Level-headed moderation needed now in The Birthplace of America

Philadelphia is a great place to live. It has so much, so close-by: history, museums, sports. It’s walkable, livable, has green space. No, it didn’t get Amazon’s HQ2 and yes, it’s often overshadowed by New York and Washington. Too bad it has people in charge who don’t care about serving the public.

This goes along well with what I’ve recently written about liberalism turning so far left, it’s often becoming extremism. (See here, here, here and here.) Of course, Philadelphia is more to the left than the nation as a whole. Let’s see how much.mazzoni center logo

Here is the deal:

Mazzoni Center is the oldest AIDS-service organization in Pennsylvania, and has been “providing innovative and compassionate care and services for people living with HIV since 1981.” That’s according to director of communications Larry Benjamin in a recent column in the newspaper, Philadelphia Gay News (PGN), which is the main source of news for Philadelphia’s LGBTQI+ community.

For decades, Mazzoni’s CEO was Nurit Shein, an Israeli woman no longer mentioned on the center’s history page but who undoubtably oversaw the “steady and continued growth” listed on that page:

  • The first HIV testing site in Pennsylvania in 1985.
  • The first sponsored housing for individuals living with HIV in 1986.
  • Opening the region’s first HIV-related food bank in 1989.
  • Opening its primary care medical practice, which has since become a cornerstone of the organization’s services, in 2003.
  • “Today, with more than 35,000 individuals benefiting annually from its services, Mazzoni Center is a leader among community-based organizations in the greater Philadelphia area.”

According to PGN,

“The center has 35,000 clients and an annual budget of $16.5 million, $6 million of which is comprised of federal grants. The balance comes from revenue generated through the health center and private-development funding.”

In other words, the nonprofit gets government money and asks for donations, since it can’t come close to surviving by simply charging its clients or patients fees. This affects all of us.

For example, in Sept. 2010, Mazzoni reported,

“Thanks to a newly created HIV-prevention funding opportunity from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Mazzoni Center will receive $337,248 annually over the next five years to help continue three of our key intervention projects: HIV counseling, testing and referral services for MSM of color, for which we collaborate with GALAEI (Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative); comprehensive risk-counseling services for HIV-positive or high-risk men to cut down on the risk of future transmission or infection; and our community-outreach program ‘Get Real.’”

In Nov. 2016, it reported,

“Mazzoni Center is pleased to announce it has received an award of $1.5 million through the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP). The funds are designated to support the purchase and renovation of a Center City building at Broad and Bainbridge Streets, where the agency will relocate and consolidate its core programs and services in summer 2017. …

“The grant demonstrates the growing commitment and collaboration between the State of Pennsylvania and the LGBTQ community,”

and both of these examples of public funding happened, like so much else, under CEO Shein.

But despite so many successes over a generation, not all has been going well at Mazzoni for the past few years.

According to PGN’s Nov. 15 article “Another Mazzoni CEO out — What’s next?”

“Last year, Mazzoni Center was plagued by published reports of systemic racism, mismanagement and dysfunction. In April 2017, Robert Winn resigned as medical director amid charges of sexual misconduct. CEO Nurit Shein was asked by the board of directors to resign later that month, following accusations of delayed action on Winn’s alleged misconduct.”

Then,

“Stephen Glassman stepped in to fill the interim CEO job in July 2017. During his tenure until March, he hired consultants with far-right ties to discourage employees from unionizing, which sparked another controversy. Last September, Mazzoni Center employees nevertheless voted 51-34 to unionize.”

Then, the board of directors hired an executive-search firm which spent five months conducting a nationwide search for the right leader.

Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino was hired as Mazzoni’s third CEO in less than two years – moving up here from Florida – but she recently resigned after just seven months. It wasn’t due to the heat, weather-wise. The former Floridian was probably used to our mostly warm weather during her short tenure.

No. PGN reported the trouble started right away because Gonzalez Sciarrino is a straight woman! Yes! You read correctly. These are the details you’ll probably find disturbing:

“At the time her hiring was announced in March, she was attacked on social media by Mazzoni Center employees and others demanding her resignation, at least partly due to her non-LGBT status.

“The Black and Brown Workers Cooperative (BBWC), who say they represent nearly 400 workers in Philadelphia, told PGN in a statement in early April, just days after Gonzalez Sciarrino took over as CEO: ‘The days of people who are not from our communities coming in to take up a considerable amount of power in our communities is over,’ said BBWC cofounder Shani Akilah. ‘A white, straight cis woman is not fit to lead Mazzoni, no matter how much experience she claims to have,’ said Akilah. ‘The one thing she does not have and will never be able to have is lived experience.’”

Can you believe that?

Such an outrageous statement about an accomplished woman who the board of directors chose to lead their troubled agency after a long search!

Talk about discrimination, and it happened this year – not just in America, but in The Birthplace of America!

Besides, who gets to pick their boss?

Click here for more of the article including why Gonzalez Sciarrino had to stop driving and start walking to work, always changing her route.

For now, three people will lead.

And days after Gonzalez Sciarrino’s resignation, PGN reported Mazzoni Center fired its Senior Health and Sexuality Educator for violating its harassment policy. According to the paper,

sloan

“The move follows a series of social-media postings on Sloan’s personal Facebook page since the announcement of CEO Lydia Gonzalez-Sciarrino’s resignation earlier this week. In one public post on Monday, Sloan wrote: ‘This is what happens when you cross me. HAPPY MONDAY BITCHES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! #WEWILLNOTLGBTQUIET’ over a shared article of PGN’s coverage of the CEO’s resignation.

congratulations

“A commenter questioned whether Sloan should be congratulated, to which she replied: ‘Congratulations is absolutely the word. THANK YOU … IM [sic] SO HAPPYYYY.’

will not be quiet

“In another, Sloan shared a second article written about Gonzalez Sciarrino resigning with the hashtags ‘WeWillNotLGBTQuiet’ and ‘#Bih,’ internet slang for bitch.’

“As she left the building on Thursday, witnesses told PGN Sloan shouted out: ‘I got fired by y’all — tell your friends.’

raise hell

“Shortly thereafter, she wrote on her Facebook page, ‘They went and fired me for no reason get ready to raise hell everybody.’”

Makes me wonder what kind of people work at Mazzoni!

A PGN editorial, “Social media and public officials,” said,

“Amber Hikes, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, had opinions on the resignation of its executive director, Lydia Gonzalez Sciarrino, and posted those opinions on social media.

“When we called her for a clarification and asked whether she was representing her own views or the views in her capacity as a representative for the mayor, she stated: ‘This is a trip. It’s weird that it’s a slow day at PGN, especially with everything going on, but I’ll give you a quote to explain what’s going on.’”

That PGN editorial concluded, “The issue boils down to whether a non-LGBT person can run an organization that serves primarily LGBT people,” and the newspaper has spoken out against discrimination like that before.

In this particular case, it wondered based on Hikes’ social media posts, “Is her view personal or administration policy?”

That’s the question I – as a Philadelphia citizen – wanted answered. I even asked about public officials using their own social media accounts while supposedly working for the public, developing policy for the mayor.

Remember the name Amber Hikes, because this post is mostly about her. Shortly, you’ll read the Facebook faceoff we engaged in, and the letter she asked me to send – containing a bunch of questions – she never bothered to answer. You’ll also see several of her tweets containing profanities, and how her support of certain people – and disregard of others – are a prime example of the left gone too far.

PGN reported in March, 2017, Mayor Jim Kenney appointed her executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs.

mazzoni on hikes job
I’ll bet Mazzoni Center management changed its tune on Hikes not long after the mayor hired her!

Therefore, she works for the city but you’ll find no brotherly love coming from her (except for her boss, the mayor) and little sisterly affection.

Hikes had lived in Philadelphia for more than a decade but moved to California more than a year before her appointment at City Hall. That’s when she told PGN,

“‘When I arrived in Philadelphia about 11 years ago, I was a young, black queer woman seeking people who looked like me who loved like me and frankly, the next decade of my life, [I was] just living, studying, working and trying to build that community that I was seeking,’ Hikes said. ‘I noticed these multiple identities that were reflected in the intersections of so many of our underserved citizens.’”

And apparently those are the only people Hikes cares about.

For example, on Aug. 20, Gonzalez Sciarrino fired Kay Martinez, who was Mazzoni Center’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion. That caused an estimated 50 people to walk out to protest the firing. Among those protesters was no other than Amber Hikes, the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs. I’ll get into the contradiction shortly.

According to a written statement from the Mazzoni Center that PGN published Aug. 30,

“‘The reason for Kay Martinez’s termination was disagreement with the Mazzoni Center management team that resulted in unprofessional conduct that was inconsistent for someone in their role,’ according to Mazzoni’s written statement. ‘We believe the facts, when communicated in the appropriate forum, will be obvious proof that we could not continue the employment of Martinez, a high-level director.’”

In the same article, PGN reported Martinez “filed a complaint with the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations and publicly accused Mazzoni Center of wrongful termination, retaliation and discrimination,” and accused Gonzalez-Sciarrino of lacking “LGBTQ and trans competency.”

“Gonzalez-Sciarrino took on an ally role once she became the leader of an LGBTQ organization. There needs to be a demonstration of a high level of LGBTQ competency, no matter who it is,” said Martinez. “I’m not saying this heterosexual, cisgendered Latina person has no business being there — it’s about her level of LGBTQ competency. I had to educate the CEO on what my pronouns were and how to properly use the they/them pronouns, and that displayed a very significant trans incompetency.”

I wasn’t there, don’t know what really happened and have not heard about a resolution. Besides, most of us use he/him pronouns for someone who looks male, and she/her for someone who looks female. With so much diversity in the LGBTQI+ community, how could someone look at someone else and automatically know which pronouns they prefer? Even Harry Houdini wouldn’t be able to get out of that one!

But we know Hikes walked out over the firing.

PGN’s editorial stated,

“She (Hikes) injected herself into this latest firestorm (Gonzalez Sciarrino’s resignation), as she has with others on social media.”

So the executive director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs has had problems on social media before.

