Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Good, The Bad, and the Strange

There’s been a lot going on in the US lately, and so I wanted to touch on a few things and update some others. The governor of Indiana (Mike Pence) has signed a revision of the “religious freedom law” I wrote about last week.  According to CBS News…

…the law does not, “Authorize a provider to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public based on race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.” (“Indiana Governor Signs Updated Religious Freedom Law”, Rebecca Kaplan, CBS News website, 4/2/2015).

But, while it states someone cannot refuse or provide services, it is still legal to fire someone in Indiana because of their sexual orientation if they work in, say, a Catholic school as a teacher. That’s wrong.  Substitute the word for any protected class (women, Latinos, etc) and you can see how wrong it is.

The law needs to be repealed, in my opinion.  And, really, the only reason the governor did this was because businesses were objecting – Apple, Angie’s List, and the NCAA, to name 3.  As usual, money is the key (Ibid).

Regarding Ebola, the cases were diminishing, but have picked up again, unfortunately. It’s not in the news in the US much – if at all – because there are no more stories about people coming back from 3rd world countries infected. According to The Independent (UK newspaper)…

Dr David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on Ebola, told The Independent the world should prepare for more major outbreaks of zoonotic diseases – those which can pass from animals to humans – which he said were a “local and global threat to humanity”.

“There will be more: one, because people are moving around more; two, because the contact between humans and the wild is on the increase; and maybe because of climate change. The worry we always have is that there will be a really infectious and beastly bug that comes along.”  (“World Warned: Prepare for More Ebola Outbreaks”, Charlie Cooper, The Independent UK, 4/5/2015).

Deforestation is the reason there is more contact between humans and wild animals.  The thing about climate change isn’t necessarily relevant to Ebola, but it is for mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.  Climate change has expanded the range of mosquitoes.

So, I am sorry to say, that’s the bad news.

The other bad news, this time closer to home, is the frighteningly increasing numbers of people being shot and killed by police – usually African-American males, and often in the back, and when they aren’t doing a thing to provoke it.

As if provocation is any excuse for a police officer shooting someone – it’s not.  But so many times, the reason the police use for shooting is “wrestling over a gun”, or “going for a weapon”, and a lot of people used to believe that.

The last incident was not a shooting, but a death of someone who was in police custody at the time.  No one is saying how this man got his injuries, and the police are denying they did anything to injure him (though they are supposedly investigating it).

The man, Freddie Gray, was walking down the street when the police made eye contact with him.  He took off running.

Let me stop here.  If the police were, for some extremely weird reason, killing older white women on a frequent basis, I reckon I would run from them, too.  And mind you, this killing of AA males has been going on for a long time, it’s just with smartphones/cameras we are hearing about it more.

They arrested him, and it’s not clear why.  Something about him having a switchblade, which by the way isn’t a crime.  He didn’t resist arrest (by the police’s own admission), and he was limping.  His leg was hurt, and he had just been recently released from the hospital after being treated for three fractured vertebrae and a crushed voicebox (from a car accident).

He was put in a transport van and not seat-belted, and by the time he arrived (half an hour later) at the police station, he wasn’t breathing.  The police admit they did not get medical attention for him when he asked, nor did they call an ambulance. (“The Mysterious Death of Freddie Grey”, David A. Graham, The Atlantic website, 4/22/2015; “A Freddie Grey Primer: Who Was He, How Did He Die, Why is There So Much Anger?”, Peter Hermann and John Woodrow Cox, The Washington Post website, 4/28/2015)

Now he’s dead.  He was 25.

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Legalized Hatred: Pushback Against LGBT Rights

Although the original purpose of this blog was to have something for my grandson and others to read about 2014 and beyond, it’s morphed into something larger.

There are still health updates, still criticisms of the healthcare system and its built-in corruption based on profit, general news of the times, and commentary on what it’s like to be poor/over 50/disabled on a day-to-day basis…but now I am adding more and more examples of what I see as an increase in rudeness, unkindness, bullying, and extreme intolerance/narrow-mindedness.

It’s not that I started out to be negative or focus on bad attitudes and behavior, it just seems to me that I run into so much more of it these days – helped, of course, by the online world, which seemingly magnifies everything and can bring out the worst in humans at times.

I don’t see a lot of appeals for people to back off, look at their own aggressive behavior, and maybe focus a bit more on what they can do that will make the world a bit better, and not just a world where all their needs and desires are catered to.

Take the recent passing of legislation in certain states that is touted as “religious freedom law”, when in fact what it is, is legislation designed to remove penalties for outright bigotry and discrimination.

Now, if someone wants to hate someone for who they are etc, I really don’t care but when that person tries to legislate hate as legal or immune to legal remedy, that’s where it crosses the line.  It’s no longer a “I believe what I want to believe” issue, but a “I should be allowed to hurt people I don’t like and you can’t legally stop me” issue.

