Monday, February 29, 2016

Happy Leap Day

It has been a busy day so I couldn't send out the greeting until now.

One would think computers and calendar programs have been around long enough. But apparently not. I started up my calendar program this morning and it put up a message box. Since my modem has been acting up (Comcast says it is worn out and a replacement is being shipped) I though the program wanted to check the internet and had failed. So I didn't read the detailed error message until it balked a second time. The error was "Date out of range."

Yup, a leap day bug.

I'm glad I had checked my calendar yesterday, because I wasn't going to view it today.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Stuck gender toggle

It appears I've inherited my father's genealogy database. My mother had spent years on the basic research (though she wouldn't meet the documentation requirements of current researchers). She created four binders for the major branches of the family, some lines going back as much as 12 generations. At some point Dad taught Mom how to enter it all into computer (once there was a home computer). I think since then it has been migrated to at least one, if not two, other genealogy systems. The most recent one is the Legacy program.

In cleaning out Mom and Dad's bedroom I found the four binders. I also found many slips of paper onto which Mom had written some detail to be added to the database, such as her sister's new grandchild. I don't know yet if all those slips got entered.

And now the database is up to me (unless a sibling wants it, though I don't hear any clamoring). The last entry Dad made was in 2011 and there have been several great-grandchildren born since then, including three born in the month before he died, and a wedding two days after his death. So I added those, though I don't have all the details, such as place of birth.

There was also the marriage of my sister and her wife to add. I went to my sister's record. Her info was on the right side of the screen and space on the left for a husband. I clicked on "add person" and filled in the form. But... the gender toggle was firmly at "M" and the program would not allow me to change it.

So I backed out of that and created a record for an independent person and filled in my sister-in-law's info. I went back to my sister's record and clicked on "marriage." It asked, "Add Husband: add New person or link to Existing person." I chose the existing person button and selected the record I had just created. I got the message "You cannot link a female as a husband."

I did some web searching and finally found a page on the company's website. The page, updated last September, says:
The way the Legacy database is structured, Legacy cannot support same-sex relationships at this time. We are working on this for the next version of Legacy. In the meantime, there is a work-around.
That work-around includes buying a Microsoft database program and using it to flip a couple fields (one for my sister, one for a niece). Otherwise I wait for version 9, no release date given.

At the moment I have the basic version of the program. I can enter data, but I can't do most of the interesting stuff, like the chart functions – and compare two databases. That last is of interest because a cousin-in-law of Dad has also been doing significant research, which includes Mom's family. His database is about ten times the size of mine. Though I don't want all of it, I'm sure he has some important records I don't have (and I have some he'll want).

But that means I'll have to buy a product that discriminates against my sister. Or I wait. Maybe years.

Secure his legacy

I shoveled two inches of snow off my driveway this afternoon. The bottom inch had been rained on, so it was heavy. My sister, 100 miles north, reported a foot of snow. Her backyard deck is now closed. But temperatures could get up to 55F in a couple days.

A couple days ago I wrote that there were four types of candidates that Obama could nominate for the Supremes. It appears Obama played a feint by beginning to vet an Olive Branch candidate – the Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval of Nevada. This idea had several progressive groups and many Senate Democrats expressing their horror and threatening to block the nomination. Still, Mitch McConnell and fellow GOP senators didn't budge from their pledge to ignore anyone Obama sent their way.

So no point in the Olive Branch candidate.

Joan McCarter of Daily Kos sums it up:
[GOP senators have] shown how much room there is for President Obama to name a candidate that's progressive, that will secure his legacy for a generation to come. Which is exactly what he should do. It's worth taking that stand. Doing so—giving Democratic Senate candidates the opportunity to run on cementing that legacy—makes it that much more likely that next January there will be a Democratic Senate to confirm his nominee.

