Thursday, February 27, 2014

Why The Swift Push For Segregating Teh Gay Marrieds

There's been a sudden flux of Red States - first Kansas, then Arizona, lately a few others - trying to pass legislation under the guise of "religious liberty" that would allow business owners to cite their religious belief should they ever want to refuse service to anyone they believe is gay or "promoting gay marriage" in some form.

They're basically bringing back segregation.  Just not for Blacks, but for Teh Gays.

There's a couple of reasons for that:

1) The simplest, most obvious reason is competition between the various Far Right groups leading each state trying to one-up each other and prove their social conservative bona fides by getting an anti-gay bill passed.  If Far Right Kansas does it, so goes Far Right Arizona, Far Right Mississippi, Far Right Georgia, Far Right Texas, Far Right...

2) The growing realization among the Far Right social conservatives that they're running out of options trying to stop gay marriage from becoming a nationwide reality.

The courts at the federal level are striking down gay marriage bans one state at a time: they just struck down Texas' recently.  The federal ruling against DOMA was a huge blow as well to the Religious Right.  At some point, the economic, legal and social benefits of marriage will not be denied on the basis of race oh wait we solved that with Loving V. Virginia ... marriage will not be denied on the basis of gender preference.

So if the Far Right can't stop gay marriage, they'll go for their next weapon of choice: they'll want to punish people for marrying gay and they'll want to punish people for supporting gay marriage (these laws not only ban those suspected of being gay (or gay-married) but also anyone - family and friends - celebrating it).  And they'll do that by "allowing" businesses to discriminate just by looking at a customer (as though spotting gays and lesbians and those celebrating Teh Gay was that easy.  We do NOT wear pink triangles everywhere we go, haters).

That these Far Right legislators are arcing backwards to a world pre-1965 when businesses were "allowed" to discriminate against Blacks from eating or shopping at their venues - that they are hearkening back to the most odious elements of Jim Crow segregation - doesn't seem to register with them.  Then again, these are the same jokers who never saw a problem with segregation in the first place...

The most horrifying thing about this "religious liberty" excuse is that it's not really about liberty or even expression of faith: it's about using religion as an excuse to be biased, to be hateful towards a small number of fellow humans.  It's using Leviticus as an excuse to punish sexual conduct - specifically, homosexual conduct - all the while ignoring other sins and acts - tattoos, mixing of clothing fibers, working on Sabbath days, adultery - that are more common and yet left uncommented and unpunished.

You don't see anything in these "liberty" laws that allow businesses to discriminate against divorcees or people celebrating their second or third marriages.  That's because they'd be discriminating against, what, half the nation.  It's so much easier and more satisfying to pass moral judgment against the thousands of gays and lesbians instead of risking the wrath of millions of adulterers...

And they wonder why more young people are turning away from Christianity and faith in general in this nation?  It's because they more often than not associate Christianity with the Far Right, with the political ideologues, the hypocrites, the fear-mongers, the haters.  We've had thirty-plus years of the Moral Majority and their political descendants pose as the face of Christianity in this nation: thirty-plus years of evangelical hate-filled moralizers passing judgment on women and children and the poor and gays and everybody else not of their parish.  This is the House they've inherited: Empty not only of our nation's youth but empty of God's love and charity and Grace.  

The good news is that these "religious liberty" bills aren't going very far: the immediate outraged responses to them have made the Far Right haters back down (at least for now, in public).  The bad news?  They're still pursuing these types of laws in other states, and are more likely going to try some other gambit to stop gay marriage from becoming the same as hetero marriage.  This fight is not over, people: we are not wrestling against flesh and blood here but against the haters, the secret powers waging war against our families and friends in the name of their fear...

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

From Ta-Nehisi, Not Just For the Lost Battalion But For Every American, Every Son

If I could repost this article in its entirety I would.  But it's better to follow the link and read it yourself.

Ta-Nehisi Coates interviews the mother of Jordan Davis.  For the interview, he brings along his own son, 13 years old and black and pretty much in the same unsettling reality that Jordan and Trayvon lived (and died).

