Tag Archives: civil rights

California Judges barred from Boy Scouts

According to an article in today’s (26 Jan) Los Angeles Daily Journal, the California Supreme Court has voted unanimously to bar judges and justices in the state from being a part of the Boy Scouts, because of that organization’s discriminatory practices and policies.

The article (behind a paywall,of course), notes that this was first suggested some 13 years ago, but the idea went down in flames.  It has been raised several times since then, but has always had opposition from the far right. And more opposition is expected to this latest ruling. No statement or rationale accompanies the ruling.  The chair of the Ethics committee,Justice Richard Fybel of the 4th District, who recommended the measure, said it was “the right thing to do.”

The right wing, of course, has slammed the decision as ‘tyrannical’.  they are the same ones that claim this will forbid judges from being members of churches.  Purest hyperbole, though, has not won this time, and it’s about time.

Assembly Passes Bill to Protect Transgender Students

Bill passes Assembly on GiveOUT Day 2013

by Brian Leubitz

Today is “Give OUT” day, a nationwide fundraising drive for LGBT organizations. So the timing of the Assembly’s passage of AB 1266 couldn’t have been better as a way for me to make a pitch or two. The bill ensures that transgender students in California have equal and full access to programs and facilities on the basis of their gender identity.

“This shows the nobility of what a Legislature can do,” bill author Assemblymember Tom Ammiano said on the Assembly floor.

The bill clarifies existing law, which already prohibits discrimination against transgender students. While some large districts – Los Angeles and San Francisco – are already successfully working with these students on the basis of their gender identities, many school districts are not presently in compliance with these requirements.

“Because somebody is uncomfortable is not a reason to discriminate,” Ammiano said, responding to opponents of the bill, who argued that inclusion of transgender students would cause discomfort to others.

This bill does not require schools to create new programs or new facilities for any students and therefore would not have any fiscal impact. However, making the gender identity requirement clear will help parents and students understand their rights while also helping schools comply with the law, reducing conflict and the potential for litigation, while protecting students’ health and well-being.

While a lot of work has been done to decrease bullying for gay and lesbian students, transgender youth are often hit particularly hard and may find it more difficult to find the resources that they need. That’s one reason why I have given to the Transgender Law Center, a fantastic civil rights organization based in San Francisco. Though they were founded just over ten years ago, TLC is California’s first “fully staffed, state-wide transgender legal organization.” You can contribute to TLC here or you can find your favorite LGBT organization at the GiveOUT 2013 home page.

Jim Crow Insurance: CA Prop 33 Turns Back The Clock To Price Discrimination In Auto Insurance


Revelations of discrimination by insurance companies are always shocking, but when they come out just days before a vote on an industry-sponsored ballot measure that would legalize unfair price increases and prejudice in auto insurance, Californians should pay particular attention.

A former insurance agent from the Auto Club of Southern California just blew the whistle on a scheme at the company that led to discrimination. The allegations come just as California voters take up Prop 33, a ballot measure financed with $16 million by one insurance executive, Mercury Insurance chairman George Joseph, that will allow auto insurance companies to surcharge motorists just because they didn’t buy insurance in the past, even if they didn’t own a car.

A new poll from the California Business Roundtable, whose numbers consistently tilt in favor of big business that funds it, shows voters have turned against Prop 33, with support dropping to 48% as the public learns about the proposal and the billionaire insurance executive who is behind it.

The Auto Club of Southern California insurance agent Jill Rogers exposed how the insurance company financially penalized agents for writing policies for new drivers and those without prior insurance, including those who did not drive previously. She said agents hung up on customers who did not have prior insurance and quoted them the most expensive policies, because the agents would only receive a $20 commission on those policies. For those who had continuous coverage, the Auto Club would pay its agents $100 to $500.

Call it Jim Crow Insurance. It’s illegal to charge more to new drivers and those with lapses in coverage in California, so insurance companies find other ways to keep them off the roll.

Clearly auto insurance companies don’t like to insure new drivers and those who had a lapse in their coverage, even though they are prevented by law from charging them more. Prop 33 would open the door to outright price discrimination.

As husband of an African American woman, I have seen racial discrimination first hand, including misplaced reservations, overcharges and other indignities endured by my wife and family on a fairly regular basis. Jill Rogers’ description of how insurance companies financially pressure agents, who in turn drop phone calls and misquote certain types of drivers, rings a bell. And this occurs in a system where it is already illegal to charge more to people who did not drive previously because they could not afford insurance.

How much worse will it be if Prop 33 made such price discrimination legal for all insurance companies?

We know from history. Shortly after California imposed tough mandatory insurance laws in the 1980s, a group of inner city residents sued because they were being forced by the state to buy auto insurance but could not afford it: Insurance companies were charging them thousands of dollars per year for auto insurance because of the ZIP-code they lived in and the fact that they did not have insurance previously.

Auto insurance companies, including George Joseph’s Mercury Insurance, the backer of the current Prop 33 proposal, essentially drew a “redline” around their communities and used these two pricing factors to keep African Americans and Latinos out of the auto insurance market.

Justice Allen Broussard of the California Supreme Court wrote: “This case arises from the attempt of the California Legislature to solve a serious social problem – the uninsured driver – without taking into account an equally serious problem – insurance pricing practices which make automobile liability insurance prohibitively expensive for many of the urban poor.”

