Category Archives: gay issues

#Enough Thoughts and Prayers, rights aren’t necessarily conveniences

Mass Shooting Victims

The photos of the victims of mass killings in this country show the faces of America. White, black, brown, gay, straight, men, and women. From the very young to the elderly.  And they all died too soon at the hands of those who could arm themselves with lethal weapons without any inconvenience.

The 2nd Amendment says we all have the right to keep and bear arms … there is NO mention in the Amendment that purchasing firearms has to be “convenient.”

The gun fetishists among us cry that their “rights are infringed” if they are to be inconvenienced in any way when purchasing or procuring lethal weapons. They cite their imaginary well greased slippery slope to full tilt gun control.

And, lo! cry the fetishists and their allies, any imposition of a burden of responsibility is a denial of our civil liberties.  But, wait a minute. It is inconvenient to register to vote – however, that’s the inconvenience we accept to prevent voter impersonation.  It’s inconvenient to edit and fact check news articles – but that’s the inconvenience we accept as part of the freedom of the press to avoid charges of libel.

It is inconvenient for government officials to get search warrants, but that’s the balance we have to prevent unlawful searches and seizures.  It’s inconvenient for the judicial system that a person may not be compelled to testify against himself – but that’s the inconvenience we accept to make the system work under constitutional principles.

How easy it appears to be to have advocates of the implementation of the Patriot Act speaking of national surveillance, and justifying those National Security Letters, while bemoaning the restrictions on those included on the terrorist watch list who seek to purchase lethal weapons.

If we didn’t infer “convenience” in the 2nd Amendment, then might we have fewer suicides, fewer murders, fewer mass shootings and killings.  Fewer funerals, fewer remembrances, fewer tragedies, and a much safer society?

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Filed under Congress, conservatism, gay issues, Gun Issues, Hate Crimes, Senate, terrorism

GOP’s State of Confusion: Anti-LBGT or Anti-Muslim or Both

Confused

OK, I am officially confused. Which is it, does the GOP want to be seen as the champion of conservative religious tenets which hold homosexuality as sin and corruption; or, does the GOP want to be thanked as the protector of homosexuals from the evil-doing nasty folks of IS/Daesh?

Invisible Victims

No matter how hard some conservatives may try to avoid saying LGBT, the attack in Orlando, Florida was made on a GAY nightclub.  As noted previously Representative Dina Titus (D-NV1) was capable of observing this fact; while, on the GOP side of the aisle Representative Cresent Hardy (R-NV4) just couldn’t quite resist the temptation to generalize the victims.  Somehow, Representative Hardy’s lights couldn’t illuminated the fact that the victims were in a GAY nightclub.  He’s not alone.

The Republican National Committee’s first response mentioned “lifestyles,” but even that was edited out of their second edition – now the terror attack was made on “any American.”  Representative Pete Sessions (R-TX)  publically denied Pulse was a GAY nightclub immediately before blocking attempts to provide LGBT protections in a bill before his committee. [TP]

Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was blunt: “This body should not be engaged in political games,” Cruz said. “We should be focused on the threat and keeping America safe and defeating radical Islamic terrorism.” [BusIns] Against whom?  Once again, the victims of the horrendous attack were invisible.

Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was just as vague in remarks made on the Senate floor yesterday — “This week in Orlando, Americans were targeted deliberately and taken  forever from their families by a terrorist ISIL has claimed is “one of  the soldiers of the caliphate.” It is clear from his behavior that this was not a random act of  violence. This was a calculated act of terror.” [LoC pdf]  Scrolling down the entirety of the  Majority Leader’s comments yields exactly Zero references to the victims of the Orlando attacks – patrons of a GAY nightclub.

Yes, it was obviously calculated, and yes, it was an act of terrorism – against the patrons of a GAY nightclub.

Squirrel Logic

But wait, after making the victims of the assault on the Pulse nightclub almost perfectly invisible in their comments about the attack, the GOP would now have us believe they champion GAY rights? Excuse my confusion – I would have thought these people were invisible to you but…

Representative Mo Brooks (R-AL) appears on the scene with this bit of baffling political analysis:  “Democrats are in a perplexing position. On the one hand, they’re trying to appeal to the gay community, but, on the other hand, they’re trying to also appeal to the Muslim community, which, if it had its way, would kill every homosexual in the United States of America,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL)” [TPM]

And, far be it from Mr. Trump to pass up an opportunity to stick his oar in the muddied waters:

Donald Trump, in his first major speech after the weekend’s tragedy suggested that Hillary Clinton “can never claim to be a friend of the gay community.”  “She can’t have it both ways,” Trump said. “She can’t claim to be supportive of these communities while trying to increase the number of people coming in who want to oppress them.” Ask yourself, who really is the friend of women and the LBGT community: Donald Trump with his actions or Hillary Clinton with her words?” [TPM]

There seems to be more than a little political semantic gamesmanship here.  The message to the heretofore invisible LGBT community seems to be either you are anti-Islam or you have to be anti-LGBT, there is no middle ground.  This conflation of all practitioners of Islam as anti-gay is as inaccurate as it is distasteful divisive rhetoric.   Those unsure of this might want to consider the following comments by an Islamic scholar in the Dallas Morning News:

“As Muslims we believe there’s no compulsion in religion. That’s actually a Quranic verse. Everyone adheres to their own set of values, their own set of morals. But that should not lead to the oppression of another person or to harming another individual. The way that we talk about that is the way that we talk about anything in the Quran or in the prophetic tradition.

