Various Direct Links

21 April 2012

FollowUp 25: Wisconsin Republican Dirty Tricks

As I have mentioned before, it is normal with an election coming up that candidates, liberal or conservative, tend to move toward the center.  Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is not normal.

Mr. Walker is doubling down in his attack on teachers.
Madison - Gov. Scott Walker used his broad new powers to reshape a rule to lower inflation-based raises that public unions can negotiate by 30% or more for teachers in public schools and technical colleges.
The rule change would not use an individual's actual salary as a "base salary" to calculate raises and would exclude factors such as a teacher's higher degree.
There are two aspects of this that are typical of the Governor and reasons to support a recall.  First for teachers, this is another huge slap in the face and hit to the wallet.  Teachers who go on to earn a masters degree or doctorate are usually paying out of pocket for that degree and the compensation for learning more for their students is higher pay over time, which may go away.  Further, limiting pay increases to cost of living increases while requiring teachers to pay a greater percentage of their pension and healthcare means a net cut to the take home paycheck.  There will likely be a lawsuit over this change.
Katy Lounsbury, a Madison labor attorney, said the rules effectively neuter teachers unions in their bargaining over salaries. She said the rules may result in legal action because she believes they violate people's rights to associate.
"It certainly seems worthy of a challenge," she said. "It penalizes members of a union."
Second, this is happening while other public sector employees are being rewarded with bonuses, even while the state is running in the red.
MADISON, Wis. - Gov. Scott Walker has quietly reinstated a program to give merit raises and bonuses to some state workers even as he preaches cost-cutting and pushed through a bill eliminating most public employees' collective bargaining rights.
An analysis of data obtained by The Associated Press shows Wisconsin agencies have handed out more than $765,000 in bonuses and merit raises this year to 218 employees. The money was distributed under a program suspended by former Gov. Jim Doyle but reinstated by Walker last year.
The raises come as the state faces a $143 million shortfall and after the collective bargaining law required thousands of workers to contribute more to their pensions and health care.
This combination of acts looks like Mr. Walker is continuing to play favorites and reward cronies while punishing the unions that he sees as his enemies.  Given his attacks, the unions certainly are his enemies by now.

The ballots are approaching, primaries on 8 May and recall election on 5 June.  The dirty tricks continue.

So, what does Mr. Walker think about all of this?  He was interviewed by Stuart Varney on the Your World with Neil Cavuto Show on Friday.

It should be pointed out that Mr. Walker is a liar when saying that Republicans prevailed in all six recalls in 2011. The Republicans won four and the Democrats won two.  That is not "We ultimately prevailed in each of those races."

Regarding the money, 24% of Governor Walker's donors are sending in big money.  That is a huge percentage for a state campaign.  He neither addressed where the big money is coming from (think Koch brothers) nor how much is from out of state (think Koch brothers).

No mention is made of Arthur Kohl-Riggs, the Governor's primary challenger. Keeping to form, Mr. Walker proceeds with a cocky attitude and divisive attacks on labor in his state.

16 November 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 1.
4 December 2011, FollowUp 2.
11 December 2011, FollowUp 3.
14 December 2011, FollowUp 4.
15 December 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 December 2011, FollowUp 6.
13 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
17 January 2012, FollowUp 8.
25 January 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 February 2012, FollowUp 10.
9 February 2012, FollowUp 11.
12 February 2012, FollowUp 12.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 13.
22 February 2012, FollowUp 14.
6 March 2012, FollowUp 15.
12 March 2012, FollowUp 16.
16 March 2012, FollowUp 17.
30 March 2012, FollowUp 18.
31 March 2012, FollowUp 19.
3 April 2012, FollowUp 20.
4 April 2012, FollowUp 21.
11 April 2012, FollowUp 22.
14 April 2012, FollowUp 23.
17 April 2012, FollowUp 24.

29 April 2012, FollowUp 26.
2 May 2012, FollowUp 27.
6 May 2012, FollowUp 28.
10 May 2012, FollowUp 29.
13 May 2012, FollowUp 30.
23 May 2012, FollowUp 31.
24 May 2012, FollowUp 32.
30 May 2012, FollowUp 33.
2 June 2012, FollowUp 34.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 35.
5 June 2012, FollowUp 36.

