Nel's New Day

January 29, 2012

Today’s Conservatives Would Reject Reagan, Founding Fathers

As the conservatives move farther and farther to the right, more and more venerated people of our history would have no chance of getting elected. Pundits like to talk about how Ronald Reagan wouldn’t be good enough for today’s conservative—although his name is tossed around to prove some points that candidates make. Even the early leaders of the United States would be considered far too liberal to make the cut, especially in their religious beliefs.

Unlike all the candidates who claimed to be chosen by the Christian God to represent the people—Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum come to mind—George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and Thomas Paine thought of their faith as a private matter and lacked a “pure” enough faith to satisfy current conservatives.

George Washington, an Anglican, followed the philosophy of Deism, believing in a god that set things in motion and then stayed out of the effects. As such, this god was a “supreme architect” of the universe. Widely tolerant of other religions, Washington wrote a letter to Touro Synagogue (1790) promising the Jews that they would enjoy complete religious liberty in America and described a multi-faith society with freedom for all beliefs. “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection, should demean themselves as good citizens.” Such stories about his praying in theValley Forge snow are myths created after he died.

John Adams, a Unitarian raised as a Congregationalist, refused to believe in the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus. His writings show that he found parts of Christian dogma to be incomprehensible. In his diary he wrote, “Thus mystery [Trinity] is made a convenient cover for absurdity.” When President Adams signed the famous Treaty of Tripoli, it stated, “[T]he government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion….”

Thomas Jefferson once said, “I am a sect by myself, as far as I know.” He did not believe in the Trinity, the virgin birth, the divinity of Jesus, the resurrection, original sin, and other core Christian doctrines, once saying to Adams, “And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter.” Admiring Jesus as a moral teacher, he edited the New Testament, eliminating the stories of miracles and divinity and leaving behind a very human Jesus, whose teachings Jefferson found “sublime.” Jefferson refused to issue proclamations calling for days of prayer and fasting, saying that such religious duties were no part of the chief executive’s job.

James Madison, nominally Anglican, was probably a Deist like Washington. The strictest church-state separationist among the founders, he opposed government-paid chaplains in Congress and in the military. He also opposed government-issued prayer proclamations, declaring them unconstitutional.

Thomas Paine, also a radical Deist, infuriated fundamentalists with “The Age of Reason” in which he  opposed institutionalized religion and all of the major tenets of Christianity, rejecting prophecies and miracles while calling on readers to embrace reason. The Bible, Paine asserted, can in no way be infallible. He called the god of the Old Testament “wicked” and the entire Bible “the pretended word of God.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared that religious groups should be able to choose their leaders without governmental interference. In doing so, it rejected arguments by the Obama administration that government regulations trump the free exercise of religion when denying people civil rights.

Surprisingly, no justice mentioned the obvious tension between this decision and the 2010 case Christian Legal Society v.Martinez. In the latter, justices held 5-4 that a public university could refuse to recognize a Christian organization because the group wished to practice discrimination in its members.

Which of the Republican religious leaders will win this year in their desire to impose their “Christian” beliefs on the nation? In my crystal ball, I think that Santorum won’t last  more than a month, and the Republican establishment will help Romney rise over Gingrich–despite Herman Cain’s and Sarah Palin’s endorsements of the latter.

Stay tuned this week for the Florida and Nevada primaries (1/31 and 2/4 respectively unless Nevada decides to make another change). I’ll be away from the computer for that time but be back in a week.


January 28, 2012

Buchanan, Other Republicans Exhibit Racism

Sixteen years ago, Pat Buchanan won the New Hampshire primary for presidential candidate; now he may be fired from MSNBC. Three months ago, the activist group Color of Change started a petition against his employment at the television network after a number of racist insults, including calling President Obama “your boy” on Al Sharpton’s show.

Buchanan hasn’t appeared on the network since he headed out on his book tour. Suicide of a Superpower includes chapters  with titles such as “The End of  White America” and “The Death of Christian America” for chapters, and he stated that the country is in the “Indian summer of our civilization.” An MSNBC’s top executive has said that Buchanan will be allowed back on the network.

Buchanan gave two scenarios for what happened. On Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, he said that he had medical issues, that there was nothing permanent about the separation. Two days later he told Sean Hannity that the problem came from the gays and the people of color. He also blamed the Jews because of his position that the United States shouldn’t go to war with Iran to protect Israel.

MSNBC President Phil Griffin hasn’t come right out and stated that Buchanan is suspended, but thus far he hasn’t appeared on the network.

The Republicans have had a history of racial prejudice in the past decades, and people like Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman tried in the past to overcome this image. Almost seven years ago, he apologized to the NAACP, saying that Republicans had pushed racial strife to get white voters, especially in the South. Since then the racial divide has only worsened.

In Tennessee Tea Party groups are demanding that the state legislature remove references to slavery in school textbooks. Their goal is to erase any negative portrayals of the rich white men who wrote the Constitution: “No portrayal of minority experience in the history which actually occurred shall obscure the experience or contributions of the Founding Fathers, or the majority of citizens, including those who reached positions of leadership.” Fayette County attorney Hal Rounds, the group’s lead spokesman, said the group wants to address “an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.”

Meanwhile, in North Carolina, the 800-square-mile Wake County School District in Raleigh wants to segregate its schools, stating that concentrating poor children—usually minorities—in a few schools has merit. John Tedesco, one of the new Republican-majority board, said, “This is Raleigh in 2010, not Selma,Alabama, in the 1960s–my life is integrated.” The NAACP has filed a civil rights complaint arguing that 700 initial student transfers the new board approved have already increased racial segregation, violating laws that prohibit the use of federal funding for discriminatory purposes.

