On FADA, Notes on the License to Discriminate

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It’s possible that the right wing, now that they control all three layers of the federal government, will try and pass a version of the FADA (The First Amendment Defense Act) so I thought I’d write a bit about it, why it’s unnecessary and basically just a convenient license for using the federal government to discriminate against people you don’t like.

 

The Right Wing doesn’t like a lot of people, though the FADA is usually understood as a backlash targeting LGBT people as a result of marriage equality and other social gains by LGBT in recent years.

Here’s the text of the Amendment:

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a person, wholly or partially on the basis that such person believes or acts in accordance with a religious belief or moral conviction that marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman, or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a marriage. [H.R. 2802, introduced 6/17/15]

The Right Wing asserts that this amendment is needed to protect the religious views of people who feel this way, i.e., their first amendment rights. In reality, it would enshrine the right to discriminate against LGBT persons, unmarried single mothers, or any couple of any sexual combination residing together unmarried. Among the things it would allow are these examples:

  • allow federal contractors or grantees, including those that provide important social services like homeless shelters or drug treatment programs, to turn away LGBT people or anyone who has an intimate relationship outside of a marriage
  • let commercial landlords violate longstanding fair housing laws by refusing housing to a single mother based on the religious belief that sexual relations are properly reserved for marriage
  • permit a university to continue to receive federal financial assistance even when it fires an unmarried teacher simply for becoming pregnant
  • permit government employees to discriminate against married same-sex couples and their families – federal employees could refuse to process tax returns, visa applications, or Social Security checks for all married same-sex couples
  • allow businesses to discriminate by refusing to let gay or lesbian employees care for their sick spouse, in violation of family medical leave laws [ACLU, 7/20/15]

So basically, such a law would throw out existing protections LGBT have through the government and allow discrimination based on someone’s beliefs.

I would be awestruck to see where it is in the defining documents of these religions (i.e., The Bible) where it says that you’re supposed to not bake that gay wedding cake or not cut that social security check for that gay man. Cause it doesn’t say that anywhere. Basically, if you believe those documents, they tell you that YOU – the person having that belief – are not supposed to live your life that way. In other words, if you believe those scriptures, YOU should not live a gay life. It doesn’t say anything about the rest of us, which, incidentally, is not even relevant because the United States is not guided or beholden to ancient religious texts.

Also, the Right Wing seems to think that it needs this law to protect its anti-LGBT churches and schools from the big bad IRS. But that argument is easily debunked, e.g. churches of all kinds (Catholics, are you listening?) have been discriminating against women for eons without getting their tax exempt status revoked. And of course, you can always still believe what you want and teach whatever doctrine you have in your religious school. We don’t have the thought police, at least not yet (Minority Report?)

So if these two items are eliminated, what is left? Oh, I guess maybe you can’t just use  your religion as a hammer to punish people you don’t like. Sorry.

It’s like this (paraphrased from a letter to the editor on media matters.com, from “nerzog”):

Religious beliefs are protected. Religiously inspired actions are not. So: They’re still allowed to be bigots, they can think what they want. They can still verbally express their bigotry, if they’re willing to endure the social consequences. What they can’t do is: break anti-discrimination laws.

Most of the data in this post comes from media matters.

 

Trump’s Lies, update #1

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I thought I’d do a regular feature on this, like a weekly update on the new president’s ongoing penchant for basically, lying about much of everything.

It may not be enough to do it once a week, but that’s all I have time to do. Hopefully, this will serve as a sort of record for me so I can focus my activism.

Since neither you nor I like things that are just asserted without any proof, I will list the source of where I got the lying information. Then you can make up your own mind whether to take it seriously or discount it. And I know there will be people who will – but I hope, dear reader, that you are not one of those who puts stock in liars.

This week – Jan 20 – 27: Trump lied about the crowd size at his inauguration. He lied to the CIA about who started his feud with intelligence agencies. Perhaps biggest of all, he lied about the fact that he lost the popular vote in the November election. He asserts that 3-5 million illegal voters voted (all for Hillary Clinton! imagine that) which is a demonstrably false lie.

Here’s the link: Up is Down (Wrap up on Trump’s lies for the week)

See you next week.

