Saturday, June 16, 2012

Nydia Velazquez for Congress: Critical NY-7 Primary June 26th

On June 26th one of our best Congressional reps will face a primary against a corrupt lackey whose only claim to fame is being loyal to a local party boss who is being investigated by the FBI.

The race is the primary for the new NY-7 Congressional district. It pits current liberal Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, who I know personally, against corrupt machine lackey Erik Dilan.

Nydia Velazquez has been endorsed by every liberal, progressive and reform organization in Brooklyn. Dilan has been endorsed by the Vito Lopez machine, one of the most corrupt political machines in the country. Problem is, the machine brings in money, which means it is quite possible that if we don't work hard in this primary we will see a good, honest progressive replaced by a corrupt, more conservative crony of one of the most corrupt politicians in America.

I see a lot of this from the inside because I am a Democratic County Committee member in Brooklyn, so I see the Vito Lopez machine in action. And it isn't pretty. Vito Lopez backed Harold Ford against Gillibrand. Vito Lopez has refused to let Democrats run against Republicans in Brooklyn. Vito Lopez has several ongoing investigations focused on his corruption. And I know people who have experienced outright thuggish behavior from the machine directed at them.

Nydia Velazquez is not only one of our most liberal members of Congress, but she is also among the most honest and has been a thorn in the side of Vito Lopez for years. He is gunning for her, using crony Dilan as his tool to get at her, and we need to defend her.

The primary is June 26th. In a highly unusual move, President Obama has openly endorsed Nydia Velazquez in this primary. Usually he stays neutral. But the local party boss doesn't seem to be on Obama's good side, so Obama has endorsed Nydia.

I have talked to Nydia many times. I talked to her in 2006 and 2008 when Democrats won big and her enthusiasm for her job was contagious. She was excited to get to work in Washington and push for small businesses and the working class. I also talked with her in 2010 when the Billionaire Koch Brothers funded teabagger "revolt" brought in a bunch of right wing extremists into Congress. Her enthusiasm for her job was dampened, but she was still determined to hold the line for small businesses and the working class as much as she could.

Nydia has also been endorsed by the Communications Workers of America, Lambda Independent Democrats, Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (disclosure: my wife is on the board of CBID), United Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO, Teamsters, 1199 SEIU and New Kings Democrats. She is wonderful and deserves re-election. Dilan is supported by corrupt Party Boss Vito Lopez.

In a local primary very few voters show up. That means the machine starts with an advantage because if there is one thing Vito Lopez can do, it is get out his team in primaries. It is all he cares about. So even with Obama behind her, Nydia is at a disadvantage because the machine will get out their voters while the progressive and reform organizations are notoriously bad at getting out their people.

Here is Nydia at the Sotomayor confirmation hearings:

Here is Nydia speaking out for marriage equality:

Here is Nydia questioning bank CEOs in Congress:

She sets them up then throws her hard ball around 3:20.

Here is Nydia speaking out on the Public Health Option:

Read more about Nydia: here are her answers to the very detailed questionnaire Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats sends to all candidates. (PDF)

Help me support Nydia Velazquez for Congress. She is kick ass, she is liberal, she is honest and she deserves our support.


Thursday, June 14, 2012

Cold Remidies: What Works and What Doesn't

Cold and flu season has begun yet again. And people take a whole slew of medications, some with nasty side effects, to try and get themselves through it. What works and what doesn't? As a biologist and as a parent, I have paid close attention to this topic and want to share some of my conclusions.

First of all beware of any "natural" or "homeopathic" remedies. It isn't that none of them are helpful...but there is absolutely no regulation of them and they have no obligation to back up their claims with facts. A lot of these remedies are basically based on nothing with no facts, no evidence and often just plain made up claims to see what used to be called "snake oil": basically a quack remedy.

An example is Echinacea. This was touted some years back as a hugely effective "natural" cold cure. But when people actually studied it they found it had no more effectiveness than a sugar pill. There is no evidence that Echinacea works. Back then I tried it and found it didn't help me at all. And when the scientific evidence came out I knew didn't help me because it doesn't do anything for a cold.

But it isn't just "natural" remedies you need to be suspicious of. Many cold medicines have so-called "cough suppressants." Supposedly these calm your cough. Again I never found they worked that well, or at best inconsistently. Well, turns out actual scientific studies show these over-the-counter "cough suppressants" are about as effective as Echinacea...which means not at all. This was research published in a top scientific journal, and yet we are still being sold "cough suppressants" which are basically ineffective. PLUS they have nasty side effects. My advice is don't buy a cold medication that contains a supposed "cough suppressant."

So what does work?

Cold medication contain three basic ingredients that DO work: analgesics, decongestants and antihistamines.

Analgesics are basically pain relievers. Some can also reliever fever and inflammation. There are three basic types: aspirin, acetaminophen, and ibuprofen. All of them work. Aspirin has the side effect of irritating the stomach and so isn't used so much any more. Acetaminophen works well but has a major problem in that its effective dose is awfully close to its dangerous dose. Many people who overuse cold medication wind up overdosing on acetaminophen. This can destroy your liver. It is fine to take a medication with acetaminophen, but NEVER take more than the recommended dose. The best analgesic is ibuprofen. It is the most effective, relieves the most symptoms, and can be taken in relatively high doses. For any kind of pain relief or illness, ibuprofen should be part of your medication. Not only does it relieve pain, but it inhibits something called prostaglandins. These are chemicals your body makes that are part of the pain response and are one of the main reasons you just plain feel awful when you have a cold or flu. Taking ibuprofen won't cure your cold or flu but will make you feel much better. It also, like aspirin and acetaminophen, lowers fever. That is particularly critical in children. I remember once when my son had a fever. We had medicated him but we were out and it wore off before we could get home. He suddenly became very listless and miserable, and I felt his forehead and could tell his fever had shot up. We went right to the nearest store and bought some children's ibuprofen and gave it to him. Within an hour he was feeling much better and his fever came down. This isn't just about making him feel better either. Fevers, back before analgesics, could kill people, particularly children. In the old days, the level of fever my kid had that day would have been very dangerous. Today, with analgesics, fevers don't kill people anymore except in very rare cases.

So, ibuprofen is one of the best medications you can take when you have a cold or flu. Or, for that matter, almost any kind of pain. But you can even boost its effectiveness. If you take a regular or below recommended (NEVER above recommended) dose of acetaminophen along with a regular or even say 1 and a half dose of ibuprofen, the two do something called synergize. They work far far better together than apart. Together they relieve pain, fever and that general ill feeling amazingly well. Since most cold medicines for some reason use acetaminophen, then taking a regular dose of a cold remedy along with some ibuprofen can really help you. Just avoid the cold remedies with so-called "cough suppressants."