Earth Day 2012

Since its inception by the late Senator Gaylord Nelson of Wisconsin, Earth Day has been an important part of the environmental movement. The first Earth Day, in 1970, was inspired by Rachel Carson's Silent Spring and the anti-war movement, designed as a teach-in for college campuses and high schools.  Thousands of universities and high schools participated.  Many wanted the date for Earth Day to coincide with the Vernal Equinox, but Senator Nelson thought otherwise.
Senator Nelson chose the date in order to maximize participation on college campuses for what he conceived as an "environmental teach-in". He determined the week of April 19–25 was the best bet as it did not fall during exams or spring breaks. Moreover, it did not conflict with religious holidays such as Easter or Passover, and was late enough in spring to have decent weather. More students were likely to be in class, and there would be less competition with other mid-week events—so he chose Wednesday, April 22.
The 22nd of April has also been designated International Mother Earth Day by the United Nations.  While the United States produces a significant portion of the world's pollution, we neither produce it all nor can we be responsible for it all.  Our planet is more than any small part of itself and all parts need to take responsibility for the byproducts of their decisions.

In the 1970s, as I became active in the environmental movement, I planted thousands of trees.  Part of this year's promotions is A Billion Acts of Green.  While I'm not planting thousands more trees this year, I will be planting tomorrow.  Consider what you can plant:  trees, ideas, other small acts that make a difference.  The small acts add up.

Thanks to Dhruv Planet for the closing graphic.

20 April 2012

Repudiation: Rand Paul Against Gun Ban That Did Not Happen

I just received an e-mail with the above banner at the top.  Senator Paul makes some serious allegations that appear to be completely false.
Dear fellow Patriot,
Nearly 1 million American firearms.
Banned by a stroke of Barack Obama’s pen .
In a move unprecedented in American history, the Obama Administration quietly banned the re-importation of nearly 600,000 American made M1 Carbine rifles.
I've spent about half an hour trying to track down data on this ban.  Perhaps it is real and Google failed to notice.  I've found lots of fear tactics by various Republican candidates anticipating the November elections and threats by the National Rifle Association that "Obama will take your guns".  Nothing about either legislation or executive orders banning M1 rifles.
And I've just discovered Obama may be blocking as many 300,000 1911 Colts too!
That's nearly one million pieces of American history denied to the American people.
I can't find information on this happening either.  The e-mail continues with the history of various firearms and a call for people to take a "firearms freedom survey" that is being sponsored by the National Association for Gun Rights.
Then it begs for money to protect your firearms.

Decades ago I was trained in the use of several firearms by the United States Navy and a few more in cross training with the Marine Corps.  I am far from being opposed to the Second Amendment.  That being said, I do not believe that we should have allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire in 2004.  I am opposed to the Stand Your Ground laws while I support the Castle Doctrine.  In other words, I am like most Americans who support reasonable gun laws ... no need to go to extremes in any direction here.

Mr. Rand's scare tactics are absurd.  President Obama has been a centrist on gun rights.  No crazy bans and not even reasonable restrictions like restoring the Assault Weapons Ban. 
This is just the latest in a series of anti-gun schemes from the Obama Administration:
*** A new so-called “Assaults Weapon Ban " -- targeting ALL semi-automatic rifles and shotguns -- which, unlike the Clinton ban, would NEVER expire;
*** An outright BAN on “high capacity” magazines -- banning the sale and manufacture of magazines holding more than just a handful of rounds;
*** A National Concealed Carry “Standard ” -- designed to make it even more difficult for law-abiding citizens to carry a gun to protect themselves and their families from assault;
*** Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “Catch-All Gun Control Scheme ” -- to create a national “cannot buy registry,” allowing citizens to be stripped of their Second Amendment rights on a Justice Department whim, effectively banning all private gun sales.
That’s why it is essential that Americans like you and I take a stand against the M1 Carbine and 1911 gun ban!
While I would support a new Assault Weapons Ban that would never expire, I cannot find where that has been introduced or suggested other than by Mr. Paul. 

Immediately following the massacre at Virginia Tech and again after the nearly fatal attack on Congresswoman Giffords there were calls for banning high capacity magazines.  Sadly, those calls have not been realized with any proposed legislation.

A concealed carry standard might be a good idea if it is designed correctly.  There was, in fact, a proposal earlier this year that would have established a national standard that Senator Paul is warning about.  He should know about it because he was one of the sponsors.  Is he really complaining about his own legislation??!?

New York City Mayor Bloomberg has been in the news recently with his opposition to Stand Your Ground laws.  The National Rifle Association is not happy with the Mayor.  But there has been no proposal to ban individuals from buying guns based "on a Justice Department whim".

