Standing – what does that mean in a legal sense

I am not an attorney, but I got a good sense of what “standing” means in legal terms when the Supreme Court decided that same sex marriages were OK. They ruled that other people did not have “standing” on the issue. In other words, if two gay men get married, others are not impacted by their decision to marry.

The same holds true about issues around contraception, interracial marriages and abortions.

“What does standing mean legally?

There are three constitutional requirements to prove standing:

  • Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury. …
  • Causation: The injury must be reasonably connected to the defendant’s conduct.
  • Redressability: A favorable court decision must be likely to redress the injury.”

The same holds true about issues around contraception, interracial marriages and abortions, which seem to be in the news the past two days. I was sharing with our friend Jill, if certain groups want to try to make contraception illegal, they truly have no standing on the issue. But, good luck with that. Not only do the significant majority of women and men want contraception to be available there is a correlation between using contraception and fewer abortions. The last data point I saw said a very significant majority of US Catholic women want contraception in spite of the Pope’s position.

I saw one Senator back track off a stance on interracial marriages. He realized quickly his position was in quick sand. When Loving v Virginia was upheld by a vote of 9 to 0 by the Supreme Court, interracial marriage was legally permitted and could not be outlawed by a state. The last data point I saw was over ten years ago noting 13% of all marriages in the US are interracial. That statistic is likely higher today. And, just watch any TV commercial. The couples in the commercial are quite often interracial. That is a sure indication that train has left the station.

The issue of abortion is one that is in the forefront. Some would argue the deceased never was able to have standing, but Roe v Wade created a pattern a governance that provides guardrails on what women can and cannot do. While I personally would not suggest an abortion, I am a man and it is not my body. I certainly have no standing over another person’s body. So, I support a woman having governance over her own body. Plus, there is a correlation between greater poverty and increased family size.

Let’s take this one step more. People who tend to argue against Roe v Wade the most tend to be folks who would also argue for the government to leave us alone and let us live. The hypocrisy of this contradiction resounds. So, if government can rule a woman’s body, then we should fine or jail people who put themselves and others in jeopardy. Gun ownership – no more. Drinking and driving – more severe punishment. Obesity and taking up our healthcare spend as a result – fines for the extra cost of care. Passing along STDs or HIV, jail time. And, so on.

The majority of Americans want Roe v Wade to continue. Those who want it overturned may be like the dog that has caught the bus. Now what are you going to do? My fervent request is for women and men to tell these folks what they think by voting.

We need you to be better than you are being

I keep thinking of a message that needs to be universally communicated to all elected and appointed officials serving our needs and what I keep coming back to is the simple statement – we need you to be better than you are being. I recognize this blanket statement applies more readily to large handfuls of elected officials and it varies in degrees of needed improvement, but it could be said to each one.

The corollary to this statement is we need you to stop the tribal BS. The last time I checked, the oath that these officials pledged was to the constitution of the United States of America. Not Russia. Not a political party. Not a populist who couldn’t spell truth, even though the first three letters begin his last name.

Before the segmented marketing and pseudo-news shows began in earnest back in the 1990s, elected officials used to campaign off rhetoric and govern off facts. Now, with this segmentation, 24×7 news cycle and opinion guard dogs, the officials are governing off rhetoric. And, rhetoric is a nice name for sales schtick. In essence, use or create a reason to sell a product or story and hammer the message home. Fear sells. Always has. We are told to fear the other. It is not your fault.

What continually frustrates me is many of these folks know they are being untruthful. Some know they are blatantly being untruthful. And, sometimes the lies are overt. Yet, they do so anyway. To me, that is Machiavellian. It is also a breach of trust. They listen too much to spin doctors and their sycophants who tell them how to pivot away from negative news.

We must let them know we are frustrated by their lying and embellishing. We must let them know we need them to honor the position they hold and do their best to serve us, even on tough issues, where the message is harder to swallow. We need them to be closer to among our better angels, not our worst demons. At the very least, we need them to be better than they are being.

I have actually communicated this message to several elected officials, some I can vote for or against and many I cannot. It is heartfelt and pleading at the same time. It very likely does not do any good and I am sure my name is on a list as a squeaky wheel. I ask that you email, write or call your elected officials and beseech them with this or a variation of this plea. I also encourage you to write to various news sources and share your concerns.

Maybe, if more than a few of us do this, it might sink in more. I would start with those you feel are more reasonable than some of the more strident folks in office. They may at least understand your plea.

Critical Race Theory – letter to the editor

My newspaper printed my letter to the editor today. Here it is for your review, comment and use. Please feel free to edit, but note my newspaper has a 150 word limit. Yours might be different.

“It has become apparent that one party has decided to use anti-critical race theory as its new bumper-sticker slogan, akin to Build That Wall.

So, should we not talk about the Birmingham church bombing, Greensboro Four, Edmund Pettus bridge, Wilmington coup, Emmett Till’s horrible murder, Tulsa massacre, slavery, red-lining, voter suppression, genocide of Native Americans, and more?

If we do not teach and learn from our history, especially the bad parts, we are destined to repeat them. Our history is one of imperfect people sometimes failing to live up to our ideals.

We should know what, when and why things happened, especially if it is ugly.”

The Lavender Scare (a repeat post dedicated to the Florida legislature)

Seeing the legislation passed in my home state of Florida, I am embarrassed that legislators could not think of anything better to do than limit discussion about various topics including the rights and challenges of LGBTQ+ people. I wrote the following post about a true event in US history that gets painfully little historical discussion. My mother was a teacher in Florida, so I wonder how she would feel with people ready to report her if she said the wrong thing.

My wife and I watched an informative documentary on PBS last night called “The Lavender Scare.” This show documents a lengthy period of US government sanctioned discrimination against homosexuals that lasted from the early 1950s to mid 1990s.

The scare evolved directly from the efforts of Senator Joseph McCarthy who led the “red scare” as he carried out communist witch hunts. He turned his eye toward homosexuals saying (without data) those who worked in the government were susceptible to communist blackmailers. Yet, unlike his communist witch hunt publicly dying due to his “lack of decency,” as an attorney to the Secretary of the Army called McCarthy under oath, the Lavender Scare gained footing.

To my chagrin, I learned former General Dwight Eisenhower campaigned for President on this issue and signed an executive order in 1953 to identify and expel homosexuals from government positions. This saddens me because of the obvious discrimination, but also because the former General said earlier the UK team led by Alan Turing that broke the Nazi Enigma code saved 750,000 lives and shortened WWII by two years. Turing had to hide that he was gay, so Ike’s executive order in 1953 would have kicked Turing out of employment had he been his boss in WWII – what would have happened if Turing would not have been around to impact the war?

The fact this government sanctioned discrimination lasted until it was ceased by President Bill Clinton is a shame, as well. Multiple tens of thousands of excellent public servants were kicked out of jobs they loved and did well. And, many could not get good employment in the private sector due to their FBI file. One of those was an astronomer named Dr. Frank Kameny.

Yet, Kameny did not sit still. He became an advocate for gay rights pushing a ball uphill. He wrote letters to Congress members, some of which were caustically responded to giving variations of the same harsh response. He organized protests and would help those who lost jobs. And, he was able to save some jobs, one who spoke five languages and was later decorated for service to the NSA. Kameny was awarded the “Medal of Freedom” by President Barack Obama for being the grandfather of the gay advocacy movement.

Sadly, there is a movement today led by some exclusionary religious leaders to condemn gays and foment their discrimination. My thinking is this is a backlash to the US Supreme Court approving same-sex marriage a few years ago. But, it goes deeper than that with a president who has laid the groundwork for divisiveness to occur with impunity. He did not invent divisiveness, but is not preventing it either.

Let me be frank. We are the land of freedoms and civil rights. Unless someone is harming you, you have “no standing” to deny the rights of others. I personally am offended by bigotry in the pulpit as I see this as a grievous dereliction of duty. Yet, that person has a right to say what he wants – provided he is not inciting violence or hate crimes. If the latter is true, then that is not a protected right.

Please watch this informative documentary. And, let’s do our best to avoid going back to this dark period. There was one gay postal worker who was to be expelled in the 1950s, but his boss stood up for him saying I know this, it does not bother me and he does a good job. The gay employee kept his job. We need more of that in our country and less of the hate speech

Sidebar: Disney Corporation, a major employer in Florida, has announced the removal of political funding in Florida as a result of this legislation.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night – a Paul McCartney encore

I wrote the following post about six years ago. Sadly, it is even more relevant today with efforts to hyper-politicize issues to garner votes under the guise of critical race theory, book banning and strategic voter suppression.

The title is from a line of The Beatles song “Blackbird” which is a tribute to the struggle for African-Americans for their civil rights. The song was sung by Paul McCartney with writing credits to both him and John Lennon, although McCartney was the lead.

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these sunken eyes and learn to see
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to be free

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird fly, blackbird fly
Into the light of the dark black night

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise
You were only waiting for this moment to arise

Here is what McCartney said about the origin of the song in an interview in 2002.

“I’ve got a poetry book out called Blackbird Singing…..I was in Scotland playing on my guitar, and I remembered this whole idea of ‘you were only waiting for this moment to arise’ was about, you know, the black people’s struggle in the southern states, and I was using the symbolism of a blackbird. It’s not really about a blackbird whose wings are broken, you know, it’s a bit more symbolic.”

I added McCartney’s quote as I wanted the clarity around what the song means. African-Americans are still fighting an uphill struggle for their civil rights. What has happened in Ferguson, Cleveland, New Jersey, Charleston, Charlotte and Baltimore is tragic, but evidence of the disenfranchisement of African-Americans. The lack of opportunity, the malaise, the maltreatment, the deterioration of the neighborhood, the lack of respect given to people of color in our country continues.

I have noted before that Warren Buffett has said he was born lucky. He was born a white male in America. All three components of that phrase are important – white, male and America. Yes, he worked hard, but he was afforded opportunities that African-Americans do not get.  Not only do many whites like me have a hard time knowing the challenges of being black, but we also do not fully realize the advantages of being white. As I wrote recently, as a white man, there are not too many places I cannot go no matter how I am dressed. But, there are far too many stories of how a black man can be dressed in his Sunday best, yet still be stopped by the police and think “be careful as this may be the last thing I do on earth.”

I would encourage three things. First, please do not look at those committing violence and rioting as indicative of the African-American community. The community knows this is not the path forward. Second, people who look like me need to do our best to understand the challenges we have in America for people of color, but also for all people in poverty. Third, as always, talk is cheap. These issues are complex and solutions have to address many underlying concerns. There are no sound byte answers as some politicians have espoused.

I mention this last point as we must address the wide disparity in American between the “haves” and “have-nots.” This is not just an African-American issue. It is an American issue, as most people on food stamps are white. Please re-read this previous sentence. Poverty exists in urban areas, in rural areas and even in the suburbs. We have to stop the “war on poor people” and make this a “war on poverty.”

We must invest in our infrastructure and deteriorated assets repurposing them. This will spawn jobs as well in places where it is needed. We must revise our minimum wage to be consistent with a living wage for one person, which varies, but is just over $10 an hour. We must invest in education at all levels. We must embrace the Affordable Care Act as it is helping so many people and fully implement it through Medicaid expansion in the remaining 20 odd states. For some politicians to say we have a poverty problem and be against the ACA is hypocritical and shortsighted, especially when it is working pretty well.

Remember McCartney’s words and lets help these folks with broken wings learn to fly. To do otherwise, goes against what our country is all about and any of the teachings found in religious texts.

Civil rights up close

The following is repeat post from three years ago. With the purposeful white washing of history to not inform students of the terrible acts committed in our country, we are masking greatly needed, but ugly lessons. These lessons are supposed to be ugly truths. That is why they are taught.

My wife and I visited the International Civil Rights Museum in Greensboro, NC yesterday. Why Greensboro? It is built on the location of the first African-American sit-ins at the “whites only” Woolworth’s restaurant counter. The counter and chairs remain as they looked back in 1960 when they were sat in by the Greensboro Four: David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr., and Joseph McNeil.

The museum is excellent, but very sobering that such treatment could occur in a land that was supposedly free. And, as our Congress debates the rationale for reparations for slavery, what should be included in the debate is people suppressed, tortured, and/or killed during the Jim Crow period. Seeing and hearing the story of Emmett Till or the Birmingham church bombing which killed four young girls is breathtakingly sad and maddening.

I have written before about the horrific lynchings which often accompanied degradation of the poor soul’s body before and after his death. Death by hanging is a slow death and horrible things were done to the victim to make them feel worse as they died. What kind of evil can make men do that? Black men were lynched for looking at a white woman too long or at all. The great Billie Holiday captured the sadness in her song “Strange Fruit,” referencing strange fruit swinging in the trees.

The Jim Crow period rivals the horror of slavery for a key reason – these were acts committed on supposedly free people. But, their freedom was “contained” in a box of voter and economic suppression. So, Jim Crow was an orchestrated modus operandi to keep Black folks down. Whites who tried to help were also ostracized. And, what is also disturbing, too many ministers found bible verses and preached differentiation and segregation.

We must loudly condemn actions and words today by hate groups who say another group’s rights are subservient to theirs. Nazism, Apartheid, slavery and Jim Crow are part of the same demonization and hateful fabric. It is not supposed to work that way in our country. Our elected leaders are supposed to be our better angels. When they fail to lead in a manner closer to our ideals, we need to tell them so. Or, find better leaders.

A few tidbits on Black history month

Let me offer two must see movies about two American heroes – Bryan Stevenson and Dr. Vivian Thomas. Michael P. Jordan plays Stevenson in “Just Mercy” about defending Black death row prisoners who were convicted of crimes they did not commit. Stevenson faced unbelievable push back, but eventually was very successful in saving the lives of wrongfully convicted people.

Mos Def plays Thomas in the movie with Alan Rickman called “Something the Lord Made.” He was the Black surgeon who worked closely with Rickman to devise a medical procedure to save babies who died from lack of adequate blood flow, called Blue Babies. Being a Black man who had been a carpenter, he was not initially allowed to operate on White babies, even at Johns Hopkins. Yet, his carpentry skills gave him very adept hands who could perform this delicate surgery better than his co-founder could.

This movement to whitewash history to paint over the horrible and violent actions of people in power to those who do not have it is misguided and inane. We must learn from history whether it is the atrocities of slavery and the Jim Crow era, the Native American removal and genocide, the internment of Japanese-Americans during WWII, or the discrimination against other groups for perceived sins such as during the Lavendar Scare or Communist witch hunts. And, for those who want to pretend things did not happen, listen to Billie Holiday’s version of “Strange Fruit,” go to a civil rights museum close by such as in Greensboro or Washington, or Google Emmet Till or the Birmingham church bombing.

Yet, we must never forget America’s greatness is built on the input of a diverse melting pot of people. We have overcome actions and eras where those in power were none to kind to people who did not look like them (see Tulsa, Wilmington, NC where successful Black business people and elected officials were violently put down, eg). Yet, we did. But, we cannot back track on this progress kowtowing to the narrow-mindedness of pretending those things did not happen.

If we backtrack, not only is it the wrong thing to do, it is economically harmful to the whole country.

Thursday Thimblefuls of Thoughts

It is supposed to be a rainy, cold day here. So, it is a good day to wander with my thoughts, since I cannot wander outside. Here a few thimblefuls of thoughts on this Thursday. Please be forewarned, these thoughts and $3.00 will get you a cup of regular coffee.

I sure hope Democrats will learn a lesson from the Virginia election results. They should have seen it coming, but continued to fail to act. The bickering by Democrats in the US Congress led to their still not passing the three month overdue infrastructure bill and a tandem piece of legislation that would actually help Americans. I pleaded with the Speaker and two other representatives to get something done. The Americans expected them to pass something, but they still have not. It is akin to a circular firing squad.

As for the Republicans, while their party is adrift, untethered to truthfulness and lawfulness, their choice not to participate in the governance process in Washington does not seem to hurt them. What concerns me is the members of the party do not seem to care that untruthfulness and unlawfulness are key tenets.

And, it is not just rationalizing the untruthful and seditious actions of the former president. Critical Race Theory has been invented as a name-calling hammer that most people don’t know what it is, but have been told it is bad. As a white suburban mother said, it just teaches kids the truthful history, that bad things have been done by those in power to disenfranchised people – always has. But, the conservative leaders and opinion hosts have been beating a drum about how dare people teach that white people did some bad things in our past. This white washing of history has been a planned effort to woo votes.

It saddens me how ill-informed Americans are on the whole about issues, history, economics, etc. I have written several times that we are “The United States of Entertainment.” Most people spend time focusing on sports and entertainment news. If we do read or watch news, we tend to get it from sources who are telling us what we want to see or hear. Or, worse we will get it from someone on social media, where false stories are routed six times more often than real news per a media analyst. This is why Facebook did not change their model, as they made more money letting falsehoods flow more quickly.

We have serious issues that are not being dealt with or discussed. And, some are at a burning platform stage, pun intended. Climate change is hurting us now, so we must act. This is no longer a future issue. More and intense wildfires, more sunny day flooding in coastal towns, more stalled weather patterns, more damaging hurricanes with higher sea levels are all predicted events (per Climate change scientists) that are happening with greater frequency.

Voting and civil rights are under attack in the US and in other paces. The fear of the other sells. Lies sell. The former president knows this which has been his modus operandi for decades. Voting and civil rights have been under attack for several years, but they have been heightened by the staged and planned Big Lie by the former president that he was cheated out of the election, which he still cannot prove. He lost because he got fewer votes, but is not adult enough to admit it. As his niece Mary said before the election, her uncle will “burn it all down to avoid losing the election.”

Then there is naysaying of COVID vaccines that continues to get promoted that keeps us from moving full steam ahead. And, that debt and deficit will not fix itself, especially when we have to spend to improve and fix our infrastructure. Finally, we must be more civil to one another. We can disagree without being disagreeable. Listen to understand not to respond.

What frustrates this independent and former member of both major parties, is what I said above is overtly obvious if people would just read or watch multiple news outlets. I have said many times, it is hard enough to govern with facts and the truth, but when we govern off lies, it is nigh impossible. We must get our legislators to focus on doing their jobs, not just keeping their jobs. When they don’t, we are the people who get hurt.

Letter to Editor on Wedge Issues

The following letter I sent in to my local newspaper was published in its entirety, which is rare. Please feel free to modify and forward if you like the message.

It amazes me how so much time can be spent on created wedge issues for political gain and so little on real ones. The global (and US) water crisis and need for accelerated climate change action are key environmental issues. Investing in deteriorated infrastructure while also reducing the US deficit and debt are at odds, but both are needed, so we must be judicious with spending cuts and revenue increases, as both are needed to solve the math problem.

And, we must stop this degradation of civil rights that were long fought for. Attacking the right to vote under the guise of staged and unproven election fraud claims is abhorrent in the eyes of this independent voter and should be in the eyes of more elected officials.

Land of Hope and Dreams – a Bruce Springsteen song to relish this July 4th

Whether it is people in poverty, the abused, the disenfranchised, or specific groups whose civil rights are threatened, Bruce Springsteen has been a consistent voice of reason and support. Like Bono, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Harry Belafonte, Joni Mitchell, John Mellencamp, Elton John, etc., Springsteen does not mind sticking his neck out or lend his voice to fight for the disenfranchised folks in the world. In fact, if people listen to his songs, many are about those who have little voice in a society that sometime steps on them.

One of my many favorite Springsteen songs is called “Land of Hope and Dreams” which speaks of the train taking us all to a better place. To me the song lives in the chorus which is repeated often as the song winds down. This is one song where the live version sounds better than the studio-recorded one, in part as the studio version was recorded after Clarence Clemons had passed with his saxophone being overdubbed.

Here are most of the lyrics, with the chorus highlighted at the end.
Grab your ticket and your suitcase, thunder’s rolling down this track
Well, you don’t know where you’re going now, but you know you won’t be back
Well, darling, if you’re weary, lay your head upon my chest
We’ll take what we can carry, yeah, and we’ll leave the rest

Well, big wheels roll through the fields where sunlight streams
Meet me in a land of hope and dreams

I will provide for you and I’ll stand by your side
You’ll need a good companion now for this part of the ride
Yeah, leave behind your sorrows, let this day be the last
Well, tomorrow there’ll be sunshine and all this darkness past

Well, big wheels roll through fields where sunlight streams
Oh, meet me in a land of hope and dreams

Well, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, hear the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Yes, this train carries saints and sinners
This train carries losers and winners
This train carries whores and gamblers
This train carries lost souls

I said, this train carries broken-hearted
This train, thieves and sweet souls departed
This train carries fools and kings thrown
This train, all aboard

I said, now this train, dreams will not be thwarted
This train, faith will be rewarded
This train, the steel wheels singing
This train, bells of freedom ringing

Folks, The Boss’ words are compelling. We are all imperfect. We are all sinners. But, there is a place on the train for everyone. I for one applaud Springsteen for what he does to help. It is not a stretch for him to do so.

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band – Land of Hope and Dreams (Live in New York City) – Bing video