Nel's New Day

July 31, 2012

Romney’s Gaffes Embarrass Republicans

“Kiss my ass!” This statement polished off what might have been the most disastrous tour for a U.S. presidential wannabe. Mitt Romney’s week through the U.K., Israel, and Poland began with one of his campaign persons, still not clearly identified, stating the President Obama doesn’t belong to the Anglo-Saxon culture. Rick Gorka finished the catastrophe with the above expletive as well as the directive “Shove it” to the press after they pressed for information. Gorka later apologized.

Romney personally made a large number of gaffes, starting out with criticizing the organization of the Olympics during an interview with Brian Williams. This insensitivity brought derisive comments from both Prime Minister David Cameron and Mayor of London Boris Johnson, the latter when he spoke to a crowd of thousands. One UK journalist said that Romney had brought the Brits together in support of the Olympics. Romney later backed down on his criticism of the current Olympics.

Then Romney called the Ed Milliband, head of the Labour Party, “Mr. Leader” indicating that he had possibly forgotten the man’s name. After Romney met the head of M16, the international arm of the British secret service, he talked about their get-together. The M16, much like the CIA, is highly secret; the chief’s scheduling is almost never revealed. Romney even referred to the “back side” of 10 Downing Street which is a term in England for the lower rear part of the human torso.

During a speech in Israel, Romney praised the country’s health care system, a government-controlled universal health care plan. Wanting to pander to the Israelis, he went back to the culture discussion, stating that the Jewish people were more economically successful than the Palestinians because of their “culture” and because the Jews have “the hand of providence.” Evidently Romney thinks that God likes the Jews more than the Palestinians. Still not taking the foot out of his mouth, he explained that Mexico lacks the same superior culture and hand of providence that the United States does.

Romney first said he didn’t say anything about Palestinian culture and later tried to defend himself by saying that his remarks were taken out of context. (Apparently, it’s okay when he takes the president’s statements out of context, but that no one should do this to him.) You can check out the “context” for yourself.

In Israel, Romney’s campaign also organized a $50,000 a plate fundraiser—on a Jewish day of fasting to mourn the Jewish tragedies. Romney’s campaign said they were aware that they had scheduled a fundraiser with food in Israel on a day of fasting, but they thought that people wouldn’t be so upset. They later dropped the price to $10,000

Today in Poland, Romney praised Poland’s economy when he said, “A march toward economic liberty and smaller government has meant a march toward higher living standards, a strong military that defends liberty at home and abroad, and an important and growing role on the international stage.” This follows his criticism of Europe as a “social welfare state.” Hint to Mr. Romney: Poland is in Europe.

In addition, ABC Fact Check pointed out that the Polish government gives women $300 for each baby they have, doubling that sum for poor families; fully funds state university educations; and guarantees health care to all its 38 million citizens. Some of its economic growth comes from subsidies flowing from the European Union since Poland joined the bloc in 2004. Total government expenditure as a percentage of GDP was about 44 percent in Poland last year compared to 41 percent in the United States. And they don’t pay over half their taxes for defense. Unemployment in Poland is 12.4 percent, and wages are low, and GDP per capita last year in Poland was $20,600 compared to $49,000 in the U.S.

Romney even alienated the Polish people before he set food on their ground. Poland’s storied Solidarnosc (Solidarity) trade union, founded by former president Lech Walesa and others in 1980, issued a press release saying it is “in no way involved” in the Romney meeting with Walesa and had no “initiative” to invite the American candidate to Poland. The union has expressed dismay at Romney’s anti-union stances in the U.S.

The staunchest of U.S. conservatives are also appalled at the results of Romney’s tour which was designed to show that he is accomplished in foreign policy. Karl Rove said, “You have to shake your head.” Charles Krauthammer went much farther on a Fox panel discussion, claiming that Romney’s statements were “unbelievable, it’s beyond human understanding, it’s incomprehensible. I’m out of adjectives.”

Beyond stupidity, Romney has made dangerous statements on his tour. Romney declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and stated that he would move the U.S. embassy there. At this time, the UN has declared Jerusalem an international city, and this issue is extremely sensitive. Even the Chinese are upset about Romney’s statement. The Xinhua News Agency, the government news resource, wrote, “Romney’s remarks totally neglect historical facts and are actually irresponsible if he just meant to appeal to voters at home.”

Russia is our country’s “number one adversary,” he said on CNN last night. AT least he did say “Russia.” Two of his advisers have recently referred to the country as the “Soviet Union.”

In last Sunday’s speech to the Israelis, Romney said that he would stand with their country against any Iranian threat, pointing out a hawkish approach that could lead to World War III. “We have a solemn duty and a moral imperative to deny Iran’s leaders the means to follow through on their malevolent intensions. We must not delude ourselves into thinking that containment is an option.” Dan Senior, Romney’s senior foreign policy aide, suggested that Romney would support a unilateral military strike by Israel. Senior later said that he didn’t really mean a military strike.

