Friday, April 22, 2016

Here's What Happens When A Transgender Person Goes To The Bathroom

Here's what happens when a transgender person goes to the bathroom:

They go into an empty stall.

They do their business.

They wipe and flush.

They wash their hands (hopefully, for the doctor-recommended 30 seconds. Stay healthy y'all!)

They dry their hands (hopefully, not with one of those Dyson airblades).

They leave the bathroom.

This is all very difficult for Ted Cruz, and apparently, Republican state legislatures to understand:

For comparison, here's how a sexual predator dressed as a woman goes to the bathroom:

They lie in wait for a female to enter the bathroom.

They peek over top of the stall, or into it.

They shove the door open.

They grope, grab, force themselves on the woman.

They run when screams attract attention.

They do not wash their hands, certainly not with a Dyson airblade.

They're arrested when caught by police, or a good Samaritan, and charged accordingly.

No law on the books (or not on the books) allows these predators to get away with preying on women in bathrooms. If some predator thought the law would be on his side... well, they're going to discover that sexual assault, voyeurism, illegal detainment, and any number of other laws on the books exist to punish him for his crimes.

Then there is the very undeniable fact that there's no reason for a predator to dress up as a woman to assault a woman in a women's bathroom. It's not like that makes it any easier. Ben Roethlisberger wasn't wearing a dress when he did it. A man could attack a woman in the bathroom before North Carolina's bill, and they can do it after. It was illegal then, it's illegal now. A bill that says you need a vagina to be in the women's restroom isn't going to make a predator go, "Oh gee, I guess I won't be raping today!!"

Sure, a caught predator could claim to be transgender... but even if that were true, it wouldn't excuse any crimes committed while in the bathroom. It could also be easily refuted by any number of witnesses. Saying you're transgender isn't a get-out-of-jail-free card.

These "bathroom bills" don't keep anyone safe from predators, but they do make "pissing while transgender" into a criminal offense. If it's anyone at risk of sexual assault, it's the transgender person, part of a group that has often been abused and even murdered because of their orientation.

If you're really worried about protecting "your daughter," imagine what would happen to her if she was forced to use the men's bathroom.

That's what North Carolina's bill, and others like it, aim to do--to anyone born into a gender that their brain is not wired to be.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

3 Reasons Bernie Bros Are Mad, And Why They Shouldn't Be

The system is rigged. If you're a Bernie Sanders supporter, you already know that. How could one of the most liberal states vote for Hillary Clinton, that Republican in Democrat's clothing? Voters were disenfranchised! Independents couldn't vote! 126,000 Democratic voters were wiped from the rolls just before the primary! The will of the people was subverted! The fix was in!

I hate to interrupt this stream of outrage. But lets get real. This has nothing to do with the system. It has to do with people who rarely vote suddenly being surprised that they don't understand how primaries work.

1. Superdelegates are anti-democratic!

They're not meant to be democratic. They're meant to prevent terrible mistakes like Donald Trump from taking over the party and changing its core principles. If the Republicans had superdelegates, Trump wouldn't be an issue. Superdelegates are not hand-picked friends of Hillary Clinton. They're committed Democratic party loyalists--Democratic congressmen, senators, state officials, you know, people that Democrats have voted into office time and time again. These guys and gals have been in the political trenches for a long time, fighting for Democratic values against the Republicans. They're responsible for the Democratic party's platform for women's rights, the rights of minorities, the support of labor and education. They're here to make sure the party sticks to Democratic principles. They have an interest in making sure the Democratic candidate can win the general election and represent Democratic party values.

Superdelegates are not robots. If Bernie won the popular vote, and the most pledged delegates, it would be abundantly clear that the party base had shifted and the Democratic party would be wise to follow the will of its members. THIS ACTUALLY HAPPENED in 2008, when superdelegates recognized that Barak Obama, not Hillary Clinton, had the support of the Democratic majority. They shifted their alliances, and Hillary herself, for the good of the party, released those delegates sworn to her of their obligations.

Bernie does not lead in the popular vote. He does not lead in pledged delegates. In fact, there's no chance he will change this by the time of the convention. Before, when he had a chance, he argued that the superdelegates should follow the will of the people. Now, he says they should go against it.