Broussard, the second African American justice to serve on the California Supreme Court, noted that the plaintiffs “speak also of the reluctance of insurance companies to insure persons who were previously uninsured, a problem of particular concern since the purpose of the 1984 legislation was to compel such persons to obtain insurance.”

In its decision in the seminal King v Meese case, the California Supreme Court said it sympathized with the plaintiffs but told them to turn to the legislature, which then refused to act. Voters took matters into their own hands in 1988 with Prop 103 and banned the power of insurance companies to charge new drivers and those without previous insurance more for auto insurance.

Now, 24 years later, Prop 33 would reverse the ban and allow companies to again charge new drivers and those without insurance more for auto insurance.

Anyone who doubts that Prop 33 is about giving insurance companies the power to discriminate just needs to listen to Jill Rogers.

Joseph, who has tried to overturn this and others prohibitions on discrimination in the courts and legislature for two decades, before losing a nearly identical ballot measure to Prop 33 just two years, finally admitted to the LA Times recently that he would use Prop 33 to charge more to new people in the market. Afterall, when was the last time an insurance company billionaire spent $16 million on a ballot measure to save you money?

And if you doubt that such price discrimination would fall hardest on people of color, consider that the unemployment rates among whites is 7.5% and among blacks 14.1% percent and Latinos 10.2%. People of color are going to be the most likely to have to stop driving for economic reasons, and Prop 33 will slam them with 40% premium increases when they come back in the insurance market. That’s exactly how much Mercury Insurance charged those who didn’t drive previously when the sponsor of Prop 33 and his company were caught illegally surcharging them in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Prop 33 hurts all of us by putting more uninsured motorists on the road, and raising our uninsured motorists premiums, but it’s attempt to punish communities of color is outrageous.

Prop 33 is a deceptive initiative designed to bring us back to the day when insurance companies could price certain types of people out of the insurance market. That’s why consumer groups, civil rights groups like MALDEF and Equal Justice Society, as well every major newspaper editorial board in the state oppose it.

Recently civil rights leader Dolores Huerta spoke out against Prop 33. “We should be wary when a billionaire funds a self-enrichment ballot scheme,” said Huerta. “We will all pay if insurance discrimination against the poor and communities of color is brought back. Please join me in voting NO on Prop 33.”

Judging by the most recent poll, and thanks to whistleblowers like Jill Rogers, Californians seem to be agreeing with Huerta.


Originally posted on 11/1/2012 on the Huffington Post. Posted by Jamie Court, author of The Progressive’s Guide to Raising Hell and President of Consumer Watchdog, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to providing an effective voice for taxpayers and consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Visit us on Facebook and Twitter.

Meet the Man Who Kept the Rainbow Flag Free

By Danielle Riendeau

The fight for LGBT equality in the Bay Area has faced plenty of challenges. Meet Matt Coles, who has been fighting for them from the beginning.

The rainbow flag is known all over the world as a symbol of LGBT rights and acceptance. Here in San Francisco, a huge rainbow flag waves over the Castro District. But that flag came close to being a trademarked symbol that could have kept it from public use. In 1978 Gilbert Baker, the person who created the flag, came to the Castro law office of a young LGBT civil rights attorney in private practice named Matt Coles. Baker explained that he created the flag for everyone and wanted it to remain free for public use. He needed an attorney to represent him to challenge an attempt from an advocacy organization to trademark it. He didn’t have any money, but Matt agreed to represent him. Today, the rainbow flags that symbolize Pride Month are a symbol for the people.

The flag case wasn’t Matt’s first – or last – tango in the LGBT rights community. Now our Deputy National Legal Director, Matt has built an impressive career out of opposing discrimination and fighting difficult battles – he served as counsel in the ACLU/Lambda challenge to the military’s anti-gay “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, on the case that led to our first win in the U.S. Supreme Court, the challenge to Colorado’s anti-gay amendment 2, and on several challenges to Florida’s ban on adoption by gay people. He has figuratively – and literally – written the book on how to win LGBT Civil Rights: read Try This At Home for a few tips and tricks. When it comes to slaying dragons for the community, Matt is a genuine hero.

It all started right here in San Francisco. Before he came to the ACLU, he actually wrote the city’s first comprehensive law banning anti-gay discrimination – and California’s first as well.

What people may not know about LGBT history in the Bay Area is just how tough the fight for equal rights has been. Yes, the city has long been known the world over for its tolerant views and attitudes, especially where LGBT folks are concerned. This is where Del Martin and Phyllis Lyons started the daughters of Bilitis in the 1950s; it’s the city of Harvey Milk in the 1970s, home to the Castro and one of the world’s largest LGBT populations.

Back in 1982, the Board of Supervisors passed a domestic partnership ordinance that Matt wrote – but it was swiftly vetoed by then-mayor Dianne Feinstein. Matt wrote a new version that was passed in 1989, but was repealed by voters (yes, San Francisco voters repealed a gay rights bill – and it wasn’t so long ago). It finally passed for good in 1990, after 8 years of fighting tooth and nail for equality in what is often thought of as one of the most liberal and tolerant cities in the US. In 1991, a measure to repeal it was on the ballot again, but this time the repeal efforts failed.

The fight for full equality is far from over, in California and in the rest of the country. But you can rest assured that the ACLU will remain on the front lines.

