Sunday, June 30, 2013

Solidarity for Gay Pride

LGBT pride flagFrom those of us at Penigma, hooray for gay pride marches in this country, for June as gay pride month, and triple cheers for the recognition of gay civil rights this year in the SCOTUS decisions relating to gay marriage, and for the recognition of gay marriage in Minnesota.

Here is an example of why it is important that we push back against heinous misinformation and bigotry, like the notion that same sex orientation is an abomination, that gays are pedophiles, or should not be allowed to marry and to parent children.  We especially need to fight those who want to criminalize normal human sexuality and sexual orientation, taking us backward, not forward, in a hurtful and dangerous way.

Further, here is just one example of why we need to change those laws in a number of states, as well as make it illegal for governors to issue anti-gay executive orders, and why we should remove bigots like Scalia from the SCOTUS. These prejudices and this kind of discrimination are clearly harmful to those who are part of the LGBT community, and their families, but it is also harmful to us well beyond those individuals, for the rest of us:

No more. This kind of oppression must stop NOW.  It is wrong, and we ALL lose by it.

Contrary to the DANGEROUS beliefs of some of the Religious Right, including our own MN legislature...

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ann Coulter, Racist and Bigot, and Right wing extremist - the proof of Twitter

It seems a fair criticism that Ann Coulter, right wing extremist and conservative media darling/whore is a racist and a bigot, based on the tweet below. Ann Coulter can't or won't tell the truth, but she will say, or write, or tweet anything offensive, as often as possible to get right wing attention.

Ann Coulter
Yes, "real" Hispanics are on welfare. RT ‏@sweetnesslight Bill Richardson: Ted Cruz Is Not A Real Hispanic

A good working definition of the terminology is that one is a racist when you make an unfair, and unfounded derogatory generalization about people as a group based on their ethnicity, rather than recognizing the range of qualities each has as an individual. So calling a group - like blacks, or Hispanics - lazy, stupid, or dishonest would be an example of that kind of derogatory characterization. A person is a bigot if they represent something to be true about a group of people that is factually inaccurate, and if they act on it as a general assumption.

The two groups overlap and are not mutually exclusive; a racist believes and practices unfair and pejorative opinions about people on the basis of their origins, not who they really are; while a bigot does the same thing, but can be bigoted about a broader range of groups, like accusing all homosexuals of being pedophiles, or black teens who wear hoodies of being drug addicts or thieves.

Below is an example of Ann Coulter displaying that she can manage to be a racist AND a bigot all at the same time.  What she tweeted below is not factually accurate, not fair, not based on reality but on prejudice, and is specific to people from a certain ethnicity or national origin.

So, the next time you have a right wing ideologue insist to you that he or she is NOT a racist or bigot, you can use this handy example to demonstrate how both those terms function, using this example, and then applying the same rationale to their beliefs.

As noted by the Huff Po, in response to Coulter:
In fact, Hispanics use less than their fair share of government benefits, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Latinos make up 16 percent of the population, but receive 12 percent of benefits. Non-Hispanics whites, by contrast, account for 64 percent of the population, but receive 69 percent of entitlement benefits.

I wonder when we are going to see Ann Coulter call out all those "real white Americans" for being on welfare?  That would be factually accurate, but not conform to the alternate reality of Coulter's right wing ideology.  So don't hold your breath, the wait will be a long, long time - as in never - for that correction.  Instead Coulter will continue to promote the propaganda, the lies, the emotional appeal of the professional fear-monger that immigrants from Central and South America are somehow stealing from the 'real' white Americans who are successful in this country, through too generous government benefits.

Facts are not the friends of the right. Instead of embracing objective reality with a sense of fairness that accepts facts, and modifying their ideology to reflect those facts, instead we find the right not just ignoring those facts, not just denying those pesky facts, but LYING about what the facts are and are not.

Those are 'values' that stink to high heaven like over-ripe slimy pond scum on a very hot day --  like the record breaking kind that we are experiencing from global warming, another topic about which the right lies.

Right to life, Right to Kill, Right to Fair Treatment, Right to Vote - Wrong to be GOP

Barack Obama lost traditionally southern states in the 2012 election, but in both the 2008 and 2012 elections, he received far more votes, and a far greater percentage of votes cast, than any previous democratic candidate in the last 30 + years.

It is argued in political circles on both sides of the aisle that Republicans are winning the white male vote, and Democrats are winning ... well, pretty much everyone else, as the right doubles down on alienating women, the Hispanic vote, the Asian vote, and of course, the Black vote.  Add to that those who have only come of age to vote recently, or who will be voting for the first time in 2014 and 2016.

As the right continues to persist in their efforts to disenfranchise the voting bloc of the left, the results have been the opposite of their expectation and intent -- and make no mistake, this IS a calculated effort to deny people legal and legitimate participation in the electoral process.  This is a carefully calculated effort to deny people their lawful right to vote, no matter what kind of spin or lipstick they apply.

We saw in 2012 people returning to vote as many as 3 times; we saw people waiting in lines for up to 12 hours in some cases, despite the hopes of the right to discourage people from voting.  And now we are seeing the right's efforts to force their culture war on the rest of us that it is awakening a new demographic who has not previously voted in large numbers.  This is the key to turning those states blue where Obama lost, including gaining white votes from traditionally conservative women, and turning out the Hispanic vote as well, particularly Hispanic women who are disproportionately as a demographic pro-choice.

The problems with the ideology and politics of the right demonstrate this perfectly in the right wing microcosm of Texas.  In the filibuster performance of Wendy Davis, we see a tipping point in Texas politics engaging and energizing a previously apathetic and non-participating segment of the electorate that appears to be mirrored in other states.  That was further fueled by the ridiculous misstatements about embryonic and fetal in-utero masturbation claims of a state legislator who ought to know better (he's a licensed MD, specializing in OB/GYN medicine) and by another state legislator who inaccurately made the claim that there should be no exclusions to abortion for rape, because use of rape kits ARE a form of abortion, because they  'clean a woman out down there'.  Of course, neither statement is true, but the right has a long long long and inglorious history of errors and omissions and outright hatred for human sexuality and accuracy on the topic.

If liberals are going to win at all levels in 2014 and again in 2016, it will be because they further energized and expanded their base.  At the rate the right is doubling down on their badly flawed and fact-averse ideology, as they continue to wage culture war that alienates the majority of the country, there will be gains not only from minority voters, but increasingly from white suburban women.

Right wing gerrrymandering is unlikely to give the right the advantage that is did in 2010 and 2012.

