Sunday, November 27, 2016

Gerrymandering headed to the Supremes again

A three judge panel (implies it was from a federal Circuit Court) struck down the GOP-drawn map for the state Assembly as unconstitutional gerrymandering. The GOP will appeal this case to the Supremes. Previously, the Supremes said they don’t like gerrymandering but they didn’t have a way to definitively tell whether it exists. This case is important because it comes with a way to measure gerrymandering. I explain the measuring here.

Perhaps a month ago I saw a link to a project done by Stephen Wolf of Daily Kos on gerrymandering. He and his team created a map of the current Congressional district boundaries, the ones drawn after the 2010 Census which were heavily gerrymandered by the GOP. Wolf and his team then created a second map based on the 2010 census data and current procedures for creating an unbiased map. Comparing how the 2012 election would have played out under both maps the team concluded that gerrymandering by itself was the reason why the GOP took the House that year.

Wolf says the priority for his rules in drawing a map are:
* Ignoring partisanship.
* Compliance with the Voting Rights Act's demand for majority-minority districts.
* Utilizing communities of interest like shared culture, economic class, etc.
* Minimization of unnecessary county and municipality splits.
* Geographic compactness. Not mathematically minimizing district boundary length, but drawing districts so that they don't combine disparate parts of intrastate regions.

You can peruse the maps yourself. The official, fully gerrymandered map is here. The revised map, having no force of law, is here. Let your inner nerd have some time to play. A description of the Midwest states and how the revised map would affect them is here. In Michigan the 9-5 delegation favoring the GOP would, under the revised map, either be a 7-7 tie or be 6-8 in favor of the Dems.

Lately, this DK team has been highlighting individual highly gerrymandered districts. Some of them are quite bizarre. For example, the Louisiana 6th district is here.

Doesn’t look so great to me

There have naturally been many articles and posts about the recent election trying to explain what happened. A great many of them push a particular ideological point – Dems lost because of this particular point I’ve been telling you about for years. I don’t bother reading these.

However, I want to tell you about one such article, one that tries to explain and not push an ideological point. This one is written by Jim Burroway of Box Turtle Bulletin. He usually writes about LGBT issues. This time he writes from his experience in growing up in Portsmouth, Ohio, which is on the Ohio River directly south of Columbus. It might also be described as Appalachian Ohio.

Yes, racism played a role in this election. It was the most visible part of Trump’s campaign. But Burroway says it wasn’t the deciding factor. The racists weren’t going to vote for Clinton anyway. And many of the white working class voted for Obama and then for the nasty guy. “If you’re going to say their vote was all about racism, then you’re going to have to explain why they waited so long to act on it.” Even so, it is fair to ask why the nasty guy’s racism – and Islamophobia, misogyny, and homophobia – didn’t disqualify him.

Look around Portsmouth, and Coal Grove, Waverly, Mingo Junction, Lorain, Youngstown, and thousands of little towns across Ohio, the Midwest, and the nation. What do you see?
Closed storefronts. Abandoned houses and empty lots where whole neighborhoods once stood. Crumbling factory buildings, boarded up schools that were once the pride of the community.
A few years ago, when visiting my aunt and uncle in a little town about 15 miles from Lake Erie – and almost due north of Portsmouth – I happened to drive through the downtown. I remember a vibrant town from my frequent visits in my youth. Now most of the storefronts have “closed” and “for sale” signs – very much a ghost town.

All those decrepit buildings are part of a decline that began 40 years ago. And what did Dems offer? Retraining! But retraining was for jobs that don’t exist in rural Ohio. In addition, Dems had been the party of the labor union. Though GOP policies have decimated the union movement, the Dems have been focusing on their other constituencies. And the voters...
They saw their broken communities, abandoned by the very party that had once been their champion, and heard Trump say he was going to make America great again. Clinton countered that America was already great. They looked around again and said, no, it doesn’t look so great to me.

And then they voted.

Ian Reifowitz of Daily Kos looks at data from the election. Race and racism doesn’t seem to correlate well with how people voted. One factor that does seem to correlate is education and income. Move up the income ladder and Clinton did better than Obama. Move down the income ladder and Clinton did worse. What did Clinton talk about? Race, no doubt in response to the nasty guy. What didn’t Clinton talk about? The economy. Which seems odd because her husband was the one who stressed the phrase, “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Solar panels on the stable

A few days ago the nasty guy invited several journalists from a variety of news companies to his tower. He stressed it was off-the-record and they were not to discuss what was said with anybody. Most of the time politicians hold off-the-record sessions to give journalists important background or to “leak” a story – get it in the news and into general discussion – without revealing the source.

Not this time. The meeting started off with a long, screaming harangue in which the nasty guy said he hated them all, they were all liars, and portraying him unfairly. They were just plain wrong about him.

And if anyone dared to say anything about the tirade spokesbot Kellyanne Conway said it wasn’t true and because it was off-the-record whoever called it a tirade got it wrong and should think twice.

So who did report on the meeting? Signs point to the nasty guy himself. Why do that? So he could brag about how he humiliated them. Ooh, such a great start to relations with the press. They’ll likely think twice about reporting on his shenanigans – to the detriment of the nation.

Pat McCrory is the North Carolina governor who got the infamous “bathroom bill” passed, the one that tells transgender people they must use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate. In response, lots of businesses have refused to expand and lots of events have refused to visit.

He was up for re-election. I don’t think a winner has been declared, though McCrory is behind Roy Cooper by almost 6000 votes.

Since election day McCrory has been challenging vote counts in over 50 counties with claims of fraud. County boards have repeatedly ruled against him. It looks like his real goal is to delegitimize the whole election process. After raising all these bogus “questions” he can ask the state legislature to intervene and simply name him the victor, to steal the election. It would be a move that state courts couldn’t touch.

Since the election Mark Zuckerburg has been on the hot seat over fake news and how Facebook appears to promote it, or at least doesn’t suppress it. Let’s take a peek.

There is a company, Disinfomedia, that has several fake news sites. It has perhaps 20-25 writers making stuff up. One story, about the death of the FBI agent who leaked Clinton emails, got 1.6 million views in 10 days.

Why write fake news? Money. The ads that accompany these stories provide a very nice income. Alas, many conservatives, certainly nasty guy supporters and the alt-right, eat this stuff up and it has real world consequences.

The company tried targeting progressives. But the first couple comments would be a thorough debunking and the story would fizzle.

So, yeah, these supporters were getting their news from another world.

You can now buy a hipster nativity set. Joseph is taking a selfie of himself, Mary, and the baby. The three wise men have arrived on Segways with boxes from Amazon under their arms. The shepherd is checking his phone. Be sure to notice the solar panels on the stable roof. At $130 I’ll skip it.

Margaret and Helen, curmudgeonly octogenarians, write a blog together. This year Helen gives instructions for her family when they visit for Thanksgiving: Electronics go in the basket by the door. The TV is off during dinner. You may have voted for Trump but you don’t need to act like him. Visiting does not mean taking a vacation from your children. And Cloe, you may bring your Jello salad, but make sure you have a container to take it home with you. Helen ends with:
Come for the food and stay for the company. Everything else can be made better with gravy.

A great little film

This afternoon I saw the movie Moonlight. It got a lot of favorable press and Metacritic gave it a 99 out of 100. I’m not sure it is that good, though it was certainly a great little film. The story is about Chiron (I heard it pronounced as Sharrone), a black guy. In the first chapter of the movie he is about 9 years old. He’s picked on a lot by other boys, he has a druggie mother, and he finds refuge, for a while, with Juan and Teresa. In chapter 2 Chiron is now 16, and the harassment from the other boys gets intense. He also begins to figure out he is gay and begins a relationship with his friend Kevin. In the third chapter Chiron is now mid-twenties. He’s beefed up and now working the streets. He reconnects with Kevin.