On Protecting The Innocent, Or, Is There A Death Penalty Compromise?

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I don’t feel very good about this country this morning, and as so many of us are I’m thinking of how Troy Davis was hustled off this mortal coil by the State of Georgia without a lot of thought of what it means to execute the innocent.

And given the choice, I’d rather see us abandon the death penalty altogether, for reasons that must, at this moment, seem self-evident; that said, it’s my suspicion that a lot of states are not going to be in any hurry to abandon their death penalties anytime soon now that they know the Supreme Court will allow the innocent to be murdered.

So what if there was a way to create a compromise that balanced the absolute need to protect the innocent with the feeling among many Americans that, for some crimes, we absolutely have to impose the death penalty?

Considering the circumstances, it’s not going to be an easy subject, but let’s give it a try, and see what we can do.

Let’s Fix An Error Dept.: Apologies are in order, because in our last story we identified The Riverside Church in Manhattan as the place where George Carlin learned to be Catholic – and that could not have been more incorrect.  Bad research was the culprit here, and it’s something that we’ll obviously be working to improve. So, once again: sorry, and my bad.

Now if all the states want to limit the imposition of the death penalty to just the guilty (and after what we just saw in Georgia, that’s no longer 100% certain), one way you could do it would be to make it a lot harder to prove guilt – and that’s what we have in mind for today’s proposal.

As you may recall, we convict today with a “burden of proof” that is described as “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”; as we now know, it is possible to prove guilt, beyond a reasonable doubt, even when there’s a whole lot of reasonable doubt to be found.

In Davis’ case, he was given a chance on appeal to prove his innocence, and despite this conclusion from the Judge hearing the case…

“Ultimately, while Mr. Davis’s new evidence casts some additional, minimal doubt on his conviction, it is largely smoke and mirrors…”

…Davis was still executed.

So the way I would get at this problem would be to change the burden of proof in these cases: if you want to execute someone who is facing an aggravated murder or other capital charge, instead of “guilt beyond a reasonable doubt”, I would require “guilt beyond all doubt”.

If you can’t get to guilt beyond all doubt, but you can prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, then you could impose no sentence harsher than life without parole.

If this proposal had been in effect in Davis’ case, there could have been no execution after he argued that he was denied the effective assistance of counsel, because that would have erased “all doubt”; after that he would have had the rest of his life to demonstrate that he was wrongly convicted.

There are going to be a few reasons people might not like this proposal, and I’ll try to address some of them briefly:

Right off the bat, many will complain that because of the new burden of proof it will be virtually impossible to have executions at all; I would tell those folks that if that were to occur…then the system is working. The entire purpose of this plan is to make executions an extraordinarily rare occurrence and to move just about everyone on Death Rows nationwide to a “life without parole” future.

Beyond that, many will say that capital punishment is morally unacceptable under any circumstances, and to those folks I would respond that y’all make a pretty good point…but at the moment there are a lot of Americans who do not hold that moral position – and they have strong feelings too – and unless we can move them to a different point of view, then the best chance we have to prevent the innocent from being executed is to find some sort of compromise like this one.

(Don’t believe me about that “strong feelings” thing? How many of the readers here would be OK with the death penalty for Osama Bin Laden, if he were proved “beyond all doubt” to have been the person behind 9/11?)

A similar line of thought is expressed in the idea that we are seeing more and more voters who do oppose capital punishment, and with a bit of patience, this problem will go away.

After what happened to Troy Davis, I think there’s more urgency now than there was in times past, and that’s because we now see that at least one State will quickly kill a prisoner in order to “clear the case”, suggesting to me that patience is not as good an option as it was before.

Finally, I suspect many will feel that the effort to pass a proposal like this one would distract from the effort to end the death penalty, which is, again, a pretty good argument.

To those folks I would respond that we may get some states to end the death penalty today, but there are a lot of other states that are not going to want to give up the death penalty for some time to come (remember the people who cheered Rick Perry’s execution record?), and if we aren’t going to be able to end the death penalty completely, then I think we have to offer some sort of compromise; a compromise based on the concepts of “killing the innocent isn’t The American Way” or “you could still execute Osama” could appeal to voters who simply won’t give up on the death penalty altogether.

So that’s what we have for you today: even though I personally would prefer that we end the death penalty and just go to life without parole for all these crimes, I don’t think we’re going to achieve that in a lot of states; with that in mind I’m proposing a compromise that would protect the innocent by ending virtually all executions, even as it allows an extraordinarily difficult to reach exception that could satisfy those who absolutely do not want to see the application of the death penalty come to an end.

It’s an imperfect compromise, I’ll admit – but in a big ol’ swath of America that runs from roughly Florida to Idaho, it may be the best compromise we can make right now, and right now, in those places, that might have to be good enough.

Entirely Off The Subject Dept.: We are still trying to get signatures for the petition to change the name of Manhattan’s W 121st St (one block from Seminary Row) to George Carlin Street, and we need your help; you can sign right here. The goal is to reach 10,000 signatures by Monday, so…get to it.

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On Reopening For Business, Or, What? No Flying Cars?

So I took a bit of a break this past month, and I figured by the time I came back y’all would have things sorted out: people would be surely by flying around with jet packs by now, God would have sent fires and floods to smite the unrighteous, and, if I really got lucky, Barack Obama would have “grown a pair”.