The editorial ended,

“Right before presstime, Hikes did clarify that the statements are ‘on my personal Facebook so yes, I’m speaking personally.’”

Of course, I got interested and looked at her Facebook page. That was last Tuesday, Nov. 20. This is what I found:

ashley love

So at least one of her Facebook friends, apparently not from Philadelphia, was very interested in Gonzalez Sciarrino’s three replacements, and wanted to make sure at least one was of what she considered the proper race, and trans, rather than cis.

Remember, the Mazzoni Center survives on public, taxpayer money – plus the generosity of some individual members of the public. Tens of thousands of people’s health, and other people’s jobs, depend on the place running smoothly. Otherwise, it’s a waste of money and a huge shame after so many people worked for so long, so Mazzoni could offer groundbreaking programs.

See that Facebook friend’s response before my question, which I decided should be about a large group of individuals never once mentioned in the resignation matter: men!

Amber Hikes

You can see I was attacked and also who her Facebook friends are by the number of thumbs-up quickly praising her for acting strong and attacking me. (Who your friends are tells a lot about you.) But I thought this public servant was out of line and didn’t give up, explaining myself further, using her tone against her, and then mentioning the mayor.

all lives matter

My letter makes a good point about her sentence starting with “Yes my boss.” So before going to bed, she made a more disgraceful assumptions and remarks, but invited me to send an email to her office, which I did.

(It appears since then, Hikes made her personal Facebook account private, and after that shut it down. Good move for somebody who was documented as having injected herself into multiple firestorms on social media!)

I spent the next morning crafting this exact letter to Hikes, emailed it midday, and cc’ed Mayor Kenney, whom Hikes spoke for and answers to:

email header 1

Hi, Ms. Hikes! I’m a citizen of Philadelphia, on and off for 20 years on Thanksgiving (tomorrow, by coincidence).

You’ll no doubt remember last night, I wrote, asking you a question. I had just finishing reading PGN‘s latest article on the saga of the Mazzoni Center, and you said to “Feel free to shoot an email … with your grievances.”

Here it is.

I don’t expect detailed answers to every question I’m putting forth here, but would appreciate general explanations about some of the things you’ve said, and some of the ways I feel.

You were quoted in the front-page article “Another Mazzoni CEO Out — What’s Next?” (Nov. 16 edition, https://www.epgn.com/news/breaking-news/13993-another-mazzoni-ceo-out-what-s-next) as saying:

·       “lived experience” qualifies a leader for an organization that deals with marginalized communities.

·       “I think that personal, lived experience with those communities is essential to be able to serve them appropriately” … “In the same way that I think it is appropriate for a black person to lead Black Lives Matter, it is appropriate for a woman to lead the National Organization of Women, I think it’s appropriate for an LGBT person to lead an LGBTQ center.”

Actually, while proofreading before publishing this post, I realized she must’ve meant the The National Organization for Women, not of Women, and she should know better.

I also just realized the NAACP was formed in 1909 as a bi-racial endeavor – not a black organization – to advance justice for African-Americans.

Seems I know more than Ms. Hikes on some aspects of women and African-Americans! It also disproves her last point. But as you may have imagined, there’s plenty more…

That first statement leads me to wonder what qualifications the leader of an organization that deals with marginalized communities should have? If “lived experience” is a requirement, then are there others? If not, then how does “lived experience” qualify compared to other qualifications? Could it simply be a tie-breaker?

That second statement, dealing with demographics, leads me to wonder, “Do you think it was appropriate for President Obama to lead (what was) a majority white nation?” Also, do you feel that’s OK when it comes to labor laws?

Then, the newspaper’s editorial (https://www.epgn.com/opinion/editorials/14003-social-media-and-public-officials) quoted you when they contacted you as saying, “This is a trip. It’s weird that it’s a slow day at PGN, especially with everything going on, but I’ll give you a quote to explain what’s going on.”

That statement sounds to me like something President Trump would say to the media, not “the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia,” as it says in your biography (https://www.phila.gov/departments/office-of-lgbt-affairs/). Would you mind sharing what else was going on the day PGN contacted you? (I’ll be happy to help clear things up with them by forwarding your answer, if you’d like.)

(I don’t agree with PGN’s opinion 100 percent and don’t think anybody in the world can, since it tries to give opposing points of view and make us think. I would suggest a few changes to the newspaper but will not question its original reporting. As for any agenda, after decades as a reader, I will suggest it’s the betterment of the LGBTQI+ community in every way, in Philadelphia and around the world. I take that to mean equality and peace.)

Your use of personal social media while serving the public made news, and it was also news to me that it had made news before. (Editorial: “She injected herself into this latest firestorm, as she has with others on social media.”) Therefore, I became curious.

Also, you chose to have your Facebook account’s privacy setting open to the public (or did not pay attention) which has apparently led to some news and definitely led me to read, which was my right. This morning, I saw that setting had changed and I’m sure you understand the consequences of libel, should that be the case, considering your response to me last night. You know what’s on the Internet tends to stay there. You should also know I always jealously protect my good name, with legal counsel on hand for a situation exactly two weeks ago (Nov. 7). I’ll ask you to make sure any defamatory reference to me on your Facebook timeline is gone, after you respond to me.

I don’t think you treated my questions, and definitely my point, fairly. I was intrigued when I read this comment to your post on Mazzoni, and the probing answers and replies that followed.

ashley love

When I saw the response that followed, from somebody whose Facebook profile says she is “based in Washington DC and California” rather than any mention of Philadelphia, and considering how you answered her, I decided to ask you about this story making news.

I decided to use gender as the basis of my question, because it had not been brought up, and because PGN reported in its news article, “The three new leaders are Medical Director Dr. Nancy Brisbon, Care Services Director Alicia Manley and Chief Financial Officer Racquel Assaye” – all women.

I even called out my own questions as among the “knit-picking” ones! I wanted to make a point.

Let’s say your response to me was different than above, not so nice, and falsely accusatory.

Amber Hikes

I’ll point out, right off the bat, your response to me was absolutely rude. You tried to make it clear you don’t work for Mazzoni, using emojis between every word. Of course not. You’re “the executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia.”

Then, you used the phrases “is exactly what we need” and “is moving us in that direction.” Does that sound like a politician with an interest in the center, or something more that may cross a line? It definitely makes your relationship sound different than your first sentence (“I don’t work for Mazzoni,” emoji, emoji, emoji).

But you were one of the people who “participated in a walk-out to protest the firing” (according to the PGN article) of Mazzoni Center’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion. How could you walk out if you don’t work there, and how could you protest as a city official? I don’t get it, either way.

If you say you were simply standing by the non-management workers there, please realize I’ve been a member of two unions and shop steward at one. I have absolutely no problems with unions, and in fact encourage workers to unionize. Collective bargaining is probably the only way for them to have a voice in working conditions and we are lucky Pennsylvania has not turned the way of Michigan under previous gubernatorial leadership here.

However, the treatment of the patients is the reason Mazzoni exists, and the reason members of the public donate money to keep it running and more. I completely understand the workers walking out if they were ordered to do something morally wrong or illegal. (I chose to leave one job under similar circumstances.) Otherwise, they were probably putting their jobs and even the treatment of their patients on the line.

You also accused me of being sexist, but that is not true in any way. There are women I turn to as mentors for advice, including whether I could be considered one for something I said, did, or believed. Again, I was simply adding one more facet of humanity to the discussion that had not been mentioned: gender. If instead, I had mentioned religion, age or national origin, would you have accused me of “ageist nonsense” and the like?

I don’t know the three Mazzoni leaders’ religions, ages or national origins, and unlike so many others, I’m not asking. It should really be nobody’s concern (except possibly for government employment forms), unless the people involved choose to share that information. Anything else sounds like a quota system and that’s wrong, whether it’s aiming for a number higher or lower than the current number – especially on employment issues where there may be legal concerns and you represent the city of Philadelphia.

Right now, I’m doing as you suggested and emailing you with the address you gave. If you didn’t notice on top, I’m also taking this moment to make sure you know this email is not private since I’m cc’ing your boss, Mayor Jim Kenney, because you called All Lives Matter (a phrase I never used) “nonsense.”

all lives matter

Thanks, but I don’t need you to put words in my mouth.

Mr. Mayor, Would you agree it’s “nonsense” that All Lives Matter, realizing I never brought up that phrase to Ms. Hikes?

Also, should your appointee be answering a constituent as a “black, queer woman” or as a public servant? If you do think she answered appropriately, then do you answer constituents as a “straight white male of Irish descent?”

Ms. Hikes, considering your statement it’s “nonsense” that All Lives Matter, please put in order the amount that these people’s lives matter (in general, not a specific person, and feel free to add any I may have forgotten, or combine any):

white
black
different race
male
female
different gender
lesbian
gay
bisexual
transgender
queer
questioning
intersex
allies

I don’t know about you but I think there is too much division in this country, and a lot of it comes from people treating their fellow Americans as less than them. But on the other hand, others like the ones you responded to cling to very, very specific classifications – and caused me to write.

Right now, our country is divided over so many personal issues. I think concentrating on very, very specific classifications for a job (or three specific jobs) – three of the four (Black, Latina, trans and woman) written by your Facebook friend in the comment, and brown written by you in your first reply to that person – adds to the divisiveness.

The LGBT community is already a minority of the population. Labeling more and more differences separates us, and makes us a tiny minority of a minority of the population. How many people will qualify if you add in religion, age and national origin (oh, and “lived experience”)?

All people are created in the image of God, and automatically entitled to equal human and civil rights. That should be practiced by everyone including the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia.

Unfortunately, your biography on your city office’s website https://www.phila.gov/departments/office-of-lgbt-affairs/ says you set your “sights on fighting and advocating for the most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community—specifically youth, transgender people, and people of color.” I take that to mean not the LGBT community as in your city office’s title, but only certain subsets. Correct me if I’m wrong.

Then, a few paragraphs later: “Hikes believes in employing an intersectional lens in all aspects of community work.” Does that mean filtering people and deciding how worthy they are of the city’s help, using the words from your Facebook post above?

