Nel's New Day

May 31, 2016

Sanders’ Wars

Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential candidate almost exactly one year ago on May 26. He started out focusing on two major issues—the economy and the climate—that energized an electorate, primarily young, who had previously ignored the voting process. He also started out as a pretty decent person who claimed that he wouldn’t run a negative campaign as shown by his comment to Clinton in last October’s debate that “the American people are sick and tired about hearing about your damn emails.”

Then Sanders started winning states. He now claims that he can win the candidacy despite being behind Clinton by over 3 million votes and 270 pledged delegates—and short another 498 super delegates. To just equal Clinton in pledged delegates, Sanders needs to pick up 463 of the remaining 655 delegates—over 70 percent of them. His one endorsement from the Senate in comparison to Clinton’s 41 is turning a bit lukewarm. All except one of the Democratic governors support Clinton as are the vast majority of Democratic members of the U.S. House.  Sanders has nine representatives and no current governors—not even the one from his own state—on his endorsement list.

The media, once entranced by the Vermont senator who represents fewer than 627,000 people, has grown increasingly disenchanted. The disappointment vastly increased after Sanders’ supporters intimidated speakers at last month’s Nevada Delegate Convention, threw chairs, sprayed graffiti on the state Democratic office, and posted death threats and obscene messages on party chair Roberta Lange’s personal telephone. All because Sanders lost two delegates. In Donald Trump fashion, supporters are now threatening problems at the Democratic convention in Philadelphia this summer. It’s not the first time that the “Bernie Bros” behaved badly, but this event hit the mainstream media.

Instead of condemning the abusive behavior, Sanders first walked away from questions and then denied that his supporters would behave like this. Later he released a weak statement that blamed the Nevada Democratic party for preventing a “fair and transparent process” and he threatened Democrats with failure if they refuse to “treat our campaign supporters with fairness and the respect that they have earned.” Sanders rationalized the violence with grievances and conspiracy theories. Gone is the man who declared that “Mr. Trump should take responsibility for addressing his supporters’ violent actions.”

Politifact found that Sanders supporters’ claims of fraud in Nevada’s  convention rules were completely wrong. Delegates, even some of them Clinton’s, weren’t seated because either they were not Democrats by May 1 or their names or addresses could not be confirmed. Only eight of the rejected delegates even showed up to the convention, meaning that seating them would not flip the majority. As in other situations, Sanders’ campaign didn’t check the existing rules of the party that he wants to elect him. By last Friday, he admitted that the Democratic Party rules aren’t rigged; he’s resorted to calling them “dumb.”

Yet Sanders lumps what he calls a corrupt Democratic Party into cries against income inequality, big banks, and Wall Street. His campaign reported that it will increase attacks on the party and Clinton in order to run up Sanders’ delegate count. Sanders’ attacks started over six months ago when he sued the DNC for briefly suspending his  use of voter information after one of his staffers inappropriately accessed Clinton’s voter data. Sanders blamed the access on the DNC, and the problem was settled within a day. Yet the lawsuit reemerged in March.

Another Sanders’ war against the DNC comes from super delegates; supporting Clinton. He toned down that rhetoric when he decided to take all of Clinton’s super delegates by falsely persuading them that he had a better chance of winning against Donald Trump. He railed against closed primaries, but doesn’t mind undemocratic caucuses because he is more successful with them. (He won nine of the 11 states with caucuses which is almost half of the states that he won.) Ironically, the two states in which he overwhelmingly won with caucuses (Nebraska and Washington) voted him down in primaries.

Sanders has long wanted to remove DNC chair, Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, from her position, going so far as to support her opponent in the Florida primary. Last week, he demanded the removal of Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy from being co-chairman of the platform committee and former Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank from leading the rules committee. His excuse is that they don’t support the Sanders’ candidacy.

For the past several months, Sanders has consistently attacked Clinton, calling her unqualified and insinuating that she is giving favors to Wall Street. He now says that Clinton’s emails are a “serious issue” and voters should take a “hard look” at it. Yet after months of trashing Clinton and then claiming that he’s in a better position to win the presidency, he announced that it is her responsibility for winning over his supporters. According to Sanders, “it’s the candidate’s job” to win over his supporters. At the same time, he indicated a willingness to be her vice-president.

Several Sanders’ media supporters aren’t swallowing his claims: CNN backer Sally Kohn in Time, “I Felt the Bern But the Bros Are Extinguishing the Flames”; Esquire’s Charles Pierce, “It’s Time for Bernie’s People to Calm Down”; and Harold Meyerson, “The Bros Are Undermining Bernie.” At least two wrote in Sanders’ “fanzine” Salon that it’s over, and Berners are abandoning their following in Reddit.

The complaint of male entitlement in the GOP has begun to shift to the Sanders’ “movement.” Sally Kohn wrote:

“It’s also too easy to suggest that Sanders’ supporters are a different kind of angry than Trump’s. Are we entirely sure about that? The populist right may be more inclined toward misogyny and xenophobia, but the populist left is not immune from these afflictions. And as I’ve written before, when you see progressive white men—many of whom enthusiastically supported Barack Obama’s candidacy—hate Clinton with every fiber of their being despite the fact that she’s a carbon copy of Obama’s ideology (or in fact now running slightly to his left), it’s hard to find any other explanation than sexism. Either way, the brutish, boorish behavior of Bernie Bros (and their female compatriots, too) was a huge reason I was reluctant to seemingly side with them in endorsing Sanders—and has been the only reason I have ever questioned my decision to do so since.”

Joan Walsh wrote:

“If you’d told me a year ago that we’d go into Philadelphia with 45 percent of the delegates committed to a socialist, as a firm flank on the left, backed by the many millions of Clinton supporters like myself who also identify with the left, I’d have said we were on the verge of transforming the party into a vehicle for racial and economic justice. Now I’m afraid of what’s coming. If Sanders wants to destroy the party instead of change it, if he wants to demonize progressives like Barney Frank and Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy (Devine has suggested he wants them removed from leadership roles because they endorsed Clinton), if he wants to turn the first female presidential nominee into a corrupt caricature of herself, a cross between Carly Fiorina and Marie Antoinette, then Philadelphia will be a disaster. For the party, and for Sanders too. He thinks he’s the only one who can defeat Donald Trump. But in fact, he’s the only one who can elect him, by tearing the party apart.”

Dana Milbank asked if “Bernie Sanders want[s] to be the Ralph Nader of 2016”:

“A few weeks ago, I wrote that I wasn’t concerned about Sanders remaining in the race until the very end, because he doesn’t wish to see a President Trump and will ultimately throw his full support to Clinton. Sanders has, indeed, lightened up on Clinton and is instead trying to shape the Democrats’ platform and direction. But his attacks on the party have released something just as damaging to the causes he professes to represent. Coupled with his refusal to raise money for the party, his increasingly harsh rhetoric could hurt Democrats up and down the ballot in November and beyond.”

“We are taking on virtually the entire Democratic establishment,” Sanders proclaimed, and his arguments sound exactly like the ones that Ralph Nadar made 16 years ago when he handed the country to the Republicans. Now Nadar is talking about Trump’s good points in opposition to Clinton. When Sanders started his campaign, he declared that he would never do what Nadar did because there’s a clear difference between the Democratic and Republican parties. Now his campaign against the Democrats is a strong support for Trump. Little wonder that the polls are causing concern for a Democratic presidential election in 2016.

The question is why Sanders is destroying his political career. He has never had much clout in the Senate, but most of the Democratic senators are turning against him. His entire political future depends on whether he can drop the angry, bitter old man persona and return to the ethical-appearing character who started the campaign just a few months ago.

Sanders has proved himself to be just like the politicians he pretends to reject. He wants people to think that he’s driven by lofty ideology but avoids inconvenient positions, like gun control, that are politically driven.

As a Washington Post editorial stated:

“Mr. Sanders is not a brave truth-teller. He is a politician selling his own brand of fiction to a slice of the country that eagerly wants to buy it. It proves that many progressives like being told everything they want to hear…. “Senator Sanders has fostered a toxic mix of unreason, revolutionary fervor, and perceived grievance.”

