Tag Archives: rights

Doesn’t anything last anymore—or, insights from a penny-pinching packrat

The pill minder I’ve used for more than ten years broke…
Lots of people are uncomfortable with change. For instance, I have medical conditions and have to take medicine every day. Some of the medications need to be taken every morning, some every night, and keeping track isn’t impossible, but it’s easiest if I have a system to collect them and keep track of which have been taken. Thus, the pill minder pictured here.

It isn’t the first one I’ve owned. Back in the ’90s I had one medication that had to be taken five times a day. That was no fun, let me tell you. So I had a pill minder back then that actually consisted of seven little four-compartment pill-minders. On a Tuesday morning I could pop up Tuesday’s four-compartment piece, take the morning pills, and then put the Tuesday minder in my backpack, go to work, and throughout the day take my other doses.

That served me fine for years. Even though as it got older most of the words printed on the little lids had rubbed off, and a couple of the little lids wouldn’t stay latched as the little plastic catches wore down. But the penny-pincher inside me kept saying that I could keep making do with it. Despite a few times when I had to dig around in the bottom of the pack to find the pills that had fallen out.

But my meds changed. The one that had previously needed to be taken as five little pills every four hours or so was replaced by one larger pill just once a day. Other medications that had come in small pills were replaced with new ones in very large pills and I had to admit that the old rickety minder with it’s tiny compartments wasn’t right any more. I just needed one with larger compartments divided into only a morning and evening for each day. So I bought a new one (the one pictured above). Which worked fine for years, until one lid broke off week before last.

I figured, oh, it’s just one day, and beside, I don’t carry this thing around with me any more, it stays home, right? Except just about every time I picked it up to open a compartment and take out the pills for that morning or evening, I’d spill some or all of the pills out of the broken compartment. I had to admit it was time to buy a new one and throw this one away.

The new one is pretty and new and shiny… and has a different kind of locking mechanism that means when I unluck, say, Wednesday morning’s compartment, all of the morning compartments are unlocked. So I have to be careful to relock each of the others each time.

Which gives a bit more insight into the sorts of behaviors that could turn one into a full-on hoarder: sometimes we hang on to things because they are familiar. And when we are forced to swtich to a new thing, we find things that are different from the old thing annoying. Because of the years of familiarity, very tiny inconveniences become very outsized annoyances.

The last couple of days while I’ve been using the new minder, I’ve been thinking about how my out of proportion annoyance is not unlike the irrational way that people often react to changes in society in general. Those of us who have spent our whole lives struggling for equal rights often find ourselves having to ask others (sometimes our own relatives) why it bothers them so much? How can decriminalizing my love life possibly hurt them? How does legal recognition of my marriage possibly hurt them? It isn’t logical.

And that’s precisely right. It isn’t a rational response. It is an out-of-proportion reacting to change. Men kissing men in public was unheard of when they were younger, why can’t it stay that way, they ask? And so on.

This doesn’t mean that they are right. Just as me clinging to the broken pill-minder did me no good, them clinging to the past does nothing good. There are notions that belong in the dustbin of history. Hoarding prejudice isn’t the answer to anything.

Weekend Update 1/20/2018: One year later…

“1 year later, 10x more outrage”
“1 year later, 10x more outrage”
It seems fitting that the anniversary of the tyrant’s inaugural and the women’s march would coincide with a government shutdown that has come about entirely through the Republicans’ incompetence. They have a majority in both houses of congress, and while in theory the Democrats could filibuster the spending resolution, they haven’t had to, yet, because the Repubs can’t get all of their own people to vote for the bill! It’s just symptoms of the problems ushered in when the tyrant who lost the popular vote slipped through the Electoral College and the white supremacist wing of the Republican base felt free to take off their civil disguises. Now Republicans who would normally be willing to make a deal are scared of being primaried out by angry Trump supporters.

