Nel's New Day

September 30, 2012

One Week in a Normal World

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 9:29 PM
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This year, my partner and I took an Olivia cruise to Alaska. For the uninitiated, Olivia has been marketing cruises and resort vacations to lesbians for almost 40 years. We had heard about them for years, but we had kept putting off going on one, partly because of my water phobia. I don’t mind being beside the water, but being on water makes me terror-stricken. Because of this problem, I looked forward to the trip, taken to celebrate my partner’s 80th birthday in advance, with mixed feelings. We had friends on the cruise and who doesn’t want fabulous, unlimited food for a week; on the other hand, water ….

The trip was amazing! Yes, I spent every night wondering exactly what I would do if the ship (that held over 1400 cruisers) sank. Totally unreasonable, but that’s me. But I loved the food and the travel, and the scenery was fantastic, sort of like the Rocky Mountains on steroids. Despite a few grumps, the women we met were interesting, most of them up and excited about the experience. We talked with women from the United States and Canada and Australia and met friends’ friends. A real delight!

Most astonishing was the feeling of camaraderie on the ship. In the past I had been on other cruises—despite the water—with straight people. Any non-straight people were hiding. On this ship, most of the women wanted to talk with each other. When we saw each other on shore, most of us identified by sweatshirts and jackets that said “Olivia,” we spoke to each other. There was a feeling of joy and lightness and friendliness that I had not found on other cruises.

We even had an oddly serendipitous experience. One friend, who didn’t go on the cruise, kept insisting that we had to go to see Suede, one of her favorite singers. We’re not particularly evening people, but we didn’t want to disappoint our friend, so we faithfully presented ourselves at the door 30 minutes early so that we would have good seats. “We can always leave,” I told my partner.

As we waited for Suede at the end of a long couch, another couple sat down next to us. I turned to the nearest one with my usual opener, “So where are you from?” When she said “Phoenix,” I perked up because my partner is an Arizona native and I had lived there with her for almost 30 years. The other woman said, “I’m a native of Phoenix.” A little more conversation, and we discovered, much to the shock of all four of us, that the “native of Phoenix” has a cousin who is married to my partner’s oldest brother. The six degrees of separation had radically decreased.

There actually is a point to my rambling, however. My partner and I have been mostly out as lesbians in our little Oregon Coast town for upwards of 20 years. I feel safe and assume that I am mostly accepted for my gender orientation. But I learned on this cruise that being in an environment where I know I am judged as a person and not possibly rejected as a lesbian is far different that the real world outside the Olivia cruise.

This became very clear when a straight friend, who also went on the cruise, confided that she didn’t tell anyone about her husband because she didn’t want to make the women she met uncomfortable. I looked at her and said, “That’s how lots of LGBT people think. We don’t tell people we meet about our partners because we don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable.”

Suddenly, I realized how straight people must feel: they never have to worry about being judged because they are straight. On the other hand, we always wonder if someone is judging us just on our gender orientation. People who never have to hide their feelings for the ones they love will never understand how it feels to negotiate the feelings of those around them. It’s not that we feel we’re wrong; it’s just that we know many of them think we are.

I am lucky to have many friends who realize that I have shared a wonderful relationship with an incredible woman for almost 43 years. In fact, many of them like her better than they like me. Some of these friends, however, don’t understand why LGBT people need marriage for legal rights. A dinner discussion on the cruise showed that even other LGBT people may not understand that we are not guaranteed legal rights even with wills and powers of attorney.

After a week of feeling secure in our place in the world—except for the water underneath us—I came home to the far-right hatred found in everyday’s news: in their lawsuits to keep marriage “safe” for a union between one man and one woman, in their determination to return to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” life for gays and lesbians in the military, in their desire to prove that their Christian religion excludes anyone except the straight and narrow.

The world is far safer for us than it was fifty years ago, but there’s still that everyday carefulness—don’t touch in public, don’t hold hands, don’t look at each other too close, don’t  make people uncomfortable so that we’ll be safe.

I’m glad I’m home to my friends and my pets and my comfortable patterns of life. But I’m also grateful that I had the chance for one week of the carefree life I found on the ship when I was the norm.

September 29, 2012

Edie Windsor Fights for LGBT Rights

Last week I had the opportunity to see Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement and meet one of the subjects of the film, Edith Windsor. Now 83, Edie met her beloved Thea Spyer in 1965. They got engaged in 1967 and lived together in Greenwich Village until Thea’s death in 2009. The film shows them through the best of times and the most difficult. Thea was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1977, and Edie spent much of the next 30 years caring for her as her health deteriorated.

When Thea was told in 2007 that she might have only a year to live, the couple decided to stop waiting for legalized marriage in New York and settling on a Canadian civil ceremony. Filmmakers Susan Muska and Greta Olafsdottir directed this intimate documentary about two women who stayed in love and maintained their relationship despite legal, societal, and health barriers.

The film touched me even more, perhaps, because my partner and I have been together over 43 years, meeting and beginning our relationship just two years after Edie and Thea did. We experienced discrimination and struggles throughout the same four decades until the more liberal times of the 21st century that still refuses us legalized federal marriage benefits.

Receiving little attention from the world outside the LGBT community, the film might not have gained greater visibility if the U.S. government had not taxed Edie a whopping $363,000 in estate taxes after Thea’s death. The amount of taxes makes the couple sound wealthy; they weren’t. In the 1960s they bought a home in Manhattan and a cottage in the Hamptons, the latter for only $35,000. Inflation increased the value of Edie’s home, drastically increasing the “death tax.” The only reason that she had to pay this federal estate tax is that she and Thea weren’t married in the United States; they couldn’t get married because federal law didn’t allow them to marry. Legally married husbands and wives would not have to pay any of this money.

So Edie sued. In June, a federal district judge in New York decided in Edie’s favor, ruling that section three of DOMA unconstitutionally discriminates against married same-sex couples. Over 18 months ago, President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder had determined that DOMA was unconstitutional and that they would no longer defend this misguided Congressional act in court. Yet Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) begs to differ; under his guidance, a House committee with a Republican majority has used tax-payer money to employed Paul Clement for a minimum of $1.5 million to defend DOMA and prevent marriage equality.

Two days ago the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments in the case. In his opening statements, Clement admitted that he didn’t have a good argument: “There’s no way to preserve the definition of marriage [as one man and one woman] other than by preserving the definition. It becomes somewhat circular.”

Clement tried to support DOMA with 1972’s Baker v. Nelson, in which two men tried to strike down Minnesota’s ban on same-sex marriage. In this case, the Supreme Court let stand a state law that limited marriage to different sexes, and Clement argued that the appeals court should abide by that precedent in upholding DOMA. Baker was a summary decision without written briefs and oral argument and contained no explanation other than that the constitutional claim of Baker and McConnell did not raise a “substantial federal question.”

Clement acknowledged that times may have changed during the past 40 years but added, “The only thing that hasn’t changed is this court’s obligation to follow Supreme Court precedent.” There is precedent for overturning past Supreme Court decisions during that time. For example, during the 40 years since Baker, 1986’s Bowers v. Hardwick ruling that upheld laws against sodomy was overturned in 2003 by Lawrence v. Texas. Also the Roberts court does not have a reputation “to follow Supreme Court precedent.”

In his rebuttal at the end of the oral arguments, Clements said that saving money is a good reason to preserve DOMA and Congress was “preserving the scope of the benefits programs the way they’ve always been.” He also went back to 1885’s Murphy v. Ramsay that required Utah to declare marriage between a man and a woman as a provision of statehood.

In its 1885 ruling, the Supreme Court wrote that “no legislation can be supposed more wholesome and necessary in the founding of a free, self-governing commonwealth … than that which seeks to establish it on the basis of the idea of the family [is] consisting in and springing from the union for life of one man and one woman in the holy estate of matrimony.” That definition of marriage is “the sure foundation of all that is stable and noble in our civilization; the best guaranty of that reverent morality which is the source of all beneficent progress in social and political improvement.”

Murphy relied on the Dred Scott case, that decided in 1857 that slaves are not citizens of the United States, to reference the “traditional understanding” of marriage.

To summarize Clement’s arguments to preserve DOMA:

  • Supreme Court rulings should not be overturned, no matter how times change;
  • The definition of marriage comes from rulings that prevented polygamy and ensured slavery;
  • All matrimony is “holy” and not civil;
  • Saving money is a good reason to deny rights to LGBT people.

Louisiana’s governor Bobby Jindal has an even stronger reason for opposing marriage equality. He thinks that legalizing same-sex marriage will overturn the Second Amendment: “The reality is today we’re talking about redefining marriage. If the court is allowed to impose and write their own laws and their own views, and overturn those that are done by our duly-elected representatives, what’s to stop today’s [indistinguishable]. Tomorrow it may be property rights, maybe it’s Second Amendment rights. We have got to take a stand against judicial activism.”

While the government can’t prove that it will lose money if marriage equality is legalized, LGBT people can prove that they lose money without it. After a gay, lesbian or bisexual senior dies, the surviving partner is denied Social Security survivor benefits, taxed heavily on any retirement plans inherited from their partners that legal husbands or wives don’t pay, and charged estate tax on inheriting a home even if it is jointly owned.

Surviving partners will probably be forced out of their homes if their names are not on the title, a situation that would not occur if they were legally married. The same thing happens if partners enter nursing homes: federal Medicaid law permits a married spouse to remain in the couple’s home when a husband or wife enters a nursing home but does not grant unmarried couples the same right. These are only a few of the 1000+ federal laws that discriminate against the LGBT community.

Despite a serious heart condition and her grief after the loss of Thea, Edie exudes a positive attitude, displaying an amazing joy for life and enthusiasm for people. Meeting her will continue to be one of the highlights of my life. Thank you for fighting for our rights, Edie!

September 28, 2012

More Bad News for Romney

Every few weeks, I have an acupuncture appointment and talk politics with my acupuncturist. Usually I know most of his news, but yesterday’s item was something I hadn’t read. Lo and behold, I got home to read an article from Alternet that supported what he said. So here are a few more pieces describing how Romney is losing more support.

Wall Street may be like the canary in the mine,  that dies first when oxygen gets too low. Now Politico reports that Romney may no longer be receiving their donations.  According to a chief executive of one of the largest companies in the country, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, “It looks right now like it’s probably going to be Obama, so you have to start planning for that, even if it’s not what you would prefer.”  

John Chambers, CEO of Cisco Systems and a strong Romney supporter, said whoever wins should govern like Bill Clinton. “There’s a lot to learn from President Clinton. It kills me as a strong Republican saying it, but he was the most effective president during my lifetime.”

Whenever Romney opens his mouth, he alienates voters. The 47-percent debacle reference to “those people” is not an isolated situation. In his ad to recover from this gaffe, he said, “President Obama and I both care about poor and middle-class families. The difference is my policies will make things better for them.” Poor and middle-class families are “them”; clearly Romney draws a distinction between “them” and “us.” 

Romney is so desperate that he’s being positive about RomneyCare, the father of ObamaCare. For years Romney dodged any relationship with the Massachusetts health care act very similar to the Affordable Care Act passed for the entire country. Throughout all the primary debates, he denied the value of this program.  He just kept saying that he would repeal ObamaCare on Day One of his administration. He doesn’t say that any more.

Another serious problem that Romney has recently displayed is his complete failure in leadership. When a crowd repeatedly chanted “Ry-an,” he stopped and corrected them to shout “Romney, Ryan.” He could have just praised himself for making such a great pick, but that’s not Romney’s style. Shown a clip of this on his MSNBC show, right-wing Joe Scarborough could only say, “Oh sweet Jesus!”

Even when Romney’s ideas are shown to be horrible, he doesn’t back down from them. Although his tax plan has very few supporters and a Tax Policy Center study describes it as “not mathematically possible,” he goes full steam ahead with it. The conservative economist Martin Feldstein found that taxes would need to be raised on incomes between $100,000 and $250,000 in order to pay for his rate cuts, but Romney keeps claiming that he won’t raise taxes for this income group.

Romney has always claimed that he is such a fine businessman that he would make a superb president, frequently using the company Staples as an example of his business acumen. Now that company, purchased by Bain Capital while Romney was active with the company, is closing 60 stores, 15 of them in this country. The chain also expects another 30 store closings in fiscal 2012 with another 30 stores scaled down and others relocated. When Staples moved into my small town of about 10,000, it forced the closing of at least two stores in town, small family businesses that had been flourishing here for decades. That’s one result of Romney’s business.

Even Romney’s own campaign has started to explain why their man will likely lose the presidential candidate debate on October 3. Senior adviser Beth Myers sent a memo to GOP surrogates, warning them of this possibility. Following are the reasons that the Romney campaign thinks that President Obama will win the debate, well-laced by criticisms of the president’s policies:

“Voters already believe—by a 25-point margin—that President Obama is likely to do a better job in these debates. Given President Obama’s natural gifts and extensive seasoning under the bright lights of the debate stage, this is unsurprising. President Obama is a uniquely gifted speaker, and is widely regarded as one of the most talented political communicators in modern history. This will be the eighth one-on-one presidential debate of his political career. For Mitt Romney, it will be his first.

“Four years ago, Barack Obama faced John McCain on the debate stage. According to Gallup, voters judged him the winner of each debate by double-digit margins, and their polling showed he won one debate by an astounding 33-point margin. In the 2008 primary, he faced Hillary Clinton, another formidable opponent—debating her one-on-one numerous times and coming out ahead. The takeaway? Not only has President Obama gained valuable experience in these debates, he also won them comfortably.

“This election will not be decided by the debates, however. It will be decided by the American people.”

How low can conservatives get? Every day brings another revelation. A film made from Dinesh D’Souza’s best-selling book Obama’s America accuses President Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, of neglecting her son so she could sleep around Indonesia and paints her as a sexual predator. The book and film shows Dunham of pretending to be amazed that she supposedly got it on so often despite being a heavy woman. Thus the libel continues.

September 27, 2012

Bad News for Romney

Things are not going well for Mitt Romney these days when even a Fox poll puts him below Barack Obama. Today’s news will create even more problems for Romney. He’s spent months talking about how many jobs the president have lost since he came into office. Today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said that it had probably under counted the number of jobs created during the year following April 2012 by 20 percent. This means that the economy added 386,000 jobs during that time that were not counted in addition to the 1.94 million jobs that were created during that same time.

Even counting the early 2009 job losses left over from George W. Bush, the total shows that President Obama managed positive jobs creation during his first terms. It also means that more jobs were created during the president’s first term than in George W. Bush’s first term, and Bush didn’t suffer from a severe recession. When the equation factors in the fact that President Obama lost the same number of public sector jobs that Bush added, the end result is far better private sector job gain under the current president than the previous one. Bush ended both his first and second terms in the hole in terms of private sector job creation.

It’s not the first bad day that Romney has had lately. A week ago, his own party caused him problems, including his VP pick:

In an interview with a Nevada news show, Paul Ryan said, “[Romney] was obviously inarticulate in making this point.” Oops!

GOP New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez rejected Romney’s comments about ignoring the 47 percent of people who are poor when she said, “We have a lot of people that are at the poverty level in New Mexico, but they count just as much as anybody else. I think, certainly the fact that New Mexico provides that safety net is a good thing.”

Conservative Wall Street Journal Peggy Noonan called for an intervention, explaining: “This is not how big leaders talk, it’s how shallow campaign operatives talk: They slice and dice the electorate like that, they see everything as determined by this interest or that. You know what Romney sounded like? Like a kid new to politics who thinks he got the inside lowdown on how it works from some operative. But those old operatives, they never know how it works.”

GOP Candidate Linda McMahon wrote on her Facebook page, “I disagree with Governor Romney’s insinuation that 47% of Americans believe they are victims who must depend on the government for their care. I know that the vast majority of those who rely on government are not in that situation because they want to be.”

Ann Romney is still defending her man. On an interview with a Fox affiliate, she said, “[As a woman], I want to know what motivates the person that I would be voting for, and I would say what motivates Mitt is that he cares. This is a guy that obviously doesn’t need to do this for a job.”

Mark Meadows, Republican candidate for a North Carolina House seat, is an example of candidates separating themselves from the GOP presidential candidate. “It might come as a surprise, but Mitt Romney didn’t call me before he made those comments and ask for my advice. I’m concerned about all 750,000 people.”

According to NBC, voters are more optimistic about the economy: “forty-two percent of voters also believe the economy will improve in the next 12 months, which is a 6-point jump from August, and a 15-point rise from July.”

On The David Letterman Show, President Obama said, “My expectation is that if you’re president, you’ve got to work for everyone, not just some.”

In another piece of good news, Florida has finally found a case for voter fraud—from a company that the Republican National Committee hired. Nathan Sproul, head of Strategic Allied Consulting, has a history of suppressing Democratic voter turnout by throwing away registration forms. He was caught this time when one of his employees dropped off fraudulent registration forms, some of them for people who have died. After Republicans accused ACORN of fraudulent registration, they are hiring a company that engages in this fraudulent behavior. The RNC has paid Sproul and his company $2.9 million; Strategic Allied Consulting has hired 4,000 to 5,000 people, with 2,000 of them in Florida.

More people may be able to vote in Wisconsin than the Republicans want. The state Supreme Court has struck down the attorney general’s request to take up two voter ID cases that found the requirement unconstitutional. J.B. Van Hollen had hoped to have the voter suppression law re-instated by the November elections, but that now appears to be out of the question.

U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled against six lobbyists who sued over the Obama Administration’s new rules on corporate lobbyists on advisory committees that prevent registered lobbyists from serving on industry trade advisory committees which advise the Commerce Department or U.S. Trade Representative. The purpose of the rules is to reduce corporate or foreign influence over commerce and trade decisions, an issue which has become rampant over the past few decades as our manufacturing and trade strength has eroded.

It all gives me hope.

September 26, 2012

Last Two Weeks – Part Two

Republican desperation is getting more and more obvious as Election Day gets ever closer–41 days now.  Mitt Romney is back on the campaign trail blaming the president for the loss of over 500,000 manufacturing jobs during the last four years while his company, Bain Capital, has been sending them out of the country for years.

Missing in his talking points were the facts that George W. Bush lost 4.5 million manufacturing jobs in eight years and President Obama has picked up over 300,000 in the last two years. The most recent loss of manufacturing jobs are the 170 workers in Freeport (IL) who will be laid off in November when Bain sends Sensata Technologies to China. As usual, Romney tries to hide behind a “blind trust” that he said in the past that he controlled.

During Romney’s campaigning he has also accused President Obama of raising taxes during his tenure. The new Romney, however, has different information. Yesterday he told a reporter,  “[Obama’s] idea, now, he’s got one new, he’s got one new idea. I admit this, he has one thing he did not do in his first four years, he’s said he’s going to do in his next four years, which is to raise taxes.” As usual, his campaigners have tried to show that Romney really didn’t mean what he said.

The most desperate campaign tack, however, comes from a sitting senator, Scott Brown (R-MA). Throughout the summer he has attacked his opponent, Elizabeth Warren, because she has described herself as having Native American background. There’s no proof that she has this background, but that’s true of many people with the same background. My partner’s family, for example, has always told her that she is part Choctaw. No proof, but it’s part of her family legend.

In the lead-up to their debate last week, Brown declared that he knew Warren couldn’t have any Native American background because she didn’t look like one. It appears that Brown can identify ethnic background based on appearance. The situation got even uglier when his staffers, financed by tax payers, ridiculed Native Americans by fake war whoops and tomahawk chops at a Republican fundraiser.

Bill John Baker, the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation denounced Brown’s campaign staffers for their actions against Native Americans and asked Brown to apologize: “The conduct of these individuals goes far beyond what is appropriate and proper in political discourse. The use of stereotypical ‘war whoop chants’ and ‘tomahawk chops’ are offensive and downright racist. It is those types of actions that perpetuate negative stereotypes and continue to minimize and degrade all native peoples.”

After a long day of criticism, Brown decided to say that he could not condone such behavior. For the record, Brown has no proof that Warren does not have Native American heritage.

Evidently Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI), authority of how women cannot get pregnant from “legitimate rape,” is not the only family member who is knowledgeable about rape. In raging against the Republican party for abandoning her husband after his ill-conceived statement, Lulli Akin, the U.S. Senate candidate’s wife, described the attempt get Akin to drop out of the race as “tyranny, a top-down approach.” In an interview with The National Journal, she also said, “Party bosses dictating who is allowed to advance through the party and make all the decisions–it’s just like 1776 in that way.” According to Lulli Akin, that was when colonists “rose up and said, ‘Not in my home, you don’t come and rape my daughters and my … wife. But that is where we are again.”

Yesterday I wrote that Congress had left town to campaign while blaming Democrats for stalling and inaction. Here are a few things that they left undone, proving that Romney is not the only politician who doesn’t care about 47 percent of the country’s population:

  • The re-authorization of the Violence against Women Act
  • The American Jobs Act [although they blame the president for not enough jobs]
  • Sequestration [that started when the Republicans played games with raising the debt ceiling]
  • Tax Cuts for Working Families
  • The Farm Bill [with the current bill expiring in four days]
  • Veterans Job Corps. Act [passed by the Senate with a 95-1 vote, Rand Paul (R-KY) the only  opposition, and the Air Force Times reporting that the Republican-controlled House has shown “no interest in passing an Obama-initiated measure before the November elections”]
  • Wind Tax Credit [originally authored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and providing jobs]

Many of us in this country assume that all young people are required to have an education. Not in four states, including Virginia. The state’s religious exemption from mandatory school attendance means there are no educational requirements. There may be 7,000 young people who fit into this category.

Good News:

Dane County Circuit Judge Juan Colas (WI) has ruled that the state law ending collective bargaining rights for most public workers violates both the state and U.S. Constitution and is null and void. The ruling comes after a lawsuit brought by the Madison teachers union and a union for Milwaukee city employees. The law was one of the first that Gov. Scott Walker brought to the state. 

Odd News:

The Mormon religion has a bad habit of posthumously baptizing people, sometimes causing great anguish to their families. Ann Romney’s father, an atheist, was baptized after his death. Many Jewish Holocaust victims have also been supposedly converted to Mormonism through this practice. Recently it was discovered that President Obama’s mother was posthumously baptized by the Mormon Church on June 4, 2008. The Mormon Church has claimed that it asked congregations to stop doing this, but it’s still occurring. [It’s old news, but I hadn’t heard this before.]

With Republican actions so misinformed and ignorant during this election round, identifying satire has become increasingly more difficult. Craig Robinson, a former political director of the Republican Party of Iowa, told the New York Times, “I hate to say this, but if [Paul] Ryan wants to run for national office again, he’ll probably have to wash the stench of Romney off of him.” The question of satire comes from Politico’s columnist, Roger Simon, when he described how Paul Ryan doesn’t like the directions “dictated by his Romney handlers.”

According to Simon, Ryan has “been marching around his campaign bus, saying things like, ‘If Stench calls, take a message’ and ‘Tell Stench I’m having finger sandwiches with Peggy Noonan and will text him later.'” According to Rachel Maddow, “the piece isn’t identified as satire, Simon is a chief political correspondent and not a satirist, and the column is filled with details and anecdotes that are, in fact, accurate. If it is satire, it’s awfully tough to tell.”

Romney got a little specific about taxes in a speech in Ohio: “We have got to reform our tax system. Small businesses most typically pay taxes at the individual tax rate. And so our individual income taxes are the ones I want to reform. Make them simpler. I want to bring the rates down. By the way, don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions. But by bringing rates down we will be able to let small businesses keep more of their money so they can hire more people.”

Huh?

September 25, 2012

Last Two Weeks – Part One

For the past two weeks, I haven’t had the opportunity to receive any news except through the CNN and Fox filters.  Watching these stations makes me realize how fortunate I am in having the variety of news from the Internet and other cable stations. They concentrated purely on the discovery that Mitt Romney called 47 percent of the people in the United States “freeloaders,” people that he doesn’t represent, and then accused President Obama of being a notorious income redistributer because of a vague 14-year-old speech. The two stations also continued to make great hay out of the tragedy in Libya as Fox reporters tried to convince the public that throwing gas on a fire is the best way to control it.

Now they’re probably skipping more news, concentrating on the sports crisis of substitute referees, employed because of the three-week-old labor dispute between the NFL and the regular officials, that caused, in the opinion of many fans, the Seattle Seahawks’ defeat of the San Francisco Packers last night after what some people determined as a bad call. (Probably not the Seahawks’ fans!)  It was enough to make Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI) believe in unions–at least for referees. 

Update: Yes, it’s the Green Bay Packers! Mea culpa. I know more about unions than I do sports–which was my point here!

But now I have great sources such as Addicting Information, Alternet, and Care. Therefore during the next few days, I’ll recap some of the news that I’ve missed. There’s not room for much detail so I’ll provide links to more information.

Media:

Rupert Murdoch, owner of far-right media such as Fox and Wall Street Journal, was so convinced in the errors of the polls showing President Obama ahead of Romney that he paid for his own polls. The Fox polls showed President Obama leading Romney by seven points in both Ohio (49 to 42 percent) and Virginia (50 to 43 percent). President Obama leads by five points (49 to 44 percent) in Florida. Fox News either ignored the polls’ results or explained that they had no validity.

Rush Limbaugh saw an Italian study showing that penises are now “10% smaller.” He blames the shrinking on “feminazis.”

Congress:

Last week House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) adjourned the House of Representatives until after the November election, having accomplished only a six-month extension of the nation’s budget. It is the earliest adjournment by the House of Representatives in a general election year in fifty years!

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) has won “Most Corrupt Award” from the non-partisan watchdog group CREW (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington). He has used his unlimited subpoena power to persecute Attorney General Eric Holder for almost a year. Holder’s release 7,600 pages from 46 separate dumps and his testimony to the House on seven separate  situations have not satisfied Issa. At the same time Issa refused to comply with subpoenas in the Roger Clemens’ steroids and Duke Cunningham bribery cases. CREW also cited Issa for illegally revealing confidential information from a sealed wiretap in the Congressional Record and then shielding himself from reproach and censure by claiming that, as a member of Congress, he had constitutional protections for his unethical actions. The watchdog group concluded “that the committee was seeking fodder for a political agenda to embarrass the attorney general and, through him, President Barack Obama.” The New Yorker has far more information about Issa in a January 2011 article.

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MI), notorious for his statement that women who are really raped can’t get pregnant, was caught on tape in May at a Fair Tax Kansas City Meeting saying that he will sell favors to people who contribute to his current senate campaign. “I’m in a three way primary for the U.S. Senate. I’ve gone to people and asked for their support, their help, or their endorsement and some people say yes. They write me a decent check. I remember that… You remember who’s helping you. That’s one way that people get to know Congressmen and Senators.” Today was Akin’s last day to remove himself from the senate campaign, something he won’t do although such Republican luminaries as Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have consistently asked for him to do this.

Voting:

Thirty states will have started early voting by the end of September, with one-third of all ballots being cast this way before the actual Election Day on November 6.

New voting laws in 23 of the 50 states could keep more than 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens from registering and voting, a new study said on Sunday, a number so large it could affect the outcome of the November 6 election.

Melissa Harris-Perry said that 34 million women in Pennsylvania may have trouble voting because they changed their names after they married. The voter ID law requires all these women to present two forms of identification: the state voter ID issued by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) and a separate government-issued ID or driver’s license.  “There’s officially a tax on being a woman in Pennsylvania if you want to vote,” Harris-Perry said. Each of the state’s 31,000 individual poll-workers can enforce the law at their discretion.

A week ago, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered a district court judge to look again at his decision saying the voter ID law passed muster. The judge must determine whether it is realistic to expect state’s Department of Transportation to be able to issue photo ID cards to people who do not currently have them in time for the November 6 election, a number estimated from 100,000 to 1.6 million. If the lower court decides that getting the required photo-ID will be subject to back-ups and other problems that results in disenfranchisement, the high court says the judge must block the law from going forward. At the very least, that would put it off until the next election. Two justices dissented, arguing that the evidence is already clear that the law presents onerous problems for obtaining IDs within the time-frame available. 

Romney’s Campaign:

“We use Ann [Romney] sparingly now, so that people don’t get tired of her–-or start attacking.” This quote came from the same private fund-raiser event when Mitt Romney said that he wasn’t interested in 47 percent of the people in the United States. Evidently Romney’s wife is just a prop to make him look better.

On the Diane Rehm Show (9/24/12), Bay Buchanan, a Romney campaign advisor, told guest host Susan Gage that the campaign needs to “pick off” women from Barack Obama supporters to increase support for Romney. Like Ann Romney, other women are objects, not humans.

Tim Pawlenty resigned last week as co-chair of the Romney presidential campaign to become CEO of The Financial Services Roundtable, a banking lobby that represents Wells Fargo, J.P. Morgan, and other financial companies that represent over $92 trillion dollars in assets. Part of his new job is to get rid of the Dodd-Franks rules to protect the U.S. economy from banks and take the country back to the time of George W. Bush.

In Romney’s infamous May 17 speech when he described the elderly, veterans, disabled, and others who don’t pay taxes as moochers, he had other noteworthy statements to his private audience. Referencing a possible pre-election disaster such as the Carter hostage situation, “I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity.” About Mideast peace, “And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there’s just no way.” Romney talked about when he traveled with Bain Capital to buy a factory in China that employed “about 20,000” young women.

About Latino voters and Elizabeth Warren, Romney said, “And had [my dad] been born of Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot of winning this… [Donor: “Pull an Elizabeth Warren!”]…That’s right I could go out and say—for those who don’t know Elizabeth Warren, she is the woman who’s running for US Senate in Massachusetts who says that she is Cherokee…”

Mitt Romney Gaffes:

The presidential candidate is upset because airplane windows don’t open.

Romney appeared to be several shades darker when he appeared on Univision, a media company serving Hispanic America.  He also threatened not to attend the Hispanic interview unless he was allowed to pack the audience with his local supporters. He allegedly “threw a tantrum” after an introduction that he was allotted 35 minutes and the president would have a full hour the next night. He came out on stage after a new introduction was taped.

Anti-Obama Propaganda:

An anti-Obama film falsely claiming, among other things, that President Obama’s biological father is Frank Marshall Davis, an African-American communist, has been mailed across the country to millions of voters, including 1.5 million in Ohio. The film’s director and producer, Joel Gilbert, did not say how the company is funded to distribute so many free disks.

Good News:

California has passed a bill that will “authorize a registered nurse to dispense specified drugs or devices upon an order issued by a certified nurse-midwife, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant if the nurse is functioning within a specified clinic. The bill would also authorize a registered nurse to dispense or administer hormonal contraceptives in strict adherence to specified standardized procedures.”

“We will never have the elite, smart people on our side.”—Rick Santorum

More tomorrow!

September 13, 2012

DADT Disappeared on September 20, 2011

It is with great regret that I report that I’ll not be writing the blog for the next two weeks. My vacation takes me away from email, and I plan to figure out a life without sitting at the computer. Because I won’t be here on September 20, I want to post a blog about the anniversary on the day that is great news.

One year ago, on September 20, lesbians and gays in the military could, for the first time, be open about their gender identity. They didn’t gain total rights: partners still don’t have the rights that others have, and transpeople have no rights. But it’s a start.

It didn’t happen without certain histrionics. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), warned of dire events if “don’t ask, don’t tell” were repealed and lesbian and gay soldiers were allowed to serve openly. Weakened recruiting, poor morale, a breakdown in unit cohesion, an inevitable lack of readiness during a time of war, gays showering with straights—these were just a few of the predicted horrors.

All the nay-sayers are wrong.

The first academic study of the repeal shows absolutely no negative consequences. The study, published by Palm Center (a research branch of the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School), found no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.

The authors of the study included professors at U.S. Military Academy, U.S. Naval Academy, U.S. Air Force Academy, and U.S. Marine Corps War College. They solicited information from 553 generals and admirals who had previously predicted that repeal would undermine the military; expert opponents of DADT repeal; several watchdog organizations; and over 60 active-duty heterosexual, lesbian, gay and bisexual troops from all service branches.

One soldier told the authors that he continued to hear derogatory anti-gay language from some in his unit during the first few months of DADT’s repeal. “Yet when he confronted them and spoke about their behavior in terms of leadership and professionalism, their conduct improved,” the study said.

“They don’t agree, but they were willing to be professional about it,” the soldier told the interviewers. He added that “frank discussions, which are now far less risky because of repeal, helped disabuse them of preconceived notions about gay people and that ultimately, problems were ‘completely resolved’ through discussion of the fact that he was respected before he was out, and that nothing had changed by his acknowledgement of his sexual orientation.”

These are some of the main points of the study:

(1) Only two service members, both chaplains, were identified as having left the military as a result of DADT repeal;

(2) A Pentagon spokesperson told the study’s co-authors that she was not aware of a single episode of violence associated with repeal;

(3) Pentagon data show that recruitment and retention remained robust after repeal;

(4) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of morale after repeal as they did prior to repeal;

(5) Survey data revealed that service-wide, the troops reported the same level of readiness after repeal as they did prior to repeal.

It’s time to publicly ask those who fought against the repeal of DADT why their predictions were so wrong—especially McCain. Or Mitt Romney because the GOP platform decries “social experimentation” in the military and condemns efforts to “undermine military priorities and mission readiness,” which sounds like a position in support of the old policy.

In celebration of this day, I will bring you my favorite photo about the repeal. I’ll be back in two weeks!

September 12, 2012

Romney May Incite Terrorism

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:45 PM
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A rocket attack reportedly carried out by Islamist extremists killed Christopher Stevens, the U.S.  ambassador to Libya yesterday as well as three other United States citizens also at the U.S. embassy in Benghazi. The attack followed angry protests in Cairo, Egypt, and Genghazi (Libya). At first some people assumed that the attack was a result of protests against an anti-Islam film produced in the U.S. by an Israeli real estate developer Sam Bacile. According to the Wall Street Journal, the film, mocking the Prophet Muhammad, was made in 2011 with $5 million from “100 Jewish donors.” There is now a question about whether this information is correct.

The Quilliam Foundation, a British think tank, describes this as an orchestrated event by a small group of terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11/01. Designed as revenge for the death of Abu Yaya al-Libi, Al Qaeda’s second in command who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier in June, the “well-planned terrorist attack” was scheduled to take place even without the protest against the film.

“Some have sought to justify this vicious behavior, along with the protest that took place at our Embassy in Cairo yesterday, as a response to inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” Secretary of State Hilary Clinton said. “America’s commitment to religious tolerance goes back to the very beginning of our nation. But let me be clear. There is no justification for this. None.” She also stressed that the U.S. efforts in Libya will continue, blaming the violence on a “small and savage” group.

“Everywhere Chris and his team went in Libya, in a country scarred by war and tyranny, they were hailed as friends and partners,” Clinton said of Stevens. “And when the attack came yesterday, Libyans stood and fought to defend our post. Some were wounded. Libyans carried Chris’s body to the hospital and they helped rescue and lead other Americans to safety.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), not exactly an ally of the administration, praised Clinton’s remarks as “excellent and moving,” adding that she struck “just the right message and tone.”

Just hours after Romney said that he would not smear the president on the anniversary of 9/11, he held a press conference and denounced President Obama’s administration. “This attack on American individuals and embassies is outrageous, it’s disgusting. I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt, instead of condemning their actions. It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values.”

His reference was to the statement made by the U.S. embassy in Libya before the deaths about the Islamophobic film. These statements were made before the killings and had nothing to do with the embassy’s statements.

During his campaign, Romney has tried to cause a rift with China, declare Russia an enemy, and start a war with Iran. He has constantly accused the president of apologizing for U.S. values and disavowing “American exceptionalism.” Now he has declared a war on Muslims in the Middle East. He reflects his neoconservative foreign policy advisors, many of whom helped cause the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the past, I have feared that Romney was ignorant, unaware of foreign policy. After hearing his latest statements, I have concluded that he is so desperate to be elected that he will do anything for a vote including selling out his country and causing a third world war.

Romney has displayed no regret for his stupidity. In fact, in this photo he looks quite self-satisfied for having made these inflammatory statements.

Journalists on both the left and right have spoken against Romney’s statements. Mark Halperin called this the “most craven” and “ill-advised move” of the 2012 campaign.  Both NBC and ABC condemned Romney for his words. NBC News’ First Read described his statement as “one of the most over-the-top and (it turns out) incorrect attacks of the general-election campaign,” which looks “worse and worse” as more information comes to light. NBC’s Chuck Todd called the statement “irresponsible” and a “bad mistake.” ABC’s Jake Tapper said that Romney’s attack “does not stand up to simple chronology.” National Journal‘s Ron Fournier called Romney’s actions “ham-handed” and “inaccurate.”

Speaking on Fox News, conservative columnist Peggy Noonan was also blunt. “I don’t feel that Mr. Romney has been doing himself any favors in the past few hours,” she said. “Sometimes when really bad things happen, when hot things happen, cool words or no words is the way to go.” Later, the editorial board of the Washington Post weighed in, with a piece headlined, “Mr. Romney’s rhetoric on embassy attacks discredits his campaign.” Romney’s approach, the board said, was “stunning.” Steve Schmidt, John McCain’s campaign manager in 2008, described Romney’s words as “a big mistake.”

Republicans indicated a high level of frustration with Romney’s words. “[Romney was] just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up,” said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an “utter disaster.”

“It’s bad,” said a former aide to Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign. “Just on a factual level that the statement was not a response but preceding, or one could make the case precipitating. And just calling it a ‘disgrace’ doesn’t really cut it. Not ready for prime time.”

A third Republican, a former Bush State Department official, said, “It wasn’t presidential of Romney to go political immediately–a tragedy of this magnitude should be something the nation collectively grieves before politics enters the conversation.”

The Republicans declined to speak for attribution, for fear of being publicly disloyal to their party’s nominee.

President Obama strongly condemned “in the strongest terms” an “outrageous and shocking” attack in Libya that killed a U.S. ambassador and three other staffers. He vowed to work with the Libyan government to “bring to justice the killers who attacked our people.” The president said, “No acts of terror will ever shake the resolve of this great nation, alter that character or eclipse the light of the values that we stand for. Today, we mourn for more Americans that represent the very best of the United States of America. We will not waver in our commitment to see that justice is done for this terrible act. Make no mistake. Justice will be done.”

Is it possible that Romney is trying to incite terrorists so that they will attack someplace in the United States before the November election in an attempt to win the election? If there is an attack within the U.S. in the next two months, we should blame Mitt Romney’s irresponsible response.

Asides: Moody’s Investor Service warned yesterday it would likely downgrade the U.S. government’s debt unless policymakers in Washington reached an agreement on debt reduction.

Thanks to Romney’s statement during the GOP convention that Russia is “without question our No. 1 geopolitical foe” and promised, with regard to Obama’s Russian policies, “less flexibility and more backbone,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said he is “grateful” to Romney, because his statements ”once again confirmed our approach to the issue of missile defense is the right one.” That means that Romney has guaranteed Russian opposition to the missile shield that makes the United States less safe.

Bob Marshall, a Republican delegate from Virginia, said that children with disabilities are a punishment for past abortions. http://www.addictinginfo.org/2012/09/12/republican-delegate-says-children-with-disabilities-are-punishment-for-past-abortions/

September 11, 2012

GOP Takes Our Freedom

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 6:53 PM
Tags: , , , , , ,

Eleven years ago, a tragedy in New York City gave the government a green light to limit freedom for the people in the country. Since that time, the GOP has used fear and hatred like bludgeons; they have started two wars and allowed huge corporations to increase their burgeoning control over the people of the United States. Although the GOP talks about wanting small government and giving people more freedom, they have slashed away at the “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” described by the U.S. Declaration of Independence, hammering at freedom from religion and freedom to control one’s body. There are also many other ways we have lost our freedoms—our life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Employment: Businesses have rights; workers don’t. More and more, businesses hire on a temporary or part-time basis so that they don’t have to provide rights and benefits. Employers can read employees’ correspondence on company computers and track employees’ movements on the company cell phones. Businesses have the right to fire anyone for expressing political views online even when employees write these when they’re not at work. States legislate against organizing and forming unions, thanks to the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). Lawmakers use tax abuses to break union contracts. Businesses even control bathroom breaks: Mary Williams Walsh reported in the New York Times, “Employees at lower rungs of the economic ladder can be timed with stopwatches in the bathroom; stonewalled when they ask to go; given disciplinary points for frequent urination; even hunted down by supervisors with walkie-talkies if they tarry in the stalls.”

A healthy lifestyle: The United States ranks 49th in infant mortality; lower-income families suffer much greater infant mortality in this country than those in higher income brackets. The average life expectancy for an African American in New Orleans is roughly the same as that of a North Korean and shorter than that of people in Colombia, Venezuela, of Vietnam. Life expectancy for poor white males in Appalachia and the Mississippi Valley is roughly the same as that of males in Mexico and Panama. Mortality among Americans aged 65 and older decreased by 13 percent after Medicare was created, and seniors spent 13 percent fewer days in the hospital. The GOP plans to reverse this trend through their proposed Medicare voucher system and increased eligibility age.

Health care: Millions of people in this country are forced to beg for health care, even when they pay for insurance, and then argue over a complex system of denied payments with arcane explanations. Without the ability to fight this, people then are subject to medical debt collectors and possibly end up in jail. Most people in the United States lack affordable dental care.

Social mobility: The recession allowed businesses to demand wage concessions from workers and increase huge salaries and bonuses to senior executives. The push toward tax cuts for the wealthy resulted in a decline of government jobs. The share of middle-income jobs in this country has fallen from 52 percent to 42 percent since 1980, while the share of low-income jobs rose from 30 percent t0 41 percent. The cost of higher education has shifted from taxpayers to students and their families in the past 30 years. During this time inflation has increased median family income by 147% while college tuition and fees rose 439%. That’s a tripling of education costs, in real dollar terms. According to the New York Times, “Among families with incomes in the lowest 20 percent, the net cost of a year at a public university is 55 percent of median income, up from 39 percent in 1999-2000. At community colleges, long seen as a safety net, that cost is 49 percent of the poorest families’ median income last year, up from 40 percent in 1999-2000.”

Personal time: The U.S. is one of the few developed nations that don’t require employers to offer paid vacation time to their employees. Even if employees have vacation time, they have trouble using it because staff cutbacks keep them from being covered. Others can’t afford it, and employers pressure them not to take off any time. Michael Janati also noted in the Washington Times, “Americans are working approximately 11 more hours per week now than they did in the 1970’s, yet the average income for middle-income families has declined by 13% (when adjusting for inflation).” More people are literally “working themselves to death.”

Information: Because of weak regulations and lax enforcement of laws, corporations can keep people from access to vital information for business transactions. Banks hide balloon payments and other key loan provisions in complex and unreadable documents while bankers misrepresent the terms of the loan. The Mortgage Electronic Registration Systems (MERS) hides the names of mortgage holders and their terms from people and courts. Banks control FICO and other credit-scoring agencies. Corporations walk away from bad loan deals with their banks, but individuals have almost no recourse if they fail to live up to agreements. In fact, individuals pay for the corporations faulting on their loans. If people refuse to accept “arbitration clauses” weighted in favor of corporations, they will be denied critical services. Corporations such as cable television operators and health insurers act as monopolies or near-monopolies. These actions deny freedom of choice.

Bill Moyers said, “In 1984 the number of companies owning a controlling interest in America’s media was 50; today that number is six.” Corporate media still shapes our perception of current events. When tens of thousands of demonstrators protested at George W. Bush’s first inauguration of George W. Bush, almost all the media refused to show them. The same thing happened when an estimated one million demonstrators protested the invasion of Iraq on February 15, 2003. News outlets such as the Washington Post, which has outsourced much of its financial reporting to an organization run by right-wing billionaire Pete Peterson, use labels such as “extreme” and “fringe” to describe politicians and organizations who advocate for policies which are supported by 75 or 80 percent of all Americans.

Housing and travel: The 16 million underwater homes in the United States house are occupied by approximately 40 million people who owe an estimated $1.2 trillion in “underwater” real estate value. This value disappeared when the housing bubble burst. The mortgage deception often included forgeries, lies about the loan’s terms, and filing of false information. Stuck with these debts, many homeowners lose the ability to move to another area even if they need to find jobs lost after the bank-created financial crisis. If they have a job, they pay taxes that prop up the banks.

Privacy: Internet companies sell personal data for profit, often by using cookies on personal computers to track activities. Facebook sold users’ video rental records. Google pulled Americans’ personal information via WiFi when it created Street View. Apple iPhones track and store their owners’ movements. The government is already using corporate data, sometimes without subpoenas. Corporations voluntarily permit the government to use their technology to spy on citizens, included one reported case where the government placed a spy server at an ATT location to track the activities of its subscribers. There’s a lot more that we don’t know.

Representative democracy: Lawmakers ignore the wishes of people in the country. While 75 percent of most Americans and 76 percent of Tea Party supporters oppose Social Security cuts to balance the budget, political leaders negotiate these cuts. Lawmakers refuse to legislate tighter control on banks, but the majority of people in the United States want this to happen. The majority of people want higher taxes on millionaires, another issue that Republicans will not consider.

The GOP is right: we need more freedom. It’s just that the GOP version of freedom shackles the people in the United States.

Asides: Billionaire casino mogul Sheldon Adelson said he plans to spend $100 million this year to get Mitt Romney elected president. It would be money well invested if Romney is elected. Romney’s tax cuts would net Adelson $2.3 billion over the four years of Romney’s administration, making him a profit of $2.2 billion.

The Federal Communications Commission has voted to require local television stations to put detailed information about political advertising including the cost of specific commercials on their websites.

Veteran GOP strategist Mary Matalin describes Paul Ryan’s wife, Janna, as living a real middle-class mother life. Married to one of the most powerful Washington lawmakers, she also has a cousin in the House and an uncle who used to be an Oklahoma governor and senator. Janna Ryan has also worked as a Capitol Hill staffer and lobbyist who knows “probably more than any of the spouses that, with all due respect, didn’t come from that background, whether it’s Michelle [Obama] or Ann [Romney] or Jill [Biden],” according to Matalin. Sounds like an ordinary soccer mom to me. 

September 10, 2012

Congress Returns–Briefly

The conventions are history, and Congress returns from its five-week vacation to go back into session today, at least for a few days. With almost 500 federal lawmakers up for re-election in 56 days, they’ll be gone in October to campaign, but they may disappear for part of September too.

Well-known for their procrastination and lack of commitment, Republicans need to get cracking on their six-month stopgap spending bill to keep the government functioning. House plans are to start today with a vote by Thursday. They can waste more time by discussing this again in another six months.

Federal farm programs are also due to expire on September 30, 2012, unless Congress does something about renewing them. The spending bill could include this extension, but food stamps are part of farm bill which might cause another stalemate. The Senate passed a five-year agriculture program last June, but as usual the House Republicans are dragging their collective feet especially with the disagreement about how much to cut from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Republicans may also let the farm bill expire so that they can blame the Democrats—as they do for everything—hoping to get more votes from farm states like Iowa.

Everyone might be better off if Congress does nothing about the farm bill. With no formal extension, food stamp and other nutrition programs continue, and most farmers will not be affected because the current farm bill covers 2012 crops no matter when they are harvested.

At the end of the week, the House Republicans will waste more time with a promised vote on the “No More Solyndras Act” bill which eliminates loan guarantees for solar and wind energy companies. The Senate probably won’t vote on it, but the House Republicans can look as if they’re doing something.

Meanwhile, the Senate may vote tomorrow about whether to debate a bill from Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) to get jobs for veterans. It includes a veterans jobs corps to employ veterans as firefighters and police officers and in fields of conservation, recreation, and resource management projects on public lands. Republicans will push for an open amendment process for this bill to add everything including tax cuts. If they don’t get to do this, they may sulk and filibuster.

Some economists have warned of a recession without any Congressional action on a combination of the expiration of all Bush tax cuts and the impending across-the-board spending cuts. Again the two parties have opposing views. Republicans say they want everyone to have tax cuts, and Democrats want to renew them only for households netting less than $250,000 a year.

Another potential amendment could be replacing automatic defense spending cuts, known as sequestration, set to begin in 2013. Both parties agreed to these cuts last summer during the debacle of the debt ceiling crisis if a committee could not come to agreement regarding how to fix the deficit. Mitt Romney said yesterday that the Republicans were wrong to vote for this and blamed it all on the president. Romney’s VP pick, Paul Ryan, was one of those “wrong” voters although he’s tried to lie his way out of the situation. In an interview, Ryan said that he voted for the bill that did the cutting, but he did not vote for the cuts.

While disturbed about the defense cuts, military leaders, unlike Republicans, understand that the budget needs revenues as well as cuts. “I hope we can find a way to address the sequestration threat of Jan. 1,” Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said in Charlotte, N.C., where Democrats held their convention last week.  “It has to be done on a bipartisan basis … [and] it has to include revenues as well as spending cuts.”

Other pressing business for the lame-duck session include averting a 30-percent cut in physicians’ Medicare fees, passing the annual Pentagon policy bill, improving cyber security for the nation’s critical infrastructure, a Russia free-trade bill, and legislation to reform the Postal Service which may have to default on a $5.5 billion payment into its pension fund to cover people retiring 75 years from now.

Congress this year has managed to pass just 61 bills, the fewest number in more than 60 years. Last year, they passed 90 bills, down from 258 during the previous year. The average worker in the country has a median household income of about $50,000 compared to lawmakers’ salaries of $174,000 or more. At the same time, the average worker has 13 days of paid vacation; lawmakers have more than four months of recesses this year.

I’m waiting for the next anti-women bill from the Republicans. They’ve tried one each week during the 112th Congress.

Asides: On Meet the Press yesterday, Ann Romney said, “Mitt and I do recognize that we have not had a financial struggle in our lives. But I want people to believe in their hearts that we know what it is like to struggle.” This is a very different struggle from her description of it just two weeks ago in her speech at the GOP convention.

According to a study by Harvard economics professor David Cutler, the increased costs for seniors in the changes of Medicare would move as much as $16 to $26 billion to profits for insurance companies. Romney tried to discredit the study by saying that Cutler was once an advisor for President Obama.

The Associated Press FactCheck failed when it evaluated Joe Biden’s statement that 4.5 private-sector jobs have been created during the past 29 months. They agreed that this information was true but gave it a half-true because it omitted the time before that and didn’t include the 500,000+ jobs lost in the public sector. If fact checkers can’t based their opinions on facts, they should quit. Also small-government advocates complaining about unemployment should realize that they are getting what they ask for. Smaller government means less employment; the loss of public sector jobs during the current president is equivalent to the jobs that George W. Bush added during his eight years.

Ideally voting should be based on information, which makes the level of ignorance throughout the country truly frightening. A prime example of this comes a question in a recent Ohio poll about whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney deserves more credit for killing Osama bin Laden. (Some people may remember that Romney sneered at President Obama for his decision to find bin Laden, indicating that it was a waste of time.) Only 63 percent of possible voters gave the credit to the president; 6 percent thought Romney did it, and 31 percent didn’t know. The women were 2 percent more knowledgeable than men, and 86 percent of African-Americans knew it was the president compared to only 60 percent of Anglo-Americans. Only 38 percent of likely voters gave the president credit for killing Osama bin Laden, and the North Carolina percentage was lower at 29 percent. Frightening!

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