Nel's New Day

December 30, 2015

Sexist View of How Women Speak

Filed under: Women's issues — trp2011 @ 9:43 PM
Tags: , , ,

From Emma Gray’s “28 Pieces from 2015 That Should Be Required Reading for Women,” I picked my favorite by Jennifer Lawrence. (Thanks to Alexandra Petri and the Washington Post.)

Jennifer Lawrence wrote:

“A few weeks ago at work, I spoke my mind and gave my opinion in a clear and no-[BS] way; no aggression, just blunt. The man I was working with (actually, he was working for me) said, ‘Whoa! We’re all on the same team here!’ As if I was yelling at him. I was so shocked because nothing that I said was personal, offensive, or, to be honest, wrong. All I hear and see all day are men speaking their opinions, and I give mine in the same exact manner, and you would have thought I had said something offensive.”

“’Woman in a Meeting’ is a language of its own. It should not be, but it is. You will think that you have stated the case simply and effectively, and everyone else will wonder why you were so Terrifyingly Angry. Instead, you have to translate. You start with your thought, then you figure out how to say it as though you were offering a groveling apology for an unspecified error. (In fact, as Sloane Crosley pointed out in an essay earlier this year, the time you are most likely to say “I’m sorry” is the time when you feel that you, personally, have just been grievously wronged. Not vice versa.)

“To illustrate this difficulty, I have taken the liberty of translating some famous sentences into the phrases a woman would have to use to say them during a meeting not to be perceived as angry, threatening or (gasp!) bitchy.”

“Give me liberty, or give me death.”

Woman in a Meeting: “Dave, if I could, I could just — I just really feel like if we had liberty it would be terrific, and the alternative would just be awful, you know? That’s just how it strikes me. I don’t know.”

“I have a dream today!”

Woman in a Meeting: “I’m sorry, I just had this idea — it’s probably crazy, but — look, just as long as we’re throwing things out here — I had sort of an idea or vision about maybe the future?”

“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”

Woman in a Meeting: “I’m sorry, Mikhail, if I could? Didn’t mean to cut you off there. Can we agree that this wall maybe isn’t quite doing what it should be doing? Just looking at everything everyone’s been saying, it seems like we could consider removing it. Possibly. I don’t know, what does the room feel?”

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Woman in a Meeting: “I have to say — I’m sorry — I have to say this. I don’t think we should be as scared of non-fear things as maybe we are? If that makes sense? Sorry, I feel like I’m rambling.”

“Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Woman in a Meeting: “I’m not an expert, Dave, but I feel like maybe you could accomplish more by maybe shifting your focus from asking things from the government and instead looking at things that we can all do ourselves? Just a thought. Just a thought. Take it for what it’s worth.”

“Let my people go.”

Woman in a Meeting: “Pharaoh, listen, I totally hear where you’re coming from on this. I totally do. And I don’t want to butt in if you’ve come to a decision here, but, just, I have to say, would you consider that an argument for maybe releasing these people could conceivably have merit? Or is that already off the table?”

“I came. I saw. I conquered.”

Woman in a Meeting: “I don’t want to toot my own horn here at all but I definitely have been to those places and was just honored to be a part of it as our team did such a wonderful job of conquering them.”

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Woman in a Meeting: “I’m sorry, it really feels to me like we’re all equal, you know? I just feel really strongly on this.”

“I have not yet begun to fight.”

Woman in a Meeting: “Dave, I’m not going to fight you on this.”

“I will be heard.”

Woman in a Meeting: “Sorry to interrupt. No, go on, Dave. Finish what you had to say.”

The above translations might be useful for female candidates in the upcoming year to keep them being “feisty,” a term describing Hillary Clinton and “normally reserved for individuals and animals that are not inherently potent or powerful; ‘one can call a Pekinese dog spunky or feisty, but one would not, I think, call a Great Dane spunky or feisty.’” Eight years ago, Clinton was also described as being shrill and nagging.

In the Daily Kos, Molly Weasley pointed out other descriptions of women’s language.

CNN.com described Hillary Clinton’s criticism of GOP candidates as “harsh,” but adjectives for male candidates included “spirited,” “fiery,” “tough-talking,” etc.

Politico called Clinton “testy” when she gave the same answer to several similar questions about her using a private mail server. On the other hand, Jeb Bush was “firm” in his “testy” responses to reporters.

In the August 6 debate, other candidates were addressed as “Senator” and “Governor,” but the Fox News debate moderators addressed Fiorina as “Carly.” Earlier she had described how her AT&T boss introduced her to her new team as the “token bimbo,” a term that stayed with her at HP, although male CEOs’ descriptors were not disrespectful.

Pat Buchanan said about Clinton, “When she raises her voice … It reaches a point where every husband in America has heard it one time or another.”

In “Speaking While Female,” Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant write about how women tend to be interrupted when exchanging ideas with men.

“When a woman speaks in a professional setting, she walks a tightrope. Either she’s barely heard or she’s judged as too aggressive. When a man says virtually the same thing, heads nod in appreciation for his fine idea. As a result, women often decide that saying less is more.”

Male executives are rewarded with ten percent higher ratings of competence when speaking up more often; females are punished with 14 percent lower ratings by speaking more than their peers. In another study, male employees who contribute ideas bringing in new revenue get higher performance evaluations and are considered more helpful by their managers. The same behavior from women results in no change of perception by their employers. Women challenging the system are also considered less loyal.

Language is just one sexist issue creating a negative opinion of women candidates and politicians. There’s also descriptions of her body, her clothing, etc., etc.

December 29, 2015

Tamir Rice on Trial

Filed under: Police — trp2011 @ 9:29 PM
Tags: , , ,

 

Over 13 months ago, a 12-year-old boy carrying a toy gun was shot down in a Cleveland park on November 22, 2014. It took 401 days for a grand jury to exonerate the policemen, largely because of the prosecutor’s dragging his feet. Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy McGinty’s rigorous defense of the police officers was to persuade the grand jury to not indict the officers. McGinty brought in his own expert witnesses for that purpose—almost never done in a grand jury—and then grilled the experts brought by a lawyer for Tamir Rice—again an anomaly in grand jury practice. The prosecutor’s leaking of negative information about the boy and selective use of information to excuse and defend the actions of the killers was background for his blame for the 12-year-old “man” with “gun,” a fake.

McGinty’s  out-of-state experts, retired FBI agent Kimberly Crawford and Colorado-based S. Lamar Sims, have a history of sympathy toward police. Before he released his report, Sims defended the officers on television; Crawford’s memo on use of force by law enforcement was rejected by the Justice Department. Ignored were statements from experts Roger Clark and Jeffrey J. Noble that the prosecutors’ reports “contradicted one another, made unfounded assumptions and ignored principles of police training.”

McGinty characterized Timothy Loehmann as a “reasonable” officer. This is the man who resigned from a Cleveland suburban police office after he experienced an “emotional meltdown” during firearms training that made his facility with a handgun “dismal,” according to the instructor’s report. A letter in Loehmann’s file stated that he was “distracted” and “weepy” during firearms qualification training. Deputy Chief Jim Polak of the Independence police wrote:

“[Loehmann] could not follow simple directions, could not communicate clear thoughts nor recollections, and his handgun performance was dismal. I do not believe time, nor training, will be able to change or correct the deficiencies.”

McGinty depicted Tamir Rice as big and scary. The prosecutor description Rice’s size and his carrying a toy gun indicated that Rice deserved the shooting and reinforced that the belief to many white people that black boys are older and more menacing. A former senior police official who helps a city government manage claims of excessive force or other wrongdoing by police officers in another city said that Frank Garmback’s driving up close to Rice was a “poor tactical decision”:

“That was a tactical decision that required the man to make a much more rapid decision. It looks like they could have stopped 100 or 200 yards away and taken cover.”

