Monday, August 31, 2015

New studies show how far short minimum wage workers fall in meeting living expenses

NBC News is reporting, in a story by Fred Imbert, on a New Economy Policy study on the ability of minimum wage workers to live on what they can earn.  The story title is “Can 2 parents, 2 kids live on minimum wage?  Not even close”, link here. Pew Research has its portion here  and the National Low Income Housing Coalition has a report called “Out of Reach 2015” here
A family of four needs an average of $65000 a year now across the country, but $104,000 in Washington DC.  Two minimum wage incomes together in most of the country would total $30000 a year.  I presume this takes taxes into account.

However a $15 minimum wage would, over a 40 hour week (assuming paid vacation) pay $31,200 a year per earner, of $62,400 for two earners. 

My ending salary in Minneapolis with my layoff at the end of 2001 was about $73000.  My next job paid $6 an hour plus commissions part time, but I had enhanced (for over 55) severance, retirement, a retention bonus retroactive payment, and even unemployment on top of that, and that got me close to age 62 when Social Security could start.  Insurance companies seemed better than average in taking care of older employees whom they laid off after 9/11.  (In 2003, I made $10 an hour plus 
commissions as a debt collector.)  I had also saved strategically for a few years and could continue to live as I had as a single person without disruption. (And I did have decent  health insurance.)
But suppose my “sexual intercourse” had led to having a family to support?  Isn’t that a relevant question?

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Giuliani's former policies on cleaning up NYC seen as hiding "an inconvenient truth" about homelessness

Check out the New York Times article, “Giuliani and the Inconvenient Truth of New York City Homelessness”, on p. 24, Aug. 30, by Ginia Bellafante and her “Big City” column, link here.  Online, the “best title of the story” (remember those “My Weekly Reader” tests) is “Rudolph Giuliani’s Outrage on Homelessness, and Richard Gere’s”. 

Giuliani has bragged about his “broken windows” policy and how it fixed the City in the 1990s.  Admittedly, the City actually started “booming” under Reagan after the fiscal crises of the 70s (“Ford to City, drop dead!).  I lived in New York 1974-1978. Now the former GOP presidential candidates ideas are seen as morally bankrupt by some. 

Richard Gere has produced and stars in the film “Time Out of Mind” (IFC) about homelessness, which opens in September. And in Washington DC, “Street Sense” has sponsored a “Cinema of the Street” series of film shot by homeless people of their own lives, the last mini-festival happening August 26 (see Movies blog for that day) with films like “Raise to Rise” and “Who Should I Be Grateful to?

On YouTube, there also is a 30-minute documentary “Without a Roof” by Gordon Sun

It’s about two years old.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

"Black Lives Matter" protests Washington DC mayor's announcement of strategy to meet spike in murders, gun violence in Washingtom

Activists from “Black Lives Matter” disrupted a meeting in Washington DC held by Mayor Muriel Bowser and police chief Kathy Lanier on plans to meet the spike in homicides, especially by firearm, in the District of Columbia in 2015.  The Washington Post story by Aaron C. Davis us here
The plans were announced in part by the gratuitous nature of the brazen shootings, which have killed at least two bystanders. 
Lanier and Bowser maintain that many of the crimes come from repeat offenders, some on parole or probation and not properly monitored, and that many, even most, of them were committed with illegally possessed firearms.  Lanier maintains that synthetic drugs are associated with some of them.
However, activists are more concerned about reversing or remedying retroactively past targeting of African Americans by police, even if this means communities today must live with increased levels of violence, which activists see as a natural, even revolutionary consequence of inequality.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Killing of reporters by disgruntled fellow brings up more subtle issues in race, even from my own past

The horrific events near Roanoke VA this morning, do bear some relation to an episode in my life in the 1990s.  Vox’s latest summary is here and the chronicled details are available in many places.
I got a tweet from following a college journalist friend with an image of the event, which I saved for personal use but will not republish (copyright, for one thing).  This sequence was one of the most telling where a perpetrator wanted “revenge” played out in detail in social media.  The asymmetry of social media means it can be used for “bad”, as we already know from covering international affairs. 

