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Another Kind Of Marriage Equality

For years, Americans have been working to establish equal marriage rights for heterosexual and homosexual couples. Another kind of marriage equality battle is being fought in Washington County, Minnesota, home of the cities of Stillwater and Woodbury. Washington County officials have prohibited atheists with humanist ordinations from performing marriage ceremonies. The county cites a state law which states that religious leaders are the only people who can perform a marriage ceremony outside of a court of law.

Atheists For Human Rights is challenging the discrimination by Washington County, and the state law that has been used to justify it, so that atheist couples who want to get married aren’t forced to run into court for a wedding.

Equality – it’s for everybody, or it isn’t equality.

So, do you think we can expect LGBT activists to support Atheists for Human Rights in this care?


Jon Rosenberg comic on Ebolaids

Minus the space unitards, this is just about where we seem to be right now.

National Impeach Obama Week Staggers Drunkenly Into Second Week

Last week, I observed that the preparations for National Impeach Obama Week looked sparse and half-hearted. Now that we’re in the middle of National Impeach Obama Week, those weak preparations have extended into an anemic performance.

The images available of impeachment protests so far show a few lonely people standing out on the street corners, completely ignored by everyone around them.

national impeach Obama week

You may have noticed that I said that we are now in the middle of National Impeach Obama Week, rather than at the end. That’s because it turns out that National Impeach Obama Week stretches all the way from October 18 to November 4.

National Impeach Obama Week is lasting for two and a half weeks. Is it any wonder that most Americans don’t trust the judgment of the people calling for impeachment?

Americans Elect Veterans Form Two Groups to Interfere in Kansas Senate Race

Kenneth Vogel and Tarini Parti of Politico have come out with a scoop: the people behind the 2012 privatize corporate presidential election effort called Americans Elect are regathering their forces to sway a U.S. Senate race in Kansas. Private equity tycoons Peter Ackerman and Thomas Burbank, who used the Americans Elect brand to massively fund support for Angus King’s Senate race two years ago, are now massively funding an effort to support the Senate race of Greg Orman in Kansas. Guess Greg Orman’s professional background… that’s right: private equity management for the ultra-wealthy. As you can see here, Ackerman and Burbank have laid down a quarter of a million dollars to help their fellow private capital tycoon win election.

Their money brings more Americans Elect veterans in to do work: Douglas Schoen is working for Ackerman and Burbank now, but he was paid a great deal of money to do consulting work for Americans Elect, for Wall Street tycoon Michael Bloomberg, and for the pro-Wall Street billionaire Peter G. Peterson’s political empire. Another favorite media consultant for private capital interests, Matt Herath, has been hired on to promote Orman’s candidacy by the group. Herath worked worked for Bloomberg and Peter G. Peterson’s fake-grassroots campaigns when he wasn’t making WalMart look good, and now Herath is heading up Lighthouse Group LLC to make Orman look good on behalf of his new tycoon clients. According to Ackerman and Burbank’s spokesperson, they’ve also brought in Americans Elect leaders Kahlil Byrd and Cara Brown McCormick. Kahlil Byrd is apparently still using the same fax machine from the old Americans Elect days, if you want to say hi.

You may remember that this year Kahlil Byrd co-founded, along with fellow Americans Elect veteran Lawrence Lessig, the big-money-campaign-finance-reform Mayday Super PAC. Guess who the Mayday Super PAC recently started spending money to support? That’s right, the private capital tycoon Greg Orman.

Connections, connections.

Corporate Responsibility Splashes All Over The Place At First Data In Omaha

“First Data and KKR work together to measure and improve the environmental performance of our business through the Green Portfolio Program established with the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).”

first data Omaha nebraskaThat’s the promise that comes from First Data, an online payment company with an avowed vision to “To shape the future of global commerce by delivering the world’s most secure and innovative payment solutions.” First Data services include Payeezy and Apple Pay, the new online payment system that enables owners of iPads and iPhones to pay for things in stores just by placing their thumbs on top of a button on their devices while at the checkout register.

So it sounds as if First Data wants to be seen as environmentally as well as fiscally responsible. That’s not what I saw when I walked past First Pay’s facility in Omaha, Nebraska this afternoon. At the edge of the parking lot, within easy view of the front doors of the facility, an irrigation unit in the lawn was sending a thick stream of water ten feet into the air to fall down with a loud smack (clearly audible from the front doors) onto the pavement of the parking lot.

There wasn’t any wind blowing the water from the broken irrigation system onto the pavement. That’s just where the water landed, in the still air. All along the edge of the parking lot, other irrigation outlets, which appeared to be functioning according to design, were spraying significant amounts of water into the pavement as well.

Employees from First Data clearly knew what was going on. Anyone coming and going room the parking lot could see the irrigation system was spewing water wastefully, from the broken outlet and as a result of poor design. Nobody was lifting a finger to stop the waste.

It’s late October. There’s no need for lawn irrigation systems to be running water at all in Nebraska right now. The lawns are already green. Nighttime temperatures are low. There isn’t a drought. This is the time of year when grass will be settling down for a long winter’s nap.

What’s more, Omaha had a long, heavy rain just last night. The ground is already soaked. Any irrigation right now is pure waste.

It’s not just water that First Data in Omaha is wasting. The company is wasting money, too. That water doesn’t come for free.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Effective management should be prepared to fix a broken irrigation outlet, or at least to plug it to staunch the flow of wasted resources. Directional irrigation units are available, which can be set to distribute water intelligently, away from paved surfaces where no grass will ever grow. The irrigation systems should have been shut off weeks ago. Grass is tough, and there is no drought in Nebraska.

A corporation with genuine environmental and fiscal responsibility would not allow this waste to continue unchecked. A truly Green corporation will have procedures in place to efficiently deal with problems like this when they take place.

It isn’t just the waste of water that worries me. If this kind of waste is visible just to a casual observer walking past one of First Data’s facilities, then what’s being allowed to take place inside First Data buildings, away from public view.

Is First Data really working in earnest with the Green Portfolio Program? What I see looks more like greenwashing to me. Look for yourself:

Corporate Landscaping

Planted in straight lines with vast expanses of sterile mulch laid down to prevent unplanned growth between, these plants seem to have been intended to serve as a botanical model for corporate employees, a depressing landscape to be confronted with at 8:55 every morning, a mockery of a garden.

corporate garden

Is GT’s Kombucha Really Enlightened?

I was at a Whole Foods grocery last night, when my eye fell upon a bottle of GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha. The first thing that struck me was that the label had the word “enlightened” on the label, with a little trademark symbol after it. I thought, “Could there really be a marketplace battle between different brands of kombucha claiming to be enlightened? Would people really stop buying GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha if it didn’t have the word ‘enlightened’ on the label? Did the person who thought to register the word ‘enlightened’ not drink enough kombucha?”

enlightened kombuchs

Then, I turned the label, and I saw the following words from college student Amanda Pruitt, under “Words of Enlightenment?”: “Although you may never know the reasoning, everything happens according to plan. The Universe does not make mistakes.”

Really? So, when Jeffrey Dahmer ate people and stored their heads in the refrigerator, that was part of a reasoned plan? When the Nazis set up concentration camps, that was part of a grand plan by the universe? When people in Salem, Massachusetts killed each other as witches, that was part of the plan?

I suppose torture by the Spanish Inquisition, the decimation of Native Americans by smallpox, and guinea worms were part of the same plan, which somehow also needed to include the movie Dumb And Dumber. What could this reprehensible plan be?

Oh, wait a minute. It’s come to me. This cosmic plan is obviously intended to make it look as if Amanda Pruitt has missed an awful lot of lectures at her college because she has been so busy running out to get bottles of GT’s Organic Raw Kombucha.

Enlightened, huh?

Fact Checking Hi and Lois on those Golden Gas Pumping Days of Yore

When I opened the paper on October 18, Chance Brown’s Hi and Lois comic strip strike me well. I did a bit of fact checking:

Chance Brown's Hi and Lois strip on gas prices of October 18 2014, corrected after a fact check

Correction 1: Gas hasn’t had a price of $3.99 per gallon in the United States since July of 2008. The average price per gallon of gas in the United States is about $3.10 right now. Source: St. Louis Federal Reserve Bank Economic Research Database.

Correction 2: The last time the price of gas was 35.9 cents a gallon in the United States was 1969. But you have to adjust for inflation, because costs were lower but pay was lower, too. If we adjust for inflation, 35.9 cents back then are equivalent to about $2.32 today. In other words, paying 35.9 cents in 1969 had the same punch to our wallets as paying $2.32 today. Sources: Bureau of Labor Statistics and InflationData.com.

Correction 3: Why do we put gasoline in cars? To go somewhere. Chance Brown forgets that the fuel efficiency of cars was far different in 1969 from the fuel efficiency we experience nowadays. In 1969, passenger cars traveled 13.6 miles on a gallon of gas, on average. In 2013, the last full year for which data is available, passenger cars traveled 36.0 miles on a gallon of gas, on average. Sources: U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration.

If we put all these pieces of information, it turns out that on average and adjusting for inflation, it took 17 cents to travel a mile in a car in 1969. In contrast, it only takes 8.6 cents to travel a mile in a car today.

Hi should be smiling, unless he’s driving a larger car than he used to, driving his fuel efficiency below average, in which case it’s his own darn fault.

Easter Island, Omaha, Nebraska

This morning, I woke up at the Sheraton hotel in Omaha, Nebraska, and opened my window to look out upon a courtyard garden, featuring two small versions of the giant head sculptures that people had carved out of stone on Easter Island, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Easter island omaha

What was the purpose for this selection of garden statuary?

Did the designer mean to suggest, perhaps, that the Midwest is like a vast ocean, within which the city of Omaha is a lonely island? Was it to suggest that once, in the courtyard of the Sheraton, there lived a group of tiny people who carved giant faces to place in piles of mulch, perhaps in homage to the chrysanthemums?

Walk Out

Today is the National Day To Stop Police Brutality, Repression And The Criminalization Of A Generation. All around the country, there will be protests against abuse of power by law enforcement.

What if there isn’t a protest near you? The organizers encourage you to simply walk out. “No work! No school! No business as usual!”

Maybe, if there had not been years of injustice after injustice, of civil liberties trampled, of the Constitution of the United States of America treated like a joke by American presidents, American spy agencies and American police departments, I might feel inclined to question whether a walkout could accomplish anything. However, given the complete weight of these offenses, it seems to me that we need to break the sense of normalcy of violation, and a walkout achieves that very nicely.

If The United States Is A Christian Nation…

Then how come the monumental buildings of our government are constructed in the form of ancient pagan temples, rather than Christian cathedrals?

pagan Greek temple dc