Nel's New Day

February 17, 2014

Gov. Christie – More than a Bridge

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:42 PM
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New Yorker cover.Chris ChristieNew Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has probably received more television minutes during the past few months than any other political figure, most of it devoted to a now-famous bridge between his state and New York. The major question is whether he is still a viable GOP presidential candidate for 2016. His humble, right-moving position shows that he’s working hard toward that position, but other GOP governors avoided him during his recent fundraising travels across the nation.

Christie has far more issues than having probably lied about helping to cause the serious and dangerous problems of the George Washington Bridge when his specially-selected underlings closed down two of the three toll lanes:

Much of the conservative media has dumped Christie: At the end of January, New Jersey’s biggest newspaper, the Newark Star Ledger, called for Christie’s impeachment if he doesn’t resign. The paper, which endorsed his re-election less than four months ago, also called for Christie to step down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association. At the same time, the conservative National Journal reporter Ron Fournier, wrote a piece headlined “Why I Was Wrong about Chris Christie,” taking back his statement a year ago that “the smartest man in politics may be Chris Christie.”

Christie’s use of Superstorm Sandy’s relief funds is suspect: Emails indicate that Hoboken mayor Dawn Zimmer was right when she accused Christie of extortion for support in a development project in order to get Sandy relief funding. Hoboken requested $127 million in aid to initiate projects to prevent flooding from the Hudson River during future storms. The city received $342,000 of the $300 million in federal funds provided to New Jersey—a little more than 0.001 percent for a city of over 50,000. The city has thus far received about $6.57 for storm reparations out of a budget of $300 million.

Allocations of relief funding also showed a definite racial gap: blacks were twice as likely to be rejected for these funds as whites. As much as $6 million was given to a Belleville development project started before Sandy hit. The town’s Democratic mayor endorsed Christie for re-election less than two weeks after receiving the Sandy funds. 

Federal authorities are now investigating Christie’s possible mishandling of relief funds. Although many New Jersey residents haven’t receive help over a year later, Christie put $25 of federal money into ads that starred himself and his family—before his re-election. This money went to a company fully $2 million more than another bid from a company that did not offer to put Christie into the ads.

Christie’s political connections are suspicious:  Christie’s championing the corporation that runs the Community Education Centers, called the worst immigration detention centers in the nation, may have been connected to a former vice-president of these centers, Bill Palatucci, who chaired Christie’s 2013 re-election campaign. There is no proof of illegality, but the connection has an appearance of  a conflict of interest. Christie’s long-time law firm, Wolff & Samson, also received a great deal of business during Christie’s term: its lobbying business increasing from $40,000 annually before his first election to over $1 million a year following.

Christie also has an involvement in questionable real estate deals conducted by his brother, Todd Christie, including properties within walking distance of the Harrison (NJ) PATH station in line for a $256 million renovation funded by the Port Authority. In 2008 Todd Christie also acknowledged making “hundreds of trades in which customers had been systematically overcharged” in a settlement of civil charges from the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Christie’s leadership didn’t help create jobs: Last December the state lost 36,000 jobs, the biggest drop in other decades at a time when the economy is growing. Only 7,000 private sector jobs were created last year.

Christie is a bully: “I am not a bully,” Christie told reporters in a press conference after text messages and emails were released showing that his deputy chief of staff was responsible for deliberately closing two lanes of the George Washington Bridge. His far-right supporters tried to defend the governor.

Fox network’s Brit Hume is blaming the women’s movement for Christie’s appearance of bullying.

“I have to say that in this sort of feminized atmosphere in which we exist today, guys who are masculine and muscular like that in their private conduct and are kind of old-fashioned tough guys run some risks.”

Hume kept going:

“By which I mean that men today have learned the lesson the hard way that if you act like kind of an old-fashioned guy’s guy, you’re in constant danger of slipping out and saying something that’s going to get you in trouble and make you look like a sexist or make you look like you seem thuggish or whatever. That’s the atmosphere in which we operate. This guy is very much an old-fashioned masculine, muscular guy, and there are political risks associated with that. Maybe it shouldn’t be, but that’s how it is.”

Yet Christie’s body language and voice do not project the “old-fashioned masculine” guy. As Ezra Klein wrote: “He’s followed around by an aide with a camcorder watching for moments in which Christie, mustering the might and prestige of his office, annihilates some citizen who dares question him.” His purpose is to create a feeling of power that conservatives think is lacking in the current GOP.

Videos in this Mother Jones article show that his bullying is not a one-time situation. 

Before Dawn Zimmer’s allegations, a poll showed Christie on a downhill slide. In a nine-point increase since October, 64 percent think that the word “bully” fits Christie, even after he apologized for his staff lying to him. The all-time low of whether Christie is trustworth—27 percent—shows a 16-point drop. Half the people see him as arrogant, five points up, and “self-centered,” 11 points up. The description of “fair” has dropped 11 points to 30 percent, and effective shrank to 44 percent.

Christie’s history of bullying goes back to high school. As starting catcher on the baseball team, he considered suing to block a better player transferred to his school from getting his position. His decision against suing was based on the town turning against him if the lawsuit resulted in forfeiting the season.

At the University of Delaware during the 1980s, Christie was accused of pushing people not in his tight-knit circle out of student government. Even after he graduated, he ensured that his future wife, Mary Pat, and brother, Todd, would keep major leadership positions.

Christie has proved to be a survivor: When Christie was a U.S. Attorney, primarily between 2005 and 2007, the Bush administration fired a number of U.S. Attorneys, causing the resignations of other U.S. Attorneys as well as many members of the Department of Justice from the U.S. Attorney General on down. The dumped U.S. Attorneys had refused to open meritless voter fraud or meritless investigations on Democratic politicians. Others were fired because they were investigating lawbreaking by Republicans. Those found acceptable were U.S. Attorneys who would cover up criminal activity and create bogus investigations against innocent people. Chris Christie met that requirement.

During his term, Christie was “the U.S. attorney who most often exceeded the government [travel expense] rate without adequate justification” and someone who offered “insufficient, inaccurate, or no justification” for stays at exclusive hotels such as the Four Seasons, according to Mark Halperin and John Heilemann in Double Down: Game Change 2012 about the GOP presidential campaign. When Mitt Romney considered Christie as his vice-president, vetters raised questions about “Christie’s relationship with a top female deputy who accompanied him on many trips.”

Christie also worked as a lobbyist for the Securities Industry Association when Bernie Madoff was a senior official there and tried to get an exemption from New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. Other problems for Romney came from the way that Christie steered large government contracts to donors and political allies such as former attorney general John Ashcroft. Christie’s actions sparked a congressional hearing.

Even Fox readers are beginning to understand the Christie problem. A response to an article critical of Chuck Todd’s and Rachel Maddow’s reporting on Christie reads:

“Until we hold our Republican political officials accountable for their  incompetence and /or dishonesty, we can’t call ourselves leaders.

“Spare me the “… Obama did this.”, ” … Clinton did that.” chorus.  I believed in Christie.  I relished every story of him bringing accountability and common sense to the government.  Then I read a story and saw pictures of him lunging at a woman half his size, sticking his finger in her face and screaming at her.  My enthusiasm for Christie waned.

“Now, I’m asked by Christie and his PR machine to believe Bridget Anne Kelly acted alone to satisfy a personal agenda.  I’m supposed to believe she solely gave the order to punish the citizens of Fort Lee because their mayor exercised his right to vote for and speak out on behalf of the candidate of his choice.  Well, I can’t.”

In an interview, Sarah Palin said, “I just don’t know all the information out there, but it’s hard to be the CEO of an organization and not know what the closest people to you are up to.”

One silver lining of Christie’s problems is that the conservatives have finally decided that he’s conservative enough for them. He got an invite to speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference this March after failing the extremist yardstick last year. The question is which governor will be brave enough to stand next to him.

