Nel's New Day

November 30, 2011

Senate Removes Constitutional Rights

They actually did it. I didn’t believe they would. And I never thought that I would agree with Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). But I’m against it the way he is.

Monday, I wrote about the Senate voting on a bill that would allow the president to indefinitely detain U.S. citizens in prison with no trial. Yesterday they passed that bill. Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) wanted an amendment for the bill that would exempt citizens from the “imprison suspected ‘terrorists’ indefinitely with no trial” bill. That amendment failed 60 to 38 after Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ) voted against the amendment and then voted for it.

Udall’s amendment called for U.S. military and intelligence officials to study the plan and offer their own blueprint for how to interrogate and detain alleged extremists. It appears that Senators think that they are more qualified to question and detail “terrorists” than the military and intelligence officials.

The U.S. Constitution protects U.S. citizens from being indefinitely imprisoned. Amendment 5 states, “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.” Amendment 6 states, “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial.” If the House of Representatives, overwhelmed by conservatives, passes it and the President signs it, although he’s promised to veto the bill, then citizens have lost more of their constitutional rights.

Fifteen Democrats and one Independent joined all the Republicans except Paul  and Mark Kirk (R-IL) to defeat the amendment that would exempt citizens from indefinite jail time without trial. “It’s not enough just to be alleged to be a terrorist,” Paul said. “That’s part of what due process is–deciding, are you a terrorist? I think it’s important that we not allow U.S. citizens to be taken.” Paul also stated that the new provisions would not have prevented the failures that led to the 9/11 attacks.

Democrats who opposed citizens’ indefinite time in jail without trial compared this bill to the detention of Americans in internment camps during World War II. “Congress is essentially authorizing the indefinite imprisonment of American citizens, without charge,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). She has another amendment, not yet receiving a vote, to correct this problem. “We are not a nation that locks up its citizens without charge.”

“The enemy is all over the world. Here at home. And when people take up arms against the United State sand [are] captured within the United States, why should we not be able to use our military and intelligence community to question that person as to what they know about enemy activity?” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said. “They should not be read their Miranda Rights. They should not be given a lawyer,” Graham said.

That’s what they said about Brandon Mayfield, a U.S. citizen in Portland (OR) accused of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings. The FBI secretly broke into his house without probable cause and then held him for two weeks. Eventually an FBI internal review admitted serious errors in their investigation. If this bill is allowed to become law, U.S. citizens like Mayfield could spend their lives in prison.

“It is likely that implementing such procedures would inject significant confusion into counterterrorism operations,” the White House argued in a Nov. 17 statement. Both FBI Director Robert Mueller and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper sent letters to congressional leaders opposing the bill.

The bill handily passed because it was part of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act that would authorize defense spending on military personnel, weapons, and war. The “send U.S. citizens to prison indefinitely without charges” bill can still be removed when the Senate bill is merged with a similar House bill allocating $690 billion for the Pentagon.

The 15 senators who voted for the “take constitutional rights from U.S. citizens bill” are Bob Casey (PA), Kent Conrad (ND), Kay Hagan (NC), Daniel Inouye (HI), Herb Kohl (WI), Mary Landrieu (LA), Carl Levin (MI), Joe Manchin (WV), Claire McCaskill (MO), Ben Nelson (NE), Mark Pryor (AR), Jack Reed (RI), Jeanne Shaheen (NH), Debbie Stabenow (MI), and Sheldon Whitehouse (RI). Independent Sen. Joe Lieberman (CN) also voted in favor of removing constitutional rights.

Tea Partiers think that the bill does not apply to U.S. citizens. They are wrong. It would (1) explicitly authorize the federal government to indefinitely imprison without charge or trial American citizens and others picked up inside and outside the United States; (2) mandate military detention of some civilians who would otherwise be outside of military control, including civilians picked up within the United States itself; and (3) transfer to the Department of Defense core prosecutorial, investigative, law enforcement, penal, and custodial authority, and responsibility now held by the Department of Justice.

If this bill passes, U.S. citizens have lost the right of habeas corpus from Article 1, Second 9 of the U.S. Constitution that states U.S. citizens cannot be held without their will without just cause. People jailed with no charges can demand these, and the courts must issue a writ of habeas corpus to force those in charge to answer why people are being held. With no good or compelling reason for holding them, these people must be set free. This is the sole liberty considered important enough to be in the original text of the U.S. Constitution.

According to legal experts, the wording of the new National Defense Authorization Act effectively repeals the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act (18 U.S.C. § 1385), which limits the use of federal military personnel to enforce laws within the United States.  The Act allows for the imposition of martial law only where specifically authorized by the United States Constitution (invasion, insurrection, etc.) or Act of Congress.  Under the provisions of the unamended NDAA, the president will have the power to impose martial law, and thereby suspend the Writ of Habeas Corpus, on his own authority.

More than ten years 19 men, 15 of them from Saudi Arabia, attacked the World Trade Center. Many people are still believe that this was an “act of war” on the United States. No country declared war on the U.S., but a conservative government used this tragedy to destroy millions of lives and the culture of other countries through violent acts that brought down revenge on our country.

“Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

November 29, 2011

The Party of NO

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:29 PM

[Many thanks to my partner who wrote the following.]