The major social media companies all removed these images and videos as quickly as they could, and closed the former reporter’s accounts promptly. Furthermore, we have another instance where the word “Manifesto” gets a bad rap.  After all, my first book was called “The Manifesto”, as if “from on high”.   The full text has not been released, but a local station has some excerpts and some tweets before deletion, here. 
It can't be overlooked how this incident highlighted the idea that journalism can involve personal risk.  It's not supposed to in the US, but I know of some harrowing close-calls during the Baltimore riots. Anderson Cooper has a film "Journalists Killed in the Line of Duty", my "cf: blog, March 3, 2009. 
The main issue that caught my attention was how the perpetrator played up race.  I’ll jump ahead, and mention reports that he wanted to carry out the Charleston shooter’s “race war”.  There is an element in our world culture that believes civilians, police and military are all equally “fair game” in conflict, as we know from international events (and, for that matter, for a lot of behavior throughout history, including both Hitler and Stalin during and after WWII).  The polite word is “war crimes”.

The perpetrator claimed to be a “victim” of past racial injustice and played it up.  No doubt, all the recent incidents involving police behavior in various states and cities (Ferguson is not the best example because of the facts) could have filled his mind, too.  But his story seems to have tracked back to inadequate performance in the past in his job as a reported.  One account said he made too many factual errors in his reporting.  Fact checking is a real rite-of-passage for “professional” reporters. That had even been described as an issue in Foster Winans’s 1988 book “Trading Secrets”.
There are various accounts of his complaints with the EEOC claiming racial discrimination. I was in the middle of something like this in the middle 1990s (but with none of the violence).  I transferred and replaced an African-American who had been terminated, apparently for performance.  This is a long story and I won’t get into detail here.  But he sued the company, and I wound up giving some depositions.  I even have a copy of my sworn testimony, which I do not legally own in a copyright sense.  The case was dismissed (later appealed) and went away.  But had it gone to trial, it could have interfered with my publishing my first book in 1997 and move to Minneapolis.  I may give more details on Wordpress later as some of them do create teaching points.  One issue was that he had claimed he would be “promoted”, whereas I actually preferred remaining an “individual contributor.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Voting-booth selfies: free speech, or fodder for vote-buying?

Rather suddenly, the issue of “selfies” taken in voting booths has become an issue, especially in New Hampshire, where it can lead to a $1000 fine for the voter.

Erik Eckholm explores the issue for the New York Times today (p. A10), link here
While the voter might claim that this should be protected by the First Amendments, opponents claim this could lead to the practice of buying votes. For example, a voter’s boss (or union) could demand that the voter bring back a cell-phone photo proving he had voted for the politically correct candidate from the employer’s (or union’s) viewpoint.  This is an example in our legal system where someone maintains something must be forbidden, because if it were permitted indirect harm could come to others through long term aggregate perverse incentives.  (But sodomy laws used to be justified this way.)
I can remember that some employers used to have their own PAC’s, and could conceivably pressure employees to join them.  Running for office is often seen as a potential “conflict of interest”.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Ohio, like some other states, seeks to ban abortions based on motive of the mother (detected Down Syndrome)

Ohio has a bill that would ban any abortion motivated by a finding that the unborn will have Down Syndrome, as detailed in a Sunday New York Times story by Tamar Lewin, link here.    CNN has a critical story by David Perry here. The text of HB 135 is here  on the Ohio legislature’s website.

Basing a ban on second-term pregnancy terminations (or even early) on the "motives" of the mother could seem to run afoul of Roe v Wade, but several states have tried it. Such laws can easily be criticized as meddling in a woman's doctor-patient relationship, normally protected by HIPAA.
Pro-choice forces have difficulty keeping up with these laws. 
CNN points out that Down Syndrome is easy to detect early in the Second Trimester by amniocentesis. The New York Times article quotes someone as saying, “we all want our children to be born perfect” but goes on to assume the blessing of loving someone not gifted or much less than perfect – something that seems necessary (for people to be open to)  if you don’t want to allow a culture to slip toward Nazism.  

