Friday Night Fun and Culture: Lorraine Feather

As you may well be aware I let this Blog slide during the last few years of the Obama Presidency.  Times were good, we got married and our energies were directed elsewhere.

Before I slacked off I made a point of posting music from artists I like on Friday nights. Mostly somewhat obscure artists, who I wanted to share with my readers in hopes of turning others on to them.

One day a couple of months back we were going to a show over at the Kimbell over in Fort Worth (Monet: The Early Years)  Along with a show by one of my favorite impressionist artists we  were turned on to the music of Lorraine Feather by KNTU, our local North Texas Jazz Station.  We heard her very catch song “Get a Room”

Lorraine Feather

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Texas: ‘Religious refusal’ one step closer to passing the Senate

From The Dallas Voice:

Tammye Nash
11 Apr 2017

The Texas Senate, which has already approved Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s ridiculous and discriminatory bathroom bill — SB 6 — today (Tuesday April 11) approved, on second reading, SB 522, which would allow Texas county clerks and other public officials and employees the right not to issue a marriage license or conduct, as part of their official civil responsibilities, a marriage ceremony to which they have religious objections.

The bill, introduced by Granbury Republican Brian Birdwell, still must pass the Senate on third reading before being sent to the House.

While the bill was obviously intended to let right-wing county clerks and other right-wing public officials defy the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling on marriage equality, as the Texas Freedom Network pointed out last month, the measure “would allow public officials to discriminate against virtually anyone.”

Today, TFN President Kathy Miller issued this statement after the Senate vote:

“The Senate under Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick’s leadership has clearly become the center of intolerance and discrimination in Texas government. … [The Senate] today said it has no problem with public officials picking and choosing which taxpayers they will serve. This bill opens the door to taxpayer-funded discrimination against virtually anyone who doesn’t meet a public official’s personal moral standards. That means same-sex couples, divorced people, women who have children outside of marriage and many others could be treated like second-class citizens by the very people whose salaries they pay with their tax dollars. That’s discrimination, not religious freedom.”

Miller noted there are 17 so-called “religious refusal” bills that have been filed in this legislative session.

Chuck Smith, CEO of Equality Texas, issued this statement:

“Religious liberty is an organizing principle of American democracy and the birthright of every Texan. Our constitution and state laws already protect that right. Redefining religious liberty will allow people to take advantage and claim that their religion gives them the right to ignore existing laws or not perform the duties of their job. SB 522 promotes taxpayer-funded discrimination and would allow for unequal treatment under the law. In the end, this is not about religious liberty; it’s about discrimination. A clerk or government official should not be exempted from their duties simply because they do not share another person’s religious belief.”

Today’s vote was 21-10. I haven’t found a breakdown yet telling who voted how, but at least one Democrat voted for the bill.

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New Canadian Law Bans Mandatory High Heels At Work

Good.  Requiring women to wear high heels at work should be criminalized.

From Huffington Post:

Talk about putting their best foot forward.

By Jamie Feldman

Great news for people who need another reason to move to Canada. The province of British Columbia just passed a law banning mandatory high heels in the workplace.

British Columbia’s government announced Friday that it has deemed requirement of high heels unsafe based on the risk of injuries, as well as the damage that comes from prolonged wear.

“This change will let employers know that the most critical part of an employee’s footwear is that it is safe,” Shirley Bond, minister of jobs, tourism and skills training and minister responsible for labour, said in a release. The regulation “ensures that workplace footwear is of a design, construction and material that allows the worker to safely perform their work and ensures that employers cannot require footwear contrary to this standard.”

Under the new regulation, employers must consider specific safety factors when choosing mandatory footwear codes — factors such as uneven terrain, ankle protection and foot support, and tripping hazards. But besides protecting employees from health risks, the release also notes that British Columbia’s Human Rights Code already protects against gender-based discrimination, which can include enforcing a dress code based on gender.

The news comes nearly a year after a photo of a Canadian woman’s bloody feet and accompanying story went viral. The woman was allegedly “berated” for changing into flats at her restaurant job, despite the fact that the heels she had been required to wear were making her feet bleed and causing one of her toenails to fall off. At the time, the restaurant in question told The Huffington Post its policy surrounding dress code had recently changed, making flats an acceptable option and nixing its requirement that heels be over 2.5 inches.