I am so grateful for the men of YES, our founding fathers. Everything they wrote was YES to better days. YES to self-evident truth that we are equal; YES that we have the unalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; YES to freely electing our own leaders; YES to freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of religion; YES to protection from unlawful searches and seizures; YES to due process of the law; YES to protecting our person and property, YES to public education. Most important, YES to separation of church and state. And yes, yes, yes except for the eighteenth amendment (which our founding fathers didn’t write anyway) that said we could NOT imbibe in alcohol. We know how well that went.

So now the party of NO says they are protecting these original rights for the 99% of us. I keep wondering where and how. Certainly they are saying NO to equality as the rich take over our politicians and make the laws to protect their property and profits; NO to life as the rich refuse to allow health care for the rest of us; NO to freedom of speech and voting rights as the rich buy up TV, radio stations and newspapers and lie to us to protect their profits; NO to separation of church and state and freedom of religion as the far right’s need to control impose their religious beliefs including taking away the right to choose; NO to protection of the law against big business; NO to clean air, water, and the land on which we raise our food; NO to unions, collective bargaining, social security, medicare, and pensions. It’s a tragic fact that under the party of NO we have even lost four of our guaranteed constitutional rights.

Obviously, with record-breaking profits and the law on their side, the rich get richer by over-charging for goods and services against the 99% workers who continue to live with dwindling income. The 1% has convinced us that unregulated free enterprise is the true American way and we buy it. They feed us the old line that you too will be rich someday but not if we have regulations. Yet we have become third-class country compared to the free enterprise systems based in social programs of Canada and Europe in which the system takes care of the 99% people, and, in turn, the 99% take care of the 1%.

Even more frightening are the “Too Big to Fail” companies who are still running amuck and are undercutting and buying up small businesses to get rid of competition which is the only thing that actually keeps free enterprise and democracy alive. Look around. For every big business such as Walmart that moves into town, at least fifteen businesses bite the dust along with the families that scatter to the four winds because they can no longer afford to stay together. And they destroy good government jobs by taking over services once provided by government workers , overcharge the public, take more tax money along with public money and pay crappy wages, and we know that for every government job lost two private sector jobs are lost.

How long will it be before we have to live with three or four huge corporations that sell franchises and businesses  that have to buy their goods through the corporations who still make and keep the profits. We now have a government that only cares about what big business cares about. And this system protects the family unit? I think not!

It’s time to put people back to work. That and the rich paying their fair share will pay our debt off. Use the government to create the jobs. Money earned will be returned to all of us one way or the other in goods bought, taxes paid, services used. So, maybe we can start building again. Maybe the family can stay together again. Maybe we’ll be free again. Maybe we can say YES again.

November 28, 2011

Bill Proposes Indefinitely Detaining U.S. Citizens without Trial

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:19 PM

After the abuses of the U.S. Constitution after 9/11, I thought that the country’s craziness had gone as far as possible. I was wrong.

The latest abuse coming out of the Senate has gone far beyond what happened ten years ago. A proposed bill will give the president—any president—the right to order the military to imprison U.S. citizens without charge or trial anywhere in the world, including theUnited States.

This inexcusable bill is in S. 1867, the National Defense Authorization Act bill, which was scheduled for debate today. The bill was drafted in secret by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI) and John McCain (R-AZ) and passed in a closed-door committee meeting, without even a single hearing. Fortunately Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) is offering the Udall Amendment to delete these provisions.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) justified the bill by claiming that it will “basically say in law for the first time that the homeland is part of the battlefield” and people can be imprisoned without charge or trial “American citizen or not.” Another supporter, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) also asserted that “America is part of the battlefield.”

Although some people have purported that this  indefinite detention legislation does not apply to American citizens. They are wrong. Section 1031 of the bill states that there is no exemption for U.S. citizens to be indefinitely detained without charge or trial if the president orders the military to do this.

America is NOT a battlefield. America is currently a free country, and the Constitution states that American citizens cannot be arrested by the military and certainly not without being charged or getting a trial. This bill would remove more of our liberties. “The U.S. is part of the battlefield” bill can be stopped if senators vote YES on the Udall Amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Make a difference; contact your senator.

November 27, 2011

Gingrich Temporarily at the Top

[This should have been published last week, but the computer connection malfunctioned.]

In a few minutes the eight Republican presidential candidates will gather for another of their “debates,” almost a twice-each-week occurrence. Newt Gingrich has moved to center stage—which means that he’s temporarily top dog, a position that four others appearing with him have held. It’s my guess that he’s on his way down with Ron Paul on the ascendancy. Poor Rick Santorum and Jon Huntsman have been at each end for the duration, and it’s too late for them to catch up.

For the short time that Gingrich beats out the others in the polls, it’s worth giving some of his professional peccadilloes and his extreme conservative positions.

Like George W. Bush, Gingrich believes in privatizing Social Security. Bush got nowhere with that position, and that was before the most recent stock market crash. Yet Gingrich continues to push the idea, hoping to wring some votes out of this statement.

The fact that Gingrich took at least $1.8 million from the government to “offer his expertise” to Freddie Mac, a quasi-public corporation that many conservatives blame for the housing crisis. He also founded Center for Health Transformation, a think tank that collected $37 million during the past eight years from major health-care companies and industry groups, again providing “access to Newt Gingrich” and “direct Newt interaction.”

Conservatives oppose the individual mandate, part of the new health care act, and ridicule what they call “Obamacare.” Gingrich’s think tank advocated that “anyone who earns more than $50,000 a year must purchase health insurance or post a bond.” Conservatives are horrified by the idea of centralized medical records; the group pushed proposals to build centralized electronic medical records and use such data to research treatment effectiveness, both central features of President Obama’s health-care reforms.

Back when “end of life planning” was a good idea, Gingrich preached the virtues of a Wisconsin health care consortium that took the lead in this area. As soon as Sarah Palin insisted that this planning was “death panels for Grandma,” Gingrich equated it to “euthanasia.” He failed to disclose that the firm he praised was one of his clients at his think tank.

Gingrich has other flip-flips that will provide superb fodder for television advertising. After he said that President Obama’s decision to withdraw all American troops from Iraq by the end of the year (a decision that actually belonged to Bush) was the “right” decision, he changed his mind two days later to say that the president is ushering “defeat” in Iraq. Another time he managed to use both his faces in less than a minute. On Fox News he first said, “There’s no short term advantage to us being” in Iraq. Thirteen seconds later, he said he does not agree with the president’s decision to withdraw troops from Iraq.

Last March, Gingrich attacked Obama for not having launched a no-fly zone in Libya, saying he would “exercise a no-fly zone this evening…the United States doesn’t need anybody’s permission.” Less than 24 hours later, after the president signed off on American participation in NATO’s air campaign, Gingrich accused Obama of “opportunism,” adding, “I would not have intervened.” Michael Cohen wrote that the Republicans’ critique “is basically ‘whatever he does we will argue the opposite.’” Gingrich is the icon of that position.

David Corn, of Mother Jones, describes Gingrich as “by far the nastiest of the pack.” During his career he has typically compared his opponents to Nazis or Nazi appeasers and counseled other conservatives to accuse Democrats of treason. His style of “poisonous maliciousness” is not usually successful in presidential politics which is probably why Mitt Romney keeps that sunny smile plastered on his face.

Richard Nixon was the most recent “nasty” president; even he tended to hide his sociopathic approach such as his plan to firebomb the Brookings Institution.  Successful nominees since then have varied in demeanor and actions but never resembled the harsh authoritarian father figure than comes from the man with the paunch.

Earlier this month, he said, “There’s a stream of American thought that really wishes we would decay and fall apart and that the future would be bleak so that the government can share the misery. It was captured by Jimmy Carter in his malaise speech. It’s captured every week by Barack Obama in his apologias disguised as press conferences.” That’s the Obama that bailed out the auto industry and compromised to the extreme last August with unreasonable conservatives to keep the country functioning.

In June, Gingrich called Obama “the opposite of freedom” and denounced him as “a natural secular European socialist.” Gingrich prides himself on his religious faith. “How can you [atheists and agnostics] have judgment if you have no faith? How can I trust you with power if you don’t pray?” He accused the Occupy Wall Street protesters for including a “frightening level of anti-Semitism.” And he contended that liberals are “fundamentally wrong” about “the nature of America.”

How far is Gingrich willing to go in his meanness? In an address at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, he said he wanted to replace union maintenance workers in poor schools by hiring students ages 9-14. In the same speech, he said, “You’re going to see from me extraordinarily radical proposals to fundamentally change the culture of poverty in America and give people a chance to rise very rapidly.”

Tonight may be the time to hear more of his “radical proposals.”

November 21, 2011

Budget Supercommittee: Failure or Success?

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:34 PM
Tags: ,

The Budget Supercommittee came into our lives late last summer with a bang and then left today with a whimper. “After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), the co-chairs of the supercommittee, said in a joint statement.

So what’s a “supercommittee”? In a Politico/George Washington University national poll, 50 percent said they were “not at all familiar” with the supercommittee while 38 percent said they were only “somewhat familiar” with it. Almost nine out of every ten Americans don’t have the vaguest notion of what the supercommittee is, much less what it’s tasked with doing.

In brief, the White House and Congress agreed last August, as a condition of raising the debt ceiling, that they would empower a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction to craft a “grand bargain” to reduce the national debt by $1.2 trillion. Proposals from the committee would be placed on a fast track through the House and Senate, with no allowance for the legislation to be amended by lawmakers. If the panel’s plan were to be approved by Congress, the debt ceiling could be increased by the same amount. Without agreement by Thanksgiving, the government would make $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending starting in 2013– 50 percent from defense spending and 50 percent from domestic spending, excluding Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare benefits, and low-income entitlement programs.

Committee Democrats were willing to cut Social Security and Medicare, but Republicans refused to increase tax revenue. They claimed that they would raise $250 billion in closing tax loopholes but failed to mention that at the same time they would also lower the tax rate on the wealthiest households from 36 percent to 28, once again a benefit for the wealthy. The Democrats final offer was $400 billion tax cuts out of the $1.2 trillion in savings required, one far to the right of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson and Gang of  Six plans, which received the approval of conservative senators like Tom Coburn and Mike Crapo.

Why did the Republicans turn down this deal? They wanted to permanently set tax rates below the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts,  locking in the Bush tax cuts for high-income taxpayers (as well as other taxpayers) and taking them off the table for future deficit reduction.  Democrats wanted to set the Bush tax cuts to the side, neither extending nor ending them and leaving their disposition for another day.

Republicans blamed President Obama after House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Minority Leader each assigned three adamant no-revenue members to the committee. It was Congress’ decision to put only representatives and senators on the committee. “There wasn’t a seat at that table, as far as I’m aware, for a member of the administration,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. In fact, Republicans told Obama to stay away from the discussions.

Even before the committee chairs announced failure, conservatives started announcing plans to circumvent the agreement made last summer. Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) told David Gregory on Meet the Press that they could go around the defense tax cuts to create others. The problem with Kyl’s approach is that the President has to sign any budget laws that Congress might pass.

Without this agreement and no further action, there will be no extension of jobless benefits and the one-year payroll tax cut, causing, according to economists at J.P. Morgan Chase, a hit on economic growth next year of as much as two percentage points and a possible recession. Without Congressional action, physicians who take a 30-percent cut in government reimbursements for Medicare patients, and the alternative minimum tax, hitting more than 30 million families, will return.

Republicans say that they are speaking for the people. This is what “the people” are saying:

60% of Americans wanted the debt supercommittee to compromise, including majorities of Republicans, independents, and Democrats.

51% of Americans in general say it is better for political leaders inWashingtonto compromise to get things done, rather than stick to their beliefs. Only Tea Party supporters show a clear preference for sticking to beliefs.

Americans clearly favor spending cuts to tax increases when considering how to reduce the federal budget deficit. However, most favor a mix of the two approaches.

Tea Partiers oppose cuts to Medicare and Social Security by a 76-22 margin.

Sixty-eight  percent of millionaires favor raising their own taxes.

The Republicans’ refusal to compromise can have a positive affect on the budget. If Congress can’t agree on budget cuts, George W. Bush’s tax cuts will expire on January 1, 2013, other tax cuts will go away, and $1.2 trillion in additional budget cuts will go into effect, providing $7.1 trillion in only one decade. Bush’s tax cuts almost doubled the national debt during his two terms; dropping them can reverse the increasing federal debt. The Republicans may have done the people in this nation a great favor last summer when they proposed the “supercommittee” and then set it up for failure.

Fortunately, Congress passed part of an omnibus bill, known as the first “minibus,” that provided $128 billion for the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development while extending funding to the other agencies until Dec. 16. We’ll see if conservatives extort deals about funding the country after that date.

November 20, 2011

GOP Presidential Candidates Gobble Social Justice

It’s almost Thanksgiving, and turkey is on the minds of a lot of people. Turkey  may not bring to mind just the food served on Thursday.  One definition of a turkey is a loser; another, in the case of a jive turkey, a double-crosser. The current crop of Republican presidential candidates reminds me of real turkeys, flocking and gobble-gobbling and strutting as they fan their tail feathers to conservative media and organizations. (Clue: Texas has lots of wild turkeys.)

The more overtly religious five candidates seem to consistently make the dumbest moves. Herman Cain can’t open his mouth—or just sit in a chair—without creating fodder for late-night comedians. Libya? Now what did the U.S. do in Libya? And who didn’t we like there? Newt Gingrich lost when he thought he could claim his high salary from Bush’s government was for being an “historian” for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, not an unlicensed lobbyist.

Rick Perry wanted to debate Rep. Nancy Pelosi about his new idea for “a part-time Congress where their pay is cut in half, their office budgets are cut in half, and their time in Washington is cut in half.” Even the most conservative Congressional members are nervous about his brainstorm. Either Perry forgot that Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) is currently Speaker of the House, or he believes that the Democrats will take the majority in the next election. Caught up in criticism, he cited recent reports of insider trading by Congressional members. “When you have routine insider corruption on Capitol Hill, when you have liberal opposition for freeing the economy of this country, when you have just total disrespect for family values, I would suggest to you that’s the reason Nancy Pelosi is running away from having a debate with me.” Perry forgot two other important pieces of information: Pelosi and her husband made less than a dollar on each of the 5,000 shares that they bought, and the rest of the insider traders outed were Republicans.

Cain remembered that God asked him to run for president, bringing the count up to three with Michele Bachmann and Perry the other two. Evidently God told Mike Huckabee that it was okay for him not to run this time. In Cain’s speech about God, he also blamed President Obama for canceling the space shuttle program; George W. Bush had done that in 2004. Considering his penchant for a bad memory, could he have the same health issues as Ronald Reagan without a wife to cover for him?

The first formal vote of 2012, Iowa, is less than six weeks away, and candidates have flowed into the state. (Don’t worry, Iowa. They’ll be leaving immediately afterward to head to New Hampshire.) Only Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman were absent from yesterday’s Thanksgiving Family Forum, sponsored by the James Dobson-founded Focus on the Family, a religious right powerhouse known for its bizarre cultural agenda; the National Organization for Marriage, perhaps best known for its unintentionally hilarious anti-gay commercials; and The FAMiLY Leader, an Iowa-based group of extremists that put together “The Marriage Vow” for GOP candidates, which argued, among other things, that slavery wasn’t that bad for African-American families.

The forum was about “social issues”—nothing hard like foreign policy. Held in the sanctuary of the First Federated Church of Des Moines, a church that has fought LGBT people for at least 15 years, it featured right-wing pollster Frank Luntz as a talk-show host. Gingrich received the loudest applause for his promise to restore the role of faith in American life. Either Iowans have the same short memories as Perry, or they chose to ignore Gingrich’s infidelity and three marriages.

Evangelical theology purports that until one’s heart has been broken, usually by one’s own sin, one will not be truly ready to receive Jesus as one’s personal Lord and Savior. Evangelical services often feature the tearful testimonials of those whose hearts are so broken; thus Luntz asked them to reveal the moments when their faith was most tested.

Ron Paul appeared the most uncomfortable, talking about an injury cutting short his high school track career, and Gringrich had to borrow a friend’s injured child. I’m guessing he didn’t want to talk about his first wife’s cancer because that was when he served her with divorce papers in the hospital after her surgery

Cain got to talk about when he was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer, Rick Santorum berated himself for being emotionally distant from his youngest daughter who had almost died twice, and Bachmann revealed how her mother had to sell wedding gifts after the candidate’s father deserted the family.

Although Perry’s biggest problem was feeling “lost” when he left the Air Force at the age of 27, he was in his element with fundamental rites, something that doesn’t happen with any of the debates. Discussing the success of The Response, an event that brought 33,000 people together in Texas to pray for the country, he urged pastors to preach about values. “Somebody’s values are going to decide what the Congress votes on or what the president of the United States is going to deal with. And the question is: Whose values? And let me tell ya, it needs to be our values–values and virtues that this country was based upon by the Judeo-Christian Founding Fathers.” (Another part of conservatives’ revisionist history.)

Speaking of God in his life, Perry said, “I’ve been driven to my knees multiple times as the governor of the State of Texas, making decisions that are life or death–have huge impacts on people’s lives. The idea that I would walk into that without God Almighty holding me up would scare me to death.” Evidently God told him to kill those people whether they were innocent or not, including at least one person executed in violation of an international treaty.

In a preface to one question, Luntz explained that church-goers are happier than people who don’t go to church or pray, implying that liberals do neither. Gingrich agreed, saying that conservatives are “happy” while liberals are “angry” and “miserable.” Then his historian persona rolled in as he said that liberals were all products of the French Revolution.

“The French Revolution was an anti-clerical, anti-God rejection of the larger world in favor of secularism. It has dominated our academic world; our academic world supplies our news media, our courts and Hollywood. And so you have a faction in America today which believes things which are profoundly wrong. Now that is a fight; that’s not a passivity. And in a culture in which they know what they’re doing, and they are determined to destroy our value system, and we are passive and confused is a world in whichAmerica’s going to stay in deep trouble.” (More revisionist history.)

Bachmann accused the new health care law of forcing taxpayers to fund “chemical abortion” that she claimed was being “pushed” by Planned Parenthood. Many conservatives  don’t believe this, but the claim brings in votes and money. Private coverage for abortions may be almost nonexistent when the new health care law goes into effect which would make these candidates very happy.

Referring to the Occupy Movement, Gingrich quoted John Smith (of Pocahontas fame): “In 1607 in the first English speaking permanent colony, [Smith said] to the aristocrats who had paid their way and didn’t want to work: ‘If you don’t work, you won’t eat.’” He may have been confused about the “class” status of the current protesters. His vitriolic statement concluded with “Go get a job. Right after you take a bath.” I wonder if there are more openings at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for “historians.”

The candidates had an easy time in Des Moines last night. No questions about taking money from the government to advise its mortgage agencies, no questions about sexual assault or campaign fraud, no questions at all about embarrassing gaffes or long pauses. They all pretty much agreed to define “personhood” at conception, stop gay couples from adopting children, reverse restrictions of churches’ involvement in politics, and prevent same-sex marriage. People who think that the conservative movement is all about economics need to pay close attention to this showing of Christians demonstrating how they would turn the United States into a theocracy.

Sorry you missed the event? Check it out here. Otherwise wait until day after tomorrow when the full complement  of Republican candidates gathers at the DAR Constitution Hall (Washington, DC), 8pm ET, with sponsors CNN, The Heritage Foundation, and the American Enterprise Institute. Wolf Blitzer moderates; the topic focuses foreign policy and national defense.

Happy turkey!

November 19, 2011

Police Fight the Occupy Movement

What are the police doing about the Occupy Movement? A Google search shows 131,000,000 hits on police abuse in relation to the Occupiers, most of them describing police officers using pepper spray and nightsticks. For example, the image of an 84-year-old woman has received a huge number of hits. Anyone following the Occupy Movement in the news also remembers the abuse of the Oakland police resulting in an Iraq veteran losing his ability to speak because of  police actions. When the police don’t brutalize the protesters, they intimidate them.

Kicked out of  Zucotti Park, some demonstrators took refuge in churches and other shelters. As several of them slept at a United Methodist church on the Upper West Side, a plainclothes detective walked through the sanctuary, apparently counting heads. At the same time, his partner was asking questions at a homeless shelter in the church’s basement. “It is disconcerting that they would actually enter the sanctuary,” said the Rev. James Karpen, known as Reverend K, senior pastor of the United Methodist Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew, on West 86th Street. “Here we had offered hospitality and safety, which is our business as a church; it just felt invasive.”

Another police action is to ticket and threaten citizens for minor offences. An example is the $60 ticket for honking a horn in Denver (CO). After Daniel Garcia supported the protesters by honking his horn two or three times (something I do occasionally in my small Northwest town), he was pulled over by the police. According to the officer, there’s a city ordinance against honking in a non-emergency situation. The police officer actually searched the car, including the trunk. After ticketing Garcia, the officer said, “If I see you over here again, we’ll pull you over and impound your car for disturbing the peace.”

According to Garcia, his court date is December 23 (Happy Holidays!), and he plans to plead not guilty. The day after he received his ticket he watched another officer ticket someone who stopped to pick up a protester at the park. Other Denver residents reported being ticketed for stopping to drop off supplies for the protesters.

In Portland (OR) Police Chief Mike Reese told the media that the Occupy Movement was keeping them from important business—like investigating a rape. In fact, the 9-1-1 call for the case came during the day rather than during large-scale Portland police deployments and involved a sexual assault that had happened two days earlier. The police had already indicated that they didn’t consider that call a top priority emergency call.

The Police Executive Research Forum, an international non-governmental organization with ties to law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, has been coordinating conference calls with major metropolitan mayors and police chiefs to advise them on policing matters and discuss response to the Occupy movement. On November 17, PERF Executive Director Chuck Wexler acknowledged PERF’s coordination of a series of conference-call strategy sessions with big-city police chiefs. These calls were distinct from the widely reported national conference calls of major metropolitan mayors.

PERF has issued a guide against the Occupy Movement that encourages the use of undercover officers and snatch squads to “grab the bad guys and remove them from the crowd” and urges local law enforcement to use social media to map the Occupy movement. An earlier guide advocates the use of embedded media to control police messages, the use of undercover cops to infiltrate protest groups, the use and pitfalls of preemptive mass arrest, an examination of the use of less-than-lethal crowd control weapons, and general discussion weighing the use of force in crowd control.

TV watchers cheer when the protesters in the Middle East emerge victorious against tyrants but criticize anyone who wants equality in theUnited States. They encourage anti-Obama protesters to carry weapons but ridicule protesters who refuse to leave a site because they believe in equality.

According to writer Joshua Holland, probably 97 percent of police act professionally toward protesters.  One of the 97 percent is  former Philadelphia police captain Ray Lewis who was arrested during the Occupy Wall Street protests.  “They complained about the park being dirty,” he said. “Here they are worrying about dirty parks when people are starving to death, where people are freezing, where people are sleeping in subways and they’re concerned about a dirty park. That’s obnoxious, it’s arrogant, it’s ignorant, it’s disgusting.”

The other 3 percent are armed and dangerous and know that they’re unlikely to be held accountable. It’s time to do something about the 3 percent who are working for the top 1 percent.

 

November 18, 2011

Occupy Movement Occupies Small Towns

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 5:53 PM
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I am fortunate to live in a small Northwest town. Although the newspaper has become conservative, many of those who write to the editor are not. Following is a letter to the editor; I wish I wrote as well as the author of this letter does.

“When I’m able to, I join the group that you may have seen at the intersection of … from 11 to 1 on Saturday. As I hold my sign and wave to the mostly supportive folks driving by, I talk to the other participants. We are a diverse lot, young and old and in-between, the employed, the unemployed and the retired, students, carpenters, electricians, truck drivers, computer programmers and teachers. It’s a pretty good cross-section of America, at least of 99% of America.

I’m grimly amused at the feigned confusion of the pundits on TV, radio, newspapers and blogs about the Occupy Movement. “What is their message?” they ask plaintively. “What are their demands?” C’mon now. It’s about economic injustice. It’s about the richest 1% of Americans and corporations who have, over the course of years, amassed an ever increasing portion of our wealth, and are using the power that money brings to ensure that they get what little we have left.

Banks, insurance companies, communication providers, and goods and service providers of all kinds have pursued the holy grail of increased profits quarter-over-quarter for so long that the only thing left is to bleed their “customers” of every last penny, while providing less and less value for the dollar. The Koch brothers made 53 billion dollars (Yes, that’s Billion, with a B) in the last 6 years speculating in oil futures, in case you’re wondering why gas prices are so high during a global recession.

Once the financial industry lobby got the safeguard legislation provided by the Glass-Steagall Act of 1932 nullified, the way was clear for banks and investment houses to invent financial instruments that provided no value except for the robber barons who collectively made billions. They made money selling junk mortgages and made more money by betting that the mortgages would default. It was a win-win deal for them, but the American people lost 7.5 trillion real dollars. Pension plans and life savings were trashed, but those in the financial insiders circle made billions.

So when the banks and giant insurance companies teetered on the brink of collapse from paying off these sucker bets, the American people got to bail them out, while their homes are foreclosed because the banks are sitting on giant piles of cash that we gave them, refusing to modify or refinance our mortgages.

The “Occupy” movement is not about resenting the wealthy. The 99% seem pretty content to let the avaricious hoard the money, if that’s what they want. Perhaps a little too content. While we weren’t paying attention, they bought our political system and the “free press.” They gave themselves huge tax reductions and tax loopholes, forcing a drastic reduction in tax dollars for infrastructure and education, and essential assistance for the poor, the sick, the elderly, veterans, students and a host of others. Not content with that, they now use their billions to promote a program of social engineering, to mold our country to their liking in order to guarantee an unending supply of workers who will be willing to settle for whatever crumbs fall from their table.

But they went too far. They’ve robbed the younger generations of a future. Students graduating from college these days have debt that will take a lifetime to pay off, if they can ever get any kind of decent living wage job. Young people these days live with their parents or with multiple roommates, because most of them can’t afford to live any other way.

People who see no future don’t have much to lose. They have to make things change. Some of the young people I talk to at the Occupy Newport demonstrations have no faith in our political system, and why should they? Their whole lives, they have watched as money and power have gradually corrupted our national political system until the claim of a representative democracy is a joke. Go ahead, call your congressman and ask for a meeting to talk about the things that are vital to you. You won’t waste your time, will you? You know the lobbyists will get an audience, but you will not. You know that the big campaign contributors will be heard, but you will get a form letter, if you’re lucky.

I don’t pretend to know where all this is going. I do know, like a growing number of Americans, that something has to change. We need to wake up, to confront what we have allowed to happen, and to figure out how to change it. That’s what the Occupy … movement is all about. The group has a Facebook page, and a website. They hold a General Assembly every week, as well as the gathering at the highway intersection on Saturday. All are welcome. We are attempting to find our way forward, to collectively agree on what we should do and then take action. This is the most positive development I’ve seen in America since the civil rights movement. Please join us.”

Thank you, Bill Dalbey. May there be millions of people like you across our nation.

November 17, 2011

Almost Half Congress in Top 1%

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 4:45 PM
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The Occupy Movement, sometimes called “We Are the 99%,” has brought the concept of unequal income in this nation to the media every day. What exactly is the income for the top 1 percent? Although sources differ, the income of the top 1 percent varies between $387,000 to over $1 million. Even using the highest number, however, there is one place whose membership is nearly half composed of the top 1 percent—the U.S. Congress.

Having 250 millionaire members in Congress means that about 47 percent of this legislative body easily fits into the top 1 percent, according to a new study by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics which examined lawmakers’ personal financial disclosure forms for 2010. The study found that 183 members of the House of Representatives classify as millionaires. That’s only 42 percent of these members whereas 67 Senators (two-thirds of that body) fit into the Top One.

The median estimated net worth among House members, overall, stood at $756,765 in 2010, a much poorer showing than the median wealth of $2.63 million for the Senators. Some representatives, however, are doing very well—like Darrell Issa (R-CA), the top of the heap with an average net worth of $448 million.

According to the Center’s method of analysis, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) ranks as the wealthiest member of the 112th Congress. When members of Congress file annual reports, they list the value of their assets and liabilities in broad ranges. The Center determines the minimum and maximum possible values for each asset and liability for every member of Congress and then calculates each lawmaker’s average estimated net worth. Sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars–if not millions of dollars–separate a lawmaker’s minimum estimated worth from his or her maximum estimated wealth which makes the figures approximate. Issa’s minimum estimated net worth in 2010 was $195 million, while his maximum estimated net worth was more than $700 million. That gives Issa an average net worth of $448 million.

Members of Congress might be more financially well off than their annual reports show. The annual filings do not include the values of government retirement accounts and personal property (cars, artwork, any non-income-generating property such as their primary residences). As we know, some government officials choose not to declare requested information, such as when Supreme Court Justice neglected to report his wife’s income for a number of years.

The current Congress has consistently refused to consider a surtax on millionaires’ income. With 47 percent of the deciders being millionaires, the 99 Percenters should understand why they are opposed to losing their money.

November 16, 2011

Occupy Movement Celebrates Second Month Anniversary

The Occupy Movement celebrates its two-month anniversary tomorrow–ten days shorter than Kim Kardashian’s marriage. In the beginning, media didn’t report on it. After the police attacked the peaceful protesters, attention swiveled to Wall Street to watch passive people get pepper-sprayed and arrested. As the movement started sweeping across the country and around the world, more and more media attention focused on people protesting the inequities between the top 1 percent and the rest of the population. Now it’s moved to the top of the media headlines.

Conservatives’ first approach was to denigrate protesters’ actions. Tea Partyers deplored the fact that Occupiers didn’t go home like nice, well-behaved people. Those same conservatives forgot that they behaved so badly in town hall meetings with their Congresspeople had to be call off these meetings or monitor them with a strong police presence.

House Majority Leader Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) called them “growing mobs” before he decided they were all voters and said that they were “justifiably frustrated.” “They are out of work. The economy is not moving,” Cantor said. “Their sense of security for the future is not clear at all. People are afraid, and I get it.” It was a short-lived change: he’s back to cutting benefits for the poor and middle-class.

The police continued to physically abuse the protesters in Oakland until an Iraq veteran went to the hospital in critical condition with head injuries, and the mayor called them off. The stricken man has since been sent home although he hasn’t regained his speech. Other cities followed the more peaceful approach—for a while.

After mayors from 18 large cities conferred, police started on Sunday to drive protesters out of their camps across the country from Oakland (CA) to New York City. Police destruction of these areas went so far as to throw the New York Occupy Wall Street library, over 5,000 books, into a dumpster along with everything else including shredded tents, tarps, sleeping bags, clothing, food, and electronics. Told that their library was being saved for them, protester librarians found only a few boxes of books, destroyed laptops, and one chair at Sanitation.

City officials claim that their actions against the protesters came from the violence surrounding the camps although those not associated with the protest movement including undercover cops perpetrated many of these actions while the actual protesters tried to stop them. Because of this movement, the homeless and mentally ill are now highly visible, something that city officials try to oppose.