Decongestants are kind of a mixed blessing I feel. They basically dry you out. This means if you have a stuffy nose, that will go away for awhile. But it doesn't really clear you up permanently. It just dries you out temporarily. As long as you are still sick, that stuffiness will come back all the worse once the decongestant wears off. And while it is effective you feel dried out, which in itself can be irritating. Still, if I have something I really have to do that day, I take a decongestant. Furthermore, if you need to be awake, cold medicines with decongestants tend to make you slightly speedy and this can counteract the drowsy effects of the next medication: antihistamines.

I mentioned above prostaglandins above as one of the chemicals in your body that just plain make you feel awful. Histamines are another kind of "bad-feeling" chemical. That watery eyed, stuffy, allergic feeling is caused by histamines. Antihistamines inhibit this, making you feel better. They work well. But they also make you sleepy. This is great if you can stay home in bed. If you can, do so and take an antihistamine along with some ibuprofen and acetaminophen and go to bed. Do this for a day or two and your cold or flu will clear up MUCH faster because you are giving your body a chance to fight it off. That combination is your best bet for over the counter drugs. Check the packaging. If it has acetaminophen and an antihistamine, take it along with a separate dose of ibuprofen. By the way, for all of these go for generics. They are cheaper and just as effective. Just check the label for what the medication contains and what dose. Some generics are lower dosage, but most are the same medicine, same dosage, just cheaper than name brands.

Avoid antibiotics if you have a cold or flu. They don't do ANYTHING for cold or flu (which are caused by viruses, not bacteria) and can actually make you worse. That said, sometimes when you have a cold or flu you get what is called a "secondary infection." THESE can often be treated with antibiotics. But don't take an antibiotic UNLESS a doctor tells you specifically you have a secondary infection. One way you can tell if you have a bacterial infection (which would require an antibiotic) rather than a viral infection is if you are producing a greenish liquid. For example, an eye infection that oozes a clear or white liquid is probably viral. If the liquid is green it is probably bacterial. This has to do with what kind of white blood cells respond to the infection (a cell called a neutrophil produces the green color). In general though don't take an antibiotic unless there is evidence of a bacterial infection. It can actually make things worse. Antibiotics are way overused in America and it leads to major problems.

What else? Drink lots of water, tea, juice, etc. These mostly keep you hydrated. Your body gets dehydrated when sick because it is under so much stress and you probably aren't eating and drinking as much. So make an effort to drink these things.

What about zinc? Evidence I have seen suggests it works for colds (not flu?) if taken with the very early symptoms. It makes it harder for the virus to actually infect the next cell. Taking a medication with Zinc can help if taken at the right time.

Vitamin C? Evidence shows that taking vitamin C, particularly if you are taking it before infection, can reduce both severity and duration of a cold. It isn't a cure all, and don't take megadoses. But a regular dose of vitamin C can help you avoid and keep colds to a minimum.

I have found that the EmergenC Immune Defense packets, if I start taking one or two a day either at the FIRST sign I may be getting sick or when people around me are sick, helps to keep me from getting very sick. It has both vitamin C and Zinc and I think these are what do it...the rest of its ingredients may well be just window dressing. For example, the elderberry and hibiscus extracts in it probably do nothing at all. But it is a convenient way to not only get the vitamin C and Zinc that WILL help, but also, since it is taken in water, it can help to keep you hydrated. I am not so fond of the taste so I dilute it down a lot when I drink it, really making it a chance to hydrate. I think this combination of vitamin C, zinc and proper hydration help my body keep the cold at least partly at bay.

Another thing I think is important is controlling mold in your home. This may sound unrelated, but mold creates a constant irritation to your lungs. The combination of a cold or flu and the presence of mold in your apartment can create a situation where you get a persistent cough that won't really go away until you get away from the mold. It is like the combination of a cold or flu and mold puts your body's immune system into overdrive and it starts in a small way (sometimes large) hurting your own body. You almost become permanently sick. This is an oversimplification, but there is evidence that it is roughly true. I have experienced this personally. When my apartment was, over several years, experiencing leaks we had persistent mold problems. I considered it mostly cosmetic. But I also noticed that any time I got a cold it just would not go away completely until I visited a drier climate (which would mean less mold). Then it would go away until the next cold. By now we have dealt with all the leaks and the mold. Once those were dealt with I stopped getting the persistent coughs. It could be coincidence, but from what I have learned it probably is connected. To find out how to combat mold in your home, read my article on mold and mildew.

Colds and flu are a fact of life. They are viruses that evolve very quickly, so our immune responses grow ineffective against them. Antibiotics do nothing against them. So mostly what you are doing is relieving the symptoms of the illness so you feel better, keeping fever down because that can actually be dangerous, and giving your body a chance, through hydration, rest (that is one way antihistamines can help), vitamin C and zinc, to fight off the virus on its own.

Always remember that if a cold or flu lasts too long, or your fever gets really high, SEE A DOCTOR. When one illness hits you it can make you more susceptible to other, worse illnesses and those can be serious if not treated.

If you take nothing else away from this article always remember, NEVER take more than the recommended dose of acetaminophen, ibuprofen is the best analgesic, ibuprofen and acetaminophen taken together in modest doses work extra effectively, and don't bother ever with so-called "cough suppressants." Antibiotics don't help a cold or flu, though if the doctor finds evidence of a bacterial secondary infection, THEN it can help. Also antihistamines work well but they will put you to sleep unless also taken with a decongestant.

Also flu shots DO help. Not always, since the flu virus evolves quickly and the vaccine is designed based on the previous year's viruses, but it does help, sometimes quite a bit. I advise getting them.

Return to Mole's Consumer Advice Page.