As Rove shakes his head and Krauthammer runs out of adjectives, others wonder why Romney is making so many mistakes. One simplistic theory from people who see Romney as intelligent is that he is trying to show that he’s one of the people. Others connect it to his anxiety and lack of experience in interacting with people who don’t share his wealthy background and Mormon faith. The result is contempt for people not in his personal world which slips out when he isn’t careful. The British aren’t running the Olympics correctly, or young people without money for college should borrow from their parents rather than the government. His failure in communication then leads to hostility that leads to bullying.

These gaffes, however, may not cause him as much trouble as what Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today. After saying that Romney couldn’t make it through a Senate confirmation process as a mere Cabinet nominee because he wouldn’t release information about his personal finances, Reid said that a Bain Capital investor told him that Romney didn’t pay taxes for ten years.

Romney himself has said that he should be elected as president if he paid taxes he didn’t owe. But now there is speculation about whether he isn’t paying taxes that he does owe. Everyone in the country should question a man who pays less than 14 percent taxes in the one year in which he released his tax returns and then wants to be elected because his economic plan will lower his own personal taxes.

About Romney’s dismal performance in England, Krauthammer said that all he had to do was keep his mouth shut. Henry Porter, writing for the UK Guardian, agreed, in charming British language: “All that is required of any foreign personage is to speed along the line of greeters, murmuring: ‘Jolly good show–carry on.’”

Porter continued with this gem about Romney: “He displayed the sure touch of a Tourettes sufferer.”

In guessing at the reason behind Romney’s vast mistakes:

“It is that Romney has stripped himself of reason, personality, and sense in order to become the next president of the United States and that that is ultimately why he will fail to persuade the undecided voters to endorse him. Devilishly cunning new legislation in 19 key U.S. states, designed to place obstacles between voters and the ballot boxes most likely to affect those who vote Democrat, may eventually swing it for the Republicans. But in a straight fight with Obama on the candidates’ weight, experience, and merit of their convictions, he comes a distant second. This is as much about authenticity as politics.

“Romney is generally smooth in interview yet he leaves you counting your change. The general debate on how the rich got richer in the last 15 years may prove embarrassing for him. Bain’s chief mode of operation was to create efficiencies by outsourcing jobs to cheaper labor markets. That is not a great record if the main thrust of your campaign is to concentrate on the administration’s failure to create jobs on American soil.

“Romney has got nothing to say. He hollowed himself out to gain the nomination and is now too drained of character to win the presidency.”

And there you have it: the Republican presidential nominee of 2012.

July 29, 2012

Scalia Supports Private Ownership of Nuclear Devices

Horrifying. That’s one description for the statements that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia made this morning on Fox News about the constitutionality of owning and carrying weapons. According to one out of the nine judges who determine the law of the land, any weapon that a person can carry is constitutional for that person to “keep and bear.”

Scalia includes shoulder-launched missiles in that category of legal private ownership. And the javelin anti-tank weapon and the M-28 Davy Crockett nuclear tipped recoilless rifle. The latter has the W-54 nuclear warhead and an explosive yield that’s 12 times more powerful than Timothy McVeigh’s bomb in Oklahoma City. And it only weighs 57 pounds. Easier to carry—and probably legal according to Scalia—would be a small nuclear device in a briefcase.

Scalia shows himself a “strict constitutionalist” when he said, “Obviously the amendment does not apply to arms that can not be carried. It’s to ‘keep and bear’ so it doesn’t apply to cannons.” But the Founding Fathers didn’t specifically discuss nuclear weapons. “But I suppose there are handheld rocket launchers that can bring down airplanes that will have to–it will have to be decided,” Scalia added. Maybe it’s just the use of the weapon. Scalia might approve of these in a crowded movie theater.

Scalia does have limits on weapons. In the same interview, he mentioned a tort called affrighting, “which if you carried around a really horrible weapon just to scare people, like a head ax or something, that was I believe a misdemeanor.” From that we might infer that Scalia would oppose head axes because they are frightening. Some people might be afraid of individuals’ carrying nuclear weapons on the street. Also would he object to such weapons as a head axe if the purpose is to use them against someone else instead of just frightening them?

In District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court overturned DC’s ban on unregistered firearm and the city’s prohibiting the registration of handguns except for one-year licenses issued by the police chief. Scalia justified his decision that carrying guns is legal with the words “weapons common at the time.” It’s possible that he thinks that a FIM-92 Stinger is a “common” weapon. A Supreme Court justice thinks that people should be able to legally own nuclear weapons. Just not cannons because one person alone cannot carry it.

Recently a Florida man needed only one gun when he decided to “stand his ground.” Kenneth Roop, 52, killed Nick Rainey, a 30-year-old door-to-door salesman. The dead man was walking away from Roop’s door when the older man drove up and shot Rainey in the shoulder because he was “in fear.” When Rainey fell to the ground and screamed, “You shot me,” Roop claimed he was still afraid because the man sounded antagonistic. Roop claims he saved his life by shooting Rainey in the back of the head. A witness said that Roop sat in his truck for a few seconds while Rainey lay face down on the driveway before killing the other man. Seven years ago Roop pulled a gun on the woman reading the power company meter reader, but he could still own 14 guns.