Russell Burman, writing in the Atlantic explains:

If there’s one thing Democrats and Republicans (some publicly, many others privately) agree on, it’s that the president’s negotiating style has made it much harder for the two sides to reach a deal. Trump has veered wildly from one extreme to the other—telling lawmakers in one meeting that he’d sign any DACA bill Congress sent him, then issuing a list of hard-line demands in the next. His vulgar reference to African nations, among others, as “shithole countries” while rejecting a bipartisan DACA proposal blew up the negotiations at a critical juncture.

Republicans have begged the president to tell them exactly what he’d accept in an agreement and then stick to it. But Trump hasn’t delivered.

The Republicans have tried to paint the Democrats as the villains in this, but their attempts make them look worse: Mitch McConnell shutdown tweet a ‘ransom note,’ says DNC head.

On January 20, 2018 March to commemorate the first anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March.
On January 20, 2018 march to commemorate the first anniversary of the 2017 Women’s March.
Meanwhile, across the country, millions of members of the resistance are turning out to march again: Women’s March draws crowds to DC and WATCH: Thousands Mark Trump’s Anniversary with 2018’s Women’s March. Most cities in the country will see these marches today, and I think that’s a good thing.

I’ve seen people arguing that marches don’t do anything, but they’re wrong. They said that same thing in 1993 about the March on Washington for Lesbian, Gay and Bi Equal Rights and Liberation, because congresspeople who had opposed queer rights didn’t all spontaneously change their minds afterward. But that isn’t the point of these demonstrations. When more the 800,000 queer people trekked across the country to stand up and protest, it did more than send a message. It demonstrated, for one thing, that there were a lot more of us than most people realized. More importantly, it demonstrated to us that we weren’t alone. It inspired hope in the individual queer communities among people who didn’t go. And those that did came back energized and inspired, and they did stuff! We organized new groups. More of us volunteered for local political campaigns. We staffed phone banks, we opened our wallets. We began to believe that if we worked together we could convince the rest of society to come around to our way of thinking. We didn’t have immediate success, but progress noticeably accelerated after that.

Last year’s Women’s March was the first time after the election that I felt hope again. And I’m the kind of person who normally never gives up hope. At a deep, fundamental level my brain does not believe in the no-win scenario, right? But when Trump won the electoral college, all of that crashed down.

Until I saw the hug crowds, vastly outnumbering the inaugural crowd not just in Washington D.C., but in cities all across the country.

There are more of us than they realized. There are more of us than we believed.

It’s from that moment of inspiration that moment such as Run For Something was born. The march inspired people back in their communities to get involved. Not just to wear a pink hat and make protest signs, but to join political action groups, to staff phone banks, to support progressive candidates, and to run for office. We got the dramatically different results in the Virginia elections this year than before in no small part because there were dozens of districts where previously the Republican had run unopposed again and again that finally there was an alternative!

And last year’s march can take credit for that.

“Trump ends first year with lowest average approval rating” - ever!
“Trump ends first year with lowest average approval rating” – ever!
The fact that the tyrant is such an incompetent, creepy, and transparently bigoted cretin is also a contributing factor. I’ve seen a few experts make the claim that White House ineptitude and biases are solely to blame for their failures. But that ignores the fact that what we are protesting is this administrations bigotry and callous disregard for facts or other people, and overarching greed—in other words, their biases and ineptitude. We’re fighting a good fight, and the fact that the opposition is not fighting well is not unrelated. However, there is a lot of fight left to go. We have to keep the momentum going not just in the Congressional election next fall, but in local elections, and continuing to make those phone calls to congress, and showing up at protests and more. But it’s a fight we can win.

Click to embiggen
And our country isn’t the only one dealing with corruption:
UK government kept awarding public sector contracts to Carillion despite fears about its future, minister admits and UK government officials set up Carillion collapse task force to support companies and workers. So there’s a lot of bad to fight against…

Voting is our best weapon, but they’re trying to take that away, too

Voter ID laws don't effect everyone equally (click to embiggen)
Voter ID laws don’t effect everyone equally (click to embiggen)
Voter Suppression Laws Are Working. The real purpose of so-called Voter ID laws is not to prevent voter fraud. That’s how they sell it, but the real aim is to keep poor people, the elderly, and other marginalized people from voting. Voter fraud is a for all intents and purposes a myth: There have been just four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election – three of them voted for Trump. The number of fraudulent votes cast are always such a tiny fraction of the total that they don’t effect the outcome of races. And we’ve known this for a while.