Last Thursday, I took my son to meet Lucia McBath, because he is 13, about the age when a black boy begins to directly understand what his country thinks of him. His parents cannot save him. His parents cannot save both his person and his humanity. At 13, I learned that whole streets were prohibited to me, that ways of speaking, walking, and laughing made me a target. That is because within the relative peace of America, great violence—institutional, interpersonal, existential—marks the black experience. The progeny of the plundered were all around me in West Baltimore—were, in fact, me. No one was amused. If I were to carve out some peace myself, I could not be amused either. I think I lost some of myself out there, some of the softness that was rightfully mine, to a set of behavioral codes for addressing the block. I think these talks that we have with our sons—how to address the police, how not to be intimidating to white people, how to live among the singularly plundered—kill certain parts of them which are as wonderful as anything. I think the very tools which allow us to walk through the world, crush our wings and dash the dream of flight.

I am white.  I grew up getting The Talk on how to behave with girls and how to obey the traffic laws and how to avoid drunken fights and that was it.  I was never lectured to be afraid of being hunted by my own neighbors or other adults the way Ta-Nehisi and his son had to be lectured.

I told her that I was stunned by her grace after the verdict. I told her the verdict greatly angered me. I told her that the idea that someone on that jury thought it plausible there was a gun in the car baffled me. I told her it was appalling to consider the upshot of the verdict—had Michael Dunn simply stopped shooting and only fired the shots that killed Jordan Davis, he might be free today.
She said, "It baffles our mind too. Don’t think that we aren’t angry. Don’t think that I am not angry. Forgiving Michael Dunn doesn't negate what I’m feeling and my anger. And I am allowed to feel that way. But more than that I have a responsibility to God to walk the path He's laid. In spite of my anger, and my fear that we won’t get the verdict that we want, I am still called by the God I serve to walk this out."

What happened to Jordan Davis wasn't Jordan's fault.  It's not Jordan's fault Michael Dunn was carrying his gun, it's not Jordan's fault that Dunn couldn't control his own anger when he called on Jordan's friends to turn down that loud music, it wasn't Jordan who pulled a trigger it was an angry man with a gun and a crazy broken law giving him license to open fire.  There are kids playing loud music everywhere.  They are driving in their parents' cars up and down these roads with the windows down and laying out a bass that shakes the surrounding car windows.  Some of them are white.  I don't see anyone at the gas stations shouting at them to turn the damn music down.

She stood. It was time to go. I am not objective. I gave her a hug. I told her I wanted the world to see her, and to see Jordan. She said she thinks I want the world to see "him." She was nodding to my son. She added, "And him representing all of us." He was sitting there just as I have taught him—listening, not talking.
Now she addressed him, "You exist," she told him. "You matter. You have value. You have every right to wear your hoodie, to play your music as loud as you want. You have every right to be you. And no one should deter you from being you. You have to be you. And you can never be afraid of being you."
She gave my son a hug and then went upstairs to pack.

The only difference between me at 13 and Ta-Nehisi's son at 13 is the color of our skin.  That and maybe whatever geek thing he's into that I'm not.  The only difference between me and Trayvon Martin at 17 was the skin color, and that he preferred Skittles over M&Ms.  The only difference between me and Jordan Davis was the skin.  And that I had Led Zeppelin blasting at top volume instead of Beyonce.

I didn't have to live with the fear of some angry adult blasting away at me because of who I was.

What the hell is wrong with us as a nation that we let fear dictate what we do?  That we let our anger get the better of us?  That we have some people who think themselves privileged enough to sell that fear and anger to get away with it?

Saturday, February 22, 2014

It's Been Quiet. A Little... Too Quiet...

If only because of a few things:

1) MOVING.  Bought a condo, moving in this weekend.

2) KITTEHS.  The cat I adopted back in December turned out to be pregnant (nice planning on her part).  She gave birth just as the Super Bowl ended.  SIX KITTEHS.  The plan is to name them after the crew of the Serenity.

3) What part of MOVING don't you get?  There's still boxes and posters and clothes and dishes to pack!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Why Stand Your Ground Is a Terrible Law

The weekend news has been how a Jacksonville FL jury held shooter Michael Dunn in the Jordan Davis killing guilty of three counts of attempted murder for firing at the three teen friends with Davis that cold night of November 2012... and how that same jury locked up into a mistrial over Davis' own death.

