be an oxymoron. The rest: Too arrogant, too action-oriented, too invasive, too quick to abandon logic, too insular, too uneducated about the Bible. Some clarification about that action-oriented bit: Many Christians charge into a situation in the name of God before really thinking about what God wants.

Stuff that's in your food

My nutrition center sent me a link to an article on genetically modified food, including why they recommend avoiding it. One study done on humans (and there purposefully haven't been many) showed that genes from modified soy jumped to the bacteria in the gut that help us digest food. It may not have been the gene that produces pesticide (which allows the soy to fend off insects), but what if it was? Studies done on animals show GM foods does nasty things. And studies of farmers working with GM cotton show they suffer from allergic reactions.

There are four main GM crops: soy (89% of all soy is GM), corn (61%), cotton and cottonseed oil (83%), and canola (79%). Canola gives us the ever present canola oil -- even "olive oil mayonnaise" has it. Here's how you might avoid them:

* Buy organic. Even if not completely organic, the ingredients cannot be GM.

* Look for labels that say "non-GMO".

* Simply avoid those ingredients (yeah, as I'm finding, that can be tough) or avoid processed foods altogether.

* Get ahold of a GM buying guide. The full article has links.

* Also avoid Aspartame (NutriSweet and Equal) because GM microorganisms are used to make it. Various other additives and flavorings might be made with GM bacteria, so aim for organic or avoid processed food.

* Avoid restaurants that serve packaged foods (I'm not sure how one finds out). If they cook from scratch avoid foods made with corn and soy. Ask if the meal can be cooked using a safe oil such as olive oil.

What’s so un-American about that?

Terrence Heath looks over the desire of the GOP to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Heath tells the stories of a few people who have been helped tremendously by the reforms. One is Isaac, who was born without a complete esophagus, He hit the $2 million lifetime cap on his health insurance by age 13 months. Under the ACA there is no lifetime cap.

Heath also lists some of the recent GOP comments about the law. They're what we expect out of them. I'm quite amused about what Sarah Palin said.
The plan, Palin says, is to “break our health care system (where, presently, no one is turned away from emergency rooms and we have many public and private safety nets for people in need), along with busting our personal bank accounts.” Then, “The cry will go out, ‘Can’t you just put us all in a sort of Medicaid-like system? It’ll be much less confusing than these awful exchange websites and a lot less expensive!’”
Wow, what a fine idea!

A reminder of what economist Tyler Cohen repeated earlier this year and which appears to be the GOP answer to the ACA:
We need to accept the principle that sometimes poor people will die just because they are poor.
Another who is helped by the ACA is Mason, son of Janine Urbaniak Reid. A brain tumor was the reason he reached his lifetime cap at age 14. Reid wrote about her experiences in the Washington Post (they warned her not to read the comments). Her main point:
So what is wrong with allowing us to purchase a financial safety net? What’s so un-American about that?
May that question bedevil the GOP for a long time.

Thinking while poor

Adriene Hill of Marketplace Money on NPR talked to Sendhil Mullainathan of Harvard about his latest research. Lots of other research (not cited in the story) shows that poor people make poor decisions. The new research tried to show whether poor decision makers became poor or poverty made poor decision makers.

The research shows the second, that the poor spend so much energy fretting over money they don't have enough mental focus to properly think of much else. We compound the problem in America by demanding poor people to fill out complicated forms to receive assistance, demanding much of people we know have low focus.

The two responses to this story are interesting. The first challenges the researcher to define a bad decision. Is it simply a decision the researcher wouldn't make? What if all your choices are bad?

The second says don't call poor people stupid. It takes a lot of creativity and smarts to keep track of money so that life on less than $25K is possible.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Calculated to alarm

The gun debate isn't getting anywhere politically, so both sides are taking matters into their own hands and into the streets. Michael Brick in Newsweek tells us about it.

Those who are pro-gun are now making a point to take their guns everywhere that it is legal to do so, and to do it as visibly as possible. That includes such places as Starbucks in Texas.

That intentionally bumps up against the Texas law that defines one category of "disorderly conduct" as "displays a firearm or other deadly weapon in a public place in a manner calculated to alarm." What does "calculated to alarm" mean and did any of these displays cross that line?

On the other side is Moms Demand Action who are trying to "make the sight of a gun 'as distasteful as smoking and drunk driving.'" The leader, Shannon Watts, is urging members to call 911 at the sight of a gun. MDA is targeting businesses based on their gun policies and advertise "Skip Starbucks Saturdays."

And, of course, the response is "Starbucks Appreciation Days." Their goal is to "acclimate society to seeing the safe carrying of firearms," so that the general populace isn't scared when they see men with guns.

Which makes me wonder if we get comfortable seeing people with guns how will that affect the next time we see a crazy person pop into a school to squeeze off a few rounds?

It's not going to end well.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

You don't get no peace

Today was the first day in which the Detroit bankruptcy was in court. I think this was the opening arguments in whether Detroit is legally allowed to file bankruptcy. Having the case in court made it a good day to protest. The call went out to surround the courthouse (which I mentioned a while back).

When I arrived at about 8:15 this morning (yeah, real early for me) there were about 40 protesters. We were in front of the Federal Courthouse, where I was just last week for the marriage equality case and where I've protested before. This time we were asked to stay off the sidewalk to avoid obstructing those going into the court building. Barricades allowed us one lane of the street. This was also the first time in my protesting I had to worry about the cold -- it was around 37F.

About 8:45 I counted again, the crowd had grown to about 75. By 9:15 there were at least 170, including a contingent from Occupy Wall Street in New York.

Standing on the sidewalk was this character. It is hard to see that it is a puppeteer pulling the strings of the mayor, emergency manager, and governor.

The police put their vehicles at the both ends of the block, closing the entire street and allowing us a much bigger space. This photo gives us a sense of the size of the crowd.

The crowd chanted various slogans, such as the call and response "No justice, no peace." That expanded into "We don't get no justice, you don't get no peace." With a crowd that big spread over a whole block the chanting reminded me of the music of Charles Ives. He's the guy who composed music for two and three simultaneous bands, playing different things. Yes, different parts of the line were chanting different slogans, with a few people chanting to their own rhythm.