Unions, such as the ones that fought union-busting Ohio Gov. John Kasich, will join Occupy protesters and liberal groups such as moveon.org and the American Dream Movement tomorrow in a “day of action” to pressure lawmakers on jobs. Since people first occupied Wall Street, President Obama presented his jobs program, and conservative legislators refused it. Events tomorrow will focus on getting lawmakers to pass federal funding for infrastructure. Republican-led filibusters blocked funding to repair government structures such as bridges, funding that would help the jobs crisis that Republicans refuse to address. A $60 billion infrastructure bill could have been funded by a .7 percent tax on millionaires, but most Republicans have zero tolerance for making the wealthy pay their share.

The Communications Workers of America (CWA), the nation’s largest telecom union, is coordinating two marches with Occupy protesters to coincide with the day of action. Both are tied to the battle over union contract negotiations with Verizon. In one march union members and other protesters will go from Albany (NY) to New York City; the other goes from a Verizon call center in Maryland to McPherson Square in Washington, one of the Occupy’s encampments.

After accusing the Occupy Movement as being just a bunch of hippies, conservative media has worked daily to connect Occupiers with unsavory characters. Fox started by claiming that protesters were part of ACORN, an organization that conservatives destroyed last year. Then Fox’s Bill O’Reilly and his guest, Glenn Beck, said George Soros was funding the protesters and their newspaper, the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Glenn Beck reported that former KKK leader David Duke had “endorsed” Occupy but neglected to point out that Duke also endorsed the Tea Party. As usual, Andrew Breitbart rose to the top of outrageous claims when he suggested that Occupy was affiliated with Al Qaeda.

The Family Research Council is battling the Occupy Movement in the same way that Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to solve the drought across the state: pray. It is calling on all its members to destroy the movement through mass prayer. “May the movement simply fizzle” is what people are called upon to say to their god.

The hundreds of thousands of people protesting across the country are largely composed of people in the mainstream—students, labor unions, unemployed workers, teachers, artists, singers, writers, former real estate brokers, political activists, in short, people who have given up on the traditional political system. A growing contingent is composed of veterans who are suffering from high unemployment but want to support their country while banks prey on them. Politicians give money to profiteering corporations as they try to cut and privatize veterans programs through proposals of capping military basic pay, limiting veterans’ health benefits, and swapping the military pension program for a 401k system.

Almost 80 years ago, more than 20,000 unemployed World War I veterans occupied Washington to support a bill that would have given them immediate cash payment of the war service “bonus” they were due in 1945, 27 years after the end of the war. Although the House of Representatives passed the bill, the Senate and President Hoover opposed it. Disturbed by the “Bonus Army” or “Bonus Expeditionary Force,” the 15,000 veterans who refused to leave, Hoover called up four troops of cavalry under the command of General Douglas MacArthur to clear the area of men, women, and children. More than 1,000 people were injured in the incident and two veterans and one child died.

A year later the new president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, took a different tack with the 3,000 Bonus Marchers who converged on Washington, giving them housing and providing them with housing. Although he refused their demand for the early payment of their pensions, he offered them work in the newly formed Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Ninety percent of them accepted, the Bonus Marchers voted to disperse, and those that opted to return home rather than join the CCC were given free rail passage.

Complaints about the protesters include the one about their breaking laws: they stay at the park during hours when this isn’t allowed. Protesters ask why they are arrested for not walking on sidewalk etc. while few major prosecutions of banking executives and other financial actors are prosecuted for financial frauds and other crimes related to the economic crisis. Major players causing the crisis have not been touched.

Some protesters weren’t even breaking the law when they were arrested. After about 50 people went to the LaGuardia Place Citibank to close their accounts, 23 Citibank customers were locked inside the bank and arrested. As a result, ACLU provides information about protesters’ rights.

Another objection to the protest is that they lack direction. Orrin Hatch said, “I am very concerned that they don’t seem to have any real agenda other than causing problems.” He missed the piece that protesters in the Occupy Movement seek justice for the vast majority of the people being left out of the dominant economic and political systems. The Occupy Wall Street Movement’s website states: “The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%.” The site contains contact information, news, and much more.

Specific issues addressed by protesters begin with the huge inequalities in wealth and income as people gradually realize that the government is responsive only to that tiny percentage of people who control the vast percentage of the money.  It’s the worker bees—public school teachers, police, firefighters, etc.—who get their salaries lowered and put out on furlough and sometimes lose their jobs while conservatives refuse to impose a surtax on the extremely wealthy. Conservatives refuse to close the loophole that allows hedge fund managers to pay a 15% capital gains tax instead of the full income tax on the millions of dollars they rake in every single year. Such an approach  shows that the only constituents are the wealthy. The wealthy corporations caused the private debts, but they are the only ones exempt from repaying this debt.

Although a recent poll cited only 35 percent of the surveyed 1,005 adults held a favorable impression of the Occupy Movement, these protesters fared better than anyone else. Only 16 percent said the same for Wall Street and large corporations, only 29 percent had a favorable impression of the tea party movement and 21 percent for the government in Washington. Wall Street and large corporations tied with Washington government in unpopularity, with 71 percent of those polled saying they had an unfavorable impression of big business and Washington. The tea party got a 50 percent unfavorable response and Occupy Wall Street 40 percent. If conservative legislators don’t decide to do some compromising, their numbers will only get worse.

Tomorrow: more information about the 1 percent versus the 99 percent.

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