And now that I’m back, debt negotiations are about to commence between that same Barack Obama and the Republican Congressional Leadership, things like Social Security and Medicare cuts are apparently on the table in order to protect tax cuts for the rich, and certain quarters of the Republican Party aren’t even trying anymore to hide their racism.

All of which suggests that I shouldn’t be looking for a jet pack anytime soon.

But there is some good news: God is apparently working hard, and states like Oklahoma and Arizona and Florida and Georgia and Texas have been alternately aflame or aflood, apparently as a result of their unrepentant behavior…and on the economic front, New York City’s Stonewall Inn is going to make a ton of money this summer hosting weddings.

That gives us a lot to talk about…so let’s get right to it.

Pessimism is cowardice. The man who cannot frankly acknowledge the “Jim-Crow” car as a fact and yet live and hope, is simply afraid either of himself or of the world. There is not in the world a more disgraceful denial of brotherhood than the “Jim-Crow” car of the southern United States; but, too, just as true, there is nothing more beautiful in the universe than sunset and moonlight on Montego Bay in far Jamaica. And both things are true and both belong to this, our world, and neither can be denied.

–From On Being Black, by W.E.B. DuBois

We gotta start with the most “WTF?!?” news first: Personhood USA is a group that figures the only reason we want to make sure that abortion rights are protected for women who are raped, either by members of their own family or others…is because we really don’t understand how wonderful it can be for women to enter motherhood in this way, or for those children to enter the world; all of which presumably means that for these folks, the dark cloud of rape and incest has a silver lining that the rest of us never really think about.

To help make the point, and to help advance legislation that basically says that as soon as two sets of haploid chromosomes become a diploid a child is born (this to try to criminalize abortion in the State), Personhood Mississippi sent their representative, Rebecca Kiessling, on a week-long “Conceived in Rape Lecture Series“.

“I am not the rapist’s child!”, Kiessling declares in a written statement, which I personally think is going to be tough to sell to some poor kid who’s been forced by law to sit down at Thanksgiving dinner next to his father and grandfather – and there’s only one guy sitting there. Especially in a State that isn’t exactly big on providing mental health services to these victims.

But let’s move on to happier subjects:

I live in Washington State, and for the past several years Democrats in what you might think is an aggressively liberal State are fighting a losing battle to keep it that way; much of this, frankly, rests on the shoulders of Governor Christine Gregoire, who, not unlike many other Democratic leaders nationally, has simply not chosen to take the fight to the Republicans.

But this may change, as Congressman Jay Inslee is apparently going to announce his candidacy for the State’s top office on Monday.

I have to confess that I personally am looking forward to this, as Inslee has been pushing a lot of issues that I care about over the years, including real health care reform and an energy policy that tries to remove Saudi Arabia from their position as America’s “best frenemy forever”.

I don’t have the exact quote handy, but I once saw Inslee, on the floor of the House, describe a Bush budget as having the same effect on someone as it would be if you hit them over the head with their own artificial leg, and I’ve been a fan ever since; if he takes that attitude to the campaign and governing we’ll be the better off for the effort.

The number of states looking to screw over their workers is growing fast, and so far Barack Obama hasn’t been able to locate those “comfortable shoes” he said he’d be putting on so he could march right alongside those same workers.

I want to be helpful here, Mr. President, not mean…so maybe you might want to check out the Nike Factory Store over there at the outlet mall in Potomac Mills, which is out in Virginia just a bit past Arlington National Cemetery. (It’s right next to the Burlington Coat Factory and that Japanese place in the food court). I have shopped at one of those Nike stores a time or two, and they have lots of comfortable shoes – and boots, too, which are really great for marches.

Now I like these right here – but I wouldn’t pay $120 for ’em; instead, I’d wait for them to drop to below $50…but workers in Wisconsin and Ohio and Michigan and New Jersey don’t have that kind of time, so if I were you I’d pay the extra money and treat it as a campaign expense or something…and then I’d actually fulfill my promise and get out and wear those shoes, before the Republicans start running that pesky YouTube video as a campaign ad…which, sooner or later, they probably will.

When Osama Bin Laden was killed just a mile or so from Pakistan’s military academy we all wondered how it was possible for the world’s most wanted man to be there and, somehow, no one in authority knew about it.

And now (alleged serial killer, notorious Mob boss, FBI informant, and “Next Most Wanted Man”) Whitey Bulger was just captured a few blocks from the Santa Monica pier, in an apartment he rented for 15 years, which just happens to be 4.5 miles from the FBI’s Los Angeles field office up on Wilshire Boulevard.

Just sayin’.

Not a word from me about Anthony Weiner. Instead, go read what K.Flay had to say about all this, as she has it exactly right. (If you visit she will also, out of the kindness of her heart, hook you up with lots of her music, free of charge, which is très sweet.)

Olbermann is back, if you did not yet know, on Al Gore’s Current channel, which means you probably have to go to the website to see him (unless you have either DirecTV, or Dish, or a cooperative cable company), but it’s worth the effort.

Since Current lacks content, he can be seen “on air” at nearly any hour of the day (the “official” time: 8 PM weeknights on the East Coast, 5 on the West), which reminds me of “Spahn and Sain and pray for rain” in a couple of ways (much respect, Vanguard); we’ll be watching to see how that shapes up over time with great interest.

