Thursday, March 27, 2014

Fairness Wins in Maryland

Congratulations to all who fought so hard for this.

From MSNBC:
The Maryland House of Delegates on Thursday approved a bill banning discrimination on the basis of gender identity, positioning the Old Line State on track to join 17 others and the District of Columbia in protecting the rights of transgender individuals.

Senate Bill 212, otherwise known as the Fairness for All Marylanders Act of 2014, made it through the Democratic-controlled House by a vote of 82-57, after more than two hours of floor debate. It passed the state Senate earlier this month, 32-15, and now heads to the desk of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley for signature. Maryland legislature passes transgender equality bill
The GOP legislators dragged their feet all day, debating things that didn't need debating, until a vote just couldn't be stalled any longer.

This campaign had some nostalgic moments, when the shower-nuts made their dire predictions of perverted men going into ladies restrooms and showers claiming to be women. (And see THIS debunking of that myth every which way but sideways.) But fair treatment for people with nonbinary or nontraditional gender identities is an easy sell. These are people who are discriminated against every day, and our society is better off in every way if we invite them into the tent with the rest of us. There is simply nothing gained by discriminating.
Once enacted, SB 212 will protect transgender Marylanders from labor, housing, public accommodation, and employment discrimination. Though Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County, and Montgomery County already provided such protections, the 2001 statewide anti-discrimination law only included protections based on sexual orientation.

“What we are about to do today is important,” said Democratic Del. Maggie McIntosh, as reported by the Washington Blade. “This is an important group of people today who frankly we left out 11 years ago. They’re beat up. They’re ridiculed. They are suffering and they need to hold their head up high just like I do.”

Recent polls found wide support for the bill’s protections, as well as necessity. According to a 2009 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, 54% of transgender Marylanders reported being harassed in places of public accommodation, such as restaurants, stores, and movie theaters. Seventy-one percent of those surveyed in a March Goucher Poll said they favored including gender identity protections in the state’s anti-discrimination laws.
Governor O'Malley will sign the bill. He issued this statement: “I’d like to congratulate and thank Senator Rich Madaleno, Delegate Luke Clippinger, Equality Maryland and the Human Rights Campaign on yet another victory for inclusion and openness in our State ” said Governor Martin O’Malley. “ We’re proud to stand with these leaders, the LGBT community, and other allies to complete this major piece of unfinished business — ensuring that everyone is protected from discrimination under the law. I look forward to signing this bill.”

High five, everybody!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Chick Fil-A CEO Changes His Tune

This is just a heartwarming story, all the way around. You remember a couple of years ago when Chick Fil-A was donating millions of dollars to anti-gay causes. When gay people complained, straight people lined up around the block to demonstrate their support for the homophobic restaurant chain. I think a lot of them thought it was funny. It was an eye-opener for a lot of gay people, when they saw their friends and family and neighbors cheerfully denouncing them.

This just in: the CEO has changed his mind.
March. 18 (UPI) -- Two years after making headlines by publicly opposing gay marriage, Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A, admits it was a mistake for he and his company to take a position on the issue.

“Every leader goes through different phases of maturity, growth and development and it helps by (recognizing) the mistakes that you make,” Cathy said. “And you learn from those mistakes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thankful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it. Chick-fil-A CEO admits it was a 'mistake' to oppose same-sex marriage
I have the feeling the guy still doesn't like gay people marrying each other, but you know what -- that doesn't bother me in the least. There are lots of things I don't like, too, and my friends have to hear me complain about them. It doesn't mean I am contributing money to oppose, say, people who don't pull out into the intersection to turn left, and so everybody behind them gets stuck at the red light.
In an interview with Leon Stafford for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Cathy doesn’t apologize for his previous public stance against gay marriage and, in fact, confirms that his personal position on same-sex marriage remains unchanged.

“I think the time of truths and principles are captured and codified in God’s word and I’m just personally committed to that,” he said. “I know others feel very different from that and I respect their opinion and I hope that they would be respectful of mine.”
That is almost frighteningly reasonable-sounding, coming from him. Is he up to something?

It is not unusual for a CEO or monkey-monk somewhere to hold conservative or bigoted views. If you boycotted every place that had an, er, a jerk running the company you would have a really hard time shopping for anything.

The problem was that Chick Fil-A gave more than five million dollars to anti-gay groups during the first decade of the twenty-first century. The company itself was funding hate groups, pray-the-gay-away organizations, and anti-gay groups of many sorts.
Rather, Cathy concedes that his public opposition of gay marriage was bad for business.