Yes, you’re going to find Muslims that would offer revised interpretations of the Quran. But I think one thing that’s important to stress is that conservative is not the same thing as radical. If a person has conservative views that they uphold within their own family life, so long as that does not lead to denying, belittling, or dehumanizing someone else, then I don’t think that’s particularly problematic.”

Thus much for the lack of middle ground.  Doing a quick inventory – Islam is not a compulsive religion (check), Islam has conservative followers (check), Islam teaches that one’s beliefs may not “deny, belittle, or dehumanize” someone else. (check) Conservatives are not necessarily radicals. (check) Only in the most bigoted way imaginable could a person decide that all members of the Islamic faith are radicals. Only in the most prejudicial manner could a person proclaim that all followers of Islam are necessarily so anti-gay that they could excuse or rejoice in the killing of their fellow citizens.

There may be a second message in the dog whistling coming from these Republican remarks.  It’s  message to their own base.  If the actual victims of the massacre are invisible, and if they can be generalized out of the picture, then it’s possible to believe that all Muslims are radical, and it’s acceptable to “monitor, screen, place them under surveillance, and restrict their freedom and liberty” in the name of public safety for “all Americans” (except the ones we won’t name.)

A third screech from the dog whistle may be aimed at a more general audience.  By creating an artificial “either/or” proposition the GOP can seek to associate Democrats with Muslims.  The inference is that Muslims are dangerous, Democrats support Muslims, ergo Democrats are dangerous.  Their’s is a simple but demonstrably false syllogism which depends on the acceptance of the initial false proposition that ALL Muslims are dangerous. I’m fond of calling this Squirrel Logic: Squirrels have hair on their heads. That man has hair on his head. Therefore, that man is a squirrel.

A Broader Perspective

While the GOP may wish to fixate on the terrorism facet of the attack on the GAY nightclub, what happened seems far more complex.  The horrific massacre had more than one element – it had a very disturbed radicalized young American man wielding military weaponry with a high lethality rate, in a GAY nightclub, who intended to kill GAY people.  It really isn’t hard to unpack the elements.  A marginalized person (self or otherwise?) who attached himself to a radicalized version of a religion, and who had easy access to a military weapon and enough ammunition to launch a killing spree in a GAY nightclub, the victims in which have themselves been marginalized in anti-LGBT rhetoric. 

Taking any one of the elements out of the toxic equation shouldn’t lead us to conclude that there is any single policy change that would have prevented the tragedy.  However, removing at least one certainly wouldn’t hurt and might help avoid subsequent attacks.

It would help if we could tone down the anti-LGBT rhetoric. Just as it is no longer socially acceptable to make a joke of someone’s ethnicity, wouldn’t it be nice if the mocking, demeaning, and dismissal of a person’s sexual orientation were no longer acceptable in polite society.  This isn’t “political correctness,” it’s merely fine old fashioned good manners.  It would be even more helpful if we could enact statutes protecting the rights of members of the LGBT community and being as concerned about their rights as we are our own.

It would help if we toned down the anti-Islam barrage.  Those whose image of Muslims, and especially of Muslim Americans, is composed of TV footage of Daesh outrages, or foreign cultural practices commonly abhorred, should take note of the many resources available for better understanding their Muslim neighbors.  They should consider the following statements from Muslim community leaders:

Dawud Walid the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Michigan says Mateen doesn’t represent Muslims in the U.S. His message to the public; Muslims are American and as all other Americans, they are loyal to their country even if they disagree with certain issues.The rule of American Muslims is to abide by the laws of the land and to be peaceful and this recent extremist act that took place this morning, is the rare exception and in no way embodies our morals or our values as Americans citizens who just happen to be Muslims,” said Walid. [CBS Detroit]

Or, this:

“We condemn this monstrous attack and offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and loved ones of all those killed or injured. The Muslim community joins our fellow Americans in repudiating anyone or any group that would claim to justify or excuse such an appalling act of violence.”

CAIR is America’s largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding.” [CAIR]

A little more mutual understanding should certainly help more than vilifying the American Muslim community.

It would help if we made it less likely that a disturbed or deranged individual could  get access to a military style weapon of war, which were never designed for civilian use.   There are listings of weapons by lethality. The AK-47 style; the M-16 (AR-15) “family”; the M240 machine gun; the PK machine gun; the QBZ 95 assault rifle.  It would seem reasonable that if a gun is listed as one of the five most lethal weapons in the world that common sense implies its ownership should be restricted.  Perhaps restricting the magazine capacity would assist in diminishing the lethality of these weapons when they are misused by civilians? That, too, sounds like common sense.