When Rick Perry tells a gathering of his anti-abortion fanatics that Wendy Davis failed to learn the lessons of her own life, what most of us hear is that Wendy Davis learned from her life experiences very very well.  What most of us hear Rick Perry saying is that he and his fellow fanatics want to deny us our liberty, our constitutional freedom of choice, and to force, coerce women, to lie to women, to dictate to women the decisions he prefers and they prefer.  The right is the party that wants to criminalize women for exerting their choice, their rightful liberty, their empowerment. The right is the party that wants to marginalize women, dominate women, be sympathetic to rapists and those who otherwise violently abuse women, who discriminate against women, who pay women less, and who treat women badly as part of the labor force.

The right wing continues to be the party of stupid, the party of hypocrisy, and the party of hateful. The right wing continues to be the party that is trying to regain privileged/upper class white male dominance over everyone else.  The genuine harm that results from that does not concern them.

As I wrote yesterday (cross-posted from MN PP):

The Long and Short of Right to Life and Right to Kill

Rick Perry has been posturing about on stages in front of anti-abortion groups, and in media interviews, telling anyone who will listen that he is all about every person – and by that he presumably also means every potential person, in the vein of  the Monty Python song “Every Sperm is Sacred”.  He used the occasion to take a swipe at state Senator Wendy Davis for her effective and very popular filibuster of a right wing attempt to enact unconstitutional abortion legislation that would prohibit abortion after 20 weeks.

Ironically, in the same approximate time period, Rick Perry was touring a number of states, particularly in the north eastern United States, trying to induce businesses to move to Texas, where they have lax regulation and very little taxation, resulting in deficient social services.  Among the areas in which Texas appears to have very lax regulation is that which protects women who are pregnant while employed.   Texas makes it as easy as possible for employers to refuse to protect their workers during pregnancy, resulting in miscarriages and still births like this one in California, where a woman went into premature labor and lost her baby — at 20 weeks.  While Texas is one of the few states with specific laws to protect women during pregnancy, the enforcement of that regulation is spotty at best, and employers do not appear consistently to be well informed of legal requirements in practice.  Perry, like so many other right wingers, has been adamant about opposing any legislation or regulation that is pro-labor, which is erroneously characterized as anti-business.

Because all those unborn fetuses are SO important — unless they and their pregnant mothers are inconvenient to profits.  Business first in Texas!  Between the let-those-babies-die-to-be-business-friendly, and killing the wrongly convicted, Texas conservatives like Perry claiming to be pro-life seems terribly, horribly false, an egregious lie.  Add in the horrific racial inequalities of Texas, and it seems not only anti-life, but racistly so.

During roughly the same time frame, Texas carried out its 500th execution since 1982, a black Dallas woman, Kimberly McCarthy,  killing her by lethal injection.  Texas executes more people than any other state, even though a couple of other states have more inmates who have received the death sentence.  They’re singularly eager to execute people in Texas, as was indicated by the applause for Rick Perry during the Republican primary debates when the topic came up.  This is significant, since Texas also leads the nation in wrongful convictions; it can fairly be argued that Texas is far more eager to execute people, than to convict only guilty people, especially people of color.

While Perry is applauding every potential human life to develop to it’s full potential, he is not too concerned about that life fulfilling an unfair death potential, which seems classic right wing hypocrisy.

As the non-profit news organization noted:
A 2012 Texas Tribune poll indicated that a mere 21 per cent of Texans were opposed to the death penalty, evidence of which came during Governor Perry’s 2011 run for the presidency, when he was roundly applauded for overseeing so many executions.
I’ve never struggled [to sleep at night] at all,” he said. “In the state of Texas when you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you are involved in another crime that killed one of our citizens – you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas.”
The nationwide decline in executions is, at least in part, attributable to unearthed evidence that has exonerated wrongfully convicted Americans across the country. Earlier this year the National Registry of Exonerations revealed that Texas – and Dallas County, in particular, where McCarthy was convicted – is the national leader in exonerations. 
A probe, ordered after that study and published April 2013, revealed that at least 117 people in Texas were imprisoned over the last 25 years for crimes they did not commit.
Texas has been showcased as the number one state in the nation for wrongful convictions,” state Rep. Ruth McClendon told the Houston Chronicle. “Each conviction of an innocent person reveals a tragic failure of the justice system.”
It is rumored that Rick Perry, like Michele Bachmann in MN CD6, will NOT run again in 2014 for governor of Texas, but rather run again for President — as might Michele Bachmann.  They appeal to the same right wing nut extremists, who are tolerant of poor reasoning and factually inaccurate statements, and outright lies.

We can only hope for a repeat of the outrageous entertainment this could provide to political observers and comedians.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The next time you hear the Pro-rape Pro-Violence Anti-Women Republicans spouting some kind of factually inaccurate nonsense about women, about violence, and especially about rape and reproduction, or how women don't want or need equal pay for equal work, remember THIS

from the New York Times:

One-Third of Women Assaulted by a Partner, Global Report Says

In the first major global review of violence against women, a report released Thursday found that 30 percent of women reported having been physically or sexually assaulted by a former or current partner. The head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, called it “a global health problem of epidemic proportions,” and other experts said screening for domestic violence should be added to all levels of health care. Among the findings: 40 percent of women killed worldwide were slain by a partner. Researchers used a broad definition of domestic violence, and in cases where country data was incomplete, estimates were used to fill in the gaps. The report also examined sexual violence against women by someone other than a partner and found about 7 percent of women had been victims. The report was based on studies from 1983 to 2010.
In case any conservatives reading this blog think that referring to the GOP as the pro-rape party and the pro-violence party is unfair, I suggest you reconsider your position.  This is the party that doesn't want to punish the bully who beats up or otherwise torments other kids in school; this is the party that did not want to renew the violence against women act, this is the party that tried to redefine rape so that it no longer included statutory rape of children, or rape by drugging or otherwise incapacitating someone, or where there was intimidation of violence but not actual violence. This is the party that says if you are unconscious, you didn't say no, and therefore rape is not rape. This is the party that has tried to say, including during congressional hearings, that both men and women in our military should expect to get raped, and not complain about it or expect better treatment, because that is just normal male hormones, a dismissal of responsibility because 'boys will be boys'. This is the ideology, the mind set, the politics expressed by the right wing Rupert Murdoch media empire, in this instance in the Wall Street Journal:

Gen. Helms and the Senator's 'Hold'

An Air Force commander exercised her discretion in a sexual-assault case. Now her career is being blocked by Sen. Claire McCaskill. Why?

    By James Taranto
Lt. Gen. Susan Helms is a pioneering woman who finds her career stalled because of a war on men—a political campaign against sexual assault in the military that shows signs of becoming an effort to criminalize male sexuality.