I'm not going to continue quoting from the e-mail as it is rather boring repetition, very much in the style of Eugene Delaudio's rants and about as delusional.  Gun laws are important.  The Second Amendment is important.  The balance is missing.  Despite Mr. Rand's complaints, President Obama and the Democrats have been too far to the right and need to place reasonable limits including both a renewed Assault Weapons Ban and a ban on high capacity magazines.  There should be a national registry so that criminals who have been banned from purchasing guns can be kept from owning them.  We need reasonable laws like the Castle Doctrine and need to get rid of laws like Stand Your Ground.

One more note.  Thorough training should be required for any who own guns.  The number of accidental gun deaths are far too high.  Owning a gun means taking on a huge responsibility.  I am grateful for the training that I received in the U.S. Navy.

FollowUp 2: Opposition to Day of Silence

A collection of hate groups is protesting today's Day of Silence by asking that students stay home and learn nothing of tolerance of others.
The Day of Silence, which is sponsored by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), fast approaches. This year it will take place in most public schools on April 20, 2012. On this day, thousands of public high schools and increasing numbers of middle schools will allow students to remain silent throughout an entire day – even during instructional time – to promote GLSEN's socio-political goals and its controversial, unproven, and destructive theories on the nature and morality of homosexuality.
Parents must actively oppose this hijacking of the classroom for political purposes. Please join the national effort to reclaim a proper understanding of the role, and limits of public education. Help de-politicize the learning environment by calling your child out of school if your child's school allows students and/or teachers to refuse to speak during instructional time on the Day of Silence.
I have never known a teacher, gay or straight, to be silent on the Day of Silence.  When I have a class I still call attendance, give students their lesson and speak with them during any activities.  Those students who choose to do so are encouraged to remain silent but communicate by writing notes to me.

Most schools leave the determination of whether students are required to speak in class on the Day of Silence to the teachers.  So, students may be silent during my classes and must speak during other classes.  As GLSEN and Lambda Legal and the ACLU have made clear, students who are asked to speak during instructional time should do so.  It is only during hallway passing time, lunch, or study halls that students may not be compelled to speak by teachers or administrators.

The goals of GLSEN are only controversial to bigots.  They are common sense and practical to most educators and to all of the major medical and psychological organizations.
The Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
We believe that such an atmosphere engenders a positive sense of self, which is the basis of educational achievement and personal growth. Since homophobia and heterosexism undermine a healthy school climate, we work to educate teachers, students and the public at large about the damaging effects these forces have on youth and adults alike. We recognize that forces such as racism and sexism have similarly adverse impacts on communities and we support schools in seeking to redress all such inequities.
GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes in creating a more vibrant and diverse community. We welcome any and all individuals as members, regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity/expression or occupation, who are committed to seeing this philosophy realized in K-12 schools.
Despite the fears of those opposing the Day of Silence, heterosexual students are encouraged to be straight without any denigration of their majority status.  No bullying of anyone is tolerated, including for religious reasons.  That doesn't stop bigots from being upset.  Here is why they say that they are upset:
One oft-repeated mantra is that the goal of DOS [The Day of Silence] is to keep LGBTQ students safe. The problematic rhetoric of safety,” however, substitutes speciously for the more accurate term of “comfort.” To suggest that in order for those who self-identify as homosexual or “transgender” to be “safe,” no one may disapprove of homosexual conduct is both absurd and dangerous. If this definition of “safety” were to be applied consistently, virtually all statements of disapproval would be prohibited.
No student should be disapproving of fellow students.  Freedom to disapprove of "homosexual conduct" is code for permission to bully.  The argument continues
Day of Silence participants claim they seek to end discrimination. There is, however, a problem with the way “discrimination” is defined in public discourse today. Groups like GLSEN believe that statements of moral conviction with which they disagree constitute prejudice or discrimination. While relentlessly promoting this view, administrators are never asked to provide evidence for the dubious presuppositions on which claims of discrimination are based. They are never asked to provide evidence for the arguable claim that homosexuality is equivalent to race; or that disapproval of homosexual conduct is equivalent to racism; or that homosexual impulses are biologically determined; or that the presence of biological influences in shaping desire renders a behavior automatically moral. The time is long past that parents demand justification for those claims.
Calling out students for being homosexual, bisexual, transvestite, or transgender with religious disapproval has no place in a school.  It is discrimination.  Whether or not sexuality is "equivalent to race", which it is in the sense that both are immutable qualities of each person, discrimination in schools is wrong.  Biological determination versus environmental impact is irrelevant.  Discrimination is wrong.
If we allow schools to define discrimination so expansively as to prohibit all statements of moral conviction, character development is compromised and speech rights are trampled. And if administrators continue to define discrimination in such a way as to preclude only some statements of moral conviction, they violate their pedagogical commitment to intellectual diversity and render the classroom a place of indoctrination.
"Statements of moral conviction" is code for "religious speech".  It belongs in church, not in our schools.  There are limits to freedom of speech, particularly where that speech can lead to violence.  There are too many documented cases of LGBTQ students being physically bullied and too many suicides.  Discrimination masquerading as "statements of moral conviction" must end.
Finally, DOS supporters contend that one of their purposes is to end harassment. What they fail to acknowledge is that the worthy end of eliminating harassment does not justify the means of exploiting instructional time. There are myriad other ways to work toward that end. DOS participants have a First Amendment right to wear t-shirts, or put up posters, or host after-school speakers, or set up tables from which to distribute informative materials. They ought not to be allowed to manipulate instructional time in the service of their socio-political goals.
The claim that instructional time is exploited is debunked by the fact that students may be asked to speak during instructional time, as is clearly stated on the Day of Silence web page.  Claiming otherwise is bearing false witness.