It would help if we de-stigmatized those who are harboring feelings which are anti-social and the antithesis of stability.  Who missed the signals that the Orlando shooter was demonstrating troubling personal behavior? Were the signals and warnings acted upon appropriately? Who could have warned authorities that the Aurora, Colorado theater shooter was exhibiting disturbing behavior – do we need to emphasize the necessity of giving local authorities a warning about those who combine disturbed thinking with fixations on violence?  Who might have warned authorities about the intentions of the Colorado Springs PPA facility shooter?  We are fond of saying “If you see something, say something,” why not practice what we’re preaching? And, why not support the funding and increased resources of our mental health services?

If we persist in seeing only those elements of mass shootings which conform to our pre-existing ideologies then we’ll miss the opportunities available to diminish the likelihood of further mass tragedies. A broader perspective is required to reach better horizons.

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Filed under anti-terrorism, gay issues, Gun Issues, Islam, Mental Health, Nevada politics, public safety, terrorism

A Study In Contrasts: Responses to Orlando Shooting from Titus and Hardy

Orlando Shooting 

Titus Nevada’s First District Congressional Representative gets it:

“The nation is devastated by this horrific act of terror and hate at a nightclub that symbolizes the empowerment of the LGBT community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their loved ones, but they are not enough. This senseless loss of life from gun violence must stop. As we mourn, we must  continue to reflect upon and fight for civil rights during LGBT Pride Month. Terror must not silence our collective voice.”  Dina Titus (D-NV1) [KTNV]

Hardy 2 For every act of terrorism there is a target. In the instance of the Pulse in Orlando the target was the LGBT community.  And, then there’s Representative Cresent Hardy’s response to the tragedy, one who obviously doesn’t get it:

“I want to lift up the victims of this horrible attack and their loved ones while giving thanks to the brave first responders who undoubtedly prevented further loss of life.
“Last night’s attack is a reminder that we must remain vigilant against the clear and present danger of radical Islamic terrorism. Whatever differences we may have here in the United States, we are all Americans and we all cherish our freedoms and way of life. Together, we will come together to defeat this extremism in defense of our fellow citizens and our liberty.” Cresent Hardy (R-NV4) [KTNV]

There’s nothing quite like using the generic “victims of this horrible attack” to avoid saying L G B T.  The victims were members of the LGBT community and their friends.  Representative Hardy focuses on the the Muslim community with the catch phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” as if saying the magic words will strike terror into terrorist hearts – not likely. It’s just more fodder for the Daesh-IS propaganda machine which would be delighted if the United States were to announce a “war on Islam;” it would make their narrative ever so much more effective when recruiting the disaffected, the marginalized, and the unstable.  Rally round the Flag (maybe not that Rainbow One) folks, to defeat “this extremism.” This dangerous but miniscule extremism. Let’s be clear: Islam is a religion; Daesh/IS is a death cult.

There are about 1.6 billion adherents to the Islamic faith, and the old count of 25,000 to 31,500 members of Daesh (IS) was revised recently to a range of 19,000 to 25,000.  Let’s be generous and allow Daesh some 31,000 members.  Get out the handy plastic brains and the calculation is 31,000 divided by 1,600,000,000; or, 0.00019375; or, 0.0194%.  What this number illustrates is what the Feds have been trying to tell us for some time now – the danger lies with the Lone Wolves.  Well armed Lone Wolves.

AR 15

If we read Rep. Hardy’s statement carefully we’d note that not once does he mention HOW the victims died.

Representative Titus did notice the method by which 49 people were killed, and 53 others injured — “senseless loss of life from gun violence…” in this case from the mass killers’ weapon of choice the AR-15.

“The AR-15’s popularity with killers has continued as well. This past October, Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, went on a rampage with an AR-15 at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Ore. He killed nine people before killing himself.

The AR-15 was among the weapons used by Islamic terrorists Syed Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 27, when they opened fire at a social services center in San Bernardino, Calif., in December. They killed 14.” [NYDN]

The ubiquitous AR-15 (there may be as many as 9 million of these weapons of mass killings in circulation in this country) also appeared at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, and the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. [TP]

However, Representative Hardy, the recipient of some $3,000 so far in the 2016 election cycle from the National Rifle Association, is probably not going to mention HOW the LGBT victims in the Pulse died at the hands of a delusional lone wolf armed with an AR-15.

Perhaps, Representative Hardy doesn’t want to speak to delusional lone wolves who shoot up gay bars, but any rational discussion of these mass killings should incorporate HOW the LGBT victims died, and why so many.  So many? Because technically the AR-15 can fire 13.3 rounds per second, or 800 rounds per minute. Some claim that the AR-15 is capable of 45 rounds per minute, in the pre-modified state.  Somewhere in the middle is the relatively easily attained capacity of 120 rounds to 180 rounds per minute. [quora]  Add some high capacity magazines, and our lone wolf is prepared for carnage. 