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Fighting Harder than Ever in Wisconsin

Just recently got back from a great conference in Madison, Wisconsin. The conference coincidentally took place mere days after the recall elections we all were I kind of wondered how the results of the recalls would affect my mood on the trip. The conference itself was great. Excellent science, good beer, and time between talks to relax on the terrace at the university overlooking the lake. Weather was perfect (and this is coming from someone who grew up in Southern California so has a high standard for perfect weather). And I have to say my work was amazingly well received by most of the people I talked to, though one person seemed to take quite a dislike to our work. But overall a great trip. It was quite interesting to be there, in the very place where Walker has done so much damage to middle and working class Americans and where so many from so many backgrounds came out last year to protest his anti-American policies. Below are some impressions and a call to action. Because Wisconsin is no different from any state out there. We all have our tea party right wing extremists (one just won a special State Senate election here in NYC!) and we all have our good progressives. What we need to do, as politically active, moderate to liberal leaning Democrats, is fight tooth an nail to defend each progressive out there and to defeat the worst right wing extremists we can. And you know what? Wisconsin has been doing a pretty good job of it, has forged some great alliances in the process, and, if we keep our eyes on the ball, we can continue to push back to the progressive side in Wisconsin. I flew into Madison from La Guardia airport. Always a depressing thing to fly through La Guardia. But the first cheery thing of the day came when I reached the TSA dude checking everyone's boarding pass and ID. He was clearly doing his best to be friendly to everyone, knowing full well how irritating the whole process was for everyone. He looked at me, saw my "We are the 99%" T-shirt. He smiled and asked if I protested with Occupy Wall Street (showing his knowledge of the movement). I said no, but I was a supporter and knew people who were there. I also added I had been too busy to get down there. He smiled, nodded and passed me through. No sign of outright support, but very definitely no sign of hostility. I got the feeling he understood what OWS was all about and at least gave it some credence if not outright support. A good start to the trip...or at least as good as you can expect flying through La Guardia! Delta Airlines kind of sucks. Now it was the best flight I could find at a reasonable price. My airfare is covered by our grant because it is a conference and I was presenting, but I still try to find the cheapest reasonable airfare even though it isn't my money. I had been able to find the last reasonably priced, direct flight that got in before the conference started with a return flight that left after the conference was over. Most other people I talked to had a MUCH harder time getting in, some of them missing big chunks of the conference due to airline delays. One thing I noticed was that the result of the new rules where everyone had to pay for their first piece of checked luggage is everyone now tries to shove it all into carry on...which means carry on is now so overloaded they have to take extra time, delaying the flight, to get people to check luggage. Yet another example of the airlines making a stupid policy change that just makes matters worse. But I got there in one piece and with less hassle than many others who went. Then I had to get to my hotel. Normally I try taking public transportation. That's what I did both ways in NYC (hey...the Q train from Brooklyn to Queens, then the M60 bus to the airport...not really that tough I found out!). But I couldn't find a way to figure that out going from the Madison airport to Madison proper, so I grabbed a cab. I am no fan of taxis. Now taxi drivers in NYC have a really tough time and I sympathize with them. But they also are among the rudest and most crazy drivers around, so I kind of steer away from them, no pun intended. But the cabbie that picked me up in Madison was just the right guy for me to meet at that moment. We started talking. Turns out he works for Union Cab, a worker owned taxi cooperative in Madison. I highly recommend them! Everyone I talked to who used Union Cab found them very friendly, quick and safe. My driver was very eager to discuss the recalls. He was really depressed that Walker had won the recall election. He told me about the height of the protests when his taxi company was in the thick of it. He had already had quite a life. Coming from Alaska, working for the coast guard (including a stint on Governor's Island in NYC!), and winding up in Madison. But it was clear the height of the protests against Walker's anti-working class and anti-middle class extremist agenda had made an impression. He really thought they would win. I pointed out that from my more distant perspective I had been amazed that over two recall elections they had flipped the Wisconsin state senate and and built quite a coalition to boot. He seemed pleased and said, "Yeah, I guess I always knew it wouldn't be easy and we'd have to keep fighting." was never easy and WILL never be easy...and we have to always keep fighting. I got to my hotel, checked in...then realized how starving I was. The conference schedule had been ambiguous about whether dinner that night was included, plus I needed a moment to get my bearings. So I decided to pay for a meal myself and headed for a pizza place that had done its best to feed as many protesters last year as possible: Ian's Pizza. I had ordered several pizzas for the protesters through Ian's and wanted to try them for myself. Now I love thin crust pizza. And NYC is pretty arrogant about its thin crust pizza. But honestly most NYC pizza is soggy...though there are some excellent exceptions. I am okay with a slice of NYC pizza, but most places are just not that good. Cheap sauce, cheap cheese and saturated in grease (not completely a bad thing, mind you). Now when they are only charging a buck a slice I can accept it as a good deal. But when they are charging more like $2.50 a slice with no topping, forget it. Now I will admit there are some exceptions. Around the corner from me in Brooklyn is South Brooklyn Pizza...$4 a slice which is too much, but it is REALLY good pizza made with top ingredients and they usually have wonderful roasted garlic and marinated peppers for free to go on top. So sometimes I splurge. If they could just lower their price a bit I'd go more often. Ian's Pizza in Madison had perfect thin crust. not at all soggy like most NYC pizza tends to be but really crispy. I like that. Most of the pizzas offered were pretty elaborate and mostly starch and cheese oriented...not much in the way of simple toppings. And the toppings were a bit over done: LOTS of cholesterol laden ingredients piled on top of each other. Good quality and pretty darned tasty for a decent price. Overall high marks. But I did wish they had at least SOME simpler toppings. I probably could have ordered something but I just wanted to try a couple of slices of what ever they had up front. Overall I definitely recommend them. After two slices of excellent but a bit heavy and overwhelming pizza, I headed over to the conference. I had forgotten how great the University of Wisconsin terrace was in nice weather. Immediately struck by how calm and soothing (ignoring the not so good band down on the stage below) the whole place was. And there was of course some good beer being served. Then I got down to business with the first night's science. Won't go much into the science except there was some real groundbreaking stuff coming out, including some amazing new stuff from an already Nobel Prize winning lab. And once you are sucked into a conference, often you don't have much more time to see the town you are in. Some friends of mine went out to a bar the second night of the conference after we had had a few pitchers with a couple of professors on the terrace at the