Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Archive of posts with tag 'politics'

: Disrupting Demographics: Nixon's War on Drugs

Nixon and Elvis: War on Drugs
Most of the people I know in the US have lived their entire lives after the War on Drugs started.
John Ehrlichman, Counsel and Assistant to President Nixon:

The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.

Interviewed in 1992 by journalist Dan Baum, author of Smoke and Mirrors: The War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, full quote in “Truth, Lies, and Audiotape” by Dan Baum (2012). You can read the book’s first chapter here. The first chapter covers some interesting side topics, including the genesis of Cheech and Chong. It also covers Lloyd Johnston’s annual survey of 2,200 high school students:

What drugs have you used? Johnston’s survey asked. Have you used them in the last year? The last month? The last week? How accessible are drugs? Johnston also included questions about alcohol and tobacco.
When the questionnaires were processed, it emerged, unsurprisingly, that tobacco was the-most widely used drug among high school students and about a third of them smoked it every day. Alcohol was next, predictably, with about one-fifth of the students drinking once or twice a week and another fifth once or twice a month.
What surprised Johnston was that nearly 80 percent of the group had never smoked marijuana. Barely I percent smoked every day. Other drugs were hardly visible; neither heroin nor cocaine had ever been tried by nine-tenths of the sample. The kids were pretty clean: black, white, rich, poor, grind, and dropout.
This was news, Johnston thought. In the book he and his team rushed together, Johnston wrote that “there certainly was not a widespread “epidemic, of illegal drug use among these high school students as the popular press had suggested.” His interpretation: American youth are “less radical” and “more traditional” than their public image would indicate. “In fact, their continuing adherence to traditional practices—namely, the-widespread use-of alcohol and cigarettes—may ultimately be the most important fact about youthful drug practices to emerge from this study” (emphasis in the original).

Now, granted, I was eight in 1968, but it sure seemed like things went obviously truly crazy for a few years between then and 1974 or so.
The photo, where President Nixon met with Elvis Presley after Elvis requested to be made a federal agent at large to help fight the war on drugs. Irony, of course, given the role of drugs in Elvis’s own shortened life span.
One of the books that formed my thoughts on America’s drug policy was Thomas Szasz’s Our Right to Drugs., which is basically a libertarian look at drugs (and suffers from many of the libertarian perspective problems, granted). What stuck with me is one of the analogies he used. When someone injures themselves skiing, we don’t call it ski abuse. When they injure themselves with a chainsaw, we don’t say they have a chainsaw problem. But if they injure themselves with drugs, it’s abuse. Why should one get special pejorative language?