Shortly after 9:15 the line of protesters split to walk all the way around the courthouse. The timing caught a few police off guard, who scrambled to take their places along the line of march. A few of the police seemed to be friendly with the protesters. I'm sure the friendliness was towards retired colleagues in the march. And the retirees were with us because pensions of city workers is one thing that might get chopped. There were also lots of people from various unions, including auto workers, in the crowd.

We made two circuits of the building. I'm not sure we completely surrounded the building, though were close. We then gathered in front of the building to hear a few speakers. The crowd was big enough and noisy enough that I couldn't hear what was being said. I left at about 10:00 even though one of the organizers said there was no target end time and it could last all day and all night.

I was back in Detroit for my evening shift at the Ruth Ellis Center. There were somber moments because there was an informal memorial for a couple of our kids who had been killed, one of them only two weeks ago. This was due to the violence in Detroit and perhaps not because they were part of a sexual minority.

Monday, October 21, 2013

No substantive, worthy objections

Last Friday I wrote that the refusal of the NJ Supremes to stay same-sex marriage was a big clue on how they would rule when they heard the case in January. It looks like Gov. Chris Christie read the decision on the stay and noticed the same clue. Repealing same-sex marriage would be highly unlikely. So this morning Christie dropped his appeal. The New Jersey Supremes don't need to hear the case and New Jersey couples don't have to worry about their marriages being invalidated. We're done here. Next?

I heard (perhaps on NPR) that the professional anti-gay bigots and perhaps even the Tea Party is mighty displeased with Christie dropping his appeal. That either means Christie just blew his chances for prez. in 2016 or it allows him to be the moderate candidate.

Cory Booker, mayor of Newark and Senator-elect, did indeed conduct seven same-sex marriages just after midnight this morning in the city hall rotunda. As part of one of them this little scene played out:
Booker asked, "I must ask if there's anyone present here today that should know of any reason why Joseph and Orville should not be married, speak now or forever hold your peace."

Screamed a heckler. "This is unlawful in the eyes of God!"

Booker then had the heckler removed, and continued to cheers...

"Not hearing any substantive, worthy objections, I now will proceed."

And in Asbury Park one officiant was Rev. Tom Pivinski, a retired Catholic priest. Some commenters think he is Jesuit and his local Bishop can't revoke his pension.

As for next… Legislatures in Illinois and Hawaii get back to work next week with marriage equality high on the agenda. Then there's that case in New Mexico, a case in Nevada heating up, and a case in Tennessee just filed.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Whole Foods v. McDonald's

The only part of Reader's Digest that I read these days is the jokes. And I do that when standing in line at the grocery store. Sometimes my checkout lane has it, sometimes not. Today the company sent me a copy in hopes I would subscribe. I threw all the subscription stuff in the recycle box, but did read the jokes and the cover story about food, a topic of great interest to me right now. It's titled Food Fight and written by David H. Freedman. It apparently first appeared in the Atlantic. His basic idea:

The fight can be represented by Whole Foods on one side and McDonald's on the other. Just because it can be found in Whole Foods does not mean it is healthy. While each individual ingredient may be good and organic, the combination and quantity can result in a great deal of fat and loads of calories. And be expensive.

In contrast McDonald's is adding healthy (well, healthier) items to its menu, reducing the portion size a bit, adding more whole grains, and squeezing out a few grams of fat, salt, and sugar as well as a few calories. And they'll keep the price down.

So shouldn't we praise McDonald's for improving their menu instead of dumping all over them because their food is "processed" and is fast and easily declared "junk"?

There are a lot of poor neighborhoods that have access to a McDonald's and don't have the ability to get to or the paycheck to shop at a Whole Foods. A healthier McDonald's might lead to less obesity in a way that Whole Foods simply cannot.

Part of the argument is that we shouldn't fear food additives that are put in processed food. The FDA studies this stuff and has issued no warnings. A rebuttal letter says the FDA is too underfunded to protect us.

Other rebuttal letter comments:

"[I]n general, processed foods are junk -- loaded with calories, saturated fat, salt, food dyes, or artificial sweeteners." He forgot preservatives. There is value in "large companies focusing more on marketing healthier foods, but they simply aren't in the business of selling unprocessed foods."

"The French are famous for their love of butter, cream, eggs, and animal fat, but their obesity rates started creeping up only when they began to embrace processed food."

Fresh food is available to Americans and not just at Whole Foods. That includes bananas and other fruit, carrots and other vegetables, lean meat, eggs, nuts, and brown rice.

One principle from the nutrition center I go to is that processed food is stripped of a lot of nutrition. What food value remains cannot be properly used by the body because of the nutrition that is missing. So much of the body can't use now is stored as fat.

New Jersey!

This story has been brewing for a while. Earlier this month a lower level judge declared the New Jersey ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional and set a date that marriages should begin. That date is Monday. Gov. Chris Christie appealed to the Supremes. Various towns have declared that to be ready for Monday (and comply with the 72 hour waiting period) they better start issuing marriage licenses today. Cory Booker, mayor of Newark and senator-elect, stirred the pot by offering to officiate for same-sex marriages in City Hall a minute after midnight on Monday.

The lower judge refused to issue a stay until the appeal was heard. It wasn't until today that the NJ Supremes said anything about the stay. And what they said is marriages may proceed even before they hear the case in January. That's a big clue on how they'll rule when they actually hear the case. Their analysis:

The NJ Supremes are working from their own unanimous 2006 decision that declared gay and lesbian couples must be treated the same as straight couples. At the time the legislature created civil unions which were designed to be equal (though it turns out only kinda). But with the end of Defense of Marriage Act, the feds are now treating married gay couples differently. Civil unions aren't equal.

To grant a stay the Supremes consider the "soundness of the trial court's ruling and the effect of a stay on the parties and the public." And they conclude:
The State has advanced a number of arguments, but none of them overcome this reality: same-sex couples who cannot marry are not treated equally under the law today. The harm to them is real, not abstract or speculative.
Another factor in issuing a stay is whether the party asking for it has a likelihood of winning. The Supremes conclude they do not. The Civil Union Act remains in effect (even if nobody will use it) so there is no complaint of the trial judge improperly striking it down. The state can't complain that the feds won't listen to their definition of marriage. In addition the original ruling wasn't limited to federal benefits. Gay couples who can't marry may receive hardship for which money cannot compensate. For example, if marriage is delayed and one of a gay couple dies, Social Security surviving benefits are forever gone. Finally, the court will not wait for the legislature to override Christie's veto. If there is ongoing unequal treatment, the court cannot defer.