The organizations calling for this walkout (starting a little over halfway down their webpage), a far more extreme curtailment of instructional time, are organizations and a few individuals who are notorious for the anti-gay agenda.  These people who call themselves pro-family are opposed to families that are not in their religious ideal.  Their ideals, when made into laws, harm the children of gay couples, harm consenting adults, and ultimately harm the whole of society in perpetuating a caste system based on fear and hatred.

Running from those with whom you disagree does not solve problems, it reinforces them.  Walking out is a terrible answer.  Their children, those who will grow up to be straight and those who will grow up to be gay, deserve a lot better.

19 March 2012, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

18 April 2012, FollowUp 1.

19 April 2012

Yom Hashoah 2012

Today, 19 April 2012, is marked by many as Yom Hashoah, a Remembrance of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust.  The exact numbers are debated by scholars, but approximately thirteen million people were killed by the Nazis in their Concentration Camps.  Rounding from the Wikipedia page and a few other sources (so these are my guesses but should give a fair idea),
  • Jews               6 million murdered
  • Soviet POWs  3 million murdered
  • Poles              2 million murdered
  • Gypsies          1.5 million murdered
  • Disabled         250 thousand murdered
  • Masons          80 thousand murdered
  • Solvenes         25 thousand murdered
  • Gays              15 thousand murdered
These numbers are necessarily approximate.  While the Nazis kept many records, a gay Jew might have been recorded as a homosexual, a Jew, a Pole, or perhaps some combination of these.  In terms of percentages, Gypsies saw the greatest losses which some estimate at 90% of the world's Romani.

In the United States, there are several museums that document what happened.  In 1993, I had the honor of escorting one of the American Liberators of the Nazi Death Camps to the Opening Ceremony of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Among my memories of that day is a group of protesters who were Holocaust deniers.  One held up a prominent sign, "Where is the proof?"  The proof, of course, is in part housed in the building that was behind him.  The proof included an elderly American hero, carrying a cane beside me, who had been awarded medals by the United States, France, and Italy for his service fighting against the Nazi regime.  Those who lived through that war are few today.  One of my neighbors is another American hero who landed at Normandy and fought the Nazis in France.  The proof that will survive these heroes is preserved in the documents and artifacts housed at places like and including the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

There is an eight minute film at that I strongly urge you to watch today.  It is important that we remember.  It is as important that we stop the violence, the bullying, the injustice, and the inequality that is still part of our society.

18 April 2012

FollowUp 1: Opposition to Day of Silence

Friday 20 April 2012 is this year's Day of Silence, sponsored by GLSEN.  Why?
The National Day of Silence is a day of action in which students across the country vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of anti-LGBT bullying and harassment in schools.
That's the whole of it.  The rest of the details of implementation are not terribly complicated.  Students are directed to follow teachers instructions and speak in class if they are required to do so.
While you DO have a right to participate in the Day of Silence between classes and before and after school, you may NOT have the right to stay silent during instructional time if a teacher requests for you to speak. According to Lambda Legal, "Under the Constitution, public schools must respect students' right to free speech. The right to speak includes the right not to speak, as well as the right to wear buttons or T-shirts expressing support for a cause." However, this right to free speech doesn't extend to classroom time. "If a teacher tells a student to answer a question during class, the student generally doesn't have a constitutional right to refuse to answer." We remind participants that students who talk with their teachers ahead of time are more likely to be able to remain silent during class. Find more Lamda Legal advice here.
But that doesn't slow the lies and bigotry as 20 April approaches.  Here are four recent samples of opposition.