...At issue is the general's decision in February 2012 to grant clemency to an officer under her command. Capt. Matthew Herrera had been convicted by a court-martial of aggravated sexual assault. Ms. McCaskill said earlier this month that the clemency decision "sent a damaging message to survivors of sexual assault who are seeking justice in the military justice system."
To describe the accuser in the Herrera case as a "survivor" is more than a little histrionic. The trial was a he-said/she-said dispute between Capt. Herrera and a female second lieutenant about a drunken October 2009 sexual advance in the back seat of a moving car. The accuser testified that she fell asleep, then awoke to find her pants undone and Capt. Herrera touching her genitals. He testified that she was awake, undid her own pants, and responded to his touching by resting her head on his shoulder.
Taranto goes on to describe the second sexual assault charge against Herrera. Here is where the real problem comes in with Taranto's assessment of the war on men and male sexuality:
It's fair to say that Capt. Herrera seems to have a tendency toward sexual recklessness. Perhaps that makes him unsuitable to serve as an officer in the U.S. Air Force. But his accusers acted recklessly too. The presumption that reckless men are criminals while reckless women are victims makes a mockery of any notion that the sexes are equal.

I dispute the statement here that the victims of these assaults were reckless; this is blaming the victim, and this is part of the problem in the military, and from the right wing generally.  Women are not responsible for being raped by where they go, how they dress, or trusting someone who turns out not to be trustworthy.  There is NO excuse for coercion or involuntary sexual acts. This mistaken assumption in blaming the victims while excusing the rapist can come from women as well as men, as we saw in the Rolling Stone interview with tennis star Serena Williams.  To her credit, Williams subsequently apologized to that rape victim and her family.

As we see in this Wall Street Journal article from May about the problem with sexual assault in the military, commanding officers over-ruling the decisions of military tribunals is part of the problem. The commanding officer in the case at issue was exonerated in a second claim of assault where another woman went with him into his bedroom, but did not consent to sex. The military found that by the female staff sgt. agreeing to go into his room, she agreed to have sex. The two are not the same, entering a bedroom is NOT agreeing to have sex. If there was a military court finding that should have been overturned, it should have been the second case. A woman can legally and morally say NO to sex at any point, including changing her mind DURING sex, and should not be coerced against her will at ANY point to continue sexual activity, including touching of her body. Rape is a crime not only of violence, but of domination by taking away the victim's autonomy over their own body in a sexual manner. That makes anyone who has such domination asserted over them legitimately a real victim.

The military report in May indicated, in another New York Times piece:
Sexual Assaults in Military Raise Alarm in Washington
Published: May 7, 2013

WASHINGTON — The problem of sexual assault in the military leapt to the forefront in Washington on Tuesday as the Pentagon released a survey estimating that 26,000 people in the armed forces were sexually assaulted last year, up from 19,000 in 2010, and an angry President Obama and Congress demanded action.
The study, based on a confidential survey sent to 108,000 active-duty service members, was released two days after the officer in charge of sexual assault prevention programs for the Air Force was arrested and charged with sexual battery for grabbing a woman’s breasts and buttocks in an Arlington, Va., parking lot.
At a White House news conference, Mr. Obama expressed exasperation with the Pentagon’s attempts to bring sexual assault under control.
“The bottom line is, I have no tolerance for this,” Mr. Obama said in answer to a question about the survey. “If we find out somebody’s engaging in this stuff, they’ve got to be held accountable, prosecuted, stripped of their positions, court-martialed, fired, dishonorably discharged. Period.” 
The president said he had ordered Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel “to step up our game exponentially” to prevent sex crimes and said he wanted military victims of sexual assault to know that “I’ve got their backs.”
In a separate report made public on Tuesday, the military recorded 3,374 sexual assault reports last year, up from 3,192 in 2011, suggesting that many victims continue not to report the crimes for fear of retribution or a lack of justice under the department’s system for prosecution.
Now, I have not served in the military, but it was my understanding that part of what those who do serve swear to do in upholding the constitution was that part about the President being the commander in chief, an following orders.  It appears to me from the President's statements that he wants a change in the more permissive rape culture of the military, including more support of the victims.

THAT would seem to be the same position taken in this situation by Senator Clare McCaskill in her criticism of the officer in question being promoted to a higher leadership position, regardless of her other very considerable accomplishments. That is not a war on men, that is an attempt to bring a permissive pattern of failed justice into conformity with good military order.  Nor do I see this as an assault on the officer in question for his masculinity, nor is it an assault on the rights of the accused -- the right so often likes to claim THEY are the victims when they are not, be it for being male, or white, or in some other way part of a group which has been privileged rather than treated unequally.

Are we REALLY worried about straight OR gay people marrying animals?

This is Ayn Rand Paul pandering to the stupidly fearful on the right. This man is not presidential, despite his aspirations.

He is just desperately stupid.

And morally bankrupt.

Vision, or Division ---- some on the SCOTUS are only capable of the latter partisan behavior

This is what life getting better looks like for women - especially number 8, below

Republicans HATE legislation that helps women who are raped; they opposed, bitterly, the Violence Against Women Act last time around because helping women in situations of domestic violence and abuse gets them away from overwhelmingly mostly male abusers.  Prominent right wing figures have actually made the appalling argument that removing women from abusive situations is a threat to traditional marriage and families, that instead women should stay and be abused rather than leave, rather than divorce, even if they are seriously injured, even if they are killed as a result.

Among right wing evangelicals, there have been instances where churches have in fact enabled pedophiles and domestic abusers, punishing women and impeding them from reporting dangerous crimes, in order to support and perpetuate the dominion, the dominance, of men in the church and in the home.

We have seen right wing politicians, most notably our own member of Congress from Minnesota, promote factually false claims about the Human Papillomavirus vaccine, while assailing 'Obamacare', as well as promoting other factually inaccurate claims about Obamacare.  By factually inaccurate statements, what I really mean is deliberate lying.

We have seen the right oppose the full and free use of contraceptives and related counseling, in an effort to push limited religious belief on those who do not hold those beliefs.  Women who lack control of their reproductive choices are more vulnerable, more dependent, and less free than women who have those choices.  The right believes that when women have fewer choices, that it supports a traditional family, where men are dominant.  That goes hand in hand with the right repealing legislation which made it illegal to discriminate against women, and to pay women substantially LESS than men for doing the same job.

Good, inexpensive health care and health insurance, like Obamacare, means women have more control over their economic lives, as well as more autonomy over their own bodies.  Conservatives would rather see women dying from lack of breast cancer and other reproductive cancers, than see women receive that coverage under Obamacare.  That is evident from their efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, promoting factually inaccurate claims about abortion services.