February 16, 2014

Schools, Law Push Religion on All

http://www.msnbc.com/rachel-maddow-show/week-god-96?cid=eml_mra_20140215  The GOP loves to rant about the “nanny state” with its seat belts, child seats, and other protective laws. Now the same party wants parental notification not only abortions and birth control but also curriculum that includes the teaching of evolution. A new bill in Missouri would require schools to notify parents if “the theory of evolution by natural selection” was being taught at their child’s school and give them the opportunity to opt out of the class. Parents could pull their children out of biology classes if they disapproved.

Thus far, no state has a science parental-notification law. State Rep. Rick Brattin said that modern biology is based “as much faith and, you know, just as much pulled out of the air as, say, any religion.” He calls himself a “science enthusiast” and “a huge science buff.”  His bill would also require schools to “make all curriculum materials used in the district’s or school’s evolution instruction available for public inspection … prior to the use of such materials in actual instruction.”

Three other states—Oklahoma, South Dakota, and Virginia—have also introduced anti-evolution legislation ranging from a “debate” over evolution versus creationism to mandate that intelligent design be included in biology curriculum.

Once religious lawmakers take over biology, they may move on to mathematics:

1175ckCOMIC-bible-math While Christians are trying to protect student from evolution, they don’t mind bullying them. In Lousiana’s Savine Parish, a teacher promoted her personal Christian beliefs by agreeing with students that a Buddhist student is “stupid” for not believing in God and encouraging his classmates to laugh at him. When the child’s stepfather complained, the superintendent pointed out that they were in the “Bible Belt” and that the child could either change his faith or go to another school where “there are more Asians.”The ACLU is suing the school board because of the abusive behavior toward the child.

The religiosity of the public school went beyond the teacher. A large picture of Jesus hangs over the school entrance, a Bible verse is on the electronic marquee, and religious images and messages are displayed throughout the school. Official prayers led by the principal or teachers are routinely in class and school events, and school officials distribute religious materials to students including the New Testament and cartoons that denounce evolution.

These public schools seems to be following the curriculum of Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), founded over 40 years ago and claims to have  6,000 schools in 140 countries. These schools are supported by taxpayer funding because of the voucher system. In separate cubicles, students silently complete workbooks (PACEs) complete with cartoons.

Basic ACE premises:

Classrooms are segregated.

segregated

Girls dress modestly—very modestly.

modest

Young women perform only traditionally “feminine” activities.

feminine

Non-Christians are evil.

authority

People must blindly obey.

obey

Religion would also be strengthened in Alabama schools if conservative legislators have their way. A proposed bill would require public schools to use the first 15 minutes of the day to read a prayer presented in Congress. The description of the bill is “study of the formal procedures followed by U.S. Congress” which must include “a reading verbatim of one of the opening prayers” given at the opening of the U.S. Senate or House of Representatives. Almost all the chaplains of the U.S. House and Senate have been Protestant ministers. Last year one guest chaplain delivered a Muslim invocation. In 2007, a Hindu invocation elicited protests from Christian conservative groups.

 South Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee legislators are joining Alabama lawmakers to “put prayer back in schools.”

One of the first bills to move out of the Arizona state Senate committee would permit religious discrimination against LGBT people. Senate Bill 1062, introduced by GOP Sen. Steve Yarbrough of Chandler, would extend the protection of the state’s free exercise of religion law to “any individual, association, partnership, corporation, church, religious assembly or institution, estate, trust, foundation or other legal entity.” A corporation could refuse to hire anyone who wasn’t a Christian and block LGBT individuals from almost any business or service.

For many years, student victims of sexual abuse at Bob Jones University were encouraged not to report the crimes that looked bad for Christianity. The administration called victims liars and sinners. Many staff members and former students hoped the policy would be changed after the school hired a Christian consulting group two years ago to consider changes to the school’s policy.

The university has now fired the group with no warning or explanation just as it almost completed its investigation. University president and great-grandson of the school’s founder said that Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (GRACE) “had begun going beyond the originally outlined intentions.”

GRACE, founded by Billy Graham’s grandson Basyle J. Tchividjian, includes lawyers and psychologists among its leaders and specializes in advising churches and other Christian organizations on addressing abuse. Although unaffiliated with any denomination, Bob Jones University follows a strict fundamentalism that believes Graham, Oral Roberts, and Jerry Falwell are too secular.

The Catholic World is still trying to avoid the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate, but Notre Dame is having trouble with a three-judge panel from the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. During a heated exchange, Judge Richard Posner told one of the school’s lawyers that he couldn’t continue his arguments if he kept interrupting and failing to answer the judge’s questions.

At one point, Posner asked attorney Matthew Kairis whether birth control was “a mortal or venial sin.” Notre Dame is appealing a lower court ruling that ordered the school to contract with third-party providers for contraception as part of health care coverage. Its third-party provider, Meritain Health, emphasized that Notre Dame was not the provider of contraception coverage. Another lawyer, Ayesha Khan, pointed out that Notre Dame didn’t object to the third-party provision until a conservative network of alumni called the Sycamore Trust protested.

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing two cases about for-profit companies claiming religious exemptions from allowing contraception coverage from third-party health care providers. In the cases of Conestoga Wood Specialties and Hobby Lobby Stores, Catholics for Choice joined 29 other faith-based organizations in filing an amicus brief opposing the two companies from imposing their religious beliefs on others.

Jon O’Brien wrote that the groups “show unequivocally that people of faith support contraceptive access and true religious liberty for all.” He added, “The Supreme Court must answer a critical question: will the religious liberty of women workers and female dependents be respected, or will employers be allowed to trample upon the consciences and lives of their employees?”

That answer will determine the direction of the United States in religious freedom for all, not just fundamentalist Christians.

February 15, 2014

Shortchanged – Gender Wealth Gap

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:38 PM
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The United States is suffering from the greatest wealth inequality since 1928, a gap that only keeps growing. The wealthiest 25% of US households own 87% of the wealth; in 2009 that amounted to $4.2 trillion. The top 1 percent of America, however, has 40 percent of America’s wealth and the bottom 80 percent only 7 percent.

The poverty rate for women in the U.S. has stabilized during post-recession, but at 14.6 percent, remains the highest rate in nearly two decades. The poverty rate for men was also stable at 10.9 percent. The poverty rate for elderly women remained at 10.7 percent, but the poverty rate of elderly women living alone grew to 18.4 percent from 17 percent from the prior year. Today, 17.7 million poor people in this country are women.

The typical full-time working woman stands to miss out on $443,360 over 40 years because of the gender wage gap, according to an April report from the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). That means a woman would have to work 12 years longer than her male counterpart just to break even. NWLC calculated the long-term effect of the wage gap by multiplying $11,084 (the earnings gap between full-time working women and men in 2011, as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau) by 40 (the presumed length of a typical career).

The pay gap between male and female workers actually expanded in 2012, the first such increase since the beginning of the recovery, according to a March 2013 study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Part of the problem is that females represent the majority of minimum-wage workers. Almost two-thirds of minimum-wage workers are female, and women make up the majority of workers in the ten largest occupations that pay less than $10.10 an hour. In 2012, women suffered disproportionately from public sector job cuts, and job growth in the private sector has remained sluggish for women during the recovery.

Discrimination also plays a role in the gender income gap. A 2007 study published in the American Journal of Sociology discovered that women who were mothers were recommended for lower starting salaries than female coworkers who didn’t have children.

Since 1970, the median salary has increased six-fold to approximately $50,000. Prices for cars increased 8 times, houses 9 times, and gas 10 times.

Only 10 percent of the world’s multimillionaires are women; the U.S. comes in just under that at 9.4 percent. The first female General Motors CEO, Mary Barra, was given a salary of $4.4 million, less than half of her male predecessors, until there was an uproar. GM has now announced that she will be making $14.4 million, more than her predecessor because his salary was capped by the U.S. government as long as they owned GM shares.