A commenter adds the law that was vetoed contains religious exemptions the court case does not have.

And to top off the marriage equality news, New Mexico's Supreme Court will hear that state's case next Wednesday. Again, the news says the court might rule immediately.

Sigh, it would have been so cool to include Michigan in an October triple play.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Damaged hopes

Public Policy Polling took a look at the effects of the gov't shutdown. They show the shutdown was quite unpopular even in states that went strongly for Romney. And that will have an effect on next year's Senate races. The shutdown boosted the chances of the Democrat candidate in Georgia, Michigan, Iowa, Louisiana, Arkansas, and North Carolina. The GOP is counting on these six seats in hopes of taking the Senate. From the looks of things now, they might get one. No tears from me. Alas, from the wording I don't know if these seats might flip R to D (net gain for Dems) or might be a hoped-for seat that doesn't flip D to R..

Who gets to decide the laws?

I found the Detroit Free Press page that has a live-blog of yesterday's same-sex marriage court proceedings. That means the writer, Jim Schaeffer, puts out a sentence or two at a time. His writing is mostly on pages 2 & 3 of this post. The rest is taken up by reader comments. Since I didn't take notes with me yesterday, this live-blog will allow me to share some of the arguments.

The defendant speaker was Kristin Heyse from Attorney General Bill Schuette's office. She complemented the lesbian couple (Rowse and DeBoer) on doing a wonderful job raising their kids. This isn't an attack on the gay community (and we're not buying that one). Her main points:

* Who gets to decide Michigan law? The people or this (federal) court? I add that it's an important question because the amendment was approved by voters by 59%. But while she talked about that I kept thinking the people should decide the law, unless they enact a law that contradicts the federal constitution. Then it is tyranny of the majority. (Of course, laws are also made by a legislature that crams it down our throats.) Heyse continued: If the people don't like the law, they can change it (we're working on it, dear).

* Michigan has never recognized same-sex marriage and there is no fundamental right to it.

* The optimal environment for raising kids is one man and one woman. I add: But an optimal environment doesn't mean we must exclude some pretty good ones, especially if they provide homes for kids who don't have one, which is what Rowse and DeBoer are doing.

Next up was Carol Stanyar for the plaintiffs. Her main points:

* Court precedent allows for review of laws that may be unconstitutional.

* If discrimination is not challenged our children would still be drinking from separate water fountains.

* Defendants are wrong that gay parents are not optimal parents. She listed many social science associations that back her up. This was where the judge challenged her.

Michael Pitt is the attorney for Lisa Brown, the clerk of Oakland County (where the plaintiffs live). He was the third one to speak. The clerk's duties are to ensure every person seeking a marriage license is treated equally. She can't do that now. That is why she asked to be a part of this case.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On to the trial

I went down to the Federal Courthouse today for the marriage equality case. Right after that I did my usual service at the Ruth Ellis Center, so you had a good chance to hear the outcome before I had time to tell you about it.

I heard there was a pro-gay rally outside the court building at noon. I learned of it only afterwards, so wasn't in the midst of perhaps a hundred people (newspaper reports 200). There was one anti-gay protester. She was still there when I arrived after 2:00 and was still there when the proceedings were over. She got a lot of press attention.

It took about 20 minutes for me to get through security. With me in line were three pastors, all women, wearing their clerical collars. One was from the nearby Episcopal church, the other two were Unitarian-Universalist from Southfield and Flint. One had an iPad and showed pictures of the rally. Another said she was on-call to conduct weddings today if there was a favorable ruling (alas, not the one from Genesee County because it's clerk's office is shut down). I heard there were clerks in 18 counties ready to perform same-sex weddings today.

This case drew enough attention that the judge's regular courtroom was full and a large number of us (my guess at least 100) were directed to another room across the hall. In it were two views of the courtroom, one of the judge and one of whoever was addressing the judge. The first couple rows in this room included tables that held lots of laptop computers. I'm sure this was the press corps. The advantage of being in this room is we could see the face of the speaker and could mutter amongst ourselves. The woman next to me passed notes to her friend and even showed me a couple of them.

The purpose for today's proceedings were to determine if a summary judgment was possible. This is where the judge, with input from both sides, says the facts are clear and not in dispute, the outcome is obvious, so I'll give you my ruling and we won't bother with the trial. So the state said a summary judgment is possible -- simply dismiss the case. We have these reasons. The plaintiffs (the lesbian couple) said as summary judgment is possible -- it is obvious we are being discriminated against in violation of the US constitution so simply say this Michigan Constitution amendment must be overturned.

Each side had 45 minutes to state their case, though neither side took that long. I didn't take notes so won't try to repeat their major points. One item did stick in my mind was the state lawyer saying the current law is not an attack on gay people. I'm sure she was trying to say the state really does like gay people, we just don't think they should be allowed to get married. But the people around me weren't buying.

One major point of contention is the state saying the fitness of gays and lesbians as parents is in dispute (part of her claim the best parents are a mother and a father). The lawyer for the lesbians responded by saying there might be one or two (ahem, discredited) researchers but everyone else says gay and lesbian parents do just fine. The judge pounced on that saying her long list of social science organizations (such as the American Academy of Pediatrics) is not proof.

The last speaker was a lawyer for the Oakland County Clerk. The clerk is the one who issues marriage applications and would do so for the plaintiffs. Her lawyer made a great and impassioned plea that she be allowed to issue marriage applications without discrimination. He got some applause in our room, though those in the regular court were not allowed to.

The judge admitted he had completed today's decision before the day's proceedings, though he said he would have to revise it a bit before releasing it. The decision was that a summary judgment was not possible because there were important issues that needed to be discussed in a trial. He thanked both sides for the excellence in their briefs and their willingness to work together (such as avoiding motions that only serve to delay and annoy). He asked both sides how long it would take them to put together a witness list and set a resumption of proceedings for February 25th. He invited is all back to witness the trial.