Next up, perhaps the best story of “taking your enlightenment where you find it” in history:

So the Dalai Lama walks into a bar and tells the bartender:

“Make me one with everything”

Does everyone remember that guy in Florida a few weeks back who said God wanted him to burn the Qur’an, so he went out and burned him some?

Has anyone noticed that, just a few weeks later, Florida is now so overwhelmed with fires that they are running out of people to send to fight them…and that most of them, evidently, were started by lightning?

So…does that make you more or less likely to be an atheist – or a comic – or do you find that compassion in the face of the bad karma of others is the right way?

In our final comment today, we offer congratulations to New York’s LBGT community, who, thanks to the passage of marriage equality legislation, are now just as free to be just as miserable as any other married couple in the State. In your honor, we’ll close out today’s story with a joke, courtesy of the great Henny Youngman:

So the wife and I are laying in bed, and she looks over at me and says: “What’s the matter, honey? Can’t you think of anyone else either?”

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May 25th is the 8th Annual Disability Capitol Action Day in Sacramento. Persons with and without disabilities, some with mobility devises or service animals, will march and roll to the Capitol; allowing our message to be heard by the community as we hold our Education Rally, and then have our legislative visits.

This is probably one of the most important days on the political calender of which you have never heard!

Thirty years ago we whenw e had the first wave of disability rights actrivism with such stalwarts as the late Jane Small

If we care about Disability Civil Rights, and if we understand the importance of more than 10 million Californians affected by disability having a real voice in the political discourse of our state, and if we really believe that California is a state where everyone is treated equally and respectfully, then we must be prepared to speak up, educate, and learn all we can to be an authentic part of the most important civil rights issue of this decade.  

fari education, but also explaining and cajouling our sentaros and assemblymemerbs to try and understand teh real needs of Califnirnas approximately 10 million people who have some sort of a a   research money for various diseases and disabilities, advocating for staem cell research, and trying to persuade fonvcen cothese folksr epresent a wide range of organisaions who ae lobbying of disabiliteis and organziaions meet inside iwththeir legislators.10:00AM – 3:00PM – Resource Fair

Dozens of outdoor booths will be set up with information regarding disability rights and accessibility

1:30 – 3:00PM – Legislative Visits

All participants are encouraged to make an appointment with your legislators

May 25th, 2011 is Capitol Action Day in Sacramento. Not only will there be hundreds of people using wheelchairs and other mobility devises or service animals hanging out on the Capitol steps, but there will be folks inside speaking with their representatives.

These  conversations will range from lobbying for the best deal we can get for MediCal and fairer education.  

On Petals And Metal, Or, Today And Tomorrow, Street Actions Are Afoot

For the past couple months I have been talking a lot about “taking it back”, and I have two great chances for you to do just that over the next two days.

One of them involves actions that are taking place all over the USA-but the other is a very special and particular event which will be taking place in Vancouver, British Columbia on Wednesday.

This’ll be a short story…but by the time we’re done, you’ll have stuff to do this week.

A young lady visitor on the set of “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break” asked W.C.Fields if he liked flowers. Fields replied he was very fond of Four Roses.

–Ronald J. Fields, from the book W.C.Fields  By Himself

So here’s what’s up:

Tomorrow, MoveOn.org and a ton of others are planning “Defend the American Dream” rallies around the country…in fact, as of the time this was written there are 277 events planned, all on the same day.

A few weeks ago Social Security workers held “informational picketing” events at Social Security offices around the country to make Americans aware that proposed Republican budget cuts would create huge “bumps in the road” for those who want their Social Security checks to go out on time, or who might like to speak to an employee on the same day they call the office.

That’s part of tomorrow’s program as well, with Washington DC’s office a sort of starting point from which our anger with what’s been going on can spread.

So if you’re in DC tomorrow, right after office hours, the event will take place at 5:30 PM at the Social Security office at 2100 M Street NW, and there is a handy “meetup page” to give you more information if you need it.  

But maybe you’re not going to be in DC.

We still got you covered: this page right here will let you enter a zip code and find an event near you.

For example, there’s a Rally at the San Diego County Administration Center-which, as y’all know, is maybe eight blocks from the end of the runway at Lindbergh Field-and Jim Brown and Virginia Huschke, who are putting on the event, report that they had 1000 people show up last week at the same place for the same thing…so you gotta be there.

Maybe you’re in Michigan…and if you can get to the Veterans’ Memorial in Niles after work tomorrow, United Steel Workers Local 13729 and MoveOn Michiana want you. The Memorial, for those unaware, is located at Waterfront Park, right by the Main Street Bridge and across the street from Massimo’s Pizza-which means afterwards you can pick up a meatball sub or somethin’ and not even have to cook dinner. (Maybe it’s just me, but I am not down for the ranch pizza.)

If you’re in Mobile, Alabama, swing by the cannon at Mobile Memorial Park (on Government Street), where hundreds of protesters intend to use the cannon to take the city hostag-no, wait, I made that part up.

They are intending to have a lovely demonstration, however…and if you think Alabama is an unlikely place for this kind of rally, think again: folks who might have been big on the Tea Party a few months ago are starting to think again, and this is a great chance to help those with seeds of doubt do a bit of “germinating”, as it were.  

So that’s tomorrow’s set of events…but what about that Vancouver thing we were talking about?

Well this is good.

