Nel's New Day

April 15, 2015

Tax Day: Bad, Good, Ugly

Filed under: Budget — trp2011 @ 9:11 PM
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On Tax Day 2015, far fewer people waiting in line because of electronic filing. Wealthy people increasingly pay less and less since the 90-percent tax rate for the richest filers in the 1950s. Every time that the GOP controls Congress, the wealthy benefit from additional tax breaks, and corporations get more subsidies. Every year, the United States has less and less investment funds for the infrastructure, education, climate change, job creation, etc. Corporations have dropped their share of federal revenues by almost three-fourths since the almost 40 percent in 1943 to only 11 percent now. The less that the wealthy and corporations pay, the more the bottom 80 to 90 percent of the people have to shell out.

The corporate tax rate may be 35 percent, but their actual payment is about 13 percent, less than a large percentage of people pay. Some companies pay no taxes. FedEx made profits of $5 billion between 2010 to 2012 and received $10 billion in federal contracts between 2006 and 2012, yet paid no income taxes. With billions of dollars in profit, Verizon and Pfizer paid no taxes while receiving billions of federal tax refunds. In 2013, corporate tax breaks cost U.S. taxpayers $176 billion in revenue, $1,328 per household. These corporate tax breaks have more than doubled since 1993. More is spent on corporate welfare than traditional welfare. Tax breaks, 17 percent of benefits going to the top 1 percent of households, are equal to more than the entire U.S. discretionary budget each year. The revenue loss of over $1 trillion each year is over 1.6 times the 2013 budget deficit.

estate tax

Instead of trying to close loopholes on Tax day, House Republicans are arranging a gift for the top 0.02 percent of U.S. households. Calling the estate tax the “death tax,” GOP members of the House announced a vote to repeal the tax on 4,700 estates out of 2.6 million deaths—one-fifth of one percent. The median household net worth was only $81,200 in 2014. Instead of paying the 40-percent rate, this 0.02 percent owe a rate of only 16.6 percent estate tax, because it applies to only an estate’s value of over $5.43 million. No taxes are required for the first $5.43 million.

If the law isn’t changed, the estate tax will bring in $246 billion in the next decade. Less than 1 percent of federal revenue, “it is significantly more than the federal government will spend on the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Environmental Protection Agency combined,” according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. A common complaint is that the estate tax hurts small and family businesses, including farms. In 2013, the 20 farms and businesses worth under $5 million paid a tax rate of 4.9 percent.

While House Republicans care for the wealthy, they have a budget to eliminate food stamps for 11 million people through a 34-percent reduction. That $125 billion cut from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) will cost the economy 286,000 jobs. As families have less to spend on food, that reduced purchasing power ripples through the economy, translating into job losses not just in grocery and retail stores but also in trucking, warehousing, food manufacturing, farming, and other industries. Money for the wealthy does nothing for job creation, but a woman testifying about her past experience receiving food stamps said, “Without this program, I wouldn’t have been able to start my new career.” Just one week of the proposed estate tax cuts could feed more than 337,000 children for a year. The GOP answer to helping hungry people is charity. I suggest leaving both laws the way they are and create a GoFundMe collection for the top 0.02 percent who pay estate taxes.

This year’s Tax Day is memorable because Congress passed a sane law to end to the annual need for Medicare “doc fixes”–and in a grandly bipartisan manner. Only eight of 100 Senators voted against the bill, two of them the declared GOP presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. The House passed the bill by 392-37. The bill got out of Congress just hours before Medicare providers would have had a 21-percent cut in payments.

The new law also funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program and community health centers for two more years. Republican Senators also failed to get a “repeal Obamacare” amendment attached to the bill. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said the bill’s passage is a sign that Congress is “back to work” under Republican leadership. And it took them only 105 days. (More details about the new law here.)

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spent his time on Tax Day introducing a bill to recoup $590 billion from 83 companies using offshore tax havens to avoid paying taxes. Senator Elizabeth Warren called on lawmakers to break up big banks and change tax rules that benefit Wall Street.

Abraham Lincoln died 150 years ago today. He is the “Republican” who the GOP drags out into the media to show how wonderful today’s GOP members are. Here is the tweet from the GOP to commemorate his death:

abraham lincoln

And that’s Tax Day 2015.

April 14, 2015

Women Make Less, Pay More

Women working full time, year round in 2013 earned an average of $0.78 for every dollar earned by men working full time, year round. In all but one of the occupations, stock clerks and order fillers, however, women earn less than men. Women in that one occupation, employing 0.7 percent of women in the full-time labor force, made $10 more per week than men. Both male and female health practitioner support technologists and technicians have the same median earnings per week, again employing 0.7 percent of women in the full-time labor force. The largest wage gap was $633 more per week for men in the personal financial advisor field.

The argument that the wage gap comes from “women’s choices” doesn’t hold water because this gap persists when women choose the same jobs as men. For example, male surgeons earn 37.76 percent more per week than their female counterparts; women make almost $40,000 less per year than men. The same problem is true for lower-paying, female-dominated careers: women are 94.6 percent of all secretaries and administrative assistants but earn 84.5 percent of what men in the same field do.

In nursing, a career with ten women to every man, male nurses make between $3,800 and $17,000 more than women each year. In a study of over 290,000 nurses, men made about 8 percent more every year from 1988 to 2013, taking into consideration location, age, race, marital status, and children. Two reasons given are gender discrimination and stronger negotiating skills on the part of men.

Education doesn’t explain the wage gap because women finish college and graduate school at higher rates than men. The answer is policies that support women who are expected to provide the vast majority of care for their families—paid sick days, paid family leave, equal pay protections, and pay transparency.

In a study of almost 10,000 MBA graduates, all with full-time jobs lined up, women’s starting salaries were almost $15,000 less than for men. The arguments of different work experience, flexibility to care for children, desire for part-time jobs, and no ambition for the top—all misplaced arguments for the gender wage gap—have no relevance in this comparison. In 17 of 22 industries, women were offered less starting money than men–in finance, $22,000 lower.

Today, April 14, is Equal Pay Day, representing how far into a new year that full-time working women have to work to earn as much as men did the previous year: 104 days. That’s an extra three months and fourteen days to make an “equal” pay for men last year.

Last fall, the Paycheck Fairness Act failed for the fourth time in the U.S. Senate, with a unanimous GOP vote, including all four women. The law would help women learn whether they earn less than male colleagues and require employers to explain why two similarly qualified workers earn different wages. It was the third time since 2012 that Republicans voted down the bill. The most recent bill had 52 votes but needed 60 to break the filibuster.

According to Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), she voted against the law because it might prohibit merit-based pay and the Democrats had opposed her amendment. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said that the Civil Rights Act and the 1963 Equal Pay Act provide enough protection. Tea Partier Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) said, “It’s a one-sided vote for political reasons, so [Democrats] can use it in campaigns.” These women all receive $174,000 per year, the same salary as their male counterparts. That’s 4.6 times women workers’ median yearly income but only 3.5 times that of working men.

Women not only work longer to make the same pay as men but also have to pay more for the same items. Twenty years ago, a California study showed that women’s razors, cologne, moisturizers, and haircuts cost more even if it was the same product as for men. The higher price tag for women was approximately $151 billion a year. Twenty years later, though, women are still paying more than men.

The “pink” tax is still with us, and The Daily Share has a video to show this. Pink razors still cost more than blue ones, and the Neutrogena facial moisturizer marketed for women at $11.42 is ten percent more expensive than the one retailed for men at $10.35. Both have the same ingredients. Neutrogena explained that the price differences “are related to a number of factors, including packaging differences, modifications of the formulation that impact the manufacturing process, and the discretion of each retailer.”

The additional costs for women keep mounting. Men can get a hair trim for $28 while women might pay $44, almost 60 percent more. Although an oxford shirt may cost men and women the same, the dry-cleaning for women’s clothes costs more than for men. Some cleaners refuse to launder women’s shirts, requiring females to pay for dry-cleaning their clothes.

Last fall, a petition addressed the gender discrimination at Old Navy. Plus-size women pay much more for their larger sizes–$40 instead of $27–but men pay the same for their jeans no matter what the size—just $25. In addition, larger men don’t have to go to a different department for their jeans. Old Navy’s excuse about making women’s clothing more “flattering and on-trend” doesn’t hold up because the company doesn’t charge more to “flatter” petite-size women. After almost 100,000 signatures, Old Navy said that it would send the issue to its customer panel but has made no actual changes.