Office of LGBT Affairs

Remember, the top of the page which sounds like a job description reads, “City of Philadelphia Office of LGBT Affairs: Serving the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia through advocacy and inclusion.” I take that to mean the city’s goal for the office. “The LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia,” from the city, sounds quite different than your quote, “most vulnerable populations within the LGBTQ community.” Again, correct me if I’m wrong with this distinction.

And does the city’s use of the word “inclusion” regarding the office you lead refer to all elements of the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia or just the ones mentioned in your biography?

You know none of us chose the circumstances in which we were born, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” I spent years teaching that quote to elementary schoolchildren. I think that concise quote best describes what all of us should want for the future of the world, and these days can go beyond “the color of their skin.”

We, collectively, have vastly different experiences. Much of it is due, as I said, to the fact none of us chose the circumstances in which we were born. But then to read what you wrote last night, “that we need to see more black and brown trans women in leadership in our organizations,” has me questioning your devotion to all members of the LGBTQI+ community in your role as “executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia … serving the LGBTQ residents of Philadelphia through advocacy and inclusion.”

As a city resident, homeowner, and taxpayer – as well as member of the LGBTQI+ community – I want to know how you represent me.

Am I wrong for asking?

Also, do you feel the demographic issue taking such a major role in the Mazzoni saga is turning moderates such as myself to the right, which would probably be the last thing you want politically?

Thank you in advance for your more thoughtful answers this time around.

Lenny Cohen
Philadelphia

I hope you thought the letter was well-written, informative and asked good questions. I don’t know whether Mayor Jim Kenney or his hand-picked executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs for the City of Philadelphia, Amber Hikes, feel that way.

Neither of them bothered to respond!

That’s ironic since when Hikes was hired, PGN reported a city spokesperson had said,

“There was a very vocal need for someone to be more outward-facing and more community-engagement-based.”

So Tuesday, I forwarded them this second email:

email header 2

Ms. Hikes and Mr. Mayor,

Tomorrow will be one week since I wrote to both of you and I have not received any sort of answer, much less acknowledgement, to my questions and concerns from either of you.

Public servants need to be available to be effective, kind of like journalists. I’ve been one of those for a couple of decades.

Furthermore, I’m wondering if I’m the first person to ask you these questions because if not, then you could’ve probably given me canned answers you’ve already given others.

I plan to blog on this disgrace (at least so far) so thousands around the world know what I consider the craziness and favoritism that goes on in Philadelphia, and how my inquiry has been ignored (so far). It’s all unfortunate.

I’ll include your entire, unedited answers in my post tomorrow, especially from Ms. Hikes, who had time to immediately respond to her personal-but-public (but last I checked, private) Facebook account at odd hours last Tuesday, Nov. 20. I’ll also include my letter.

Please inform me. That shouldn’t be too hard for decision-makers with your titles and powers in such a big city, right? Even Gmail “nudged” me to follow-up, as if I needed to be reminded.

Gmail nudge

Lenny Cohen
Philadelphia citizen and taxpayer

I’m ashamed of the politics that goes on in this great city and sometimes ask myself why I don’t move just over the line, where there is no city wage tax that takes more money from paychecks than the state’s income tax does. Productive people don’t seem to be valued.

As for the Mazzoni Center, its volunteer board of directors is about to become a whole lot different. Five of the 17 will resign. According to PGN, the reason is lack of enough diversity among a board with this membership: “Five are women, six are people of color and eight are white men.”

Board president Chris Pope told the paper,

“Many of our legacy board members have served for 13 years, and now it’s time to make space for new faces, new voices and new perspectives. Diversifying our board has been a major focus for some time now and we are looking for prospective candidates that will bring a fresh outlook as we move the organization forward.”

We’ve been through Facebook. Yesterday, I wondered if Ms. Hikes had a Twitter account, and boy does she!

I hate to say it, but notice the vulgarities from this public servant on this forum. I haven’t published anything like this since my post on the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings.

These were all her personal tweets. None of them were retweeted from somebody else. I’m going in chronological order, starting just over a year ago, and any underlining in red is mine. I chose words I think she should not have used, or used in the way she did. It’s unbecoming for someone in her role. At least I think so.

kenney kicking ass

gloria residences damn

pgn person of year
Hikes was actually PGN’s “Person of the Year” for last year! I hope the paper reviewed its reasoning. I think the “Creep of the Week” column it features in every issue would be more fitting now.
who is left after so many eliminations
Divisive: Is anybody left when you leave out men, white, cis, able-bodied, documented, straight, and economically-privileged? Read into that last category as you want.

old flag iconic symbol

The rainbow flag colors “reflect the diversity of the LGBT community.” That means it’s an abstraction of everybody, and just a skin deep representation because nobody in real life actually looks like any of the colors. It represented ‘pride’ in Philadelphia until June 2017, when Hikes

“officially added black and brown stripes atop the city’s pride flag — making Philadelphia the first city to do so — to recognize people of color who had long felt excluded. … Hikes views the new flag as a way to start conversations about race and identity, particularly with white people who have not experienced the same disparate treatment as people of color — and may be reluctant to believe it exists.”

Talk about pettiness and simple-minded people separating themselves from others when they’re supposed to be coming together, uniting as one!

rainbow with extras

The Philly.com article goes on to say,

“Some people suggested there should be a white stripe, and the New York Post declared that the flag had divided Philadelphia’s gay community.”

And speaking of coming together, uniting as one: Months earlier, in Jan. 2017, the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations

“found widespread reports of racial tension and discrimination in the neighborhood (the Gayborhood), which often touts its inclusivity. … The report noted that dress codes, ID policies, bar service and treatment of staff can vary depending on the patron or employee, which perpetuates discrimination.”

Because of that, it forced 11 bars and two nonprofits – the Mazzoni Center and Philadelphia FIGHT – to take part in fair business practice training within 90 days and implicit bias training within 120 days. Did places frequented mostly by straight people face the same requirements? Do you think those establishments, including neighboring ones, are any better?

The Rev. W. Wilson Goode Sr., a black former mayor of Philadelphia who sits on the board of FIGHT, told Philly.com,

“He was shocked to see the organization named in the report. He said he was skeptical about the thoroughness of the vetting process.

“‘Philadelphia FIGHT is probably one of the most diverse organizations in the city,’ Goode said. He called the organization’s CEO, Jane Shull, a champion of equality in the workplace. ‘I do not believe anyone could write that who investigated, who read the personnel plan, who knew what they were talking about.’”

pence hell

trans flag damn

curse at trans event
Cover the top and just show your kids the colorful pictures. Somebody may have forgotten more and more members of the LGBTQI+ community are becoming parents.
tweet on phila lawyer
So high on herself! Can you find Hikes on the cover? Wonder why she doesn’t show herself gracing the cover in her tweet? #exaggeration
phila lawyer cover
https://www.philadelphiabar.org/page/ThePhiladelphiaLawyer

politics after election

So citizens of Philadelphia: Do you think there is any more to this woman than vulgarity, divisiveness and unresponsiveness? Is this appropriate from one of our city leaders? Should Hikes be sent her walking papers?

contact info

This is the contact information for both Ms. Hikes and Mayor Kenney, taken from their pages on the city’s website. Please take a few moments to share your feelings with them (and maybe get a response!), but also the city council member for your district, and don’t forget all seven council members at-large, at the bottom of the webpage.

(Click here if you don’t know who your district’s city council member is. You’ll see a map, where you can type in your address, and their name will come up.)

In Feb. 2017, the city started a Commission on LGBT Affairs, calling it

“a 23-member body that will advise the Mayor on policies that support the lives of LGBT individuals in the city and support and amplify the work of the Office of LGBT Affairs. … The members reflect the diversity of the LGBT community, which includes transgender, gay, lesbian, bisexual, and queer communities, as well as diversity in ethnicity, religion, race, gender, disability, profession, citizenship status, socioeconomic status, geography, housing status and age.”

Hikes, still the newly-appointed LGBT Affairs executive director back then, said,

“I look forward to serving with this vibrant team as we address the needs of our community and elevate the voices of our most underserved community members.”

But Sharron Cooks, the chair of the newly created commission – and also the first transgender person ever to chair a city commission, according to Philadelphia Magazine – was voted out in May, after just six weeks.

The magazine reported,

G Philly was sent documentation from the meeting that raised concerns surrounding Cooks’s social media interactions with members of one of the commission’s committees.

“‘The emergency meeting was basically centered around complaints that Commissioner Amanda Dougherty made about Sharron targeting her in various social media posts she made this past weekend,’ said a commissioner present during the meeting who asked not to be named. ‘Dougherty provided the commission with multiple screenshots of Facebook posts where Sharron indirectly called her out for being a white bisexual woman taking up space in the community affairs committee.’”

Sounds too much like Amber Hikes with social media. And President Trump.

Like the signing of the Declaration of Independence, there has to be another revolutionary change in leaders here in Philadelphia. Click here for directions on registering to vote.

If you like what you read here, subscribe with either your email address or WordPress account, and get a notice whenever I publish. Don’t rely on social media with its hacking issues and censoring like thisthis and this. I’m also available for writing/web contract work. LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lennycohen

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Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, justice and becoming a Justice

President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh will be giving the Senate Judiciary Committee calendars from 1982 to back up his continued denial of sexually assaulting Christine Blasey Ford. That’s according to The New York Times, late Sunday afternoon.

The year 1982 was 36 years ago. Do you have your calendar from back then? Heck, were you even alive back then? (I was and I remember, but my calendar situation was mainly my parents’ responsibility at that time.) At least Judge Kavanaugh can’t say his was accidentally deleted from wherever we keep our calendars, these days. On the other hand, looks like we’ll be keeping our calendars forever!

two men holding pen and calendar sitting beside table
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

I explained in a lawsuit about 17-18 years ago (half the time since 1982?!) – when I mentioned plans and the other side immediately asked for my calendar – they’re good for some things and not for others. Calendars will tell what your plans were when you wrote (or saved) them. They were your intentions. Calendars won’t tell whether you actually followed through with the plans or changed them. Maybe you got sick.