It defies logic that Dunn will be held accountable for the murder attempts he missed... and yet was pretty much let go over the murder he did succeed in committing. (the state prosecutor's office says it will retry on the murder charge)

But there's a reason logic is getting stomped on here: it's because of a poorly-designed, open-ended, free-for-all free-for-gunowners law called Stand Your Ground (SYG).

The impact this law has had on Florida and other states applying SYG is pretty shocking.  Shooting deaths have gone up in states where the shooters claim self-defense under SYG.  Worse, about a third (34 percent) of the shootings when it's white shooter/black victim are deemed justifiable, while only three percent of black shooter/white victim are deemed justifiable.  That this law exposes the raw nerve of race is hard for me to focus on at the moment, and better explained by better writers like Ta-Nehisi Coates (please follow the link to what he wrote).  I'm better off ranting instead about how stupid and destructive SYG is.

Under the old laws regarding self-defense, it relied a lot on location - your own home or workplace where you have an expectation of self-defense - and it relied on the situation where you or someone else were threatened with bodily harm and there was no other recourse (no escape route or method to contact the proper authorities).  Stand Your Ground now allows someone carrying a firearm (and an anger management problem the size of Mount Doom) to go first for their gun and open fire under a "reasonable" expectation of fearing for their life, even when there are clear alternatives to blasting away in Vigilante Mode.

It's a bad law because it's basically a license for an aggressive, angry gunowner to go after someone and shoot that other person dead.  And then that gunowner can turn around and claim self-defense because he "feared for his own safety."  Regardless of whether or not the victim was genuinely a threat.  And sadly enough, the victim was never that big a threat.

Look at Dunn's testimony.  He's the one with the gun, getting off 10 shots and killing Davis in the process.  Dunn claims he "saw" Davis with a shotgun but the police found no evidence there was any weapon in the car at all.  Yet we're supposed to trust Dunn's testimony because he's the one sitting in the courtroom booth.  Meanwhile, we'll never hear Davis' side of the matter because Davis is dead, much like Trayvon Martin is dead and we'll never really know what happened the night George Zimmerman shot him dead.

Because we can't trust a word of what Dunn or Zimmerman claim, because it's in their own interests to make themselves look the victim.  And because they've got SYG giving them clearance to admit they "feared" for their own safety regardless of the situation.  Especially when - in both Dunn and Zimmerman's cases - the shooters were the ones who escalated in their own anger those situations into shooting deaths.

Are we going to trust the word of the 71-year-old who shot a man texting his babysitter (checking on a child at home) while at the Wesley Chapel movie theater that he was afraid for his life?  Under normal circumstances, the 71-year-old or anyone else upset that a cell phone was in use during the start of the movie would have gone to an usher or theater manager to complain (I did that once.  Guess what?  IT WORKED).  Under SYG, the 71-year-old stood there, let a box of popcorn get thrown in his face, and pull out his concealed gun to shoot dead the person who angered him.

He was threatened with popcorn.  The guy with the gun was threatened with popcorn, and shot the guy who threw it at him.  And now the 71-year-old packing heat gets to go before a jury to explain how he feared for his safety because popcorn was in his face.

Meanwhile the ones with actual bullets in them - Martin, Davis, a 43-year-old man with a fatherless child waiting at home - lie there dead, and what law speaks for them when Stand Your Ground trumps logic?  When it trumps common sense?

The law needs to go.  The courts need to rule it unconstitutional because it violates the victims' - usually unarmed - rights to due process (a presumption of innocence).  They need to overturn SYG because it's become a form of legalized lynching where angry white guys are shooting blacks over questionable slights (Trayvon Martin had every right to walk through his father's own neighborhood, for God's sake).  The legislatures need to stop passing these laws that violate public safety at the expense of a gun lobby that wants to conceal-carry wherever they want and pretty much shoot anybody they (don't) like.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Midterms 2014: Special Election FL-13 With Three Weeks To Go. Here's Some Polling.