: More Thoughts on Malaysian MH 370

Previously: my crackpot theory.
When I said, “it’s sunk,” my intuition was based on the fact that military sites had detected it, then recanted their statement. That said to me that it could have been a friendly fire episode where people hadn’t gotten their stories straight. Except, we’d have detected pieces by now, I’m pretty sure.
My second thought was hijacking, assuming the military disbelieved their own systems because they weren’t detecting quite what they expected.
So here are some more relevant details that are apparently ahead of the news cycle.
This is one of those times where I wish I’d actually traveled more of the Indian Ocean. I was supposed to go to the Seychelles last year—had it booked, in fact—but my stand-up boss nixed it, though it had been booked for almost 11 months.
Several people have asked if the pilot’s home simulator was common. I knew (until his death) a former commercial pilot, and he’d told me they were common. The photos I’ve seen in the news very much like my late friend’s setup.
Here are a few tweets from a fairly well-informed person, @flyingwithfish:
I think the US Gov’t has an idea of where #MH370 is given that DHS told it flew about 3,675 miles on Thursday.
The 3,675 miles flown DHS gave me in Thurs lines up with Malaysia’s PM saying it flew 7.5hrs on Friday.
So here’s that map with that range marked out (so you’re looking toward the bounding border of the circle):
Let’s assume the little islands of the Indian Ocean aren’t of interest. So no Diego Garcia, Reunion, Mauritius, Seychelles, Comoros, Lakshadweep, Christmas Island, Cocos/Keeling, Maldives, Mayotte, Rodriguez, or Zil Elwannyen Sesel. Or Socotra or Madagascar or Andaman/Nicobar islands, which are bigger.
Let’s also assume that the flight path would not have to overfly anyone else’s airspace and that, based on the latest information would mean west of Kuala Lumpur.
So that leaves:
Africa: Somalia
Arabian peninsula: Yemen, Oman
Asia: Pakistan and Iran. Technically also India, but I find that highly unlikely.
If the plane had turned north from the Andamans, add Myanmar and Thailand.
But I don’t think so.
Some of what flyingwithfish has tweeted:
DHS source says “It is unlikely #MH370 headed south and its exact direction of travel remains unknown to the RMAF. We’re looking elsewhere.”
Based on what sources have told me, I have been saying state backed actions for a week in regard to #MH370
Remember that value is in the eye of the beholder, we may not be looking for something with a lot of hard currency as a motive
Why steal #MH370? My theory, which could be wrong, is grab who is on board or evade customs & other issues of what’s in the belly
There is proof 20 managing engineers involved with building US Defense Application semiconductors were on #MH370
Question asked: Is it possible for the aircraft to piggyback in another aircrafts shadow to avoid radar? Answer: El Al did it with Entebbe
We even know #MH370 had 1000lbs of lithium batteries above the maximum allowed limit.
On the cargo (ULD = unit load device):
We don’t know what is on an unaccounted for ULD cargo position. It is unaccounted for. That is unheard of. #MH370
Another angle of cargo ULDs being loaded onto a 777-200/ER, like #MH370, you can’t dump the cargo easily.
You cannot open a cargo door on a commercial airliner in flight. It opens from the outside
Here is my issue with the radar arc image for #MH370, given an estimated fly time & distance flown, why does it avoid a likely location?
There are a number of possible locations, based on the info I have & talking to experts yesterday I gusstimate IFN IFN is Isfahan.
Bloomberg piece about Iran, Malaysia, US:

Iran increasingly is obtaining U.S. military equipment and technology through shipments to Malaysian middlemen that illegally circumvent trade restrictions, according to American officials and analysts.

What they wanted? Engineers and managers who knew US defense plans:
Why? They know how to build US Defense Application technology and there were 20 on one plane, which is stupid
I’ve missed a lot of his tweets, but let’s summarize the above (and a couple of other things):

  1. The pilot was involved. It’s not known whether it was the older, more experienced one or the younger one, but the younger one was engaged with a wedding coming up.
  2. Cargo doors can’t be opened from inside the plane.
  3. There was a cargo container with unknown goods inside. This is unheard of.
  4. Isfahan airport is the Fish’s guess of location they’re going. If so, there’s state involvement from Iran.
  5. The signature of the plane could be covered by shadowing another plane, which would require state involvement also.
  6. There were 20 defense engineers who knew significant details of recent/future US military defense technologies on board.
  7. I believe the aircraft was flown, landed, off loaded of what they wanted, plane & collateral liabilities are eliminated. Gulp.

Well @ToTheWinslow, since you ask. On a scale of 1-to-This-Is-Totally-Bat$#!+-Crazy, I would score the #MH370 story at 997.
I dunno, I have at least enough plots for half a dozen spy thrillers now….
Edited to add the next three paragraphs…
Jim Wright has some really great commentary over on FB

Because the ocean is a damned big place, vaster than you can imagine unless you’ve sailed across it (and, because I know you people, yes, I HAVE indeed sailed this part of the world, it’s vast, and complicated and dangerous). And even when you know exactly, and I mean EXACTLY, where to look, it’s still extremely difficult to find scattered bits of airplane or, to be blunt, scattered bits of people in the water. As a navy sailor, I’ve spent days searching for lost aircraft and airmen, and even if you think you know where the bird went down, the winds and the currents can spread the debris across hundreds or even thousands of miles of ocean in fairly short order. No machine, no computer, can search this volume, you have to put human eyeballs on every inch of the search area.

Having recently spent a couple of weeks in some of the remoter ocean parts of the world, this. Three days of no satellite, something I never expected, with the realization that we were really on a very tiny ship (about 800′, which isn’t actually that small) in a very, very large place.
And now for something that made me laugh so we end on a lighter note. Senior Afghan official on whether #MH370 flew over Afghanistan: “We do not have a radar. Go and ask the Americans.”