Seriously, during part of the George W. Bush administration, U.S. Attorneys were ordered to make finding voter fraud a higher priority than any other case they were investigating. And after a lot of time and effort was expended, they came back and told the administration what state officials who run elections have been saying for decades: voter fraud is virtually non-existent. The most common forms of voter fraud, which add up to far less than one percent of the votes cast, are relatives of recently deceased people casting an absentee ballot for the dearly departed. The next most common is a relative who has been appointed a legal guardian of an elderly relative believing (incorrectly) that the power of attorney they have been given over the relative with a diminished capacity gives them the legal right to fill out the relative’s ballot. And the third most common are people who are wealthy enough to own homes in multiple states registering in all of them and voting there under the mistaken notion that because they pay taxes in more than one place, they can vote.

The Republican party of my state several years ago famously spent more than a million dollars tracking down four voters who had voted illegally in the very tight governor’s race that year: all four of the convicted felons who hadn’t had their voting rights restored had voted for the Republican (because the Democratic governor had been the state’s Attorney General before, and the four felons held grudges against her).

A lot of people ask, “What’s so hard about showing your ID?” Which seems like a reasonable question to a person who enjoys a certain amount of privilege. The funny part is, that the people asking this know how hard it can be and you can prove it to them. All you have to do, is ask them whether they look forward to going to the DMV to renew their driver’s license. They will either brag about how wonderful it is now that their state allows people to renew on line, or they will tell you a horror story about being trapped at said office for a long period of time. While it is an inconvenience to someone who is able-bodied, has access to their own transportation, and has a work schedule that allows them to take the time to go stand in line, to anyone who isn’t in that situation, it becomes an insurmountable obstacle.

Most poor people in the U.S. work multiple jobs. They aren’t hanging around on street corners waiting for a welfare check (that’s an even bigger myth). The typical low income family has trouble finding the time to sleep and cook meals for their kids, let alone try to find enough time during one of the days a licensing office is open to go stand in line for hours. That’s if they can even get to the office. The states that have passed strict Voter ID laws also happen to be states that have fewer offices where people can get an ID. And coincidentally, they tend to only have those offices in locations convenient to affluent neighborhoods.

So you have to add many miles of travel (and the time and expense involved) to the difficulties to overcome to get an ID. That’s if the person has their own transportation. And it just so happens that the same states the have strict Voter ID laws also spend the least amount of money on public transit. Yet more barriers.

I think about the hassle my mom went through a few years ago after a move when she was trying to get her license renewed and updated with her new address. I don’t remember how many times she had to go back, but it was several. One time it was because whoever she talked to before she went in didn’t tell her the right documents she would need to prove what her new address was. I don’t remember what the problem was the next time, but then after she finally got it after her third or fourth visit, they mailed it to her and several pieces of information on it were incorrect. So she had to go back to get it corrected, and that took more than one trip.

My mom is retired, so she theoretically had the time, and she can drive herself, and the office wasn’t very far from her apartment, but she’s got a lot of health issues, and some days she just doesn’t have the stamina to sit in a non-ergonomic waiting room chair for who knows how long, right?

And then there’s the matter of the fee to get the ID. The constitution forbids poll taxes but the requirement of having state provided ID for which you are required to pay a fee is essentially a poll tax. And even if you argue that the ID serves other purposes, the fee is yet another barrier for low income and fixed-income people.

So, Voter ID laws effectively take the vote away from low income people, people with disabilities or mobility issues, and people living in certain communities. And the lawmakers who pass the laws are well aware that those populations tend to vote in favor of one party more often than the other. They want to take that vote away.

