Transgender Rights Referendum Reaches Next Step

From Huffington Post:


SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Opponents of a new California law that spells out the rights of transgender students in public schools have cleared the next hurdle in their effort to repeal the law at the ballot box, state elections officials said Wednesday.

A spot check of petitions circulated by backers of a proposed voter referendum on the law showed enough were valid to trigger further review of the signatures needed to qualify the measure for the November ballot, according to figures compiled by the secretary of state.

Projections based on random sampling indicated that the referendum’s backers — a coalition of conservative groups called Privacy for All — obtained 95.6 percent of the 504,760 signatures required to force a public vote on the law passed last year by the California Legislature and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

That was only a few thousand more than they needed to prompt the next step in the qualification process — a full check of all 619,244 signatures submitted, the secretary of state’s office said.

It could take more than a month for that work to be completed. County election officials have until Feb. 24 to review the signatures gathered in their jurisdictions to see if they were obtained from properly registered voters and then to report their findings to the state.

The law that is the subject of the referendum attempt took effect Jan. 1. It guarantees students in grades K-12 the right to use school facilities such as bathrooms and locker rooms and to participate in the sex-segregated activities that correspond with their expressed genders instead of their school records.

Supporters said it was needed to spell out protections that already exist under state anti-discrimination laws but are often overlooked or improperly applied by educators fielding requests from transgender students and their families.

Opponents maintain it violates the privacy of youngsters who may be uncomfortable sharing facilities with classmates of the opposite biological sex.

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The Retirement Crisis Is Upon Us

From Alternet:

Two-thirds of working Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living when they retire. Many will go into poverty.

By Don Hazen
January 7, 2014

Unless we get serious and do something about it now, we are very quickly heading into a massive retirement crisis, not just for the huge, aging Baby Boomer generation, but for generations to come. It has to be fixed, but our leaders are intent on making it worse.

Two-thirds of working Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living when they retire, sending many into poverty or near poverty. And none of it is our fault. Millions of Boomers, Gen Xers and others have not been able to save for the future. Pensions have disappeared. Wages have been flat. Healthcare costs have spiraled. Private plans like 401ks and 403bs haven’t kept up. There have been recessions, waves of high inflation and unemployment.

So, Social Security and other benefits have to be fixed and expanded. The frustrating part is that it is all easily fixable. But the political establishment from Barack Obama to the billionaire propagandist Pete Peterson to the Washington Post editorial page, are hard at work making it worse, by wanting to shrink benefits, not expand them.

To sum up the problem and the solution, here are nine key facts about the crisis to keep in mind:

  • Americans over age 65 are  projected to increase from 14 percent of the current population to about 21 percent of the population by 2035.
  • The Social Security Trust Fund had a  surplus of $2.54 trillion at the end of 2011, and is projected to be  solvent until 2033.
  • Though most people don’t know it, Congress has cut Social Security payments by 24 percent  since 1983, via delayed cost-of-living increases and higher taxes.

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Friday Night Fun and Culture: Dave Van Ronk

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No, really: It’s over for Christie in 2016

From Salon:

The bridge scandal lets national media dredge up every instance of pettiness, rage and payback. There are plenty

Friday, Jan 10, 2014

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow floated an intriguing counter-theory Thursday night for why Gov. Chris Christie’s top aides closed four lanes to the George Washington Bridge to strangle Fort Lee in traffic in September 2013. She had to go back to August 2013, when Christie exploded in a paroxysm of pettiness in an ongoing clash with state senate Democrats about his Supreme Court picks. In one of his trademark press tantrums, he refused to reappoint a Republican judge because she would face tough sledding in the Senate, snarling at Senate Democrats, led by Fort Lee Sen. Loretta Weinberg, as “animals.”

That was the evening of Aug. 12. The morning of Aug. 13, Bridget Anne Kelly sent the eight-word torpedo that would take out Fort Lee’s main artery to the bridge (and her career): “Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee.” Bridge official and Christie ally David Wildstein answered “Got it,” as though the concept of “traffic problems in Fort Lee” were as familiar to him as the need for more snow plows or EZPass lanes. Maddow suggested that the real trigger for the punishment was not Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich’s failure to endorse Christie’s re-election, but the Fort Lee’s state senator’s ongoing feud with Christie, which had exploded the night before. He once told reporters to “take a bat” to the 78-year-old grandmother (figuratively, of course), and the Supreme Court battle sent Christie to a new level of rage.

Maddow’s theory is fascinating, though it isn’t airtight. There’s no mention of Weinberg in the 22 pages of email released — although hundreds more remain to be examined — and it doesn’t explain why Kelly, Wildstein and Christie campaign manager Bill Stepian were so focused on insults to Sokolich, slurred as “the little Serbian” and “an idiot” in their correspondence. Still, it ought to send reporters down a new trail, if they weren’t there already.

Watching it in real time Thursday night, I was struck by the story behind Maddow’s story: the ugly tale of Christie’s state Supreme Court bullying, which began when he refused to re-appoint the court’s only African American judge, John Wallace Jr., the first time any governor had used that power in the 63 years since it was established. It made clear to me the radioactive toxicity of the bridge scandal for Christie, even if no evidence emerges to tie him directly to the Fort Lee revenge plot: it forces local and national reporters to revisit every instance of Christie’s pettiness, wrath and payback. And there are many.

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