The myth that women have equal pay to men if all issues are equal is debunked by this study from Silcon Valley in California. Men working in Silicon Valley with a graduate or professional degree in 2012 earned 73 percent more than women in the industry with the same degrees. Men with bachelor’s degrees make 40 percent more than women with the same educational level. It’s better than two years earlier when men made 97 percent more than women—twice as much.  

silicon valley pay gap 1 

Much of the research regarding the economic gap between men and women concentrates on the differences in income. It is the wealth that actually matters, as shown in Shortchanged:  Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It by Mariko Lin Chang. Although many of her statistics are before 2005, there is no indication in current research that the situation has improved.

Following are some statistics from the book showing the disparity between the wealth—net worth—of women and men. Updates not in the book are in brackets.

P. 2: Women own 36 percent as much wealth as men.

P. 5: In 2004, the top 1 percent earned 17 percent of total income but owned 34 percent of total wealth; the bottom 40 percent earned 10 percent of total income but owned only 0.2 percent of total wealth; the wealthiest 20 percent of households held 85 percent of total wealth; between 1983 and 2004, the top 1 percent experienced 78 percent increase in average wealth while bottom 40 percent saw wealth decline by 59 percent.

P. 7: Never-married women make 95 percent of men’s wages but own only 16 percent of wealth; men have $20,000 in wealth while women $3,150. Half of households are headed by single persons.

P. 10: Almost one in five widows lives in poverty; elderly widows are three times as likely to live in poverty as elderly married couples; in 1998, women had only 40 percent as much wealth in pension plans as men. [Widowed women, faring best of all non-married women, own $.59 for every $1 of widowed men.]

P. 12: In 2006, more than one-third of all women with children under the age of 18 lived in poverty, compared to 17.6 percent for men—about half the rate.

P. 20: Single women median wealth – $10,400; single men media wealth – $28,610; 7 percent of households under age 65 have net worth of $1 million or more.

P. 31: In 1998, women’s median wealth – $12,748; men’s median wealth – $19,238.

P. 38: For those earning over $80,000, women’s media wealth – $117,950; men’s median wealth –  $415,000.

P. 59: Raising a child from birth to age 17 costs between $176,890 and $353,410.

P. 60: 50 percent of never-married mothers live in poverty compared to 29 percent of never-married single fathers, 25 percent of divorced single mothers, and 14 percent of divorced single fathers.

P. 62: Wealth ratio between single mothers and single fathers is 22 percent: men have $1 and women have $.22); half of all never-married mothers average $40 in wealth and never-married fathers average $24,300; 46 percent of women have no or negative wealth.

Pp. 65-66: Mothers experience a 4-percent wage penalty for first child and 12 percent for each additional one while men increase 9 percent with birth of first child because they are considered more committed to their work. [Economist Stephen Rose and Heidi Hartmann, president of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research: women’s average annual earnings decline 20 percent if they stay out of the workforce for one year and 30 percent if the absence stretches to two or three years.]

The income gap between men and women is important, but the wealth gap reveals why men have greater quality of life than women do. With the fiscal discrimination against women who bear children and the increasing loss of net worth for all women, the United States will continue to fall  farther and farther behind other countries as a world leader.

More information about Shortchanged and the gender wealth gap can be found at https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2014/02/05/dont-shortchange-women/

February 13, 2014

Activism with Fences for Fido

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:17 AM
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My partner and I share many things in common. We both like to read and write, we both like to walk the beach, and we both want to change the world. But our journey toward our goals sometimes diverge, as Robert Frost describes in “The Road Not Taken.” Together we edited a cookbook, along with another friend, but my partner writes lesbian mysteries and I write this political blog. I read books for youth and with LGBT content for the purposes of evaluating and reviewing while she reads for pure pleasure. At the beach, she sees the surrounding details—fossils and tiny creatures, for example—as I look at the horizon and throw a ball for our standard poodle.

Something that we’ve had in common for our 44+ years together is activism. While we taught in Phoenix (AZ), we tried to make lives and learning better for our students. Once retired, I turned to politics with a vengeance, occasionally irritating people with my obsession. My partner supports me in my projects, but again she follows her own path.

Recently, her road “less traveled by” has taken her to Fences for Fido. At 80 years of age, she can no longer do much of the building and remodeling that so engaged her for many years, but in this project, she can continue to make life better for creatures that have no voice.

Fences for Fido began on May 23, 2009 when a small group of people built a fence for Chopper, who had been chained to a tree for six years. The dog’s person had no idea that Chopper was unhappy. When he started playing with Chopper in the fenced yard, their relationship became rewarding for both of them.

Chained dogs are either listless or violently aggressive. They are 2.8 times more likely to bite than unchained dogs and become a threat to the neighborhood if they get off their chains. Pack animals need companionship and a social life. When their persons understand this, they either give the dogs new lives or surrender them to people who can provide the love that the dogs need.

At this time, the wind chill is 8 degrees in Portland (OR) with snow and sleet coming tomorrow. This is a miserable situation for dogs who are chained outside in all weather. Fences for Fido provides not only fences but also raised wooden dog shelters with shingled roofs and dog beds.

The small group of people that built Chopper’s fence has expanded into a number of volunteer groups throughout northwestern and central Oregon and southwestern Washington. There is no government funding for Fences for Fido; it is a volunteer nonprofit group of activists who want to change the lives of dogs tethered outside with no company and no comfort.

Activities include cutting ground wire, tying fence ties, transporting dogs for health needs, delivering and/or assembling dogs’ houses, checking up on dogs, and providing foster homes. Each “build” costs about $600. The project has about 1,700 donors of money and new or gently used fence materials, such as welded wire fencing, pressure-treated 4-by-4 posts, 6-foot chain-link gates, and 60-pound bags of concrete. Donors can e-mail info@fencesforfido.org.

Volunteers go beyond building fences and dog houses. Annual visits to the dogs allow them to see that the dogs are still unchained, the fences are still intact, the doghouses have beds, and dogs have enough water and seem healthy. As co-founder and co-chair Kelly Peterson said, “This is our commitment. Our promise is that we don’t build a fence and then walk away after the fence is built.” Volunteers also deliver bags of flea medications, treats, and bedding as well as help connect the dog’s person with veterinary care, spay/neuter surgeries, and dog food if needed.

People can request a fence by filling out an application on the website for Fences for Fido or call 503-621-9225. Anonymous referrals for dogs that seem to need help are also accepted.

Joining 13 other states and the District of Columbia, Oregon now has an anti-tethering law that limits tethers of unreasonable length that might cause the animal to become entangled or a collar that pinches or chokes the animal when pulled. Animals cannot be tethered more than ten hours in a 24-hour period. Yet that’s still a long time for an animal chained outside with no company.

Chopper recently died of cancer after several years of happiness, but his legacy lives on. Since that first unchaining, over 650 dogs have had their lives changed through fences and dog houses.

chopper

While I read about the problems of the world and write my blog, my partner makes plans about how to makes lives better for dogs. To volunteer, she emailed volunteer@fencesforfido.org. As she said, “What a good feeling to know this group is really making a difference. I am proud to belong!” That’s just one of the reasons that my partner is so special.

If you live in an area with Fences for Fido, you can volunteer to help chained dogs. If you don’t, you can start a chapter.

Sometimes my partner’s and my activism merge. This was the case after we read about the lunch workers in both Utah and New Jersey throwing out food in front of children because their parents had unpaid balances at the cafeteria. Just as bad are the number of children afraid to go through the lunch line at school because they are afraid that this will happen to them.

Kenny Thompson in Houston (TX) had a very simple solution: he paid the delinquent accounts for all the children at an elementary school where he was a tutor. Thompson said, “These are elementary school kids. They don’t need to be worried about finances. They need to be worried about what grade they got in spelling.” You can donate school lunches at his foundation, Feed the Future Forward, so that children in all schools can get meals.