Fortunately, there is something you can do about it: Donate to and/or Volunteer with Spread The Vote (spreadthevote.org). Spread The Vote helps people get their required ID. They provide volunteers to help people collect the required documents, transportation to the apply for their ID, assistance with fees, and so forth.

If you want to help with the fight at a legislative and legal level, consider donating to Project Vote (projectvote.org). Project Vote is working to improve voter registration processes and remove the barriers to make it difficult for people to get registered and to vote.

Card-carrying member of the ACLU, and proud of it!

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-3-25-17-pmIt’s George H.W. Bush’s fault. During the 1988 Presidential Debates, then-Vice President Bush sneered at his opponent, Gov. Mike Dukakis, for being a card-carrying member of the American Civil Liberties Union. Mr. Bush claimed that the ACLU was out to make child pornography legal as well as make it legal for children to see X-rated movies. Both of those claims were, at best, distortions of actual ACLU goals (the ACLU has long opposed a rating system used in the U.S. because the system is secretive, favors large studios over independent ones, and sometimes serves as a form of de facto censorship, for example), but it almost certainly shored up support from Republican-leaning voters. But the other thing that happened was that, in the days after the debate, tens of thousands of people called the ACLU and asked what it took to become a card-carrying member.

And then they donated and joined.

I wish I could say I was one of them. I didn’t become a member for a few more months. I was in the process of transitioning from college to working full time, and my wife was still a full-time university student (yes, I used to be married to a member of the opposite sex; it’s a long story). And in 1988 you couldn’t just google the ACLU and in a few clicks sign up. It was after the election, and after I got a better job, so it was sometime in the spring of 1989 that we signed up as members.

I’ve been a proud member ever since.

When school districts try to discriminate against queer students, it’s the ACLU that sends lawyers to sue the school and get kids their rights. When peaceful protesters are arrested, it’s the ACLU that sends in lawyers to get the protestors out of jail, to defend against the bogus charges, and sue the appropriate government officials to try to prevent future violations. When high school students are unconstitutionally strip searched by school officials, it’s the ACLU that sues the school district. When states enact unconstitutional voter suppression laws, it’s the ACLU that sues and often gets the measures overturned. When federal authorities tried to hide documents about torture progams, it was the ACLU that sued to get the documents brought to light so that citizens and legislators could demand changes. When states fail to provide required medical and mental health treatments to people in state custody, it’s the ACLI that sues to get people the basic care they are guaranteed under the law. And as everyone saw this weekend, when a narcissistic megalomaniac issues an unconstitutional executive order resulting in people being illegally detained or deported, it’s the ACLU that goes to court for stays to try to halt the illegal actions, and send lawyers to try to meet with detainees to help them.

I could go on and on.

If you believe in liberty; if you believe the Constitution guarantees that everyone is equal before the law; if you believe that everyone deserves legal representation and the full protection of the law; then the ACLU deserves your support.

gotyourbackOh, and if you’d like one of those spiffy blue pocket Constitutions to keep on your person in case you need to assert your rights (or just correct a douche bro who doesn’t understand what the Constitution actually says), the ACLU sells them in very affordable 10-packs. Because you want to pass out extras to your friends and loved ones. And if, like me, you have a lot of freedom-loving friends who are also bibliophiles, you might want to pick up some Bill of Rights bookmarks. Not to mention stickers and other things.

If you can, support the ACLU!

Uphill battle or slippery slope? Depends on which side you’re on…

nicecivilSlippery slope arguments get thrown around a lot. As a queer man I’ve been on the receiving end of more ridiculous slippery slope accusations than I can count. A surprisingly large number of them always end in something about man on dog sex (though the wingnut who kept typing in all caps about lesbian witches eating babies was actually giggle-worthy!).

The reason the slippery slope is considered a logical fallacy is because the predicted end result is usually an extreme event which would require a rather large number of increasingly improbable steps to get to from whatever current proposal is under discussion.

One of the reasons the slippery slope is so attractive to the anti-gay folks is because if you look at the struggle for queer equality from a very specific narrow angle, it has been a slide down a slope… Continue reading Uphill battle or slippery slope? Depends on which side you’re on…

Traditional marriage?