Dress code regulation has come under scrutiny in other places around the world, too. In May 2016, a U.K.-based woman who was working as a receptionist was sent home for not wearing heels. The experience prompted her to start a petition that garnered over 150,000 signatures and was brought to Parliament.

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‘Death by a thousand cuts’: LGBT rights fading under Trump, advocates say

From The Guardian UK:

Activists reject Trump’s claims to be a supporter as they point to overturned protections and a dropped US census plan to count LGBT Americans in 2020

in Washington
Thursday 30 March 2017

Gay rights advocates are sounding the alarm over what they say is a quiet campaign being waged by Donald Trump’s administration to chip away at hard-fought protections for LGBT Americans.

While the White House has insisted Trump is a vocal supporter of the LGBT community, breaking from previous Republican presidents, advocacy groups were left questioning that commitment following a series of recent actions dubbed by one gay rights lawyer as “death by a thousand cuts”.

The latest missive arrived on Wednesday, when the US Census Bureau said a proposal to count LGBT Americans in its 2020 report and annual survey had been a mistake. The agency said it had “inadvertently listed sexual orientation and gender identity as a proposed topic”. Last week, the Trump administration deleted questions on sexual orientation from at least two other government surveys.

Chad Griffin, the president of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said the move was a deliberate effort by the Trump administration “to erase LGBTQ people from federal data used to inform budgets and policies across the government”.

“Their intent is clear,” Griffin said in a statement. “By denying we exist, the Trump administration hopes to deny us equality. It won’t work.”

The HRC said it had submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to the Department of Commerce in response to find out who directed the change at the Census Bureau and why.

Separately, Trump signed into law on Monday a bill overturning a Barack Obama executive order that required companies seeking contracts with the federal government to show compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws.

Obama’s so-called “Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces” order sought to shield workers from violations of a range of labor and safety laws, not just those affecting LGBT individuals. But it was rolled out in tandem with another Obama-era executive action that barred discrimination against federal workers specifically on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sharon McGowan, the director of strategy at Lambda Legal, the country’s oldest and largest LGBT legal organization, said the Trump administration was sending a signal that non-discrimination was not at the forefront of its approach.

“They are going to try and chip and erode away the rights we’ve seen over the last few years, but in these back-channel ways that may not be as obvious,” she said.

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David Peel, Downtown Singer and Marijuana Evangelist, Dies at 74

I met David in the Haight Ashbury during the dark year of 1968.  He was sort of the Abbie Hoffman of marijuana advocacy.  Out on the corner thumping a way on a beat up guitar singing in praise of pot.

From The New York Times:

David Peel, a longtime New York street musician whose song “I Like Marijuana” became a hippie anthem in the 1960s, and who collaborated with John Lennon and Yoko Ono in the early ’70s, died on Thursday in Manhattan. He was 74.

The cause was complications of a heart attack, said Joff Wilson, a friend who performed with Mr. Peel’s band, the Lower East Side.

Mr. Peel, an anarchist and marijuana evangelist, began performing in Washington Square Park in the late 1960s. He was equipped with three guitar chords, a screaming vocal style and an endless stream of punchy, provocative lyrics aimed at the Establishment in all its forms.

Danny Fields of Elektra Records, who later signed the Stooges and the Ramones, heard Mr. Peel and signed him to the label. Mr. Peel was recorded live in the park with a portable tape machine, singing “I Like Marijuana,” “Here Comes a Cop,” “Up Against the Wall” and other songs released in 1968 on the album “Have a Marijuana.”

“I Like Marijuana,” with its happy, insistent refrain — “I like marijuana, you like marijuana, we like marijuana too” — became his signature.

In 1971, Lennon and Ms. Ono stepped out of their limousine at the park, joined the audience being entertained by Mr. Peel and began singing along and clapping. Lennon signed Mr. Peel to Apple Records, the Beatles’ label, and produced his album “The Pope Smokes Dope.” Released in 1972, the record “might well be the first truly essential American album of the 1970s,” the music magazine Goldmine wrote in 2000.

