Archive for the ‘Community’ Category

Voting Rights Act

July 1, 2013

A brief recap: The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was put into place to stop voting practices which discriminated against African Americans including poll taxes, “literacy tests” (graded at the discretion of the local polling official) and having voting sites at inaccessible or hostile locations.

The VRA was a historic and amazing accomplishment in a society badly wounded by institutionalized racial inequality, a society which has mended somewhat over time, but is not yet healed.

Most of the Act deals generally with ensuring the equal right to vote of  citizens without regard to race or color. Section 4 and 5 dealt with the identification of and special requirements of places where discriminatory voting policies have previously been enacted. Among the requirements was that places designated in Section 4(b) had to ask for permission to change voting practices according to Section 5.

On Tuesday, June 25th, the Supreme Court of the United States of America ruled that section 4(b) of the VRA is unconstitutional, until and unless Congress rewrites section 4(b) to be dependent on newer data, which is unlikely without serious pressure applied by constituents. The result is that Section 5 has become invalid and places which have historically created obstacles to minorities trying to vote will be able to do so again by changing voting practices- create tests or voting requirements, change polling places, etc- without asking for permission of  the Justice Department.

Local governments will be able to require  specific IDs which have to be purchased, and will be able to designate hard to get to or historically “whites only” country clubs as the polling places. And yes, some of these things may run afoul of other sections of the VRA, but without the need to get approval ahead of time, it may mean that large scale disenfranchisement will occur before an appeal is heard, and long before a ruling.

Despite proposed laws even in the last year which were rejected and “would have made it more difficult for hundreds of thousands of minority voters to cast ballots*” there are those who say that Section 5 is now unnecessary.

I disagree. Section 5 is necessary. The coverage map should be changed to make it respond to current conditions, which may have worsened in some unprotected areas, but perhaps a small change to Section 4(b) would suffice.

From this:

(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a state which (1) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1, 1964, any test or device, and with respect to which (2) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 percentum of the persons of voting age residing therein were registered on November 1, 1964, or that less than 50 percentum of such persons voted in the presidential election of November 1964.

To this:

(b) The provisions of subsection (a) shall apply in any State or in any political subdivision of a state which (1) the Attorney General determines maintained on November 1st of the second to last Presidential Election Year, any test or device, and with respect to which (2) the Director of the Census determines that less than 50 percentum of the persons of voting age residing therein were registered on November 1st of the second to last Presidential Election Year, or that less than 50 percentum of such persons voted in the presidential election of November of the second to last Presidential Election Year.

This would ensure that the areas thus covered would be those which recently had issues with no future need to revise to a specific date. Whether or not this solution appeals to you, Congress should act to protect the voting rights of all citizens.

Please remind them of this fact. (You can find your Senate and House Representatives here and here.)

*Brennan Center for Justice

Today is the first SF Pride post DOMA and Prop 8

June 30, 2013

I expect it will be fabulous. (I am writing this to auto post while I am at the SF Pride Parade.)

I will be bearing my sign saying “Leviticus says… Crazy Shit” in bisexual colors (minus the pink since it doesn’t show up on signs) and marching with the Atheist/Humanist Contingent.

This is my favorite activist event every year, and the one which I never miss if I’m in the area.

There are loads of people who are intersectionally aware activists, who are not just gay rights activists, but also feminists, secularists, fair wage, pro immigrant, pro education, and civil rights activists as well. People who are aware that helping groups gain equal rights helps all of us, not just the one group, and who are truly interested in human rights, not just whatever aspects most directly effect them.

Sleep the night before is made difficult by excitement, sleep the night after is effortless from exhaustion.

I hope everyone enjoys this as much as I will.

Activist Whiplash

June 26, 2013

Yesterday the Voting Rights Act was gutted, which will cause who knows how many people to be disenfranchised.

Yesterday Obama gave a speech about global warming where he appropriately likened global warming denialists to flat earthers.

From yesterday through this morning Wendy Davis- and her supporters in the crowd- filibustered a bill which would have closed most of the abortion clinics in Texas and (further) compromised bodily autonomy for women.