BzSbHKKIAAAEyiyYesterday, the Supreme Court officially declined to review any of the Marriage Equality cases that had been appealed to them thus far. Declining to review means that the ruling by each appeals court is, essentially, upheld. The immediate effect was the stays against those rulings were lifted, and in five more states Marriage Equality now is the law of the land. The secondary effect is that any other states covered by one of the five Circuit Courts whose rulings were upheld will almost certainly become marriage equality states as soon as an appeal gets to the circuit. That means very soon the number of states that have marriage equality will be 30. In fact, officials in Colorado, knowing that the circuit court they are currently appealing to has already ruled against a nearly identical ban in a neighboring state, have decided to drop the appeal, and have told county clerks to start issuing marriage licenses.

Now, there are several other cases that have yet to be ruled on by any circuit court, so those last 20 states may take a while.

Governors of at least two of the states who lost Monday are not taking it gracefully. Most hilarious of these is Mary Fallin, governor of Oklahoma. Fallin’s righteous indignation is so funny because Fallin is a divorced adulterer. Continue reading Traditional marriage?

It may not seem like news…

And it happens again.
In a short segment on her MSNBC show last night, Rachel Maddow commented that this is the 13th state in a row to have a judge rule this way, and it’s almost reached the point where no one thinks it’s news anymore. She talked a little bit about how, for many years, almost every time the question came up, the forces of equality lost, and how now things seemed to have turned the other way.

But there is a difference with Oregon. There is a reason that none of the previous federal rulings have caused places such as Wikipedia or GLAAD or any other place that is covering his phenomenon to count those states as one that now allows marriage equality.

Oregon is the first state with one of these cases where not a single state or county official argued in favor of keeping the ban.

And that has important legal implications… Continue reading It may not seem like news…

Just what went wrong?

Quit squirming cartoon.
“Quit squirming!”
It’s no coincidence that about a dozen states are all trying to pass virtually identical laws specifically permitting anyone discriminate against anyone else so long as it was because of their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” A lot of the so-called pro-family organizations have been lobbying legislators in every state and providing an already written bill, ultimately coming from an ultra conservative think tank called the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Right now, everyone is declaring a gay rights victory because a big enough stink was raised and the Governor of Arizona vetoed her state’s version of the bill. I think that’s wrong for a couple of reasons…

Continue reading Just what went wrong?


I loved those Johnny Weismuller Tarzan movies, when I was a kid. I’m pretty sure it was in one of those silly black and white films that I first saw the jungle drums as communication trope. Supposedly all the tribes of the jungle, no matter their culture or language, participated in this form of long distance communication where the pounding of drums could warn the neighboring villages of some disaster, perhaps, or to call the tribes to war.

So when I later first heard a pundit or read an editorial that referred to people advocating an escalation in our military actions in Vietnam as “the drum-beat of war,” I thought of those jungle drums. And it seemed to fit the context of the editorials.

In the movies the drumming was always a bad portent. The drums always signaled something that would menace our heroes. Something savage, unpredictable, and utterly merciless (there was, of course, more than a little racism in this trope).

Since drums had been used in various European armies centuries before any of those Hollywood depictions of Africa came to exist, I’m certain that particular turn of phrase also predates the jungle drum trope. Still, whenever I hear the phrase “the drum-beat of” my imagination conjures up black and white images of people dressed in khaki and pith helmets, fearfully looking this way and that, but only able to see impenetrable leaves and vines.

So, when the leader of one of the groups trying to hide their homophobia and religious supremacism behind an innocuous sounding pro-marriage name starting referring to the shift public opinion has been undergoing regarding gay rights in general as “the drumbeat of gay entitlement” I started laughing. Many of the other haters have picked up the phrase, and when they say it on one of those news show, they get such a serious, worried look on their face. Often exactly the same expression from those old jungle movies that the one person who knew what the drums meant would have while he explained to the rest of the party.