“We loved his music, his spirit and his philosophy of the street,” Lennon said on “The David Frost Show” in 1971, performing with Mr. Peel and Ms. Ono. “That’s why we decided to make a record with him. People say, ‘Oh, Peel, he can’t sing and he can’t play.’ But David Peel is a natural, and some of his melodies are good.”

Mr. Peel soon went his own way. He started a label, Orange Records, and continued to play on the streets, assuming mythic status as the years went by and the counterculture faded from memory — although not from his. When the Occupy Wall Street movement arose in 2011, he turned up at the encampment in Zuccotti Park, guitar in hand and ready to play.

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Hate crime law results? Few convictions and lots of disappointment

From Salon:

The tiny number of successful prosecutions leave lawmakers questioning state’s commitment to punishing hate

, ProPublica
Wednesday, Apr 12, 2017

Lance Reyna was assaulted in a school bathroom in 2010. Reyna — who is transgender and gay — was a student at Houston Community College when an attacker held a knife to his throat, called him a ‘queer’ in a falsetto voice, then kicked and beat him and left him on the bathroom floor.

In Austin the following year, it didn’t take long for Akbar Amin-Akbari to sense that the man who climbed into his cab shortly after midnight was drunk and angry. But Amin-Akbari drove on, and minutes later, with the cab going 65 mph on I-35, the man suddenly grabbed him by the hair, yanking out a fistful and violently pulling his head toward the backseat. “I’m a white boy. I’m going to kill you sand nigger,” the passenger yelled.

More recently, John Gaspari was walking home from a bar in Houston at around 3 a.m. on Valentine’s Day 2015. He was three blocks from home when a car suddenly swerved onto the sidewalk, trying to run him over. Three men jumped out of the car and shouted, “Get the fag!” They tackled, punched and kicked Gaspari. Then one of them pumped two bullets into him and left him unconscious on the side of the road.

Each of the incidents were recorded by Texas police as potential hate crimes. Since 2001, Texas has had the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act on the books, named after a black man who’d been killed by white supremacists in 1998. The law allows prosecutors to attach what’s known as a sentencing enhancement to alleged hate crime cases, adding time behind bars if authorities prove the perpetrator intentionally acted out of bias toward the victim’s perceived race, color, disability, religion, national origin or ancestry, age, gender or sexual preference.

The bill’s sponsor, then-state Sen. Rodney Ellis, declared at the time that Texas had “sent a message that our state is not a safe haven for hate.”

But neither Reyna’s assault, nor Amin-Akbari’s beating nor Gaspari’s shooting were successfully prosecuted as hate crimes. Indeed, a ProPublica analysis shows that such cases in Texas almost never are.

From 2010 through 2015, there were 981 cases reported to police in Texas as potential hate crimes. ProPublica examined the records kept by the Texas Judicial Branch and confirmed just five hate crime convictions. In the course of reviewing dozens of other individual case files for potential convictions, we found another three. How many additional cases were missed by the state agency is unclear.

To be sure, the 981 cases varied widely, as did the reasons for their outcomes comprise a wide variety of reports. Interviews with law enforcement make clear that some number of the reports wind up dismissed because of too little evidence — or evidence that suggests that the alleged crimes didn’t happen at all. Another considerable number are cases that fail to produce an arrest and thus go unsolved. But while ProPublica could not comprehensively break down the universe of 981 cases — the two separate state agencies that track incident reports and convictions do not track what happens in between — there is widespread agreement among prosecutors, legislators and others in Texas about why there have been so few successful convictions under the hate crime statute:

  • It is extremely hard for prosecutors to prove the intent of the accused.
  • Individual prosecutors either lack the will to pursue the enhancement or make the calculation that it’s more advantageous to seek significant sentences but without the hate crime allegation.
  • Police officials often do not have the training to help build successful hate crime cases.
  • In some very violent cases that carry the most severe sentences — murder or rape, for instance — prosecutors opt to drop the hate element because there is no additional punishment available.

In Reyna’s case, his attacker was convicted of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon, but the hate crime element was dropped during prosecution.

In Austin, prosecutors asked a grand jury to indict Amin-Akbari’s assailant on hate crime charges, but it declined. The attacker’s trial on aggravated assault charges ended with a hung jury.

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