Scalia may think that, according to eighteenth-century values displayed in the Constitution, Roop was justified in shooting someone who knocked on his door and then tried to depart the property. Also in the interview, Scalia objected to the ruling of Griswold v. Connecticut which legalized contraception for all married women.

The justice also displayed an appalling racism in the court arguments for Arizona v. United States regarding the racial profiling of the Arizona anti-immigration law. Referring to the “invasion” of undocumented immigrants, Scalia compared them to a roving band of armed thieves. To a lawyer’s attempt to explain that many of the victimized people legally live in the United States–possibly having ancestors who lived here before the whites took over the land—Scalia said, “Are you objecting to harassing the people who have no business being here? Surely you’re not concerned about harassing them.”

His dissent in the case was even worse when his position relied on pro-slavery laws excluding free persons of African descent living in most of the South before the Civil War: “Notwithstanding ‘[t]he myth of an era of unrestricted immigration’ in the first 100 years of the Republic, the States enacted numerous laws restricting the immigration of certain classes of aliens, including convicted criminals, indigents, persons with contagious diseases, and (in Southern States) freed blacks. State laws not only provided for the removal of unwanted immigrants but also imposed penalties on unlawfully present aliens and those who aided their immigration.”

During Justice Antonin Scalia’s tenure in the U.S. Supreme Court, he has supported torture, defended executing innocent people, and railed against anyone who embraces the “homosexual agenda” in a conclusion that people should be able to choose their life partners. He has argued within cases with the sensibilities and passion of partisan lawmakers, using the “broccoli” approach in requiring health care, repeating the idiocy that if people were required to purchase health insurance then the government might force them to buy broccoli. His record as a partisan politician should have him removed from the court.

July 28, 2012

Conservatives Promote Evil

Sick, disgusting, and evil. These are the words that come to mind when I read about the billboard paid for the Ralph Smeed Foundation, an Idaho-based group that espouses limited government and individual liberty. Twenty-six miles out of Boise anyone can read the message comparing President Barack Obama and James Holmes, who killed 12 people and wounded another 49 in an Aurora movie theater.

“Kills 12 in a movie theater with assault rifle, everyone freaks out,” reads the sign’s left half, which displays a photo of Holmes. “Kills thousands with foreign policy, wins Nobel Peace Prize,” reads the right side of the panel, which shows a photo of Obama. The point of this vicious complaint about the president is what the foundation perceives as the president’s handling of the Afghanistan war.

Conservatives now accuse the president and his supporters of blaming George W. Bush for the problems that the country has. They ignore the fact that Bush declared war on the basis of a lie about the existence of “weapons of mass destruction” and to satisfy his own personal ego.

This hateful, offensive act follows several years of bigoted behavior about the first part-black president. Conservatives ignored all the killing done in the eight years before the election of Barack Obama; now they will do anything to get rid of the man who wants only to help the people of this country—which includes the people who despise him.

When I first read about this billboard, I thought it was another piece of satire. Sadly, it’s true.  How much farther can the hate mongers of this country go?!

July 27, 2012

Romney’s Vision for America

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:44 PM
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Mitt Romney has been definite about only one thing on the campaign trail—that he would never, under any circumstances, release more than two years of his tax returns. Most of his other positions have been vague because, as he has frequently said, people might use these ideas against him during the campaign. He’ll just wait until he’s elected to let the people in the country find out who they get screwed over.

He has let a few fiscal snippets slip, however. One recent one comes from his spending plan. Swirling in the ether is the myth that “federal compensation exceeds private sector levels by as much as 30 to 40 percent when benefits are taken into account.” Romney pledges to “align federal employee compensation with the private sector,” and it cites studies showing that “federal compensation exceeds private sector levels by as much as 30 to 40 percent when benefits are taken into account. This must be corrected.” That means that everyone working for the government, including the military and veterans, will take a 30 to 40 percent hit from Romney’s magic plan. Border patrol, firefighters, food inspectors, researchers—everybody takes a 30 to 40 percent hit in their bank account. The military, however, will be hurt the hardest because 63 percent of federal works are employed by the Department of Defense.

Romney aides and supporters are trying to wade their way out of this mess, as usual disagreeing with Romney. They claim that they don’t actually mean a 30 to 40 percent pay cut; they’ll just take away health coverage, retirement, etc. Somehow those people running Romney’s campaign do not equate taking away these benefits with a reduction in pay.

As always, Romney believes in cutting taxes for the wealthy, maybe because he belongs to that class. He wants to take money from people in the bottom  90+ percent of the population and give it to the top two percent. While he cuts the salaries of people in the bottom 98 percent of the nation, here are some of the bonuses that he wants to retain for the wealthy, including himself:

The “Carried Interest” Handout to Hedge Fund and Private Equity Managers. Cost: $15 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2012) – Carried Interest is a share in a fund; wealthy investors can declare these as capital gains instead of wages at a much lower tax rate.

