Letters to Congress: Trump’s SCOTUS nominee, Cabinet appointees must be able & willing to stand up to him

Write your senators. I did:

Dear Senator,

President Trump pledged throughout his campaign to appoint an anti-choice nominee who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and his first 11 days in office have shown that we absolutely should take him at his word when he threatens to enact policies that restrict our freedoms.

As your constituent, I’m asking you to ensure that Trump’s Supreme Court nominee commits to upholding the Constitution, all of the Constitution, including Roe v. Wade. If they won’t, I ask that you commit to blocking the nominee by whatever means necessary.

Trump has shown he will go to any length to get what he wants, regardless of legality, up to and including purging Cabinet departments of senior career leadership, using Congressional committee staff while not even telling the Members what he is doing, and firing officials who refuse to fall obediently into line.  It is imperative that if he is to be given a new Justice, that it be someone who is not afraid to stand up to him.



(via NARAL Pro-Choice America.)

Once again, you can also write your House reps and other elected officials—they may not have a vote, but they know the folks who do a lot better than we do. Don’t forget to thank your local Democrat for standing against the illegal executive order on immigration.  A simple note such as the one below should suffice: 

Mr Doyle,

Thank you for standing up and joining as a cosponsor HR 724 to void the President’s unconstitutional travel ban. Please continue to do everything necessary to oppose this disastrous Trump/Bannon regime.

​Copied from a friend: 

​“You know what solves it? When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a [chuckles], you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.” Donald Trump, April 2014, Fox News interview.

​“Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal too. I want to bring everything crashing down, and destroy all of today’s establishment.” Steve Bannon, Nov 2013, Daily Beast interview.

I think a lot of people are still in denial about what we are up against here. This is a fascist coup d’état, whose first step is to deliberately sabotage the government and turn the U.S. into a failed state. If you sit around waiting for the next election, I promise you there will not be another election. Any effective resistance must be more visionary and more revolutionary than the fascists.

Copy, paste, mutate, disseminate.

Letters to Congress: Ben Carson

Write your senators. I did:

Dear Senator,

As your constituent, I urge you to oppose the nomination of Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

Carson has no experience working in government or running large organizations. But he has a long record of intolerance and of opposing fair housing laws and programs that help the poor—laws and programs he’d be in charge of at HUD.

Carson calls transgender people “abnormal” and same-sex couples “an abomination.” How can I expect him to prevent discrimination against gay couples, or ensure HIV+ individuals have equal access to public housing facilities? I believe Ben Carson would be a nightmare for gay and trans youth and adults facing poverty and housing discrimination.

As a member of the LGBT community, I am disturbed by Carson’s appalling comments about me and my community and his opposition to the very safety net programs HUD administers. Please vote no on the Carson nomination.



(via National Center for Transgender Equality.)

You can also write your House reps and other elected officials—they may not have a vote, but they know the folks who do a lot better than we do.  Here’s the letter I sent to Pittsburgh’s rep in the House, Mike Doyle:

Dear Congressman Doyle,

I realize that as a member of the House, you do not have a direct vote on Secretary confirmations. However, I hope you will use your influence on your colleagues in the Senate and urge them to oppose the nomination of Ben Carson for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.


As a member of the LGBT community, I am disturbed by Carson’s appalling comments about me and my community and his opposition to the very safety net programs HUD administers. While I know you do not have a vote yourself, I hope that you will oppose and urge your friends and colleagues to do everything possible to defeat the Carson nomination.

Thank you,


Comments on Port Authority’s Fare System Proposal

Port Authority is considering overhauling their fare system.  If you missed the two public hearings, in late February and today, you can submit your comments online, by email to farepolicy@portauthority.org, or by mail to Port Authority, Attn: Fare Policy Proposal, Heinz 57 Center, 345 Sixth Avenue, Floor 3, Pittsburgh PA 15222, until the end of March.

My comments:

  • I favour the reducing of fares as much as possible. However, as I’m sure you’re aware, certain long distance (especially suburban commuter) routes cost significantly more to operate, and it is substantially unfair to those who live in and near the City to be forced to once again subsidize exurban riders. I am also concerned about the impact of eliminating the Downtown free-fare zone on the elderly, disabled, and others who use it to bridge the gap between one side of Downtown and the other.Consider, for one, the rider who takes a bus in from lower Greenfield Avenue, planning to transfer to, say, the 12 to McKnight Road. Without the free-fare zone, they are faced with either a double transfer or a long walk from Allies or Fourth Avenue to Liberty and Seventh. With it, a rider who doesn’t feel like making the walk doesn’t have to worry about whether they can pay for the transfer or whether the farebox will accurately credit multiple transfers against their card.

    I would much rather see the zone system recalibrated so that it has less impact on lower-income communities such as McKeesport and Clairton while not further privileging suburban commuters.

  • I am generally opposed to a surcharge for using cash, as those who are using cash are often either infrequent riders or those who can least afford (in terms of money or time) the outlay to acquire a special farecard. However, I do recognize that it does cost extra for PAT to process and handle cash, and so I am not strongly opposed to a minimal cash surcharge that allows the system to recoup that cost.
  • I am strongly opposed to a fee to acquire a farecard, especially in concert with a cash surcharge. If there must be a fee to recover the cost of stocking vending machines, it again should be as little as possible, and not charged at in-person service centers, groceries and other sales agents, etc. (Additionally, there should be many more such sales agents–Giant Eagle is still not as ubiquitous as they’d like to think they are…–and either the hours of the Downtown Service Center should be massively increased or it should be possible to handle farecard problems at other locations or remotely.  I know of too many people who’ve had problems with their farecards but because they don’t work Downtown or don’t work a standard 9-to-5 (or both) can’t get to the DSC to resolve the problem without making special arrangements.)
  • I am especially opposed to any fee to transfer lines, especially if there is any movement toward more trunk-and-feeder systems. Transfer fees disincentivize riding, especially along feeders; even a trip from the Hill to the Strip can require multiple routes, and if it costs yet more to ride just because there isn’t a single vehicle that makes the trip, it will further encourage driving for trips that shouldn’t need it.  (Or, as Jarrett Walker puts it, Charging for connections is insane.)
  • Regarding light-rail proof-of-payment, I strongly endorse PPT’s concerns about enforcement. Especially in light of the multiple recent violent incidents involving PAT Police and related agencies, PAT must tread very, very carefully when considering expanded policing on and around its system.
  • Not only am I strongly in favour of the day-pass idea, it should be automatic.  Rather than forcing someone to purchase a day-pass special, if a card user uses their card more than some number X (2? 3?) times in a day, further rides should be free.  If someone realizes on their way home from work that they need to stop at the grocery store, they shouldn’t have to worry about how much more they’ll need to pay in bus fare–it should just work.  Similarly for weekly, monthly, and especially annual passes; individuals should not be denied the benefit of being able to pay for 11 monthly passes and get the 12th free just because they don’t have nearly $1,100 in the bank at one time… if you buy eleven monthly passes in a row, the twelfth should just be free, whether or not you paid for them all at once.

Still seeking justice for Susan Hicks: Blaming victims will not create safer streets

Yesterday marked four months since Susan Hicks was killed riding home from work. Next month, friends and others will join to complete her commute.

I want to hope that by the end of March there will be some news of the investigation or efforts to make Oakland a less dangerous place to be, but it is difficult to be optimistic.  Our local leaders try to find ways to make it illegal to cross the street while ignoring rampant reckless speeding. Our safety studies give brownie points to transportation associations who tell students to “walk safe” and “don’t be a road zombie” but don’t even comment on the lack of safe-driving messaging—nor do they have any idea why large numbers of students would want to cross the road between classroom buildings.  The university itself responds to pleas for a safer campus with bike racks, carpool marketing, and walk-safe messaging. Our bus drivers and police accost cyclists for occupying lane space, and even drivers who kill while sober rarely get more than a $500 fine and a few points on their licence.

When will we act to protect our people from those who actually do them harm, instead of blaming victims for the positions we force them into?

Windshields are surprisingly effective at deflecting fault

Today in the PG: “Viewing Oakland through the windshield of a Port Authority bus driver: Bus drivers describe dangerous behavior of pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists

Oakland Transportation Management Agency called it an “Interesting perspective from the view of our local PAT drivers.”

“[Pedestrians] can’t see and they’re not looking. People absolutely do not pay attention.”

“[Cyclists] can be frustrating… We put up with the Triangle Messengers Downtown for years, but now [bike riders] are all over.”

“Drivers unfamiliar with Oakland add another layer to traffic strife.”

Apparently the problems and dangers on Oakland’s streets are everywhere but behind Port Authority’s wheels. “Interesting perspective”, indeed.

I’ll probably have more response later as this percolates further, but for now I offer this: I will be more willing to consider increased jaywalking enforcement, as suggested by one driver quoted in this piece (of, I believe, two total), to be a valid tactic when police increase by a proportionate amount the resources devote to driver behaviours that make crossing legally unsafe.

For every student who walks out in front of a bus, how many are forced to stand on the curb for minutes at a time by bus operators and other drivers who refuse or simply fail to stop at marked (let alone unmarked, though legally defined) crosswalks?

For every person who runs across in the last seconds of the blinking “don’t walk” light, how many are brushed back by a bus driver trying to squeeze through the waning seconds of an “orange” signal, or jumping the light before it turns green?

For every individual who appears to expect that “a 20-ton bus can stop on a dime”, how many have simply miscalculated the available time to cross based on the mistaken assumption that drivers will obey the speed limit?

Dear HHS: End Trans Healthcare Discrimination

Via National Center for Transgender Equality:

The US Department of Health and Human Services has proposed regulations that—if adopted—would prohibit most insurance plans, including Medicaid, from denying coverage for transition-related care and require health providers to treat people according to their gender identity.

The comment period is only open until Monday, November 9. So we have just a few days left to send HHS a clear message: healthcare discrimination against transgender people should never be allowed.

Dear HHS,

I strongly support the proposed rule’s protections for LGBT people in all federally supported health programs and activities. Discrimination in health coverage and care prevents many LGBT people from getting the care they need to stay healthy and causes stress that directly contributes to negative health outcomes for LGBT communities.

The rule’s protections for transgender people are particularly important. It is essential that the final rule clearly prohibit transgender exclusions in health insurance plans and ensure that patients are treated according to their gender identity in health care settings.

The proposed rule should be even stronger to better protect all people at risk of discrimination in health coverage or care, and in all federally funded health programs. The final rule should recognize that discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity is necessarily a form of sex discrimination, and it should not include any new exemption that would permit discrimination based on religious views against women, people with disabilities, LGBT people, or anyone else.

There is no excuse for discrimination in health care using federal funds.

Please: send your own message to HHS via the National Center for Transgender Equality.