The right has also been a strong promoter of ignorance only sex education, under the misleading title of abstinence only sex education.  They don't want men OR women to have medically accurate information on which to base their life decisions, and have REQUIRED that medically inaccurate information be provided in schools.  Right wing politicians have even required that medically inaccurate information be provided to women who are pregnant, even if it means a woman will die because of it.  So of course, the right HATES Obamacare for providing affordable AND accurate medical information and medical care that will save the lives of women.  THAT does not conform to their ideology.

Just this past week or two, in the state of Texas, we have seen conservatives who should know better, including in one case an OB/GYN, speaking in their state legislature, make claims about women and reproductive health that were factually inaccurate.  The OB/GYN made factually false claims about fetal pain and pleasure to justify an unconstitutional abortion law.  A female member of the Texas legislature made an incredibly badly informed and factually inaccurate statements asserting that rape kits properly used in an emergency room were the same as having an abortion, that the use of a rape kit "cleaned a woman out" --- (you know 'down there').

This is the same party of conservatives that in another state, in addressing reproductive regulation, insisted that the use of the technically correct anatomical term for a part of a woman's body, 'vagina', was inappropriate and vulgar in a debate in their state legislature.  So of course, FACTUALLY ACCURATE information, which would include words like VAGINA, in information provided to women in conjunction with their health care under Obamacare offends conservatives.

It goes without saying that any medically accurate information on gender and sexual orientation that does not conform to the religious right and other conservative ignorance and bigotry that is provided as part of health care counseling under Obamacare deeply offends those ignorant conservatives.  It is likely to reduce the deaths from suicide of those who are transgender, gay, lesbian or bi-sexual, or even a-sexual; conservatives would rather see those people dead, or so miserable that being dead is preferable to their lives, than see these people provided with health care services.  That would also include counseling to get out of physically, emotionally, or psychologically abusive relationships. Conservatives HATE that.

So, it is no surprise that conservatives no doubt HATE that these things are now fully covered under Obamacare, or that poor people who were previously dying at obscene rates from lack of health care, due to things like pre-existing conditions or the decision of employers not to make health insurance available to them, are now fully covered by Obamacare.

Better in the minds of conservatives that these people DIE, than benefit from an insurance program named for the first black president as an insult.  Better in the minds of conservatives that people suffer, than reduce heath care costs, and improve care, because of their ideological ignorance and prejudice about what is constitutionally valid.

This is what life getting better looks like for women, and for a lot of men and for a lot of children too.  It makes us all safer, and it makes us all more free, in the real definition of liberty, which is quite different from the conservative use of the words freedom and liberty.

The graphic below illustrates one more example of conservatives on the wrong side of an issue, and on the wrong side of history.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

When Is Minority Political Activity Representation; When Is It Tokenism?

winklertweet When Is Minority Participation Representation, and When Is It Tokenism?In Minnesota, the recent decision which overturns the congressional affirmation of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act from the 1960s provoked an inappropriate tweet from a democrat in the state legislature, Rep. Ryan Winkler.

I find myself torn between respect for the office of Justice of the Supreme Court, and what has appeared to me to be a long series of poor opinions, inaction, and extreme ideological decisions that are consistently harmful to the progress of legislation and efforts to mitigate racism, gender and other inequality in the United States.

Even before this development, I had been considering how to define tokenism, and settled on the concept of a minority or disadvantaged, or under-represented group in the ranks of those in political or governmental power, including both elected and appointed office, where authority and/or power is not available to those few representatives, or where it is exercised against one or more minority groups, and in support of the majority.

So for example, I looked at the number of women in Congress, from each party, and the roles their parties assigned to them, such as committee chairs and other positions of authority, versus serving largely as spokespersons and figureheads without any real access to power and influence.

The Center for American Women and Politics had a great fact sheet that breaks down some of these figures by not only gender, but minority ethnicity/race. From that fact sheet looking at both houses of Congress combined, women fill 98 of the possible 535 seats, with 20 in the Senate, and 78 in the House, along with three delegates – one each from Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Washington DC. Sixteen of the 20 senators are Democrats, four are Republicans. Of the 78 women in the House, 59 are Democrats, and 19 are Republicans; and the three women delegates are Democrats also.

Of the women serving in Congress in 2013, “30 are women of color”, divided as “14 African American women, 7 Asian Pacific Islanders, and 9 Latinas”.

On the Supreme Court, we currently have three women Justices, all three of them appointed by Democratic presidents – although to be fair, the first woman Justice, Sandra Day O’Connor, was appointed by President Reagan, a Republican. There was a considerable dry spell in Republican nominations of women after that.

So, apart from the rudeness of the tweet content —– HAS Justice Thomas acted in support of the white, and largely male majority in consistently pursuing a far right conservative position in his rulings? Is his failure to speak during public hearings in the SCOTUS and the rarity with which he writes either a majority or dissenting opinion a failure to assert the full role of his office? In other words, IS Justice Thomas an example of tokenism, someone to be used as an example or claim of acceptance, but who does not in practice demonstrate an active role in exercising their position?

New Hampshire has an all-female delegation to Congress this year — two of them Democratic representatives to Congress, and one each Republican and Democratic women in the Senate. The numbers alone are not enough; what we need to know to separate token women or token racial or ethnic representation is to follow what power and influence they are allowed. We need to ask the question, what do they DO, and for whom they do it? As well as how are people affected in the majority and minority groups by what they do?

FreeToBeYouAndMe When Is Minority Participation Representation, and When Is It Tokenism?

Famous icon from the Ms. Magazine Foundation circa 1972 advocating for racial, gender and orientation equality, reflecting the rise of both feminism and the success of the civil rights movement.
And as noted in the USA Today article, Record Number of Women in Congress Out to Change Tone:
In the Democratic-controlled Senate, Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski is the first woman to wield the chairman’s gavel at the Appropriations Committee, which allocates federal spending for nearly all programs. Washington Sen. Patty Murray leads the Budget Committee and California’s Dianne Feinstein heads up the Intelligence Committee. Michigan’s Debbie Stabenow leads the Agriculture Committee, California’s Barbara Boxer is chair of the Environment Committee and Louisiana’s Mary Landrieu is in charge at the Small Business Committee.
On the House side, where Republicans are in power, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington holds the fourth-highest position in the GOP leadership, as chairwoman of the House Republican Conference. There are no Republican women in charge of high-profile committees, but Rep. Candice Miller of Michigan is chairwoman of the House Administration Committee, which deals with such issues as office budgets and technology of members.
Given the number of necessary DOJ interventions, the long lines and disproportionate other difficulties that faced minorities in conservative states, and other factors in the assessment by Congress prior to the most recent re-affirmation of the provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the SCOTUS decision in which Justice Clarence Thomas not only participated but went beyond in his opinion seems a clear example of tokenism.  He seems to have contorted his position to act on behalf of conservatives who are overwhelmingly white, male, and by reasonable metric largely privileged or advantaged over those who are in minority or under-represented demographics who are not similarly privileged and advantaged, and who are not even remotely equal in treatment by government entities. On that basis, Clarence Thomas would seem to be fairly characterized as a token black man on the SCOTUS bench in a way which does not appear to have been true for the women Justices, from Sandra Day O’Connor through the current female contingent of Justices.