A reviews read implied that in the third chapter Chiron was dealing with trying to be gay in the macho black culture, with a lot of emotional baggage from all that bullying. I didn’t see this. His actions were a lot more tender than I would have thought, not violent at all. In addition, I didn’t see a lot of internal conflict.

I thought the acting by all actors was quite good. There is talk of nominations and awards for this movie. I do have one complaint. Throughout most of the movie the background was quite a bit out of focus. We could see the central characters just fine, but not anything else. I’m sure that was an intentional decision because in most other movies the background is in focus or pretty close to it. But that is a small complaint in an otherwise great little film.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Emphasis on United or on States?

Votes are still being counted in California and perhaps a few other states. While that tallying has been going on Hillary Clinton’s popular vote advantage over the nasty guy keeps going up. At the moment Clinton leads by over 2.1 million votes.

Because of that and because of this being the second time in five presidential elections that the winner of the popular vote did not win the Electoral College there has been lots of discussion of the EC.

For instance, its racist roots. When the EC was created the South wanted to protect slavery. In determining the population for seats in the House, plus EC votes, blacks were counted as 3/5 of a person. But, of course, they couldn’t vote. That meant Southern white votes had more effect than Northern votes.

The next issue: The more uneven our population is distributed, the more the EC favors lower population states. Every state gets two senators and at least one representative. Thus all states have at least 3 EC votes. Wyoming is one of those with 3 EC votes. At the other end of the spectrum, California has 55 EC votes. If Wyoming’s ratio of population to EC vote were to match the same ratio in California, then Cali should have perhaps 198 EC votes (by my calculation based on 2010 census data). The EC favors rural states.

And since rural states tend to be white – Wyoming is 84% white – the EC favors whites.

To make the urban/rural divide visual compare the maps at the top of these posts. The first shows the normal American map with each county colored red or blue depending which prez. candidate it voted for. We see mostly a sea of red with blue dots and splotches. The second map is stretched so that the size of the county is proportional to its population. Now the red looks like a lattice squeezed between the large blue blobs.

So why do we have, and keep, the Electoral College?

Perhaps to prevent tyranny of the majority. Instead, we get tyranny of the minority.

Alexander Hamilton said the EC keeps “the sense of the people” but the members of the College can assure the future president is actually fit for the job. Which would mean straight white male landowner in Hamilton’s time. Since then most states have laws requiring their EC delegation to follow the outcome of the popular vote in their state, the EC vote is only a formality.

Perhaps it is to balance the interests of high population and low population states. Well, more like balance North and South (see above) or coasts and interior. Should the emphasis be on United or on States? When states rights is coded language for “we get to choose for ourselves how much we want to discriminate” I’m in favor of the United.

Though it might be hard to get rid of the Electoral College (it is in the Constitution) it does not have to be set up as winner-take-all. Time to make that happen.

Quash the education monopoly

I said I probably wasn’t going to comment on every cabinet pick of the nasty guy’s new administration. But I want to comment on this one, not because it affects me personally, but because I see the damage already perpetuated locally. This horrible pick is Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education.

DeVos has been plenty active in Michigan pushing her charter school and school voucher programs. She hasn’t gotten far with vouchers (yet, but not for lack of effort). She has gotten quite a ways with charters. And in Michigan charters have a big problem – state law says nothing about their quality. A for-profit charter school can open and nothing will be done if the emphasis is on profit and not school. The proliferation of charters is a reason why the remnants of the Detroit Public Schools are in such a mess. DeVos made sure there are a lot of charter schools in Michigan. I don’t know how much she had to do with making sure there was no oversight. For-profit charter companies may have managed that on their own.

Charter schools exist because of the stupid GOP idea that education needs competition (and a way for someone to make a profit). Vouchers make the problem worse by making sure the money follows the student, which sucks money out of public schools and creates a death-spiral as students then leave those public schools. In addition, for-profit companies cut pay and seniority of teachers while preventing them from forming unions. Schools are one of those things that should not be privatized.

Melissa McEwen of ShareBlue adds a bit more. Charters and vouchers:
* Entrench the funding disparities between rich and poor school districts.
* Promote resegregation of schools, supporting white supremacy.
* Make refusing disabled students possible, as well as immigrants and the not-as-smart.

All a part of the nasty guy’s desire to “quash the ‘education monopoly.’”

In other horrible education news… Seven students in the Detroit Public Schools are suing the state because they believe they are getting a substandard education. They want the courts to rule that literacy is a fundamental constitutional right. A school system incapable of delivering access to literacy violates the civil rights of low-income students.

The latest reason for the DPS mess is the financial bailout that was intentionally underfunded. But DPS has been underfunded and a financial mess for at least two decades.

So, the lawsuit, in hopes of getting the state to adequately fund the schools. Gov. Rick Snyder is specifically named in the suit. His response: Students “have no fundamental right to literacy.”

I long ago figured out that while the GOP says education of everyone is a high priority their actions say otherwise. Unless the student is white and already not poor the GOP does not want them educated. When minorities are educated they just might challenge white supremacy.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Shock but not scandal

Mark Sumner of Daily Kos noted that the nasty guy settled lawsuits that all but admitted his university was a scam. That was all over the newspapers – for two days. That’s in contrast to Hillary Clinton’s emails being in the news for over 600 days. Sumner says this is…
Because the media still holds Donald Trump to account for nothing and no one. Trump can shock for an hour or a day, but it can’t be a scandal, because for a scandal you have to have some expectations of civil behavior. The press holds Trump to no expectations at all. He’s not just the guy who could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing his voters; he’s the guy who could pull that trigger knowing that the story would run, briefly, on page 11. Near the bottom. In small type.
That’s a big reason to ignore corporate media.

A couple days after the election Laura Clawson of Daily Kos wrote:
When one candidate is overwhelmingly truthful and the other candidate habitually lies, but people—not just confirmed partisans but media consumers in general—come away believing the liar is more truthful and the truthful candidate is more untrustworthy, there’s a serious problem in reporting.
And now that the media has helped the nasty guy get elected (see above) they are getting worried. They’re worried about:

* Weaker libel protections that the nasty guy has threatened when media doesn’t fawn over him.

* Less access to the White House.

* Safety, because supporters threatened them.

Now they’re worried? Their investigating and reporting is so bad they didn’t see this coming?

I stayed in your hotel

The progressive blogs (at least the ones I read) are discussing that a bare two weeks after the election and the nasty guy is already violating the Constitution. He refuses to put his assets in a blind trust, instead he is turning management over to his children. It is possible he can’t create a blind trust and should divest everything. The nasty guy and his spokesbots say there are no laws against it. A president can run a side business if he wants to.

Ah, but there is a provision against an important piece. Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution, reads:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
I had to look up the word “emolument.” The important phrase here is “compensation for service.” Synonyms include: honorarium.

A rough translation: the president cannot accept substantial gifts from foreign officials (token gifts are exchanged all the time), cannot perform a service for foreign officials for which he is paid, cannot be given employment by a foreign country, and cannot be granted a Title by a foreign government. Any of these is a conflict of interest, in which the president may choose to do things to benefit his pocket to the detriment of the country.

Would the nasty guy smile broadly and offer preferential treatment to the foreign dignitary starts a conversation by saying, “I stayed in your hotel last night and had a delightful time!” His newest hotel is already touting staying there might give them access. What about when the foreign dignitary says, “I’ve been able to clear away the last legal blocks for the hotel you want to build in our country. We’ve even cut the taxes in half! Will you please do this little thing for us?”

What if one of those foreign dignitaries is from India – how might its long-term rival Pakistan react? Well, Pakistan did react. It thinks India’s nuclear “no 1st use” policy is (now) “ambiguous.”

Likely by January 20 there will be enough evidence that Congress would be able to start an investigation of impeachable offenses. Will they? Or are they just as corrupt?

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Seventeen Solutions – public works

Continuing my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series.

