Nel's New Day

August 20, 2013

2016: Cruz Moves Forward, Borowitz Shows Christie’s Problem

Much as we hate to think about the next presidential race, it seems that the presidential competition for the 2016 election has begun in earnest. The most recent sign is Sen. Ted Cruz’s declaration that he’s renouncing his Canadian citizenship. He announced his decision after The Dallas Morning News wrote that Cruz may have dual citizenship with Canada and the United States after being born in Canada to a woman with U.S. citizenship. From his remarks, Cruz seemed astonished about his dual citizenship status:

“Assuming that is true, then sure, I will renounce any Canadian citizenship. Nothing against Canada, but I’m an American by birth and as a U.S. senator; I believe I should be only an American.”

When he completed the form to renounce his Canadian citizenship, the Harvard Law School graduate and Supreme Court attorney issued a press release explaining that he just followed his mother’s directions:

“When I was a kid, my mom told me that I could choose to claim Canadian citizenship if I wanted. I got my U.S. passport in high school. Because I was a U.S. citizen at birth, because I left Calgary when I was 4 and have lived my entire life since then in the U.S., and because I have never taken affirmative steps to claim Canadian citizenship, I assumed that was the end of the matter.”

If Cruz gets rid of Obamacare and loses his job, he might want Canadian citizenship: they have health care up north.

The president is the only elected office in the U.S. mandating that a person be a “natural-born citizen” of the United States. The term “birthers” came from the adamant statements about President Obama not being eligible for the presidency because of the falsehood that he was born in Kenya to a woman with a U.S. citizenship. The question is whether U.S. citizenship is the same as “natural born.”

At least two men not born on U.S. soil have run for president: George Romney (1967) in Mexico and John McCain (2008) in the Panama Canal Zone. The Senate declared that McCain is a natural-born citizen. Presidential eligibility problems go back over 130 years when people argued that President Chester A. Arthur was born in Canada and not Vermont, thereby not meeting the eligibility requirement for President of the United States. In 2011, the Congressional Research Service wrote that people born to U.S. citizens in foreign countries “most likely” qualify as natural-born citizens. The argument, however, is probably not over.

Another apparent interest in being interested in the presidential candidacy came from Rep. Steve King (R-IA), who tweeted a photo of himself at Dixville Notch (NH), the first town in the state scheduled to vote in the 2016 primaries. “Just poking around the back roads. Beautiful place 4 first in nation primaries & general election results.” King’s next destination is the Charleston Meeting in South Carolina, also a destination of Republican presidential wannabes. He plans a sit-down on August 26 with 20 local GOP activists, a meeting that Lin Bennett, vice-chair of the South Carolina Republican Party, indicates an interest in become a candidate.

Iowa’s Republican leaders are pleased that King decided not to run for the Senate seat left by Democratic Tom Harkin’s resignation next year. Immigration reform has made King famous across the country, particularly with rejection of giving citizenship to children brought into the U.S. illegally. “For every one who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” according to King.

The plethora of far-right potential candidates such as Cruz, King, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) is driving the less than far far right interested parties farther in the conservative direction. For example, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has gone from considering immigration reform to being very quiet about his postion.

Andy Borowitz satirizes the frantic move to the right by GOP presidential candidates:

“New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie withdrew from consideration as a Presidential candidate today after becoming embroiled in what a leading Republican strategist called “a career-ending empathy scandal.”

“After signing a law barring licensed therapists from engaging in so-called gay conversion therapy, Mr. Christie stunned his fellow Republicans by seemingly expressing compassion for gay children, thus disqualifying himself from any further role in the G.O.P.

“In a brief statement to reporters, Mr. Christie expressed remorse for what he called ‘my unfortunate and ill-considered display of understanding for people different from myself,’ and urged the people of New Jersey to remember ‘my strong record of cutting funds for schools and the elderly.’

“While Mr. Christie might try to regain his fellow Republicans’ trust by vetoing more assault-rifle bans, G.O.P. strategist Tracy Klugian says that the governor does not deserve another chance, citing his “dangerous flirtations with compassion” in the past.

“‘After Hurricane Sandy, Chris Christie worried a lot of us with his recklessly sensitive behavior,’ says Mr. Klugian. ‘But we really thought he had put this problem behind him…. But maybe this will force him to get the help he needs.’”

For progressives, however, Christie more than passes the conservative criteria. He admires the regressive Koch brothers, having attended their summer seminar in Colorado, and said he wants to reduce Medicaid and Medicare while raising the Social Security age and cutting many other government programs. His first four budgets cut women’s health funding while spending $260 million on a now-bankrupt Atlantic City casino. Christie canceled the ARC rail tunnel to Manhattan which would have provided thousands of jobs, cleared up congestion, and reduced pollution. In addition, he weakened over 100 essential environmental protections to help big corporations and land developers.

Late last Friday, hoping to hide from the media, Christie worked to get his conservative cred back when he refused to sign three gun control measures, one which he had requested. He had called for a ban on sales of the Barrett .50 caliber rifle (A3659), the most powerful weapon commonly available to civilians. The weapon fires ammunition the size of carrots and can pierce steel plate armor from several hundred yards away. It can even shoot down airplanes.

.50 caliber

Most people would rather avoid hearing about presidential candidate fantasies. But if you hear about politicians straying from their constituents into Iowa, New Hampshire, or South Carolina, you might think about the reason.

August 19, 2013

GOP Alienates Everyone except White Males

http://maddowblog.msnbc.com/_news/2013/08/16/20053005-rnc-unanimously-approves-2016-debate-resolution?lite  Transparency is not the Republican National Committee’s strong suit, so it’s no surprise that much of last weekend’s Summer Meeting in Boston was closed to the public and press. Yet a few things slipped out, especially when Chair Reince Priebus wanted the publicity.

The main buzz was the unanimous approval of a resolution barring NBC News and CNN from hosting the 2016 GOP presidential primary debates after the news that the two networks may air Hillary Clinton documentaries. Fox isn’t included in the boycott because it reportedly bailed on participating in the production of these films. The resolution states that the RNC would not “partner with (CNN or NBC) in the 2016 presidential primary debates nor sanction any primary debates they sponsor.” The ban extends to NBC and CNN’s Spanish-language channels, Telmundo and CNN Espanol.

Another report indicates that the RNC will force networks to reject journalists for debate moderators and replace them with right-wing media personalities like Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity. Such a decision would be in direct conflict with the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report issued last March: “The Republican Party needs to stop talking to itself. We have become expert in how to provide ideological reinforcement to like-minded people, but devastatingly we have lost the ability to be persuasive with, or welcoming to, those who do not agree with us on every issue.”

The RNC tried unsuccessfully to conceal its racist approach toward immigration reform from the most conservative members by highlighting charter members of the new GOP “Rising Stars” program—two women, a Latina state lawmaker, and an African-American state lawmaker. Priebus also said, “Using the word ‘self-deportation’–it’s a horrific comment to make. I don’t think it has anything to do with our party. When someone makes those comments, obviously, it’s racist.”

The GOP platform, however, advocates the policy in its opposition to “any forms of amnesty” for “illegal immigrants,” instead endorsing “humane procedures to encourage illegal aliens to return home voluntarily.”

A top speaker—behind closed doors—was New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie who supposedly urged GOP members to work toward winning elections rather than squabbling over ideology. “We are not a debating society,” Christie told the RNC luncheon. “We are a political operation that needs to win.” He has claimed that it’s too early to start running for the presidential election of 2016 while he positions himself for candidacy.

The squabble continued when Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), another presidential wannabe, responded through advisor Doug Stafford who said: “So if I translate Gov. Christie correctly, we shouldn’t be the party of ideas. We shouldn’t care what we stand for or even if we stand for anything. We reject that idea. Content-free so-called ‘pragmatism’ is the problem, not the solution.”

When Priebus announced the RNC’s “Growth and Opportunity Project” report, he called it a “wake-up call” to court minorities and women. After the RNC meeting, a Politico op-ed piece listed the groups that the GOP has insisted on alienating since the last election and release of the report on how to not alienate these groups: Hispanics, through the House approach toward immigration reform; African-Americans, by responding offensively toward George Zimmerman’s exoneration for killing teenage Trayvon Martin; gays, with its opposition to rights for LGBT people in marriage and employment; and swing voters, by the GOP demonstrating that they are totally incapable of governing most recently with its threat of shutting down the country if they don’t get their own way.