 

How that Hopey Changey Stuff Worked Out

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Memo to: Sarah “The Quitter” Palin

From: Jim A.

RE: Hopey Changey Stuff

Sarah! Regarding your query:

Actually, in the end it’s kinda worked out pretty good. Herewith, a few things that affected me directly or that I thought were significant:

  • my IRA, which I hope to actually use someday, has more than doubled in value since its nadir in 2009. That’s without any new deposits whatsoever since the end of 2009. (The stock market has tripled from its 2009 low, all during the Obama years.)
  • We have marriage equality in the United States now, fully supported by Obama. I can get married if I find the right guy. Wow.
  • LGBT men and women can now openly serve in the US Military, i.e. “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” is history, so if you’re queer and want to be a soldier, you can go sign up.
  • Obama ended the 2008 Great Recession and prevented a Depression.
  • Obama saved the U.S. Auto Industry.
  • The Obama administration cut the unemployment rate in half since 2009.
  • I’ve been able to get and pay for health insurance because of the ACA, because of Obamacare.
  • Obama opened up relations with Cuba. Finally someone did the reasonable thing.
  • Obama terminated our enemy, Osama bin Laden.
  • Obama stopped deporting DREAMERS, which hugely benefits our country and economy.

that’s just a sampling, and there’s so so so much more! Here’s a long list with citations. I’ll miss the grace and wit and the lack of drama at the top. I wish our President and his family only the best as they find their footing in their new lives as citizens.

My Obamacare Experience, or Why is it that Republicans Hate Small Business/Entrepreneurs?

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Obamacare, the ACA (Affordable Care Act) has been a godsend to me.

Republicans Hate Entrepreneurs. Sad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alas, the Republicans think it’s bad (even though it was their plan) and so they’re going to replace it with something cheaper and much better (according to their new leader). I can only think this will be Medicare for All. Yeah, I wish, and don’t we all?

Just looked up some old stats: In 2007, when I was freelancing full time, I was paying a $502 per month premium for Kaiser HMO coverage. I was (and am) a single man in Los Angeles, aged 52 in 2007.

This past year, I had an ACA (Obamacare) policy through Covered California, again it was a Kaiser HMO plan, and I paid $180 per month. I got a significant subsidy because of my income level. The actual monthly premium was $663. For this year (2017) the premium is $734/month, of which I’ll pay $200. (The same plan — it went up 11%.) The subsidy goes directly to Kaiser Permanente. I never see a penny of it. So for those who hate the subsidy idea, please be reminded that the funds go to overpriced insurance companies, big Pharma, medical device companies, and doctors. The subsidies don’t go to the patients. Your tax dollars are going to support those megaindustries, not for actual healthcare for Americans.

So I’ll be 62 this year.

As a freelancer (I write B2B copy and am an author) with pre-existing conditions (including glaucoma and a history of cancer) I could not get insurance with the system we had before. Or, if I could (like the example above, from 2007), it was a catastrophic plan with high premiums and high deductibles and co-pays, which means basically that I was just insuring my assets against a catastrophic health care loss. Those assets were a condo (since sold) and an IRA retirement account. I wasn’t getting any actual health care for the insurance premiums.

That catastrophic plan also did not cover any prescriptions, which I paid for out-of-pocket.

My current Obamacare Silver-level plan does cover prescriptions, and the co-pays for visits and lab work are affordable (I think I pay about $8-10 per a visit to either; scripts are $10-20 for a 90 day supply.)

If the Republican zeal to roll back things like pre-existing conditions becomes reality, I will again be unable to find insurance. Who, at age 50 or better, does not have a pre-existing condition? Life is a pre-existing condition. This is absurd.

There’s a couple of other issues that I want to touch on. One is Ageism – and the near impossibility of finding an appropriate full time job with health insurance at my age. I haven’t been able to find a full time job in my field since 2010, hence the part-time work and freelancing. Also, employers are moving away from providing benefits in large part due to the ACA and the ability for an individual to buy a policy on the exchange. Decoupling health care from employment, isn’t that the direction we wanted to go? Do we really want to go back to that?