The report from the Detroit News. And a more comprehensive report from the Detroit Free Press, including photos of the rally. Both reports mention some of the arguments and both say that many gay couples had gathered in clerk's offices in hopes of grabbing a marriage application the moment the ruling came down. Alas, all left empty-handed and many were in tears.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The shutdown was intentional

I wrote yesterday about how the GOP switched the rules so that only Eric Cantor can submit a bill to end the government shutdown. DailyKos adds two bits of clarification:

* When there is legislation that the Senate and House can't agree on, any member of the House can force a vote on a version of that legislation. In this case it is the clean continuing resolution bill from the Senate. As I mentioned yesterday the House Rules Committee said in this case only Eric Cantor can bring the bill to the floor.

* The rules change which made sure the shutdown happened wasn't brought by the Tea Party faction. It was brought by the leadership. Thought the Tea Party may be delighted with the outcome, they did not ask for the rules change and likely don't have any idea of the intricacies of House rules.

Oh nuts!

When I started visiting my nutritionist she determined soy was a problem for me. At my visit yesterday she tested and found that because I've been avoiding soy my ability to heal is better. I had been eating veggie burgers and veggie sausage which, of course, I gave up. Though I wasn't trying to be vegan, I was cutting down on the amount of meat. To replace soy I switched to peanut butter and ate lots of nuts for snacks.

Alas, yesterday she determined nuts and nut butters aren't my friends. Now that I'm well stocked up. It looks like I'll be switching my snacks to cheese or hummus.

The nutritionist's office sent out a newsletter yesterday. Part of it is about how genetically modified soy has been so successful that the price of soy has dropped. That convinced lots of food processors to add soy to lots of products. And that has meant I no longer consider them for my meals. But there is another problem not listed in ingredients. The big reason for genetic modification is so the plant will create its own pesticides. So all those food products that have added soy have also added pesticides. Yum.

Solution: read ingredient lists carefully. I'm thinking there is another way out of the dilemma: if it has an ingredient list, it probably isn't a good choice.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Fancy duds with running shoes

The Michigan case for marriage equality and adoption will be in the spotlight on Wednesday. I'm thinking strongly of being in the courtroom. It is quite possible, perhaps even expected, that the ruling will be that afternoon. All indications are that the judge will overturn Michigan's marriage protection amendment (voted on in 2004), allowing same-sex marriage and adoption.

The big question will be whether the ruling will come with a stay until appeals are heard. If this judge doesn't issue a stay the question is how long between the ruling and when the Michigan Supremes or the 6th Circuit Court (I'm not sure which) could issue a stay. The window of opportunity might be short. Lots (hundreds?) of gay couples are preparing a dash to the courthouse on the news. Both Ingham County (Lansing) and Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor) and perhaps others have offered to waive waiting times. There are also lists of clergy on standby. Put your running shoes on under your fancy clothes.

It will last as long as I want it to last

This is getting bizarre. Does the GOP really want self-immolation? Perhaps you should review what I posted yesterday about the GOP and morality and how the gov't shutdown fits in their goals. Now to the latest revelations:

The plans for a shutdown began not long after Obama was reelected as a final effort to undo Obamacare (since over 40 votes in the House didn't seem to do the job).


Normally, any House member can bring a continuing resolution (the bill at the core of the shutdown) to the floor for debate. On the evening before the shutdown the House Rules Committee (dominated by the GOP) declared that only one person -- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor -- can bring a continuing resolution bill to the floor.

A few of the GOP House members who want to vote on the Senate version of the bill (and end this madness) have made a motion to do so. They have been denied, because they aren't Eric Cantor. They reply, "Democracy has been suspended, Mr. Speaker."

So the shutdown will last as long as Tea Party puppet Eric Cantor wants it to last.

My friend and debate partner said that while the debt limit extension has a deadline of Wednesday night, the shutdown doesn't have a deadline until voting day 2014.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

No election necessary

Carol Bond was convicted of attempting to poison her husband's mistress. Domestic squabble. So why would the Supreme Court be interested in the case?

Because Bond was charged under the Chemical Weapons Convention Implementation Act. That was passed in 1998 to implement an international treaty. That Act falls under the "necessary and proper" clause of the Constitution. Congress is given the power to pass any law it feels is necessary and proper to carry out the duties assigned to it by the Constitution. One of those duties is to ratify international treaties.

Advocates on Bond's side say that the federal gov't should not be involved in a case of poisoning. That's a state's job. That means this case is a serious assault on the "necessary and proper" clause. And that is a serious assault on the powers of Congress brought by those who want smaller gov't. Which means any federal regulation, especially those that implement treaties, could be disputed on the grounds Congress doesn't have the power to write such a law.

Keep in mind why they want smaller gov't -- so there is nobody with enough power to stop their ability to raise money even if it impoverishes or causes harm to thousands of people, destroys the environment, and in general makes the country and world a harsh place to live.

Of course, nobody in this dispute cares at all what happens to Carol Bond.

Essayist Terrence Heath reviews why conservatives want a smaller government. This is a quote from George Lakoff. I think the emphasis was added by Heath.
Competition is necessary for a moral world; without it, people would not have to develop discipline and so would not become moral beings. Worldly success is an indicator of sufficient moral strength; lack of success suggests lack of sufficient discipline. Dependency is immoral. The undisciplined will be weak and poor, and deservedly so.
Heath uses that to explain the gov't shutdown:
Any government which “impedes” economic activity by the “best people,” through regulations designed to protect the consumers, workers, communities, etc., penalizes morality and discipline. Any government activity which protects the “immoral undisciplined people” from the economic consequences of their poor character rewards immorality and discipline.

To conservatives, sequestration was a good start, but shutting down the government is even better. Sending government workers home without pay, and cutting off services to low-income Americans is the right thing to do. Plus, it means conservatives can force the country to conform to their worldview, without even having to win an election.
Yeah, in case you haven't figured it out by now, I profoundly disagree with this definition of morality.

As an example: A composer (perhaps me) could be the most disciplined (well, maybe not me) and productive creator of high quality music around. But because he writes in a style that doesn't draw massive popular support (like much of classical music) he doesn't earn millions from his efforts. If he doesn't also teach at a college or university (which sucks up time better spent composing) he might be just getting by.

Monetary success might also be due to Dad's money and Dad's network of friends, so even a slacker could appear moral. And some truly evil people (some despots come to mind) can be quite disciplined in their tyranny.