The GOP shows that minorities don’t belong in the GOP “tent”:

  • Voted to deport DREAMers, a bill that would resume deportations for children brought to the United States without the knowledge that it was done illegally.
  • Suppressed minority votes by enacting laws deliberately designed to stop poor people and minorities from their constitutional right to vote.
  • Used dismissive and racist language including the statement from Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) if people don’t want to be part of “the American race” that they should leave the country.
  • Reacted with insensitivity regarding the Martin killing with such comments as “get over it” [Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD)], blame on President Obama for Zimmerman even standing trial [Rep. Steve King (R-IA)], and refusal to believe that “there is any particular evidence” of black voters being prevented from voting [Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)].
  • Tried to prove opposition of immigration reform using Jason Richwine’s report for Heritage Foundation that he based on his racist Ph.D. dissertation linking race and IQ.

The rabidly anti-LGBT agenda including spending millions of dollars to keep same-sex married couples from receiving federal benefits, preventing anti-discrimination laws in housing and jobs, working to reinstate anti-sodomy laws for only LGBT people, and trying to roll back the repeal of the military policy, “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell,” that permitted service members to openly serve for almost two years.

Politico omitted a large constituency that the GOP continues to alienate—women. The GOP:

  • Fought insuring voters in 40 House votes to stop Obamacare and state laws to refuse federal Medicaid funding, action which inordinately affects women.
  • Opposed the Violence against Women Act, legislation that was first signed into law in 1994 and then twice reauthorized twice that faced great GOP resistance this past spring because it was “expanded to include other different groups,” according to Rep. Martha Blackburn (R-TN). “Different groups” were LGBT, Native American, and immigrant.
  • Defunded Planned Parenthood through federal bills and state laws, causing women to lose access to contraception, cancer screenings, and basic preventive care.
  • Passed anti-abortion legislation through hundreds of outrageous, unconstitutional laws that stop women from having any abortions, no matter what the reason. The House passed Rep. Trent Franks’ (R-AZ) abortion ban after 20 weeks, and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) has introduced similar legislation.
  • Insulted women legislators, for example when Texas Attorney General (and gubernatorial candidate) Greg Abbott (R) thanked a supporter on Twitter after he referred to state Sen. Wendy Davis as “Retard Barbie.”
  • Refused to recognize serious issues of sexual assault in the military through such offensive blame on pornography [Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL)] and “the hormone level created by nature” [Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)].
  • Opposed free contraception through federal attempts to allow anyone to circumvent Obamacare on any flimsy “religious” reason.
  • Attacked working mothers by stating that the American education system  is “so mediocre” because of women who work outside the home [Gov. Phil Bryant (R-MS)].
  • Cut support for women and children in federal budget by eliminating foodstamps and a $758 million cut in WIC, a federal assistance program for low-income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants and children under the age of five.
  • Fought equal pay for women in both states repealing equal pay and the House which rejected the Fair Pay Act.

 

After eliminating minority, female, and LGBT voters, the GOP is left with white men. At the rate that younger people are turning progressive, it’s actually left with older white men—and not all of those are conservative. By 2025, just 12 years from now, the largest age group in America will be those under 40 years of age. An interactive chart on this website shows the changes over the decades.

August 18, 2013

Fundamentalist Christians’ Creativity

Catholic leaders seem to oppose the rights of women much of the time, but Bishop Robert Lynch has attacked the “pro-life” Population Research Institute (PRI) because of the lies it spreads about Catholic Relief Services (CRS).  In addressing PRI’s accusations that the CRS fails to adhere to Church policy by actively promoting contraception, Lynch wrote:

“From time to time, I suspect when these organizations need money, they try to stir up a hornet’s nest or storm by attacking a Catholic organization, usually falsely accusing them of being anti-life, pro-contraception, either pro or soft on abortion, etc., etc., etc. The storms start small enough and then occasionally grow in size. It’s simply a money-raising scheme with little regard for the human lives which they allege they seek to protect–-well maybe it is only pre-born human life in which they are interested.”

After all this time, a Catholic bishop is complaining about fake “pro-life” organizations that are not opposed to the execution of a severely schizophrenic man on Florida’s death row for 34 years! In addition to ignoring capital punishment, these same organizations oppose avoid immigration reform and food aid.

Lynch also points out the lack of transparency in PRI which refuses to identify both the sources of its allegations and the members of its Board of Directors. He concludes by stating, “Keep on doing the good work of Christ and be an instrument of mercy to the world.”

The courts have come out in favor of “We the People” instead of “We the Christian People.” After issuing a temporary restraining order on Oklahoma’s proposed anti-Sharia constitutional amendment in 2010, Chief District Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange of the Western District of Oklahoma, struck it down, preventing state courts from considering Islamic and international law. Her ruling stated that targeting a specific religion is unconstitutional and that the law attempts to fix a non-existent problem.

Educators are also winning in Kentucky where creationists and climate change deniers tried to put their stamp on school curriculum.  Despite the complaints that called members of the Kentucky Board of Education as “facist” and “atheistic,” the board approved new science standards to reinforce the teaching of evolution and climate science. Despite being told that they promoted “socialistic” thinking that leads to “genocide” and “murder,” the board declared that evolution is the “fundamental, unifying theory that underlies all the life sciences.” Scientific thought in Kentucky is not home free yet, however, because the board’s changes much at approved by the legislature’s education committees.

Fundamentalist Christians are concerned that children raised in a literal belief of the Bible will be marginalized, leading to physiological harm in the classroom and then on to the genocide and murder. There seems to be no concern about marginalization of children who believe in facts. Baptist minister Matt Singleton told the board that the lie of evolution has led to drug abuse, suicide and other social afflictions. He referred to the curriculum as “the rich man’s elitist religion of evolution.”

After kids learn about evolution in school, they will be confused when they go to the Creation Museum, partially funded by $40 million from the state of Kentucky.  There may be pleas for further funding because the Kentucky museum, opened in 2007 by the Australian-founded Answers in Genesis, has started losing attendance, down 40 percent last year from the year it opened.

For those unfamiliar with this “museum,” it purports to prove that the Bible is correct, that Earth was created as is 6,000 years ago and that people lived here at the same time as dinosaurs. (Fact check: dinosaurs died about 65 million years ago, and humans as we know them didn’t appear until 250,000 to 400,000 years ago.)

creation museum

 

Because of religious indoctrination, about 46 percent of Americans think God created humans in their present form while 32 percent say God helped humans evolve. Only 15 percent think that evolution is a natural process. According to the museum, “God made Adam and Eve on the same day as land animals” and “Before man’s Fall, animals were vegetarians.” Kids’ T-shirts say “On the Sixth Day, God Created Dinosaurs!”

Both the museum and creationist author and filmmaker Darek Isaacs believe that dragons actually lived thousands of years ago. Dragons are compared to Satan in the Book of Revelations, and according to Isaacs, God wouldn’t include them without factual basis. Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis-U.S., added that dinosaurs were with humans on Noah’s Ark.

With Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) leaving the Senate, Georgia Republicans are distressed about the crop of GOP candidates, including Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA), who might lose the seat to the Democrats in an increasingly Democratic state with a fast-growing youth and minority voting population. Broun is known for declaring in his church that evolution and the big bang theory “lies straight from the pit of hell” and common refers to Obama as a socialist.

Broun’s beliefs may force his opponents into a hard right position where the winner will be stuck for the general election. Two days after he introduced a “no amnesty” bill barring any legal status for undocumented immigrants, his opponent, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) sent a campaign email with the subject line “stopping tax credits for illegal immigrants.” A leading opponent, Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA), claimed that Rep. Todd Akin’s (R-MO) horrific remarks about rape and abortion were “partly right.” The Georgia politician/obstetrician apparently believes that women cannot get pregnant without “legitimate rape.” Gingrey later apologized for this statement, but the Internet never forgets.

The GOP hopes to pick up six Republican seats to take over the Senate; losing the Senate seat in Georgia would give them a severe blow.

In less than three months, Virginia will elect a new governor. One of their choices wants to change the commonwealth constitution to let religious schools get taxpayer funding. Currently Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli argues that this current ban on funding for religious schools is the result of “anti-Catholic bigotry in American politics in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.” Virginia won’t have to write its own legislation: Cuccinelli is taking the wording from over 1,000 right-wing ALEC-developed models that also promoted voter suppression and “Stand Your Ground” laws. Another of Cuccinelli’s plans is to reinstate an anti-sodomy law.

In a decision regarding city ordinances, San Antonio (TX) will decide whether it will add protections for sexual orientation, gender identity, and veteran status in a vote on September 5, 2013. The religiously-inspired crowd of over 200 people led by several pastors repeatedly booed Eric Alva, a gay veteran who was the first Marine seriously injured in the Iraq War, when he spoke in favor of these changes. Alva lost his right leg when stepping on a landmine.

ModernFamilyFundamentalist Doug Sehorne of South Carolina suffered a great shock when he discovered that the cover of his most recent book, presenting literal lessons from the King James Bible, has a photo taken from Modern Family.  One of the quotes in Bible Principles of Child Discipline (from the Book of Proverbs) provides the instruction from Proverbs 23:13-14:  “Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell.”

For those who don’t follow sit-coms on television, Modern Family follows three families, one of them a gay couple—Mitch and Cameron—with an adopted daughter, Lily. None of the characters in the series has shown any proclivity toward beating children, and Sehorne has written on his Facebook page that the program is a “wicked TV show involving a gay couple.” Although he has pulled the book from amazon.com where he was selling e-copies, the cover exists on the never-forgetting Internet.

Bryan Fischer, American Family Association spokesman, has moved redder than Republican states into the red of Russia. On a Voice of Russia interview, he praised the country for their violence toward LGBT people. In his Christian approach, Fischer said, “Homosexual behavior damages the body and soul. We love homosexuals enough to tell them the truth.” Russia has a new law that imprisons anyone who faintly supports the LGBT community, endangering the lives of athletes and others from the United States who attend the Olympics.

Fischer also accused President Obama being absent from the Situation Room during the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound and had his image Photoshopped into the picture only after he knew the mission was a success.

Situation-Room

It takes a lot of creativity to make this stuff up! The people who fabricate supporting statements for their falsehoods could probably make a fortune in advertising—unless they’re already paid well by the churches’ money from taxpayers.

August 16, 2013

Stop the Gun Paranoia

At the height of the argument about gun control following the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, an op-ed in my local newspaper talked about how laws were not necessary because all legal gun owners were responsible. It is only the criminals who shoot people. I remember this statement every time that I see articles like this one:

This week, 56-year-old Gary Wingate of Prescott (AZ) insisted that his wife hand him his 12-gauge shotgun despite her being uncomfortable with handling guns. She did what she was told and accidentally shot him in the torso, killing him.

Near there, two months earlier, a four-year-old killed his father in what was called an accidental shooting. A Tucson-area man was luckier: his three-year-old son left him alive after accidentally shooting him in the butt with a .22 caliber rifle. The man was target shooting in the desert.

In another act of carelessness this week near Lancaster (OH), 73-year-old Terry J. Dunlap, instructor in a gun safety class, shot one of his students, 26-year-old Michael Piemonte, in the right arm. The gun safety instructor didn’t know that the gun was loaded.

The above events—and thousands of others—have been classified as “accidental.” But a policeman in Danville (VA) refuses to believe that these shootings are accidental. When a six-year-old found a gun in his Danville (VA) home and shot a one-year-old in the back, Cpl. T.B. Scearce of the Danville Police Department said there is no such thing as an accidental discharge:  it is a negligent discharge. In order for a gun to fire, Scearce said, three things have to occur: It has to be functional, it has to be loaded and the trigger has to be pulled. Somebody has to be responsible, and most likely it’s the person who left a working, loaded gun where a child can find it and pull the trigger.

Between 2006 and 2010, 561 children age 12 and under were killed by firearms, according to the FBI’s most recent Uniform Crime Reports: 120 in 2006; 115 in 2007; 116 in 2008, 114 in 2009 and 96 in 2010. The FBI’s count does not include gun-related child deaths that authorities have ruled accidental. Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, said children are more likely to die by gunfire at home or in the street, in answer to the NRA argument that teachers need to be armed.

  • Alyssa Celaya, 8, was shot and killed by her father with a .38-caliber gun at the Tule River Indian Reservation in California.
  • Delric Miller died at 9 months when gunfire from an AK-47 sprayed his home on Detroit’s west side.
  • Angel Mauro Cortez Nava, 14-months-old, was in his father’s arms on a sidewalk near their Los Angeles home was shot and killed by a bicyclist.
  • Faith Ehlen, 22 months, Autumn Cochran, 10, and Alyssa Cochran, 11, were all killed in their DeSoto (MO) home when their mother shot them.
  • Jackson Engels, 11, and his older sister Bailey, 13, were killed by their father in Dundee (OR).
  • Lincoln Leatham, 2, picked up a non-service gun left in the Springville (UT) home by his father, a police officer, and died after shooting himself.
  • Amari Markel-Purrel Perkins, 6, accidentally shot and killed himself with a gun found in his Clinton (MD) home after an adult hid the weapon inside a Spiderman backpack.

A man was shot in the head and killed after a relative on a kayaking trip urinated on a gravel bar along the Meramec River near Steelville, Missouri. James Robert Crocker, 59, thought he owned the land and picked a fight. The dead Army veteran wasn’t the one who picked up rocks, but Crocker said that he “just shot the one closest to me.”

Another “responsible” gun owner didn’t kill anyone, but she tried. When a woman saw a SUV in her driveway turning around, she opened fire on the couple and their five children, ages four to twelve. The kids’ mother yelled that they were turning around, but the woman fired again.

In Missouri the Ku Klux Klan, noted for perpetrating violence on minorities, is volunteering to be in the Neighborhood Watch. So far, they are targeting only white neighborhoods to fit with the mission on their website: “There is a race war against whites….”

Wisconsin doesn’t need the KKK for protection; they have the Arizona-based Bulletproof Securities, a “no compromise security force,” in the popular Penokee Heritage Park. Camouflaged, masked commandos are crawling around the popular hiking and camping destination because Gogebic Taconite plans to build “what could become the largest open-pit iron-ore mine in the world,” according to the Sierra Club’s Taconite Mine Web page. They’re likely to succeed because Gov. Scott Walker signed the Wisconsin Mining Act (aka “Bad River Watershed Destruction Act”) that strips any environmental protections Wisconsin. When somebody gets killed, the company can just say it thought it was one of the those environmentalist “terrorists.”

People in Gilberton (PA) are taking action against the infamous Police Chief Mark Kessler, asking the National Guard to disarm the suspended police chief and his followers who call themselves the “Constitution Security Force.” Kessler started by posting online videos of his firing automatic weapons while calling for violence against Democrats and Secretary of State John Kerry. Because the guns used belonged to the borough police force, the Council called a meeting to discuss disciplinary action. Kessler used another video to call on his personal militia to attend the meeting. Although a few brave people faced Kessler and his hundred-plus followers brandishing guns and the insurance threatened to withdraw its policy, the Council only suspended Kessler for 30 days. The state of Pennsylvania sent helicopters to the meeting, but officials may be afraid to fire Kessler.

Protesters at women’s clinics understand how dangerous guns are. This week, anti-abortionists went to the Wichita (KS) City Council asking that the South Wind Women’s Center be closed because it draws gun violence. South Wind is in the same building as Dr. George Tiller’s clinic. Before he was murdered in his church by an anti-abortionist terrorist four years ago, Shelley Shannon, another anti-abortion terrorist shot Tiller in front of his clinic.

The only gun violence will come from the protesters who want to close the clinic. Mark S. Gietzen, chairman of the Kansas Coalition for Life, made threats toward an escort who makes sure that women can safely enter and exit the facility when he said,

“The way this guy acts, I’m afraid that someone’s going to shoot him. He’s asking for it.”

The danger of gun ownership in the country by all these so-called “responsible” gun owners is their paranoia. Almost 30 percent of registered voters agree with the statement: “In the next few years, an armed revolution might be necessary in order to protect our liberties.” These are the same people who subscribe to conspiracy theories; one-fourth of people in this country believe that facts about the Newtown shootings “are being hidden” and another 11 percent “are unsure.” Connecticut Carry, a pro-gun lobbying group, has accused the father of a child murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary School of “profiting off of the tragedy.”

Angry fearmongers foment hatred in the country through their irresponsible statements about public officials and agencies. The widening income inequality results in resentment while the most resentful continue to elect lawmakers who worsen the gap between rich and poor. Their answer is a violent uprising; the rest of us need to use the ballot box and courts to fight back against them.

We need to stop the philosophy of “I’ve got mine and you’re not going to take it, but I’m going to take yours—because I have lots of guns.”

August 15, 2013

Olympics Endanger LGBT Athletes, Tourists

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:20 PM
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260px-Stamps_of_Russia_2012_No_1559-61_Mascots_2014_Winter_OlympicsUsually the Winter Olympics is a sort of ho-hum event, fascinating only those people who enjoy watching athletes in the featured winter sports. This time, however, the upcoming XXII Olympic Winter Games, scheduled February 7-23, 2014, in Sochi, Russia, has drawn a great deal of publicity almost six months in advance. It’s not the trio of mascots—Polar Bear, European Hare, and Amur Leopard—although they are very cute. It’s the politics of the event that is taking center stage.

Two months ago, three days after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced his divorce, Russia passed a “family values” law against the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” (aka propaganda from “the gays“). Law defenders claimed that this meant “relations not conducive to procreation,” but, as usual when procreation is considered in laws, it will not be applied to opposite-sex couples who cannot or choose not to have biological children. Fines of up to $31,000 will be levied for providing information about the LGBT community to minors, holding gay pride events, speaking in defense of gay rights, or equating gay and heterosexual relationships. Foreigners can be detained in jail for 15 days and then deported.

This is where the problem becomes that belonging to the entire world. The law applies to foreigners and media organizations as well as Russians.

A few protesters demonstrated what any LGBT people can expect in Russia. When they staged a kiss-in, they were assaulted by a mob—and then arrested by the police. Russia has always been hard on LGBT supporters: when Madonna announced her belief in equal rights for all at a concert, she got in trouble with the law. Conservative organizations argued that she would increase the divorce rate, bring down the birthrate, and hurt the country’s ability to maintain its army. Putin declaimed no anti-gay discrimination in Russia and then also blamed the dropping birthrate on “homosexuals.”

Russia has no official numbers on anti-gay crime in the country, but the Russian LGBT Network reports that the number of physical attacks and verbal aggression against LGBT people has accelerated since initial parliament debate on the law. A spokesperson for Kaleidoscope Trust reported that the increasing level of violence is both spontaneous and premeditated.

LGBT acceptance has decreased in the past six years. To show the danger to LGBT people in Russia, whether visitors or residents, Dmitri Kisilev, anchor of the state-controlled news show, said that homosexuals’ hearts should be buried in the ground or burned after an automobile accident “as unsuitable for the continuation of life.”

Russia’s interior minister has confirmed that athletes will not be exempt from the anti-gay law, contrary to the statement issued by the International Olympic Committee. Previously, the IOC had claimed that the law would not affect competitors, officials, journalists, and spectators. Now the IOC states that it will punish athletes who make a political statement citing that Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter bans political and religious demonstrations at Olympic venues.

Thus far, the IOC has not said anything about its “fundamental principle of Olympism” stating that “any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic movement.” This principle would exclude Russians from participating.

Hundreds of people demonstrated against Russia’s law in London and the IOC’s lack of interest in the issue, and Germany’s Development Minister Dirk Niebel said:

“We must make clear when in contact with Russian politicians that this collapse in fundamental democratic values is not acceptable, and that Russia is moving towards becoming a flawless dictatorship.”

Sweden has seen a series of actions against the Russian law, including the re-painting of a crosswalk in front of the Russian embassy.

NBC will have a high profile at the Sochi 2014 Olympics because it will be broadcasting the events. The organization sent a reassuring memo to its employees on Friday, stating that NBC will take steps to ensure their safety at the Winter Olympics. They didn’t say what steps the corporation would take. The news media will also have trouble in how to deal with the Russia hate law during the actual Olympics. In the past they covered Salt Lake City’s bid-rigging scandal, Athens security concerns, and China’s bad human-rights record. The question is what NCB, having paid $775 million to get the gig, will do in a foreign country where they can be put in jail if they talk about LGBT concerns.

sweden protest

The arrest of four Dutch filmmakers on July 21, three weeks after Putin signed the bill into law, shows what journalists might expect if they even mention LGBT. After beating one of them, 33-year-old Kris van der Veen, the police detained all four in jail for over six hours. The filmmakers had met with LGBT activists and were interviewing them in a closed space. There were no minors present, although the film footage showed a 17-year-old gay teen who had told them he was 18.

Leaders such as Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama, who oppose a boycott and ask athletes to perform their best, can do so with impunity. They aren’t the ones who are in danger of being beaten and possibly murdered, just by their presence in Russia.

This issue may cause a change for the IOC. Minky Worden, the director of global initiatives with Human Rights Watch (HRW), said her organization and other like-minded advocacy groups will be lobbying for the IOC to elect a president next month “who’s actually going to enforce the human rights requirements of the Olympic charter.” Last week, HRW reported government abuses in Sochi in its intimidation of those who investigate or spoke out against migrant workers’ abuse, unfair compensation of people forcibly evicted from their homes, and harassment of journalists who are reporting on the preparations.

Russia refused to allow an Olympic Pride House, like the ones at previous Games in London and Vancouver because it would “contradict the foundations of public morality.” Worden said, “This will be the first homophobic Olympics, certainly. That’s without precedent.”

The Sochi Olympics will take place 78 years after the “Nazi Olympics” in Berlin, Germany. The 2014 Winter Olympics may gain its own nickname for violence and repression.

From the United States, however, there is a bit of good news. Scott Lively, head of Defend the Family International, will be tried in a Massachusetts court. A federal judge has ruled that persecution on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is a crime against humanity and that the fundamental human rights of LGBTI people are protected under international law. Lively is accused of violating international law by inciting the persecution of LGBT individuals in Uganda.

The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit last year on behalf of Sexual Minorities of Uganda (SMUG). Charges include his leading the Ugandan anti-LGBT movement, advising Uganda’s government on the “Kill the Gays” bill, and conspiring with them for the past decade to persecute LGBT Ugandans.

Lively further spread his hate message by sending “an open letter” to the Russian people and has tried to take credit for the new stringent anti-LGBT laws. “This was one of my recommendation to Russian leaders in my 50-city tour of the former Soviet Union in 2006 and 2007,” he said. He has also been a regular visitor at the House on C Street in Washington, D.C., home to many highly conservative Congressional lawmakers and and sex scandals.

Over two decades ago, Lively started his hating career with the Oregon Citizens Alliance in my own state of Oregon. I am grateful that he will now have to defend his hate crimes in a U.S. court.

August 14, 2013

Obamacare: Whither the Government Shutdown

Obamacare was a heated topic at Congressional town hall meetings during the hot month of August four years ago. Since then, the Affordable Care Act has gone into law, been approved by a conservative Supreme Court, and then suffered at least 40 votes from the GOP conservatives in the House who are determined to destroy it. Several of the Obamacare provisions have already gone into effect, much to the appreciation of those who have benefitted from them, and others will start in January.

The attitude in many town hall meetings has changed. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) described the large number of votes against Obamacare “theatrics.” He said, “You keep doing this over and over and over again and it doesn’t get anywhere.”

A woman in a meeting with Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) a fierce opponent to the law, lost her son to colon cancer. She believes her son, who couldn’t get health care coverage because of a pre-existing condition, might be alive in Obamacare had gone into effect sooner.

Skip Edwards talked about how he and his wife lost their health insurance after the recession took his job. Denied insurance because of pre-existing conditions, they could get insurance only from a state plan called Inclusive Health that cost them $1,300 a month.

Many of the GOP congressional lawmakers are still lying to convince people that Obamacare should be repealed. Referring to himself as a light-skinned person, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) told his constituents that the health care reform law is “racist” beccause of the tax on tanning salons.  Somebody needs to tell him that tanning causes skin cancer, the most common type of cancer in the nation with roughly 170,000 annual cases.

Conservative activists are telling uninsured people that they should stay uninsured to spite the president. The Citizens Council for Healthcare Freedom (CCHF) has launched a “Refuse to Enroll’ campaign, falsely telling people that the IRS can access information on people and employers who use the health care exchanges.

Asked what advice she would give to a 22-year-old who can’t afford health insurance outside exchanges, Twila Brase argued that getting health insurance doesn’t guarantee health care. If the 22-year-old needs medical care, Brase said, the person could pay doctors directly or seek charity care, ignoring the difficulty of finding several hundred thousand dollars after an unexpected automobile accident or diagnosis of cancer. Another option, according to Brase, is to sign up for coverage when it’s needed. Aside from being short on ethical behavior, Brase doesn’t know that the open enrollment period is from October 1 to March 31, making it impossible to ask for an insurance agent in the ambulance on  April 1. In following years, the enrollment is only between October 7 and December 31.

FreedomWorks is asking people to burn their “Obamacare card.” These cards don’t exist so FreedomWorks is printing up fake cards.

Jon Perr explained why eliminating Obamacare has become the GOP “holy grail,” to quote President Obama. During the president’s press conference last week, he asked why the GOP’s “number one priority, the one unifying principle in the Republican Party at the moment, is making sure that 30 million people don’t have health care.”

For the past 20 years, Perr hypothesized, the GOP has been terrified that health care reform would succeed. If this were to happen, it would join Social Security and Medicare, both loved by older people, to become the third leg of the U.S. social safety net. All three programs would come from Democrats, giving that party the power. In 1993, William Kristol  wrote, “The Clinton proposal [for universal health care] is also a serious political threat to the Republican Party. Its passage in the short run will do nothing to hurt (and everything to help) Democratic electoral prospects in 1996….

To avoid Clinton’s plan, GOP Senators Hatch and Chuck Grassley joined 19 other Republican Senators in proposing their own bill that “would have required everyone to buy coverage, capped awards for medical malpractice lawsuits, established minimum benefit packages and invested in comparative effectiveness research.” Sixteen years later, they called their own plan “unconstitutional.”

With the same plan as Obamacare, Massachusetts demonstrates the reaction to the health care reform law. Eighty-four percent of the people in Massachusetts are satisfied, far higher than the 67 percent of people in the U.S. who are happy with their own health care, many of whom who already have government Medicare. Respondents praised high quality of care and good access to medical services, adding that it isn’t hard to find the medical care that they need.  In that one state, 98 percent of the residents are insured, compared to 16.3 percent of the people in the nation when Obamacare was passed into law.

In states where legislators strive to undermine Obamacare, millions of constituents will suffer. By contrast, states like California, Maryland, New York, and Oregon are running their own insurance exchanges, and the federal expansion of Medicaid will provide their residents greater coverage and lower premiums.

Far-right congressional lawmakers have come up with what they think is a clever way to get rid of Obamacare. Those lawmakers brave enough to go to their town hall meetings are spreading the word. They plan to shut down the government if Obamacare isn’t defunded. Yoho (the one who believes that Obamacare is racist) thinks that forcing the shutdown will improve our credit rating. He thinks that the rise in debt ceiling and the interest rates is a cause/effect situation.

The last GOP threat to not pass an increase in the debt ceiling shook the world’s economy and brought down the U.S. credit rating. Standard & Poor wrote the downgrade came from “the difficulties in bridging the gulf between the political parties over fiscal policy.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) also tried to put a happy face on his own threat of a government shutdown when he said that the “shutdown” is just a temporary suspension of nonessential services which happens every weekend. (Tell that to the people who don’t get their money when the shutdown lasts longer than two days!)

Equally absurd is his statement that the five-day and the 21-day shutdowns almost 20 years ago worked really well when it idled 800,000 federal workers. Charles Krauthammer, one of the farthest right pundits, begs to differ:

“Never make a threat on which you are not prepared to deliver. Every fiscal showdown has redounded against the Republicans. The first, in 1995, effectively marked the end of the Gingrich revolution. The latest, last December, led to a last-minute Republican cave that humiliated the GOP and did nothing to stop the tax hike it so strongly opposed.”

Washington Post’s Factchecker wrote:

“The government shutdown is what revived [Clinton’s] political fortunes, in part because Republicans appeared too eager for a confrontation, while Clinton constantly emphasized his willingness to compromise within reason…. After that, Clinton never lagged in the polls again.”

Two other presidential wannabes, Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) have joined Cruz in his insanity. Conservative columnist Mike Gerson refers to them as “a few bold, determined public officials who may rescue Obamacare.” Obviously this is the opposite of their intent, but their fight against the health reform law “discredits responsible opposition and makes a Democratic takeover of the House more likely.” The only reason that Cruz’s strategy could work is if voters blamed President Obama against “a distrusted faction of a disdained institution, which is pursuing a budgetary maneuver that even many Republican lawmakers regard as aggressive, desperate and doomed. “

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) told his constituents last week and the shutdown’s victims would be “ordinary Americans”—paychecks for troops, health care for veterans, Medicare and Social Security for the elderly and disabled.

Other statements include:

  • “Shutting down the government will not stop ObamaCare.” – Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)
  • “A denial of reality mixed with a whole bunch of hype…intellectually dishonest…a good way for Republicans to lose the House…destroying the Republican Party.” – Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK)
  • “The political equivalent of throwing a temper tantrum.” “A suicidal political tactic.” -Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)
  • “Shutting down the government and playing into the hands of the president politically is not the right thing to do. Plus, it is going to do great harm to the American people if we pursue that course.” – Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA)  [I like his putting the good of people in the nation second to politics.]
  • “Terror politics.” – Rep. Peter King (R-NY)
  • “The dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.” – Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC)
  • “Feckless.“ – Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)

The Heritage Foundation, almost a conservative think tank until former Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) turned it into a GOP shill, has decided to poll whether a shutdown would be bad for Republicans. The survey lacks any credibility: the questions are seriously biased, and only Republican-led districts were chosen. Watch for the headlines about how a government shutdown is a popular idea.

As Krauthammer wrote:

“How many times must we learn the lesson? You can’t govern from one house of Congress. You need to win back the Senate and then the presidency. Shutting down the government is the worst possible way to get there. Indeed, it’s Obama’s fondest hope for a Democratic recovery.”

Cruz doesn’t seem to be giving up, but his followers are fading away. The 17 Senate supports have dissipated to fewer than a dozen. GOP Congress members are likely to return in September more dysfunctional than when they left.

August 13, 2013

GOP Blocks Help for Climate Change

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:36 PM
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The August Congressional town hall meetings give GOP lawmakers a great chance to disseminate their ignorant beliefs. In this case, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) on climate change:

 “Just so you know, global warming is a total fraud …. They want to create global government to control all of our lives.”

The vice chair of the House Science Committee once suggested that dinosaur flatulence might have caused global warming. In a House hearing, he asked, “Is there some thought being given to subsidizing the clearing of rainforests in order for some countries to eliminate that production of greenhouse gases?”

According to Jay Gulledge, a senior scientist at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change: “Clearing of tropical rainforests is the second-largest source of human-produced CO2, behind fossil fuel burning…. Moreover, clearing rainforest disrupts large-scale rainfall patterns, accelerates species extinction, and deprives society of natural products that are useful as food and medicine.”

Not all Republicans are as ignorant as Rohrabacker. Last week, four EPA chiefs who worked for Republican presidents published an op-ed in the New York Times called “A Republican Case for Climate Action.”

“The United States must move now on substantive steps to curb climate change, at home and internationally. There is no longer any credible scientific debate about the basic facts: our world continues to warm, with the last decade the hottest in modern records, and the deep ocean warming faster than the earth’s atmosphere. Sea level is rising. Arctic Sea ice is melting years faster than projected.The costs of inaction are undeniable.”

Because of the continuing gridlock in Congress, the writers support executive action in reductions in the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by power plants, increase investment in clean energy technology, and limit powerful warming chemicals known as hydrofluorocarbons.

A week after this publication, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said that attempts to fight global warming are both economically harmful and unnecessary because the belief in climate change is “more of a religion than a science.” King likes global warming because of “more photosynthesis.” The man who lives exactly in the middle of the United States added, “If sea levels go up 4 or 6 inches, I don’t know if we’d know that.” Iowa might not know, but one-third of the people in the United States would be affected as these interactive projections.

These facts demonstrate how bad just 2012 was for all of us:

  • Last year was one of the eight or nine hottest since the beginning of recording global average temperatures.
  • Arctic sea ice melted to reach record lows during the annual summer thaw. For example, 97 percent of Greenland’s ice sheet melted, four times the expected amount based on former melts.
  • The North Pole’s melt turned the Earth’s northern most point into a shallow lake.
  • Greenhouse gas emissions rose to the highest concentration in millions of years, with the carbon dioxide ratio in the Earth’s atmosphere exceeding 400 parts per million.
  • Diseases are proliferating. Warmer winters and wetter springs have brought back the West Nile virus to the U.S. In the Southwest, the deadly Valley Fever is on the rise.
  • The continued rise in sea levels reached a record high in 2012 even without the contributing effects of the phenomena known as La Nina that saw a significant rise in 2011.
  • Rising ocean salinity trends, first noticed significantly in 2004, shows that precipitation continues in already wet areas while evaporation intensifies in drier locations. The Caribbean had an extremely wet season at the same time almost 87 percent of the U.S. West had severe drought conditions.

John P. Abraham, professor of thermal sciences at the University of St. Thomas (St. Paul, MN), summarized problems:

“The latest ‘State of the Climate’ report shows that the Earth continues to heat, the atmosphere is heating, the worldwide ice loss continues, and other symptoms of our warming planet march forward, without cessation. A lot of people claim that global warming has magically stopped, but the facts, and the Earth, continue to disagree.”

Fire activity is another sign of global warming that brings higher temperatures, widespread drought, earlier snowmelt, and expanded insect and disease infestation to the nation. The seven largest fire years since 1960 occurred since 2000; the nine million plus acres burned each year in 2006, 2007, and 2012 equal the combined acreage of Maryland and Rhode Island. The annual cost of firefighting is over $3 billion, three times higher than during the 1990s. At the same time, Congress cut the budget for firefighting by 17 percent from last year to this.

Acres-Burned

If King doesn’t care about rising sea levels and devastating fires, he might want to consider some of the other things affected by climate change.

  • Beer: Warmer temperatures endanger clean water, quality barley, and ample hops.
  • Football: The number of players are dying because of the heat stress increased three times from 1994 to 2009. Drought also dries up football fields and kills grass; articifial turf can get up to 100 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than real grass.
  • Maple Syrup: Trees are keeping their leaves longer, requiring more sap to make syrup that still tastes different.
  • Hiking: Poison ivy thrives on higher temperatures and increased carbon dioxide levels; the potency and spread of poison ivy has doubled since 1960.
  • Coffee: Both increasing temperatures and a climate-change charged deadly fungus threaten 25 million coffee growers.
  • Sweaters: Sheep are susceptible to heat stress.
  • Chocolate: Cocoa is an extremely heat-sensitive plant; a small temperature increase could cause yields to drop and prices to soar.
  • Fishing: Drought, flood, and ocean acidification combine to make life difficult for swimming vertebrates.
  • Wine: Moving vineyards uphill to take advantage of thinner, cooler air is not very successful.
  • Pandas: With less bamboo in the Qinling Mountains of China, the giant pandas will go hungry and then disappear.
  • Apple Pie: Apple trees need a winter chill to properly bloom in the spring.
  • Surfing: Sea-level rise, saltwater warming, and ocean acidification threaten healthy coasts and regular waves. Erosion impacts wave patterns, and acidifying oceans dissolve coral reefs, valuable for surf breaks.
  • Peanut Butter: Peanut plants need a specific amount of rain at exactly the right time.
  • Fireworks: Last year, over 100 communities in the nation cancelled July Fourth pyrotechnic displays for fear of wildfires.

A serious problem of climate change is its link to human violence. Throughout the world, drought, flood, and high temperatures correlate with spikes in conflicts—domestic violence, assaults and murders, ethnic violence, land invasions, police violence, and civil conflicts. A possible global temperature rise of just 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit in the next 25 years could increase intergroup conflicts, such as civil wars, by over 50 percent.

The release of trapped methane in the atmosphere could cost the global economy $60 trillion by speeding up sea-ice retreat, reducing the reflection of solar energy, and accelerating the melting of the Greenland ice sheet. The methane is now bubbling out of the thawing tundra and Arctic Ocean, a surface area larger than the lower 48 U.S. states.

The United States is in great danger because of the eight GOP members on the Senate Environment Committee who don’t believe in the existence of climate change:

  • Roger Wicker (MS) wants “tolerance” for those who “come to a different conclusion” from the 98 percent of scientists who believe in human-caused climate change.
  • Jim Inhofe (OK) said that global warming is the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people” promoted by “the Hollywood elite.”
  • John Barrasso (WY) introduced sweeping legislation to stop the EPA from regulating carbon emissions without authorization from Congress, reverse the EPA’s findings that carbon emissions and greenhouse gasses are harmful to the environment, and prevent the federal government from employing a number of federal laws that are intended to deal with global warming.
  • David Vitter (LA) described talk of climate change as “ridiculous pseudo-science garbage.”
  • Jeff Sessions (AL) just doesn’t believe 98 percent of the scientists support the concept of climate change.
  • Mike Crapo (ID) wrote ”the underlying cause of these climactic [sic] shifts is ultimately not well-understood and is a matter of vigorous debate.”
  • John Boozman (AR) just waffles about the existence of climate change in convoluted language.
  • Deb Fischer (NE) thinks even if climate is changing that humans have not made a big impact on it.

In addition to Rohrabacher and King on the House Science Committee, these other members who refuse to believe in any climate change will block any positive legislation: Lamar Smith (TX) accuses scientists of hiding information; Ralph M. Hall (TX) is “more fearful of freezing”; F. James Sensenbrenner (WI) thinks “that the solar flares are more responsible for climatic cycles” instead of humans; Paul Broun (GA) doesn’t even believe in evolution; Randy Hultgren (IL) claims the globe is just in “a warmer time”; Steve Stockman (TX) refers to global warming as a “fad”; Thomas Massie (KY) challenged the president “to show us the linkage—the undeniable linkage—between droughts and the change of weather, and some kind of human activity”; Kevin Cramer (ND) accuses the EPA of “fraudulent science”; and Chris Stewart (UT) just isn’t convinced “that man-made climate change is the threat.”

The GOP was not always this ignorant. In 2003, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) sponsored the country’s first cap-and-trade bill and then backed legislation to curb climate-changing emissions. He also warned about global warming in his 2008 presidential campaign.

Rush Limbaugh summed up the GOP insanity: “If you believe in God, you cannot believe in global warming.” Earth to Rush: “Gravity exists. The Earth is round. Climate change is happening.” That’s the message from Organizing for Action, the advocacy group evolved from President Obama’s former reelection campaign.

August 12, 2013

GOP Uses Subversion, Blackmail to Win

The dog days of August are here, and Congress has gone to their town hall meetings. But before they left Washington, they laid some plans. The House Republican Conference put together a planning kit, “Fighting Washington for All Americans,” to help survive those awkward meetings with the constituents. The focus is a “fierce hatred of all things Washington.”

The planners must have forgotten that the House has a GOP majority led by GOP Speaker John Boehner and GOP Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Even Boehner missed the irony when he insisted that voters “don’t trust a Democratic-controlled Washington.”

Following are a few brilliant NRC ideas:

  • Create and share six-second videos through Vine, a social-media tool. (That way they might not say all those things that get them in trouble!)
  • Publish op-eds in local media on the IRA scandal. (There IS no IRS scandal!)
  • Plant questions at local events “to get the conversation rolling in the right direction.” (But no advice about what to do when somebody doesn’t follow that direction!)
  • Go on an “Energy Production Facility Tour” and be sure to “wear a hard hat,” posting this and other events on Vine. (Does that mean right next to all the oil spills in the pipelines?!)

There’s also a list of talking points for the media prepared by conservatives including Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife, Ginn,i for “a 30 front war seeking to fundamentally transform the nation.” according to documents obtained by Mother Jones. Called Groundswell, the coalition includes congressional GOP aides and such notable wingnut as former ambassador John Bolton, former Rep. Allen West (R-FL). and GOP Sens. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX). Their plans include getting media coverage for their positions on issues such as voter ID, immigration reform, the sequester, and scandals while developing “action items.”

Groundswell has come up with ideas to attract minorities and lose racist terms such as “GOP.” A replacement term, according to the group, could be “Fredrick Douglas Republican.” (They might want to spell “Douglass” correctly.) They think that conservatives need to drop issues such as “immigration, gay marriage and boy scouts” to concentrate on slamming President Obama’s record and touting Benghazi as a full-fledged scandal.

While Groundswell is trying to attract minorities, states are busily disenfranchising as many of them as possible and alienating the rest of them along the way. The anti-immigration reform contingent is driving away Latino voters, and GOP policymakers have continued their crusade against women’s reproductive rights.

Reince Priebus, head of the Republican National Conference, has assured the religious right extremists that the party is not in danger of becoming more “tolerant.” On Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, David Brody said that conservative evangelical voters were nervous that the GOP thinks “we have to be more tolerant.”

Priebus reassured Brody. “I don’t know if I’ve used the word ‘tolerance,’ I don’t really care for that word myself. I don’t have a problem with it, I just think it has another meaning politically that can go the other direction.” The party chairman said that the GOP will continue to represent “things that are very square with our beliefs as Christians” and recognize that “there’s only one sovereign God.” According to Priebus, the party will continue to embrace life and marriage.

This statement is a move backward from his position four months earlier:

“We do have a platform, and we adhere to that platform, but it doesn’t mean that we divide and subtract people from our party. I don’t believe we need to act like Old Testament heretics. [Republicans] have to strike a balance between principle and grace and respect.”

Priebus moved on to threatening NBC and CNN with a boycott of GOP primary debates over the possibility of films on both networks about Hillary Clinton. He accused them of flagrant “support” of a Democratic candidate for President of the United States, despite the fact that she has not declared herself a candidate.

He went farther in his complaints about the networks on Sean Hannity:

”In 2012 you had all these liberal networks with Republican primary candidates. Pitting one against the other, asking wedge question issues, then would later be used by the Democratic candidate. Isn’t that right?”

CNN is far from being “liberal,” and most of us think that the purpose of debates is to find out what the candidates think—or don’t, in the case of several on the stage last time. Yet Priebus continued whining:

“The problem we have now is we’ve got a bunch of moderators in the business of making news at the expense of the party and our candidates and we just can’t do it anymore. The moderators pushed the candidates in hypothetical directions that would never be reality.”

One of those hypotheticals was “What would you do in your first day of office?”

Priebus’ interview with Erin Burnett on CNN’s Up Front was pretty much the same until she showed a old clip at the end of the program with a statement from Fox News Chairman Roger Ailes:

“Any candidate for high office of either party who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake about journalists. And any candidate who cannot answer direct, simple, and even tough questions from any journalist runs a real risk of losing the voters.”

Fox’s chief political correspondent continued Ailes’ message during another Priebus interview:

“Historically national political parties have had no control over presidential primary debates. The media, sometimes partnering with other organizations, sets the terms and lets the candidate decide it’s in their interest to take part or stay on the sidelines.”

What Priebus really wants is a drastic reduction in the number of GOP presidential debates. He described the 2012 round as “a 23-debate traveling circus” with “those people that are actually spending their time and money promoting our opponents.” Too many candidates in a debate is “an unhealthy thing for our party,” Priebus said.

Both Priebus and the media have glossed over the last Hillary Clinton movie that caused the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United that allowed corporations to buy elections. A law prohibited corporations and unions from funding “electioneering communications” (aka broadcast ads naming candidates) within 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election, but the FEC permitted the showing of Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, criticizing George W. Bush’s response to the terrorist attacks.

The non-profit group Citizens United pretended to be a commercial filmmaker and produced “documentaries” about candidates. When the organization tried to run ads in early 2008 on Hillary: The Movie which it planned to run on DirecTV, a federal court ruled that the ads violated the law because the sole purpose was to discredit her candidacy for president. The Supreme court not only overturned the lower court ruling but also permitted corporations to give vast amounts of anonymous monies to support candidates.

Priebus doesn’t care that NBC News, which would run the debates, is completely separate from NBC Entertainment, which would run the film. Priebus doesn’t care whether the documentaries might be partly uncomplimentary. But he’s not upset about the fact that Fox News, the media arm of the GOP, might be included in the production company of the unnamed mini-series that would star Diane Lane as Hillary Clinton. Priebus told CNN’s Candy Crowley that this was fine because Fox would simply be assembling the project, not airing it.

The RNC chair said that he plans to reject debate moderators unless he considers them sufficiently “interested in the future of the Republican Party and our nominees.” If Priebus can’t use the law to stop the showing of any documentaries about non-candidates, he’ll use blackmail.

August 11, 2013

Leaders Who Give Religious Directions

Control in organized religion comes from self-appointed leaders who tell others how to behave and what to believe. A prime example is Mike Huckabee, who went from Baptist pastor to governor to presidential candidate and most recently to media star. In the past, In the past, Huckabee stuck to criticizing his own country, claiming that President Obama “grew up in Kenya,” falsely complaining about the “death panels” of Obamacare, going so far as to argue that the health care reform plan forced Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) to commit suicide, and equating the national debt with the Nazi Holocaust. He’s also over the edge with his defamatory comments about LGBT community and relating the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre to the lack of government-sponsored religion.

Last week, however, Huckabee attacked the Muslims, suggesting that Islamic teachings caused recent threats putting U.S. embassies on high alert during the religion’s holy month of Ramadan. “Can someone explain to me why it is that we tiptoe around a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem on the planet in their so-called ‘holiest days,'” Huckabee said. “You know, if you’ve kept up with the Middle East, you know that the most likely time to have an uprising of rock throwing and rioting comes on the day of prayer on Friday.” Later he did justify his statements by saying he wasn’t referring to all 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide when he called Muslims coming from the mosques as “uncorked animals.”

Imagine a nation that has a murder every 17 minutes, cities with higher murder rates than war-torn Iraq, a violent crime very 26.2 seconds and a property crime every 3.5 seconds, and a rape every every six minutes. Also a country where one in four women will be raped before graduating from college, and 97 percent of the rapists never spend one day in jail although 25 percent of the population is in prison. This country is the predominantly Christian United States.

The Huffington Post’s report noted “numerous factors that have made Friday the most popular day for protests, including the fact that most of the Muslim world gets the day off and frequently congregates in large communal areas to observe the day of prayer.”

Cathie Adams is another religious leader, who served as chair of the Texas Republican Party for the larger part of a year between 2009 and 2010. Before President Obama was elected for the second time, she called him a Marxist who “fried his brain on drugs” and said that watching him in the last debate made her “want to go up and just smack his face!”  Her current rants are directed toward immigration reform, accusing it of causing the End Times. A Senate proposal, now withdrawn, would require fingerprinting of people leaving the United States, a “biometric scanning” that Adams calls “the Mark of the Beast.”

The Catholics are known for having male religious leaders with “feet of clay.” The most recent addition is Monsignor Arthur Coyle, a top official in the Merrimack Valley area for the Archdiocese of Boston, who was arrested Sunday last Sunday, charged with soliciting a prostitute. Police report that he paid her $40 for oral sex. A month after Coyle was first stopped for suspected solicitation in Lowell, Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley and Pope Benedict XVI honored him by giving him the title of Prelate of Honor, a rank within the title of monsignor. O’Malley credited Coyle for “exemplary service” throughout his priesthood and said Coyle’s leadership as episcopal vicar would be “of great assistance” as the archdiocese moved ahead with plans to reorganize some parishes.

Catholics don’t believe in divorce, as Bill Donohue, president of the Catholic League, could know. Catholics see marriage as a duty and institution, not as an expression of love, which is why the church leadership denounces same-sex marriage. As Donohue said, “The whole purpose of marriage is to have a family. It’s not about making people happy. It’s not about love.” Donohue is a divorced father of two.

Bill O’Reilly is not a church leader, per se, but his position on the Fox network allows him to preach to millions of people. Anti-contraception and pro-abstinence, O’Reilly tried to get his ex-wife ex-communicated from the Catholic Church for remarrying, considered “adultery” by church teachings. Yet his sexual pursuit of coworker Andrea Mackis in 2004 was so severe that she sued him for sexual harassment. O’Reilly settled out of court.

After his relationships with men and use of meth, married evangelical minister Ted Haggard went to claiming he was bi-sexual and then back to heterosexual. While in “recovery,” he lived off donations. Now absorbed into the evangelical fold as a pastor, he thinks that biblical teachers are against marriage equality but believes that the state should allow it.

Many of us watched Newt Gingrich run for president last year after the evangelicals accepted his apology for his transgressions. He secretly dated his high school geometry teacher and then married her. When she was in the hospital with uterine cancer surgery, Gingrich said he wanted to be free to marry his girlfriend. On Mothers Day in 1999, he told his second wife he was divorcing her after discovering that she had MS. He had asked her for an “open marriage” to continue a relationship with his mistress who later became his third wife. Six months before his second divorce request, Gingrich was a leading advocate for President Clinton’s impeachment because of a sexual liaison.

Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-TN) has just kicked off a campaign for his third term. Court transcripts show that he admitted under oath to eight affairs, pressured a lover to get an abortion, and used a gun to intimidate his first wife during an argument. According to testimony, the medical doctor and his ex-wife agreed for her to seek two abortions, one of them because the pregnancy didn’t happen at the right time and the other because they weren’t getting along. DesJarlais was also reprimanded and fined by the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners in May for having sex with patients. He’s running as a “family values” candidate highly opposed to abortion. He could get re-elected: Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) and  Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC) have.

Religion has used the ex-gay groups to convert LGBT people into the straight mode. A major force in the 1990s for the “cure” through prayer and therapy, John Paulk finally gave up after he shown to be in a gay bar in 2000. Fading from public notice, he has reappeared in Portland (OR), trying to publicize his catering business with the LGBT community. They are less than impressed with their new entrepreneur. Wayne Besen, founder of Truth Wins Out, thinks an apology is not enough for redemption from Love Won Out’s former spokesman. Another gay man, Terry Bean, talked about the damage that Paulk did in his ministry and the number of teenagers who killed themselves because of Paulk’s former leadership.

My nomination for the worst Christian “leader,” however, is Ronald William Brown of Largo (FL) who had a successful Christian children’s show, Joy Junction, to warn kids about the horrors of pornography until he was arrested for possessing child pornogrphy. His puppet show that presents his anti-porno message is truly creepy. He was sentenced to 20 years in prison, followed by lifetime probation. Brown was also allegedly involved with Michael Arnett, whom he met through the Gulf Coast Church, to kidnap, cook, and eat a child. They had even picked out the child.

Brown says that he hadn’t intended to carry through his sick fantasies. On an Internet chat, however, he wrote, “I imagine him wiggling and then going still.” He also used the Internet to solicit images of dead children from people with similar fantasies. The website for Gulf Coast Church states, “Get out of the ordinary and try something new.”

Polls show that younger people are becoming more and more religiously progressive than the seniors. Conservatives have high hopes that youth will switch to conservative policies as they age. With hypocritical leaders like these, that may not happen.

August 10, 2013

Larry Summers, Disastrous for the U.S.

With Ben Bernanke’s term as chair of the Federal Reserve expiring at the end of this year, President Obama has floated the names of two people for replacement: Janet Yellen and Larry Summers. As usual when the people of both genders have been suggested, sexism enters the discussion. CNNMoney is currently the most blatant, surveying 45 female economists about their preference for the position. As of yet, I haven’t heard about a survey of male economists. Others have said that selecting Yellen would be a choice “driven by gender.”

The differences between these people, however, go much farther than gender. Jen Sorensen’s cartoon outlines some of  these differences:

Yellen v Summers Summers comes with very heavy, smelly baggage. He sided with Ken Lay and Enron during the California energy crisis. While Chief Economist of the World Bank, he displayed a dismissive attitude toward climate change and subsequently opposed the Kyoto Protocol. He also opposed the Volcker Rule that would keep banks from speculative investments that hurt their customers; his recommendation regarding the stimulus seriously underestimated the amount of funding needed for this. Summers is a hothead with a record of deregulating institutions, an approach that exacerbated the financial crash before President Obama took over.

During the 1990′s he led the way in overturning Glass-Steagall Act that separated commercial and investment banking. The resulting recession in 2008 was called the Summers Bubble. He has had no regrets in his fight to deregulate the banks and fought against any banking regulations, culminating in his paid position at Citigroup for over a year. He also consulted for venture-capital firm Andreessen Horowitz, asset-management and advisory firm Alliance Partners, and stock-exchange operator Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. His healthy income from speaking includes more than $100,000 earlier this year for a single speech to a conference organized by Drobny Global Advisors.

Summers accepted $135,000 for a one-day visit to Goldman Sachs only a few months before he became Obama’s chief economic advisor, money that one commentator described as “basically an advanced bribe.” While president of Harvard and a member of the board making investment decisions for the endowment fund, Summers consulted for hedge fund D.E. Shaw and then made $5.2 million from the company the year after he left the university.

This one comment from his 1998 testimony before Congress should keep him from chairing the Federal Reserve: “To date there has been no clear evidence of a need for additional regulation of the institutional OTC derivatives market, and we would submit that proponents of such regulation must bear the burden of demonstrating that need.”

Summers opposed Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to head the new Consumer Finance Protection Bureau because he supports the corrupt Wall Street perspective, whereas Warren criticized the White House policy on bank regulations. As Matt Viser wrote in the Boston Globe about Warren’s interview in March 2010 on PBS’s The Charlie Rose Show:

“[Warren] said some of Obama’s economic advisers—especially Summers and Geithner—were beholden to Wall Street interests. ‘I think we have different world-views,’ she said…. ‘It will not save us if a handful of Wall Street banks prosper and the rest of America fails,’ she said. ‘Our focus, our energy, our heart has to be on the rest of America.’”

Summers has a long history of disparaging women’s abilities. While president of Harvard, he said that women do not succeed at math and science simply because they lack the “aptitude” in these areas. Luckily most people have paid attention to his sexism rather than noting another probably reason for losing his job at Harvard, his protection of friend Andrei Schleifer.

In 1992 Schleifer became head of a Harvard project directing U.S. government money to help develop the Russian economy through privatization. Tens of millions of dollars in noncompetitive U.S. contracts flowed to Harvard for Shleifer’s Russian work, and his team directed the distribution of hundreds of millions more. Schleifer invested money through his wife in a mutual fund, stopping others from setting up their own funds and violating the project’s conflict of interest policy.

The U.S. government sued, finding that Schleifer and another investor, Schleifer’s friend Jonathan Hay, had tried to circumvent the conflict-of-interest rules. Using false claims, Schleifer engaged in self-dealing, and Hay tried to launder $400,000 through his girlfriend and father. In a civil settlement, Schleifer paid $2 million and Hay between $1 million and $2 million. Harvard paid $26.5 million in addition to the legal fees of between $10 million and $15 million. No one admitted liability.

Before the settlement, Shleifer maintained his friendship with Summers and lobbied for him to become president of Harvard. After Summers achieved this post, he made arrangements to keep Schleifer at the university. “Conflict of interest issues should be left to the lawyers,” Summers told Dean Jeremy Knowles in his pitch for Schleifer. He said he was sensitive to “ethics rules,” but testified that “in Washington I wasn’t ever smart enough to predict them . . . things that seemed very ethical to me were thought of as problematic and things that seemed quite problematic to me were thought of as perfectly fine. . . .”

Summers and Schleifer maintained a close relationship, talking on the phone an average of more than once a day. No one knows which budget was responsible for the approximately $40 million that Harvard was required to pay, but Summers told members of the faculty of arts and sciences that the money did not come from the budget of the faculty of arts and sciences. A spokesman for the university said that the settlement came from “university funds available for these purposes.”

Although Summers seems to recognize the serious issue of economic inequality, his prescriptions for fixing that problem have nothing to do with being the head of the Federal Reserve. Summers believes that the income inequality comes from technology and globalization and has nothing to do with finance—which is the area of the Federal Reserve. As chair, he would have nothing to do with the tax system rewards, equal access to the educational system, or the entrenchment of the social classes.

Yellen has a good track record of economic problems and knows that the most important concern regarding economic stability is employment. Internal Fed transcripts show that Yellen spoke up many times between 2005 and 2007, warning about the looming housing crisis, credit crunch, and eventual recession. That compares with Summers who sneered at claims in 2005 that deregulation and securitization could lead to a full-blown financial crisis.

Yellen, Vice Chairperson of the Federal Reserve, seeks greater transparency for the Federal Reserve. An accomplished economist, she has spent her career in public service, part of the Fed Reserve since 1977. Her focus is on the public good, not the personal good that describes Summers’ goal.

Ezra Klein wrote that Yellen would have to be more qualified than male competitors “to be competitive for the job.” If Yellen is chosen, the reason is that she worked much harder to reach her place at the top, and her choice will be seen as “gendered.” As Jen Sorensen wrote: “It’s symbolic of every time a highly-qualified woman hits the glass ceiling when forced to compete with a loud, arrogant blowhard with a strong sense of self-entitlement and undeserved mystique of greatness.”

The Federal Reserve not only regulates the money supply but also acts as a principal regulator of America’s largest banks. As a lackey of the banks, Summers will allow them to drive the United States into a deep depression, perhaps worse than the one over 80 years ago.  As Rick McGahey wrote, “America needs a Fed leader who will protect small businesses, ordinary investors, and the economy from misbehavior by big banks and financial corporations. We need a fierce regulatory watchdog, not a lapdog of the banks.”

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