Tuesday, December 11, 2018

TL:DR - Alito, Gorsuch, and Thomas Are Lying Through Their Teeth

Recently the US Supreme Court decided to decline hearing two cases involving state attempts to spuriously deny access of low-income patients to health care provided by Planned Parenthood, by denying certification of Planned Parenthood’s eligibility to receive reimbursement for Medicaid services. Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch dissented in the denial of the grant of certiorari. Justice Thomas wrote the dissenting opinion

The legal thesis that has brought the cases to SCOTUS is whether or not a private entity has the ability to bring suit over a State’s decision in administration of Medicaid services, in this case, whether or not the State can deny certification to a provider without being subject to review by a non-governmental entity.  The non-governmental review is a right of action by Medicaid recipients to receive services from any qualified entity that agrees to do so, and that is also willing to accept Medicaid reimbursements to do so.

The denial of certiorari means that the rulings of lower courts in these two cases are allowed to stand, and that Planned Parenthood and its clients can pursue a lawsuit challenging the decertifications, and that the Medicaid reimbursements for services can continue.

Of particular concern to me are two avenues: in the first point, the states of Kansas and Louisiana decided to terminate eligibility of Planned Parenthood providers in their respective states in response to spurious claims by the “Center for Medical Progress” that Planned Parenthood and it’s affiliates were harvesting and selling fetal body parts for profit. Claims and films that were shown to be b spurious and deceptively edited.   Every State that has investigated has found these claims to be false. 

Of note Is that no clinic in the States of Kansas or Louisiana were accused of this practice by The Center For Medical Progress, and that Medicaid funds, by law, cannot be used for abortion services. An inspection by the State of Kansas did not show any finding that the Planned Parenthood clinics in that State had engaged in the sale of fetal tissue.

But, even though all investigations have shown no basis for the claim of selling fetal body parts for profit, these two states have persisted in attempts to disqualify Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid reimbursements

The second avenue that I find disturbing, is that, even though Justice Thomas, in his dissent, tries to claim that the case is really about a private party’s ability to second-guess a States decision in regards to Medicaid services, his dissent nonetheless introduces the spurious charges claimed by The Center For Medical Progress.

To my view, and bear in mind I am not a lawyer, what is really the reason that Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch want to see these cases before SCOTUS is to close off avenues of redress to arbitrary decisions by State agencies.

The dissenting opinion is here (PDF)

Sunday, August 26, 2018

It Begins Small

On a recent FaceBook thread, someone commented that calling the “alt-right” and the myriad Trump supporters “Nazis” was uncalled for, and an insult to those murdered during the Holocaust.

Here is my (edited) response :
There are those who are really determined to try to minimize the perception of the evil that Trump and followers want to perpetrate.

We have these measures, either in place or publicly proposed by the Trump administration:

  • - Advocate for murder of those who are “the wrong kind”
  • - Propose concentration camps
  • - Separate children from families as soon as they are in detention
  • - Forced labor of those in detention
  • - Callousness toward documented abuses
  • - Calling for forced exclusion based on religion
  • - Demonizing the free press
  • - Build a private army (the mercenaries that Xi wants to put in place)
  • - Rigging elections by disenfranchising voters
  • - Agitating trumped up criminal charges against political opponents
  • - Make the private industrialists more dependent on his largess
  • - Purposelessly denying critical disaster recovery resources because those caught by the disaster are the “wrong kind”
  • - Calling for entire fields of study in science be defunded and discredited, solely on political grounds
  • - Attempting to install a de facto, if not de jure, state religion based on an extreme sect
  • - Fostering a personality cult to protect their leader from scrutiny
  • - Nurturing and encouraging violent extremists.
  • - Skewing the courts to deny redress by, and protection for, those without wealth and privilege
Yet you want to minimize recognition of these evils, as there appears more and more public approval, as those adherents of this darkness see more tolerance for, and even encouragement of, their beliefs and aspirations.

So, yes, there is all the more reason to stem the tide now, by identifying it, and recognizing it, and denouncing it for what it is

The Nazi presence in Germany and Austria did not appear, as a fully formed Athena from the brow of Zeus, without preamble.