university (believe it or not, some serious science was indeed discussed as well!), but I opted to go to bed at that point. One thing that struck me was unlike almost any other conference I have been to, the morale was overall low. These are people doing cutting edge work on cancer, aging, reproduction, nutrition, etc. Yet I can't tell you how many people were demoralized by the massive budget cuts the Republicans have been inflicting and how many labs are faced with maybe having to pack up and give up the science. This is America, folks, and we aren't able to keep funding the good research? This really is a top conference, not something where crap is presented. But the Republican anti-science crusade has started taking its toll on the morale of our best scientists. If we want to keep up our competitive edge, that is a problem folks. Eisenhower would be absolutely horrified by the way the Republican Party has been gutting science. And yet despite that the quality of the science and the intensity of the interaction did help to bolster the morale of even the most demoralized scientist I talked to. Now none of us can keep up our morale if Republicans keep cutting science funding. I gotta say I consider leaving science from time to time as it gets harder and harder to do the work we all LOVE doing. But at least briefly we were encouraged by the excellent work our colleagues were presenting. And let me tell you between the technological advances and the brilliant minds that are in this field, some really big jumps are being long as the funding is there. In the end I was sad to leave. Could have stayed a few more days if I'd had the time and my own funds to fund it. But I headed back to NYC and the awful humidity and the crowds. Now, let's get back to the politics. Wisconsin IS and will REMAIN a key battleground for MANY reasons. When Walker took office it was a disaster for working and middle class Americans from coast to coast. And he has done his best to ruin the best America has to offer. But that is what the Republican Party has become! The Republican Party no longer has ANYTHING to do with the likes of Eisenhower who would slap Walker silly if he were alive today. Wisconsin is about how the Republicans are ruining America and how regular Americans, including students, taxi drivers, blue collar workers and farmers, are getting together to say "FUCK YOU" to the Republican extremists and their billionaire backers. And we are part of that fight. Each and every one of us. Because what is happening in Wisconsin is happening everywhere, and if the Republicans have their way it will mean a ruined economy, lower salaries, reduced benefits, longer working hours, a ruined infrastructure, and the cutting edge of science moving overseas to places that actually VALUE progress. Wisconsin saw what Walker was doing and an amazing cross section of the state stood up to him. And they formed a coalition that still exists to this day, if we don't start ignoring it. AND together they flipped the Wisconsin state senate. Good for them. And I told that taxi driver how proud I was of them. And I think that made HIM more proud of himself than he had been. It never was going to be easy and we HAVE to keep fighting. Those who know my diaries know that I always push people to take the next step, to hold the next line, to take some action. So here is my current plug for what we can do to push back against the right wing extremists...because if we don't, well, they win. Period. And I for one will not sit back and let that happen. First and foremost we have to remember the fights we DID win and hold on to that ground. There are four state senators I particularly wanted to highlight. All are incumbents BECAUSE we either defended them against right wing attacks or we won recall elections against right wing incumbents. All four of these candidates are endorsed by Progressive Majority and are really kick ass Democrats. First and foremost we have to have these folks' backs. From Progressive Majority:
Robert Wirch Wisconsin State Senate - District 22 2012 Incumbent State Senator Robert Wirch has served four terms in the Senate, representing District 22, which includes Kenosha and the surrounding communities. Earlier in his career, he served two terms as a state Representative. Prior to his election Bob was a factory worker and union steelworker and served on the Kenosha County Board of Supervisors. Bob has been a top advocate for working families during his time in the legislature. He authored legislation to prevent companies that receive state contracts from sending Wisconsin jobs overseas and defended workers in Wisconsin from Scott Walker's attacks. He defeated a Repbulican led recall in 2011 and it is vital that we reelect Senator Wirch in November Dave Hansen Wisconsin State Senate - District 30 2012 Incumbent State Senator Dave Hansen has served three terms in the legislature, representing District 30, which includes Green Bay and surrounding communities. Prior to his election, Dave worked for Green Bay's Department of Public Works as a truck driver and was a Teamsters union steward. He also served on the Brown County Board from 1996-2002. Dave authored the pay equity legislation that requires businesses to pay women the same as men for the same work and led the fight to protect our natural resources by voting to reduce mercury pollution, preserve our wetlands, and prevent the diversion of water from the Great Lakes to other states. After defeating a Republican led recall in 2011, Senator Hansen is facing a conservative challenger that must be defeated to protect working families in Wisconsin. Jessica King Wisconsin State Senate - District 18 2012 Incumbent Jessica King was born and raised in Fond du Lac County. She put herself through college with hard work and scholarships, earning academic and leadership honors. Jessica opened her own small business and in 2006 she was elected to the Oshkosh City Council. In 2011, she defeated Randy Hopper in a recall election. Now she is up for reelection and we need to make sure she is reelected in November. Jennifer Shilling Wisconsin State Senate - District 32 2012 Incumbent Senator Jennifer Shilling has deep ties to her community. She was elected as a La Crosse County Supervisor in 1990 and to the State Assembly in 2000. Jennifer defeated incumbent Repblican Senator Dan Kapanke in a recall election and has continued to fight for Wisconsin's working families in the Senate. We need a majority in the State Senate to prevent Scott Walker and conservatives from passing anymore harmful laws. We need to support Senator Shilling in 2012.
These are great folks and we fought hard for each and every one of them last year and believe me the right wing Koch backed extremists will be aiming for them. But I also believe in building infrastructure for winning. We need to remember elections are won often by local folks working their butts off in their local districts. I have an ActBlue site that I have used both to push for specific candidates, but also to help out some local county Dem organizations in key districts. This can be swing counties (always good to target) but also some redder counties that are still worth trying to get out the Dem vote because cutting the margin of loss in those counties will help win larger swing districts overall...and make it more likely we defeat Walker the next time. I believe in fighting in EVERY district. Please help build the infrastructure Dems need in Wisconsin to stop and reverse the right wing extremist agenda that is killing America. Finally we can't forget that the right wing attacks on unions is much wider than Wisconsin. In particular I feel we need to fight back hard in four states: Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. I have another act blue page dedicated to defending unions across four states. Join me in fighting the Koch brothers in those four states. And don't tell me we can't win because the ONLY way you are guaranteed to lose is if you don't fight. I grew up being told America would never be ready for a black President. Well, I never did believe everything I was told. BACK TO PROGRESSIVE DEMOCRAT NEWSLETTER MAIN PAGE Return to I Had a Thought