Therefore discipline (and even a huge dose of talent) does not equal monetary success and neither discipline or piles of cash have anything to do with morality. That has to do with how we treat each other. And the 1% is doing an abysmally rotten job at that.

Poisonous family feud

Steve LaTourette is a former US Rep. from Ohio and GOP. He says the gov't shutdown and debt ceiling squabble is all within the GOP, the two factions battling for the future of the party.

One side has read and believes the reports produced by various GOP thinkers after the last election about the party needing to broaden its base.

The other side believes in the existing (shrinking) base must be catered to, and the reason why Romney and other conservatives lost was because they weren't conservative enough. This is all about ideology.

LaTourette says as long as that second faction has its way the GOP "will become increasingly poisonous as a brand."

My reaction: let's keep the dispute going. The brand could use more poisoning.

The gender patrol

A couple weeks ago Newsweek had a cover story written by E.J Graff on what might be next in the gay-rights movement. The author poses the "What's next?" question because gay and lesbian acceptance is well underway and the marriage equality battle is down to time and hard work.

We're mostly accepting of sexual orientation. Seeing a guy love a guy isn't so squeamish or icky anymore (though that varies considerably by location). We still have lots of problems with gender expression. We still want our men to look and act like men and our women to look and act like women.

So what is next is acceptance of transgender people. These are people who are gender variant and do not easily pass for male or female. They fall in between or the body doesn't match the presentation. There is still a lot of discrimination.

And after that it is time to disband the gender patrol. There should be no girl's toys and boy's toys. Only toys played with by whatever children who wish to. That would be followed by getting rid of women's work and men's work, replaced with work done by whoever wants to and is qualified to do.

Lori Duron, in her blog Raising My Rainbow shares stories about her gender creative son. Alas, I can't link to a specific blog entry. She related the story that when her son started kindergarten she alerted the teacher. The teacher caught on and said this year we aren't lining up in a girl's line and boy's line. We're all in one line. It took the assisting mothers a while to get it. They kept wanting to separate genders. Time to disband the gender patrol.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Human dignity, personhood, love and commitment

In the first few marriage equality laws there was lots of wrangling to get a religious exemption clause -- churches would not have to perform gay weddings if it conflicted with their beliefs -- even though the Bill of Rights already assured those protections. In the next couple of bills the gay side short-circuited that discussion by bringing a bill that already had that clause in it.

Ari Ezra Waldman of the blog Towleroad said it is a bad precedent and we should stop. The reason is that now Fundies want the same religious exemption in other kinds of laws, such as those banning discrimination in public accommodation. Religious exemptions would essentially gut such bills. In addition, it gives the impression that religions freedom is stronger than equality. That's something we do not want to happen.

What to do? Waldman notes that when we get equality through the courts, we don't have to barter. But court cases aren't always available or the best way. Instead we should not base our demands for equality on rights. The Fundies will always respond with a demand for their religious rights. We should base our demands on "human dignity, personhood, love and commitment." That's what the successful marriage equality campaigns did a year ago.

Your traditions will be destroyed

The president of Georgia (the one near Russia, not Alabama) is warning other former Soviet clients what Putin is up to. Putin longs for the days of the Russian empire and is trying to lure former satellites back into the fold. But he has only one thing to offer -- the claim that Europe and the West are only about gay rights. "If you go to Europe, your family values will be undermined, your traditions will be destroyed. So we as Orthodox unity, we should stick together." You don't want tolerance forced on you.

The new head of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, is again saying that Russian laws meet the Olympic Charter's standards on human rights. Andre Banks, head of All Out, got a letter from Bach about those assurances. Banks says it seems Bach simply can't say the word "gay" and certainly doesn't believe we are human enough to be protected from discrimination.

In contrast, the United States Olympic Committee has amended its non-discrimination policy to include sexual orientation. They are leading through example, though they don't feel they can directly advocate for a change in Russia's law. The USOC is also in favor of revising the Olympic Charter to include sexual orientation in its non-discrimination clause.

A couple weeks ago there was a protest at the Metropolitan Opera when Russian conductor Valery Gergiev opened the season. He is a big Putin supporter. Gergiev is back conducting a concert at Carnegie Hall. Again there was a protest. The Met program was an opera by Tchaikovsky, who is gay. This time the program is the three big ballets of Stravinsky -- commissioned by the gay Serge Diaghilev and danced or choreographed by the gay Vaslav Nijinsky.

A hissy fit with consequences

We've had a string of beautiful days in Southeastern Michigan, cool overnight with highs around 70F. The trees are starting to turn color. It is great bicycle weather -- when I have time. Cloudless skies have meant no sunsets, though that changed this evening.

This is the time of the year when it is hard to photograph a sunset because the position of the house next door. So I ventured into what had been a golf course behind my house to get the shot. It is getting to be quite overgrown and a neighbor suggested it would require too much money to restore it into a proper course. So I guess I have a nature preserve behind my house.

While in the nature preserve, I saw a jumble of blue canvas or nylon. I didn't investigate closely, though thought it might be trash or a shelter for a homeless person. If it is the latter, there is certainly lots of privacy.

Now on to all the things I want to bring to your attention that accumulated in my browser over the last week.

The Freedom to Marry organization has a page that lists the 19 states (Michigan among them) where there are lawsuits seeking marriage equality. Some, like New Jersey, are likely to succeed. Others, such as Mississippi, not so much.

Speaking of New Jersey… A judge there has ruled banning gay marriage is unconstitutional and set a date for gay marriage to begin. Gov. Chris Christie asked for a stay of that ruling so he could take the case to the NJ Supremes. The judge denied his request. There are real harms to citizens that must be addressed.

So Christie has asked for an emergency stay from the NJ Supremes. Somehow it isn't right for one judge to rule in favor marriage equality, though one governor wielding a veto pen was appropriate to stop it. Will seven justices somehow be better than one judge? The NJ legislature is sitting in the wings waiting to see if their veto override is necessary.

A few days ago George Takei forwarded a Tweet of a quote from Barney Frank: "We are making progress. It's now more socially acceptable to be gay than a Congressman."

The Dean of the National Cathedral in Washington (the same guy who made lovely comments about rooting out privilege when I was there six weeks ago) has made a bold declaration: Homophobia is a sin.