No.  One thing about civilized societies is we do not go around hurting people with impunity just because we think we have a right to do so.  And, no, I am not talking about hurting someone’s feelings (though I do think that has a lasting effect on someone’s psyche), I am talking about denying services or otherwise discriminating against people because of their sexual orientation.

I am picking ‘sexual orientation’ this week because of the laws that have been enacted that basically protect people who want to discriminate against gay people.  Next week it could be something else – there is unfortunately no shortage of hatred in the world today.

One very large and very vocal group that is funding a lot of this anti-gay legislation is called the Alliance Defending Freedom (“How An Extreme Anti-LGBT Legal Powerhouse is Working to Enact ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws”, Rachel Percelay, Media Matters for America website, 4/16/2015).  Their justifications for what they do are those tired old tropes about “a gay agenda” and “pushing their lifestyle on everyone else” – that being gay somehow infringes on their right-wing Christian ‘rights’.  They use the tactic of redefining oppression to turn it on its head and have it mean that equal rights = oppression.

You know, those “religious rights” that I guess are special to that group because…..reasons and Jesus and pushy gays.  And teaching children to be gay and blah blah blah fear-mongering garbage on Fox News.

Again, it’s another example of fringe Christians believing that they are being persecuted when some group they don’t like is afforded the same civil rights as all Americans.  Yes, it does not make much sense.  These “patriots” are so freedom-loving but only in regards to a very narrow sector of the American population.

No one told them that this is not how America is supposed to work.

Specifically, there was a law passed recently in Indiana that essentially allows businesses or individuals (like landlords, for example) to deny service to people if by serving ‘those people’ it goes against their religious beliefs.  And that this supercedes silly little things like federal civil rights laws.

According to an article by Mike Hiltzik in the LA Times

Indiana’s law applies to wholly private disputes in which the government is not a party. That places the burden of fighting discrimination on its victims. The result will be “private actors, such as employers, landlords, small-business owners, or corporations, taking the law into their own hands and acting in ways that violate generally applicable laws on the grounds that they have a religious justification for doing so,”a group of 30 law professors from across the country warned Indiana legislators while SB 101 was being debated. (“Indiana’s Anti-LGBT Law is Even Worse Than it Seems”, Mike Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times website, 3/31/15).

So, if you are discriminated against by, well, anyone, your recourse is to hire an attorney.  You can’t ask the Justice Dept to help you, even though what happened was a civil rights violation.

I am old enough to recall when this actually was the only recourse someone had if, say, they were fired for being female.  Which happened to me in Minnesota, in 1975, when Sears fired me because they said “their male workers felt intimidated because they can’t put up their girly calendars and they have to watch their language because they are working with a woman.”

I filed a complaint with the state.  They didn’t do anything with it.  There was no federal recourse.  And, since I was poor, I couldn’t afford an attorney.

Years later a group of women won a class-action suit in Minnesota against Sears for the same thing – whoopee, I was right.  Didn’t help me, though, did it?  Story of my life, unfortunately.

So I can tell you from personal experience, what the Indiana law does is it effectively legalizes discrimination.  And it tries to do it by claiming it’s an undue burden for Christians to serve LGBT people.  Because, apparently selling pizzas to gay people causes a moral dilemma for Christians and makes them violate their religious beliefs.

“That’s a lifestyle that you choose,” Kevin O’Connor told WBND. “I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle?” (“Indiana Pizzeria Vows to Never Deliver a Pizza to a Gay Wedding”, Catherine Thompson, TPM Livewire website, 4/1/15)

Selling pizza is being “beat over the head”.  Oh, but he did then add that he wouldn’t refuse to serve a gay couple in his restaurant, he just wouldn’t deliver pizzas to their wedding.  Because catering a gay wedding compromises his principles.  He couldn’t answer when asked if he would cater a wedding for people who had been divorced….oh and he’s divorced, by the way…you know, that whole “if you remarry after divorcing it’s still adultery” thing in the Bible.  He said he would have to think about that.

So this is the kind of thing you would have no legal remedy for.  Of course, what happened to this guy’s business is he was (and still is) boycotted by a lot of people, and on the other side the bigots raised over $800k for the poor dear.  He reopened his business and is getting kudos from bigoted Christians everywhere.

But here’s something to consider – and something I mentioned to a van driver who was listening to Rush Limbaugh bitching about “Christian rights” who told me that “those gays are trying to shove their lifestyle down our throats, and we have a right not to serve them – it’s our business, America supports free enterprise blah blah blah”…

What if the “Christian” was a part of the Christian Identity Movement?  They’re a part of the white supremist movement.  They use the Bible to spread their hate about Jews and African-Americans and just about anyone else who isn’t “white” (“Christian Identity”, ADL website, no date).  So, in Indiana, they can bar anyone from their business and then claim “Christian rights”.  They could put signs in their windows stating they will not serve Jews or African-Americans or Latinos or LGBT people or anyone without a cone for a head.