: Fascinating Atlantic Article on Fraternities

Caitlin Flanagan of Vanity Fair has taken the art of the first paragraph to a new level in her article The Dark Power of Fraternities. I’m not going to quote it here. Just: coffee & cats warning, okay?
There should be a trigger warning on the subject matter of the rest, though, which is about the warring dynamics of student safety, fraternity traditions and independence (not all of which is bad), and universities knowing where their fundraising dollars come from and not wanting to upset the balance.

[T]he majority of all fraternity insurance claims involve booze—I have read hundreds of fraternity incident reports, not one of which describes an event where massive amounts of alcohol weren’t part of the problem—and the need to manage or transfer risk presented by alcohol is perhaps the most important factor in protecting the system’s longevity.

And, after a truly horrifying set of crisis-management steps:

As you should by now be able to see very clearly, the interests of the national organization and the individual members cleave sharply as this crisis-management plan is followed.

I love the descriptions of two sides of the fraternity vs. injured-by-fraternity representatives.

Fierberg is a man of obvious and deep intelligence, comfortable—in the way of alpha-male litigators—with sharply correcting a fuzzy thought; with using obscenities; with speaking derisively, even contemptuously, of opponents. He is also the man I would run to as though my hair were on fire if I ever found myself in a legal battle with a fraternity, and so should you.


And then there is Peter Smithhisler, who is the senior fraternity man ne plus ultra: unfailingly, sometimes elaborately courteous; careful in his choice of words; unflappable; and as unlikely to interrupt or drop the f-bomb on a respectful female journalist as he would be to join the Communist Party.

Worth a read even if you don’t actually care about fraternities.

: Counting Countries, Another Look

Geography freak (and someone who loves edge cases as much as I do) CGP Grey tackles the issue.

: Another Health Care Saga

Kameron Hurley has quite the health care saga.
It’s inspired me to write up my own story.
I’d started a new job in May. Got married in June. Twice, in fact: the legal civil ceremony and a more symbolic one in Ireland.
There was time to do all the rest of the paperwork, right? Before then, I’d been on a large-deductible policy, but couldn’t add my partner because he wasn’t my husband.
Oh, and I had that policy because I had no health care through my employer. In fact, technically, I didn’t have an employer — I was a contractor for a Canadian firm that was illegally avoiding US hiring practices. They had an office in the US, but they paid everyone as though they were a contractor. What could possibly go wrong?
Fast forward to November. Yes. The same year. (He was a lot older; I sometimes joke that we didn’t have a May-December relationship, only a June-November one.)
My husband has a stroke. Given the obvious symptoms of hemiplegia and aphasia, I knew it was severe. At the time the EMTs arrive, I’m wondering about things like long-term rehab, fearing I’d have to give up my career in software development.
Instead, he was non-responsive not long after arriving at the hospital. However, as the hospital lacked more sophisticated equipment (no MRI machine, for example), they had to do EEGs over a period of 24 hours in order to declare him dead. Which meant a minimum of 24 hours in the ICU — about as expensive as it gets for a hospital stay sans surgery.
When I agreed to donate his organs, they asked if they could airlift him to the transplant hospital in order to declare him dead sooner (which would preserve transplantability of organs). Which I agreed to.
Indeed, his declaration of death was about 16 hours after the initial stroke.
Then I got the bills from all the care providers. All told, it was over $30,000. Some of that was for line items I shouldn’t have been billed for. While technically (and for very good reasons), I owed for his care up until the declaration of death, line items related to preserving his organs or prepping him for transport weren’t things I should be billed for. They did indeed have to do heart work in order to keep it pumping.
But, to me, preserving someone else’s life was the most important thing.
So it was really a shock to go over those line items, realizing I could have just said no to any additional care that’d keep his heart beating longer — and it would have cost less. But it wouldn’t have been right in my book.
I so didn’t need the line item call with the organ bank to see what should have been billed to them vs. me.
I recall writing a bunch of checks. About $13,000 or so. The bill had been whittled down. My numbers brain says it was in the neighborhood of $17,185 before my payments. A charity designed to help folks in our situation picked up the rest, and I never received another bill.
I don’t know who those lovely people were who contributed, but — thank you.
After he died, I asked for a week off work. (Yeah, that was stupid. Duh. I was in shock.)
After trying to get my act together, I went on temporary disability for three months for the simple reason that I couldn’t think. Without the ability to concentrate, I couldn’t work. I went on anti-depressants, paid for by the disability.
The tale I tell about anti-depressants is this: before starting them, I was convinced I’d never write again. Within a couple of weeks after starting them, I was writing again. I wasn’t writing well, but I was able to put together something of a plot. It took longer for my programming brain to come back (I could write about the pain, but programming needed a clearer head).
Those pills weren’t cheap, though amazingly, this was one period when the stupid prescription plan through my credit card company was worth its weight in gold. After spending as much as I had on medical for myself and my late husband, I didn’t have enough money to take the three months I needed off. The safety net protected me at a time of crisis. I’ve paid for that over and over with my tax dollars so that other people will be able to use it in their times of crisis, too.
Unfortunately, end-of-life care is horrifically expensive. It’s when hospital bills tend to be disproportionately high, and the bereaved is/are left holding only the bills.
It could have been much, much worse. It didn’t have to be that bad. From now on, it won’t be, because my late husband would now have an affordable means to get coverage.
Maybe he’d have had those headaches checked out.
Maybe they’d have found the aneurysm before it burst.
Maybe it could have been repaired.
Maybe he’d still be alive today, never having had a stroke.