“In his piece at Human Events, Keene (NRA) ridiculed the notion that AR-15-style rifles ought to be banned just because “a half dozen [AR-15s] out of more than three million have been misused after illegally falling into the hands of crazed killers.” But the AR-15 is very good at one thing: engaging the enemy at a rapid rate of fire. When someone like Adam Lanza uses it to take out 26 people in a matter of minutes, he’s committing a crime, but he isn’t misusing the rifle. That’s exactly what it was engineered to do.” [Slate]

Careful here, a half dozen AR-15’s were misused after “illegally falling into the hands of crazed killers?”  First, the guns themselves are no longer illegal in the hands of civilians. Secondly, the gun in Orlando was sold to a person legally capable of its purchase – so too in San Bernardino, – so too in Newtown.

Thanks to the National Rifle Association and its minions in Congress we have NOT renewed the assault weapons ban, we have not limited the sale of high capacity magazines, we have not enacted statutes for universal background checks, we have not statutorily denied the sale of assault weapons to those on terrorist watch lists.  Indeed, in the GOP controlled 114th Congress we have not even voted on these issues.

Perhaps now more than ever Representative Titus’s words ring true: “Terror must not silence our collective voice.” 

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Filed under gay issues, Gun Issues, Nevada politics, Titus

Trump’s People and Nevada Numbers

Trump demographics chart

I’ve done a bit of violence to the graphic from HuffPollster in order to clarify what we might describe as “Trump People.” Those potential voters described as follows: “Jason McDaniel and Sean McElwee: “[C]ompared to supporters of other Republican candidates in the primary, Trump supporters really dislike many groups in America. For these voters, Trump’s blend of casual racism and muscular nativism is the core of his appeal.” This analysis comes as no particular surprise.   The red line was added to the chart to indicate the half-way point – with scores above 50 indicating that the person being polled had feelings about another group that were generally positive; those with less than 50 had negative feelings about another ethnic or racial group which were generally negative.

Let’s move from left to right on the chart.  Trump People were less likely than other Republicans to have positive feelings about African Americans; they were even less likely to have positive feelings about Hispanic Americans.  As noted in yesterday’s post, approximately 27.8% of Nevadans are of Hispanic or Latino descent, an increase from the 2010 estimate of 26.5%.  [Census] 9.1% of Nevadans are African American, a percentage point increase from the 8.1% level in 2010. [Census

Clark County, the most populous area of the state, has an Hispanic/Latino population of 30.3%, an increase from the 2010 count of 27.8%.  [Census] The second most populous area, Washoe County, is 23.5% Hispanic/Latino of a total 446,903 population, 15.4% of the total state population.  For someone not from Nevada who might be reading this post, Nevada is essentially the Las Vegas Metropolitan area with the Reno/Sparks/Carson City area attached, slightly augmented by lots of miles and miles of very little but miles and miles.  The total state population is 2,890,845 and Clark County accounts for 2,114,801 of that, or 73.2%.  Loathe though we “ruralites” may be to accept it – the fact remains that in order to do well in Nevada statewide elections Clark County is the Grand Prize.

Thus, it’s appropriate to raise the question: How does a candidate who appeals to those who hold tentatively positive to negative views of African American and Hispanic/Latino groups attract voters in the major county which is 9.1% African American and 30.3% Hispanic/Latino?  It really doesn’t sound practical to essentially write off 39.4% of a population.

Trump’s people are more negative than other Republican primary voters when it comes to Muslims.  There have been “minor” increases in the Nevada Muslim population as reported in 2010, both increases in Clark and Washoe counties. [RCMS2010 pdf]  It’s altogether much easier to dislike people one’s never met, and the fact that there is no observable Muslim presence in rural areas may make the Trump appeal more palatable there.  However, “winning” in the rural counties only makes a difference in congressional races – not necessarily in statewide contests.

Only slightly higher on the Trump People’s scale of disliked groups are those who are transgender.  Precise numbers are more difficult to obtain, but estimates of Nevada’s transgender population range from 25,000 to 50,000. [LVRJ]  Using the highest estimate still leaves the total transgender population at 1.7% of the state total.  Again, this makes the transgender population a relatively easy target given the numbers. However, it may also render some of the Trump arguments more difficult, as in trying to explain why a maximum of 1.7% of the state’s population is a significant danger to the remaining 98.3%.