McGinty talked about the police officer’s concern because law enforcement officials had been killed previously near the park where Loehmann killed Rice. The shootings in 2006 and 1996 occurred long before Loehmann had been hired a few months earlier. Cleveland police officers work in many areas where violence has occurred. Michael Benza, a criminal law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said that race takes place in evaluating a person with a gun. He said that white people on the streets with assault-style rifles are treated much differently than black people:

 “When [police] go into a neighborhood where there is a perception of danger and they see a big black guy that matches the description of a guy with a gun, they are going to act very differently than if they see a white guy with a gun in the suburbs.”

McGinty didn’t require the officers to testify. Instead they were allowed to submit their written the statements to the jury with no questioning. The prosecutor may have known that the story they told could not stand up to cross-examination.

The prosecutor said, “We don’t second-guess police officers.” Actually, the prosecutor’s job is to reexamine the police officers conduct and to question the appropriateness of their actions. This didn’t happen.

The caller  told the dispatcher that the “guy” was a juvenile and that the “gun” was likely a toy. The dispatcher failed to communicate that to the officers.

Loehmann told the grand jury that Tamir was reaching for his waistband, but the surveillance video doesn’t show this before Loehmann shot him. A surveillance video shows Loehmann with his gun out of his holster and shooting Rice before the car stopped. Loehmann claimed that he ordered Tamir to drop his weapon multiple times, but he had no time to say that and not time for Tamir to respond if he said anything. No witnesses heard Loehmann say anything.

After Tamir Rice was shot in the torso, the police officers realized that he was a child with a boy but failed to render any medical aid. The child wasn’t given first aid until an FBI agent in the area arrived at the scene. Loehmann said he had a sprained ankle, and his partner was busy handcuffing Rice’s 14-year-old sister and putting her in the back of their cruiser.

When Rice arrived at the ER, doctors couldn’t intubate him because the police had said that he was an adult. The tube was too large to pass Tamir’s vocal cords. Instead they took him into OR where he hemorrhaged to death by early the next morning.

Judge Ronald B. Adrine had earlier “found that sufficient cause exists to charge Loehmann with murder, involuntary manslaughter, reckless homicide, negligent homicide, and dereliction of duty.” He also found that Loehmann’s partner, Frank Garmback, could be charged with “negligent homicide and dereliction of duty.” Instead, the prosecutor defended Loehmann and Garmback.

Although the grand jury failed to indict Loehmann and Garmback, they will face a new administrative review. The investigative committee which includes civilians will begin all over, starting with the calls to 911. City Council member Jeffrey Johnson announced that he would ask the council to seek local charges of negligent homicide, the most serious charge that can be sought under city law. Conviction would mean only six months in jail, but the process would allow for another full review of the shooting. In addition to reviewing the conduct of the two officers, the Cleveland Police Department’s Critical Incident Review Committee will also determine whether the 911 call taker and dispatcher should face disciplinary charges.

McGinty has reinforced the growing belief in the United States that police are justified their killings if they perceive any threat to themselves–no matter how minor—even if their confrontation was unnecessary. Police may now take control of even situation, even ones that are not criminal, and kill people at will. Police no longer have any obligation to see a less violent situation before using lethal force.

Part of a police officer’s job is taking a risk, and it can be dangerous. More and more, however, police eschew risk through lethal means to guarantee safety for themselves at any cost to the people around them. The old mandate of “serve and protect” is now for police officers to protect themselves. Killing someone in this drive for self-protection and then exonerating them result in acceptance that this behavior is the norm, that police officers shouldn’t be held accountable.

Of the 1,125 people who were killed in the United States by police—about three each day—965 were shot to death. The number may be far greater because no official entity is keeping track of these travesties. The number of people killed by police far exceeds those who die from pneumonia and influenza, measles, and malaria and mumps. The rate of U.S. police killing in 2014 was 100 times that of England, 40 times that of Germany and 20 times the rate in Canada.

At least 90 of people killed by police were totally unarmed—no hammers, knives, or any other weapon. Forty percent of the unarmed men shot by police were black although black men make up just 6 percent of the country. Police say that they feel “under attack,” but only 34 of them have been killed in the line of duty during 2015.

Killings by police combined by exoneration of the killings have reached epidemic proportion.

December 28, 2015

Christians v. Separation of Church & State

The month of December is always the Christian depiction of their being victimized because of their belief that the secular world is trying to take away their traditions—many of them pagan. Much of their myth about the “War on Christmas” centers around nativity scenes. For example, the Daily Caller complained that Nebraska was forced to remove the nativity scene from the capitol in exchange for a display from atheists. Actually, the Thomas More Society, which put up the nativity scene, waited too late to get the available space after December 18.  Seven other groups used the display to demonstrate the separation of church and state, including scale models of a church, a wall, and federal government buildings to demonstrate the separation of church and state. Instead of asking these people if they could leave up their display, the Thomas More Society preferred to go to the press.

nativity founding fathersTexas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) ordered the removal of a nativity scene with the nation’s founding fathers kneeling over a manger that held the Bill of Rights instead of baby Jesus from the state Capitol. The small painted cutout in the basement of the Texas capitol was installed on December 18 with permission for one week, but Abbot said that there was “no obligation to approve displays that purposefully mock the sincere religious beliefs of others.”

florida festivus poleAfter two years of strife in the state about religious displays in their state capitol, Florida Prayer Network decided against putting the manger scene this year. The network’s president, Pam Olsen, should be commended for her a letter explaining that she wanted to avoid the display debate after news of mass shootings and racial tensions. The only display was a six-foot “Festivus pole” wrapped in rainbow colors.

 

 

chaz-stevens-festivus-pole-x750The person who installed the pole, Chaz Stevens of Jupiter (FL), has also received permission to display a “Festivus Pole,” topped by a disco ball, in the Oklahoma Capitol rotunda. Although dating back to 1966, the Festivus celebration became widely known after a 1997 Seinfeld TV sit com in which a character’s father described a holiday including feats of strength and the airing of grievances. Although Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, and Washington also accepted applications for this display, Arkansas denied a request for the Festivus pole.  [Image of Stevens thanks to The Advocate]

zombie nativiity sceneThe best nativity scene story this year may come from Sycamore Township (Ohio) where Jasen Dixon put up a manger scene featuring zombies. Last year he had to take down the display because he didn’t have a permit; this year he was told that it violated the zoning code. Full of Christianity, Fox business host Lou Dobbs said, “I think if you’re going to mock a religion, I’m thinking they should have chosen the Islamic religion.”

Other countries are either protesting government control of the Christian religion or accepting alternatives to it. Icelanders opposed to the state funding of religion are registering as Zuists, a movement that worships ancient Sumerian gods. A bonus is the possibility of a tax rebate. The law requires Icelanders to register their religion with the state, and almost three-fourths are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Iceland. The nation’s constitution has declared that this church “shall be the State Church in Iceland and, as such, it shall be supported and protected by the State.” Over 40 other registered religious groups qualify for “parish fees” paid through the taxation system—about $80 per person for next year.

flyingThe Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, created in 2005 as a protest to teaching creationism in Kansas public schools, now has approval to officiate same-gender marriages in New Zealand. Marriage equality has been legal in that country since 2013. Members of the church wear pasta strainers on their heads and have popped up with this gear on official documents in the U.S. such as driver’s licenses. [A Pastafarian holiday tree – Venganza.org]

In a demonstration of Muslims compassion, a group protected Christians. When Kenyan Al-Shabaab militants tried to separate Christians on a bus to kill them, Muslims, mostly women, told the attackers that they had to kill everyone, not just the Christians. The Muslim women gave the Christian women their hijabs and helped others hide behind bags in the bus. Joseph Nkaissery, Kenya’s interior cabinet secretary, said, “We are all Kenyans, we are not separated by religion.” he said.

