Nel's New Day

November 14, 2014

Keystone Pipeline Passes House, Goes to Senate

The Keystone XL pipeline passed the House of Representatives today for a ninth time. The vote this time was 252 to 161 with 31 Democrats supporting the measure. Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) voted “present.” The proposed 1,660 pipeline from Koch brothers tar sands in Canada to the refineries that will then ship the processed crude overseas has been touted as a jobs effort. President Obama described the project best:

“Understand what this project is: It is providing the ability of Canada to pump their oil, send it through our land down to the Gulf where it will be sold everywhere else.”

The senate plans a vote on this coming Tuesday, November 18. Some Democratic senators think that voting for the pipeline will protect Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D-LA) position. On December 6, her state will decide between her and Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), lead sponsor of the House bill. Landrieu is the underdog because her two conservative opponents collectively received more votes than she did in the November 4 election.

Newly elected Senate Majority Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that the number of jobs created by the project is “stunning.” For once I agree with him. The pipeline will provide only 35 jobs after the two-year construction. Fox and Friends fill-in host Anna Kooiman followed the network’s message of “tens of thousands of jobs created” for the $8 billion pipeline, but the actual number is far fewer than that. The State Department estimates 10,400 seasonal workers for either four or eight months, a total of 3,900 “average annual” jobs over one year. That’s 3,900 full-time jobs each year for building the pipeline, a number which shrinks to 35 after two years when the pipeline is finished. The “related” 26,100 jobs may not add employees because these are in areas already filled—lodging, food, entertainment, health care, etc.

Canada is suffering from the concentration on oil extraction because it makes the economy dependent on the price of oil. Even worse, the oil industry has undermined democracy by insisting that anyone in opposition is unpatriotic. The system works the same in the United States as McConnell insists that this nation is dependent on the pipeline for jobs. In fact, McConnell is dependent on the pipeline for his job.

As in the United States, Canada’s federal conservative caucus is composed largely of politicians who deny climate science. They have slashed financing in that area, closed facilities researching climate change, and silenced government climate scientists.

Energy-East-PipelineA month ago, there was hope that Canada had decided to transport its Alberta tar sands east, avoiding huge aquifers in both the United States and Canada. The plan is to go east near Toronto and end before the Nova Scotia aquifer. The Energy East Pipeline could be effected by converting about 1,800 miles of existing natural gas pipeline to transporting the tar sands crude. Canada could benefit from taking this route because of Russia’s problems with the Ukraine. If the oil were sent east, it could be sold to Europe and Ukraine if Russia pulls its oil from that region.

Another argument against building the pipeline is the dropping cost of oil, down 25 percent from last summer to $74.42 a barrel yesterday. Anything below $65 will make production in Canadian oil sands infeasible.  New projects would require $85 a barrel.

In the United States, the pipeline will most likely drive up gas prices. The oil bypasses Midwest refineries to those in the Gulf, where it will be shipped to more lucrative markets overseas. That means less oil in this country and thus higher prices.

nebraskaAt this time, Nebraska may be the biggest block to the pipeline. In that conservative bastion of the USA, landowners sued to keep Gov. Dave Heineman from unilaterally approving permits and seizing their property through eminent domain. If they succeed in keeping the Keystone out of their state, the pipeline has nowhere to go. [map] Originally Heineman objected to TransCanada’s path through the Sand Hills region in the western part of the state that sits on top of the freshwater Ogallala Aquifer spanning eight states and providing drinking water for 8,000,000 people. A pipeline rupture, which could easily happen considering pipelines’ histories, would irreversibly pollute 30 percent of the U.S. irrigation groundwater for agriculture. The judge’s decision last February put the permits into the hands of Nebraska’s Public Service Commission. The case was argued before the state Supreme Court in early September with no indication of a decision.

Nebraskans are smart to worry about the aquifer. The tar sands crude has a peanut-butter consistency and must be diluted, generally with carcinogenic benzene, for transport. From 2006 to 2008, pipeline spills occurred at least once a month, and each one of these was worse than the oil train disasters that the media has publicized. Those monthly spills are the ones that people discovered, but there is an estimate that 95 percent of the spills are not identified because of no pipeline alarm systems.

In addition to the spills, new pipes are defective with cracks, pinholes, and dents through poorly welded seams. TransCanada had guaranteed that Keystone Phase I, already operational would leak once in seven years—still a disaster—but it had at least 12 leaks in its first year. Keystone leaks would be on some of the most important farms and ranches in the United States as well as freshwater sources.

The State Department reported that a pinhole leak could release enough benzene to contaminate drinking water for 2 million people for 425 days. A leak would cause farmers to lose everything they have. That’s what happened on March 29, 2013 in Mayflower, Arkansas. Lives of Michigan residents near the Kalamazoo River have been disrupted for years with cleanup costs in the billions after the rupture of a 30-inch diameter crude oil pipeline on July 25, 2010. The proposed Keystone XL uses a 36-inch pipe. In both cases the oil companies ignored any problems with the pipes. In the latter, engineers ignored the alarms for 17 hours until an outsider called to complain.

Tar sands oil companies are exempt from any insurance to cover the costs of cleanup. Companies with conventional oil are required to pay a pittance into a fund for cleanup; crude oil is exempt because it is not “conventional oil.” As people learned from the BP disaster, however, corporations never clean up their messes. Studies that try to show that the tar sands are not more likely to cause pipeline ruptures compared it to similar heavy crudes in Canada instead of the lighter oils previously sent through the U.S. pipeline system.”

Another problem with the tar sands crude is the petroleum coke, or pet coke, resulting from the refining process. Used as a cheap substitute for coal, pet coke sends massive amounts of carbon, sulfur, and other pollutants in the air. In Detroit, refineries just piled up pet coke, up to three stories tall and covering a city block. Nothing was done to control for wind and water runoff, and the company had no permits for the storage. The neighbors had their homes tested and found selenium and vanadium, both of which cause serious respiratory disease. No one took action, even when the water runoff went into the Great Lakes watershed until a plume of pet coke dust moved over Canadian territory in Windsor. Within a month, the pet coke moved to Ohio and also at a Koch brothers site in Chicago.

That amount came from one small refinery. Port Arthur (TX) will suffer 30 times that problem if the Keystone pipeline ships its tar sands crude across the United States. That city already has extremely high rates of cancer, asthma, kidney and liver disease, skin disorders, and other serious health issues because of the toxins that they are forced to breathe. Kids can’t even safely play outside.

In the House 221 Republicans and 31 Democrats voted to sicken and kill the people of the United States and pollute the nation’s land, water, and air. The Keystone XL pipeline is an indicator of the future. Either the United States further commits the country to taking every bit of fossil fuels out of the ground or moves forward on renewable energy.

Fortunately, the votes in Congress are not binding on the president. Because the pipeline crosses an international boundary, the president is the only decider.

November 13, 2014

President Strikes Deal GOP Wants; GOP Furious

President Obama cut a deal with China while the GOP was crowing about the election, and the Republicans are livid. Following nine months of discussion, President Barack Obama and President Xi Jinping announced a deal on carbon emissions.

The U.S. pledges to cut its emissions 26 to 28 percent below their 2005 levels by 2025, building on its current target of 17 percent reduction below that baseline by 2020. China promises to get 20 percent of its energy from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2030 and peak its overall carbon dioxide emissions that same year. The country will also deploy an additional 800 to 1,000 gigawatts of zero-carbon energy, approximately all the electricity generated in the U.S., by 2030. The U.S. part of the deal is doable under existing law. Emissions have already declined, and the president has created new rules on tailpipes and power plant rules. The European Union has also agreed to cut its emissions 40 percent below their 1990 levels by 2030.

The conservatives had argued that there was no reason for the U.S. to take action as long as China didn’t do anything. The president has argued that the U.S., as the world’s second-largest emitter, can’t expect other countries to step forward if this country doesn’t take action. Now China has stepped up, and the GOP lost its argument.

As both conservatives and environmentalists have pointed out, the language of the deal has wiggle room. These goals are statements of “intent”; the parties do not promise or even “agree” to accomplish these targets. The president can’t do anything on his own because foreign treaties require a two-thirds majority from the U.S. Senate for ratification.  The White House release refers to these goals as statements of “intent.” They don’t promise or even “agree” to hit these targets, they merely “intend” to.