Terrence Heath offers his view of the gov't shutdown. It is only a "Tea Party hissy fit" and childish in the extreme -- I'm losing so I will change the rules. Even so, there are real consequences. He lists some, though he is sure the list is not complete: Sick children can't get care, poor children lose Head Start, families lose food assistance, scientific research halted, food inspection suspended, toxic cleanup halted, no flood relief for Colorado, worker safety protections on hold, small businesses and black-owned business lose money, communities around national parks suffer, the economy loses $12.5 million an hour ($300 million a day) in wages not paid out.

Alvin McEwen of the blog Justice For All lists the six different ways in which our opponents attack us:

* Use junk or out of date science or distort legitimate science.

* Keep repeating a distortion even though it is disproven.

* Claim a conspiracy theory, such as claiming gays are really aiming to haul all good Christians into court.

* Claim dire consequences, such as the loss of religious liberty (progress -- they used to shout about the destruction of straight marriages and the downfall of Western Civilization).

* Use phony experts, such as a "sex expert" whose degree is in economics.

* Consistently us dehumanizing words, such as "radical gay agenda" and "sodomy advocates."

Thursday, October 10, 2013

The country and world are watching Detroit

Yeah, I know it's been a week since I last posted. The weekend was so busy I needed to go back to work to rest up. And my work week doesn't leave much time to write.

Saturday morning I joined a crew to Board Up Blight. This was a team that assembled at the Scott Center, part of Cass Community Social Services, associated with the Cass Community United Methodist Church. The Saturday crew was brought together through the Hands4Detroit program run by the Detroit district of the UMC. There were several other projects elsewhere in Detroit and Pontiac. Apparently the total number of volunteers was over 1100 (some showing up that morning). A few sites had more volunteers than they could keep busy.

The crew of 20 that I joined walked a couple blocks north of the Scott Center, an area southwest of Davison and Lodge. There are currently 7 houses on the block and at least that many vacant lots. Out of those 7 houses only one is currently occupied. Of the rest… One was badly burned, not much more than a few walls and chimney that didn't look stable. A couple others showed scars of fire. All were quite thoroughly trashed.

Our job was to board up first floor windows and doors, haul out the yard trash, and cut down overgrown shrubs and small trees -- especially the kind that grow when no one is looking. We hauled out a great deal of trash. I wondered a bit over the cancelled checks from 1979 and the intact newspaper from 1975. There were also lots of body parts -- from a manikin. We worked from about 9:30 to noon, had a lunch break and then 1:00 to 2:00. The street looked a lot better when we were done, though it was lined with garbage bags and cut branches for someone to haul away. All this effort prompted the lone resident to do a bit of yard work of his own.

I don't know how long these houses have been vacant. A year? Ten? Even so, I thought about the banks sucking value from the city through foreclosures and leaving teams like ours to clean up after them.

From there I went downtown to Grand Circus Park and the International People's Assembly Against the Banks and Against Austerity. This was put on by Detroit Eviction Defense and Moratorium Now, two groups that have sponsored protests I've participated in. There were probably other groups involved in the planning. The assembly had been going since 10:00 that morning. Alas, the whole thing looked a lot smaller than I expected -- just a couple tents and a handful of booths along Woodward.

When I got there one of the tents held a workshop talking about the power structures in Detroit. They are, in order:

Economic, the wealthy people and the big companies (they were named), including the car companies. If these people want something done, it gets done. That doesn't mean it is in the best interest of the city and its citizens.

Political, including city and state officials. The state is listed because many of Detroit's difficulties are a result of state action, such as the Emergency Manager law and various revenue sharing programs the state doles out or (more frequently) withholds.

Media, the big corporate owned newspapers and the independent weeklies. Corporate papers are important because they control what residents think and if the papers don't discuss possible solutions (the ones that aren't in a corporation's benefit) residents don't know about them. We were urged to read the independents and to be our own media. That's what I'm doing now.

Non-profit, mostly foundations set up by the economic powers. The powers also fill their boards. This allows the rich to hide behind a non-profit which enforces their power. It also allows the rich to do a little something about the collateral damage their policies create.

We all assembled under one tent for the afternoon series of speakers. Some were video clips or written statements from fellow strugglers elsewhere in the world.

The first statement was from the Haitian community in Oakland about the situation in Haiti. Since the earthquake (nearly 4 years ago?) the situation is still dire for many people. Most of the aid money has ended up in the pockets of the rich. The poor still live in tents.

The next message was from Portland, OR. That was followed by a video from the Philippines. This speaker seemed to know a great deal about the situation in Detroit.

Laura Gottesdiener is the author of the book A Dream Foreclosed. She said Detroit is on the front lines in the battle between the 1% and the 99%. The rest of the country and the world are watching intently. If the 1% succeeds in Detroit, they'll have a much easier time elsewhere. This isn't a fight over buildings. It is a fight for democracy.

Lamont Lilley of Moral Monday in North Carolina listed the issues they are fighting there: Murders by cops, cutoff of WIC (a piece of welfare), voter ID laws, high unemployment, child poverty (80% in some places), college unaffordable, good schools segregated. All this was the reason for Moral Mondays. We must build on our similarities. Organization plus voice is power.

We heard a statement from the Brazilian president of International Democratic Women. Their work is to oppose imperialism. She listed the effects of austerity on women and children worldwide. One item I noted is that women are welcomed into the workforce in many countries because that allows the owners to drive down wages for all workers.

Next was a statement from the American group Women's Health Women's Hand. Austerity was introduced around the world before it hit America. Women and children suffer most.

Marva and David live in Cleveland and have been fighting foreclosure of their home for several years. They listed a few reasons for their situation in Ohio. Here are a couple: (1) The courts are crooked and routinely refuse loan modifications. (2) Credit Default Swaps, a big part of the economic collapse and the Great Recession, in this case work like mortgage insurance for banks but without the insurance regulations. The bank isn't reimbursed for the price of the mortgage, they're reimbursed for 30 times the price of the mortgage. If they can force a foreclosure on a $300K mortgage they collect $9 million. No wonder they don't want to reduce the amount of principle to match the current appraised value.

A speaker suggested that we stop buying goods and services that support our oppression. Let's have a "don't buy a damn thing" day.

We saw a video from a French bank worker in support of our cause. His message (with transcript) is at the bottom of this page.