In contrast to this act of humanity, the rampant hatred of many people in the United States caused a Christian to celebrate Christmas Day by setting fire to a Houston mosque just one hour after hundreds of worshippers filled the place of worship. The tragedy follows a series of hate-filled attacks that include other fires throughout the country which have increased since the killings in San Bernardino. Many people in the U.S. are supportive of Muslims, but leaders of one political party has announced that any of the 1.6 billion members of Islam–22 percent of the world’s population–would not be welcome in the United States if they control the U.S. government.

In another humanitarian move, one Christian college is bucking the Southern tradition of guns everywhere. While other Christian schools are banning LGBT students and suspending professors for thinking for themselves, Southern Methodist University, one of the top private colleges in Texas, has opted out of the state law allowing concealed handguns on campus. SMU students, faculty, and staff overwhelmingly supported a gun-free campus. Several other private universities in Texas, including Rice and Texas Christian University, but public universities have no choice. The law takes effect on August 1, 2016, the 50th anniversary of a mass shooting that killed 16 people at the University of Texas, Austin. The University of Texas system has over 214,000 students.

Christianity will have much more power in Arizona schools after the state’s Senate President Andy Biggs has selected Sen. Sylvia Allen (R-Snowflake) as chair of the Education Committee. The person in this position acts as gatekeeper for education-related decisions and legislation. As a creationist, Allen believes that the Earth is 6,000 years old and that the condensation trails behind jets are actually poisonous sprays to sicken the nation’s population. According to Allen, all U.S. citizens should be forced to attend religious services. She also interfered with Navajo County Sheriff K.C. Clark’s investigation into accusations that Allen’s son-in-law was sexually assaulting female prisoners. Biggs claimed, “She understands what Arizona students and parents need in our education system.”

(Allen has an interesting background. She won her seat for the first time in 2008 after Jake Flake, former speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives and the uncle of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, was bucked from a horse and broke eight ribs. He died of a heart attack two weeks later. She lost her reelection in 2012 but ran—and won—again in 2014 after state Sen. Chester Crandall was found dead after falling or being bucked from a horse. She supports uranium mining near the Grand Canyon, state funding of a militia run by the neo-Nazi J.T. Ready, anti-Semitic Holocaust denial testimony before the state senate, and elimination of health care for 280,000 with the “reason” that people should do more to take care of their health and avoid seeing doctors.)

In an op-ed piece, Allen explains that the state shouldn’t take Muslim refugees because they follow Sharia law. “Islam is a political system as well as a religious system,” she said to defend her position—highly similar to her own belief that Christianity should control law in the United States because it’s “a political system as well as a religious system.” The new commissioner to Maine’s Department of Education is also a creationist.

As Christians spread ignorance throughout public schools, one 11-year-old student is taking them to task. Brandon Silver wanted to learn about evolution, but the Palm Beach County School District, a public school district in Boca Raton (FL), follows the religious belief of creationism in its science education. Silver’s father, Barry Silver, is a lawyer who filed a lawsuit against the district on November 24, the anniversary of Darwin’s publication of “The Origin of Species.” Speaking to the school board, the 11-year-old said, “Evolution is a very important topic, and it’s the greatest scientific breakthrough ever, so I believe it should be taught.” The United States ranked 27th in the world in science scores by 2012, below Australia as well as most of Europe and Asia. Good for you, Brandon Silver!

December 27, 2015

Best Feminist Quotes – 2015

Filed under: Feminism — trp2011 @ 2:27 PM

From Ms, Vienna Urias ‘ best feminist quotes of 2015:

Just like that, 2015 is coming to a close. Despite some serious ups and downs, 2015 became the year that same-sex marriage was legalized, global support for women’s education surged and feminist consciousness soared. So let us bask in the feminist glory of the year with a few of our favorite quotes from 2015.

  1. Malala-Yousafzai“When you said in your speech, ‘If not now, when? If not me, who?’, I decided there’s no way and there’s nothing wrong by calling yourself a feminist. So I’m a feminist and we all should be a feminist because feminism is another word for equality.” — Malala Yousafzai, in conversation with Emma Watson in November.
  1. Sen.-Claire-McCaskill“As one of just 20 women currently in the Senate, it’s important to me to encourage more women to run for office…But equally important is encouraging more men to sometimes just shut the hell up. It’s not that women don’t value your thoughts, it’s just that we don’t value all of them. The world doesn’t need your opinion on everything. For example, what women do with their bodies. Hush.” —Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), in a satirical skit on the Late Show With Stephen Colbert in November.
  1. MichelleObama“As a first lady, a mother, and a human being, I cannot walk away from these girls, and I plan to keep raising my voice on their behalf for the rest of my life. I plan to keep urging world leaders to invest in their potential and create societies that truly value them as human beings. I plan to keep reaching out to local leaders, families and girls themselves to raise awareness about the power of sending girls to school. And I plan to keep talking about this issue here at home, because I believe that all of us—men and women, in every country on this planet—have a moral obligation to give all of these girls a future worthy of their promise and their dreams. “—First Lady Michelle Obama, in an essay written in November for The Atlantic about the Let Girls Learn initiative.

 

  1. Viola-Davis“Let me tell you something: The only thing that separates women of color from anyone else is opportunity. You cannot win an Emmy for roles that are simply not there.” —Viola Davis, during her Emmy Award acceptance speech in September.
  1. RBG“People ask me sometimes, when—when do you think it will it be enough? When will there be enough women on the court? And my answer is when there are nine.” —Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, speaking at Georgetown University in February.
  1. Mindy“I have a personality defect where I sort of refuse to see myself as an underdog. I often am reminded of it when people ask why I am confident. It’s because my parents…they raised me with the entitlement of a tall, blonde, white man.” —Mindy Kaling, at a Q & A during the 2015 Sundance Film Festival in January.
  1. AngelaDavis-1024x684“There can be no great triumph over racism without addressing capitalism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, the environment that we live in and the food that we consume. We have to recognize all of these connections.” —Angela Davis, speaking at “Angela Davis: A Lifetime of Revolution,” hosted by USC’s Black Student Assembly and the USC Speakers Committee in February.
  1. Rowan-Blanchard“When I was in preschool, I played catch with the other kids, and was told I threw ‘like a girl.’ I have been a feminist ever since.” —Girl Meets World star Rowan Blanchard, speaking at U.N. Women’s annual conference in June.
  1. Amanda“End the ‘angry black girl’ narrative. It’s just another attempt to undermine certain perspectives. I have strong opinions. I am not angry.” —actor Amandla Stenberg, in a July tweet.

Gloria

  1. “People are always asking me, ‘Who will you pass the torch to?’ The question makes me angry. There is no one torch—there are many torches—and I’m using my torch to light other torches. There shouldn’t have been a ‘first’ Gloria Steinem, and there won’t be a last one.”—Gloria Steinem, in an October interview with The New Yorker.