Offshore Tax Havens. Cost: $100 BILLION Annually – Only wealthy privileged people can afford this tax dodge.

Taxing Capital Gains at a Lower Rate Than Ordinary Income. Cost: $256 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2016) – For the wealthy, capital gains from investments are taxed at 15 percent instead of 35 percent. The wealthiest 0.1 percent of people in the United States make half of all capital gains. Cutting capital gains tax would have zero benefit for the 73.9 percent of the middle class who have no capital gains.

Mortgage Interest Deduction on Second Homes and Yachts. Cost: $10 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-21) – The mortgage interest tax deduction is meant to encourage home ownership, not enable the wealthiest Americans like Romney to lower their tax burden because they can buy several multi-million-dollar homes.

Failing to Limit “Upside-Down” Itemized Deductions That Favor the Wealthiest Americans. Cost: $114 BILLION (Fiscal Years 2012-2016) – Tax deductions are meant to provide financial incentives for people in such activities as buying a home or saving for retirement. When only the wealthy can afford these activities, it’s called “upside-down” deductions.

Romney’s obsession with secrecy will also cost the country a bit of money. Before the end of his governor’s term in Massachusetts, Romney spent spending $205,000 for a three-year lease on new computers for the governor’s office and broke an earlier unexpired lease that cost the state half as much, according to official documents and state officials. He also spent state money replacing computers, buying up hard drives, and deleting emails in an attempt to hide records. Included in the purge were also 150 boxes of paper records. Romney feels that he has a lot to hide.

Although Senate Republicans  let a measure supporting reinstatement of pre-Bush taxes for the top 2 percent (those who net over $250,000) go to a vote this week, they knew the House would never agree. Part of the measure protected the rest of the population from having tax hikes that would average $2,200. The Senate vote to keep tax cuts for everyone except the wealthy passed 51-48. Democrat Sens. Mark Pryor (AR) and Jim Webb (VA) voted against the measure as did Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT). The Republicans pushing the total over 50 were Sens. Scott Brown (MA) and Susan Collins (ME) voted with Democrats.  The Republicans will be more careful to invoke the ever-present filibuster next time.

The upcoming fight over taxes may be worse than the one over raising the debt ceiling a year ago. Last August’s debacle when Republicans wanted to default on the nation’s financial obligations ended up costing the taxpayers $1.3 billion, according to the report by the Government Accountability Office. The New York Times reported that this is just the beginning; that loss of $1.3 billion could increase. The Corporation of Public Broadcasting, the Smithsonian, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the federal budget allocated to the Post Office—all enrichments to our lives that conservatives want to destroy–could easily be funded by this money that they lost.

These are just the fiscally selfish pieces of Romney’s approach toward controlling the people of the United States; he has many more plans in the social realm to ensure that women have no control over their own bodies and health as well as to guarantee that there will be no marriage equality. Romney wants to remove regulations so that people will no longer receive an education or have clean food, air, and water. Then there’s the rapidly disappearing freedom of religion. The list goes on and on!

July 26, 2012

The Case of the Disappearing Bees

Bees are in danger, and Gretchen LeBush, a San Francisco researcher, wants to know how many of the native bee population exists. Three years ago, she started a program that asked volunteers to spend 15 minutes on one specific day to count native bees, like bumblebees. This year it’s August 11. Actually, volunteers can do this a few days before or after the target date because the counting has to be done on a sunny day. With the disappearance of the honey bees, LeBush is hoping that a healthy native bee population could help solve the problem of dying bees.

Bees are vital to pollinate our plants, but many people don’t know how important. Thirty percent of all crops and 90 percent of all wild plants depend on bee pollination to reproduce. Bees are vital to pollinate such crops as apples, squash, tomatoes, strawberries, almonds, and even chocolate.

Researchers know that during the past few years, honey bees have suffered from colony collapse syndrome. Starting in the early 1990s, 17-20 percent of the bee hives were lost every year until 2007 when a massive loss decreased the number of hives in some areas over 50 percent. The number of bee hives went from 4.5 million in 1980 to 2.44 in 2008. In determining the cause, people have guessed at a number of reasons: stress, urbanization, cell and cordless phones, mites, etc. One major reason is genetically engineered plants, new herbicides, pesticides, and insecticides; each new untested generation of chemicals worsens the problem.

Although real scientists have investigated the problem, chemical manufacturers employ their own scientists to refute factual information. These companies also purchase other businesses that could prevent this decline. Monsanto Co. , which develops genetically modified seeds, bought  Beeologics, biological research company that addresses the long-term well being of bees. Bayer CropScience, Sygenta, Dow Chemcial, Dupont, and others also lobby for the use of more chemicals to be used and for more genetically modified plants.

Neonicotinoids appeared at the same time as the honey bee decline. These nicotine-based pesticides, including the common imidachloprid, was supposed to be less toxic, but France and Italy have discovered differently and banned crop spraying with these pesticides. Germany has banned clothianidin because beekeepers found that it killed 50 to 60 percent of their bees. Even Slovenia has banned neonicotinoids. But the United States continues to approve its use.

It’s not as if the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not known about the problems with these pesticides. Almost two years ago two EPA scientists, ecologist Joseph DeCant and chemist Michael Barrett, wrote an internal memo to the EPA’s insecticide risk management department expressing strong concerns that the pesticide is “highly toxic” to honeybees and warned their colleagues of “the potential for long term toxic risk to honey bees and other beneficial insects.”

Seven years earlier, the EPA gave Bayer only conditional approval of clothianidin for sale in 2003. That continued use started an ecological crisis that threatens the American agricultural system and the country’s food supply. Products that contain imidacloprid include Merit, Admire, Confidor, Connect, Evidence, Leverage, Muralla, Provado, Trimax, Premise and Winne. Imidacloprid was first patented in 1988, but it became much more popular in 2004 after the banning of diazinon, said beekeeper David Hackenberg. Bayer, which manufactures imidacloprid, claims that their product does direct kill the bees. Technically they may be correct, but, according to beekeepers observing the bees, the pesticide disorients the bees and causes them to disband.

Jerry Hayes of the Florida Department of Agriculture, found that imidachloprid causes bees to leave the colony and not return. He said that it “is highly unusual for a social insect to leave a queen and its brood or young behind.” The pesticide is designed to work that way. A method that imidachloprid uses to kill termites is that those feeding on the pesticide leave and can’t remember how to get home. Their immune systems also collapse.

A recent study published in the American Chemical Society’s journal of Environmental Science and Technology shows a strong link to the relationship between insecticides and mass die offs of honey bees. “Assessment of the Environmental Exposure of Honeybees to Particulate Matter Containing Neonicotinoid Insecticides Coming from Corn Coated Seeds” examined the technology used to plant the seeds and the use of neonicotinoid insecticides coated on corn seeds. Scientists determined the mass die offs may be caused by particles of the insecticide that reach the air when the drilling machines that are used for planting suck the seeds in and expel air, which contains the toxins. Researchers used different seeding methods and insecticide coatings, but all were found to kill bees that flew through the area.

Last March, Science magazine reported two studies about the devastation of bees. One explained that low levels of chemicals fog honeybee brains, making it harder for them to find their way home. Another study in that issue described how pesticides keep bumblebees from supplying their hives with enough food to produce new queens.

This past spring, 25 entomological, environmental and beekeeping groups filed a petition with the EPA contending the pesticide is an “imminent hazard” linked to honeybee colony collapse disorder. Yet, one week ago, with the information from studies showing the danger of the pesticide, the EPA denied this petition requesting emergency suspension of clothianidin, a neonicotinoid pesticide.

What happens with a sharp reduction in the number of bees? Reduced crop yields not only brings down the economy but also stops the exporting of food, resulting in famine. Shortage also moves high costs from rare metals to food to keep the precious substance for only the wealthy. A short term solution might be food rationing, but shortage of food causes hoarding and violence to obtain supplies which can result in death from starvation and killings. All this sounds dramatic, but the planet cannot afford to support 7 billion people without planning and care.

July 25, 2012

GOP Vision for America – 2

Since the election of President Obama almost four years ago and the far-right’s obsession with finding his “real” birth certificate, the racism in the United States has heated up to a boiling point, using anti-immigration laws to drive out anyone in the country with a darker skin. The unconstitutional immigration laws were first passed in Arizona, but they have spread across the nation, causing disaster to the farms that count on migrant workers to pick their crops which provides food all of us.

Caught in making racist remarks, people sometimes back off. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio (AZ) was in court today defending himself from a racial profiling charge and backpedaled from his earlier statements the he supports the KKK’s policies and identifies criminals by the color of their skin. When questioned about his earlier statements, Arpaio said, “Sometimes, when you’re talking to national television, it’s much different than when you’re testifying ….”

Past Senate leader of the same state, Russell Pearce, successfully recalled from that position over a year ago, is known for such bigoted comments as the this one: “Corruption is the mechanism by which Mexico operates. Its people spawn more corruption wherever they go because it is their only known way of life.”

Despite protests from her fellow conservative lawmakers, Rep. Michele Bachman (R-MN) joined four other Republicans representatives to demand an investigation in the Muslim Brotherhood and its plot to infiltrate the U.S. government. Her first target was Huma Abedin, aide to Secretary of State Hilary Clinton before she moved on to attack another Minnesota representative, Keith Ellison, who is a Muslim. Her source is a video report from Frank Gaffney, that claims Grover Norquist had helped the Muslim Brotherhood to “achieve information dominance over the George W. Bush administration.” Bachman’s racism caused protests against Clinton in Egypt because they didn’t know she was merely being racist.

Almost every day Rush Limbaugh utters offensive racist comments about progressives, and other prominent media personalities have contributed to the belief that racism is running the race against Democrats.

Newt Gingrich described the president as having a “Kenyan, anti-colonial behavior” because he “is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works, who happened to have played a wonderful con, as a result of which he is now president.”

Not all Republicans are cut from this racist cloth. Four years ago Sen. John McCain, Republican presidential nominee, stopped a woman at one of his speeches from making racist remarks about then-nominee for the Democrat party, Barack Obama.

The campaign of the current Republican presidential nominee has taken the opposite tack. While Mitt Romney is touring a few countries in Europe and attending the Olympics where he has entered his and his wife’s horse, one of his campaign advisers told the London Telegraph, “We are part of an Anglo-Saxon heritage, and [Romney] feels that the special relationship is special. The White House didn’t fully appreciate the shared history we have.” The indication seems to be that because President Obama was born to an Anglo woman from Kansas and raised for part of his youth by her parents in Hawaii, that he is somehow not “Anglo-Saxon.

At first the campaign said that nobody said that; then they changed the position to say that if anybody said that, it didn’t reflect Romney’s position. Even conservative blogs were a bit appalled by the statement. In reporting the event, The American Conservative described it as a none-issue before explaining that the statement was inaccurate because the Anglo-Saxon traditions had disappeared by 1066, long before the colonization of America.

It is to be noted that, in spite of his denial of the position, Romney has not demanded a retraction from the Telegraph.

In the same interview with the Telegraph, another adviser to the Romney campaign said, “Obama is a Left-winger. He doesn’t value the NATO alliance as much, he’s very comfortable with American decline and the traditional alliances don’t mean as much to him. He wouldn’t like singing ‘Land of Hope and Glory.’”

Romney has said that the president’s attacks are beneath him; Romney should look in the mirror and determine if his campaign tactics are not beneath a person who wants to be the president of the United States.

Although many Republicans do not follow the view that the United States should be “Anglo-Saxon,” too many see this as the “GOP vision for America.”

 

July 24, 2012

GOP Vision for America

Yesterday I had breakfast with a friend who used to be a Republican, and I realized how lucky Democrats are these days. Not everyone in the party is  enamored with everything that Obama does, and the Democrat lawmakers are sometimes irritating. But the old-guard Republicans are lost.

During our discussion she said, “I’ve lost my party! I don’t tell anybody that I’m a Republican any more. I say that I’m an independent.” So I thought about the Republican vision for the United States: miserly, selfish, controlling, and violent. Conservatives are changing the United States from the “can do” to the “won’t do” beliefs.

Violence, of course, comes from the conservatives’ attitude toward gun control. It’s not just that they want everybody to have one or two guns in the house to protect themselves and use for recreational hunting. Instead, they want everyone to have as much fire power as they can afford to buy without considering that a restriction in this–or even licensing guns–might result in fewer deaths. The recently deposed head of the Arizona state senate, Russell Pearce, accuses the people in the Aurora (CO) theater of being cowards for not taking down the young man with four weapons and unlimited rounds for them at his disposal.

As for the current war in Afghanistan, the one that costs us $88.5 a year and where the country wants us to leave, the House managed to debate our situation there—for one hour. That’s all the nation’s destiny is worth to these people.

The conservatives’ craving for control has been clearly shown through the conservatives’ drive to eradicate unions, primarily for teachers, and contraception availability. Both these destroy salaries for women because teaching has been one place in the past where women can come closer to achieving economic equality. Without a decent salary, without the fair pay act which would require that women are paid the same as men for the same work, and without the chance to avoid pregnancy, women are losing the ability to stay out of poverty, where the conservatives think that they don’t deserve help. They want to control women.

Another control from the Republicans is the rash of laws mandating restrictive photo IDs for voting. Initially conservatives said the purpose was to prevent voter fraud, but by now they are admitting, as all sane people knew, that there was no fraud. Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai said,  “[…] Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” Conservatives simply tried to remove as many progressive voters from participating in the election as possible.

Michigan is now a prime battleground against Republican control of municipalities and school districts by dictators appointed by the governor. The process started over a year ago with Public Act 4, signed by Gov. Rick Snyder, that extended emergency manager laws. In Michigan, an emergency manager gives all orders in the town or school district and can break contracts and fire elected officials. The first city that Snyder took over, in the name of fiscal problems, was a tiny, largely black town because a wealthy developer wanted to build a golf course on a public park along the lake.

In protest to the Michigan law, a coalition called Stand Up for Democracy submitted 226,000 signatures for a referendum to overturn the law. They needed just under 162,000, and the Bureau of Elections found 203,238 valid signatures. Another organization challenged the petitions on the basis of wrong font size. The Republicans on the Board of Canvassers succeeded in declaring all petitions invalid. Last month the state Court of Appeals ruled that the signatures should be accepted, allowing a public vote in November. That decision has been appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court which will hear the case tomorrow. Part of the debate will be how the “point” and “type” should be measured, whether by size of the printer’s block or the actual printed character. This comes from the anti-regulation party.

In its supposed craving for austerity, conservative lawmakers have one response for any action that would help the country: we can’t afford it. And they use this excuse with no justification. Health care won’t bankrupt the country as demonstrated by all the other countries with universal health care, but we can be bankrupted with escalating costs and a sick workforce with lost work days and productivity. In fact, repealing the health care act will cost the country $109 billion that the taxpayers will save if we keep the law. The World Health Organization reports that the United States spends 16 percent of its GDP, the highest portion of any country, on health care but ranks 37th out of 191 countries in performance. By contrast the United Kingdom spends 6 percent of its GDP but rates 18th in performance, almost 20 places higher than the U.S.

Social Security isn’t bankrupting the country; it just needs some tweaking the way that President Reagan did 30 years ago. And green energy isn’t too expensive; it hasn’t bankrupted Denmark. Start-up costs for anything are more expensive as the country found out with technology such as television and computers. This area combines austerity with selfishness because those huge corporations that present everyone with high utility bills, charge high gas prices, and give everyone dirty air and water don’t want to lose their customers. Republicans keep talking about all the money that the government lost in solar companies going bankrupt. Facts show companies lost less than 4 percent of the total program funding for alternative energy. Because Chinese companies got massive government subsidies, they were able to flood the U.S. market with solar equipment. Yet this is the time to continue the program because the drop in prices because of Chinese solar panels greatly reduces installation costs.

In its austerity, conservatives balk at providing sufficient education for the nation’s young people. In 2003 the US ranked 15th of 29 in reading literacy, 21st of 30 in scientific literacy, 25th of 30 in mathematics, 24th of 29 in problem solving. Conservatives claim that the United States has bad teachers as conservative lawmakers continue to starve the schools and increase the number of students in classes. The United States conservatives also want to charge high interest rates on student loans for higher education while Europe and Russia have tuition-free colleges and universities free to reduce the shortage of workers in specific fields.

In their selfishness, conservatives frequently avoid addressing a need. The farm bill expires on September 30, but House Republican leaders don’t plan to do anything about it. The bill would save $35 billion during the next 10 years, but Republicans don’t want to touch it until after the November election—an attitude that they seem to have for any legislative activity. Nothing like this has happened for at least a half century. Doing this will put the farmers suffering from the worst drought since the middle of the last century with Medicare doctors whose pay will run out, fired workers who worry about jobless benefits, and possibly millions of families whose tax breaks may expire. The Senate has already approved its farm bill so that the House needs to stop whining about the Senate not taking any action.

If the conservatives want to save the country, they need to take a hard look at the defense budget. The United States not only spends more money than any other country but also spends more than the next 14 nations combined. This nation’s military budget accounts for 41% of the total military spending in the entire world. This is the conservatives’ “dream for America.” T

July 23, 2012

Corporations Dodge Taxes

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:38 PM
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Conservatives incessantly complain about how the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world. Rate, maybe. Taxes, not at all. This was clarified again when Susan Ford, a senior executive Corning Inc., testified last week to the House Ways and Means Committee in its ongoing hearing on “tax reform and the U.S. manufacturing sector.”

During 2008-2011, Corning Inc. earned $3 billion dollars. During that time period, it paid $0 in U.S. income tax.  During that same time period, it also received a $4 million tax refund.  Ford’s testimony was that the company paid an effective U.S. tax rate of 36 percent and a foreign tax rate of 17 percent. The 36 percent figure (probably highly inflated) comes from taxes on profits earned overseas that haven’t yet been paid and won’t be unless the company decides to bring the money back to the United States.  “Effective tax rate” subtracts the taxes that are paid to a foreign country. So Ford is saying that Corning paid all these taxes (if indeed they did!) to a foreign country with nothing left over for the United States.

In fact, Corning paid -0.2 percent taxes. And this company is not alone in its ability to pay negative federal income taxes: 26 of 30 major businesses begging to have their taxes lowered also paid negative federal income tax rates. The U.S. could make a fortune if the government eliminated tax havens and loopholes.

The “effective tax rate” for corporations in 2011 was 12.1 percent, a 40-year low and far below the rate for middle-class people in this country. Real wages for 98 percent of the people in the United States fell 2 percent in 2011 while employees worked longer hours without raises, took pay cuts, and gave up benefits just to keep their jobs. The system that Ford testified in favor of would not only allow huge corporations to take more money from the taxpayers but also move another 800,000 jobs offshore from the United States.

Those with the most money are able to evade taxes. They are the ones who control government. Mitt Romney is a prime example of this problem.

The other point is that tax cuts result in job losses, not gains. Higher taxes during the 1990s produced more employment; the Bush tax cuts in the 2000s started a decline in employment which hasn’t been overcome because the tax cuts continued in 2010. If the United States doesn’t increase taxes for the wealthy and deadbeat corporations, it will continue to punish the people without jobs.

July 22, 2012

Whining Republicans Protest States’ Rights

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 4:45 PM
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President Obama is gutting welfare: that’s the latest cry from Republicans about a recent White House directive giving more flexibility to states in determining requirements for welfare. Mitt Romney is leading the charge, complaining that Obama wants to “strip the established work requirements” from the welfare reform act of 2006 that required people to be searching for work in order to get any welfare. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH)follows right behind, calling the action “a partisan disgrace.”

Back in 2005, 29 governors asked Congress to grant them waivers from some requirements in the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Romney, then Massachusetts governor, signed the letter asking for waivers as well as Gov. [Haley] Barbour (Mississippi) and Gov. Mike Huckabee (Alabama). Secretary Tommy Thompson and Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa) also supported the waiver suggestion. Romney’s campaign now denies that he would do such a thing, but the signatures are on the Daily Kos website. It won’t be the first time that the Romney camp has had to back down when they lacked the facts about an issue.

George W. Bush didn’t take any action on the governors’ request, but less than two weeks ago the current White House issued a directive that giving alternatives to states so that they can use a combination of learning and work or vocational educational training to meet TANF requirements. George Sheldon, the acting assistant secretary for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), invited all the states to submit applications for waivers from certain parts of the TANF law, permitting states the opportunity to try programs that promote employment for welfare recipients in the face of the recession.

Sheldon’s memo states, “The Secretary will not use her authority to allow use of TANF funds to provide assistance to individuals or families subject to the TANF prohibitions on assistance.” That means that states cannot bail out people who aren’t on TANF because they didn’t meet the law’s work requirement. States have to provide specific methods of performance evaluation with establish necessary standards for the continuation of the state’s program.

Current Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius wrote that “within limits, however, we agree … that states should have ‘the flexibility to manage their TANF programs and effectively serve low-income populations.” She did add in her letters to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and to Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), “We do not go as far as these governors in supporting state flexibility.”

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ LaDonna Pavetti wrote that TANF’s work requirements are often phrased in terms of “activities,” unpaid work and internships, job searching, etc. as well as employment, activities which may only lead to unpaid work or unsuccessful job hunts. Waivers could  target employment rather than activity and ensure that successes are actually employment and not “busy work.” Pavetti added that waivers could reduce “mind-numbing” (Sheldon’s term) red tape and free up social service workers to give more attention to people in need.

When jobs were plentiful in the late 1990s, welfare reform moved people into employment. The growing recession has caused a steady drop of transferring single women into employment. Much of the TANF money is also spent on administration: only 30 percent of the budgets are used for cash assistance, and twice as many people live on less than $2 per day now.

Thus far two states with GOP governors, Utah and Nevada, have submitted requests for a waiver so far, while three additional states, Connecticut, Minnesota, and California, have asked about the potential for waivers. Also Orrin Hatch, also from Utah, is a leader in trying to dismantle the president’s directive.

Sounds like a win-win, giving states the flexibility to create their own programs, but the Republicans are reacting like swarming bees, stinging everything in sight. They’re screaming that the directive is “a blatant violation of the law” and have dragged out the old canard that poor people will become more dependent on handouts. “By waiving the law’s requirements, President Obama will make it harder for Americans to escape poverty,” Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) wrote in a statement. “He is hurting the very people he claims to help.” Rick Santorum compared President Obama to “a two-bit dictator” in this attempt to permit states to make welfare requirements more flexible.

Nevada wrote the following in its request for a waiver:

“Nevada is very interested in working with your staff to explore program waivers that have the potential to encourage more cooperative relationships among the state agencies engaged in economic stimulus through job creation, employment skill attainment and gainful employment activities. Nevada is also interested in exploring performance measures that ensure program accountability and also increase the probability of families becoming self-sufficient by providing meaningful data as to the services or combination of services with the best outcomes.”

Nevada Republicans think they can benefit from the voluntary program. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had a hissy fit about the lack of states right. So now Republicans want regulations and federal law? Go figure!   Republicans just want to disagree with President Obama more than they want to follow their own philosophy. They will do anything to destroy President Obama even if it destroys the country.

July 21, 2012

GOP Too Cheap to Give Firefighters Any Insurance

How cheap, selfish, and uncaring are Republicans? When President Obama gave health care insurance to federal firefighters, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) questioned his action. Coburn has asked the Office of Personal Management (OPM) to defend the decision with a legal analysis and several cost assessments including the regulation’s economic impact, its impact on federal worker premiums, and the estimated 10-year cost to taxpayers.

When the president visited Colorado because of the recent fires, he discovered that, as seasonal government workers, thousands of firefighters were ineligible for insurance under the federal employee health plan. Because of  the president’s action, firefighters will be eligible to buy into the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program for themselves and their families by the end of the month, and other temporary disaster-relief workers may qualify in the future.

Rep. Diana DeGette, (D-CO) introduced legislation to provide health insurance for firefighters and their families on the same day that the president issued his directive. Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO) supported her. According to the Denver Post, the Republican representative delegation from Colorado has stayed “mostly silent.”

Coburn said that the firefighters “are to be commended for their service.” Mitt Romney’s campaign has no comment about the president’s directive. Neither one of them has to worry about health insurance; Coburn gets his free from the government.

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