The Yes Men” are well-known pranksters, and some of their past efforts to “correct corporate identities” have been downright diabolical, including the time they pretended they were the Dow Chemical Corporation, and they held a press conference to announce that Dow was assuming all liability related to the industrial accident at Bhopal, India, which killed at least 3400 people…which, naturally, forced Dow to go on TV and immediately announce that the people of Bhopal could basically go suck an egg, because Dow wasn’t actually planning on forkin’ over a dime on their behalf.

Now on Wednesday, at noon, in beautiful downtown Vancouver BC, a prank is going down…and The Yes Men want you to help make it work…and they want you in costume.

Can you make yourself look like a reporter? They’re particularly looking for you to bring a camera-and if it’s on a tripod, that’s even better.

If you resemble a “businessperson at lunch”, they want you too.

Even random “crowd folks” are wanted in a “come as you are” kind of a look.

Now the only hitch we have on this is the meetup information, which they were supposed to send on Monday. For the moment, with no better information available, why not plan to hang out at the Downtown Vancouver Library around 11AM, and I will either update this story to add new information, or I’ll keep sending them messages to arrange for someone to come by the Library and find the group of “reporters” and “businesspeople at lunch” and “random crowd members”.

I told you this would be a short one, so that’s the deal: after work today, there are “Defend the American Dream” rallies all over the country for you to attend, which can be found right here, and on Wednesday, The Yes Men will be putting on one of their very special pranks in Downtown Vancouver-and they want you to come on down and join in the fun.

“Taking It Back” is important, but there’s no reason we can’t have a good time while we’re doing it, and that’s what these events are all about…so go have a good day at work-but on the way home, take some time to stand up for your country.

And if you can work it out, bring the kids.

After all, a really good education starts at home…and this, this thing we’re doing right here…this is education.

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On Taking It Back, Or, Wisconsin Recalls, Explained

News is suddenly moving so fast that it’s becoming hard for me to keep up; that’s why we’re not finishing the story today that we just began Tuesday. You know, the one about Titan Cement suing two North Carolina residents who appear to be doing nothing more than speaking the truth.

Unfortunately, other important news has forced itself to the front of the line, and it’s going to demand that we break schedule, whether we like it or not.

That’s why today we’re going to be talking about Wisconsin, and how workers there are fighting back against the State’s Republican legislators and Governor, who seem to have gone out of their way this past three weeks to govern without the consent of the governed.

It’s kind of chilly today in Wisconsin…but I can assure you, things are heating up fast-and it ain’t because of spring.

“I will tell you this: Any business where two partners don’t trust each other, any business where one party says, ‘You need to do X, Y and Z because I told you,’ is a business that is not only not run well, it is a business that can never be as successful as it can be,”

–Former National Football League Players’ Association executive director DeMaurice Smith

As so often happens, we need a bit of background:

In Wisconsin, a recall involves first, the collection of signatures, then, if you get enough, a recall election.

Once the proper papers have been filed, those who want to recall an elected official have 60 days to gather signatures for a recall petition that equal 25% of the number of votes cast in the prior gubernatorial election in that “political subdivision”.

What that means is in English is that if you’re looking to recall a State Senator and the last time a Governor ran, 50,000 votes were cast in that Senator’s District, you need to gather 12,500 signatures in 60 days to force a recall election in that District.

The election is not to ask the question: “Should this officeholder be recalled?”

Instead, the incumbent will run against other candidates, and whoever has the most votes either keeps or takes over the office.

It is possible that multiple candidates will emerge from within the same Party; if that happens a “recall primary” election is held.

A primary would take place four weeks after the signatures are turned in, the recall election itself would be six weeks after, and both elections would be held on a Tuesday; all of this according to Article XIII, Section 12 of the Wisconsin Constitution.

You can’t recall someone until after they’ve been in office for a year, so the Governor can’t be recalled…today…but because the Senate elects half of its Members every two years there are a group of State Senators who can be recalled; they were elected in 2008.

If three Republicans were to be recalled and replaced by Democrats, the State Senate would change from majority Republican to majority Democratic.

If you’ve ever been to Embarrass, Wisconsin (home of The Chair That Grew), you’ve visited Robert Cowles’ 2nd District. (For the record, it’s more or less 100 miles due north of Milwaukee, and there’s some football team that plays in Green Bay that’s also in his District.) He’s been a Senator since 1987, and in ’08 he ran unopposed. His District voted 52-46 for Obama over McCain in ’08, and chose Bush over Kerry by almost exactly the same margin in ’04.

I do not have a feel for who might run against him, but I have some calls out to try to get an answer; if I learn more, we’ll add it to the story.

One Senator who might be in trouble is Alberta Darling (so far as I know, she’s unrelated to cricket great Joe Darling), who represents District 8, which is basically Milwaukee’s northern suburbs.

In ’08 she only won by 1007 votes (of about 100,000 cast).

It’s worth noting, however, that her District cast the most votes for Governor in 2010; as a result her opponents will be required to gather more valid signatures than in any other District (20,343, by one reckoning).

Her opponent last time was Sheldon Wasserman; he’s a former State Representative, an OB/GYN from Milwaukee, and a member of the State’s Medical Examining Board.

(On a side note, it looks as though the Governor might be messing with the Board as well; he refused to allow two recent physician nominees selected by the Board to be seated, and he’s apparently looking to nominate his own people.)