On of those stubborn senators is Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire. She's caught in a bind. If she gives any hint of being willing to simply meet with a Supreme Court nominee conservative groups will find a primary challenger who will run to her right. They've been threatening that for months. But with a deadline of June 10 for challenger to file, she doesn't have time after that to be convincingly conciliatory by November.

Senate Democrats have begun a shaming campaign, highlighting the GOP obstruction. And outside fundraising groups are asking for money because they see all those seats occupied by people like Ayotte and see a strong chance to flip the Senate.

The same conservative groups behind the GOP's refusal to consider any Supreme Court nominee Obama might name have also issued an "aggressively conservative" budget they are telling GOP House members to pass. And there are enough members willing to listen to make Speaker Ryan's job impossible. Expect big budget battles, even if entirely in the House.

Aggressively conservative? Yeah, things like cutting funding of Planned Parenthood (expected), of clean air and water enforcement, of grants to shelters under the Violence Against Women Act, of small business disaster assistance, and of healthy food for school children. I'm sure the list isn't complete. In other words, finish off gutting the tattered social safety net so there is absolutely no assistance to anybody beyond the 1% (who will benefit greatly from favorable trade deals, gov't contracts, and tax cuts and loopholes).

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Nominate one of ours

Chad Griffin of the Human Rights Campaign says that Obama has nominated 10 openly LGBT federal judges. Therefore the potential candidates are available for Obama to nominate one of them to the Supreme Court. It is time for an LGBT justice.

The progressive Agenda Project Action Fund ponders what would have happened in the Bush v. Gore case of 2000 if there was a vacant seat in the Supreme Court. The answer is in the form of an ad, which is over the top.

Black lives, black votes

A couple weeks ago I quoted this phrase from D.R. Tucker:
It’s simply not enough to declare that black lives matter; black votes must matter, too.
He was saying to make sure black lives matter we must make sure that black voters have unimpeded access to the voting booth and are encouraged to use their vote.

Terrence Heath turns it around:
Black votes matter, because black lives matter.
You want the black vote? Care about black lives. The black vote could determine the Democratic nominee and also the next president. Black voters are not going to turn out for the GOP candidate in large numbers, but they could stay home thinking it has nothing to do with them. That's why both Bernie and Hillary are paying a lot of attention to black voters. But black voters aren't interested in lip service. Tell us how you intend to improve our lives and convince us you will follow through once elected. So far, neither Bernie nor Hillary have made the "true and radical shift in their thinking" that will excite black voters and leadership, though there are signs they are on their way.

Democrats had been very careful about policies to improve the lives of blacks because they didn't want to alienate the white working-class voters. But with shifting demographics, that is a much smaller issue. The GOP faces the flip side – alienate too many people of color (something they appear very good at) and there won't be enough white voters to win.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


After several hours of the usual noisy testimony the City Council of Charlotte, NC voted to approve an LGBT rights ordinance. It is "non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in public accommodations, vehicles for hire, and in government contracting." The ordinance passed 7-4.

NC Gov. Pat McCrory has vowed "immediate intervention" to overturn the Charlotte ordinance and GOP leaders in the state are working to make that happen.

The West Virginia State Senator Craig Blair, the GOP Majority Whip, has introduced a resolution to overturn local ordinances that protect LGBT people. He wants the same nondiscrimination laws across the sate to make it less confusing for businesses. Yeah, we've heard that one before.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal is being pressured to change an upcoming Religious Freedom Act, but he isn't saying what the changes will be. The state's businesses, wary of another Indiana backlash, are applying the pressure.

Highlight the differences

Sometime after Justice Scalia died I wrote about a comment that a way to save time is to not read all the articles speculating who Obama will nominate to replace him. I'm staying faithful to that. This post is a bit different. Ian Millhiser of Think Progress says there are four types of candidates Obama could nominate. Of course, in each category there are lots of possibilities, which I won't get into.

There is the Olive Branch candidate. This is the moderate that is usually nominated when one party controls the Senate and the other is in the White House. But if the Senate is already declaring they will take no action, why bother? Even so, a rejected olive branch nominee would highlight the Senate's recalcitrance.