Concern about the Republican presidential candidates’ racist pandering to the white base has also been growing throughout the past few months. Rick Santorum said, “I don’t want to make Black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money. I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.” Criticized for this statement, he tried excuse himself by saying that he listened to the tape and must have same something like “bla…” Doesn’t work.

Ron Paul wants to overturn the Civil Rights Act because he thinks white private business owners should have the “freedom” not to serve minorities. His virulently racist newsletters from the 1990s have also found more and more publicity. Despite Paul’s denials stating that he knew nothing about the newsletters’ content, associates declare differently, saying that they watched him proof and sign off on what was said.

Newt Gingrich criticized Paul for the newsletters and accused him of knowing about the content. That was right after Gingrich offered to talk to the NAACP to urge African-Americans to “demand paychecks and not be satisfied with food stamps.” When Juan Williams, a moderator for the South Carolinadebate from Fox News, asked Gingrich if his use of such language was “intended to belittle the poor and racial minorities,” the white audience booed Williams. Gingrich evidently doesn’t know that fewer than one quarter of food stamp recipients are African-American.

Mitt Romney wants to “keep America America.” Whatever he means by this statement, it’s far too close to the Ku Klux Clan motto, “keep America American.”

Fortunately Michelle Bachmann is gone, but many of her statements remain embedded in our memory. One of these is that the black family was stronger during slavery than in freedom. She probably read the proposed Tennessee textbooks because of her belief that the white men who wrote the Constitution in the 1700s were abolitionists who “fought tirelessly to eliminate slavery” and that the slaveholding Christian whites “loved their slaves.”

The candidates were asked in one debate to address the grossly disparate impact of the Great Recession on black and brown communities. The unemployment rate for African-Americans is two to three times higher than the 9 percent for whites; the middle-class minorities have had their income, assets, and wealth gutted so thoroughly that whites have almost 20 times the average net worth of African-Americans. The candidates had no response other than people should work harder because the opportunities to succeed are all through the country.

It appears that the Republicans think that they can be elected with just the white vote. From what minorities are saying, they’ve lost anyone else’s vote, At a Martin Luther King Day concert in South Carolina just five days before the Republican primary, Kathy Edwards said, “It’s all about this with the Republicans,” she says pinching her own black skin. “I’m 58 now. It’s better than it was, but with the Republicans it’s all about race even if they don’t say it.”

Four years ago, less than 2% of those voting in the South Carolina Republican primary were from racial minority groups whereas more than half of those who participated in the Democratic primary were black.

“White folks around here talk about taking the country back when it hasn’t been anywhere,” Edwards said. “The fact is they don’t like a black man as president. They think he has taken something that belongs to them.”

Lottie Gibson, one of only two African American members of the Greenville county council and a former teacher with a long history of working with the poor, said that the Republican message has been racially divisive by persuading poor white people, who overwhelmingly vote Republican in South Carolina, that a large part of the cause of their economic problems is poor black people.

Edward echoed Gibson’s position. “To me the Republicans just don’t include African Americans. They don’t connect to us. They seem mean spirited people,” she said. “This election is not about black and white, it’s about rich and poor. But whenever the Republicans talk about poor, then they start talking about welfare and single mothers. They always associate single mothers with black women and welfare. I was a single mother for a long time before I married. I never took welfare in my life.”

Shelly Roehrs, chair of the Spartanburg County Democratic Party, said, “The Republicans are blind. They don’t see any disparity between rich and poor. White voters vote based on their religion and out of fear. They can barely afford the rent, but they vote Republican because whenever poverty is mentioned, the very first thing that comes up is that black people are milking the welfare system.”

Many African Americans in South Carolina voted Republican until the 1960s because the Democratic party held power and strongly supported segregation.  In the early 1960s, leading segregationists such as Senator Strom Thurmond, protested civil rights legislation by changing to the Republican party in protest at national civil rights legislation. The Republicans have kept the anti-civil rights policy for the past half century.

The civil war memorial in Greenville, next to the sprawling cemetery with a separate section for black people, is marked with an inscription observing that history will prove the Confederate slave states to have been “in the right.” The statehouse still flies the Confederate flag.

The more the Republicans talk, the more minority votes they lose—perhaps enough to guarantee their losing the election in 2012 if the country doesn’t lose 5 million voters because of Republican laws restricting voting.

January 27, 2012

Santorum Continues to Make Dumb Statements

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:14 PM
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Trailing in the Florida polls behind Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum cancelled his campaign for the weekend to head home and prepare his taxes. His campaign is running on fumes right now with very little money coming in. Now Santorum has fixed his sights on Arizona and Michigan—if he lasts that long.

The self-proclaimed Iowa caucus winner (with eight precincts not reporting) said at yesterday’s debate that he wanted the two front-runners to stop the petty bickering and address the issues, but three days earlier he said that he would be the beneficiary of Romney’s and Gingrich’s attacks on each other. “Sometimes, sitting on the sidelines watching two people destroy each other creates an opportunity in and of itself,” Santorum told reporters Monday at a window-making plant in Venice (FL).

Considering the really dumb things that he has said before and during his campaign for Republican presidential nominee, he’s lucky to get any votes; any thinking person could not possibly vote for this candidate.

Santorum made his most infamous comment while he was still in Congress fighting the rights of LGBT people, using the term “man-on-dog” to denigrate gays. This particular statement resulted in “Santorum” being used for a slang term. The meaning? Google this because I don’t want to use the terms necessary to define it.

Santorum has pledged to repeal all federal funding for contraception and allow the states to outlaw birth control, using the argument that “it’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” He also wants all pregnant rape survivors to “make the best of a bad situation,” saying that the fetus is a “gift.”

Santorum believes that any woman needing an abortion for health reasons is lying. “They wanted a health exception, which of course is a phony exception which would make the ban ineffective,” he said.

Santorum thinks that President Obama should oppose abortion because he’s African-American. “I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say ‘now we are going to decide who are people and who are not people,’” Santorum explained.

Santorum has promised to annul all same-sex marriages, comparing these relationships to inanimate objects like beer, paper towels, basketballs, and trees. At the same time he blamed the economic crisis on LGBT people. Like many people in Tennessee trying to pass a law permitting school bullies to carry out their evil actions, he thinks that religious people should be able to discriminate against LGBT people: “We have a right the Constitution of religious liberty but now the courts have created a super-right that’s above a right that’s actually in the Constitution, and that’s of sexual liberty. And I think that’s a wrong, that’s a destructive element.”

Santorum would also repeal the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell because removing the ban on gays and lesbians in the military will “cause problems for people living in close quarters.” He stated that this is a disruption because gay and lesbian soldiers “live with people, they obviously shower with people.” To Santorum people don’t have to be gay: “there are people who were gay and lived the gay lifestyle and aren’t anymore.”

Santorum supports the concept of income inequality. “They talk about income inequality. I’m for income inequality. I think some people should make more than other people, because some people work harder and have better ideas and take more risk, and they should be rewarded for it. I have no problem with income inequality.”

Santorum has claimed that the high obesity rates preclude the need for food stamps. He has promised to drastically cut federal funding for this safety net.

Santorum claims that the new Affordable Care Act will kill his daughter because she was born with a genetic abnormality and therefore cannot survive in a country with “socialized medicine. Children like Bella are not given the treatment that other children are given,” Santorum said.

Santorum accuses people of spending money on cell phones and other non-essentials instead of health care. To Santorum, health care, like a car, is a “luxury resource” that is rationed by society. The women who had to spend $200 a month on life-saving prescriptions should lower her cable and cell phone bills.

Santorum has said that people who are sick should pay higher insurance premiums, that companies are justified in discriminating against people with pre-existing conditions.

Santorum’s favorite justice is Clarence Thomas, the man who thinks that almost everything—including child labor laws—are unconstitutional. Thomas wants to remove the federal ban on workplace discrimination, similar laws protecting older Americans and Americans with disabilities, the national minimum wage, national child labor laws, and the federal ban on whites-only lunch counters.

Santorum wants to profile Muslims to increase airport security.

Santorum compares President Obama to King George III: “We rebelled against a king who wanted to dictate every aspect of our lives.” He must also think that Obama is a Muslim and not born in the United States because he refused to correct a woman who claimed this during one of his campaign stops.

Santorum wants to stop government programs that help people with multiple disabilities. “All those programs, in my opinion, should not be at the federal level,” he said, suggesting that they should turn to “neighbors, community, family, a sister-in-law, someone to come over and help out.”

Santorum believes that global climate change is a “hoax,” stating that his belief sets him apart from Gingrich and Romney.

Aside from his “misstatements,” Santorum has other negatives haunting him. One is being paid $400,000 for serving on the board of directors of Universal Health Services Inc., a large hospital chain which racked up dozens of allegations of abuse during that time–including everything from rape to suicide attempts allowed by neglect to murder.

During four years in the House and 12 in the Senate, Santorum brought home earmarks, helped lead Republican outreach of K Street lobbyists, and established his family’s $643,000 home in an affluent Washington suburb while charging his children’s school tuition to Pennsylvania taxpayers. After he lost his bid for the Senate, he doubled his net worth with lucrative contracts with Fox News and Washington lobbying and consulting firms.

Although there is no way to get an accurate statement of how much in earmarks that each Congressperson obtains, investigation from Taxpayers for Common Sense shows that his achievement ran over $1 billion for those who asked, $3.5 million alone to Piasecki Aircraft to help test a new helicopter propeller technology. JLG Industries got another $3.5 million to bolster its bid to build all-terrain forklifts for the military; Medico Industries received $1.4 million to upgrade equipment for its munitions work. Research further indicates that whoever got the earmarks also gave back to Santorum’s campaigns.

Despite Santorum’s desperate attempts to curry favor and money, he is no match for the big machines of Romney and Gingrich—thanks to the Supreme Court award from Citizens United. Just one of Gingrich’s friends has already provided $10 million for his advertising and has very deep pockets. The top 1 percent is determined to get either Gingrich or Romney as the Republican nominee in 2012.

January 26, 2012

Legislator Wants to Keep “Aborted Fetuses” Out of Food

Coca-Cola may be getting a big boost in Oklahoma, and it’s all about “personhood.” Republican State Senator Ralph Shortey, a Republican, has proposed a bill to ban “aborted human fetuses in food.” The bill reads: “No person or entity shall manufacture or knowingly sell food or any other product intended for human consumption which contains aborted human fetuses in the ingredients or which used aborted human fetuses in the research or development of any of the ingredients.” Asked for the source of this possibility, he said “internet research.”

This “research” may be the actions of a group that tried to boycott PepsiCo because it works with a research and development company that they accused of using a line of embryonic kidney stem cells from the 1970s to test “flavor enhancers.” The group called Children of God for Life claims that these stem cells are the same as aborted fetuses: “What they do not tell the public is that they are using HEK 293–human embryonic kidney cells taken from an electively aborted baby to produce those receptors,’ stated Debi Vinnedge, President for CGL. She did admit that these reported “aborted fetal cells” are not actually in the product.

PepsiCo partnered with food product development company Senomyx to develop a new low-calorie sweetener, but the company denied using fetal tissue in its research. “Unfortunately, there is some misinformation being circulated related to research techniques that have been used for decades by universities, hospitals, government agencies, and private companies around the world. These claims are meant to suggest that human fetal tissue is somehow used in our research,” wrote Margaret Corsi, a spokesperson for PepsiCo. “That is both inaccurate and something we would never do or even consider.”

Children of God for Life is a “medical” offshoot of the American Life League which is behind the “personhood” bills described yesterday pushing “personhood” bills and other attempts to close Planned Parenthood and ban birth control.

Shortey said that he doesn’t positively know if any foods contain “aborted human fetuses.” But he added that, without his bill, government could “force every human being” to be an organ donor “and that’s kind of what we’re doing with these children. Before they’re born, we’re going to kill them and then we can do anything we want to with your body.”

Let’s imagine that the bill passes, crazy as it sounds. It could be a ban to all stem cell research and products that might cure such disorders as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. If these products enter the body, stem cell treatments could be described as “a product that contains aborted human fetuses.”

This isn’t the first crackpot bill Shortey has put forward in Oklahoma’s senate. Last year he wanted law enforcement to be able to seize the homes and vehicles of illegal immigrants. In addition, he wanted to deny Oklahoma citizenship to anyone born in the state to illegal immigrants, in direct violation of the U.S. Constitution. Then, probably feeling insecure because of the bills he sponsored, he proposed an amendment to an existing bill that would allow legislators to carry firearms anywhere in the state, including the floor of the House and the Senate. This year he has already sponsored a bill asking the public to vote on a state amendment that would abolish the Court of Criminal Appeals.

There are lots of problems in the country; now one of them seems to be that legislators are trying to outlaw far-fetched possibilities of the future instead of solving existing evil around us.

January 25, 2012

Ask “Personhood” Advocates These Questions

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:21 PM

“Personhood” of fertilized eggs is going to be a big issue throughout the coming year. The Colorado organization Personhood USA plans to push state constitutional amendments defining life as beginning at fertilization—thus making not only abortion but also birth control illegal—across the country from Oregon through the Midwest states of Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma to Florida.

For most of the 99% of the women who have used contraception, the concept is insane. But a letter from Doris M. Williams in Eugene (OR) to The Register-Guard brings up many more issues:

  • How would the gestational status of the entire population of women of reproductive age be monitored? Would massive invasive screening programs be needed to identify every newly fertilized egg so that the rights and protections of personhood can be guaranteed?
  • Would child abuse laws be applied to protect the fertilized egg? Given the research showing fetal damage from tobacco smoke and alcohol, use of such toxic substances by pregnant women could be deemed child abuse. Would pregnant women who abuse their fertilized eggs  be arrested and perhaps incarcerated to prevent them from abusing their fertilized eggs?
  • If the fertilized egg becomes a tax deduction within its family unit, how much would that reduce government tax revenue?
  • Would declaring fertilized eggs persons have effects on programs such as welfare payments based on number of children? Are we prepared to increase welfare payments from the moment a pregnancy is documented rather than wait until birth?
  • What effect would declaring fertilized eggs persons (thereby adding eight or nine months to a person’s age) have on qualifying for age-based rights and benefits such as voting, drivers’ licenses, and Social Security?

I would add two more questions:

  • If child abuse laws are carried out, then would everyone who smokes be considered liable under the law because of the dangers of second-hand smoke?
  • Would the care of fertilized eggs then largely be ignored as this country ignores the needs of millions of children after birth?

Every time you hear people say that they would vote for a “personhood” constitution, ask them these questions. And ask them how much money they are willing to pay to keep the millions of women who violate the “personhood” mandate in prison.

January 24, 2012

State of the Union Speech

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:15 PM
Tags: , ,

January brings the president’s State of the Union speech. As I listened to the one tonight, I felt like standing and cheering—the way that the far-right does when they contemplate people dying because they don’t have insurance and when they hear the appalling statistics on how many people are legally killed in Texas because of the death penalty.

The first thing that made me sit up, however, was when I heard him say that women deserved equal pay for equal work. The most jarring thing about my response, however, was how surprised I was to hear it: it’s been a long time since anyone in power suggested this that I’d forgotten that it might be a possibility.

Writing for The Hill before the speech, Rep. John Mica (R-FL) criticized the Democrats because they had not tried to build the country’s infrastructure. Florida is one of the states that turned down $2 billion and its jobs for high-speed rail. He wrote about Democrats’ failure to authorize long-term aviation measures, yet Mica led the charge to prevent any aviation measures until union workers lost their rights.

He also passes along the myth that “Democrats controlled Congress.” Any control that Democrats might have, disappeared when Republicans demanded a 60-percent approval on any measure because of the huge number of filibusters by Republicans. Republicans are committed to stopping Democrats doing anything positive that people in this country would like because of their fear that it lessens the possibility that conservatives will get elected. They are willing to sell out the people of this country in order to get their own way.

According to Mica, the Republicans call the American Energy and Infrastructure Jobs Act as a “jobs proposal.” He failed to mention that this act would open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling while forcing the Interior Department to issue commercial leases for oil shale development on public lands. The Republicans are willing to extort a plan to destroy the planet by claiming that this will be a “jobs plan.”

Mica also complained that the Democrats “tried to sell the $787 billion stimulus as a jobs creator.” He neglected to mention that the Republicans forced Congress to give half the money in this plan away without the objective of creating jobs except for these people spending it. He is also wrong: the Congressional Budget Office reported that the stimulus plan increased employment by up to 3.3 million people.

In his response, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels gave the standard tired Republican response of how wrong President Obama is to describe the country as a place of haves and have nots. He ignored the fact that almost half the people in this country are classified as low-income or poor while the vast majority of the wealth resides with the top 1 percent.

Instead of facts, Daniels talks about the United States as a “land of opportunity,” as he tries to destroy the middle class in his own state through creating a “right to work” law. Economic Policy Institute says that workers tend to earn $1500/yr less as a result, and I’m guessing that it’s much more than that in Daniels’ home state while he removes union rights through—you guessed it—big government at the same time that he criticizes President Obama for government control.

When considering tonight’s State of the Union speech and the responses—not only the one from Daniels but also the Tea Party responder, Herman Cain–think about these facts:

• Since the last SOTU, the economy has created 1.9 million private sector jobs.

• The top 1 percent take home 24 percent of the nation’s income, up from about 9 percent in 1976.

• Private sector job creation under Obama in 2011 was larger than seven out of the eight years Bush was president.

• The top 1 percent of Americans own 40 percent of our country’s wealth while the bottom 80 percent owns only 7 percent.

• Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, 2.5 million young adults gained health insurance.

• For every one job opening, there are four people looking for work.

• Last year, China spent 9 percent of its GDP on infrastructure. The U.S. spent 2.5 percent.

• 2.65 million seniors saved an average of $569 on prescriptions last year thanks to the Affordable Care Act.

• Union membership is at a 70-year low.

• Unemployment benefits have lifted 3.2 million people out of poverty.

• The United States used to have the world’s largest percentage of college graduates. It is now #14.

• One quarter of all contributions to federal campaigns come from 0.01 percent of Americans.

• 47.8 percent of households that receive food stamps are working, because having a job is not enough to keep them out of poverty.

• In the last three years, 30 major corporations spent more on lobbying than they paid in taxes.

• 50 percent of U.S. workers make less than $26,364 per year.

• More than one in 70 faced home foreclosure last year.

• Since 1985, the federal tax rate for the 400 wealthiest Americans dropped from 29 percent to 18 percent.

Jen Bendery of Huffington Post writes: “Obama used Tuesday’s State of the Union address to lay out a vision of America in which everybody gets a fair shot at economic success and everybody–including “the wealthy”–plays by the same rules as the average citizen. Obama’s address, which comes in the midst of a rapidly escalating presidential campaign season, delivered a strong message about the need for social and economic equality and put forward a handful of new policy ideas targeting tax reform, college affordability and clean energy. But by and large, Obama’s third State of the Union was focused on proposals for boosting the economy and ensuring protections for the middle class.”

January 23, 2012

Women’s Contraception at Risk

Over half a century ago, people questioned voting for a Catholic president because he might impose his religious beliefs on the United States. Five decades later religious beliefs are the basis of right-wing policies. The Catholic Church vigorously fights not only abortion but also birth control. The Catholic bishops used “religious freedom” to refuse reproductive health care to women who are employed by religious institutions that provide their health care.

President Obama is to be commended for not caving into pressures from the bishop in finalizing a regulation under the health care reform law requiring that all employer-provided insurance plans cover birth control without co-pays. He did give religious nonprofits until August 2013 to comply with the law. Medical research proves that women are healthier if the pregnancy is planned; children born at least two years apart are healthier.

Amanda Marcotte’s arguments supporting Obama’s refusal to allow the Catholic bishops to control women’s reproductive rights are very eloquent. She says, “Having the same regulations for every employer requiring insurance to fully cover birth control is a matter of religious freedom at its most basic. When Catholic organizations use their employees’ economic dependence as leverage to force pregnancy on them, no matter how unwilling they are to be pregnant, they deprive those women of their basic right to believe what they wish on matters of faith. Religious freedom is primarily an individual right. When an organization’s beliefs come in conflict with individual beliefs, the individual right to freedom of religion must triumph over organizational claims. Doing otherwise is allowing organizations to create a government-supported authority to discriminate and control on the basis of religion, depriving individuals of basic religious rights.

“After all, I can’t open a business and refuse to serve people because they have differing religious beliefs than I do. This is recognized as a violation of their basic freedom of religion. And that’s just a matter of serving sandwiches and fixing tires for people. It’s much, much easier to go to a different sandwich shop or car mechanic than it is to get another job or go to another school. Formal religious discrimination against those who don’t believe contraception is a sin has serious ramifications for those who are discriminated against in such a way. Anyone who truly supports religious freedom should therefore understand that women’s reproductive rights and equal treatment by their employers is part and parcel of religious freedom.”

Marcotte continues by comparing negativity toward women’s rights to the civil rights battle. During the turbulent times of the 1960s, “those who wished to discriminate on the basis of race would often claim that their right to push black people out of their businesses and neighborhoods trumped black people’s right not be discriminated against.”

Having free birth control saves money; unplanned pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers more than $11 billion a year. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that contraceptive services provided at publicly funded clinics helped prevent almost two million unintended pregnancies. Without funding from Medicaid and Title X, “abortions occurring in the United States would be nearly two-thirds higher among women overall and among teens; the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women would nearly double.” More than 99 percent of women aged 15–44 have used at least one contraceptive method at some time to prevent unintended pregnancies and limit the spread of sexually-transmitted diseases.

All four of the current Republican presidential candidates have signed the “personhood” pledge, affirming that they would protect all “innocent human life.” This includes any fertilized egg that people think might be damaged by the most popular birth control methods.

As governor of Massachusettsin 2005, Mitt Romney vetoed a popular bill to make the “morning-after pill” available over the counter and require hospitals to offer emergency contraception to rape victims. The bill became law after the legislature overrode his veto. In a recent debate he said, “I don’t know if a state has a right to ban contraception. No state wants to!” He followed that statement with the position that he wouldn’t vote to ban contraception, but he seems to not know that Griswold v. Connecticut requires all states to allow birth control. He also signed the “personhood” pledge that would stop the most popular forms of birth control.

Rick Santorum has gone even farther than Romney in protesting contraception. He has suggested that the U.S. Supreme Court erred in its overturning Connecticut’s law banning contraception for unmarried women and pledged to defund federal funding for contraception. His reasoning is that states should have the right to “limit individuals’ wants and passions.” According to Santorum, contraception “is a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.” Recently he has tried to back away from these words, but they will follow him to the end of his campaign.

People who believe that unmarried women should have access to contraception might want to start celebrating June 6, the date that the U.S. Supreme Court gave this reproductive right to all women 46 years ago. If a Republican becomes president in the next election, that right may disappear.

January 22, 2012

Roe v. Wade at Risk

A third Republican presidential candidate has taken the majority delegates in a third state—although it’s hard to say that Rick Santorum really won Iowa when 8 precincts can’t find their paperwork. For women’s reproductive rights, there is no real difference among these three: any one of them would return women’s rights to that of a century ago–in short, none. All the candidates vow to overturn Roe v. Wade; all support the concept of “personhood,” giving more rights to a fertilized egg than a woman.

Today is the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion for all women in this country during the first third of the pregnancy and allowed abortion during the second third to protect the woman’s health.  Legal yes, but not necessarily accessible. The murders of doctors who perform abortions during the past decades plus state laws limiting abortions have made this surgery almost impossible to get in many places, and state laws compound the inaccessibility of abortions.

To stop pregnancies, the far right has set up “crisis pregnancy centers” (CPC) to pressure women, usually with deceptive information, into carrying a fetus to term, regardless of the women’s wishes and needs. An investigation of the CPCs in North Carolina, more than eight times the number than clinics that actually provide abortion, shows that over two-thirds of them provide medically inaccurate information. Yet they receive public funding from the state’s “Choose Life” license plate sales.

Of the 122 CPCs, 92 percent had no medical professionals although only 22 percent disclosed that they were not medically licensed. Because there is no state licensing for the CPCs, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) does not protect patient confidentiality. An investigator posing as a pregnant Jewish woman who went to five centers was told that unless she converted to Christianity she would not go to heaven. Volunteers at one meeting prayed for an investigator and suggested she become a “born-again virgin.”

New York City tried to give the public information about CPCs with a law that would require them to disclose whether they have licensed medical staff and how they protect the clients’ privacy. Federal Judge William Pauley blocked this law.

Over 1100 anti-abortion bills were introduced at the state and federal level in 2011, including the 8 by House representatives elected to find jobs for people and save the economy, an unbelievable increase from previous years. Legislators in 24 states passed 92 anti-abortion provisions in 2011, shattering the previous record of 34 adopted in 2005. Recent state restrictions include waiting-period requirements, unnecessary medical procedures, burdensome and unnecessary clinic regulations, and cuts to family planning services and providers because of their connection with abortion. Other laws restrict private insurance coverage of abortions.

Arizona stopped the use of student fees and tuition to train OB/GYN students to perform abortions and revoked tax credit for donations to organizations that provide abortions, like Planned Parenthood, as well as to any institutions that might refer clients to Planned Parenthood, like domestic violence shelters. North Carolina’s requirement for an ultrasound before an abortion included the provision that a woman’s refusal to view the ultrasound would be kept on file for 7 years. Nine other states also have an ultrasound mandate.

Dana Millbank, supposedly one of the “good guys” in this debate, seems to sneer at pro-choice activists: “If the ‘choice’ rally participants really wanted to preserve legal abortion, they’d be wise to drop the sky-is-falling warnings about Roe and to acknowledge that the other side, and most Americans, has legitimate concerns.” Is he talking about the fact that the state forces women to have MRIs, a medical procedure not recommended by their doctors and one which serves no medical reason, before having an abortion.

Does he think that the “personhood” movement is no problem? After the initiative to define a fertilized egg as a “person” failed in Mississippi, Oklahoma thought it would put its oar in the fertilization waters. Their new bill defines “person” as “every human being from the beginning of the biological development of that human being” with a few exceptions such as “Only birth control that kill a person shall be affected by this section” and “Only in vitro fertilization and assisted reproduction that kills a person shall be affected by this section.” The same people who proposed these bills are also convinced that ordinary birth control will kill the “person.”

What does Millbank think about Jennie Linn McCormack, a 32-year-old Idaho woman with three kids—unmarried, unemployed, and barely surviving on $250 monthly child support for one of her children? The man who had impregnated her was sent to jail for robbery. She couldn’t afford the $500+ necessary for the two-and-a-half-hour trip—mandated twice!–to Salt Lake City to get to a clinic. Her sister in Mississippi got her RU-486 online for about $200. She thought she was about 12 weeks pregnant, but the fetus turned out to be between 18 and 21 weeks.

According to Idaho’s 1972 law, a year older than Roe v. Wade, women can be imprisoned for five years for inducing her own abortion. The charges against McCormack have now been dropped, but the state retains the right to re-file charges. McCormack’s attorney, Richard Hearn, also a physician, not only obtained a federal injunction to prevent any woman from being prosecuted under the state’s anti-abortion statute by the district attorney but also filed a class-action suit against the state, claiming the statute is unconstitutional. He plans to argue the case up to the Supreme Court.

Much of politicians’ ignorance comes from their reliance on the bible to explain science. A fine example of this is Virginia State Delegate Bob Marshall (R) who—naturally!—opposes Planned Parenthood. Marshall believes that women who have abortions then have disabled children because of God’s punishment. “In the Old Testament, the first born of every being, animal and man, was dedicated to the Lord. There’s a special punishment Christians would suggest,”Marshall told a press conference.

David Williams, who ran for governor of Kentucky, tried to use logic to defend forcing rape and incest victims to carry their fetuses to full term. “If somebody shot my mother, I would want to kill them, but I don’t think that is the appropriate thing to do. We have laws against murder,” he said. He also failed in his gubernatorial bid but stayed as the president of the state senate.

Morals of the religious fluctuate and extend into hypocrisy. The Catholic leader St. Augustine believed that abortion of the “unformed” embryos was acceptable because “the law of homicide would not apply, for … it could not be said that there was a living soul in that body.” The Southern Baptist Convention voted in the 1970s to support abortion under certain circumstances but said in 2010 that life begins at conception and abortion is not permitted.

Memphis (TN) is another place where religion controls women’s rights. Shelby County commission voted 9 to 14 to take Title X funding from Planned Parenthood and give it to Christ Community Health Services. No more emergency contraception because of “religious objections.” Never mind that EC doesn’t abort fetuses. Instead women have to go to a “third party,” delaying the process and probably being too late for EC to be effective. Clients also are forced to listen to sermons with their health screenings and birth control pickups.  A Christ Community patient testified at the commission that she was told, “If only my relationships with people and God were right, I would have fewer health problems.” No way are there any referrals to clinics that provide abortions.

While some Christians call abortion murder and therefore wrong, they are not bothered by people lacking insurance or those with insurance having it terminated, meaning that people are killed by the “person” of insurance companies. War is murder, as is capital punishment, but anti-abortionists are usually not bothered by these murders.

People outraged by abortions past the first third of the pregnancy aren’t swayed by the horrific health issues that cause women to have abortions during the third trimester to save their lives. Rick Santorum refers to the health exception for a third-trimester abortion as “phony.”

Anti-choice people also don’t realize that they are at fault. Because of the severe limitations on getting abortions, despite Roe v. Wade, some women like McCormack who face funding and travel—sometimes two or three times to see a doctor far away—wait past the first trimester. Prejudice against birth control also causes abortions: 46% of women who get abortions weren’t using a contraceptive method the month they got pregnant often because of abstinence-only education and the cost of contraceptives.

Anti-abortion activists care nothing about the life of women who end up dying from illegal abortions, but at one time Mitt Romney understood the tragedy of these deaths. During his candidacy for Massachusetts senator in 1994, he volunteered the story of the sister of his brother-in-law. Because of her death, he said in the debate with Ted Kennedy, he believed that abortion should be “safe and legal.” That same year, he attended a Planned Parenthood fundraiser, and his wife, Ann, gave $150 to the group. During the same campaign, he said, “I have my own beliefs, and those beliefs are very dear to me. One of them is that I do not impose my beliefs on other people.” During his 2002 campaign for the state’s governor, Romney vowed to uphold the state’s abortion laws. Ten years later he supports “personhood,” not only for corporations but also for fertilized eggs.

Ann Keenan, the sister of Romney’s brother-in-law, died of an infection at the age of 21 in 1963, ten years before Roe v. Wade. Listed on her death certificate was “subarachnoid hemorrhage following septic criminal recent abortion with septic thromboembolism pneumonia and hepatitis with focal necrosis of liver.” Infection, often caused by the use of unsanitary instruments, was one of the most common causes of death from abortion in the pre-Roe era, according to Dr. David Grimes, who previously worked at the Centers for Disease Control studying abortion deaths. Many other deaths were caused by self-inflicted wounds or bleeding to death, especially because women were afraid to see medical help.

Last week, Guttmacher reported that in countries where abortion is illegal—think maybe inaccessible?—abortion rates are higher. Stopping access to safe, legal abortion care does not lower abortion rates; it just forces women to search for clandestine and unsafe abortion care. The simple solution to unwanted pregnancies is to provide ways to stop these pregnancies. U.S. legislators are trying to stop birth control too. The conservative House and many state legislators have been intent on eliminating women’s access not only to birth control but also to breast and cervical cancer screenings.

To combat this trend, Planned Parenthood has created its own campaign, Women are Watching. Over half the voters in this country are women. All of us need to know about these attacks on women’s health and the candidates’ stance on pivotal health care issues.

January 21, 2012

Citizens United Second Anniversary

Citizens United, the Supreme Court ruling that provides unlimited money for candidate advertising, turned two years old today. After it was presented as a narrow case, the court expanded it to allow political ads, usually negative, in the 60 days before an election and stopped the requirement that the sponsors identify themselves. Eighteen months later, the court protected wealthy candidates in Buckley v. Valeo by ruling that money is a constitutionally protected free speech and then struck down a matching funds’ formula in Arizona that provided more money to a publicly financed candidate if a rival spent over a specified amount.

Despite Mitt Romney’s claim that “corporations are people,” not everyone is happy about the end of democracy because billionaires can easily buy politicians. More than one million people have signed online petitions against the ruling, and measures in at least 23 states demand a constitutional amendment to reverse this ill-conceived decision. On the other hand, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Republican National Committee seem perfectly happy with the ruling, especially because the conservatives will benefit from over 80 percent of the candidates’ financial help. Newt Gingrich was highly disturbed with the super-PACs  supporting Mitt Romney in Iowa but got over it when super-PACs supported him in South Carolina.

Jeffrey Clements, in Corporations Are Not People: Why They Have More Rights Than You Do and What You Can Do About It, provides a review of the Supreme Court’s increasing rulings on corporations’ money protected as political speech while diminishing individual rights. “Rarely have so few imposed so much damage on so many,” the venerable journalist Bill Moyers wrote in the book’s foreward. He compares Citizens United to the 1857 Dred Scott ruling “that opened the unsettled territories of theUnited States to slavery whether future inhabitants wanted it or not.” According to Moyers, “It took a civil war and another hundred years of enforced segregation and deprivation before the effects of that ruling were finally exorcised from our laws.”

Congress has introduced at least 10 proposals to fix the problem, including one that would revoke the “personhood” status of corporations, thus rolling back over a century of Supreme Court rulings. These all come from the “liberal” side and are unlikely to be taken seriously for a long time.

According to Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of University of  California Irvine School of Law and a respected constitutional scholar, individual states could control the runaway spending. One way is to require shareholders to approve corporate political expenditures just as unions have to get approval from their members. Other legislation could prevent a state contractor from spending money for partisan election activities, just as the federal Hatch Act of 1939 did when it limited federal employees from some partisan activities. Montana’s Supreme Court’s has ruled that the state has a compelling interest to regulate how corporations can raise and spend money in elections. The New York state legislature also plans to adopt a public financing regime.

Yesterday’s victory in California supports Chererinsky’s ideas: a U.S. District Court upheld a citywide ban on corporate campaign donations to candidates in San Diego. Judge Irma E. Gonzales said that FEC v Beaumont directed her ruling instead of Citizens United because the earlier case addressed anti-corruption issues.

“According to the Supreme Court, the prohibition on direct corporate contributions was justified by the ‘special characteristics of the corporate structure’ that threaten the integrity of the political process,” according to Gonzales’ decision. It was necessary to “prevent corruption or the appearance of corruption,” Judge Gonzales wrote, explaining the ruling. “Moreover it was necessary to prevent the use of corporations “as conduits for the circumvention of valid contribution limits.”

Polls show that the nation’s populace disagrees with conservative “leadership.” Last Tuesday a Pew Research Center poll showed that 65 percent of voters from both parties familiar with the Citizens United decision consider it a negative impact on politics. The next day a poll from Main Street Alliance, the American Sustainable Business Council, and Small Business Majority revealed that, in a margin of 7 to 1, 66 percent of small business owners believe Citizens United decision has been bad for small businesses, compared to only 9 percent who think it’s positive.

According to one blog, the radical right might be the biggest loser because their super-PACs don’t have the money that “moderate” Romney does. If enough conservatives think that this is a possibility, Congress might work toward erasing this dangerous threat to democracy.

January 20, 2012

Perry Gone

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:34 PM
Tags: , , ,

The “Oops Man” who couldn’t remember all three of the federal agencies that he would abolish is gone. Rick Perry, the Republican presidential candidate who would give the wealthiest 1 percent an average tax cut of $272,730 (more than 270 times more than his flat-tax proposal would provide for a middle-income U.S. taxpayer, a tax cut that would add $1 trillion to the deficit in 2015), went back to the Texas that he and George W. Bush created.

This is the state where the annual median wage in 2010 was $31,500, 7 percent less than the national median. The growing job environment in Texas came from the expansion of hydraulic fracturing and offshore drilling operations; other states with the fracturing are suffering from unexpected earthquakes. Don Baylor, a senior economic analyst at the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities, projected that the state’s economy would suffer after budget cuts and loss of federal stimulus funds last September. The loss of 49,000 government jobs, especially from education financing, really hurts the state. Fortunately for Texans, the economy will probably survive thanks to rising oil prices, military expenditures, and drug trafficking.

Speaking of education, this is the Texas where the Fordham Institute gave the schools an overall grade of D, describing them as “a politicized distortion of history” that is “both unwieldy and troubling” while “offering misrepresentations at every turn.”

Perry is the man who flew around the country in corporate jets. While trying to rid the country of ethanol requirements in gasoline so that feed prices would be lowered, Perry flew to Washington on a private plane provided by the head of Pilgrim’s Price Corporation to get cheap feed for the company’s chickens. The more than 200 free flights from corporate executives and wealthy donors during his 11 years as governor are worth $1.3 million, according to Texas Ethics Commission records. Perry also flew free thanks to oil corporations, road-building contractors, and Verizon.

Comedians will miss Perry because of the tremendous number of gaffes that he committed. The height of his ridiculous behavior was his peculiar behavior at a New Hampshire speech when he finished by cuddling a small bottle of maple syrup. People who had seen Brokeback Mountain noticed that in one of his TV ads Perry wore a jacket almost identical to one worn by the movie’s gay character–in the same ad that denigrated gays. He also got the date of the 2012 election wrong, didn’t know the legal age for voting in the U.S., confused Iran and Iraq, put the American Revolution in the 16th century, believed that New Hampshire holds caucuses and not primaries, and referred to the U.S. Supreme Court as “eight unelected and frankly unaccountable judges.”

Perry spent $408 on each vote in Iowa. Both Perry and his super-PACs spent at least $21 million on his campaign. That money netted him 14,000 votes, about $1,500 per vote. His donors may think that they didn’t make a good investment.

Tomorrow we’ll see who gets Perry’s votes in South Carolina’s primary—both of them. Until yesterday I would have guessed some of them would go to Mitt Romney, but after Romney’s recent appearances, Romney probably won’t get the votes that he had previously expected. In fact, sources say that he might lose the primary and was considering not even participating in the first Florida debate. Every day brings more revelations about and from the Republican presidential candidates.



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