They describe gay people and gay-friendly straight people as being on a crusade to destroy all that is right and good in this world. When they do, they have that wide-eyed look of someone who knows the menace is near, but can’t figure out from where the menace will strike.

There isn’t an evil, menacing army beating those drums and preparing to ambush them. The forces for tolerance and equality are not savage, unpredictable, nor merciless. There is a battle going on, but not that kind. And the people beating the drums aren’t at all like that.

A great example was a police raid on a gay bar in Atlanta three years ago. A SWAT-type team of cops from multiple agencies stormed into the bar without a warrant, made everyone lay face down on the floor, and proceeded to harass, threaten, search, and occasionally assault the customers for about 90 minutes. When the news first broke, city officials said the officers were following a lead in a perfectly legitimate investigation. Some veiled comments about “those kinds of people” were made, and they expected it to go away, just as tens of thousands of such raids have in cities everywhere for years.

They didn’t expect a protest march made up primarily of church ladies. For years people like those cops could count on at least two things to protect their bigotted actions from a serious investigation: virtually none of the men they harassed or assaulted would press charges (for fear of being outed), and families of the men harassed would be so ashamed of their gay children that they would never pressure any politician to look into the matter.

Neither of those things are universally true, any longer. A bunch of those men had parents who were not ashamed of their sons. Some of those parents stood up in their churches to describe the warrantless, unjustified police action. And a bunch of those church members—surprise, surprise—thought that “love your neighbor as you love yourself” didn’t include handcuffing innocent people, shouting at them, and kicking them in the head.

The church lady march was only the beginning. With the unexpected pressure from the community, the city had to conduct a real investigation. No evidence of any crime was ever found. No explanation of a legitimate case in progress was ever given. The review board ruled that two of the officers and some supervisors were provably guilty of misconduct, though the punishments at the time were minor, and to this day the city claims that other than those few “mistakes” nothing was wrong with the raid. Eventually, six of the officers involved in the raid were fired for lying about events in the raid, but the city tried to do it very quietly. A report was reluctantly released under a freedom of information request detailing how a total of 16 officers had lied or destroyed evidence to try to cover up the misconduct.

The drummers aren’t just bleeding hearts from liberal churches. Last year, while marriage equality was being debated in my state’s legislature, one legislator who was known not to be in favor of the bill hosted a townhall-style meeting in her district to let people from the community give her their thoughts. After a couple hours of person after person passionately speaking in favor of same-sex marriage, the surprised legislator said that she knew their had to be voices in the community who felt differently. She looked at a man in a police uniform who had been sitting in the front row, looking angrier and angrier the entire time. “This gentleman, for example, hasn’t said anything.”

The cop reluctantly rose to his feet. He explained that he hadn’t said anything because he hadn’t had time to change out of uniform before coming to the forum, so he didn’t want people to think he was speaking for his department. But if she insisted, well, he just wanted to say that as a father of four sons, he wanted all of his boys, including his gay son, to be able to marry the person they fell in love with.

She never found anyone at the meeting willing to speak against the bill. She eventually voted in favor of it.

Or the pair of grandparents I saw, speaking at a legislative hearing in another state, who said, “We want to dance at the weddings of all of our grandchildren, including our lesbian granddaughter.”

There is a drumbeat out there. But it isn’t calling us to march to war. It isn’t warning you of a slaughter or some other danger.

It’s inviting you to come dance at some weddings.

Personal isn’t always private, part 2

For a long time there was a forum on Reddit called “jailbait” whose purpose was for people to post pictures of underage girls they thought were hot, sexy, what have you. Most of the pictures posted there had been stolen from Facebook accounts or similar online forums, where the picture had originally been posted by the girl herself. The guys who frequented the jailbait forum and posted there rationalized their theft because “if the girls didn’t want people looking at those pictures, they shouldn’t have posted them.”

None put forward the argument more loudly or prolifically than the moderator, a guy who called himself Violentacrez (pronounced “violent acres”). Continue reading Personal isn’t always private, part 2