(“So as I told you, despite what my old calendar said, no, I didn’t go to a movie with my friend Harry, that night!”)

Judge Brett Kavanaugh
Judge Brett Kavanaugh

Anyway, the calendar is supposed to help with Judge Kavanaugh’s denial, at least to some degree.

Let’s see. He was born in 1965. (Damn! All these “old” people’s birth years are getting closer and closer to mine!)

Dr. Blasey Ford is expected to testify in an open hearing in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday. Click here for details on the conditions requested and what to expect, at least at this point. Just don’t swear by it under oath, since things are changing.

Kavanaugh graduated from Yale Law School in 1990 and clerked for some other federal judges. He actually interviewed for a clerkship with then-Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist, but was denied. Instead, he clerked for Justice Anthony Kennedy, whose retirement led to Kavanaugh’s nomination to replace him.

Justice Neil Gorsuch
Justice Neil Gorsuch

During that clerkship, he worked alongside Neil Gorsuch (born 1967!). He and now-Justice Gorsuch attended the same prep school! Small world.

SIDEBAR: Remember, Justice Gorsuch’s nomination came after President Barack Obama nominated Merrick Garland, who remains Chief Judge of the Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit, where Kavanaugh has been a Circuit Judge since 2006! Again, small world.

But the Republican-controlled Senate never took up Judge Garland’s nomination.

BACK TO THE STORY: You’ll remember, President Donald Trump nominated Gorsuch to succeed the late Antonin Scalia. He was 49 and the youngest (successful) nominee to the Supreme Court since none other than Clarence Thomas! Justice Thomas was 43, back in 1991. You may remember, his nomination proceedings to replace the retiring Thurgood Marshall (quota?) were contentious from the start over the issue of abortion and Thomas’ conservative political views.

Then and now: Clarence Thomas at the EEOC (1989–1990), and as a Supreme Court Justice

Whose name is missing from that last paragraph? Law Professor Anita Hill, of course!

She’d worked under Thomas at the U.S. Education Department and then at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It wasn’t until the end of Thomas’ confirmation hearings that her behavior allegations against Thomas were leaked to National Public Radio’s Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg (still on the job!) from a confidential FBI report. I think we have déjà vu.

SIDEBAR: Just wondering if any of the TV networks have correspondents who focus on the Supreme Court. I remember in 1991 when NBC News took Carl Stern off the air after decades on the SCOTUS beat. It was pointed out that left nobody exclusively covering one of the three branches of our government, gathering sources for NBC. You can read more about the decision-making and see some familiar names (to us old people) in this Washington Post article. Stern, a lawyer, is now George Washington University’s Emeritus Professor of Media and Public Affairs.

1991 Anita Hill
Prof. Anita Hill (1991)

BACK TO THE STORY: Many of us actually learned the phrase “sexual harassment” during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill frenzy. Hill – a Yale Law School graduate and University of Oklahoma law professor – testified a mutual friend introduced her to Thomas. Then, he asked if she’d leave a private firm and work as his assistant at the Department of Education. After being happy for three months, he asked her to go out with him socially and everything changed when she told him it wouldn’t be right, since she was her supervisor. (I’m summarizing her statement from that same link above, sure to bring back memories for us older folk.)

“I thought that by saying ‘no’ and explaining my reasons, my employer would abandon his social suggestions. However, to my regret, in the following few weeks he continued to ask me out on several occasions. He pressed me to justify my reasons for saying “no” to him. These incidents took place in his office or mine. They were in the form of private conversations which would not have been overheard by anyone else.

“My working relationship became even more strained when Judge Thomas began to use work situations to discuss sex. On these occasions, he would call me into his office for reports on education issues and projects or he might suggest that because of the time pressures of his schedule, we go to lunch to a government cafeteria. After a brief discussion of work, he would turn the conversation to a discussion of sexual matters. His conversations were very vivid.

“He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals, and films showing group sex or rape scenes. He talked about pornographic materials depicting individuals with large penises, or large breasts involved in various sex acts.

“On several occasions Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess. Because I was extremely uncomfortable talking about sex with him at all, and particularly in such a graphic way, I told him that I did not want to talk about these subjects. I would also try to change the subject to education matters or to nonsexual personal matters, such as his background or his beliefs. My efforts to change the subject were rarely successful.”

Then, Prof. Hill testified,

“During the latter part of my time at the Department of Education, the social pressures and any conversation of his offensive behavior ended. I began both to believe and hope that our working relationship could be a proper, cordial, and professional one. When Judge Thomas was made chair of the EEOC, I needed to face the question of whether to go with him. I was asked to do so and I did. The work, itself, was interesting, and at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures, which had so troubled me, had ended. I also faced the realistic fact that I had no alternative job. While I might have gone back to private practice, perhaps in my old firm, or at another, I was dedicated to civil rights work and my first choice was to be in that field. Moreover, at that time the Department of Education, itself, was a dubious venture. President Reagan was seeking to abolish the entire department.”

There were no problems for her first few months.

“However, during the fall and winter of 1982, these began again. The comments were random, and ranged from pressing me about why I didn’t go out with him, to remarks about my personal appearance. I remember him saying that ‘some day I would have to tell him the real reason that I wouldn’t go out with him.’

“He began to show displeasure in his tone and voice and his demeanor in his continued pressure for an explanation. He commented on what I was wearing in terms of whether it made me more or less sexually attractive. The incidents occurred in his inner office at the EEOC.

“One of the oddest episodes I remember was an occasion in which Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table, at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, ‘Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?’

“On other occasions he referred to the size of his own penis as being larger than normal and he also spoke on some occasions of the pleasures he had given to women with oral sex. At this point, late 1982,1 began to feel severe stress on the job. I began to be concerned that Clarence Thomas might take out his anger with me by degrading me or not giving me important assignments. I also thought that he might find an excuse for dismissing me.

“In January 1983, I began looking for another job. I was handicapped because I feared that if he found out he might make it difficult for me to find other employment, and I might be dismissed from the job I had.

“Another factor that made my search more difficult was that this was during a period of a hiring freeze in the Government. In February 1983, I was hospitalized for 5 days on an emergency basis for acute stomach pain which I attributed to stress on the job. Once out of the hospital. I became more committed to find other employment and sought further to minimize my contact with Thomas.”

Hill ended up taking a job at Oral Roberts University.

“The dean of the university saw me teaching and inquired as to whether I would be interested in pursuing a career in teaching, beginning at Oral Roberts University. I agreed to take the job, in large part, because of my desire to escape the pressures I felt at the EEOC due to Judge Thomas.

“When I informed him that I was leaving in July, I recall that his response was that now, I would no longer have an excuse for not going out with him. I told him that I still preferred not to do so. At some time after that meeting, he asked if he could take me to dinner at the end of the term. When I declined, he assured me that the dinner was a professional courtesy only and not a social invitation. I reluctantly agreed to accept that invitation but only if it was at the very end of a working day.

“On, as I recall, the last day of my employment at the EEOC in the summer of 1983, I did have dinner with Clarence Thomas. We went directly from work to a restaurant near the office. We talked about the work that I had done both at Education and at the EEOC. He told me that he was pleased with all of it except for an article and speech that I had done for him while we were at the Office for Civil Rights. Finally he made a comment that I will vividly remember. He said, that if I ever told anyone of his behavior that it would ruin his career. This was not an apology, nor was it an explanation. That was his last remark about the possibility of our going out, or reference to his behavior.”

In case you were wondering (and who of a certain age wasn’t?), further discussions of pornographic videos Thomas had allegedly rented, including the now-famous Long Dong Silver, must’ve happened during questioning or cross-examination.1991 arlen specter

Anyway, members of the Judiciary Committee didn’t treat Prof. Hill very nicely. For reasons we don’t know and can only imagine, two women who made statements supporting Prof. Hill to Senate staffers never testified.

Then-Delaware Sen. Joe Biden (D) was committee chair. The late Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, then a Republican, gave Prof. Hill an especially hard time.

“Professor Hill, now that you have read the FBI report, you can see that it contains no reference to any mention of Judge Thomas’ private parts or sexual prowess or size, et cetera, and my question to you would be, on something that is as important as it is in your written testimony and in your responses to Senator Biden, why didn’t you tell the FBI about that?”

Déjà vu, once again.

“Professor Hill, you said that you took it to mean that Judge Thomas wanted to have sex with you, but in fact he never did ask you to have sex, correct?”

And then the former Philadelphia D.A. asked,

“What went through your mind, if anything, on whether you ought to come forward at that stage, because if you had, you would have stopped this man from being head of the EEOC perhaps for another decade? What went on through your mind? I know you decided not to make a complaint, but did you give that any consideration, and, if so, how could you allow this kind of reprehensible conduct to go on right in the headquarters, without doing something about it?”

You can see and hear some other lowlights in these clips:

2018-02-05 Anita Hill Gage Skidmore
Feb. 8, 2018: Prof. Anita Hill (by Gage Skidmore via Wikipedia)

Thomas denied everything and called the hearing a type of “high tech lynching.”

As we know, the nomination was moved to the full, Democratic-controlled, Senate, and Thomas was narrowly confirmed, 52-48.

Despite the Déjà vu, those were accusations of sexual harassment. The allegation against Kavanaugh is attempted rape.

Kavanaugh denies it happened, but he has had confirmation trouble before. In 2003, when President George W. Bush (#43) nominated him for his current job – Circuit Judge for the Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit – it took him three years to get approved! He was considered too partisan and wasn’t sworn in until 2006.

Let’s not forget Judge Kavanaugh already has a job for life. Every federal judge does. It says so in the Constitution.

gavel judge

In fact, I got called for federal jury duty back in 1995, while producing afternoon and early evening coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder trial for WSVN in Miami. This was just before the L.A. jury was going to deliberate the verdict and we potential Miami jurors were warned, our case could last weeks.

I was angry after waiting a whole day in the courtroom doing nothing. Finally, we were questioned and I told off a federal judge using the line, “You have a job for life but I have to earn mine every day!” (You’re welcome again, Patrick and Alice!)