I mentioned earlier there is a special election (even with the regular election still nine months away) being held to fill the vacancy for US House Florida District 13.  The polling back then was pretty much up for grabs, one side's poll services favoring their own candidate and all, and so I waited for a less-biased source to give us some update.

The local paper St. Pete (fine, fine) Tampa Bay Times came out with a poll a few days ago:
In the hard-fought and nationally watched campaign, 42 percent would vote for (Democratic candidate Alex) Sink, 35 percent for (Republican David) Jolly and 4 percent for Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby, according to an exclusive Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/WUSF Public Media poll of likely voters in Congressional District 13. The margin of error was 4 percentage points.

Now, 42 percent for Democrat Sink over 35 percent to Republican Jolly isn't too shabby (7 percent difference), but you've got a third-party candidate in the Libertarian Overby sitting there at 4 percent and you've got a "margin of error" (the statistical probability that the polled population might be skewed) at 4 percent already that knocks the likelihood for Sink down to a 3 percent lead.  There's little room for error here.

The polling also notes what's at stake:
Of those who support Sink, 81 percent also support Obamacare. Of those who support Jolly, 84 percent also oppose Obamacare.
Supporters of both candidates felt passionately about the issue.
More than two-thirds of Sink and Jolly supporters said their candidate's position on the law was a "very important" or "somewhat important" reason for their support...

This is the first true campaign following the start-up of Obamacare (AKA the nowhere-near-universal-healthcare-like-all-other-capitalist-nations-deploy series of healthcare reforms) that's got it as an issue front-and-center.  Not the need for more jobs or better wages, but Obamacare.  There's a reason a lot of outside-the-district and even outside-the-state money is getting funneled into this: whoever wins this dictates what the primary nationwide party platform for the regular midterms will be.

If the Republican Jolly wins campaigning heavily against Obamacare, it will signal the rest of the Congressional GOP that they can use the repealing of it as their main weapon.  It will force the Democrats to play defense on the issue, talking about Obamacare rather than the more polling-friendly issues like raising the minimum wage and creating more jobs.

If the Democrat Sink wins campaigning in favor of Obamacare, and winning a Republican-designed gerrymandered district doing so, it will signal that repealing Obamacare is a losing argument for the Republicans.  The polling showed 47 percent oppose Obamacare in the district over 43 percent in favor, and if Sink still wins it means that issue didn't help Jolly over the hump.  It will free up the Democrats to campaign on their own issues, again the raising of the minimum wage and creating more jobs.

To be fair, this being a special election doesn't say much about who's going to succeed in November: that's still nine months away and anything can happen between then and now; there may be other factors at stake here such as voters sometimes voting for a fresh (party) face to serve a district after a long-standing incumbent (like Bill Young, who'd been serving in Congress since - Dear God - 1970?!) retires or dies; and while Obamacare may be the issue for 80+ percent of the polled, there may be other issues at stake for those who won't use the healthcare laws to make their decisions.
...Independent voters have the potential to play a big role in the race. According to the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections, about 37.1 percent of district voters are Republicans, 34.7 percent are Democrats and 24 percent have "no party affiliation." (The rest belong to smaller political parties.)
The poll found that independents aren't leaning strongly in either direction. Thirty-three percent of independents backed Sink, 27 percent backed Jolly, 9 percent backed Overby and 23 percent were undecided...

But, just saying, if Sink wins a Republican-designed district even with a controversial healthcare law dangling around her neck you're gonna see a lot of unhappy far right campaign consultants racing about for something else for their Tea-Party leaning candidates to rally around.  And there's not much else out there the GOP can campaign on as a positive...

And this is why, still vitally important y'all, to GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT people.  Gotta get those 23 percent undecided independents to make up their minds and vote for Sink.  This is key: for the LOVE OF GOD don't vote Republican...

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Current Writing Status: Published Again, Yay

I've gotten another short story accepted and published by Mystery & Horror LLC, for their current anthology Mardi Gras Murder. Apropos as we're in the season for it.  The story title is "Why The Mask."  It's got Mardi Gras.  It's got murder.  I hope you enjoy reading it.

