Texas Passes Discriminatory Adoption Ban and California Implements Travel Ban

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN VIA AP
Cantor Yitzhak Ben-Moshe, Pastor Brad Fuerst and supporter Kim Jones along with dozens of clergy and faith leaders rallied outside the House Chamber at the Capitol in Austin in opposition of bills they consider anti-LGBT.

Houston  Before going to the annual Local 100 Leadership Conference, I took a look at the Houston Chronicle to see if there was any local news. There was a weird front page headline, “State Fires Back at California Ban,” prompting me to ask my hosts, what the frick was this about? The answer was an OMG moment!

The Texas legislature in its peculiar wisdom had passed a bill which they called the “Freedom to Serve Children Act,” which – and I was so incredulous about this I had to double check to make sure I wasn’t imagining this – gives publicly funded adoption agencies the right of a “religious refusal” on adoptions. This isn’t just just standard garden variety gay-bashing so common among the cowboys up there. This was a hater bill discriminating broadly on just about anybody. Not only could such agencies refuse to place children in LGBT households, but they also could fence off unmarried couples, single mothers or fathers, and non-Christian prospective parents from their services, while still continuing to feed from the public trough supported by all Texas taxpayers. According to news reports, such agencies provide 25% of the adoption services in Texas at this point. All of this is unbelievable, but equally surprising, at least to me, given how blatantly discriminatory such legislation is, Texas wasn’t even the first state to pass such a bill. South Dakota seems to have done so last spring.

So, you might wonder, as I did, how California got themselves in the middle of this mess? Well, California banned all state-funded travel to Texas because of this blatant discrimination, especially against the LGBT community. Somehow I had missed this as well, but Texas is the 8thstate on the California travel ban. Of course South Dakota is on the list, but so is Kentucky and Alabama. They are joined Kansas, Mississippi, North Carolina and Tennessee in the gang of eight. Texas legislators were quoted hoping that Governor Abbot would let them extract revenge on California in the coming days of the special legislative session, so stay tuned for more word bullets flying.

For now it’s just a spit fight. Abbot claimed that who cared, arguing that businesses are fleeing high-tax Cali for wild west Texas. Spokespeople for California put their nose in the air and noted that, oh, really, then why is California the 6th largest economy in the world, recently surpassing France in that position. No one every misses a shot at France it seems.

Don’t get distracted by the bizarre craziness of all of this. The bottom line is that this act and others like it are just plain wrong and are state-funded and supported discrimination. Doing so while hiding behind the cloak of religion seems even more shameful.

Once you stop laughing, start fighting.

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Republicans’ Healthcare Bill: Is it Loving the Rich or Hating the Old, Poor, and Disabled?

U.S. Capitol Police arrest a health care protester outside the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on June 22, 2017.(Photo: Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images)

New Orleans  Ok, it’s alright if you admit it. Deep down, way deep, way down, some of you hoped that the Senate would really write a healthcare bill that looked and tasted a little bit like Obama’s Affordable Care Act. When President Trump said that he thought the House Republicans’ bill was “mean,” some of you felt a glimmer of hope that maybe the Senate Republicans would get the message and come up with something less draconian. You knew that Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s strategy of doing everything behind closed doors in secret was a bad omen, but still, this is America, hope springs eternal, you thought maybe it would not be god awful, run-to-the-bathroom-sick at first sight terrible. Bad news, all hope has been dashed. The Senate version of a “mean” bill was a we-can-top-this even meaner bill.

The raw elements have emerged. The mandate for everyone to get health care is history of course. Tax increases for the rich that had funded much of Obamacare and transferred those taxes into increased coverage for poorer Americans were also eliminated. The Senate added a couple of years to the phase down, which might for a minute seem like a better deal until you realize that they shrank Medicaid even more than the House had done. The Senate believes they have compromised by allowing states to keep expanded Medicaid which benefited millions, but staying or going is up to the states, and staying also means that in the coming years they will pay a larger and larger share of the cost of Medicaid and any subsidies that are also timed out. Oh, and for good measure, so much for some of the guaranteed national benefits for those needing maternity care or mental health support.

Somehow the Senate sees this whole Obamacare as a two-fer. Not only do they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act and sock it to the poor while re-feathering the nest of the rich, but they also want to cap Medicaid on the federal level, rather than allowing it to continue as an entitlement. By ending the entitlement they also want to punish seniors who exhaust their savings before they are old enough for Medicare as well as the disabled who depend on Medicaid for their health care in addition to SSI payments for their support. This isn’t a war on the poor, but a wholesale massacre on almost any group of people not standing in line with a contribution and a ticket to some Republican’s fundraiser.

And, get this, for some of the Senators, none of this is enough. Four or five of them are claiming this bloodletting didn’t go far enough so they won’t vote to carry this garbage until it smells even worse. There are also a couple of moderates who seem slightly perturbed that some of this might stick on their shoes, but it is unclear that they are willing to crawl out on the limb.

What’s really going on here? Do they really love the rich that much? Do they really hate women, the poor, the old, and the differently abled so much?