My partner and I took a simpler approach. We went to the neighborhood school and zeroed out the unpaid balances there. We agreed with Thompson when he said, “When I left the building knowing that they were getting fed, they didn’t have that stress … the best money I ever spent.”

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton has another solution. After schools in that state threw away hot lunches in front of children whose parents had not paid the school, he is calling for $3.5 million to purchase hot lunches for all children. “We cannot expect our students to succeed on an empty stomach,” Dayton said. Until there is funding in our states, however, individuals are forced to care for vulnerable children who need nutritional meals to participate in their education.

February 12, 2014

Social, Political Issues

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Sometimes a short quote tells the whole story. Following are some quotes from around the country during the past few weeks on politics, racism, and just plain stupidity.

Gretchen Carlson on the Fox network about the retail chain CVS no longer selling tobacco products: “Is it OK legally … to restrict tobacco availability in a private store like this. For people who smoke, you know, they have a right to buy cigarettes. It’s not illegal.” [For Carlson’s edification, abortion is also legal, but some states have closed down every clinic that provides the surgical procedure.]

Gary James, former candidate for Enid (OK) city council, about his refusal to serve blacks, gays, the disabled and “welfare people” in his restaurant: “Well if you work, you own a business, pay your taxes, you’re more than welcome here. If you’re on welfare, stay home and spend my money there. I don’t deal with these people walking down the street with no jobs on welfare…. I’ve been in business 44 years, I think I can spot a freak or a f*ggot. I really don’t want gays around. Any man that would compromise his own body would compromise anything.”

Michele M.’s response to James: “Gary James refuses to serve wheelchair bound persons, black people, Hispanics, mixed race couples, gay people, people who wear hats, people who ask for Budweiser, liberals, men with longish hair, people wearing clothes he doesn’t approve of, people with facial piercings, on and on. If you pass first inspection, don’t think you’ve got it made. If he doesn’t approve of an overheard conversation, if he decides you’re effeminate, if your politics don’t agree with his, if you don’t like the way you cheer for the wrong team, etc, etc., Mr. James will charge you more.”

[Followup: Internet social media is now listing Gary James’ restaurant as a gay bar.]

Fox network’s Bill O’Reilly: “[In black precincts, there is] “chaos in the streets, in the schools and in the homes.”

Kirk Cameron (former Growing Pains star) about the 33 couples married at the award ceremony: “How did you like the Grammy’s [sic] all out assault on the traditional family last night?”

Bryan Fischer (American Family Association) on the same subject: “Heads up: Grammy telecast to feature sodomy-based wedding ceremonies.”

Todd Starnes (Fox network) continuing: “I’ve never seen such a display of intolerance, bigotry and hatred. #Grammys #antichristian.”

John Pisciotta (head of Pro-Life Waco): “The Girl Scouts were once a truly amazing organization, but it has been taken over by ideologues of the left, and regular folks just will not stand for it.” [Is that why a man in Temecula, CA pulled a gun on a Girl Scout selling cookies?]

Ryan Zinke (Republican State Senator running for the U.S. House in Montana) who called Hillary Clinton the “Antichrist”: “We need to focus on the real enemy.” [He also claimed that Newt Gingrich is “senior advisor” to his campaign, but Gingrich denied this.]

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to single mothers who receive government assistance: “Maybe we have to say ‘enough’s enough, you shouldn’t be having kids after a certain amount.’”

Illinois Catholic bishop Thomas Paprocki: Gay couples need to be severely “disciplined” for participating in the “redefinition of marriage.”

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) regarding House reason for no action on immigration reform: “Here’s the issue that all Republicans agree on: We don’t trust the president to enforce the law.” [It’s also a talking point that many other GOP members, including House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) use.]

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) suggested that the law start in 2017 after President Obama leaves office: We don’t know who’s going to be president in 2017.” [A reason for never passing any legislation.]

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a GOP Governors Association fundraiser in Chicago: “You want income equality? That is mediocrity. Everybody can have an equal, mediocre salary.”

Mike Huckabee, about free birth control for women: “And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without Uncle Sugar coming in and providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it.” [In 2005, Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee signed a law mandating Arkansas insurance plans provide contraception coverage, including church-affiliated organizations such as hospitals and universities.]

Rep. Michele Bachmann, who doesn’t know that there is no longer any “Soviet Union”: “It appears that Belarus, which is a nation friendly with the Soviet Union, may have a subcontracting contract to build a part of Obamacare.”

Bachmann on immigration reform: “It isn’t the conservative Republican immigration policy that immigrants don’t like, it’s our stance on fiscal conservatism, the Constitution, patriotism, the fact that we believe in limited government and personal responsibility.”

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) about unemployment benefits: “It is immoral.” 

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong on why his company will no longer match employee 401(k) plans: “We had two AOL-ers that had distressed babies that were born that we paid a million dollars each to make sure those babies were OK in general.” [What? No reinsurance plans for large claims of over AOL’s 5,000 employees? Valleywag posted a visual to show the relationship between Armstrong’s salary and “distressed babies.”]  

distressed babies

Rep. Patrick J. Tiberi (R-OH) about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) to accomplish anything: “Right now, Jesus himself couldn’t be the speaker and get 218 Republicans behind something, so I think Speaker Boehner is trying his best to come up with a plan that can get close to that.”

Chad Brown (former Polk County Republican Party of Iowa Co-Chair): “My opinion is the ‘Duck Dynasty Wing’ of the Republican Party has taken over the GOP, and they’re not about to retreat in their war on science and common sense.”

The most amazing one on Sunday:

Conservative columnist David Brooks on Meet the Press about the need for immigration reform: “It’s not who runs the Republican Party. Do the leaders who want to have a long term future, a presidential national future, as a multi-racial party, do they run the party or does [Michael Needham of Heritage Foundation] run the party. The truth is Mike runs the party.”

President Obama also managed a few memorable quotes during a ten-minute interview with Bill O’Reilly on the Fox network immediately before the Super Bowl. It is a tradition that the current president sits down for a brief interview with the network that projects the annual game.

When O’Reilly asked about the many times that former IRS Doug Schulman had been to the White House: “That’s not what happened. Folks have again had multiple hearings on this. These kinds of things keep on surfacing in part because you and your TV station will promote them.”

When O’Reilly claimed that people thought that the president avoided calling Benghazi a “terror attack”: “They believe it because folks like you are telling them that.”

The night after the Super Bowl, the Fox network played more of the interview. O’Reilly asked, “Do you think I’m unfair to you?”

The president responded, “Absolutely. Of course you are, Bill. But I like you anyway.”

When O’Reilly pressed the president on how he had been “unfair” in the interview, President Obama said, “I think regardless of whether it’s fair or not, it has made Fox News very successful… What are you going to do when I’m gone?”

O’Reilly thinks that the interview will go down in “journalistic history.”

The quote of the week that no one will hear on the Fox network: “Given the military’s preparations on September 11, 2012, majority members have not yet discerned any response alternatives that could have likely changed the outcome of the Benghazi attack.” That’s the conclusion of a report from the GOP House Armed Forces Committee about the four deaths at the U.S. diplomatic outpost in Libya.  

February 11, 2014

Gun Buybacks One Part of Solution

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:55 PM
Tags: , ,

Watch the NRA go ballistic. Boston Mayor Walsh plans a gun buyback in the city after a 14-year-old boy accidentally shot and killed his 9-year-old brother. Will the NRA now say that “guns don’t kill people”? Will the gun lobbying group now say that 14-year-olds kill people—accidentally, of course?

Last Friday, the teenager, unidentified because of his age, was charged with involuntary manslaughter and unlawful possession of a firearm. The police found the teen after he fled the scene, possibly in panic.  The boy was described as remorseful and frightened.