2. The primaries should be open!

Primaries should not be open. That allows raiding from the opposing political party. Republicans seeking to go against a softer opponent could pack the Democratic Party ballot boxes. More importantly, why should we allow those not invested enough in a political party to have a say in that party's candidate? Primaries are designed to help a political party choose its candidate. Only those committed to the party should make that choice. If you want a different candidate, make your own party. Pick your candidate from a spinning wheel or by throwing darts. You can do that. But if you want a say in who the Republicans or Democrats choose, you should be a Republican or a Democrat. Otherwise organize, raise money, support a real third party run. If you're not a Democrat, then why should you get to choose who the Democrats nominate? It would be like UNC choosing which players Villanova gets to start in the NCAA championship game.

Elections decide who leads the country. We're all part of the country, so we all get to decide who leads it. Primaries, on the other hand, decide who leads the party. If you're not part of the party, then why should you get to choose the leader? If you don't like either candidate the two major parties have chosen, you have three choices. Don't vote, support a third party candidate, or pick a side and seek to influence its policies through your primary votes and level of involvement. Don't complain because you've registered as an independent and therefore can't vote in the Democratic primary. That was your choice!

3. Hillary's goons purged Bernie voters from the voting rolls! They switched votes!

Voter fraud is not a problem. It simply isn't. Many have made a big deal out of the 126,000 Democratic voters purged from the voting rolls prior to the election. As if somehow, all these were determined to be Bernie voters last fall.

The truth? It's a mix of bureaucracy and confused people. According to Board of Elections executive director Michael Ryan, 12,000 had moved out of borough, and 44,000 had been placed in an inactive file after mailings to their homes bounced back. An additional 70,000 were already inactive and hadn't voted in two successive federal elections or responded to cancellation notices. It wasn't all this year that suddenly 126,000 became ineligible to vote--this number has added up in the 4 years since 2012, the last time Brooklyn cleared their system of ineligible voters. In a place where people move in and out as often as Brooklyn, this number isn't out of the ordinary.

Were you ineligible? It was likely your fault. Take Jessica Sager. She wrote for the New York Post that she was purged from the voting rolls and became a ghost. But it's very clear from her own words why this happened. Jessica, who was registered as an Independent in New Jersey, just moved to the city in July of last year. It's not clear when, or if, she changed her address officially and obtained a NYC driver's license or proof of residency, but by her own admission, she missed the deadline for a registered voter to switch parties. March 25th was for new voters, not previously registered ones. That would be in October. From Bernie's own website:
What is this Oct 9 deadline I keep hearing about?Oct 9 2015 was the last day for switching party affiliation in time to vote in the Primary Elections in New York in April 2016. This deadline only applied to existing voters who wanted to change party in time to vote in that party’s primary (eg independents switching to Democrat to vote for Bernie in the Democratic primary!). It DOES NOT apply to new voters.
Jessica was not a new voter. She was registered in New Jersey. She voted before, as she says, in the 2008 and 2012 elections. So the March deadline to switch parties didn't apply to her. The October one did. Her printed and mailed registration form came several months too late to participate as a Democrat in this primary election.

I don't fault Jessica for being confused. The system is far from being perfectly clear. But she's being disingenuous to imply that this had nothing to do with her own ignorance of the process. If you change addresses and switch districts, its your responsibility to make sure you update your registration.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I voted for Obama in 2008 in New Jersey, despite spending more of my time in New York. I hadn't yet changed my address officially--I still had a New Jersey license and listed my parents' address as my permanent address. Imagine if I had shown up in New York to vote, expecting no problems. Instead, I recognized that I'd been lazy about changing my address. My parents were able to forward me the mailer that told me where my designated polling place was. Even though it was more than an hour away, it was important for me to vote, so I took the train and did it at the polling place assigned to me.

I've seen Bernie supporters irate that they can't tell whether their vote was accurately counted. They just can't believe their neighborhood would vote for Hillary. This is another example of ignorance. There is no way to verify a vote was recorded correctly. Only that you voted. This is by design. A secret ballot is meant to stay secret to avoid vote selling. If you could verify that your vote was for a certain candidate, then that would promote vote selling or coercive behavior. As long as the vote is secret and there's no way to tell, no one can force you to vote for a candidate. This is a bedrock principle of our voting system. It seems odd that some Bernie supporters aren't aware of it.

