Thursday, August 29, 2013

Newsflash: Being Gay Doesn't Legally Inhibit Adult Decision-Making

I've got a chapter of Astronomy to take notes on, some Spanish to review and a Gay-Straight Alliance meet and greet to get to at Penn State Altoona tonight, but I had to take a few minutes to talk about how much the attorneys for Governor Corbett and thus Governor Corbett himself are just awful.  Perhaps you heard about this yesterday:

Attorneys for Pa.’s Republican governor say gay couples, just like 12-year-olds, can’t marry

I can't even begin to wrap my head around these people.  I really can't.  The argument that they've made is in regards to a lawsuit filed by the Corbett administration attempting to block D. Bruce Hanes, Montogomery County Register of Wills, from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.  It should be noted that for organizations working for marriage equality in PA, like Equality PA, this is not the preferred method of challenging current marriage laws.  Regardless, Mr. Hanes has taken it upon himself to correct what is a discriminatory policy, and I have a hard time not applauding him just a little.  

So the Corbett administration can't possibly let this stand because forcing women to have unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds and denying us abortion coverage (even if we're paying for it) is fun and all, but denying gay people the right to legally recognized, committed relationships is where it's at right now.  The thing is, though, that all the really good invalid arguments have already been made and they apparently really desperately wanted something unique to throw in front of a judge.  What did they come up with?  Gay people are like 12 year-olds and so we shouldn't recognize their marriages.  

Gay people getting married is the same thing as two twelve year-olds getting married.  That's their argument.  I understand that what they're getting at is that Pennsylvania law currently defines marriage as being between a man and a woman and since that's a pile of bologna in and of itself, they can't possibly just say "hey look, we define marriage this way not that way."  If they just made that argument they might have to defend the law that defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.  Solution?  Gay people equal twelve year-olds.  
My favorite response to this is actually from my husband who said:
Because just like twelve year olds, homosexual men and women aren't able to vote, drive, smoke, enter into other legally binding contracts, make their own medical decisions, etc.  
Except of course they can, because they're grown-ups.  They are adult human beings who are entitled, just like straight people, to legal recognition of their committed relationships if they want it.  The problem for Corbett and his attorneys and everyone who - inexplicably - stands against marriage equality, is that there is no rational argument against it that does not involve religious belief and, whatever Daryl Metcalfe may think, religious belief is not a legal standard in the United States.  

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Fox News In My Face

I don't watch television at the gym.  I'm sure you're wondering where this is going, but I'll get there, I promise.  When I'm at the gym I listen to podcasts.  Smartest Man in the World, The Nerdist, Slate's Political Gabfest, The Bugle, and WTF with Marc Maron are my top five...not that you were wondering, but now you know.

In any case, while I'm plugging away at the treadmill there are four televisions that are lined up in front of the treadmills and they play Fox News, CNN and...I can't remember what else.  As a creature of habit, there's a specific treadmill I prefer to use, as long as no one is at the treadmill next to it, and it is just off to the left of the Fox News television.  Fox News didn't play into my choice of treadmill.  It's just that it's the treadmill that is least likely to be near other people unless the gym is really busy.  Fox News is just a bummer that's always there.  Happily, I don't have to hear what's going on on any of these televisions unless I want to plug my earbuds into the treadmill and thanks to podcasts, I don't.

Even if I don't choose to listen, however, the televisions always have the closed captioning on, so I sometimes inadvertently read along.  In order to put the brakes on my sadomasochistic tendencies, I will often take my glasses off so that I can't readily read what's happening even if my eyes do wonder up to the screen.  Today, however, something caught my eye that is just the most classic Fox News horse crap and I needed to share it.

The image that initially caught my eye was President Obama speaking, so I glanced up and squinted somewhat absent-mindedly at the screen, recognizing an old statement he made about the Affordable Care Act.  You may remember when he said If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor. If you like your current health insurance plan you can keep it.”  Well it would seem that people on the right are screaming bloody murder because various companies are changing their insurance policies and their plans, etc.  

Politifact gave the President's initial statement on this a rating of Half-True because he does make it sound as though you have the option to keep your plan no matter what and clearly, if you get your health insurance - like many people - through your employer, that may not be the case.  What he very likely meant was that the government wasn't going to come along and dictate who your insurance provider was going to be, but this is beside the point.  Obamacare or no Obamacare, if you get your health insurance through your employer you do not have the option to freely decide on your insurance provider whether that means choosing your provider or choosing whether to stay with your provider.  

It is exhausting to keep up with all the ridiculous and idiotic attacks on the Affordable Care Act that emerge day after day.  It's so exhausting that I try not to pay too much attention to them, but occasionally they annoy me to such an extent that I need to get it out and so here I am.  The AFA is the law of the land.  The Supreme Court approved it and the fight is over.  There have been 40 votes to repeal or defund the AFA and they've all died.  Is the AFA the best we could hope for?  No.  The best we could hope for is a single-payer system where everyone - actually everyone - is covered.  So until we come up with something better, this is what we've got and just because rich, greedy assholes have made it their job to try to ruin it for us all doesn't mean it's bad.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Back to School Policy

It's back to school, kids, and the policy of the moment is education.  From Head Start to higher education and all the shockingly ill-funded students in between, Democrats smell blood in the electoral waters and they aren't holding back.  The current state of Philadelphia city schools is Pennsylvania's nationally visible shame, thanks to Governor Corbett and our Republican-led state government.