The population knew of this canker, and if not publicly embraced at the start, was approved of and supported, in private. When the hate was publicly displayed, it was not immediately denounced.

So the movement grew and was embraced by enough of those of power and influence that it led their nation.

And to claim, as some have done, that this current crop of racists, bigots, and fascists do not “deserve” the appellation of “Nazi” is both disingenuous and itself belittling of the people this new incarnation has as its targets.

And we must act now, lest we be ridiculed in future generations for saying "we didn't know" or "I didn't participate," or "I was just a good American."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

He Just Doesn’t Get It

What a lot of people don’t realize is that Trump, fundamentally, has no actual idea of what the job of being the leader of a country is. 

Even after more than a year in the position he doesn’t get it. 

It’s not being the head of some services company where, if he screws up and damages a client he can get away with it either by bribes or threatening to cost millions in legal fees. 

It’s not some TV show where he has full rein to be as offensive as he wants and can thrill to forcing multiple people to perform pointless and humiliating tasks

It’s not some company that, when he inevitably mismanages it, he can drop it into bankruptcy and pass all the pain onto the employees, investors, vendors and taxpayers. (I mean, we *are* talking about the guy who failed to make money selling booze, steaks and gambling to American men)

It’s not some public relations scheme where he can self-promote himself with blatant, serial, contradictory lies and force anybody else involved to keep silent under threat of lawsuit 

He is, in the end, someone who has *never* had to be accountable for his actions, because he has, until now, never actually had to be accountable, because he could always, again, bribe, outright or through legal settlements, or abuse the process of litigation

The actions he takes, as the head of a country, have real and profound consequences.   And those consequences cannot be hidden behind a legal settlement or an NDA or by habitually telling falsehoods. And he isn’t even aware, after over a year in the job, that he can neither run, nor hide. 

And this is shown, with amazing clarity, with his very public announcement that, on his own initiative and whim, he lied about matters of state, to *another* head of state, the leader of a nation that, up until now, has had long standing and strong ties of mutual support with the United States. 

And then, completely demolishing any chance of restoring trust by either admitting he was mistaken, or telling the white lie that he had been “misinformed,” publicly *bragged* about fabricating information about matters of mutual state security. 

When heads of state directly negotiate, rather than work through intermediaries, it is almost always as a last resort on matters of vital national importance.  And those negotiations rely on trust between all parties, that at least some level of honesty and gravity are present. 

And Trump has shown, for at least the remainder of his term of office, and likely for a good while beyond, that that trust and honesty will not be any part of negotiations between the United States and any other nation. 

And he doesn’t get it. 

At all

Monday, October 16, 2017


For about the last week, everybody in our corner on Facebook has been seeing the “Me too” posts about sexual assault and harassment.

Someone, I don't know who,  started a challenge: if all the people who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote "Me Too." as a status, we might give those paying attention a sense of the magnitude of this problem.

The response has been an epidemic.   It's not surprising.  But saying "at least 50% to 60% of all women in the United States have been sexually assaulted or harassed" is one thing.   To see just about every female voice in one's  Facebook feed say "Me Too" is entirely something else. 

I’ve got another challenge for you.

Think back to to what you have done.

Have you been one of those who made the “Me too” happen?

Who pushed too far in a bar?

Who hinted the raise might get granted?

Who insisted on giving that massage?

Who decided that “No” really meant “Maybe?"

Who decided that “No” really meant “Sure, I’m just being coy?”

Who simply ignored the “No?”

Are you “that person?”

Be honest

Forget about “not all men,” or “I would never!” or “Ask anyone, that’s not *me!*”

I’m not saying to post “me too”

I’m saying, think about what you have done.

Is that “in the past” really “in the past?”

There’s a reason this is so prevalent. It’s because we, as a society, *let* it be prevalent.

It’s because we make excuses when it’s someone we know.

It’s because we say “What was she doing there?”

It’s because we say “Oh, they’re just having buyer’s remorse.”

It’s because we decide that “it was just their imagination.”