At the end, they divided everyone up into groups. Those in my group were very happy to be there, even though the judge hadn’t announced which group would get to go home, have to come back, etc. (Yes, we got sent home for good.) What I won’t do for a job!

So Judge Kavanaugh will not get any more job security if he is confirmed. He will just get more publicity as a justice on the nation’s highest court. (Would you still want that?) And the opportunity to influence the entire country. Also, don’t forget the ability to sell more books further into the future. Plus, maybe a movie, The Notorious B.M.K. (His middle name is Michael.)

Nina Totenberg
Nina Totenberg (NPR)

In 1987, President Reagan’s nomination of Judge Douglas Ginsburg (no relation to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of the movie mentioned in the last paragraph) to the High Court ended with his withdrawal nine days after it was announced. Judge Ginsburg, 41, was President Reagan’s second choice after the Senate refused to confirm Judge Robert Bork.

The reason was NPR’s good ‘ol Nina Totenberg  found out Ginsburg had used marijuana “on a few occasions” as a student in the 1960s and as a Harvard Law assistant professor in the 1970s.

That was a big deal at the time. President Reagan ended up nominating David Souter and not long after, President George H.W. Bush (#41) nominated Anthony Kennedy, who – again – is retiring now. But the way the FBI conducted background checks changed forever, causing a lot of other people to have to answer questions about whether they’d experimented with smoking pot.

Judge Ginsburg continues to serve as a Senior Circuit Judge in that same Federal Appeals Court, DC Circuit, I’ve already mentioned twice. No more ‘small world’ reference. It’s getting late and two pieces of more important news just happened.

Of course, a background check is different than investigating a person who is under suspicion of a crime, but the FBI does that for the president, in order to avoid an embarrassment like the Judge Ginsburg incident. Investigations are not left to people appointed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, as was recently suggested, because that’s obviously political.

Rachel Maddow wikipedia
Rachel Maddow

Maybe this will again change the questions that candidates for high positions, who will need to be confirmed by the Senate, will have to answer. The questions will have to be more specific than whether somebody sniffed glue in high school, which was one of the additions after the Judge Ginsburg incident, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow showed!

Let’s stop for a moment and recognize the stories uncovered by these two female journalists.

Perhaps new questions to be asked as soon as the Kavanaugh case ends will include dates of every “base” achieved ending in loss of virginity, as the analogy has gone, which could be a threat to the privacy of willing and non-willing second parties.

Perhaps it will be the height of the #MeToo movement because it could uncover old crimes committed by men who are supposedly upstanding citizens these days. That would be an important lesson to young men with high career hopes, but probably not amount to anything because no president would nominate anybody so much more prone to rejection rather than confirmation.

And we’d never know who they are.

Besides, how many men, in addition to more women these days, would be considered 100 percent innocent of any coming-of-age antics that has probably been around since just after the introduction of the world’s oldest profession?

That brings me to a point somebody – I forgot who – brought up on Facebook last week, probably in a meme.

What about the thousands of victims of priest sexual abuse, just the ones right here in this country? They didn’t speak up right away, for obvious reasons. Should their stories not be heard, even if there’s a statute of limitations to prevent criminal charges?

Then why are people calling for a vote on Judge Kavanaugh before hearing from Dr. Blasey Ford? Should Prof. Hill have not been heard, all those years ago?

According to the York (Pa.) Daily Record, last Monday – less than a week ago – a Pittsburgh-area man and Catholic school kindergartner filed a class action suit as lead plaintiffs,

“seeking the full disclosure of all Catholic dioceses’ records concerning sexual abuse by priests. …

“The complaint notes that the recent grand jury report that identified 301 predatory priests in Pennsylvania (click here to see all 1356 pages) ‘emphasized it did not believe the report identified all predator priests and that many victims never came forward.’

“‘Lack of a complete accounting and disclosure … constitutes a clear and present danger,’ the suit concludes.”

So while Dr. Christine Blasey Ford gets ready to testify against Judge Kavanaugh this Thursday, I’ll close with two pieces of news just in and can’t be ignored as I was about to publish:

First, The New Yorker‘s Ronan Farrow and Jane Mayer are reporting “Senate Democrats are investigating another allegation of sexual misconduct against” Judge Kavanaugh, this one dating from his time as an undergraduate at Yale.”

According to Axios,

“The second accuser, Deborah Ramirez, claims that Kavanaugh waved his penis in front of her face while she was inebriated at a dormitory party during the 1983-1984 academic school year. She told Farrow and Mayer that she believes an FBI investigation of Kavanaugh’s actions is warranted.”

Judge Kavanaugh’s response:

“This alleged event from 35 years ago did not happen. The people who knew me then know that this did not happen, and have said so. This is a smear, plain and simple. I look forward to testifying on Thursday about the truth, and defending my good name — and the reputation for character and integrity I have spent a lifetime building — against these last-minute allegations.”

And from White House spokesperson Kerri Kupec:

“This 35-year-old, uncorroborated claim is the latest in a coordinated smear campaign by the Democrats designed to tear down a good man. This claim is denied by all who were said to be present and is wholly inconsistent with what many women and men who knew Judge Kavanaugh at the time in college say. The White House stands firmly behind Judge Kavanaugh.”

On the Judiciary Committee: Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA)

Christine Blasey Ford
Dr. Christine Blasey Ford

Then, “just minutes” after that accusation, according to Axios,

“The office of Senate Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley released the unredacted initial letter” Dr. Blasey Ford “sent to Sen. Dianne Feinstein in July detailing her account of the (alleged) incident” that both Dr. Blasey Ford and Sen. Feinstein expected to remain confidential.

It’s out and you can read it here.

To me, it looks like another alleged victim has just been betrayed.

Folks, will this ever end?

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The necessity of public unions, now no chance for compromise

NOTE: Shortly before publishing, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced he’ll retire effective July 31.

scotus trump usa flag

According to Axios, that’ll give President Donald Trump

“a chance to pull the court significantly to the right for decades to come. This is seismic — for politics as a whole, for the court and, ultimately, for the millions of Americans whose lives are shaped by its rulings. Replacing Kennedy with a more conservative justice would likely lead to new limits on abortion and LGBT rights, and could easily be the most consequential act of Trump’s presidency. … The confirmation battle will be intense. Republicans have just a one-seat majority in the Senate, and Democrats will be under enormous pressure from their base to try as hard as they can to block Trump’s nominee. Both sides are already prepared for a brutal fight.”

Kennedy was appointed by President Ronald Reagan in 1988, but has long been the court’s swing vote. Winning him over was often the only way to build a majority.

Anthony Kennedy
Front row, left to right: Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Associate Justice Stephen G. Breyer. Back row: Associate Justice Elena Kagan, Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch. Credit: Franz Jantzen, Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

I was always a union member while teaching in Miami. Florida is a “right to work” state (that phrase makes no sense) and I didn’t have to join UTD, the United Teachers of Dade – but I did anyway for the benefits, protection, and because it was the right thing to do since they negotiated my pay in accordance with crushing state laws.

For example, in March, the Florida legislature passed new collective bargaining rules into law. It doesn’t target all public unions; just the teachers who spend more time with the Sunshine State’s children for most of the year than their parents. And the schools that feed many of those kids breakfast and lunch at free or reduced prices, while their parents let them starve or eat garbage all summer. According to the Tampa Bay Times, it requires

“local unions to prove they represent a majority of the teachers in their districts. The measuring stick: Having at least half of all employees eligible to be in the union paying dues.

“If they fall short, they could lose their authority to negotiate working conditions and pay with the school boards. And many might find themselves in that spot: Some larger districts including Miami-Dade and Pasco hover just below the level, as do some smaller ones including Calhoun.

“The big question is, what would happen next? Are unions that miss the mark dissolved, and their contracts along with them? … The answer remains unclear.”

So much for attention to detail and consequences, two things members of the Florida legislature could be taught! And most teachers are women, who these lawmakers are more likely to take advantage of. But I have to say, it also did the right thing on guns, the same month, and the NRA is suing. Details on that below.

But not being a union member would’ve made me a freeloader, and I write that with love and respect for many or my co-workers who chose that route. Some teachers complained about the money, and they may have had bigger families to support and student loans to pay back, but they would’ve made less if it wasn’t for the union. Now, that’s in dire jeopardy.

Earlier, as a member of AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (before its merger with SAG, the Screen Actors Guild) in Philadelphia TV, I knew what I was getting into, just as the public union employees did.

I believe AFTRA did the right thing and had the perfect solution by letting some members pay less, so their dues did not go into any political fund and did not influence elections in any way.

I was hoping a compromise like that could withstand today’s Supreme Court ruling that public unions cannot collect fees from non-members, but no.

Axios reports,

“The court struck down so-called ‘agency fees’ that unions collect from non-members. Those fees can only be used for collective bargaining, not overtly political activity.”

But the Court, by a 5-4 vote, sided with critics who

“say that because these unions are bargaining with the government, their bargaining is inherently political.”

Now, Axios predicts

“without agency fees, unions won’t be able to afford the lawyers and other staff who drive their negotiations, making membership ultimately seem like a worse deal.”

I’ll add, this seems lopsided, and a fair deal for workers – not too much but also not too little – ultimately helps everyone. Fewer union members mean less money for Americans and more people on welfare. Is that what we want?

Besides, to the justices of the Supreme Court, aren’t most things inherently political?

We all pay taxes for schools, even if we don’t have children attending. We pay for police and fire departments, even though we hope we never need them. (I wonder what percentage of the population actually uses their services annually.)

It’s not a good day to be one of your town’s finest or bravest. Its leaders are naturally going to try to take your pay and benefits!

There’s also paying for parks we don’t go to, and roads we never drive on.

But nobody can opt out of those taxes because they are needed for society and the future.