10. Reinvest in Public Works

Nader wrote in 2012, when this book was written and after Obama’s big stimulus package that brought the growth in employment back to positive after the Great Recession at the end of the Bush years:
We are overdue to launch a major public works initiative to repair one of society’s greatest storehouses of shared wealth: the basic infrastructure we all rely on for critical services, the physical plant that has historically enabled commerce to expand and thrive like no other.

If our nation is going to fulfill its truly unmet needs, we must close the public investment deficit. It’s not always helpful to compare the government with a corporation, but consider this: any corporation that collected healthy revenues every year but allowed its plant to deteriorate would be considered reckless, a bad prospect to investors. It’s troubling to think that the same could be said for our government, which is recklessly failing to invest in the country’s long-term prosperity and well-being, as determined both by traditional economic yardsticks and by more citizen-oriented standards.

The benefits of public works are widespread. They are not confined to the corporate elite, but neither do they concentrate among the poor. Unlike the narrowly tailored subsidies for corporate welfare, whose benefits are captured by special interests, public works enhances the well-being of the entire society.

Nader lists these specific areas of public works that need investment.

The schoolhouse. Nationwide 60% of schoolchildren (32 million) attend a school with at least one inadequate building feature, such as roof, framing, floor, plumbing, heating, power, lighting, and safety. Most of these schools are affected by multiple deficiencies.

The health, safety, and environmental issues affect how well students learn and how well teachers teach. This isn’t just an inner city problem, though it is worst there. Schools in suburban and rural districts also must deal with deficient buildings.

Urban schools can spare only 3.5% of their budgets for facilities and 85% of that money goes to emergency repairs. They can’t afford what they need.

Estimates (somewhat before 2012) of the need are $268 billion for infrastructure and $54 billion for technological upgrades.

In the recent election Wayne County (which includes Detroit) asked its residents to tax themselves to pay a little bit more for schools. The request was made because the state has been so stingy. It thankfully passed 54% - 46%. The collection and funding formula means suburban residents will give a boost to Detroit schools.

Clean drinking water. This book was written before the water fiasco in Flint. Even so, there have been several cities around the country, including New York, that asked residents to boil water.

Yes, we have a Safe Drinking Water Act, but it is frequently violated. In addition, too many possible contaminants are not regulated. All this is “a public health nightmare waiting to happen – and one in which the poor, the young, the elderly, and the ill are especially vulnerable.” In 2006, the CDC estimated 16.5 million people became ill each year from waterborne illnesses related to drinking water. A 2010 estimate put the cost of hospital stays for 3 common waterborne illnesses at a half billion dollars.

Estimate of the cost in 2007 was $335 billion over 20 years. That includes $52 billion needed immediately to meet Safe Drinking Water Act requirements. The estimate includes both improvements at the plants and of transmission systems.

Roads, bridges, and highways. The national highway system gets about $150 billion a year in maintenance. But a 2009 estimate put the need at $930 billion. Bad roads affects the cost of travel, including vehicle costs, delay, and crash costs. Doing the repairs is a benefit to the economy through more jobs to do the work and less money lost through delay, crashes, and vehicle repair.

Parks. The National Parks Service, which maintains 58 parks, has a backlog of $10.8 billion of deferred maintenance and construction. Their operating shortfall is at least a half billion.

Because of these shortfalls the parks are not able to monitor their wildlife. The parks in the west have lost 29 mammal populations. Physical plants, roads, and playgrounds are falling apart. Historical artifacts, such as at Gettysburg, aren’t properly stored and are being lost to mildew and rot. Cuts in park staff means they’re not able to manage large crowds, which endangers the long-term health of the parks.

That’s just the national parks. State and city parks are also deteriorating and viewed as unsafe.
In a society as rich as ours is it smart that we refuse to invest in the parks – federal, state, and local – that bring us together as communities?

Mass transit. Maintaining mass transit systems at current levels needs $15.8 billion a year. Bringing the systems up to 2026 targets requires $22 billion a year.

During my two trips to Seattle this year I could see some of the existing mass transit systems. I rode the light rail system from the airport to the train station. I took a bus from a suburb to downtown. I also saw from the rush hour traffic jams (and not just on highways) how inadequate the system is. Nader says the money mentioned above only covers what planners envision, and Nader believes we need a great deal more. That more means comprehensive bus, light rail, and heavy rail systems both within metro areas and between them.
The social cost of moving people between cities by car is simply too high in terms of air pollution, greenhouse warming, and auto accidents, not to mention possible national security evacuation emergencies. Investment in rail should be given clear priority over investments in widening interstates.

These three elements – bus service, subways//light rail, and heavy rail – should be viewed not just as items on a checklist but part of an integrated, seamless plan to make metropolitan and intercity travel safe, easy, efficient, affordable, and at least as desirable as most auto transport. It should be a central part of how we create liveable cities, with reduced sprawl, pollution, and congestion and enhanced equity, mobility, and neighborliness.

A public works agenda is an environmental agenda. It cuts down on pollution and deters sprawl. It is a pro-consumer agenda, providing clean water, less wear on cars, and better schools. It is a pro-worker, pro-development agenda, creating well-paying jobs that can’t be sent overseas.

Southeast Michigan (the Detroit metro area) has two transit systems, one for Detroit and one for the suburbs. I’m pretty sure it’s a race thing. One big effect is it keeps city residents from jobs in the suburbs. A comprehensive system, uniting the two, was designed and the various political structures created. This past election the entire region voted on a tax to fund the new comprehensive system. It lost – by 1% of the vote. Sigh.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Seventeen Solutions – use government to spur innovation

his is a continuation of my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series.

9. Use government procurement to spur innovation

We frequently hear the claim (as part of the drumbeat to eliminate regulations) that we need to get government out of the way and business will unleash its creative zeal. Nader says that it isn’t a case of government doing too much, which supposedly has the effect of stifling innovation. It’s the case that government does too little, it doesn’t harness its purchasing power to drive innovation.

In 2010 the gov’t spent $528 billion on goods and services. The goods included office equipment, cars, drugs, foods, energy, electronics, appliances, paper, building materials, and road pavement. Here are ways the gov’t could harness its purchasing power.

Requiring gov’t buildings to be energy efficient would open new markets for alternative energy, speeding development of such sources. Obama has been doing some of this. Alas, in the case of energy, much of the gov’t is beholden to the fossil fuel industry (and after Trump ran on restoring coal, do you see him putting solar panels on the White House?).

Gov’t can instantly create a large market for a product. That improves a supplier’s economy of scale and lowers the risk of investing in new technology. And it can do so before there is much of a consumer demand.

Because the gov’t buys so much of a product, such as computers, it doesn’t have to accept what the suppliers offer. It can demand or encourage suppliers to be more imaginative, more efficient, and more responsible. It can boost the adoption of new products. It can require greater safety, a cleaner environment, and taxpayer savings (and, as Obama has done, demand fair treatment of LGBT workers).

For example, the patents for car air bags were issued in the 1950s and ‘60s. But carmakers were reluctant to put them in cars – until the gov’t specified the cars it purchased must have driver-side air bags, which it did in the late ‘80s.

Why doesn’t the gov’t do more of this? I’ve already mentioned political influences, such as the fossil fuel industry blocking the installation of solar panels on the roof of every gov’t building. Other reasons: Most purchases focus on initial cost, not life-cycle cost. The gov’t also doesn’t pay much attention to energy efficiency, environmental care, and social cost or benefit.

There is also bureaucracy. President Bill Clinton issued an executive order that all paper should use recycled content. But orders are ignored or undermined by inertia and incompetence.

Nader mentioned another type of bungle. The Department of Justice took Microsoft to court for abuses of its operating system monopoly. The outcome was an agreement that had far too many holes for Microsoft to weasel through and an expiration date. The gov’t could have been more effective if it used its purchasing power to demand such things as requiring the operating system be more open to third party vendors, stopping discriminatory pricing, providing support to those third-party vendors, and perhaps auctioning off licenses to some of Microsoft’s intellectual property to provide competition. The gov’t doesn’t need to be a passive consumer.