Just as in District 2, this District voted for Obama in ’08, and Bush in ’04.

Sheila Harsdorf, who currently chairs the Senate Committee on State and Federal Relations and Information Technology, was sent to Madison to look after the interests of the State’s westernmost District, “The Fightin’ 10th“, as Sir Rev. Dr. Stephen T. Colbert, DFA, would say.

Even though she thinks State workers are taking too much from the public Treasury…her relationships with the Federal Government are so good that she had no problem taking in $195,000 in Federal farm subsidies over a ten-year period for Beldenville’s Trim-Bel Valley Farms, of which she just happened to be a 50% owner as recently as 2008 (for all I know, she may still be an owner, more current information was unavailable).

This is another one of those Districts that went for Obama in ’08 by about just the same margin as it went for Bush in ’04.

Luther Olsen of the 14th (located about 40 miles or so due north of Madison) is another farm owner; he owns 20% of Waushara’s Riverview Farm; they also happily accepted at least $58,502 of your money and mine, because Olsen, like Sheila Harsdorf, apparently believes that’s a better use of our money than, you know, paying a public school teacher or something.

(Fun Fact: did you know Golda Meir, the former Prime Minister of Israel, used to be a Milwaukee public school teacher?)

Olsen did not face an opponent in ’08…and once again, this District went Obama in ’08, Bush in ’04-although it went about 4 points farther for Bush than for Obama.

And that brings us to Randy Hopper.

This District (the 18th, which most notably includes Oshkosh and Fond Du Lac) is another one of those Republican seats that are considered among the most “gettable”; that’s because just 163 votes separated Hopper and his ’08 opponent, Jessica King.

There’s also this:

“I have a lot of correctional facilities, a couple universities, and a couple of tech schools [in my district]. I have the second largest population of state employees in the state.”

Hopper also chairs the Senate Education Committee…and there’s also a story going around that his wife is telling people that he’s been providing some “private lessons” to his 25-year-old mistress down in Madison; this according to the MAL Contends… blog-and that’s not going to help a family-values candidate.

He owns two radio stations, one an AM-talk Ag Report and Hannity broadcaster, the other an FM station that caters to the “music at work” market; this may allow him to mitigate some of the potentially-about-to-occur bad publicity, and certainly can’t hurt at election time.

Perhaps the most unrepentant Republican during this process has been Glen Grothman of the 20th (which actually, literally, includes Fredonia, and that has to have some deeper meaning…), and he can afford to take a strong stand.

This guy might well be a mortal lock in this District: the Sheboygan area is one of the most reliably Republican-voting regions of the State over the past 30 years, and of all the Senate candidates who faced opposition in ’08, he won with a larger margin of victory than any of ’em. (He didn’t get 61% of the vote in ’08…he won by 61% of the vote.)

(Fun Fact #2: Our friends at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel created these two most excellent voting trend maps for your dining and dancing pleasure; they illustrates how Wisconsin can swing wildly back and forth between Republican and Democratic “electoral domination”.)

Moving on: Mary Lazich, of the 28th, occupies another seat that is going to be tough to get-her District encompasses Milwaukee’s western suburbs (a reliably Republican voting region; in both ’04 and ’08 Republican Presidential candidates won with over 60% of the vote), she did not face an opponent in ’08, and this is another District that will require more than 20,000 signatures to force an election.

“…Fate has been hounding me like a Mormon missionary with an Amway franchise…”

–A. Whitney Brown, appearing on the television show Almost Live!

We’re going to complete today’s “Recall Roundup” with one of the most vulnerable of all the Senators: Dan Kapanke, the Senate Majority Caucus Chair (and a pretty good “get” if you’re running a recall campaign). He’s from the 32nd, which is all the way across the State from Milwaukee, on the Minnesota border, pretty much in Wisconsin’s southwest corner.

He won by less than 3 points in ’08, his District voted 61%-38% for Obama over McCain…and 53%-46% for Kerry over Bush in ’04, which is the largest margin of any of the 8 Republican Senators currently under recall threat. (Go back and have another look at those voting trend maps, and look at what’s happened to this corner of the State.)

He’s hard right on social issues, but the Farm Bureau loves him.

He is quoted as saying that he expects the signature gathering effort in his District to be successful (only about 15,400 signatures are needed) …and he’s also quoted as having the belief that there is such a thing as a Wisconsin State Senate arrest, despite the presence of an “immunity from arrest” clause in the Wisconsin Constitution.

As of March 8th, 57% of voters in the 32nd would rather have “generic” than Kapanke in a recall election, and they had to close the road outside his house on Friday to keep the hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered there safe.

Now before we close today…we need to offer “big ups” to DavidNYC, who posted a fantastic interactive results spreadsheet at the Swing State Project site; we’ve been referring to it a bunch in this story and you should have a look at it yourself.

And with all that said, that’s today’s “scorecard”, folks, and you can keep track of all the races-or volunteer to help-from one handy location: WisconsinRecall.net…so bookmark the spot, help out any way you can, and let’s start with Wisconsin…and then move on to Ohio and Indiana and Michigan next.

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Campaign Manifesto #1: In A World Of Phonies, It’s Time For A Fake Candidate

We have spent the past two years watching as insanity has gripped Congress, and even more so with Republicans now running the House.