Obama could go the route of the Superqualified Nominee, someone legally brilliant and indisputably qualified. With this nominee it would be hard to denounce the person as unsuited. If the Senate didn't act it would be obvious why.

On to the Non-Traditional Resume. Most candidates to the Supremes are from big law firms or from a prosecutor's office. How about someone who made a career of representing unions or the ACLU? Yeah, that's like waving a cape in front of a bull. So perhaps someone who had been a public defender. This might work in a time when many in the GOP are rethinking criminal justice.

And then there is a Declaration of War nominee. This would be a twin to Ginsberg, someone who would highlight the differences between the parties. Why not, if the GOP is going to stonewall anyway.

I agree with a few other progressive voices who urge Obama to nominate the Declaration of War candidate. Let's highlight those differences.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Sacrifice the Senate

GOP Senators Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania have lined up behind Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in saying they will not support anyone for the Supreme Court nominated by Obama. But that position isn't sitting well with their voters, especially moderate and independent voters though even GOP voters don't like that position. Polls show that refusing to not even consider a nominee will be remembered by voters in November. Both Toomey and Portman already have low approval ratings, though still higher than McConnell's approval rating. So this stance could be a big factor in flipping the Senate back to Dem control.

All this while various conservative advocacy groups (apparently with a great deal of political pressure) are telling McConnell forget the Senate, we want the Supremes. We're willing to sacrifice the Senate to maintain our hold on the high court. Besides, the Senate hasn't been doing anything for us anyway, at least not on our big issues of abortion and gun rights.

Naturally, McConnell is using this tension to raise a lot of money. And part of that tension is if McConnell does the bidding of these groups he'll likely lose his job of Majority Leader.

Yes, this tactic is based on the assumption the next president will not be named Sanders or Clinton.

Have to be people to fill those jobs

Another insight from Melissa McEwen of Shakesville – yeah, she's good at diving to the core of all manner of oppressions... A lot of the 1% and their current squawk-boxes running to be the GOP candidate for prez. talk a lot about how anyone, if they work hard, can rise to the middle class and perhaps above (we'll not get into studies that show how unlikely that is in America). What the 1% is telling the 99% is you can pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. McEwen responds:
And if you want to be the kind of person who doesn't pump your own gas, or make your own sandwiches, or clean your own house, or manicure your own fingernails, or drain your own dog's anal glands, or build your own car elevator, then there are going to have to be people who fill all those jobs.

People who honorably dedicate their time, energy, and talents to jobs that might not pay well are indeed entitled to something—to not work their whole lives only to find themselves poverty-stricken, or hungry, or homeless after one small (or not small) medical crisis. And if we're not going to ensure that every job comes with a livable wage, access to affordable healthcare, and retirement benefits, then we've got to provide a robust and well-funded social safety net.

I don't think that's asking for much, in exchange for a lifetime of providing service to their chosen vocation.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

A lesbian in ministry

The Baltimore Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church has recommended a married lesbian for ministry in violation of the denomination's rules. The full story is at my brother blog.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Portrait in lead

The temperature reached 58F here in Detroit this afternoon. I was able to take a pleasant walk around the neighborhood – after I pulled down tree branches that had broken off in the high wind but hadn't fallen to the ground.

Cleaning out tabs in my browser...

From last Wednesday's Cheers and Jeers on Daily Kos a bit of haiku that is pertinent to Michigan:
Snyder poisons Flint
And the rich get their tax cuts
Is that a problem?

Michael Dykehouse has painted a portrait of Mich. Gov. Rick Snyder. One particular color of artist's oil paints is called Cremnitz White which is made with a bit of lead. Add in more lead and Dykehouse had shades of gray. Perfect for the image of a governor mired in a crisis over lead in Flint's water.