It's available right now via, and print copies are being shipped to the submitted authors as I type this.

As for my previous submission to M&H LLC, "I Must Be Your First" for Strangely Funny, I've gotten some decent notices in the book reviews so far on Amazon and GoodReads.  I hope "Why The Mask" gets an equally receptive response.

Now... to get this damnable first novel finished!  Arrrrgh...

P.S. Anyone going to MegaCon this March?

Sunday, February 09, 2014

Here's a Bad Launch of a Website, Fellahs

For all the griping done about the launch fiasco of three months ago, it has nothing on how bad the redesign and launch of the website (once FLUID, now CONNECT) accessing Florida unemployment benefits went.

A week before the botched launch of Florida's new unemployment benefits website, state senators grilled an agency chief and heard no warning about the chaos to come.
The CONNECT project was well managed and extensive testing showed system failure was unlikely, said Tom Clendenning, director of the Department of Economic Opportunity's workforce services.
"This has been carefully planned out," Clendenning said, smiling broadly during an Oct. 9 Senate hearing. "You can never be too 100 percent bulletproof, so we do have a contingency if in fact the new system isn't ready."
Six days later, the $63 million CONNECT website launched so riddled with technical glitches that it has left thousands of unemployed Floridians without the money they need for food, rent and bills.
The problems were so bad that the DEO began fining the contractor $15,000 a day and federal officials intervened, convincing the state to pay the back claims so claimants could get their money. Two months after CONNECT's debut, so many claims remained unpaid that the DEO hired an extra 330 employees, at a cost of $165,000 a week...
The only good thing that could be said about this disaster was that at least 330 new jobs were filled, however temporary.
...The main contractor of the project, Deloitte Consulting, won the bid to modernize Florida's unemployment compensation system by beating out nine other firms. In early 2011, the company negotiated with Florida that it could do all the work for $39.8 million and finish by December 2012, a deadline it blew — badly. (note: the rollout was finally done in October 2013, which tells you how bad)
As contracts go, this wasn't a big one for Deloitte Consulting, a U.S. company that's part of an international British conglomerate better known as Deloitte & Touche. Since 2007, Deloitte Consulting has won $283.4 million in contracts with Florida agencies.
Its interests are protected by one of the most powerful lobbyists in Tallahassee, Brian Ballard, a major campaign fundraiser for Gov. Rick Scott and other GOP officials...
Nah, nothing to see here, just another living-off-the-government-teat private firm allied with a political party that's openly accusing the unemployed of being lazy free-loaders.  Nothing to see, move along move along...

...McCullion put Deloitte on notice that the contract would be terminated unless an agreement was reached on how to conclude the project, alluding to the company's problems in other states, such as California, New Mexico and Massachusetts, with launching a similar system for unemployment benefits.
"Deloitte's demonstrated inability to implement the solution in other jurisdictions has undermined the (DEO's) confidence that Deloitte will successfully complete the (project)," McCullion wrote on June 15, 2012. "The Department contracted for a viable, proven solution. It now appears that the Department is being asked to fund a software development project with limited prospects for success."
One week later, though, the DEO approved Deloitte's final design. On July 13, Deloitte and the DEO signed a new agreement that stated the contractor has "demonstrated its willingness and ability to perform in adherence to the contract terms and condition."
By the time Panuccio, a lawyer by training with no administrative experience, became DEO executive director in 2013, Deloitte again began submitting expensive cost requests...
At the library where I work, we have a constant flow of patrons coming in to file for benefits.  Ever since the launch of the CONNECT system, I haven't seen that many of them: I'm wondering how many of them were so discouraged by the foul-ups that they stopped even trying (or if they went to the One-Stop employment centers for direct help).

As someone who was long-suffering in the job-hunting process between 2009 to 2013, I can tell you the benefits I got from the unemployment funds helped.  Not enough to cover things like a mortgage and car repairs (that fell upon my parents, and damn I owe them a lot more than just the money), but enough to keep me out there on a daily basis looking for work and interviewing for openings.