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Key Progressive Candidates of 2012

I push pretty much every year for people to look beyond the high profile races. Some of the elections that MOST affect people directly are downticket races like judicial or school board races, state assessors and state and local reps. Yet these are almost universally ignored, so big money almost always wins them...and regular folks lose out. I try to help the best of those downticket races across the country.

Progressive Majority is our best resource for downticket races that are so critical. Now in key states these critical races are high priority, and Progressive Majority has pretty much consistently held a 50% win rate on average despite taking on some tough races. I always highlight their endorsed candidates because they are some of the best in the nation...and they represent TOMORROW'S Progressive leaders.

Below are the Progressive Majority endorsements for 2012. I urge you to do all you can for these candidates: donate, volunteer, vote, whatever you can because when you talk about more and better Democrats, THESE are the folks you should be thinking of.

And they have a good shot of winning...


Donna O'Connor
State Representative - District 21

Donna has taught for 19 years in local school systems in Ohio.  She has been involved in local and state politics for several years and fought hard against SB 5/Issue 2, the union-busting bill.  Last year while standing on the steps of the state house, a friend gave her a button that said, “those that can, teach.  Those that cannot, make laws about teaching.”  Donna is running to make sure that those making the laws about education know what it’s like to work in the classroom.

Tanyce Addison
State Senate - District 26

Tanyce Addison is running for State Senate in District 26. Tanyce recently retired after teaching for 30 years in the public schools. She directed bands and choirs in the Ridgedale and Elgin school districts in Marion County. As a teacher, Tanyce saw the damage that severe cuts did to the arts and schools in general. Upset with cuts to education, she became active with her union and fought to protect schools. She served as the Education Association president, vice-president and secretary and negotiated four contracts. Tanyce was active in the fight against Issue 2 in 2011 and is now taking her activism one-step further by running to protect education and teachers as a state Senator.

Jeff Bunck
State Representative - District 47

Jeff Bunck is running for State Representative in District 47. Jeff has worked in education since 1975 when he graduated from the University of Toledo. He is running because his current state Representative, Barbara Sears, does not listen to the people in her district, especially on educational issues. Sears voted for Senate Bill 5, which attacked middle-class workers and co-sponsored House Bill 136, which expands school voucher programs. Jeff testified in opposition to SB5 and decided that he could to do more to protect education by running for office and defeating Barbara Sears. Jeff taught for 27 years and served as an administrator for eight years. Most recently, he taught at Bowling Green State University and resigned from there in January of 2012 to run for the House.

Cheryl Johncox
State Representative - District 86

Cheryl Johncox is running for State Representative in District 86. Cheryl has been an advocate for the environment, agriculture and rural living for many years. She has close ties to the agricultural community in her area and was raised on one of the last farms in Strongsville. Cheryl saw the attacks on women’s health, workers, the elderly and environment and knew that she had to do something. She decided to run for office to stand up to the Republicans in Columbus. She was chosen as a National Wildlife Federation Women for Sustainable Development Fellow and received the National Conservation Achievement Award in 2006. She worked for the Ohio Environmental Council as the Director of Ohio River Programs and is currently the Executive Director of the Buckeye Forest Council.

Teresa Scarmack
State Senate - District 20

Teresa Scarmack is running for State Senate in District 20. Teresa taught for 23 years in the central Ohio area and tutored children with learning disabilities. She has been teaching kindergarten in the Logan- Hocking School District since 1999. Teresa became involved in politics because of the Senate Bill 5/Issue 2 campaign. She made phone calls and knocked on doors in neighborhoods across her county. She knew the drastic consequences that public employees faced if this bill became law. There was a call across Ohio for teachers to run for office, teachers understand how important quality education is for communities and would replace Republicans who kept cutting education while giving tax breaks to corporations, and Teresa answered that call and is running to protect education in Ohio.

Bill Young
State Representative - District 88

Bill Young is running for State Representative in District 88. Bill is in his 38th and final year of teaching. As a teacher, Bill stressed that one person can make a difference and was able to see first hand how a state Representative can make a difference in their constituents’ lives when a former state legislator worked with Bill’s students on a community service project. Bill is running because holding office is another way that he can serve and work for his community. He is a highly decorated teacher; his awards include Ohio Social Studies Teacher of the Year, Northwest Ohio Teacher of the Year, three-time Clyde-Green Springs Teacher of the Year, Ohio Education Association John F. Kennedy Scholarship Award winner, Martha Holden Jennings Scholar award and others. Bill was very involved locally in the fight to defeat SB 5.


Beth Alois
State Representative - District 168

Beth Alois is running for State Representative in District 168. Beth saw the vicious attacks on education and women’s health in Pennsylvania and knew that people must stand up to Republicans and that is why she decided to run for state Representative. She is currently Vice-Chairperson of the Thornbury Township Democratic Committee and the elected Minority Inspector of Elections in Thornbury Township. For 25 years, she accompanied her Foreign Service husband on his overseas assignments in South America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East. She worked as the Community liaison Officer at several US Embassies.

Chris Dietz
State Representative - District 104

Chris Dietz is running for State Representative in District 104. Chris knows the hardships faced by the millions of Americans who have been unemployed during this recession. After graduating from Penn State University, he went to work at Manugraph DGM but, like many others, Chris was laid off in 2008 and was without steady employment for over a year before the same company rehired him. Chris knows how lucky he was to get his job back and is running to ensure that all Pennsylvanians have the opportunity to find quality employment. If elected in November, Chris would be the first openly elected gay legislator in Pennsylvania. Appointed to represent Ward 1 on the Millersburg Borough Council in 2006 and re-elected in 2007 and 2009, Chris was elected as Borough Council President twice, even with a Republican majority on the council.

Steve McCarter
State Representative - District 154

As a former teacher, Steve McCarter knows how important education is. When children receive a quality education, they are more likely to get good jobs that pay a living wage, which improves the economy in their community. The attacks on Pennsylvania’s children and schools by Republicans must be stopped and Steve is standing up to Republican’s dangerous actions. He is dedicated to the preservation and improvement of Pennsylvania schools. Steve taught high school Social Studies for 35 years in Abington and Lower Merion, was an adjunct Professor of Education at the University of Pennsylvania and is a retired Captain in the U.S. Army Reserves.


Lisa Sprague
Leon County Sheriff

Lisa Sprague is running for Leon County Sheriff. Lisa began her career in law enforcement 30 years ago and was one of only two women on the police force when she began. She survived pressure to quit when she got married and began a family. She served as Deputy Chief of Police for Florida State University, President of the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administration from 2008- 2009 and owns her own consulting firm, Sprague Consulting Security. She’s running to bring progressive values to the sheriff’s office by increasing cooperation amongst law enforcement agencies, acting as an advocate for the community and increasing transparency.  When she is elected, she will be the only woman at the command staff level in the Sheriff's office


Helen Price Johnson
Island County Commissioner - District 1

Helen Price Johnson is running for re-election as Island County Commissioner. In 2008 she became the first woman to be sworn in as Island County Commissioner. Helen is a longtime Island County resident with deep ties to the community. Helen has four children and has owned and operated a small home construction business since 1995. Helen served on the South Whidbey School Board from 2001-2007.

Tim Farrell
Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer

Tim Farrell is running for Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer. Tim is running to help homeowners by providing information on all potential tax advantages o help alleviate their tax burdens, improve customer service and streamline government. A two-term Pierce County Councilmember, Tim comes from a Snohomish County railroading family and spent his career working in Pierce County. Farrell has been active with the Eastside Women for Women’s Health, the Susan G. Komen Foundation and other civic groups in his community. Tim is a former chair of the Tacoma Planning Commission and a former member of the North End Neighborhood Council.

Bruce Lachney
State Senator - District 2

Bruce Lachney is a lifelong Pacific Northwest native and received his degree from the University of Washington in 1980. He will fight for better education, jobs and civil rights in Washington. Bruce was a Captain in the United States Marine Corps, serving as a jet pilot in two tours of duty in the Far East and one tour in Somalia. Last year, Bruce retired after serving more than 20 years as a domestic pilot for Delta Airlines flying the Boeing 737-800. Bruce is also one of only 850 Ocean Spray cranberry growers. His farm in Eastern Pierce County also produces rhubarb, cattle, timber and hay for local markets.

Bob Hasegawa
State Senate - District 11

After serving in the Washington State House since 2005, Bob is running for an open state Senate seat. As both a labor leader and social activist, Bob has worked to bring together members of the progressive community and advocate for social justice issues. He has spent the past eight years in the House of Representatives fighting to create jobs, protect seniors and education, help small businesses and expanding higher education opportunities. In the Senate, Bob will continue to fight for these issues and will be a strong advocate for the residents of his district.

Eric Choiniere
State Representative - District 28 (Position 1)

Eric Choiniere, a military veteran and former member of Communication Workers of America Local 7800, has always been active in politics. Eric is running for State Representative to give workers a voice in Olympia. As an individual who experienced unemployment and economic insecurity during the Great Recession, Eric understands the struggles families face every day in his community. On the University Place City Council, Eric has championed a balanced budget and focus on essential services on the University Place Council—from law enforcement to filling potholes. He has also led efforts to protect parks and recreation, and assist small business. An Army veteran who works for a provider of military health care located in Tacoma, Choiniere will make service to those who have served a particular priority in the House of Representatives. He is personally committed to ensuring that every veteran and their family succeeds.

Jeff Davis
State Representative - District 35 (Position 2)

Jeff Davis is running for House Position 2 in Washington’s 35th legislative district. A native of the Pacific Northwest, Jeff is a Port of Olympia Commissioner whose election gave progressives a majority on the commission. Jeff is running to help create jobs and protect education and natural resources. He places a high value on human rights, economic justice and reproductive freedom. Throughout his career, Jeff has been active in labor as a Longshoreman, including serving as President of the Longshoremen District Council and board member of the Washington State Labor Council’s Transportation and Economic Development committee. He has served on a school board, economic development council and chamber board, as well as several others.

Bud Sizemore
State Representative - District 47 (Position 1)

Bud Sizemore is challenging an incumbent Republican for House Position 1 in the 47th legislative district. Service has always been a priority for Bud who served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years and has been a professional fire fighter for more than 18 years. As a firefighter, he has fought to prevent cuts to police officers and firefighters to make sure the citizens of Washington are protected. Bud has also served as a Covington city Council member and Mayor Pro-Tempore where he worked with citizens to keep the community safe, protected open space and help local businesses.

Cyrus Habib
State Representative - Distrct 48 (Position 2)

Cyrus is running for State Representative in the 48th legislative district. Cyrus is Iranian-American, grew up on King County’s Eastside, and graduated from Bellevue Public Schools. He is a Truman Scholar and a Rhodes Scholar, and a graduate of Columbia, Oxford, and Yale Law School. Cyrus currently works as a lawyer, providing legal assistance to technology start-ups. Having lost his eyesight at age 8 to a rare form of childhood cancer, Cyrus has spent years advocating for the rights of the disabled, first in college and then as a law student and a lawyer. A staunch advocate for quality education and equal opportunity, Cyrus serves a Trustee of the Bellevue College Foundation and a Human Rights Commissioner for the City of Bellevue.


Jennifer Williamson
State Representative - District 36

Jennifer Williamson is running for State Representative in District 36. Jennifer is a 4th-Generation Oregonian, was born and raised on a farm in Washington County and was the first member of her family to graduate from college. Growing up in a union family as a reduced and free lunch kid, seeing her family rely on food stamps many times and having to put herself through college, Jennifer understands the challenges that families in Oregon are facing because she’s lived them. She became involved in politics early and by accident. While putting herself through the University of Oregon, proposed cuts in Pell Grants and work-study programs threatened her ability to stay in college. Not willing to go down without a fight, she became an education activist and which led her to work for Senator Mark Hatfield to ensure all Oregonians have access to higher education. The attacks on children and families living in poverty are what pushed Jennifer to run for office. When she’s elected, Jennifer will fight to make sure kids today have the same opportunities she did.


Walter Kawamoto
Twin Rivers Unified School District Trustee, Area 3

Walter Kawamoto is running for Twin Rivers Unified School District Trustee, Area 3. From his first “paid” experience assisting grade school teachers when he was in high school to most recently serving as a foster parent with the American Indian Child Resource Center, Walter has always gravitated to opportunities in education. As a school trustee, Walter will be fighting to provide high-quality educational opportunities for children in the Twin Rivers Unified School District. Walter is a professor at American River College, the PAFC chair for the Los Rios College Federation of Teachers and Democratic Delegate for Assembly District 9.


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NYC Comptroller John Liu

I want to present a somewhat biased, but carefully thought out, view of Comptroller John Liu and the accusations against him. I know John Liu personally, though not well. He and my son get along great. He is a brilliant mind and he is one of the few politicians I know who genuinely listens to people and learns from people he talks to. During his City Council years he consistently ranked highest amongst his peers on Human Rights issues. He is solidly pro-union and has stood up to developers one behalf of communities more than most of the mayoral candidates. He is smart, progressive, energetic, and not afraid of taking difficult positions. I like him and I think he would make an excellent mayor. One of our best.

He is being accused of violating campaign finance laws. As a reformer I very much support a full investigation into these accusations. I do not intend to be an apologist if the accusations prove to have merit.

But I also look at these accusations in the context of what I know and have experienced about John Liu and also in the context of NYC politics in general. First off, I look at the accusations against John Liu in the context of the scandals that Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio have been mired in. Both have, shall we say, very creatively shuffled money and have gotten huge quantities of developer money, clearly in exchange for the very pro-development, largely anti-community stands they take. In the context of NYC politics, what John Liu is accused of is minor compared with the slime surrounding Bill de Blasio and Christine Quinn. In my mind if Liu is taken down by these accusations it is unfair if de Blasio and Quinn aren't put through just as much scrutiny and are held equally accountable for their scandals. So far that has not been the case. The media seems to be far easier on Quinn and de Blasio than they are on Liu.

However, to me that is a weak argument. I have never believed that "well everyone does it" is an adequate excuse. If John Liu seems guilty of these accusations, even though I believe Quinn and de Blasio are far, far more corrupt, I would probably switch my support to Scott Stringer of no one better comes up. But I also have, on a very gut level, a sense that John Liu is largely innocent of the accusations made against him. Maybe his brilliance and his effectiveness as Comptroller are influencing my opinion, but I and people I know have worked side by side with his campaign and observed his campaign in action, and I want to emphasize that of ALL the campaigns we have worked with, John Liu's was by far the most careful and most transparent about money.

I have donated to many campaigns and worked with many campaigns. John Liu's is the only one that seemed to check each signature, scrutinize every donation, and send back money if there was ANY question about the donation. I have personally seen this and I know others who had the exact same experience. We experienced this during is run for Comptroller and we have experienced it again during his run for mayor. People commented on his campaign's care and transparency LONG before the accusations started. I have never seen a campaign that was so careful about donations. I also found it telling that John Liu avoided the WFP scandal where WFP violated campaign finance laws and many candidates (including Bill de Blasio) had to scramble to correct the WFP-generated violations in order to avoid scandal. John Liu did not participate in the shady dealings of WFP. Now WFP denies wrongdoing, but the truth is the only reason no one was indicted was the judge allowed them to correct the violations to avoid indictment. But those violations were real, were massive, and were widespread. And WFP and the accused candidates never owned up to them but rather hid behind denial and excuses. John Liu did not participate in those violations despite being endorsed by WFP. I always wondered if this was good sense and care regarding campaign finance laws on his part.

I have also found his campaign and John Liu himself very open and transparent about these accusations. Most politicians I talk to who face a scandal avoid talking about it and get angry and evasive when scandals are brought up. John Liu and his campaign have discussed it with me in a very open way unlike any other politician I have known. Not making excuses and not trying trying to deflect the discussion. I once made the statement that I thought if Bill de Blasio had done the same thing the press would have given him a pass...the people on his campaign I was talking to didn't even take that easy way out. They said they didn't agree with me and have always welcomed a fair investigation. Even when I handed them an easy excuse (and I still think I am Blasio and Quinn get a pass from the media for their scandals when Liu does not) they refused to take it.

This personal experience and the experiences of many I know who are very sensitive to any whiff of corruption do not fit with the accusations being made. This, more than anything, is the reason why I have a gut level feeling that the accusations against John Liu are false or exaggerated, are politically motivated, and standards are being applied unfairly given the very dubious and far less transparent campaigns of Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio.

I do think Oliver Pan may have violated campaign finance laws, though I have never worked with him as far as I am aware and can only say that the accusations seem plausible to me in a way that the accusations against John Liu do not. I feel like people like Oliver Pan skirt gray areas of finance laws and should never have become a common part of political fundraising. But they HAVE become a common part of political fundraising. We need better campaign finance laws. But that in itself is not John Liu's fault. Quinn and de Blasio use bundlers as well and I am willing to bet those bundlers use similar practices as Oliver Pan. Quinn's campaign has CERTAINLY had the exact same kind of scandal (bunlder Norman Hsu) but funny how THAT has not generated the same media attention as Liu's association with Oliver Pan.

Bottom line is, I would welcome careful investigations into the campaign finances of Christine Quinn, Bill de Blasio, AND John Liu. Fair and unbiased investigations into any questionable practices are good things. But based on my experience and my conversations with John Liu and with his campaign, I have found them to be among the most honest and transparent campaigns I have found in politics. If HIS campaign is brought down by scandal despite what seems to be unusual care and transparency, then God help us all because I still think John Liu is at the more honest end of NYC politics. Maybe that is even more damning with faint praise than I realized, but I still think it is true.



Marriage Equality and the Sanctity of Marriage

My wife and I applaud Barack Obama and Joe Biden finally embracing the righteousness of marriage equality. At LAST! It has taken way too long for marriage equality to be supported by the leaders of the FREE world. We are ALL more free now that they have done so.

My wife grew up in New York. I grew up in California. When we decided to get married (as a hetero couple, if that wasn't obvious) we had to agree on where to get married. Ultimately I convinced her (due to the venue I could offer for free) to get married in California. It was an amazing wedding. But we settled in New York. We visit my family in California about once a year. Ironically, my family in California has spent more time with our kids during our brief visits out West than our East Coast relatives have spent with them despite the fact they could see them any day they want.

During the brief period when marriage equality was legally accepted in California, my wife and I agreed we regretted we were already married because we were about to visit my family in California and we wished we could get married AGAIN, together with the same-sex couples who for that brief period in California had the FREEDOM to get married. We felt that their right to get married made our own existing heterosexual marriage THAT MUCH MORE SPECIAL.

Some people claim marriage equality is an attack on "traditional" marriage. HOW???? There is NO WAY that allowing same-sex couples to marry in ANY way threatens my marriage with my wife. If ANYTHING we feel prouder of our own marriage when we hear about instances when same-sex couples can marry. Anyone who thinks marriage equality is a threat to their marriage needs to wonder why they are so insecure about their own marriage!! My wife and I are a heterosexual couple married for many years who feels no threat whatsoever from seeing same-sex couples marrying.

When California reneged on its promise of freedom for LGBT and (in my mind un-Constitutionally) tried specifically banning same-sex marriage, I was embarrassed at the state I grew up in compared with New York, the state I have adopted and been adopted by which went the other way and accepted marriage equality. This all makes me feel more of a New Yorker than a Californian these days. One state made a clear step FORWARDS towards greater FREEDOM, and the other took a major step BACKWARDS towards greater intolerance. I prefer freedom to intolerance ANY day of the week.

When New York FINALLY accepted marriage equality (thanks to the down fall of some very corrupt and violent folks who felt that things like beating women was somehow better than gays marrying) my wife and I were proud and had tears of joy in our eyes when LGBT couples we knew could FINALLY share the joy we shared in marriage. Again, our own marriage was strengthened by the legal recognition of their right to marry.

Now our President and VP are catching up with New York State and are accepting marriage equality. THAT is about as historic as the very election of Barack Obama, our first black President. It is just as much a step forward for America as the electoral count that gave Obama the Presidency.

And, just like I was DAMNED proud to be voting for our first black President, I am DAMNED proud that the President I voted for just came out accepting of marriage equality. Will it help or hurt is re-election???? I don't know. But in the sweep of major historical events, it doesn't matter. Many times in history a LEADER chose to do what is the correct and progressive action rather then simply do what is politically expedient. Sometimes that historical and morally correct action lost them the next election. Sometimes it helped them win the next election. But the historical and morally correct action was still accomplished and would NOT have been accomplished had it not been for the bravery of that leader...Obama is exactly that kind of leader. Whether it benefits him or harms him in his re-election, he has now solidly moved American forward one notch in terms of overall freedom. And for that I thank him.

For those who want to support true marriage freedom, support the solid progressive candidates endorsed by Progressive Majority. They represent our next generation of progressive leaders and we need to nurture them NOW!