GenderedProducts5 bicLate in 2012, Bic released a pen designed for women. Ellen DeGeneres made it the topic of a monologue on her talk show and produced her own ad for the product. “They’re just like regular pens,” she said, “but they’re pink, so they cost twice as much.” The comments show that women get the irony of charging more for “pink.” Another company even produced a pink globe.



pink tax shirts















In unisex styled shirts, women still pay more. The women’s version of this Hanes tee is $2 more per shirt (a 20% increase), despite being smaller and cut in the same “relaxed” fit as the men’s. At Target, women pay 36 percent more to get an almost identical bicycle as the one sold for men. Car purchases and repairs cost more for women.

Tariffs also ding women in their pocketbook. Twelve years ago, Michael Cone, a New York City trade lawyer, found that men’s sneakers were taxed at 8.5 percent compared to the ten-percent tax for women’s sneakers.

Women are poorer in every state; the difference is more pronounced in Southern states—particularly Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Nationwide, 15.5 percent of women live in poverty, compared Single mothers fare far worse than single fathers, almost twice as likely to be living in poverty at 43.1 percent compared with 23.6 percent. Check here to see the wage gap by state.

Girls are taught from childhood that they are valued less than boys. A study found that almost 70 percent of boys get an allowance as compared to under 60 percent of the girls. At the same time, girls do more than two hours more housework a week than boys who spend twice as much time playing. Boys are also 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing household chores than boys. Just as in adulthood, females are expected to work without pay.

men winning raceNothing shows the reality in the United States wage gap better than the cover of the University of North Georgia’s latest continuing education catalog that shows the white men ahead after getting a UNG education. The image is obviously a matter of poor judgment, but women make less money and pay more than men for the same products. The school has apologized and reprinted the catalog. In the same way, federal and state legislators should pass laws for paycheck fairness and genderless charges for products and services.

April 13, 2015

Rubio Wants to be the Young President

Another GOP presidential candidate rollout, today Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). Writing for Nate Silver’s famous election analysis website,, Harry Enten puts him in the top tier following Jeb Bush and Scott Walker. Despite Rubio’s poor showing in polls, Enten calls him “electable and conservative.” A hawk on foreign policy, he may avoid Rand Paul’s pitfalls; less extreme than Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), he hasn’t alienated fellow senators; and more conservative than Bush, he could be an alternative, rather than a challenger.

resizeRubio’s entrance into the ring failed to make the splashes of the first two because Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy yesterday. His polling is even below Donald Trump with New Hampshire Republicans. Twitter responded with Rubio’s infamous video of reaching for a water bottle 11 minutes into his 14-minute speech responding to President Obama’s 2013 State of the Union speech. Constant references to the incident may seem cruel, but his votes against the people of the United States are also cruel.

Tweets about Rubio’s positions were less funny than the water bottle. As one said, “Rubio used to believe in climate change. Now he’s running for president.” Another suggested that he would lose Latino votes through his denial of climate change. They also included his argument that employers should be able to fire people for being LGBT and recorded robocalls for the National Organization of Marriage, an anti-LGBT group. One tweet posted a video of his top-ten anti-LGBT statements. He has also called adoption as a “social experiment” on children and joined 29 other senators in voting against the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

In 2013, the Russian parliament declared war on LGBT people with a law that promoted anti-LGBT atrocities, including beatings and causing LGBT Russians to try to flee the country. The same day, Rubio dropped his personal immigration reform legislation because of an amendment allowing U.S. LGBT citizens to sponsor foreign spouses for permanent residency, even if they had death sentences in other countries. Thirteen days later the Supreme Court struck down a major provision of the Defense of Marriage Act, making Rubio’s argument moot. Because conservatives were increasingly opposed to his reform, Rubio may have jettisoned the immigration reform by blaming LGBT people.

Rubio has made as many—if not more—flip-flops as Rand Paul. Originally a supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, he changed his position to look GOP presidential. He could separate himself from the GOP crowd by opposition to lower taxes for high earners and punishing the poor and working class, but he won’t. When he fails in persuading anyone toward his position, he caves to the popular GOP position on increasing income inequality. He makes promises such as improving the lives of poor people with no substance, even compromising in causing more harm to the poor.

To identify as the foreign policy specialist in the candidate field, he collected right-wing advisers who call themselves “reform conservatives” to address economic issues. Rubio’s tax reform pairs a few middle class benefits with massive cuts for the wealthy, similar to George W. Bush’s 2001 tax cuts that cost the country trillions of dollars. His tax plan would eliminate capital gains taxes and the estate tax, dropping taxes for the wealthy like Mitt Romney far below the 14 percent that Romney claimed he paid. Romney’s sons would also pay no taxes on the millions that they inherit from their wealthy dad.

Criticized by conservatives as too generous, Rubio added more regressional tax cuts for the wealthy into his earlier unworkable plan, greatly increasing his plan’s original $2.4 trillion deficits over a decade. He also followed the conservative approach that solves the increased deficit with massive reductions in social spending, just like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan. In theory, that worked when he was just a senator. As a presidential candidate, he will be scrutinized for his tax and spending proposals. No one can successfully argue the success of simultaneous upper-income tax cuts, middle class credits, and anti-poverty spending.

Attempts to woo warring parties usually alienate both of them. Rubio wants both the conservative base and the left-leaning minorities. The Tea Party calls Rubio’s former immigration reform as his “amnesty” plan and refuses to believe that he has abandoned this position. His public scolding of undocumented protesters also alienated Latino voters. According to his own campaign staff, Rubio needs over 40 percent of the Latino vote but is trailing Hillary Clinton in polls with this population. Romney got only 27 percent of Latino vote.

Rubio brags that his foreign policy credentials as his signature, setting him above other GOP candidates, but he vows to block normal trade with Cuba, calling President Obama’s position a “victory for oppression.” Koch Brothers’ business megadonors think that Rubio’s philosophy is “out of step with the more noninterventionist” beliefs amongst Koch network donors.

In March, Rubio stumbled badly while questioning Secretary of State John Kerry on foreign affairs. Rhonda Swan, a Florida-based journalist, wrote that Rubio fails his own test that the next president have a “clear view of what’s happening in the world” and a “practical plan for how to engage America in global affairs.” The next week he complained that President Obama is nicer towards Iran than Israel, despite Netanyahu’s gratitude for the billions of dollars the Obama policy annually gives Israel and the help for attacks on Israel, for example the Hamas rocket assault. Rubio’s position is that he would immediately abandon U.S. allies and negotiating partners by “unilaterally” imposing “crushing” sanctions on Iran—which, as president, he couldn’t do.

Rubio wrote in his memoir that he has shifted among the Mormon, Catholic and Baptist churches. He grew up a Catholic before he became a Mormon, then switched back to Catholicism, then became a Southern Baptist and a Catholic, then left the Baptists and simply became a Catholic, then he became a Baptist again, then a Catholic again, all the while technically remaining a Mormon. Even right-wing websites are a bit snarky about this statement, responding that “many Americans might question how someone could attend both churches and fully share in both denominations.”

Last year he alienated both LGBT and conservative religious people by condemning discrimination against gays and lesbians and arguing they should be denied equal legal rights. He went farther this year with harsh statements against the pope for helping arrange talks between the US and Cuba, accusing him of not prioritizing “the cause of freedom and democracy.” Seventy percent of Latino voters identify as Catholic.

Enten may see Rubio as a viable “alternative” to Jeb Bush, but Bush has been working behind the scenes to collect the elite support to decide the nomination. Both are establishment-oriented candidates who aim for compromise within the party. The New York Times described Rubio’s competition:

“Scott Walker, who took on unions and won in Wisconsin, is a conservative hero. Ted Cruz is a favorite of the Tea Party. Mike Huckabee is a favorite of evangelical Christians. Then there is a long list of other conservative candidates—like Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal—who might compete for votes.”

enten-datalab-rubio-21 chart conservativeRubio has lost credibility with almost everyone in the GOP. He failed to carved a niche in any majority faction of the party, and his message fails to resonate with any wing of the GOP. A winning candidate needs to be seen as exceptional—and Rubio does not have that designation.