The critics claim membership in a union violates their First Amendment rights but money is not speech, unless you agree with the Citizens United case. (Wikipedia says back in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled “the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations.” That gave nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations Constitutional protections that had gone only to actual, real people for more than 200 years, since the time of this country’s founders. Is it right they gave the rich more say and to do it secretly?)

us constitution
Article I of the Constitution, not to be confused with the First Amendment

Plus, the critics claim public unions aren’t fair because the workers vote, urge others to vote and then negotiate with the people elected. But don’t ordinary citizens have those same rights, the ability to assemble organizations and make requests of leaders on all levels?

A year ago, Forbes reported, “Across most developed nations, labor union membership is getting rarer.” It didn’t mean just the U.S.

Wikipedia reports the four countries that gained union worker percentages from 1970 to 2003 were Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Belgium. Those aren’t countries you see on any “bad places” lists.

Finland Sweden Denmark Belgium

Here, our nation’s government was built on a system of checks and balances. No government nor private employer wants to pay their workers more, and the people don’t want to pay any more taxes.

Already, too many states and municipalities are in the red over pension obligations that added up over the years. It’s not fair politicians from the past gave away too much in order to keep their own jobs on Election Day. Blame them, not the workers. (Compare it to how we’ll leave climate and the environment to our children and grandchildren).

Wikipedia goes on to say, in the U.S.,

“Public approval of unions … declined to below 50 percent for the first time in 2009 during the Great Recession. It is not clear if this is a long term trend or a function of a high unemployment rate, which historically correlates with lower public approval of labor unions.

“One explanation for loss of public support is simply the lack of union power or critical mass. No longer do a sizable percentage of American workers belong to unions, or have family members who do. Unions no longer carry the ‘threat effect’: the power of unions to raise wages of non-union shops by virtue of the threat of unions to organize those shops.”

But we know good teachers need raises (along with support from administrators, etc.) or they’ll leave the profession, while athletes arguably make too much money. (And yes, educators know what they’re getting into.)

what teachers do Facebook
Facebook

So what do the citizens of this country plan to do to make things fair and right, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling?

The Tampa Bay Times quoted the president of the Association of Calhoun Educators in northern Florida, which was formed just two years ago. Until then, there was no collective bargaining unit to support teachers.

“We had no contract. … They would say, yes, there is money for a raise or, no, there isn’t. Whatever they decided, went.”

That doesn’t sound like a place where people who value themselves or their profession would want to work, unless they have no other choice. Perhaps that’s what the good folks of Calhoun County wanted. That’s too bad because I can’t imagine a bright future there, with jobs and rising property values.

Union Yes Wikimedia Commons

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the National Education Association, wrote:

“With its decision in Janus v. AFSCME, the U.S. Supreme Court today turned its back on American workers—the educators, nurses, firefighters, police officers, and public servants who make our communities strong and safe.

“The Court’s ruling is a massive gift to the special interests and billionaires who already benefit from a system that is rigged in their favor and against the rights and freedoms of working people. They brought this case to silence our voice and make it more difficult to join together to advocate for our students and communities.

“But make no mistake: we will not be silent. We are organized and determined to stand together and fight for the resources our students need to succeed.

Take the #RedForEd pledge and stand with NEA as we continue to build a strong union that advocates for the opportunity students need to succeed.

“As we saw earlier this year in state after state that went #RedForEd, educators—joined by parents and community members—are a force to be reckoned with. We will do what it takes to roll back years of funding cuts and to make sure our students have up-to-date textbooks, desks and chairs that aren’t broken, the latest technology, and adequate school buildings.

“Now, we must continue to build this movement by coming together to advocate for students like never before.

So whether you are an educator, parent, or community member, please show your support for strong public schools by taking the #RedForEd pledge today.

“Thank you for your continued involvement with the National Education Association. Your support of great public schools for every child matters more and more every day.”

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten wrote:

“The Supreme Court may have ruled against us today, but don’t count us out.

“The right-wing extremists on the Supreme Court showed their true colors today. Their thirst for rigging the economy toward the powerful trumped the aspirations and needs of communities and the people who serve them. But, despite this decision, workers are sticking with the union because unions are still the best vehicle working people have to get ahead.

“Our union comprises some of the hardest-working and most compassionate people in the country. Every day, we care for patients, educate and support America’s children, ensure high-quality public services, and provide a world-class system of higher education. Together, through our union, we fight not just for ourselves but for the people we serve. When the Supreme Court overturns 40 years of precedent in an effort to weaken our ability to bargain for what we need, then we have to recommit ourselves to standing together in solidarity.

“Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, the Koch brothers and Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner are celebrating right now. The best way to take the wind out of their sails is to show the world that, despite their attacks, we’re sticking together. Let them know you’re sticking with the union.

“Let’s be clear, the Janus case was about defunding unions. It was about who will have power in our country—working people or big corporate interests. That’s why the case was being funded by wealthy donors and corporate interests. First, they pledged $80 million to ‘defund and defang’ unions. Then, the Kochs, after receiving the Trump tax cut, upped the ante with $400 million to undermine public education and ‘break’ the teachers unions. Why? Because unions fight for a better life for people, and corporate interests see that as a threat to their power.

“Strong unions create strong communities. We will continue fighting, caring, showing up and voting to make possible what is impossible for individuals acting alone. And we will continue to make the case—in the halls of statehouses and the court of public opinion, at our workplaces and communities, and at the ballot box in November—through organizing, activism, and members recommitting to their union.

“When we fight for resources for schools, we’re fighting for students. When we fight for safe staffing standards for nurses, we’re fighting for patients. When we have the resources to do our jobs, all of society benefits. We may be a threat to the power of wealthy corporate interests, but by sticking together, we are stronger than their attacks.

“Throughout the day, union members have been sharing selfies and videos on social media. Let’s show the world that we’re proud to be union members. You can start right now: Tell them you’re sticking with the union. Show the people attacking unions that you value your freedom to have a better life and your freedom to have a union.”

SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris, who you knew as Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills 90210 but now serves as a vice president on the AFL-CIO’s executive council, said:

“The Court made the wrong decision; a decision in favor of increasing the power of employers at the expense of their workers. Without engaged workers, union protections become more vulnerable. This ruling is a direct attempt to weaken unions, the very organizations who allow workers to speak together as one, to have a voice in their wages, their safety at work, and their healthcare and retirement. The Supreme Court’s decision directly overturns a decision made by the Court in 1977. Have workers lives improved so much that unions can now be so blatantly attacked? Are workers all better off now? Are employers sharing in their success with all those who make them successful? No.

“This shameful decision only serves to strengthen our resolve to find ways to protect working families in this country. Now more than ever as professionals, we must come together and renew our commitment to speak as one. To be strong in the face of all attempts to minimize us. We know that fighting for a better life for you and your family is what unions do. It’s time for unions, and the workers who make them vibrant and strong, to show this court and those who would attack and diminish working people that this is unacceptable. When workers come together, workers win, and that did not change today.”

beverly hills 90210 wikipedia
Beverly Hills 90210 characters: Center: Dylan McKay; Clockwise from far left: Kelly Taylor, Steve Sanders, Andrea Zuckerman, Brandon Walsh, Brenda Walsh, Donna Martin, David Silver (Wikipedia)

WATCH: Florida Evans arguing with her husband over working as a black maid on Maude.

MORE MAUDE: Carol is passed over for a promotion due to gender discrimination.

AND THE MOTHER of all Maude labor episodes: Walter angry after workers at Findlay’s Friendly Appliances decided to unionize. This one starts with the classic opening theme!

It should be noted, also in March, the Florida legislature enacted “significant gun control measures in the state for the first time since the GOP took control … more than two decades ago,” according to the Los Angeles Times.

The historic moment happened weeks after the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland that killed 17 people – 14 students and three staff members.

Furthermore, Gov. Rick Scott – described by the paper as a “staunch Republican and longtime National Rifle Association member” – did not use his line-item veto authority to remove money from the sweeping $400-million school safety bill “for what many consider the most contentious part of the legislation – a program that allows school employees to bring firearms on campus.”

“The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act raises the minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21, imposes a three-day waiting period for most gun purchases and bans the sale or possession of ‘bump stocks,’ which allow semiautomatic rifles to mimic machine guns.

“The NRA almost immediately filed a federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of banning people under the age of 21 from buying firearms.

“Under Florida law, Scott could have used his line-item veto authority to reject the funding for a $67 million ‘guardian’ program that would allow some teachers to volunteer to carry guns after undergoing 132 hours of firearms and 12 hours of diversity training.”

rick scott bill nelson
Gov. Rick Scott (R-FL) vs. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL)

It should also be noted Gov. Scott is expected to be running against longtime U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson.

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Sanctuary cities judges show they know justice, not politics

I’m not writing to take an opinion on the issues of sanctuary cities or illegal immigration, but have to say I’m pleased a gang of Republican-appointed federal judges were willing to rule against a president from their own party.

Philly.com reports from the Associated Press that this afternoon,

“A federal appeals court in Chicago has ruled that President Donald Trump’s administration cannot withhold public safety grants from cities that don’t cooperate with its immigration enforcement policies, agreeing with a temporary injunction imposed earlier this year by a lower court judge.”

The decision by three judges on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals says the administration tried to exceed its authority by establishing a new condition for cities to qualify for public safety money. Instead, Congress earmarked the money without that condition.

Judge Ilana Rovner wrote, in an opinion joined by Judge William Bauer,

“The Attorney General in this case used the sword of federal funding to conscript state and local authorities to aid in federal civil immigration enforcement. … But the power of the purse rests with Congress, which authorized the federal funds at issue and did not impose any immigration enforcement condition on the receipt of such funds.”

jail Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

According to Politico, judges here in Philadelphia and also Los Angeles “blocked attempts to add the immigration-related conditions to new federal grants.”

“Sanctuary cities” are those that refuse to cooperate with federal immigration agents by letting them know when immigrants in the country illegally are about to be released from police detention.

Last July, the Trump team decided cities receiving public safety grants — that can be used to buy public-safety equipment, including police cars — must agree to inform federal agents.

Chicago Police Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Then, Chicago and several cities sued, and a lower court judge imposed a temporary injunction on the administration’s requirement.