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Democrats Routinely Better for the Economy

I have covered this before, but it seems it is always good to review the facts. From the Democratic Policy Committee:

Since 1929:

· An investment of $10,000 in the S&P stock market index during only Republican administrations would have yielded a return of just $10,506 (this includes the abysmal 36.7 percent drop in returns over the eight years of the George W. Bush Administration).

· That same $10,000 invested during Democratic administrations would have grown to $389,320 (this includes the 29.5 percent increase in returns over the [first] 281 days under President Obama’s Administration).

[New York Times, Opinion, 10/14/08, updated by author Tommy McCall 10/28/09*]

This is a striking 37-fold difference in performance.

According to this analysis, annualized returns under Republican presidents through the end of the George W. Bush Administration, who presided over a 4.4 percent annualized drop in returns, were only 0.1 percent.  By contrast, Democrats presided over a nine percent annualized gain for investors.  

Stocks do better under Democrats.

The fact is that the economy has performed significantly better under Democratic administrations than Republican administrations.  Between 1960 and 2008, Democratic presidents presided over stronger economic growth, larger increases in median family income and higher job creation, as well as lower federal spending, federal deficits, and inflation. [Slate, 9/16/08; New York Times, 8/30/08]

For example, over the past 48 years, Democrats have presided over:

·         Stronger growth in the economy.  From 1960 to 2008, real GDP grew faster under Democratic presidents (4.1 percent per year on average) than under Republican presidents (2.7 percent).


Better household incomes for all.  Between 1948 and 2008, annual incomes grew for all income classes under Democratic Administrations.  By contrast, under Republican Administrations, the richest Americans enjoyed a disproportionate share of income growth.

Over this same period, real median income, representing the exact middle of American households, grew more under Democrats (2.2 percent) than under Republicans (0.6 percent).  In fact, under President Bush, real median income actually fell $2,197.  Looking back as far as we have data (back to President Kennedy), only two other Administrations have had a decline in real median household income.

· Largest decreases in poverty.  Since the census began tracking the poverty rate in 1959, Democratic presidents have often produced the largest drops in poverty rates, while Republicans have seen the largest increases.  As an example, during the eight years of William Jefferson Clinton Administration, the poverty rate decreased by 21.17 percent and the number of Americans living in poverty decreased by 19.57 percent.  Unfortunately, those gains more than reversed in the George W. Bush Administration, when the poverty rate increased by 12.82 percent and the number of Americans living in poverty increased by 21.04 percent.  More than numbers and percentages, these figures reflect that, while more than 7.6 million Americans rose out of poverty during the Clinton years, nearly 7 million fell into poverty during the Bush years.

Economic Growth is BETTER and more EQUITABLE under Democrats

Lower unemployment and more robust job growth.  The unemployment rate has been lower under Democratic presidents (5.3 percent on average) than under Republicans (6.2 percent).

Moreover, in the eighty years between the start of the Hoover Administration and the end of the George W. Bush Administration, job growth was higher under all six Democratic Presidents than under any of the seven Republican Presidents.

The statistical probability of that happening through random chance is more than 1,700 to 1.  

Democrats Create More Jobs

And let me add (not from the same source): Even in terms of fiscal responsibility, that thing Republicans like to harp on, it is really a Democratic value as proven by the numbers:

Republicans do FAR more deficit spending that Democrats.

The numbers don't lie. It is very clear that Democrats are better for ALL aspects of the economy.


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History in the Making: The Nation of Malawi Goes Progressive

A funny thing happened in Malawi. And it happened more by happenstance than by any plan.

You see a woman was elected Vice President of Malawi (putting them ahead of America where only men have been VP). I am sure people figured that woman would never get beyond VP because across the world, throughout history VP is kind of a useless position. In fact on my apartment building's co-op board I SOUGHT being VP because it was the least onerous office. I wound up with treasurer! Go figure.

So Joyce Banda, a woman, was elected VP of Malawi. Then came the death of 78-year-old President Bingu wa Mutharika...and suddenly Malawi, by accident, became the second nation in Africa to have a woman lead the country...the first being Liberia, but THAT is another that can be found here:

Again let me be clear that Liberia and Malawi are ahead of America here in terms of having a woman lead their nation. We have only had men.

Today Joyce Banda, the second woman to lead an African nation, took a HUGE step and I a afraid many people missed it. The second woman to lead an African nation has just come out in support of legalizing homosexuality, something that VERY few African leaders have been willing to do. Joyce Banda deserves our support...and NEEDS our support.

Most of Africa considers homosexuality a crime. Some nations even are trying to institute the death penalty for homosexuality. In Uganda, as covered by Current TV, the push for the death penalty for homosexuality probably originated in the United States: (sorry, it starts with an ad)

But death penalty aside, there are few nations in Africa where homosexuality is legal. In Egypt, Morocco, Ethiopia, Tanzania and several others, all homosexual acts are illegal. In some other nations like Kenya and Zimbabwe male homosexual acts are illegal but female homosexual acts are legal. Even where homosexuality is technically legal, equality is far from a reality. South Africa is about the only African nation where homosexuals are given pretty much equal rights, beating America on many levels.

Malawi is one of the nations where male homosexual acts are illegal while female homosexual acts are legal. And there is no real equality.

Today Malawi President Joyce Banda has announced that she supports legalizing homosexuality in Malawi. This is, of course, just one step forward when it comes to a barbaric policy, but for the second women leader in Africa to take this step is a HUGE deal. I actually hope Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia (where homosexuality remains illegal) takes notice and follows suit.

From BBC News:

President Joyce Banda has said she wants Malawi to overturn its ban on homosexual acts - the first African country to do so since 1994.

Two Malawian men were sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2010 after saying they were getting married...

Mrs Banda took power last month after her predecessor, Bingu wa Mutharika, died of a heart attack.

She has since reversed several of his policies, including devaluing the currency, in a bid to get donor funding restored...

In her first state of the nation address to parliament, Mrs Banda said: "Some laws which were duly passed by the august house... will be repealed as a matter of urgency... these include the provisions regarding indecent practices and unnatural acts."

The BBC's Raphael Tenthani in the main city, Blantyre, says the president has the support of a majority of MPs and so should be able to get parliament to overturn the law.

However, he says it will be an unpopular move with many church leaders, as well as the wider population in this conservative country...

This is a brave move by an African leader whose hold on power may be tenuous. She deserves our support.

In honor of Joyce Banda and her move to legalize LGBT people in Malawi, I have donated to the Boost Malawi Fund (UK based) and the Raising Malawi Fund (US based). I ask you to give a small amount to one or both of these funds to help support a brave woman who is standing up for the LGBT community in Africa.

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