Even before the president’s trip to China, members of the 114th Senate pledged to roll back the existing measures on the environment. The House has already voted to repeal the EPA’s authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, and the new GOP senate will also pass the bill. It’s a guarantee that there could be no successful vote for an emission-reduction treaty.

The senate’s new Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, was quick to criticize the Beijing pact. “This unrealistic plan, that the president would dump on his successor, would ensure higher utility rates and far fewer jobs,” he said. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) followed the party line with complaining about loss of jobs, and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), the climate denier who will be head of the Environment and Public Works Committee in January, called the arrangement between the United States and China a “charade.”

Yet the senate cannot stop an announcement between China and the United States of this agreement of intentions.

Together, China and the United States produce over 40 percent of the carbon emissions for the entire planet. While China currently relies on coal and non-renewable energy to develop its economy, the United States is fighting against changing to alternative energy resources from traditional ones.

Global Carbon missionsByCountry

Republicans are already screaming about how the U.S. has to reduce emissions more steeply than previously planned while China does not have to immediately begin its reductions. Longstanding development and wealth in the United States, however, have caused this country to produce 29.3 percent of global cumulative carbon emissions, compared to only 7.6 percent from China. In the dea;, China’s plan is a model for emerging economies such as India, Brazil, and Indonesia.

cumulative pollutions

Watching the Fox network shows the real world what is being said in Conservativeland. The day before the president announced the deal, far-far-right Charles Krauthammer said that Obama should get a climate agreement with China. He said, “If we get one with China we have something real.” The week before, Krauthammer said, “If [President Obama] gets an agreement with China, which he won’t, but that’s the one area it would be historic.”

Immediately after the announcement from the president about the deal, Fox and Friends host Steve Doocy asked Fox Business’ Maria Bartiromo, “Is the agreement just a sign that China has a hold on us?” She said that the president is giving China a pass on important issues such as cyber attacks, bootleg software, and handbags. Doocy joined the China- and Obama-bashing. “You want to talk about climate change? First let’s talk about how you’re stealing everything from us!”

Later Doocy slipped when he said that China’s participation in cutting emissions might clean the air so “they might be able to breathe for the first time.” Bartiromo brought him back to the Fox message that cleaning air doesn’t mean cleaner air.

Fox Business commentator Stuart Varney led with “Climate Deal with China Blasted as ‘War on Coal.” He listed the year of 2030 as the peak in China’s carbon emissions as “a total cave on the part of President Obama.” Both Doocy and Varney blamed China for all the pollution. In addition to the U.S. history of emitting more pollution, we have only one-fourth the population as China but still produce almost the same emissions.

Reporter Ben Adler gave four reasons that the Republicans are in such a snit about the president’s climate deal with China:

President Obama shows that he’s not backing down on the climate issue, even after the GOP thinks its in control.

The GOP loses its “we can’t do anything because China won’t” argument

The deal is another death knell for the coal industry after China seems to want to see their sky rather than export coal.

The Republicans’ increasing isolation makes them appear increasingly foolish. Only the European Union has led the U.S. in carbon regulation until now. China’s decision might draw in other countries, leaving only Russia on the conservatives’ side.

 

Foolishness doesn’t concern Republicans, however. Almost two-thirds of them would rather destroy the country than have anything to do with the current president. After the election, 62 percent of Republicans said in a Pew Research poll that they didn’t want the Republican leaders to work with the president at all. This followed all the verbiage from next year’s GOP leaders that they were ready to “compromise.”

Satirist Andy Borowitz has a humorous—but accurate—take on the position of Republicans in Congress:

“President Obama is under increasing pressure to work closely and coöperatively with a group of people who are suing him in federal court, the people suing him confirmed today.

“ ‘Over the past six years, President Obama has been stubborn, arrogant, and oppositional,” John Boehner, the Republican Speaker of the House, said. “His refusal to work with people who are suing him is just the latest example.’

“Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, echoed the Speaker’s criticism, adding, ‘Time and time again, the President has refused to pick up the phone and talk to me, despite my saying that I was doing everything in my power to make him a one-term President.’

140316003WM001_BOEHNER_AND_ [The country’s new leaders: Boehner (left) and McConnell (right)]

“Other members of the G.O.P. caucus blasted the President for being aloof and frosty to Republicans who had questioned his American citizenship, the authenticity of his birth certificate, and the legitimacy of his Presidency. ‘That’s no way to get things done,’ Senator James Inhofe, of Oklahoma, said. ‘He’s got a real attitude.’

“Boehner concluded his comments, however, with an olive branch of sorts for Obama. ‘Mr. President, we Republicans are eager to sit across the table from you and get to work for the American people,’ he said. “Otherwise, get ready to be impeached.’ ”

Borowitz summarized the GOP position about China with the first sentence of today’s column:

“The election of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as the Senate Majority Leader was announced on Thursday by a puff of toxic black coal smoke rising from the United States Capitol.”

Borowitz is right. We will surely see far more toxins in the environment with the GOP in control of Congress.

November 12, 2014

Texas Refuses to Follow Vote of the People

Elections have consequences. Republicans are very fond of saying this, but they rarely accept the “will of the people.” The November 4 election that swept more GOP candidates into the U.S. Senate also made Denton the first city in Texas to ban fracking by a 59-percent majority. Voters did this in the midst of the Barnett Shale basin where the “father of fracking,” George Mitchell drilled the first sample wells for his company, Mitchell Energy. Immediately, the Texas General Land Office and the Texas Oil and Gas Association filed lawsuits to stop the ban.

The incoming land commissioner is George P. Bush, latest in the Bush dynasty to be connected to the oil industry. The legal complaint was filed by the firm Baker Botts; James A. Baker III, a partner at the firm gave P. Bush $10,000 for his campaign. (His race was also funded by hundreds of thousands of dollars from other companies in the oil and gas industry.) Co-counsel in the lawsuit has close ties with the Texas Supreme Court and Justice Antonin Scalia. P. Bush’s father, Jeb Bush, works for Britton Hill Holdings which has investments in a fracking company.

Denton has company in banning fracking. It was one of four bans approved this month—two in California and one in Athens (OH). The Texas town may be the only place, however, where the state blithely ignores the decision of voters. Christi Craddick, the chief regulator for the oil and gas industries in Texas, will override the vote:

 “It’s my job to give permits, not Denton’s. We’re going to continue permitting up there because that’s my job.”

It’s also Craddick’s job to deny permits when warranted. Denton has one of the most mined cities in all of Texas: corporations have pumped more than $1 billion in gas from underneath the town. The campaign to keep fracking brought in over 30 times as much as the frack-banning position, $685,000 to $24,000. The massive donations from frackers make Craddick look foolish when she claimed that voters were too “misinformed” on the subject to be able to cast a vote.

Frackers declare that no one can prove that their industry is causing the pollution and health problems, but scientists have developed a way to identify when fracking wastes results in environmental contamination through tracking isotopic fingerprints of boron and lithium. The new science reveals that fracking has caused far more risks of drinking water contamination from this wastewater even after the water is treated. In 2012, fracking wells in the United States produced 280 billion gallons of wastewater, a horrifying statistic because over 55 percent of fracked wells are in drought areas.

Large corporations have attempted to keep the locations of their fracking wells secret so people cannot blame them for illness and death. Researchers on health are now obtaining this information from SkyTruth, a West Virginia nonprofit that uses satellite and aerial imagery to study the environmental impacts of oil- and gas-drilling, deforestation, mining, etc. The company has discovered 500 new fracking ponds in just Pennsylvania, up from 11 in less than a decade.

Frackers have illegally dumped almost 3 billion gallons of wastewater through at least nine injection disposal wells into central California aquifers that supply drinking water and farming irrigation, resulting in high levels of arsenic, thallium, and nitrates. Thallium is used in rat poison, and arsenic compromises the immune system’s ability to fight illness and causes cancer. Benzene, toluene, and other harmful chemicals is found at levels hundreds of times higher than what is considered safe. California has an estimated 2,583 wastewater injection wells; 1,552 are currently active.