Rubio’s speech slogan is that “it’s time for our generation.” The 43-year-old disses his old mentor, 62-year-old Jeb Bush, as well as many more in the over-50 crowd—Huckabee, Santorum, Carson, Fiorina, Graham,  Rick Perry—even Rand Paul and Chris Christie. On the other hand, he has “young” competition: 48-year-old Scott Walker, 44-year-old Ted Cruz, and 44-year-old Bobby Jindal. President Obama was only 47 when he was elected for his first term. Everyone took the hit from Rubio’s slam against 67-year-old Hillary Clinton.

Other conservatives are attacking Clinton, for example Meet the Press host Chuck Todd who asked, “How does Hillary Clinton deal with this freshness issue?”

Panelist and journalist Maria Hinojosa responded: 

“I have to be honest with you. The terms ‘expiration date’ and ‘stale’ and ‘too late for you’ as a woman, it’s like, I don’t know if men have that same reaction, that’s nuclear.”

Panelist Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, mayor of Baltimore, agreed, adding that the GOP is “stale.”

Rubio’s website uses the motto, “New American Century,” an organization that led the U.S. into war against Iraq. In 1997 founders called for regime change and much greater defense spending for the U.S. as the “world’s pre-eminent power” that led to George W. Bush’s “dominant” power. The focus was on military attacks rather than diplomatic strategy. By 2006, the organization had dissolved into a voice mail-box. Rubio may be bringing back the neo-con group to declare war on the world.

April 12, 2015

Pope’s Belief Anti-LGBT, Anti-Women

Pope Francis has fascinated people since he took over the Roman Catholic leadership with his simple lifestyle and seeming tolerance for the LGBT community.  While the pope gained more worshippers than the last pope, he has said that he only has two to three years to live and may retire early. Before Benedict retired in 2013, the last pope to retire was 600 years ago. How many ex-popes does the Vatican want?

Francis has repeatedly said that gay people should not be marginalized and demoted openly homophobic leaders within his church. Shortly after Francis became pope, he said, “If someone is gay, who searches for the Lord and has goodwill, who am I to judge?” The pope has started to judge, turning against LGBT people.

After France nominated Laurent Stefanini as the French ambassador to the Vatican, the pope has made no move to finalize the process. The 13-week lag in a response is over twice the normal process of ambassadorial nominations. A Vatican insider has reported that it was “a decision taken by the pope himself,” giving Stafanini’s homosexuality as the reason.

The pope also clearly states his opposition to LGBT people in his new book, Pope Francis: This Economy Kill, written by Italian journalists Andrea Tornielli and Giacomo Galeazzi. Most of his harshest language is used for transgender people who he refers to as “Herods” and nuclear weapons.

“Let’s think of the nuclear arms, of the possibility to annihilate in a few instants a very high number of human beings. Let’s think also of genetic manipulation, of the manipulation of life, or of the gender theory, that does not recognize the order of creation.”

Lesbians and gays have recently come in for their share of rejection too. Recently, Francis gave his blessing to a Slovakian referendum banning marriage and adoption rights for same-sex couples in Slovakia.

Leadership of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States should be delighted with the pope’s bigotry. Earlier this year, Miami Archbishop Thomas Wenski told all church employees that any support for marriage equaity—even a tweet or Facebook post—could get them fired. Wenski’s email said that employees could not even express support for same-sex marriage “outside the normal working day and outside the strict confines of work performed by the employee for the Archdiocese.” These people working for the Catholic Church have lost all rights of free expression for 24 hours a day and seven days a week. Because U.S. bishops have no policy on dismissals, Wenski is out there on his own with his decision.

At the same time, bishops in Germany may start to employ married gays and lesbians as well as divorced and remarried Catholics. A bishop in Belgium recently called on the church to consider blessing same-sex marriages.

While the German Conference of Religious Superiors called for a rethinking of the Catholic Church’s treatment of same-gender couples, U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke compared these couples to “kind murderers.” When he was asked about how many people in same-sex relationships display kindness, generosity, and decision, Burke said, “It’s like the person who murders someone and yet is kind to other people.” The pope removed Burke from a high-ranking Vatican position last year.

The pope’s behavior toward women is almost as bad as toward LGBT people. In 2013, 70% of Catholics believe women should be allowed to be ordained, but Pope John Paul II announced that the exclusion of women from the Catholic priesthood was an infallible article of dogma and could never be changed. Francis agrees, stating that the “church has spoken and says no… that  door is closed” with regard to women’s ordination.

When the pope has tried to mend relationships with women in his church by naming women to an important theological commission late last year, he called them “strawberries on the cake.” Other language he has used shows the lower status of women in the Catholic Church:

  • In a speech to nuns around the world: “Be a mother and not an old maid!”
  • In reference to a strong presence of women in the church:  “I am wary of ‘masculinity in a skirt.’“
  • In answer to the question of whether his references to woman as mothers and wives rather than leaders: “The fact is, woman was taken from a rib.” (He tried to cover up the comment by saying, “That was a joke.”)
  • In answer to the question about making a woman the head of a Vatican department: “Pastors often wind up under the authority of their housekeeper!”
  • In a speech, describing the “weariness and aging” of the European continent to its parliament: “Europe is now a ‘grandmother,’ no longer fertile and vibrant.”
  • In a complaint about the church not evangelizing: “A church that seems more like a spinster than a mother.”

In other “religious news” within the U.S., a middle school teacher in Georgia told her students that President Obama is now a Christian and that “any parent who supports him is not a Christian.” The teacher’s husband is on the school board in Dublin where she teaches and attended the parent-teacher conference after parents complained about the teacher’s action. Teacher Nancy Perry, who told her students that they had to “prove their Christianity” to her, brought materials to the conference to prove her points. Perry is still a teacher at the same school.

Temporarily satisified with gun laws allowing anyone to kill almost anyone else, Florida is working toward its own state-wide “religious protection of children” with a bill that passed 75-38 in the state house. HB 7111, which now moves to the state senate, allows state adoption agencies to discriminate in any way that they wish. Some of these private agencies are religiously affiliated but cannot have licenses or funding revoked based on their discrimination, according to the bill. Amendments to create nondiscrimination exemptions for race, marital status, sexual orientation, gender, etc. were all refused. The only amendment was that “an act by a private child-placing agency under this subsection does not constitute discrimination.” (So much for “if it walks like a duke, it quakes like a duck ….)

Rep. Jason Brodeur (R) basically agreed that the purpose of the bill that he co-sponsored is discrimination. He was asked,“If a child-placing agency decided that they had a moral objection to having single moms adopt, would they be permitted under your bill to have that policy and then reject all single mothers from adopting in the state of Florida?” Brodeur said, “Yes.” I guess he would say the same thing about black couples adopting white children.

Brodeur denied that his bill was discriminatory because same-sex couples could turn to state and secular adoption agencies. Five years ago, an appeals court struck down Florida’s outright ban on gay men and lesbians adopting. Although it is unlikely that the bill will pass the senate in this session, any similar law would require Florida taxpayers to give their money to agencies that discriminate.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll has found that a majority of people in the U.S. support marriage equality, 52 percent to 32 percent opposing same-sex marriage. An additional 3 percent, a total of 55 percent, think that all states should recognize same-sex marriages even if same-sex couples cannot marry in that state. Another 54 percent responded that it is wrong for businesses to refuse services, compared to 28 percent who support discrimination. And 55 percent declared that businesses should not have the right to use their “religious beliefs” to not hire people, compared to 27 percent who want this ability to discriminate.

April 11, 2015

A Saturday Roundup

A few stories from the alternative press:

What do you do if you hold a protest and no one shows up? The Tea Party of Miami hires protesters—in this case a demonstration against restoring 46,000 acres used for sugar land back into the Everglades. The up to 40 actors pretending to be demonstrators got paid $75 per hour, five times what Tea Partiers refused to allow for a minimum wage. The job description:

“Details: Basically to stand behind fence, holding banners or signs that will be provided. Clothing is almost anything!! Use common sense and don’t wear ‘club’ outfits or gym clothes. Just wardrobe for a Political Rally…We will pay CASH of $75 at end of shoot.”