What can people do now to keep this horror from happening later?

***

Please enjoy The Deslondes – Hurricane Shakedown

Thanks to WAMF.

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Where Can Workers Live and How Will They Get to Work in Driver-less World?

New Orleans   Wow, there’s a lot of hype these days about the coming driver-less world of self-driving cars and trucks. Some say we’re not going to own cars at all. We’ll be sharing them or maybe co-owning them with neighbors or some random somebody.

I wonder who is going to be hailing such a ride, and where they are going to be living?

I guess first we should be clear that all of this must be mainly talking about urban areas, not the vast expanses of the United States. These sharing arrangements depend on having people ready and able to share, which requires density.

Does this spell the end of the suburban cul-de-sac? Is the old two-car garage out there going to be remodeled and rented out as small unit worker housing?

Soaring housing cost and rents in the urban center not just in Washington and New York City, but even in Detroit and New Orleans, mean that families living on service-worker wages are either living only a step above homelessness in crowded and dilapidated housing or are commuting long distances to work from the best available, affordable housing. Will these new forms of transportation be cheap enough to get people to work? Are we talking about robot-bus lanes and driver-less vehicle carpool lanes? Simply eliminating the wages and benefits for a frequently union driver is not going to lower the cost of bus transportation and related transportation that is already ridiculously expensive in many cities.

Are cities that can’t afford to pave streets now able to afford the transitional infrastructure costs? Will states and federal governments, dominated by more sparsely populated rural areas, be willing to finance these technical adaptations? How are two parallel systems of transportation going to work together during what could be a lengthy transition? Heck, cars and bicycles are having trouble living together without blood on the streets. What will road rage look like when a pickup delivering produce from the country gets a fender bender from a driver-less car? I already know what will happen to a robot driven vehicle is such a situation!

We have a society that can’t sort out homelessness or figure out a way to evacuate 50,000 lower income, transportation-less people when a hurricane is bearing down, but somehow our heads are spinning over a Jetsons’ style future knocking on our doors, when we are still working out the questions, much less having answers to them. So getting rid of sprawl and the suburbs sounds good, and stacking people up in cities might work, but people will still need a place to live and work with wages sufficient to make this all possible.

The techies and their promoters better sober up before they stumble in the streets, drunk from their own Kool-Aid, especially while many of us are still driving on them.

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These Behemoth Tech Monopolies are Starting to Own Everything!

New Orleans   When Amazon suddenly buys Whole Foods, and some hidden part of your psyche suddenly feels a pang of regret for Walmart, you know you’re in trouble and that something has gone awry in the world. Walmart was an easy target. They were everywhere. Amazon is everywhere and nowhere at the same time, but having them around the corner at a Whole Foods, even though I don’t shop there, makes me uneasy.

Are there any limits? Where are the boundaries?

Don’t get me wrong. I love my Kindle. My neighborhood pet store is so haughty and off-putting that I get my dog food from Amazon as well and save money and time while doing so. I needed a cheap phone for international calls that Google offers, but they are out of them, but Amazon will come through for me.

But, Google is also scary. European regulators are about to levy a record fine on them for privileging their own advertisers in their search algorithms. They are in a blood fight over who will control self-driving vehicles with Uber in a battle of the tech titans, although other techies and even legacy car makers are in this race, too. I use Google. We have channels on YouTube. Their maps are a godsend to the lost wayfarer. But what do they know about cars?

Not that Uber gives any comfort. Their CEO and one of the founders was forced out of the company by his big time investors, largely because he was out of control, but, hey, Uber has been out of control and past the pale in its business practices and disregard for local and national laws and regulations since it began, and they seemed unworried until there were too many headlines.

Facebook and Google are somehow going to manage the news and police internet postings. Maybe we don’t want the government doing that, but are these folks qualified since their priorities are running ad engines. Recently I read a new book, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest, and it’s a good one. The author made the point about the arbitrary and capricious rules of both that have endangered – and even jailed – organizers and human rights activists around the world. Their policies have both given voices and taken them away with equal impunity. All of this despite the fact that their business is communication. Did I mention the fact that the head of Amazon now also owns The Washington Post and produces TV and movies?

The disrupters become the establishment, too. AirBnb wants to be more like a hotel. Uber and Lyft want to replace car ownership, buses, and taxis. Amazon wants to automate the grocery business. Despite the branding hype and their own self promotion, all of this is not in the name of public service, but private profit. If you need any proof, look at the destructive impact these tech billionaires are having on public education, where they are clueless, yet leading the way in random directions.

Increasingly, we are finding out who is in charge, but nobody seems to be on watch and those that are seem to be sleeping at the switch.

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Action Day for ACORN in Ottawa Conventions

Arriving for the dawn briefing

Ottawa  The last day of an ACORN Convention is action day. It starts early because it’s also going home day for the members, as they pack out their gear on the buses so they are ready to roll once the work is done. There were already members sitting on the steps outside of the dorm room at 630 am when I hit the street.