Sharon Black of the People's Power Assembly in Baltimore spoke. She repeated that everyone is watching the situation in Detroit. They are with us. October 24th is the 75th anniversary of the first minimum wage law. This year that date should be a "Raise Wages Day." She told us there are daily protests in Washington over the shutdown. Since I hadn't heard about that it suggests the power of corporate media to hide important parts of the story.

Eva from North Carolina reminded us the youth are bearing the brunt of poverty and austerity.

A United States Postal Service union worker talked to us. The USPS is the biggest employer outside Walmart and its union is the biggest union. A couple years ago Congress demanded the USPS fund its pension system 75 years in advance. Why? To break the union, even if it breaks the USPS. Which is fine with many because it allows that service to be privatized. It also allows postal services to be offered by Walmart.

An aside: Though NPR and their stations don't have commercials, they do offer sponsorships, in which an organization can broadcast a brief (5 second?) message. I've been amazed at the number of different sponsors to Michigan Radio who use that brief time to say they sell postage stamps. The most important thing they want to tell us is they sell stamps? Something doesn't sound right.

A speaker told us about conditions in the Philadelphia schools, which are quite similar to Detroit's schools. Talk of school reform seems to consist of attacks on teachers and communities of color. Various budgetary shenanigans by politicians means the school system has debt, which means a chunk of the budget now goes to banks, not teaching. Funding appears to be a shell game. There is a push to privatize -- backed by the investors of private schools. The legislature is gutting the teacher seniority system. That means a teacher can't speak out about problems without risking having a job next year. These austerity measures are being actively opposed -- by the students who are staging protests. Various groups are borrowing from NC's Moral Mondays and hosting Full Funding Fridays.

We saw a video from former workers of a GM plant in Colombia. Workers there are not allowed to organize. That means a lot of workers are injured, mostly repetitive stress problems. Injuries are why these guys are former workers.

Tovah from Oakland told us 48% of the foreclosures are Latino. I don't know if this is a city or state number. The city of Stockton also faces bankruptcy, so is watching Detroit carefully.

Raquel Seda of Puerto Rico spoke. She reminded us that it is a US colony and has a long history of austerity. There is lots of privatization there, especially of higher education.

Sarah Flounders recently visited Syria for an extended stay. She gave us a different scenario of the war there (though perhaps she was referring to American intervention). It is all about privatizing the country, including the schools, for the benefit of the (American?) wealthy. Maybe she was referring to the current situation without official USA intervention. She says 10,000 of the soldiers are American mercenaries. She reminded us that bombs dropped overseas also drop on American cities. Money to pay for those bombs comes out of what would have gone into city finances. Cities can't pay their bills and must offer fewer services, causing damage as if a literal bomb had dropped (the effects of which I saw that morning). She supported her last comments with a diagram. In the federal discretionary spending (not including Social Security and similar programs) the military takes up 54% and is mandated to grow at 5-10% a year. Which means for the budget to balance (like the GOP is howling for) the rest of the gov't must shrink.

The leaders passed out flyers of the next scheduled protest (so all you in Detroit listen up). An important hearing on Detroit's bankruptcy will be held the morning of Wednesday, Oct. 23. So the Moratorium Now folks are planning to have enough protesters to completely encircle the Federal Courthouse (231 W. Lafayette). Be there by 8:00 am. Their demands: cancel the fraudulent debt, stop attacks on worker's pensions, stop the privatization of jobs and services, restore federal grants to city workers instead of private corporations, end Emergency Management, and (I'll add) stop the looting of the Detroit Institute of Art.

I was still wearing my Hands4Detroit shirt from my morning labors. That prompted one person to ask to take a picture of it. You can see the logo at the bottom of this page.

Another person commented on the shirt, so I went over to talk. It turns out the guy she was with (and maybe her too) was a reporter for the Michigan Citizen, one of Detroit's independent news weeklies. I agreed to be interviewed and talked about my work that morning. I've been perusing their site and haven't found an article about the Assembly. A search for my name came up empty. I did see a video that looks like it was taken at the Assembly (though I didn't watch it) but it is dated the day before.

The Assembly broke for dinner. A nearby restaurant supplied the food. I saw what they were serving -- vegetarian, heavy on the potatoes -- and knew it wouldn't fit with my current diet. The evening session would be entertainment, so it was time for me to go home.

I didn't promptly sit down and tell you about it because I had to prepare for Sunday, which you'll see below.

Sunday morning was the usual worship service. I and the rest of the Stewardship Committee performed a little skit as part of the fall fund campaign.

A good chunk of the afternoon was taken up by the annual CROP Walk to raise money for Church World Service and their campaign to reduce worldwide hunger. As part of that I walked two miles.

I'm a part of the Dedicated Reconciling United Methodists (DRUM), a local chapter of the Reconciling Ministries Network. RMN is the group that put on the Convo I attended over Labor Day weekend and wrote about on the blog I maintain for DRUM. Amazingly, that post has been read by over 1200 people! That's 10 times more than any other posting on that blog.

On the first Sunday of the month DRUM and the Church and Society committee of Nardin Park UMC in Farmington Hills put on an inclusive service, for those who don't feel so welcome in regular services. Attendance has varied from 3 to perhaps 18. This past Sunday was my turn to speak about my experiences at Convo. It wasn't a full service, though we sang a couple hymns and shared a prayer. What I did most of Friday, all of Saturday evening, and a spare hour on Sunday afternoon was to organize my notes for this gathering. Alas, rainstorms discouraged attendance and there were only six of us.

After that I figured I was close to the Whole Foods store in West Bloomfield and should do some shopping. Then I made a stop at my usual food store for a couple more things. By the time I got home it was too late to do any writing.

Monday included a visit to a dermatologist and my nutritionist. And I was back to teaching on Tuesday, appreciating the rest.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Extort to end any law

This evening I listened to New York Times columnist Tom Friedman's visit the NPR show On Point and his thoughts on the gov't shutdown. His primary call is to Obama -- don't give into the GOP. Our democracy is at stake. The Prez. was reelected on the Affordable Care Act, the Supremes confirmed it. It is a settled issue. If Obama gives in then nothing is ever settled. Any disgruntled faction can use the recurring debt ceiling issue to extort to end any law they don't like. And that would be the end of democracy.

Friedman gave three things that got us into this situation.