Not bad work if you can get it. The actors ended their gig by lighting fake money on fire in a barbeque.

Republicans commonly preen themselves as the party of Abraham Lincoln, but the conservative Washington Post disagrees. According to Harold Meyerson, the GOP is closer to the party of Confederate president, Jefferson Davis, than Lincoln:

“After the [Civil War] ended, the South held on to a general animosity and hatred of African-Americans. No longer able to enslave them, southerners found other ways to oppress them.

“Indeed, today’s Republican Party support voter suppression efforts that are primarily aimed at minority voters to keep themselves in power. And with the backing of many corporations, the GOP has fought relentlessly to kill minimum wage laws and regulations that protect workers, while strangling labor unions that stand up for workers’ rights….

“Even today, one of America’s most fundamental problems is that the alliance between the current form of Southern labor and the current form of New York finance is with us still. The five states that have no minimum wage laws of their own are in the South: Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee. Southern-based corporations such as Wal-Mart are among the leading opponents of workers’ right to organize, and as Wal-Mart has expanded into the North and West, so have the “right-to-work” statutes of Southern states been enacted by Republican governments in the Midwest….

“Fueled by the mega-donations of the mega-rich, today’s Republican Party is not just far from being the party of Lincoln: It’s really the party of Jefferson Davis. It suppresses black voting; it opposes federal efforts to mitigate poverty; it objects to federal investment in infrastructure and education just as the antebellum South opposed internal improvements and rejected public education; it scorns compromise. It is nearly all white. It is the lineal descendant of Lee’s army, and the descendants of Grant’s have yet to subdue it.”

Sounds like the Grand Old Party of Republicans to me.

What’s the easiest way to kill a bill that might help people? Declare it Sharia law, like the Republicans have done in Idaho. That’s how GOP legislatures voted down a child support collection bill to bring the state in line with federal child support enforcement rules by using the federal government’s system for tracking and enforcing child support payments. The bill failed in committee by 9-8 because two Republicans “feared the bill could force Idaho to enforce child-support rulings made under Islamic law or foreign tribunals.” One of the Republicans admitted that nothing in the law had any religious language that would make it Islamic but falsely claimed that both France and Belgium recognized Sharia law. Thanks to GOP idiocy, Idaho loses $46 million in federal child support aid and parents lose child support.

All the Republicans and too many Democrats in Congress are considering a war against Iran and again ignoring the U.S. public. Over half registered voters in the country want a nuclear deal with Iran with only 34 percent opposing the tentative deal that has been struck. The 65 percent of the country that wants no congressional action until the deal is finalized have a lot more sense than the legislators. Another survey from the Huffington Post shows that 57 percent versus 38 percent of participants agree with supporting the Iran nuclear deal.

Has hell frozen over? Or is this a joke? Former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) wants Hillary Clinton as president because of her experience. He continues to heap more praise on her:

 “She was a good senator. She worked across the aisle. She kept her word. She became knowledgeable about a lot of issues while she was a senator. So she did that job well.”

Maybe he’s one Republican who’s tired of being in the party of Jefferson Davis.

What might make an anti-vaxxer change her mind? Tara and Gavin Hills (Kanata, Canada) reversed their opinion after their seven children ages ten years to ten months got sick—really sick. Tara had thought of whooping cough as an “historical oddity” until both her kids got the disease. Before vaccines were available, up to 10,000 people died in the United States of whooping cough every year. The number went down to 30 before recently starting to rise again. All seven of the Hills’ children are currently quarantined.

One reason you might not want to see a Time Warner merger with Comcast if you subscribe to Time Warner. A Comcast customer tried to cancel his cable after his house burned down, but Comcast refused for week. Someone might say that Comcast through the customer was just saying something crazy to get cable cancelled. Not true. In desperation, Jimmy Ware’s daughter finally said, “Your choice, disconnect the service or send someone out to fix the cable, because it’s not working.” She reported that the Comcast guy said, . “That doesn’t make sense because the house burned down.” Unfortunately, Time Warner’s scores on customer service are as bad as Comcast’s.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) plans to kick off his campaign for president by sell a chance to win tickets to his campaign kickoff for $3.05. We’ll see how his first week goes.

U.S. Senator Paul speaks with Fox News Channel host Hannity during interview after he confirmed his candidacy for president in Louisville

I’ll finish with a Rand Paul story. [Photo by Reuters/John Sommers Ii] Because of his negative treatment of Kelly Evans and Samantha Guthrie, I wondered if he had problems with only women. Not so. In an interview for The Guardian, Paul Lewis asked him how he planned to appeal to both center and right-wing voters because Paul’s political positions change so frequently. The presidential candidate replied, “Your premise is incorrect. I’m sure I could walk into a white evangelical church in Iowa and give the exact same speech and get the exact same response.” Lewis brought up a Washington Post poll and asked Paul about the specifics. Paul walked out, and Lewis said:

“So we got our interview cut off. Maybe it was because I was about to push him on the specifics…all the lights are off in fact. We’re being told to go.”

In an attempt at damage control, the Paul campaign tweeted later that Paul didn’t “walk out” because the interview was over. Washington Post claimed that Paul didn’t “walk out” because he had agreed to just one more question and Lewis asked a second “last question.” Paul’s campaign team had agreed to an interview lasting between six and eight minutes; Paul ended the exchange after four minutes and 50 seconds. No matter which answer is right, Paul still fails to look “presidential.”

Note: The Rand Paul Flip-flops, for sale for $20, have been renamed the Rand Paul Sandals. No joke!

April 9, 2015

The One Place Where the NRA Bans Guns

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:35 PM
Tags: , , ,

Just when it appeared that the NRA thought no place was off limits to guns, the ammosexuals have one location off limits to guns. The NRA wants guns in churches, elementary schools, bars, libraries, state capitols—you name it, they want it. Where doesn’t Wayne LaPierre’s bunch want guns? The 144th NRA convention!

Located in Nashville (TN) this coming weekend, the annual meeting is expected to have 70,000 people and nine acres—count them, nine acres!—of guns exhibited by 555 people showing off Smith & Wessons, Berettas, Remingtons, etc. The NRA leadership understands how crazy their constituents are: they ordered that exhibitors remove the firing pins from all their guns in these nine acres. But whatever happened to the idea that guns are vital for safety? Somebody could show up on the nine acres with an operational gun and take out all those people standing next to guns with no firing pins.

The same people who fight every background check in the nation directed guns sold during the convention to be picked up at a Federal Firearms License dealer, probably near the buyer’s home. Sales—ready for this?—require a legal identification. This from the group terrified that any background check or identification for gun sales will result in a federal list of gun owners. Whatever happened to the idea that guns are vital for safety? Who will stop the bad guy? And with all those guns being tossed around, how can security identify the “bad guy”?

The NRA is banning guns at its concert to protect country music artist Alan Jackson and comedian Jeff Foxworthy. The rest of the people are expendable, including most of the GOP wannabe presidential candidates: Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, Mike Pence (who will wish in vain after the Indiana fiasco), Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Lindsey Graham, Sarah Palin, and Donald Trump.  Only Chris Christie and already-declared Rand Paul won’t be there because, as the NRA explained, they couldn’t invite everyone. A disaster could eliminate 85 percent of the 2016 GOP presidential field.

Excited about 70,000 people with guns—some of them without firing pins—descending on their fair city with lots of money, Tennessee legislators decided to pass some laws as a payback. One attempted gift was to repeal a 2009 state law allowing local officials to ban guns in parks. (State legislatures that demand states’ rights always want the rights to stay at the state level and not let municipalities benefit from the philosophy of local rule.) The bill did allow local parks to leave up their “no guns allowed” signs. Gun toters could carry guns—with or without pins—into parks while the signs banning guns there could stay. State Rep. Mike Harrison (R) thought the measure would be hospitable to people who come to Nashville for the NRA convention this week.

The bill hit a bad snag in the state senate after Sen. Jeff Yarbro (D) introduced an amendment permitting guns to be legally carried in the state capitol. The Senate passed the measure with that amendment, but the House rejected it, tossing the bill with the amendment back into the Senate. It’s a serious case of “not in my backyard” syndrome. The legislature wanted to have the bill operational as a law for the upcoming weekend, but Gov. Bill Haslam (R) may not rush to sign it even if it gets passed: he wasn’t invited to speak at the NRA convention.

Not everyone is bending over backward for the NRA convention. Haslam also told eight highway patrol officers that they couldn’t provide security for the event in their off hours because the use of their patrol cars would cost too much. Off-duty Nashville officers are getting paid about $200,000 for the security.

Haslam did sign a bill allowing workers to sue employers if they are fired for storing guns in cars parked on company lots, despite their employers’ wishes. The Tennessee Chamber of Commerce had opposed the bill.

ramboAmmosexuals have taken to openly carrying military-style firearms near schools, causing terror within the school and excessive expenditures in calling the police to see if this is a “bad guy.” Leonard Embody, known as the “Radnor Lake Rambo,” prone to passing his personal message about the Second Amendment, upset his community when he walked around with AR-15’s and swords. State officials showed a modicum of sanity in 2013 when they revoked his carry permit and deemed him a “material likelihood of risk of harm to the public.” (He did keep his Federal Firearms License, allowing him to sell fully automatic weapons; he just can’t carry real guns.)

In an attempt to solve the problem but keep the NRA happy, the legislature passed a law banning “an explosive weapon, permanently disabled firearm, hoax device, imitation firearm, machete, or sword” within 150 feet of a school.  State House GOP spokesman Cade Cothren assured people that real guns don’t fall under the definition of “explosive weapon.” He also claimed that the schools were protected by the federal “Guns Free School Zones” act, making it illegal for anyone who doesn’t have a permit from taking a gun within 1,000 feet of a school. People with permits, however have no restriction on how close they can get to schools with firearms. Harrison said that the law will stop the Embody’s demonstrations. It just doesn’t stop people carrying real guns near schools.

The people who will attend the gun-free concert and shop for guns with no firing pins as mandated by the NRA are the same people who believe that the Second Amendment allows open carry everywhere. That includes restaurants and outside schools where they terrify people. They’re the same people who protest and threaten boycotts when they’re asked to leave their AR-15’s in their vehicles.

gun open carry The NRA has banned guns at its earlier conventions. Last year in Indianapolis, they couldn’t carry in Lucas Oil Stadium, and Charlotte (NC) restricted concealed carry at the entire 2010 convention. NRA member Dan Utz, who says that he tries to never go anyplace where he can’t carry his gun now says that he may have to break his rule. He did grumble, however:

“I paid for the tickets and they’re non-refundable, so I will probably go. Had I known before, I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t have, but I would have strongly considered not [going].”

Utz is most likely not staying at the Courtyard Marriott or Sheraton; both Nashville hotels ban guns, even with permits.

Here are some other places displaying gun sense:

  • Washington: Last November, state voters approved an expanded background checks initiative, and the legislature passed another measure to begin protecting women from domestic violence.
  • Oregon: Senate Bill 941, requiring expanded background checks among gun buyers, passed a Senate committee and moved to the floor for a vote.
  • Arizona: Four dangerous, NRA-backed billed died in the Arizona state legislature. Among them was one bill that would have let people carry concealed, loaded guns into government buildings and public sporting events, and another one which would have unconstitutionally nullified federal gun laws as they apply to Arizona.
  • Iowa: The Iowa Senate rejected an omnibus gun bill weakening the gun permitting process and eliminating background checks on private handgun sales.
  • Virginia: Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe vetoed three gun bills, including two that would make it easier for individuals to carry concealed weapons in public.
  • West Virginia: Democratic Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin vetoed a bill eliminating the permit requirement for concealed carry and any mandated gun safety training courses.
  • Montana: Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock bills that would allow almost any adult to carry a concealed weapon in Montana without a permit and that would stop Montana officials from enforcing federal laws on gun magazine ownership.
  • North Dakota: The state defeated a House measure that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to take guns to schools.
  • Michigan: Ann Arbor Public Schools has pledged to ban all guns from school property, even if the action prompts a lawsuit by open carry advocates.

Six states enacted new laws to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers in 2014, and another dozen states are considering similar legislation this year.

Customers at a new “gun store” on the Lower East Side of New York City are changing their minds about buying guns. As they shop, clerks tell them about all the people that the type of firearm has killed—a nine-month-old killed by his five-year-old brother, the 20 children at Sandy Hook killed by Adam Lanza, a gun instructor killed by his nine-year-old student, 12 people in an Aurora (CO) theater killed by James Holmes, etc. One woman said, “My opinion has definitely changed. I don’t feel safe with a gun.”

If the NRA doesn’t want guns at its convention and the legislature doesn’t want guns in their chambers, it’s probably a good idea for everyone else.


April 8, 2015

Rand Paul Has Rough First Day

paul shushRand Paul’s prickly condescending manner may not be successful for him as a presidential candidate. Less than 24 hours after yesterday’s desire to take up residency in the White House, he attacked NBC Today’s host, Savannah Guthrie. She asked him about his changes about Israel, Iran, and the defense budget, but he interrupted her and said, “Why don’t you let me explain instead of talking over me, OK?” He then told her that she should ask him, “Have I changed my opinion? That would sort of be a better way to approach an interview.” She politely asked him, “Is Iran still a threat?” Paul responded, “No, no, no, no, no, listen, you’re editorializing.” Paul saves “editorializing” for himself—as in yesterday’s announcement speech.

Joan Walsh described Paul’s “mansplaining”:

“What a steaming load of entitlement. Paul interrupts an interviewer, then blames her for talking over him and lectures her on “a better way to approach an interview.” When she accepts his premise, and asks the question the way he suggests she should ask it, he won’t accept it, and berates her yet again.”

The conservative Washington Post gave an extensive fact-check for Paul’s claims in yesterday’s announcement speech:

Paul: “Big government and debt doubled under a Republican administration. And it’s now tripling under Barack Obama’s watch. President Obama is on course to add more debt than all of the previous presidents combined.”

Fact: Every president inherits debt from the previous president, guaranteeing that the debt will grow. Raw numbers aren’t useful; percentage changes must be used to evaluate differences. The debt under Ronald Reagan (who Paul cited in his speech) increased 190 percent, compared to President Obama’s 108 percent—and Reagan was allowed to raise taxes 11 times. As for big government under President Obama, the federal government under the current president employs the fewest people since 1966. George W. Bush added 800,000 federal employees; President Obama reduced the number of federal employees by 700,000.

Paul: “We borrow a million dollars a minute. This vast accumulation of debt threatens not just our economy, but our security.”

Fact: This figure is more than half the size of the deficit in the Great Recession when the country was borrowing more than $2 million a minute.

Paul: “Congress will never balance the budget unless you force them to do so. Congress has an abysmal record with balancing anything. Our only recourse is to force Congress to balance the budget with a constitutional amendment.”

Fact: The budget was balanced and ran a surplus during four fiscal years in the Bill Clinton administration and the first year of the George W. Bush administration.

Paul: “Warrantless searches of Americans’ phones and computer records are un-American and a threat to our civil liberties. I say that your phone records are yours. I say the phone records of law-abiding citizens are none of their damn business. … The president created this vast dragnet by executive order. And as president on day one, I will immediately end this unconstitutional surveillance.”

Fact: “The president” in Paul’s speech is George W. Bush, who launched the program in secrecy after 9/11 with an “executive order.” The Obama administration increased internal oversight to Bush’s program.

Paul: “We must realize, though, that we do not project strength by borrowing money from China to send it to Pakistan.”

Fact: China is a biggest single holder of Treasury debt, owning $1.252 trillion as of October 2014, but that amounts to less than 10 percent of all U.S. debt held by the public.

Paul: “Let’s quit building bridges in foreign countries and use that money to build some bridges here at home. It angers me to see mobs burning our flag and chanting ‘Death to America’ in countries that receive millions of dollars in our foreign aid.”

Fact: Foreign aid composes about one percent of the federal budget, and almost none of it goes for bridges. Much of it is military, especially our greatest recipient, Israel, and all countries receiving foreign aid, except Israel, must buy U.S. products, making U.S. workers the winners and helping U.S. taxpayers.

Paul needs to lie about President Obama because the president is having a great year. Here are some numbers—already Fact-Checked—that show this:

  • The economy has added 7.2 million jobs, and the unemployment rate, 5.5 percent, is lower than the historical median of 5.6 percent in 1948.
  • The number of job openings is up to its highest point in 14 years, and the number of long-term jobless has now dropped below where it was when President Obama took office.
  • The number of businesses opening, 220,000 for the third quarter of 2014, grew at 18 percent, and the number of businesses shutting down has decreased 18 percent.
  • Real weekly earnings are up 3 percent although the number of people on food stamps stays high.
  • Sixteen million people have gained health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act, shrinking the percentage of uninsured from 14.4 percent in 2013 to 11.9 percent.
  • The U.S. increased its domestic crude oil production last year by more than it has in over 100 years and cut its reliance on imported by more than half during President Obama’s administration. The country now relies less on imported oil than it has since the Nixon administration.
  • The U.S. generated nearly 22 times more electricity from solar power in the most recent 12 months than it did in the year before Obama took office; the price of an installed photovoltaic panel has dropped by 63 percent since the end of 2010.
  • U.S. exports went up 39 percent in 5 years.
  • Corporate profits are up 174 percent since President Obama took office in 2009; the highest profits ever recorded for big corporations were in the third quarter of 2014.


The Washington Post listed other problems that Rand Paul had during his first 24 hours following his announcement speech:

After attacking Today’s Guthrie, he admitted to the New York Times that he should show reporters that they upset him.

He refused to give any exceptions such as rape, incest, and the life of the mother in making abortions illegal. Asked again about his position, he said he would answer the question when the Democratic National Committee gave its position. Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) said:

“Here’s an answer. I support letting women and their doctors make this decision without government getting involved. Period. End of story. Now your turn, Senator Paul.  … And I’d appreciate it if you could respond without ’shushing’ me [referring to Paul’s attempt to shut up CNBC anchor Kelly Evans].”

No answer from Paul other than he criticized people for getting “tied-up in details” and said he would “keep an open mind” about Iran. In short, no comment.

A case from Ron Paul’s campaign in Iowa may come back to bite his son’s presidential run. One week before the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, Dimitri Kesari, Ron Paul’s deputy campaign manager, gave a check for $25,000 to Kent Sorenson, an influential state senator. Two days later Sorenson defected from Michele Bachmann to Ron Paul. A Mother Jones article gives the details of this event and its aftermath. State and federal investigations led to information about the central figures in the Paul family’s political machine, many of them from the leading anti-union group, National Right to Work Committee. The problem may seem to belong to Ron Paul, but his son may suffer from his involvement with the situation and the people. Early in his senate career, Rand Paul cosponsored the National Right-to-Work Act, removing union rights from the entire United States, paying back John Tate, a former NRTWC vice president, who played a “crucial role” in Paul’s 2010 Senate campaign.

By now Sorenson is singing like a canary, including his getting $73,000 from the Ron Paul campaign and more money from Bachmann’s campaign before he defected. Less than two months ago, a Justice Department lawyer asked for a delay in sentencing Sorenson because of their progress on a “larger investigation” into the scandal. Rand Paul defended Jesse Benton, implicated in the Sorenson affair, after his resignation as Sen. Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) 2014 campaign manager as an “honest” political operative who would be “welcome” on his 2016 team.

As a senator, Rand Paul might rise above all the problems that he has created. As a presidential candidate, not so much.

April 7, 2015

Which Rand Paul Is Running for President?

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 7:14 PM
Tags: , ,

With Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) the first out of the gate to run for GOP president, the field has expanded to two with another senator, Rand Paul from Kentucky. Sounding like a weak imitation of Cruz, Paul began his launch with the statement, “We have come to take our country back!” Exactly how, no one knows because he has a history of flip-flopping, mostly about his libertarian beliefs. Since he appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show during his senatorial candidacy, he changed his opposition to the Civil Rights Act that requires businesses to accept everyone except LGBT people. Within two years, he declared that he had never said such a thing!

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference at National Harbor in Maryland

According to their platform, libertarians are socially liberal but fiscally conservative. Elizabeth Parker writes that Rand Paul wants a government so small that “it will fit in a woman’s uterus.” When he was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2010, he fit better into this category. Lust for the presidency has turned him “fuzzy” about his beliefs in order to satisfy every camp in the Republican party.

Abortion: Paul is so opposed to pro-choice rights that he sponsored The Life at Conception Act, promoting personhood so radical that it states “human life begins at the moment of conception, and therefore is entitled to legal protection from that point forward.” He talked about his bill at length in a fundraising video for the National Pro-Life Alliance and received a perfect rating from the National Right to Life Counsel. Planned Parenthood gave him a zero.

Marriage Equality: Paul finds same-sex marriage to be “offensive” and warned the GOP against shifting its position on this issue. He warned that any deviation from “traditional” marriage might lead to people marrying animals. Even anti-gay activist Tony Perkins (Family Research Council) found Paul’s joke about President Obama’s decision to support marriage to be out of bounds when Paul said, “Call me cynical, but I wasn’t sure his views on marriage could get any gayer.” RNC Chair Reince Priebus refused to defend Paul and said, “I don’t know what he meant by that.” When Paul wants marriage equality left to the states, he thinks it’s the best way to eliminate same-sex marriage out of most states. Paul received a 100 percent rating from the Family Research Council.

Defense Spending: Paul wants a huge increase in military spending—16 percent–after supporting cuts earlier in his federal career. Time called Paul’s switch a “stunning reversal.”

Military Force: Paul told the Conservative Political Action Conference in February that his priority would be “a national defense unparalleled, undefeated and unencumbered by nation-building.” He was one of the 47 GOP senators sending an open letter to Iran’s leaders, telling them that any nuclear deal would not be binding past the end of the Obama presidency if it were not agreed to by Congress. He described Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) as “an isolationist who wants to retreat to our borders and perhaps build a moat. I reject this isolationism,” Paul tweeted.

Drones: Paul wants drones used everywhere except for “a targeted killing ordered against a U.S. citizen on American soil” without a warrant. Targeted killings overseas and drones used as border security are fine with him.

Foreign Aid: Although proposing an end to all foreign aid, including to Israel, Paul now claims that he never tried to end any aid to Israel.

Voting Rights: Rand told the conservative Newsmax that he opposes the Voting Rights Act to replace voting rights after the Supreme Court gutted the 50-year-old law. That was before he told the Urban League that he supports the Voting Rights Act. After telling a group of black pastors that the GOP should stop their restrictive voter ID laws, he told Sean Hannity that the voter ID laws are fine with him but regrets their negative attention. 

Marijuana: Rand thinks that marijuana should not be legalized because smoking marijuana is “a bad thing to do” but advocates reduced penalties for drug use and possession. The libertarian magazine, Reason, didn’t approve: “He wants to keep everything illegal, but institute gentler penalties. That’s not remotely libertarian.”

Free Speech: Paul suggested that people should be put into prison for listening to “radical political speeches.” He told Sean Hannity that he opposed some racial profiling but supported the profiling, deportation, and even imprisonment of people if the government determined they were listening to “radical political speeches.”

NSA: Paul claimed he opposes the domestic surveillance apparatus and the PATRIOT Act but voted against a NSA reform act because he claimed that the bill didn’t go far enough. Again, libertarians criticized Paul’s lack of their support.

Inequality Protecting the Wealthy: Rand’s flat tax plan would give a huge tax break to the rich, and conservatives agree that it would raise taxes on the poor. His tax reform plan also cuts more taxes for the rich by repealing the estate tax and the capital gains tax.

Federal Reserve: Paul’s new bill to audit the auditors of the Federal Reserve would create another secret layer of government. Paul’s audit would be issued in secret to some congressional members with no open documentation. It also doesn’t designate what would be audited, leaving the opportunity to scrutinize the auditors’ personal lives, and orders the comptroller to break international treaties by striking a provision of code which is required to keep the Federal Reserve in compliance for discussions with members of Congress and foreign ambassadors. The bill would replace the section authorizing current audits of Federal Reserve Credit Facilities, meaning that no audits would be available for public review and allowing Congress to directly manipulate the monetary markets. Congress can authorize loans to various private interest groups without a full accounting in the public domain.  At this time, an independent, outside firm audits the Federal Reserve.

“Religious Liberty”: Although he stayed silent in the recent Indiana law about allowing discrimination, he told a group of pastors at a private breakfast that “the First Amendment says keep government out of religion. It doesn’t say keep religion out of government.”  Of course, he’s wrong because the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment prohibits government’s favoring one religion over another or giving preferential treatment to either religion or non-religion. The pastors, however, were happy.

Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of the libertarian magazine Reason, said about Paul:

“To the extent he sounds more like every conservative Republican, he sounds less interesting to libertarians. I don’t see what he picks up by being a version of Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.”

Rand Paul comes to the candidacy with a lot of negative baggage. When CNBC host Kelly Evans challenged Paul’s claim that vaccines can cause mental disorders in children, Paul’s friend and former professional associate Alex Jones attacked Evans:

“You realize you’re signing on to a system of murder, you little piece of trash, tramp, filth, scum woman. You arrogant piece of garbage! I’m sick of all you people up there lecturing us. She’s the type of woman that wants Super Bowl ads to say, ‘Sorry you had a boy.’ All a bunch of pinhead cult members.”

Paul wasn’t much better in his interview with Evans. When she asked him for specifics about a bill granting companies a “holiday corporate tax rate” to bring assets back to the United States, he said, “Hey, hey, Kelly? Calm down a bit here, Kelly.” Then he shushed her.

paul shushFor this past Valentine’s Day, Paul, or someone in his office, set of a fake Hillary Clinton Pinterest that attempted to show she was only interested in how the White House was furnished with suggestions of how to make the Oval Office more “chic.” Another image showed Clinton surrounded by hearts and saying, “I’m Benghazing at you.” The month before, he tweeted a satirical “secret phone call” between former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, lampooning the relationships between their two clans. In December he ridiculed Rick Santorum’s sweater vests.

These are just his recent peccadilloes.  In the past, he led the 2013 government shutdown that cost the U.S. $24 billion. He opposes giving unwed women any aid in getting birth control but wants to cut off their benefits if they have more children. He opposes self-government by voting against measures passed by Washington, D.C. regarding guns, abortion, and unions. He said, “We don’t have [authority] over the states but we do for DC.”

Caught plagiarizing his speeches and books, Paul accused critics of being “haters.” He couldn’t even stream his campaign announcement because he failed to get copyright permission for the music, John Rich’s “Shuttin’ Detroit Down”: YouTube blocked the video of Paul’s speech.

As a libertarian, Rand Paul is a fraud as he castigates the establishment GOP as he becomes a part of it. As a president, he would be a disaster.

April 6, 2015

The ‘Cake Wars’

lego cakeThe second decade of the twenty-first century may go down in history as the time of the “cake wars”: fundamentalist Christians think that the only problem with declaring unfettered religious freedom in the business world is that same-sex couples would be denied wedding cakes. And maybe a few flowers and a bit of pizza too. The whole rumor started after Sweet Cakes by Melissa, a Gresham (OR) bakery, refused to fill an order for a wedding cake from a lesbian couple. Although the couple did not sue, they filed a complaint with the state of Oregon. An administrative law judge declared that Sweet Cakes’ action was discriminatory and allowed the Bureau of Labor and Industries to impose a fine of up to $150,000.

The firestorm swept across the country after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law that allowed anyone to deny any service or product to anyone else because of declared religious beliefs. The final section of the law stated that “there is not a higher protection offered by the state than the person’s protection of a person’s right to religious belief.”

Hundreds of business leaders, sports figures, celebrities, Christian groups, and almost a dozen cities and states—even NACAR–threatened to boycott Indiana because of the new law. The religious right, however, fought back. “Cake is speech,” Indiana pastor Tim Overton said on NPR. He followed that up by saying that no one would use any Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to deny anyone anything except flowers and wedding cakes. Just because people can do it, they probably wouldn’t.

Lee's graphicWorse than this mistaken belief is the downright misconceptions of RFRAs throughout the nation. The federal law was passed for religious minorities in 1993 after an American Indian was fired because of his religious use of peyote. After fundamentalist Christians felt threatened by marriage equality, 19 states jumped on the bandwagon with state RFRAs. Although conservatives claimed that Indiana’s law was patterned after the federal one, it granted far more rights on the basis of “religious liberty.” The law that Pence originally granted “religious rights” to any person or company if those religious objectors had a “substantial ownership,” not even majority control. Also, the government does not need to be a party to case, geometrically increasing the number of lawsuits possible. When some legislators tried to add an amendment to block the law’s use for discrimination, the majority refused, acknowledging that they wanted to use it for discrimination, allowing majority religions the control.

Other conservatives argued that the new Indiana law was no problem because the state had no protections for LGBT people. Although they are correct about the state, various municipalities throughout Indiana had anti-discrimination ordinances which were then negated by the new state law.

Exactly one week after Pence signed the law and subsequently declared that he didn’t want to change the law, he signed a new bill last week that stopped people from using the first law from discriminating to against LGBT people. The fix to Indiana’s discriminatory overreach, designed to mollify protesters, was still not satisfactory, at least to some businesses. “Our position is that this ‘fix’ is insufficient,” Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle said. “There was not a repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana. Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here.” That’s from a man who led the campaign of Pence’s GOP predecessor.

After the Indiana fiasco, Georgia dropped its discrimination bill—for now. Montana, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming also defeated RFRAs.

Arkansas passed a watered down religious belief bill that lacks non-discrimination protections. It can still be used against people of color, minority faiths, women, and anyone else with references in the bible. It is also binding for the entire state because Arkansas passed a law in February that prohibits anti-discrimination ordinances to protect LGBT people in any of the state’s municipalities.

North Carolina is lukewarm about a bill that goes farther than Indiana’s law. Unlike 17 RFRAs in the country, it states that obeying the law is a “burden” to their religious liberty, not a “substantial burden.” Even Arkansas included the term “substantial.” North Carolina added that there must be a “governmental interest of the highest magnitude” to justify overriding religious beliefs. Unworried about the bill’s effect on people, state House Speaker Tim Moore said he wants to know how such a law would “improve North Carolina’s brand.” He also wants “to make sure we don’t harm our brand.”

Eight other states are considering the creation or alteration of RFRAs.

Before the uproar about the Indiana law, most people believed that LGBT people faced no discrimination in lodging, renting, hiring, etc. across the nation. Indiana’s law forced that information out into the open. Now their only justification is to say that those who face discrimination are not “tolerant” or that LGBT people make a “choice” to face this discrimination.

Conservatives who wail about their lack of rights try to punish pro-LGBT businesses.  Former Arizona TV evangelist Joshua Feuerstein called Cut the Cake in Longwood (FL) to order a cake that stated, “We do not support gay marriage.” Bakery owner Sharon Haller thought it was an April Fool’s joke and told him no. Feuerstein posted a recording of the telephone call on YouTube, and Haller received death threats. Her business came to a halt until people posted positive comments on her Facebook page. Haller could prosecute Feuerstein. Sarasota lawyer Andrea Flynn Mogensen said Florida law requires all parties to consent before recording a telephone conversation. Violation is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies determined that a Denver bakery did nothing wrong when the owner refused to write “God hates gays” on a cake because the message on the cakes would be “derogatory.” Bill Jack wanted a cake showing two groomsmen with a red “x” over them and messages about homosexuality being a sin. There was no discrimination because Silva would have responded to any other customer in the same way.

Bigotry is becoming a cottage industry across the nation. Memories Pizza in Walkerton announced that it would not cater any gay weddings, despite the fact that they have never been asked to do so. The owner garnered not only the free publicity that she wanted but also a large donation for a GoFundMe account. The irony is that half the $842,500 that she received will go to the government in the form of taxes; conservatives who hate the government are giving it a nice little chunk of money. A florist in Washington, fined $1,000 for not serving a lesbian couple, has received $90,000.

David Brooks, columnist for the supposedly liberal New York Times, criticized LGBT people for not using politeness and “gentle persuasion” until society decides to grant same-sex rights. Syndicated columnist Mark Shields agreed with Brooks on PBS News Hour last Friday on a panel that has featured contrasting viewpoints before the Koch brothers started massive funding of public television. They agreed it ws acceptable to deny services, employment, etc.—in short, fairness—to LGBT people until society voluntarily changes its mind with no impetus. Shields said that the question of religious liberty has been “lost” in the debate over gay rights. Michael Hulshof-Schmidt wrote, “[This position] puts the blame on the victims, wondering why we have to push so hard to make ourselves heard.”

Brooks and Shields forgot to ask the evangelical Christians to develop this “politeness.” In fact, fundamentalists are more of a minority in approval ratings than the LGBT community. In a recent poll of likely voters, 53 percent responded favorably to LGBT people whereas only 42 percent had a favorable view of evangelical Christians. Eighteen percent had unfavorable views of LGBT people, and 28 percent were negative toward evangelical Christians.


lee.s picture 2People who want to wait until religious people are voluntarily willing to give LGBT rights neglect history. The people who sat waiting for service at Woolworth’s 55 years ago didn’t want a sandwich: they wanted fairness and equality. Approval rating of biracial marriage when it was legalized in 1967 was 20 percent compared to the 59 percent approval of same-sex marriage now when it’s still not recognized in the entire United States.

Fed up with his religion being defined by hate, Rev. Drew Ludwig, pastor at Buffalo’s (NY) Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church, has organized the “Christian Cake Mob.” The group bakes cupcakes and hands them out near Allentown’s gay bars. People from all faiths are chipping into the effort that Ludwig posted on social media. Ludwig said he won’t be discriminating because they will also give cupcakes to straight people.

cupcakeWhen is a cake not just a cake? When it’s used as a symbol to refuse service to anyone.

April 3, 2015

‘Give Peace a Chance’

Two huge stories have overwhelmed the news during this past week: the attempts in the United States to permit discrimination against anyone in the United States because of expressed religious belief, and the framework agreement between world powers and Iran to curb Iran’s nuclear program for the next decade in exchange for lifting economic sanctions. Iran must reduce the number of its centrifuges that can be used to enrich uranium into a bomb by more than two-thirds and redesigning a power plant to keep it from producing weapons-grade plutonium as well as eliminating much of its stockpile of low-enriched uranium. In the agreement, Iran consents to regular international nuclear inspections. President Obama said that “this framework would cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.”U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the deal would contribute to peace and stability in the region.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claims the agreement is a “threat to Israel’s existence.” His government released a statement that Iran has made no concessions despite its agreement that it will give up 97 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile and sharply reduce the number of centrifuges.

Israel’s media disagrees with Netanyahu. In Haaretz, Israel’s oldest newspaper, journalist Barak Ravid wrote that the agreement “is not a bad deal” and concluded, “Israel will have a hard time fighting this agreement, or portraying it as bad.” The article states that the agreement preserves Israel’s security interests.

Without the agreement, Iran could possibly produce a nuclear bomb in three to four months. With the agreement, Iran will be required to scale down three production facilities for at least a decade and turn these into scientific and medical research. The country is blocked from building any new facilities for 15 years. The 25-year international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities, supply chain for nuclear materials, and uranium mines will be the most intensive in the history of the world. Any violation will immediately bring back the sanctions against the country.

Iranian citizens have celebrated their country’s agreement with the P5+1—the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany—while hardliners are furious. Moderate Iranian politicians have lost their power for not being sufficiently anti-American. Any easing of hostilities between Iran and the United States is, according to hardliners, a matter of treason. Basically, the Iranian conservatives in Iran take the same position as the conservatives in the United States.

Most Republicans in Congress have worked hard to destroy any possibility of an agreement with Iran. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) invited Netanyahu to address Congress to sway not only legislators but also the people of the United States. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) convinced 46 other senators to sign an open letter to Iran in the hopes of scuttling any diplomatic efforts. Following the announcement of the agreement, right-wingers have made egregious statements about the framework:

  • Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL): The deal is worse than Neville Chamberlain’s talk with Hitler before World War II.
  • Israeli columnist for Politico Ari Shavit: The Iran agreement is just like the Iraq War—which is the country’s bloodiest conflicts of the twenty-first century.
  • American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s video: The visual shows the Statue of Liberty’s arm falling off in response to the agreement.
  • Bloomberg’s Eli Lake: “The Iranian-Swedish con man is gloating,” in reference to one of the agreement’s proponents, Trita Parsia who moved from Iran to Sweden as a child and lived most of his life in the United States.
  • Laura Ingraham:If only the secular Left put as much trust & faith in the people of Indiana as they do in the rulers in Iran.”
  • Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL): Upset about the lack of support for the United States, he would “absolutely” defy American allies by scrapping an Iran deal.
  • Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI): The presidential candidate would cancel any Iranian deal, sight unseen, that comes from the Obama administration. (He doesn’t need to read anything to reject it!)

As Jonathan Chait wrote, the conservatives hate this agreement because they hate all agreements since World War II.

The Yalta agreement stopping the war against the Soviets after the Allies defeated Germany in World War II formed the basis for Sen. Joe McCarthy’s (R-WI) paranoid ravings. Conservatives who tried to amend the constitution with the “Bricker Amendment,” limiting the president’s ability to agree to foreign treaties, were blocked by President Eisenhower.

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a pact to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons to states that had not yet obtained them, was denounced by the National Review as “immoral, foolish, and probably most impractical, a policy that makes nonsense of our defensive alliance in Europe, that favors our enemies and slights our allies.” The NPT is now used to prevent Iran from obtaining nukes.

President Richard Nixon’s opening to China was compared by conservatives to Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement of Hitler.

Nixon’s policy of detente with the Soviet Union was described by conservatives as “one of the greater triumphs of the Soviet propaganda machine.”

The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT) was “profoundly unwise,” according to conservatives. Ronald Reagan opposed it in his campaign and then abided by it before signing the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, to massive dismay from the right-wingers who compared Reagan to Chamberlain negotiating with Hitler.

In his speech announcing the agreement with Iran, President Obama said:

“When you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented backed by the world’s powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

The United States started the Iraq War with conservatives spreading fear about nuclear weapons. Netanyahu was a major instigator of this war when he told Congress in 2002 that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.”

John Bolton, booster and co-architect of the war in Iraq, represents most conservatives in Congress with his recent NYT op-ed, “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Thirteen years ago, he was “confident that Saddam Hussein has hidden weapons of mass destruction and production facilities in Iraq” and “the Iraqi people would be unique in history if they didn’t welcome the overthrow of this dictatorial regime.” He was 100 percent wrong, and he knew it at the time.

Robert Gates, defense secretary for George W. Bush and Barack Obama after CIA director under George H.W. Bush, said bombing Iran could prove a “catastrophe.” Meir Dagan, leader of Israel’s external spy service from 2002 to 2011, warned that an attack on Iran “would mean regional war, and in that case you would have given Iran the best possible reason to continue the nuclear program.” He added, “The regional challenge that Israel would face would be impossible.”

Since 9/11, jihadists have killed 26 Americans on U.S. soil, 13 of them killed by another soldier at Fort Hood, while right-wing extremists have killed 39. During the same time, an average of over 30,000 people died from guns each year—an approximate total of 450,000 people. Many of the same people who fight to keep unfettered ownership of guns spread fear about Iran with hopes to bomb the country.

About 1 million people died in Iraq during the ten years after the U.S. declared war on the country; 220,000 died in Afghanistan, and 80,000 died in Pakistan. During just the Bush years, 4.5 million Iraqis—one in six—were displaced, and only five percent went back to their homes by 2009. The 1-2 million widows and 5 million orphans leave half the people in Iraq tragically impacted by deaths.

Two years ago, the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan was estimated to go as high as $6 trillion dollars–$75,000 for every household in America. At that time, more than half the 1,560,000 discharged military service members had gotten medical treatment and been granted benefits for the rest of their lives. All the financing for the wars was done by borrowing, which has run up interest that taxpayers must fund. At the same time, Bush’s tax cuts cost the country about $2.1 trillion in lost revenue during the first nine years.

People in the United States don’t feel any safer when conservatives win elections by spreading fear. The conservatives claimed that war in Iraq would cost taxpayers about $200 billion. Between tax cuts that didn’t improve the economy and war costs, the tab is closing in on $10 trillion and sure to rise even without bombing Iran. That’s $10 trillion that could have dropped the deficit. A war in Iran will cost even more. In the words of John Lennon, quoted in another context by presidential contender in his coming-out speech, “Give peace a chance.”

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