I asked the van driver, “Would that be ok with you?”

His answer: “But I saw a video on YouTube where a guy went into Muslim bakeries and asked them to bake a cake for a gay wedding.  And no one did anything to those businesses!!!!”

Typical.  Caught out in his prejudiced, hateful attitudes, he deflects to something he thinks everyone in America agrees on – hatred of Muslims.  And he continued to yell so that I could not get in a word edge-wise.  Basically he shouted me down and I had to decide if this was a battle worth fighting – and since he and I were the only ones on the van and it wasn’t a ‘teaching moment’ for me, I backed off and shut up.  After telling him I didn’t hate Muslims like he does.

But you see how this is going to go unless people speak up and get the Indiana law revoked – it just opens the door for rampant discrimination, divisiveness, and hate.  Not just against the LGBT community, but against the whole rest of us, too.

Well, those of us who aren’t closeminded fake Christians.

“Preservation of one’s own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures.” (Cesar Chavez, United Farm Workers website, no date)

Today’s weirdness comes from a couple of different places…

http://www.rainymood.com/    This is a site that features nice mellow music and rain/thunderstorm sounds.  For those of us who don’t have those cool sound generator things.  Not really weird, but I wanted to show you something nice, to counteract the icky people described in my blog post.

From SkyNews, a story about a dog who flagged an RSPCA officer down so he could be rescued and returned to his owners:

“Stolen Yorkshire Terrier Flags Down RSPCA Van”

Recommendations for this week?  “Deadbeat”, season 2 is now on Hulu.  It’s a funny show about a stoner who is bothered by ghosts who want him to help them.  Really, it’s funny!

Be good.  Be kind.   Life’s too short to be self-centered and mean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Just Getting Worse

I was going to write about the horrible “religious freedom” (anti-gay) laws being passed in Indiana and Oklahoma, and being proposed in Georgia, because I think it’s bigoted and unfair.

However, I am now way too upset to do that.

Every 6 months or so, I am required to recertify for the SNAP program (food stamps).  After receiving my new card in the mail, courtesy of the efforts of my new caseworker (so I wouldn’t have to go through the embarrassment of my card not working properly)….

Now I no longer have food stamps.

When I got my recertification in the mail in February, I called my caseworker and asked what info he needed me to send in.  He looked stuff over and told me I didn’t need to send anything but the signature sheets.  I asked if he was going to do the phone interview that they sometimes do, and he stated that no, he didn’t need to do that but would call if anything changed.

I then told him I didn’t see the return envelope in the packet.  He said he would send one.

When I went to get the mail the next day, I noticed the return envelope had fallen on the stairs.  So, happily I put my signature sheets in and put it out for collection.  As it was gone the next day I just assumed the post office had delivered it.

Food stamp day came and went – it was April 10.  I bought my groceries as usual.

I didn’t give any thought to the return envelope my caseworker said he would send that I didn’t receive…until yesterday.

Yesterday I got a return envelope in the mail, POSTMARKED IN FEBRUARY, from the Dept of Welfare.

“Oh well,” I thought, “no big deal, as I already sent the info in.”

Today I got a letter from the Dept. of Welfare dated APRIL 7, telling me that as of April 1 I was no longer eligible for food stamps.  And that I can appeal if I want.

The reason?  “You failed to provide the information we asked for.”

I went online to check my status.  My SNAP balance is $12 and my account is active.

It is too late in the day to call my caseworker.  I will try calling him tomorrow morning.

I don’t understand this, but I am upset.  I cannot afford to feed myself and pay my bills too, without food stamps.  And I had just gotten to the point where my budget covers my monthly expenses – just barely, but it does.  I don’t owe anything to anyone at this point.

I have been fairly ill for the past 2 weeks, with the fever having returned, along with the other symptoms.  I feel like shit and I am in no shape to fight the Dept of Welfare over this, but I have to.

I am really hoping it’s all some kind of clerical mistake.  If I could use my EBT card on April 10, how could it be that I lost my benefits as of April 1?

I really like my caseworker and I hope he can explain this to me.  And why was my return envelope, which was sent in February, just turning up in April??

I mean, I didn’t need it, as I had found the original one and mailed it back in February, but it makes me wonder.  Hmm.  The address was correct, so I know it wasn’t misdelivered.

It didn’t have any markings on it, except the bar codes that run along the bottom of the envelope my caseworker sent it in were blacked out.  Hmm.

I am the least paranoid person on the planet, I truly am.  But even I have to scratch my head and wonder what is going on here.

This incident comes on the heels of my interaction with the pain clinic personnel last week, which was not pleasant.