This afternoon, all three judges agreed, so that nationwide injunction will stay in force. But one judge said the ruling should apply to Chicago only. That detail won’t matter.

Judge Daniel Manion wrote,

“Other jurisdictions that do not want to comply with the Notice and Access conditions were not parties to this suit, and there is no need to protect them in order to protect Chicago. … A nationwide preliminary injunction … should only be issued where it is absolutely necessary, and it is far from absolutely necessary here.”

Rahm Emanuel Wikipedia
Wikipedia

A pleased Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel praised the judge who wrote the decision.

“Judge Rovner says in her opinion that Chicago does not interfere with the federal government’s lawful enforcement of immigration laws and pursuit of its civil immigration activities, and presence in such localities will not immunize anyone to the reach of the federal government,” Emanuel said.

But he did mention the fight isn’t over, since the money hasn’t yet come.

Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley disagreed, writing in a statement,

“We will continue to fight to carry out the Department’s commitment to the rule of law, protecting public safety, and keeping criminal aliens off the streets to further perpetrate crimes.”

Several cities established policies to protect immigrants since Trump won the 2016 election.

DF-ST-87-11855
Wikimedia Commons

Politico noted, “Rovner was appointed by President George H.W. Bush, Bauer by President Gerald Ford and Manion by President Ronald Reagan, all Republicans.”

Three cheers to all three, since the judiciary should be separate from politics, just like they ruled the Executive branch should be separate from the Legislative.

These folks did the right thing, at least this time, since I’m not familiar with their other rulings.

Give Alex Holley an A (and a raise)

alex holley
http://www.fox29.com/about-us/alex-holley-good-day-philadelphia-co-host

ShareRocket numbers came out on Monday. They’re the equivalent of Nielsen ratings for TV shows, but for social media instead. Take them for what they’re worth, along with the thought of companies trying to use social media to make money. The Fox Television Stations Group (which still doesn’t bother to list its stations, as I’ve mentioned here and several other places) is very big on it. Too big. Other things lose out. (See Murdoch, Rupert. Facebook‘s Mark Zuckerberg knows much better.)

According to ShareRocket, in the first quarter of this year,  Philadelphia’s “WTXF (Fox 29) generated more than 7.3 million total Engagements,” meaning the number of times people responded to the station’s, or their employees’ posts — on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — by liking, commenting, etc., during the first quarter.

“The station also benefited from having the No. 1 individual in the market, anchor Alex Holley. Holley generated more than 960,000 Engagements in the quarter across all platforms.”

Doing simple math — 960,000 divided by 7.3 million — Good Day Philadelphia anchor Holley is completely responsible for 13.15 percent of Fox 29’s performance in the quarter, all on her own. This doesn’t count anything the station wrote about her or her stories. These are posts she wrote and published by herself, on her own accounts. Good for her!

social media

On the other hand, that means everybody else at Fox 29, including the group of people paid to write news and social media (way too much social media, if you ask me), only did 86.85 percent of the station’s first quarter performance. As I’ve written before, web producers

“try to find articles from out of the area that will get clicked. What usually happens is that one station — whether it happened in their area or not — writes it and offers to share it with the other stations, which may choose to accept it or not. If they accept it, then they can tease it on social media or not.”

So there’s lots of help Alex doesn’t get.

By the way, ShareRocket reports,

“The market saw a very large increase in Engagement in general from quarter to quarter, likely driven by the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl win. All six stations Share Rocket tracks in the market saw significant bumps in total Engagement, and four of those stations saw increases of +40% or more.”

But Fox 29 wasn’t one of the four stations out of six that saw increases of 40 percent or more. Fox 29 was in the bottom half. It only went up 22 percent from quarter to quarter! In other words, it lagged and underperformed, and its share of the market dropped from 33.48 percent, down to 30.77 percent.

Imagine where they’d be without Alex!

Rudy Giuliani Wikipedia
Wikipedia

There’s a new face on President Trump’s legal team dealing with the ongoing special counsel probe, and it’s a familiar one. Former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani told The Washington Post he joined the club.

Giuliani said to the paper,

“I’m doing it because I hope we can negotiate an end to this for the good of the country and because I have high regard for the president and for Bob Mueller.”

Along with the longtime Trump ally, the president will also be defended by a couple who run a Florida-based law firm, Jane Serene Raskin and Marty Raskin. Plus everyone else on his legal team. The new three are all former federal prosecutors.

Speaking of former federal prosecutors, Chris Christie hasn’t been New Jersey governor since January but his official portrait is making news because it’s going to “cost a stunning $85,000,” according to the New York Post. (Get your jokes out of the way now. The Post did. Its article’s headline is “Artist gets big, fat paycheck for Chris Christie’s official portrait.”)

Chris Christie Wikipedia
Wikipedia

NorthJersey.com reports the $85,000 will be more than what his three predecessors … paid to have their images hang in commemoration of their political service — combined!

It priced the portrait the highest for a governor since Democrat Jim Florio paid $58,000 for his. Christie’s three immediate predecessors — Jon Corzine, Richard Codey and Jim McGreevey, all Democrats — paid a combined $74,500.

That makes the Christie image cost $10,500 more than Corzine, Codey and McGreevey’s altogether.

There is one difference: Christie did take up two terms. The last New Jersey governor to do that was Christine Whitman ($48,000), who served from 1994 to 2001. Even Florio was a one-termer, serving 1990 to 1994. FYI, his two predecessors were both two-termers, Tom Kean and Brendan Byrne.

The website showed the governors’ official portraits:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

According to NorthJersey.com,

Since he took office, Christie has spoken about the official picture that likely will long outlive him and the many internet memes he’s touched off. And in his public life, Christie had earned a reputation for having a taste for luxury when others paid the bill.

Then the paper went on to describe those luxuries.

map New Jersey Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Who will pay? “A taxpayer-funded transition account of $250,000 that is granted to former governors to pay for staff and office space, as well as services such as the painting, NorthJersey.com says.

The artist is Australian Paul Newton. The portrait will be oil-on-canvas.

Too bad it won’t hang in the Statehouse when it’s finished by the fall. That’s under a multi-year renovation.

It won’t cost us anything to remember what NorthJersey.com described as

the picture of him on that beach closed to everyone else, in that chair with his family and friends while the public was shut out of state parks on a holiday weekend during a government shutdown.

Let’s hope Phil Murphy has a more compact ego!

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Salaries, senators and a spat between a Fox News host and the A.P.

I’m actually going to start optimistically and thank you for reading. The blog is getting very close and may have 12,000 hits after this post. (It’s at 11,927 as I start formatting at 7:11pm). Please, if you haven’t, subscribe with your email address or WordPress account. There are places on the right side of your desktop screen, and also at the bottom of your desktop, tablet and mobile device.Michael Cohen trump lawyer twitter

I also want to remind you I’m NOT RELATED to President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen, who’s being investigated for possible bank fraud, wire fraud and campaign finance violations. The Washington Post named those possibilities “according to three people with knowledge of the case.”

Nobody in my family is under investigation, as far as I know. We have no comment in English or Russian.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders now says Trump thinks special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation has “gone too far,” according to Axios.

map manhattanYesterday, FBI agents raided Cohen’s Manhattan office, home and hotel room as part of the investigation, seizing records about his clients and personal finances. The Post didn’t mention why he needed both a home and hotel room in the same New York borough.

It did report,

“Among the records taken were those related to a 2016 payment Cohen made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels, who claims to have had a sexual encounter with Trump, according to a fourth person familiar with the investigation.”

The New York Times went even further (I didn’t say all the way), reporting the FBI wanted info on payments to Karen McDougal, who also had an affair with now-President Trump. They were also looking for any potential role from the publisher of The National Enquirer.

The feds even collected communications between Cohen and his clients, including between the president and his lawyer.

The raids were part of an investigation referred by special counsel Robert Mueller to federal prosecutors in New York but

“the agents were acting on a warrant ‘personally signed off on’ by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Axios mentioned The Times noted. President Trump has increasingly pushed Attorney General Jeff Sessions to shut down the broader Mueller probe.”

But a former U.S. attorney told Axios,

“Here’s what must have happened: Mueller bumped into evidence of criminal conduct that was beyond his scope, so he referred it to the Rod. … Stormy is almost certainly just the tip of the iceberg. Cohen’s lawyer said the [search warrant] was based ‘in part’ on referral by Mueller. I expect that after getting the initial referral, the SDNY (federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York) started poking around and developed independent interest for obtaining the SW (search warrant).”

A Cohen lawyer called the tactics “inappropriate and unnecessary.”

Trump repeatedly called the raid a disgrace, saying,

“I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now or longer. It’s an attack on our country in a true sense; it’s an attack on what we all stand for.”

According to The Post, the fraud allegations

“suggest prosecutors have some reason to think Cohen may have misled bankers about why he was using particular funds or may have improperly used banks in the transfer of funds. Cohen has acknowledged facilitating a $130,000 payment in October 2016 to Daniels, who claims she had a sexual relationship with Trump in 2006.”

Last week was the first time Trump talked about the payment. He said he didn’t know about it.

The Post also reports “Cohen has said he used a home-equity line of credit to finance the payment to Daniels” and “Banks don’t usually require much explanation from customers about how they use such credit lines.”

But Cohen may have been asked about making – get this – “large-dollar transfers he made when he moved the money to a shell company and then to a lawyer for Daniels.”

He said “neither the Trump Organization nor the Trump campaign reimbursed the $130,000.”

According to The Post, the payment allegation could mean investigators are looking into possible violations of election law.

According to a source close to the president,

“Mueller’s investigation has been drip, drip. This was a giant leap forward … a personal hit. … They were moving in inches. Today, they moved a mile.”

Post Columnist Randall D. Eliason called it

Robert Mueller wikipedia
Robert Mueller

“yet another example of the legal walls closing in on one of the people closest to Trump — someone who may have a wealth of information about the president’s own conduct.”

He points out Mueller didn’t obtain the warrant himself, but referred it to New York prosecutors, so “Whatever the subject matter of this particular investigation, it apparently falls outside of Mueller’s jurisdiction” like a conspiracy with Russians to influence the election or related crimes such as obstruction of the special counsel’s investigation.