Today, DOMA was ruled unconstitutional and Prop 8 was deemed a state matter. Which means that marriage is no longer being “defended” from consenting adults who wish to be married, and that my state is belatedly on the right side of this issue.

To say I have strong feelings about these things would be an understatement.

I will attempt to blog about each of them over the next week or so, along with writing about the SF Pride Parade – I will be marching with the atheist contingent – but first I just feel the need to breathe. Maybe after petting Sokka or having a cup of tea I will be able to write about all of this.

Patriarchal Bingo, Wendy Davis and the Texas GOP

June 26, 2013

The Texas Senate Livestream stopped, to be replaced by a message about where to view Senate events.

I am still stunned.

I came late to the event: I arrive home from work about 15 minutes before 10. (California time) I found my twitter feed had gone mad about Texas, but that’s not a first time thing. The fact that the hashtags all mentioned a Wendy was a little odd.

So I tweet my confusion, and then pulled up everything I can on google  and blow through 5 articles on the matter before I find the live feed. I have become livid.

The monstrosity of a bill is bad enough, but by the time I am tuned in, the Senate has voted- after midnight– and apparently think they can get away with voting when they are out of session.

Wendy Davis’s filibuster was voted down by the GOP because apparently sonograms and Planned Parenthood budgets are “not germane” to the discussion and because she had help while putting on a back brace.

Let’s see…

Privileged men becoming very angry when it looks like they might not get their way: check.

Privileged men trying to shut up the woman challenging them: check.

Privileged men breaking laws in order to get their way: check.

Victim blaming (In the form of police force used against at least one protesting woman): check.

And the free middle square of this Patriarchal Bingo?

Bunch of privileged men deciding rules that apply only to women: check.

What the little deal is about Ron Lindsay’s apology

June 25, 2013

Ron Lindsay has apologized and my reaction is in one way much the same as Jason Thibeault’s: the timing of his and my previous posts demand follow up. Beyond that, we tend to diverge.

Here is Ron Lindsay’s apology:

It has been a few weeks since I have said anything in public about the controversy over my remarks at the Women in Secularism 2 conference. As CFI announced via Twitter, this pause was to enable the board to have time to consider the matter. The board has issued its statement. It is now an appropriate time for me to make some remarks.

I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk. I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk. From the letters sent to me and the board, I have a better understanding of the objections to the talk.

I am also sorry that my talk and my actions subjected my colleagues and the organization to which I am devoted to criticism.

Please accept my apologies.

Commenting is not available in this weblog entry.

My reading of the apology is actually very similar to that of Jason’s, but my reactions are much less accepting, possibly because I am more suspicious of calculation. The fact that weeks were allowed to elapse between the WIS2 Conference and the Board statement and then five days between that and Ron’s apology look to me as though they hoped everything would just blow over if they kept their heads down and mouths shut.

It didn’t blow over, and the CFI Board released the blandest statement they could possibly write. That backfired and Ron apologized.

Perhaps I am – in contrast with Jason- being uncharitable, but I can’t imagine what the Board was doing other than stalling in the month between the speech and their statement. Was their statement really the best they could come up with in a month? I can’t imagine that to be the case and- speaking of which- there needs to be a separate apology by the Board for that corporate-speak-pablum.

While I don’t think that the CFI Board’s statement forced Ron’s hand, I think concern for the fact that CFI was getting bad press -as well as bleeding speakers and donors- might have. I don’t say that wholly as a criticism: I think his concern for his organization is admirable, but I think a feeling of needing to do something to staunch the flow would be a greater inducement to action than the CFI Board’s cardboard condolences.

As for his apology, there is nothing there. I mean: yes, he apologized, but what for?  I’m glad he realizes he was the source of the CFI Board’s unnamed controversy, but does he know how he caused offense? Does he know how he made (many) people feel unwelcome? What is this better understanding he has, and is it actually better? How on earth can anyone tell?

The last part I won’t question: He seems genuinely dismayed that his organization and colleagues have been criticized. If he can and does elaborate on the ‘What’s and ‘How’s of his apology, I am prepared to believe those too.