: Fascinating Series of Posts on Tipping

…specifically some of the economic realities of running a restaurant, why it’s hard to get good service, and why US laws about tipping make it very difficult to ensure good service.
Read starting here.
Possibly the most fascinating single post is the fifth in the series, about tipping and sexism.

: Voting Is An Act of Kindness

Why Voting Matters
I’ve heard a bunch of people say that their vote doesn’t matter, usually followed by some rationalization about why it doesn’t matter. It’s true, any individual vote isn’t likely to decide an election, but it’s the collection of votes that does, much like the collection of acts of kindness keep a society together.
Let me give you an example. Rick and I went to Egypt in 2007, and we kind of had a rough tourist day in Cairo: plenty of super-aggressive people wanting to be bribed (I had to photoshop out a guy from a pic with Rick because we weren’t going to give money just for that). I was thoroughly prepared to continue to hate Egypt for several reasons, not the least of which was the threatened migraine from all the screaming in Arabic from the tourist police.
The next day, we went to the catacombs in Alexandria. It was brutally hot, and there were kitties all over the place. They purred awesomely, and one woman went across the street to get them some milk and cat food. Unfortunately, none of us had Egyptian currency, the store didn’t take any currency we did have (US and Euros, mostly). So the woman asked the Egyptian woman at the catacombs if she could change any money. She said she couldn’t, but she went across the street and bought cat supplies on her own dime, then refused payment of any sort.
We loved the woman for this, and the kitties, and the kitties had so much fun.
It’s a small gesture, but it completely reframed how I felt about Egypt.
Voting, however, is more anonymous. It’s more like going into a Catholic church when no one’s around, lighting a candle, and sticking $2 in the box marked “Widows and Orphans Fund.”
You see, voting for one guy this time around will be stuffing, on average, a lot more than $2 in the widows and orphans fund, where voting for the other guy will be taking more than $2 from the widows and orphans fund.
As a (remarried) widow who once got a whopping $255 when my first husband died (and had food stamps and medical coverage for 2 months when I couldn’t work after his death), I thank all of you who voted over the years to help keep people in need from starving. I have repaid that in taxes many times over in the years since.
If you can’t vote, for whatever reason, please just do some small kindness when the opportunity presents itself.