Sanders chose to use the Democratic Party to make his run for president rather than being an independent candidate. He has no loyalty to the party that gave him publicity and a platform for his success and instead uses the term “anti-establishment” to campaign. His single-minded focus ignoring the fact that class intersects with race and gender causes him to lose among minority groups and, to some extent, women. These are not his issues; he addressed them only after Hillary Clinton did.  Bernie Sanders promised not to run a negative campaign. He failed.

May 30, 2016

Memorial Day 2016 – More Soldiers May Die

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 7:24 PM
Tags: , ,

Today is a federal holiday called Memorial Day. When I was a child, it was called Decoration Day, the term first used for it after the U.S. Civil War. I remember trailing after my mother in Nebraska cemeteries as she put home-grown flowers, saved for weeks in the refrigerator, over graves of relatives. It was always a very somber day. Since that time, the date of Memorial Day has been moved from May 30 to the last Monday in May to create a “convenient” three-day weekend. Newspapers burgeon with colorful flyers for sales, and people invite friends to picnics. Almost gone, however, is any memory of the purpose for this commemoration.

The purpose of Memorial Day is to honor military personnel who died in the service of their country, especially in battle or from wounds sustained in battle. It differs from Veterans Day, November 11, dedicated to all veterans in the military.

At least 1.2 million people from the United States have died fighting in wars during the past 241 years.* The total below list only U.S. military members and do not include the terrible toll of military members from other countries and the “collateral damage,” the term used for deaths, injuries, or other damage inflicted on an unintended (probably innocent) target.

  • American Revolution (1775-1783): Battle Deaths – 4,435
  • War of 1812 (1812-1815): Battle Deaths – 2,260
  • Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898): Battle Deaths Estimate – 1,000
  • Mexican War (1846-1848): Battle Deaths – 1,733; Other Deaths in Theater – 11,550
  • Civil War (1861-1865): Union Battle Deaths – 140,414; Other Deaths in Theater – 224,097 and Confederate Battle Deaths – 74,524; Other Deaths in Theater – 59,297
  • Spanish-American War (1898-1902): Battle Deaths – 385; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 2,061
  • Philippine-American War (1899 to 1902): Total Death – Over 4,200
  • World War I (1917-1918): Battle Deaths – 53,402; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 63,114
  • World War II (1941 –1945): Battle Deaths – 291,557; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 113,842
  • Korean War (1950-1953): Battle Deaths – 33,739; Other Deaths in Theater – 2,835; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 17,672
  • Vietnam War (1964-1975): Battle Deaths – 47,434; Other Deaths in Theater – 10,786; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 32,000
  • Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991): Battle Deaths – 148; Other Deaths in Theater – 235; Other Deaths in Service, Non-Theater – 1,565
  • Middle East Wars including Iraq and Afghanistan (2001-present): Total U.S. soldiers – 6,888

[A complete list of U.S. involvement and cause of wars/conflicts, including the Banana Wars of the early 20th century.]

On this Memorial Day, the GOP presidential candidate shows himself ready to declare more wars that will kill more people from the U.S. As the nation continues to suffer from George W. Bush’s preemptive wars at the turn of the 21st century, Donald Trump, Bush on steroids, plans more disasters for the U.S. The president has almost total control of U.S. foreign policy, and Trump has these plans if he becomes president:

  • Send U.S. oil companies to rebuild the Middle East infrastructure and take Syrian and Iraqi oil for the U.S. (“They’ll rebuild that sucker, brand new, and then I’ll take the oil.”)
  • Target and kill families of suspected ISIS fighters.
  • Expand the law to permit torture.
  • Send more military forces to the South China sea to show China “that we mean business.”
  • Make North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “disappear” (assassination?).
  • Abandon U.S. treaty commitments.
  • Withdraw all troops from foreign bases if the allies won’t pay 100 percent of the cost for the bases, at the risk of South Korea and Japan acquiring their own nuclear weapons. (The U.S. “may very well be better off.”)
  • Encourage more countries to have nuclear weapons by stopping nuclear proliferation.
  • Use nuclear weapons against ISIS.
  • Become more “unpredictable” in U.S. national security policy, perhaps causing an arms race with China and North Korea, nuclear proliferation by other states in East Asia, and regional instability.

Another Trump promise is to wage all-out war against any action to prevent climate change. Last Friday, he told an audience that there is no drought in California. His “energy and climate” position is to kill the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, all domestic climate-related regulations, and the Paris climate agreement. His actions would cause temperatures to soar, increasing poverty and hunger from food and water shortages. The instability would result in pandemic disease and exacerbate violent conflicts around the world. Human-caused climate change already triggered Syria’s civil war, “the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II,” according to a report from the European Commission.

If Donald Trump were elected president, he would be the “person with the finger on the button.”

finger on the button

In 2011, 19 men, 15 of them from Saudi Arabia, brought down two World Trade Centers in New York; George W. Bush’s ensuing wars caused physical and mental injuries to hundreds of thousands of military members. Deaths in the Middle East from these wars could be as high as four million.  A conservative estimate reports that the war cost $2 trillion by 2013, not counting expenses for veterans. At the same time, global terror spread from Afghanistan throughout the Middle East, Africa, and the Far East.

Now the GOP presidential presumptive candidate wants to back out of any diplomacy throughout the world while he intends to “bomb the shit out of ISIS.” As much of a problem that Donald Trump presents, even more frightening is the number of people who agree with Trump that the U.S. needs to allow the vast increase of nuclear weapons around the world. If Trump is elected president by these people, millions more people will die.

On May 29, 2017, the United States will again commemorate the people who died at war with shopping and retail sales—if the United States still exists in a year.

*The 1.2 million people who died in 241 years is fewer than those who have died from guns in the United States since 1968, but the federal government does not commemorate these deaths.

May 29, 2016

Samantha Bee, History of Anti-Abortion Movement

Jon Stewart’s disappearance from The Daily Show has left a great void in satirical—and educational—news on the comedy scene. Trevor Noah, the person sitting in Stewart’s chair, has openly declared that he won’t criticize the Fox network, and the only funny/educational pieces on his show come from his “correspondents.” Fortunately, Samantha Bee, formerly on The Daily Show, has a new show, Full Frontal, that more than fills in the gap. Although only weekly instead of Daily Shows’ four nights a week, it’s hard-hitting and direct, filled with information that many of us have missed. Last Monday’s show gave the background for the growth of the “pro-life before birth” movement.

Many people think that the evangelical right got riled because the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal in 1973. Bee gives the real reason. As Republican leaders worked to overturn the Democrats and make the United States a GOP dictatorship, they searched for an issue that would animate the Christian right into full-force political involvement. The first issue to coalesce right-wing Christians into a solid voting bloc was segregation. By the mid-1970s, however, that topic lost its popularity, and Paul Weyrich, founder of the conservative think tank Heritage Foundation, worked with preacher and Bible college founder Jerry Falwell to find another one. They hired up-and-coming SF filmmaker Frank Schaeffer to create the visual propaganda. The result was a film series, Whatever Happened to the Human Race, featuring his father, Francis Schaeffer, and future Surgeon General C. Everett Coop.

As Christina Cauterucci wrote:

“There are images of children with white faces painting in blood-red, baby dolls scattered on the shores of present-day Sodom; other baby dolls rolling down a conveyor into a garbage incinerator; and a real toddler crying in a cage, banging on the bars to escape. ‘Ten bucks says that kid is still ‘making films’ in the Valley,’ says Bee of the tot, who Schaeffer says was volunteered for the role by his California Christian parents.

“But the creepiest part of this early anti-abortion film fest is a cartoon Bee calls ‘Homeschool-house Rock.’ The video, made to screen at churches around the country to enlist them in a fight most evangelical leaders would have rather left to Catholics, shows evil doctors using hoses to suck up dancing fetuses wearing top hats and canes while scantily clad nurses drop-kick a series of swaddled infants. In the vein of so many propaganda films, it would seem like a hilarious parody if it weren’t such an effective, damaging piece of political messaging.”

anti abortion

Schaeffer has since expressed his regrets:

“One of the things that I did back in the day when I was young was help found, start, begin what became known as the ‘pro-life movement.’ It is the single greatest regret of my life.”

In a 2014 piece for Salon, Schaeffer wrote about the film series:

“We turned [the GOP] into an extremist far-right party that is fundamentally anti-American. There would have been no Tea Party without the foundation we built. The difference between now and then is that back then we were religious fanatics knocking on the doors of normal political leaders. Today the fanatics are the political leaders.”