I’m saying, now, “what are you going to do, from now on?”

Are you going to keep letting the rape jokes slide?

Are you still going to say “He’ll make a good roommate for ‘Big Bubba’ when he gets to prison?”

Are you still going to say “she only got that promotion because she slept with him?”

Are you going to keep on being “that guy” that either does it or makes that behavior “normal,” that says “it’s just locker room talk?”

What are you going to do, now?

Don’t tell me.

Tell yourself.

And don’t lie.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Even Staying Home Is A Choice

I'm of an age that I remember the Omega symbols at protests on Boston Common.

I remember waiting for the draft numbers in the lottery.

I remember the boys who didn't come back.

I remember the people who went to Canada, even though they were in no danger from the draft , because the United States wasn't the home they had before.

I remember waking up in the middle of one night, turning on the radio for music so I could sleep, and hearing the breathless chaos in a ballroom where another tower of Camelot had fallen.

I've seen my dreams fall into the abyss of systematic bigotry, public indifference, organized greed and deceit and also saw them transform into nightmares of petty violence, corruption and a wholesale theft of the public weal not seen since Tammany Hall, all under the guise of "protection" from "big government.".

I have seen first hand, in my own person, and in the lives of those I've known and loved, the effects of discrimination and prejudice.

I despaired of where my nation would go.

But now I have to force myself to dream again. With four children and a granddaughter I have no choice.

I saw the campaign of the man I wanted, who was the mirror of my dreams of youth, fall apart from misguided zealotry and manipulation.

I've seen the campaign of a woman who is qualified, but with the baggage of decades of being the subject of right-wing hatred and lies, and as a not-so-close second choice be the one who could win.

I look at what the likes of Scalia, Alito and Thomas have done to our civil rights, and I fear mightily what would be the result of three or more of their ilk added to the Supreme Court.

And there are those who declare that they will vote third-party or write-in or not at all, and I want to take their faces and shove them into the mud and slime that were the results of "protest votes" that gave us and Bush II and wars that have surpassed in length even the times of occupation after World War II.

This election will be a turning point for our country.

We can choose either a deeply flawed Camelot or The Handmaid's Tale.

I've already been told I'm not a "real Progressive" for saying to vote for reality instead of a mirage of a Miracle of Rare Device.

I know what future I will choose with my vote.

With four children and a granddaughter I have no choice.

What will be yours?

Saturday, March 19, 2016

We Have Room For All Of You. Period.

We reject the idolatrous notion that we can ensure the safety of some by sacrificing the hopes of others. No matter where we fall on the political spectrum, we must respect the dignity of every human being and we must seek the common good above all else.

Readers are aware that I worship in the Episcopal Church these days.  Linked below is another reason why I unapologetically call myself an Episcopalian.  The U.S. House of Bishops were recently in a retreat, and have issued  a statement, that they have titled "A word to the Church," about the treatment of those who are marginalized and are being demonized in this current Presidential election season.
The Church is constrained against being for or against specific candidates in its pronouncements, so some of the pronouncements on issues may sound sort of indirect, but to me, at least, the references are to the shameful way that the GOP candidates are encouraging discrimination and violence against immigrants, refugees, people of color and the LBGT community.
You can read the full announcement here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Good Lord, What Am I Doing Here?

Recently, after << mumble >> years in the workforce, I've found that getting work has been a bit slower than usual, I've been told I'm "over-qualified," "not in touch with new computer trends," "we are concerned that if you take the position at the salary we offer  you'll leave when the economy picks up," yada, yada, yada.

So I'm back in school again.

Some  things stay the same: study groups; the vending machines are overpriced and steal your money; between 30% and 60% students desperately try to cram a full semester's worth of studying into the 2 days before the finals; and students are still taking courses that they are woefully unprepared for.

Other things change: the use of online resources; the requirement for every student to be at least minimally computer literate (we have a course for that); courses that are taken  online only; use of computer spreadsheets, presentations, etc as part of your required coursework (we have a course for learning  that); etc, etc.

But, O. M. G., they all look so young now. I don't remember them looking so young before....