When looking at the term Uncle Tom, I went to the segment of, that provides the most extensive word history:
Word Origin & History
Uncle Tom
“servile black man,” 1922, somewhat inaccurately in ref. to the humble, pious, but strong-willed main character in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” (1852). The image implied in the insult perhaps is more traceable to the late 19c. minstrel show versions of the story, which reached a far wider audience than the book. “I don’t recall anyone in the 1920s using the term ‘Uncle Tom’ as an epithet. But what’s amazing is how fast it caught on (in the 1930s). Black scholars picked up (the term) and just started throwing it at each other.” [Ernest Allen, quoted in Hamilton, Kendra, "The Strange Career of Uncle Tom," Black Issues in Higher Education, June 2002]
As a verb, attested from 1937.
Rep. Winkler has apologized, frequently and profusely for tweeting in a manner that was not politically correct. While rude, I am not so sure he was not perhaps technically correct however to criticize Justice Clarence Thomas for catering to white racism and to perpetuating voting inequality in order to conform to conservative ideology, consistent with white male political dominant traditional power structures. I find myself in quite limited agreement with Rep. Winkler, without approving of his tweet.

I will look into further examples of political partisan alignment, race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation in subsequent articles. While this distribution is not exclusively partisan, it also does appear to be more of a pattern in one party than the other, but the exceptions are as informative as the rule in those cases.

Brodkorb – time for HIM to quit his law suit, not the lege

The news this month is full of Brodkorb, and his law suit.

The state Senate says they won’t settle, and there is a fund of $500k to cover costs through 2014.

Brodkorb claims he was treated differently than other employees — female employees – having affairs with members of the legislature.  Senate leader Tom Bakk points out that when people who were in the position he was in  were terminated when their bosses left, notably Brodkorb’s predecessor when Bakk took over after the 2012 election.

It’s not like Brodkorb was uniquely successful as communications director, or that every new person in office doesn’t select their own chief of staff.  It’s also not like Brodkorb was part of a successful MN GOP, having served as deputy chair during the period of time when, under the leadership of the oversized ego  of Tony Sutton, the party went into spectacular debt and demonstrated spectacular fiscal IR-responsibility.

The latest developments are that while Sutton appears to be blackmailing , or more precisely TRYING TO BLACKMAIL the MN GOP, and potentially the other side of the aisle by releasing scandalous stories of similar affairs to his own, a recent court ruling earlier this month squelched his chances at leveraging that nasty maneuver when the court gave broad powers to both sides of the suit to designate material as confidential.

That makes it less effective as leverage to shame or embarrass or otherwise harm current and past members of the legislature.

As the PiPress noted on June 7 of this year:
A federal judge has ruled that either party in fired aide Michael Brodkorb’s lawsuit against the Minnesota Senate can designate materials or witness depositions as confidential, an order the former staffer said Friday was too broad but that an opposing attorney classified as routine.
U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Arthur Boylan issued the order Thursday, covering information sought and exchanged in the pre-trial phase of a case headed for trial next summer.
Brodkorb is suing over his dismissal, which followed disclosures of an affair he was having with then-Republican Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch.
The order covers depositions of former lawmakers and others. Brodkorb claims that his termination after the affair became public was handled differently than similarly situated employees in Capitol romances. His side planned to seek depositions of current and former lawmakers as he tries to prove the case.

When direct efforts by the sleazy hypocritical adulterer to try to embarrass his former colleagues failed, Brodkorb then moved on to somehow leaking, or allowing to be leaked, a recording of a sympathetic phone conversation with former president of the Senate, Michele Fischbach, appears to support Brodkorb.  Clearly, this is one more too-trusting woman who didn’t recognize Brodkorb for the sleaze he was and is; but regardless of her opinion, which she now notes was intended to be sympathetic to someone experiencing loss, Fischbach does not appear to have been in a position then to be either fully informed of the all tine details of the termination, or knowledgable about such hires and fires,  and perhaps most significant, she was not aware and did not consent to such a recording.

While the recording was technically legal, the ethics of making such a recording, and the way it was used, go to demonstrate the lack of ethics and morality of his character, and his general untrustworthiness.  In my opinion, the man is a two-legged swine, who doesn’t care about anyone, certainly not his family, or his colleagues, or the people of Minnesota, or most specifically, loyalty towards any woman who is involved with him as wife, lover, or friend.  He does not appear to be respectful of the judicial process either, given this apparent defiance of the spirit of the June 7th ruling.

We can only hope his actions in providing the tape to the media will result in both court consequences, and the fleeing of any remaining partisan supporters who recognize the immense deficiencies of character of Michael Brodkorb.

The STrib leak appears to be an attempt to circumvent Judge Boyle’s ruling; to me it smacks of an act of desperation.  While the apparently highly partisan STrib author who called for settlement appears to be attempting not so much to protect Brodkorb, but the scandal and conflict riddled MN GOP as well.  A perusal of the response to the article in the comment section indicates the support appears to be overwhelmingly for fighting  Brodkorb, even if there is substantial cost to the tax payers.  No doubt Brodkorb is positioning himself to try to be king maker, and maybe rain maker for the 2014 campaigns for office, including the make-or-break smear activities on which he made his name.

After all, this has to be costing Brodkorb as well, which leads me to wonder who is funding this little suit of his?  It’s not like the fiscally dishonest and inept MN GOP has the money, or has any great love – or trust – for NO-family-values Brodkorb, now that he is attacking them rather than serving as their attack dog.

Brodkorb must be toadying to some big money source to fund his go at this law suit; someone else has hooked their leash to his collar, in hopes of continuing his sleaze style of politics. It will be interesting to find out who that is – and sooner or later, it WILL come out.

I would further argue that NOT fighting Brodkorb creates a moral hazard.  Wikipedia has an excellent entry explaining what moral hazards are in the context of economic theory, which I would encourage those interested in the Brodkorb controversy to read.  But I think the best explanation / definition is the one from Paul Krugman, “any situation in which one person makes the decision about how much risk to take, while someone else bears the cost if things go badly.”