Another from Daily Kos: If Obama isn't allowed to nominate a new justice to the Supremes in his last year, then Justice Kennedy is illegitimate and all his swing rulings must be voided, including...

A third from Daily Kos: Last Monday Greg Dworkin commented about the previous Saturday in which Trump publicly accused Bush II of being responsible for 9/11 and lying about Iraq. Is this implying the GOP is about to crack open?

The New York Times has created a big chart showing each time a Supreme Court seat became vacant, how long it was vacant, who was nominated, how long the confirmation took, and whether it happened in an election year. The article says:
The Senate has never taken more than 125 days to vote on a successor from the time of nomination; on average, a nominee has been confirmed, rejected or withdrawn within 25 days. When Justice Antonin Scalia died, 342 days remained in President Obama’s term.

Obama's 2017 has been released and something important is missing. That missing item is funding for sex education programs that only teach abstinence until marriage. That's a good thing because these programs tended to lead to higher rates of teen pregnancy. Better is a program that discusses sexual health, well-being, and pregnancy prevention. Even better is Dan Savage's idea that sex education should not demonize sex. Of course, what Congress does with that budget item is another thing entirely.

Every year the Heritage Foundation releases its "Index of Economic Freedom." One item is "the fundamental right of every human to control his or her own labor and property." Great! Then we get into some of the other freedoms: "fiscal freedom" means limited interference from government, "business freedom" means a minimum of regulations, "trade freedom" refers to open markets. Somewhere under those categories is "regulations concerning minimum wages." As in being allowed to pay workers as little as they like. These aren't economic freedoms for people, but for corporations.

A YouGov poll at the beginning of the month asked whether people had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of socialism and capitalism. Most categories of respondents had more people giving a favorable opinion to capitalism than to socialism, sometimes by wide margins (such as family income over $100K a year). The two who answered differently were Democrats who favored socialism and capitalism about the same and those under 30 where more had a favorable opinion of socialism than capitalism. This partly explains their enthusiasm for Bernie, who proclaims his socialism credentials.

This under 30 group is also hard hit by the Great Recession, a huge failure in capitalism. Their job prospects were delayed and their student debt became huge. Yeah, they have a reason to have an unfavorable view of capitalism.

Kerry Eleveld, writing for Daily Kos, has noticed that since our loss in Houston last fall, well, really for a couple years now, the LGBT rights movement has been in a funk. No energy. No badgering candidates. No broad national message. We haven't been all that energetic and effective at countering the nastiness coming from the Right. But the Right isn't letting up and still pushing their agenda. As an example of that the South Dakota legislature succeeded in passing an anti-trans bathroom bill. I don't think the governor has signed yet.

I've written about the hate filled Atlah Church going into foreclosure and the Ali Forney Center trying to acquire it at auction. That auction was originally scheduled for a few days from now. But the church's pastor has been awarded a delay. The next step is a hearing on April 21 to determine if the auction should go forward. The New York City Department of Finance is confident the foreclosure will go through.

In the meantime, Carl Siciliano of the Ali Fornay Center is relieved to have the delay. It will allow them to continue fundraising (topped $315K!), assemble a proper financial package for a winning bid, and to inspect the building. Even if this particular deal falls through this funding campaign means they will be able to acquire more space somewhere.

Monday, February 15, 2016

One funeral at a time

My friend and debate partner has used the phrase, "Society progresses one funeral at a time." He decided to check the source of that phrase. He didn't find anything, though he did find that Max Plank had said, "Science progresses one funeral at a time." So my friend declares authorship of the phrase "Society..."

This bit of research was prompted by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. My friend wrote, "He did tremendous damage to our society and intended to do more. One down, three to go."

My friend had used his phrase to describe the progress of LGBT rights. The elderly, who have a higher tendency of viewing gays and lesbians in negative terms, die off and are replaced by younger voters, who wonder what all the fuss was about.