The gov’t needs to recognize its purchasing power and how it can drive benefits for consumers. Nader proposes purchasing guidelines.
1. Improve government employee health and productivity.
2. Spark innovation and benefit society as a whole.
3. Lessen our energy demands, advance consumer safety, and reduce environmental damage.
4. Reduce long-term economic costs.

Sound procurement policies represent a way for the biggest consumer – We the People – to say to the biggest sellers. Here is what we want to buy. Take it or leave it.

Seventeen Solutions – restore civil liberties

I left off this series two months ago. Writing about the election got in the way. Since I don’t want to write about the latest nasty person nominated to the nasty guy’s administration it is appropriate I get back to this series. That’s especially true since this series discusses an antidote to the nasty guy’s agenda, even if the GOP controlling the government is less likely to go along with it. This is a continuation of my overview of Ralph Nader's book, The Seventeen Solutions. Click here to get the rest of the series.

8. Restore civil liberties

Erich Fromm says there are two basic freedoms, from which we get the Bill of Rights. The first is freedom from dictatorial authority. The second is a freedom to shape our community’s and country’s present and future. This second one is spelled out in freedom to speak and to petition government. Democracy depends on both.

A big threat to these two core freedoms: the politics of fear. Trump wielded fear effectively in this election as did Bush II 15 years ago, but Nader says Obama also effectively used this fear. Associated with fear is panic which, after the 9/11 attacks, we had plenty of. Wrote Nader:
This kind of atmosphere is poisonous to healthy social discourse, it can destroy any democratic society’s capacity to respond wisely and resourcefully.
A president promoting fear can usually drown out dissenting voices.

But there is no cost-benefit analysis. Is the amount of money spent combating terror appropriate to the size of the threat? Usually not. Part of that is there is no analysis of how much of a threat there actually is. But a president can shout “Terrorism!” and the money flows, as does the power.

All that money spent against a comparatively small threat means money not spent on things that are desperately needed, such as education, healthcare, and infrastructure. In addition, that money usually gets spent to enrich cronies (see: Halliburton). And all that power flowing to a president means the loss of civil rights.

Throughout our national history wars and threats of wars usually mean the rule of law is weakened as the president claims more powers. The powerful president usually can find reasons why it is necessary to curtail civil liberties.

The big recent example is the Patriot Act, which needlessly authorized snooping on citizens. Nader lists other similar acts and what both Bush II and Obama have done with them.

Nader’s solution in this chapter leaves me dissatisfied. Congress, says Nader, should assert its control over the president and threaten impeachment if the president uses war or terrorism to grab more power. Nader describes an incident in which he believes Obama should have been impeached.

My complaint of Nader’s solution has a couple parts. First, Congress has, in many cases, specifically given up its check on the president because Congress doesn’t want to take the political heat (or wants to put that heat on the president). They’re unlikely to demand the return of that power.

Second, my calculations change with the recent election. It now looks like Congress and the president will work together to curtail civil liberties. They won’t be a check on each other. And they’ll soon reinforce the courts to approve those lost liberties.

Restoring civil rights is necessary. But this isn’t the solution.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Happy birthday dear blog

It was nine years ago today that I started this here blog thingie. Three years before then, when Massachusetts was ordered to offer same-sex marriage, I had started sending out blurbs and links out news articles to family and friends. My niece was the one who suggested that a blog would be better. She said something about RSS feed.

This particular post is number 3300. Yes, a lot. The number of posts in a year hit a high in 2009 with 459 posts. Last year was a low at 285, though this year is at 219 and, with only six weeks to go, likely to come in lower. The posts get automatically get emailed to 9 people. Most posts are read by another 10-20 people by opening a specific post. Readership stats suggest another 30-100 people (it changes each month) read posts by opening and scrolling through the main blog page.

Lately, readers sit in America, France, Poland, Germany, China, Portugal, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, and Australia. Every so often a new country shows up in the readership map. In the last month that was Yemen and Sudan.

Alas, very few of these readers leave a comment. In these 3300 posts there have been only 229 comments, which comes out to comments for only 7% of entries. There have been no comments in 2.5 years. I do get regular comments from the people the post is emailed to, though these don’t show up in the blog archives. The most frequent replies I get are from my friend and debate partner.

I’ve been writing the blog long enough that it covered the last year of Bush II. I’ve written about the battle over marriage equality, the latest shenanigans of the GOP (lots of growth predicted here), Christian fundamentalism (though not as much lately), the acceptance of LGBT people and our rights, bigotry, corporate takeover of America and the world, and myself. One recently added label is Building Community, exploring ideas of how we live together. I’ve used 643 different labels on posts (which don’t appear on the emailed version). Only 248 of these labels appear in a sidebar on the webpage with the number of times each has been used.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The truth is irrelevant

The Oxford Dictionaries has chosen its 2016 Word of the Year: post-truth. It means “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” The word has been around for a couple decades. It was chosen this year because its usage jumped significantly, especially when discussing politics.

A few of the words from the shortlist:

Adulting – the practice of behaving in a way characteristic of a responsible adult, especially the accomplishment of mundane but necessary tasks.

Alt-right – an ideological grouping associated with extreme conservative or reactionary viewpoints, characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by the use of online media to disseminate deliberately controversial content.

Chatbot – a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.

Glass cliff – used with reference to a situation in which a woman or member of a minority group ascends to a leadership position in challenging circumstances where the risk of failure is high.

Another chance

I said I’m not going to get into the details of the nasty guy’s transition, but there are a few larger ideas at play.

There has been lots of news that white nationalist Stephen Bannon is a director of policy in the nasty guy’s transition team. The nasty guy had been on Bannon’s radio show and analysis of those appearances show that Bannon is a master manipulator and the nasty guy is easily manipulated. Hoo boy!

Frank Gaffney is reportedly being considered for a big role in national security (though the incompetent transition team denies it). Surprising nobody, Gaffney is described by the SPLC as “one of America’s most notorious Islamophobes.” Gaffney recommends that the nasty guy had better get started with purging the intelligence community of those not loyal to the supreme leader. Perhaps Gaffney won’t get the job? May not matter. The nasty guy has been saying similar things.

Who’d a guessed? Support of progressive organizations is surging. For example, in the five days after the election the ACLU got 120K donations totaling $7.5 million. Democratic operatives are strategizing which group runs point on which issue, such as women’s health, deportations, and attacks on Muslims.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville has heard a lot of people saying now that the nasty guy won the election let’s give him a chance to do the job, let’s see what happens. McEwen replies, nope. Reasons for her refusal:

* We are already seeing what is happening and, like adding Stephen Bannon to the team, we already know it is bad.

* The nasty guy was given endless chances through the campaign. Every time he showed himself to be a bigot he was given another chance.

* Black victims of police and other vigilante violence are not given another chance. Tamir Rice, the black boy in Cleveland gunned down because he was holding a toy gun – his life was defined in one brief moment. He didn’t get a chance.

* Where does giving him a chance end? What are the dealbreakers? What is the accountability? What prevents offering a chance from becoming complicity?

* Would you give another chance to your kid’s soccer coach if he was accused of abuse?

* What is your threshold? How many indecent things do you need to see?

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Painful ancestry

One of those other things I’ve been wanting to write about…

I read the memoir I’m Not My Father’s Son by Alan Cumming. His acting career got a big boost when he played the Emcee on Cabaret. For that he won the 1998 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical. Many of his roles have been sexually ambivalent, some transgender. He is bisexual and lives with his husband. Though his acting career is mentioned in the book, that’s not what it’s about.

In 2010 Cumming was invited to be on the British TV show Who Do You Think You Are?. The show explores a mystery in a person’s ancestry. Cumming and the show settled on his maternal grandfather. He was in WWII but never returned home. The family received word that in 1951 he died of a shooting accident in Malaya (now Malaysia). What really happened? Cumming wrote about the key sites in his grandfather’s life where filming was done and what he learned about his grandfather at each stop.