“Consumers want to do business with brands that they can interface with, that they can relate with,” Cathy said. “And it’s probably very wise from our standpoint to make sure that we present our brand in a compelling way that the consumer can relate to.”
How about that for a good idea? If you sell chicken sandwiches, then use your corporate money to sell chicken sandwiches, not to promote discrimination against one part of your possible customer base.

And I remember seeing a number of gay bloggers and writers going, oh, man, and I liked those sandwiches. I have never had one, but apparently they are addictive. It's tough when you have to boycott something you like, but you just can't give your money to somebody who is going to use it to make your life miserable.
Cathy was also in the news for a controversial tweet lamenting the Supreme Court's decision to strike down DOMA as a “sad day” for our country.

When asked his thoughts about the continuing gay marriage debate and surrounding legislation, Cathy said, “I think that’s a political debate that’s going to rage on and the wiser thing for us to do is to stay focused on customer service.”

Even though Cathy has admitted it was a mistake to conflate his personal beliefs with business, Chick-fil-A will remain the only major fast food chain that isn’t open for business on Sundays.
It is not important if somebody doesn't like some group of people, they are free to feel that way. And if they want to get vocal about it, well people who disagree with them will probably try to stop them, and so it goes. If they begin investing money in hateful activities then their victims are compelled to try to stop them, they have to stand up for themselves. So this guy created his own problems.

It is smart for him, as a businessman, to concentrate on business. He might not recognize that gay people can love one another and that their families are just like his family, but he doesn't need to spend millions of dollars opposing his own potential customers. Especially if he's smart enough to realize he is going to lose in the long run.

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Solution to the Bigoted Baker Problem

Everybody knows about the crazy idea in Arizona that Christians would be discriminated against if they had to do business with sinners. The salient image was if a Christian baker were asked to bake a cake for a gay wedding. Both houses of the state legislature passed a bill giving businesses permission to discriminate on religious grounds. Luckily the governor vetoed that bill, well it would have been a million laughs seeing how they managed it, but ... I'm glad it didn't come to that.

Dan Savage has a really pretty good idea for how to deal with homophobic cake-bakers. It is so straightforward that it seems like they should really do this.
But here's a suggestion for all the hatey, butt-sore, anti-gay bakers in Arizona: start an organization—The Arizona Association of Homophobic Bakers—and publicly identify yourselves as homophobic bakers. Put up a website with a list of bakeries that don't want to do business with LGBT people. Put signs in your windows that clearly state that gay and lesbian customers are not welcome and will be turned away.

As Anderson Cooper pointed out earlier this week, gays and lesbians are not covered by existing anti-discrimination law in Arizona. So it's perfectly legal right now for bakers—and florists and caterers and photographers—to discriminate against LGBT customers. Discriminating against LGBT people was legal in Arizona before Jan Brewer vetoed the turn-away-the-gays bill, and it remains legal after her veto. So homophobic bakers who identify themselves as haters and bigots run no legal risk. They can't be sued by the individual gay people they discriminate against and the authorities can't fine 'em or shut 'em down. Don't want gay customers? Great. Let us know who you are. Put up a list online, hang signs in your windows, and we will take our business elsewhere. A Baker Refused to Make Your Wedding Cake?
It is perfect. Maybe businesses could have little icons in their front windows, sort of like the array of credit-card symbols you see now, only these would announce the groups that the company refuses to do business with. They could use the stick-figure-in-a-skirt that we already use on restrooms to represent women, maybe an outline of a man in a big sombrero for Hispanics, and so on, put a red slash through them to tell the world your religion requires you to reject that group as customers.

It would be service to shoppers, too, you could identify right away the places that you should not waste your time researching. You are not going to use that baker anyway, if he refuses to bake for "your type."

Ah, but now Savage gets sensible.
The homophobic bakers of Arizona will do no such thing of course. Because hater bakers know that putting "We Don't Serve Gay People" signs in their windows will not only cost them our business—business they don't want—but also the business of our straight friends, family members, and neighbors. Business they do want. And they'll also lose the business of fair-minded straight people who think discrimination is wrong. And they'll lose the business of straight people who worry about where this kind of selective, hypocritical, faith-rationalized discrimination could ultimately lead.