The state lege might be particularly interested in looking at the section of that Wikipedia entry on moral hazard in the context of employment, which notes, in an observation that seems uniquely applicable to political appointments:
Moral hazard can occur when upper management is shielded from the consequences of poor decision making. This situation can occur in a variety of situations, such as the following:
    • When a manager has a secure position and cannot be readily removed.

There are some other employment moral hazards that apply, but I think that one alone is sufficient to justify the cost of fighting this suit.  And when it is done, if he fails, as I believe he will, rather than prevails, then I suspect that event he big spenders who might be behind Brodkorb will dump him into the pit of obscurity where such sleaze belongs.

It should be entertaining to watch the smoke and fire, as Michael Brodkorb burns the rest of his bridges in a desperate attempt to appear relevant again during the 2014 election cycle.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Fair is fair! Do we encourage success, or are we impeding it?

Cross-posted from MNPP:

Are we doing enough for the really small businesses in Minnesota?

During the end of last week and over the weekend, I played hooky, and ‘went to the dogs’, attending a local dog show.  One of my friends who was an exhibitor had a minor injury, and needed help, so I arranged for someone else to show one of her dogs each of the four days.

It’s always important to be able to return to work on Monday, not too badly impaired from weekend hobbies and home chores.  I know I’m not the only one who had a strenuous weekend from the latter.

The assist came from the daughter of friends, a young woman who is a single mother, and an entrepreneur. She works most Monday-through-Fridays as a massage therapist and office manager in conjunction with rehab therapists and chiropractors. But she took time off for part of the week, as well as working the weekend to work on people who had kinks and sprains and strains and sore muscles at the dog show.  She had a steady clientele, in addition to helping my friend by showing one of her dogs – and did some nice winning for her, even though she hadn’t shown a dog for a few years. She also attended to the minor sprain/strain for my friend as well, with great improvement resulting, and was paid for both kinds of services.

I was impressed by her long hours, over seven days without any time off; her 13 year old son was at the dog show with her. (He was working as well; that work ethic is being passed on to her son. He earned $200 and was button-popping proud of himself; but mom wisely  hung onto the check for safe keeping.)

Speaking with her as she worked on various people, I was shocked and dismayed to find that people who engage in her line of work, have to pay BOTH sales tax AND an entertainment tax on the services they perform. In addition to that, she had to pay $3,800 for a license to work in a practice in one of the northern suburbs. In most cases, if she were to do what she did this past weekend, work her weekend as well at some kind of event like a dog show or festival, she could expect to pay an additional local licensing fee. Fortunately, because this particular county fairground did not require one, she did not need to pay out of pocket for a year long license for a few days of work.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Back to civilization

Sorry if we have disappointed readers with light addition of new content.

We were among those deprived of the joys and necessities of civilization, like electricity, internet access, phone, television.

Thank you for your patience as we get back up to speed.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A little Friday Fun Day humor from Fiore

WAS what Kiera Wilmot did SCIENCE?

Cross posted from IVN: When Kiera Wilmot and the ACLU claimed she was just exercising her scientific curiosity when she made a bottle bomb, a kind of improvised explosive, which got her expelled from school and nearly resulted in her being prosecuted for a felony, was what she did fairly excused as a science project?

According to the Ledger:
The 16-year-old student told authorities she was conducting a science experiment outside Bartow High School's cafeteria about 7 a.m. April 22, but her science teachers and school administrators said they weren't aware of it and wouldn't have allowed it. ...
"It just blew the top off the bottle," he said Monday. "It didn't fracture the bottle, but the gas that built up inside it pushed the plastic out so it looks deformed."
The bottle was taken into evidence and is at the state Fire Marshal's Office for processing, said Sgt. David Wyant, spokesman for the Bartow Police Department. ....At this point, Wilmot's case is in the juvenile court, he said, even though the two allegations against her are felonies.
This morning I got up, and in the course of my mornings chores, I made biscuits. I found a very simple recipe some time ago, with only two ingredients required, milk and self-rising flour. The milk acts, among other things, as an acid that interacts with baking powder and other ingredients in the self-rising flour to create a chemical reaction, a gas which is different than the gas released from yeast that makes a yeast bread rise.

Sometimes, based on what is available when I open the refrigerator in the morning, I make substitutions. I might throw in yogurt and water, half and half, some kind of cheese, in addition to other ingredients. But what makes the biscuits rise when I put them in the oven is the same principle - some kind of acid interacted with some kind of base. It is a chemical reaction. I know that as in other recipes used in baking some form of bread or cookies or cakes etc. the acid might be vinegar or something else acidic, instead of milk.

I've made this recipe so many times, in so many ways, I no longer need to measure the ingredients if I don't want to do so. I usually eyeball it, estimate it, make it the way my grandmother made many recipes she knew well. In her words you "just do it".

Is this a science experiment, or just breakfast? I would argue that it is just breakfast, because the intent, in spite of some knowledge of the chemistry of the ingredients working, is not the point of my activity. I want to eat the result; I only care about the chemical interaction when something doesn't work, and I need to fix it. Otherwise I don't think about it, I don't care about it; the chemical reaction is not WHY I do it.

If my interest were scientific, I would be measuring carefully, I would be doing a different kind of documenting of the substitutions, and I would be taking notes that reflected measurable differences in the results.

It is certainly not that I am unaware of the role of science in cooking or food products; one of my cousins has a PhD in organic chemistry. She now teaches organic chemistry at a very prestigious academic institution; however when she first earned her degree she worked for a major food company in the development of new products, in a kind of industrial application of science to food. So I am well aware, from discussing the differences, how being a scientist and what I did to make breakfast differ.

Later this morning, after finishing this article, I'm going to clean the household drains before I write the next piece I'm working on. I will be using vinegar and baking soda, which IS, unlike what Kiera Wilmot did, a 'common science experiment'. But I'm not mixing these two ingredients together as a science experiment; there is no demonstration purpose involved. I will not be measuring carefully, I will not be taking notes. I'm keeping drains open in a manner which is also safe for pipes and a septic system. I might run the vinegar through the coffee maker first, and I might notice in passing if using hot vinegar instead of room temperature vinegar interacts differently with the baking soda when I pour it down the drain - but that doesn't make it a science project either, just because I can identify in scientific terms what is happening.