Suffolk District Attorney Daniel Conley urged action:

“Part of our investigation in the days to come will be determining how this weapon got into the hands of a 14-year-old. In the meantime, I want to make something crystal clear: if you know about an illegal firearm in this city, help us prevent another tragedy like this one. Boston Police are doing a tremendous job of taking guns off the street, but they aren’t mind readers. They need tips and information about these weapons before they’re used.”

Walsh’s plans in coordination with newly appointed police commissioner William Evans occur at the same time that Boston has had a spike in gun-related homicides. The eight killings by gun since February 2 are four times as many as in the same time period last year.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign and founder of the Center to Prevent Youth Violence, writes:

“Most simply, too many tragedies occur because guns are purchased or owned without giving proper weight to the risks of bringing guns into the home and unsafe access to those guns.

“This isn’t a gun issue. It’s a responsibility issue. Thousands of tragedies, in homes across our country could be prevented every year if parents and others had more responsible attitudes and behaviors, based on the real risks around guns in the home.

“And to address this responsibility issue, we need major public awareness and education campaigns. We need to start a new national conversation that makes responsible choices about guns part of what it means to be a responsible parent, spouse or friend.

“We need to change social norms just like we’ve seen on those other issues like drunk driving and tobacco where campaigns like, ‘Friends don’t let friends drive drunk,’ and ‘Second Hand Smoke,’ have changed dangerous and irresponsible behavior that was considered not only acceptable, but glamorous a generation ago. Just watch one episode of Mad Men and think about how far we’ve come on those issues. We believe we have the exciting potential to create the same kind of sea change around guns through the same kind of public health and safety campaigns.”

This buyback plan, as all other gun-control plans, will be attacked. Thomas Nolan, a former 27-year Boston cop who teaches criminal justice at the State University of New York at Plattsburgh, described the gun buyback as “gimmicky” because people who use weapons in violent crimes won’t surrender their weapons. The question is whether he was talking about the family of the 9-year-old dead boy.

On the other hand, John Firman, director of research for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, supports Walsh’s actions. He said that gun buybacks are to raise community awareness for people who want to turn in unwanted guns and added that these programs are highly important for people in domestic violence situations who want to remove guns from their homes.

The argument that people won’t turn in guns has become very tired. Law enforcement campaigns to find people who aren’t wearing seatbelts and who are driving under the influence of alcohol don’t expect to totally eradicate traffic fatalities. Not every accident can be prevented, but the number of traffic fatalities is shrinking because of restrictions. The number of deaths by guns in the United States continues unabated.

Those in opposition to the gun buyback will also rant that the Second Amendment in the U.S. Constitution is the only one that should have no restrictions. Free speech is limited to protect human life, and the right to assemble has controls. In many cases, the protection against search and seizure is abridged, and other amendments have restrictions. Legally, gun ownership can have the same accountability.

After Tucson tried to destroy guns obtained through a buyback program, the NRA succeeded in persuading the state legislature to pass a law preventing any destruction of weapons obtained by state law enforcement and other government agencies. Instead, these guns that were taken off the streets must then be sold to a federal firearms licensed dealer. At this time, however, guns obtained through private buyback programs can be destroyed.

tmorej-smith-greenville-south-carolina-pink-gunIn desperation, the NRA is pushing sales to women and children because the organization benefits financially from every gun sold in the United States. The result is thousands of shootings by children as shown in the website, http://kidshootings.blogspot.com/.  Just one example is three-year old Temorej Smith who was playing with a pretty pink gun in Greenville (SC) after he and his 7-year old sister found it in the bedroom. Temorej fatally shot himself in the head.

Another blog reports many of the shootings across the United States including one by a Utah police officer. In January, Joshua Boren, 37, shot and killed his wife, Kelly; his 7-year old son, Joshua; his 5-year old daughter, Haley; and his 55-year old mother-in-law, Marie King, before he killed himself. They had just come back from Disneyland.

Most people who continue to glory in their gun ownership and promote the myth that their guns will protect them cannot be persuaded that changes must be made. They suffer from the delusion that all gun owners are responsible people and would never leave their guns lying around and available to children. They would never admit the possibility that their guns could be stolen by criminals. Thus they will continue to write their pathetic responses to the pleas for making the country safer for all. Hard-core gun owners who collect large numbers of weapons may not change their need to own these personal “toys” until they lose those important to them through shootings. Even then, they may become more embittered, convinced that more guns would have stopped the losses.

Hatred, racism, paranoia, and selfishness fuel the people who want to allow everyone in the country to own guns, the people who think that felons and the mentally imbalanced should have the right to purchase guns. These are the people who fight background checks and legal restrictions on gun ownership. Some of them are the people who plan to use their arsenals to overtake the government if they don’t like the laws that legislature passes.

In many cases their arguments come from a “fact sheet’ to fight any gun control. A person who attended a recent Ceasefire Oregon meeting commented that the six men opposing Oregon’s proposal of universal gun background checks had brought printed copies of talking points for their arguments. These are the same people who accuse the opposition of being “sheep,” merely the ignorant following the ignorant. The “fact sheet” shows where they get their ideas.

An advertisement for a book in the document begins, “Everyone lies.” This statement was a major argument those at the meeting who opposed background checks.  It’s a simple tactic because it stops all discussion.

The document begins: “There is no such thing as an assault weapon.” Again, this statement is designed to get people off the topic of background checks or other gun control.

The vast majority of the sources in the document are between one and three decades old. Most of them come from the 1990s, including the statistic on school shootings. The rationale for not having gun buybacks is dated 1997—sixteen years ago. The statement that only five children died from accidental shootings in 2001 has no relevance in 2014 when that number has occurred in fewer than two months.

In combating evidence that background checks stop suicides, the document cites the fact but not information that refutes it. Maybe the worst was comparing homicide rates in the United Kingdom between 1919 and 1986 to prove that the country doesn’t need gun control.

Documents like this one do a disservice because it lies to the readers, readers who then use these invalid statements to respond to blogs–including this one.

Randi Kreiss has written a call to action:

“If there were killers wandering America, randomly shooting kids in their classrooms, stalking our sons and daughters on their high school and college campuses—and if the government refused to help— surely we would rise up and march on Washington, demanding action. If the shameful toll of gun violence in our country is any indication, it is time to rise up, in fact way past time….

“We all know the rap of the National Rifle Association folks: Second Amendment rights are sacrosanct; guns don’t kill people; better enforcement of existing gun laws would solve the problem. This mantra is repeated ad nauseum, stonewalling any effort to pass reasonable laws that would keep guns out of the hands of felons and the mentally ill….

“For the love of our children, we need to move beyond bumper sticker thinking…. Guns do kill people when they’re in the hands of people who buy them without background checks, people who may be delusional, and people who may have a history of criminal behavior. Guns kill people when anyone with a few dollars can buy a gun illegally but easily on the streets of any American city.”

It’s time that reasonable, responsible people take the country back from the NRA and its mindless followers.

February 10, 2014

Moral Mondays Start to Sweep Nation

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:08 PM
Tags: , , ,

“Moral Mondays” marched last Saturday, and the mainstream media took note. They started last year when crowds showed up the North Carolina capitol on Mondays to protest the draconian laws that legislators persisted in passing. After lowering taxes for the wealthiest top 5 percent, Republicans took some of these actions after they controlled the legislature and governor’s mansion in 2012:

  • Raised taxes for the poorest bottom 95 percent
  • Eliminated Medicaid coverage for 500,000 people
  • Deprived 70,000 North Carolinians of unemployment benefits on June 30, 2014
  • Ended federal unemployment benefits for 170,000
  • Enacted a voting law requiring voter ID and cutting early voting
  • Repealed an earned-income tax credit for 900,000
  • Stopped public financing of judicial races
  • Cut preschool for 30,000 children
  • Shifted $90 million from public schools to voucher schools
  • Repealed a law permitting death row inmates to appear a conviction proved to include racial bias in sentencing
  • Allowed hydraulic fracking
  • Amended the state constitution to ban marriage equality
  • Mandated that women “listen to the heartbeat of the unborn child” before an abortion 

Gov. Pat McCrory was dismissive of the protesters, but polls show that by last summer, more North Carolina residents approved of the Moral Monday protesters than of the state legislature. Last Saturday, a crowd of between 80,000 and 100,000 people turned out for the Raleigh rally and marched for justice including reproductive, voting, LGBT, health care, and environmental rights. Last year, the march brought only about 15,000 people.

moral-monday-stage_img 

People in North Carolina know that Art Pope, a right-wing multi-millionaire with close connections to the Koch brothers, bought many of the GOP legislators in the 2010 election who then redistricted the state to protect their grip on the state legislature. It was the first time since 1870 that North Carolina had a Republican government. Art Pope’s bonus from his victory was being in charge of the state budget.   

The 84 people arrested at Saturday’s rally joined the almost 1,000 others who were arrested in last year’s demonstrations, many of them clergy who had never participated in civil disobedience. Last week, police even arrested a journalist who was merely covering the protest.

The state NAACP meeting in Raleigh plus 200 other organizations the number of protesters in Saturday’s “Moral March on Raleigh” from 15,000 in 2013 to almost 100,000 this year. It was the largest civil rights rally in the South since tens of thousands of voting rights activists marched from Selma to Montgomery in support of the Voting Rights Act.

The Moral Monday group has five demands

  • Secure pro-labor, anti-poverty policies that ensure economic sustainability;
  • Provide well-funded, quality public education for all;
  • Stand up for the health of every North Carolinian by promoting health care access and environmental justice across all the state’s communities; 
  • Address the continuing inequalities in the criminal justice system and ensure equality under the law for every person, regardless of race, class, creed, documentation or sexual preference;
  • Protect and expand voting rights for people of color, women, immigrants, the elderly and students to safeguard fair democratic representation.

Spinoffs in George and South Carolina have already started the movement in other states. At the Georgia state capitol, 23 protesters were arrested and housed in Fulton County Jail when they went to the office of state Sen. Jesse Stone, GOP chair of the Judiciary Non-Civil Committee. Stone has declined to act on a Democratic effort to repeal the state’s “stand your ground” law and refused to meet with the entire group. The law was recently evoked when a Georgia homeowner shot and killed a 72-year-old Alzheimer’s patient he thought was an intruder. Ten Moral Monday members were arrested on January 27, 2014 when they protested Gov. Nathan Deal’s refusal to expand Medicaid in the state.

Moral Monday can provide a blueprint for the nation. The GOP may want to start taking notice.

February 9, 2014

Nye Debates Creationist, Fundamentalist Christians Divorce

Ken Ham, left, and Bill Nye, debate science and creationism.The biggest talk in religion this past week is the debate between scientist Bill Nye and Creation Museum Founder Ken Ham (left) about evolution. The thought processes of these two men can be summarized by their answer to just one question—could anything change their minds about their beliefs. Ham said that no one could ever convince him; Nye said that just one piece of evidence could change his position that the universe is evolving. The answers show that Ham started with his conclusion whereas Nye works on the evidence.

The debate demonstrates how useless a debate with creationists can be. Nye used his customary science: Neanderthal skulls that point directly to evolution; layer upon layer of rock formations, each millions of years apart; carbon dating and fossil records; even the impossibility of fitting 16 million species on a single ark made by eight humans with no power tools.

Ham justifies his narrow position by claiming that “we weren’t there, and we didn’t observe it.” Neither was he, so he relies on “the biblical account of origins”—what he calls observational science and historical science. Now is the observation, and the bible is the history. Ham calls radioactive dating “assumptions” and uses biblical genealogy to “prove” that this planet is 6,000 years old.

Despite Ham’s belief in his personal infallibility, his life-size “replica” of Noah’s Ark is hurting for cash with a current shortage of about $30 million. He may be able to deny evolution, natural selection, uranium-lead isotope dating, fossil records, and basic physics, but he can’t deny the financial ruin facing him.

Something else Ham surely won’t believe is a recent discovery by researchers Lidar Sapir-Hen and Erez Ben-Yosef (Tel Aviv University) who used carbon-dating to determine the age of the oldest-known camel bones.  Their investigation shows that camels first came to Israel about the 9th century BCE. The Old Testament places camels in that region at the time of Abraham, considered by biblical scholars as the 20th century BCE.

Dr. Robert Harris, an Associate Professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary, said through his associates:

“While these findings may have been published recently, those of us on the inside have known the essential facts for a generation now. This is just one of many anachronisms in the Bible, but these do not detract from its sanctity, because it is a spiritual source, not a historical one.”

Several years ago, archaeologist William Dever said:

“We want to make the Bible history. Many people think it has to be history or nothing. But there is no word for history in the Hebrew Bible. In other words, what did the biblical writers think they were doing? Writing objective history? No. That’s a modern discipline. They were telling stories. They wanted you to know what these purported events mean.”

Ham’s belief is even too extreme for right-wing fundamentalists like Pat Robertson. The TV evangelist said, “There ain’t no way that’s possible…. To say that it all came about in 6,000 years is just nonsense and I think it’s time we come off of that stuff and say this isn’t possible…. Let’s be real, let’s not make a joke of ourselves.”

Robertson’s points were similar to those made by Nye: “Anyone who is in the oil business knows he’s drilling down, 2 miles, 3 miles underground, you’re coming into all these layers that were laid down by the dinosaurs. And we have skeletons of dinosaurs that go back like 65 million years. And to say that it all came around 6 thousand years ago is nonsense.”

Someone might want to point out to Robertson that he and his Christian network sell materials arguing that the earth is 6,000 years old and that the Bible says dinosaurs and humans lived together, a premise of Ham’s museum.

Nye’s goal in debating Ham was to protect children:

“I say that to the grownups, if you want to deny evolution and live in your world that’s completely inconsistent with everything we observe in the universe that’s fine, but don’t have your kids do it because we need them, we need scientifically literate voters and taxpayers for the future.”

Parents in the United States are not allowed by law to starve their children’s bodies, but they are permitted to starve their minds.

Pundits in the U.S. were disgusted because Nye gave creationism credibility by debating Ham. On the other side of the pond, however, the audience of Britain’s Christian Today website reports that Nye won the debate: 92 percent of almost 50,000 responses found for “the science guy.”

At this time, adults are teaching these young people a literal version of the bible—at least when it suits the adults’ needs. For example, in their desire to maintain dominion over women, men cite 1 Corinthians 14, in which Paul tells the church of Corinth that women should be silent during the service. Fundamentalists use this verse to deny women the right to become pastor, even to pray aloud during services. Nye’s debate with Ham was not about religion; it was about politics. Ham takes the position that evolution leads to “lawlessness, homosexuality, abortion, etc.”

Rep. Steve Pearce (R-NM) presents this connection between religion and politics in his new memoir, Just Fly the Plane, Stupid!

“The wife is to voluntarily submit, just as the husband is to lovingly lead and sacrifice. The husband’s part is to show up during the times of deep stress, take the leadership role and be accountable for the outcome, blaming no one else.”

Pearce refers to the New International Version book of Ephesians, which says wives should “submit to their husbands in everything.”

Evidently many fundamentalist women are not submitting to their husbands. Evangelical Christians have higher than average divorce rates, more so than people in the United States who claim no religion. This research was part of a study by the Council on Contemporary Families at Baylor University on the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act to examine changes in the past half century for groups affected by the law.

Other findings:

  • The number of people in the country who do not identify with any religious tradition has grown from three percent to 20 percent.
  • Protestants as a share of the adult population has shrunk from 70 percent to 50 percent, primarily because of the decline of such denominations as Methodists, Lutherans, and Episcopalians which have had their numbers cut in half.
  • Evangelical populations rapidly grew until the early 1990s when the population began to decline.
  • The percentage of Catholics has kept steady, but the ethnic composition has dramatically changed because of increasing Latino immigration.
  • The number of people who affiliate with non-Judeo-Christian religions has doubled.

Another study found that all couples who live in predominantly conservative Protestant areas have higher divorce rates. Religiously conservative states Alabama and Arkansas have the second and third highest divorce rates in the U.S., while religiously liberal New Jersey and Massachusetts have two of the lowest. Atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rates of all.

map_conservative_regional_divorce-650x501

While the GOP tries to woo people back as their followers, the extremist Republicans, like Pearce, are determined to drive them off. Susanne Atanus, an Illinois Republican trying to unseat Democratic Rep. Jan Schakowsky this year, puts God first. In so doing, she thinks that God controls the weather and put tornadoes and diseases such as autism and dementia on earth to punish people for LGBT rights and legalized abortions:

“God is angry. We are provoking him with abortions and same-sex marriage and civil unions,” she said. “Same-sex activity is going to increase AIDS. If it’s in our military it will weaken our military. We need to respect God.”

Mary Helen Sears, a candidate for a Michigan seat on the Republican National Committee, wants to have LGBT people “purged” from the GOP and believes that homosexuality is a “perversion” created by Satan. Her post on the Schoolcraft County GOP website is prefaced by a warning asking readers to “please use your discretion before taking any decisions based on the information in this blog.” For good reason because Sears claims that homosexuals prey on children.  Last month, former state GOP lawmaker Dave Agema was asked to step down from his position with the RNC “for the good of the party” because of his anti-gay comments.

Sears is, according to Macomb Daily columnist Chad Selweski, “if anything, to the right of RNC Committeeman Dave Agema on the political spectrum.” According to Sears, Charles Darwin’s evolutionary theory “gave rise to Hitler’s Third Reich, Mussolini’s Italy and Stalin’s Russia.”

This is the party that wants to run the country.

February 8, 2014

Gun Laws Allow Children to be Shot and Killed

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:53 PM

The media tends to report only the unusual: the shootings in the movie theater in Aurora (CO), the shopping mall in Portland (OR), and the elementary school in Newtown (CT) were widely publicized, but the shootings since 2014 dawned have received little coverage. Even the nine school shootings during the first 18 school days of the year got barely a notice. There were 28 school shootings in the entire year of 2013, three times the number of the first month of this year. Media don’t bother with the commonplace, which is what shootings in the United States have become. Last year, the NRA assured people that the situation was improving; this year they are staying quiet.

The nine shootings could have been higher if the police had not taken guns and arrested young people in Georgia, Oregon, and Virginia. The only change in the NRA’s request for armed “school resource officers” is the increase of arrests for students, sometimes for something such as forgetting to wear a belt.  “There is no evidence that placing officers in the schools improves safety,” said Denise C. Gottfredson, a criminologist at the University of Maryland and an expert in school violence. “And it increases the number of minor behavior problems that are referred to the police, pushing kids into the criminal system.”

These armed “officers” have forgotten their guns in student bathrooms or accidentally fired their guns in crowded schools. In Lodi (CA) a small child pulled the trigger of a police SWAT officer during a reading event when the officer was showing children his gear. The Glock .35 in his holster didn’t have a safety mechanism. Fortunately, the bullet hit the officer’s leg and caused only a minor injury.

After the massacre at Sandy Hook over a year ago, the NRA used Israel as a model to support arming schools as a preventative measure. The NRA fails to understand that people can obtain firearms in Israel only if they prove their professions or places of resident might endanger them. Security forces, not armed citizens, are used to prevent terror attacks. Israel has far fewer private guns per capita, and shootings outside the Israeli-Palestinian conflict just don’t happen. Wayne LaPierre was wrong when he said that “Israel had a whole lot of school shootings until … they put armed security in every school.” In fact, authorities can remember only two school shootings in the past 40 years.

At the same time, children continue to die in homes because of the proliferation of guns. Just one example: a four-year-old girl in Michigan found her grandfather’s rifle under his bed, and her four-year-old cousin is now dead. Resisters to any gun laws probably say that accidents will happen.

Research published in Pediatrics shows that an average of 20 young people were hospitalized daily for gun injuries in 2009; that’s one every 72 minutes all year long. The attempt to “reduce this common source of childhood injury,” according to the authors is hampered by federal restrictions on gun injury research. They managed to get this data from 4,121 hospitals in 44 states that represent 96 percent of the nation’s population.

Of the 7,391 young people who went to hospitals for gun injuries, about 453 died in hospitals. Assault accounted for 62 percent of these hospitalizations for adolescent ages 15 to 19 whereas unintentional injury was the reason for most injuries of children under 10. Of all hospitalizations, 89 percent were for males.

Concerned about the lack of public health efforts to reduce firearm injuries, the authors cited suppression by pro-gun lawmakers in firearms injury research: “Since Congress took this action in 1997, at least 427,000 people have died of gunshot wounds in the United States, including more than 165,000 who were victims of homicide.” Co-author Dr. Robert Sege, a pediatrician and director of the division of family and child advocacy at Boston Medical Center, said, “The [American Academy of Pediatrics] recommends that the safest home for a family is a home without guns.”

In a New York Times piece last month, Joe Nocera wrote about “The Gun Report” that he and his assistant, Jennifer Mascia, published as they tried to collect information about daily gun violence in the United States. Each Monday of 2013 they searched Google News for the previous day’s shootings and found 20 to 30 shootings each day. Weekends have well over 100. Yet these numbers don’t represent the totality of gun violence because it is impossible to track suicides in news media accounts, and suicides represent about 60 percent of gun deaths.

After a year, Nocera drew some conclusions. His biggest surprise was the frequency with which one child accidentally shot another child or an adult accidentally shot a child while handling a loaded gun. One pro-gun reader of “The Gun Report,” Malcolm Smith, decided that gun owners should be licensed and “should have to learn how to store guns safely.”

Another conclusion is that having a gun in the house does not make a person safer. Pro-gun readers complained that Nocera didn’t report how guns were used to prevent a crime. That’s because it almost never happens. The vast majority of gun deaths in the home come from arguments among family, friends, and neighbors.

Nocera’s third conclusion is that gang shootings are everywhere—big cities and smaller cities. Gang members kill innocent victims, often children, as often as they kill each other. Pro-gun advocates dismiss inner-city violence, calling them “demographics,” as if people who are killed in cities are somehow less important than people who die from guns in suburban and rural areas.

As Nocera wrote, “Most of the people who die from guns would still be alive if we just had fewer of them. The guys in the movie theater would have had a fistfight instead of a shooting. The momentary flush of anger would pass. The suicidal person might have taken a pause if taking one’s life were more difficult.”

Children are even being taught to shoot at other kids. The following photograph shows a U.S. Border Patrol agent teaching small children to shoot at a human target. The event was at almost the same place where agents had shot and killed immigrants. When questioned about this occurrence, a border patrol spokesperson justified it by saying that the guns had only “inert rounds.”

borderpatroltargetpractice-638x356

Even when the media does decide to address the problem of guns, the NRA and other conservative media attack this news. “Young Guns,” an ABC News 20/20 special reported that 1.7 million children live in homes with unsecured and loaded firearms. The program used a psychologist-designed experiment with children in an empty classroom containing an unsecured firearm. Although almost all the 44 children had been taught not to touch a gun and half the children had been shown the NRA’s “Eddie Eagle” gun safety program, many of them touched and played with the gun. Some of them pointed the gun at themselves or other children and pulled the trigger. Conservative pundits were incensed.

Pediatric psychologist Marjorie Sanfilippo noted that “you can’t educate curiosity out of a child.” The results of this recent documentary found the same thing as a 2001 experiment published in Pediatrics:  63 percent of 8- to 12-year old boys who found a gun touched it and 33 percent pulled the trigger, even though 90 percent had received gun safety training. At least 84 children aged 12 or younger died after accessing unsecured firearms in the year following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school in December 2012.

As Sanfilippo pointed out, there are laws to put gates around swimming pools and safety caps on medications. People sometimes object to these as “nanny laws,” but they keep children from drowning and poisoning themselves. There are few laws to protect children from shooting each other.

The media in Eugene were drawn to the issue of school shootings when the Emerald Art Center rejected Linda Cunningham’s three-dimensional artwork, “School Days,” because it was “too controversial.” The Junction City woman’s work appeared on the front page of The Register-Guard, not once but twice—first when it was rejected and later when it found a home in a prominent Eugene art gallery. 

dick jane

“I did this piece because of my feelings about Sandy Hook and all the little children and teachers who were killed there,” she said, referring to the shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School almost 15 months ago. “Here we are, a year later, and nothing has been done to prevent gun violence,” Cunningham said. “I say, what’s controversial about not killing children. I think we all should be sick and tired of this,” she said.

Paula Goodbar, the art center coordinator, said that the piece was rejected because it might upset people upset about a school shooting at Thurston High School in east Springfield almost 16 years ago. Kip Kinkel, 15, killed two students and wounded another 24 after having shot and killed his parents at their home. Chris Mackay, a board member, thought that the show should be “a little more cheery” in December. He did acknowledge that “everyone who looked at [Cunningham’s] piece said, ‘Wow, that’s really powerful.’”

gregory beckGregory Beck, school board member of Brookfield (CT) near the Sandy Hook massacre, showed the insensitivity and ignorance of some pro-gun people when he planned to hand out free ammunition to honor the victims. “I shall buy my friends who are gun enthusiasts a box of ammunition on days 1-26 [to recognize each victim,” he wrote on his Facebook page.  Beck resigned from the school board but kept his job as the emergency dispatcher at the police department.

February 7, 2014

Farm Bill: Poor Lose, Wealthy Win

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:52 PM
Tags: , , , ,

After more than two years of partisan squabbling, Congress passed a five-year farm bill that costs people $100 billion a year.  In the House, 89 Democrats joined 162 GOP members to pass the bill that then received a 68-32 vote in the Senate with 9 Democrats opposing the bill. It’s a bipartisan law that takes from the poor and gives to the rich and the first time that Democrats even considered cutting the food-stamp program.

The $8.6 billion cut in food stamps promotes greater hunger in what citizens like to consider the world’s richest country. The bill also promotes a diet of processed food—or food substitutes—with high levels of sugar, fat, and salt leading to serious health problems. The cut comes on top of the $11 billion lost with the expiration of stimulus funding, the first $5 million at the end of October 2013. Cuts were determined by home-heating assistance. Households must receive at least $20 per year before they automatically qualify for food stamps instead of the $1 threshold now in some states.

Last November, people lost almost $30 dollars a month from benefits; now they lose another $90. Even Walmart noticed the effects of lost funding for food stamps and predicted that the last quarter of 2013 will not meet its sales projections. As studies show and conservatives refuse to believe, each SNAP recipient dollar adds an estimated $1.70 to the economy. Food stamps create jobs from farmer to truck driver to shelf stocker and beyond. The working poor, many of whom work for Walmart, are now many of the people who rely on help to keep them from hunger.

Conservatives always say that they want cuts to make up for programs such as food stamps, but a proposal to cap (not eliminate) the profits of the ten largest farm insurance providers to free up funds to eliminate the cuts to the SNAP program was defeated 2 to 1 in the Senate. Insurance companies pocket profits taken from taxpayers’ risks.

Past changes that kept President Obama from signing a farm bill stayed in the bill that the president now has signed. Instead of a $50,000 annual limit on the primary payments (or double that for married couples), Congress approved a $125,000 limit (again, doubled for married couples).  They also decided not to adopt the House and Senate-passed provisions to close the loopholes that currently allow large, wealthy farms to collect many multiples of the nominal payment limit.

The $5 billion in direct payments for commodities, payments whether farmers grow anything or not, was largely eliminated, but the new insurance “reforms” are largely a bait-and-switch effort that continues giveaways to agribusiness and wealthy investors. A few limited reforms to help both organic and diversified farm operations didn’t stop the crop insurance program from using taxpayer money to protect profits of large farms that produce commodity crops while doing little to protect small integrated farmers who actually grow food. The program pays $1.4 billion annually to 18 companies to sell policies to farmers and then pays 62 percent of the farmers’ premiums. A coup for these companies is the provision that the Agriculture Department cannot renegotiate lesser payments during the five-year term of the bill. Previous negotiations have saved billions in dollars in government savings.

The bill also removes an income cap for receiving crop insurance; thus large farming operations can win more subsidies by claiming additional people are actively engaged in farming. Some of these people are members of Congress who no longer have to disclose the crop insurance money they get from voting for this bill.

Dow succeeded in adding a provision to reverse the prohibition of sulfuryl fluoride despite EPA’s 2011 proposal to phase out its use as a food fumigant. Massive tax subsidies go to corporate agribusiness and wealthy investors, again promoting unhealthy food, genetically engineered crops, confined animal feeding operations, and monoculture farming. Seed and pesticide corporations such as Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow will benefit from the farm bill’s provisions. The result includes ongoing vulnerability to floods and droughts, aquatic “dead zones,” and fouled drinking water caused by fertilizer runoff from fields, and more. Conservation programs to mitigate these problems were slashed by $6.1 billion, the first decrease since Congress started funding these programs in 1985.

Federal nutrition programs stay the same except for the Pulse Health Pilot Program which adds plant-based protein sources to school meals. That means the National Lunch Program, food stamps, and WIC will continue to push junk foods like processed meat and cheese that fuel epidemics of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.

More money went to higher rice and peanut subsidies for Southern farmers. People who need the least help get more “aid” through $5 billion in taxpayer funds for livestock farmers when their animals die during natural disasters, another subsidy for the meat and dairy industry.

The almost-1000 pages of the bill show the favors that legislators provide to their constituents—sugar producers, catfish farmers, etc. William Frenzel, a former Republican congressman from Minnesota and a budget analyst at the Brookings Institution, said, “The agriculture industry simply does not need all of these supports.”  He described the farm bill as “bad budget and agriculture policy.” Even current GOP members of Congress were disgusted. “It seems that catfish is one bottom feeder with friends in high places,” Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said.

The farm bill has a few advantages: $100 million to help bring healthy food to underserved communities; initiatives to encourage purchases of fruits and vegetables by SNAP consumers at retail outlets, including farmers’ markets and food hubs; support for food banks; allowing SNAP recipients to use their benefits to purchase a Community Supported Agriculture share; and a pilot program to support bringing local food into schools. Good programs cut last year were restored: Beginning and Disadvantaged farmers, farmers markets, community food projects, support for local food systems, etc. These, however, are just a few million dollars in an annual $100 billion bill. Conservation requirements were also relinked to the receipt of crop insurance subsidies.

Notable is the rejection of the “King amendment” that would have prevented hundreds of state laws defending food safety, farm workers, animals, and the environment. Also gone is the amendment in the last farm bill from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) that protected companies like Monsanto that produce GMOs from being sued.

The farm bill is an excellent example of “cognitive dissonance” that results in Selective Deficit Disorder. Republicans said that they were decreasing the deficit by reducing funding for the food-stamp program, but they ignored the deficit when they handed over billions of dollars to corporate special interests. This is not a continuing phenomenon in politics: ten states made draconian cuts to retiree benefits, pleading poverty, but in a report, “Good Jobs First,” in the same states, “the total annual cost of corporate subsidies, tax breaks and loopholes exceeds the total current annual pension costs.”

The five-year farm bill is largely a win-lose situation: the wealthy and corporations win, and the poor lose.  Basically the law cuts food stamps, gives wealthy farmers more money, and hides the way that farmers pollute the ground.The one great advantage is that the Tea Party opposed it. Republicans ignoring the extremists may not be a trend, but it is happening now. 

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