At the same time Cumming was dealing with the abuse he suffered from his father while growing up. Near death from cancer the father lobbed one more emotional grenade at Cumming, just as filming for the TV show was about to begin.

While Cumming’s descriptions of abuse are hard to read I found his story of recovery to be fascinating.

Evidence of corruption

I’ve decided I don’t want to talk about every annoying thing the nasty guy is doing. For one thing I couldn’t keep up. For another, I would rather write about other things, such as the big ideas (and opera and books and protests and...).

But before I drop my scrutiny of the transition, here are enough things to show where all this is heading. Which is not a surprise.

Box Turtle Bulletin has been listing many of the hate crimes that have occurred in the last week, a big spike in frequency since last week’s election. Some of them are listed here. The reason appears to be attackers saying our bigoted candidate won, which means half the country agrees with our bigotry, which means we’re allowed to act on it.

Steve Bannon has been nominated as Chief Strategist. We were horrified when this former editor of Breitbart News was hired onto the campaign. We’re horrified again that he’ll have a job in the White House. While at Breitbart he showed that he is extremely bigoted. Every incident his site covered was sensationalized with layers of conspiracy slathered on. He is a white nationalist and very much shows the nasty guy’s intentions.

As for the rest of the Cabinet, most career bureaucrats don’t want the job. The nasty guy was repudiated by economists, intelligence officers, and military strategists. But he’ll surround himself with smart people! Melissa McEwen of Shakesville replies: “No, he won't. And he was never going to.”

The nasty guy is not placing his investments or properties into a blind trust or doing a complete divestment. Instead, he is turning it all over to his children. That makes for a massive conflict of interest. To top that off, he wants his children to have security clearance.

Since he has refused to disclose his tax returns we may never know whether he makes a decision (such as tax policy) for the good of the country or the good of his wallet.

So the nasty guy as accumulated more evidence of corruption in six days of transition than Obama’s eight years of presidency – or in Hillary Clinton’s entire career. Amazing there was a media frenzy over Clinton’s appearances of conflict and very little over the nasty guy’s actual and glaring conflicts of interest.

Already on the agenda: dismantle net neutrality, embrace climate change, lower taxes (on the rich), phase out Medicare. That means the nasty guy and the GOP controlled Congress aren’t rolling things back to 2008, they’re rolling things back to 1968. At least.

But checks and balances! McEwen asks: from who? The GOP Congress that didn’t stand up to him during the campaign? The corporate media that provided such unbalanced coverage he won the election? The Supremes, after his nominations sail through?

Monday, November 14, 2016

Our pain will be far less than their pain

At the end of last week and through the weekend I got a few emails inviting me to an event today. After a busy weekend I wasn’t so sure I wanted to go.

That busy weekend included the opera I saw on Saturday and a Trumpet Summit concert by Detroit Chamber Winds and Strings. It featured compositions for up to 8 trumpets. On some pieces a few trumpeters sat out and we heard a brass quintet or a couple trumpets and organ. There was also a tympanist on a couple pieces. All that noise in a lofty stone church made for a glorious concert.

Back to today’s event. It was a press conference called by Michigan United. Their banners say such things as “Justice and Dignity for All” and “Put People and Planet First.” The emails I received were from my church friends because the event was held at Central United Methodist Church, at Grand Circus Park in downtown Detroit. This church has a long history of civil rights activism. The welcoming pastor told us that Martin Luther King spoke from the pulpit two weeks before being murdered. In addition, Rev. Ed Rowe, Pastor Emeritus of Central and Co-Chair of the Detroit chapter of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, has linked up with Michigan United.

I took my notebook intending to take notes of what was said. But as we got started, Ryan Bates, head of Michigan United said democracy is not a spectator sport and called us up to the front for pictures. Well, kinda. We were to serve as backdrop for the speakers while the TV cameras rolled.

Because I didn’t take notes I don’t have a list of the organizations or individual speakers that took part. Bates was the first speaker. He said the purpose of the press conference was to show that a variety of organizations and clergy were opposed to Trump’s policies. His son, now four months old was born prematurely. Under Obamacare that is no longer considered a pre-existing condition, a reason to deny health insurance. And when Obamacare is repealed?

The next speaker, who I think is Latina, spoke of an incident at her daughter’s school in Royal Oak, a suburb of Detroit. Students in the cafeteria started chanting, “Build the Wall!” The chant grew in volume and participants. The daughter caught part of it on her phone and sent it to her mother. Both are scared. The daughter is now facing harassment for her part in publicizing the event. Or maybe because she is Latina.

Some of the other speakers: An undocumented gay man is the head (I think) of an organization that provides legal help to those facing deportations. A Muslim woman is part of an Arab organization providing similar services. The local vice president of the United Auto Workers said we cannot respond to hate with hate. Our response is love.

Rev. Ed Rowe, of course, spoke. He explained that we had racism all bottled up. Then Trump shook the bottle and popped the cork. Now we have an opportunity to not just bottle up racism, but to deal with it. That got me thinking that perhaps my church, which is multiracial, perhaps should study and then teach others about racism.

Rowe called for a return to offering sanctuary to those who need it. He reminded us that when we impose ourselves between those who need sanctuary and their oppressors we might get hurt in some way. But our pain will be far less than what is endured by those seeking sanctuary.

The last speaker was a local Imam. Yes, that united. The whole event was about 50 minutes with TV cameras running the whole time. There was at least Channel 7 and Channel 2 (the local Fox affiliate). I talked to another attendee who said he wondered how the stations would condense a 50 minute event into a 3 minute news spot. I said that if they cover it at all is good. Just knowing such an event happened is important.

In addition to the TV stations the event was recorded by Wayne State University (I don’t know whether students or staff). That should be publicly available in a few days. The Michigan United site included a link to a tweet that has a picture of the event. I’m not in the frame.

Shortly after I got there another social justice United Methodist asked me if I knew the new significance of the safety pin. I said I had seen a bit of it, but didn’t know what it was about. He told me that people, especially white people, are wearing safety pins as a way of saying to those who aren’t white or Christian that when you approach us you will be safe.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to go because I still feel a bit overwhelmed with taking care of Dad’s house and preparing it for sale. But the nasty guy forced the issue. If I’m to respond to him I need to do it as part of a group. And it looks like I can lend my voice to this group. I don’t yet know frequent their events will be and how many I will be able to attend.

With me in the background I feel like I’m committed. If the national situation does get really bad this is evidence I’ve attended at least one protest of the nasty guy.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Opera for today

I went to the Michigan Opera Theatre last evening for a wonderful musical and theatrical experience. It was the local opening night of the new opera Silent Night, music by Kevin Puts and libretto by Mark Campbell.

During Christmas Eve and Christmas of 1914 at the start of World War I there was an informal truce along the Western Front. Pope Benedict XI had proposed it earlier that December. The military leadership condemned the idea. About 2/3 of the soldiers did it anyway. Some simply didn’t shoot. One area in particular took it further – the British soldiers sang a Christmas carol, the Germans responded. When the British sang O Come, All Ye Faithful and the Germans joined in with the Latin Adeste Fidelis they came out of their trenches and met in no man’s land and shared chocolate, wine, and photos of girlfriends.

This scene closes Act I of the opera, though the composer avoided existing carols (in spite of the title). The scene starts with a Scotsman singing a song and another on bagpipes joins in. The composer said he found bagpipes are really loud. To be able to hear anything else they had to place the actual piper almost in the parking lot and have an actor onstage pretending to play. It is a beautiful scene.

The opera starts with the announcement of war and German, Scottish, and French men answering the call. Then comes a horrific battle scene and the local lieutenants begin to realize the war was not going to be over quickly, as everyone had been assured.

There was a turntable in the middle of the stage as no man’s land. It was sloped – turned one way we could see the action on it, turned another and it became the side of a trench. Encircling it were the shacks for the Scottish and German soldiers and the damaged church used by the French. When a scene focused on one of them that particular enclosure was brought around to the front.