But if homophobic bakers don't have the courage to put up a list—if they don't have the courage of their own sincerely-held, faith-based convictions—then LGBT activists in Arizona should do it for them. How many bakeries are there in Arizona? Can't be more than few hundred. Get a group of people together, call all the bakeries in the state, find out who doesn't want our business, and post the list online. Then encourage LGBT people and our friends, family members, and neighbors to consult that handy list of hater bakers before ordering wedding or birthday cakes.
This is an important point. Arizona homophobes want the government to approve their hate, but when you get right down to it I don't think very many really want to say they're the ones who won't serve gays. I wonder how they were actually planning on implementing this -- if the law had been passed, how would anybody know what companies they couldn't shop at? Would you have to go in and actually trip their gaydar and have a rude encounter? It seems that there would have to be a mechanism for informing possible victims of discrimination about what is coming.
That's not the way homophobic bakers want it to work. Or homophobic florists or photographers or caterers for that matter. They want to quietly and discreetly refuse to serve individual customers who happen to be gay without their other customers finding out. They wanna hate on the down low because they know that customers who may not be gay themselves—people who know and love LGBT people, customers who don't approve of discrimination on principal, other minorities who worry that they could be next—will take their business elsewhere.
Hating on the down low. That's good.

It wouldn't work to put a cross or other religious identification symbol on the front of a business because, oddly enough, a lot of Christian people love their neighbors and forgive sinners. Just being Christian doesn't mean you're a bigot. But people need to know somehow.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Gender Identity Bill Passes Committee

A lot of people were pessimistic about this one. Though a majority of Maryland state Senators actually sponsored this bill, it needed to get through the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee in order to be voted on, and that committee was not necessarily friendly to the cause. The bill sat there for several weeks. Until today.

The Blade:
The Maryland Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Thursday approved a bill that would ban anti-transgender discrimination in the state.

The 8-3 vote took place slightly more than two weeks after lawmakers held a hearing on Senate Bill 212 that state Sen. Rich Madaleno (D-Montgomery County) introduced last month. The measure would ban discrimination based on gender identity and expression in employment, housing, public accommodation and credit.

State Sens. Brian Frosh (D-Montgomery County), Lisa Gladden (D-Baltimore City), Jennie Forehand (D-Montgomery County), Jamie Raskin (D-Montgomery County), Robert Zirkin (D-Baltimore County), Norman Stone (D-Baltimore County), C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s County) and James Brochin (D-Baltimore County) voted for Senate Bill 212. State Sens. Nancy Jacobs (R-Cecil and Harford Counties), Christopher Shank (R-Washington County) and Joseph Getty (R-Baltimore and Carroll Counties) opposed it.

The committee by a 7-4 vote margin also approved Raskin’s proposed amendment to SB 212 that would allow for “private and functionally equivalent” spaces, such as locker rooms, for people of different gender identities. Maryland Senate committee approves transgender rights bill
Well, this is nice. Looks like a party-line vote in the committee. Not a surprise, the Republicans want to keep discrimination legal.
Gender Rights Maryland Executive Director Dana Beyer, who announced late last month she will challenge Madaleno in the June Democratic primary, specifically applauded Stone, Muse and Brochin who voted against a similar measure last year. She also thanked Raskin and attorney Jonathan Shurberg for securing the necessary votes on the committee to ensure SB 212's passage.

“I thank Senators Brochin, Muse and Stone for joining their fellow democrats and taking a stand for fairness and decency today,” Beyer told the Washington Blade. “It is much appreciated.”
Oh, and wow, this is surprising, the Citizens for Responsible Whatever still have a member.
Elaine McDermott of Maryland Citizens for a Responsible Government and Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council are among those who spoke against the measure. The Maryland Catholic Conference and other organizations submitted testimony in opposition to SB 212.
And Peter Sprigg is not described as representing PFOX any more, interesting.

I have not seen any news about the not-my-shower types complaining about bathrooms. Maybe that has run its course. Let's see this thing sail through both sides of the legislature and get signed by the governor.

Monday, February 10, 2014

It Was Fifty Years Ago Today

This week marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles' visit to the US and their famous appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. Fifty years. That television show was a pivotal moment for the generation that was born immediately after World War II. It was the visible form of a surge of irrepressible teenage energy and optimism -- there was really strange and different and great music and girls screaming and weird haircuts, it was an awakening moment for a generation. It is impossible to explain to someone who wasn't part of it, just as it is impossible to identify the awakening moments of another generation. Like, South Park? Seriously?

The LA Times had a story yesterday that went back and looked at what the pundits of 1964 had to say about The Beatles when they first arrived here. The comments are hilarious in retrospect. You can't say that after a mere fifty years, the Beatles have stood the test of time, their music could die as the baby-boomer generation dies out, but certainly they proved the cynical sourpusses of the middle sixties wrong.