: Pop Quiz Answers

I found the diversity of political spectrum very interesting here. Hope you do as well.
Sarah Palin “We need to prioritize our law enforcement efforts, and if somebody’s gonna smoke a joint in their house and not do anybody else any harm, then perhaps there are other things that our cops should be looking at to engage in….”
Melissa Etheridge “It’s wrong to arrest adults for using marijuana, and it’s even more wrong to allow gangs and cartels to profit from selling marijuana.”
Snoop Dog “If marijuana were legal, t]here would be less high-speed chases, less robberies, less crime. Go to Amsterdam or the Netherlands where it is legal and you see that the crime rate is nonexistent.”
Pat Robertson “I really believe we should treat marijuana the way we treat beverage alcohol.”
Glenn Beck “I think it’s about time we legalize marijuana.”
Aaron Sorkin “It’s a good idea.”
Rachel Maddow “[W]e’ve got a new drug czar to continue waging the decades-old drug war, which maybe we should start thinking about differently since it is decades old and we don’t appear to be anywhere near winning it.”
Rick Perry “[If] you want to go somewhere where you can smoke medicinal weed, then you ought to be able to do that.”
Source: Marijuana Majority (which has links to where the quotations were taken from)

: Pop Quiz

What political issue do all eight of the following agree upon (at least in the larger sense)?
Sarah Palin and Melissa Etheridge
Snoop Dog and Pat Robertson
Glenn Beck and Aaron Sorkin
Rachel Maddow and Rick Perry

: Ellsberg Has Some Good Points

Daniel Ellsberg has written a great piece about why he’s recommending people in swing states vote for Obama (rather than for a third party) even though he himself does not support Obama. Also, he points out that people, especially progressives, should get out there and vote even though they feel disheartened.

In the eight to twelve close-fought states — especially Florida, Ohio, and Virginia, but also Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin — for any progressive to encourage fellow progressives and others in those states to vote for a third-party candidate is, I would say, to be complicit in facilitating the election of Romney and Ryan, with all its consequences.
To think of that as urging people in swing states to “vote their conscience” is, I believe, dangerously misleading advice. I would say to a progressive that if your conscience tells you on Election Day to vote for someone other than Obama in a battleground state, you need a second opinion. Your conscience is giving you bad counsel.

Ellsberg does mention some of the very real problems I have with the Obama administration.
While I know people voting for third-party candidates in California, and while I’ve considered doing so myself, the fact is that Obama repealed DADT, and he gets my vote for that alone. No one else has had the political clout to accomplish it.
Right now, it looks like everything south of the Mason/Dixon line (edit: as Ron Newman pointed out, save for Maryland) is probably going Romney’s way.

: California Ballot Initiatives

First of all, I want to point you to Jim Keller’s proposition guide which has some good commentary, as do Nick Mamatas’s and Scott Martin’s posts on the initiatives. We agree on about half of the propositions, but have different reasons for agreeing or disagreeing on the rest.

Proposition 30: Voting Yes

Summary: Funds education through a mix of sales and income tax hikes.
This proposition combines a progressive seven-year increase in income tax for those earning over $250,000 with a regressive four-year quater-percent increase in sales tax. I am almost never for regressive taxes as they disproportionately affect the poor, and if it were sales tax alone, I’d vote against it.
Unlike Jim, I do think California needs this to fund education, and the terms of this proposition are less odious than Prop 38, so we will vote yes. Also, Prop 38 only covers K-12 where Prop 30 also covers higher education.

Proposition 31: Voting No

Summary: Changes state budget process.
When you get the California Democratic Party and the East Bay Tea Party to agree that a proposition should be defeated, that’s probably a good sign that the measure is flawed.
The problem is that there’s so many aspects to it, some of which may be good and some of which may be bad, but as a whole it’s just too confused.
Rick says, “This is kind of a whack-job utopian attempt to impose a bunch of expensive reforms on the state budget process, tying the hands of the legislatures.”

Proposition 32: Hell No

Summary: Limits the ability of unions (among others) to contribute to political campaigns.
This is a union-voice-busting measure. Make sure the Koch brothers and their cronies waste their money and vote no.
“This is the third ballot measure in 15 years that businesses have put forth to limit unions’ political fundraising.” Unions spend less money in political contributions than businesses, PACs, and Super PACs, so what’s really being quashed is the voice of the worker.