Briefing from the leaders before the action

There were speakers in the morning, local and federal politicians and labor leaders came by, but the real preparation was practicing the chants for the day, so that Fair Banking and Affordable Internet substituted on some of the lines where normally a cry for Justice arose. Everyone was in good form by the time the briefing was finished, the speeches over, and it was time to roll downtown.

assembling for the march and asking drivers to honk their support!

After off loading on Queen Street, the march assembled near the War Memorial on Elgin, picking up some supporters along the way, and pressing cars driving by to honk their support as they sang and chanted. Humid days and sprinkling rain had been substituted for a bright day with a steady breeze breaking the heat, so everything seemed in order as the march set off down Elgin towards the building housing the Ministry of Finance, picking up some bicycle cops along the way as our de facto escorts.

coming down Elgin Avenue towards the Ministry of Finance

At the corner of the Ministry building, Ottawa moved along the side door to the formal entrance, while Toronto went towards the Elgin Street entrance, and Nova Scotia and British Columbia took the other side door. Quickly and efficiently everyone was in the large foyer of the building. Some held banners in front of the building with our demands so that all could see. Banking of any sort in the modern day specializes in security, so there was never any notion that the crowd would get past the foyer, so the chants demanded the Minister come down and meet. After some time when the police threatened to call the paddy wagons and begin arrests, all the members responded by sitting down and continuing signing and shouting their chants for action on fair banking and an end to predatory lending.

Come meet with us Minister

We’re Not Going Anywhere!

A demand letter was sent up as the members moved across the business district to rally in the shadow of the federal Parliament building and in front of the creepily named, Ministry of Innovation. The ministry had acceded to our demands for a meeting and held up announcements on internet access they had privately negotiated with telecoms after we protested our exclusion. This was a “warning” rally, that we were watching and waiting, but would be back in force if we didn’t get satisfaction.

marching to the Ministry of Innovation

Marva Burnett, ACORN’s president, addressed the crowd ending the action, and the convention, as everyone roared and then settled in for the trip home and the fights to come.

Marva Burnett, ACORN Canada and ACORN International President addresses the end of the convention

marching home

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ACORN Canada Was Revving Up and Reaching Out on ACORN’s 47th Anniversary

Ottawa ACORN leads the crowd at the meeting

Ottawa  Rolling out of breakfast, ACORN Canada members found themselves under a huge assembly tent, reminiscent of the Denver airport in my mind. Large delegations from Ottawa and Toronto practiced their chants, cheers, and songs they had devised for the march into the meeting hall. Toronto’s highlighted their expansion from the city into the GTA or Greater Toronto Area as its known locally, but christened Greater Toronto ACORN by the members from now on. They did so to the tune of the “Saints Go Marching In,” which was a nice touch as well. Ottawa of course gave their chant a French twist shouting “Ottawa, Gatineau, and Montreal” with the proper accents.

members coming through the doors

An array of power-speakers addressed the assembly once everyone was in place. The Housing Minister for Ontario was respectful and thorough in listing ways that he felt the existing government had stepped up to the plate on issues that ACORN had fought over. They were preparing to invest half-a-billion Canadian dollars in affordable house and what they called “purpose-built” housing for lower income families. He also professed his government’s commitment to continuing to build social housing as well. He got big applause when he mentioned that he had extended the rent control protection to an additional 250,000 families in significant areas. Landlords are allowed increases limited by the inflation index prepared by Statistics Canada.

Max FineDay of Canadian Roots Exchange drew a standing ovation

Max FineDay from the Canadian Roots was the most popular with the members. He gave a lively and impassioned speech focusing on reconciliation between Native Canadians and the rest of the population. He won people over with both well-timed personal anecdotes and moving descriptions of conditions on the reserved lands. Another favorite speaker was the head of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, known as CUPW, here. He was a familiar friend who had also spoken in Montreal at the last convention. The union’s proposal for a postal bank has been supported by ACORN as a way around predatory lending, as well as a way for the union to fight privatization. The crowd laughed when he told of a government committee claiming that such a bank wouldn’t make money, asking the members who knew of a bank that didn’t make money!

Chris Ballard MPP and Ontario Minister of Housing told us they had expanded rent control

Mike Palechek, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, spoke for a 2nd convention to cheers

In the afternoon, the members paired up in teams and hit the neighborhoods of Ottawa to gain support for the campaign for Fair Banking and an end to Predatory Lending. The winning petition teams filled 39 and 40 petitions in their two hours, including some new members from Hamilton which was exciting to everyone.

role plays before the doorknocking outreach

Marva Burnett, the chair of both ACORN Canada and ACORN International, gave some remarks over dinner that challenged the members about whether they were prepared to lead in building organization globally. She underlined the success on tenant issues and the demands by tenants for ACORN to build a tenants’ union in various countries.

Burnett also mentioned that June 18th was the 47th Anniversary of ACORN’s founding and led the members in singing Happy Birthday to ACORN.

What a great day!

more fun, food and speeches at the banquet

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