I understand all the frustration from people who feel like they've been excluded from the process. But many of them don't understand that in order to really change things, you need to be involved in that process more than just showing up for a primary vote or on election day. "Independent" is not a party. It has no platform. It has no plan. You could be a skinhead racist and be a registered "Independent." You could be a communist who believes in a fully socialized state, and be a registered "independent."

If you're unhappy with the two parties and what they represent, you have two main options. Organize with others to create a third party. This is not unprecedented in American history. Some have done quite well. If your party grows enough and makes enough noise, and falls to one side of the ideological line, then the competing party with the most to lose will be forced to cave and accept your agenda into its platform. If your party falls in the middle and makes enough of a splash, then both parties will be forced to moderate their platforms to fall closer to the center. If you manage to really capture the populace, you might even drain enough support from the closest competitor that they're forced to fold completely. Unlikely, but it has happened in the past.

Then there's option two-- changing the party from the inside. In order to do this, you can't be an Independent. You need to choose the side you're trying to change, and become a member. Then you have voting power within the party. We all saw how Tea Partiers were able to rip the Republican party sharply to the right, even getting them to give up on immigration reform. They created a powerful voting bloc within the party that threatened to become a third party-- the only way for the Republicans to win was to accommodate them. If Bernie's supporters want to change the Democratic party... they need to be involved members of the Democratic party. Indeed, Bernie supporters within the party have already forced Hillary to move her views further to the left.

You can still be "independent" and be a member of a party. Plenty of Republicans and Democrats have crossed party lines to vote in elections. But if you register that way, you need to be aware that you've chosen not to join a club. You don't get to say what the club does. And you can't say the system is rigged if you've never taken the time to understand it in the first place.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Enough About Hillary's Damn Speeches!

Somewhere, in the transcripts of Hillary's speeches, is a line so damning, so deplorable, that it would immediately sink her candidacy for President. What could this line be? Did she swear on a stack of Bibles to give the execs at Goldman Sachs their own suite in the West Wing? Did she express her genuine desire to give tax breaks to CEOs and pardon white collar criminals? Perhaps she even said something like, "I hate poor people, if only we can wipe them out." Now that, that would be devastating!

Except... all this is imaginary. It's what Bernie Sanders wants you to think when he hits Hillary, time and time again, with the same repeated lines. Hillary gave speeches to Wall Street. They gave her money. Therefore, she must intend to screw the poor, feed the rich, and ride off into the sunset with her pockets full of gold.

All this is insinuation. Bernie loves when you ask the question, "If she has nothing to hide, why won't she release her speeches?" Because the question is all he's really after. If there was truly a smoking gun, something so horrible, it's unfathomable that all the reporters covering the campaign, all the people who attended her speeches, the Democratic party leaders, etc. etc. wouldn't have unearthed it yet. Of course, Bernie and his supporters would have you believe that the fix is in--that hundreds of unrelated people--including those who would just love to make their careers on such a scoop--have conspired to keep whatever it is under wraps.

So... why doesn't Hillary release those emails... I mean speeches?

Hmm. See what I did there? I mixed up emails and speeches. Because, well, Hillary was through this whole mishegoss once before. You see, the Republicans were sure--positive--that Hillary's emails had broken confidentiality laws. Or maybe not, but surely there was something in them that revealed she was actually working for the devil. Maybe she even caused Benghazi! Ok, so there wasn't anything there, but... that's just because she didn't release them all. What about those missing emails? Oh, she released even more? Nothing in those? Well there were some missing. Certainly. And how about those ones she released. That liberal commie reporter--Sid something. Was he advising Hillary on policy? Did she reveal something to him? Yeah there's nothing there, but there might be...

This shit went on for a year. More than a year. And the friggin FBI was combing through that shit.

All that came out of it was a steady drumbeat of nothing that slowly eroded her poll numbers. No criminal actions, no questionable ethics. Just more insinuations. More guilt-by-association tactics. More articles where people just skimmed the headlines and said, "Hmm, they're paying so much attention to this, maybe she is up to something." In the end, that release of emails was nothing--except a gift to her opponents, a way to extend the news cycle of articles "investigating" her communications.

This is the same goddamn thing. No... actually, I take that back. At least you could argue that maybe... just maybe... a law was broken with the emails. Which is why Hillary was compelled to release them. But in giving speeches, no laws are being broken, unless the transcripts reveal she was doing lines of coke with Lloyd Blankfein on stage. There's nothing to hide, except what is probably a business-friendly speech. Which isn't in dispute. I think we all know Hillary wasn't reading the Wall Street execs the riot act about their irrational gambling habits. We're smart enough to know that Hillary was probably lavishing some praise on these "wealth creators," and thanking them for helping rebuild the economy after 9/11, etc. etc. It was most likely the boringest shit you can imagine.

But if Hillary released those transcripts, you can bet that every phrase, every word will be parsed by the media, the Sanders campaign, and the Republicans. It won't matter that no promises were made, no illegal actions were revealed. They'll comb through looking for anything that could possibly be used to portray Hillary as a hypocrite. "See!" the Bernie supporters will cry to the heavens, "She is in bed with Wall Street!" As if all anyone needed as "proof" were a few meaningless lines from a speech to a firm that had paid her to be there. "Wall Street is the backbone of America," you can easily imagine Hillary saying. The same way every single politician ever has said, "Farmers are the backbone of America," or "Autoworkers are the backbone of America," or "The American Association of Chiropractors is the backbone of America." But you know Sanders will highlight that line and say, "Hillary says Wall Street is the backbone of America... well I say Main Street is the backbone of America!" And his supporters will cheer and yell "Fuck Hillary" and whatever they were chanting last night, and instead of focusing on the issues that face America and the policies needed to fix them, Hillary is spending her time defending herself over each new line that her opponents choose to trot out.

Why would anyone give their opponent more attack lines? It's not being honest and open, it's being stupid. I don't want a President who bows to pressure and releases something that can be used to stir up anti-American propaganda. And that's all this is--Hillary refusing to give her opponents material they want to use in attack ads. That is all.

Meanwhile, Bernie has been incredibly reluctant to release his tax returns. Unlike Hillary's speeches, tax returns can reveal illegal activity. They may show that Sanders, who claims to be the poorest man in Congress, actually has Wall Street money himself. Now that would be devastating. It's also in the public interest to see his tax returns. What matters more--what someone said, or what someone did? Tax returns can reveal Sanders didn't give a cent to charity. It can reveal that he's heavily invested with a Wall Street firm. It can reveal contributions he's received before his candidacy, which may have come from the very people he's condemning now. Maybe he even owns some flophouse rental properties that squeeze tenants for money. This is all speculation of course... but unlike the speculation surrounding Hillary's speeches, the release of Bernie's tax returns will show concrete actions, not vague verbal assurances.

If you're going to question, "Why doesn't Hillary release her transcripts?" you must, in good faith, also question why it's taking Bernie so long to reveal his taxes. Why is he on the same side as Donald Trump on this issue? What is he hiding?

I assure you, if he's hiding anything, he's not hiding words.

Honestly, it's all counterproductive for the Democrats when they stop discussing real issues and adopt the Republican strategy of slinging mud. It doesn't help anyone. Certainly not anyone who wants to make sure we don't end up with Trump or Cruz as President of the United States.

So Bernie Bros, enough about Hillary's damn speeches.

TL;DR: Hillary won't release her speeches because all it will do is provide quotes for attack ads. Bernie won't release his tax records for a similar, but potentially more damaging reason.

Thursday, March 03, 2016

Who Do The Republicans Want to Lose With?

Lost amid the Republican party panic over Donald Trump's inexplicable appeal to the uneducated, bigoted, misogynistic base they've pandered to for many years is the fact that essentially, this a debate over which candidate gets to lose to Hillary Clinton.

After they lost to Barack Obama for the second time in 2012, the Republican party establishment, caught by surprise that Americans would vote for and re-elect a black man, took a long hard look in the mirror and decided they needed to change in order to win a national election. The demographics of the country were working against them. Unless they could appeal to African-Americans, Hispanics, single women and young people, and move closer to the center on several issues, their prospects for winning any national election in the future were nil. For the simple reason that those groups made up the fastest growing segment of the electorate. Math wasn't on their side.