Which brings me to my last point —

Why do Republicans hate small business and entrepreneurs? I always thought they were the party of personal responsibility and commerce. Keeping health insurance tied to employment is 1) arbitrary, and 2) stupid. How many people keep their jobs JUST because they get their healthcare insurance through that job? How many Apples or Facebooks or Starbucks never come into being because people can’t afford to gamble with their health coverage to become entrepreneurs?

So, no, Paul Ryan, you’re wrong, again. Obamacare isn’t a nightmare or a disaster. It’s a lifesaver. It has problems, easily fixed. Why don’t you just do the easy thing and try to fix it instead of throwing the baby out with the bathwater? Oh, right, it’s named after that black president, isn’t it, and we certainly can’t have that. That is the real issue, the whole country knows it.

So This Happened: Car Free to Car Lite, and Why

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About three and 1/2 years ago (June 7, 2013), I sold my car and decided (after much thought and research) to live a life that was car free. I lost some weight and saw a different side of my city. I saved a lot of money. My stress level became palpably lower. I proved that despite all the cliches (which are class-based cliches, by the way), one does not need a car to survive in L.A.

Yes, I found that it’s possible to get anywhere in the L.A. area by bus, train, bike, walking, Uber, Lyft, taxi, Amtrak and the kindness of strangers. But here’s the thing: possible does not always mean convenient.

So this happened:

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Blogger in front of the red Chevy Spark.

I moved to L.A. originally in 1981, and this is the lifestyle we led: Say I lived in Pasadena, which was true for awhile. A friend a few miles away would suggest how nice it would be to go to Hollywood for a few drinks and then later on go down to the beach for a while, play in the dark waves, etc, or go bar-hopping out in Santa Monica. Or have a bite to eat there. We’d often do things like this — which actually involve a 40 or 50 mile round trip in a car. It was common then and it was nothing, really. Gas cheap. We were young and energetic. Traffic was not in any way as bad as it is now, especially at night. This is part of that Southern California Car Culture you hear about, ski in the morning, surf in the afternoon (which I suppose somebody did, not that this kind of activity was EVER anything you would call convenient).

Anyway, my point is, some of this lives on. At least in our minds, at least we’d like to think this is our coastal “lifestyle,” though age and especially traffic has made this all but impossible. I do think there is a bona fide Millennial movement to embrace an L.A. car free existence. But here’s the thing: I’m not a Millennial. Not even close. And I guess although it’s great to be a pioneer or a trailblazer in some way, it’s kind of lonely if you’re the only one.

I was the only one (in my age and class cohorts) who habitually rode the bus or the train and it was honestly getting a bit old and lonely.

Another thing is isolation. While my facility navigating L.A. without a car grew tremendously the longer I did it, my desire to be out and about actually diminished. While I could take an Uber to a hotspot at 10 at night from my home location in the Valley, say to somewhere “over the hill” in Silver Lake or West Hollywood, my desire to do that plummeted. My desire to do that on the bus plummeted even further. And this was not just hotspots, but things like events and other gatherings where the distance and inconvenience just made it too difficult. I didn’t want to be a hermit.

There’s something different about having your own transportation that’s about more than getting to point B from point A, and it has to do with comfort and safety and the ability to be totally spontaneous. I realized that I was willing to pay again for this occasional luxury.

So — I’m not abandoning public transport or my bike or my beloved walks, especially those in the quiet of the near dawn. I really liked contributing to a less polluted city in a really small way and will continue. But I will occasionally use the new car, for things like:

  • Socializing at night, i.e., seeing friends, dating and other activities
  • Road trips – Palm Springs and local places like that, especially where trains don’t go.
  • Camping! I still want to find a partner in crime for this.
  • The occasional event or possibly a job opportunity, like an interview, like tutoring, like background acting on a location (think Santa Clarita, where I used to have frequent gigs). Although for commuting to work, I’ll still use public transport.
  • Going to the Gym – sometimes that’s just easier to drive and I would work out more, quite frankly ,if it was easier to get there.
  • Shopping, sometimes. Sometimes you just want to do that Target run and get your own 30 roll packs of TP rather than have Amazon deliver them.

So there you have it. I’m grateful to have the luxury of the occasional car at my disposal again. I realize how lucky I am to have it. And I know, should it turn out that I really don’t use the car for much, I can always turn around and sell it. Again!

KEPT: Two Truths and a Lie

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Herewith: Of the following statements, two are true and one is false.

To figure out which is which, you’ll have to read the book. (or just send me a message and I’ll respond!)

Nancy Argento is an second-rate reporter from Cleveland trying desperately to redeem herself with a new job in Palm Springs.

Jacy Martin is part of the rich family that owns the Native American casino in Palm Springs.

In a fit of absolute and horrid rage, studly contractor Connor Hurst strangles former TV star Carol Blair Rosen.

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Why KEPT? The Inspiration and the Notes. . .

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I had the pleasure of re-watching the 1946 version of “The Postman Always Rings Twice” again last night. This wonderful example of early post-war film noir stars the luminous Lana Turner (how does one get that silky platinum hair?)  and the quite studly John Garfield, (as well as Hume Cronyn, Cecil Kellaway and Leon Ames in supporting roles) in the James Cain story.

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The Postman Always Rings Twice

 

 

 

 

 

 

Like in his “Double Indemnity,” this story involves getting rid of an inconvenient third wheel who happens to have some money. These two stories, as well as Cain’s fabulous “Mildred Pierce,” are all basically about greed and our susceptibility to letting it drive our actions. This is usually at the hands of someone who uses sex as a convincing argument, if you have or had any scruples to begin with. Traditionally, this role was played by a woman, who became known as the femme fatale.

So these Cain movies/books and the additional “After Dark, My Sweet” – a similar type of noir story, set in the SoCal desert of around 1990 and from a book by Jim Thompson, are the inspiration for the screenplay I wrote of “Kept,” which I turned into this novel.

Having spent so much time in Palm Springs myself, I wanted to set a crime story there. Also, I wanted to remake the femme fatale role into an homme fatale, and make male-male gay attraction the driving force behind the greed this time around.

I’d often felt that the Palm Springs area was a crucible – where people from many backgrounds mixed. You had your gays, your old white Republican retirees, retired movie stars, Mexican immigrants, Marines from 29 Palms, the Native American Tribes, tourists from all over, real estate speculators, and everyone else as well. I thought there’d be lots of stories and potential for dramatic conflict in them.

And there is! It’s all in KEPT.

KEPT: The story of the cover art

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When you self-publish a book, one of the crucial decisions you make is approving the cover art and design. For most writers, this is counterintuitive, as our strengths generally (at least we hope) lie in the realms of words and storytelling, not so much in imagery.

Which makes this process even more nerve wracking.

Because – there’s this thing out there called the Internet now. Where everybody goes for books. And usually they’re bombarded with a screenful of pixellated book covers, all of them vying for the opportunity to catch the browser’s eye. Decisions are made on the basis of interest in the cover. There’s no table full of books to flip through. There’s no physical shelf showing all the new books in the genre. It’s a much bigger and confusing landscape and of course, it’s all virtual.

And what is it that catches the browser’s eye? Color, for one thing. Red is more eye-catchy, than say, brown or yellow. Hello stop signs! Also strong graphics, I think, especially considering small screens.

And of course, naked men, for this genre, which is a gay mystery/suspense/thriller. The one action the cover is designed to elicit is a click further – basically that’s it, stop and find out some more.

So I did have an image in mind, which I gave to the cover designer at that point — it’s this:

2365800428_0cc260e6a8 I found it on the internet, on Flickr. I didn’t take the photo and I don’t know who the subject is. But I do know it’s an image of the desert near Palm Springs, and also has a hot looking half-naked guy who looks vaguely Latin as the subject.

One of the main characters in KEPT, if not the main character, is a guy named Jorge who anglicizes his name to George. This would be my cover image.

The cover designer at CreateSpace (the company Eureka Street Press uses for actual book and ebook publication) came up with this image based on the idea of a man in the desert:

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So, a different desert (it looks more like Joshua Tree to me, and well, it’s close enough) and a different man, obviously, someone from their bank of usable images. Yeah, he’s got better abs, too, that never hurts, right?

Simple typography for a very simple title, and my name as the author. I think it sticks out on a page full of busier titles (though I was unable to get much red in this image). What do you think?