We have a wavering President, far too many feckless Democrats, and Republicans that have decided to dive headfirst into total “insane mode” in a full-blown effort to destroy this country just as fast as possible.

To give but one example, in my own District, WA-08, we are represented by the absolutely useless Republican Dave Reichert, whose best-known legislative achievement is that he has virtually no record of any legislative achievement whatever.

Now we’ve had a very interesting relationship, you and I, over these past few years; in my efforts to “bring you the story” I’ve been a fake political consultant, a fake lobbyist, even a fake historian…and now, I think it’s time to try to bring our relationship to a new level.

And that’s why, America, I’m announcing my fake candidacy for Congress.

It was almost too good to be true. Richard Milhous Nixon, the main villain of my political consciousness for as long as I can remember, was finally biting that bullet that he’s been talking about all these years. The man that not even Goldwater or Eisenhower could tolerate had finally gone too far-and now he was walking the plank, on national TV, six hours a day-with The Whole World Watching, as it were.

That phrase is permanently etched on some grey rim on the back of my brain. Nobody who was at the corner of Michigan and Balboa on that Wednesday night in August of 1968 will ever forget it.

Richard Nixon is living in the White House today because of what happened that night in Chicago. Hubert Humphrey lost that election by a handful of votes-mine among them-and I had it to do again I would still vote for Dick Gregory.

–From Fear and Loathing in the Bunker, by Hunter S. Thompson

So let’s start with the obvious question: why a fake candidacy?

Well…why not?

Obviously, I can be just as fake as any real politician, and, as we discussed before, we have years of history together to prove it.

Can I be more useful to the District than Reichert?

Hey…even a fake me can do that.

After all, it’s not like there’s a high bar to jump over or anything.

It was four years in office before he actually got anything passed…and according to Congress.org, by 2008 he was ranked number  401 out of 435  in terms of how much power he exerts in the House…and that’s 9th out of 9 for the Washington State delegation. (Reichert’s own Congressional website reports he was ranked 166th out of 435 in 2006-and that means he fell more than 250 spots in a single term.)

So basically, all I have to do is take the Oath of Office…and we’re pretty much tied.

Now Dave tries to some extent to ” straddle the middle “, as a result he supports environmental legislation but he’s against “card check”; he also voted to extend children’s health care coverage. He supported the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

His stance on Social Security?

Do a search for Social Security on his Congressional website, and you get “No documents matched your query”. Look for Social Security as an issue on his site and you can find this:

Congressman Reichert has fought to protect seniors’ Medicare and Social Security benefits, preserve their access to needed health care services, and make prescription drugs more affordable

(You have to look under ” Seniors ” to find it…but at least it’s there.)

According to FreedomWorks, Reichert had  no position worth reporting  on Social Security when they attended his April ’05 Social Security workshop…although  another attendee  reports he had this to say about removing that “tax cap” that represents a giant tax dodge for the richest among us:

Raising the cap was portrayed by all three as a tax hike, which they oppose because “the government shouldn’t be taking any more out of families’ hard earned budgets.”

OnTheIssues  has this to say about his Social Security record:

No issue stance yet recorded by OnTheIssues.org.

By the way…did I mention that Reichert is currently serving on the  House Subcommittee on Social Security ?

That’s a pretty high level of useless, and it’s exactly this kind of “get up and go” that explains how Reichert managed to fight his way right on up to number 401 in effectiveness among those 435 Members of Congress.

Me, I support the “Rich People Pay, Too” approach: no matter what your wage income might be, you gotta pay Social Security tax. No more “once you get rich, it’s a free ride”.

And guess what? If we just made all wage income taxable for Social Security purposes…the problem is actually  solved…and it  might not  even require that much reform.  

Law and order?

Reichert is a former Sheriff, and a man who cultivates the image that  he personally caught the Green River Killer. When a bill came up to get the Justice Department off the backs of medical marijuana users, Reichert voted ” no “.

I am most assuredly not a former Sheriff…and as a fake candidate, I would propose a different approach:

If you elect me, and we can get the bill passed, once a week I will personally dose up Members like Louie Gohmert and Michelle Bachmann and Joe Barton with large amounts of LSD…and I will then transport them right back to the House floor…and then one hour a day we’ll set up something like the obstacle course on MXC and then have them run it…and I will introduce a bill to set up a special “Premium Content” partnership with C-SPAN that charges $14.95 a month so that you can see the uncensored “GoDaddy” version of the video, with the money to be used to lower the Federal deficit.

I support medical marijuana-but I would limit the co-pay, by law, to $10.

Civil rights?

Reichert opposes same-sex marriage, and only gets a 50% rating from the NAACP…and I’m one of the only people you’ll ever meet who was officially  notified he was gay by email…and if one of my family members had a “homosexual relationship”, unlike some Members, I wouldn’t keep it on the ” down low “.

I’m more or less broke, just like you-and they tell me that, if you win, there’s  pretty good health insurance -but I’m not looking for donations, from any source…with one exception:

At the moment this is a fake candidacy, but I’m thinking about asking a group to consider underwriting this as a comedic art project-and if they do, that would be the only money the “fake campaign” would accept.

So there you go: from here on out, there will be more “Manifestos” from the fake campaign-and in the next one, we’ll be talking, once again, about how you can support a candidate like Reichert, who’s basically a joke…or you can support a candidate like me, who really is one.

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