Proposition 33: No

Summary: Poison pill auto insurance “reform.”
All you really need to know about this one: “Prop. 33 is almost entirely funded by George Joseph, the chairman of Mercury General Corporation, an insurance company. In 2010, Mercury Corporation spent $16 million on a similar measure, Proposition 17, which was defeated. As of late September Joseph had donated $8.4 million to the current campaign.”
While loyalty discounts may seem like a good idea, there are other gotchas that would cost more people more money. Joseph wouldn’t have poured so much into it if it were going to save you money.

Proposition 34: Yes

Summary: Eliminates executions and changes death penalty to life in prison.
Executions are not a deterrent to crime. My sole gripe about this is victim restitution, because I feel that should be a civil, not criminal, matter.
No one should be slated for execution because they stole three golf clubs.

Proposition 35: Hell No

Summary: Attempt to modify California’s already-good human trafficking laws and punish non-trafficked sex workers and their families, all while reducing focus on non-sex-trafficking.
As many of you know, I’m quite anti-trafficking, and have read up on the law here. However, this transforms the existing law, which is about all forms of trafficking, to specifically a law about sexual trafficking. That is far from all the trafficking there is. So, for example, people like Marc and Claire Headley would be less protected under this proposed statute (as their trafficking case did not involve sexual assault) than they were already. Granted, they lost because they were in a religious order, but the point is otherwise valid. Read Claire’s complaint for an example of what non-sexual human trafficking can look like. Is that something you want to protect more of by voting yes here?
Here’s the primary text of the existing law.
The new law’s title is: Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act.
Jim says, and I agree with him, “It’s not clear if this was written by idiots or if the intention was to create a law so vague that it could be exploited throw anyone involved in the computer, entertainment, or bookselling business and their friends and family in prison, but that’s what it does. The stated goals of this proposition are to stop things that are already illegal, and already carry stiff penalties, and then it goes on to strike those penalties and criminal definitions out of the legal code. Even if you’re opposed to all forms of commercialized sex, this proposition is over-broad, unnecessary, and, frankly, dangerous.”
Some of the re-organization of the existing bill makes no sense to me, either. Also, if one’s modifying the section about passports or immigration papers, why not add other documents that affect a person’s mobility, e.g., driver’s license or other identification?
Please also see Nick Mamatas’s commentary on this initiative as he makes some very good points.
Personally, my biggest fear is that this will take funding away from prosecuting the difficult cases and instead prosecuting the low-hanging fruit, leading to even worse trafficking in our state.

Proposition 36: Yes

Summary: Revises the three strikes law to require the third strike to be a serious or violent felony. Other third felonies will be double the typical term.
There’s no reason that, if someone stole three cars (as three separate strikes assuming grand theft auto), they should be doing life in prison.

Proposition 37: Hell Yes

Summary: Requires labeling of genetically engineered foods.
“In 2011, 88 percent of all corn and 94 percent of all soybeans produced in America were grown from genetically engineered (GE) seeds, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Other common GE crops are canola, papaya, sugar beets and zucchini.”
As you know, Bob, soy’s added to most everything that corn isn’t already in. Funny, though, I didn’t know about zucchini.
It’s not that I think all GMO food is bad. I just want the ability to actually determine whether or not that’s what I’m having for dinner.
I have reservations about the wording, but I think it’s a long overdue and necessary start.

Proposition 38: Hell No

Summary: Proposition for Education funding.
(Rick’s description) Molly Munger’s Tax Increases for Early Education and K-12 Alternative to Prop. 30, increases state income tax across the board (not preferentially on the wealthiest Californians) until 2025 to fund K-12 schols and early education programs, but not community colleges. Because this measure would not kick in immediately, the automatic severe cuts to education and public safety programs would trigger for the current budget cycle ($5.9B). Basically, this measure clobbers the middle class.
Hell no.

Proposition 39: Grudging Yes

Summary: Increases Taxes on Multistate Business, Funds Clean Energy.
Rick says: “Tricky measure, changes the way businesses are taxed that operate in multiple states: Currently, such businesses are allowed to choose any of three formulas (allowed to formula-shop) about how to divide their tax burden among the states they operate in. This measure would change
that to percent of sales, which brings California in line with how other states do it. The measure also earmarks up to $550 million annually for five years to fund alternative energy projects, out of additional revenue raised, which is expected to be $1B/year.
“I don’t like the earmark, which has no business being in a ballot proposition — but that’s only for the first five years. The rest of it’s rational and good.”

