The bathroom bills that we actually need

Conservative state legislatures around the country have been trying to pass bills that will prevent access to bathrooms based on gender identity, specifically restricting access for trans women. This is hateful, aimed at a tiny minority that is already discriminated against in so many ways. But on my travels over the weekend, I thought of a bathroom bill that would benefit everyone and passing it would be a much better use of everyone’s time.

There used to be a time when I could drive for long distances without having to stop to use the bathroom. I recall on one occasion driving non-stop from Cleveland to Philadelphia, a journey that took about seven hours, without stopping for anything at all. But I was younger then. Those days are long gone and on my trip to Los Angeles and San Diego I found myself having to stop to use the facilities several times.
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Not all hypocrisies are equally deserving of opprobrium

Ever since Edward Snowden revealed the vast extent to which governments and tech companies collect data on each and every one of us, people should have assumed that anything they do is known or inferable since communication technology is so all-encompassing that we all leave a trail almost wherever we go and whatever we do. So we should live as if the details of our lives can be revealed at any time. This is not a good way to live but it is the reality.

But this causes a problem for those who are pretty much forced to live part of their lives in secret. This is the case for gay Catholic priests. While we may wonder why they joined and stay in an institution that shuns them just for who they are, there are plenty of scenarios by which someone could end up being a prominent member of an organization that discriminates against people like them and not everyone is in a position to quit. But that does not mean that they deserve to be outed for their private activities, as happened with a high-ranking administrator of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops.
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Break from blogging

I will be going this weekend to Los Angeles and San Diego to visit old friends. It will be my first road trip since the pandemic shut downs began in March of 2020 and in addition to the pleasure that seeing old friends always provides, it will also be nice to get out on the open road and drive down the western coast. As a result, blogging will be light to non-existent.

I expect to resume on Tuesday.

How billionaires use their sports teams to avoid taxes

The invaluable investigative site ProPublica has been mining its trove of confidential tax documents that were released to it to expose the many ways that the wealthy members of the oligarchy exploit the system to make even more money and avoid paying taxes. I posted recently about how they revealed how wealthy people in the US abuse the Roth IRA provision that was designed to help ordinary people save for their retirement. Their latest report shows what is going on with sports teams.

Wealthy individuals buy sports teams (or a share of them) and it is assumed that they do so at least partly because they like the glamor associated with hobnobbing with elite athletes and hosting dignitaries in their luxury boxes. But those are not the only perks. ProPublica shows that these teams are also a tax dodge that enable owners to pay taxes at a lower rate than even the highest paid athletes.
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Israel seeks to punish Ben & Jerry’s

I have written before about how the government of Israel, faced with rising global criticisms of its apartheid policies towards Palestinians, has started passing laws in US states that make it an offense to support things like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement that “works to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law”. In other words, Israel wants to punish speech that is critical of it. They have been successful in 35 states in passing such laws.

They now have a bigger target because the popular ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s has announced that they will no longer do business in the Occupied Territories. Israel has announced that they will be taking legal action against the company, once again dragging out the dreary old charge of anti-Semitism that is thrown at anyone who has the temerity to criticize its policies.
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Get the damn vaccine before it is too late!

It seems like some people are realizing that they should have got vaccinated but it is too late. Some of these people are young who were under the misapprehension that their youth provided protection.

At least 99% of those in the US who died of coronavirus in the last six months had not been vaccinated, Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), has said.

In places such as Alabama, only 33% of people who can receive the vaccine had been fully vaccinated, as of 20 July.

On Monday, a doctor in a Birmingham, Alabama, hospital, Brytney Cobia, said that all but one of her Covid patients at Grandview medical center didn’t receive the vaccine, with the one who had expected to make a full recovery after receiving oxygen, she told the Birmingham News. Several others are dying.
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There is nothing that some Trump followers won’t believe

Jon Schwarz at The Intercept recounts a comic-tragic story about how he, as a joke, started tweeting on July 15 about how he and his friends in the media destroyed Trump ballots and found that people actually believed him. He then started escalating the absurdity of the claims but even as it reached stratospheric heights, claiming that the FBI and CIA were in on it and that the demand to destroy the ballots was in the US Constitution and was part of the Ten Commandments, they continued to think it was real and he received multiple death threats.

While the experience was funny at first, it also brought a sense of sadness that people would believe almost anything that their tribal loyalty expected of them.
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What is going on in the UK with the pandemic?

On Monday, the UK government lifted almost all pandemic-related restrictions. Boris Johnson has used as a rationale for this action that there has been a relatively high rate of vaccination in the UK when compared to other European nations, with 87.9% having received at least one dose and early 68% receiving two doses.

England has lifted most of its domestic COVID-19 restrictions, marking a milestone as the country moves into a new phase of pandemic life — what some have dubbed “Freedom Day.”

Young people gathered at nightclubs just after midnight to celebrate the return of crowds to raucous indoor spaces. “This is what life’s about,” one clubgoer said.

The move to phase four of the country’s reopening plan means there are no limits on the size of social gatherings or events, and social distancing is no longer required. The government still recommends meeting outdoors when possible.

Requirements to wear face coverings have been lifted, though masks are still recommended in crowded areas such as public transport. They are required on the London Tube. And the government is no longer instructing people to work from home if possible, though it anticipates a gradual return to the office.The odd thing is that it did this at the very time when it is an outlier in terms of the rising number of covid-19 cases, outstripping in absolute terms even the US, India, and Brazil, the countries that have the most total number of cases, despite those countries having much larger populations. And the UK numbers are rising faster too.

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How billionaires abuse Roth IRAs

The Individual Retirement Account is a financial device in the US that was supposedly meant to encourage ordinary people to save for their old age. You could put up to a certain amount each year into the account and that amount could be deducted from your income, thus reducing your taxes. The money in the account would then grow tax-free as long as you did not take it out until the age of 59 ½. The idea was that you would let it grow until you needed it in your retirement. When you withdrew it then as needed, you would likely be in a lower tax bracket since you were not earning income.

That was the basic idea of the IRA. But then another wrinkle was introduced in 1997 and that was the so-called Roth IRA that was like the regular IRA except that the initial deposit into the account was not tax-deductible. But the offsetting benefit was that the money in the account was not taxable when you withdrew it at age 59 ½. Because these plans were supposedly meant for ordinary people, there was a limit to how much you could put into the account each year, with the original cap being S2,000, though that limit increased with time. If you started contributing early in life, the tax free growth could provide you with a little nest egg. In 2018, the average amount in a Roth IRA was $39,000.
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Policing female athletes’ uniforms

I am aware that the sexualization of women athletes is rampant but it is ridiculous that in this day and age official sports bodies can get away with mandating that women wear revealing outfits and even punishing them for not doing so.

Norway have been fined 1,500 euros (£1,295) for wearing shorts instead of bikini bottoms at the European Beach Handball Championships.

The European Handball Federation (EHF) said it had imposed the fine because of a case of “improper clothing”.

Norway’s players wore shorts instead of bikini bottoms during a bronze medal match against Spain in Varna, Bulgaria.

Norway’s Handball Federation (NHF) had already stated it would pay if their players were fined.

Here’s what they wore. Scandalous, no?

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