But I must debate one part of what my friend said. I doubt there are only "three to go." A President Trump, Cruz, or Rubio will gladly refresh the supply of bigoted justices. We'll have to go through many more funerals because Cruz and Rubio are still quite young.

Yesterday I wrote that Timothy Lee of Vox lists fourteen justices who were nominated in an election year. Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin provides details.

Burroway's list includes Howell Edmunds Jackson. During Franklin Roosevelt's time as president the 20th Amendment changed inauguration date from March 4 to January 20. In November of 1892 Benjamin Harrison lost his bid for re-election. Even so, on February 2, 1893 Harrison nominated Jackson to the Court after Justice Lamar died that January. Harrison, a Republican, knew the new Senate would be controlled by Democrats, so nominated a Democrat.

So even lame-duck presidents nominate justices and get them confirmed. Though I wouldn't want Obama to nominate a conservative, just to get that person through the Senate.

Burroway also mentions six times a justice left the court in an election year and the seat went unfilled until after the election. In June of 1968 Chief Justice Earl Warren retired. Abe Fortas was an associate justice and Lyndon Johnson nominated him for the top job. But Fortas has sketchy ethics and his confirmation was filibustered. The scandal grew and Fortas resigned in May 14, 1969. Now there were two openings on the court. One was filled when Nixon nominated Warren Burger for Chief Justice, who took office on June 23, 1969 (that seat had been empty for a year). That second seat was open for another year before being filled by Harry Blackmun on June 9, 1970.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Gravity is just a habit

The only music videos I watch are the ones by OK GO. They always come up with something intricate and mind bending. And they've released another doozy.

If an airplane flies a particular parabolic pattern (the shape of the curve when a ball is thrown) those in the plane become weightless for about a half-minute. So the intrepid team shot this video in an airplane doing those maneuvers. They designed the routine so that every half minute or so they are in a place where they can hold still when gravity returns. What fun! The video is here and the explanation is here.

Euphemism for bigotry

Yes, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has died, apparently of a heart attack. He was 79. Nina Totenberg works through his legacy.

It would be so easy for me to be snarky. But I'll refrain.

Stephen Henderson is the Editorial Page Editor of the Detroit Free Press. He was a reporter at the Supreme Court for several years around the turn of the century before coming to Detroit. That got him on NPR to discuss Scalia's legacy. Naturally, Henderson's editorial of Scalia is a cover story in today's edition of the Freep. He wrote:
He was a man for whom the notion of expanding liberty beyond the narrow confines of those who could enjoy it at the nation’s founding could only happen through the democratic process, with the majority granting rights to minority populations. And if it happened otherwise, through courts that saw the Constitution’s promise of liberty in broader terms, it was in contravention to the nation’s founding principles.

Gay rights? Only if the majority wishes. Affirmative action? For Scalia, it wasn’t a tool for realizing the promise of racial equality, but rather a means of discriminating against the majority. Sexual privacy? Not mentioned in the Constitution, so it didn't exist.

… Those notions sit quite close to the center of the “originalist” or “constructionist” view of the Constitution that Scalia and other conservative appointees since Reagan have aggressively tried to ply throughout American law.
My summary is simple: The Constitution was written at a time when only white male landowners could vote. Therefore the Originalist interpretation of the Constitution is a euphemism for bigotry.

Henderson says the conservative side of the Supremes "had already begun to witness significant erosion of their dominance on the court." And the GOP and their conservative backers fear their majority is slipping away. So, of course, they are crowing they will block a nominee that hasn't been named yet, simply because Obama is the one doing the nominating. They are betting the next prez. will be one of their own.

One of the loud voices slamming Obama is, of course, Ted Cruz, who hopes to be the one doing the nominating. His comments got so silly in their alarm that I won't link. Other sentiments out there is that if Obama's nomination goes through we can say goodbye to the Constitution. Which sounds like the speaker means: the Constitution interpreted to favor straight white Christian guys.