For the state of Florida to pay out such an important project to a company that had shown a poor history of website design and launching... for them to pay out to a company tied in deep to the dominating political party of both the state legislature and the governor's office... for letting this go MONTHS to such an extent that the feds have to step in to try and fix things...  This story is a bigger scandal than how it's being told.  This is a disaster that has been decades in the making, as the Republicans have been the dominant party since the 1990s and have developed enough rot and corruption to have this state on the verge of collapse...

It's not just this website rollout that's been a nightmare.  There's been a lot of other disasters that our state legislature are failing to address, that our governor's office is choosing to ignore.

GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT, FLORIDA.  Stop voting Republican.  You're just encouraging the rot.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Dear Unemployed: Time To Get Your RAGE On

This continues to piss me off, even though - THANK GOD - I am now employed.

...Republican senators on Thursday blocked a three-month revival of long-term unemployment compensation for 1.7 million Americans out of work.
Democrats fell just one vote short of the 60 needed to break a filibuster. Four Republicans voted with Democrats -- Sen. Dean Heller (NV), Kelly Ayotte (NH), Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME). Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) changed his vote at the last minute to preserve the option of bringing up the bill in the future. The final vote was 58-40...
...The reality is a large number of Republicans want the program to end but don't want to say so because it's popular. First enacted in 2008, amid economic free-fall, it provides insurance to Americans who are looking for work for up to 99 weeks. It expired on Dec. 28.
A follow-up vote Thursday to extend the unemployment benefits for three months, without a pay-for, also failed 55-43...

I guarantee this continues to piss off millions of long-term unemployed Americans who've been stuck like I had been for years: unable to convince HR departments to hire us, unable to find money to start our own businesses, unable to get into a job market that's biased against anyone with a high-level college degree or is over the age of 40...

In a just world, every damn Senator who just voted to block this emergency extension should stand in the unemployment lines for six straight months and see how THEY like it.  No, better, make it six straight YEARS...

The g-ddamn filibuster needs to go for ALL non-appointee bills coming to the floor.  THIS OBSTRUCTION IS KILLING OUR ECONOMY AND OUR NATION.  I know Dems fear the possibility that they'll find themselves in a minority in the Senate, but DAMMIT we shouldn't have our government stuck on STALL all the time!

Every unemployed person needs to find the nearest Republican Senator's office and start a sit-in protest.  DAMN THESE SENATORS.  They gonna arrest you?  So?  No jury in the nation - unless it's a jury made up of hedge fund managers - will convict you.


Monday, February 03, 2014

Midterms 2014: Keeping Up With the 13th District Special.

Due to rules (seat has to be filled within 90 days or so), there's a special election to fill a US House seat in the Florida 13th District even with a general election for the seat again just months (Nov) down the road.  And the money is rolling in:

In an unprecedented financial war being waged on television screens throughout Pinellas County, outside groups are spending more than $4 million to support - and trash - Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink and Republican David Jolly.
More than $2.6 million has been spent on television ads for Sink, including $1.9 million from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Jolly supporters have shelled out $1.6 million, including more than $700,000 from the National Republican Congressional Committee.

The election is viewed as a harbinger of how the overall midterms will do: how viable the Democratic or Republican platforms are to the voters.  The 13th District has been a Republican, conservative-leaning district for decades (also when it was a different number, but still covering the same ground), but the area and the state in general has been "going purple" or leaning blue over the last few years...

Why the barrage? A mixture of numbers, timing and politics makes Pinellas County's 13th Congressional District a possible microcosm of national congressional elections this fall.
Both major parties have a solid chance at victory in the Pinellas district, where about 37.1 percent of registered voters are Republicans, 34.7 percent are registered Democrats, 24 percent have "no party affiliation," and the others are in smaller political parties.
The district is technically +3 Republican, but the 24 percent of no-party affiliates are key (the moderate middle always is, dammit, so GET THE DAMN VOTE OUT).

Right now, the polling I'm finding is either from one party - there's a DCCC poll showing Sink in the lead - or from polling firms working for the campaigns - there's a firm working for Jolly showing him in the lead.  If I can find a more "reliable" (yeah, I know, with polling it's not that exact a science unless you're Drunk Nate Silver) polling source I'll post it.

The election is on March 11.