While gubernatorial candidate John Hanger talks sensible high education funding and Brian Sims slams Corbett on his near total abandonment of Pennsylvania's students, today the Secretary of the Commonwealth announced that Pennsylvania would join a multi-state anti-voter-fraud initiative.  Because seriously, you guys, voter fraud is a serious issue...or, you know it would be if it happened ever.

Educational funding is something that has had a huge impact on the course of my life.  Twelve years ago I had to leave college during my sophomore year at Penn State because my family and I just couldn't make the financing work.  I was, at the time, totally unaware of what my options were, which is not to say that I sat by and expected my parents to do it all for me.  On top of a full course load I maintained a full-time job, but it wasn't enough.  I don't know what we could have done differently, but at this point it doesn't really matter.  After twelve years, I only have to wait six more days until I start classes again, this time at Penn State Altoona.  If anyone knows the importance of supporting education, it's me.

School districts all around the state are in trouble, but perhaps none so much as Philadelphia.  As a person from Western PA, I've certainly complained about how much time and thought and money siphon into Philly, but this time you'll hear no complaint from me however much money anyone wanted to put into Philadelphia schools.  In the United States of America we have a great dream left not just unfulfilled, but under attack.  That dream is free and equal education.  In Pennsylvania, that free and equal education is promised to us in our Commonwealth Constitution: 
"The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth."
..."a thorough and efficient system" indeed.  The only thing thorough and efficient about education under Governor Corbett is the unsurprising prowess with which Corbett and his ilk have worked to utterly dismantle Pennsylvania's public school systems.  As they allow money to be siphoned into private charter schools, they complain that no amount of money would ever make public schools worthwhile.  Back in 2011, the PA Republican Committee of Chester County lauded Governor Corbett for tearing money away from our public schools because when you're over budget, the first thing you should cut is school funding.  

Over the last two years it's been more of the same in school funding.  During the first half of this year, Governor Corbett has been pitching his liquor privatization plan as a way to fund schools.  He proposed that schools would get $1 billion from liquor privatization.  Hey, isn't that exactly the amount that got cut at the beginning of his administration?

What students and parents alike should remember at the beginning of this school year is that, as Brian Sims pointed out, 83% of children in this commonwealth go to underfunded schools.  Governor Corbett and his Republican allies aren't interested in fixing the problems, they're interested in placing blame.  It's up to every citizen of this Commonwealth to make sure that they know exactly where they should be pointing those fingers - the mirror.  

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Katie McGinty: On My Radar

Until last week my full attention in the upcoming Democratic gubernatorial primary was focused on Allyson Schwartz, John Hanger, and whether or not Rob McCord has freaking announced already.  This all changed abruptly when I read an article on Penn Live about Katie McGinty.  A couple weeks ago before John Hanger made a visit to Hollidaysburg, I had been avoiding intense mental involvement in the primary race altogether.  It is, after all, still ten months away.  Nevertheless, election cycles are getting longer and longer and when people start to campaign that close by, well it's time to hunker down and get ready for the long haul. So, while it seems a little early to be totally decided on a candidate, Katie McGinty is a candidate that I might actually be excited about.

Since she made her way onto my radar I've been scouring the internet, trying to soak up every iota of available information.  Her bio is lengthy, to say the least.  From a working class Pennsylvania family, the ninth of ten children, she earned a B.S. in Chemistry from St. Joseph University and went on to earn a Juris Doctor from Columbia Law.  On top of an impressive educational background, Katie McGinty has had a long career in both the public and private sectors, working primarily on environmental concerns.  In fact she made such an impact in that arena that, at the official renaming of the EPA's headquarters, President Bill Clinton mentioned McGinty specifically as a person who deserved to have the building named after them as least as much as he did.

Interestingly, much of McGinty's environmental work has been in the private sector so it would seem that she is uniquely qualified to move our commonwealth toward creating jobs in the fields of environmental sustainability and renewable energies.  In Bill Clinton's speech at the newly named EPA headquarters, he said:
“You can protect our precious natural resources, and you promote the public health, and you can fight climate change” while still growing the economy and jobs, Clinton said. “In fact, from now on, that’s going to be the only way to have a sustainable economy.”
That's a mantra that Katie McGinty espouses whole heartedly, and we should all be glad of it.  She's not the only environmentally friendly candidate out there, after all John Hanger was her successor as Department of Environmental Protection Secretary, but McGinty has far more experience applying her passion for an environmentally sustainable economy in practice.  Those concerned about the environment have expressed some dismay about the connection of candidate Allyson Schwartz to the fracking industry through large campaign contributions.  It is, as yet, too early to know who exactly is contributing to McGinty's campaign, but campaign contributions are certainly something that it's good to keep an eye on.

It has also been pointed, so astutely, that Katie McGinty is a woman and has thus split the female vote just by entering the race.  In April, just after McGinty declared, John Baer pointed out in his column, Baer Growls:
"So the question becomes which woman, McGinty or Schwartz, has greater statewide appeal to the Democratic base. That's unclear at the moment. But what's certain is Schwartz no longer has a clean shot."
Let the cat fights begin! Insert eyeroll here. I hate to be the one to break it to John Baer, but Schwartz didn't have a "clean shot" to begin with. He may not know this, but women don't vote exclusively based on who's got a vagina...even Democratic women. Feminism means a lot of things, and one of those things is that wanting women to succeed doesn't mean voting into office every woman that runs for a position.

During my research I was happy to learn that, though she doesn't seem to have talked about it extensively at this point, Katie McGinty is a strong supporter of the rights of women to control their own bodies. Robert Vickers of The Patriot News noted, "Though pro-business, she's an environmentalist who supports gay marriage, tighter gun control, embraces Obamacare, and is pro-choice." While I'd certainly like to hear a little more detail to those various positions, we've got plenty of time to get into the nitty gritty of it all.

McGinty has served many years in government service under Al Gore, Bill Clinton, and Ed Rendell; however she's never served as an elected official before.  This was, momentarily, a fact that gave me pause, considering that the position of Governor is a state's highest office.  Still, after a little research I found that - if elected - McGinty wouldn't be the first governor in Pennsylvania's history to have never served as an elected official prior to their time as governor.  Both Dick Thornburgh and Milton Shapp vaulted directly from non-elected service to the governor's seat.  This is not even to mention the various governors of other states who came to the office without elected experience.  Still, it's an issue that will likely be raised when compared to candidates like Allyson Schwartz and - if he ever gets in the race - Rob McCord, both of whom have experience as elected officials.

Given her apparent zeal for the office, I hope that in the near future McGinty's campaign will take the dive into social media.  She's already got a serviceable website, but there's nothing cheaper or easier than creating a Facebook page or a twitter account (or both) to keep in touch with supporters and keep people updated on where you're appearing and what you're doing.  John Hanger and Allyson Schwartz are both already in campaign mode, traveling across the state and making appearances and even having house parties.  I've read that McGinty's also traveling and "hustling for support", but unfortunately I don't know where or when.

For now I'll be watching my Google Alerts for any updates, and I hope that I get to see Katie McGinty speak in person in the not-to-distant future.  If you can, I always suggest seeing a candidate speak live, since politics is sometimes more about your persona than it is your positions.  I look forward to finding out whether McGinty really has the one-two punch.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

The Importance of Online Organization

Tomorrow or the next day I hope to have a piece out about Katie McGinty and her candidacy.  I'm mid-article on that one.  While I was writing it and looking at information on the various gubernatorial candidates though, I came across Jo Ellen Litz's campaign website and I was enthralled, but not in a good way.

My husband and I sat for ten minutes or so and felt compelled to pour through this website, which is like a messy GeoCities page circa 1997.  Her page makes an awful first impression.  In 2013, and let's be honest for several years now, a candidate's website has been, is, and will continue to be one of the best and quickest ways to get a feel for a candidate.  Beyond looking at a candidate's biography and positions, you can get a feel for the level of their organization.

Commissioner Litz's site appears initially to consist of exactly one page including everything, and indeed the proverbial kitchen sink, although there are actually many separate pages.  Unfortunately, those pages aren't linked in any logical way with any kind of organization.  In fact, once you start clicking on links that are actually subpages of, we find that the page is a labyrinth of subpages.

In Commissioner Litz's Business ABCs, she is quoted as saying:
"Small business people tend to be jacks-of-all-trades," said Litz. "They try to do as much as they can for themselves, especially if they cannot afford to hire staff specialists."
To this end she has created the Electronic Business Pack, a list of tips for small business owners, and those looking to open small businesses, to follow.  It's got some good advice, and she's right that small business owners of have to jacks-of-all-trades.  A good small business owner has to also be aware of what they don't know.  In 2013 you don't have to hire someone to build a decent website.  The odds are that you know someone that knows the basics of putting together a good-looking - and more importantly - well-organized website.

What Commissioner Litz has is more like three websites jammed into one space.  She's got a website for herself as Commissioner, herself as an active member of the Lebanon County community, and herself as candidate for Governor.  To be honest, I'm not even sure if it's appropriate for her gubernatorial page to be the same as her Commissioner's page.  To be clear, I'm not suggesting that there's anything specifically illegal about it, it just seems like bad form.  Not just Commissioner Litz's constituents, but her potential supporters should have a better organized and more coherent place to visit her online.

The really sad thing is that Commissioner Litz seems, from a thorough search of her page, to be a dedicated Lebanon County community member.  She seems to have a detailed, practical knowledge of how to get things done in Lebanon County and beyond.  Regrettably, I fear the casual wanderer will turn away from Commissioner Litz's site before they've had a chance to discover her finer qualities.  I don't know whether the site was put together by Commissioner Litz herself or a member of "Team Litz", but a serious gubernatorial candidate deserves a serious and separate gubernatorial campaign website.