Until then, if you put it all together, it looks like it was scientifically determined to be the minimum acceptable apology.

It was the least he could do.

CFI# take note of Kickstarter#

June 21, 2013

CFI Board, you know what you did. (Also addressed by a “fifth grader” here)

And now, with Kickstarter’s apology as an example, I hope you see what you could have said instead of your sad and pathetic excuse for an apology.

You could have:

  • Admitted wrongdoing. Not spouted crap about “unhappiness with the controversy.” But you could have paraphrased the title of Kickstarter’s apology: “We were wrong”
  • Explained how and why things went wrong, without considering that explanation to excuse all wrongdoing. For instance, listing the factors and then saying something similar to, I don’t know: “These factors don’t excuse our decision but we hope they add clarity to how we arrived at it.”
  • Make clear what will be different in the future, learn from a mistake: in Ron Lindsay’s case, he could simply acknowledge that when giving the opening speech at a conference, sounding as though you question the purpose/necessity of that conference is not appropriate. In this case, Kickstarter is prohibiting the funding of seduction guides.
  • Make a -not empty- gesture showing you mean what you say. You could create more/increase funding for Women in Secularism programs. “Kickstarter will donate $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization called RAINN.”

Are the circumstances different? Hells yes. Kickstarter enabled funding for a guide to sexually harassing/assaulting women. That is much worse than Ron Lindsay’s speech could ever have been.

Kickstarter should have pulled that manual of sexual harassment and assault once it was pointed out that the author, Hoinsky, gave such advice in PUA forums as:

“Decide that you’re going to sit in a position where you can rub her leg and back. Physically pick her up and sit her on your lap. Don’t ask for permission. Be dominant. Force her to rebuff your advances.”

Sex: Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.”

Even with only 2 hours to make a decision, if they felt they couldn’t make a sensible decision, they should have been able to tell they needed more time: putting that kickstarter fund in limbo would have been a good start while they gathered/verified information.

Despite the situation with Kickstarter being worse, their acknowledgement of their responsibility in the problem, their sincerity of apology- that $25,000 to an anti-sexual violence organization is 30 times what Kickstarter made off the guide- and their change of policy going forward makes me feel more kindly towards them, than to the CFI Board, the leaders of a nonprofit organization.

And favoring a corporation over a nonprofit is not my general tendency.

What the big deal was about the #CFI statement.

June 18, 2013

To illustrate why the CFI statement was a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad statement, I will use strikethrough for fluff; that which is without substance in this context. I will use bold to represent obvious falsehoods.

As background, this statement was necessary because CFI’s CEO, Ron Lindsay used his opening speech at the Women in Secularism 2 Conference to chide and patronize its attendees, while implying that feminism in the movement has gone too far.

Center for Inquiry Board of Directors Statement on the CEO and the Women in Secularism 2 Conference

June 17, 2013

The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.

First, the statement title is in part “on the CEO and the Women in Secularism 2 Conference,” but the statement doesn’t address him in the context of the conference at all.

Second, they dare to say that Ron Lindsay is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, after he gave a speech that was patronizing and contemptuous of feminism and social justice issues in a slippery slope style, asking:

“Who decides what’s included within the scope of social justice anyway?”

“Is the destruction of capitalism considered part of a social justice program? If so, that position certainly has very significant implications,”

“Are there truly no significant divisions currently within the feminist movement?”

And which give the impression he just managed to stop from asking  ‘Isn’t it just too much work to be feminist and skeptical? I mean, we have Bigfoot to argue against here.’

Third, they say that the controversy was surrounding the conference, instead of Ron Lindsay and his speech of amazing inappropriateness. No. Just no. That is insulting to the intelligence of everyone involved.

Take a look at that statement, once all the fluff and nonsense is gone:

“The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy.”

And that is why they would have been better off not saying anything: because they aren’t unhappy with Ron Lindsay’s speech, nor with misogyny and sexism, nor with harassment nor inequality nor anything else addressed at the conference.