I will select a few quotes from the Times article. Like, here is what the giftedly vocabularistic conservative pundit William F. Buckley, Jr., said:
The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music, even as the imposter popes went down in history as "anti-popes."
You can just see his nose wrinkling as he contemplates the thought of Beatles. Appallingly unmusical, that is good.

Newsweek wrote, in February, 1964:
Musically they are a near disaster, guitars and drums slamming out a merciless beat that does away with secondary rhythms, harmony and melody. Their lyrics (punctuated by nutty shouts of "yeah, yeah, yeah") are a catastrophe, a preposterous farrago of Valentine-card romantic sentiments ...
It is actually a preposterous farrago (a phrase I use all the time in conversation) to criticize the harmonies and melodies of the early Beatles.

The band I am in has been experimenting with "She Loves You" in rehearsal lately, and that early Beatles song is amazingly rich in melody and harmony. Listen to the first line of the verse: "You think you've lost your love," where the first part of the line is sung in unison, with the final word and the following line done in two-part harmonies, with one voice breaking up and one going down in what are essentially two coequal blended melodies. Listen to the tom-tom triplets after the "Yeah yeah yeah" choruses. Look at the inventive way those young musicians used the four-minor chord, how natural it sounds to go to a C-minor in the key of G. The motif in the lead guitar that goes into a verse, and the line on the bass that brings you into the tag ending, are perfect, seamless arranging. And it rocks. And they go "Yeah yeah yeah" on high notes, in unison, and then end on a big, fat triad of clear voices singing full-throatedly in perfect pitch.

It is indeed preposterous farrago to criticize the 1964 Beatles for their melodies and harmonies, never mind the more sophisticated music that came later.

Here's another one. Theodore Strongin, writing for the New York Times exactly fifty years ago today, said:
The Beatles' vocal quality can be described as hoarsely incoherent, with the minimal enunciation necessary to communicate the schematic texts.
Hey man, wait a few weeks until you hear how Mick Jagger communicates the schematic texts. The Beatles will sound like music to your sensitive ears.

One more. George Dixon, writing in the Washington Post:
Just thinking about the Beatles seems to induce mental disturbance. They have a commonplace, rather dull act that hardly seems to merit mentioning, yet people hereabouts have mentioned scarcely anything else for a couple of days.
Yeah, and for a couple days after that. And a couple days after that. For fifty years, so far.

Nate Silver's 2012 best-seller "The signal and the noise: Why so many predictions fail -- but some don't" contains many beautiful examples of pundits, experts, and economists making judgments and predictions that are just plain wrong. Maybe the LA Times took only the most sensationally misguided comments from the 1964 media, but I'll bet you would find that almost nobody in the grown-up mainstream media guessed, when "I Want to Hold Your Hand" and "She Loves You" went rocketing to the top of the charts, that we would have a vocabulary in the twenty-first century that is peppered with Beatles allusions, that getting the two surviving Beatles together at an awards show in 2014 would be The Big Story from that night of celebrities and glitter, fifty years later. The pundits had no idea what they were talking about, but they got paid to talk about it, and Wise People nodded in wise agreement. Fortunately the experts' tone-deafness had zero impact on the Beatles' actual audience.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Chaos on Both Sides

This week Dana Beyer announced that she is running against Rich Madaleno for Maryland state Senate in District 18, and so far the reaction is fascinating, with chaos on both sides.

District 18 includes a chunk of downcounty MoCo, including some of Silver Spring, Kensington, Chevy Chase, and Wheaton. Politically this is as blue as you get, I doubt that there is any place in the country that is more solidly liberal and Democratic than District 18. (In 2010 the Daily Caller rated Montgomery County, Maryland, as the second most liberal place in the US, and that includes the relatively conservative upcounty communities.)

The incumbent, Madaleno, is popular in his district. He is known as a guy who loves to study budgets and finagle the details of complicated policies. He is a practical negotiator in the legislature who picks his fights and sometimes wins them. Beyer, in contrast, is a principled progressive who positions herself solidly -- usually at the left end of the spectrum -- and is willing to take the losing side of a vote if she believes she is right. I am not a profound political pundit but if I was voting in that district I would see this race as a choice between pragmatism and principles. As the campaigns gear up I'm sure the candidates will clarify their differences on the various issues.

Remember that the Republican Party is dead in Montgomery County. Last time I looked, there were no elected GOP officials in the county at all. That means that the Democratic primary effectively determines who will win the office. Beyer and Madaleno are both Democrats, and the primary election will be held in June.

Honestly, this is not a big deal. The Senator from District 18 works on legislative business with 46 other people in one chamber of a bicameral state legislature. If there is a big deal, it has to do with the observation that Madaleno has never faced a Senate primary challenge, and Beyer is an underdog whose declared candidacy is unusually bold.

Oh woops, hold the presses. This just in. Madaleno is gay, and Beyer is transgender.

A paragraph of review here. Sexual orientation means who you are attracted to, where "gay" means that a person is romantically and sexually attracted to those of their own sex. Gender identity means who you are. "Transgender" means that someone was assigned the wrong sex at birth, and has changed their presentation, for instance their dress and maybe their name and maybe they have had surgery or other treatments, to correct the error. "LGBT" means lesbian gay bisexual transgender, and is a blanket category for people who are in the minorities of sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation and gender identity don't have anything to do with one another, but the prejudice gay and transgender people face is similar and the groups have found it practical to work together to fight bigotry and carve out a place for themselves in society, so LGBT is a sometimes-uncomfortable but useful aggregate concept.

The idea that a transgender person would challenge a gay person in a political contest has both sides in a tizzy. Both Beyer and Madaleno are well-known and well liked in the LGBT community as activists and promoters of LGBT rights, and the gay activists seem to feel a sense of conflict in having to choose one or the other, though so far they are lining up behind Madaleno. The Advocate reports a feeling in the Maryland gay community that it was not a good idea for Beyer to push the issue:
Carrie Evans, executive director of Equality Maryland, the state's largest LGBT advocacy group, questioned Beyer's intentions, as the battle to pass Madaleno's antidiscrimination bill rages on. "We really are questioning the timing of her announcement," Evans said in a statement to the The Baltimore Sun. "We need to all be focused on getting this bill passed."

Equality Maryland will support Madaleno in the primary. "He has been a champion of our community for decades, and we will stick by him and ensure that we do what we need to do to get him re-elected," Evans told the Sun. "This is a district that feels very connected to him. I absolutely know in June they will send him back to Annapolis."

Evans expressed concern that Beyer's entry into the race will force Equality Maryland to devote resources to support of Madaleno that would have otherwise gone to other races, as up until Beyer's announcement, Madaleno was running unopposed. Trans Woman and Gay Man Vie for Maryland Senate Seat
Now, this is The Advocate, and they have to see the world through this particular prism, they are looking out for gay people. Also, I should note that some transgender people do not feel that Equality Maryland represents them very well.

The other day Madaleno posted a link on Facebook to a CBS News article about the District 18 contest, and it is an eye-opener. The story itself is nothing, the headline is ""Transgender Candidate to Challenge Gay Senator in Maryland", because I guess that is the news story, as far as CBS editors can see. But you should see the comments on this thing.

Click that link only if you have a strong stomach. As I write this, there are more than a thousand comments, and they are almost all, as far as I can see, variations on the "Democratic depravity on parade" theme. These people find ways to impugn LGBT people that I never heard of, it is one of the most repulsive displays of mass ignorance I have ever seen. I will copy a few for you:
  • This is an example of Obama's America at its most repulsive, ridiculous, and morally disgusting.
  • The political parties are filled with the most heinous immoral corrupt beings that the earth can produce.
  • I'm thinking the bearded-lady will announce next, or possibly, snake-boy.
  • Montgomery County looks like a great place to avoid like the plague it is.
  • Let's see, gender identity versus sexual preference. Why does either identity qualify them for election to anything? Oh, that's right, it's "Progressive."
  • So, will the he-she-its settle the race by swinging their purses at each other? I am SO glad I don't live in Maryland!
  • I hope someone can find a cure for gay soon. I don't know how much more I can take.
  • maryland voters must be so proud to have not one but TWO immoral homosexuals for the same office. the democrats have to be wetting their pants over which one of the perverts they want.
It goes on and on like this. And yes, this is hate. The lucky thing is that probably zero of the commenters live in District 18, and plus they are almost certainly not Democrats and thus won't vote in the Democratic primaries. But man oh man, they are seething.

So, oddly, the LGBT activists and the Nutty Ones are united in seeing Dana Beyer's decision to run against Rich Madaleno in terms of sexual identity. Meanwhile the actual voters in District 18 have to ask themselves, does that matter? These are two intelligent, well-informed, articulate and passionate human beings, either one of them will make an excellent leader, and in June the community will vote and choose. Beyer is perhaps more stridently progressive than Madaleno, and Madaleno is more centrist, let's say, and some people might prefer one approach or the other. Rich definitely has the advantage at this early point in this race, but Dana is charismatic and popular and well-connected and I wouldn't count her out quite yet.

Montgomery County Council member George Leventhal issued a statement on Facebook supporting Rich Madaleno this morning, and I think he put himself right in the middle of the wrong place to be. He said:
It is surprising that Senator Madaleno would face a challenge within the LGBT community, since his passion for human rights and marriage equality has consistently put him on the front lines on those issues.
But, no,there is nothing surprising about a candidate having a challenger in the primary election. It happens every day. It would be surprising if you thought all LGBT people were the same, or if all that mattered was loyalty to your sexual identity group. Remember last year, the president of the state Senate allowed "one gay bill" to be voted on. Maybe this year there will be two, or even three. That's not very much, it isn't how you decide who to send to represent your district. Rich didn't run because he's gay, and Dana isn't running because she's transgender. They disagree on policy priorities and now the voters get to choose.

I remember a time, a couple of years ago, when a straight person ran against another straight person. It was terrible, I couldn't decide, they both seemed perfectly straight and advocated for straight people. How do you know who to vote for? See how dumb that is?

Rich will be hard to beat but Dana will give it a good shot. If they can paint a clear picture for the voters to see the differences between them, then at least they can choose the kind of person they want to represent them in Annapolis. Maybe it will be a choice between principles and pragmatism, and I wouldn't try to guess how it will come out.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Tea Party Makes GOP Mean

In the Washington Post, Greg Sargent asked Pew and CBS to give him a breakdown of recent poll data, and has some useful insights into the Republican Party.

These days, the GOP blames poor people for being poor, blames the unemployed for not having jobs, blames the sick for being sick, these are their official platform positions. It's weird, can you imagine that anyone thinks we should stop paying unemployment insurance benefits to people who are put out of work by a bad economy? How did they get so mean?

Looking into the data, Sargent says that the Republican Party's official positions represent the beliefs of Tea Party members a lot more than the regular membership of the party.
As Jonathan Chait explains, this [GOP economic] agenda continues to be premised on the ideas that there is, if anything, too much downward redistribution of wealth, that government shouldn’t interfere in the market by, say, raising the minimum wage, and that safety net programs lull people into dependency (Paul Ryan’s Hammock Theory of Poverty).

But here’s the thing. That basic set of assumptions — and the resulting positions on some of the individual policies being discussed – are held overwhelmingly by Tea Party Republicans; and not nearly as much by non-tea party Republicans. Key findings:

On government action to combat inequality:
  • The Pew poll finds Republicans divided on whether government should do a lot or some to reduce inequality, versus doing little or nothing, by 49-46. But tea party Republicans overwhelmingly tilt against government doing something by 66-28, while non-tea party Republicans overwhelmingly favor doing something by 60-35.
  • The CBS poll is less pronounced, but even here, Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose government acting to reduce the gap between rich and poor by 82-17, while non-Tea Party Republicans believe this by 66-29 (so nearly a third of non-Tea party Republicans believe it).
On unemployment benefits:
  • The Pew poll finds Republicans oppose extending unemployment benefits by 53-44. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose this by 70-29, while non-Tea Party Republicans support it by 52-44.
  • Similarly, the CBS poll finds that Republicans oppose extending unemployment benefits by 49-40. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly oppose it by 58-31. Non-Tea Party Republicans favor extending them by 46-43.
The Tea Party and the Hammock Theory of Poverty
The "welfare queen" is a kind of latently-racist image that has rallied the Nutty Ones since the Reagan Years. People too lazy to get up off their fat butts and find a job, living off welfare while the rest of us work hard for a living, oh yeah, that'll get white folks to the ballot box on election day. But sometimes it's you and me who need some help, and then what're you going to do?

A couple of years ago Paul Ryan evoked that stereotype when he said, "We don't want to turn the safety net into a hammock that lulls able-bodied people to lives of dependency and complacency, that drains them of their will and their incentive to make the most of their lives."

The Post tells us what people think about that:
On the Hammock Theory of Poverty:
  • The CBS poll finds that Republicans believe unemployment benefits make people less motivated to look for a job by 57-40. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly believe this by 67-32. By contrast, only a minority of non-tea party Republicans believe this (47-51).
  • The Pew poll has a similar finding: Republicans believe government aid to the poor does more harm than good by making people dependent on government, rather than doing more good than harm, by 67-27. But Tea Party Republicans overwhelmingly believe this by 84-11, while non-tea party Republicans are somewhat more closely divided, 59-35.
Somehow the Republican Party has let the teabaggers dominate their agenda. I think it's because you have to appear rabid to the GOP base in order to win a primary election, it is much better to appear to be a mean-spirited, greedy nutcase than somebody who would negotiate with liberals. So the whole party kowtows to the extremists, even though most people who call themselves Republicans do not agree with them.

It is a subculture of meanness, a denial of empathy, the tea party people are not usually the wealthy capitalists of the party, it is a working-class populist movement that builds on white workers' resentment when less fortunate citizens need help.

As Sargent writes:
Both the Pew and CBS polls find large majorities believe the income gap is growing, and both find that more Americans want government to do something about it. Both also find solid majority support for raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits, and (in Pew’s case) taxing the rich to help the poor.
Those are the beliefs of Americans, except for tea partiers. Most Americans -- Democrats as well as mainstream Republicans -- are sympathetic to those who are experiencing hard times, most Americans want the government to make our lives better, more prosperous and more secure. Most Americans do not want to see a tiny greedy minority end up with all the money and all the power. Yet somehow a band of extremists is driving the dialogue, speaking for the Republican Party, and forcing the whole rest of the country to stop everything and deal with them.

Friday, January 17, 2014

State Gender Bill Introduced

Last year there was a lot of disappointment when the Maryland legislature let a gender-identity nondiscrimination bill die in committee. The state Senate president had said he only had time for "one gay bill" and that wasn't it.

This week the bill was reintroduced, and strangely it has the same number in the Senate -- SB212. A lot has changed in recent years regarding gay and lesbian rights, but the rights of transgender citizens are a little slower in coming. Let's hope this is the year for them in the state of Maryland.

The Baltimore Sun:
A bill to protect transgender Marylanders from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations was filed Tuesday in Annapolis by Sen. Richard Madaleno.

The bill's language is similar to that of past bills that also sought to establish a statewide ban on discrimination based on gender identity or expression, but which have all failed in recent years.

Madaleno, a Democrat from Montgomery County, formally filed the bill with the Senate clerk on Tuesday, though it likely won't be considered until later this week.

The bill has 24 co-sponsors, including Sen. Brian Frosh and Sen. Robert Zirkin, who were not co-sponsors of the failed transgender rights bill Madaleno introduced last year.

Both Frosh and Zirkin sit on the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, where Madaleno's previous bill died and where the new bill will first be introduced. Transgender rights bill introduced in Annapolis
I think a lot of the difficulty here is that transgender people make up a very small proportion of the population, and it is a hard thing to wrap your head around. Some people, like for instance the nutty psychiatrist on Fox News, simply deny that being transgender exists -- it might require some effortful perspective-taking to empathize with someone who has been assigned to the wrong gender category, and some people want the world to be easy to understand. Transgender people are discriminated against constantly, though, and need some legal support to be equal participants in our society.
Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat, is expected to bring the bill forward in the House of Delegates, where a similar bill previously passed.

The bill is also expected to receive the support of many top ranking officials in Maryland this year, including Gov. Martin O'Malley. The three Democratic officials looking to take O'Malley's job -- Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Attorney General Doug Gansler and Del. Heather Mizeur -- all support the legislation.

Equality Maryland, which is the state's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights organization, named the transgender rights bill its top priority this legislative session.

Carrie Evans, Equality Maryland's executive director, said she believes there are the votes this session to pass the bill. She said getting it passed is Equality Maryland's "laser focus."

"No one deserves to be fired, refused work, denied housing, education or credit, or suffer harassment or violence just because of who they are," the organization has said of the legislation.
It is notable that the Baltimore Sun talked exclusively to Equality Maryland about this, especially after a series in Baltimore Outloud by Sharon Brackett, board chair of Gender Rights Maryland, which is a group dedicated to getting this bill passed. The three-part series is quite candid and critical of EQMD and describes years of power struggles between the two groups. In the end it only matters that the bill passes and transgender Marylanders are treated fairly.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Virgin Births Not Uncommon in US

You'd think, with something like this happening all the time, that we would have heard more about it:
The results of a long-term study of reproductive health, published in the British Medical Journal, have revealed that one in two hundred US women claim to have given birth without ever having had sexual intercourse.

The findings were based on a study of 7,870 women and girls aged 15 to 28, as part of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, which ran from 1995 to 2009.