Proposition 40: Yes

Summary: Referendum: Approves Current State Senate District Boundaries.
Rick says: A ‘yes’ vote keeps State Senate boundary-drawing under the Citizens Redistricting Commission formed a few years ago to end gerrymandering. A ‘no’ vote would move State Senate redistricting to a panel of officials appointed by the California Supreme Court. This measures was
originally sponsored by the California Republican Party, which for some bizarre reason decided they disliked the boundaries drawn by the independent commission.

: You Might Think Mitt Planned To Lose

: One Freakin' SNP: Today's Change

I have a bad SNP. It’s not my fault. Genetic analysis has determined that I got this wayward gene from my father.
However, knowing that celiac disease could be very bad, and having only a big major medical coverage at the time (in 1996, with a $5,000 deductible), I didn’t want to be “officially” diagnosed as celiac. So my doctor and I did the blood test and I changed my diet to gluten-free. Until I had more stable coverage, this was all I could afford to do.
This meant that I was “off the books” as a presumed celiac, and that meant there was no paper trail to deny me insurance based on a pre-existing condition. And there ain’t much more pre-existing than a bum gene, right?
However, this worked against me in the long run. If I were to stay in a hospital, I had nothing to back up a gluten-free meal request — or, worse, gluten-free pill requests. I’ve been told explicitly I wasn’t celiac because I didn’t have high enough levels of anti-gliadin antibodies (never mind the fact that not every celiac does) even though I’d been on a gluten-free diet for years. In fact, I still haven’t gotten the celiac label to stick at my HMO because it is so difficult to diagnose someone who’s been on a gluten-free diet as long as I have, and typically the methods involve making someone very ill. Charming.
In short, I’ve been trying for years to get accurately labeled, and it’s cost time, expense, and quite literal pain and suffering — all because of my fear of being labeled when I had inadequate insurance and could be denied for pre-existing conditions.
In fact, my mother had emigrated to Canada in the 80s, had breast cancer while there, and was afraid to return to the US for fear of not being able to find any coverage at any price. At the time she left, few small US employers offered health care plans, and pre-existing condition exemptions were huge. Over time, that changed, so she returned to the US as a dual citizen in the dot bomb era, now able to find good coverage (partly because the cancer had been long enough ago that pre-existing clauses didn’t clawback that far).
Also, as my friend Kate phrased it, “I’m unbelievably happy, not having to plan major life decisions around benefits packages could change my entire career path.”
Amen, sister.

: Great Article on Bullying from Elton John

Article’s here.
“And failing to address the still everyday use of the word “gay” as a playground insult is also inexcusable. Those who do eventually realise that they’re gay find that the word which describes them has been used – unchallenged – as a proxy for anything that’s useless or rubbish for half their childhoods. There’s now firm evidence of the damage it does to young people’s self-esteem.”

: Bank Transfer Day

November 5 (as in Guy Fawkes Day) is Bank Transfer Day, a movement to take funds out of banks that received bailouts and move it to either independent local banks or credit unions (I favor the latter as credit unions are non-profit organizations).
Sadly, though I’ve known about it for a week or two, I haven’t yet gotten my act together on this, so I’ll be taking care of the move over a couple of weeks.
Many credit unions now have big-bank features like online bill pay, etc.
This site will help you find a credit union.
One of the coolest features of credit unions? You can deposit and withdraw from CUs that aren’t yours if you get one that’s an affiliate with the CU Service Center Network. Many 7-Eleven stores and all Co-op network locations have free ATMs.
Many have one “loophole” way to join if you’re not otherwise eligible. For example, Stanford Federal Credit Union lets you join if you’re a member of Friends of the Palo Alto Library (membership costs $15), and (last I checked), they would open your account and add the membership at the same time. While I’ve kept up my membership in FPAL (it’s the next town over for me, after all), it’s not necessary to do so.
Hope this helps!