From a letter to the editor in Central Jersey
High school students across the nation (including a few Hunterdon Central High School students) will be celebrating the Day of Dialogue (April 19) that supports marriage between a man and woman (a creation ordinance in Genesis). 
The Day of Dialogue gives students another perspective to the Day of Silence (April 20), which is promoted by GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) and receives a lot of support from high school administrators and faculty. The purpose of the Day of Silence is to promote the homosexual agenda — GLSEN encourages high school students to lobby for legislation supported by homosexual-advocacy groups. GLSEN also encourages the high school students to pressure school officials to promote gay friendly material and events.
It should be noted that the Book of Genesis does discuss creation and procreation but does not establish limits upon who can marry whom.

"Promote the homosexual agenda" in terms of the Day of Silence is opposing bullying.  There is no further agenda for the schools.  "homosexual-advocacy" is a silly phrase.  The LGBTQ Community does advocate for equal treatment under the law for all persons.  As sexuality is generally believed to be immutable, according to major medical and major psychological organizations, advocacy is for how we are treated.  Gay friendly is good.  Human friendly is even better.

Right Wing Watch has an excerpt from a radio dialogue with Truth In Action Ministries' Jerry Newcombe.
It’s something where they are basically taking a legitimate concern, which is that of bullying, and they are using that serious problem that does happen as an opportunity by which they will then promote and essentially indoctrinate children and expose children to the acceptability of the homosexual lifestyle. Now bullying is wrong but so also is indoctrination into a deadly lifestyle and frankly homosexuality is a deadly lifestyle and that fact is withheld from the children.
Again, one cannot be indoctrinated into homosexuality.  Sexuality is immutable.  To put this in terms of religion, all humans are created in God's image and are acceptable.  If you don't like the "homosexual lifestyle" then don't live that way, but neither is there a single type of lifestyle for homosexuals nor is it their business to interfere in the lifestyle of others outside of their church.

The myth that "homosexuality is a deadly lifestyle" originated with debunked studies by Paul Cameron.  I am a healthy gay man in my 50s, unlikely by their rhetoric.  Giving false information to children is a direct defiance of the Bible's admonition against bearing false witness.

Mr. Newcombe continued with an inference that there is a link between Nazis and homosexuality.
It’s sad to see groups like GLSEN be accepted by the teacher's establishment and then allow the platform to go into the public schools and try and indoctrinate children. For example, they have something called the Day of Silence. Now they chose April 20 of all days to be the Day of Silence, I looked that up, I was like, ‘isn’t that Adolf Hitler’s birthday,’ I looked it up and sure enough it is Adolf Hitler’s birthday. I don’t think there’s a link there but how ironic. But they are using this day as a means by which to promote their lifestyle as if it is a positive thing.
It should be noted that the Day of Silence is generally on a Friday in April.  In 2011 it was on 15 April.  The link to Hitler is particularly ugly given the treatment of homosexuals by the Nazis.

Michael Brown, who I have repudiated before, wrote an article a week ago with his complaint.
But don't some schools already have generic, anti-bullying programs in place along with special, daylong events to highlight the destructive effects of bullying, a subject that should concern all of us? Of course they do, but that's not enough. GLSEN insists that a special focus must be put on LGBT kids, as if bullying a gay kid was worse than bullying a fat kid.
To the best of my knowledge there has not be a rash of fat kids committing suicide because of bullying.  It isn't that bullying anyone is worse than bullying someone else, but the problem of bullying LGBTQ students is real and exacerbated by the rants of Mr. Brown.  The attempt to diminish the importance of bullying that is sanctioned implicitly by religious organizations like Mr. Brown's is exactly why the Day of Silence is needed.
But there's more that takes place on the Day of Silence: A pro-homosexuality message is often sent to the students, with teachers and administrators frequently promoting homosexuality, bisexuality, and transgenderism over the course of the day. That's why thousands of schools (and not just students) officially participate in the event, with the explicit backing of GLSEN. What about other messages being introduced during the day to balance the discussion? Perish the thought.
Promoting?  Again, sexuality is immutable.  It is tolerance and acceptance that is encouraged by GLSEN and the Day of Silence.  Balance the discussion?  The balance to a message of not bullying would be what?  A message to bully?  Students who perish as a consequence of bullying is the symptom.  Mr .Brown is part of the problem.