Elizabeth Drew of Ohio, who is a regular contributor to New York Review of Books, put it well: "Senator Cruz, if you're president, which powers would you surrender in the last year of your presidential term?"

Conservatives also like to say that justices nominated in an election year are never confirmed. Timothy Lee of Vox lists fourteen such justices, though the only one since WWII is Anthony Kennedy and he was actually nominated the previous December after Robert Bork was rejected.

A big issue of the prez. campaign has just gotten a lot more visible. The GOP candidates have already been trumpeting what kind of justice they would nominate – if we get a President Trump, Cruz, Rubio, or Carson they have vowed they will nominate someone to overturn marriage equality. Even a President Kasich or Bush wouldn't do us any favors (I've lost track of how many are still in the race). Alas, Sanders and Clinton haven't made a big deal of what kind of justice they would appoint. I hope they start saying so soon. Of course, if Mitch McConnel, Senate Majority Leader, is able to block Obama's nominee, this issue will definitely be part of the fall campaign.

But it should already be part of the campaign with Ginsberg, Breyer, and Kennedy all 77 or older. Scalia sat on the court for almost 30 years. His successor will be with us for a long time.

In the meantime leaving a vacancy in the court would not benefit the GOP. Ties of 4-4 mean the lower court rulings remain in effect – and at the moment there are more Obama and Dem appointees than GOP appointees. Will that vacancy bring more conservative voters to the polls? Do they already vote? Will the usual increased Dem turnout in an election year make the difference? Do younger voters understand the importance of the Supremes?

Want to save time? Elizabeth Drew suggests ignoring all stories that speculate on who Obama will nominate.

Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin reminds us of Scalia's legacy regarding LGBT rights. Burroway quotes Scalia's dissents (fortunately merely dissents) on four of our big cases: Romer v. Evans, which overturned a Colorado constitution amendment that banned laws granting rights to LGBT people. Lawrence v. Texas, which struck down sodomy laws. US V. Windsor, which declare the Defense of Marriage Act to be unconstitutional. And Obergefell v. Hodges, which brought marriage equality. Scalia can be somewhat amusing with his phrasing, but it is tough to wade through the bigotry.

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 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.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The real Hillary

I seem to be referencing Melissa McEwen of Shakesville a lot today. There is a good reason for that. She has spent a great deal of time studying the whys and hows of oppression. And there's a big reason for that – she's been on the receiving end of a great deal of it. She now devotes her blog to calling it out.

In one of today's posts McEwen takes a look at why young people have mostly gone for Bernie and not Hillary. Many young will say there is something vaguely untrustworthy about her.

Hillary entered the national stage as Bill ran for and won the presidency in 1992. Both were progressives, thus drawing the ire of conservatives who assumed they were supposed to be in charge. Hillary got an extra dose of misogyny thrown at her. She was characterized as a monster, an idea that mainstream media perpetuated.

That garbage started 25 years ago, sometimes as a whisper, sometimes as a shout. "This decades-long, relentless campaign to create a supervillain, led by the GOP and abetted by the media, is so insidious and ubiquitous that we don't even see it." Which means this noise has been in the background (and sometimes not all that far back) for the entire lives of these 25 year-olds. No wonder they don't trust Hillary.

Remember those emails that Hillary released? McEwen actually read a few hundred of the 3,000. They reveal a woman "who is running for president because she genuinely cares about people." Quite a dramatic contrast from the portrayed monster. And when people meet her, like this one (sweet picture!), they find someone fundamentally different from how she is portrayed.

Will the young voters see the real Hillary? If they do will they face up to having been brainwashed? Or will they continue the untrustworthy narrative?

There are reasons to oppose Hillary. I don't think she will push hard enough on such issues as gerrymandering and corporate money in politics. But arguments against her can be made without invoking the monster created by misogynists. And there are a great number of reasons to support her, including the grace she portrays while all this misogyny is thrown at her.