The flowback water can also be dangerously radioactive, as can the sludge left over from drilling. Last summer, Pennsylvania was scheduled to ship its old drilling sludge to Michigan, home to 84 percent of the nation’s fresh water supply. On the other hand, Ohio just hands out permits to put all the radioactive sludge in instate dumps.

A study in September found that people near fracking wells are twice as likely to have upper-respiratory and skin problems. Earlier studies connect fracking to birth defects, higher lung disease risks, and elevated endocrine-disrupting chemical activity in groundwater.

The health impact on people also hits agriculture, causing concerns about food safety. Animals infected by toxins can pass those along through meat, milk, and eggs. In one study, half the cattle exposed to a contaminated water source died, 17 of them within one hour. Necropsies found lesions in the lung, trachea, liver and kidneys. A high incidence of stillborn and stunted calves occurred in the other half. The same number of cattle with no exposure in another pasture had no health or growth problems. High salinity in wastewater threatens crops and farming soil.

A new study has also found contaminated water from defective well production in Texas and Pennsylvania. Instead of blaming the wastewater, researchers said that the leakage comes from faulty cement casing on the wells. The newest wells, especially in northwestern Pennsylvania, provide the biggest risks. The higher failure rate may be the longer horizontal distances that puts pressure on the casings. In September, Pennsylvania released information about 243 cases of contamination of private drinking wells from fracking in 22 counties after the state Supreme Court ordered that this information be made public. In the same month, state health experts claimed that the Department of Health was telling employees not to talk to residents about fracking-related health effects.

Other scientists have discovered much greater methane emissions from fracking than the EPA previously disclosed. By 2015, the EPA will require drillers to capture methane in the completion process and turn it into liquid that can then be sold. Methane in this stage of fracking fell 73 percent. Unfortunately, the EPA reported that emissions at other stages of fracking significantly increased, and scientists found that the natural gas methane leakage is much greater than the EPA estimates. Methane is several dozen times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

New research also shows a much greater connection between fracking and earthquakes than earlier realized. Although fracking itself may not be a great cause, a large number of them—and those of greater magnitude—are caused by wastewater injection. In early October 2013, after fracking began in Harrison County (OH) almost 200 quakes occurred in just two days. The number of quakes diminished after fracking ended. The same thing happened in the Youngstown/Mahoning Valley region after fracking started there.

Frackers are also destroying the environment by mining sand.  One single well demands 4 million pounds of sand, precisely Northern White sand. Residents in Wisconsin and Minnesota now suffer truck traffic, silica dust, and breathing problems. The dust causes silicosis, swelling in the lungs and lymph nodes that restricts breathing. Not satisfied with the 4 million pounds per well, the industry is using extra sand because the U.S. Commerce Department lets it export unrefined ultralight oil. Individual mining operations also require between 420 thousand and 2 million gallons of water each day. A by-product of the mining is acrylamide, a carcinogenic neurotoxin.

The industry plans to expand sand mining into Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, and Virginia. A by-product of the mining is acrylamide, a carcinogenic neurotoxin. Real estate values near sand mines can drop in value as much as 25 percent, and residents have to pay higher taxes for the destruction of the roads.

The group that claims it’s trying to prevent cancer, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, is partnering with fossil fuel firms that cause cancer on a breast cancer awareness campaign. Baker Hughes plans to distribute 1,000 pink drill bits to heighten awareness of cancer. The company is also donating $100,000 for a “yearlong partnership.” A spokeswoman at the Komen Foundation denies that there’s any connection between fracking and breast cancer.

pinkdrill_0Anyone who complains about the effects of fracking may be sued. The fracking company Range Resources is suing Steve Lipsky for $3 million because of his film in which he lights his water on fire. Range claims that he has defamed its reputation for environmental stewardship. The case of free speech v. big business goes to the Texas Supreme Court on December 4. Range has already settled with a family near Pittsburgh for $750,000 after they agreed that they would not say anything negative about the corporation or the entire gas formation, the Marcellus Shale. Last year, the town board of Sanford (NY) stopped any discussion about fracking at its public meetings before a lawsuit made them withdraw their order. Anti-fracking activist Vera Scoggins was barred from any Cabot Oil & Gas property that includes friends’ homes, a hospital, malls, and grocery stores—40 percent of the county.

Fracking creates illness and death, makes land unsafe, causes water shortages, raises prices for food, lowers real estate value, and destroys the infrastructure while big corporations buy off supposedly philanthropic organizations and stop free speech. Welcome to the United Corporations of America.

November 11, 2014

Veterans Day 2014: Plight of Vets, Drumbeats of War

Filed under: Foreign policy — trp2011 @ 7:48 PM
Tags: , , ,

On Veterans Day 2014 in the United States:

The U.S. has approximately 22 million veterans. In 2013, 11.6 percent of them were female.

About 2.6 million veterans are from the post-9/11 time.

In October 4.5 percent of veterans were unemployed with Iraq and Afghanistan male veterans having a 7.2 percent unemployment rate, compared to the national rate of 5.4 percent. For women, the unemployment rate was 11.2 percent, five points higher than it was for men.

About 14 percent of service members previously deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan reported symptoms of probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

An estimated 22 veterans committed suicide each day in 2010, but this number may be underreported. The suicide rate of male veterans younger than age 30 increased by 44 percent between 2009 and 2011.

Last January about 49,933 veterans were homeless with young homeless veterans double the number of non-veterans of the same age. In 2013, veterans made up 12 percent of all homeless adults.

In 2010, about 788,000 veterans were diagnosed with a substance abuse disorder at a VA medical center.

In fiscal 2013, 4,113 service members reported experiencing sexual assault during their service, but this number is seriously underreported. In FY 2012, the number of service members experiencing sexual assault was approximately 26,000. In 2012, 1 in 5 female veterans told the VA they had experienced sexual abuse in the military.

In 2013, 3.6 veterans had a disability because of disease or injury incurred or aggravated during their military service.

Of the 1.4 million active military members, 14.5 percent are women. One-third of VA medical centers have no gynecologist or staff to provide treatment for female veterans who have experienced sexual trauma in the military.

For a few days, it appeared that there would be more veterans added to the above statistics after President Obama announced he would put another 3,000 boots on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan—1,500 people to fill these boots who bring the total to 3,200. The president then announced that these people won’t be heading to the Middle East until Congress approves the $5.6 billion to pay for the deployment. With 15 days left in the Congressional year, they may decide that there is no time to vote on this request. Congressional members are definitely dragging their heels.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Buck McKeon (R-CA) said that he thought the president’s strategy for defeating ISIL was insufficient. The GOP has been pushing for the president to do something, but they won’t give him money to do anything because it’s not enough.  The funding would be targeted to work with training Iraqi forces in Anbar, Diyala, Erbil and Baghdad provinces.

“Sufficient” mostly likely means bombing countries. People who talk about the violence in Islamic countries fail to follow the violence of the United States toward the countries and their residents. Those who think that we can defeat ISIL with bombing and a few boots on the ground should consider the countries that the United States has invaded, occupied, bombed, or all three and where U.S. soldiers have killed or been killed. This chronology goes back less than 35 years.

Iran (1980, 1987-1988); Libya (1981, 1986, 1989, 2011); Lebanon (1983); Kuwait (1991); Iraq (1991-2011, 2014-); Somalia (1992-1993, 2007-); Bosnia (1995); Saudi Arabia (1991, 1996); Afghanistan (1998, 2001-); Sudan (1998); Kosovo (1999); Yemen (2000, 2002-); Pakistan (2004-); and Syria (2014-).

The initiation of bombing Syria two months ago makes the seventh predominantly Muslim country that the U.S. bombed during President Obama’s term. These figures include the bombing of the Muslim minority in the Philippines. President Obama was the fourth consecutive U.S. president to order bombings in Iraq. All this happens while conservatives debate impeaching the president or have hysterics after one person dies of a disease in the United States. The term “collateral damage”—meaning that bombs killed lots of civilians—has desensitized almost everyone in this nation.

The above count of bombings was provided in a Washington Post op-ed by military historian and former U.S. Army Col. Andrew Bacevich. He left out bombings and occupations of still other predominantly Muslim countries by key U.S. allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia that received crucial U.S. support. It also omits coups against democratically elected governments, torture, and imprisonment of people with no charges as well all the other bombing and invading and occupying that the U.S. has carried out during these 35 years in other parts of the world, including Central America and the Caribbean, as well as various proxy wars in Africa.

The Pentagon foresees the current campaign as lasting for years. It’s already lasted for almost 35 years after the U.S. went into “east of Suez” when the British withdrew at the same time as the revolution in Iran and the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan. At that time, the U.S. admitted that oil was the reason. Attempts to assist stability in the area led to the opposite result, and in the name of freedom, democracy, and human rights, the U.S. has produced chaos betting that the end result will be order.

As Bacevich wrote:

“Back in Vietnam, this was known as burning down the village to save it. In the Greater Middle East, it has meant dismantling a country with the aim of erecting something more preferable—‘regime change’ as a prelude to ‘nation building.’ Unfortunately, the United States has proved considerably more adept at the former than the latter.

“Mostly, coercive regime change has produced power vacuums. Iraq offers a glaring example. Although studiously ignored by Washington, post-Gaddafi Libya offers a second. And unless the gods are in an exceptionally generous mood, Afghanistan will probably become a third whenever U.S. and NATO combat troops finally depart.”

ISIL wants the same caliphate that Osama bin Laden planned. There is no opposition from within the country because the Iraqi army that the U.S. put into power won’t fight and the Iraqi government the U.S. put into power doesn’t govern (much like the present situation in the United States today.)

 

President Obama did not create the current situation, but he’s caught in the aftermath of the ongoing U.S. violence. Trying to continue the Middle East misadventure will not solve anything. After driving out a militant group in Iraq over a decade ago, the country failed to achieve harmony. Suppressing the problems led to other manifestations because another Islamic state was waiting, just as it is now. The president has learned that invading and occupying doesn’t work; he will teach his successor that bombing and commando raids won’t work either. There’s always Jordan or a return to another country such as Libya or Yemen.

 

All we’ve ever wanted in the Middle East was oil, and the United States is now producing its own. Unfortunately, the U.S. has begun to send oil to other countries after a 40-year ban on oil exports. The claim that the U.S. needs the Keystone XL pipeline for more oil in the country is false; Koch brothers, the largest U.S. lease holder of the tar sands in Alberta (Canada), wants to use the United States as a conduit to refineries before sending the product off to other countries such as China.

 

We don’t need to create more disasters in the Middle East, but huge corporations that control members of Congress will make sure that we do so that they can control the countries with oil regardless of the fatalities. At the same time, war-mongering Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) will lead the new GOP senate majority into more war.  Six years ago, when asked about leaving troops in Iraq for 50 years, he responded, “Make it a hundred.”

The GOP hawks are also getting support from George W. Bush as he tries to build sales for his new book, 41. In an interview with Bob Schieffer, George W. Bush said something that he will repeat like a drum beat within the next months:

 

“I think it was the right decision [to go into Iraq]. My regret is that…a violent group of people have risen up again. This is ‘Al Qaeda plus’…they need to be defeated. And I hope we do…I hope the strategy works.”

 

That’s Veterans Day on 2014 as the United States heads back into war.

November 10, 2014

Dress Codes Help Perpetuate a Culture of Rape

This op-ed piece in today’s Register-Guard (Eugene, OR) gives me hope for the next generation: From Pearl Cutting, a junior at North Eugene High School who attended Kelly Middle School:

“All shirts must have sleeves that fully cover undergarments at all times. Crop tops, halter tops, bare midriff, spaghetti straps or strapless shirts are not permitted. When sitting or standing, the shirt must meet or cover the top of the pants, shorts, or skirt at all times. The neckline of shirts must be no lower than three inches from the bottom of the collarbone or show no cleavage.”

This is the “Shirts” section of Kelly Middle School’s dress code, which is similar to the codes of many high schools and middle schools in the United States. Of course, these policies are meant “to minimize distractions from the learning environment,” as the Kelly Middle School Code states.

As we all know, girls and boys wear different clothes and Kelly’s regulations generally apply only to clothing females would wear. According to this section of the dress code, the female body is a “distraction” that keeps the boys from learning with their darn distracting skin.

Oh, no — what would happen if a boy were to see a girls “undergarments” or cleavage? Heaven forbid that males become aware of females having breasts or wearing bras!

The “Pants, Skirts, and Shorts” section states that pants must not have rips or holes. Short running shorts are not permitted. Yoga pants, tights and leggings are not permitted unless they are worn under a dress or skirt of appropriate length. Skirts should be no shorter than three inches from the top of the knee. Leggings may be worn only with skirts and dresses meeting length requirements. Shorts must have an inseam of at least four inches. Any pants, shorts or skirts that look like pajama bottoms or boxer shorts are unacceptable. Pants and shorts must not sag, and underwear must not be visible. OK, these seem sensible. This section, unlike the previous one, contains rules that apply to both genders.

However, the regulations for clothing that a male would wear are all about looking neat and tidy, while the rules for females are once again all about showing skin. Girls can not wear normal-length shorts or borderline short skirts. Is a leg really that much of a threat to a learning environment?

These regulations are enforced in basic school settings. Students grow up with these taboos ingrained into their brains. Creating all these rules about what females can and cannot wear grossly oversexualizes and exploits their bodies. If you do not allow females to show their legs, a leg suddenly becomes sexual — even though both genders have legs. If the same is done with a bra, immediately undergarments and breasts become grossly exploited.

If dress codes were based in an acceptance of the physical differences in boys and girls, students would become accepting of these differences as well, which would lead to the world’s future adults respecting and accepting each others’ differences.

These issues affect not only me, but all females: “Did you see what she was wearing? She was asking for it.” The epidemic of rape affects all females, even if they have not been victims. All females have been in situations where they have felt the potential of an assault by a male. Even if the assault does not happen, the fact that females feel uncomfortable in certain settings with males demonstrates that all females are aware of the looming possibility.

Starting with school dress codes, people are trained to blame the victim when their bodies are being exploited. Dress codes teach that a woman’s body is sexual, and if she is breaking the code, she is “asking for” verbal or physical assault. This is how rape culture is perpetuated.

School is about learning: learning the class material, learning how to make friends, learning about oneself. If the rules at the school amount to saying “Boys: don’t dress like a homeless person” and “Girls: don’t distract the boys with your skin,” these policies are not making the world more equal — they are only creating ingrained misogyny and oversexualization of women in the minds of the world’s future adults.

These rules say that boys will be boys, we cannot change them, they are not the problem; girls are the problem, girls are distracting, they have to cover themselves up so the boys can focus. Instead of giving girls referrals for wearing shorts, maybe we should teach students that a leg is just a leg.

Thank you, Ms. Cutting!

November 9, 2014

Christians Attempt to Subsume Freedom in U.S.

When I write my weekly blog on religion, I worry that I’m obsessed with it. At least one newly-elected senator shows that I’m right to be worried about the growing flood of intolerant Christians.  For example, James Lankford, Oklahoma’s GOP senator-elect, who plans to use his Christian bible to make decisions:

“I look at Nehemiah and how he handled things when he stepped into Jerusalem. It was that the people were in disgrace and the wall was broken down, but the two things that he focused in on was the constructive side of things and the debt. Half of the Book of Nehemiah is just getting the people out of debt, so they could actually take on the other things.”

Think Progress gave the award for most extreme election winner to Colorado’s state senator Gordon Klingenschmitt with his history of attempting to run the country according to his personal Christian beliefs.

In a prayer “against the enemies of religious liberty”—anyone who disagrees with him–he said, “Let their days be few, and replace them with godly people. Plunder their fields and seize their assets. Cut off their descendants. And remember their sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.”

He blessed Lowes Home Improvement stores for stopping its advertising on the TV show All-American Muslim, which is nothing but Islamic propaganda.” According to Klingenschmitt, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act promotes beastiality, and “federal bureaucrats will enforce Obamacare to exterminate the elderly, systematically.” He tells everyone to get a gun, “sell your clothes and buy a gun.”

Klingenschmitt is big on exorcisms: “I said, “You foul spirit of lesbianism, this woman has renounced you, come out of her in Jesus’ name,’ and she began to wrestle with that and suddenly her eyes began to bug out and then she began to weep, and weep, and weep as the Holy Spirit forgave her sins.” He also performed one on President Obama long-distance on his television show when he tried to remove “the demon of tyranny who is using the White House occupant … to oppress us.” In his book, The Demons of Barack H.Obama, Klingenschmitt claims he discovered fifty demons “ruling” Obama , including the dark spirits of “sexual abuse,” “genocide,” “paganism,” “witchcraft,” and “homosexual lust.” Klingenschitt’s overriding policy is that “only people who are going to heaven are entitled to equal treatment by the government.”

Another example of the merging of church and state is Ava Maria (FL), billed as a utopia where kids are safe, neighbors are friends, and life is good. Created in 2005 by Domino Pizza’s founder, Tom Monahan with Barron Collier companies, it’s a place where then-governor and possible future presidential candidate Jeb Bush described it as “a new kind of town where like-minded people live in harmony between faith and freedom.” That’s because Monahan intends to create the city “according to strict Roman Catholic principles”—no sale of pornography, any contraception (including condoms), and X-rated channels on cable TV. Monahan also created the Ave Maria University and the Ave Maria School of Law where Justice Antonin Scalia had “significant input” in the law school’s curriculum.

The ACLU started paying attention to the religious control of Ave Maria when Naples Community Hospital negotiated with Ave Maria to open offices in the town. That process brought the questions that all Catholic control brings: would the hospital respect an order of Do Not Resuscitate? what advice and referrals would a rape victim get? would she get information about abortion of emergency contraceptives? Eventually Ave Maria did not get a Naples Community Hospital satellite because the health center refused to restrict the availability of birth control, abortion, and abortion referrals.

As Rob Boston of Americans United for Separation of Church and State pointed out, Ave Maria is not an anomaly. Among insular religious communities attempt in the U.S. are Zion (IL), founded in 1901; Rehoboth (DE), founded in 1873; and Ocean Grove (NJ), founded in 1869. Although these municipalities are now secular, other such as Kiryas Joel (NY), Hildale (UT), and Colorado City (AZ) still exert religious authority over their residents.

“Historically,” Boston adds, “one of two things typically happens in places run by religious denominations. First, outsiders often move in and change the character of the area. Secondly, these communities tend to be riven by internal dissent.” In Hildale and Colorado City, run by polygamist Warren Jeffs before his 2010 imprisonment on child endangerment and sexual abuse charges, so-called “outsiders” have had to contact the FBI and Department of Justice because they were denied housing and public utilities.

Police in another Utah town, St. George, closed down a party because people were dancing without the permission of the city council. Organizer Jared Keddington had even gotten a permit from the council, but the police said that it was missing pages that Jeddington had not received that stated the party could not allow “random acts of dancing by patrons.”

Kiryas Joel, 50 miles north of New York City, is an enclave of over 22,000 Hasidic Jews. The New York ACLU learned in late 2012 that the town planned to make a public 283-acre park into a sex-segregated play area restricting boys and girls according to the town leaders’ religious law. Fifteen months later the suit was dropped after the town removed signs mandating the separation of genders.

Frederick Clarkson, senior fellow at Political Research Associates, quoted Thomas Jefferson when he talked about whether a town can take away individual rights: “Are you as free to go out of a church as you are to go into one? Or are you a captive of the company store?”

Determined to keep students ignorant, the Gilbert School District in Arizona voted 3-2 to tear out pages from the biology book used in the schools Advanced Placement curriculum. The offending portion of the textbook describes methods of contraception and includes Mifepristone, also called RU486, that can terminate pregnancies in their early stages. Members of the conservative Alliance Defending Freedom objected to this information and claimed that it violated a state law requiring schools to emphasize childbirth and adoption over adoption. One of the minority said that the textbook “discussed biological principles and in a very understandable way.”

The ACLU protested the censorship, and a state Department of Education official agreed that the textbook doesn’t violate the law. Texas also wants censorship about climate change, affirmative change, and segregation while trying to teach students that Moses inspired modern American democracy. Last year, the Kentucky governor used an executive order to provide accurate science standards in public schools after the legislature tried to do away with these.

Actions in West High School in Tracy (CA) invite a challenge to school policies. Assigned to lead the school in the Pledge of Allegiance, Derek Giardina, 17, received detention and a considerably lowered grade after he omitted the words “under God,” added to the Pledge in 1954. A California high school is practically begging to be sued in court after school officials punished a student for reciting the Pledge of Allegiance without the words “under God.” The school demanded the “traditional way,” used for less than half the time since a Christian Socialist wrote the Pledge in 1892.

Arizona’s GOP Rep.Trent Franks has also gained notoriety by warning that ISIS will succeed because “the secular left” in the United States is diluting the country’s Christian heritage. He claims that secularism is telling people in the United States that they can’t wear crosses, say “God bless you,” and show Bibles. According to Franks, a lawsuit is trying to take religious icons from tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery. In fact, the United States government has approved 65 religious symbols for engraving on markers in national veterans’ cemeteries.

In a reversal of Christian beliefs in Florida, even Jesus would be arrested in Fort Lauderdale if he tried to hand out loaves and fishes. Ninety-year-old Arnold Abbott was arrested and is facing 60 days in jail and a $500 fine for giving food to homeless people. This didn’t stop the man who has been giving food to the homeless for 23 years; he was back, doing the same thing, after his arrest. As Stephen Colbert pointed out on his show, this is the same town where police ignore college students drinking, puking, and partying with abandon every spring.

Neo-Confederates in Mississippi, the poorest state in the Union, are trying to declare the state Christian and English-only, designate “Dixie” as the official state song, and require preservation of Confederate symbols at the University of Mississippi. The proposed initiative also establishes a Confederate History Month and a Confederate Memorial Day. Its rationale is that “the Holy Bible is acknowledged as a foremost source of her founding principles, inspiration, and virtues. Accordingly, prayer is acknowledged as a respected, meaningful, and valuable custom of her citizens.”

Meanwhile, a federal district court in Oregon has declared that Secular Humanism is a religion, defined as “an ethical and life-affirming philosophy free of belief in any gods and other supernatural forces.” Humanism may end up the same special rights as traditional religions. California’s West High School might want to take notice.

November 8, 2014

GOP Candidates Elected; Ebola Gone

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 7:57 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Remember when the word “Ebola” dominated the media? When the disease had top billing on Sunday talk shows for an entire month and the conservatives accused President Obama of weak leadership?

House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) said on Fox that the government was going to import Ebola patients.

Nick Muzin, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Ted Cruz, tweeted, “Before Obamacare, there had never been a confirmed case of Ebola in the U.S.”

Scott Brown said that Ebola would never have happened if Mitt Romney were president.

Caregivers for Ebola patients in the U.S. were allowed to go home from the hospital, but a nurse, who showed no symptoms of the disease but had cared for them in Africa (a country, according to Laura Ingraham), was pilloried when she dared leave the house for a bicycle ride in the Maine countryside.

What should President Obama have done, according to the conservatives? Perhaps the actions of Saint Reagan could give us a clue. AIDS is very similar to Ebola: both are caused by viruses that originated in Africa, have high mortality rates with no effective cure, and are difficult to contract. Ebola can be passed only by bodily fluids of an infected person actively displaying the disease’s symptoms, unlike AIDS which can be passed by a person who is not showing symptoms.

In 1981, the first 41 cases of AIDS were diagnosed in the United States, but Ronald Reagan, president during most of the 1980s, didn’t mention the word until six years later after over 40,000 people in this nation had died of the disease. When Reagan did start to talk about AIDS, he told schools and parents to teach children “moral” choices rather than look to the government for help. Reagan’s press secretary, Larry Speakes, did use the word, but he laughed his way through several press conferences about it. Thanks to Saint Reagan’s lack of leadership, over 636,000 people have died of AIDS since he became president.

The parallels of Ebola and AIDS continue. Conservative politicians and the media whip up hysteria directed toward stigmatized victims, primarily blacks and those who provide humanitarian care.  The same people call for travel bans, just as Sen. Jesse Helms (R-NC) did in the 1980s, with no distinction regarding which countries had Ebola outbreaks. Only people in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea have Ebola, but conservatives want automatic quarantines for everyone who travel from the entire continent. Helms’ ban on HIV-infected travelers in 1987 was lifted only four years ago.

Fox helped get the Republicans elected with Ebola. Before the election, Ben Carson, now an official 2016 presidential candidate, warned that lab workers could sell Ebola-tainted urine. Fox’s Peter Johnson, Jr. blamed the federal grant structure for limiting the treatment drug for Ebola and said the shortage was “a poor example of federal government intervention.” The president requested $6.2 billion for Ebola prevention. Now Fox accuses him of exploiting the “sense of danger” which Betsy McCaughey calls “a man-made problem.”

http://thehill.com/policy/healthcare/220506-mccain-calls-for-ebola-czar  A popular solution from conservatives to save the country from the disease that killed one person is to have someone “who’s in charge.” Almost four weeks ago Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) called for an Ebola “czar” on CNN’s State of the Union. He and his fellow conservatives have done a 180-degree turn on the president’s lead officials, earlier accusing President Obama of having “more czars than the Romanovs — who ruled Russia for 3 centuries.”

Yet Senate Republicans have obstructed the confirmation of the president’s nominee for surgeon general. Dr. Vivek Murthy has impeccable credentials in Boston-area hospitals, worked in clinical-trial operations involved with Merck, and started health programs in India including an HIV/AIDS youth education program. George W. Bush’s former Surgeon General described Murthy as “superbly” qualified for the post, pointing to his “impressive track record of accomplishments,”  and the executive director of the American Public Health Association declared that Murthy is “clearly qualified to succeed” in all of the major roles of the Surgeon General.

Senators won’t confirm Murthy because the NRA opposes him. Several years ago, he said that gun violence is a public-health issue, understandable because it affects the health of hundreds of thousands of people. Most medical professionals agree with Murthy. The president nominated Murthy for Surgeon General almost exactly one year ago, but the Senate refuses to act.

After two people in the United States showed symptoms of Ebola, the president bowed to GOP demands and appointed Ron Klain as the policy coordinator for the federal response to the virus—in short, the “czar.” GOP members erupted with massive criticisms. Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) was furious that Klain didn’t take off his second full day on the job to go talk to the Oversight Committee. Chaffetz demanded that a doctor be appointed to field the federal bureaucracy in different government agencies, an odd request because conservatives ignored everything that doctors said about Ebola. If Chaffetz really wants a doctor to guide the health issues of the country, he should talk to the intransigent GOP senators.

Rep. Dennis Ross (R-FL) planned to save the United States with a law that would “ban travel between the U.S. and West African countries.” A reporter pointed out that there are no direct flights between the U.S. and West Africa. Ross couldn’t believe it. He also probably couldn’t believe that recent travel bans failed to block viruses such as SARS and H1N1 (“swine flu”) into the U.S.

Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC), the man who shouted “you lie” at the president during his State of the Union speech, thinks that the Hamas will infect themselves with Ebola and come to the United States. Hamas isn’t our enemy, and they aren’t allies with ISIL who is. As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and the House Armed Services Committee, Wilson should learn that.

Vaccination against Ebola hadn’t been develop because the U.S. had no cases. Throughout the past years, the GOP has decreased funding for research because they wanted the money to decimate the Middle East. The National Institutes of Health has lost 23 percent of its funding during the past decade. The chart below shows the vanishing funding since 2006.

Public-Health-Funding.0

Even with the current fear—or at least the fear before the election—the pro-life movement will do everything to stop the use of two potential vaccines. Children of God for Life opposes the use of fetal stem cells for this purpose. Their role is to protect stem cells of aborted fetuses so that thousands of people can die. This organization is actually opposed to all vaccines because of their belief that they lead to autism. They have company from people who fail to understand that mass production of vaccines for West Africa would stop the disease there, thereby preventing the possibility that it will come to this country.

Even crazier than the pro-life opposition is Fox’s resident psychiatrist, Keith Ablow, who claims that the president’s loyalty is to his people in Africa and the president wants to bring Ebola into the U.S. as a punishment for past evils perpetrated against Africa. According to Ablow, “[President Obama] has it in for us.”

Ablow went even farther to say that 9/11, seven years before the current president was first elected, made the nation afraid of brown people so we elected one as “a shield” with the hope that we wouldn’t be attacked again if one of them with “names very similar to two of our archenemies” led the country.

All the GOP legislators have ignored the fact that Ebola first came into the U.S. in Texas, the state with the highest rate of uninsured (one-fourth of the residents) and that the ACA Medicaid. Uninsured people are less likely to seek medical care for flu-like symptoms even if they might have been exposed to Ebola. Texas also has the least consumer-friendly medical malpractices laws. It was in Texas that the first U.S. borne case was contracted by a healthcare worker in a hospital that failed to follow the CDC protocol for containing Ebola. Officials at the hospital ignored the fact that the man who died of Ebola had a high fever when he went for health care and that he had recently traveled from West Africa.

Annual causes of death in the United States: tobacco-related – 450,000; obesity-related – 300,000; alcohol-related – 88,000; firearms-related – 32,000; staff infection MRSA – 18,000; AIDS – 16,000; Ebola – 1.

Ebola isn’t a problem any more, though, because the election is over for another two years.

November 7, 2014

Obamacare, Marriage Equality at Risk

The voters—or lack of them—have done their damage to the federal legislative branch, and the Supreme Court has decided to see what disaster they can wreak. Today, at least four justices decided to take on a review of King v. Burwell, a case similar to Halbig v. Burwell. Because of sloppy drafting, the ACA law was left with contradictory statements after two chambers agreed on the changes. One provision limits subsidies to “an exchange established by the state,” but the law allows the federal government to run exchanges in states that do not have them. If the Supreme Court were to rule in the former terminology, at least 5 million people would see the cost of their insurance to skyrocket above what they could afford, disenfranchising them in the same way that people lost the right to vote in the most recent election.

ACA states that when a state doesn’t set up its own marketplace, the federal government “shall establish and operate such exchange.” The IRS issued a regulation allowing subsidies whether the exchange is run by a state or by the federal government. A few months ago, however, a conservative three-judge panel from the D.C. Circuit ruled in Halbig that the Obama Administration had rewritten the law and that Congress never intended to allow subsidies to people on a federal exchange.

 

On the same day, the 4th Circuit Court ruled in King in favor of a federal exchange. Judge Roger Gregory ruled that the law is ambiguous and therefore “applying deference to the IRS’s determination . . . we uphold the rule as a permissible exercise of the agency’s discretion. His precedent is a 1984 Supreme Court ruling in favor of Chevron giving agencies great deference in interpretations of laws. More recently, the Court ruled in Arlington v. FCC that agencies could define their own jurisdiction.

 

The D.C. Circuit decision is not final: Halbig is on en banc review with all the judges in that specific appeals court with argument set for December. Reversing the original ruling would leave no split in the circuit courts, yet the Supreme Court decided to take on the case before a lower-court ruling was made.

 

As Brian Beutler wrote in the New Republic, the four justices taking the case have changed a court into a death panel for people in 36 states. Their potential to void health care subsidies in three dozen states would cripple the insurance market and kill people who couldn’t afford insurance. Placing the onus on red states for health care would be worse than the current situation in which these states refuse to allow the federal government to provide Medicaid for most of the poor residents.

 

Many articles about the problem, particularly ones from conservative writers, broadly quote Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University, as an expert who opposes ACA. Adler, who has tie-ins with the Heartland and Cato Institutes, is making a name for himself with the inconsistencies he discovered in the drafting of ACA. Case Western Reserve law school is ranked 64th in the nation.

 

The Supreme Court is also likely to address the issue of marriage equality after the 6th Circuit Court determined that Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee can continue to ban same-sex marriage. The court waited three months after arguments to release its opinion. Earlier this year, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg had said that the high court would probably not hear any marriage equality cases unless a split on decisions from the circuit courts creates “some urgency” to resolve a circuit split. Now the 6th Circuit has done exactly that.

 

The panel striking down same-sex marriage included Judge Jeffrey Sutton, a former law clerk to Scalia and a George W. Bush appointee. Adler described another judge on the panel, Deborah Cook, as “not likely to recognize a constitutional right that the Supreme Court has not yet recognized.” In arguments Sutton called any problems caused by banning gays and lesbians from being married—such as not being able to get drivers’ licenses or adopt children—as an “inconvenience.” Only senior Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey seemed supportive of constitutional rights for LGBT people who cannot be legally married in the state where they live.

 

The panel ruled that same-sex couples can neither be married in its jurisdiction nor be considered married if they wed in a state where marriage equality is legal. It used the Supreme Court’s ruling upholding a state ban on same-sex marriage in the 42-year-old case, Baker v. Nelson (1972) and rejected any reasoning in other federal court rulings that struck down state bans. Sutton claimed that the rational foundations are to regulate sex between men and women to establish stable family relationships. Neither judge could find any hostility toward gays and lesbians in denying them the same marriage rights as heterosexuals have. The solution to marriage equality, according to Sutton’s opinion, is for gay rights advocates to achieve “greater acceptance” so that people will legalize it.

 

In his analysis of Sutton’s ruling, Mark Joseph Stern wrote:

 

“Instead of analyzing the 14th Amendment’s dual guarantees of liberty and equal protection, he simply states that gay people have no business fighting for their civil rights in court. After a while, Sutton’s repeated insistence that it’s not a federal judge’s duty to enforce the constitution makes you want to grab him by the shoulders and ask, then what in the world were you hired for?”

 

Stern described Daughtrey’s dissension as “a scorching, bitterly funny, profoundly humane excoriation of Sutton’s sophistry.” In her opening, she writes:

 

“The author of the majority opinion has drafted what would make an engrossing TED Talk or, possibly, an introductory lecture in Political Philosophy. But as an appellate court decision, it wholly fails to grapple with the relevant constitutional question in this appeal. … Instead, the majority sets up a false premise—that the question before us is “who should decide?”—and leads us through a largely irrelevant discourse on democracy and federalism. In point of fact, the real issue before us concerns what is at stake in these six cases for the individual plaintiffs and their children, and what should be done about it. Because I reject the majority’s resolution of these questions based on its invocation of vox populi and its reverence for ‘proceeding with caution’ (otherwise known as the ‘wait and see’ approach), I dissent.”

 

She continues by objection to Sutton’s opinion because he fails to view “the plaintiffs as persons” and instead perceives them as “mere abstractions” with no concern for the plaintiffs’ children. According to Daughtrey, the children of gays and lesbians are punished by the parents’ inferior status thrust on them by law from an irrational animus simply because they are gays and lesbians. Such a situation violates the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

 

In conclusion, she wrote:

 

“More than 20 years ago, when I took my oath of office … I solemnly swore to ‘administer justice without respect to persons,’ to ‘do equal right to the poor and to the rich,’ and to ‘faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me … under the Constitution and laws of the United States.’ If we in the judiciary do not have the authority, and indeed the responsibility, to right fundamental wrongs left excused by a majority of the electorate, our whole intricate, constitutional system of checks and balances, as well as the oaths to which we swore, prove to be nothing but shams.”

 

Even the conservative Washington Post found Sutton’s arguments to be “weak” and worse.

 

Rights for same-sex couples did advance in two states this week. On Tuesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals denied a request from the Kansas attorney general to stop same-sex marriages because doing so violated the equal-protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.  Kansas is appealing to the Supreme Court through Justice Sonia Sotomayor. In Missouri, U.S. District Judge Ortrie Smith struck down that state’s marriage ban but delayed his ruling pending appeals to either the 8th Circuit Court or the Supreme Court.

Smith wrote:

 

“There is no hardship in requiring that public officials adhere to the Constitution, and the public interest is always served when the Constitution is obeyed.”

 

Despite the delay, same-sex couples began getting licenses and married in St. Louis.

 

Before the Supreme Court decided Windsor v. United States, it was estimated that about 130,000 same-sex couples were married in the United States in a little over half the number of states that now have legalized marriage equality. That number must have doubled or tripled by now although no one is keeping statistics. If the Supreme Court rules that the people can decide to take away this right, many of these marriages could be dissolved because most of the 34 states recognizing same-sex marriage have done so through judicial or legislative action. These people will join the 7 million disenfranchised voters and the 5 million people losing health insurance. Such is the power of the “high court.”

November 5, 2014

Election Day 2014: The Bad, the Good, the Funny

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 10:50 PM
Tags: , , ,

A 34-year-old woman dropped her severely autistic six-year-old son over 100 feet off an historic bridge on the Oregon Coast on Election  Day eve. The mother, whose husband has MS and a brain tumor, lost her ability to cope. The boy’s body was found four hours later a mile east of the bridge. The entire community is devastated by this act by a woman who could no longer cope and fastened balloons and stuffed animals on the railing of the mile-long span. A volunteer with a crisis line said that there are few resources for a family in this situation.

Many people who live in the richest country of the world cannot fathom this kind of desperation; they believe that people in need can always find resources. They’re wrong. The political party that spent $3 trillion on a war to keep control of oil leaves little assistance for people like this woman. Yesterday these selfish people, who give all the nation’s resources to the wealthiest people and corporations, increased their control over decisions about how this wealthy country spends its money.

The GOP gained at least seven seats in the senate with Alaska’s Sen. Mark Begich waiting to concede until after the absentee ballots are counted and Sen. Mark Warner hanging on by a hair in Virginia. Louisiana’s Sen. Mary Landrieu goes into a runoff with her GOP opponent on December 6. States with new GOP senators at this time are West Virginia, Arkansas, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Iowa, and North Carolina. A Democrat may have taken Pennsylvania from GOP Gov. Tom Corbett, but three other states with Democratic governors lost to Republicans.

Oddities:

  • David Perdue, the man who has bragged about sending jobs offshore, will be the Georgia senator. In his acceptance speech, he said that he’ll focus on more jobs. He didn’t say where.
  • Pat Roberts, Virginia resident who lives in a recliner the few times he is in Kansas each year, kept his senate seat in that state.
  • George P. Bush won Texas land commissioner, becoming the first Bush in the dynasty to win his first election. H.W. lost a congressional election in 1964, and W. likewise in 1978. P.’s dad, Jeb, lost a bid for Florida in 1994.
  • Mitch McConnell was declared the winner in Kentucky just one minute after the polls closed. The Associated Press didn’t wait until any results came out. Did it know something about the election that the rest of us don’t?
  • Rep. Michael Grimm was reelected for his Staten Island congressional seat, despite his indictments on 20 counts for skimming $1 million from his former restaurant, mail and wire fraud, health care fraud, hiring undocumented workers, perjury and obstruction. He had also threatened a reporter by saying that he would “break you in half like a boy.”
  • Gov. Scott Walker is so pleased about his win that he’s already preening himself for a presidential run in two years.

Comments when Scott Brown lost his try to be senator of New Hampshire:

“The Constitution provides that every state has two Senators, but not every Senator has two states.”—Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)

“[Scott Brown is the] first person in American history to have lost a Senate race to two different women.”—Rachel Maddow

And I’ll add “to two different women in two different states.” Jon Stewart joked on last night’s The Daily Show that Vermont is building a wall to keep Brown from moving over there.

The GOP spent today trying to convince people that this election proves the death of liberalism. Conservative columnist and Fox pundit Charles Krauthammer has a habit of minimizing Democratic ascendancy and exaggerating the party’s losses. When the Dems won in 2008, he wrote, “If you want to generalize off of this week’s election, it’s a mistake.” We can say the same thing about the GOP wins yesterday.

Positive pieces of the election:

Despite tempting offers from the GOP, Sen. Angus King (I-ME) plans to continue working with Democrats. He said, “My independence has always been respected” in the Democratic caucus, and “it’s in Maine’s interest” to have a senator represented in both parties.

Kentucky’s legislature has remained blue—as they have since 1921–creating a problem for Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). His term is up in 2016, and he can’t run simultaneously for senator and president unless the state’s legislature changes the law stopping him from doing this. They refused before the election; the question is whether they’ll change his mind now.

The election of Democrat Alma Adams from North Carolina to the U.S. House makes her the 100th woman in Congress, the largest number in history. Currently, the Senate has 20 women, and the House has 79 women.

In my bright blue state of Oregon, the numbers are up for both the state House (17 – Dem, 12 – GOP, 1 undecided) and state Senate (35 – Dem, 25 – GOP). The governor is a Democrat as are four of the five U.S. House Representatives and both U.S. Senators. The state added an Equal Rights Amendment to its constitution, and a law mandating the labeling of GMO food is only 10,000 down, waiting for more results, despite being outspent by corporate naysayers by $12 million.

A nearby town just elected an all women city council and mayor, the latter being very progressive. The woman mayor of our town who has done amazing things to attract educational institutions during the past two years was re-elected.

In neighboring Washington state, people passed a gun safety law for extended background checks by 60 percent although five percent voted both for this and stopping any more background checks throughout the state. The Northwest is as positive in politics as it is in safety from dire consequences of climate change.

The awkward position for the GOP now is how they will resolve the problem between the ultra-conservative people elected and the progressive issues that they passed. Colorado and North Dakota both defeated personhood initiatives by two to one. Of the five states that passed increases in minimum wages, four are red states and at least two of them by two-to-1 votes: Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska, and South Carolina.

By a large margin, Missouri voters rejected a constitutional amendment to evaluate teachers based on test results and fire or demote them at will. People who vote in a progressive way won’t be pleased when their elected legislators ignore their wishes. Both Missouri and Montana defeated voter suppression measures.

The GOP might want to note the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for.” The GOP has had only one goal since Barack Obama was elected president—to take the Congress and wipe him out. They’re part of the way there. What now?  The party’s defacto leader, Rush Limbaugh, told listeners that Republicans “were not elected to govern” because their only purpose is to “stop Obama.” The conservative National Review agrees, warning Republicans about “the governing trap.”

The newest GOP members of Congress are not all Tea Partiers, but most of them lean that way. They’ve talked a good middle-of-the-road position but only to get elected. Now they can follow Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) as he tries to push his party toward impeaching the president. The end result of that will be tea-party-vs.-establishment lines. If the GOP proves that members can work with Democrats, it will hurt them in 2016. Thus their reasoning:

  1. Governing would require some compromise.
  2. Compromising makes you a “hostage,” which is unacceptable.
  3. Ergo, don’t try to govern.

The GOP has no interest whatsoever in helping the country. Its leaders just want the power to do whatever they want. With this massive intransigence, legislation can pass only when one party controls both the White House and the two chambers of Congress while maintaining over 60 members in the Senate to avoid filibusters. Without these advantages, the GOP moves to Plan B—play politics until you achieve total control.

My Portland has emailed me a note of “comfort”:

“I am glad Oregon passed the pot law so that now we can just smoke it for the next few years and forget about the f**king election results everywhere else in the country!!!  This country so sucks–once again the forces of evil (and utter stupidity) have prevailed.  Thank goodness for the northwest!!!! Please let Texas secede!!!!”

I’m going to watch the GOP avoid governing and see what they do about the internecine war within their troops.

November 3, 2014

Election 2014 Results Announced Tomorrow

Filed under: Elections — trp2011 @ 7:25 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

The NRA claims that it just wants to keep guns in the hands of people for hunting and an occasional protection from house break-ins. In the organization’s most recent issue of America’s 1st Freedom publication, Wayne LaPierre has gone over the edge in trying to terrify NRA members. He claims that people in the United States face these terrors:

  • An electromagnetic pulse attack (EMP) that can kill “as much as 90 percent of the population of the U.S.” through the reemergence of “Third World” diseases such as “amoebic dysentery, typhoid, [and] cholera–killing our youngest and frailest family members.”
  • A cyber attack that can put “our economy into a tailspin” and become “deadly” if hackers take over a dam or oil processing facility.
  • An attack “along the lines of the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, where terrorists launched a dozen coordinated attacks, gunning down innocent victims at hotels, a bar, a train station, a hospital and a movie theater,” killing 164 people.
  • An incident similar to a 2013 terrorist attack on a mall in Kenya where “[f]our armed terrorists linked to al Qaeda were able–thanks to Kenya’s strict anti-gun laws–to spend four days torturing, mutilating and gunning down shoppers with almost no fear of reprisal.”

Every proposed disaster—meteor strike, meteor strike, a solar flare, mall terrorists, crop failures, roving Mexican drug gangs—ends with the chance to kill people. The NRA wants gun-friendly candidates, not to have guns for hunting but to have weapons that give everyone the chance to kill people without government interference.

New Hampshire State GOP chairman Jennifer Horn calls for more GOP violence in describing its campaigning against Democrats:

 “This is our time. We need to crush it. We need to grab it, run with it, push their heads under over and over again until they cannot breathe anymore, until the elections are over Tuesday night.”

Sen. Rand Paul believes in voter suppression but wants the GOP candidates to stop talking about how they want to suppress minority and low-income voters’ input to their elected representatives:

 “It doesn’t mean that I think [photo ID is] unreasonable, I just think it’s a dumb idea for Republicans to emphasize this and say ‘this is how we are going to win the elections.”

On Face the Nation, Paul told Bob Schieffer, “I’m not really opposed to [voter ID laws]. I am opposed to it as a campaign theme.”

On the accuracy of the candidate polling for tomorrow’s election:

According to the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll, the two major political parties are almost neck-and-neck in which party should control Congress: 46 percent want the GOP to have the control, and 45 percent prefer the Democrats. Yet a poll of registered voters, Democrat control is four points ahead of the GOP: 46 percent to 42 percent. State-wide polling shows the same schism between likely and registered voters. In Iowa, Democrat Bruce Braley leads six points in the senate race against Joni Ernst but trails for two points among likely voters. Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan leads by two points with likely voters but by six points with registered voters.

For the Election Day poll-watching junkies, here are the closing times of polls across the United States:

Poll_closing_times_map_-_Nov._4__2014

There are some of the races that I’m watching:

6 PM ET: Kentucky – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell pitched against Alison Lundergan Grimes.

7 PM ET: Florida – incumbent Gov. Rick Scott against former GOP (now Democrat) Charlie Crist.

Georgia – Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Jason Carter, opposing incumbent Gov. Nathan Deal; Michelle Nunn trying to change one senate member to a Democrat over red, send-jobs-out-of-the-country David Perdue. A runoff is required if not one gets over 50 percent in these races.

New Hampshire – carpet-bagger and former MA senator, Scott Brown, trying to take out Democrat incumbent Jeanne Shaheen.

South Carolina- question of whether GOP incumbent Gov. Nikki Haley keeps her job.

7:30 PM ET: North Carolina – Democrat Sen. Kay Hagan working to keep her lead against Thom Tillis.

8 PM ET: Kansas – possibly the biggest upset in the nation if Democrats win against Gov. Sam Brownback and Sen. Pat Robertson. Part of the state won’t finish voting until an hour later.

Maine – A Democrat and moderate independent against incumbent GOP Gov. Paul LePage.

Massachusetts – Democrat Martha Coakley fighting to be the governor, a position that she’s lost before.

Michigan – GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, famous for putting dictators into cities and other municipalities, trying to keep his job, and GOP Terri Lynn Land trying to buy a seat in the senate.

Pennsylvania – Democrat Tom Wolf likely to beat out Gov. Tom Corbett (fingers crossed!).

8:30 pm ET: Arkansas – Sen. Mark Pryor classified the most vulnerable Democratic senator in the country up against the Koch brothers Tom Cotton.

9 PM ET: Arizona – Rep. Ron Barber, aide to Rep. Gabby Gifford when she was shot, fighting GOP Martha McSally for a second term.

Colorado – Sen. Mark Udall struggling to keep his blue seat against a personhood candidate.

Louisiana – Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu likely to face a runoff when neither candidates get more than 50 percent.

Wisconsin – GOP Gov. Scott Walker in another tight race against Mary Burke.

10 PM ET: Iowa – the question about whether the pig castrating, shoot-people-who-disagree-with-her GOP senate Joni Ernst can win.

11 PM ET: Washington & Oregon – more questions about initiatives than candidates.

12/1 am ET: Alaska – the struggle with Sen. Mark Begich keeping his seat.

I’m lucky: I dropped my ballot off today with no stress—no photo ID and no standing in lines. When Oregon started this voting process, I worried about coercion from spouses and churches in completing ballots. Watching the rest of the country—for example, the way that North Carolina computers are changing Democrat votes to Republican—I’m grateful that I’m living in a state that believes in citizen representation in elections.

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