At the start of Act 2 the truce is still in effect and each group brings out the bodies of enemies that had fallen in their trenches and time is taken to give them a proper burial. The higher brass finds out what happened and are furious. Each of the three battalions is shipped off to another part of the war – because these soldiers became friends they would be more hesitant to kill.

The music was harsh and horrible sounding when it needed to be. There were also many moments of transcendent beauty. Before going to the theater I listened to an online preview from the local classical music radio. The host talked to Kevin Puts and played some of the excerpts. The composer said that the dialogue was written in English, then translated into the language of the character. The Scots sang in English, the Germans in German, and the French in French. A part of a religious service was in Latin. All of this was displayed in English in the surtitles. The composer, though, had to figure out how to turn each language into singing that sounded natural in that language.

Each character singing in his or her native language is relatively new to opera (though this is far from the first). For example, When Madame Butterfly of Puccini was written in 1903 the Japanese and American characters all sang in Italian (and I first saw it in Germany – what a mix of nations!).

Though the composer wasn’t at the performance (Atlanta was doing the same opera the same weekend), the librettist, Mark Campbell, was. Before the opera began I heard him talking to a group (probably students) in the lobby and listened for a bit.

The idea for the opera came from the head of the Minnesota Opera. He saw the 2005 movie Joyeux Noel and thought it would be a great opera. He raised the money and commissioned Campbell and Puts to adapt the movie into an opera.

I heard Campbell say he had been hired for a specific job, essentially take it or leave it. However, he said, he was a pacifist and would do what he could to make sure war was not glorified, that we saw that it was horrible. Puts, also a pacifist, agreed with that general direction. Their overall message: Once you’ve met someone and gotten to know them it is harder to shoot them.

Puts said he was hired on the strength of his symphonies. He had not written an opera before this one. This one was so successful it won the Pulitzer Prize for music and got him two more operas to write. One has already been premiered, the other is still being written.

This opera is part of a series of operas for today, new or recent operas written on topics appropriate for modern audiences. Last year’s production of The Passenger at Michigan Opera Theatre also fits this category. I attended that one almost exactly a year ago. I hope to attend more of these kinds of operas.

I bought my ticket when I got to the opera house yesterday evening. I named the general price range I wanted. The box office agent decided I was close enough that she gave me a senior discount, about 45% off. Not bad! I went on in for the Opera Talk, given an hour before the opera starts. For this, those interested sit in a section of the main floor.

Once the talk was over I went up to the Mezzanine, where I always sit. The usher asked if stairs were a problem. They’re not. So up we went … and kept going. She finally pointed down a row in the back mezzanine. I said this was not what I wanted, even if it was a discount I didn’t want to sit this far back. So I went back down to the box office, though talking to a different agent. I said I didn’t want to be so far back. The conversation got weird. She said she had something in Row A (great seats in the mezzanine) but some people don’t like to sit so close because they have to tilt their heads back so far to read the text above the stage. Huh? I asked for the seat map, which she had declined to show me before, and pointed to the mezzanine. Oh, no, sir, the ticket you have is for the main floor. Oh. I decided to keep it. That meant first ticket agent didn’t ask whether I wanted main floor and the usher on the mezzanine who guided me to the proper aisle, the usher in that aisle, and the usher who climbed steps with me didn’t notice the ticket said main floor.

This opera resonated with me in an extra dimension. Veteran’s Day was, of course, the day before. I decided to honor my most recent direct ancestor who had been a veteran. That was my father’s father, who had been in the Army in France for the end of WWI. To honor him and to mark the 50 years since his death in 1966 I searched through my stash of family photos collected from Dad’s house, scanned a few, and sent them off to family. Not all of them were of the war. This one is, at least I think so. Nothing is written on the back, so I don’t know the date or location.

When I wasn’t caught up in the story and music I did think a bit that this was my grandfather’s war.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Thoughts of fleeing

Wednesday morning I wrote:
I’m not moving to Winnipeg any time soon for a simple reason. I have responsibilities here in Michigan.
My sister’s wife called me out. If I didn’t have those responsibilities, would I move? So I’ll explore that question.

Towards the end of the Bush II years I thought about moving out of the country. Canada was obvious. Melbourne and someplace in New Zealand sounded good. I wasn’t to the point of actually exploring what would be involved and certainly not house hunting or packing. (There was once when I used the internet to check house prices in Nanaimo, BC, a ferry ride from Vancouver, but that was more about an interesting place to retire – that was about the time I retired from the auto industry – not a thought of fleeing.)

In my thinking I imagined scenarios in which I had to leave stealthily, having drained all of my various savings accounts, used the money to buy diamonds because currency couldn't be taken across the border, and only when I’m safely across do I mail my house key to family members with a note explaining what I had done, that I won’t be able to come back, and would you be so kind as to put the house up for sale.

I can’t say I had read lots of stories about escapes from East Germany or the Soviet Union, but the influence and plot line were there.

So, yeah, I’ve thought about it. I’ve even talked a time or two with my friend and debate partner – we’d buy houses on the same street and wondered whether life would be better in Toronto or Montreal. Whatever city it would have to be one with a great orchestra – which most major Canadian cities have.

But things didn’t become bad enough for me to consider it seriously, to actually do it. Then Obama came along and things have been looking pretty good.

My sister-in-law’s question becomes: Is it bad enough now? The answer is no, or not yet.

I mentioned yesterday that pundits of all types are sifting through the tea leaves to pontificate on What It Means. I now turn to Aphra Behn of Shakesville and her answer, which is to the point and directed at (straight) white male pundits. If your analysis doesn’t feature racism and misogyny it is wrong.

The nasty guy was endorsed by the KKK. A favorite slogan of his supporters was “Trump that Bitch!” Since Obama became president hate groups have proliferated. They have been loud supporters where at rallies crowds roared their approval of breaking up immigrant families, oppressing Muslims, and “doing something” about black neighborhoods. The political effect of this is not zero.

No, Bernie Sanders would not have done better. The nasty guy’s anti-Semitic rants were as strong as his anti-Muslim rants. No, Hillary wasn’t a “weak” candidate. She trounced him in three debates and had the stamina for non-stop campaigning. And compare her credentials – lawyer-advocate, First Lady, Senator, Secretary of State – with his – alleged business success. Every woman who has been passed over for a less qualified man knows exactly what that’s about.

As for low minority turnout you had better be denouncing the racism behind the voter suppression efforts that played a major part in Wisconsin and which Republicans bragged about in North Carolina.

What about a world where women are able to brush off serial abuse and vote for the nasty guy? Why aren’t white women alarmed about that? Why aren’t white men?

A majority of white voters voted for a guy who mocked and attacked the disabled, who threatened religious minorities, who wants to undo same-sex marriage. A majority of white voters voted for hating the Other.

Need more? Let’s put the nasty guy’s policies into context.
You simply cannot wrench away their hatred for NAFTA from their racist claims that undocumented immigrants are taking away their rightful jobs. You cannot take their anti-abortion obsession away from the misogynistic version of Christianity that fuels it. The voters who voted against Hillary Clinton because she “kills babies” are more concerned with controlling women than in addressing the reasons that women seek out abortions. That’s misogyny. That’s the context.
Behn concludes:
Trump was elected in a wave of backlash against progress of many sorts, against the reality that white able-bodied straight male Christian privilege is no longer a guarantee of power and preference in the United States. This is not incidental; it is fundamental. Those who analyze this election as if it existed outside of patriarchal white supremacy, that it all comes down to deracinated economics or ungendered media coverage, or whatever, are a danger. They are enabling the very things they ignore.

To fix a problem we must first understand it.

Listen to us. Learn from us. And then, let’s attack the hate together.

Mark Sumner of Daily Kos takes on the idea that people voted for the nasty guy in spite of his repeated bigoted views against everyone who isn’t a male white Anglo-Saxon Protestant (been a while since I’ve heard that term). Nope. People voted for him because of his racism. How is it the most unfit candidate won the White House? Racism and misogyny. And that whole “Make America Great Again” thing – it isn’t about uplifting those who voted for him. It’s about providing those voters with someone to look down on – something useful when GOP policies make their economic situation worse.

Sumner concluded by quoting Ijeoma Oluo of The Stranger:
We have elected violent white supremacist patriarchy into office because the vast majority of white American voters chose to elect violent white supremacist patriarchy into office.

The nasty guy said today he wants to be everyone’s president, for all of us to come together. Nice try, buddy. But no. If you want be the president of everyone you have to act like it (which, we see above, will seriously annoy your base).

Want to be everyone’s president? Then don’t do things like this:

Ken Blackwell was brought onto the transition team to head domestic policy. Blackwell is from the Family Research Council, which has been tagged as a hate group for their virulent attacks on LGBT people. A commenter adds that Blackwell, in his role of Secretary of State in Ohio, was instrumental in suppressing the black vote.

Be everyone’s president? Then soundly condemn stuff like this:
Police are investigating a wave of alleged hate crimes against Muslims, Hispanic Americans, black people, ethnic minorities and the LGBT community in the wake of the US election.

Attackers professing support for Donald Trump have been accused of numerous attacks in the 24 hours following his shock victory, including death threats, physical assaults and racist graffiti.

Maha Abdul Gawad said she was shopping in a local Wallmart on Wednesday when another woman approached, pulled off her hijab and said: “This is not allowed anymore, so go hang yourself with it around your neck not on your head.”

A woman in Delaware described overhearing four white men near her at a petrol station discussing Mr Trump’s victory and “how they’re glad they won’t have to deal with n*****s much longer”.

Back to my answer to the opening question. Is it bad enough now for me to consider leaving the country? The answer is: not yet. But it looks like it could come to that. I agree with my sister-in-law that I have an advantage she doesn’t. Most of the time I can pass for straight. I don’t go into gay bars. I don’t walk down the street holding a husband’s hand. My answer is: not yet.

I’m aware I run the risk of waiting too long and have to live out my stealthy fantasy.

Thursday, November 10, 2016


My sister and her wife are terrified of what the nasty guy and his homophobic sidekick will do once in office and just as terrified of the way he has made it respectable for citizens to say and act on those homophobic opinions. She has sound reasons for her fears. Under the nasty guy and a GOP controlled Congress we could see:

* Pro LGBT rules in various gov’t agencies overturned. This includes non-discrimination protections for federal jobs and contractors, federal guidance on transgender students and bathrooms of choice, and rules in HUD and HHS.

* The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that pushed the idea that discrimination of LGBT workers was sex discrimination and a violation of Title VII. The nasty guy will be putting new people on the EEOC.

* Once enough new Supreme justices are in place, Congress could pass a law banning same-sex marriage. When it is challenged it would go to the Supremes, who could uphold it.

* The GOP has been refusing to fill federal court vacancies, creating quite a backlog of openings. These openings would now likely be speedily filled. And they won’t be friendly to us or any progressive cause.

* VP Mike Pence will push for a national License to Discriminate law, the one that burned him as governor of Indiana. He’ll have more conservative courts to uphold it. Pence won’t stop there.

* Integration of LGB people in the military may be far enough along that it may escape reversal. Integration of transgender people is not as complete and its future isn’t assured.

I know this list won’t make sister sleep any better.

Keep the vision of the society we wish to live in

Other bits of news:

North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory trusted the political analysis of the state’s Christian conservatives and went all out for the state’s “bathroom bill” that targeted transgender citizens. McCrory didn’t listen to what happened to Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, where a similar license to discriminate bill essentially killed his political career (until he jumped on the nasty guy’s coattails).

At the moment McCrory is on the low side of a very close race to keep his job. He’s down by a few thousand votes and the state won’t certify the results until all provisional votes are counted.

Recreational marijuana was legalized in California, Nevada, and Mass. and lost in Arizona. In Maine the measure is too close to call. Medical marijuana was legalized in Florida, Arkansas, and North Dakota.

Gun control laws passed in California, Washington, and Nevada. Higher minimum wage laws were passed in several states, including Arizona, Colorado, Maine, and Washington.

Michael Moore has a five point plan. My summary:

1. The Democratic Party failed us. Take it over.

2. Fire all pundits who pushed a narrative rather than seeing what was really happening.

3. Any Congressional Democrat not ready to be obstructionist as possible must step aside.

4. Stop saying you were “stunned” and “shocked.” It only means you weren’t paying attention to the despair of your neighbors.

5. Hillary won the popular vote, which means a majority want action on climate change, equal pay for women, debt-free college, raising the minimum wage, universal health care, and they don’t want us invading other countries. The majority of voters agree with the “liberal” position.

George Takei also has things to say, which he did in a series of tweets:

1. We may not have prevailed, but we must not despair.

2. This does not feel like the America we love and honor.

3. We must reaffirm the values we cherish: equality, justice, and the care of our planet.

4. We must stand up to any divisive acts and look for the most vulnerable among us.

5. Keep the vision of the society we wish to live in.

6. This country has lived through slavery and grave injustices. We’ll find our way through this too.

7. In the toughest days we find our true mettle.

I didn’t know this was a thing. After women of Rochester, NY vote, many of them take their “I voted” sticker and place it on the grave of Susan B. Anthony. This year the line for doing so had hundreds in it and was an hour long. The city’s mayor kept the cemetery open until well after voting closed.

There were thousands of people many in many cities across the country protesting the nasty man’s victory. The protests in Manhattan focused on Trump Tower.

This is the second of the last five presidential elections in which the candidate with the most votes didn’t win. Time to get rid of the Electoral College – or at least make it more reflective of the country by getting rid of winner-take-all. The good news is that such a change doesn’t have to come from Congress (since the GOP benefited both times why would they want to?). The downside is what the Michigan GOP considered – assign the Electoral College votes according to which party won each highly gerrymandered congressional district.

It is not completely dark for progressives. Democrats in office are becoming more diverse, such as Catherine Cortez-Masto (Harry Reid’s replacement) who is the first Latina in the Senate, and Tammy Dickworth who is the first Thai-American there. Democrats made gains in western state legislatures, including taking back the New Mexico House. We gained a majority in the North Carolina Supreme Court and kept a couple others (including Kansas!).

Yesterday I wrote about the GOP to-do list. My comments were on the mild side. For example, I suggested the GOP would privatize Medicare. It looks like they would rather kill it. They’re not too fond of libraries either.

This togetherness stuff

There are lots of pundits looking over the last couple days and pontificating at length about What It Means. Most, likely all, have no idea what they’re talking about. So I’ll add my own and be just as knowledgeable.

First some facts (through Twitter and posted in a blog, so original source is unknown):
231,556,622 eligible voters

46.9% didn't vote
25.6% voted Clinton
25.5% voted Trump

And the voter turnout from Wisconsin:

Clinton lost because Dem voters didn’t show up. In Wisconsin that’s almost a quarter million missing Dem votes. If about 10% of the missing had voted in three states the results would have been different.

Many have noted (though not in the media) this is the first prez. election without the full protections of the Voting Rights Act. A key part of it was gutted in 2013. And Wisconsin was one of those states that instituted voter restrictions and saw a big drop in Dem turnout. New Hampshire, another close one, also had new restrictions.

Melissa McEwen of Shakesville notes how hard Hillary and her supporters worked:
Three times as many field offices. An expansive ground game. The colossal GOTV effort. The tens of thousands of words of policy. The open letters from experts in their fields. The writing, the art, the flash mobs.
As for the nasty guy:
All he had to do was repeat bullshit talking points about her and disgorge disgusting bigotry during unscripted stream of consciousness garbage monologues, and then coast to victory on a wave of hatred.