Photos of Mindy Kaling, Amandla Stenberg and Viola Davis via Shutterstock. Photo of Angela Davis courtesy of Universität Wien. Photo of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg via Wake Forest University School of Law. Photo of Rowan Blanchard courtesy of Dominick D. Photo of Gloria Steinem courtesy of Jewish Women’s Archive. Photo of Malala Yousafzai courtesy of Utenriksdepartementet UD. Photo of First Lady Michelle Obama courtesy of U.S. Embassy Tokyo. Photo of Sen. Claire McCaskill courtesy of Senator Claire McCaskill. All images licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

 

December 25, 2015

More Good News for 2015

Barack ObamaFinishing the seventh year of his two terms, President Barack Obama read off his Top Ten list of happenings in 2015 during his weekly address last week:

 

 

 

  1. The economy. Over the past 12 months, our businesses have created 2.5 million new jobs. In all, they’ve added 13.7 million new jobs over a 69-month streak of job growth. And the unemployment rate has fallen to 5 percent–the lowest it’s been in almost eight years.
  1. More Americans are getting health coverage. The rate of the uninsured in America dropped below 10 percent for the first time ever. In all, 17.6 million people and climbing have gained coverage as the Affordable Care Act has taken effect. And don’t forget, you can still sign up through January 31st at HealthCare.gov.
  1. America’s global leadership on climate change. Last week, in Paris, nearly 200 countries came together to set the course for a low-carbon future. And it was only possible because America led with clean energy here at home and strong diplomacy around the world.
  1. Progress in the Americas. We turned the page on an outdated, half-century old policy by re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and reopening embassies in both our countries, allowing us to build greater ties between Americans and Cubans.
  1. Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. We succeeded in forging a strong deal to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iran has already dismantled thousands of centrifuges that enrich uranium.
  1. Standing strong against terrorism. Even as we continue to grieve over the attack in San Bernardino, we’re leading a global coalition and hitting ISIL harder than ever. In Syria and Iraq, ISIL is losing territory, and we’re not going to stop until we destroy this terrorist organization.
  1. A 21st century trade deal that makes sure our businesses can sell goods “Made in America” across the Asia-Pacific. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the strongest, most pro-worker, pro-environment trade agreement in our history. And it means that America – not China, not anyone else – will write the rules of the global economy for the century ahead.
  1. A pair of Christmas miracles in Washington! This week, Congress passed a bipartisan budget that invests in middle-class priorities, keeps our military the strongest in the world, and takes the threat of shutdowns and manufactured crises off the table for 2016. Plus, I signed a bipartisan education bill into law to help our students graduate prepared for college and their future careers.
  1. Love won. No matter who you are, here in America, you’re free to marry the person you love, because the freedom to marry is now the law in all fifty states.

1.  And the number one reason I’m optimistic going into 2016: It’s you—the American people. All of this progress is because of you—because of workers rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done, and entrepreneurs starting new businesses. Because of teachers and health workers and parents—all of us taking care of each other. Because of our incredible men and women in uniform, serving to protect us all. Because, when we’re united as Americans, there’s nothing that we cannot do.”

In a year with all too many lows, there was a lot to be proud of and a lot of progress that was made. Love won, climate change was no longer ignored, and the economy just keeps getting better and better.

Charles Kenney described 2015 as “the best year in history for the average human being” despite the year’s tragedies and misery from poverty, disease, and malnutrition. He cites this progress toward better quality of life for the majority:

Violence in the United States. Recent FBI statistics show that the country has grown safer with fewer violent crimes and homicide rates. Beginning in 2011, Syria helped reverse longer-term progress toward fewer global battle deaths, and the Iran nuclear deal shows evidence that progress toward peaceful settlement of disputes is possible. The number of ongoing wars and battle deaths is far below those in the 1970s and 1980s and remain a minor cause of death worldwide. For example, rabies was responsible for three times as many deaths as terrorism in 2012.

Famine and pestilence. The proportion of the world’s population that is undernourished fell from 19 percent in 1990 to the current 11 percent.

Disease: Although about 11,315 people died from Ebola worldwide, the total of 29,000 cases from the outbreak are far fewer than the projected 1.4 million without the vaccine. A partially effective malaria vaccine also showed progress this year. Each year, 6.7 million fewer children under the age of five die each year compared to 1990 because of vaccines. According to news in August, not one case of polio was reported in Africa during the previous 12 months, leaving the disorder to exist only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The past global killer, with 350,000 cases as recently as 1988, is close to eradication. Since 2000, worldwide cases of measles dropped by over two-thirds, keeping over 17 million people alive—again thanks to vaccination rates.

Civil and political rights: The number of electoral democracies—although not all fully “free”—is at an historic high at 125, up from 69 in 1989.  Peaceful and democratic transitions of power this year occurred in diverse places such as Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Myanmar, and Argentina. For the first time, women were permitted to vote and stand as candidates in Saudi Arabia’s local elections.

LGBT rights: The United States legalized marriage equality throughout the country last June, Mozambique decriminalized same-sex relationships in June, and Ireland legalized same-gender marriage. The number of global laws prohibiting sexual acts between consenting same-gender adults—92 in 2006—dropped to 75 this past year.

Wealth: The IMF forecast 4.0 percent growth for emerging and developing countries for 2015—slower than the 7-8 percent that they managed through much of the last 15 years but considerably ahead of population growth. For the first time, according to the World Bank, less than 10 percent of the global population lived in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 per day, down from 37 percent as recently as 1990.

Globalization: Despite protests across Europe against refugees, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held to her country’s policy of enlightened self-interest toward migration flows. She tried to convince seven European countries to resettle as many as 400,000 refugees as part of her efforts to see the European Union admit at least 300,000 refugees from the conflict each year, and French President Francois Hollande reiterated a pledge to take in 30,000 refugees after the Paris attacks. World leaders agreed to “sustainable development goals” by 2030 to wipe out extreme poverty, reduce deaths of those under the age of five by millions each year, and guarantee all children go to school and learn while they are there.

Despite losses in reproductive rights in large parts of the United States, women made other gains:

The Supreme Court ruled that employers can’t discriminate against pregnant workers.

Women can now serve in all branches of the military.

California became the first state to put out guidelines for handling sexual assault on campus.

Jill HrubyThe appointment of Jill Hruby to head up Sandia National Laboratories makes her the first woman to head up one of three U.S. government labs that develops and maintains the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The White House reinstated birth control access for working women with health insurance after the Supreme Court tried to remove it.

Oregon made getting birth control easier for women by letting pharmacies dispense contraceptives in a full-year supply.

The U.S. Treasury decided to put a woman on the $10 bill after being invisible for more than a century.

NepalNepal joined the countries that elected a woman for president, 54-year-old Bidya Devi Bhandari, bringing the total of the world’s 195 countries to 29 with female leaders.

The UK introduced a new rule to call attention to the gender pay gap, requiring companies to publish payment for men and women, including bonuses.

raffi freedman-gurspanThe first openly transgender woman of color ever takes her post at a job in the White House—Raffi Freedman-Gurspon–in the Presidential Personnel Office a few months ago is monumental.

December 24, 2015

Good News for the Year End

Filed under: Progressives — trp2011 @ 11:33 PM
Tags: , ,

Good news—that’s what we need at the end of the year in which the media played up every egregious statement of Donald Trump, cheered by his audience and echoed by other GOP presidential candidates. For example, off-year elections have provided progressive victories in 2015 for people who want to move forward instead of backward into the Dark Ages:

Seattle passed “Democracy Vouchers”: To keep donations for city candidates from monopolized by the elite, the city will mail four $25 vouchers to each voter who can then sign and mail them to candidates or the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC). Candidates must agree to follow certain rules, including participation in three debates and acceptance of lower contribution and spending limits. Candidates may not receive contributions from any person or company with at least $250,000 in city contracts or $5,000 in lobbying expenses. Elected officials and their tops aides are barred from lobbying the city for three years after leaving their City Hall jobs. The experiment is funded by property taxes equal to about $9 per year for a $450,000 property.

Seattle also passed a $15 minimum wage and successfully defended its “gun violence tax” on sellers of firearms and ammunitions. The money goes toward violence prevention programs and research. A companion measure requires gun owners to report lost and stolen firearms to police. Gun dealers “lose” tens of thousands (if not more) of guns a year that end up in the hands of criminals.

The state of Ohio voted to ban political gerrymandering.

Maine strengthened publicly funded elections in the state. Only 13 states provide public campaign financing, and only five open this to legislative hopefuls. Maine’s new law eliminates corporate tax breaks, raises allocations to the Clean Election system from $4 million to $6 million in each two-year budget period, and increases penalties for campaign law violations with new disclosure provisions. The original law in Maine in 1996 provided matching funds which the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2011. The number of publicly-funded legislative candidates dropped from 81 percent in 2008 to 53 percent in 2014. Outside spending on Maine’s legislative races grew from $600,000 in 2008 to $3.6 million.

In its list of the seven most progressive victories of 2015, Think Progress included the achievements in Ohio and Maine as well as the following:

Workers are earning more: Nine states increased minimum wages by ballot measure and legislative victories, and Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities joined Seattle in increasing minimum wages. Last summer, President Obama announced a new overtime rule to help almost five million workers.

ACA is here to stay and the uninsured rate is at an all-time low: The Supreme Court upheld the healthcare subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, bringing quality, affordable health insurance to over 16 million people. The uninsured rate has dropped below ten percent for the first time in decades. A GOP Congress has been unable to kill a healthcare law that is growing more and more popular. Of the 8.3 million sign-ups, about 2.4 million are new to the marketplace—one-third more than last year—and the 2.1 million people under 35 are nearly double last year’s numbers. Enrollment is not finished, and 9.9 million may be a part of the formerly dreaded “Obamacare.”

More voters (41 percent) approve of the ACA than those who oppose it (39 percent). By now only 20 states have not expanded Medicaid, including all the states in the South except Arkansas. Alabama and Louisiana are considering joining the Obamacare bandwagon, and Tennessee’s GOP governor is trying to convince his legislature that they should have it in that state.

The world unites to fight climate change: 195 countries agreed on a climate deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in its attempt to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is also designed to slow global warming, providing benefits of up to $93 billion in the next 15 years. His designation of six new national monuments permanently protects more than one million acres of public lands. By saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the president helps mitigate impacts on climate change on forests, wildlife, and waterways.

The high school graduation rate this year was the highest on record.

Despite GOP undermining the plan, the U.S. struck an historic Iran nuclear deal: Two and a half years of negotiations led to six world powers agreeing to put Iran’s nuclear program under international scrutiny and cut off the country’s pathways to a nuclear bomb.

The Supreme Court legalizing marriage equality.  

Popularity is growing for progressive ideas. Polls show that conservatives are beginning to agree with progressives on money in politics, education, trade, inequality, Social Security, and Medicare as well as taking on big banks. In The Atlantic Peter Beinart wrote in “Why America Is Moving Left”:

  • The Black Lives Matter movement has gained acceptance.
  • Income inequality dominates economic discussion.
  • LGBT rights are becoming mainstream.
  • The blogger movement is growing with Daily Kos becoming a leading Democratic voice and Occupy which “injected economic inequality into the American political debate.”
  • George W. Bush made conservatives look like idiots. (And now he has a great deal of help from the current crop of GOP presidential candidates!)Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is pushing Hillary Clinton left, and all three Democratic candidates are campaigning on the domestic threat of economic inequality.

Planned Parenthood achieved an amazing victory when the GOP didn’t include defunding the popular program in its omnibus spending bill. They claim that they will defund it next year, but their opposition only brings more support for the organization providing health care annually to 2.7 million women at 700 clinics.

After the release of the videos, two-thirds of U.S. voters opposed defunding the organization (removing funding for the health care that they give low-income people) and 52 percent of the voters in a poll approve of PP. After excessive media coverage of false videos regarding PP, it stayed more popular than the National Rifle Association, both political parties, Congress, and the Supreme Court.

The GOP is still a strong force because of its money, voter disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering in red states. At this time, these issues insulate GOP congressional members from the views of constituents and empower the right wing. The next election will show whether people continue to support people who vote against the interests of most people in the United States—or whether rigging voting computers changes individual votes.

As Peter Beinart wrote:

“There is a backlash against the liberalism of the Obama era. But it is louder than it is strong. Instead of turning right, the country as a whole is still moving to the left.”

You can follow his reasoning here.

For more good news, check out Slate’s report of positive news for every day in 2015—as they describe them “signs of progress in 2015, stories that made us feel grateful, optimistic, inspired, or awed.”

For just plain fun, check out these best viral videos!

Happy Holidays!

December 23, 2015

New Gov. Bevin Gives Kentucky Lumps of Coal

 

 

MinWageIncrease2016

US_minimum_wage_map.svgEighteen states are raising the minimum wage in 2016, 14 on January 1 and four others later in the year. At $10 an hour, California and Massachusetts the highest rates; Arkansas has the lowest increase, going up $7.50, $.25 over the federal rate in 21 states, last changed in 2009. Eight states are indexed to the cost of living which did not increase this year.

Of the 21 states that must follow the federal rate because they have no minimum wage or law puts it below federal rate, most are in the South.  [Map for 2015: Green – higher than federal rate; blue – same as federal rate; red – lower than federal rate; yellow – no minimum wage; Arkansas created minimum wage since map was published.]

Kentucky Governor-elect Matt Bevin responds to a question during a press conference in the Kentucky State Capitol Rotunda, Friday, Nov. 6, 2015, in Frankfort, Ky. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

 (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Kentucky and its newly elected Tea Party governor belong to the bottom 21 states. Some of the approximately 16 percent of eligible voters who elected Matt Bevin as governor, only the third Republican since World War II, will soon going to suffer from buyer’s remorse if they aren’t already doing so. Bevin’s actions show what can happen if the United States elects a Republican president.

One of five orders Bevin issued on December 22, two weeks after his inauguration, was to lower the minimum wage for state workers and contractors to $7.25. Rent on an average one-bedroom apartment in the state would require a person to work a 60-hour week. He also stated that he doesn’t believe in minimum wage, that “wage rates ideally would be established by the demands of the labor market instead of being set by the government.” The top one percent could make even more by dropping their wages to the dollar-a-day that “free market” sets in the Third World. The danger there is that people couldn’t buy their products—even food.

Tipped state workers are even worse off. Last summer, the former governor raised the hourly wage for waiters and waitresses at state parks from $2.19 to $4.90. Bevin put them back at $2.19 an hour.

In addition to declaring a moratorium on hiring state employees, Bevin reversed Beshear’s practice of requiring merit employee actions be approved by the secretary of the governor’s Executive Cabinet. Bevin’s order also requires a review of all vacant positions in any agency to determine their necessity. In addition, he eliminated the Governor’s Employee Advisory Council, which advised the governor’s office on merit employee wages and terms of employment. The council was established by Democratic Gov. Paul Patton, disbanded by his successor Republican Ernie Fletcher and re-established by Beshear.

When former Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear restored voting rights to at least 140,000 with felony convictions, Kentucky was one of just three states that permanently disenfranchised all people with felony convictions. An early action by Bevin was to again disenfranchise all these people after they have paid their debt to society. Bevin had campaigned last year on restoring these people’s rights, but he reversed his earlier opinion. In Kentucky, one in five blacks lost their voting rights after conviction, compared with one in 13 nationally.

In another order, Bevin saved Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis from future jail terms by ordering the state to remove names of county clerks from marriage licenses. Fayette County Clerk Don Blevins, whose office serves the state’s second largest city, Lexington, said Bevin may have exceeded his authority because these licenses, a civil transaction, require clerks’ names for historical record. Another legal issues comes from the altered marriage licenses issued to couples in Rowan County since September that don’t include Davis’ name or the name of the county. Because of a question about their legality, the ACLU has asked U.S. District Judge David Bunning to order Davis to reissue the licenses, but Bunning has not yet made a ruling.

Nationally, the most controversial of Bevin’s actions comes from his declaration that he would eradicate health care for Kentucky residents. The state has been touted as an icon of improvement in health care, but Bevin pulled all ads for the state health exchange, Kynect. The earliest that he could shut down Kynect would be in 2017 because the law requires a 12-month notice to the government. Changing to the federal health care exchange, as Bevin has suggested as a possibility, would be more expensive than Kynect. Its annual budget of $28 million is funded by a one-percent assessment on health premiums. A federal exchange requires 3.5 percent in assessment, and dismantling Kynect would cost the state an estimated $23 million.

Some of the people who voted for Bevin are worried about the loss of their health care, but others think that people don’t deserve Medicaid. One of the latter is Angel Strong, an unemployed nurse, who went on Medicaid after she lost her job. “I had never had Medicaid, because I had insurance at my job,” said Strong. “Now I am out of a job and I am looking for another job, but in the meantime I had no income.” Medicaid recipient Strong doesn’t want other people to get Medicaid. She says that they need “tough love” because “[people] want everything they can get for free.” Most of Strong’s neighbors in Jackson County also need financial help for health insurance coverage, but most of these people didn’t consider their loss when they voted.

Rick Prario, 54, found he was eligible for Medicaid after losing his longtime job at a hardware store, but he’s angry because he had to pay the law’s tax penalty for going uninsured in 2014 when he was still working. During that time he skipped treatment for diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis, treatment that he now receives on Medicaid. His plan now is to quality for disability that he sees as a surer thing than Medicaid.

During two terms with former Gov. Beshear, the unemployment fell to a 14-year low, and the state’s uninsured rate dropped by over 40 percent. The new GOP governor was exposed as a “con man” and a “pathological liar” during his failed senatorial primary run against Mitch McConnell earlier this year. Among other actions, he failed to pay taxes, got a $200,000 federal grant for a fire in his Connecticut business, told people that he was unaware that he was actually attending a cockfight, claimed graduation from MIT—the list goes on and on. The GOP was so disenchanted with Bevin that they failed to support him for the governor’s race.

Bevin’s lies don’t end there. He’s accused Beshear of leaving Kentucky “burdened with a projected biennial budget shortfall of more than $500 million” despite the million in surplus.

The new governor won’t have an easy term. He has to deal with the only state House of Representatives in a Southern state controlled by Democrats. His first strategy was to appoint Democratic legislators to other positions that paid more, but Speaker Greg Stumbo is fighting Bevin’s takeover in all the issues that drive Kentucky backward. For example, Bevin has promised to repeal state taxes on inventory and inheritances with no plans to replace the revenue.  Bevin’s secretary of state and attorney general are both elected Democrats. AG Andy Beshear is the former governor’s son.

coalBevin may have won because he isn’t a “career politician” (although rigging the voting computers may have had some influence). Kentucky will now have a “laboratory experiment” for people who think that people with no experience and education in a profession will do a better job. By now, however, people may be learning that their Christmas stockings contain lumps of coal instead of something to make their lives better. As the website for Kentucky for Kentucky state, “Nothing says ‘I do not approve of you,’ like a real live chunk of Kentucky’s filthiest export.” It’s too late for this year, however, because they’re sold out, but there’s probably enough lying around in the state that the new governor can find.

Today, December 23, is Festivus Day, made famous by scriptwriter Dan O’Keefe, who wrote for Seinfeld. Celebrated with an aluminum Festivus pole, the holiday includes “Airing of Grievances.” People living in Kentucky will have lots to air for this year’s Festivus Day and most likely much more by Festivus Day 2016, especially those 400,000 people who may lose health care because of Matt Bevin. And the 140,000 who lose the right to vote. And the people who lose salaries and pensions. And ….

December 20, 2015

What Christianity Teaches

Filed under: Religion — trp2011 @ 1:25 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Around 2016 years ago, a non-Christian Middle Eastern couple needed refuge for the night. There was no room at the inn, but the innkeeper offered the travelers, one of whom was pregnant with another Man’s child, the option of bedding down in the barn. It was there that Jesus Christ was born. Or so the story goes.

The Nativity scene is an icon of current Christian celebration during December although the event most likely occurred in spring. Yet at least five states with these scenes in their capitols or governors’ mansions also refuse to accept any Middle-Eastern refugees in their boundaries. According to the story, an angel of the Lord told Joseph and Mary that they must escape to Egypt because Herod was searching for Jesus to kill him. Legislators claim that they are keeping out Syrian attackers after the Paris attacks to keep out Syrian refugees, but all the attackers were citizens of European countries.

Violence from the conservative propaganda against Islam has expanded to children.  A seventh grader in Ohio tried to resolve his argument with a sixth-grade student on the school bus by calling him a “towel head” and threatening to bring his father’s gun the next day to shoot and kill the Muslim boy. He also called the sixth-grader the “son of ISIS” and blamed him for the 9/11 attacks. The boy denied his threats, but the heated exchange had been taped.

Wheaton College has suspended tenured political science associate professor Larycia Hawkins because she said that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. Hawkins tried to protest the increasing Islamophobia by wearing a hijab, but declaring solidarity with the religion was too much for officials at the evangelical Christian school. They wrote:

“While Islam and Christianity are both monotheistic, we believe there are fundamental differences between the two faiths, including what they teach about God’s revelation to humanity, the nature of God, the path to salvation, and the life of prayer.”

Hawkins pointed out that millions of Christians throughout history have the standard belief in a common god. Miroslav Volf, a theology professor at Yale Divinity School and author of the book Allah: A Christian Response, wrote that unnecessary divisiveness over the question creates “justification for cultural and military wars.” In 2013, Brian C. Houston, the evangelical Christian leader of one of the world’s largest Christian churches, explained that Christianity and Islam have a shared deity.

The United States has had three mass shootings by Muslims out of over 350 shootings of at least four people each during 2015. Yet one of these three tragedies caused conservatives to blame the Muslims for all the gun violence in the country. Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, supports Donald Trump in keeping all Muslims from coming into the United States.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, goes father in asking all students, staff, and faculty to carry concealed guns on campus to “teach them a lesson.” By them, we’re pretty sure that he means Muslims. Falwell said that he started carrying a .25 caliber handgun in his back pocket after the mass shooting at San Bernardino (CA). Evidently, the shooting by a white Christian at the Charleston (SC) church didn’t cause Falwell any concern. Virginia has a minimum age of 21 for concealed carry, and Falwell said later that he meant only older students should be armed.

Carson-Newman University, a private Southern Baptist college in Tennessee, is the latest school to use federal permission to ban LGBT students, unwed mothers, students who had an abortion, and pregnant women. The university president said he doesn’t know why it sought the exemption to Title IX which prohibits sex discrimination in education that also applies to sexual orientation and gender identity. An attorney who filed the same application for a dozen other Christian schools told the president that it was a good idea. In the past 18 months, 56 schools have requested religious exemptions from Title IX. Of these 33 related to gender identity and 23 to sexual orientation have been awarded. A list of schools is available here. Eight senators, including Bernie Sanders and Oregon’s Ron Wyden, have asked for a website to publish the names of schools that discriminate so that students applying to college will be able to make informed decisions.

Of its 45 “speciality” licence plates in Alabama, only God plates are free, according to Gov. Robert Bentley, who announced that the God Bless America license plate will have no additional fee. People who want plates for autism, trees, education, breast cancer, wild turkey, etc. will still have to pay the usual $50 fee.

According to research from the University of Chicago, children from religious families are more selfish than those from less-religious families. In the the study’s dictator game,” 1,170 children are told that not everyone can participate in the game to get stickers and they must choose to keep or donate the stickers: “altruism was calculated as the number of stickers shared out of 10.” In another part of the study, children watched videos of people hurting others and then were asked to judge how mean the bullies are and what punishment they deserved. Non-religious children are less likely to hand out punishment and more inclined to be generous. Religious levels of the children were based on interviews with their parents about religious identity, practices, and morality of the children.

Tennessee GOP lawmakers want to ensure that non-Christians are made to feel excluded from any holiday parties. Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and some legislators called for the “immediate resignation”  of University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and cuts in UT’s funding for diversity programs after he issued a memo recommending goals to make parties “build upon workplace relationships and team morale” as well as “an opportunity to reinvigorate individuals for the new year’s goals and priorities.” He also said that parties should be voluntary, not mandatory. While Tennessee suffers from ranking 37th in unemployment, 46th in school funding, and 17th in teen pregnancy, GOP politicians concentrate on their fantasy of anti-Christian discrimination. Ramsay has also urged Tennessee Christians to buy guns because “secularism” and “Jihadists” have joined together to target Christians.

While the GOP U.S. House postponed a vote on keeping the federal government open and deciding whether the U.S. should be at war with ISIS, it passed H.R. 564, sponsored by 36 male representatives. The entire name is “Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected for use by those who celebrate Christmas”:

Whereas Christmas is a national holiday celebrated on December 25; and

Whereas the Framers intended that the First Amendment of the Constitution, in prohibiting the establishment of religion, would not prohibit any mention of religion or reference to God in civic dialog: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the House of Representatives—

(1) recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas;

(2) strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas; and

(3) expresses support for the use of these symbols and traditions by those who celebrate Christmas.

Less than two weeks before it celebrates the birth of Jesus, a Christian-run Kentucky homeless shelter, Emergency Christian Ministries, told all homeless women and children to leave because a “sex problem.” Billy Woodward, Emergency Christian Ministries Director, said the ban is based on teachings in the Bible because the homeless women were using the shelter as a dating or hookup service. Kentucky has the fifth-highest percentage of people in poverty, following Mississippi, New Mexico, Louisiana, and Arkansas.

Michael Long, social studies teacher at Delta Middle School in the central western part of Colorado, organized a bible giveaway in the doorway of the school library while his class met there. A child who took a photograph instead of a bible was shamed by her classmates for not agreeing with Christian beliefs. Principal Jennifer Lohrberg, supported by the district superintendent, declared that favoring one religion was according to district rules and approved by its lawyers. Other religious proselytizing at the same school during the last year included mandated attendance at a Christian religious and the use of free doughnuts as reward for attending morning prayers led by a DMS teacher.

Another school in the state, Colorado Mesa University, forced nurses graduating from the school’s program to either accept or reject a bible as they stepped down from the dais at their pinning ceremony, CMU’s graduation for nurses.  Following a discussion of the Western Colorado Atheists and Freethinkers organization, CMU president Tim Foster said that the “tradition” will be dropped.

stormtroopersThose who saw the seventh Star Wars movie, The Force Awakens, need to know that it’s based on the Bible. At least that’s what Northern Exposure actress Janine Turner claimed about Darth Vader’s black costume. “This goes back to biblical times,” she asserted, because “the Bible talks darkness and light.” She didn’t explain why the hordes of evil but poorly trained Stormtroopers are dressed in white.

And that’s the Christian teaching for the week.

December 19, 2015

Gun Myths Promote Killing Innocent People

Filed under: Guns — trp2011 @ 8:13 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ), a survivor of the lax gun laws in the United States, spoke on December 14, 2015, the third anniversary of the mass shooting that killed 20 children and eight adults, about the lack of gun safety laws:

“Congress will do exactly what its members have done every week since those 20 kindergartners and first-graders were murdered in their classrooms: nothing at all. That’s cowardice, an embrace of the shameful status quo we’ve grown to expect from a Congress in the gun lobby’s grip. Many of my former colleagues are in the cold clutches of pessimism and its key ingredient: fear.”

The second reason for refusal to face gun violence is ignorance and allegiance to distorted reality about guns. Many people opposed to gun safety laws don’t believe the following information:

Feeling safer is not the same as being safer. Two-thirds of gun owners say they feel safer because they have a gun in their home, but they aren’t. Having a gun in the home increases the chances of gun-related violence there: suicides, accidental shootings, domestic disagreements, and home invaders’ taking the guns. Of the 11,000 homicides in 2012, only 269—three-fourths with handguns—were justifiable, meaning self-defense. Each of these justifiable homicides was matched with 78 gun homicides, and two accidental gun deaths. A detailed report, “Firearms Training and Self-Defense,” shows that few criminals are shot in homes. Guns in homes are typically used to intimidate people they know in the home, including spouses, other family members, and people invited into the home.

The presence of guns in the home leads to violence. Too many unstable people own guns because 22 million people in the nation—8.9 percent of the adult population—have impulsive anger issues and easy access to guns. Few of these people are subject to current mental-health care restrictions, and 3.7 million of the 22 million carry their guns in public. Research shows that the more guns people have, the more likely they are to carry them in public and have a history of anger issues. Then sudden fear responses cause serious injury or death.

“Good people” with guns will not always defeat “bad people” with guns. Researchers studying the NRA belief in the contrary found the “good guns with guns” myth to be a dangerous vigilante fantasy. Most people with guns aren’t trained to be effective law officers. They don’t know how to confront unstable people; they don’t have the physical stamina to be in a potential life-or-death fight; and they don’t possess the self-control to stop themselves from firing indiscriminately. The result is injuries or death to themselves, bystanders, or both. The report stated:

“The lack of quality initial training and repeat training over time is potentially a disaster waiting to happen.”

More guns lead to more crime and violence. Research by a team of Stanford University and Johns Hopkins University researchers found in 2014:

“Our analysis of the year-by-year impact of RTC [right to carry] laws also suggests that RTC laws increase aggravated assaults. Our analysis of admittedly imperfect gun aggravated assaults provides suggestive evidence that RTC laws may be associated with large increases in this crime, perhaps increasing such gun assaults by almost 33 percent.”

The study also found “evidence that RTC laws increase rape and robbery.”

The deadliest weapons are very profitable.  Gun manufacturers and the NRA fan the fears of terrorism and government takeover because they make money from selling firearms—especially sem-automatic weapons that use more ammunition. Bullets accounted for almost one-third the profits–$4.6 billion sales in 2013 compared to 26 percent in 2008.

The gun culture promoted by the NRA and gun manufactures kills children.  The presence of a gun makes children less safe, programs such as Eddie Eagle are insufficient, and use of gun safes and smart guns could reduce the death toll. The presence of guns also directly increases the risk of youth homicide and suicide. Children between 5 and 14 in the U.S. are 17 times more likely to be murdered by firearms than children in other industrialized nations. In the developed world, 87 percent of children younger than 14 killed by firearms live in the United States. In the U.S., more children and teenagers died from gunfire in 2010—a single year—than U.S. troops in Afghanistan since 2001. Yet to people who oppose gun safety laws, mass shootings of children are horrific while “accidental” killings of children in the home—sometime by other young children—are sad but business as usual.

Children from states where firearms are prevalent suffer from significantly higher rates of homicide, even after accounting for poverty, education, and urbanization. For example, most of firearm deaths in North Carolina youth were caused by legally purchased handguns. Easy access to firearms doubles the risk of homicide and triples the risk for suicide among all household members. Family violence is also much more likely to be lethal in homes where a firearm is present, placing children especially in danger. Murder-suicides are another major risk to children and are most likely to be committed with a gun.

These deaths are not offset by defensive gun use. For every time a gun is used legally in self-defense at home, there are “four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” A study of adolescents in California found that there were 13 times as many threatening as self-defensive uses of guns. Many of the defensive encounters came from confrontations that became hostile because of the presence of a firearm.

Children living in states with higher levels of firearm availability also suffer from significantly higher rates of unintentional gun deaths. The vast majority of these shootings involve either family or friends. Accidental killings are significantly underreported in the official data, often being classified as homicides or suicides rather than accidents. Several states have twice as many accidental gun deaths than the official record indicated.

Many gun owners are unaware that children have handled their guns; therefore the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly advocates not having a gun in the home for safety. The NRA ignores this evidence and continues to push laws forbidding pediatricians from talking to parents about guns and safety measures. If people insist on having guns in homes with children, laws holding gun owners responsible for the safe storage of firearms reduced unintentional shooting deaths among children by 23 percent. States where gun owners are more likely to store loaded guns, especially if they are not locked up, have a much larger share of intentional firearm deaths.

Smart guns, which can be fired only by the owner, drastically reduces the risk of accidental shootings and teenage suicides. Extreme gun advocates have fought against their sales, going as far as sending death threats for offering smart guns. A campaign spreading lies about the failure rates of smart guns has stopped the use of this effective technology that could prevent deaths. Toy guns have regulations to reduce the risk of fatal accidents, but real guns have zero federal safety standards regulating their designs.

The NRA and extreme gun advocates perpetuate a culture of fear and violence, teaching children that guns are a solution. Bullied students are bringing thousands of guns to schools, and the number of school shootings has drastically increased since Sandy Hook. Exposure to firearm violence doubles the risk that an adolescent will then in turn commit violent acts over the next two years.

Conservatives have used the mass shooting in San Bernardino to avoid the serious problem of gun violence. After every mass shooting in the U.S. by a white man following the Christian religion, conservatives leap onto the “let’s not politicize the event,” “mental illness,” “lone wolf” memes. When two Muslims go out on their own to kill people—quite successfully because guns are easy to obtain—conservatives cry out for higher media surveilling, closing down the internet, building walls around the country, and stopping all Muslims at the border from entering the nation. A man kills three people in Colorado in the name of Christianity, and he’s simply deranged. A married couple kill 14 people in the name of Islam, and they are the devil incarnate.

Extremist people in the United States are so obsessed with their guns that they will do anything to keep them. As Larry Wilmore said in his segment about this lunacy, “See something, shoot something.” That’s what every obsessive gun owner believes no matter how many people are killed—as long as the shooter isn’t a Muslim.

December 18, 2015

Bipartisanship: Both Parties Hate the Omnibus Bill

Congress has decided to keep the government open for the next few months by passing the $1.8 trillion spending and tax bills, spreading holiday cheer and dismay throughout the country. After the House passed the tax bill yesterday by 318 to 109, it passed the spending bill today by 316 to 113 with four Democrats and one Republican not voting. Only 150 of the 247 Republicans voted in favor of it, destroying the Hastert Rule that demands any bills must have GOP support.

The Senate sent the bill to President Barack Obama with a 65-33 vote with six Democrats and independent Bernie Sanders voting no. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) were the only senators not voting. Rubio said during an interview in Muscatine (IA) that he would slow down the bill if not just stopping it while the Senate agreed to a time limit and moved forward.

The president signed the bill into law today.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), a member of the conservative House Freedom Caucus who voted no, said that the GOP vote was a favor to the new speaker. This bill will send Tea Party constituents into full revolution for the next election. Democrats voted for the bill in spite of the removal of the ban on exporting oil and the absence of a bankruptcy provision for fiscally stressed Puerto Rico. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) got commitments to address the Puerto Rico issues early next year. Meanwhile, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has blamed any problems in the ominibus on the former speaker, who resigned because he couldn’t handle the House.

It was a true bipartisan effort because no one is happy with the result. Democrats did get a permanent renewal for a health plan for 9/11 First Responders that expired October 1 because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) refused to put a vote on the floor. Comedian Jon Stewart, lately of The Daily Show, shamed Republicans and the nation by taking 9/11 First Responders to senate offices. Republicans also got several tax cuts although the bill had no new restrictions on Syrian refugees coming to the U.S.—a recent obsession for the GOP.

Also missing in the omnibus bill was “defunding” Planned Parenthood, a misnomer because PP simply gets paid for its services to Medicaid patients. Early next year Congress plans to use an alternative budget procedure called reconciliation to advance Senate  legislation on a simple majority vote in its continued effort to exchange $390 million to PP for $235 million for community health centers. Many of these give women false information about pregnancy and abortion except in California where the law bans this. President Obama pledged to veto any bill defunding Planned Parenthood. The omnibus bill also failed to defund the Title X family planning or teen pregancy prevention programs or allow employers to block their employees from receiving insurance coverage for abortion.

The deficit hawks went AWOL: the proposed spending bill adds $78 billion a year for the next ten years. Republicans pretend that permanently extended business tax credits don’t add anything to the deficit because they reflect current government spending. Fear of terrorism may also have made the hawks more cooperative, but they will most likely return in full force this next year. It would be nice to think that deficit hawks had figured out that the deficit has fallen sharply in recent years and is now down below 3 percent of GDP, but it doesn’t seem likely.

Across-the-board “sequester” cuts are mostly gone with this bill, and the package has about $700 billion in tax cuts—none of them paid for as the GOP has insisted in the past. Most of the cuts are those set to expire, such as R&D credit for businesses and anti-poverty cuts such as the expanded child tax credit and earned income tax credit. Others are taxes from the Affordable Care Act on insurance companies and medical device manufacturers that are delayed for a year. The two-year delay of the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health insurance plans levying a 40 percent tax on the most expensive health insurance plans  allows unions to negotiate larger benefits packages instead of higher wages. The tax would not have taken effect until 2018; now it is delayed until 2020. Renewable energy producers received extensions of tax credits for wind and solar that are phased out over five years.

Here’s a chart of the tax cuts:

Taxes Omnibus Bill

Policy riders can be the most controversial items on a spending bill, these these are some of the bad ones that stuck to the final version:

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission cannot require publicly traded corporations to disclose their political spending, making the “dark money” allowed by Citizens United even darker. When the Supreme Court allowed almost unlimited campaigning expenditures because corporations are “people,” it endorsed disclosure of public spending. Congress followed a different path.

Country-of-origin labels for pork and beef have been eliminated; people in the U.S. no longer know the source of their meat.

The four-decade limit on exporting crude oil produced in America has been eliminated. Big Oil can now create fuel shortages in the U.S. by shipping their product to countries that will pay more for oil.

Restrictions on overseas coal financing are limited.

The IRS is prevented from modernizing its vague, outdated rules for political activity by nonprofits, allowing more dark money into elections from groups such as Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS and the billionaire Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.

The president cannot issue an executive order requiring government contractors to disclose their political spending, including donations to nonprofit groups engaged in elections, as a condition of submitting a bid. Contractors can still be required to disclose their donations after they have secured their contract.

Personal privacy took a hit in the “cybersecurity” rider that allows businesses to share information with far less restrictions.

On the positive side, producers of genetically engineered salmon are required to develop guidelines and implement a program for the mandatory labeling of its product. The bill also does nothing to block states from creating their own mandatory labeling laws.

The best news is what was stripped from the final version of the omnibus bill:

Makers of cigars and electronic cigarettes will have to apply retroactively for approval of any products sold after February 2007.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law can still force retirement investment advisers to act solely to the benefit of their clients.

The Clean Power Plan rules to limit carbon emissions from U.S. power plants are still in effect as is President Obama’s promise to end federal funds to the global Green Climate Fund, created by the recent Paris agreement.

The Justice Department can still track buyers of multiple long guns although the GOP blocked funding of other research into gun violence.

A pointless rider in the bill: “None of the funds made available in this Act may be used to maintain or establish a computer network unless such network blocks the viewing, downloading, and exchanging of pornography.” The GOP must be trying to protect members of its own party.

The dumbest part of the new spending bill? The Republicans defunded Acorn—again!

“SEC.522 [p. 1,016 of the 2,009-page bill]: None of the funds made available under this or any other Act, or any prior Appropriations Act, may be provided to the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), or any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, allied organizations, or successors.”

The anti-poverty group officially closed over five years ago, it has no “affiliates” or “subsidiaries,” but the GOP continues to defund it.

Next Page »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Jennifer Hofmann

Inspiration for soul-divers, seekers, and adventurers.

JONATHAN TURLEY

Res ipsa loquitur ("The thing itself speaks")

www.occupydemocrats.com/

Moving America FORWARD

V e t P o l i t i c s

politics from a liberal veteran's perspective

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

GLBT News

Official news outlet for the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of ALA

The Extinction Protocol

Geologic and Earthchange News events

Central Oregon Coast NOW

The Central Oregon Coast Chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW)

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Over the Rainbow Books

A Book List from Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Round Table of the American Library Association

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

%d bloggers like this: