Sunday, March 31, 2013

2016 Presidential Nominations

I am removing Bobby Jindal from my list of candidates for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination for now. While he is working diligently in his state to pass the kinds of laws that he believes the Republican establishment want, he isn't gaining any traction. He is also receiving tremendous unanswered push-back from Democrats, Independents, and even some Republicans.

This doesn't pub Governor Bobby Jindal out of the running by any means. What it does mean is that he will have to find a way to gain some traction at least with the Republican party before he can be considered a viable candidate for President in 2016.

That leaves me tracking the following people:

  • Rand Paul
  • Marco Rubio
  • Paul Ryan
I am considering adding the following people to my tracking:

  • Chris Christie
  • Jeb Bush
Jeb Bush hasn't seemed to really give any indication that he is working on a Presidential run, but he doesn't have to at this point. He has the name recognition and it seems like a possibility.

I think Chris Christie would make a good candidate if he could only get past the Republican primary. The down side is that he hasn't been able to generate the kind of enthusiasm in Republicans necessary to get any traction even if he has generated minor enthusiasm among conservative Democrats and Independents.

For the time being, I will continue to postpone a decision on whether to add Chris Christie and Jeb Bush to the tracking list until I see whether they generate more news cycles.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Trans people need marriage equality too

On the heels of the marches for marriage at the Supreme Court building comes the news that Thomas Beatie is having difficulty getting a divorce. It seems that the judge isn't sure whether Thomas was man enough to marry his wife when they got married. This is all tied up with the fact that Thomas gave birth to three children as a man after his wife couldn't get pregnant.

What makes this story so interesting to me is the fact that at the marriage rally at the Supreme Court, there were people asking trans groups to take down their flag because marriage equality was for lesbians, gays, and bisexuals; not transgender people.

It is true that sometimes we can actually get married. It depends on whether we are gay, lesbian, or bisexual after our transitions, and whether we are perceived as such by the people that issue our marriage licenses. All too often we can find ourselves married yet not married when it comes to the important things like visitation, survivor's benefits, or standing with our spouses when their family doesn't approve or us.

Unlike lesbian, gay, and bisexual couples, our marriages can disappear like smoke when our spouses need us most. The best way to make sure that our spouses are protected in times of need is to have full marriage equality across the United States. For anyone that finds themselves with a mismatch between their genitalia, birth certificate, driver's license, medications, and possibly appearance, we share the same frustrations and risks as any other member of the lesbian, gay, or bisexual community.

As for how Thomas Beatie's divorce will turn out, there is no way to know at this point. Both his and his wife's life is in the hands of a judge that can't treat them like married human beings because Thomas didn't fit neatly into the category that the judge carried in his mind.

Google Keep vs Evernote

Is Google Keep's main competition Evernote? I don't think so. Evernote has been around for longer and has had time to greatly enhance their product. All the reviews seem to agree; Evernote is a more full featured product available across more platforms. Then why would Google release Keep?

One thing that was missing from the Android platform was any kind of note taking app. If you wanted to take any notes at all, you were essentially limited to using your email account to write emails to yourself. There had to be a better solution.

Enter Google Note. Note provides, free of charge, the functionality that was missing on their Android operating system. It ties into Google Drive which can provide further editing capabilities and makes everything available on your phone, computer, or laptop.

Note is fantastic in its limited sphere. If you need something more powerful, there will always be Evernote. I suspect that the target of Google's new program is Apple and the iphone, not Evernote.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

That's Crazy Talk

I've never really mentioned why I named this blog Sanity IID. I would assume that it is relatively easy to guess that it has something to do with mental health, but I've never really written about it or held it up to the spotlight. People that either don't suffer from mental illness or have never been around mental illness usually have all the wrong ideas about the cause, side effects, and treatment of mental illness. Most of their information seems to come from either television or the mistaken belief that they have done something right to avoid mental illness so we should just take their advice and do what they want us to do and we'll feel so much better. The problem with these kinds of ideas is to assume that we are somehow incapable of thinking of things for ourselves. They seem to think that we haven't tried these super-simple solutions that they have for resolving all mental illnesses. If we would just smile more, think about our mental illness less, eat better, exercise more, quit sitting around, stop talking about it, etc, etc, etc... then we would be all better.

Greta Christina recently wrote a post in reply to someone that seemed to think that ze had all the answers despite having no mental health problems or training in the field:

Writing publicly about my depression has been extremely helpful. It helps me process it and make sense of it. It helps alleviate the sense of shame I’ve been made to feel about it. It helps me normalize it, and frame it as simply another illness, like my cancer or the time I had pneumonia — which also helps alleviate the shame. The fact that my writing about it helps others gives meaning to it, which makes it more tolerable. There is no possible way that I’m not going to “think deeply” about my depression — that’s part of the nature of depression — but writing about it helps keep those thoughts from spinning into a secret, self-perpetuating black hole. It helps give me insight into it, helps me crystallize and focus those thoughts in a productive way, and helps me move on from them. And when I write about my depression, I often get good suggestions and ideas on how to manage my depression from other people who experience it. I’m not the only one, either: many people I know who experience depression and other mental illness say that being more public about it has helped them.

Major Depressive Disorder (Wikipedia link) isn't something that can be treated by ignoring it. It isn't the kind of depression that someone might have when something goes wrong in their lives. Major Depressive Disorder is something as tangible uncontrollable by conventional wisdom as myopia (Wikipedia link). There are treatments, backed by clinical studies, that can help relieve the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder, but none of them involve the 'ignore it and it will go away' strategy any more than you can ignore nearsightedness and make it go away.

Perhaps some of the people that read Greta's blog don't want to read about depression. I do want to read about it, and I hope she writes about it more often. Her word-crafting is second-to-none, and her insights often give voice to feelings I have but have been unable to express adequately. But I won't complain whether she decides to write about depression or not. What I will do is trust her to write about it if it helps, and not write about it if it is hurtful.

As for why I named this blog Sanity IID, it wasn't until I was given a prescription drug to help with my depression that I was able to stay sane long enough to actually write or keep from deleting all my writing every time the depression hit. The prescription I carried to the drug store was the name of the drug followed by 'II D' aka '2 D' indicating that I should take it twice a day. After a lifetime, I finally got received my sanity in dosages twice daily.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Westboro Baptist Church Gets Competition

But the competition is the kind that all people who support equality would hope for.

The Huffington Post and Gawker (among others) are reporting:
Aaron Jackson, one of the founders of Planting Peace, a multi-pronged charity that has in the past concentrated on rainforest conservation, opening orphanages and deworming programs, bought a house that sits directly across from the church's compound six months ago. On Tuesday, March 19, he and a team of volunteers are painting it to match the gay pride flag.
At first, it seems a little frightening to think of a house that is supposed to help LGBT people located right across from the Westboro Baptist Church. Most of the people that need help for being LGBT is because of people like the Westboro membership. The last thing you want to do is expose them to the same people that cause the majority of their torment.

But that isn't what the Equality House is about. Back to the Huffington Post:
"We want this house to be a message that where there's hate, there's also love. But we also want to raise awareness and capital, and we want to put all that money into creating and sustaining anti-bullying programs, along with supporting anti-bullying programs that already exist," he said. "Beyond the symbolic message of the home, [the house] will be utilized by volunteers to live here, and these volunteers will work on promoting equality anywhere in the world and managing these anti-bullying initiatives that we plan on creating."
Perhaps this is the first in a series of push backs against the very people that are the worst offenders of trying to keep society segregated. Perhaps it is time for people who believe in equality to stand as firmly as those that would see our society degraded into an us-vs-them competition where the only mobility is downward.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Sugarcoating Shit Isn't Enough

Young Republicans are seeking to make a political difference at the national level. Over the past two election cycles the Democratic party has taken the lion's share of the millennial generation -- people between 18 and 29. On a grand level I can't help but wish them luck. I think it is better for the country when there are multiple sides presenting multiple views on the right course for the country. What isn't worthwhile, however, is for one party to exist primarily to keep minorities out of the mainstream of society.

Rebranding the politics of prejudice instead of removing the prejudice all together is the wrong approach. Reuters is reporting that millenials are seeking a younger leadership that can speak more to their interests and leave the divisive social issues behind.

Fed up with a Republican Party strongly associated with anti-abortion, anti-gay and anti-environment stances many younger voters do not share, some young Republican groups are shaping their own message.
Concord 51, a new political action committee, bills itself as "the voice of the young, fiscally conservative professional" with a focus on the "three core issues of fiscal responsibility, a strong national defense, and energy advancement."

This sounds like the kind of ideas that should be put forward by the Republican party. These are things that the United States needs to have a conversation about. There is room for legitimate disagreement on the size of the military, what constitutes fiscal responsibility, and the best way forward with energy policy. But none of these things can happen as long as candidates are put forward that thrive on thoughtless comments and denigrating minorities.

Looking toward 2016, young Republicans are excited about the possibility of a younger nominee like Marco Rubio, 41, the U.S. senator from Florida who loves hip-hop and recently quoted rappers Wiz Khalifa and Jay-Z on the Senate floor.
Many showed up Thursday for a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee in Maryland to scope out possible candidates like Rubio, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, 50, and U.S. Representative Paul Ryan, 43, of Wisconsin, the party's unsuccessful vice presidential candidate in 2012.

As you can see, the very people that are being pushed to the front as the savior for the millennials are the same people that practice the most disgusting acts of trying to make discrimination legal against minority groups.

You are never going to attract people to debates about legitimate politics as long as they fear that fundamental aspects of their personality or bodies are going to be made illegal. As long as we fear that you will hurt those that we love most, deny our marriages, take away our children, fiscally ruin our families, allow us to be fired for whom we date, deny us the right to make choices about our own bodies, or even protect ourselves from the dangers our the world then we will never be free to discuss other important ideas. The first thing we all must do is provide for ourselves and those we love. Stop putting candidates forward that want to attack our families and then we will be happy to discuss these other issues.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Marco Rubio's negative sum game

Marco Rubio spoke at CPAC about 'traditional' marriage. MSNBC quotes him as saying:

“Just because I believe that states should have the right to define marriage in a traditional way does not make me a bigot,” the Florida Republican senator said during a speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md. on Thursday.

And he is right. Believing that states have the right to define marriage away from a group of people doesn't make him a bigot per se, but it does make him wrong on the most basic of levels that requires much closer scrutiny. His statements about whether states should be able to legislate marriage away from people shows that he hasn't considered the very people those laws would discriminate against. And laws that would legislate marriage away from a group do indeed discriminate against people. So perhaps he isn't a bigot; perhaps he just isn't well versed in critical thought.

Legislation isn't a spectator sport where there are no real consequences. People aren't divided neatly into teams so that they can be cheered by their respective sides.

Legislation isn't necessarily a zero sum game. There can be winners, losers, or any combination of the two. Trying to pass legislation that provides no benefit yet costs a group of people their rights is a negative sum game. It helps no one, but hurts the targets of the legislation.

American Evolution on Marriage

I am very pleased that Sen. Rob Portman (R. Ohio) has changed his position regarding the fundamental right of people to marry the person that they love. He has shown that it is possible for someone's political and social stance to evolve toward equality. His new found belief that people of different sexual orientations should be treated equally is commendable.

As often happens, his position changed when he really stopped to think about what he was doing to other human beings. The event that prompted his reevaluation of his position was when one of his sons came out to him as a gay man. CBS News reports:

Portman told The Cincinnati Enquirer his evolution on the subject began in 2011 when his son, Will, then a freshman at Yale University, told his parents he was gay.

The love for a family member can do wonders, and both Will Portman and his father should be proud of their courage to evaluate and stand by the truth regardless of the potential consequences.

The problem, as Sen. Portman just demonstrated, is that oftentimes people haven't given any thought to the people that are being crushed under the laws that they pass. This has happened in state after state as well as the federal level.

Legislators and voters have been acting in destructive and inhumane ways against their family, friends, and neighbors. The question is: why? Why won't they take the time to look at the harm they are doing before their family members become collateral damage to their unexamined ideology. Perhaps it is fear, or religion, or maybe just being human that keeps some people from reflecting on the damage they are doing until it is too late.

Whatever the case, those that have been enlightened have a responsibility to others. It is out responsibility to help those that can be helped to see the discriminatory path that they are on and help them get on the path to equality. For those that can't be swayed from their anti-human path, it is our responsibility to challenge their bigotry at every turn.

It may not be right, but the burden is on us. The responsibility falls on our lap to engage those whose rhetoric flows from sleeping minds and turn them toward a path of equality.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

You lose on any carrier contract

In case you missed it, it is now technically illegal to unlock your cell phone if you don't have the carrier's permission. A petition was started on the White House's website asking the administration to make a statement regarding the law as it stands. The President replied that he thought cell phones should be able to be unlocked as long as the person has met their obligation with the carrier.

This seems like a reasonable stance to me. The carrier wants to recoup its money so they can continue to subsidize cell phones to people, and if you have a cell phone you like, you should be able to unlock it and take it to a different carrier after you have met your obligations.

According to PC Mag, AT&T has come out and in favor of this approach themselves, or so it seems. Like so many things, the remaining problems are in the details.

Joan Marsh, a vice president at AT&T wrote:

As we make clear on our website, if we have the unlock code or can reasonably get it from the manufacturer, AT&T currently will unlock a device for any customer whose account has been active for at least 60 days; whose account is in good standing and has no unpaid balance; and who has fulfilled his or her service agreement commitment.

But what about the people that have fulfilled their contract by paying an early termination fee? The fee has gone up in recent years to cover the cost of the more expensive phones just in case someone decides to end their contract in this way. AT&T should still be getting their money, but will they still unlock the phone that you paid for? I don't know, but I doubt they have any reason to go out of their way to help an ex-customer.

So I suspect that if you don't purchase an unlocked phone on your own and take it to the phone company, you will be taken advantage of by any company you sign a contract with. While this article was specifically talking about AT&T, the other carriers aren't any different in their approach.
Verizon, meanwhile, will also unlock phones after 60 days provided your account is in good standing, while Sprint will make you wait 90 days, and T-Mobile has a 40-day policy.

I remember when Google started selling their phones already unlocked without any carrier subsidies. I thought they were crazy at the time; now, I am beginning to see them as the only way forward without being at the legal mercy of the phone carrier of your choice.

Damsel in Distress

Anita Sarkeesian is the is the talented feminist behind the Tropes vs Women video series covering the stereotypes female video game characters, and by extension women who play those games, face. Anita Sarkeesian's Wikipedia page has a pretty good rundown of her if you are interested in some background information.

Anita was the target of some pretty vicious attacks on her character for even bringing up the problem of sexism in video games. There are plenty of people that can cover the story about what she went through better than I can, including (trigger warnings in case you are interested in clicking through) Anita on her own website.

The good news is that she has released her first installment in the series 'Tropes vs Women' on her website. There is a video and complete transcript if you prefer to read instead of watch.

Regardless of how you prefer to digest this information, if you like video games at all, or know anyone that does, it will be well worth your time to familiarize yourself with what she has to say.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Income Inequality in the United States

Humans generally like to think that they have a good imagination. We have all seen movies and television shows about far away lands and ancient times. We have seen artwork and read stories that push out thoughts almost to the breaking point. We have even seen people create conspiracy theories that are more complex than anything that could exist in reality. If there is one thing that humans are good at, it's imagining things. That's why it so mind boggling to understand that we are so completely wrong about the income inequality in the United States.

Here is a video on Youtube that tries to help us imagine exactly how bad the income inequality actually is:

I have a difficult time believing that Democrats or Republicans would actually approve of an income distribution like this. Perhaps the solution is higher taxes for the wealthy, perhaps it is greatly expanding social programs. Whatever the solution is, we owe it to all Americans see that this injustice isn't allowed to continue.

Hat tip: Pharyngula: Either tax the rich, or have a socialist revolution

Monday, March 4, 2013

HIV Positive Baby Cured With New Medical Regimen

On Sunday March 3, 2013 Medical researchers announced that a baby in Mississippi was 'functionally cured' or HIV. There is no doubt in my mind that this fantastic news will be trumpeted from the rooftops -- as well it should -- of the community that I follow. This is yet one more step on the road to progress that I have seen in my life.

I was in high school when the AIDS crisis was first known to appear in the United States. All around me were people that were using their religion to say that AIDS was a punishment from their god for being homosexual. It was then that I realized just how petty and dangerous religion could be. It also means that the AIDS/HIV problem has carried a special interest to me.

When no one knew the cause of AIDS, the religious people would tell anyone that would listen that AIDS was caused directly by the hand of their god. God had finally had enough with those evil gays thumbing their noses at him. Later, when HIV was found to be the cause of AIDS, the Christians still claimed that AIDS was the work of their god. HIV was just the mechanism that he used to cause AIDS. Since humans couldn't cure a virus, it didn't matter that their god used a virus to punish people that he had condemned. It was also very effective since the only way to get AIDS was to do that icky homosexual stuff. It didn't matter that heterosexuals were also being affected, as long as it continued to be perceived as a gay disease.

Now a HIV/AIDS infection seems to have been cured twice: once with a functional cure, and once with a possible 'sterilizing cure'.

CNN reports:

Dr. Katherine Luzuriaga, an immunologist at the University of Massachusetts who worked closely with [pediatric HIV specialist Dr. Hannah] Gay, called the developments fascinating, including the fact that the toddler was found to have no virus in her blood even after her mother stopped giving her treatment for eight to 10 months. 
"This is the very first case in which we've conclusively been able to document that the baby was infected and then after a period of treatment has been able to go off treatment without viral rebound," Luzuriaga told CNN.

This is yet another case where Christianity originally showed the strong prejudices it holds only to be surpassed by scientific knowledge and genuine human compassion. Yes, there is no doubt in my mind that a hundred years from now the Christians of that time will be able to look back, see the horrors that were committed in the name of their god, and try to distance themselves from it. It has happened before with every inhumane stance that religious people have taken. It has happened with out of wedlock mothers, mental disorders, physical ailments, and virtually every disease that had an unknown origin. That is what makes Christianity dangerous as it has been practiced: instead of being a force of good, it usually starts as cover for bigotry and prejudice. It is only after the rest of society leaves them behind that they begin to come around and act like decent, caring, respectable human beings.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My new older brother

I have always known that I had an older half brother. I heard the stories quite some time ago. At one time I even tried to find my older brother, but trying to find someone with the little amount of information I had proved to be more difficult than my sleuthing skills could solve. All that changed today.

I didn't find my older brother. He found us. When his parents died they left him the name of his birth mother. He was able to track us down through her name.

Once I had his name I was able to gain quite a bit of information about him very quickly. It didn't hurt that he is successful and this professional connections are spread all over the Internet.

I haven't been this excited in recent memory. To make contact with someone that I never actually thought I would meet is such a wonder. I am at a loss for words. The possibilities are intoxicating and terrifying at the same time.