A few mid-week musings

Since we are at mid-week, let me offer a few miscellaneous musings, mostly good with a few bad. Let me start with some good news:

A Federal appeals court in the Chicago area ruled that the LGBT community is protected under the 1964 Civil Rights amendment even though they were not specifically listed. The court case was around a community college professor who contended she was fired for being a Lesbian. The ruling was 8 to 3, but will of course be appealed to the district court in Indiana.

On what appears to be good news, but falls way short, the North Carolina General Assembly passed a repeal to the discriminatory HB2 law, yet left the most important piece of discrimination therein. They rolled back the change on the transgender bathroom issue, yet left in place the exclusion of the LGBT community from protected status for discrimination. Reviewing the above ruling in Chicago, it is apparent that feature is unconstitutional.

The electric car maker Tesla blew past expected deliveries this past week for their first quarter with over 25,400 cars. Tesla is on pace to deliver the high-end of their 45,000 to 50,000 first half of the year estimate. What is interesting the stock market is valuing the future for this company and its current market capitalization value is $48 Billion which is now higher than Ford at just under $45 Billion. Tesla is owned by Elon Musk who is leveraging his battery technology to aid in solar and wind energy storage, working on a key project to help Australia with an outage problem.

Reuters reported today that utility companies are not being influenced by our President’s fight to end the war on coal. With the exception of one of 31 companies, a two-thirds majority said it would not impact their plans to move to cheaper and cleaner natural gas and increasingly cheaper renewable energy sources. The other companies were silent. In a piece I read last year, we are passed the tipping point on renewable energy and it was postulated about utilities why would they invest in an expensive coal-fired plant that will be obsolete before it is completed?

On the bad side, I am increasingly concerned by Bashar al-Assad and his willingness to gas people. This man has a history of doing this and then lying to reporters and other leaders about it. It would be great to see the UN powers come together and say, we will help end this war in your country, but you must step down now or face charges of war crimes. While our former President did many good things, his handling of Syria was not one of them. He and Congress let the world down by not spanking this SOB for his last gassing of civilians. I am a peaceful person, but there are times when you must stand up to evil.

Then, there is North Korea who remains a threat as it is run by a petulant tyrant. China must join with the rest of the world in helping put a lid on this man’s chest beating. Otherwise, we leave it in the hands of our own mess maker. While I trust some of his military advisors in doing the right thing, I have little confidence in our leader solving this problem without some diplomatic help. What at least should scare North Korea is our President is a loose cannon, as it scares me.

Well, that is all for now. Have a great rest of your week.

 

Bigotry is a lousy money-maker

I have written before how coexisting and capitalism are not at odds with each other, in spite of the attempts of some through bumper stickers to show you should pick one or the other. History has shown, it is far more economical to coexist. Why? More customers. And, more customers means more jobs.

In my home state of North Carolina, we have forgotten this equation. In early 2016, our General Assembly rammed through a discriminatory law called HB2 in a special session taking just ten hours. I recognize fully the transgender bathroom portion of the law gets most of the press, but the piece which has caused the most consternation in the eyes of businesses looking at our state and ruling bodies of the NBA, NCAA and ACC, is the elimination of LGBTQ people as a protected class who should not be discriminated against.

The transgender portion was sold on fear without much data to support its issues. So, it is hard to back away from something its supporters made people scared of. But, let’s set that part aside and focus on the LGBTQ part. While there are proponents of HB2 who will argue the bathroom law should remain, the denial of protection to LGBTQ folks is flat out unconstitutional.

The proponents of the law said it is only the cities that are impacted by this law due to larger populations of LGBTQ people. Legislators in rural NC say what does it matter if Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro don’t get sporting events or new businesses? The economic dilemma for the rural parts of the state is this concept of revenue sharing. A portion of sales taxes from larger cities are distributed throughout the state to help finance smaller investments and pay for services.

The less money in the big cities means less money for the state. And, our entire state has damaged its reputation not just around the country, but around the world. I have read that some members of the General Assembly say they had no idea there would be such a backlash. The answer to these legislators is you did not take the time to know passing the law in ten hours.

I firmly believe HB2 should be fully repealed. Its treatment of transgender people using a sledgehammer approach to legislation is unjust. There could have been a more surgical answer. So, short of a full repeal, let me offer a compromise.

  • eliminate the LGBTQ discrimination feature in its entirety before you are made to by the courts. This feature is unconstitutional. Period.
  • eliminate the feature on restricting a city from having a higher minimum wage; cities who have larger economic competition and cost of living should have the right to allow a higher minimum wage than the national one. This feature needs to be vetted more than it was by itself.
  • change the transgender portion of the law to do the following; if a person has a formal document indicating a gender different from his or her birth certificate, he or she should legally have the right to use the bathroom he or she identifies with.

Again, I believe the whole law should be repealed. Yet, this compromise should help the state move forward before these business decisions not to move, expand or hold events here are more recognizable in our economic growth. The scary part, as shared by Chamber of Commerce recruiters, is we have no idea how many organizations did not consider North Carolina.

Jesus told us to treat others like he we want to be treated. It is the right thing to do as well as the economical thing to do. Bigotry is not much of a money-maker.

 

Wise men say…

If you are any semblance of an Elvis fan, you know the next phrase of this song is “…only fools rush in.” While this song is about not listening to your head and what others say, but rushing ahead with what your heart says, it does apply well to legislation. When legislators rush into anything, they will make mistakes. You can take that to the bank.

I cite four examples, two at the federal level and two at the state level. In North Carolina, our legislators called a special session last spring to pass the HB2 Law, henceforth known as the Bathroom Bill, in ten hours. They did not ask what others thought of this legislation. The transgender discrimination part of the bill was sold on fear, and when that is done, it is hard to back off. Yet, the part that ruffled the feathers of the NCAA, NBA and ACC as well as businesses and musicians, was the part that denied protection for LGBT members under the law. This is flat out unconstitutional, but since they passed it so quickly, they did not take the time to know this.

You would think our General Assembly would learn this lesson, but last month after it was official the new governor would be a Democrat, this impatient and power-hungry assembly met to address something more than hurricane assistance, which was the purpose for the gathering. They decided to strip powers away from the new governor. Mind you, the General Assembly already had a super-majority, but they had to flex their muscles and use a coup to grab more power. Even Republican voters thought this was poor form. Yet, our leaders in the General Assembly seem to not care what people think. As an Independent, I find this to be horrific legislation, an abuse of power and poor stewardship.

Not to be out done, the first measure our Republican friends in Congress wanted to change was the nonpartisan Ethics Committee. Over the chagrin of their leaders and after meeting in secret, they decided to restrict this ethics review process. After backlash from the public and with the President-elect piling on, they repealed the bill in less than 24 hours. When the President-elect, not known for his ethics, calls you on the carpet for ethics, you really screwed up. In my view, this may have been one of the more idiotic bills ever passed. The fact that this measure was the first thing that was done is outrageous and sets a tone of poor governance.

Which brings us to the rush to repeal Obamacare. This law is imperfect and complex, but is working pretty well. It does need to be improved and there are ways to do that leaving the framework in place. The administration is already built to accommodate some needed changes, so it is only for political reasons that it must be repealed first. I have written many posts, including the previous one, which shows how we got to this place, adds some needed truths, and asks for a data-driven change. Yet, if you govern off rhetoric, you suffer the consequences. The President-elect said he’s going to make benefits more generous and cheaper at the same time – that sounds like a TV ad for a new product, so good luck with that.

Wise men say, only fools rush in. These are four examples of foolish behavior that led to or are leading to poor legislation. The sad part is there are many more. Legislation is hard enough without rushing into it. When you do, mistakes will happen. I also believe, legislators don’t want citizens to take the time to see the real story. And, if you govern by tweet without input from advisors, you are being foolish.

 

Foolish Friday

After an interesting few weeks of the election season and legislative comments, I feel obligated to note some foolish behavior that we need to highlight and cease.

– I recognize that one of the Presidential candidates is quick with demeaning remarks and labels for people who dare criticize him or are good foils, but that does not mean others should do the same with him. Howard Dean said Trump’s sniffles at the debate may have been caused by his being on Cocaine. We do not need that Mr. Dean. I read an entertaining post where commenters used every bad word to describe Trump. That gets us in the mud with him. Set aside all of his remarks and focus on two things – his history and his economic plan for our country. The former tells you all you need to know about how he will operate. The latter is rated by several groups to place us in a malaise or recession, with Clinton’s being rated as neutral to positive.

– President Obama experienced the first override to a veto when Congress overwhelming decided to do so. The law which is now passed allows 9/11 victims’ families to sue Saudi Arabia, which may or may not had any fault. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and Obama pleaded not to do this, at it will endanger Americans and our military abroad. Now, Senator Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan want to amend the new law as they said the President should have told us all of this. He did and vetoed your law. Trying to blame someone else for your failure is highly annoying to me.

– Not to be out done, now that North Carolina has gotten huge push back on its discriminatory HB2 law, with the business lost and the NBA All Star game, NCAA basketball tournament games and ACC tournament games being pulled, Republican legislators continue to blame the City of Charlotte for its transgender bathroom law which the state law changed and went further to take rights away from all LGBT people. But, one state legislator noted that we did not know our law would have such a negative reaction. Please note the law was rushed through in twelve hours in a special session. You did not know as you did not take the time to know.

Accountability and responsibility are important. We must be accountable for our decisions and responsible for their impact. When we name call or label, that means our arguments are lessened. Focus on the issues and acts. And, we need to stop the blame game, especially when the finger pointers have more culpability than the one pointed at.

Truth be told, it would be amazing to see results if we worked together more and discussed our real problems with real information. In this election, we have let one candidate define our country as in pitiful shape, but it is not. Yes, we have problems, but our economy is on its 4th longest economic growth period in its history, we have net new jobs under this President of 11 million, an unemployment rate of under 5% (and not 42% per the candidate) and we have a doubled stock market since the President came in office. And, more cars were sold in the US in 2015 than ever before.

We do have problems, though. Let’s work together and not against each other. Otherwise, Pogo would be correct – I have met the enemy and he is us.

North Carolina’s General Assembly fumbled yet again

Our North Carolina (NC) General Assembly gained global attention by introducing a law called HB2 in reaction to a law passed in its biggest city, Charlotte, to better accommodate transgender people in bathroom choice. The state-wide HB2 law passed earlier this year, in essence, does the following:

  • Overturns the Charlotte law and makes it state-wide that transgender people can only use the bathroom of their birth gender or if they have had an operation to officially change their gender.
  • Strikes the words referenced by LGBT from protection of discrimination. not just transgender folks.
  • Eliminates the ability for anyone to bring suit in state court should they feel discriminated against (the only recourse is in more expensive and elongated federal court).
  • Eliminates the ability of a city to have a minimum wage higher than the minimum wage of the state, in this case the federal minimum.

The push back has been significant and will continue to be so. Two companies have changed plans for moves or expansions in the state. What is not known is how many companies have taken NC off its relocation list. What is known is several performers have canceled tours in NC and the semi-annual Furniture Mart in High Point, which is very lucrative to the state saw a 10% fall-off and will likely see a bigger fall-off in October. And, the NBA has been pressuring the state officials to change the discriminatory aspects of the law, as they will likely move next year’s planned All Star game from Charlotte.

Yesterday, our NC legislature decided to only change a part of the law that impacted the right they took away for anyone to sue in State court. This impacted everyone, but the added back feature reduced the original time limit to one year from the previous three before HB2. So, they left in the two unconstitutional features and added $500,000 for legal fees to fight lawsuits, since our Attorney General decided not to defend an unconstitutional law (the appellate court in VA has already ruled on a VA case, so the AG sees efforts to fight as futile and a waste of money).

On a positive note, three onerous features in a Mississippi law aimed to limit the rights of LGBT folks and others were ruled unconstitutional. This is why party matters, as our conservative friends have used cookie cutter language from a group called ALEC to do a state-by-state assault on the rights of the disenfranchised, whether they be LGBT citizens or Black and student voters. As the GOP leadership and pundits try to distance themselves from the GOP presidential candidate, it should be noted that he is the mirror image of the ugly parts of the party. They have been fairly active in the discrimination business long before their bigoted, racist and xenophobic candidate has made them hide their eyes in shame.

I am a 57-year-old heterosexual white man and this is just not right. We should highlight this organized discrimination effort. We cannot tolerate bigotry in our leaders. We must shine a spotlight on fear mongering as a means to sell poor policy positions. We must look for underlying truths. When leaders cheerlead us in the discrimination efforts, we are truly investing our time in the wrong kind of leaders.

As a NC citizen, I get to see a series of leaders unwind the image of our state which will hurt people and the economy. This is not the first law that will be ruled unconstitutional passed by this and the previous General Assemblies. Call me crazy, but that is not only wrong, it is a waste of money and time.

Bigotry in our Leaders is not the answer

My heart goes out to the victims and their families in Orlando. Let’s keep them in our thoughts and prayers. And, as Frank Langella said at The Tony Awards last night, let us not let this tragedy define or diminish us. Let it strengthen us, as the reaction to Charleston’s terrible church shooting did last year.

Even before the horrific tragedy which claimed the lives of at least 50 Americans, we have allowed bigotry, racism and xenophobia to have too pervasive a place in our dialogue from so-called leaders. Whether they are political, business, governmental or religious so-called leaders or wanna-be leaders, we cannot allow bigotry to go without shining a spotlight on it. Political incorrectness does not mean we can be bigoted.

Conservative columnist Michael Gerson wrote last week about the toxic racism of one of our presidential candidates, saying loudly we cannot have our leaders being and saying racist things. Gerson has been a consistent voice for reason. He notes, historically over the last forty years, that being a racist is a non-starter for a national candidate. We need our leaders to be exemplars of treating folks fairly, not condemning folks for being different.

Yet, it goes well beyond that. One of my pet peeves is when I see bigotry from the pulpit regardless of the religion. Religious leaders should not be using their persuasive powers to divide. To me that is a significant dereliction of duty and is certainly not WWJD, at least in the bible I was taught from. There are no caveats to treating others like you want to be treated. People are listening to these comments and, in the words of Oscar Hammerstein, bigotry has to be carefully taught.

Further, we have too much attention paid to discriminating and even demonizing folks who are diverse. In our country, all freedoms are important, whether they be LGBT, Black, Hispanic, Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, etc. citizens. No one’s freedoms should be more important or infringe on the rights of another’s. Our LGBT friends now have rights like other citizens in America, but there are efforts to restrict those rights, even taking away rights that are older than same-sex marriage. That is unconstitutional.

Our best defense against violence is to celebrate and promote our freedoms. The new Muslim mayor of London noted he is the best kind of argument against Islamic terrorists groups. He shows a Muslim visibly succeeding in the western world. This success counters the divisive narrative of groups like ISIS.

The same holds true in our country, with our elected officials and military members from diverse groups. Muslims are part of our fabric and that community has every right to be an American as any other. LGBT folks have every right as well. We defeat hate by being inclusive and standing up for each other. We defeat hate by all of our citizens being watchdogs for those who may want to perpetuate hate. We also defeat hate by not ostracizing groups of people such as those in the LGBT community.

There are over 1,000 hate groups in the United States that have nothing to do with Islam. These hate groups include folks who are disenfranchised. Yet, we also have Muslim folks who are disenfranchised and are being recruited on line. The Muslim and non-Muslim communities must be vigilant to watch for folks who may be so inclined. The enemy is those who would do violence, not broad groups of people who are trying to live their lives like all Americans.

What I don’t care for his posturing by folks, who say they are going to be tough, but who have made comments to demonize folks and make the world a less safe place before they take office – these are the concerns of our allied leaders and retired US military generals, not just mine. I don’t support the argument of those who do not see the freedom of gun acquisition as not playing a role in mass shooting deaths. With our gun access in the US, there is very little that can be done to stop a evil minded SOB from killing people.  I am tired of tough talk from folks who do not realize their words and resistance to change are part of the problem.

We must involve all Americans in the due diligence looking out for violent extremists, whether they are Muslim, Christian, or merely a hate group unrelated to religion. We must have serious conversations about better governance around guns. And, we must stand tall with our LGBT community and say demonizing this group is not right. And, in my bible, it is not the answer to WWJD. It certainly is not electing bigoted leaders.

The liberty to discriminate is different from being discriminated against

There is an important, but subtle difference between the argument of liberty to discriminate and being discriminated against. The latter is what we have fought for and evolved to over time. No citizen should be unfairly discriminated against because of a group he or she belongs to including, but not limited to, race, gender, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual preference and gender orientation. To do otherwise, goes against the essence of who we are as a country .

Yet, the right to be not discriminated against unfairly, does not give us the right to unfairly discriminate against others because of our beliefs. That is a bridge too far and is a reason Religious Freedom bills run afoul of our constitution.

Let me use an extreme example. Suppose I am a Jewish dressmaker and own a shop. It would not be constitutional to pass a law that permits me to not make a wedding dress for a Christian wedding. Suppose I am a a Muslim baker. It would similarly not be constitutional if a law permitted me to avoid making a wedding cake for the same wedding. The same would hold true for Sikh photographer.

The last time I checked, I live in the United States of America. That first word is United. If I am a gay Atheist, I have every right that a heterosexual Muslim and a lesbian Christian have. That right is what our soldiers fought for. I do not have the right to persecute Christians or Jews or Hindus or Muslims or Sikhs or gays or lesbians or women or Latin Americans or Blacks, et al.

This week I was utterly ashamed of our US Congress and its Republican leadership. In a narrow vote, the House decided it was OK to discriminate against gays and lesbians who federally contract with the federal government. Legislative leaders in our elected US Congress said it was OK to discriminate. This is on top of my state’s Republican led General Assembly excluding gays and lesbians from a protected group within an already unconstitutional transgender bathroom law.

Folks, we live in the United States of America. If this is what it looks like to make America great again, then those who are pushing this agenda deserve every bit of ridicule they are getting. This does not make us great. It makes us petty and small. We can not be the shining light on the hill, when we push people off of it.