Nel's New Day

October 20, 2013

Religious Extremists Aim to Destroy Government

The fervently religious are delighted with the possibility of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as president as shown by his recent win at the Values Voter Summit, eclipsed by the GOP government shutdown. His inheritance of the Tea Party’s “no compromise” crusade from his father makes him well qualified to represent the most extreme of the religious right : Rafael Cruz, a pastor of the Texas ministry Purifying Fire International, follows the theological vision of Christian Dominionism.

This religious group believes that socialism erases religion because it demands loyalty only to the government. Cruz also follows revisionist historian David Barton that the clergy were the backbone of the American Revolutionary War. Ted Cruz said at the August 29th gathering of Heritage Action:

“It was pastors who were the backbone of the Revolution. Did you know where Paul Revere was going when he was saying the British are coming? He was going to the home of a pastor by the name of Jonas Clark… [who] was one of many that were called the black robe regiment. These were pastors that wore long black robes. Many of them had the continental army uniform under the black robe. They would preach in church on Sunday and then go out and fight with half their congregation for our independence. I want to encourage our pastors today not to hide behind their pulpits but take the spirit of the black robe regiment.”

Dominionists also believe that 2012 is the first year of divine government as Christian Zionist pastor Larry Huch explained when he introduced Rafael Cruz as a guest speaker in his Irving (TX) megachurch.  Huch claimed that Cruz’s son was elected senator in 2012 to lead his people into wealth. “It’s said this way: that God is looking at the church and everyone in it and deciding in the next three and a half years who will be his bankers.”

Giving one of the sermon series “Getting to the Top and Staying There,” Cruz misinterpreted a bibliocal text to claim that Christians are actually kings appointed by God to go to war and bring the spoils back to the church. According to Rafael Cruz, those without the anointing of kings are “second class citizens. And so you begin to lead frustrated lives… God has given you an anointing to go to the battlefield. And what’s the battlefield? The marketplace. To go to the marketplace and occupy the land. To go to the marketplace and take dominion.”

A Cuban-American refugee, Rafael Cruz has said that the  “evil agenda” of the “liberal media” is like the “ministry of misinformation” in communist countries like Cuba, intent on “destroying what this country is all about.” What Rafael Cruz wants—and by extension what Ted Cruz wants—is a government that is reduced to defense, internal security, and the protection of property rights. Through a distortion of their Bible, they—and the Tea Party—want small government and large military.

According to Chris Hedges, the Christian right follows a cult of masculinity.They “[use] religion to sanctify military and heroic “virtues,” glorify blind obedience and order over reason and conscience, and pander to the euphoria of collective emotions. Feminism and homosexuality, believers are told, have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Antichrist, attacking hypocrites and ultimately slaying nonbelievers.”

The cult of masculinity gains power by taking control of women’s bodies, making them subservient to men by refusing them birth control and their right to vote. In a macho culture, men need someone to blame and find this within their church. Masculinity, accompanied by violence, appeals to those who feel powerless, mostly white and poor. Their Christian leaders tell them they have the right to strike out at those who seek to destroy them, led by an angry, violent Messiah into a perpetual global war with the “secular humanist” state.

Reason fails with far-right Christians, including Dominionists, because they live in a world of black and white where they are the victims in a war against Satan. Only they know that they are the agents of God, and only they know what is God’s will. Out of their rage, they rant inanities about Barack Obama, his corporate-sponsored health care reform bill, his alleged mandated suicide counseling or “death panels” for seniors, his supposed secret alliance with radical Muslims, and “creeping socialism.”

The far-right religious take-over of the government has been carefully orchestrated for almost a half century, led by Paul Weyrich. Dismayed by Barry Goldwater’s defeat in 1964, he founded the Heritage Foundation in 1973 and the Free Congress Foundation in 1977. He worked with Jerry Falwell in 1979 to create the political movement “Moral Majority” that elected Ronald Reagan president. Weyrich is also an important part of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the organization of corporations that writes conservative, restrictive bills for legislators to present as their own. Weyrich explained his strategy of getting far-right religious extremists elected:

“I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of people, they never have been from the beginning of our country, and they are not now. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down.”

At the same time, Christian Reconstructionists have worked to take over the Southern Baptist church in its struggle to exchange the federal government for a Christian nation ruled by biblical laws. Gary North, founder of the Institute for Christian Economics in Tyler (TX) and Ron Paul’s friend and former, has led this movement for almost 40 years; North describes “guerilla tactics” and “bottom-up theocracy” to achieve Christian Reconstructionism’s goals of destroying the GOP, the public schools, and the Baptists.

In his 1991 book, Christian Reconstructionism: What It Is, What It Isn’t, North wrote that the Bible, not the political majority “is the final law in society” with Jesus the “Lord of political leaders.” Once in politics, the purpose of public officials “is to reduce the power of the State.” That’s a large piece of the recent government shutdown.

Reconstructionism is opposed to organized labor, public employees, welfare, and inflation while supporting the gold standard. Like the Taliban, the group’s theology also supports execution through stoning of LGBT people, blasphemers, heretics, apostate Christians, people who cursed or struck their parents, females guilty of “unchastity before marriage,” “incorrigible” juvenile delinquents, and adulterers.North supports stoning for execution because it is “cheap, plentiful, and convenient.”

One of Weyrich’s most powerful organizations, Council for National Policy founded in 1981, is also the most secretive. The combination of this group and Heritage is the Conservative Action Project (CAP), developed after President Obama’s first election and revealed earlier this month as having orchestrated the current shutdown through grassroots organizing, paid advertisements, and a series of events designed to boost the message of senators like Ted Cruz. Their efforts also go toward blocking the president’s judicial nominees. One of CAP’s highest-paid employees now sits on the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

The CAP goal: “We will not try to reform the existing institutions. We only intend to weaken them, and eventually destroy them. We will endeavor to knock our opponents off-balance and unsettle them at every opportunity. All of our constructive energies will be dedicated to the creation of our own institutions. We will maintain a constant barrage of criticism against the Left. We will attack the very legitimacy of the Left. We will not give them a moment’s rest. We will use guerrilla tactics to undermine the legitimacy of the dominant regime.”

The government shutdown is temporarily over, but the religious right continues its campaign against humanity. Yesterday Tony Perkins, head of Family Research Council, said that Christians should not view government as an aid to the poor:

“The government has a responsibility to care for the poor? That’s not what Scripture says.” Then, in a fit of irony, he complained that progressive Christians “treat the government as if it had divine instructions from God to be a form of theocracy.”

Tea Party Unity founder Rick Scarborough and Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth about Homosexuality, had a discussion last Thursday about filing a “class action lawsuit” against homosexuality just like the one filed by attorneys general against tobacco companies.” Scarborough thinks that the Centers for Disease Control reported that homosexuality more likely leads to AIDS than smoking leads to cancer. He’s way off target. In fact, the CDC reported in 2008 that “more deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.”

Speakers at the Values Voters Summit a week ago also spread their extremist myths. Following the cult of controlling women, Cruz again claimed that taking hormonal birth control is like having mini-abortions. Alveda King, niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said that birth control is “poison”—ignoring the fact that her uncle supported birth control.

Twenty years ago, Barry Goldwater expressed anger with the actions of Weyrich and the other extremists to journalist Bill Rentschler:

“Our problem is with … the religious extremists whose interpretation is very narrow, and who want to destroy everybody who doesn’t agree with them. I see them as betrayers of the fundamental principles of conservatism. A lot of so-called conservatives today don’t know what the word means.”

He’s right.

October 18, 2013

GOP Government Shutdown: Some of the Damage

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:22 PM
Tags: , ,

After inflicting pain on tens of millions of people in the United States and endangering our global standing, enough Republicans in the House voted against the shutdown to reopen all the agencies. The GOP House refused for six months to conference about the budget while the Democrats already agreed to fund the government at levels demanded by the GOP. Despite the wailing from the GOP, the U.S. deficit has steadily dropped since 2009 with a $450 billion decrease this year—at least until the GOP threatened to not raise the debt ceiling.

Only one issue was raised in the debacle—that of denying affordable health care to the working poor. By focusing on an area in which they knew they could not succeed, federal GOP legislators postponed dealing with any other issues such as immigration, gun control, and jobs for at least a month. They are simply stalling until the 2014 elections with the hope that they will then control both congressional chambers.

A majority of people aren’t opposed to the Affordable Care Act. One poll shows that 58 percent oppose Congress cutting off funding to stop Obamacare. CBS/NY Times found that 56 percent of voters want Congress to uphold the law, and a Gallup poll shows that 64 percent wants the Affordable Care Act kept as is or kept with some changes.

A summary of some damage that misguided, self-centered, controlling, bullying Republicans caused during the past three weeks:

Economy:

  • Spending: After surging to $95 in August, average self-reported daily spending in the U.S. fell back significantly in September to $84, the lowest level since February.
  • Gallup’s U.S. Economic Confidence Index: The drop of 12 points last week to  -34 was the largest one-week drop since Lehman Brothers collapsed in five years ago before Barack Obama was elected. Americans’ economic outlook slid 17 points.
  • Small businesses: The shutdown of parks, monuments, and other federal lands was disastrous for all private tourism companies. Government-backed Small Business Administration loans are not being issued. [The shutdown also meant that the KKK could not have their rally at the Gettysburg National Park]
  • Real estate: Agents saw less business, and individuals could not get mortgages.
  • Farms: Lack of a farm bill hurt dairy families and cotton farming.
  • Fishing and king crab fishing boats: These boats are forced to stay docked without government approval of permits and quotas, costing Alaska fisherman potentially “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
  • Biofuels standards: Rep. Steve King (R-IA), the man who claimed that immigrants have thighs the size of cantaloupes from running drugs, complained that the EPA could not just keep writing a standard that he wanted. Iowa leads the nation in corn-based ethanol production, a major contributor to King’s campaigns.
  • Acts of desperation: Sugar daddy websites, focusing on relationships that feature older men who spend lavishly on women, witnessed a spike in interest, attributed to young women losing government benefits.

Safety:

  • Nuclear plants: The Nuclear Regulatory Commission furloughed 3,600 of its employees, roughly 90 percent of its workforce.
  • Border Control: Training stopped.
  • EPA: Cleanup on 62 percent of the nation’s Superfund sites was abandoned 
  • FDA: The food inspection program was stopped, amidst a salmonella outbreak.
  • NASA: The websites were pulled down, keeping the country from knowing weather dangers such as a hurricane headed toward Louisiana.
  • FEMA: After 86 percent of the agency’s employees were furloughed, areas of the country in dire need—such as the aftermath of the South Dakota—failed to receive any aid.
  • Fatal accidents: Investigation on these events, including the church bus accident in Tennessee that killed at least people and the fatal welding accident in the Washington, D.C. subway tunnel, stopped.
  • Pig virus monitoring: This program stopped.
  • Mining: Although corporations were allowed to continue drilling and logging on federal lands, there was no safety supervision or first-responders available. About 90 percent of the workers at the Occupational Safety and Health Administration were kept away from their jobs, as were most employees at the Mine Safety and Health Administration, at the same time that three coal miners were killed in equipment accidents.
  • Investigations: The Chemical Safety Board suspended its investigation of the April explosion of a fertilizer facility in West, Texas, and the board’s head said that it would have “no ability to respond” to a new chemical disaster.

 

 

Women, Children, & Families:

  • Food stamps: States discontinued payments to eligible families needing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
  • Heating assistance: The poor in some states will not receive this help if states have run out of money.
  • Child care subsidies: Some states ran out of money to provide these.
  • Department of Agriculture: The agency no longer supported the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program to help 9 million pregnant women and new mothers buy healthy food and provide nutritional information and health care referrals for the needy.
  • Domestic violence programs, Meals on Wheels, and food pantries: These programs suffered as people went hungry and abused victims had no access to shelter.
  • School children: The closure of some roads through the Great Smoky Mountains stopped children from taking buses to school. Head Start children could not attend school in many places.
  • Health care clinics: Some of these could not take on new patients or work with drug companies to get free medicine for indigent people.

Research/Statistics:

  • National Institutes of Health: The lab closures kept a seriously-ill, three-year-old boy from receiving a blood test until Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) stepped in to help. Promising treatment stopped for 30-year-old Michelle Langbehn, with Stage IV sarcoma.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Lack of information made the country more dangerous, and CDC could not participate in the flu vaccination program.
  • Other research: Furloughed researchers cannot continue their studies that often rely on time-important investigation—for example projects to study insects just as the pests are finding winter hiding places inside home. NOAA ships were sent back to port, pulled off their surveying research to help the fishing industry.

Jobs:

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: Court cases were delayed.
  • Furloughs: Over 800,000 “nonessential” people were pulled away from their responsibilities, and over 1.2 million “essential” federal employees worked without pay.

Benefits:

  • Veterans: They could not receive federal tuition assistance. All regional veterans’ offices wereclosed, and processing of any benefits, including health, were greatly slowed.
  • Survivors of military members who die since the shutdown began:  Until a private group stepped in, families did not receive the “death gratuity” of $100,000 promised to immediately reach them within 24 to 36 hours and did not have their family travel covered to Dover Air Force Base where the bodies arrive in the U.S.
  • Native Americans: They could not receive scholarships, and others had nutrition programs, foster care payments, financial assistance for poor, and anti-elder-abuse programs cut.
  • Disabilities: The Social Security administration did not schedule new hearings for those applying for disability benefits, and the Veterans Appeal Board was closed, stopping veterans’ appealing decisions on disability benefits.

Surveillance:

  • The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies: This group could not convene to examine NSA’s surveillance problems.
  • Court cases: Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Facebook and LinkedIn had to wait until the shutdown was over to see any movement on their lawsuits against the U.S. government over surveillance transparency.

Global Issues:

  • Trade Accord: The skeletal staffs for government agencies stopped a trade accord with Europe.
  • The dollar: Slowing of the U.S. economy depreciates the dollar and causes the U.S. to lose competitiveness in Europe.
  • Foreign affairs: President Obama’s cancelation of his meeting with world leaders in Asia caused him to miss the opportunity to work with world leaders regarding Syria and Iran, thereby putting the U.S. at greater risk.
  • Russia: After federal websites shut down, other countries considered the adoption of U.S. websites. For example, the Russian Pirate Party offered to host NASA’s downed website during the U.S. shutdown. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration would have celebrated its 55th anniversary on the first day of the shutdown. The Pirate Party of Russia promotes e-democracy, the freedom of information, and the protection of personal privacy, operating on a monthly budget of $200.

It’s the tip of the iceberg, and the thugs in the Tea Party plan to start all over again in less than three months. They need to be stopped.

October 17, 2013

Congressional Republicans, Abusers

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:16 PM
Tags: , ,

For over two weeks, an extremist faction of the GOP held the United States hostage. It’s the sixth time since the Tea Party took a large number of seats in January 2011. The bad behavior of the conservatives in Congress’ budget battles over the last three years have cost the U.S. economy $700 billion—more than this year’s deficit. Congressional spending cuts and sequester have cut annual GDP by 0.7 percent and the equivalent of 1.2 million jobs. Uncertainty increased the cost an additional 0.3 percent, bringing the total cost to 1% of GDP annually.

Paul Krugman said that the unemployment rate would be below 6 percent without the current fiscal policy. In 2012, The Economic Policy Institute said that the fiscal cliff wasn’t about debt. It was about tax hikes coupled with spending cuts causing purchasing power to drain out of our economy.

The entire problem is caused by what Julie Driscoll, a domestic violence hotline counselor, describes as the Republicans abusive behavior. For the past 16 days, the media has shown the tea baggers taking over the U.S. House, ordering around House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), shutting down the government, and high-fiving one another like adolescents who have just broken the law.

Like abusers, Republicans always blame someone else for their actions. For abusive people there is no compromise. The abusive person is never wrong; only the abused must change. Abusers use bullying, fear tactics, threats, and intimidation—anything to get their own way. Abusers are also willing to use anyone else for pawns—in a family, the children, and with the GOP, the World War II veterans. 

Like abusers, Republicans do not negotiate in good faith. Boehner promised a clean continuing resolution in exchange for keeping the sequester cuts, the Democrats agreed, and Boehner backed down on his own agreement. Abusers will renege on any deals that they make; they will not uphold their end of the bargain. When Democrats gave in to the Republicans a year ago, Paul Krugman pointed out that the debt ceiling debacle at that time demonstrated that “raw extortion works and carries no political cost” and that “irresponsible brinksmanship” is now “a proven effective negotiating tactic.”

Like abusers, Republicans must win at all costs. Abusers don’t care who is caught in the crossfire because their desire for control and their irrational, desperate need to be the winner at any cost trumps any concern for others. Republicans raised the debt ceiling more than 25 times under Republican presidents and five times, with no difficulty, under George W. Bush. Now, regardless of any harm to others, the GOP vowed to block the president they hate. In a Catch 22, they claim that both defaulting and invoking the 14th Amendment to direct the Treasury to pay bills are impeachable offenses but gleefully push the president into one of these actions. No cost is too great for Republicans to make President Obama look bad.

Like abusers, Republicans have to be in complete control. They lost the 2012 election for president and Senate. The House has a Republican majority only because Republican states gerrymandered districts: House members received over a million more votes from Democrats than from Republicans. Yet Republicans think that they have the right to get whatever they want. To control the country, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) demanded, “Why don’t we open the parts of government that we agree to?” Republicans could then eliminate food stamps, inspections, regulations, etc. as they tried to do with their piecemeal strategy during the shutdown.

Like abusers, Republicans invalidate everyone else. Abusers use derogatory slurs against the victim as Republicans are using against President Obama in increasing occurrence and intensity.

Like abusers, Republicans wear down their victims. Suffering from abusive hopelessness, fear, and despair, victims give in to ridiculous demands that seem almost reasonable because it stops the emotional, mental, and physical pain—if only temporarily. Every rational plan from the Democrats led to upping the ante—repeal or defunding of Obamacare, a “conscience clause” to eliminate contraception, reducing Social Security, putting in the Keystone Pipeline—ad infinitum.

Like abusers, Republicans don’t care who they hurt. They can bully, threaten, and extort because they have a callous disregard for anyone who stands between them and what they want. Just as an abuser will knock a child out of the way in a rage, the Republicans will knock the country out of their way to get to their goal and then blame others for their behavior, never taking responsibility.

Like abusers, Republicans profess love for their victim. The Republicans say that they love their country, that their behavior is justified to save their country from the scourge of liberals and the devil called the Affordable Care Act, as, at the same time, they abuse the people in the country.

This time, however, the Democrats stood up to the abusers. Last night they said, “No more.” Thanks to their action, 260,000 people in Oregon will qualify for fast-track enrollment in the state health plan, the Medicaid expansion at the core of the health care reform. Young people will be able to stay on their parents’ policies until they are 26 years old, and everyone with pre-existing conditions can get health insurance. All the children in the state can have health insurance, and the insurance exchange will lower rates for people because companies have to be competitive.

After the past 16 days, people found out that they want government. Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) wants FEMA because her state can’t afford to pay for the cattle lost in the recent blizzard. Both Reps. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Todd Rokita (R-IN) want the National Institutes of Health funded: Rodgers has a child with Down syndrome, and Rokita has a son with a rare neurological disorder. Rokita  believes, however, that the rest of people’s needs could be taken care of by “families, faith communities, associations, and neighbors.” People discovered that they want their national parks and monuments. The salmonella outbreak during the shutdown moved the FDA up to the level of the national parks.

But it’s all personal. Republican control would mean no EPA, Labor Department, IRS, Department of Education, and some other agencies that Texas Gov. Rick Perry can’t remember.

Republicans claim that a government can be run like a family, but their families don’t always pay their bills. Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL) said he tells his creditors: “Listen, we’re going to pay you. We’re just not going to pay you today, but we’re going to pay you with interest and we will pay everybody that’s due money.” He claimed that doing this would show the world that the United States was “finally addressing its problem.” Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) has a similar slipshod style: “We have in my household some bills that have to be paid and some bills that we can defer or only pay partially.” [Note: you might not want to lend these people money!]

The U.S. government could have funded at least one of the these programs with the more than $24 billion hit to the economy during the past 16 days:

  • Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP): $24 billion
  • Department of Agriculture’s proposed budget: $22.6 billion
  • NASA’s approved budget: $16.6 billion
  • All air transportation programs, including the Federal Aviation Administration, security, research, and other costs: $21.9 billion
  • Child Tax Credit: $22.1 billion
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program (formally known as welfare): $17.7 billion
  • The cost of Head Start, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), and Women Infants and Children (WIC) program combined: $25.2 billion

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said there won’t be any more threats, but Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) won’t rule out another shutdown, adding that he will still “do anything” to stop Obamacare. Rep. John Fleming (R-LA), said, “We’re going to start this all over again.” The Default Caucus—18 GOP senators and 144 GOP House members—will still be in Congress when the next crisis begins in less than three months. These are the people who voted last night to drive the United States into default that threatened to collapse the entire world economy. Several of these Republicans have expressed interest in being the nation’s next president.

At the same time the Senate voted to open, Cruz blocked Tom Wheeler’s confirmation as chair of the FCC because Wheeler wants transparency for political advertising funding. As usual, it’s all about Ted Cruz—and certainly will be the next time that he has a chance to close down the government.

The Default Caucus won’t stop their seditious behavior unless someone stops them. The House GOP leadership’s use of the Hastert Rule and H. Res 368 to shut down the government and threaten the U.S. economy with default is an attempt to extort the United States government into altering or abolishing the Affordable Care Act, and thus, is self-evidently a seditious conspiracy.

You can sign a petition calling on justice for these actions: “I call on the Justice Department of the United States of America to arrest Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Speaker of the House John Boehner, and other decision-making House Republican leaders for the crime of seditious conspiracy against the United States of America.”

October 16, 2013

Day Sixteen of GOP Government Shutdown: Congress Overturns Shutdown

After weeks of temper tantrums, the GOP members of Congress have decided that their attempt to dump the Affordable Care Act is indefensible. The government opens up again tomorrow thanks to the passing of a continuing appropriations bill with a Senate vote of 81-18 and a House vote of 285-144. Eighty-seven GOP House members and 27 GOP senators voted for the bill.

What the CR does:

  • The government is funded through January 15, 2014.
  • The debt ceiling is raised until February 7.
  • Congressional leaders will establish a Senate-House conference to negotiate fiscal reforms and report the result to Congress by December 13.
  • The Treasury Department is permitted to continue its use of “extraordinary measures” to continue paying the government’s bills when the debt limit is reached.
  • Furloughed workers will receive back pay for the time that they were not working.
  • Income verification for Affordable Care Act applications will be tightened.
  • Sequester cuts are kept at the current level.
  • It provides a $1.2 billion funding authorization increase for the Army Corps of Engineers to improve of locks and dams on the lower Ohio River on the Illinois-Kentucky border in Senate Minority Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) area.
  • It allocates $450 million to rebuild flood damage in Colorado as well as $36 million to the Department of the Interior and $600 million to the Forest Service for fighting wildfires and refurbishing the fires’ damage.

What the CR doesn’t do:

  • The 2.3 percent tax on medical devices is neither eliminated nor delayed.
  • And anything else that the GOP House members wanted.

The fight is not over. McConnell (R-KY) declared that the GOP will continue the fight to repeal and replace Obamacare, meaning that another shutdown can happen in January. The Republicans may have more problems the next time around because polls show that the popularity of the health care reform law is rapidly growing.

After gathering House minions at a local restaurant yesterday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has decided that opening the government, which he doesn’t support but won’t oppose, is really a win for him. When he was asked what he gained in the last 3 weeks, Cruz said that more than 2 million people signed his petition to defund Obamacare. Those two million people translate into fund-raising for Cruz’s future political aspirations.

Right now, fundraising in the South is benefiting Democrats who have outraised GOP counterparts during the third quarter which ended September 30. One of those races will include McConnell who was down $230,000 to candidate Democratic Secretary of state Alison Lundergan.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said that he knew the conservative Republicans wouldn’t win: “People don’t like government, but they sure don’t want it shut down.” Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) also spoke out against House conservatives: “I just bitterly resent some of the things that have been done.”

Conservative Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) said he hopes the Republicans pushing to derail ObamaCare “learned a lesson that shutdowns and defaults shouldn’t be a part of the way we do business. They should be off limits. We have plenty of other legislative tactics we can use.” Hopefully, he’ll remember this when Sens. Cruz, Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Rand Paul (R-KY) lead the charge to close down the government in another three months.

Karl Rove wrote an angry op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. Except for the accusation of the trap, his conclusion is right on target:

“Barack Obama set the trap. Some congressional Republicans walked into it. As a result, the president is stronger, the GOP is weaker, and ObamaCare is marginally more popular. The battles over spending, taxes and debt have not been resolved, only postponed. It’s time Republicans remembered that bad tactics produce bad outcomes.”

Rep. Kristi Noem (R-SD) voted tonight to continue the shutdown just as she originally voted to close the government. At the same time she wants help for her state after a blizzard may have destroyed $100 million of its $7 billion cattle industry. Without the shutdown, cattle ranchers would file claims at the local offices of the USDA Farm Service Agency to file claims for their losses. The shutdown, however, closed those offices.

A week ago, Noem asked the House to help these ranchers because of the “unprecedented” nature of the blizzard that blew through her state. She said, “”There may be disagreement over certain parts of the federal budget, but not on FEMA.” Her state is especially reliant on federal funding because it has no personal or corporate income tax and a sales tax of only 4 percent, the second lowest of all states with sales taxes.

Noem also wants a permanent increase in assistance by expanding the livestock indemnity program in the farm bill. One rancher who lost 96 percent of his herd of 100 cattle wasn’t insured because storm insurance is too expensive. Thus Noem thinks that federal taxes should give insurance to all her cattle ranchers but not to the 50 million people in the United States who cannot afford health insurance.

A members of the Agriculture Committee, Noem voted for the $39 billion cut in food stamp funding over the next decade, taking benefits from 2.8 million low-income workers. Last year, she also voted against federal assistance for victims of Superstorm Sandy that devastated parts of New York and New Jersey. Noem is now on the conference committee to work on a farm bill to replace the one that expired at the beginning of the shutdown.

Instead of “NIMBY” (Not in My Back Yard), Noem’s philosophy represents that of many in the Republican party, “OIMBY” (Only in My Back Yard).

The conservative party members who whine about the deficit just cost the economy as much as $31 billion since their ploy started on October 1. With the GOP having pushed the U.S. to the brink of default and destroyed people’s willingness to spend money, the economy will continue to weaken. The possibility of Fitch Ratings lowering the nation’s rating caused the yield on the 10-year Treasury note, important for interest rates, to rise four basic points from  0.04 percentage point to 2.73 point. Three-month notes rose to their highest rates in more than two years.

Last month, banks were paying for the privilege of buying Treasury notes. Those days are gone. Instead of providing needed services and boosting the economy, tax dollars are now going to lenders, and budget deficits are again growing. The past two weeks have diminished the United States and made it less financially strong and globally competitive, its people less economically secure.

At one time, the Heritage Foundation, although conservative, was a think tank. Now it’s become a radical rightwing, destroy-the-country, organization. Heritage Action CEO Michael Needham proved that this morning on Fox when he explained that the GOP had shut down the government to keep Obamacare from going into effect on January 1. After praising Republicans for standing strong—at least until this morning—he admitted, “Well, everybody knows that we’re not going to be able to repeal this law until 2017, and that we have to win the Senate and win the White House.” GOP members of Congress determined to close down the country are getting paid for being total obstructionists.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tried to protect House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) and take the high ground. In the end, however, he admitted that the GOP was responsible for the debacle: “We won’t be the last political party to overplay our hand,” he said. “It might happen one day on the Democratic side. And if it did, would Republicans, for the good of the country, kinda give a little? We really did go too far. We screwed up. But their response is making things worse, not better.”

Even extremist Pat Robertson, who actually told a woman that her husband is ill because she’s not tithing, thought the GOP went too far in the government shutdown: “The Republicans have got to wave the white flag and say, ‘We fought a good fight and now it’s over. They cannot shut the government down and then bring about a default. We can’t do it. I mean, it would be devastating economically to every human being and the Republicans just can’t get tarred with that.”

Furloughed workers will have to rely on the media to determine whether to go back to work. The employees were strictly ordered not to check government e-mail but instead to monitor television broadcasts and check into the web site of the Office of Personnel Management for instructions. The last post on this website was on October 1. Workers in the Labor Department were told:

“Please note that all employees are expected to report for work on their next regularly scheduled work day following the enactment of appropriating legislation which allows normal DOL operations to resume.”

 October 17, 2013 – Spirit Day 

against bullyingTomorrow is the first day that the government will be open this month. It is also the fourth Spirit Day, a day to remind people to take a stand against bullying and to show support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth. Spirit Day was started in 2010 by high school student Brittany McMillan as a response to the young people who had taken their own lives. Wear your purple, the color that symbolizes the “spirit” on the rainbow flag.

 

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October 15, 2013

Day Fifteen of GOP Government Shutdown: Divisive, Duplicitous Tea Party

During the past several months, I have encouraged people to sign up at Cover Oregon, a model for the 24 states that provide exchanges, or “marketplaces,” that compare insurance rates and give poor people the chance for health insurance subsidies. This morning she told me that her sister told her not to sign up because of dangers in identity theft. After I got my temper under control, I asked her what her sister’s salary is. She responded, “$250,000.”

My friend is a wonderful, generous person who unfortunately tends to be gullible. She also lives with and cares for her aging mother, which gives my friend an over-exposure to the Fox network. Again, I see the influence of the people who will do anything to destroy Democrats and who have no concern for the poor, even if they are relatives.

Because of people like my friend’s sister, the Affordable Care Act will not be able to help two-thirds of  poor, insured blacks and single mothers as well as more than half of the low-wage workers who do not have insurance. The total population of the 26 states refusing Medicaid is about half that in the U.S., but 68 percent of poor, uninsured blacks and single mothers live in those 26 states. About 60 percent of the country’s uninsured working poor also live in those 26 states.   That’s 8 million people who can’t have medical help because of the states controlled by Republicans that refuse Medicaid. Because each state can set its own income ceiling for the top income of  Medicaid eligibility, it can be as low as $11 per day, about $3,000 in Mississippi and Texas.

Originally, the health insurance exchanges were established to pick up where Medicaid left off. This level, which would have been established by the federal government because it would pay for it, was fairly high—138 percent of the poverty level. The Supreme Court removed the Medicaid mandate for all states, leaving the people below the exchanges but above the horrible Medicaid income ceiling in no 26 states with no health insurance.

Virginia is a classic example of have-nots, especially notable because its Rep. Eric Cantor is the legal gatekeeper who refuses to allow bills to enter the House to close the shutdown. Cantor has also worked tirelessly to close down Obamacare. The state has done almost nothing to help residents to sign up for the exchange, which is federally run because Virginia refused to have anything to do with the Affordable Care Act.

The federal government is paying all Medicaid charges for states that expanded the program. The health care reform law in those states requires that Medicaid is open to anyone earning up to 133 percent of poverty, about $15,300 for a single person this year. In Virginia, adults without children or who don’t have a disability cannot get Medicaid at all, no matter how poor they are. Coverage for parents cuts off at 30 percent of poverty, or about $5,900 for a family of three. Fourteen percent of people in Virginia, about 1.1 million, have no health insurance.

Making the situation is the GOP to not increase the debt limit. People who think that this cannot affect them should not have credit cards, 401(k)s, adjustable rate mortages (ARMs), or any benefits from government, including Social Security and government contractor payments. The first two will likely go up, the third will vastly shrink, and the fourth may be delayed.

Our current disastrous gridlock comes from the split in the GOP, demonstrated by the debacle at the World War II Monument last Sunday which included a Confederate flag, signs calling for the president’s impeachment, the verbal abuse of police, and the trash left behind by the crowd. Tea Party activist, Larry Klaman of Freedom Watch, said, “I call upon all of you to wage a second American nonviolent revolution, to use civil disobedience, and to demand that this president leave town, to get up, to put the Quran down, to get up off his knees, and to figuratively come up with his hands out [sic].”

The small apolitical Brats for Veterans Advocacy (BVA), disappointed with veterans being used as “political pawns” in the shutdown, posted a “Million Vet March on the Memorials” on its Facebook page. Larry Ward with the grassroots veterans organization Special Operations Speaks (SOS) saw the post and offered SOS’s help in promoting the rally. BVA agreed, and Ward drafted press releases and asked Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) to appear at the event.

BVA objected to publicity such as “tyranny” and “protest.” The group didn’t want politicians at the event and “divisive” language because it was “causing confusion with our cause.” Ward said that they wouldn’t mention BVA in the promotion to SOS members so that he could use “harder anti-Obama messaging.” BVA had envisioned thousands of veterans gathering on the Mall and singing the Star Spangled Banner—“no one storming a barricade.” Ward said that people don’t congregate to sing.

SOS and BVA went their separate ways, as shown by the different websites. On Monday, BVA also issued a disclaimer regarding SOS participation. SOS is part of the Tea Party mentality that will keep the government shut down and the veterans from getting their benefits.

Comedians were worried when President Obama was elected that they might run short on subject matter. No fear—the GOP are here. Andy Borowitz has a classic example with his satiric column entitled “Rand Paul Proposes Reopening Just Enough of Government to Hold New Hearings on Benghazi.” Borowitz ended with this (possibly fictional) statement from Rand: “For the two weeks of this shutdown, the American people have had no new information about Benghazi. It’s time to stop the madness.”

Humor doesn’t need to be fabricated, however. The RNC tweeted its New Jersey constituents, urging them to vote today in the election determining whether candidate Cory Booker or the Republican would go to the U.S. Senate. When Huffington Post pointed out that the election is not until tomorrow, RNC Press Secretary Kirsten Kukowski got snippy. Republicans are probably still irritated because Gov. Chris Christie’s fear moved the senatorial election away from his own for fear that he might lose.

Joking aside, another day has passed with no action about the government shutdown. Earlier today the House GOP planned to pass a CR including the delay of the 2.3 percent on medical devices for two years, stricter income verification for Obamacare applicants, and elimination of the health insurance subsidies for members of the Congress, Cabinet, and the president. By the end of the day, they had dropped the first two parts, and some GOP members were so unwilling to give up their subsidies that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) couldn’t get enough support to put the CR up for a vote. The measure would also fund the government only until Dec. 15 and raise the debt ceiling to Feb. 7. The Senate had suspended any talks to allow the House to act.

Yesterday Fitch Ratings announced that it was putting the U.S. on an increased risk of a default and the nation’s AAA rating on a negative watch. Citigroup told analysts that it was trimming its holdings in Treasury debt that were due to mature before the end of the month. The Dow Jones average dropped 133 points.

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) blasted the House GOP: “Republicans have to understand we have lost this battle. We would not be able to win because we were demanding something that was not achievable.” He added that the party’s brutal poll numbers made it clear that the GOP needs to accept a deal and end the shutdown. When asked about his opinion, McCain read from a paper in his hands that “74 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Washington are handling the nation’s budget crisis. That’s why!”

Thanks to the GOP Tea Party, the United States is rapidly losing respect in the world. Yesterday, the New York Times reported:

“Chinese leaders called on a ‘befuddled world to start considering building a de-Americanized world.’ In a commentary on Sunday, the state-run Chinese news agency Xinhua blamed ‘cyclical stagnation in Washington’ for leaving the dollar-based assets of many nations in jeopardy.”

Tomorrow is another day. The Senate plans to return to negotiating, and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) has met with 15-20 highly conservative GOP representatives in the basement of Capitol Hill’s Tortilla Coast to plan amendments to the Senate plan including dismantling Obamacare.

Meanwhile members of Congress are getting paid, receiving free health insurance, and going to the taxpayer-funded gym.

October 14, 2013

Day Fourteen of the GOP Government Shutdown: GOP Value System

Since the beginning of the shutdown, the GOP conservatives have been obsessed with national parks and monuments.

It began with Rep. Randy  Neugebauer (R-TX) publicly scolding a park ranger at the World War II Memorial because she was following the law. “The Park Service should be ashamed of themselves,” Neugenbauer said to the ranger. She replied it was a difficult task, but “I’m not ashamed.” He retorted, “You should be.” Since then, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) have filed an ethics charge against Neugebauer for attempting to “coerce” the ranger to allow access to the memorial, that he violated a House rule requiring members to behave in “a manner that reflects the creditably on the House.”

Even yesterday, protesters are illegally forcing their way into areas that the shutdown has closed. Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) led a crowd that removed barricades at the World War II memorial and chanted “tear down these walls.” Cruz said that President Obama is using military veterans as “pawns” in the shutdown argument.

These protesters, including the one carrying the Confederate flag, are most likely the same people who write letters to the editor and contact their legislators to keep the undocumented immigrants from “breaking the laws” by entering the country.

Senior House Natural Resources Committee Republicans sent a letter to National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis ordering him to “not destroy documents related to the decision this week to restrict public access” to open-air memorials and monuments in the Washington area. Those documents are actually the House votes that closed the government. As Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) pointed out:

“These same veterans that they’re pretending to help today at the WWII memorial, you know, they’re going to have access to their disability pensions is going to be limited after Oct. 15. There’s going to be cuts in prosthetic research for veterans. The National Cemetery Administration is not going to be able to lay our heroes to rest at the same rate that they were. And Michele Bachmann who was there today at the World War II Memorial actually said, ‘The shutdown is exactly what we wanted. We got what we wanted.’ A good day for the tea party is when government is having a bad day.”

Arizona’s obsession with national parks was evident when one of the state “lawmakers” referred the president as “De Fuhrer” [sic] on a Facebook post, in the mistaken belief that it was he, and not her U.S. representatives, who closed down the national parks. Arizona State Rep. Brenda Barton (R) called on rogue “Constitutional Sheriffs” to arrest park service rangers for doing their jobs and urged people to ask their local sheriffs to revoke arrest powers to federal agents within their counties. When questioned about her terminology, she said she was keeping to her Adolf Hitler analogy:

 “It’s not just the death camps. [Hitler] started in the communities, with national health care and gun control. You better read your history. Germany started with national health care and gun control before any of that other stuff happened. And Hitler was elected by a majority of people.”

Arizona has now sunk even lower, if possible.  Gov. Jan Brewer is using state funds to open the Grand Canyon, yet Arizona was the only state in the nation that stopped issuing welfare checks after the federal shutdown. The $651,000 from state taxpayers will keep the park running for only a week, and there’s no guarantee that the state will be reimbursed. The federal government will reimburse the state for welfare checks if the shutdown ends.

In Arizona, 5,200 families receive an average of $207 a week from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, less money than keeping the Grand Canyon open. After protests regarding the withholding of welfare checks, Brewer reversed the halt, claiming that “just” 3,200 families failed to receive checks for October.

In its decision to use money from the rainy-day fund of $450,000,000, state senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum Taylor (D-Phoenix) explained why the state needs to re-open the Grand Canyon: “The rainy-day fund is for emergencies, and this is an emergency. This is beyond hurting the families. … Families are relying upon this.” Arizona government has determined that families relying on Grand Canyon businesses are of more value than those forced to live below poverty level, often because of rapacious corporate wages.

Brewer has been clear that the state will continue to pay for the Grand Canyon if the shutdown has not ended in five days. TANF and other critical federal programs may not be as fortunate.

During the shutdown, conservatives find national parks important, but several of them have wanted to sell them. Rep. Cliff Steans (R-FL) told a town hall meeting that the country needs to “actually sell off some of our national parks.” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) proposed selling off 3.3 million acres of public lands last fall, and former Rep. Richard Pombo suggested selling national parks to mining companies in 2005. U.S. parks created $31 billion and 258,000 jobs in 2010 while providing recreation for everyone, not just the wealthy elite—or the mining companies. Mitt Romney said that he doesn’t know “what the purpose is” of public lands, Rick Santorum said that public lands should go “back to the hands” of the private sector, and Ron Paul advocated for public lands to be turned over to the states.

People in the United States are going jobless because of the government shutdown, and some GOP Congressional members suffered a backlash from their defiant attitude toward continuing to receive salaries. Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC) said, “The thing of it is, I need my paycheck. That is the bottom line.”

Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) joined Ellmers in her sentiment. “Whatever gets them good press,” Terry said of members giving up their salary. “That’s all that it’s going to be. God bless them. But you know what? I’ve got a nice house and a kid in college, and I’ll tell you we cannot handle it. Giving our paycheck away when you still worked and earned it? That’s just not going to fly.”

In acts of embarrassment, both Ellmers and Terry joined over 100 over members of Congress who refused to take their salaries until the end of the shutdown. Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) did offer financial advice for furloughed workers:

“If you are a furloughed government employee, we encourage you to reach out to your financial institution as soon as you worry you may miss a paycheck. Financial Institutions [sic] often offer short-term loans and other resources. Don’t wait until you are behind on a bill; call now and explore your options.”

This from a man who has helped shut down the government.

Senate leaders Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this afternoon that they made progress toward opening the government and stopping the U.S. from defaulting on its debts. The House, however, will have to accept any Senate decision to stop the disasters, and that cannot happen unless Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) permits a vote in the House. Yet House members may still be as confused as Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN):

“We’re not going to be disrespected… We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-VA) said today that the House should be prepared to reject any agreement from the Senate. The classic House position comes from Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX): “We don’t have to fund laws we didn’t pass.” There goes just about every law in the history of the United States because this House has done almost nothing except rename post offices.

While Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) may oppose a debt limit deal, he says that defaulting on the nation’s debt would be “an impeachable offense by the president.” GOP logic: we won’t let you pay the bills and then we’ll impeach you if you don’t.”

Paul Krugman’s description of the Tea Party:

“So you have this neighbor who has been making your life hell. First he tied you up with a spurious lawsuit; you’re both suffering from huge legal bills. Then he threatened bodily harm to your family. Now, however, he says he’s willing to compromise: He’ll call off the lawsuit, which is to his advantage as well as yours. But in return you must give him your car. Oh, and he’ll stop threatening your family — but only for a week, after which the threats will resume.

“Not much of an offer, is it? But here’s the kicker: Your neighbor’s relatives, who have been egging him on, are furious that he didn’t also demand that you kill your dog.”

That’s the U.S. House of Representatives.

Meanwhile four of the five new Nobel-prize winners working for the government are furloughed while members of Congress are still being paid. Taxpayers are still paying for the lawmakers’ gym. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) said, “This job is very stressful and if you don’t have a place to vent, you are going to go crazy.” (It may not have provided that assistance to all members of the Congress.) A week ago, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said that the Senate’s gym was becoming “rank.” Yesterday he said that he wouldn’t vote for any agreement that compromises John Boehner’s (R-OH) leadership. That gym is going to get a lot more rank.

GOP values: I’ve got mine; too bad for you.

October 13, 2013

Day Thirteen of the GOP Government Shutdown: No Movement, GOP in Fantasyland

With the GOP holding the country hostage, one person is in control—Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA). Late September 30, the House Rules Committee changed the standing House rules. Normally any member trying to address a disagreement between the House and the Senate would have the “privilege” to make a motion to bring the Senate bill to the floor of the House. The rules change just before the actual shutdown applies only to the CR keeping the government running.  that could keep the functioning of the federal government.

New rule: any motion to take up the Senate bill “may be offered only by the majority Leader or his designee.” That designee is Cantor, making him the only person in the 532 people currently serving in Congress who can break the deadlock. “I’ve never heard of anything like that before,” Norm Ornstein, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, said.

The rules change may have led to an heated exchange on the House floor between Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-NY) and Cantor’s floor director, Chris Vieson, after Democrats made requests for a vote for a clean CR. To avoid media attention—and make sure that members got their flights home—Vieson yelled that they were shutting down the debate and pulling the bill. Crowley asked Vieson if a staffer was shutting down democracy, and Vieson said, “That’s right.” Crowley told him that he was behaving in an inappropriate way. Cantor’s spokesman said that Crowley poked Vieson with an index finger; Crowley denied doing it. 

Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-SC) said, “This is what happens in the public process when we stymie opposition, when we cut off debate, and when we continue to tilt on disaster by manufactured crises. It is time for us to reopen the government.” House members did manage to escape on Friday, planning to return tomorrow.

At this time, there is no movement toward opening the government, and Cantor and GOP members of Congress claim that there would not no problem if the debt ceiling is not raised in less than 72 hours. Reasonable people are horrified by their lack of concern. Why aren’t they afraid of what Businessweek, called “a financial apocalypse” that would cause a worldwide economic depression? 

Most of the Tea Party base, especially the leadership, are fundamentalist Christians whose religion controls their worldview. This is not a secularist movement interested primarily in promoting “fiscal conservatism.” Tea Partiers are people guided by magical thinking and belief. Pew Research shows that Tea Party members are likely to cite religious belief as the prime motivation for their political views. This latest power play from the GOP is simply a repetition of white fundamentalists to assert their “right” to control the country even if their politicians aren’t in power.

A movement controlled by fundamentalist Christians ignores any real dangers that their actions cause. Fundamentalist religion convinces followers to be more afraid of imaginary threats than real ones. People who believe that the Lord’s work is forcing the government into default in an attempt to eliminate Obamacare cannot see the real, negative effects of their beliefs. They simply continue to believe that the president is an agent of the devil and the world will devolve into mayhem and apocalypse if he is not stopped. 

With no reason, Christian conservatives such as Ellis Washington are convincing people that the ACA  will lead to “the systematic genocide of the weak, minorities, enfeebled, the elderly and political enemies of the God-state.” Twenty percent of Republicans believe Obama is the Antichrist.  Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner argued that President Obama is using health care legislation to promote “the destruction of the family, Christian culture” and demanded that Christians “engage in peaceful civil disobedience against President Obama’s signature health care law.” 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops joined the evangelicals with their demand that the GOP shut down the government rather than let Obamacare go into effect. The excuse was their objection to the requirement that insurance make contraception available without a copayment, saying ending this requirement matters more than “serving their own employees or the neediest Americans.”

Pat Necerato of the Christian News Network accused the supporters of the law of committing idolatry and accused people who want health care of being covetous. The Christian Post approvingly reported various Christian leaders, including Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council, saying things like the health care law is “a profound attack on our liberties” and repeating “today is the day I will tell my grandchildren about when they ask me what happened to freedom in America.”

Rick Phillips, writing for Christianity.com, hinted that Obamacare might be predicted in Revelations, resulting in the End Times. Others went beyond hinting by falsely proclaiming a conspiracy theory of Obamacare requiring microchips planted in all citizens, the “mark of the beast” predicted in Revelations that portends the return of Christ and the end of the world. 

To people who believe in fire and brimstone, worldwide economic depression is no problem. Fundamentalist Christians minimize the problems of the real world while inventing imaginary ones. To these deniers, climate change doesn’t exist because they are more worried about abortion and LGBT rights. 

The far-right have become obsessed with the End Times; one-third of people in the U.S. believes that the Syrian conflict portends the end of the world. Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) claimed this is true because President Obama is intentionally sending arms to terrorists which tells her that“the leaf is on the fig tree.” 

Even more horrifying than her mythical approach to politics, however, is her delight in a worldwide war that would kill millions. “Rather than seeing this as a negative, we need to rejoice, Maranatha Come Lord Jesus, His day is at hand,” Bachmann claimed. And most horrifying is that she has access to the nation’s most sensitive and highly classified materials because of her membership on the House Intelligence Committee. 

Three-fourths of the evangelicals who foresee God’s mass murder and hellfire believe they will escape any difficulties because the Rapture will whisk them off to a heaven before anything bad happens. This 19th-century invention took off in the late 20th century after pop culture products like the Left Behind series. The world’s end is also important to evangelicals because it proves they are right—they will have won the argument. There’s nothing like a fiery apocalypse to let people say, “I told you so!” That way they would see the non-believers punished and evangelicals would be instated as the rightful rules of all humanity.

Even Senate Chaplain Barry Black is fed up with Congressional stupidity. His opening prayers for Senate sessions have demonstrated increasing frustration. By today, he said in a Fox network interview that there’s a level of “insanity”  in the current government shutdown and ending the impasse will “take humility.”

When the shutdown seemed eminent, Black prayed, “Lord, deliver us from governing by crisis, empowering us to be responsible stewards of your bounty. May they remember that all that is necessary for unintended catastrophic consequences is for good people to do nothing.” Early in the shutdown, he said, “Unless you empower our lawmakers, they can comprehend their duty but not perform it.” On Day Two, he continued, “Save us from the madness.” 

By the fourth day of the shutdown, Black became even more direct: “Remove from them that stubborn pride. Forgive them for the blunders they have committed… the collateral damage of this government shutdown, transforming negatives into positives as you work for the good of those who love you.” He also said, “Deliver us from the hypocrisy of attempting to sound reasonable while being unreasonable.” 

On Day Nine with the delay of benefits for military families, Black said, “Lord, when our federal shutdown delays payments of death benefits to the families of children dying on far-away battlefields, it’s time for our lawmakers to say enough is enough. Cover our shame with the robe of your righteousness.” By Day Eleven, Black called on the Lord to “give our lawmakers the wisdom to distinguish between truth and error. Give them a hatred of all hypocrisy, deceit and shame as they seek to replace them with gentleness, patience and truth.”

The looming disaster is caused by a small cabal of hard-right legislators and back-benchers pushing the entire GOP into a radically extremist position regarding the Affordable Care Act and other laws. Take a look at this interactive description of 20 people behind the conservative groups with the ability to make the lives of Republicans who seek compromise very, very difficult. 

It’s Sunday night. Black will return to pray tomorrow, and members of Congress are still being paid despite the government shutdown. 

October 12, 2013

Day Twelve of the GOP Government Shutdown: Other News Out There

Am I the only person irate that Congressional GOP members are willing to dismantle the United States of America in order to keep giant companies from paying 2.3 percent on medical devices? Even Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), perhaps the most reasonable senator, is including this proviso in her proposal for passing a Continuing Resolution, the same CR that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) promised last July would have no attachments.

That 2.3 percent tax would be on the $13,000 charge that companies make for a device that costs $350 to produce. Michael Shopenn found out about this cost when he needed a hip replacement. To have this procedure in the United States, he would have to pay an additional $65,000 for the procedure—not including the surgeon’s fee—over the $13,000 artificial hip cost. Other patients are charged two to three times that amount for the artificial hip.

His cost for having a hip replacement was $13,660 in a hospital outside Brussels, Belgium. The charge covered not only the hip joint, made by Warsaw (IN)-based Zimmer Holdings, but also all doctors’ fees, operating-room charges, crutches, medicine, a hospital room for five days, a week in rehab, and a round-trip ticket from the United States. The GOP is willing to destroy the U.S. for a 2.3 percent charge on outrageously marked-up medical devices. Belgium also has the lowest surgical infection rates in the world and is known for its excellent doctors.

The medical-device industry spent nearly $30 million last year on lobbying.

While government shutdown talks stall, time has stopped on Capitol Hill. The people hired to wind the clocks have been furloughed. The almost 200-year-old Ohio Clock, famous for a place where senators hide whiskey, stopped at 12:14 last Wednesday. The stoppage is symbolic of the stoppagefor millions of people in the nation who are furloughed, sickened, injured, hungry, and growing poorer each day.

During the shutdown, the media has suspended reporting much of the news around the country. Here are a few events:

Two days before the shutdown on October 1, over 20,600 barrels of oil, 865,200 gallons, fracked from the Bakken Shale, spilled onto a wheat field from a Tesoro Logistics pipeline in Tioga (ND) in one of the biggest onshore oil spills in recent U.S. history. The U.S. National Response Center, responsible for responding to chemical and oil spills, didn’t make the report available for ten days because of the government shutdown. These reports are usually posted within 24 hours. The spill is far larger than the 5,000-7,000 barrels of tar sands spilled into a residential neighborhood last April in Mayflower (AR) from a faulty ExxonMobil pipeline.

With only 1,285 barrels cleaned, the oil spread out over 7.3 acres. The oil, spilled through a hole in the side of the pipe and ruining the fields for planting, was destined for an Albany (NY) holding facility along the Hudson River.

Food-borne pathogens are sickening and killing Americans in more than 18 states as employees for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are being recalled as “essential” employees. The dual outbreaks of a salmonella outbreak and a hepatitis outbreak in Hawaii are linked to contaminated Foster Farms chicken products and the Dallas-based USPLabs LLC dietary supplement, OxyElite Pro. As of yesterday, more than 300 people have gotten sick, including 87 hospitalized, and one is dead with reports of antibiotic resistance for the precipitating strain of salmonella Heidelberg.

With more than 45 percent of all FDA employees furloughed, daily operations such as crucial inspections of food imports are on hiatus until the government reopens. The skeleton crew of ten in the CDC has been trying to maintain updates for tracking food-borne pathogens and outbreaks.

Even without the government shutdown, the FDA, USDA, and CDC—responsible for keeping food safe through inspection and prevention programs—are so seriously understaffed that people in the U.S. annually report 3,000 deaths, 128,000 hospitalizations, and over 48 million annual instances of food-borne illness. Only 6 percent of domestic food producers and 0.4 percent of food importers were inspected in 2011 after George W. Bush gutted the FDA budget.

Foster Farms has done no recall. A law passed in 2011 will give the FDA authority to legally mandate a recall of contaminated food, but it has not been completely enacted yet. Although the law should take effect by mid-2015, amendments from the GOP in Congress may weaken the act. Currently, the government also permits a privatized inspection scheme in which meat producers self-inspect.

If you avoid food-borne illness, you might want to watch out for nuclear disasters. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission had to furlough approximately 90 percent of its workforce. Supposedly, the agency will continue to respond to emergency safety and security matters, and onsite inspectors will stay on duty. Although the media has reported extensively on the Japanese problems with nuclear explosions, it has largely ignored the problems at nuclear sites in the U.S., such as the Hanford Nuclear Reservation, located in southeastern Washington along the Columbia River. Last spring, a nuclear safety board reported that the underground tanks holding toxic, radioactive waste could explode at any minute, due to a dangerous buildup of hydrogen gas.

Six months earlier, the Defense Nuclear Facilities Safety Board (DFNSB) told the Department of Energy about their concerns of no adequate safeguards to protect against the buildup of flammable gasses inside Hanford’s waste storage tanks. An explosion would “have considerable radiological consequences,” they wrote. Six of Hanford’s 177 tanks, holding 56,000 gallons of radioactive water, leak about 1,000 gallons of nuclear waste each year. Construction of a waste-treatment plant would make the toxic chemicals safe for long-term disposal and keep the radioactive waste from leaking into the ground, but Bechtel, responsible for building the plant, has been purchasing parts with no quality guarantee.

Other nuclear sites needing to be cleaned are in California, Colorado,Tennessee, South Carolina, Idaho, and Texas. Thirty-four nuclear reactors—one-third of those in the U.S.—face flooding hazards. This week, a former chair of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission called for shutting down the Indian Point nuclear power plant near New York City and the Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth (MA) citing safety concerns. Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Station in Vernon (VT) and Kewaunee Power Station near Green Bay (WI) have already closed. Mechanical failures and safety concerns have hurried the demise of San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station on the California coast and Crystal River Nuclear Plant in Citrus County (FL). Sequester cuts have already reduced the cleanups at these nuclear facilities.

Although the potential default could be catastrophic with spiking borrowing costs and interest rates accompanied by plummeting stocks, some people can benefit.

  • Short sellers: Betting that the value of a stock or bond will drop instead of going up is an investment strategy employed by financial firms and the wealthy. A stock market crash will short almost every U.S. stock.
  • Investors in gold and silver: Gold and silver typically rise in value when the stock market is volatile, because they hold their value better than paper money or other assets. The price of both metals rose this week as default fears heightened.
  • Bitcoin investors (maybe): The value of this untraceable virtual currency has tracked closely with gold over the past year.
  • Currency traders: Traders who bet that the US dollar will decrease in value relative to foreign currencies stand to profit off of a US government default.
  • Pawn shops: If credit markets freeze, as they did during the 2008 meltdown, pawn shops will do well as they did after the last crisis.
  • Bankruptcy lawyers: Loss of jobs and other income bring people to the edge.
  • Mortgage servicers: Spiking interest rates can cause somehomeowners to default on loans and end up in foreclosure. Investors take the losses while servicers make back the money they are owed in a foreclosure sale as well as getting the fees that borrowers pay on delinquent loans.
  • The canned and freeze-dried food industries: Doomsday preppers are readying for the collapse of civilization by stocking up on these foods.

Thus people betting against the United States will make money, and  members of Congress keep getting paid and going to their gym.

October 11, 2013

Day Eleven of the GOP Government Shutdown: Coming Out Day, No Movement

The perfectly natural national obsession with the government shutdown has eclipsed most other events, including the fact that today is the 25th anniversary of National Coming Out Day, an annual celebration to publicly disclose being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “Every person who speaks up changes more hearts and minds, and creates new advocates for equality.” This year’s theme is “Coming Out Still Matters.”

The last decade has shown the rapidly increasing acceptance of LGBT people partly because heterosexuals have learned that co-workers, friends, and members of their family are LGBT. The result of this education is a growing understanding that everyone deserves equal rights. Polling data show that many people who changed their minds and now back gay marriage made this decision because they have a friend, acquaintance or relative who is gay.

Last March high-profile conservative Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) reversed his position on marriage equality, approving of it two years after his son came out as gay. Former vice-president Dick Cheney had earlier expressed LGBT support because his second daughter, Mary, is an openly married lesbian with two children. Portman was followed in his support of marriage equality two months later by Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who said that knowing a lesbian couple had formed her positive opinion about same-sex marriage.

Wendy and Tom Montgomery are two more people who changed their mind about marriage equality because their 15-year-old son. Five years ago, the couple campaigned for the passage of California’s anti-LGBT Proposition 8, since overturned because of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June. Now Wendy Montgomery is leading a movement among her fellow Mormons to push The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to teach that homosexuality isn’t a sin.

Eighteen months ago, Montgomery read her son’s journal and discovered that he is gay. “It made me question everything,” she said. “I’m looking at this 13-year-old boy who is totally innocent and pure and an amazing kid and I think, ‘Either everything I know about homosexuality is wrong, or my son is not really gay. And, he’s obviously gay.’ I kind of had to unlearn everything I had learned.”

A documentary made by the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University follows their story. The organization works with conservative religious families to help them navigate their doctrines while also accepting their gay children. Jordan Montgomery says in the documentary he had suicidal thoughts and was mortified of his parents disowning him.

October represents the 20th LGBT History Month. I personally celebrated the month by marrying my partner of 44 years. After the U.S. Supreme Court gave some benefits to those who marry in a state that recognizes marriage equality, we decided to travel to a state where we could legally marry. Because Oregon doesn’t not recognize LGBT marriage, we could not be married in our hometown where our friends could attend the ceremony. Instead we drove almost 600 miles to gain the same legal benefits that opposite-sex couples have readily available to them.

The ceremony was a wonderful event because it was in the presence of highly supportive people. Yet we always wonder if some people around us are disapproving, a distinct difference from people who enjoy opposite-sex marriages. I’m sure that none of them thinks about the possibility that someone might disapprove of their getting married on the basis of personal beliefs.

We are fortunate to live in a state adjacent to one that recognizes legal marriage equality: this is not true for people living in half the states of this country. And even with marriage equality in 14 states, New Jersey being the most recent because of a judicial decision, more LGBT people suffer from the danger of being fired from their jobs because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Only 21 states outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and even fewer, 17, based on gender identity or expression. Also tragic are the LGBT people living in more than half the states who cannot legally adopt their partners’ children. Wikipedia has a superb, up-to-date view of LGBT rights—and lack of rights.

Judge Mary C. Jacobson of the New Jersey State Superior Court defined the problem of keeping rights from LGBT people:

“There is no ‘public interest’ in depriving a class of New Jersey residents their constitutional rights while appellate review is pursued. On the contrary, granting a stay would simply allow the State to continue to violate the equal protection rights of New Jersey same-sex couples, which can hardly be considered a public interest.”

Even with her ruling, same-sex couples married in New Jersey, permissible starting on October 24, are ineligible for federal tax and retirement benefits and for spousal coverage under Medicare. In addition, a person cannot sponsor a New Jersey spouse for noncitizen’s residency.

Two women trying to get married in their home state of North Carolina are 79-year-olds Carole Kaiser and Mary Burson (below), who raised eight children and had 13 grandchildren during their 40 years together. Their reverend and approximately 70 other supporters accompanied them to the Henderson County Register of Deeds officer where they were refused a marriage license.

Old lesbians

Many same-sex couples talk about how they feel differently after they are legally married. My partner and I also discussed this issue. After an interesting discussion, we came to the conclusion that we now feel that the law cannot separate us or damage us because of our relationship, as it might have done before. We LGBT people need the same certainty of non-discrimination in every part of our lives.

One small caveat about coming out. This is not for every LGBT person, as Preston Mitchum pointed out in The Atlantic. A person’s demographics—racial, geographic, financial, etc.—can make a declaration of gender identity and sexual orientation dangerous. I largely concealed my lesbianism for 23 years because I feared losing my job; my partner did so for longer than that. Coming out can result in workplace discrimination, family rejection, physical violence, and unfair criminalization. We always need to remember that staying in the proverbial closet may be more difficult than coming out.

A fellow blogger occasionally writes about heroes. My hero for this Coming Out Day is Joe Bell, Jadin Bell’s father, who started a cross-country journey after bullying caused his gay son to commit suicide. After Bell left La Grande (OR) last spring, his planned two-year walk to New York became an inspiration as he raised awareness about LGBT youth with many individuals and groups.

Jadin Bell

Bell’s journey abruptly ended two nights ago after he was struck and killed by a semi-truck in the Colorado plains. “I didn’t want Jadin’s death to be in vain,” Bell had said. “We need to look at people for who they are and not who we think they should be.” Hopefully, Bell’s message will help make that change. As the last post on his Facebook page stated, “Making headway, one step at a time.”

Today is also International Day of the Girl! Go to their website for an awesome graphic of their declaration.

 

Last night, the House GOP leadership offered to vote as early as today to extend the debt ceiling for six weeks and negotiate to end the 11-day government shutdown. The House also plans to meet tomorrow morning. So maybe raise the debt ceiling for a few days but still hold the country hostage.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) gave the best assessment of the GOP offer: “I was surprised that the House decided to deal only with the debt limit and not with the continued closure of government. I think that we have to deal with both issues, and we need to do so quickly.”

Today Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) told Fox network that the GOP is to blame for the ongoing debacle: “We … shut down the government on a fool’s errand that we were not going to accomplish.” His comments were made shortly after Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke at the conservative Values Voter where he referred to protesters as “Obama’s paid political operatives.” A recent poll shows Cruz at a 14-percent favorability rating.

After a meetiing with President Obama today, some Republican comments show that GOP leaders are tired of the blame and may find a way to open the government without too much embarrassment for their bad behavior. Collins, however, said that it was a “good exchange” but “an inconclusive exchange.” We’ll have to wait and see.

Meanwhile members of the Congress are still being paid and still using their taxpayer-funded gym.

October 10, 2013

Day Ten of Government Shutdown: Will GOP Cave?

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:02 PM
Tags: , ,

The House GOP members have a new plan to solve the government shutdown crisis: keep it going. They are offering President Obama a six-week extension of the debt limit if he commits to negotiate a longer-term budget plan—but not re-open the government. That keeps the government closed and promises the return of the new debt limit crisis before November 22, the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination.

On the Senate side, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) announced plans for a procedural vote Saturday on legislation to raise the debt ceiling by $1 trillion and through the end of 2014. GOP senators might vote for a year’s funding at the $967 billion level set by the 2011 Budget Control Act if the 2.3 percent medical-device tax were repealed and income for Obamacare applicants were verified. Once again the GOP is protecting corporations, in this case the ones who charge over $13,000 for a medical device that costs them about $350 to manufacture.

Conservatives are trying to persuade their constituents that they are not caving. “We haven’t changed our position—only the timeline,” Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) said. The less far-right members want to stop the shutdown. “I want to see a reopening of the government on a temporary basis, but I don’t want to undermine what happens at the White House today,” Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said. Conservative Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) wants more cuts in spending.

Dow Jones stock average soared after the announcement, going up over 2 percent, once again rising above 15,000. It would be interesting to see if the House GOP members did any personal trading after their plans became public.

The GOP, led by House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), have bitterly complained about the president’ unwillingness to talk with them. Sunday Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) wrote the following in an op-ed piece: “The president not only has refused to negotiate on issues of debt and spending but also has mocked the very idea of engaging with Congress.” President Obama invited all 232 Republicans to the White House today to talk with him. Only 20 of these 232 attended. No one was willing to say anything more after the meeting other than that it was “constructive,” which means that the GOP didn’t succeed.

If the GOP gives up, it will be because of disapproval of big business. Billionaires like the Koch Brothers have already indicated their distress with the possibility of not raising the debt ceiling. Influential business executives stated that their millions of dollars in campaign contributions are not paying off. Yesterday, several trade association officials warned that they would campaign against GOP lawmakers who engineered the political standoff in Washington. The only way that Tea Party extremist legislators have won has been help from these big donations.

Although federal and state Tea Party legislators have said wacko things about not raising the debt ceiling, others have been far more rational. Even Ronald Reagan understood the problems of defaulting, shown by his 1987 statement:

“Unfortunately, Congress consistently brings us to the edge of default before facing its responsibility. This brinkmanship threatens the holders of government bonds and those who rely on Social Security and veterans benefits. Interest rates would skyrocket. Instability would occur in financial markets and the federal deficit would soar. The United States has a special responsibility to itself and the world to meet its obligations. It means we have a well-earned reputation for reliability and credibility – two things that set us apart in much of the world.”

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) blamed tea partiers for the current national fiasco when he spoke yesterday to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. “We started this on a fool’s errand, convincing so many millions of Americans and our supporters that we could defund Obamacare,” McCain said. He didn’t name any colleagues, but he did say, “[It was] the people that convinced so many millions of Americans, tea partiers specifically we’re talking about, that there was some way to defund Obamacare. We can’t.”

Cruz isn’t giving up. After assuring the GOP party that a “tsunami” of public support would back their government shutdown, he argues that his campaign to defund Obamacare has only bolstered the GOP’s political position. Yet a poll that he paid for puts more blame on the GOP than the Democrats or the president. According to today’s NBC survey, a higher percentage of voters blame Republicans for the current shutdown than they did in the last round of shutdowns in 1995-96.

Cruz’s argument that the GOP is in a better position than during the 1995 shutdown because this time the issue is defined by Obamacare funding rather than a general disagreement about government spending doesn’t hold water.

Ultra-conservative Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform and godfather of “no new taxes,” also blames Cruz. “I think it was very possible for us to delay the implementation of Obamacare for a year until Cruz came along and crashed and burned,” Norquist said, referencing Cruz’s 21-hour anti-Obamacare speech on the Senate floor. Other GOP politicians have declared opposition to Cruz so strongly that people described it as a “lynch mob.”

World War II veteran Redge Ranyard said:

“Last week, John Boehner said that Republicans were locked in an ‘epic battle’ to keep the government shutdown going. As a World War II veteran, I fought in six epic battles. I helped fight the Nazis in the North African seas, and took part in operations that liberated Italy and the South of France, from Germany. The Tea Party Shutdown is not an epic battle — it is bad governance.”

Ranyard added that he felt “disgust with the Republican Party’s politicization of the World War II Memorial shortly after the shutdown began.” He concluded by saying, “I served this nation with honor. Today, I can’t say the same thing about most Republicans in Congress.”

The comments to an article in the conservative newspaper The Hill made excellent points in the frustration about the GOP behavior.

“The Republicans pulled this political stunt, which the majority of Americans oppose, in order to force right wing changes to “Obamacare”? And the result has been massive losses of money that is no longer going into Republican majority states, most of which covers contractor salaries, said contractors have by now been laid off and have no salary, thus cannot afford health coverage or may not have any available to them, so they will have to go to…..”Obamacare”???? Those Republicans sure did take careful aim at their feet. Did they not know that the gun would go off?”

“Six weeks or six years the GOP has no idea what to do… So is Kill Obamacare dead? are they back to lets make granny eat cat food?”

“Last month the House worked about nine days. Cantor figured out how to take Fridays off for long weekends. My own Rep complains about not working and has written articles to the fact. Come in on late Monday, work Tuesday afternoon and finish up on Wed. Gone by Thursday night. Work 32 weeks out of 52. Twenty weeks off with full time salaries. Of course, they say they see constituents at home….ummmm.”

“The good thing about the shutdown is that it shows the GOP is no longer one party fighting but two parties.. The GOP has been saying they want another party and that will help with elections… Well they got it.,.. Old school GOP and Tea Party…will one be gone next year or will it just break off and be two?

“The Christian Brotherhood is destroying this country. Barry Goldwater saw it coming: ‘Mark my word, if and when these preachers get control of the [Republican] party, and they’re sure trying to do so, it’s going to be a terrible damn problem. Frankly, these people frighten me. Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know, I’ve tried to deal with them.’~Barry Goldwater”

[In answer to ‘Don’t extend anything. The debt limit is there for a reason: duh, to limit the debt’:] “Not raising the debt ceiling is akin to not paying your bills. If you think the US should default on its debt, maybe you should try it first for a few months and see how things work out. Do a little research before you embarrass yourself further.”

Other responses pointed out that the “Republican majority states are losing almost $8 BILLION per day.” Right-wing states “are losing 75% … of each and every kind of federal spending, whether DOD, or SS or Medicare, or SNAP. So, I agree we MUST stay within our means, and our means DO NOT INCLUDE continuing to send all that money to right wing states. We simply cannot afford it.”

“After only 10 days of shutdown, the Republican majority states have already lost almost $74 BILLION. That’s enough to fund over 1.1 MILLION average American jobs for a year. Hasn’t touched you? Look around. With your neighbors losing their jobs, who is going to provide the revenue to pay for your state and local government?”

“Reagan raised taxes 13 times and the debt ceiling 18 times. Bush raised the debt ceiling 7 times. Obama has raised the debt ceiling only three times.”

Nine-year-old Meredith Gold said it best in a letter to Congress: “At my school when we get into disagreements we compromise, work as a team, use leadership, have a positive attitude, and respect each other. I encourage you to do the same in Washington, D.C.”

Members of Congress are still getting paid even if they don’t follow Gold’s advice.

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