I had written a while back (the Windows search utility can’t seem to find anything written in the last two years, so no link) that if you allow a person to look down on another he’ll empty his pockets for you. Insecurity, and its desire to feel important by belittling others, is a strong human force. That appears to be a huge component to the nasty guy’s win. And his appeal to bigotry is much stronger than Hillary’s “Stronger Together.” If one is insecure and in need of building up by tearing down others this togetherness stuff just doesn’t resonate.

An example of what McEwen said: America’s white supremacy groups are delighted with the results. We’re not extreme. Millions of our fellow citizens agree with us. This wasn’t just the nasty man’s doing. It was also the result of the rest of the GOP who are in office refusing to condemn his statements.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Getting busy on the to-do list

After I posted this morning I ate breakfast and went to bed. I did manage to sleep for about 75 minutes.

It has been rather easy to think of what is on the GOP to do list for the next 2-4 years. Remember that soon we won’t have the Supreme Court to protect us. This is definitely not a complete list.

* Repeal Obamacare. And no, there won’t be a replacement. Senate Majority Leader said today that repeal is high on the agenda, though I’m sure they’ll save it for January so Obama doesn’t veto it. This likely means 20 million people who recently got health insurance will lose it again. Surely, some of those 20 million voted for the nasty guy. While Dems may be able to filibuster repeal in the Senate (unless McConnell goes all hypocritical and ends filibustering) there are several parts of Obamacare that the nasty guy can change through executive order, causing its collapse.

* Defund Medicaid and all support services for the poor.

* End legal abortion.

* Privatize Social Security.

* Privatize Medicare.

* Gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and every law that prevents banks from doing whatever they want.

* Gut worker safety laws.

* Overturn Obama’s decisions on Dakota Access (the one currently being protested in South Dakota) and Keystone pipelines.

* Gut clean air and clean water laws and Obama’s executive orders that are trying to make energy generation become cleaner.

* End incentives for renewable energy.

* Preempt new state and local minimum wage laws.

* Gut the Voting Rights Act and implement voter suppression. Appoint justices who think gerrymandering is just fine.

* Abolish all campaign finance limits while maintaining secrecy rules.

* Convince the media to not write anything bad about them, essentially gutting the First Amendment. From the way the media treated the nasty guy and Hillary during the campaign there may not need to be a lot of convincing.

* Gut spending on roads and bridges.

* Give the rich a big tax cut.

* Get rid of all gun-free zones.

* Increase the militarization of our police forces and increase protections of officers who kill civilians.

* Gut spending on education, especially education of *those people*. This includes making sure those people can’t afford to attend college.

* Privatize schools.

* Start a war with ISIS.

* Overturn Obama’s executive orders protecting illegal immigrants who came here as young children.

* Overturn net neutrality, allowing big internet companies to favor themselves over smaller sites.

* Come as close to instituting Fundamentalist Christianity as the state religion as they think they can get away with.

We like to think the country has moved on and what is listed below aren’t issues anymore. But some people still think so and these are people the GOP listens to and will have a big say in choosing future Supreme Court justices.

* Reinstitute the ban on LGBT people in the military.

* Overturn same-sex marriage.

* Force LGBT people back in the closet.

I was at the Ruth Ellis Center this evening and as I washed pots a thought went through my mind, a bit of resignation and challenge. You voted for the nasty guy? OK, fine. Go for it. Let’s check back in a couple years and see how well you and your community are doing. Will you still like your choice then? How much pain will be inflicted on your community, country, and world in those two years (or will it happen only to those who are beneath your notice)?

At the risk of activating Godwin’s rule… I said this morning that the GOP has the White House, the Senate, the House, and will soon have the Supremes. They also increased their control over state legislatures. Will that be enough? Will that amount of control and poor outcomes convince citizens that the GOP has lied to them over the last three decades, that the policies sold to citizens never had the ability to improve their lives? Or will the GOP still be able to successfully claim, as was done in Germany in the 1930s, our policies are great, but they won’t benefit you until we purify the citizenry, getting rid of all who work against us?

My church, which is in a working-class suburb just west of Detroit, has a goal of giving 150 baskets full of supplies for a full turkey dinner. This is up from 130 baskets last year. I intend to sponsor one of them. I’m pretty sure we’re doing it because of the extreme need in the area and not for bragging rights – see how many baskets we did! But I doubt there are many voices asking this question: Why are circumstances in this community so dire that our church feels the need to give out 150 baskets while surely barely making a dent in the need? And what should we do about it?

The gov’t of Canada sent out a tweet last night:
In Canada, immigrants are encouraged to bring their cultural traditions with them and share them with their fellow citizens.
It quickly went viral. Shortly afterward the official Canadian Immigration site crashed.

But those wanting to flee the nasty guy and the havoc about to be unleashed in Congress should know (according to USA Today):
Would-be Canadian immigrants must have a solid reason for wanting to come to their northern neighbor.

Winnipeg will have to wait

I’m not moving to Winnipeg any time soon for a simple reason. I have responsibilities here in Michigan.

Yes, I’m devastated by the news that Hillary isn’t going to be president. As for that other guy, just like Bush II he will never be my president and I will not refer to him as such.

This is an image from 2004 from a newspaper in England. It sums up my thinking right now.

We’ve lost the White House, the Senate, the House, and will lose the Supreme Court. Though Ruth Bader Ginsberg seems to have a soul of iron I doubt she can last four year. It’s going to be awful.

So, to all of you who voted for this nasty man, a question: When the GOP has control of the entire federal government is the change you are demanding actually going to happen? Who do you blame when it doesn’t? How are you going to believe the GOP when they blame liberals for why your situation in life likely gets worse?

What are you going to say when that nasty guy’s thin skin gives him an itchy finger and he starts wars across the globe?

I was at rehearsal last night, getting home close to 10:00. I turned on the TV (a 1982 model that gets used maybe a half dozen times a year) and let it warm up (needed to get rid of the visual snow). While I waited for that I went to my computer and started browsing the blogs, especially Daily Kos. It led to a frustrating few hours.

The TV channels had talking heads, not news. There was no map in the background with the states colored blue and red. Daily Kos had a series of blog entries that never gave the overall picture and soon collapsed into comments such as saying the Canadian Embassy won’t open until 9:00 tomorrow. Another site listed their predictions for each state, but not actual counts and displays of which state for which candidate. I kept checking it because it had occasional tweets of vote counts, in particular showing that Michigan had that nasty guy ahead by 30K votes, but Dem strongholds of Detroit and Ann Arbor with about 130K votes hadn’t reported yet. The tiny bit I’ve seen this morning is Michigan is still a toss-up, not that it makes a difference.

I shut it all off at 1:00 and went to bed. Because of the dread I didn’t sleep well. This morning I checked a blog to get the bad news, but otherwise I avoiding everything, including NPR. I’m still a bit sleepy, though doubt I’ll sleep. I’m going to try anyway.

Wake me in 2020.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Perpetual motion

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is famous for union trashing and for not getting very far in this year’s GOP primary. He doesn’t seem to have that Twitter thing down. He tweeted:
If you like the past 8 years, vote Hillary Clinton.
Some of the responses:
Or if you’re a principled conservative vote for the racist molester who clowned you in the primaries.
– James

I love we have marriage equality, healthcare and a system that works for me, thanks and I will!
– Jaydestro

Remember last year when you encouraged people to unite against Trump? What a joke.
– Sconnie Trader

Obama is more popular than you, in your own state. Try again Scott.
– Maria Lia Calvo

Science says there is no such thing as a perpetual motion machine, something that runs without adding energy. But there can be one in politics – the Clinton Scandal Machine. It runs constantly without adding any facts.

Start with the assumption that Clinton is corrupt. Therefore everything she does must have criminal intent and she needs to be investigated. With endless investigation evidence appears (which doesn’t prove anything). Therefore she is corrupt and she must be investigated.

But a real investigation – Trump’s ties to the Russian gov’t – gets ignored, as do real issues, such as immigration, economy, and education.
There must be a pony. Dig! There must be a pony. Dig! There must be ...

The Obamas hosted a Halloween party at the White House. One of the kids came dressed as a lame duck.