Instead, the Republicans changed absolutely nothing. For the last 4 years, not only have they doubled-down on polices despised by the very groups they need to attract, but they've established themselves as the Do-Nothing party, determined to shut down government and refuse to do their jobs because... "it's really hard guys and Obama boo hoo!"

This was never the way to win. You can't just nominate a token Hispanic guy (or two). Not if everything you communicate and do makes it clear you just don't trust non-white people, women, pretty much anyone who isn't a 65-year old racist.

This election was always going to be a loser for the Republicans. And more than anything else, that explains Trump's rise to the top of the Republican polls. In prior years, electability would be vital-- the reason why Mitt Romney and John McCain were elevated as candidates. But Republican voters haven't forgotten the outcomes of those elections. It didn't matter that these two boring guys who measured their words and avoided scandal were electable... they lost.

Since Trump or Rubio or Cruz or Kasich will lose too, what's the point? Republican voters would rather go down swinging with an insult comic reality TV buffoon than choose someone who is just going to demonstrate the declining appeal of their policies. In fact, a Trump loss in the general election is the best possible outcome for the party, because it allows them to claim it's The Donald's fault, and not the fact that they've aligned themselves with a dying share of the electorate. They can go another 4 years continuing to do absolutely nothing and in 2020, nominate an establishment candidate who will go on to lose as well.

The silly idea that somehow Mitt Romney could come in and save the party--it's not going to happen. Republican voters have seen where that road leads. This party isn't dying because of a lack of qualified candidates, it's dying because its ideas are appealing to less and less people. Trump distracts from all that, so why not have him front and center in a race that's already lost?

Monday, November 02, 2015

This Apartment's Eye-Bleeding Decor Is Nightmare Fuel

You've been obsessed with the dream of finding a Manhattan apartment to call your own. But who can afford anything at these prices? Fortunately, prime real estate in New York City's East Village has become available. If you make less than 100,000 grand a year, and have $111,000 for a down payment to buy in the HDFC co-op, this beautifully-designed 3rd-floor walkup can be yours... all yours! The only catch? Your soul.

Let's take a tour...

Living Room

Living Room
Open kitchen, good light. A wood(?) floor that appears to have been assembled by a blind/drunk carpenter inspired by the melting clocks of Salvador Dali. Will staring at the floor slowly turn you into a raving lunatic? Perhaps. But it's safer to stare at the floor than the...

Bedroom walls....


Someone really went all-in on the blue here. The electric-shade assaults the eyeballs upon first glance. A second look reveals an almost ethereal glimmer, as if spirits have taken up residence inside the paint itself, waiting to emerge and sprinkle you with fairy dust while you slumber. The bed, adorned in other shades of blue, looks as if it is being swallowed into the walls, which is probably what happened to the previous owners, which explains the source of the spirits in the first place.

The floor, meanwhile... what is going on? It looks like the linoleum(?) tiles have been moving around on their own....

What is going on here? We appear to be in a space where time/dimensions have become jumbled--one era's mosaic tiling giving away to the completely schizophrenic arrangement of what I'm now convinced is simply white sheets of construction paper. The paint on the walls has been applied just as haphazardly, save for a neatly formed rectangle where perhaps coats once hung. The door jamb is chipped away, clear evidence of someone trying, desperately, futilely, to get out. We've almost reached the most alarming room of the apartment, but first, a detour to...

The Bathroom
What is under that bathroom sink, shrouded by a mysterious theatrical curtain? A puppet show? A tiny production of King Lear? How much blood was used to make the paint slathered on the bathroom walls? That mirror... If you stare into it a second too long, your head shrinks. Which may be the best possible outcome, because if you enter into our next room, your head will explode anyway...

This is where we reach the heights of interior design. Are the cupboards... wallpapered? With some sort of braille/morse code? Yes. Is that new(?) wood(?) flooring any match for the old tile, reaching up with icy fingers from somewhere beneath? No. The tiling around the oven (which may contain the remains of pagan sacrifices), is black as night, reflecting the new state of your soul. It also matches the fridge!

This apartment can be yours for $370,000, which is a steal for the East Village area. Maintenance is only $400 a month, and your soul's eternity in hell.

Visitor Map: