Nel's New Day

June 28, 2012

SCOTUS Keeps Health Care Act

“It is reasonable to construe what Congress has done as increasing taxes on those who have a certain amount of income, but choose to go without insurance. Such legislation is within Congress’ power to tax.” Chief Justice John Roberts included this statement in his majority ruling that retained the Affordable Care Act with the exception of the Medicaid piece that threatened states not extending Medicaid with the government’s withdrawing all Medicaid funding. States that do not expand eligibility will lose only the funding for the expansion.

Roberts was joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Ruth Bayer Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor.

People guessing when the justices would deliver their decision waited for weeks until the very last day of their session. Conservatives were confident that they would be victorious in the ACA being struck down, and Democrats worried about the same result. Out of 21 constitutional law experts in the country, 19 thought the ACA is constitutional, but only eight of them predicted that the court would uphold it because of the behavior of conservative justices during the oral argument.

Maybe the most remarkable thing about the ACA is how little people understand it and how much they hate it. The biggest problem with evaluating the “hate,” however, is that there were two reasons for not liking the ACA: either people didn’t want any mandated health care, or they wanted a single-payer plan. Those with the latter opinion didn’t oppose the mandate, but the polls never differentiated between the two.

Where did the hate come from? Conservatives railing against today’s decision  have forgotten that the conservative public policy research institution, Heritage Foundation, proposed mandated health coverage over 20 years ago. Before President Obama, the individual mandate had Republican support. Conservatives who originally supported it during a Republican administration came out in solid opposition after President Obama was elected and pushed for this law.

Democrats got nervous about being part of mandated health care after the Tea Party revolution, leaving only attacks on the law. The polls went down on health care, and the progressives said even less about it, causing the polls to sink more in a downward spiral. The media joined the conservatives in their frequent use of “government run” to describe the act despite the fact that the law require people to buy insurance from private corporations.

One reason that many people thought that ACA would be struck down is that they no longer see SCOTUS as an impartial court that uses constitutionality to rule. Retired Justice John Paul Stevens wrote in his minority dissent to the Bush v. Gore decision that the ruling threatened “the nation’s confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of the law.” The Citizens United case that was confirmed on Monday completed the threat, closing the door on democracy in this country. Seventy-one percent of people in this country believe politics would influence the Supreme Court’s ruling, compared with 20 percent who said the court will decide the case solely on legal merits.

As pieces of the ACA started going into effect, more and more people  appreciated it: 86 million people have received free preventative care, 105 million no longer face a lifetime cap on benefits, as many as 17 million children can no longer be denied coverage because of preexisting health conditions, and 6 million young people under the age of 26 can be included on their parents’ insurance policies.

Despite the plaintiffs’ claim that ACA is not constitutional, they showed that they believed it is in their brief. All people need to buy health insurance—the “individual mandate”—because companies would go bankrupt or policy costs would be unreasonably high if people bought it only after they get sick. The Constitution authorizes Congress “[t]o make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution” regulations of interstate commerce. As conservative Justice Antonin Scalia explains, this means that, “where Congress has the authority to enact a regulation of interstate commerce, it possesses every power needed to make that regulation effective.” He took exactly the opposite position in his dissent today.

Congress further viewed the mandate as necessary to prevent “adverse selection” to “game” the new insurance rules, which proponents warned would spark a “death spiral” in insurance. If the mandate falls, the guaranteed-issue and community-rating regulations must therefore fall with it, as the Government itself has conceded. So the plaintiffs admitted that the Scalia Rule applies in this case.

Who has gained today? According to Avalere Health, the swing states benefit the most, getting insurance access to about 22.4 million people and subsidies for another 7.5 million. About 15 million people in those states will be eligible for Medicaid if those states decide to extend the program with federal funding.

Women gained big time today in terms of contraception and elimination of discrimination in costs for insurance policies. At this time, women pay $1 billion more for health insurance than men. Women pay more than men in 92 percent of best-selling health plans within states that permit gender rating. In most states, non-smoking women are commonly charged more than even smoking men. Even with maternity coverage excluded, nearly a third of plans charge women ages 25 to 40 pay at least 30 percent more or even higher than men for the same coverage.

All poor people gained today. The New York Times wrote, “When poor people are given medical insurance, they not only find regular doctors and see doctors more often but they also feel better, are less depressed and are better able to maintain financial stability, according to a new, large-scale study that provides the first rigorously controlled assessment of the impact of Medicaid.”

Those who become very ill gained today. ACA ends lifetime limits on coverage in 2010. It phases out annual limits on coverage by 2014, important for people with high medical bills from conditions such as cancer.

Taxpayers have also gained today because they no longer have to pay for uninsured people to go to emergency rooms and clinics. Because people are required to have health insurance, their health costs will be much less—and paid for by insurance. And Thomas Jefferson gained today: one measure he supported would have required people to pay into a public health insurance.

Even insurance companies will gain from additional customers although it has lost $1.1 billion in rebates to the insured. ACA requires that insurance companies spend at least 80 percent of subscriber premiums on health-care claims and quality improvement initiatives. According to a recent report, 12.8 million people will receive rebates this year with an average of $151 per household.

Republican lawmakers are spitting mad and  intend to put the ACA up for a vote in the House on July 9. Mitt Romney has accused President Obama of spending all his time on the lost cause of “Obamacare” instead of the economy. The Republicans plan to do exactly what Romney accused the president of.

Dissenting justices Samuel Alito, Anthony Kennedy, Antonin Scalia, and Clarence Thomas use the same convoluted verbiage that other conservatives do: even constitutional provisions must be ruled unconstitutional because “the Act’s other provisions would not have been enacted without” it central elements, the mandate and the Medicaid provision. They might be able to get a very high price for their crystal ball that looks into the future.

They continue:

The case is easy and straightforward, however, in another respect. What is absolutely clear, affirmed by the text of the 1789 Constitution, by the Tenth Amendment ratified in 1791, and by innumerable cases of ours in the 220 years since, is that there are structural limits upon federal power—upon what it can prescribe with respect to private conduct, and upon what it can impose upon the sovereign States. Whatever may be the conceptual limits upon the Commerce Clause and upon the power to tax and spend, they cannot be such as will enable the Federal Government to regulate all private conduct and to compel the States to function as administrators of federal programs.

To reach this conclusion, these four had to not only reject a century of Commerce Clause jurisprudence but also ignore the Necessary and Proper clause, and Congress’ taxation power. Their belief in the “sovereign states” is ironic when considering that these same conservatives voted against states rights in one of the decisions announced on Monday, the continuation of Citizens United. Based on the flimsiest of arguments, the four dissenters want to kill progressive legislation basically because their political ideologies tell them to do so.

President Obama gave an impressive speech describing the advantages of ACA. Just before his speech, Romney delivered his usual list of lies in criticizing ACA:

“Obamacare adds trillions to our deficits and to our national debt.” PolitiFact decribes this statement as “false.”

Obamacare “puts government between you and your doctor.” All insurance is  with private companies.

“Having 20 million people, up to that number of people, lose the insurance they want, is simply unacceptable.” If he’s talking about people who get their insurance through employers, their insurance companies are frequently changed, and ACA requires more coverage than many people have now. If they change, they benefit.

“And something that Obamacare does not do that must be done in real reform is helping lower the cost of healthcare and health insurance. It’s becoming prohibitively expensive.” The only way that progressives could lower healthcare cost is by regulation, a permanent no-no by conservatives.

From a mockery of Romney’s speech in The Borowitz Report: “I vow to repeal this law on my first day in office,” he told a crowd at a campaign rally.  “Until then, I will work tirelessly to make people forget that I used to totally love it.”

June 27, 2012

If You Lived in Iowa ….

Photo identification has been one of the controversial laws that Republican-controlled states have passed, resulting in numerous letters supporting this egregious attack on voters’ rights by citing that people need photo ID to purchase alcohol or get on an airplane. Never mind that buying alcohol and getting on an airplane are not constitutional rights, but voting is. Never mind that fraud has been so minimal that it gives no justification for disenfranchising 5 million voters in the United States.

Now, however, a Republican state has stepped over the edge and into a morass of slime. Imagine being required to submit a complete credit history—not just a summary—in order to have permission to vote. Iowa does. Gov. Terry Branstad has changed voting requirements for people released from prison through an executive order requiring them to submit the following:

They must complete a 31-item questionnaire that includes the address of the judge who handled the conviction.

They must pay a filing fee.

They must submit a full credit report.

Iowa’s Republican Secretary of State, Matt Schultz supports Branstad’s restrictions because they “send a message to Iowa’s voters that their voting privilege is sacred and will not be compromised.” He seems to believe that God dispenses this right, not the U.S. Constitution.

Since Branstad’s order went into effect, 8,000 Iowa felons would be eligible to vote if they navigated the requirements; fewer than a dozen have received voting rights. One of those who failed is 40-year-old Henry Straight, a truck driver, who was convicted of stealing a soda machine and fleeing while on bond when he was a teenager. He even hired a lawyer but was still unsuccessful in completing the application to the state’s satisfaction.

Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a national group that advocates for policies to make it easier for felons to vote, said that Branstad is “making your right to vote contingent on your financial abilities.”

Thirty-eight states allow most felons to automatically regain voting rights upon completion of their sentences. Felons in prison can vote in Maine and Vermont. Some of the remaining 12 states require payment of fees, application, and sometimes a waiting period. No other state requires a credit history.

Branstad might want to help Straight get his paperwork accepted; Straight said he wants to vote for Branstad.

If an executive order can require a credit history from ex-felons before they can vote, it can require a credit history from anyone.

June 26, 2012

If You Lived in Texas ….

Yesterday I had lunch with a Republican friend and commiserated with her on the state of the Republican party. She’s a firm believer in women’s reproductive rights, and her daughter went to Planned Parenthood for her health care, including birth control. During the conversation, she mourned the loss of her party, saying that there really isn’t a Republican party any more. Things are so bad now, she said, that we probably needed regulations because of banks’ dishonesty. Now her daughter lives in Texas, and my friend is visiting her this week.

Coincidentally, this week is when Texas’s Grand Old Party of Texas published its platform telling the world what they stand for. There’s the usual get rid of the UN and teach abstinence-only sex education as well as the following:

The Texas GOP supports “repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment,” which instituted a national income tax, and instead favors a wildly regressive national sales tax that would hit low- and middle-income Americans hardest. It does like a few taxes and supports making the Bush tax cuts permanent and repealing the capital gains tax and the estate tax. The state GOP wants to abolish property and business taxes as well as guaranteeing that there will be no state income tax, no Internet sales tax, no professional licensing fees, and no taxes on real estate transactions. Texas GOP thinks that they can “shift the tax burden to a consumption-based tax.”

The Texas GOP supports returning to the gold standard: “We support the return to the time tested precious metal standard for the U.S. dollar.” They ignore Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s statement that it is “not feasible for practical and policy reasons.” Most economists agree that the gold standard never worked and that returning to it now would have disastrous consequences for the American economy.

The Texas GOP supports privatizing Social Security. Instead of this popular program, the platform wants “an immediate and orderly transition to a system of private pensions based on the concept of individual retirement accounts, and gradually phasing out the Social Security tax.” With such a program, each retiree would have lost tens of thousands of dollars a few years ago because of the recession. Millions of Americans lost everything in private accounts during the recession, and Social Security was all they had left.

The Texas GOP opposes multicultural education and “critical thinking.” The platform states, “We believe the current teaching of a multicultural curriculum is divisive.” Instead, the state GOP wants education to provide a “common American identity and loyalty instead of political correctness that nurtures alienation among racial and ethnic groups.” (Arizona students in a now-banned multicultural program out-performed their peers.) Of course, the GOP also wants “controversial theories” such evolution and climate change “be taught as challengeable scientific theories subject to change as new data is produced.” In the icing on the education cake, the GOP believes that the teaching of “critical thinking skills” will “focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.” No thinking–they might vote for Democrats!

The Texas GOP supports corporal punishment in schools because it “is effective and legal.” Also teachers and school boards should be given “more authority to deal with disciplinary problems.” The platform ignores research showing that corporal punishment is bad for children and their education, “associated with an increase in delinquency, antisocial behavior, and aggression in children,” according to the American Psychoanalytic Association. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents and schools use other forms of punishment because “corporal punishment is of limited effectiveness and has potentially deleterious side effects.”

The Texas GOP opposes alternative sexual orientation and gender identity so strongly that it supports criminalizing of sodomy and putting in jail anyone who issues a marriage license to a same-sex couple. The state GOP justifies this with the belief that same-sex relationships lead to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases and is against God, the nation’s founders, and the people of Texas. “Homosexuality must not be presented as an acceptable ‘alternative’ lifestyle in our public education and policy.” The state should not only prevent marriage equality but also adoption or fostering children by same-sex couples.

Last Friday night, a teenage lesbian couple in Texas were both shot in the head and left to die in a Portland park. Mollie Judith Olgin, 19, died from her wounds, and Mary Christine Chapa, 18, is in serious but stable condition after surgery. Investigators said they believe Olgin and Chapa were shot with a large-caliber gun about midnight after being led down a trail and into a grassy area.

Republicans in the second largest state in the United States, the state that controls what is published in textbooks because of the large number that they purchase, want to put more of its residents into poverty, continue giving money to the wealthy, destroy the economy, eliminate thinking, beat kids, and foment enough hate for LGBT people that they live in danger of being killed. This isn’t the Republican party of my friend, but it may end up being the Republican party of the United States.

June 25, 2012

Immigration Not a ‘Victory’ for Brewer

The U.S. Supreme Court is probably holding onto its revelation of the health care ruling until the last minute (aka Thursday), but justices did reveal their decisions on immigration and Montana’s version of Citizens United today. Both these cases will set the direction of the United States for decades to come.

American Tradition Partnership Inc. v. Bullock, the Montana case, was lower profile than the Arizona case on immigration but equally important. Those who watch the millions of dollars rolling into the Republican candidate campaigns know that Citizens United gave corporations unrestricted political spending in the name of “free speech.” Before this SCOTUS 2010 ruling, Montana had passed a law, exactly one century ago, against corporations buying elections, but a 5-4 ruling from SCOTUS refuses to let this law stand.

The immigration ruling, Arizona v. United States, has been far more publicized and perhaps more misunderstood. Justice Elana Kagan recused herself from the decision, resulting in a 5-3 split for most of the decisions.  (Clarence Thomas should take a lesson from Kagan because of his conflict of interest in an extensive number of cases!)

Three provisions of Arizona’s immigration law were struck down; making it a state crime for an immigrant not to be carrying papers, criminalizing the failure of immigrants to register, and forbidding an illegal immigrant from working in Arizona. The fourth provision, the requirement that police check the immigration status of people they stop for traffic or other offenses, was allowed to stand because it seemed to coordinate with federal law and had not gone into effect. The justices left the door open for this provision to be challenged again after it does go into effect, allowing the possibility that it, too, will be declared unconstitutional.

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has been touting the decision as a victory. However, most law officials in Arizona, other than the infamous Sherriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, disagree; they view the SCOTUS ruling as a way for them avoid racial profiling. The provision does require Arizona police to check the immigration status of people reasonably stopped in the course of keeping public order in the state, but it doesn’t permit police to hold people if they don’t have papers. The only responsibility that police have is to tell immigration authorities about undocumented immigrants.

According to the ruling, a state doesn’t have the right to make laws on a law reserved for the federal government. In the decision, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “The state may not pursue policies that undermine federal law.” Supporting Kennedy’s decision were Chief Justice John Roberts and liberal Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, and Sonia Sotomayor. Justice Samuel Alito joined the majority of five in striking down the provision that immigrants not carrying papers are guilty of a misdemeanor.

From these two rulings came two revelations that are not connected to the decisions themselves. The first is the lack of professionalism from at least one of the justices. Antonin Scalia used his dissent to rant against President Obama’s executive directive to allow undocumented immigrants under the age of 30 to stay in the United States to apply for citizenship if they meet certain criteria including being brought into the country as a minor.

Scalia also declared that the Constitution’s Framers would have “rushed to the exits” if they’d known an executive branch would wield such power and that some of the states would not have joined the union if they knew what the president was going to do. In addition, he stated that keeping the Arizona immigration law was important to protect the state.

This and other comments show that his dissent came from an opinion regarding what “should” be done and not the constitutionality of the Arizona law. Like his arguments during the health care debate, Scalia is showing himself to have lost his ability to “judge”; instead he wants to make law. The conservatives should take notice that Scalia has gone far beyond the classic “activist judge.”

Scalia’s fury may also have come from the way that the ruling seemed to approve of the president’s directive to allow young undocumented workers to remain in the country. On page 17 of the opinion, the Court explicitly lists “a veteran” or a “college student” as two examples of undocumented immigrants who should not experience “unnecessary harassment.”

The other revelation from these two landmark rulings is the consistent rejection of state’s rights. Both decisions put federal rule over states’ rights, the opposite of traditional conservative views. Ironically enough, the four more liberal judges voted for states’ rights in the case of Montana’s case. Scalia, who had a temper tantrum about the sovereignty of state law in the Arizona case voted against Montana having the right to retain a century-old law to keep fraud out of elections.

The decision for a third case, Miller v. Alabama, announced today also ruled federal law over states’ rights when it forbid mandatory life sentences for juvenile offenders. The dissent in this case also shows the stress that at least one justice may be feeling. In his dissent to the decision, Alito mixed up the name of the prison administrator, Donald Roper, and the name of the 17-year-old juvenile offender, Christopher Simmons. Alito’s dissent read that Roper “committed a brutal thrill-killing just nine months shy of his 18th birthday.”

The health care case could also be seen as a states’ rights situation, with 26 states trying to keep the Affordable Care Act out of their terrain. There is no second-guessing this court. It may come down to Kennedy’s vote.

June 24, 2012

Norquist Ties to Keep Pledgers in Line

For a brief time, the Congressional Republicans seemed to be regaining a piece of their sanity. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) told ABC News that Republicans should eliminate loopholes in the tax code even if they aren’t replaced by additional tax cuts. “When you eliminate a deduction, it’s OK with me to use some of that money to get us out of debt. That’s where I disagree with the pledge,” he said. He went so far as to say that Republicans should be flexible. Maybe he had been listening to former Sen. Alan Simpson (R-WY), co-chair of President Obama’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in 2010, who said, “You can’t cut spending your way out of this hole.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) argued so forcefully that Republicans must abandon that pledge if they are serious about tackling the spiraling national debt that he persuaded 34 Senate Republicans to cancel billions of dollars in annual tax credits for ethanol blenders. “Grover, you’re stupid, forget it, we’re going to vote the right way,” Coburn said.

Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) proposed a 5-percent surtax on all income over $1 million annually. And there’s more.

“I’m not saying I’m even committed now to a tax increase, but I think anybody who doesn’t indicate their willingness to look at revenues–expiration of tax loopholes, tax credits, increase in contribution to Social Security, which is a tax, and otherwise–would be disingenuous and irresponsible.” – Rep. Tim Johnson (R-IL) who claimed he didn’t sign the pledge but actually did

“I have learned, never sign a damn pledge.” – Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN)

“Grover Norquist has no credibility, so I don’t respond to him. He doesn’t deserve being responded to.” – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)

“Have we really reached the point where one person’s demand for ideological purity is paralyzing Congress to the point that even a discussion of tax reform is viewed as breaking a no-tax pledge?” – Rep. Frank Wolff (R-VA)

“I informed the organization I don’t consider [the earlier pledge] binding. I don’t care to be associated with it. It’s too constraining.” – Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE)

“The only pledge I take anymore is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic. That’s the pledge every member takes when he gets sworn in and that’s the pledge you ougtta be concerned about.” – Rep. Mike Simpson (R-ID) noting that he signed the pledge only once when he first ran for Congress in 1998

“Grover Norquist is not in my district. I represent the state of Wyoming and its people.” – Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY)

“I’m no longer signing any pledges to anybody. I’m not going to sign it next year.” – Rep. Reid Ribble (R-WI)

“My driver’s license expires, the milk in my refrigerator expires, the only thing that doesn’t expire is Grover Norquist’s pledge–and that’s nuts.” – Rep. Steven LaTourette (R-OH)

“I’m married to Camille Andrews, not Grover Norquist. I promised her to be faithful until death do us part, and I mean it. I did not promise him to oppose tax increases until death do us part.” – Rep. Rob Andrews (D-NJ)

“We shouldn’t be bound by something that could be interpreted different ways if what we’re trying to accomplish is broad-based tax reform.” – Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

All these rejections of Norquist’s pledge looked hopeful until he had a private audience with his minions last Wednesday. After visiting Graham, he said, “Graham will never vote for a tax increase.” About Coburn, Norquist said, “He had a moment of weakness where he thought you had to raise taxes to get spending restraint. He now knows that’s not true.” Norquist has lost Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), the only Democrat Senator to sign the pledge, but he probably doesn’t much care. Nelson is not running for re-election.

Norquist went to the Hill to “educate” Congressmen. “We believe that if you make the taxes simpler and can actually lower the taxes, the government takes in more money,” freshman Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-SC) said after the meeting. I guess that’s “Grover-speak.”

Signing the Norquist pledge smacks of treason. All members of Congress sign an oath to protect the Constitution. Article I, Section 8 states:

“The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States; but all Duties, Imposts and Excises shall be uniform throughout the United States;

To borrow Money on the credit of the United States;

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes”

The Norquist pledge states:

I, ____, pledge to the taxpayers of the (____ district of the) state of _____ and to the American people that I will: ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rate for individuals and business; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.

Instead of providing for the “general welfare” as required by the Constitution, conservatives sign a pledge resulting in a policy of “sink or swim” for everyone in the country—except the wealthy. As any parent knows, two-year-olds say “No!” to everything no matter what it is. Multi-dimensional adults use a thoughtful approach.

Both taxes and government spending are the lowest they have been in 60 years. Yet Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are determined to raise taxes on the poor and middle class while drastically cutting taxes for the top 1% of income earners with each plan adding trillions to the nation’s debt. The Norquist Pledge of “No!” means protecting the corporate interest. That’s the summer’s fight—right after the Supreme Court ruling on health care.

June 23, 2012

Last Week’s Roundup of Romney’s Lies

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:39 PM
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Mitt Romney long ago separated himself from truth, and Fox is helping him by reporting all his lies as if they were the truth. Even other countries have taken notice of his “mendaciousness.” Following are a few of his prevarications from the last week:

1. “It saves $100 billion a year to get rid of [the Affordable Care Act].” NO! Losing this law makes the deficit increase and costs the country hundreds of billions of dollars.

2. “I think a lot of people forgetting is there is only one president in history that’s cut Medicare by $500 billion and that is President Obama.” NO! Ronald Reagan was the first president to cut Medicare, followed by George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton. President Obama’s cuts are not to reduce benefits but to make it more efficient.

3. “I see people holding up signs, ‘Don’t touch my Medicare.’ It’s like, hey, I’m not touching your Medicare.” NO! Romney endorsed Rep. Paul Ryan’s private voucher system that replaces Medicare. He would get rid of Medicare.

4. President Obama has “never had the experience of working in the private sector.” NO! President Obama worked at a private-sector law firm before he worked in public service.

5. President Obama went on “an apology tour” in his first year. NOWHERE Near! Multiple news organizations have pointed out this is a “pants on fire” lie.

6. Syria is Iran’s “route to the sea.” NO! Iran doesn’t share a border with Syria, and Iran borders two bodies of water.

7. “Bill Clinton and so many other mainstream Democrats are revolting against the backward direction President Obama is taking his party and our country.” NO! Bill Clinton supports the president’s re-election and said a Romney presidency would be “calamitous for our country and the world.”

8. A local optometrist was forced to fill out a “33-page” change-of-address form–several times–at the post office. NO! This form doesn’t exist.

9. Obama is “taking away” scholarships and charter schools for “kids in Washington, D.C.” NO!

10. “This president has put together almost as much public debt as all the prior presidents combined.” NO! Politifact agreed with this statement before it disagreed—sort of like the Romney approach.

11. “If I’m president of the United States, I will get us on track to have a balanced budget.” NO! Romney says his plan “can’t be scored,” but independent budget analysts declared his agenda would make the deficit bigger, not smaller, and add trillions to the national debt.

12. The president’s “trillion- dollar stimulus” failed to “create jobs.” NO! According to the Congressional Budget Office, the stimulus bill created more than three million jobs, a view shared by 80% of economists polled by the Chicago Booth School of Business. Only 4% disagreed.

13. “[President Obama] was told that one small business was having a hard time dealing with Obamacare. He said he hadn’t heard that.” NO! The small business wasn’t having a hard time dealing with Obamacare, and was hurt by policies Romney wants to pursue.

14. “I was in Las Vegas and met a woman who was worried. She has a business renting furniture to casinos and to conventioners that come to Las Vegas. And when the president said, don’t bother coming to Las Vegas for your company meetings a few years ago, her business dove.” NO! President Obama actually said, in reference to Wall Street recklessness, “You are not going to be able to give out these big bonuses until you pay taxpayers back. You can’t get corporate jets. You can’t go take a trip to Las Vegas or go down to the Super Bowl on the taxpayers’ dime. There’s got to be some accountability and some responsibility.”

15. “If we stay on the road we’re on, we’re going to become like Europe…. I don’t believe Europe works in Europe. I don’t want it here.” NO! Europe is failing because of its austerity policies which Romney wants to follow in the United States. The 20 states in this country that cut spending are all doing worse than the 30 states that expanded spending.

16. “If [President Obama] really wanted to make a solution that dealt with these kids or with the illegal immigration in America, then this is something he would have taken up in his first three and a half years, not in his last few months.” NO! President Obama pushed for the DREAM Act for years and would have signed it into law in 2010 if the Republicans had not blocked it with a filibuster.

17. “I will continue to describe the [health] plan that I would provide, which is, number one, to make sure that people don’t have to worry about losing their insurance if they have a preexisting condition, and change jobs.” NO! Under Romney’s approach, millions of people with pre-existing conditions would be denied coverage.  And President Obama’s plan already takes care of people with preexisting conditions.

18. The president “jammed through a bill” and “didn’t really try and work for a Republican vote.” NO! President Obama worked for months to find anyone in the Republican Party who would work with him in good faith, including delaying progress while the “Gang of Six” engaged in pointless talks.

19. “I’m not looking for a tax cut for the very wealthiest.” NO! Even Romney would greatly benefit from his own tax plan while the bottom 99 percent would pay more.

20. “Ralph Reed has been a real champion in fighting for the fundamental values that have made America the nation that it is.” NO! Romney is pandering, as usual; Reed’s values are destroying the country.

21. “When you put in place a bill like Obamacare, you attack the freedom of people to make a choice about their own insurance and what kind of coverage they want to have.” NO! Under the Affordable Care Act, consumers would choose from competing plans as part of a health care exchange, just as Romney’s own Massachusetts’ plan did.

22. “[M]edian income in this nation has dropped by 10 percent over the last four years.” NO! Romney is counting the president’s first year in office which he considers unfair if that is done for his own record. And the president has been in office for only three and a half years.

23. “Government at all levels is about 37 percent of the economy today–37 percent. And if Obamacare were allowed to stand, government would control about half of the economy of America.” NO! Health care is part of the private sector because insurance are private corporations.

24 Obama “insists” that “Israel return to the ’67 borders–indefensible borders.” NO! As usual, Romney left off part of what the president actually said: “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps, [italics added] so that secure and recognized borders are established for both states.”

25. Obama said “if you let him borrow all that money, he’d keep unemployment below 8 percent.” NO! The 8 percent figure comes from a projection written by economists Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein that was issued weeks before Obama was sworn in and long before there even was a stimulus plan before Congress. The figure would also have been accurate if the severe tax cuts had not caused a loss of 700,000 jobs in the public sector.

26. Under Obamacare, we’ll get “a healthcare system run by the government.” NO! The government won’t run the healthcare system because people will have to get insurance from private companies.

27. “[T]he path we’re on, spending $1 trillion more every year than we take in, is leading us to Greece.” NO! The process in Greece has been very different than the one in the United States.

28. As a result of the Dodd-Frank reforms, “small banks and community banks are finding it harder and harder to make loans to small businesses.” NO! These banks are stronger since Dodd-Frank, and the president of Independent Community Bankers Of America recently said, “I am sick of Wall Street using community banks as their shills to scare community bankers into stampeding Congress into undoing provisions of law that finally attempt to deal with too big to fail and Wall Street overreach.”

29. President Obama “has not completed a single new trade agreement with Latin America.” NO! Panama is part of Latin America.

30. “Unfortunately, despite his promises, President Obama has failed to address immigration reform.” NO! President Obama has taken executive action where the law allows and pushed Congress to pursue comprehensive reform based on a bipartisan plan he presented last year. The Republicans refuse to cooperate with the president in any way.

By now Romney has so consistently lied that journalists gloss over anything he says without pointing out that he is wrong, sort of “business as usual.” If anyone pointed out his lies, he would say that he didn’t say them in his usual etch-a-sketch style. As the lies pile on more lies, however, he will need to spend most of his time denying them if anyone ever confronts him.

June 22, 2012

Celebrate Title IX

Forty years ago tomorrow, Title IV tried to stop gender discrimination in public education when President Richard Nixon signed the bill. It’s had a rocky road throughout the years while some people try to get rid of it and others just try to circumvent it.

Cornell counts men who practice with the women’s fencers as female athletes under Title IX.  Texas A&M and Duke do the same thing, except in reverse, on the women’s basketball teams. At the University of South Florida, more than half of the 71 women on the cross-country roster didn’t know they were on the team. At Marshall University, the women’s tennis coach signed up three freshmen who didn’t have to practice or travel with the athletes.  Two years ago, a federal judge ruled that Quinnipac University violated Title IX because it required women cross-country runners to also join the indoor and outdoor track teams so that each could be counted three times, a common practice at other universities.

Perhaps the biggest reason for sports gender bias in our schools during the 21st century is football. In the 2010-11 school year, roughly 1.1 million high school boys took part in football, while only 1,395 girls did. But high school football has the booster clubs, the money, and the facilities. In many places, it’s a religion. And the leaders are well-paid. Two years ago, the head football coach’s six-year contract at the University of Oregon was over $20 million.

Yet Title IX has made amazing changes in women’s sports. Teri Mariani, coach and athletic administer at Portland (OR) State University 40 years ago: “There was only one entrance to the training room, and it was through the men’s locker room. As a female athlete, if you needed to get treatment, you would call the trainer to meet you in the lobby, and he would put a paper bag over your head and lead you through the men’s locker room.”

Even after Title IX became law, women had to fight for their rights. In 1976, Ginny Gilder and her rowing teammates at Yale University frequently got sick after practice. Unlike the men rowers, women had no shower facilities so, cold and wet, they got on the bus. Gilder and her teammates staged a protest in a school administrator’s office. “We all turned around, took off our clothes and stood there naked, with ‘Title IX’ on our backs,” Gilder remembers. Team Captain Chris Ernst read a statement that said, “These are the bodies Yale is exploiting. On a day like today, the ice freezes on this skin.”

Nobody knew the impact that Title IX would have on sports because the law doesn’t mention this. The full text of the law are these 37 words:

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

Despite the belief 40 years ago the civil rights laws had already done away with discrimination in education, they didn’t. The 1963 Equal Pay Act covers women and men but exempts education. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on race, origin, color and religion, but not sex. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act exempts educational activities at schools. And the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution does not apply to women.

Before Title IX, women needed much higher grades than men to get into a college, and graduate schools set a limit on the number of women admitted. Although no man was denied admission to state universities in Virginia before Title IX, about 21,000 women were not allowed to attend these schools. Cornell’s veterinary school admitted just two women a year; now 70-80% of its vet students are women. Before Title IX, women applying for faculty jobs routinely heard, “Your qualifications are excellent but we already have a woman in this department.” Harvard University’s graduate school of humanities and sciences didn’t hire a female faculty member after 1924 until Title IV went into effect.

I remember when girls in the school where I taught started taking auto and wood shop after the administration had to follow Title IX guidelines. Today that sounds pretty normal, but it was a traumatic change for the teachers in our large, inner-city high school. Pregnant women and parents in high school are no longer forced to attend “special schools” when they want to stay in the regular high schools. I also remember the opposition to allowing a pregnant girl, married to a soldier in Vietnam, to attend the school where I taught.

Gradually during the last 40 years, more and more girls also started taking advanced classes, including calculus and physics. Classes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) showed increasing female enrollment.

Title IX brought an explosion of women in higher education so great that some people complain that more women than men attend college. In 1972, women earned fewer than 100,000 degrees in science and engineering; by 2008, women had about 250,000 degrees in these fields. In 1972, women received 7 percent of law degrees and 9 percent of medical degrees. In 2011, those had risen to 47 and 48 percent, respectively. Women earn four times as many doctorates as in 1972.

Title IX also plays an increasing part in trying to control the violence of bullying. Sexual harassment and assault are considered forms of gender discrimination, and Title IX requires schools to take corrective action to stop this harassment and prevent its recurrence once they know about it.

People have Reps. Patsy Mink (D-HI) and Edith Green (D-OR) and Sen. Birch Bayh (D-IN) for these rights. Mink was the first woman of color to be elected to Congress; she died in 2002. Green was the second Congresswoman elected from Oregon; she died in 1987. Bayh is still practicing law in Washington, D.C.

Bernice Sandler, the first to file lawsuits after failing to be considered for any of several jobs at the University of Maryland and being told in 1969 she came on too strong for a woman, is known as the “Godmother of Title IX” for her activism leading up to this vital equal rights law. One of her stories shows the gender inequity in education.

“When I went to elementary school, I wanted to run the projector,” said Sandler, who grew up in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. “It was very new. It was the height of audio-visual equipment at the time. They wouldn’t let the girls do it. If you asked why, you were told boys were good at that and girls weren’t. I wanted to be a crossing guard, and again they didn’t let girls do it.”

In the 1960s, I was told that I could not have a teaching job because I couldn’t coach football. When I interviewed for another job, I was told that I would have to put off my “family plans” (aka getting pregnant) if I took the job. I thank the people who worked so hard for gender equity in education so that all people today can have some educational equal rights while we work to erase more of the existing inequities.

We can all be grateful to Patsy Mink and Edith Green and Bernice Sandler and Birch Bayh and the others who think that all people should have equal rights.

June 21, 2012

Nuns Tour to Help Poor

The nuns are still on their tour although people who read only the mainstream media wouldn’t know it. There’s much more coverage on the bishops’ protesting birth control than the nuns’ protesting economic injustice for the poor. If nuns were men ….

The best coverage for the nuns’ activity on Tuesday, the second day of the tour, comes from Barbara Miner’s blog View from the Heartland, called “The Nuns Are Here! The Nuns Are Here!” She tops the story with a photo of 81-year-old Sister Diane Donoghue, as she snaps a photograph from a freeway pedestrian overpass in Milwaukee’s central city. Each week a group of people use well-lit placards to send messages to freeway travelers. Last night Overpass Light Brigade’s message was “Question Authority,” and the nuns marched with Overpass Light Brigade.

The energy of these women is phenemonal! Their walk across the overpass to highlight the anti-poor essence of the Ryan budget proposal culminated a 14-hour day. To quote Miner, “The nuns began with a 9 a.m. press conference at a food pantry in Iowa, got on the bus to Wisconsin, visited Ryan’s office in Janesville to deliver their budget critique, headed up to Milwaukee where they ate dinner at the St. Ben’s meal program in downtown, followed by a “Friend Raiser” at St. John’s on the Lake.” (I was tired by the time that they got to dinner!)

The Nuns on the Bus tour is organized by Network, a social justice lobby in Washington, D.C., that was founded more than 40 years ago by group of Catholic nuns inspired by the Vatican II reforms and religious involvement in civil rights, antiwar and feminist movements.

Some of the Catholic men in the United States are irritated by nuns believing in their support of the poor rather than the male opposition to birth control. In the New York Times, Bill Keller quoted Bob Donohue, president of Catholic League, as saying that Catholics who don’t want to follow the current Vatican should “shut up or go.”

Instead of helping the poor, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, now president of the U.S. bishops organization that opposes the nuns, established a policy almost ten years ago to pay off pedophile priests to that they would go away and not be an embarrassment to the Catholic Church. The initial payoff was a $20,000 bonus followed by a $1,250 month pension and, until they found a job, health insurance. That may be why men in the Catholic Church don’t worry about the Ryan budget: pedophiles are rewarded with $15,000 a year plus health insurance. That’s more than 50 percent above the poverty level and more than 25 percent of the people with a job make annually in this country.

The nuns know about the need for a safety network in this country to keep people from being “food insecure,” but the Senate refused to keep an amendment that would keep $4.5 billion in food stamps funding. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NW) proposed that the money for food stamps would come from trimming the guaranteed profit for crop insurance companies from 14 to 12 percent and by lowering payments for crop insurers from $1.3 billion to $825 million. The Senate vote down the amendment by 66-33. The loss of this $4.5 billion for people in poverty means families will each get $90 less per month, about one-fourth of its food budget.

According to Gillibrand, “Half of the food stamp beneficiaries are children, 17 percent are seniors, and unfortunately now 1.5 million households are veteran households.” About 26 million people in the United States received this aid in 2007, while more than 44 million got it last year, at a total cost of $76 billion. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that demand will continue to grow through 2014 because of the recession. At least the Senate doesn’t go as far as the House; their budget calls for $134 billion in cuts over 10 years.

Farm Bureau President Steve Nelson said it was critical that Congress pass a farm bill soon “to provide certainty for farmers and ranchers.” There doesn’t seems to be a concern about “certainty” for people who cannot afford to buy food.

Bill Moyers is one journalist who is following the nuns’ tour. His website has  videos and a great interactive map of their 15-day journey. Thus far the bus has stopped at the state offices of Reps. Steve King (R-IA), Paul Ryan (R-WI), and Joe Walsh (R-IL), all who voted for Ryan’s budget and none of whom were available. Tomorrow they’re scheduled for Reps. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) and Justin Amash (R-MI), both of whom voted against Ryan’s budget.

Monday they head to the office of House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who supported the Ryan budget. In just Ohio, the Ryan budget would eliminate $72.6 million from the Head Start budget, more than $110.8 million in special education spending which affects nearly 63,937 students, and 177 million meals for families needing food stamps as well as ending a tax credit that would help 107,210 Ohio small businesses provide insurance to their employees.

Tony Vanacoro, a commenter on an article from Think Progress, said it best: “I am a complete and avowed atheist, but even I know it’s bad karma to piss off Nuns!”

June 20, 2012

Should Women Be Stopped from Saying ‘Vagina’?

On alternative media (where you can get real news), the story about the two female Democratic state representatives being banned from talking on the Michigan legislative floor hasn’t gone away. Instead it’s gotten better.

The problem for the male Republican lawmakers started when two women fought the vicious anti-choice omnibus bill and talked about vaginas and vasectomies. Rep. Barb Byrum even shouted at the speaker when he refused to let her address an amendment that would put restrictions on vasectomies in the same way that the men wanted to restrict abortion.

Early statements from the Republicans protested Rep. Lisa Brown’s use of the objectionable word “vagina” on the state legislative floor. It may have been difficult for them to object to the use of “vagina” because the bill uses the term three times. Since then, they have searched for another reason to dissent that might be more acceptable to the public.

Rep. Wayne Schmidt said, “It wasn’t about body parts. It wasn’t about dissent. It wasn’t about anyone’s religious beliefs. It was that last comment that took it a step too far, and that’s what crossed the line about … The ‘no means no’ comment. That went a step too far. As I said to someone up north here, it’s like giving a kid a time out for a day, you know. Hey, time out.”

Thus Schmidt wants to treat a colleague like a bad child and, at the same time, tell women that they have no right to say “no.” He’s saying that women must be silenced if they want to say “no,” that they must have a time out because women don’t have the right to say “no.” If women try to say no, then they will be banned from speaking at all.

Dahlia Lithwick has injected a bit of black humor into the situation. In this bit of satire she supports the silencing of women in the following manner:

The scourge of women being allowed to speak the word vagina in a legislative debate over what happens when women use their vaginas must be stopped. And if women are not capable of regulating their own word choice, the state should regulate it for them. To that end, we propose that the Michigan House promptly enact HB-5711(b)—a bill to regulate the use of the word vagina by females in mixed company.

The bill will include Part A(1)(a) providing that any women who seeks to use the word vagina in a floor debate be required to wait 72 hours after consulting with her physician before she may say it. It will also require her physician to certify in writing that said woman was not improperly coerced into saying the word vagina against her will. Section B(1)(d) provides that prior to allowing a female to say the word vagina a woman will have a mandatory visit with her physician at which he will read to her a scripted warning detailing the scientific evidence of the well-documented medical dangers inherent in saying the word vagina out loud, including the link between saying the word vagina and the risk of contracting breast cancer.

Because some women who say the word vagina in legislative proceedings occasionally come to regret having used the word, Part C(7) provides that there will also be mandatory counseling with counselors who have never used the word vagina in their lifetimes, and who would indeed die before they ever used such a word. Moreover the state health code is to be amended such that no woman who says the word vagina may do so out loud or in mixed company until and unless she is in a facility with full surgical capabilities. Objections that speech is not in fact a surgical procedure notwithstanding, it’s clear that the risk of saying the word vagina out loud is such that it should not be undertaken without proper medical safeguards to guarantee against any and all risks of negative consequences.

There is to be no exception in the event that a woman uses the word vagina as a result of rape, incest, or to preserve her health or ability to have future pregnancies. If women were intended to use the word vagina, there would be a word for vaginas.

Also, provision d(9)(a) of the bill would amend the current law to ensure that if any listener who hears the word vagina spoken aloud—although it may be the medically correct term for a woman’s reproductive organs—feels any religious objections to such speech, that speech may be curtailed in the interest of preserving the listener’s religious freedom as detailed in the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Any other marginally relevant provisions of the First Amendment to the United States Constitution are herein rescinded as needed.

Finally, Michigan state health statutes shall be amended by provision 12(b)(6) which provides that prior to speaking the word vagina out loud, any female resident of Michigan shall undergo a mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasound procedure, during which she must watch such ultrasound while listening to a government-scripted speech about the grave dangers of speaking anatomically correct words, aloud, in an enlightened democracy.

Such speech will, by necessity, include the word vagina.

You can join the people who object to Wayne Schmidt’s statement.

June 19, 2012

Romney – Out of Touch

Mitt Romney is out of touch with the people of the United States, the media continually reports. One of the latest out-of-touchness is the Romneys’ attachment to horse dressage in which horses do precise sets of movements, some set to music. The horse is now participating in the Olympics. With his millions and millions of dollars, Romney can well afford to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for a horse (although he personally owns only one-third of it), and that’s his personal business.  Beyond out of touch, however, is the fact that he used the horse for a $77,731 deduction on his 2010 tax return.

The big problem for the people of this country, however, is how far out of touch that Romney is with government policy. Romney wants to make the Bush tax cuts permanent; only 26 percent of the people want to even extend them for another year, and only 18 percent want the tax breaks to be made permanent. Of the 65 percent who want taxes cut for all or part of taxpayers, three-fourths thought that tax breaks should be extended to those who earn less than $250,000 a year, either for one year or permanently.

Going farther out of touch, Romney also wants an additional across-the-board tax cut on top of the Bush tax cuts, a cut that would disproportionately benefit the wealthy. He promises to close deductions and loopholes for the rich, but he hasn’t specified what deductions and loopholes, and won’t do so during his campaign.

One subsidy that would save enough taxpayer money to feed a few hungry children is the $76 billion subsidy for the banks. JPMorgan Chase got $14 billion all by itself, which may be a reason that Jamie Dimon and JPMorgan weren’t too worried about the $2 billion that the bank lost this last spring. Taxpayers paid for the $2 billion plus another $12 billion.

Banks put so much money into election campaigns and lobbying that no one—including the Democrats—will stop the subsidies including those to traders, require bank shareholders to put up enough capital to make bailouts highly unlikely, and let creditors take losses when banks get in trouble for greedy risks. The government is willing to force the post office to be more than self-supporting; they should try the banks next. Wait! They won’t because lawmakers don’t get massive amounts of money from the poor post office workers.

The tax issue isn’t the first one in which Romney doesn’t understand the voters. It follows a long history of policy recommendations that Detroit be allowed to go bankrupt, young people borrow money from their parents for college or just start a small business, and further reduce the number of teachers, police, and firefighters. He’s also shows his lack of understanding for women by wanting to make birth control illegal and erase the Affordable Care Act that tries to equalize health costs for both men and women.

Mitt Romney is out of touch.

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