Abortion has always sounded like a double-edged issue.  It’s really about a lot more than forcing people to deal with the consequences of sexual intercourse, or even claiming that the unborn has the full rights of anyone.  Anyone takes chances when having children, inside or outside marriage.  It can tempt people into avoiding all the risk.

I did that for decades, but when I became a substitute teacher in 2004, I was confronted with what this can mean very quickly, whatever my previous “choices”. None of it was pretty. None of it was personally welcome. 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A "modest proposal" in lieu of reparations for slavery

Here’s a “modest proposal” – a rather bombastic one – for race reparations from the Washington Post, by Theodore R. Johnson. The print front page for the Outlook Section of the Washington Post leads off, “The 5/3 Compromise”.  Online, Sunday August 23, 2015, the title is “We used to count black Americans as 3/5 of a vote. For reparations give them 5/3 of a vote”, link here

The Post has many maps showing how the vote would change, especially moving Southern states back to the Democrats.  But one of the biggest problems is deciding what counts as “black”.

The proposal refers to an original provision to count 3/5 of the slaves for a state’s representation in the Constitution. The provision was neutralized by the 13th Amendment, but the 14th Amendment, which gave suffrage to former slaves, was contravened by Jim Crow laws and various poll taxes and citizen knowledge requirements, recently the subject of other Supreme Court opinions.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Western states ask for civilian volunteers to fight wildfires, also use prison labor, and overseas help

For the “first time in history” Washington State is asking for civilian volunteer help from those who can operate certain equipment to fight the wildfires, according to a Fox story here
On the other hand, Natasha Geiling of ThinkProgess writes about the prison labor in California being paid $1 an hour, and says civilian “volunteers” are paid the minimum wage of $9, story here
PBS has a story about the US requesting help from Canada and Australia to fight the fires, link here.  But the story emphasizes the over-development of “exurban” living in areas where some fires normally occur as part of a regrowth cycle.

Storms later this fall or winter from El Nino may finally overcome California’s drought, with flash floods and mudslides.
Rural areas (even forty miles or less from major cities) still recruit for volunteer firefighters (I see this all the time on day trips).  Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper had once talked about serving as a volunteer firefighter.  I doubt his contract would allow that now.  But it’s still an issue that many of us have to leave the risk-taking to others. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Sinkholes occur in places other than Florida; government gets overzealous on small cash deposits from farmers and business owners

I have covered the unpredictable disasters homeowners and renters face, that can suddenly make them homeless.

In Leesburg, VA, there were news reports if a sinkhole said to jeopardize over 60 townhomes, and requiring extensive utility work.  I did travel to the location (along Battlefield Drive, off US 15, north of downtown), and it does appear that there is a marsh a few hundred feet East of the sink. There is a detailed story in Leesburg Today here.

 It appears to be considerably shallower than comparable sinkholes in Florida, where one particular sinkhole that had swallowed a home and a man in it has recurred (CNN story ).
While western Florida (the Gulf Coast north of Tampa) is the most notorious for sinkholes, about 40% if the US has some susceptibility, as shown in this map.  Sinkhole damage to homes (like earthquake) is covered only by homeowner’s or renter’s insurance only when there a specific rider, which some states (like Florida) require insurers to offer in some areas.
Some smaller sinkholes (such as some in Washington DC) seem to be related to water main breaks.

Near (a few hundred feet to the north, across the drive) the sinkhole site there is a strip mall, with a retail outlet run by Habitat for Humanity.  I had not been aware that the charity does run some stores. 

There is another property-related story, about a dairy farmer in Middletown, MD (between Frederick and Hagerstown) who found that the federal government had seized $65000 from his bank account after he made numerous deposits under $10000 each.  The law apparently does not require the government to show probable cause that crime is being committed (small deposits inspire suspicion of “laundering” to avoid reporting – in this case the farmer’s bank had said this was OK).  This reminds me of the civil asset forfeiture issue often criticized by libertarians, Baltimore Sun story here


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Participation trophies controversy; why do some good kids go bad?; a little incident in Rockville MD over "BLM"

There’s a debate on CNN about “participation trophies” and whether parents “over valuing” kids raises “narcissistic kids”. The coverage starts with a series of links in an article and video by Kelly Wallace, here
Right off the bat, that reminds me of a report card, back around 1951 in third grade, where teachers pretended to give grades “according to ability”.

There’s a problem, in that society rewards winning.  (Listen to Donald Trump.)  You can’t logically reward both winning and then every prize everyone at the same time (and the alternative is “communism”).  There’s an inherent contradiction.  So, in capitalism, we tend to migrate to a “winner takes all” mentality.

That’s most apparent publicly in pro sports.  Sometimes that goes to players’ heads.  Nats outfielder Jayson Werth hasn’t really been right (nor has the team been right) since his brief jail stint for very reckless driving – after all, if you have a hundred million dollars, you can get away with anything?  (I remember his case and slow down when I notice my speed creep up on the open road.)

But’s true also in other endeavors.  Look at the spectacular tour for just-graduated high school senior and now Stanford freshman Jack Andraka, traveling worldwide to promote his book after his science fair win on a pancreatic test, several years before it can be fully tested and approved and used in real practice.  His older brother, just about as accomplished in science, gets overlooked by the media, although may that’s just being left alone to finish undergraduate college first (the first phase of adult life).

There’s another horrible problem that comes to mind – previously successful kids gone very wrong in their twenties, as a sensational trial and case in Colorado shows.  It’s something we don’t want to think can even happen, and we want to know why when it does.

I can return to the Black Lives Matter movement, and Hillary Clinton’s confrontation, and even recent editorials that say it is about to get police to stop intentionally targeting African-Americans.  I’ve said that the Ferguson incident is not the best one (Baltimore, Staten Island, and several others are much more clear cut) .  I’ll even venture to say that, whatever my baseball rooting interests, a St. Louis-Baltimore World Series could help both communities pull together through all this horror.
But one question that nobody will investigate is, why did Michael Brown commit the acts he did (in a convenience store, and there is really credible evidence that he intruded into Wilson’s car). He was said to be a good kid headed for college, maybe real success in adult life, maybe leadership in own community.  I believe that, but then why suddenly this behavior?  Someone needs to report on this.

Yesterday (Monday) I took a brief field trip to Rockville MD and saw the “boxed up” confederate statute at the Red Brick Courthouse., news story about the BLM graffiti here. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Trump wants to end "birthright citizenship", prevent illegal's money from getting sent home, and reduce asylum

Dara Lind has a sharp piece on Donald Trump’s proposed immigration policy, link here. NBC News has a similar analysis and video here, by Perry Bacon Jr.

The most controversial parts of Trump’s plan seems to be, getting rid of birthright citizenship, which would require amending the constitution (and undoing part of the 14th Amendment, which sounds dangerous and unlikely), and confiscating money from illegals who send income to family members back home.  Also controversial is requiring anyone who comes into the country legally to be able to support the self and family, and (not pleasing to Silicon Valley) clamping down on some skilled workers who might compete for tech jobs.

The bad word that is relevant here is "anchor babies".

It’s very common for immigrants from poor countries to send money home, and this is especially prevalent and expected in Europe from Muslim emigrants.

Requiring self-supporting would confound asylum programs (including LGBT).  However, even the Obama administration has not been willing to discuss the idea of personal sponsorship, an idea that some churches float.

Note two other recent pieces here about possible constitutional amendments (Stevens, Lessig). 

Rand Paul has already proposed a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship (story)

Trump is having his experience with jury duty today.

Update: Aug. 21

Charles Krauthamer of the Washington Post weighs in on Trump's proposals, and how to do immigration reform, here ("The Immigration Swamp".  

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Lawrence Lessig wants to run for president to change the campaign finance and electoral system

Today, on his Global Public Square program, Fareed Zakaria mentioned the issue-oriented candidacy of Lawrence Lessig, as explained in this story in Reason (link ) or Newsweek, story .
Lessig wants to crowd-fund his candidacy.  After getting a “Citizen’s Equality Act of 2017” (link ), he would tur over the presidency to his vice-president.  That act would end overuse of campaign financing by “a few billionaires”, end gerrymandering, and guarantee an equal access to the polls.
Lessig has authored many books on the Internet and technology, including “Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace” (two volumes) and “Free Culture: The Nature and Future of Creativity”.

Lessig's proposal could be compared to a postulated constitutional amendment in a book by John Paul Stevens, discussed here Aug. 2.  
Campaign finance reform has created unintended snags before.  In the middle 2000s, there was controversy as to whether unpaid blogging for a candidate could be viewed as a “political contribution”, but it eventually died down.  See post April 21, 2008, and this link on my Wordpress blog.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The "cruel and unusual" bail system in many states, and housing the homeless

German Lopez, of Vox Media, has a piece, “Why America’s bail system is cruel, in one paragraph”, link here.   Essentially, the system forces possibly innocent defendants to plead guilty even to get out of jail because going to trail takes so long (even given a Bill of Rights guarantee of a speedy trial).  Lopez uses a detailed story by Nick Pinto for the New York Times, “The Bail Trap”, here. One observation is that the federal system, used also locally in the District of Columbia, is much fairer, and uses home monitoring much more. 
Here’s another progressive piece on Vox about another matter, homelessness, by Matthew Yglesias. “Giving the homeless housing is three times cheaper than leaving them on the streets”.  But does that mean turning public buildings into shelters?  Where do you find the housing?  Do you “ask” people to house them?
Terrence McCoy has a related piece in the Washington Post on the "criminalization" of homelessness, here. 
Today there was a Community Assistance Event at Mt. Olivet Methodist Church in Arlington VA.  I often see people with homeless signs near intersections in Arlington, and stopping for them would create a hazard for other drivers.  Do they know there is a community assistance event one Saturday a month (the third) at that church?  In Baltimore, homeless people walk between lanes (or even ride in wheelchairs) into traffic at night on Martin Luther King Drive heading toward I-95, and police allow it. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Umbrella insurance questions, following up on a potential Catch-22

I just got a second opinion, by phone, on the apparent “Catch 22” in the umbrella insurance world, by talking to an independent insurance agency in northern Virginia not connected to either my auto or property insurance coverage. This follows up on a post June 4, 2015.

It does seem that the property and insurance world is aware of potential underwriting traps, so here is what is happening.

Some companies have upped the normal limits on auto to $500,000/$500,000 or even more.  That would offer improved coverage on conventional auto without umbrella.

Also, companies exclude incidental intellectual property liability (especially defamation) on writing or social media activity that is directly connected to a business, even self-owned or in retirement.  If the “business activity” is excluded upfront, then it need not be underwritten for (unpredictable anti-selection) risk.

The defamation coverage would only apply to incidental, personal or household situations totally unrelated to any business efforts.
Most agencies that sell property and coverage do sell small business coverage, and most sell media perils. I’ve written before (as on the “BillBoushka” blog, Sept. 28, 2008).  I still wonder if some day it could become mandatory. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Companies cut back on "on-call" scheduling of hourly workers, finally out of concern for their kids

The New York Times Business section Thursday reports that some retailers are cutting back on the oppressive contingent scheduling of workers, who must be on call to come to work even if not needed, which prevents them from making personal plans with their own lives.

It also affects their children, who are more likely to have learning problems, and take up smoking and drinking.

Abercombie and Fitch, and Williams-Somona are two of the companies stopping the on-call practice for hourly workers.
The article is “when shifting work-schedules hurt children’s well being,” link here
How does this play into the debate on paid parental leave?


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Landlords in San Francisco try to get out of rent control with "low fault" evictions; city fights back

Here’s a story on “Truth-out” that caught my eye, by Adam Hudson. Because rents and property values in San Francisco are so high, some landlords use “low fault” evictions to get rid of rent-controlled tenants, link here

Tenants are evicted for relatively minor infractions, like hanging laundry or leaving a stroller in a hallway.  Some tenants are harassed by having utilities or cable turned off. And there are even boot camps for lawyers to help landlords get these done!

A great irony is that property could become worthless quickly if there were really bad earthquake damage.  Some properties in 1989 were destroyed because of the way the soil underneath them had settled. 

Wikipedia attribution link for financial district photo by Daniel Schwen  under Creative Commons Share-Alike 2.5 Generic License. My most recent visit was in 2002. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

"Black Lives Matter" demonstrations on Ferguson anniversary; apparent incidents last night in MO

The “Black Lives Matter” demonstration in Cambridge, MA Sunday afternoon was brief and peaceful, if vocal.  Police behaved well and firmly.

But there was a major incident in Ferguson MO Sunday night, several events, evolving story here
Later, I’ll come back to the question as to whether Ferguson is the best case for this issue. 
I was in discussions this weekend over Gode Davis’s unfinished film “American Lynching”.  It seems as though the focus of the film was to be “extra-legal violence” and social approval of it.  It wasn’t limited to race issues.  It has many other contexts, which the Left as well as Right use, for expropriation.  More details to come. 

Friday, August 07, 2015

Another stinging warning to business on wealth inequality

The New York Times Sunday Review will have an op-ed, “Capitalists, arise: We need to deal with income inequality”, link here by Peter Georgescu. 

The author seems more concerned with stagnant wages and incomes than with static rentier wealth.  He says the top 20% live well, but the bottom 40% can’t get off the floor and deal with debt.

He also notes that, unless you are born lucky, you need unusual brains and/or athletic ability to make it now.  That sounds like an obvious reference to Mark Zuckerberg and other social media entrepreneurs, or perhaps both Andraka brothers (for brains, in the sciences like medicine and environmental), or perhaps athletes like Bryce Harper, the Washington Nationals’s baseball player and homerun slugger  who took a GED so he could start baseball early. 

The editorial suggests that some companies outside of tech (like Home Depot and Starbucks) are finding that they add value by developing their employees more. But too many companies are manipulating stock and not focusing on real wealth.

Failure of more major companies to develop employees properly could lead to much higher taxes or massive, uncontrollable social unrest, the writer warns.
On the other hand, Dylan Matthews has another piece in Vox about the virtue of just giving poor people money, citing Good Ventures, founded by Dustin Moskivitz and Cari Tuba, but overseas (in Kenya and Uganda).

Today, in other meetings, which I’ll get into again, another business person said he disagreed with the optimistic view of US energy (with domestic shale and sources and some movement on solar) and said that the US could face another oil shock, which still guides US MidEast policy and  (Muslim) hostility in the region. 

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Suburban Chicago suburbs sued by moms for lax gun regulation

Two mothers of African-American young men slain by gun violence in the city of Chicago are suing the governments of outlying suburban communities for not regulating the sale of weapons in their town limits (instead of just suing the gun shops, which would presumably have operated legally). 
 Tom Rowley has the Washington Post front page story here on Wednesday August 5, 2015 

This is the first case I have heard of where a local government has been sued not passing a particular law.

But it is true that gun violence in Chicago disproportionately kills and maims African-Americans over whites.  The communities in which the weapons were purchased were presumably more “white”.

Cathy Lanier of the DC police department has helped sponsor a meeting of major police departments on the increase in brazen street violence in many cities this year.  One reason, she says, is synthetic drugs.

Another reason seems to be that we have created a culture where a lot of young men don’t see the “point” in following the law.  They see others “get out of things” that they have to deal with. But that’s a bit of a Maoist argument, encouraging its own brand of authoritarianism.
Wikipedia attribution link for photo of Amtrak train leaving Chicago, taken by Douglas Rahden, under author’s own creative commons license.  Somehow the photo reminds me of  "Atlas Shrugged". 

Monday, August 03, 2015

Obama's Clean Power Plan needs to align with security, reliability

Brad Plummer of Vox has a big article explaining president Obama’s Clean Power Plan, link here
One basic reaction is that the president seems to be putting much more pressure on utilities than individuals (including homeowners and drivers and transit).  But Vox seems to believe that utilities will start looking at renewable sources more seriously now, even given some slight extensions in deadlines.
Utilities in many parts of the country, especially in older cities, have been under pressure to increase capacity and reduce outages.  That’s particularly true in the DC area (more so with Pepco than with Dominion Power). 
But the other big question for the president is how well the utilities can protect the grid – from possible big solar storms, as well as possible terror attacks (including EMP).  Insurance sources say the utilities have started to look at this more seriously since about 2010 and have made considerable progress in security.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

Defunding Planned Parenthood would actually increase abortion; Perry's folly on self-defense; John Paul Stevens proposes constitutional amendments

I’ll point to a progressive piece by Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post Sunday August 2, 2015, p. A15, “The reasons not to defund Planned Parenthood”, link here.  Her online title says it: “Defunding planned parenthood would actually increase abortions”.  It probably would. Yet, George Will has an opposing column to the right (literally), “The barbarity of a nation”.  It reminds me of Oliver North’s radio comments about infanticide in the 1990s.

I can recall, on a weekend trip “home” from Minnesota in August 2001, about a month before the shock of 9/11 (during a weird summer of apprehension), watching the newly elected president George W. Bush announce (with a teleprompter voice that mumbled) some kind of opposition to the use of fetal tissue.  But Marcus gives a utilitarian argument that some fetal research could help with progress against disease and help others, especially the elderly and disabled, live much longer.

I also remember meeting someone who worked in IT for Planned Parenthood, running their servers.  I have been able to stay away from working for partisan or issue-oriented entities, as part of my whole “conflict of interest” issue.

There's another point:  a lot of social conservatives think avoiding pregnancy isn't the virtue it once was, as they point to "demographic winter". 

On another matter I heard an interesting remark by Fareed Zakaria on his GPS show on CNN this morning.  He said, of GOP Texas governor Rick Perry, that anyone who seriously thinks that citizens should go into darkened movie theaters armed (with permits, of course) to defend themselves against possible domestic terrorists (probably nearly always mentally ill) cannot be taken seriously as a candidate for president of the United States (in 2016). Zakaria points out that the number of shootings in the US, compared to Europe (and Canada and Australia) is a direct relation to the number of weapons in private circulation, not to the number of mentally ill (or politically or religiously extreme).  Zakaria also decried Justice Scalia for “judicial activism” in inventing a fundamental right (a pet term of mine from my little 1998 booklet) to own a weapon (in the way the Second Amendment’s “militia” clause is interpreted) with the 2008 ruling.  Of course, social conservatives have criticized the Supreme Court or judicial activism for “inventing fundamental rights” to same-sex marriage and even private adult gay relations at all.

Zakaria also mentioned a new book by Justice John Paul Stevens, “Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution”.  DailyKos has a link summarizing the amendments here.  Gun control, death penalty, gerrymandering, commandeering, campaign finance reform, sovereign immunity – all of these are on his table.  Since my first “Do Ask, Do Tell” book proposed an even bigger amendment (12 parts) back in 1997, I guess I have some more work to do, in responding to this. I will, in due course.