Thursday, January 24, 2019

Ugly Americans in America

Park Hills, Kentucky, home of Covington Catholic High School, is 1.65% African American, according to the Census, and 96.64% white. If you do the math, there are about forty-six black people there. Oh, and it's 0.07% Native American, which means there are two Indians in that town.

The Black Hebrew Israelites are an SPLC-certified hate group found in Eastern cities. They're a rude, offensive, off-the-wall, sometimes funny and weird cult. They've been around for more than a century, if you live here you've seen them at Gallery Place or somewhere, quoting scripture and insulting passersby. It's part of the sound of the city.

Black guys on the street giving snot-nosed, privileged white Covington boys a hard time? Back home in Park Hills this is impossible. These Kentucky kids had never seen that. In the city, when this happens you walk past it or you stand back and watch to see what's going to happen. In Park Hills you would need to put somebody in their place.

I've said this before -- the problem, the reason we have a "Trump," is that Americans don't travel. There is nothing like that feeling in another country where the locals look at you like you're the dumbest person ever born. You don't know how to count the money, what the food is called, you stare like yokels when they strip at the beach. The lesson you learn is, our "way of life" is one of many.

If you lived your whole life in an isolated colony like Park Hills, Kentucky, you would not learn that lesson. Thrown into a diverse community -- and this situation was comically diverse, between the lily-white MAGA anti-abortion mob, the insult-hurling street-tough Black Hebrew Israelites, and the tom-tom beating Native Americans -- these teenagers continued to act like they were back home, like this was a skit or a pep rally or something. A couple hundred of them thought they could cheer and jeer and mock people in the foreign land of Washington DC, like an audience seated in the dark, like it didn't matter.

These boys treated our city like it was their private toilet, without learning how we live here. They were stereotypical ugly Americans in an America they did not know or respect.

Four percent of DC voters supported Trump, which rounds to zero. We are the nation's capital and are well aware of political differences, but we know where we stand individually. DC is 40.4 per cent Caucasian -- a minority, in case that math is too hard. These obnoxious boys in their stupid MAGA costumes did not know their place in the big city.

BTW, of course DC gets a lot of tourists, and they don't know where to stand on the escalator or when to talk to a stranger on the Metro, or whatever. Nobody minds that. Locals roll their eyes and try to be polite and helpful. There's nothing wrong with being out of your element, if you're respectful and a little humble about it.

The middle of the country doesn't look like DC. In the diverse, mostly coastal, cities of the US there are all kinds of people, and you don't survive if you don't adjust to encountering people from every continent, with every philosophy and religion, every belief and attitude and bizarre idea that exists. They aren't going to change to be like you in your stupid MAGA uniform, they don't even want to be like you. The locals will tolerate you, but don't try to force your expectations on anybody else, because nobody cares.

That kid should have stepped aside when the Omaha elder came through, but he could not appreciate being in the presence of a kind of power clearly superior to his own. His young-Brett-Kavanaugh smirk was disgusting. The whole disrespectful mob was disgusting. The situation was more complicated than it first seemed but in the end you have to believe your own eyes.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Lawsuit Filed to Allow Conversion Therapy in Maryland

Conversion therapy, which attempts to transform gay people into heterosexuals, is illegal for minors in Maryland. But a rightwing religious group has filed a lawsuit to allow it.
Baltimore Sun:
A psychotherapist filed a federal lawsuit Friday seeking to overturn Maryland’s ban on treating minors with conversion therapy, a controversial practice that attempts to change clients’ homosexual orientation.

Christopher Doyle is suing Gov. Larry Hogan and Attorney General Brian Frosh in U.S. District Court in Maryland, saying the ban violated his rights to free speech and the practice of religion, as well as the rights of clients “to prioritize their religious and moral values above unwanted same-sex sexual attractions, behaviors, or identities.”

Federal lawsuit seeks to overturn Maryland's ban on conversion therapy
Christopher Doyle is somebody we have seen before. In 2013 he organized a big "Ex-Gay Pride" demonstration on Capitol Hill. You might remember -- they had announced that "thousands" would be coming, but fewer than ten people showed up.

Doyle claims to have "overcome unwanted same-sex attraction" himself, but actually his story is pretty bizarre, and there is some question as to whether he was ever actually gay himself. He told PFOX that when he was ten years old his thirteen-year-old female cousin began molesting him about once a week for a year. He told PFOX, "I wasn't getting enough attention from my parents, and it felt good to be close to my cousin in this way."

Doyle also told PFOX that when he was older, "I tried to have sex with the little girls that my mother watched in her daycare, and eventually, one of the girls told her parents what I was doing." It does not appear that he was criminally charged for abusing preschool girls, or that there were any consequences.

Then, he said, through adolescence, "Any way I could receive love, with girls or boys, I would take it. I soon learned that boys, however, were a lot easier to have sex with than girls." He told PFOX that "I had girlfriends in high school" but "took every opportunity" to have sex with boys.

Doyle claims that praying did not help him but he got a job and joined a Bible study group after college and then, without explanation, his interest in male sex partners disappeared. He told Queerty, "I never really went to therapy to try and eliminate same-sex attraction, it just happened automatically."

Doyle told The Sun that the conversion therapy ban prevents him from counseling minors who have an “unwanted same sex attraction.” He told them, “If your goal is to change your sexual attraction, that’s not a goal you can have in Maryland. You’ll have to work on something else until you’re 18.”

I would say: good, and let's keep it that way. This guy is a mess, he doesn't have any business "curing" anybody in our state. I can think of lots of ways to improve our legal system; making it easier for this man to have intimate personal time with children and adolesecents is not one of them.

To be clear: conversion therapy does not change anybody's sexual orientation. It is, first and foremost, a hoax. It is, beyond that, dangerous to young gay and lesbian people who feel there is something wrong with them when there is not. Society has passed the point where we need to inflict shame on people because of their sexual orientation.

Our Maryland legislators get it, they have made this sort of fake "therapy" illegal in our state, but this character is suing to try to get the courts to allow him to come here and engage in the harmful practice. The Republicans have been packing the courts with conservative judges, maybe he will get lucky and win this case -- I'm no lawyer and don't know what the odds are or the legal subtleties. But you have to admit, these are crazy times, and anything can happen. Let's keep an eye on it.
He is represented by the Florida-based Christian group, Liberty Counsel, which has challenged conversion therapy bans elsewhere in the country. The group is opposed to abortion rights and same-sex marriage, and represented Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who refused to marry such couples. The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated it an anti-LGBT hate group.

Mark Procopio, executive director of FreeState Justice, an LGBT advocacy group, said the legislation banning conversion therapy “is based on sounds medical and psychological research and expertise.”

“Existing federal case law shows that legislation like this seeking to protect minors from these harmful practices are constitutional and do not infringe on religious freedoms,” Procopio said. “No religious belief allows state-licensed practitioners to harm children under Maryland law."

Friday, January 11, 2019

MoCo Hunkers Down

You hear the number 800,000 federal employees out of work, but it is a little more complicated than that. More than half of those are still going to work, even though they are not being paid for it. Note that being forced to work without pay is known, normally, as "slavery."

Lots of federal employees are not working. They are hoping their pay will be reimbursed, as it always has in past shutdowns, but there is no guarantee. A couple of weeks ago the President canceled their scheduled pay raise for 2019. And now, imagine how his base will love him when he says, "Why should they be paid for not doing anything?" They love to hate federal employees, depicted as a bunch of lazy bureaucrats burning up taxpayers' hard-earned dollars doing nothing. The President's following would be happy if he could cancel furlough back-pay.

Mortgage is due on the first, Pepco wants their share, the bank wants your car payment. You want your gas to stay on. Today is payday on the calendar but there isn't going to be any pay. The zero-dollar pay-stub is today's Internet meme.

And contractors have it the worst. In a lot of agencies contractors run all the IT, they are the programmers, editors, subject-matter experts, help desk, security, building operations and cleaning people, and they know they aren't going to be paid. This shutdown is a pure loss for most of them. Hopefully they understood the risks and put some money away when they took the gig, because they are only going to go deeper into the hole, the longer this thing drags on. I have not seen any numbers for contractors affected, so far. I don't know if anybody knows how many there are. In the past couple of decades the government has tried to save money by replacing federal employees with contractors, but I don't see the numbers out there, and they don't get mentioned in most discussions of the effects of this shutdown.

Our little county in Maryland is full of people who work for the federal government, either as federal employees or contractors. Most of us have been through this before, but this time is different. There was always a sense of process, an understanding that the two sides were going to work out an agreement and we would all get back to work and everything would be fine. You could never treat a shutdown like a vacation because, one, you never knew when they would call you back, and two, you really were not getting paid in the meantime, so you couldn't spend anything. And now three, you don't know if Trump is going to try to block pay for your furlough time. A lot of us don't have a ton of savings -- a GS job is pretty good but it's is not, let's say, the golden path to wealth. I used to say the best thing about working for the government was the stability.

So here in Montgomery County we are feeling the brunt of this foolishness. I tend to agree with those who are saying that Trump doesn't even really want a wall. He is just trying to keep the attention away from his own catastrophes. You notice the news surrounding the Mueller investigation has a lot of Russian names in it these days, and the idea that there was "no collusion" is not even mentioned any more. Trump can't do anything about the legal troubles that are about to rain down on his criminal organization, but he has always been good at manipulating the public perceptions of people who are not really paying attention. The wall, the shutdown, this will keep Mueller off the front pages. I don't think he'll make it through this term. The question now is the "President Pence" problem. Well, we'll see how tightly he is interwoven with Manafort. Maybe they'll be cellmates. I really doubt President Pelosi will pardon either of them.

Figure with contractors and other federal support, a million people are being directly hit by unemployment at this point, never mind the cascading effects of money those out-of-work people aren't spending in their communities. This is all to support the vanity of one sad man whose life of corruption unfortunately landed him in the White House. When he says he "relates" and says the federal workforce will adapt and be okay, it is clear he has no idea how widespread the damage is. His own sense of self-importance is so magnified that real people with real bills are like ants to him.

And it's not just the plight of the federal workforce -- it's also the work that they do. Right now, research projects are stopped, federal law enforcement is stripped down to a minimum, the weather models are not maintained, economic models, trade policy, the courts are running out of money, food isn't being inspected, the statistics that measure progress and decline in the population and the economy, the parks are going to hell, infrastructure maintenance, fire prevention. The federal government does a lot of things. If you have a political belief that it is too big or does too much then fine, you can vote for conservatives who will trim it down; this is not the way to do it.

[Update: Mother Jones says there are three million contractors, and that Congress is trying to arrange back pay for them. Nice.]