* Gerrymandering. It has been around for a long time (about as long as America has been voting). Now there is such a difference in degree that it has become a change in kind. Friedman joked that gerrymandering can now be done so precisely that Mrs. Smith can be put in one district and Mr. Smith put in another. Safe GOP representatives are never challenged from the center.

* Money. We are flooded with corporate money. An example is the two Democrats in Colorado who recently lost their seats over a gun violence bill. An amazing amount of money ($400,000?) was brought to bear on one issue, and a state issue at that.

* Media. There are separate conservative and progressive news circles. One person no longer has to convince the other side of the rightness of his argument.

We can only get out of it the long hard way. We, the people, must elect representatives that do what we want. To do that will take several elections.

I listened to the show because the topic was announced as I was coming home. I stayed at the college this evening for a special program.

I teach at Marygrove College. It was founded by the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary -- yup, Catholic nuns. Actually, they have a history of being quite progressive. The college's big program now is a master's degree in social justice. I mentioned a year ago that they have offered a class in the Social Work department on the special considerations when providing services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people.

Today when I walked into the library (which I don't do every week) the big display case across from the main desk had the banner "LGBT Scholarship" and inside were many books and a few videos on our issues. Several of them had a scholarly outlook. I think that's pretty cool for a Catholic institution.

The evening program was hosted by the college (for free!) and put on by the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights. They sponsored the speaker, Bill Goodman, who is a civil rights attorney. Even though he said he hasn't dealt with voting rights cases, his talk was about the current state of voting rights.

Goodman gave us a bit of history on voting rights. In the aftermath of the Civil War, the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were passed. As soon as Union soldiers left the South (1877, I think) Jim Crow laws were instituted and blacks lost the right to vote. There was no serious challenges until the Civil Rights protests of the early 1960s, which produced the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

There were three big Supreme Court cases which brought us to the current situation. The court likes to portray itself as cautious, only deciding as narrowly as possible. These are three cases where they decided quite broadly, having profound effects on the country.

Bush v. Gore in 2000. The Supremes said there is a strong tradition of the federal gov't not interfering in state elections. But they were going to make an exception in this case. The court said this case could not be used as precedent in any other case (and for a long time it wasn't). Even so, it gave us 8 years of Bush II, a big push to the right, and a few extremely conservative Supreme Court justices.

Citizens United. This is the case that declared corporations are people and allowed to spend money freely in political campaigns. This was the first case to reference Bush v. Gore.

Shelby County v. Holder, this year. This is the one that gutted part of the Voting Rights Act. That part was the preclearance clause. Certain states had to have changes to their voting laws approved by the Department of Justice. It used to be the Attorney General (or the head of the voting rights division) decided if a law could take effect. Now he has to convince a judge that a law is bad and do so after the law has already gone into effect and perhaps had an effect on an election.

One thing this ruling did was to contradict Bush v. Gore. It went back to the sacred principle that the feds shouldn't interfere in how a state runs elections (even though the Voting Rights Act allows the feds to do exactly that). It also declared that because of equal sovereignty, all states should be treated the same by the feds. But the ruling did not acknowledge a few things:

* Demographics -- the percent of white voters is shrinking.

* The Supremes said we don't need minority voter protection because there are lots of minority elected officials. But they were elected because the Voting Rights Act was in force.

* Congress reenacted the VRA in 2006. As part of that they held hearings which showed discriminatory voting laws, meaning the act is still needed. The Supremes ignored that evidence.

* Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in her dissent, noted there is now a second generation of ways to disenfranchise voters that were not available when the act took effect, such as voter ID laws and precise gerrymandering. So, back to that equal sovereignty thing -- all states should now be subject to preclearance.

Bill Goodman concluded by saying we have rights in our country. He listed several of them that appear to be under attack: right to no unreasonable search and seizure (just heard a report that this right doesn't extend to computer files stored in the cloud); right of speech, protest, and assembly; right to our choice of religion (including none); a right to be free from discrimination; a right to free and fair elections. If we lose any of them we're in deep trouble.

The local head of Michigan Coalition for Human Rights joined Goodman at the podium for questions. He teaches at Wayne State University and deals with lots of youth. He feels a lot of today's youth are misinformed and distracted, precisely the state in which the big corporations wan them to be. What little news they get is tainted by corporate bias. A few youth in the audience objected. They are annoyed at the current state of things and want to make changes. A problem one of them (who lives in Detroit) sees is that many youth are "unconscious" -- they have been oppressed for so long they see it as normal.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Averting the End Of The World

I listened to a bit of The Diane Rehm Show on NPR this morning. I was on my way to the nutritionist on the west side of Ann Arbor and got too far away from my classical music station in Detroit. So I switched to the Ann Arbor NPR station. I found the transcript online, but didn't bother to read the whole thing -- they stayed on topic for an hour.

The topic, of course, was the gov't shutdown. What caught my interest was a comment by Molly Ball, staff writer for The Atlantic. It's at 10:26 in the transcript. She is referring to Tea Party Republicans.
So I don't think that they're really amenable to being swayed by the fact that people are upset about their vacations or the fact that people are missing a couple of paychecks because to them they are averting a disaster of world historical proportions in their attempt to stop Obamacare. Which, by the way, they are not doing, right, because as we've seen, the exchanges are opening anyway.
A bit later Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute adds:
[T]hey are united by and large on a strategy to hold out at least until the 17th. Then tie default to the government shutdown, believing that then they can up their demands and force Harry Reid and Barack Obama to accede to many of their...
He is interrupted at this point.

My summary: The Tea Party GOP believe allowing Obamacare to exist will cause an apocalyptic End Of The World. Yeah, we in the gay community have heard this before, that gay marriage will end Western Civilization and all that. I suppose, though, they are right -- it will mark the end of their world, the one in which straight white conservative males control everything so tightly there is no chance for those people to challenge their place at the top. And healthy poor people are the first step in that challenge.

So if the goal is to stop the End Of The World, shutting down the government, or even the entire economy, is a small price to pay. Which means this could be a long, drawn out battle ending in calamity.

The thought from an evening talk show (on NPR) was that the GOP has boxed itself into a corner and can't let go. They're going to look pathetic if they aren't able to extract some concession from the Dems, something worth all the hassle they've put everyone through.