: Don't Feed the Pretty Hate Machine

The WBC is a unique organization in that it feeds most directly on people who hate their work.
Most businesses feed on people who love (or at least like) their work.
But no, the WBC pre-announces their events to foment hatred. Enraged people do stupid things, such as interfering with the free speech rights of lawyers. Then the WBC members sue for interfering with a law practice and use the settlement money to lather, rinse, repeat.
So, with all due respect, if people stopped re-posting their stuff, stopped paying them attention, and made fun of them rather than acting enraged (and thus stopped doing stupid things that would make the opposition pay for the WBC’s next gig), they would die out.
WBC is a clever social hack. Snip the social and it falls apart.
Don’t be a part of their pretty hate machine.

: Miscellanea

First, I’ve been starting to send out rejection letters for BayCon’s flash fiction submissions. I’ve sent out about a quarter of them so far. Sorry for the delay, I wanted to re-read pieces because I wasn’t reading them in my best frame of mind with shooting shoulder pains for several weeks. I expect to get the reject/hold notices sent out this week; we’re starting to prepare the progress report the story will be in, so I need to get a move on.
Second, filtering words. It’s a difficult topic to search for, so here’s a good blog post on it. I don’t like all of her examples, but it explains why adding that layer of indirection isn’t always a great idea.
Third, showers. There I was in the shower this morning thinking it was one of the great wonders of civilization, and I realized I’d never heard (despite reading a lot of Libertarian books in my youth) how either Libertarians or the Tea Party would handle things like sanitation engineering and water management. What changed me from being Libertarian was seeing that public health simply wasn’t doable that way, and Laurie Garrett’s The Coming Plague was the final nail in the Libertarian coffin for me.

: My Thoughts on Abortion

I need to speak up about this.
1. Rights between mothers and their unborn are a zero-sum game. Every right you give to the unborn you take away from all women of childbearing age and all girls who will be of childbearing age. Thus, all limitations on abortions, yes all, are inherently anti-woman.
2. If a woman cannot determine who can or cannot be inside her body, that is institutionalized rape. Thus, in my book, there should be no limitation on abortion. Further, if a woman cannot determine who can or cannot be in her body in the third trimester (as an example), why is rape of pregnant women illegal?
3. Mandatory ultrasounds (as an abortion avoidance tactic) are not external, they are internal. That would be, you guessed it, rape.
4. Most rapes are much shorter than 9 months in duration. Until you’ve had a truly unwanted pregnancy, you really can’t imagine what it’s like.
5. Unplanned (not just unwanted) pregnancies are far more likely to trigger hyperemesis gravidarum, which can be life threatening. Even normal pregnancy and childbirth are very risky for the long-term health of many women.
6. And yet, every unwanted pregnancy is a tragedy. I volunteered at a family planning center. Most of the women I met were having an abortion because they couldn’t afford another child. Very few actually wanted an abortion, it was simply their best option. I have held the hands of women I’d never met before (or since) while they sobbed in the recovery room.
Obviously, I’d prefer more perfect planning for pregnancy or non-pregnancy. However, no method is perfect.
I’ve been raped. I’m glad I wasn’t pregnant as a result, but if I were, I’m glad I could have an abortion. I can’t imagine having to see the face of my rapist over and over in the child. I can’t imagine the legal wrangling in the case of an adoption — or worse, if I chose to keep the child and was ordered to turn the child over for visitation. I can’t imagine possibly continuing any evil in the world.
I can’t help but think that Mike Huckabee hates women who’ve been raped more than he hates rapists.

: My Second Day at Kepler's

9/11 was my second day working at Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park. Kepler’s was founded on peace activism, so all day people would come in looking for answers. Not just that day, either.
I found myself hugging someone who was sobbing and clearly came in to look for — something comforting.
Ira Sandperl sat on a chair and spoke with people who came in for as long as he could, talking about peace and peaceful solutions. (As an example of who he is, Joan Baez became involved in the peace movement because of Ira.)
Months later, when I learned how important Ira’d been to the peace movement, I said, “no disrespect intended, but why aren’t you more famous?”
He pointed out that when attention was focused on him, it wasn’t focused on the message.
I think that’s the single most valuable lesson I picked up from Kepler’s.