No. The CFI Board is unhappy with the controversy.

American Elections: Needs Improvement

November 11, 2012

It’s been 5 days since the American people reelected President Barack Obama, but I’ve been thinking about how we could get more people voting since I read that somewhere on the order of 90 million eligible voters would not be voting this year.

Now, most of these are merely logistical tweaks to make it easier to vote rather than methods of encouraging people to do so, but here’s what I’ve come up with:

  • Election day should be a federal holiday- this should be obvious. In this country we extol voting as the duty of every American, and we have a day off for Columbus (!) but not for voting? This must be rectified.
  • Mail-in-ballots should not require postage. This should be built into the system. If you are sending your ballot through the United States Postal Service to do your civic duty as an American, you should not need to first go out and buy stamps.
  • Public transit should be free on election day. We should be able to vote, even if we don’t have cars.
  • The Electoral College should be replaced with direct popular vote. Currently, if you are in a strongly partisan state, your vote for President has much less value than if you live in a swing state- the awareness of this fact serves to depress voter turnout and reduce engagement even for state and local matters where the Electoral College has no direct effect.
  • Voting machines without paper trails should be eliminated with extreme prejudice. We cannot afford to have either the reality or the appearance of crooked elections.
  • We need to have Citizens United (Orwellian naming schemes, how reassuring) undone. People should not have to compete with multinational organizations for control of the country. I’m not picky about how to undo that ruling: Constitutional amendment could work if the justice system doesn’t clean its own house. (This country was formed after the British Crown taxed the colonialists to make up for a tax break to a too-big-to-fail East India Company, one of the first multinational corporations. Don’t try to tell me that an impartial ruling based on the constitution indicates that the founders wanted companies to be treated like people.)

 

Please share more ideas in the comments.

Mitt Romney’s Financial Exploits

August 31, 2012

And never was there a more fitting use of the word exploit.

Mitt Romney doesn’t acknowledge the $30 million Federal bailout that kept Bain Capital from going bankrupt. Or the $10 million which never got paid back for which taxpayers had to foot the bill.

And that is only one example of Mitt Romney profiting, as Matt Taibbi puts it, “by borrowing vast sums of money that other people were forced to pay back.”

Or to put it another way:

Gawker has more information on Romney’s financial exploits.

Who must give up identity politics?

August 30, 2012

Joe Klein says Democrats must give up identity politics. Excuse me?

Was Todd Akin a Democrat when he attacked women’s right to bodily autonomy?

Was Alan Clemmons a Democrat when he wrote a law which would suppress the voting rights of minorities?

Was Jan Brewer a Democrat when she denied public benefits to young immigrants working in and to the benefit of this country?

Was Peter King a Democrat when he created a panel to persecute American Muslims?

And was the Republican Party Platform somehow hijacked by Democrats where it calls for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between one man and one woman?

No. Those were all Republicans playing to their monochromatic base of male Christians.

Those were Republicans treating women’s bodies as their property, deciding that the voting rights of poor people, dark people, elderly people and students were not as important as winning an election, deciding that working to make a life in the land of the free should be as hard as the government can make it for immigrants, pissing on the First Amendment by trying to create classes of citizen where Christians are above suspicion while those other religions are the focus of hate and fear, and deciding that the genitalia of an individual matters more than the relationship between two people.

And the same things that motivate those Republicans would motivate those who come after, to come after contraception once abortion was illegal. They would further reduce the number of people who have the right to vote until it is only a few white males with enormous pots of money, own land, and have the good sense to be of the majority denomination. They would profit off of the labor of immigrants while paying them pennies and blaming them for anything wrong in a community. It wouldn’t be enough for it to be a Christian Theocracy after a time: you would have to be the right type of Christian. Which denomination of Protestant are you? Lutheran? You are too quiet for the American Christendom. Better to have been Baptist. And as for gays? Have you noticed that when Christian Republicans quote Leviticus, it always seems to be the same verse?

Who needs to give up identity politics?

Hell, nobody on the side of equality until the actions in the list above are political poison.