The so-called Liberty Counsel, an organization explicitly connected with the late Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, has a brief complaint about the Day of Silence.
The Day of Silence is not about tolerance or bullying. It is about pushing a sexual agenda. Students and staff who disagree with a radical sexualized agenda are demonized and made to feel like outsiders. Children should be afforded a rigorous education opportunity and not be forced to accept a radical sexualized agenda subsidized with tax dollars. Parents and lawmakers should take the time to learn about the extreme views of GLSEN and the intolerance promoted by the Day of Silence.
There is nothing "sexualized" about the Day of Silence.  This is a fabrication by Matt Staver, the head of Liberty Counsel, who elaborated in an article at One News Now.
The "annual student-led event" is described on the website as one that "brings attention to anti-LGBT name-calling, bullying and harassment" in schools. But as schools face enormous pressure from GLSEN to support and promote this event, Mat Staver of Liberty Counsel says administrators, teachers, parents and students should not be intimidated.
"This is not about tolerating any issue or person," he asserts. "It is about a radical and forced agenda of homosexuality that these [days] of silence are promoting, sponsored by the GLSEN organization -- and sometimes under pressure by the schools."
Fear quotes around annual student-led event, implying that others are in the lead, is typical of Mr. Staver's writings.  GLSEN provides materials to students and teachers who request them, it is not pushed from outside.  The idea that homosexuality is somehow forced is completely absurd.  Mr. Staver apparently cannot accept the truth so is making up lies.

The Day of Silence will occur.  As the anti-LGBTQ bigots see that they are slowly losing, that equality for all citizens is becoming a mainstream concept, they can be expected to step up their rhetoric.  The real homosexual agenda, to be allowed to live peaceful lives with equal legal status effectively to be ignored by hate groups like those cited above, is a long way off.  The harassment of students continues and the Day of Silence is necessary.  Perhaps one day it will not be.

19 March 2012, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

20 April 2012, FollowUp 2.

17 April 2012

FollowUp 24: Wisconsin Republican Dirty Tricks

Despite apparent fraud, the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board is allowing the six zombie candidates, people admitting to be fake Democrats in order to force the Democrats through the cost and time required for primary elections, to stay on the ballots in May.  Channel 3000 provides the reasoning.
The state Government Accountability Board voted Tuesday to allow the candidates to run because state law doesn't require people to prove they belong to any political party before they can run for office. Democrats objected saying the candidates falsely represented themselves and therefore filed fraudulent paperwork.
The recalls target Republican Gov. Scott Walker, Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and three incumbent senators. A fourth Senate seat is open.
Republicans say the goal was to ensure there is a primary in all the races so the general election will be on the same date. The primary is May 8 and the general election is June 5.
The dirty tricks just go on and on.

16 November 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.
30 November 2011, FollowUp 1.
4 December 2011, FollowUp 2.
11 December 2011, FollowUp 3.
14 December 2011, FollowUp 4.
15 December 2011, FollowUp 5.
30 December 2011, FollowUp 6.
13 January 2012, FollowUp 7.
17 January 2012, FollowUp 8.
25 January 2012, FollowUp 9.
2 February 2012, FollowUp 10.
9 February 2012, FollowUp 11.
12 February 2012, FollowUp 12.
18 February 2012, FollowUp 13.
22 February 2012, FollowUp 14.
6 March 2012, FollowUp 15.
12 March 2012, FollowUp 16.
16 March 2012, FollowUp 17.
30 March 2012, FollowUp 18.
31 March 2012, FollowUp 19.
3 April 2012, FollowUp 20.
4 April 2012, FollowUp 21.
11 April 2012, FollowUp 22.
14 April 2012, FollowUp 23.

21 April 2012, FollowUp 25.
29 April 2012, FollowUp 26.
2 May 2012, FollowUp 27.
6 May 2012, FollowUp 28.
10 May 2012, FollowUp 29.
13 May 2012, FollowUp 30.
23 May 2012, FollowUp 31.
24 May 2012, FollowUp 32.
30 May 2012, FollowUp 33.
2 June 2012, FollowUp 34.
4 June 2012, FollowUp 35.
5 June 2012, FollowUp 36.

Praise: Lambda Legal Sues in Nevada

The march toward fully equality for the LGBTQ Community continues with Lambda Legal's lawsuit, filed 10 April 2012 in the United States District Court for Nevada.  From the press release:
“Every day that same-sex couples in Nevada are denied marriage equality, the government sends a message that their families are not worthy of equal dignity and respect,’” said Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Tara Borelli.
In the lawsuit, Lambda Legal, joined by pro bono co-counsel from O’Melveny & Myers LLP and Snell & Wilmer LLP, argues that the Nevada constitutional amendment barring same-sex couples from marriage violates the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
The lead plaintiffs, Beverly Sevcik, 73, and Mary Baranovich, 76, of Carson City, have been together for nearly 41 years and committed their lives to each other in October, 1971. Together, they raised three children, and they are now proud grandmothers of four grandchildren.
Equality is important not just for Ms. Sevcik and Ms. Baranovich but also for their children and grandchildren.  End of life healthcare and inheritance are among the issues of concern.
The other plaintiffs in the case are: Antioco Carrillo and Theo Small of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2006; Fletcher Whitwell and Greg Flamer of Las Vegas, who have been together for 14 years and adopted a baby girl last year; Karen Goody and Karen Vibe of Reno, who have been engaged since 2005; Mikyla and Katie Miller of Reno, who are expecting a baby girl in July; Adele Terranova and Tara Newberry of Las Vegas, who are raising two children; Caren and Farrell Cafferata-Jenkins of Carson City, who have been together for 15 years and are raising two sons; and Megan Lanz and Sara Geiger of Las Vegas, who have been together since 2004 and have a daughter.
Lambda Legal has been doing important work for a long time.  They were responsible for striking down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence v. Texas.  Their importance of their efforts to gain civil and human rights for the LGBTQ Community cannot be overstated.

16 April 2012

Praise: Presidential Citizens Medal for Janice Langbehn

Janice Langehn is one of many who received the 2011 Presidential Citizens Medal. President Obama awarded this to her for her fight for equality for the LGBTQ Community.  The White House writes
While on vacation with her family in February 2007, Janice Langbehn's partner, Lisa Pond, suddenly fell ill and was rushed to the hospital. Langbehn was refused access to her partner, who had experienced a brain aneurysm and later died alone. She filed a federal lawsuit and her story received attention from President Obama, who went on to revise hospital visitation rights for gay and lesbian couples for hospitals receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funds. Langbehn receives the Citizens Medal for her efforts to ensure all Americans are treated equally.
One might be concerned that Ms. Langehn is a token LGBTQ among the award winners. As November approaches, my guess is that a President Romney would offer no one of the LGBTQ Community such recognition. My hope is that he will not have the opportunity to test my prediction.

Praise: The Young Turks on Sexuality

The Young Turks is a cable show on Current TV that ranges from moderately interesting to extremely insightful. I am really impressed with their take on bigotry over the last several days.

For those interested, here are links to the studies that they referred to (or, in the first and last cases, articles about the studies, the link for 6 April 2012 is the University of Essex study but does not mention that school).

October 2003, Can Some Gay Men and Lesbians Change Their Sexual Orientation?

2 February 2011, Physiological Impacts of Homophobia.

6 April 2012, Is Homophobia Self-Phobia?

11 April 2012, My So-Called Ex-Gay Life.

My quick take on the "ex-gay" complaints about discrimination:  Nonsense.  If one isn't gay or bi, one is probably straight.  There is zero discrimination against straights in our society.  The discrimination is against those who are trying to "convert" people in terms of sexuality (which is immutable) and religion (which is inappropriate in our schools and workplaces).  Those who make such charges are objecting to the real solution to these issues, full equality for all American citizens no matter their sexuality.

16 April 2012: Marriage News Watch

Links:  American Foundation for Equal Rights, Marriage News Watch.

23 January 2012: Marriage News Watch.
30 January 2012: Marriage News Watch.
6 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
13 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
20 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
21 February 2012: Marriage News Watch Special Episode.
27 February 2012: Marriage News Watch.
12 March 2012: Marriage News Watch.
19 March 2012: Marriage News Watch.
26 March 2012: Marriage News Watch.
2 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
5 April 2012: Marriage News Watch, Surprise Advance.