Also, it takes more to get a search warrant than a grand jury subpoena, so prosecutors had “to go before a federal judge to demonstrate probable cause that a crime has been committed and evidence of that crime can be found in the premises to be searched.”

Plus, “that the raid took place at a lawyer’s office further highlights the seriousness of the investigation. Searches of an attorney’s office are extremely rare and are not favored, due to their potential to impinge on the attorney-client relationship.”

white houseEliason adds, “And to the extent that Cohen, part of Trump’s innermost circle, might have knowledge relevant to Mueller’s inquiry, we can’t rule out the possibility that his own legal troubles could induce him to cooperate in the Russia investigation.”

He started his column with the summary,

“When your lawyers need lawyers, it’s usually a bad sign. When your lawyers have their offices and homes raided, it’s a really bad sign.”

Sanders said she isn’t sure if Cohen still represents Trump, but Trump hasn’t spoken to Cohen since the raid and thinks he has the power to fire Mueller if he – as Sanders put it – “chooses to do so.” We’ll see if that happens and what Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ future holds.

Click here for what The Post reports Trump said, along with some fact-checking and analysis.

 

Again, to reiterate, no relation, but I’m sure my whole family is equally as interested as the rest of the country.

howard kurtz
http://www.foxnews.com/shows/media-buzz.html

Fox News “Media Buzz” host Howard Kurtz has defended the president and also his network, but something may have slipped through the cracks.

Sunday, reports “said his Sunday show mistakenly posted a graphic that showed the cable network is less trusted than its competitors.” Actually, a new poll shows that’s absolutely true, by far.

The Washington Post explained, “Kurtz had been talking about a new Monmouth University poll on ‘fake news’ and American trust in the media.”

That’s when this graphic appeared on-screen that Chris Cuomo, of CNN’s New Day, later tweeted out.

“Do the media report fake news regularly or occasionally?” Kurtz asked, according to The Post. “Seventy-seven percent say yes.”

But “Kurtz quickly noticed” and said, “This is not the graphic we’re looking for. Hold off. Take that down please.”

Yesterday, Kurtz he went on a diatribe against the A.P. on Facebook because the control room put the graphic up too early, causing the A.P. to say it created “a false impression by not mentioning that I called for the very same graphic shortly afterward.”

Kurtz wrote as part of that diatribe you can read in full, below, if you wish, “The Associated Press should be embarrassed by a story that utterly distorts what happened. … The news agency had published a story with the headline, ‘Fox News mistakenly posts graphic showing it lags in trust,’” which has since been corrected.

What Kurtz wrote matches the graphic.

The most trusted cable networks vs. Trump – in order – are CNN first, MSNBC just three percentage points behind and Fox News way behind. Another major point: Trump loses to all three cable news networks in trust. Now, let me ask: Do you trust the cable news networks?

most trusted poll

Keep in mind that Monmouth reports the 77 percent “believe fake news reporting happens at least occasionally has increased significantly from 63 percent of the public who felt that way last year.” So trust in news reporting is down significantly and trust in Trump is even lower than that.

Click here for a link to the poll and results. The part concerning the Kurtz issue is in the “Trump versus Cable News” section.

This time, Kurtz and his network were right, and the A.P. was wrong, but let’s face it. That certainly doesn’t entitle anybody to bragging rights in this spat.

Mark Zuckerberg faced a joint session of the Senate Commerce and Judiciary Committees about Facebook’s failures.

According to Axios, he apologized to lawmakers for not handling user data properly, but “didn’t waver in defending the company’s business model or its value to society.”

“He said Facebook is going through a ‘broader philosophical shift in how we approach our responsibility as a company’” after “data firm Cambridge Analytica inappropriately accessed the data of 87 million Facebook users.”

featured fb zuckerberg cambridge

Some other takeaways from the man at the top, and Axios:

– Facebook didn’t tell the Federal Trade Commission, with whom it has a privacy settlement, about the Cambridge Analytica situation when it occurred because it thought the firm had deleted the data. You know what happens when you assume!facebook phone mobile

– Zuckerberg didn’t know if Special Counsel Robert Mueller subpoenaed Facebook, but Mueller’s team interviewed Facebook staffers.

– Why didn’t Facebook tell millions of users they’d been affected by the Cambridge Analytica incident in 2015, or ban the data firm then? Zuckerberg initially said the company hadn’t been an advertiser in 2015, but found out after meeting with his staff that in fact they had been later in that year — so they could have been banned.

– Question from Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) on privacy concerns. He asked Zuckerberg what hotel he’s staying at in Washington. Zuckerberg wouldn’t say.

– Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and others wanted to know whether Facebook handles content in a way that skews liberal. Zuckerberg denied that, and also Cruz’s suggestion Facebook might weigh job candidates’ political views.

– Some good news for many: Senators talked about regulation but Zuckerberg responded, “there will always be a version of Facebook that is free.”

Even better for some: Facebook shares climbed 4.5 percent, mostly while Zuckerberg testified. There could be three reasons, according to Axios: Zuckerberg is considered a competent leader, Congress probably won’t impose strict regulations and a possible paid product for users demanding stronger privacy protections could make money. Zuckerberg made about $2.8 billion in the market, this afternoon. What about you?

– Zuckerberg may have gotten the last word, but not the first. Senate Democrats Edward Markey (Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) did. They “introduced ‘privacy bill of rights’ legislation” – “the first concrete piece of legislation to come from the Facebook controversy, and … attempt to apply privacy to web companies like Facebook and Google,” according to Axios. “The bill would direct the FTC to require companies to get consumers’ opt-in consent before using, sharing or selling their personal information.”

I couldn’t finish a blog without the name Sinclair somewhere. I’ve showed you here and here how local news organizations remain the most trusted source of information in Pew Research Center’s polling on trust in media – even though in January, a Pew Research Center report announced fewer Americans regularly rely on TV news, down to 50 percent of U.S. adults, from 57 percent a year prior.

sinclair broadcast group

Now, The Poynter Institute says Emory University researchers found

“many TV local news stations are focusing more on national politics and have taken a rightward slant over the past year. And that move is stemming from ownership of the stations, not the demands of a local audience.”

Poynter notes, “The study comes just as many are raising concerns about a coordinated effort by one major owner of TV stations that forces its anchors to record a segment about ‘the troubling trend of irresponsible, one-sided news stories plaguing our country.’” Want to take a guess which one that is?

The researchers examined 7.5 million transcript segments from 743 local news stations and saw huge differences between other stations, and outlets owned by the nation’s largest local broadcasting chain, Sinclair Broadcast Group.

“The authors found Sinclair stations, on average, carried about a third less local politics coverage and a quarter more national politics … (including) commentaries the stations are forced to run by former Trump official Boris Epshteyn.”

Boris Epshteyn clip artAlso, a summary of the findings “noted the shift to the right of new Sinclair stations: The ‘slant scores,’ based on repetition of ideologically linked phrases, increased by about one standard deviation after acquisition by Sinclair as compared to other stations in the same markets.” We know Sinclair has been trying to buy another big group, Tribune Media.Tribune Broadcasting Company

Researchers warn this programming could spur nationalistic and polarizing movements, “be expected to reduce viewers’ knowledge of the activities of local officials” — and hurt accountability, especially “given the decline of local print media,” they write.

BTW, the GOP is saying IDK when it comes to deregulating legacy media companies, like Sinclair. It would let them compete with tech companies like Facebook, which could face more regulation. Regulating industry usually takes consensus, which is one thing Congress is lacking. (FYI, BTW=By the way and IDK=I don’t know.)

WORKING WOMEN WIN: The Washington Post reports, “A federal appeals court ruled Monday that employers cannot justify paying a woman less than a man doing similar work because of her salary history — a move advocates say will help close the wage gap between the sexes.”

Why should a lower salary history apply to just women? Don’t most minorities suffer the same way, and even white men?

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, relatively liberal, would’ve done better by taking all workers into account.

woman doctorA woman who trained educators on how to better teach math sued her employer of three years after learning her male colleagues made significantly more money, despite having less experience.

In court, her

“employer admitted that her salary was lower and argued that the discrepancy stemmed from her prior salary — which, it asserted, had nothing to do with her gender.”

woman on computerThe Post reports in the U.S., women earn an average of 82 cents for every dollar paid to men, according to the latest Pew Research Center analysis of median hourly earnings – up from 60.2 cents for every dollar in 1980 “but the chasm hasn’t narrowed much over the last 15 years.”

Then, the article goes into how much less minorities make, which I already mentioned.

There is one victory: Since the suit, Delaware, Massachusetts, California, Oregon and Puerto Rico all passed laws blocking managers from requesting an applicant’s prior salary.

That should go for every state. A person’s worth when they’re hired should not depend on what they made at a previous job. It’s also another reason labor unions should be more powerful.

working men women

SAUDIS VS. SYRIA: Saudi Arabia will join France, the UK and of course the US, if necessary, after Syria used chemical gas on its own people yet again. That’s according to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. President Trump is warning forceful action is coming. On the other hand, Russia repeated itself and vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that would further investigate and determine responsibility for Saturday’s attack. U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley told the council, “Russia chose protecting a monster over the lives of the Syrian people.” And Turkey is telling the 3 million Syrian refugees it took in to go home. Impeccable timing!

PRESIDENT CANCELS PERU VISIT: Friday and Saturday’s Summit of the Americas in Peru “was to be the centerpiece of President Trump’s first visit to Latin America, and the first time he met many of the region’s leaders.” Instead, Trump suddenly announced he won’t go and will send Vice President Mike Pence instead. Trump will stay in Washington to focus on Syria.

COMING AND GOING: Today, it’s official. The Trump White House has had more first-year departures than any other president in at least 40 years. The latest is White House homeland security advisor Tom Bossert. We hear he earned his freedom. But today, John Bolton started as President Trump’s new national security adviser — his third in 13 months.

Goodbye!

P.S. Maybe a little less news and a bit more nonsense next time. 🙂