While those who were “supporting another candidate” or were a part of the “average response,” trended above the 50 mark on the chart – Trump people were generally below the line and therefore reported more negative feelings about gays and lesbians.  Again, we are not speaking of a large presence in Nevada, and one that is primarily centered in the  urban areas:

The total LGBT population is currently estimated at 88,005 or about 4% of the state population. [lgbtmap]  And the number in same sex relationships remains a small percentage of the state total population:

“Based on Census 2010, there are 7,140 same-sex couples living in Nevada. These couples were identified in all but one of Nevada’s counties. The majority of same-sex couples are male (53%), accounting for 3,768 couples. There are 3,372 female couples. The average age of individuals in same-sex couples in Nevada is more than four years younger than that of different-sex couples—43.8 and 48.2 years old, respectively.”  [Williams

Again, the Trump People tend to dislike a minority group, which tends to reside in – no elaborate conjecturing required here – the two urban areas of the state – where most of the other voters reside.

Trump People dislike “feminists” a bit more than they report disliking gays and lesbians.  There’s a problem with the definitions which get fuzzier the more individuals are poked and prodded on the subject. The textbook definition is that a feminist is one who believes in the political, social, and economic equality of the sexes.

If we look at national polling on the economic segment of the issue we find 73% of the American population supporting equal pay for equal work, with 64% of the men agreeing to that proposition along with 81% of American women. [AW.org]  The “classic definition” would then place 73% of the American population in the “feminist” category; including 81% of women and 64% of men. 

49.7% of Nevada’s population is female. 50% of the Clark County population is female.  49.7% of the Washoe County population is female.  If national polling among the “Millennials” is any guide then about 30% of Republican women and 10% of Republican men describe themselves as fitting into the feminist category; compared to 43% of independent women/23% of independent men; and, 62% of Democratic women and 32% of Democratic men.   Misogyny is not likely to play well to the independent and Democratic side of the  audience.

These issues are difficult to tease out because it’s a matter of how much misogyny is baked into the numbers, relative to the amount of sexism tossed into the mix.  The person the Trump People are supporting has been labeled sexist [Time]  and a downright misogynist [Slate] and both labels tend to blur into each other’s rhetorical territory.

However,  49.7% of Nevada’s population are more likely to respond positively to a candidate who acknowledges that in this State a woman who holds a full time job is paid on average $35,993 per year while her male counterpart receives $42,294. Meaning that women in Nevada are paid about 85 cents for every dollar paid to men, a pay gap of $6,301. [NP pdf]  A slogan of “equal pay for equal work” would appear to have a better chance of a positive result than railing on about feminist harpies.

There are 29,917 households in Clark County led by females, with no man present; and, 18,420 such households in Washoe County. [SubStats]  Polling back in January 2016 reported some relevant results among this subgroup:

“These women express a desire to support candidates whose policy agenda speaks to their distinct set of economic concerns, including equal pay, college affordability, paid sick days and family leave, and affordable child care. 

Yet, unmarried women also want a candidate who respects and cares for the wellbeing of women and families.  Unmarried women say they are more likely to support a candidate who will protect a woman’s access to reproductive health and birth control; at the same time, they are much less likely to support a candidate who opposes a woman’s right to have an abortion.  And women across the political spectrum outright reject a candidate who disparages women, even if they share policy positions with that candidate.” [AW.org]

In fact, the polling found disparagement was a deal breaker among 91% of Democratic women, 84% of independent women, and 73% of Republican women. [AW.org]  It would seem screeching about Femi-Nazis as “bimbos, fat pigs, slobs, and dogs” as tempting as it might be for some Trump People is counterproductive in the election department.

  Democrats Independents Republicans
January 471,342 234,229 423,308
May 518,124 247,344 452,028

Of course, the most important numbers are those of active voters (remotely equivalent to the likely voter category) and those show an increase of 9.93% in Democratic party registrations from January to May 2016; an increase of 5.68% in non-partisan registrations; and, and increase of 4.56% in Republican registrations.  [NV SoS pdf]

It may  be that the Trump People are not currently well positioned in Nevada’s electoral climate: A message appealing to a small but vocal base fearful and distrustful of minorities, and unfortunately located on the “disparagement” end of the spectrum where women are concerned, doesn’t appear to be all that potentially efficacious in contemporary Nevada politics.

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Filed under gay issues, Nevada politics, Politics, Republicans, Women's Issues

Culture Wars in the Potty

Iron Age

Once upon a time, for example back in the Iron Age, patriarchal bands hunted, planted, and herded.  Their story was collected, passed down, and now is accepted by some as literal. [AlterN]  Unfortunately, the Iron Age Rules of the Game don’t fit for everyone in the 21st century.  If one of the central rules was an “iron-clad” patriarchal system in which women were only “help-meets,” and daughters could be sold into slavery, [Exodus 21:7]   then it’s plausible that the biblical literalists might be disturbed by the autonomy of the modern era.  However, that’s no excuse to badger everyone into believing urban myths and blatantly false propaganda about women and members of the LBGT community.

As the backlash builds to the HB2 law in North Carolina, die-hards in Texas are doing a bit of chest pounding, declaring that the President can’t tell them to accommodate the needs of transgender children. [TPM]  The Lt. Governor offering:

“We will not yield to blackmail from the President of the United States,” Patrick said in a press conference responding to the administration’s letter. “We will not sell out our children to the federal government. And the people of Texas and the legislature will find a way to find as much of that money as we can if we are forced to. There is no compromise on this issue.”