23 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
30 April 2012: Marriage News Watch.
7 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
10 May 2012: Marriage News Watch, 2012's Biggest Marriage Milestones So Far.
14 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
21 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
28 May 2012: Marriage News Watch.
4 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
5 June 2012: Marriage News Watch, Prop 8 Rehearing Denied.
11 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
18 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
25 June 2012: Marriage News Watch.
2 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.
10 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.
16 July 2012: Marriage News Watch.

15 April 2012

Pondering: Tax Day

Unless you are in Nebraska, the 15th of April isn't Tax Day this year.  All of the other states that have income tax and the federal government are on 17 April 2012 or later.  The political season is already going crazy with Republicans accusing the Democrats of being the party of Tax and Spend and Democrats accusing the Republicans of being the party of Spend and Don't Pay For.  Let's take a little step back and talk about taxes.

I like paying my taxes.

Sure, I want to save my money and spend it on things that I want.  But I also want to pay taxes.  I don't want to pay more than my fair share, but I do want to pay my fair share of taxes.  This isn't an altruistic point.  Taxes are spent, in part, on things with tangible benefits for me and for all of society.

It is cheaper to pay taxes and have the government maintain the roads than to buy new axles when neighbors forget to maintain the parts of the road that are in front of their houses.

This example is a little controversial, not in terms of the concept but in terms of implementation.  When we talk about road maintenance, there are questions of whether government should directly hire road crews and equipment or hire private contractors.  There are questions of the quality of the work and verification of that quality.  There are questions of potential fraud.  None of these questions change the need for road maintenance or the need for taxes to pay for that.

But some of my tax dollars pay for things I don't like.

Yes.  I was quite upset when we started a second war, the first being the response to being attacked on 11 September 2001 by going after the Taliban and Usama Bin Laden in Afghanistan, sending troops and resources to Iraq.  Of course, that was not the fault of taxes, but the fault of the electorate in choosing the wrong Commander in Chief.

We can, and should, have a strong debate on what is important for the government to fund and what should be left entirely in the private sector.  Important questions.  We can also find waste and fraud that should be rooted out and eliminated from government spending (both parties tend to include a huge amount of waste and fraud that they claim that they, and not the other party's candidate, can eliminate as part of balancing the budget).

So, what should tax dollars cover?  In making such decisions, politicians and those who elect them should think about the concept of the Commons.  Transportation infrastructure is part of our modern Commons and should be created and maintained by society via tax dollars.  There are debates as to whether airports and train stations should be included in that transportation infrastructure ... I believe that the answer should be in the affirmative to both.

Air, land, and water need to be clean and safe.  Even private property needs to be maintained in a fashion such that our health and well being are not jeopardized by waste and pollution.  The idea that corporations should be free to desecrate our environment in the spirit of free enterprise is ridiculous.  So, tax dollars need to go to enforcement agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to protect us.

We also need protection in other venues.  This is why agencies like the Consumer Product Safety Commission are needed.  Individual citizens should not have to fight for reasonable safety from big corporations on their own.  The list of agencies goes on and tax dollars are necessary.

To be clear, I do believe that we need our taxes to pay for our military to protect our shores and our interests around the world.  We can debate which interests should be protected and at what cost.  Being a member of organizations like NATO helps keep us safe.  This means that we sometimes enter into conflicts as a result of our treaties.  We do need to negotiate our treaties very carefully.

Wouldn't a Flat Tax be fairer?

No.  While a flat tax sounds good, a flat tax has a tremendously larger impact on the poorest people compared with the wealthiest.  While I do not favor taxation with the purpose of income redistribution, the poor should not be expected to pay a proportionate amount to the wealthy.  A progressive income tax is far more fair.  If you will pardon the pun, to the flat tax I say, "nein, nein, nein."  (I don't speak German, but I do understand that much).

How about Sales Tax instead of Income Tax?

No.  A sales tax is paid by all, despite their means or lack thereof.  An income tax is paid by those who can afford to pay.  Particularly, when sales tax is applied to necessities, like food, it is a bad idea.

We can debate various taxation schemes.  A progressive income tax may not be the best system, but it is better than most of those floated as alternatives.  I do think that our list of possible deductions should be critically and regularly reconsidered.  Simplifying the tax code while keeping appropriate incentives (not those that were appropriate twenty years ago but no longer) is a good idea.  Congress tends to have trouble letting any deduction go, so an independent panel should be convened every five years or so to make recommendations as to which deductions can be removed.

You won't find detailed answers from me as I am neither an Accountant nor an Attorney, just a taxpayer with a few, perhaps controversial, ideas and a strong belief in the United States of America.

Happy Tax Day!