Dogwhistles to bullhorns

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville has, with this campaign season, started a series of posts, of which there will likely be many more. She has done, and will continue to do, one of these posts every time a GOP leader wrings his (definitely his) hands and wails about how Trump and Cruz are ruining the party.

Nope, says McEwen, Trump and Cruz have merely replaced the dogwhistles with bullhorns. So behold your roosting chickens.

In this particular post she explores in detail how the GOP got into this situation. I could quote a deal of this long post. It is that insightful. Alas, I'll settle for a summary.

For a long time the GOP has been selling a dream. It is a dream of what life supposedly was in the 1950s, containing beautiful suburban homes with white picket fences and with men going off to work and wives doting on babies. Dad had a secure job with a pension and a promise of a gold watch after a long career with one company. There was no "disillusionment, dispossession, or a lack of opportunity."

Of course, this little suburban paradise (which never existed) also has deep traditions of racism, sexism, and homophobia. Also of course, the GOP couldn't, and had no intention of trying to, deliver this paradise. What they delivered were jobs moved overseas and a tattered social safety net along with tax reductions for the rich.

So we get to the second half of what the GOP sold: We couldn't deliver that dream to you because of progressives, because of feminists and gays, because of those undocumented immigrants, because of that dark-skinned president.

And a lot of people whose dreams were dashed are now angry. And they quickly blamed who the GOP told them to blame, exploiting prejudices along the way. These people certainly weren't going to exclaim, "I've been misled!"

But now they have candidates who refuse to exploit those prejudices with a wink and a nod, but know their base so well they can do away with niceties. Yes, the chickens have come home to roost.

I work harder than half the world

I would have gone to the Ruth Ellis Center today for my usual volunteer time, but I got an email from the evening director saying the center was closed. There was a big warehouse fire about a mile to the west (as in upwind). It started last night and while under control it was still burning. The fire department determined the smoke was toxic.

A couple days ago I mentioned the Ali Forney Center was raising money to buy the Atlah Church, which will be auctioned off due to not paying its bills. Since then Dan Savage has urged support and the campaign is above $153K, 77% of its goal.

The campaign's website reminds us why they are so interested in taking over the Atlah site. The AFC has several residences for homeless LGBT youth, one of them a few blocks from Atlah Church. The church frequently posted its anti-gay tirades on the church marquee, which these kids would see. In addition, these kids are homeless because their parents listened to and believed the hatred spouted by church pastors, such as Rev. Manning of Atlah.

Buying the building that had been this pastor's pulpit will make these kids' lives a bit easier and hopefully cause fewer other kids to become homeless.

Of course, Rev. Manning isn't going quietly, but I'm not going to link to something that toxic.

Many months ago I heard someone propose that a good person to be nominated to the Supremes would be Barack Obama. His expertise is constitutional law, he knows how gov't works, and he's a decent progressive. It would be good to have a person of color with the opposite views of Justice Thomas. Obama would follow the steps of William Howard Taft, who was president, then Chief Justice.

About a week ago someone proposed that idea to Hillary. She's delighted with the idea. Obama, not so much.

A couple weeks ago Oxfam released an analysis that showed the richest 62 people in the world "have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity."

A common refrain from the rich is that they work harder and are worth their wealth. Along with that is the refrain that the poor are poor because they don't work hard. Melissa McEwen of Shakesville replies:
But surely, surely, even the people who make this reprehensible argument cannot choke out the incredible claim that 62 people work harder than half of the entire world. Or even that their work is more important, more inherently valuable, than the work of the population of half of the entire world.

No one can possibly believe this. Especially when the accumulated wealth of those 62 people was largely earned not by their own labor, but by exploiting other people's labor.

Another delicious result.

There was big news last summer about two videographers, David Daleiden and Sandra Merritt, made a video of their meeting with officials at Planned Parenthood, edited the result to look like PP was making a profit from selling organs from aborted fetuses, and released it to the delight of the anti-abortion crowd.

Numerous states have investigated PP and have found nothing illegal or outside standard medical practices. A grand jury also cleared PP and then indicted Daleiden and Merrit on charges of tampering with a gov't document (they used false driver's licenses for ID in PP offices). Sweet!

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gender does matter

So that Iowa thing happened yesterday. Trump was beaten out by Cruz, who isn't any better and Rubio pulled off a strong third, and he isn't any better either (not that the GOP crowd had such a person). At least Carson and Huckabee have decided to go home. We won't miss you.

On the Dem side Bernie and Hillary are almost tied. And O'Malley has gone home. Bye!

Only 9 months to go!

A big part of Bernie's spiel is income inequality and what he would do about it. A few days ago he was introduced at an event by Susan Sarandon, who said, "I'm here because gender is not what's important, the issues are important."

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville disagrees.
You can't talk about income inequality, as but one of a million examples, and say gender doesn't matter, when the means by which income equality is enacted against women is different than how it is enacted against men.

And how it is enacted against women of color is different than how it is enacted against white women. And how it is enacted against trans women is different than how it is enacted against cis women. And black trans women vs. white trans women. And all the other identities that overlap with womanhood: Queer women, women with disabilities, fat women, etc.

Each of these groups are economically marginalized in very specific (and demonstrable) ways, explicitly on the basis of our particular identities.

Monday, February 1, 2016

House of hate to house of love

Ooohh, this is delicious!

The Atlah Church in Harlem has been spewing nasty anti-gay messages for a few years now, messages such as "Jesus would stone homos." The church is nasty enough to be classified as a hate group by the SPLC. But the church hasn't been paying its bills and now owes over $1 million. The church has been ordered into a public auction on February 24th.

Almost immediately, LGBT people began circulating the idea wouldn't it be cool if the Ali Forney Center could buy the place? The AFC of New York serves over 1000 LGBT youth every year. They provides 50,000 meals a year for homeless LGBT youth (dwarfing what the Ruth Ellis Center in Detroit does) and offers interventions for medical and mental health care, case management, and educational and career services. They are delighted with the prospect of taking over the Atlah site, turning a house of hate into one of love. They would use it to house LGBT youth and launch a catering business operated by the youth.

The AFC is asking donors for $200,000. They plan to leverage that money with support from local gov't, major donors, and foundations. In 48 hours they raised $75,000. Even if the AFC doesn't get the Atlah site all this money will go to expand services for LGBT youth. I donated.

Atlah Pastor James David Manning wailed that "sodomites are trying to silence me!" Yup.

Not ready

Yeah, it has been a while...

Back in December I noted that one group, Fair Michigan, looked at polling data and said that the state was ready for a constitutional amendment to protect gay rights. Other groups, Equality Michigan and ACLU, looked at voter modeling and determined that an amendment would not pass and we would need to expend a significant amount of money and hours to change the large number of minds for the amendment to pass.

Fair Michigan proceeded with their plans. They created wording for their petition and put it before the Michigan Board of State Canvassers, which approved it in mid January. They could begin to collect the 315,000 signatures needed to put the question to voters in November.

But two weeks later Fair Michigan suspended their effort. The reason: they couldn't raise the millions of dollars needed to mount the petition drive and pay for the campaign. It appears that when Equality Michigan said they doubted it would work, lots of wallets closed.

Fair Michigan says we need to gain our rights through a ballot measure. Equality Michigan says a ballot loss will set us back both in Michigan and nationally so we have to go through the legislature. Neither looks like it will happen any time soon. Which means national LGBT rights groups have a strategy that doesn't include Michigan. They don't think we're ready.

So they're focusing on states where they think chances in those legislatures are better. Likely next are Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Arizona. Indiana? The state that prompted such an uproar last spring and has more Religious Freedom Restoration Acts on the way? That Indiana? Pardon my skepticism.

Thus the Michigan strategy is to let other states go first.