Later on today, I actually WILL be doing a science experiment, in the same kitchen where I made biscuits and cleaned the drain. I will be making dog treats for a friend who has a dog with fairly severe allergies. I have some formal training in veterinary medicine, and in particular an interest in the immune response that is associated with sensitivities and allergic responses. And like my understanding of the chemistry of my casual biscuit making, I will be using that understanding to modify a recipe, based on a variety of information, to make substitutions that parallel the ingredients that we know the dog can tolerate well, to make customized dog biscuits for my friend and my friend's dog. I have spent, and will spend more time, researching what will and will not trigger those immune system allergic responses, I will be doing actual research, and I might very well do some consulting with my cousin with the PhD in organic chemistry, as well as researchers in this field. And what I do will be done very much as a formal science experiment, from beginning to end, even though some of what I do will be done in that same kitchen where I threw together biscuits this morning.

What makes it a scientific exercise, where the casual making of biscuits for breakfast and drain cleaning were not, is the scientific method. For purposes of easy access and a handy entry level description, that is:
The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.[1] To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.[2] The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as: "a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses."[3]
In researching this series of posts, I took the time to look at the videos being made of people fooling around with bottle bombs of different kinds. I read about them, I researched the science of how they work. There is a big difference between wanting to make something go boom for fun, where you don't really care about how it happens, you just want that 'pop', the kaboom large or small, for a kick, versus performing a science experiment where you understand what is happening and why it happens. The difference is exemplified, briefly, here:

There is a difference between the emotional and entertainment value of an explosion for fun, and science, although science can be fun. There is a difference between the safety concerns involved in science and the efforts made to make something reproducible and just fooling around for some other reason. Curiosity can be present in both, but curiosity does not, by itself, make something you do science, or a science project.

Thursday, June 20, 2013


I'm sick of the ignorant right wing culture wars, especially the war on women. Right wing policies are hell on economic growth and job creation, so maybe we should be grateful they haven't done more harm.

But this is also harm, harm enough. They are incapable of learning or changing; that is NOT a good quality, a positive aspect. It is just one more aspect that is wrong wrong wrong about the right.

Stop the disrespect for women, and stop trying to take our rightful autonomy over our own bodies.


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NRA = Failed Priorities, False Values

FEMINISM! YES!!!!!!!!!!!

Pirates of the Caymans

Congressional Greed; Lying denial of real, honest need

Know your history.
Recognize what has changed, and what has not.

Right wing policies equate to wealth extraction and even greater corruption than usual

Bastards, UN-AMERICAN Bastards

We have a RATIONAL President, (unlike, you know, that other right wing fool)

GOP = Economic Failure

How the right wing economic policies ruined the country, and extorted wealth from the majority to a tiny minority of the already obscenely wealthy.

The Kiera Wilmot bottle bomb incident - I relate, but disagree

cross-posted from IVN:

In the past month or so, I was intrigued by the story as it was reported about Kiera Wilmot, the young black woman in Florida who got in trouble for exploding a pop bottle bomb.  What first attracted me to the story were the similarities to my own experience.  At 16 years old, I was an honor student, with straight A’s in science courses, and I was also threatened with expulsion for something I did that was school related.

My incident did not involve science, it involved what I did as the editor of my high school paper, but in some respects what I did was far more explosive, just not in the chemical reaction sense of the term.  Both the similarities and the differences have serious implications far beyond the respective antics of high school students.

I was enrolled without my knowledge in a journalism class, by my high school debate coach, who was “stuck” (his word) teaching journalism for the year, because the regular teacher was on sabbatical, and as he put it, he “wasn’t going to be stuck alone”.

I was on the honors program/ college track; journalism was a goof-off class, consisting of producing a rag of a student paper twice a semester.  I was interested in a good GPA and amassing an impressive transcript. The result of the journalism class effort was usually a massive amount of litter that no one looked at, much less read.

My grade literally depended on making the student paper relevant, and read, as measured by a significant decrease in the amount of litter when the paper was distributed to students.  I wanted an A, at the very least, if I was going to be stuck in what I considered a stupid course and a waste of my time, and I was persuaded that being editor would look good on a college application, so I didn’t transfer out.

I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams — and worst nightmares.  I did a front page piece on a problem with sewer rats, and the refusal of two students to take out the garbage on weekends because of the rat problem after the parking lot lights were out when closing up, at the local McDonald’s. Because of their refusal to go near the rats, to take out the garbage, they had been fired.  One of the two was a friend of mine, also from the debate team; the other went to one of the parochial schools in the area.

I went to the parking lot at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night after a particularly busy evening; the Mickey D’s was the local gathering place for students from all of the schools in the area after events.  I took photos, using a very expensive borrowed camera, and I ran the story with a photo of one rat, approximately life size, taking up half the page above the fold, dead center under a big headline. I documented the rat problem, and I reported on the unfair treatment of student employees, I made my news coverage relevant to every high school student who worked outside of school, which was most of my fellow classmates.
There was negligible litter when the paper came out.  But there was also a lawsuit against my school district, first from the individual franchise operation, then from the corporation.

I sympathize with Kiera Wilmot, because I remember how terrified I was of being expelled from school.  I had taken the SAT at the beginning of my junior year, and I could see both high school graduation and my college choices disappearing from my grasp.  I remember my knees shaking, and feeling light-headed, and sick to my stomach when I was called into the principals office; I had NEVER been in trouble before that afternoon.

I anticipated my father’s VERY loud, angry “YOU DID WHAT?”, followed by a lot more invective.  To put this into context, my parents had been friends with the superintendent of schools since THEY were in high school together; most of the school board were in their closest circle of friends as well; the franchise owner was another friend, involved in many of the same community organizations, AND the franchise did their banking at the small community bank that my father and a couple of his friends had started, owned, and where he served on the board of directors. The college to which I had applied was the one attended by my father, and where he deeply wanted me to attend.

My parents would have PREFERRED I was involved in a minor felony, instead of what I did. Among other aspects, the amount of money involved would have been smaller.

Like Kiera Wilmot, I came out of my ‘adventure’ smelling like a rose; McDonald’s caved, my friend and the other student were offered their jobs back, with a raise and lost wages, if I called off the boycott that resulted from my article. On the day my second full edition of the school paper came out, I also received my acceptance to my first choice college, almost immediately after applying.  I had written about my experiences with the rats, and student treatment, and the economics of boycotts, the lessons learned from the school paper, and how I was affected by the lawsuit in my application, in the section that required an essay about a significant experience.  My father ended up boasting about my courage and initiative.  
So I know what it is like to be in very public trouble, and to have the media come to my rescue, if on a slightly smaller scale.  Like Kiera Wilmot, my teachers were tremendously supportive, including providing the camera, and donating the cost of running the rat photo, which would otherwise have taken the entire budget for the school paper.  They also gave me tremendous moral support when the suit happened and I was threatened with expulsion and retaliation.

Kiera Wilmot similarly has had her criminal charges dropped, and has received a scholarship to a NASA space camp.  She received tremendous support from her teachers, including media appearances defending her. I doubt she will have any trouble getting into another high school, and eventually into the college of her choice.

