Nel's New Day

August 31, 2012

GOP Convention 2012 – Day Three, Mind-boggling

Day Three of the GOP Convention 2012 was intended to be warm and fuzzy, to show how likable Mitt Romney really is. That’s why the organizers brought in the people from his Mormon church, the Staples founder Thomas Sternberg, etc. The message was to trust Romney in his attempt to return to the country of a century ago in a speech that tried to highlight optimistic nostalgia even if no one really knows what he plans to do.

Owned by Bain Capital, Staples is supposed to show Romney’s business acumen. Although it’s difficult to know how little Staples employees actually make, Glassdoor.com, a website based on worker feedback, shows that the vast majority of these employees make $8-$9 an hour. The website calls Staples “one of the largest employers of workers earning under $10 per hour in the country.” Their CEO got $8.9 million last year, probably before bonuses. Domino’s Pizza, another Bain company, also pays under $10 an hour. Some of the thousands of Domino’s drivers who make deliveries in their own cars have sued the company because its reimbursement system for mileage violates wage and hour laws.

Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner explained that Romney’s “focus was never on strengthening companies or creating jobs, it was about getting a high return on his investment, no matter the cost to workers, companies or communities.” I agree with Kanner when he said that “these are the values he promises to bring as President by giving more budget-busting tax cuts to the wealthy on the middle class’ dime and letting Wall Street write its own rules–the same scheme that benefited a few, but devastated the middle class and crashed our economy.”

In his speech, Jeb Bush told President Obama to stop blaming his wonderful brother while blaming President Obama. He was the only Bush at the convention because looking at George W. Bush would remind people that tax cuts for the rich don’t create jobs.

Unfortunately for the Republicans, the day was overwhelmed by a strange performance by 82-year-old Clint Eastwood who carried on a sometimes rambling conversation with a chair that he pretended was occupied by President Obama and insinuated that the president was swearing back at him. Even Romney’s aides looked visibly upset and tried to blame anyone else for his presence and performance.

The next editions of dictionaries may contain the term “Eastwooding,” meaning “taking out frustration on inanimate objects.” One Republican pundit reported that no one would remember the speech for long. I think that he’s wrong. Photos of empty chairs are all over the Internet from people claiming to have had conversations with the Invisible President, and the president’s twitter account posted his photo with the tag line “This seat’s taken.”

 

 

 

 

Even odder about Eastwood’s speech is that it led into the introduction of Romney by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Scheduled to speak for about three minutes, Eastwood kept the stage for almost 15 minutes, throwing off the convention schedule. Romney has been called a stickler against tardiness.  Michael Moore summarized it best: “Clint Eastwood was able to drive home to tens of millions of viewers the central message of this year’s Republican National Convention: We Are Delusional and Detached from Reality. Vote for Us!”

Back to being serious, Rubio said that both Romney and Obama are both good people but that people should vote for Romney because he is a good person. There was a lot of that during the convention: with no specifics about Romney’s policies, people gave Romney’s “good person” description the primary reason for supporting him.

When Rubio finished, Romney tried to look presidential as he sauntered through the crowd toward the stage in the style of State of the Union speeches. When he talked about his love for his parents, he again moved into the position of privileged wealth through his story about how his father gave his mother a rose every day of their 64 years of married life. Trying to woo the women, he said that he had women in his Massachusetts administration and that women worked for him at Bain. He’s right there; 8 percent of the managing directors and executives are women.

Then he moved into the “fact-challenged” part of the speech.

Romney said that the president plans to raise taxes on small businesses: in fact, President Obama lowered taxes on small businesses 18 times.

Romney talked about the president’s assault on coal and oil; in fact, President Obama increased jobs in the coal industry, and oil production and drilling has increased during his presidency.

Romney repeated the lie about President Obama cutting Medicare.

Romney said that the president has weakened security and eliminated jobs through his cuts to the military; in fact, Romney’s own party caused these cuts when they finally made a budget deal to raise the debt ceiling to stop defaulting on the national debt after holding the country hostage.

Romney said that gas prices had doubled under this president: in fact, gas prices four years ago were $3.67, very close to the current price of $3.75.

Romney said, “[Obama] abandoned our friends in Poland by walking away from our missile defense commitments, but is eager to give Russia’s President Putin the flexibility he desires, after the election.” In fact, the moment to which Romney referred was between the president and Russian president Dmitry Medvedev. The missile shield has never worked despite trillions of dollars wasted in its development since President Truman’s administration. Romney was pushing to defend ourselves from our ally, Russia, instead of from China and North Korea. This was a speech that might have worked during the Cold War, but we are decades past that.

The Washington Post did a bit of fact checking on Romney’s few specific goals:

Romney said he has a plan to create 12 million new jobs: only two presidents, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, created more than 12 million jobs. And they both raised taxes. Romney’s pledge would be an average of 250,000 jobs a month; recently, the economy, as slow as it currently is because of Republican obstructionism, has averaged 150,000 jobs a month. If no budget deal is reached, the CBO figures that 9.6 million jobs would be created in the same period of time, and Moody’s Analytics predicted 12 million jobs created by 2016, no matter who gets elected president.

Romney said that the current economy has failed to find jobs for half the students who graduated from college; the 53.6 percent of college students that he cites also included the “underemployed” who actually have jobs.

Romney said he wouldn’t raise taxes on the middle class; in fact, the Ryan budget plan, which Romney has supported, will raise taxes on the middle class while decreasing taxes for the wealthy.

Romney’s biggest lie came at the end of the speech when he described his idea of his ideal America: “That united America will care for the poor and the sick, will honor and respect the elderly, and will give a helping hand to those in need.” There was no applause for this statement. Romney’s plans do not benefit anyone except the wealthy.

Despite a lengthy speech, Romney said “Americans” so many times that he omitted several subjects: financial reforms, climate change, immigration, Romneycare, Afghanistan or Syria, Social Security, and veterans. His purpose was to persuade voters not in his base who believe in reforming the country’s financial problems, trying to stop climate change, helping immigrants, getting health care, supporting the elderly, etc. These are not safe subjects for anyone except the far-right conservatives.

Even Republicans weren’t excited about the speech. Steve Schmidt, campaign adviser for John McCain’s 2008 run for president, said that it was the best speech that Romney has ever given but it wasn’t the best speech of the convention. Will Wilkinson (The Economist) said, “I don’t think he has it in him to do much better.” At The Washington Post, Johnathan Bernstein reported, “A generic speech and a generic convention for a generic Republican candidate.”

Asides: At a fundraiser on the morning of Day three, Karl Rove said, “If [Todd Akin is] found mysteriously murdered, don’t look for my whereabouts!” (Rove’s apology to Akin included the statement that he would never have made that comment if he had known there was a reporter in the room.)

Romney thinks that the United States is actually a company. In a speech on the morning of Day Three he said, “Paul Ryan and I understand how the economy works, we understand how Washington works, we will reach across the aisle and find good people who like us, want to make sure this company deals with its challenges. We’ll get America on track again. As Annie-Rose Strasser wrote, “The goal of a company is to make money, whereas the goal of a government is to provide services that are not achievable in the private sector. Romney’s belief that the government is similar to a company explains his dedication to cutting programs that he perceives are “inefficient” because they cost money, even if they effectively help American citizens.”

Most jarring, however is this headline from politico.com: David Koch breaks from GOP on gay marriage, taxes, defense cuts. He said, “I believe in gay marriage.” Koch said he thinks the U.S. military should withdraw from the Middle East and the government should consider defense spending cuts, as well as possible tax increases to get its fiscal house in order.

August 30, 2012

GOP Convention 2012 – Day Two, Mendacious

The GOP convention soldiered on into Day Two yesterday. Mitt Romney managed his usual “thumb-his-nose-at-the-poor” gaffe when a Florida developer held an event to thank people who had raised over $1 million for Romney—on a 150-foot yacht flying the Cayman Islands flag. Romney refused to give the names of these top “bundlers” who mostly hid their name tags when they were off the yacht. “He is the first nominee in 12 years to withhold these names,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political money.

In a pre-convention speech, Condoleezza Rice was heckled by protesters when she talked about her conversations with George W. Bush when they pondered “what could be done to show that America was compassionate about the poorest people.” People have wondered what would happen when the GOP finally brought up the joint specters of Bush 43 and the ill-conceived wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Rice also couldn’t remember one specific foreign policy in the past three years.

When Ann Romney spoke at a luncheon to persuade women and Latinos/as to vote for her husband, she said that Hispanics should get past their biases because her husband is better for them than President Obama. She didn’t mention that her husband said that he would get undocumented people to “self-deport,” veto the Dream Act that would provide a path to citizenship to young people brought to the country illegally as children, and use the virulent Arizona anti-immigrant laws as a model for the nation.

After the hoopla around Mike Huckabee’s support for Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) following his comment about “legitimate rape,” Huckabee’s speech was pretty pro forma: he grew up poor without government help, Romney gave 16 percent of his money to the church, etc. His reason for supporting Romney hit a new low bar; people should support Romney because he has been faithful to his wife and his religion. And how does Huckabee know how much Romney gave his church? Has Huckabee seen Romney’s tax returns?

The most tepid endorsement of Romney—and that’s saying a lot!—came from John McCain who moved back to basic Republican orthodoxy, using his speech to lie about President’s foreign policies and call for war in the Middle East. He wants a more aggressive stance against Iran, a more aggressive defense of Israel, a more aggressive whatever in Syria. He didn’t talk about Iraq or Osama bin Laden, two huge failures for the GOP. His recommendation is that the United States save all the oppressed people in the world, and he trusts Romney to do all these things without any funding. There’s a lot of trust of Romney going around the conservative world these days.

The highlight of the evening was actually Condoleezza Rice in a speech that some more liberal pundits declared as “presidential” and made up for problems earlier in the day. The beginning was what one might expect: 9/11, foreign policy, trade, energy independence—all standard Republican speech topics. It was when she moved to discussing civil rights, beginning her own experiences of racism as a child, that she sounded like a moderate. She supported compassion for immigrants who wish to come to the United States. Once again Romney’s name got short shrift. A question is whether her speech is a precursor to plans for 2016; she certainly made up for earlier disasters during the day.

The purpose of Day Two was to “introduce” Paul Ryan as the VP candidate. The nicest thing that a journalist said about his speech is that Ryan was “factually challenged.” Another asked the question about what word could be used when he went beyond lying. A Fox News column described him as dazzling, deceiving, and distracting with the statement: “Ryan’s speech was an apparent attempt to set the world record for the greatest number of blatant lies and misrepresentations slipped into a single political speech. On this measure, while it was  Romney who ran the Olympics, Ryan earned the gold.”

Even the right-leaning Washington Post referred to the speech as “a misleading indictment of President Obama” and lambasted Ryan for not spelling out some of the “tough choices” that Romney’s administration will require from the people.

Ryan’s speech dismissed the Obama $831 billion stimulus as “wasted money” while he failed to mention that his home town of Janesville (WI) is far better off because of what they received from the stimulus. He repeated his lie that Barack Obama didn’t help the GM auto plant that closed in Janesville in 2008 when he was a candidate. George W. Bush was president in 2008, and the plant may reopen if GM decides to do this.

Ryan blamed the president for not adopting the recommendations of the Simpson-Bowles Commission. After Ryan voted no on the commission’s conclusions and walked out, Congress could not take action. Ryan also voted against job creation when he opposed the president’s 2011 American Jobs Act that would have created 1.5-2 million jobs.

One of the biggest lies from Ryan and the Romney campaign is that the president has stripped Medicare while the Republicans will keep it intact. Both parts of this statement are false: the president will save the country $716 while retaining Medicare because of the Affordable Care Act, and the Republicans will destroy the entire program the minute that they have any control.

Ryan blamed the president for the downgrade of the U.S. credit rating instead of explaining that the Republicans’ games brought the country close to defaulting on its foreign debt. He gave Romney credit for raising the credit rating in Massachusetts when Romney raised taxes (that he called fees) and had the support of a Democratic legislature. Another Ryan lie in the speech was that the president is totally responsible for $5 trillion of the national debt while the bulk of this was caused by the Bush recession, the Bush wars, and the Bush tax cuts—all of which Ryan supported.

Ryan said, “College grads shouldn’t have to live out their 20s in childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters.” Ryan opposed legislation to keep student loan rates from doubling.

Close to the finish, Ryan addressed what Romney brought up Romney’s role in saving the 2002 Olympics in Utah but failed to point out that the U.S. government poured $1.5 into this event after Romney went to the public trough to be bailed out. Even McCain called Romney’s move, “federal porkbarrelling.”

Ryan said, “We have a plan to create 12 million jobs in four years” and that their administration would reduce the Federal Budget to 20% of GDP “because that is enough.” There was absolutely not one specific about how they would accomplish this, including how they could create 12 million jobs when every government program would be cut except for defense. “We will not duck the tough issues,” he said while failing to describe what these are. His position was identical to Romney’s “trust me, I paid lots of taxes.”

Ryan’s biggest lies came at the end when he talked about “protecting the weak.” It is “the responsibility of the strong to protect the weak,” and “the mark of a society is how it treats people who cannot help themselves.” Etc., etc., etc.:

“We have responsibilities, one to another–we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.”

As Jamison Foser wrote, “The man who utters these pretty words is, in fact, a stone-cold [Ayn] Randian.”   Ryan wants to slash the safety net for everyone in the country to give to the wealthy. Sixty-two percent of Ryan cuts are directed at programs for the low-income. Loser continued, “These aren’t just lies. These are the pronouncements of a sociopath, someone who knows what he stands for and knows precisely why it shocks the senses, and persuades you that he believes the exact opposite, and maybe even persuades himself.”

Ryan concluded with the statement, “Our rights come from nature and God and not from government.” Ryan will wait for God to take care of all of us. If he doesn’t, then we will have less of a population problem.

Comedian Andy Borowitz was on target when he said the only truth that Ryan told in his speech was the names of his wife and children. My descriptions provide just the tip of the iceberg of the media pushback to Ryan’s speech. DailyKos has a long list, including “hypocritical,” “new Nixon,” “Ryan and the post truth convention,” “stunning for its dishonesty,” “brazen lies” complete with links.

A conservative on last Sunday’s Meet the Press said that both conventions, Republican and Democratic, would be about Romney because the Democratic convention would concentrate on bashing Romney. Thus far, most of the GOP convention has bashed Obama either directly or through all the personal stories of how hard politicians worked to get to the GOP convention.

Asides: Fox canceled Sarah Palin’s interviews last night; evidently they didn’t want her to talk about the media attacking John McCain in 2008.  And, to quote Rachel Maddow, the best new thing? Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer endorsed President Obama, hoping that he would secure the borders. Of course, he has worked on that already, but Brewer has not given him any credit for doing this. Her office explained later that she misspoke, but it’s lovely watching her honor the name of President Obama!

U.S. small-business-owner satisfaction is up sharply to 39 percent in the third quarter of 2012 from 26 percent in the third quarter of 2010. Even small businesses know that things are getting better for them.

Romney flew to Indianapolis yesterday to speak at the American Legion convention. Ari Shapiro of NPR interviewed some of the people who attended. Bobbie Lucifer of Virginia said, “I don’t like [Obama’s] wife. She’s far from the first lady. It’s about time we get a first lady in there that acts like a first lady and looks like a first lady.” Ms. Lucifer, what does a first lady “look” like? White and blonde?

August 29, 2012

GOP Convention 2012 – Day One, Meaningless

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:17 PM
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The GOP convention survived its first day yesterday with a few glitches along the way. Monday was pretty much canceled because of Tropical Storm Isaac. The good news: leaders were successful in mostly controlling the Ron Paul supporters who felt that they didn’t have a vote and the other delegates who objected to Mitt Romney’s takeover of the party that all but prevented any dissenting candidates in the future. Although delegate Morton Blackwell had intended to protest the new rules, his bus was “detained”—where or how no one is saying.

The GOP leadership had also tried to avoid any problem from Ron Paul delegates by telling them to not appear at the convention hall until Tuesday. If Paul delegates had followed the GOP directions, they would have lost their status, and their votes would have been given to party-approved alternates. It’s sort of like the Republican robocalls telling registered Democrats that Democrats vote on Wednesday or, in the case of Wisconsin, people who signed recall petitions didn’t need to vote. Gov. Paul LePage of Maine, a state that had given its delegates to Paul until the Romney leadership took them, boycotted the convention. Ron Paul left the convention also.

The actual Day One did a brief roll call and anointed Romney before they rolled out women and minority speakers. Some of the delegates, however, demonstrated the racist attitude of many in the GOP party. For example, two delegates threw peanuts at a black CNN camerawoman, shouting, “This is how we feed the animals.” The black community has shown a 0.0 percent support of Romney.

In another racially-motivated event, delegates, primarily those from Texas, shouted down Puerto Rican Republican party functionary Zoraida Fonalledas when they chanted “USA, USA!” and “Get them out!” RNC Chair Reince Preibus stopped them after about a minute. At this time only 28 percent of Latinos/as are polling in favor of Romney. Ted Cruz, another Tea Partier, tried to win them back at the convention by saying that President Obama, the man who rescued young people who were brought here illegally by their parents, was “going to try to divide America” by “tell[ing] Hispanics that we’re not welcome here…”

The theme of Day One was “We built that,” an attempt to prove that government provides no support for businesses. Small business owner Phil Archuletta of P&M Signs, was asked to speak to this message. During his speech, he complained about the government not giving him enough contracts.

The goal of the convention is to make Romney likable; his wife Ann set out to do this in a speech written for her that she read off the teleprompter, which she said she hated. Also complaining about getting advice on what to wear from Stuart Stevens “who wears his shirts inside out,” she was miffed by being told not to stray from the text. Nobly, however, she pulled out her cancer-card and trumped it with her MS card as she described the trials her family had suffered–like having five boys in the house in bad weather. Then she explained to the audience that women have to work harder as they support their men and that everyone can trust her husband, Mitt, because he is a funny man. In a parody of Donna Reed’s old television show, “Mitt Knows Best,” Romney assured everyone that we can all trust her husband the way she does. [Alec MacGillis has provided a detailed view of Ann Romney’s speeches.]

Although Ann Romney’s speech was about the importance of love, NJ Gov. Chris Christie took the opposite tack when he used his keynote speech to explain that the desire to be loved has paralyzed the GOP party. After listing his personal accomplishments for about three-fourths of his speech, he gave  a nod to Romney. As Chris Wallace said, “It was one of the most off-key keynote speeches I ever heard” and noted that Christie mentioned “I” 37 times and “Romney” just seven times. And that assessment was on Fox!

Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) said that his bar would throw out the president. Gov. John Kasich (OH) and Gov. Nikki Haley (SC) talked about how well their states’ economies are doing—points for President Obama. Rick Santorum’s speech asked for freedom rather than a safety net, repeating the GOP lie that President Obama has done away with the work requirement in the welfare act. Even the far far-right Republican governor of Kansas, Sam Brownback, knows it’s a lie “as far as I have seen.”

The James Madison luncheon won’t enjoy James O’Keefe’s speech in person because the federal government has refused him permission to travel to Tampa. After he fraudulently edited video tapes to bring down ACORN and malign Planned Parenthood, he was convicted for entering the offices of a United States senator (Republican Mary Landrieu of Louisiana) with the intent to illegally record telephone conversations.

Ezra Klein’s summary of Day One of the 2012 GOP convention:

1) It’s genuinely weird for a whole day to be based around “You didn’t build that.” But more than it’s weird, it’s small. It would be like Democrats dedicating a whole day of their convention to “I like to fire people” or “I don’t care about the very poor.”

2) It’s also dishonest. My colleague Glenn Kessler handed the Republican convention’s use of the line four pinocchios. One disturbing hallmark of the previous Republican presidential administration was the willingness of the president and his allies to rely utterly on the version of truth that circulated within the closed confines of the right-wing subculture. The meta-message of the Bush administration for its critics was: We don’t care what you think.

3) There was a lot of political talent on display. Scott Walker, Kelly Ayotte, Chris Christie, and a number of other relative newcomers to the national stage performed admirably under the klieg lights.

4) But there wasn’t a lot of planning on display. There was no coherent argument for Mitt Romney.

5) All that said, day one is meaningless. A strong day two will completely erase any memory of a weak day one. But, in the end, the only day that will really matter for this election is day three. Mitt Romney is going to have to make the case for Mitt Romney.

While Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal is criticizing President Obama for not giving the state enough money for the effects of Hurricane Isaac, Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID) is demanding dollar-for-dollar cuts to pay for any relief for victims of any emergencies.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush gave Republicans the best advice: “stop acting stupid.” Although he was talking about the GOP immigration policies, his advice covers everything they do these days. Tonight is Paul Ryan’s speech. I’m guessing that he won’t pay attention to Jeb Bush; he’ll just keep telling the same lies about dependence on government that he worked to create in his own district when businesses benefited from tax-payer money.

August 28, 2012

Republicans Live in Alternate Universe

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 10:34 PM
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A little over one hour drive from the GOP convention in Tampa is the fantasy land of Disney World. But the Republicans don’t need to go that far to find their own personal fantasies. Looking at Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) perspective of how raped women can’t get pregnant, it seems that the conservatives are concentrating on seventeenth-century superstition. But Republicans beliefs go far deeper into a magical world than that.

Republicans have this fantasy that reducing the deficit will happen if government doesn’t raise revenue or cut spending. Yes, they plan to cut spending for the safety net, but they will replace all that with adding to the defense budget and raising tax cuts for the wealthy. They have this fantasy that lower taxes for the wealthy will bring jobs—even if this hasn’t happened for the past decade when they did it.

Ronald Reagan believed that he could get more revenue by bringing in less. At least, he believed it until he found out it didn’t work and raised taxes 11 times. Some people say more. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), VP wannabe, still believes that less revenue means more money.

Republicans have this fantasy that the United States can have two wars and not have to pay for them. They think that they can pay for prescriptions for older people and not have to pay for them. They think that they can give the Pentagon more money and not have to pay for it.

Republicans have this fantasy that modeling the country after a business that guts business and sends jobs overseas will create more jobs. They think that we can have the best health care in the world without the Affordable Care Act by just saying that we have the best health care in the world. Even if the United Nations rates the United States health care as 37th in the world.

Republicans have this fantasy that there won’t be climate change if they say there isn’t any climate change. As George W. Bush said, “What’s wrong with a little heat?” Of course, he said that before last year saw the worst drought and the worst fires in history in Texas.

Other Republican fantasies include creating “clean coal” by putting the word “clean” before “coal” and assuming that all the fruit and vegetables will magically get picked even if there are no migrant workers.

Fantasies have to come from some place. As Paul Krugman pointed out, Ryan gets many of his monetary philosophies from Francisco d’Anconia. Not everyone recognizes the name because he is a fictional character in Atlas Shrugged. As John Galt’s sidekick, d’Anconia believes in the return to the gold standard, including gold coins, and rejects the concept of paper money. Ryan wants to turn back time two centuries to the early 1800s. A Republican president, Richard Nixon, took the United States off the gold standard over 40 years ago.

Even conservative David Brooks claims that Ryan lives in a “political fantasy.” When Ryan was on the Simpson-Bowles Commission, they developed a plan that would have simplified the tax code, lowered rates, and capped the size of government, brought the federal debt down from 73 percent to 67 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Because the plan didn’t address Medicare, Ryan walked out and refused to participate. The commission collapsed.

As Brooks said, “Ryan’s fantasy … is the fantasy that the other party will not exist.” According to Brooks, this fantasy has permeated the GOP this year, that the Republican politicians have not given one speech that “grapples with the real world—that we live in a highly polarized, evenly divided nation and the next president is going to have to try to pass laws in that context.” When Ryan voted against the Simpson-Bowles Plan, “he missed the chance to do something good for the country.”

Beyond the lies that the Republicans tell, they have other fantasies. They maintain that President Obama will take away all the guns because he hasn’t said anything about taking away guns. They believe that there is a plot to build a highway from Canada to Mexico in order to create these countries with the United States in a combined state, the North American Union.

Republicans have this fantasy that the founding fathers created this country as a Christian nation despite the documentation that they didn’t. They believe that a man like Nathan Bedford Forrest is a hero, a slave-trader who killed surrendered African-Americans when he was a Civil War General. One of his supporters, Todd Kiscaden, said, “I recommend this man to model his life after… He always led from the front.  He did what he said he was going to do.  He took care of his people, and his people included both races.”

One of Rush Limbaugh’s fantasies was that the president had the National Hurricane Center change the path of the storm so that he could send FEMA to Tampa and make the GOP convention look like a disaster area. More than that, Limbaugh thought that the president used the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), an ionospheric research program jointly funded by the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Navy, the University of Alaska, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, to guide the hurricane.

The Republicans have a fantasy that they can convince women to vote for them because they will be economically better than with a Democratic leadership. Conservatives brush away the erosion of women’s rights as a “side issue.” Republicans also have a fantasy that they can woo minority voters by driving immigrants out of the country.

Republicans have a fantasy that the nation is better off with far fewer teachers and firefighters and law enforcement people. They believe that voting is a privilege, not a right. They think that fertilized eggs deserve all the rights of human beings but that LGBT people don’t deserve the same rights. And they believe that businesses, even the ones with federal assistance, succeeded with no outside help.

Republicans—especially the presidential candidates—have the fantasy that God has specially selected each one of them to rule the United States of America.

As Jonathan Schell said in The Nation, “Republicans have exhibited a strong desire to take up residence in an imaginary world, an alternate reality—one in which global warming is found to be a fraud perpetrated by the world’s top scientists, Obama turns out to have been born in Kenya and is a Muslim (and a socialist), budgets can be slashed without social pain, firing government employees reduces unemployment, tax cuts for the wealthy replenish government coffers, and so forth.”

Totalitarian regimes show that this fantasy goes well together with the will to power that the Republicans have shown in their single-minded determination to unseat President Obama. As one of George W. Bush’s advisers said to Bush at the height of the Iraq War, “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.” The best way to get support for propaganda is to erase any reality that disagrees with it.

August 27, 2012

Cut Defense; Leave NOAA, FEMA, Safety Net Alone

The GOP convention was intended to be the big story for this week until Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) brought abortion and rape into the dialog and dug up the GOP’s position. The biggest story, however, is Tropical Storm Isaac which probably will become a hurricane before landfall somewhere in the Gulf Coast states.

Gov. Bobby Jindal cancelled his speech at the GOP convention to get back to Louisiana because of the threat to New Orleans, and Florida’s Gov. Rick Scott dropped out of the convention to protect his state. Nobody knows Isaac’s actual destination when it’s predicted to his land early Wednesday morning. Governors of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana have started evacuations in their states and joined Scott in declaring emergencies.

The irony of the Isaac story is that Republicans have received early warning after trying to drastically cut funds for disaster preparedness and response. Their continuing resolution 2011 budget shrank funding for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) Operations, Research, and Facilities by $454.3 million. The National Weather Service, part of NOAA, lost $126 million; FEMA dropped $24.3 million with FEMA state and local programs losing $783.3 million. Fortunately, this budget didn’t stick.

As part of last August’s Budget Control Act, Republicans agreed to make it easier to fund disaster relief but then reneged on this agreement. This isn’t new. Back in his 2009 response to the State of the Union, Jindal ridiculed the stimulus for having “$140 million for something called volcano monitoring.” Jindal is governor of a state that has hurricanes, not volcanoes. Not everyone else in the United States is in the same situation.

NOAA warned Congress that Republican cuts would stop them from warning people about hurricanes five to ten days out because of its aging satellites. Without the funding, the United States could go up to 18 months or even longer without any satellites.  If that were to happen, the Republicans might not know a hurricane is imminent for their 2016 convention.

Even when NOAA doesn’t want extra money for a project, Congress refused to allow them to make their activities more efficient. Last fall, when NOAA wanted to reorganize its existing climate capabilities and services into a “single point of entry” for users, Congress said no. NOAA cannot be permitted to “more efficiently and effectively respond to the rapidly increasing demand for easily accessible and timely scientific data and information about climate that helps people make informed decisions in their lives, businesses, and communities.”

The idea was that efficient, up-to-date information is important because of the likelihood of more droughts, floods, and storms; Republicans can’t admit that climate is changing. Since Congress turned down NOAA’s proposal, the organization has announced the last year and last half year are the hottest on record. The second half of this past June saw at least 170 all-time high temperatures either broken or tied. As of July 3, 56 percent of the contiguous U.S. experienced drought conditions, the largest percentage in the 12-year record of the U.S. Drought Monitor. During the June 2011-June 2012 period, each of the 13 consecutive months ranked among the warmest third of their historical distribution for the first time in the 1895-present record. The odds of this occurring randomly is 1 in 1,594,323.

When disastrous tornadoes hit Missouri, Republicans threatened to hold up any assistance until there were cuts in other places. The same for Virginia’s earthquake and the east coast’s Hurricane Irene.  A year ago House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) demanded that “that no more money be allocated for disaster relief unless it is offset by spending cuts elsewhere”—until he asked for FEMA money for his own district a month later.

If Republicans don’t get the FEMA aid that they request, they are angry. When FEMA refused a request for federal aid for wildfire victims in Oklahoma, Gov. Mary Fallin called a government agency’s rejection letter “bureaucratic” and “cruel.”

If anything is “bureaucratic” and “cruel,” it’s the Republicans’ refusal to allow states’ residents to get the health care from the federal government that costs the states nothing. Texas is a prime example: the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld Texas’s decision to deny women any health care through Planned Parenthood or other clinic that simply makes referrals for abortions.  The court decision will deny health care to at least 50,000 women.

Texas has also refused to accept the federal money that would provide Medicaid for people with salaries between one-fourth of the poverty level and one and one-fourth of the poverty level. Because of Gov. Rick Perry’s arrogance and indifference, families making between $5,000 and $25,000 will not qualify for Medicaid or any other remedy from the Affordable Care Act. That’s bureaucratic and cruel.

If Republicans want FEMA help for people who need assistance, they need to allocate funds for it. They also need to revise their position in denying all people any safety net except the wealthy—who don’t need it. And they need to stop using their personal morality to control women.

Where can the government get the money to help people? Defense expenditures went from $583.38 billion in 2003 when we were in two wars to $711.42 billion in 2011 when we were no longer in war. About a half century ago, Dwight Eisenhower said, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.” We are now living in Eisenhower’s nightmare.

If Republicans want small government, they should start with the defense budget. Support the programs that actually help people, such as the safety net and NOAA.

August 26, 2012

The Vote – Use It or Lose It!

Today is Women’s Equality Day. Ninety-two years ago today, women throughout the United States gained the right to vote because 36 states approved the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. For the last few generations, women have taken this right for granted, sometimes not even voting. Now a majority of the states have decided to restrict the right to vote, particularly the right of women to vote.

When women change their last name after marriage, updating documents for photo ID may not be simple. A survey from the Brennan Center for Justice shows that only 48 percent of all voting-age women without ready access to their U.S. birth certificates have birth certificates with their current legal name. I know that mine doesn’t. Of the women who have easy access to any proof of citizenship, only 66 percent of voting-age women have a document with their current legal name. Therefore as many as 32 million voting-age women may have no document available that confirms both their citizenship and their current name. Beyond that are women who might use nicknames on a document that doesn’t match their birth certificates.

Those who support mandated photo IDs are fond of pointing out how buying alcohol, flying, entering some buildings, etc., etc. all require photo IDs. They are missing the most important difference between these activities and voting: everything that they cite as requiring photo IDs is a privilege; voting is a right. Or it should be.

During this past year, white males have worked harder than ever to silence women’s voices. Rush Limbaugh called a woman who argued for contraception a slut. This was after Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) refused to let any women speak at a hearing on contraception. Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) presented his ridiculous explanation of how raped women can’t get pregnant. In censuring a female colleague for using the word “vagina” during floor debate, Michigan Rep. Wayne Schmidt compared it to “giving the kid a time out for a day.”

Fox‘s Andrea Tantaros said, “No woman should aspire to be [Sandra Fluke].” Earlier this summer, Brian Kilmeade, co-host of the morning show Fox & Friends, said, “Women are everywhere. We’re letting them play golf and tennis now. It’s out of control.”

Despite the  Women’s Equality Day, women certainly have not achieved equality. The U.S. places 79th in the world in rankings of the number of women political leaders behind countries like Sudan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Morocco, Cambodia, and Bolivia. One of our country’s political parties is determined to deny women equal pay for equal work, prevent family leave, stop organizations (including Planned Parenthood) that provide free care for women, block contraception, outlaw abortion, keep lesbians from being included in the Violence against Women Act, and destroy Medicare and Medicaid which disproportionately affects women. In fact, Limbaugh has said that what’s wrong with this country is women voting.

The term “Women’s Equality Day” was coined in 1971 by the federal government at a time when women had less equality than now. The homage paid to Neil Armstrong since his death last week brings up the little-known fact that women tested for this first voyage to the moon but were denied the opportunity.

Jerri Truhill, one of this group called Mercury 13, said in an NPR interview in 2007, “It was very grueling. It was very painful. As a matter fact, some of the tests, we were told, we came out better than the men did as far as being suited for spaceflight.” The Mercury 13: The Untold Story of Thirteen American Women and the Dream of Space Flight by Martha Ackmann is a book for youth that gives details about the project and the women who participated.

The excuse for stopping the testing was that women didn’t meet the educational educational requirements, those that prevented women from participation. On the other hand, John Glenn was excused from one of these requirements, a necessary college degree. A woman was not accepted into the astronaut program until 17 years later with Sally Ride’s inclusion in 1978. Women are still struggling for military equality, and Republicans now want  to remove them from combat situations.

As Madeline Albright wrote, “Women will never go back to the days where we could not control our own reproductive health care decisions–and we will not remain silent in the face of vicious misogyny and anti-women hate speech.” Yet she added that “rights never stay won” and that “[e]ach generation must stand up and fight to hold accountable those who would try to take our rights away.”

If women want to keep control over themselves, we need to vote and think what we’re voting to preserve or gain.

August 25, 2012

Romney Takes Over the GOP

In the Mormon religion, worthy men can become gods after they die where they rule worlds where they are worshipped. It appears that Mitt Romney doesn’t have to wait to die; the Republicans have made him god of the Republican National Committee (RNC). A 63-38 vote by the RNC Rules Committee has given Romney and the RNC sweeping new powers. Romney’s top lawyer Ben Ginsberg promised that it would give them “flexibility” to adapt to new political parties.

Technically, the 168 members of the RNC elect the Chair, but with the new rules if Romney became president, he would appoint the Chair and other RNC leaders. They would simply be an extension of the White House political operation that can use its influence to change almost any rule at the twice-yearly RNC meetings.

What it really means is that Romney can now control anyone who disagrees with him such as Ron Paul, the Tea Party, and any stray Libertarians who might infiltrate the GOP. Because Team Romney can amend the party’s rules without a vote by the full RNC, they can do pretty much anything they want to do.

The entire process is in contradiction to Rule No. 38, Unit Rule of the current Republican Party Rules, which states “No delegate or alternate delegate shall be bound by any attempt of any state or Congressional district to impose the unit rule.” The unit rule is intended to prevent states from binding all delegates to a particular candidate, forcing them to vote as a unit. While many states do this, there is historical precedence that the RNC does not recognize such binding at the Convention.

The second part of the change would require all future delegates to be approved by presidential candidates, lessening the chances of technically pledged delegates voting for a different candidate.

Another rule change increases the nomination threshold from five to eight. A candidate must have control of eight state delegations to have the name placed in nomination at the convention. None of that pesky minority candidates like Paul, who came very close to getting five states.

Morton Blackwell, Virginia delegate, was one person with enough sense to see what Romney had done. He called it “the most awful proposed amendments I’ve seen presented to this committee” referred to it as “a power grab.” South Carolina delegate, Drew McKissick echoed Blackwell’s objection, warning that nearly any rule could now be amended by three-fourths of the RNC. “Once you let the genie out of the bottle they can do anything.”

Minnesota RNC Rules Committee member Marianne Stebbins, a Ron Paul supporter, also took umbrage, saying that new delegation selection rules “strip state parties’ authority to choose convention delegates.” The rule giving the RNC the right to use primary and caucuses straw-poll results to bind state party delegates to a candidate is a reaction to Paul’s ability to secure national delegates at district and state conventions. “Gov. Romney’s campaign counsel Ben Ginsberg in today’s [Friday] Rules Committee meeting adopted an attitude toward Liberty Republicans that if you can’t beat them, then beat them with a stick,” Stebbins said. “Mr. Ginsberg and the interests he represents made it clear today that Liberty Republicans and Tea Party Republicans are unwelcome guests at this party.”

According to existing rules, a minority report must have the support of at least 25 percent of the RNC rules committee and be filed within one hour after the close of the meeting. Maine delegate Ashley Ryan said that they had finished the report within 15 minutes but couldn’t find Committee Chair John Sununu. He had disappeared at the end of the meeting. Under Ginsberg’s leadership, the Romney camp had also tried unsuccessfully to raise the bar to 40 percent objecting. Ryan said, “If the national party can just change the rules, what’s the point of having a Rules Committee at all?

Meanwhile, the time of Romney’s anointing has been tentatively moved to Tuesday. The convention leaders had decided to do the roll call and elevate Romney on Monday before Paul can cause any trouble and while they had no television coverage—so nobody would see any objections on the main channels. The timing of Hurricane Isaac is still up in the air so those events have been postponed.

Considering how unliked Romney is among his own ranks, he might have been more careful before he broke open the bee hive. On the other hand, I’ve missed the good old days when nobody was sure who the nominee would be until the end of the convention. It became theater, not drama. If some of the disgruntled delegates have their way, however, the drama may return.

Kissack declared, “The bottom line is that the change adopted today essentially allows the Presidential campaigns to pick their own delegates, which makes it a complete insider’s ballgame and allows a bunch of Washington D.C. consultants to decide who does and doesn’t get to be a delegate.” Therefore he is leading an effort to bring a “minority report” to the convention floor, offering an amendment stripping the Ginsberg-backed changes from the Party rules and giving candidates no rights with respect to their delegates. The provision would also reinstate language requiring that all primaries and caucuses held before April 1 bind delegates proportionally, rather than winner-take-all, a measure to elongate the primary process.

According to McKissick, he has the votes to bring the minority report to the floor, setting the stage for debate and a vote on the rules changes.The coalition opposing the amendment includes Ron Paul supporters and state party officials who see the effort as overreach by national campaigns into the workings of their state. One delegate raised the possibility of calling for a time-consuming roll call vote on the issue, which would require a majority of the delegations of six states.

In his humor column today, Andy Borowitz adds a bit of black humor to the Tampa events this coming week:

With Hurricane Isaac heading towards the site of the 2012 RNC, presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney today called for the government to respond with a round of “emergency tax cuts.”

“If this hurricane is as powerful as predicted, it could destroy many people’s second and third homes,” Mr. Romney said. “In that worst-case scenario, it would be inhumane to ask them to pay more than thirteen percent.”

Vice presidential pick Paul Ryan echoed Mr. Romney’s sentiments, adding that he was glad he voted to cut emergency relief earlier this year because “big government needs to stay out of hurricanes.”

“If the Federal government got involved with this hurricane, they’d make the usual mistake of sending food, water, and medical supplies,” he said. “Clearly, what this situation calls for is vouchers.”

The Republican party is welcome to screw  over each other any way that they wish, but this action is a predictor of what would happen if Romney is elected president. If people supposedly on the same side are willing to destroy each other, I don’t want to imagine what would happen if they get control of the country.

August 24, 2012

A Look at the 2012 Republican Convention

The 2012 Republican convention is almost upon us, and the attendees are moving from upset to frantic. First they worried about Tropical Storm/Hurricane Isaac, which now seems to be heading a bit west and lessening, perhaps hitting Pensacola (FL) by early Wednesday. That’s lucky for convention-goers because the Tampa Bay Times Forum, location of the event, closes when winds go over 96 mph.

The next storm, Hurricane Todd, started last Sunday when Rep. Akin (R-MO), running for the Senate, dropped his bombshell about how raped women couldn’t get pregnant, eliminating the need for abortions because no “legitimate” rape could result in pregnancy. Usually a stupid comment like this causes problems for just the person dumb enough to say things like this, but it’s Akin’s close relationship to Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Republican VP nominee, and their identical perspectives on abortion that caused tons of Republicans to call upon Akin to resign as a protective device for the Romney/Ryan campaign. It didn’t work. Akin is sticking around and causing lots more trouble.

Continuing with disasters, the three major television channels cut back—way back—on their convention coverage, one hour each night to be specific. They aren’t even going to the Republican convention on Monday, the first night, when Ann Romney was scheduled to speak. Republicans changed her speech to Tuesday so that she could get onto major television stations.

Other speakers chosen for the convention speak volumes without their even opening their mouths. Romney’s lame joke this afternoon about people knowing where he and Ann were born, trying to bring up the birther issue of whether the president’s mother was a citizen, leads in a description of seven birthers speaking at the convention: Donald Trump, the leader of the birther charge this past spring; Janine Turner, Northern Exposure star with her own conservative radio show; Sam Olens, Georgia AG; Rick Scott, Florida governor; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), vice-chair of the House Republican Conference; Bobby Jindal, Louisiana governor; and Mike Huckabee, radio show performer. Huckabee’s relationship with the Republicans, however, is currently rather tenuous because of his vigorous support of Hurricane Todd.

Carlos Galindo, blogger for the Tucson (AZ) Citizen, has listed many of the other speakers with their attributes:

NJ Gov. Chris Christie insults voters and Republicans cheer.

AG (FL) Pam Bondi has diligently worked with Scott to purge liberal voters from the state list; ex-Gov. Jeb Bush (FL) supervised the appointment of his brother to president in 2000.

Texas senate nominee Rafael “Ted” Cruz thinks George Soros has a secret agenda get rid of golf courses.

African-American former Rep. Artur Genestre Davis (R-AL) spoke at the 2008 Democratic Convention and asked people to put President Obama in office.

Gov. Mary Fallin (OK) has led the charge against poor people.

Puerto Rico’s governor Luis Fortuño trashed then-candidate Obama to the Latino community four years ago.

Gov. Nimrata Randhawa (Nikki) Haley (SC), daughter of Sikh immigrants, support the state’s anti-immigration bill that uses a police force wearing special uniforms and using special emblems on their cars to hung down undocumented immigrants.

Gov. John Kasich (OH) talked about the need to “break the back of organized labor in the schools.”

Gov. Susana Martinez (NM) ran on a platform of taking away the drivers licenses of undocumented immigrants in her state and complained about U.S.-born children of undocumented immigrants when she thought her grandfather had illegally entered the country.

Sen. Paul Rand (KY) who opposes part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

The choice of all the above speakers demonstrates large chunks of the GOP platform, the most conservative in decades. Major platform provisions, that purport to follow the Constitution, include the following:

No abortion in case cases of rape or incest and bans on drugs that might end pregnancy after conception. The question here is why they have problems with what Todd Akin said; they all agree.

Praise for “informed consent” laws that lie to pregnant women, waiting periods, and mandatory ultrasounds, including a “salute” for the law developed by Gov. Bob McDonnell (VA) who may have lost the VP spot after the country rose in anger about his “vaginal probe” (VP?) requirement.

Anti-LGBT language including the rejection of a proposal to endorse civil unions because Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council objected and the demand that the federal government back the Defense of Marriage Act denying marriage equality.

Replication of Arizona’s anti-immigration laws in which the state called for a border fence, a national E-Verify system to make it harder for undocumented workers to find employment, the end of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, and an end to sanctuary cities.

A Federal Reserve audit to shut up Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX).

Removal of women in combat and repeal of the repeal of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” which would prevent gays and lesbians from openly serving in the military.

More guns in Washginton, D.C. because Perkins thinks that the expansion of gun rights will stop shootings and prevention of statehood for the city.

No new taxes except for war because any new taxes would have to be approved by a super-majority “with exceptions for only war and national emergencies.”

That’s what the convention-goers are doing. Meanwhile the Tampa law enforcement is also taking action.

Prisoners in Hillsborough County are sure to be delighted about the Republicans coming to town. Sheriff David Gee is emptying the 1700-bed Orient Road Jail to provide home for protesters who offend the law. Some prisoners will be relocated, but others will just be released. Gee says he won’t allow anything more than chanting and holding up signs. He might want to take note that Minneapolis (MN) police had to settle an excessive-force lawsuit after their treatment of protesters at the convention.

Tax-payers are paying $50 million for security at conventions.  Tampa’s expenditures include new police uniforms, $534,600; closed-circuit cameras, $2.3 million for closed-circuit cameras; upgraded police radios and multichargers, $5.9 million; a fleet of new vehicles, including an armored truck, about 200 Kona Race Light 7005 aluminum bicycles, and several Bobcat utility vehicles, more than $790,000. The city still has about $2.7 million left. Wonder what happened to the rest of the money?!

Some convention-goers may be disappointed. Tampa police has started a crackdown on prostitution at strip clubs, arresting 16 women at 12 strip clubs last week in “Operation Keep it Clean.” This will keep them busy during the convention so they won’t be available for minor crashes without injuries and minor crimes. Sounds like Hillsborough County may have some safety issues next week.

The second day of the convention may be a highlight with its “We built it” theme. Meant to embarrass President Obama for his speech that businesses are helped by the infrastructure, this approach may turn around and bite the Republicans. Their Tuesday celebration is at the Tampa Bay Times Forum—which was 62 percent built with tax-payer money.

More than that, the speaker touting “We built it,” meaning by herself, didn’t. Delaware Lt. Gov. candidate Sher Valenzuela, the “We built it” speaker, received millions of dollars in federal loans and contracts for her business, First State Manufacturing. She not only attributes her success in part to this outside assistance but also urges other small business owners to follow the same strategy of seeking government funds. Earlier this year, she gave a presentation in which she credited the use of “millions of dollars in secure government contracts” and, at the same presentation, encouraged other entrepreneurs to take advantage of public institutions and government investments to help their businesses get ahead.

She isn’t the only one making the “We built it” look bad. A featured speaker at a Paul Ryan event yesterday bragged about getting government funding to help build his business. Bain Capital, the business that is supposed to show Romney’s acumen, benefited from government funding, and Ryan’s family contracting business was built in large part from government contracts. Ryan Incorporated Central began in 1884 doing government-subsidized railroad construction, moved into building federal interstate highways, and helped build O’Hare Airport. Since 1996, the business has had at least 22 defense contract including one worth $5.6 million, a good reason for Ryan to increase defense spending. Looking at these situations, the Republicans are right: “We [the tax-payers] built it.”

Such is the Republican look on the country during the coming week.

August 23, 2012

Rape: The GOP Downfall?

As the craziness of this year’s Congressional election built up, I decided to save some of the looneyness of what these people are saying and put all these people together. It seemed like a fairly simple task: just put down the person’s name and then the one or two oddities that came out of the person. Until Todd Akin.

When I began to keep notes, Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) had said just a few things such protesting student lunches for poor kids while campaigning for his state’s senate seat;  last Sunday, however, he said in an interview that the female body can keep itself from being impregnated in cases of “legitimate rape.” Something about stress keeping women from ovulating, information discovered during Nazi studies during the Holocaust, and women secreting some kind of magic fluid. The storm began. Republican lawmakers began to work on explanations of different kinds of rape and backing off, sometimes running from both Akin and the topics of rape and abortion.

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) who co-sponsored a bill outlawing abortion except—maybe—to save the woman’s life, now proclaims, “Rape is rape.” Once again the VP nominee is denying that he said anything else, statements that are on video in the Ethernet. Unfortunately for him, there is written proof that he co-sponsored a bill with Akin that, by limiting federal funding of abortion to cases of “forcible rape,” could make rape survivors give birth to their rapist’s child. Outrage caused the term “forcible rape” to be taken out of the bill, but Ryan had signed on before that happened.

Over his career in the House, Ryan cast 59 anti-choice votes and endorsed a large number of measures to limit or completely bar abortion in the United States. He also said that the health exception, allowing women to have an abortion because of health reasons, would make the law against abortion “virtually meaningless.”

2012: Ryan supported the District of Columbia Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that would ban abortions in Washington, D.C. after 20 weeks gestation. It failed in the House on July 31.

2011: Ryan was one of 145 sponsors of the Protect Life Act passed in October allowing hospitals to refuse any involvement in abortions, including providing referrals. At this time, religious hospitals that accept federal funds but refuse to provide abortions must provide emergency care and transfer the patient to another hospital does provide abortions. Ryan’s measure would let women die without any health care.

2006, 2007, and 2010: Ryan cosponsored the Sanctity of Human Life Act that grants fertilized eggs the same constitutional rights as adult humans. As residents in Mississippi discovered when this bill was on the ballot, this measure would classify in vitro fertilization and some contraceptive forms as murder. If this bill had gone into law, Mitt Romney’s son Tagg and his wife would have been considered murderers because they have had three children with in vitro fertilization. The measure would also force doctors to lie to their pregnant patients because of its requirement to follow a specific script that contains lies.

2005, 2007, and 2011: Ryan supported the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act that would federalize state laws on minors seeking an abortion and parental notification. Doctors would have to notify the minor’s parents or guardian in writing and wait another 24 hours before performing an abortion.

Some of Akin’s ideology probably came from his mentor, Reverend D. James Kennedy: Akin cites Kennedy’s sermons as important intellectual influences and has been named in Kennedy’s book How Would Jesus Vote? as one of the Reverend’s “favorite statesman.” This is what Akin learned from Kennedy:

Rape victims who chose abortion are “hysterical.”

Rape victims can be responsible for being raped.

The Bible should set our laws about rape and abortion.

Husbands should determine if their wives can have abortions.

Akin’s idea that women experiencing “legitimate” rape won’t get pregnant goes back to Dr. Fred Mecklenburg’s 1972 article “The Indications for Induced Abortion: A Physician’s Perspective.” These two pages were included with 18 others in the the 1972 anthology Abortion and Social Justice compiled by Dr. Thomas W. Hilger. Mecklenburg had been chairman of obstetrics at Inova Women’s Hospital in Fall’s Church (VA).

The “proof” from the sadistic doctors in the German concentration camps during World War II omitted the fact that highly abused women suffering from malnutrition may not ovulate. Mecklenburg’s wife, Marjory, chaired the National Right to Life Committee and served under both Presidents Ford and Reagan. Her husband conveniently gave her the “science” they needed to show that pregnancy from “legitimate” rape is nonexistent.

Since Akin made his radical statement about “legitimate” rape, Dr. John Willke of the National Right to Life has supported Akin’s belief about rape, claiming that trauma prevents pregnancy. According to Wilkie, “The tubes are spastic.”  [?] Wilkie has strong connections with both Ryan and Romney. He said he met Ryan, who listened to Wilkie’s views and then said, “That’s where I’m at.” Wilkie praised Ryan as “a very obedient Catholic.”

One of Romney’s official campaign surrogates during Romney’s 2008 run for president, Wilkie also met with Romney last October. “He told me ‘thank you for your support–we agree on almost everything, and if I am elected President I will make some major pro-life pronouncements,’” Willke said.

There are at least four scary pieces to the Todd Akin situation:

Akin is already in Congress: he is already making law for the nation. In fact, he’s a member of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

Akin is not alone in what he believes. Other conservative lawmakers may not struggle with the issue of “legitimate” rape, but they do believe that women are faking rape so that they can abortions for their personal satisfaction. They also believe that women should not have the right to control their own bodies

Akin represents the Republican platform. The platform just passed wants a personhood amendment to outlaw all abortion as well as in vitro fertilization and the most popular forms of contraception.

Akin shows everyone where the Republicans want to take the country.

On MSNBC Tuesday evening, Howard Fineman said: “What matters here and what makes this important politically is not what it might or might not do to the Missouri Senate race, whether he stays in or not, et cetera, Claire McCaskill’s chances of re-election or not. What matters is that the views that Todd Akin has espoused and the legislation he’s supported is exactly in line with what the perspective Republican vice presidential nominee, Paul Ryan, believes and supported. That’s what turns this into a huge issue. Because Todd Akin is the Paul Ryan of Missouri. And this created a huge problem for the Romney campaign today and yesterday as they sought to sever Todd Akin from Paul Ryan and unite Paul Ryan with the somewhat different view that Mitt Romney now has.” Fineman is right on target.

Once Ryan declared that “Rape is rape”—changing his earlier position–he tried to weasel out of the debate by saying that whatever Romney says, goes, because Ryan isn’t running for president. Sure—just vice president.  Evidently Ryan doesn’t understand that the vice-president might become president. In addition, we’ll never know what Romney thinks because he never takes a position, except in the case of not releasing his tax returns.

New evidence of this comes from Shawn Boyd from the Denver CBS affiliate who talked about Romney’s ground rules for an interview:  “The one stipulation to the interview was that I not ask him about abortion or Todd Akin.” No questions such as whether Romney agrees with the federal ban on all abortions, even in cases or rape or incest, from his own party platform. Or whether he agrees with the 38 anti-abortion bills that his running partner co-sponsored. Or if Romney still supports his 2007 position that he’d be “delighted” to sign a bill that would no longer allow abortions “at all, period.” Does Romney keep to his position, that he revealed to Mike Huckabee, that he “absolutely” supports a “Personhood” measure that would ban abortion and some forms of birth control? Nope. No questions on the subject.

While many Republicans continue to call for Akin’s resignation from the Senate race, it appears that they don’t oppose his views. They’re just afraid of losing votes if their views become openly known. Even more frightening is that it’s now public information that the GOP party platform wants to take away reproductive rights from every woman. All voters need to remember that the Akin agenda is the GOP party platform. Republicans call for Akin’s resignation only because they think he can’t get elected; they want to find somebody else who might in order to get another Republican into the Senate.

Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker has an excellent suggestion: “As GOP convention planners consider platforms and pledges, they also might contemplate a seminar for Republican men about how the fairer sex works.” If they understand current science regarding women’s bodies, they might come up with better arguments.

August 22, 2012

Did You Lose Your Right to Vote?

Over 180 bills that restrict voting have been introduced in 41 states since the beginning of 2011; 34 states successfully passed such restrictions as mandating photo ID and limiting times when people can vote. Nowhere are these new laws more important than in the swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Although voting should be a constitutional right, the controls in different states limit the abilities of people to vote differently. People have different voting rights depending on where they live.

Initially conservatives tried to justify voter restriction by claiming massive voter fraud. Now, many admit that there’s no problem. An investigation of 2,068 purported cases of fraud during the last decade found only 10 cases of fraud among 146 million voters—one per 15 million voters. James O’Keefe, notorious for video stings, showed two supposed non-citizens voting. Both are actually U.S. citizens. Despite the falsehoods of his video, O’Keefe will be a Republican conference speaker at an exclusive luncheon where he will talk about “the role of the citizen journalist.”

Florida started purging their voting roles weeks ago with no apparent reason other than trying to hoping to keep more liberal voters from participating in the process. This was after Florida passed draconian laws preventing people from registering new voters. Then they moved forward in their attempts to limit students, seniors, and the poor from voting by curtailing the times that people could vote in the last election. A federal appeals court stopped the state from limiting early voting because it was determined racially discriminatory under the federal Voting Rights Act.

Because this act covers only five of Florida’s 67 counties, Tampa plus four other small counties, there is a question about what the state will do now. If the state fails to file an amended plan for Justice Department approval, the entire election reform bill will be struck down. Gov. Rick Scott persuaded four of the five states that voters would be fine with polls open for 12 hours during eight days of early voting. The fifth election supervisor, a Republican in the Florida Keys, is sticking to his guns, and Scott is threatening to fire him.

The state of Ohio isn’t covered by the Voting Rights Act so the Republicans in charge of county voting and the Republican secretary of state John Husted have limited early voting to 8:00 am-5:pm on weekdays. Doug Preisse, chair of the Franklin County Republican party, said, “We shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban, read African-American, voter-turnout machine.” Because many people who want to vote earlier also work during the day, 82 percent of those who cast their votes in the last election went to the polls during the now-banned times.

Politics got even nastier in Ohio when Husted, who had established the restrictive voting times, removed the two Democrats on the Montgomery County Board of Elections. Because Dennis Lieberman and Tom Ritchie, Sr., did not see any written prevention of weekend voting, they brought up the issue at the board meeting. A 2-2 tie along party lines sent the issue to Husted to settle where all the problems with voting times began. Because all county election boards are split 50-50 between Democrats and two Republicans, Republican Husted makes the final decision.

Husted’s letter to the country election board demanded that it rescind Lieberman’s motion and threatened them with being fired if they didn’t. Lieberman, an attorney and former county Democratic Party chair, refused to withdraw his motion, arguing both that his motion did not violate the directive and that it was best for local voters. Both Democrats were suspended; the two Republicans remained on the board.

In Pennsylvania, a Republican state court judge ruled that the new voter ID law is constitutional.  One of the lead plaintiffs, a 93-year-old woman, doesn’t have her birth certificate or any photo ID because her purse was stolen while she was shopping, but the Republican judge didn’t see this as a problem. Also the name on her birth certificate was different from that on other documents, a not unusual situation for any woman who changed her name after she married, but a situation that can keep her from voting. Since the lawsuit, election officials gave her an ID card, an illegal action for them, but she is just one of possibly 600,000 people who would have to go to extremes to gain the ability to vote for the first time in their lives.

Watching the Pennsylvania photo ID court case unfold was black comedy. Pennsylvania Republican House Leader Mike Turzai (R-PA) was very open about his opinion that photo ID would guarantee Mitt Romney’s election:  “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.” The commonwealth’s Republican governor, Tom Corbett—the same guy who signed the measure into law—couldn’t remember what IDs he is making his constituents have to vote. During her testimony, Carole Aichele, secretary of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth, didn’t know what the law said but was positive that 99 percent of voters had valid identification. She just couldn’t provide an evidence for her claim.

The pre-hearing filing made all this very clear:

– There have been no investigations or prosecutions of in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania

– The state is not aware of any in-person voter fraud in Pennsylvania

– The state will not offer any evidence that in-person voter fraud has occurred

– The state will not offer any evidence or argument that in-person voter fraud is likely to occur in the absence of the photo ID law

According to the Supreme Court ruling in Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood, plaintiffs have to show that a law is unconstitutional—extremely difficult until it goes into effect. Gonzales v. Carhart requires the court to make the assumption that legislators make laws in good faith—frequently no longer true and certainly not true with the photo ID laws. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett announced the day after the ruling to keep photo IDs that he was dumping plans to let voters apply online for absentee ballots and register online to vote. During testimony in the case, the governor’s administration had promised to take these two actions, but, heck, they won. They don’t need to help people register to vote.

Fortunately, the Department of Justice is investigating the effects of the Pennsylvania law.

In Massachusetts, Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) protested a federal voter registration law. The 1993 National Voter Registration Act, sometimes called the Motor Voter bill, mandates that citizens be offered the opportunity to register to vote when they get a driver’s license or apply for social services. Sued for lack of compliance, the Commonwealth settled the case out of court and agreed to contact by mail 477,944 welfare recipients who might have been denied their right to be offered a chance to register to vote. Because the daughter of Elizabeth Warren, Scott’s opponent, is chair of one of the boards that sued, Brown made this statement:

“I want every legal vote to count, but it’s outrageous to use taxpayer dollars to register welfare recipients as part of a special effort to boost one political party over another. This effort to sign up welfare recipients is being aided by Elizabeth Warren’s daughter and it’s clearly designed to benefit her mother’s political campaign. It means that I’m going to have to work that much harder to get out my pro-jobs, pro-free enterprise message.”

One conservative governor deserves praise. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, known for appointing removing democracy from towns and schools in his state by appointing emergency managers, vetoed voter suppression laws. In his veto statement, he wrote that “voting rights are precious.”

Conservatives that lose the voter restrictions might be able to rig the election through computers. The swing states of Pennsylvania and Virginia use paperless systems that cannot do recounts and have no way to recover lost votes. Two large suburban counties around Denver (CO) also have no audit trail. Much of Ohio and Nevada use touchscreen electronic machines that print a cash register-like record of votes; Ohio does require polls to have backup paper ballots. Printouts from these computers, however, may not be the legal equivalent of a paper ballot marked by a voter if a recount is necessary.

Other swing states, such as Florida, North Carolina, and much of New Hampshire, scan paper ballots that may miss votes. Earlier this year, Palm Beach County (FL) scanners identified the wrong winner in two local contests, an error not discovered until a routine audit the next week. In 2010, Humboldt County (CA) officials finally figured out that when they re-scanned batches of mail-in ballots that the previous batch count was erased. The manufacturer knew about that problem but hadn’t told a new local election official. In the recent New York City congressional primary involving Rep. Charlie Rangel, officials failed to record all of the results from optical scan tabulators causing some precincts to report zero votes.

Computers also allow gatekeepers to magically “discover” more votes after an election.. Such was the case with Waukesha County Clerk Kathy Nickolaus who personally got David Prosser his place on the Wisconsin Supreme Court because she was the only person in charge of the computers that “found” 7,582 votes for him, two days after the election, just enough for Prosser to win the election without a recount. Wisconsin’s state’s attorney general announced yesterday that he is filing a petition to the Supreme Court to place a harsh state photo identification law—already ruled unconstitutional by two Wisconsin judges—into effect before the November election.

When he signed the Voting Rights Act 47 years ago, President Johnson called the right to vote “the basic right without which all others are meaningless.” It seems that Republicans beg to differ.

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