He said that the debate over bathrooms “is the biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.”

The biggest issue facing families and schools? Really?  This potty issue would be more important than the fact that the 2011 educational budget cuts are still having an effect [TXTrib], and that current budget levels have Texas ranked 38th in the nation? [DMN]  Or, perhaps there’s a more simple way of addressing the issue, such as the logic put forth by an Oklahoma legislator speaking of a bill to ban abortions:

“This is our proper function, to protect life,” said Senator Nathan Dahm, the Republican lawmaker who authored the bill, with fellow state Republican colleague David Brumbaugh confusingly adding, “Everybody talks about this $1.3 billion deficit. If we take care of morality, God will take care of the economy.” [InJust]

That’s right. If “we take care of morality then God will provide for the schools,  infrastructure, revenue streams, median household incomes, and corporate profits?  Surely, if we just follow all those Iron Age rules in the book – or at least the ones we want to – eating shrimp is OK? Wearing blended fabric clothing is all right? – then Life will take care of itself.  Leaving a person to wonder what ever happened to “God helps those who help themselves?”

Golden Rule

Or perhaps more importantly, what ever happened to the rules and advice imparted by Luke 6: 31, or by Number 13 of Imam Al-Nawawi’s Forty Hadiths, or Sutrakritanga 1.11.33, or Udana-Varga 5:18?

If we take a step further into Biblical territory we find:

“There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” Proverbs 6: 16-19

Thus, spreading false information about gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, and transgendered people is abominable? Publishing misinformation and outright lies about Planned Parenthood is hateful?  Disseminating that which is harmful to individuals who do not share a particular interpretation of the Iron Age Rules is abominable?

It is NOT true that homosexuals are more likely to be pedophiles and child molesters. [UCDavisEdu] It is NOT true that transgendered people are a hoax. [MMA] It is NOT true that transgendered people just want to ogle the opposite sex in the restroom.  That’s the province of the immature.  What’s required to play the Potty War Games according to the Iron Age rules is to discount and discredit actual scientific research with statements like:

“I am not convinced by any science I can find that people with definitively male DNA and definitively male anatomy can actually be locked in a cruel joke of nature because they are actually female.” [MMA

The correct interpretation of this statement is  “I am perfectly willing to deny and discredit any scientific findings which don’t comport with my opinions,”  even if doing so is harmful to others.

And, accommodating the needs of transgendered children certainly isn’t harmful.  The LAUSD has already implemented a policy of accommodation for a decade with positive results:

“Opponents of A.B. 1266 have expressed concerns that students will abuse the policy, imperiling the safety of others. But our experience stands in stark contrast to such fears: In all the years since the LAUSD implemented its policy, we have encountered nothing but positive results. We are committed to providing safe schools for all children. Our equal access policy enhances, rather than diminishes, school safety.” [HuffPo]

Absent anything other than acceptable results in states that do have statutes protecting transgendered individuals, conservative media has resorted to contriving situations designed to make people uncomfortable and then reporting it as “news.” [EM.org]

rest room sign

What would happen if we were to follow the Big Rule, the one in Luke 6:31 et. alia., and thought of our rest room accommodations accordingly?  A single person’s discomfort is not an excuse for discrimination against – a transgendered person, a person in “gastric distress” who needs to find the first facility immediately available, a young father who wants to change his baby’s diaper, a father or mother escorting a child to the toilet – anyone who’s just trying to get by doing to others as he would have them do unto him.

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Filed under abortion, conservatism, gay issues, privacy, religion

Gee I’m Glad I’m Not A Conservative Republican, I can sleep at night

Monster under bed

It never fails to amaze me what disturbs the radical right.  When the city of Charlotte, NC declared that transgender individuals should use the rest room which best suits them the troglodyte state legislature promptly  enacted a solution to a non-existent problem.  Should anyone question their motives, such as a Fox News broadcaster asking specifically how many children have been molested in restrooms by a transgender person, the Governor has a quick response:

“How many cases have you had in North Carolina in the last year where people have been convicted of using transgender protections to commit crimes in bathrooms?” Wallace asked.

“This wasn’t a problem!” McCrory replied. “That’s the point I’m making. This is the Democratic Party and the left wing of the Democratic Party.”

“Have their been any cases of this?” Wallace pressed.

“Not that I’m aware of,” McCrory admitted. [C&L]

There would be a reason for that. There haven’t been any.  There weren’t any last year, and there haven’t been any in the last five years.  The charade continued:

“If there’s no problem then why pass the law in the first place?” Wallace hammered.

“There can be a problem,” McCrory fired back. “Because the liberal Democrats are the ones pushing for bathroom laws.”

“I’m not interested in that,” he added. “We did not start this on the right. Who started it was the political left.” [C&L]

Oh, because there CAN be a problem. Like there Can be a monster under my bed?   The logic defies description.  Because a city decided to protect the rights of a group of people, and because those people give some other people the creeps, therefore the state legislature should enact a statute forbidding the protection of those aforementioned individuals? Or, perhaps, because some little junior high school boys might want to sneak into the girls locker room we can’t enact protection for transgender kids and adults?  Bluntly speaking, junior high school boys and those adults who haven’t matured much beyond that stage are much more sinister than any transgender males or females using a restroom in which they’re comfortable.

Children If the Republicans want something to worry about, something more tangible than the non-existent child molesters who seem to populate the imaginations of conservative politicians, how about the scary prospect of hungry children?  In 2014, in the richest nation in the entire world, 15.3 million children lived in what is politely known as “food insecure” households. [FA.org]  As of 2014 there were 415,129 children in foster care. 107,918 children were waiting to be adopted.  Instead of worrying about some fictive character lurking in a rest room, how about getting a bit more worried about REAL children who aren’t eating, and aren’t finding homes?

Vote suppression map The  tortured conservative  logic is similar to argument for voting restrictions of which the Republicans are so fond.  Talk about an upcoming election and they begin to sound off on Voting Integrity.  Ask them about the number of prosecutable cases of voter impersonation fraud and the babbling begins.  Inform them that voter impersonation fraud is mostly smoke and no fire [Politifact] [Brennan Center] with 31 cases out of one billion ballots cast [WaPo] and the response is invariably along the line of “But but but It Could Happen.”  Yes, and there could as likely be a monster under my bed.

It’s more disturbing to find that in the 2012 elections some 35.9% of Americans voted.  48.7% of us voted in 1964, 47.3% voted in 1968 and we haven’t gotten above 45% since. [EP.org]  However, by Republican lights it’s better to be frightened of 31/1 billion ballots than of low turnout elections.  What’s the difference between these two issues  — voter impersonation fraud and low voter turnout? One’s a real problem and the other is a Monster Under The Bed.

Unstable Furniture Beware those doing mathematical calculations!  Like the distraught lady on the American Airlines flight who “saw something” and “said something,” only the Something was an Ivy League economist working on a differential equation. And, no, he’s not an Arab – he’s Italian. [WaPo] That didn’t stop the Ditzel from reporting that he made her feel uncomfortable, like he Might be a terrorist.  Unfortunately, the Ditzel didn’t know that since 2011 there have been 238 Americans killed by terrorist attacks, that would be an average of 29 annually.  29 annual deaths is about the rate for Americans killed by being crushed under unstable furniture or television sets. [WaPo] [CPSC pdf]  One might wonder if she has everything in her home bolted down tightly?

This incident isn’t quite on par with CNN’s epic mistake reporting an “ISIS flag” comprised of sex toys at a British gay pride parade [HWR] but it’s close.  Should we want something REAL to worry about, perhaps we should try avoiding things that make ISIS happy. For example, announcing that we’re AT WAR with ISLAM – which is, of course, precisely the message they’d like to use for recruiting purposes.

Money Stack

If transgender people, imaginary voter impersonators, and putative terrorists aren’t keeping the conservatives up at night then they could always worry about The Debt, The Debt, The Horrible No Good National Debt.  It’s the reason we can’t do anything – like fix our infrastructure or education our children, or take care of our elderly, or provide better Veterans’ benefits, or feed the hungry.  This fear is especially harmful to those who tend to swallow dollar amounts whole.  By the way, if the Republicans need something else to worry about, some 4,800 people die every year from choking related accidents. [NSC]  Here are some soothing words for those who tend to obsess over whole dollar reports on the national debt:

“…this problem — reporters giving the public meaningless raw-dollar amounts — is pervasive in economics journalism. But the people who run CBO are well aware of this point, and present their projections as a percentage of GDP. Interest payments will be 1.3 percent of GDP in 2015, and 3 percent in 2025. The deficit itself will be 2.6 percent of GDP, and then 4 percent, over that same time period.

Obviously, in an ideal world, you’d prefer these numbers to not grow. But increases of 1.7 and 1.4 percent points of GDP over a decade are hardly something to get excited about. [TheWeek]

OMG, we can’t leave the debt to our children! Okay, so it’s better to leave them with crumbling infrastructure? With an archaic energy grid? With a lack of public educational facilities and programs? With no affordable child care? Without food?  Without affordable housing? Without health care?

If the Republicans really wanted something to be frightened of, how about the D+ grade we get for our infrastructure?  Our aging energy grid?  Our colleges scrambling to find funds to replace reductions in state spending?  Those 15.3 million kids going hungry?  Or, if life itself seems perilous perhaps it’s because every day 297 people in American are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police interventions. And, every day 89 people die as a result of gun violence. 31 are murdered, 55 are suicides, 2 are accidental, 1 is killed by police intervention, and 1 in unaccounted for. [TBC]

Or, to put the matter in some perspective, between 2005 and 2015 there were 71 Americans killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. During that same period 301,797 were killed by gun violence. [Trace]

Nightmares are distracting and distractions.  The imaginary becomes more intense than the reality.  Somehow we can’t seem to focus on some very real problems in this country – hungry children, un-adopted children, children in inadequate classrooms, low voter turnout, an aging infrastructure and energy grid, gun violence and its tragic outcomes – because we have to deal with the monsters under the Republican mattresses.