Those are the similarities, the differences here are more significant.

The United States Corporate flag, revisited

Flag day was last Friday, June 14 2013.  As we see the role of corporations engaging in public corruption of our elective and legislative processes, it is worth revisiting that our flag is not uniquely ours, or original, but rather a rip-off of a corporate flag, a very imperial and conquering business enterprise: the East India company.  This is of course contrary to the patriotic folk history, aka revisionist history, that we are too often taught in place of factual history.  In that context, here is a reprise of my post last year on Flag Day, with a minor update to include another variation on the stars and bars, the Easton PA flag.

U.S. Flag DayI like the history of our holidays, major and minor.
So in honor of our flag and Flag Day, here is a brief description and history of our holiday.
Flag Day celebrates the adoption of a national flag at the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777.
Here is the beautifully brief wording:
The Flag Act of 1777 was passed by the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777, in response to a petition made by an American Indian nation on June 3 for "an American Flag."[1] (As a result, June 14 is now celebrated as Flag Day in the United States.) It reads, in its entirety: "Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new Constellation." (See Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774 – 1789, 8:464.)
So, you would think that settled the design of our national flag, except that the concept of a national flag as we know it now didn't really exist in the 18th century; it was a later development.
Credit should go to both Wikipedia for some of these images, and to an excellent site, Flag Timeline  of for many of the others.
the Cowpens flag
What the Flag Act resulted in were a number of designs which conformed to that brief wording, including but not only the Betsy Ross flag - although the Betsy Ross flag eventually won the greater recognition. 

Here are some of those flags used at the time:
The Francis Hopkinson flag design

and the final selection, the Betsy Ross flag
another Continental Navy flag
the Brandywine flag

note the different proportions

the Forster flag

the Serapis / another

John Paul Jones flag

A New England flag

The Second Continental Congress started out meeting in Philadephia, but then later in the year moved around Pennsylvania to other locations, including Lancaster and York. The national flag came into existence two years to the day of the official establishment of the Continental Army in 1775. 

However there WAS a flag that was flown as early as 1775 by our newly formed Navy, referred to as the Continental Colors.  It differed from the East India Flag ONLY in the proportions of the Canton.
East India Company Flag in 1775
Wikipedia has a full entry on it for those who have a greater curiosity, but here is an excerpt:
In the first year of the American War for Independence, the Continental Congress authorized the creation of a navy. A new flag was required representing the Congress and fledgling nation, and distinguishing from the Red Ensign flying from British vessels.

The Continental Colors were first hoisted on the Alfred, in Philadelphia on December 2, 1775, by Lt. John Paul Jones. The event had been documented in letters to Congress.[2] The Continental Colors were used by the American Continental forces as both naval ensign and garrison flag through 1776 and early 1777.

It is not known for certain when, or by whom, the Continental Colors' design was created, though the flag could easily be produced by adding white stripes to the previous British Red Ensigns.[3] The Alfred flag has been credited to Margaret Manny.[4]
And here is a short bio on Margaret Manny, who is less well known than Betsy Ross.
Margaret Manny was a milliner in colonial Philadelphia who made flags for the United States during the American Revolution.

Manny began making
jacks and ensigns for ships as early as December 1774.[1] She also made the Grand Union Flag, or Continental Colors, first flown by John Paul Jones aboard the Alfred on 3 December 1775.
My thanks to our co-blogger Laci for calling my attention to rich history of the East India Company flag, which preceded our own flag by a full seventy years, as a very British and a very corporate flag, first used in Asia. The East India Company flag stripes were somewhat 'variable' in number, ranging from nine to fifteen which mirrored our own experimentation with stripe numbers. The symbol in the upper left corner, the 'Canton' also changed over time, representing changes in the UK. We didn't pioneer that pattern of alteration to reflect growth and change either.
before 1707, when the Acts of Union

combined England and Scotland

into Great Britain

After 1801 the flag

contained the Union Flag of

the United Kingdom of

Great Britain and

Ireland in the canton
East India Company flag after 1707


There was another version of the old stars and bars, flown in the War of 1812-14, the Easton PA flag, which reversed the canton and the rest of the field patterns:

But the adaptation of the flag of the East India Company, while strikingly similar is not the only theory for the design adopted by the Continental Congress.

Another theory is based on the family coat of arms of Richard Amerike:
"According to the American Flag Research Center in Massachusetts the heraldic origin of the American flag is not positively known; archives in the British Library confirm that the Stars and Stripes was the coat of arms of the Ap Merike family – and that they pre-date Washington's connection with the continent by 300 years".[64]
The coat of Arms belonging to the family of George Washington has three stars in chief (at the top) on a white field, with two red horizontal stripes across the middle of the escutcheon, underneath it.  The Amerke basis for the flag is generally considered 'revisionist history'.  Clearly neither coat of arms are as similar as the East India Company flag design, but both provide some insight into the heraldic tradition that was the foundation for flag design using the elements of stars (mullets) and stripes/bars.

From Wikipedia:
In any case, both the stripes (barry) and the stars (mullets) have precedents in classical heraldry. Mullets were comparatively rare in early modern heraldry, but an example of mullets representing territorial divisions predating the US flag are those in the coat of arms of Valais of 1618, where seven mullets stood for seven districts.

The thirteen original colonies were the basis for thirteen stripes and the thirteen original stars on the first official U.S. flag, but in the Flag Act of  1794, that was temporarily expanded to fifteen stripes and stars with the admission of the first two new states.  Had that pattern continued, our flag would now have 50 stripes along with the 50 stars.  It is a fascinating insight into how the flag has changed, but also into how the nation under George Washington thought about our national expansion at the time.  It wasn't until the Flag Act of 1818 that the stripes were codified as representing the original 13 colonies, with the stars changing --  with such changeovers always mandated to occur on July 4th -- to represent the number of states at any time in our nation with only the stars.
Here is the order of the states joining, representing each of those stars, because of course there was no official membership or ratification until AFTER the sessions of the Continental Congress:
Delaware (December 7, 1787), Pennsylvania (December 12,
1787), New Jersey (December 18, 1787), Georgia (January 2, 1788), Connecticut
(January 9, 1788), Massachusetts (February 6, 1788), Maryland (April 28, 1788),
South Carolina (May 23, 1788), New Hampshire (June 21, 1788), Virginia (June 25,
1788), New York (July 26, 1788), North Carolina (November 21, 1789), and Rhode
Island (May 29, 1790) (source - Flag Timeline)
This is a singularly striking image from th 1880s that shows some of the various permutations of our flag over the years, from an old textbook (courtesy of wikipedia):