The Christmas issue of the BMJ reports that, of the women who took part in the study, 45 (0.5%) reported at least one virgin pregnancy, "unrelated to the use of assisted reproductive technology."

In short, they claimed to have conceived - yet had not had vaginal intercourse or in-vitro fertilisation (IVF). America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
I know what you're thinking. You're thinking these young ladies are lying. But it sounds like they mostly came from good, respectable homes, where they were taught good morals. Certainly not the type who would lie about something like this. And many of them had even promised not to have sex.
They found that the girls who had become pregnant, despite claiming they had never had sex at the time of conception, shared some common characteristics.

Thirty-one per cent of the girls had signed a so-called 'chastity pledge', whereby they vow - usually for religious reasons - not to have sex. Fifteen per cent of non-virgins who became pregnant also said they had signed such pledges.

The 45 self-described virgins who reported having become pregnant and the 36 who gave birth were also more likely than non-virgins to say their parents never or rarely talked to them about sex and birth control.

About 28 per cent of the "virgin" mothers' parents (who were also interviewed) indicated they didn't have enough knowledge to discuss sex and contraception with their daughters, compared to 5 percent of the parents of girls who became pregnant and said they had had intercourse.
It would have been interesting to find out how many of these virgin mothers' mothers were also virgins. There could be entire virginal lineages. I never did those dirty nasty things, and grandma never did them -- and you shouldn't do them either, sweetie.

The article ends up with a comment about self-report in the collection of scientific and medical information.
The authors of the study, entitled "Like a virgin (mother)", - say that such scientifically impossible claims show researchers must take care in interpreting self-reported behavior. Fallible memory, beliefs and wishes can cause people to err in what they tell scientists.
Merry Christmas, everybody, or whatever holiday you enjoy. For one day, at least, let's pray for peace on earth and goodwill toward all.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

PFOX Sues MoCo ... Again

It's just like the old days, PFOX complaining about stuff, claiming to be discriminated against. As far as I can tell, they are now complaining about things that happened nearly two years ago.

Yesterday's Gazette:
A Virginia nonprofit advocating for “ex-gays” has filed a discrimination complaint with the federal departments of Justice and Education against Montgomery County.

The group — called Parents and Friends of Ex-Gays and Gays, or PFOX — contends that [ school Superintendent Joshua ] Starr made denigrating comments at a public meeting that hurt students. The group also said county public schools stopped a flier distribution program in middle and high schools, denying them access to students in a move reminiscent of the “1950’s Jim Crow South.”

Montgomery County officials have declined to discuss the details of the case, saying they don’t comment on pending litigation.

However, school district spokesman Dana Tofig said in an email that the county still lets fliers be distributed under the newest policy, even if the superintendent objects to the message.

PFOX bills itself as a group that advocates for “ex-gays,” or people who change their sexual orientation, something gay and lesbian advocates say is essentially impossible. Virginia nonprofit asks federal agencies to investigate Montgomery school system
That last sentence is a little misleading. It is true that "gay and lesbian advocates" say that it is essentially impossible for people to change their sexual orientation, but it is also true that psychologists, psychiatrists, and other physicians say that it is essentially impossible.

PFOX represents a fictional population.

PFOX is a sad group, that is, if it is a "group" at all. It might just be Regina Griggs. Poor lady has a gay son and just can't accept it. She is sure he will stop being gay one of these days.
In the complaint, Regina Griggs of PFOX accused the school system of changing its policy “in order to prevent ex-gays from participating” in distributing the flyers, and compared the actions by MCPS to “the 1950’s Jim Crow South.”

The Gazette was not able to interview Griggs. She did not respond to messages sent to her email and Twitter account, and a number listed on PFOX’s website was not working.

The group says it is not a therapeutic or counseling organization practicing “conversion therapy,” the largely derided practice that claimed to be able to turn gay people straight. But on its website, the group offers advice on selecting therapists to help try to change sexual orientation.

The largest group which espoused that theory, Exodus, shut down earlier this year, apologizing for “years of undue suffering and judgment” that it had caused.

Medical experts have rejected the idea of homosexuality as being abnormal. According to the American Psychological Association, “several decades of research and clinical experience have led all mainstream medical and mental health organizations in this country to conclude that these orientations represent normal forms of human experience. Lesbian, gay and bisexual relationships are normal forms of human bonding.”
Yeah, that's about it.

PFOX is going to waste more taxpayer money, suing our county for the umpteenth time. They got a temporary restraining order once, other than that they never win, but money that could be going to something useful goes to lawyers instead.