Monsters bed And, that’s a real nightmare.

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Filed under conservatism, CPSC, gay issues, Gun Issues, Human Rights, Republicans, Vote Suppression, Voting

It Can Happen Here: Nevada considers anti-gay SB 272

Rainbow Flag

It can happen here. Two bills have been introduced so far in the Nevada Legislature which are similar to the now infamous Indiana discrimination act.  We need to exercise some caution with these bills, because not all “religious freedom” bills are equally ominous.  Unfortunately, SB 272, sponsored by Senator Hardy, falls into the “Indiana Category.”

“AN ACT relating to religious freedom; enacting the Nevada Protection of Religious Freedom Act; prohibiting state action from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion under certain circumstances; requiring strict scrutiny to be applied in all cases where state action substantially burdens a person’s exercise of religion; providing a claim or defense in judicial and administrative proceedings to protect a person’s exercise of religion; providing certain exceptions;…”  [SB272]

The general summary sounds innocuous enough, and similar to federal statutes preventing state actions which constitute an undue burden, but the bill goes one step further.

“Section 16 of this bill allows a person whose exercise of religion is substantially burdened by state action to bring or assert a claim or defense in any judicial or administrative proceeding to protect the person’s exercise of religion from the burden and to seek redress for any harm or injuries to the person, whether or not a governmental entity is a party to the proceeding. Because some state laws protecting religious freedom are applicable only when a governmental entity is a party, those religious freedom laws do not apply to a proceeding between private parties. (Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock, 309 P.3d 53, 76-77 (N.M. 2013)) By contrast, because this bill does not require a governmental entity to be a party, this bill applies to a proceeding between private parties in which one of the parties is seeking to enforce a state or local law, regulation or rule that substantially burdens another party’s exercise of religion.”  (emphasis added) [SB272]

Other religious freedom acts around the country limit the “burden” to areas in which the state or other unit of government are parties to the case; SB 272 opens this up to situations between private parties.  In short, it is a license to discriminate.  This is evident in the definitions segment of the bill:

“Sec. 6. 1. “Burden” means any state action that directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails or denies the exercise of religion by a person or compels a person to act contrary to the person’s exercise of religion.” [SB272]

In short, if an individual can argue that any state statute or regulation compels him or her to do something which impinges on a religious belief then the burden is presumed intrusive, and if a dispute arises between two private parties concerning the ‘right to discriminate’ based on religious beliefs then the discrimination would be lawful.

Not too put too fine a point to it, but SB 272 could be labeled the Religious Fanatic Discrimination Protection Act.  Christianity has been used in the U.S. as a pretext for previous acts of outright discrimination.  While the Bible was cited by the Abolitionists, it was also used to support the Peculiar Institution – of slavery – in the old south.  It has also been cited to support segregation and anti-miscegenation laws. [BFR] [TP.org]

AB 277, introduced by Assemblymen Nelson and Ellison, is from the same boiler plate rendition as SB 272.

“… because this bill does not require a governmental entity to be a party, bill applies to a proceeding between private parties in which one of the parties seeking to enforce a state or local law, regulation or rule that substantially burdens another party’s exercise of religion.”

Little wonder Senator Hardy is listed as a co-sponsor of this legislation.  Given the controversy, it would seem that the sponsors of these bills would have taken more care to sponsor drafts which are not outliers in terms of the genre. By broadening the language and inserting the “rights’” of private parties to discriminate, the sponsors fell into the Indiana Trap, wherein not all RFRA acts are created equally:

The problem with this statement is that, well, it’s false. That becomes clear when you read and compare those tedious state statutes.  If you do that, you will find that the Indiana statute has two features the federal RFRA—and most state RFRAs—do not. First, the Indiana law explicitly allows any for-profit business to assert a right to “the free exercise of religion.” The federal RFRA doesn’t contain such language, and neither does any of the state RFRAs except South Carolina’s; in fact, Louisiana and Pennsylvania, explicitly exclude for-profit businesses from the protection of their RFRAs. [Atlantic]

The second problem in Indiana’s statute is the insertion of private rights to discriminate.  Merely because a statute is titled RFRA doesn’t mean it’s like all the others.  [Atlantic] [TP.org] [InAdvance]

As there was a backlash in regard to anti-miscegenation laws, to desegregation efforts, and to racial integration, we may now be seeing the backlash to gay marriage play out in the guise of ‘religious freedom,’ much as though we were being treated to a replay of Theodore Bilbo and Lester Maddox speeches of generations ago.   The Nevada Legislature could make far better use of its time than in the consideration of these two bills.

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Filed under gay issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics