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Rand Paul Wants Constitutional Protections For Some Behaviors But Not Others

First term Republican Senator Rand Paul, who is expected to run for President in 2016, who has explained that he finds same-sex marriage offensive, also says, in a recently unearthed interview, that he doesn’t think that gay and lesbian people should have the right to protection from discrimination.

“I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior,” Senator Paul says.

This idea that Rand Paul doesn’t believe in rights based on behavior may sound strange to those people who remember that Rand Paul’s fervent support for the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear arms. Since when is carrying guns around not behavior?

More fundamentally, Rand Paul’s assertion that gay Americans don’t have the right to protection from discrimination runs counter to the text of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, which declares that “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Equal protection of the law includes the protection of the right of marriage, and the right of employment. When gays and lesbians are denied this protection, their Fourteenth Amendment rights are being violated – whether Rand Paul believes it or not.

Gay rights aren’t special rights. They’re just the same rights that are afforded to every other human being in the United States.

Mark Trail by James Allen and Me

Mark Trail by James Allen and Me.  The two young beavers sense that they are being watched, when directly before them, MRRRROWR MOUNTAIN LION!  The frightened beavers turn to escape the mountain lion when ROAR A BEAR!  The beavers turn south when OH NO A T-REX!  Trying to escape the T-REX, the plucky beavers head to Nevada, where... oh no, UFO FLYING SAUCER!  Will Mark Trail punch them all?

Market Research Conference To Show Corporations How To Use Flying Drones and Robots To Spy On Shoppers

If you visit the public page for the MRMW, a conference on technology in market research being prepared by the Merlien Institute for May, you’ll encounter a fairly generic description of what participants will be discussing:

“Join us at MRMW 2015 to
• Experience the latest technology innovations driving mobile research
• Find out where industry leaders will invest next and what drives their business decisions
• Learn from over 30 talks, real-life case studies and panel discussions from mobile research innovators…”

A promotional email invitation to the conference gives a much more specific idea of what’s going to be happening at the conference.

mrmw drone market research conference

“Join us on May 19-22 in New York and be the first to experience a live demo of drones and robots helping market researchers to track shopper behaviour and purchase intent.”

Earlier this year, the MRMW conference web site openly referred to a keynote on May 20 about the use of “Bots, drones and flying saucers – a glimpse of the future” in market research. Now, the conference web site has deleted this reference. The Merlien Institute is still promoting the session about using flying drones and other robots to spy on shoppers as the main event of the conference however.

This suggests that the Merlien Institute has not canceled the session on the use of flying drones and ground-based robots to conduct surveillance on shoppers as a part of market research programs. Rather, Merlien seems to be trying to conceal the conference’s involvement with this kind of “mobile research innovator”.

Why? What are they trying to hide? If the people at the MRMW conference believe that using robots to spy on us as we shop is such a good idea, why aren’t they making information about this session open to the public in general?

The New York Times is sending someone to the conference – but not as a journalist. Rather, the New York Times is sending Scott Stanchak, the newspaper’s manager of mobile marketing, to learn about how the New York Times can use the latest tracking technology – including perhaps the use of flying robots to track its readers. Will the New York Times send a reporter to write about the ethical implications of this kind of market research as well?

Consumers have a right to know when robots are being used to track their behavior, following their movements. The conference hasn’t happened yet, and Irregular Times can’t afford the $1,195 base price for attending, so we can’t know which corporations are planning on using robots to spy on their customers.

We know this much – the corporations listed below are sponsoring and sending “senior-level executives” to attend the conference, including the session on the use of surveillance robots in market research. It’s fair to presume that many of these corporations are at least considering the use of flying drones and other robots to spy on consumers.

Coca Cola
The New York Times
Lightspeed GMI

Hilton Hotels
Keurig – Green Mountain Coffee
Conde Nast

Johnson & Johnson
Mondelez International
Field Agent

Privacy activists may wish to know
that the conference is taking place
from May 19 to May 22 at the
Wyndham New Yorker Hotel,
at 481 8th Avenue in New York City.

Why is Indiana the “Only One” being Picked On for Picking on People? Because… it Isn’t.

Writing in the Los Angeles Times, Sarah Parvini and Nigel Duara are reporting shock, befuddlement and disbelief at the development that, “for some reason,” the state of Indiana is getting picked on, bullied, and discriminated against for passing a law allowing government-chartered corporations to discriminate against gay people. Parvini and Duara share passages like the following in a breathless air:

“Indiana becomes the 20th state with religious freedom law condemned as antigay….

‘I don’t understand why Indiana is getting a bad reputation,’ said Krissi Johnson, serving hot dogs at a community gathering inside the firehouse in Austin, southern Indiana. ‘It would make more sense if we were the only ones.'”

And more passages like this:

“Indiana residents note that the same furor could have arisen at any time since similar legislation passed in places including Alabama or Idaho. Bills are also pending in Georgia and South Dakota.

“Sarah Winchester, a 32-year-old nurse, isn’t thrilled with the new spotlight on her home state.

“‘It’s annoying that Indiana is getting the attention,’ Winchester said in Austin. ‘Southern states have done similar things for years.'”

… For some Hoosiers, it’s all rather upsetting and sad.

Get the point? Poor, poor Indiana. People are being unfair to the state for promoting discrimination. Indiana is the victim of discrimination for discriminating… when, Parvini and Duara insist, other states have done the same thing and aren’t having their products so viciously, hideously, outrageously not bought by people.

Let’s take this “poor Indiana, discriminating just like everyone else” argument apart.

  1. Georgia, South Dakota and Arizona are cited as similar states, but they haven’t passed their laws yet.  That’s an important difference.
  2. In Arizona, the law was scrapped after political pressure was brought to bear, including protests and threats of a boycott.  In other words, Indiana actually hasn’t been the only state targeted for having a pro-bigotry law.  Look… here’s a picture of the protests in Arizona if you don’t believe me:
    Arizonans Protest Against the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  Indiana is NOT the only targeted state.
  3. When Michigan was considering a similar bigotry bill in December of 2014, guess what happened?  That’s right, people protested.  It’s not just an Indiana thing.
  4. Arkansas is considering making a similar move.  Guess what’s happening in Arkansas?  That’s right: people are protesting.  It’s not just an Indiana thing.
  5. Why didn’t people protest Idaho’s bills? Oh, whoops, they did protest after all:
    Idahoans did protest the RFRA after all.  Quit it with the poor singled out Indiana line.
    It’s not just an Indiana thing.
  6. People are out protesting a Kansas bigotry bill. It’s not just an Indiana thing.
  7. Oh, look: they’re protesting in Georgia, too. It’s not just an Indiana thing.
  8. Finally, as so many have pointed out, Indiana’s law isn’t just like twenty other states’ laws. It is the most extreme example on the books, and targeting the most extreme example of a policy makes sense.

But never all mind that. Somebody named Krissi in Indiana is upset that people are giving Indiana a hard time. That’s what we should remember.

Should We Allow Carly Fiorina Do To America What She Did To Hewlett Packard?

This weekend, Carly Fiorina declared that the chances that she will launch a campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 are “higher than 90 percent”. She cited her tenure as the “chief executive of the largest technology company in the world” as her qualification to become President of the United States. It’s “a competence issue”, she said.

Competence? Carly Fiorina has been named by CNBC, CBS News, USA Today as one of the worst corporate CEOs of all time.

carly fiorinaDuring her time as CEO of Hewlett Packard, the company’s stock lost half of its value.

Fiorina awarded herself immense bonuses even while the company was in a tailspin. Fiorina also insisted that Hewlett Packard buy her a third private airplane, even though she already had two corporate jets at her disposal, and that the company pay the expenses of moving her 52-foot yacht from the Atlantic Ocean to San Francisco.

After her incompetence and arrogance ruined Hewlett Packard, Fiorina refused to leave unless the corporate board of directors gave her a 40 million dollar retirement package. The board, desperate to be rid of her, agreed to her demands. Then, Fiorina took to the airwaves complaining that government workers’ modest pensions should be taken away, for reasons of fiscal responsibility.

The Wall Street Journal called Carly Fiorina leadership style “autocratic”. The Business Insider calls Fiorina’s lack of executive skills “disastrous”. The Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership refers to Fiorina as a “bully” and a “notable tyrant”.

Why would anyone vote to elect such a terrible leader President of the United States? Do we want Fiorina to do to our country what she did to Hewlett Packard?

Recent Ex-Hipsters Targeted As Potential Terrorists By TSA

shaved beard tsa alertTrend watchers have been warning for the last couple of years that peak beard has been reached, and that the thing to do for those men concerned with being thought of as shameless trend chasers is to quickly shave their beards off, before they become one of the last guys to do so.

Here in the United States, the Transportation Security Administration is catching on to the newest fashion for independent thinkers, and working hard to confront the nonconformist mob before they can cause trouble. In documents just obtained by The Intercept, we learn that the TSA is training its airport security guards to target men with pale skin on their faces, indicating the recent removal of beards, as likely terrorists.

This special scrutiny of the recently un-bearded is part of a larger program that instructs TSA agents to rank travelers at airports according to scales of “behavioral indicators” that are supposed to help narrow down the search for potential terrorists. A Government Accountability Office study indicates that behavioral indicator programs are practically worthless in the effort to identify likely threats to airport security, but the TSA is pursuing the program anyway, because it gives TSA officers, who work day after day in airports where there are no terrorists, something to do.

What Shining Hill Is That Republican City Built On?

This week, when Ted Cruz announced his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, he promised to “fight to preserve America as a Shining City on a Hill”. The fact that the Ted Cruz for President campaign is capitalizing “shining city on a hill” is meant to indicate that Cruz understands the whole shiny hilly city thing to be more than just a description of strange geography, but an important cultural phrase that refers to something else. Many Americans might wonder what he was talking about, but the audience of right wing Christian fundamentalists that Cruz was talking to at Liberty University knew exactly what he was saying.

The statement that the United States is a “shining city on a hill” has become political shorthand for the assertion that the United States of America, despite its secular Constitution, is actually a nation of Christians, by Christians, and for Christians. The meme has passed through several twists and turns, but ultimately goes back all the way to the year 1630, to a sermon delivered by John Winthrop on a boat filled with Puritans headed off to join the colony in Massachusetts.

The way that Republicans like Ted Cruz tell the story of America as a shining city on a hill is that the United States was intended to be a Christian nation from the beginning. They read Winthrop’s speech as it leads up to the phrase, “shining city on a hill”. Winthrop wrote, “The Lord will be our God, and delight to dwell among us, as his oune people, and will command a blessing upon us in all our wayes. Soe that wee shall see much more of his wisdome, power, goodness and truthe, than formerly wee haue been acquainted with. Wee shall finde that the God of Israell is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies; when hee shall make us a prayse and glory that men shall say of succeeding plantations, “the Lord make it likely that of New England.” For wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill.”

When this part of Winthrop’s sermon is read, it sounds like a prophecy of the greatness of the American nation as a Christian theocracy. Winthrop is read as foreseeing that the Massachusetts Colony would grow into unrivaled greatness because of its affiliation with the divine power of the Christian God. This interpretation of John Winthrop’s sermon has been made into the foundation of the ideology of American Exceptionalism, which asserts that the United States is a Christian nation, and has been chosen by the supernatural creator of the entire universe to become the most powerful nation on Earth.

If this shining city prophecy was true in a literal sense, then the divine influence of the Christian God over American politics ought to be made manifest through the consistent political victory of those political leaders who most loudly retell the prophecy. In our time, the Republicans proclaim the mantle of divinely authorized government, so they ought to have won the executive leadership over our country, if their god of American Exceptionalism is actually manipulating American politics from his heavenly abode.

That’s not the actual political history of the shining hill city of GOP, though. The most recent Republican presidential nominees, John McCain and Mitt Romney, both pledged their campaigns to the mission of making the United States a “shining city on a hill”. Both lost by large margins.

Why has this happened? Well, in addition to being devotees of the Cult of American Exceptionalism, John McCain and Mitt Romney are also arrogant plutocrats. As such, they have ignored the second part of John Winthrop’s metaphor of the emerging American nation as a shining city on a hill. Winthrop’s shining city was a much a warning as it was a prideful prophecy of greatness.

Winthrop said, “Wee must consider that wee shall be as a citty upon a hill. The eies of all people are uppon us. Soe that if wee shall deale falsely with our God in this worke wee haue undertaken, and soe cause him to withdrawe his present help from us, wee shall be made a story and a by-word through the world. Wee shall open the mouthes of enemies to speake evill of the wayes of God, and all professors for God’s sake. Wee shall shame the faces of many of God’s worthy servants, and cause theire prayers to be turned into curses upon us till wee be consumed out of the good land whither wee are a goeing.” If the Christian colonists of America deal falsely, Winthrop warned, then they will give people reason to speak evil of the ways of Christianity.

puritan shining city on a hill

Dealing falsely is just what the Puritan colonists of Massachusetts became infamous for. The Salem Witch Trials became well known as one theocratic atrocity among many. The shining city on a hill was built as an instrument of torture and death upon the chest of Giles Corey, an elderly farmer who was sentenced to be executed when he dared to speak out against the witch hunt, and refused to make himself subject to the religious court. Corey was ordered to be stripped naked and covered with a board, upon which would be piled large rocks, to crush Corey slowly to death. The weight of the stones was so tremendous that it caused Corey’s tongue to pop involuntarily out of his mouth, until a law enforcement officer came along and shoved it back in with the end of his cane.

The shining city on a hill of theocracy in colonial America was a glaring embarrassment, and led the founders of the United States of America to construct a Constitution that kept religion out of government. Still, Republicans keep trying to shove religion back into American government, to try to build their shining city ever higher. Most recently, Mike Pence, Republican Governor of Indiana, approved legislation that allows businesses to legally discriminate against people, using their Christianity as an excuse to do so.

Even after generations of failed, ugly attempts to establish theocracy in the USA, Republicans have yet to heed the warning of John Winthrop’s shining city on the hill: The world is watching what Christians try to do when they seize the power of government, and judging them negatively for it.

Help Me Understand Why The Confirmation of Loretta Lynch is a Social Movement Subject

Loretta Lynch, President Barack Obama’s nominee to be the next U.S. Attorney General, has been blocked from progressing to a confirmation vote by a handful of Republican members of the U.S. Senate for nearly 150 days.  While Lynch’s vote is being held up, current Attorney General Eric Holder will continue to serve.

As I understand it, Republican senators are blocking the nomination so they can exert pressure on President Obama to change his immigration policy, and also as a way of punishing Lynch for her opposition to a Republican-passed election law that makes it harder for poor and dispossessed Americans to vote.

I hear that on Monday, there will be a demonstration in Lynch’s home state of North Carolina pressing the GOP to withdraw its block and let Lynch’s nomination vote proceed.  I am not meaning to be diffident, but I need some help understanding why this issue rises to the level at which a social movement reaction becomes necessary.  I have a driver’s license, so I don’t see the problem in requiring photo ID to vote.  I’ve never had anyone stand in the way of my right to vote as a middle-class white man, so I just don’t see the public relevance of an effort to make voter registration harder for non-middle-class-non-white people.  I’m a citizen who has never been asked for his papers and who never will, thanks to his All-American nose and hair and skin tone.  Well, originally that was All-European, not American, but you get my point: my people got here first second, not third.  So why should I care about people who are propping our economy up but have the wrong hair, skin, and sense of timing?

All of this is no skin off my nose.  It won’t hurt me personally if the Republicans get their way.  So why is it necessary for North Carolina to be holding a march on a nomination around these issues?  It doesn’t affect the middle-class white mainstream, and if a social movement doesn’t attend to the concerns of the already privileged mainstream, then it seems like a fringe, non-inclusive effort, doesn’t it?

Does it?

A List Of Indiana Businesses To Boycott

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law this week a piece of education that protects the power of businesses to discriminate against people, using religion as an excuse. In response, huge numbers of people from around the United States are working quickly to make sure that they are doing as little business in Indiana as possible.

What the Boycott Indiana effort needs is a list of big businesses that are based in Indiana, so that people can restrict the flow of cash into Indiana, sending a message to Mike Pence that the economics of bigotry makes no sense. I’ll be adding to the list below over the weekend. Please leave your suggestions for additional corporations that are significantly headquartered in Indiana.

List of Indiana Businesses

welcome to indiana signAngie’s List
Eli Lilly Pharmaceuticals
Delta Faucets
Vera Bradley
Clabber Girl Baking Products
Dad’s Old Fashioned Root Beer
Steak ‘n Shake
Damon Motor Homes
Nestle Boost
Do It Best
Pay Less Food Markets
Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Company
Finish Line Athletic Shoes
3D Parts Manufacturing
A1 Production
ABC Industries
Ad-Vance Magnetics
American Toy Boutique
Barclay Wooden Blocks
Ahaus Tool and Engineering
CTB International Corp.
Precision Food Cutting
Universal Blower Pac
ArcelorMittal USA
Arco Electrical Products
Hoosier Racing Tire
18 Vodka
Indiana Vodka
Creekbend Vineyard
Hoosier Candle Company
Willow Furniture
Tedco Toys
El Popular Chorizo
Red Gold Tomato Products
Ghyslain Chocolates
DeBrand Fine Chocolates
Fort Wayne Pro Grout
Steffy Wood Products
Whim Wood
Brewer Design Service, Inc
Conrad Grebel Furniture
Moonshine Leather
Bar Keepers Friend
Michigan Bulb Company
Reelin Mowers
Be Adaptive Equipment
Blessing Brass
Conn-Selmer Instrument
W.H. Harrison Indiana Bourbon
St. Elmo Cocktail Sauce
Sechler’s Pickles
Infinity Plastics
Phantom Fireworks
Dillman Farm
Wick’s Pies
American Tractor
Adler Seeds
Celadon Group
First Merchants Corporation
Ford Meter Box Corporation
ITT Technical Institute
JayC Food Stores
JayCo Inc.
Johnson Outboards
Little Crow Foods
Model Automobile Company
One Click Ventures
Paws Inc.
Pay Less Super Markets
Straube Piano Company
Tree Machine Records
Upland Brewing Company
Weaver Popcorn Company
Red Giant Software
Elkhart Band Instrument Company
Fancy Fortune Cookies
Funded Games
Basilisk Games
ACE Rent a Car
Klipsch Audio Technologies
Global Van Lines
Shoe Carnival
Interactive Intelligence Inc.

In Alabama, U beats O in a Landslide

If you look at the results of the 2014 elections for the Alabama State House of Representatives and Senate, you might get the idea that the major divide is between Democrats and Republicans, with 98 Republicans, 41 Democrats and 1 Independent elected to the two chambers of the Alabama State Legislature. But there is a hidden divide that cuts across party lines. Of the 140 seats in the House and Senate, a full 83 seats had no contest, giving voters no choice. 25 Democrats and 58 Republicans ran unopposed. Democracy holds a minority stake in Alabama state government.

Ted Lieu’s March Madness

Congressman Ted Lieu rose to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives yesterday to give what at first looked like it might be a serious speech. Lieu began by criticizing congressional Republicans’ opposition to action to deal with climate change. But then, Lieu chose a very different sort of climax to his speech.

Lieu said, “Mr. Speaker, I rise because the majority is making worse the one issue that can kill humanity as a species – climate change. The majority’s budget exacerbates America’s
overdependence on foreign oil and reliance on the dirty and unsafe fuels of the 19th century.

But there is a better way. We need to produce more energy-saving appliances and machines that are designed, manufactured, and installed by American workers. It is time to invest in new and renewable energies that never go away, such as wind, solar, and biofuels. It is time to do what is best for America, not what is best for coal companies.

Mr. Speaker, let me end by saying: Go, UCLA.”

Climate change is a deadly threat that the Republicans refuse to take seriously, so therefore, watch college basketball?!?

With climate action leaders like Ted Lieu in power, it’s not just the Republicans we need to worry about.