The films didn’t make much of an impact on evangelicals at first.  Schaffer said, “They wanted to preach Jesus. They thought politics was dirty.” To turn the tide, former Rep. Jack Kemp put together 50 GOP congressmen to take on the cause and give it respectability. Bee has a clip of Dartmouth professor Randall Balmer who described the conference call in which GOP and evangelical leaders, including Jerry Falwell and Paul Weyrich, held a conference call to discuss what they should mobilize around now that segregation was over.

Frank Schaeffer wrote about the plans from the 1970s:

“Republican leaders would affirm their anti-abortion commitment to evangelicals, and in turn we’d vote for them — by the tens of millions. Once Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the presidency, ‘we’ would reverse Roe, through a constitutional amendment and/or through the appointment of anti-abortion judges to the Supreme Court or, if need be, through civil disobedience and even violence, though this was only hinted at at first. In 2016, the dream we had will become a reality unless America wakes up. The Republicans are poised to destroy women’s rights. They have a majority on the Court to back them up.”

Schaeffer’s prescience is all too real—and horrifying. More details are available here.

Part of Bee’s seven-minute expose of the religious right hypocrisy explains that the Bible has no objection to abortion. By now, however, religious leader Jerry Falwell, praised by mainstream U.S. politicians, blames abortion for everything, including the 9/11 attacks. terrorist attack. In 2001, Falwell said, “The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this, because God will not be mocked.”

The anti-abortion movement is actually less than a half-century old. Jonathan Dudley wrote in 2014:

“In 1968, Christianity Today published a special issue on contraception and abortion, encapsulating the consensus among evangelical thinkers at the time. In the leading article, Professor Bruce Waltke, of the famously conservative Dallas Theological Seminary, explained the Bible plainly teaches that life begins at birth: ‘God does not regard the fetus as a soul, no matter how far gestation has progressed. The Law plainly exacts: ‘If a man kills any human life he will be put to death’ (Lev. 24:17). But according to Exodus 21:22–24, the destruction of the fetus is not a capital offense… Clearly, then, in contrast to the mother, the fetus is not reckoned as a soul.

“The magazine Christian Life agreed, insisting, ‘The Bible definitely pinpoints a difference in the value of a fetus and an adult.’ And the Southern Baptist Convention passed a 1971 resolution affirming abortion should be legal not only to protect the life of the mother, but to protect her emotional health as well.”

Born-again Christians at that time believed that the legality of abortion flowed from Scripture, but in the late 1970s  the far-right developed a coalition with Catholics, who had long believed that life begins at conception. At the same time, they formed a common cause with Catholics on other topics such as feminism and homosexuality while re-interpreting the Bible to follow the Catholic position on abortion. In 1980, Jerry Falwell’s book declared, “The Bible clearly states that life begins at conception… (Abortion) is murder according to the Word of God.” Through dissemination of this interpretation on the television, the GOP was co-opted by the religious right. For the first time in its 43-year history, the publisher InterVarsity Press had to withdraw a book, Brave New People, in 1984 because it repeated the 1970 evangelical consensus: abortion was a tough issue and warranted in many circumstances.

Rick Warren repeated Jerry Falwell’s lies during the 2008 presidential election: “The reason I believe life begins at conception is ‘cause the Bible says it.” GOP presidential candidate John McCain had to change his position from pro-choice to pro-life to be a viable candidate. Four years later, millions of evangelicals supported Mitt Romney, a Mormon, over Barack Obama because they had been brainwashed to believe that the Bible unequivocally forbids abortion. Last year, Donald Trump switched from his longtime pro-choice position to his current position–as of today–that women should punish themselves if they have an abortion.

Jack Kemp may have physically died in 2009, but he lives on in House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), the man who worships Kemp. Ryan’s first action after becoming Speaker was to appoint longtime pro-life advocate David Hoppe as his chief of staff. Since he took over from John Boehner, Ryan promoted pro-life until birth positions such as de-funding Planned Parenthood and banning abortions after 20 weeks. The Catholic leader of the House holds a 100-percent pro-life voting record and claims that he is “pro-life” because of “reason and science.” His proof is seeing a “seven week ultrasound for our firstborn child … in the shape of a bean.” He finished his speech while a vice-presidential candidate by saying, “Now I believe that life begins at conception…. The policy of a Romney administration will be to oppose abortions.”

Other radical of Ryan’s radical anti-abortion positions are shown in the bills that he co-sponsored or voted for in the House:

  • Allowing hospitals to deny women access to emergency abortion even if their life is in immediate danger.
  • Preventing victims of rape or incest from using Medicaid for abortion.
  • Denying women in the military to have an abortion at a military hospital except to save the woman’s life or in cases of rape or incest.
  • Declaring that a fertilized egg should have the same legal rights as a human being. (Buried in his Ryan’s failed Fetus Rights Bill, aka Sanctity of Human Life Act  HR 23, was a section allowing a rapist to sue his victim to keep her from having an abortion. With the current fixation on pro-life until birth, the rapist would probably win the case.)

None of these positions is in the Bible, and none of them has anything to do with either “reason” or “science.” It’s just the popular position pushed on people by the Republicans a few decades ago in a cynical approach to take total control of the United States. And it’s the excuse that far-right fanatics use to openly kill people if their disagree with them.

May 28, 2016

Environmental Hope for Movement from the Right

Filed under: Environment — trp2011 @ 10:03 PM
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Is it possible that the political pendulum in the United States is swinging away from the ultra-right side back to the central? There are a few pieces of hope in the fight against ag-gag laws, Monsanto, and big corporations.

Thanks to conservative lawmakers and a ruling by U.S. Chief Judge B. Lynn Winmill, Idaho taxpayers are stuck with paying $250,000 in legal fees for its unconstitutional “ag-gag” law. The law’s intent was to prevent people from filming the inhumane animal abuse on big agricultural farms. Idaho was the most recent state in the trend to outlaw undercover investigations, and the first to suffer the overturn of its law because of the 1st and 14th amendments of the U.S. Constitution. An appeal for the Idaho ruling would go to the usually liberal 9th Circuit of Appeals.

The far-right group American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), created by the Koch brothers, drafted a model bill so that conservative lawmakers could take it back to their legislation. These laws maintained that photographing the animal abuse was not only illegal but those convicted were listed on a “terrorist registry.”

Twenty-six states introduced these bills, and seven of them passed it into law. Because Idaho’s law was overturned on federal constitutional grounds, the ruling will most likely set a strong precedent for legal ag-gag challenges throughout the nation.

On the national level, agribusiness lobbyists have persuaded House Republicans to include an exemption of agricultural commodity groups from the Freedom of Information Act requests in its 2017 House Agricultural Appropriations bill.

Wyoming’s law made it illegal to collect data, outside of city boundaries, on all lands public, private or federal. “Data collection” means “take a sample of material, acquire, gather, photograph or otherwise preserve information in any form from open land which is submitted or intended to be submitted to any agency of the state or federal government.” Warned that the law might be unconstitutional, lawmakers amended it this spring to just private lands where anyone in Wyoming, whether resident or visitor, who takes a photo of a polluted stream to report it to any agency can get a $5,000 fine and up to a year in jail. The law is now in the courts.

The worst state law may be in North Carolina: it covers not only agricultural business but also all other workplaces in the state. According to the law, people secretly taping abuses of people in nursing homes, daycare centers, hospitals, group homes, medical practices, charter and private schools, veterans’ facilities, etc. can be sued for bad publicity and required to pay a fine of $5,000 each day that the person gathers and/or records information without the business owners’ authorization. The law exempts people who directly report abuses to owners or state authorities, but the information cannot be legally disseminated to the public. The law is being challenged, perhaps successfully. The Idaho judge wrote that activists who pose as employees to gain access to farming operations  “actually advance core First Amendment values by exposing misconduct to the public eye and facilitating dialogue on issues of considerable public interest.”

On the national level, agribusiness lobbyists have persuaded House Republicans to include an exemption of agricultural commodity groups from the Freedom of Information Act requests in its 2017 House Agricultural Appropriations bill.

Animals are not the only ones abused in agribusiness. Poultry industry workers are “routinely denied breaks to use the bathroom” in corporate efforts to optimize the speed of production. According to a new study, people avoid drinking liquids for long periods of time and wear diapers at work so that they can “urinate and defecate while standing on the line.” and “wear diapers to work.” Processing companies include Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s, and Perdue. The industry is also trying to increase the regulation of 140 birds per minute by another 35 birds per minute. OSHA mandates employee access to bathrooms, but some of them are forced to wait for over an hour to be relieved or not have any relief at all.

In the world of chemical pollution, Monsanto has been assessed $46.5 million in damages by a St. Louis jury because of the company’s negligence in handling toxic and carcinogenic polychlorinated biphenyls, PCBs. PCBs were used to insulate electronics decades ago, and Monsanto was the sole manufacturer of the compound from 1935 until 1977. Even after Monsanto learned about the product’s dangers, long before it was banned in 1979, the company told the public that PCBs were safe and continued to sell the compounds.

Lawsuits are piling up against Monsanto, the most recent from Long Beach (CA), the eighth city to sue the biotech behemoth after Portland (OR), Seattle, Spokane, Berkeley, San Diego, San Jose, and Oakland. These cases are pending. Long Beach’s federal lawsuit states that Monsanto knew for decades that PCBs are “widely contaminating all natural resources and living organisms” including marine life, plants, animals, birds and humans.” The complaint also stated:

“PCBs regularly leach, leak, off-gas, and escape their intended applications, causing runoff during naturally occurring storm and rain events, after being released into the environment. The runoff originates from multiple sources and industries and enters Long Beach Waters with stormwater and other runoff.”

GOP lawmakers are trying to protect Monsanto with the “Monsanto Rider” in the Toxic Substances Control Act reauthorization bill that would give the chemical giant permanent immunity from liability for injuries caused by PCBs.

The conservative World Health Organization (WHO) has recently released a report stating that glyphosate, an active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, probably causes cancer in humans. After WHO’s announcement, California plans to add glyphosate to its list of carcinogenic chemicals. Other bad news for Monsanto came from a 2014 Sri Lankan study showing a possible link between glyphosate and chronic kidney disease that killed thousands of farm workers in Central America. Monsanto not only produces Roundup but also adds the herbicide to its genetically modified seeds that cover the United States. Latvia and Greece have joined other European countries to reject GMOs.

In March, the U.S. Senate failed to pass a House bill that would have prevented all states from having GMO labeling laws. Almost 90% of people in the U.S. want GMO food to be labeled, but the agrichemical industry returned to the Senate with its zombie bill to pass the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act to nullify state labeling efforts. Monsanto, DuPont, Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Dow, Kraft, Bayer, and ConAgra are among the top ten donors spending over $100 million to defeat GMO ballot initiatives in California, Washington, Oregon, and California.

A year ago Monsanto agreed to pay $600,000 for its failures to report the release of severe toxic chemicals from its Idaho plant between the years 2006 and 2009. The cost won’t be a problem for Monsanto: the company reporter $1.5 billion in profit during just 2013.

Voters in tiny Hood County (OR), population 22,675, scored a huge victory over Nestle, another international corporation  worth over $247 billion. The battle started eight years ago when the gigantic company tried to buy water rights to Oxbow Springs in a state sometimes suffering from drought. Protesting environmental groups were joined by four Indian tribes by claiming treaty rights and raising concerns about future salmon populations. The ballot measure crafted by Nestle’s opposition banning commercial water operations in the county passed with 70 percent of the vote in the May 17, 2016 primary election.

Nestle’s lure was 50 jobs at $10 per hour with no benefits; the company spent $105,000 fighting the initiative. If Nestle had won, it would have paid less than residents for the water. Julia Degraw, Northwest organizer for Food and Water Watch, said, “This is absolutely the first time a county has passed this kind of ballot measure prohibiting commercial water bottles. It really defines what is possible for communities who are serious about protecting their water.”

The town of Cascade Locks, population 1,148 and an unemployment of 19 percent, passed the measure by 58 percent. Nestle targets economically depressed areas to make billions of dollars in profit and leaves the area with environmental, infrastructure, and other costs.

May 18, 2016

‘Religion’ Allows Escape from Contracts

Groups continue to use ‘religious liberty’ in an escape from legal obligations through denying women cost-free contraception and expelling a student from school. 

The fight over women’s contraception isn’t over, but it’s been postponed because of Antonin Scalia’s death. In their continued manic desire for power, traditional religious institutions pursued the issue of cost-free contraception for women to the Supreme Court where a non-decision was issued earlier this week. In Zubik v. Burwell the eight justices recently sent back seven cases they heard collectively in March plus another six cases that the court had not agreed to hear. Six lower courts were ordered to issue new rulings based on questions that the court left undecided.

The question in the lawsuit was whether non-church organizations have the right to be exempt from contraceptive mandates in the Affordable Care Act, as Hobby Lobby claimed—and won—in 2014.  The case wasn’t even about whether these protesting religious corporations should have to provide any contraception; they all opposed just filling out a form saying that they wouldn’t provide the contraception in order for the government to cover the cost of women’s contraception. A court suggestion for compromise is that the non-church groups’ insurance companies provide insurance without contraception and notify that employees that they will provide free contraception not subsidized by the non-church groups.

Even worse, the denial of providing contraceptives uses lay opinion rather than scientific fact because of Hobby Lobby. Among denied contraceptives are intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptive medication which simply impedes ovulation or fertilization of the egg. Basically, the groups are doing whatever they can to block women getting contraception.

With its opinion, the court let government pay for contraception and exonerate non-profits from the risk of penalties until the lower courts rule in a way that satisfies the Supreme Court. Not determined by the court’s opinion, however, are whether the Affordable Care Act contraceptive mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, whether the government had a “compelling interesting” in mandating free contraceptives, and whether the method they used with the religious groups to provide cost-free contraceptives was the “least restrictive means.” In taking this inaction, the court hoped that the parties could “resolve any outstanding issues between them” but admitted that “areas of disagreement” between the two sides may continue to exist.

Five of the six lower courts had ruled in favor of the ACA mandate. A deadlock of 4-4 would have ruled that the law be interpreted differently according to the regions of these courts. Gretchen Borchelt, vice president of the National Women’s Law Center, expressed disappointment with the court’s indecision. She said, “Eight of nine circuit courts of appeals have already upheld women’s access to birth control no matter where they work.” The 8th Circuit court is the only one ruling against the accommodation that the government made to religious groups. A three-judge panel ruled  that the ACA mandate “substantially burdened” Dordt College’s free exercise of religion. In addition to Iowa, the decision covers Arkansas, Minnesota, Missouri, and both Dakotas.

Fortunately, the high court’s opinion does not set precedent, and lower courts may not solve the problem for the high court. Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg issued a separate but concurring opinion telling lower courts that the action does not endorse a proposal put forward by the protesting groups that women must have separate policies for contraceptive coverage. ACA protesters to the ACA are viewing the court’s opinion as a victory for their side, but the opinion seems to tell lower courts not to block the government from implementing its regulations to “ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives,'” during the pendency of the litigation:

“Nothing in this opinion, or in the opinions or orders of the courts below, is to affect the ability of the Government to ensure that women covered by petitioners’ health plans ‘obtain, without cost, the full range of FDA approved contraceptives.'”

At this time, almost all the cases have injunctions to keep federal agencies from enforcing their regulations. The question is whether these injunctions will be lifted in light of the court’s opinion. Groups refusing to provide contraception can also find insurance plans that also refuse to provide contraception, based on that company’s “religious beliefs.”  Yet organizations may not notify the government of its insurance company, which leaves female employees without cost-free contraception. Self-insured plans also cause difficulty for women who want contraceptives because the federal government won’t know which groups insure their employees in this way. Basically, the groups want to not only refuse women contraception but also hide whether they can get this right that a federal law provides.

In another case of “religious liberty,” an appeals judge ruled that St. Thomas High School doesn’t have to obey its own contracts because it is a “religious institution. The altercation started when a teacher failed to call the parents in the evening about a grade dispute because, as he told the student, he was preparing a “romantic” night for his wedding anniversary. The parents called the teacher’s explanation sexual harassment—“inadequate, irrelevant, [and] sexually demeaning.”

The Texas school expelled the student because of its policy permitting expulsion from “actions by a parent/guardian or other person responsible for the student which upbraids, insults, threatens or abuses any teacher, administrator, coach or staff member of the school.” Parents claimed a breach of contract because the student wouldn’t educate their son, and the school claimed that the student handbook is a part of the contract allowing them to expel the student.

The case could have been a simple contract dispute, but St. Thomas argued their action came from “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” a First Amendment doctrine limiting the courts’ ability to decide cases involving a religious body’s “doctrines, membership, discipline, and internal affairs. The doctrine prevents the courts from even hearing a dispute in the first place, and the appeals court agreed. The court did admit that “churches, their congregations, and their hierarchies exist and function within the civil community … are amenable to rules governing civil, contract, and property rights in appropriate circumstances.”

At least one other Texas case allowed parents to use the doctrine in refusing a student because the education has a “spiritual” element, similar to accepting a church member. The difference in this case is that the dispute was a secular contract dispute, not a federal agency forcing a Catholic school to admit an unwanted student.

If religious schools are permitted to violate all their contracts because of the “ecclesiastical abstention doctrine,” they may lose credibility in their agreements with everyone. People and companies are willing to perform services and sell products to others because breaching the contracts leads to satisfaction in the courts. If, however, St. Thomas shows that religious groups do not need to fulfill any contracts, including educating students, their action may lead to lack of confidence in their institutions, reduced student membership in schools, and inability to work with vendors.

St. Thomas could probably have won their case if they had stuck to the contractual issue. Instead the school chose to use its religious status to show that they are above the law—just as the religious groups have done in Zubik v. Burwell. The question is how far religions will go—not hire women, not pay minimum wage, not fulfilling any obligations that secular groups must—before the country decides that religious groups are not totally above the law.

May 14, 2016

How Far Will the GOP Go?

Republicans are going crazy after “the people” spoke and chose a candidate that they—and the majority of people in the United States—consider unsuitable. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) met with other GOP legislators and presumptive GOP heir Donald Trump to lay down the law. Trump appeared to back down on all the backing down that he had done during the past week, and Ryan, who foolishly believes that he can control a loose cannon, found him “warm and generous”—although not enough to endorse him. Other Republicans are going off on their own crazy ways.

Ryan’s governor, Scott Walker, blames the state’s deferment of $101 million in debt on President Obama, costing taxpayers at least $2.3 million in just interest plus tens of millions more. Wisconsin has the money, but Walker put it into the general fund for any shortfalls. The president’s economy has added jobs every month for six years, but Walker’s failed policies badly hurt Wisconsin. Yet Walker’s rainy day fund has $280 million thanks to the president’s gains in the stock and job market. His reason for looking poor is to make future budget cuts to use the Koch brothers’ “starve the beast” government strategy.

Some of the GOP craziness is ongoing. The Platform Committee of the Texas GOP is voting next Wednesday on an “independence” resolution. Then Gov. Rick Perry hinted that Texas might separate itself from the “United States,” but this vote will be the first action in its 171-year history about a decision to make the “state” an independent nation. With ten county chapters supporting the resolution, the Texas Nationalist Movement seems to be moving toward the political main stream from a fringe group.

In the GOP’s effort to “Benghazi” Hillary Clinton, Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) is working with Fox host Adam Housley to find the fake witnesses swearing that military assets could have saved the lives of four people at the diplomatic compound almost four years ago. Fox has no evidence, but Gowdy wants these non-existent people for his committee. Housley is known for finding Dylan Davies who claimed that he scaled the wall on the night of the attack and engaged combat with the terrorists—before Davies admitted he lied.

Randy BarnettRandy Barnett is blaming John Robert for Donald Trump’s popularity because of Robert’s vote in favor of the Affordable Care Act. He claims:

“Roberts increased cynicism and anger at play-by-the-rules conservatives and decreased respect for institutions across the board.”

Barnett’s article in highly conservative The Federalist is based on the premises that John Roberts knows that the health care law violates the constitution but he pretends that it doesn’t because of his belief that courts should not overturn law passed by majorities. The argument overlooks Roberts’ deciding votes that gutted the Voting Rights Act, campaign finance law, and gun control legislation—and other decisions. Somehow, however, Barnett has convinced himself that the Trump supporters vote for the businessman because of a judicial review. This man who teaches lawyers at Georgetown University has even crazier ideas—so far right that the John Birch society doesn’t agree with them.

A recent GOP fit (they have so many!) comes from a report claiming that Facebook suppresses conservative articles in its Trending Topics feed. There is no support for the allegations from former Facebook workers, and Republicans have never expressed any concern that “fair and unbalanced” Fox is anything but. The RN accuses Facebook of “censoring” the right and using its power “to silence view points and stories that don’t fit someone else’s agenda.” Sen. John Thune (R-SD) has declared that he “wants to haul Facebook employees before Congress.” He wrote Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg with the demand that Trending Topics employees brief the Commerce Committee by May 24.

Despite all the vacation days and the health crisis of the Zika virus moving through the southern states, GOP finds that “Facebook hearings are a matter of urgent national interest.” Even if someone could find support for allegations, the question begs congressional oversight for a private social-media company. Thune now worries about Facebook’s integrity whereas his opposition to net neutrality declaimed that any political interference in Internet operation is unacceptable. In 2007, during a fight against the “Fairness Doctrine,” Thune argued:

“I know the hair stands up on the back of my neck when I hear government officials offering to regulate the news media and talk radio to ensure fairness. I think most Americans have the same reaction. Giving power to a few to regulate fairness in the media is a recipe for disaster on the scale that George Orwell so aptly envisioned.”

In avoiding a consideration of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Republican congressional members decided that the last elected year of the president’s four terms is a “lame-duck session,” but they are considering a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) during the real “lame-duck session” between the general election and the changing of the guard at the end of December. Only three trade-related bills have been voted on in a lame duck: 1974, 1994, and 2006.

TPP is a really bad idea: extending drug company monopolies over their products, undermining environmental and labor regulations, allowing corporations to send more jobs oversea, voiding U.S. consumer laws with unelected international tribunals, etc.  Republican legislators who lose in November can vote for the TPP before they leave Congress and then take jobs for giant corporations grateful for their vote.

Publicity about the North Carolina “bathroom law” keeping trans people out of the appropriate facilities just hasn’t stopped. The Department of Justice has ordered the state to rescind the law to keep its federal funding, and North Carolina is suing the DOJ for its order. At the same time, all 10 GOP House members gave the Department of Education until yesterday to promise—provide the state with “immediate assurances”—that the North Carolina won’t suffer monetary penalty for violating federal civil rights. GOP state leaders, who complain about being “bullied” by the federal government are telling lobbyists that their employing corporations that they can expect retribution for speaking out against HB2, the potty law.

Gov. Pat McCrory wants to overturn the Civil Right Act of 1964 to make segregation legal again so that the state can “make special circumstances for those individuals [transgender students].” He also claimed that the “far left … brought this [agenda] up.”

Middle Age RiotThe latest lawsuit against the federal government, filed by “North Carolinians for Privacy,” is identical to a suit in Illinois from the Alliance Defending Freedom. It begins with the falsehood that DOE’s guidance “forbids educational institutions from maintaining sex-specific restrooms and locker rooms” and moves on to the argument that gender identity is not a component of sex. The lawsuit’s main claim is that the DOJ “unmistakable ultimatum” to either prohibit sex-specific restrooms or lose federal funding endangers all the students’ access to education. Another premise in the lawsuit is accusing the DOJ of violating the Violence against Women Act (VAWA) because the agency discriminates on the basis of gender identity against non-transgender people because it allows “some, but not all, biological males the right of entry and use of female restrooms and locker rooms.” The suit claims that North Carolina’s HB2 “treats all persons the same, regardless of their gender identity.”

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has dived into the bathroom controversy by describing it as the “biggest issue facing families and schools in America since prayer was taken out of public schools.” About potentially losing $5 billion of federal funding for Texas education, he added, “Well, in Texas, he can keep his 30 pieces of silver.” The analogy indicates that either he or Texas—or both—should be compared to Jesus who was betrayed by Judas for “30 pieces of silver.” Answering Patrick’s comments, including the one about no longer giving poor students free lunches, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, “I think this does underscore the risk of electing a right-wing radio host to elected statewide office. No one should be discriminated against because of who they are.” Texas cut school funding 25 percent in the ten years following 2002 and ranks 38th in the nation in per K-12 student funding.

The U.S. disdain for the Republican party is at its highest level since 1992; 62 percent look at it unfavorably whereas only 33 percent view it with favor. The positive perception fell four points in the past six months. Only 68 percent of self-identified Republicans approve of their party, an 11-point drop from October. Independents prefer the Democrats to Republicans, 37 to 28 percent. The majorities of minorities oppose the GOP: women, 62 percent; blacks, 79 percent; and Hispanics, 61 percent. Among whites, 37 percent view both parties favorably while 59 percent have an unfavorable view of Democrats and 58 percent—only one percent less—have the same view of Republicans.

Update: Wisconsin’s debt deferment was erroneously listed as $101. It is $101 million.

 

May 13, 2016

Hopeful Environmental News

 

GOP presumptive heir has campaigned on the position that he will let his advisors tell him what to do, and his newest advisor in helping him draft energy policy is climate change skeptic and drilling advocate Rep. Kevin Cramer from North Dakota, a major oil drilling state. Cramer stated that his white paper will show the dangers of burdensome taxes and over-regulation. Trump will present these ideas at an energy summit in Bismarck (ND) later this month. According to Cramer, the earth is cooling, not warming.

While Trump’s train chugs on, environmentalists have recently received good news.

Methane gas: The EPA announced new rules to significantly reduce methane emissions from new oil and gas facilities as well as those undergoing modifications. It’s a first step in this area because the direction, finalized later this year, is only for these wells on federal lands and not for existing ones. The regulations will cover only 25 percent of the oil and gas equipment. Methane gas worsens smog, asthma iin children, and cardiovascular disease while increasing premature death.

Fracking: The industry has suffered a $4.2 million jury award over alleged groundwater contamination from fracking. Cabot Oil and Gas Co. is supposed to give the money to families in Dimock (PA). Popular support for fracking is also shrinking to 36 percent of people in the nation last March from 40 percent the prior March. Federal regulators are also working on new environmental rules for the industry that has experienced a long price slump. The oil and gas industry is under much greater scrutiny that at the beginning of its boom ten years ago.

Renewable energy: Last Sunday morning Germany got 90 percent of its electricity demand from renewable power. Obviously, this doesn’t happen all the time: the country averages 30 percent of the country’s power from solar, wind, hydropower, and biomass. Yet that average is over 230 percent higher than in the United States that gets only 13 percent of its electricity from these energy sources. At the fourth-largest economy in the world, Germany’s $3.7 trillion GDP is higher than any European country or US state. As clean energy grew in Germany so did its economy. The country, with about as much sunshine as Alaska, outpaces the U.S. in solar although the U.S. has four times the population of Germany. German individuals drive the “energy transition” because the government opened the market to utilities, businesses, and homeowners. In contrast, the U.S. restricts clean energy through high taxes and fees on its installation and use, much of these restrictions from control on solar energy by fossil-fuel owning Koch brothers. Florida is just one example.

Coal terminals: A five-year struggle between coal and Native Americans has resulted in denial of federal permits for the biggest proposed coal terminal in North America at Cherry Point (WA). The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that the project would violate the nation’s treaty obligations to protect Lummi fisheries and ancestral lands. The project would have overloaded the capacity of BNSF railways by adding 16 trains per day and increase the possibility of rail collisions by 22 percent through Cowlitz County and Washington. The increase in train activity would cause road delays at between four to six crossings. The company behind the project, Millennium Bulk Terminals, is still hoping to have a terminal at Longview (WA), but it had to pull its proposal when it was discovered that the company planned to ship 60 million tons of coal annual instead of the 5.7 million tons on the applications. Since Millennium applied for permits in 2012, Arch Coal, a minority shareholder, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

New clean electric generation in the United States: Last year, wind turbines and solar panels accounted for more than two-thirds of all new electric generation capacity added to the nation’s grid in 2015. The other third was natural gas fueled by natural gas. It was the second year that U.S. investment in renewable energy outpaced that of fossil fuels. The cost of emissions-free wind energy, the cheapest energy source, has dropped by two-thirds in the last six years. Texas, Oklahoma, and Kansas—home states to GOP lawmakers fighting the curtailment of climate-warming carbon emissions—benefited the most from clean energy. In the past ten years, coal has dropped from providing half the nation’s electricity to one-third, and large banks will no longer finance new coal mines or coal-fired power plants. U.S. coal mines not employ only 56,700 people down from a peak of times that many employees; solar employs more than 210,000 workers, and wind energy has another 77,000 employees.

This week, the EPA issued a report that Monsanto’s Roundup, made with glyphosate, doesn’t cause cancer, but it pulled the report, marked FINAL, with the excuse that they weren’t finished. The question is whether they were being pressured by business because evidence is growing that the product is carcinogenic, as the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies the product.  Four Nebraska farmers agree with WHO and are suing Monsanto, claiming that its project gave them non-Hodkin’s lymphoma. Monsanto made $4.8 billion from Roundup sales last year, and more than 85 million pounds of glyphosate was applied to U.S. crops in 2007, more than double the 85 million pounds in 2001. Glyphosate is applied to “Roundup-ready” crops that are genetically modified to resist it and used on more than 100 varieties of crops in commercial agriculture. The complaint states:

 “Glyphosate is found in rivers, streams, and groundwater in agricultural areas where Roundup is used. It has been found in food, the urine of exposed persons, and in the urine of urban dwellers without direct contact with glyphosate.”

Last year California was the first state to label Roundup as a carcinogen, and Monsanto sued the state to fight this designation. Cancers most associated with glyphosate exposure are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other blood cancers, including lymphocytic lymphoma/chronic lymphocytic leukemia, B-cell lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. The farmers’ lawsuit isn’t the first: Monsanto faces at least 700 lawsuits against Monsanto or Monsanto-related entities regarding cancer caused by PCBs that the company manufactured until the late 1970s. California federal judge Vince Chhabria has also refused to dismiss a lawsuit about Monsanto’s causing cancer with Roundup.

More and more media sources no longer have journalists but instead rely on press releases from companies who benefit from lying about science. Even most existing journalists aren’t well enough trained in science to spot misinformation.  In an attempt to disseminate accurate scientific information, a group of scientists are now fact-checking scientific information in the media through a new project called Climate Feedback. They started on a small scale over a year ago and are now crowdfunding $30,000 to build the project’s capacity with new weekly feedbacks. Associate Editor Daniel Nethery said:

“Several aspects of the online media environment make it particularly conducive to the spread of misinformation. In the race to attract the most clicks, editorial standards may suffer, qualified journalists who carry out rigorous research may become cost-ineffective, and eye-catching headlines — ‘click bait’ — can trump more sober reporting of the facts.”

Nethery and co-founder Emmanuel Vincent plan to hire a dedicated editor and encourage accurate science writing through a Scientific Trust Tracker to guide readers sources with “journalists with integrity.” An example of their work can be found in their analysis of James Taylor’s article in Forbes, “2015 Was Not Even Close To Hottest Year On Record.”

Climate Feedback will need a lot more money in this election cycle!

May 10, 2016

Trump Wins; GOP Falls Apart

Filed under: Presidential candidates — trp2011 @ 9:03 PM
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Tonight Donald Trump won West Virginia—not difficult because he has no competition. He actually told people they shouldn’t bother to vote despite the hundreds of people and issues on the state’s ballot. Less than a week ago, Trump’s majority in the Indiana primary finished the GOP candidacy Waterloo for his 16 competitors. Within 24 hours, the last two—Ted Cruz and John Kasich—were gone. It was not done peacefully.

Cruz seemed to survive former House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) description of him a “Lucifer” and the “most miserable son of a bitch.” Cruz tried to cover the problem by saying that he had only “met the man two or three times.” Yet, Cruz was Boehner’s lawyer in 1998 when he sued Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) for violating wiretapping laws after McDermott released a tape of a 1996 call between Boehner and then-Speaker Newt Gingrich to the New York Times. Cruz used the publicity for fundraising and bragged to the Tea Party about taking down a Democrat.

What broke Cruz was Trump’s discussion of a tabloid photograph showing Rafael Cruz, Ted’s father, with Harvey Oswald, who assassinated John F. Kennedy. Cruz called Trump an “amoral pathological liar,” a “narcissist,” and a “serial philanderer” and predicted that “this country could well plunge into the abyss” if Trump were elected. These sound bites will be very useful for Democratic ads this fall as Cruz moved 180 degrees opposite from praising Trump last fall, for example, “I have been glad to praise Donald Trump for speaking out boldly and brashly….”

cruz daughterNothing Cruz did helped him survive in Indiana, not claiming that John Kasich had dropped out of the race or reminding people that Trump defended Tyson when he was convicted of raping a woman in Indiana in 1992. Naming the highly disliked Carly Fiorina as his vice president didn’t help at all. The Internet delighted in putting Cruz’s gaffes front and center—calling a basketball rim a “ring,” ignoring Fiorina when she fell off the stage in front of him, hitting his wife in the face with his elbow when he turned around to hug the man behind him, threatening to spank a boy who yelled “You suck!” (He had also threatened to spank Hillary Clinton a few months ago.) Heidi Cruz said on camera that “Ted is an immigrant.” Even Cruz’s daughter doesn’t want him to hug her.

Cruz ignored the fact that his own party despises him and blamed the media—particularly Fox News—for Trump’s rise. “Network executives have made a decision to get behind Donald Trump. Rupert Murdoch and Roger Ailes at Fox News have turned Fox News into the Donald Trump network.”

He might be grateful that the upcoming campaign won’t deal with his fight to put people into prison if they sell dildos in Texas. Badly-worded legislation could have sent a women to jail for up to two years because she sold other women vibrators in her living room. As the state’s solicitor general, Cruz headed a team in 2007 that provided a 76-page rationale for the law, asking the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the decision jailing people for selling sex toys. The lower ruling was struck down 2-1, including the judge’s disbelief that selling dildos is comparable to soliciting sex.  As usual, Cruz kept at the case, trying to take the case to the Supreme Court. He should have quit: Craig Mazin, Cruz’s former college roommate, tweeted:

“Ted Cruz thinks people don’t have a right to ‘stimulate their genitals.’ I was his college roommate. This would be a new belief of his.”

Samantha Bee has mixed fact with satire in her goodbye video to Ted Cruz.

With only Trump left on the GOP side and Democrats concentrating on Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the religious far-right has no candidate for the third presidential election in a row. John McCain didn’t appeal to them in 2008, and many fundamentalists questioned Mitt Romney’s Mormon religion. Ainsley Earhardt, a host on Fox & Friends, suggested that people should pray instead of voting “and God will pick the right candidate.” It’s the best idea that I’ve heard from conservatives in this election cycle.

Cruz has gone back to the Senate—much to the dismay of his GOP colleagues–and the Republican establishment has to deal with the fallout from Reince Priebus’ declaring that Donald Trump is the party’s “presumptive nominee.”  After that annointment, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), one of the two congressional GOP leaders, said he isn’t ready to support Trump as nominee. Trump’s retort was “I am not ready to support Speaker Ryan’s agenda.” Later Trump was stumped when he kept telling people that he would force Ryan to step down as the leader of the GOP convention only to have Ryan announce that he would do that if Trump wanted.

Once Trump was established as heir “presumptive,” half the GOP started spending their energy guessing who he would pick for VP. Trump has indicated that the short list includes Chris Christie, former candidate and current New Jersey governor, although Christie is already heading the transition team as Trump heads for the White House. Another candidate, Ben Carson, said he wouldn’t do it because he would be a “distraction” so he’s on the vetting committee. Rick Perry said he’d be delighted to be chosen even after he earlier referred to Trump as a “cancer.” Another name tossed around is Newt Gingrich, a failure for presidential candidate four years ago.

A possibility is that Trump may play the “woman’s card” by selecting a woman. Govs. Nikki Haley (SC) and Susana Martinez (NM) are running away from him, but Mary Fallin (OK) and Jan Brewer, former Arizona governor, would be delighted. John McCain, who loosed Sarah Palin on the nation, wants Trump to pick pig-castrating Sen. Joni Ernst (IA), and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, leading the anti-Planned Parenthood committee aiming to out all people with any relationship to working with fetal tissue by subpoenaing them, has been suggested as a possibility. When asked about Sarah Palin as a choice, Trump said that she is a “terrific” person but very much a “free agent,” aka “loose cannon.”

Those who aren’t guessing about the VP position are looking for people to run against Trump in the general election. According to the conservative Beltline newspaper, The Hill, these ten names lead the crowd: Mitt Romney, who accepted Trump’s endorsement four short years ago; Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE), who has made the most noise about a third person run; General John Kelly; former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who is the likely Libertarian Party nominee and thinks that a Libertarian who wants to legalize marijuana can beat both Trump and a Democrat; Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI, a Rand and then a Cruz follower; former Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK, who resigned his senate position because of cancer; Nikki Haley, who is way too smart to do this; and Rand Paul, who already unsuccessfully ran for the job.

Paul Ryan has said that a third-person run in the upcoming presidential election would be disastrous for the party. Others ask if things can get worse. Even more “interesting” would be if the GOP runs a third person, and Bernie Sanders decides to go out on his own if he doesn’t get the Democratic nod in July. And it’s only been one week!

May 8, 2016

Altercation over ‘Potty Police’

It’s Mother’s Day, and conservatives are working to convince mothers that they aren’t safe in bathrooms at Target stores and in states that don’t prevent trans people from using the facilities that match their identity—and appearances. When one considers the way that anti-trans activists are behaving, all women might worry about going into public bathrooms. One example is comes from the ultra-religious American Family Association, that is sending men into women’s bathrooms at Target.

According to AFA’s director of governmental affairs, Sandy Rios, the group is asking men to go into women’s bathrooms to build the AFA boycott against a company’s policy that customers can use the bathroom where they think they belong. AFA’s premise is that there will be “trauma, certainly for little girls [by] having men dressed like women coming in their bathrooms.” Therefore, AFA are going into these restrooms to frighten people—create “trauma”—instead of using the restrooms for their intended purpose. By now, however, AFA has gotten such bad publicity about doing this that they are denying that they have promoted this shocking behavior.

AFA is also announcing that they have over 1.2 million “pledges” to boycott Target, and news outlets in our post-fact world are publishing AFA’s press releases instead of investigating the facts. According to The Daily Beast, AFA used the online form Wufoo, owned by SurveyMonkey, which fails to check if the emails are related to real people. Different investigators have each signed the pledge with multiple emails, both real and bogus. The submissions are all accepted because there is no direction to “Allow Only One Entry Per IP.” Anyone can set up a robot to enter emails, resulting in the 1.2 million “signatures.” AFA also does not display any names of signers, nor do they send written confirmations to them.

Those earnest people who plan to shop at Walmart, recommended by Faith Driven Consumer, show that company policies don’t bother them. Walmart has had nondiscrimination protections for its trans employees since 2011. The same people may already be shopping at Walmart because the prices are better and the stores are more accessible. AFA-based Mississippi has 80 Walmart stores but only six Target locations in the entire state. Alabama has six times the number of Walmart stores as Target.

In answer to objections from protesters, Target spokeswoman Molly Snyder stated: “We certainly respect that there are a wide variety of perspectives and opinions. As a company that firmly stands behind what it means to offer our team an inclusive place to work — and our guests an inclusive place to shop — we continue to believe that this is the right thing for Target.” She added that people uncomfortable using their multi-stall restrooms are welcome to use the stores’ single-stall/family restrooms.

target

 

Continuing the obsession with bathrooms across the nation, Kansas legislators have introduced a “spot a penis win prize” bill that will help students pay for college tuition.  If the bill becomes law, schools can be sued for $2,500 every time a trans student walks into a facility “designated for use by the aggrieved student’s sex.” The bill even has a four-year statute of limitations, one year longer than child molestation has in former House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s state of Illinois.

jessica rushMen now feel free to go into women’s bathrooms on the belief (pretense?) that they saw a man go into the facility. Afraid that Jessica Rush was peeing in the wrong bathroom at Baylor Medical Center in San Francisco, a man barged in after her.  Rush, born female, was wearing basketball shorts and a T-shirt from her alma mater, Texas Tech. With her bleached blond fauxhawk, she has been accused of being a man in a woman’s bathroom before. Trying to take advantage of these accusations, she decided to use the men’s restroom when the woman’s facility was full and immediately got thrown out. Men quickly figured it out and yelled, “Whoa, there’s a chick in the bathroom! Get out, get out!”

lee's clone

While conservatives worry about the nonexistent trans “predators” in bathrooms, they protect their own molesters. About serial child molester Dennis Hastert, GOP colleague Tom Delay wrote that he “has never disappointed me in any way.” He also tried to justify Hastert’s “transgressions” by doing is when he was “a young man.” Yet Hastert was still molesting young boys when he was over 30 years old.  Former CIA director Porter Ross wrote about Hastert, “Perhaps, the Speakers greatest gift to the House was trust.”

Republicans who vilify trans people who just want to pee give enormous privilege to those who display “Christian” piety. DeLay explained that Hastert “loves the Lord [and] gets his integrity and values from Him” because Hastert started a lunch-time Bible study for his colleagues. Protestants have been outraged at Catholic Church leaders who hid child molestation, but they allow their own to hide and continue their crimes under the guise of religion. In the Christian religion, repentance exonerates the criminal.

May 7, 2016

Help Moms on Mother’s Day

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. On this one day a year, mothers are given corsages, given breakfast in bed, and taken out to dinner and then ignored on the other 364 days.  If you really care about mothers, here are some ways to help them:

Access to quality, affordable childcare: From 2000 to 2012, child care costs for a typical middle class family grew by 30 percent, and child care costs more than media rent in all 50 states. In 31 states and DC, child care costs more than college. The High Quality Child Care Tax Credit would help low-income and middle class families afford quality child care.

Equal pay for equal work: Mothers are the primary, sole, or co-breadwinners in nearly two-thirds of families but earn less than men. Latinas and black women suffer the sharpest pay disparities. Congressional conservatives continue to fight action to uncover discriminatory pay practices, create greater pay transparency, and ensure that the law works fairly for everyone. Tell them to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Paid sick days: Almost 40 million U.S. employees, or about 40 percent of the nation’s private-sector workforce, lack access to paid sick days. Low-income workers, the ones least likely to have paid sick days, suffer the greatest when forced to take unpaid time off to recover from an illness or care for a sick family member.

Paid family leave: Almost all U.S. workers are forced to choose between staying on the job or dealing with serious personal or family illness. This nation is the only developed country that doesn’t guarantee workers any paid time off, and only 12 percent of private sector workers have access to paid family leave through their employers.

Women’s access to affordable health care and contraception: About 61 percent of abortions are obtained by women who are already mothers, frequently because of the constantly worsening economy in the United States. Many other women have little access to any quality health care, largely because Republican states have refused to accept government funding for Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of Texas’ banning all except nine women’s clinics for its 5,400,000+ women of reproductive age, more restrictive measures limiting reproductive care for more millions of women will be passed through the U.S. Comprehensive health care must include supports to help women plan when to start, and grow, their families.

Helping mothers—and that means helping all women—would greatly improve the economy.

On another note, don’t give guns to moms on Mother’s Day. Some men think that giving the women in their lives firearms will make them safer, but many of those misguided men then use the same guns to shoot and kill women in their lives. More than 1,600 women were killed by men in 2013, most of them by guns. The vast majority–94 percent–of female murder victims are killed by someone they knew and with a handgun. The laxer the gun laws in a state, the higher the rate of women shot and killed by men. http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/10/22/south-carolina-gun-rights-domestic-violence.html    In South Carolina, ranked as the deadliest in the U.S. for women killed (mostly with guns) by men, state lawmaker and victim advocate Gilda Cobb-Hunter has found it easier to get court-ordered protections for family pets than to take guns away from domestic abusers. Keep mothers alive by legislating strict laws against domestic abusers owning guns.

Protect small children from killing themselves, siblings, or adults—including their mothers—with guns. Toddlers shot at least 23 people in the United States during the first four months of 2016 by toddlers. There may be more, but conservatives have blocked the government from making an accurate count of deaths by firearms—probably lawmakers don’t want to know the exact number. That number is up over 25 percent from last year’s “head count” of toddler-caused gun shootings during the same time period last year. In 18 cases, children accidentally shot themselves, and half of them died. Four of these deaths were within one week.

Map-of-Toddler-Shootings

The map above shows the states where these deaths have occurred. More shootings by toddlers have happened in Georgia since 2015 than the other states with Texas and Missouri tying for second place. Florida and Michigan are fourth. Population doesn’t appear to be a factor because California and New York, the second and third highest population states in the country, had three shootings between them. Illinois hasn’t seen one since 2015. A comment on the Washington Post article about toddler shooting: it’s only 23 kids.

cell phone gunThe number of shootings by toddlers may grow in the future because gun makers are making deadly weapons look like innocent toys. Gun manufacturers are designing brightly-colored guns, Glock pistols, that look like the Nintendo Zapper used to blast virtual ducks and targets. Beyond that is the new gun that looks like a cellphone—same size and shape. This one is a .380 derringer that holds two bullets.

The NRA insists that its Eddie Eagle program, educating children about guns, makes children so safe that the nation doesn’t need gun safety laws to protect children. Other parents are so satisfied with their parenting skills that their children would never be unsafe around firearms. The Charlotte (NC) Fox46 tested these theories by leaving unsupervised children ages 6-8 alone in a playroom with toys, games, and a realistic-looking BB gun. Before Mecklenburg County Sheriff Irwin Carmichael left the room he said, “So if you find a gun do you touch it? No. No, what should you do? Tell and adult…go tell an adult.”

Some of the seven parents were positive that their children would leave the gun alone; others said that they’d never talked to the children about gun safety. Within 60 seconds, a toddler discovered the gun, and a few minutes later half the children were firing the gun at each other. The video of this experiment is available here.

For mothers on Mother’s Day, follow strict rules about gun safety. One of the mothers was shot by a gun that her boyfriend left under a seat in the car. Make sure the car is gun-free before driving a child in it. Another mother was shot last year when her toddler got a gun out of a purse while they were shopping. (Unless you think that 23 shootings by toddlers in four months isn’t important.)

Brennan WeikelIn mid-April, Brennan Weikel’s stepfather took him out in the middle of the night for a hog-hunting trip just five days after the 17-year-old had finished his school gun safety course giving him the legal right to hunt. Weikel won’t be fulfilling his dream of playing football in college after accidentally shooting himself in the head with his rifle. The killing will be classified as “accidental,” but one Texas mother (below) won’t be celebrating Mother’s Day with her high school son.

Brennan Weikel's mother

Near this killing, other mothers no longer have their sons because of the fatal shootings of a nine-year-old by his grandfather last year and the shooting of a teenager by his best friend in 2013 who received five years probation after pleading guilty to criminally negligent homicide.

Sometimes parents shoot their toddlers. A two-year-old is lucky to be alive after he “startled” his mother in St. Louis. In Philadelphia, a four-year-old girl isn’t as fortunate, after her father was playing with his gun and “accidentally” shot the girl in the head. She died at their home. The father later confessed after first hitting another of his children, a five-year-old, in the face with his closed fist and wiped blood onto her shirt to make it appear that she had killed her sister.

Many state laws allow guns in bars, airports, daycare centers, churches, classrooms—everywhere except where the legislators are making these laws. One group opposing the laxity of gun ownership is law enforcement. Local police are objecting to these measures in over a dozen states where they had previously not complained. Their position is that the new laws put officers in greater danger and keep them from effective doing their jobs.

A big problem is that in some states, including West Virginia and Idaho, people can carry concealed handguns without permits or training—or even a background check. Texans can open carry handguns, and Oklahoma is considering the same permission. Police departments are now asking for people with violent histories be blocked from buying guns because they are more likely to have problems with the police. Law enforcement also says that new exceptions to gun regulations impede investigations by taking away the option of probable cause to conduct searches after the discovery of an unpermitted firearm.

Georgia’s Gov. Nathan Deal may have started to recognize the problem of unfettered gun carrying: he vetoed legislation that would have allowed college students to carry concealed guns onto campuses because it won’t “increase safety of students on college campuses,” according to Deal. The law would have permitted loaded guns anywhere on college campuses—fraternities, dormitories, etc. http://www.vox.com/2016/4/29/11530874/georgia-campus-carry-guns   Texas does have this law despite evidence that the law puts people at harm. More mothers without that corsage in the future.

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